Elections inspire economic promises. Whether those promises are realistic or not usually doesn’t matter. It is the economic narrative that matters, and if you hit the right chord, as the Bill Clinton campaign found with “it’s the economy, stupid,” you can milk that for all it is worth to swing an election in your favor.
The GOP retook the Iowa governorship in 2011, and there was a range of economic promises and expectations. Chief among them was the time-worn assumption that Republicans knew how to generate economic prosperity. Jobs were going to be created, household incomes were going to rise, and the state’s economic prospects were going to be righted after four years of mismanagement.
For a time things looked promising. Robust farm profits were driving strong demand for machinery and other capital investments on the farm, which supported both Main Street and manufacturing recovery. Iowa’s already strong wind energy industry continued to expand. There were huge fertilizer plants under construction on both sides of the state. Iowa had become a popular place to site data centers. A dime was added to the gas tax to boost road construction. And a controversial pipeline bisecting the state diagonally requiring hundreds of workers was laid in the ground.
So Iowa’s economy is doing great, right? Wrong. Here are just a few key indicators: