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Influence

We are products of our environments, no doubt, but we bring our traits, our tendencies to such. The environment shapes each of us differently.

My late father was born more than a hundred years ago. His broken home and rural poverty affected him. But growing up in the depression, then serving in WWII may have made him part of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation”, though he lived with and never really recovered from those scarring times. I don’t think he could see his scars, or even feel them. Maybe I did some, through living with him.

I’m not sure I can see how I was influenced by my environment, though I take this time to reflect on the mirror darkly before me.

I’m a late Boomer, born in the mid 1950’s. I watched the small town my father took us to explode into suburbs. The vineyards and groves were bulldozed for tract houses. I still abhor rampant growth.

It seems to be what Idaho leaders are embracing, since our policies have made us the fastest growing state for five years running now. While US population growth has slowed to its lowest since the Pilgrims, Idaho booms. Idaho’s population is countercyclical, I guess. Too crowded elsewhere, come to Idaho.

But when I was entering and finishing undergraduate college, the economic milieu was dominated by inflation. And I believe that economic climate influenced me. Sure, there was the Viet Nam war, race riots, assassinations, and Watergate, but the elevator music in the background was the burdensome tune of despair. The value of your wealth, if you had any, was not going to be worth as much very soon. Why invest in a solid future when it is going to slowly melt to less?

I finished my degree and had no plans for a future in 1976. After a year of wandering, I landed in Idaho. Back then, the state had well short of a million residents. Boise was booming with 4% annual growth, but I didn’t find the Treasure Valley attractive. I went to my step grandmothers ranch above Hells Canyon.

It was there I came to have faith in investment. The fences needed posts, the hay needed mowing, the wood needed sawing, every rig needed fixing. After a couple years of this I realized I needed a career beyond the ranch. So, I went out and got one.

Inflation had dropped, but boy, interest rates were high. We see the same playing out right now. Still, interest rates now are nowhere near what it was when we bought our first and only house.

I look at our current economic environment and the burden inflation will have on my children, and theirs. Inflation has dropped a bit. Maybe things will be okay. My kids all struggle to afford buying a house. Prices are high.

Idaho’s population booms. And not just people, our incomes have grown. We lead the nation in median income growth. Admittedly, we started pretty low. There was plenty of room for growth.

As the Idaho legislature comes into session this coming week, I hope they have these ideas in mind. The first meeting of the Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee is today. Tune in. They are tasked with guessing what taxes will be coming in. They have undershot the number since the bust of 2008. Such predictions inhibit the willingness to invest.

I would hope our leaders could see the value in stable growth, and wise investment. Such wisdom will inspire the generations to come.

Booms are unsustainable. They hurt. Wise investment promotes stable and sustainable growth. That should be the goal.

 

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