Amid Washington D.C.’s political gridlock and failure to progress the nation forward, it appears as though the only way to accomplish anything must come through state governments. With this being the unfortunate truth, the Aspen Institute convened five Democratic governors Saturday to discuss how they go about making changes and improvements for their states while the federal government is failing to do so.
The event featured Govs. John Hickenlooper, of Colorado; Jay Inslee, of Washington; Jay Nixon, of Missouri; Peter Shumlin, of Vermont; and Lincoln Chafee, of Rhode Island. The conversation focused on the various means the governors are pursuing to repair the weak economy and job market. There was a comical aura of competitiveness amongst the governors over whose state is best.
Hickenlooper opened the conversation by boasting about Denver and Boulder’s thriving economy relative to that of the rest of the nation. He proudly noted that Colorado is also the fittest state in the country, with high expectations for the future.
“Our goal is to be the healthiest state by all measures — not just the thinnest,” Hickenlooper said.
There was a strong consensus that a successful economy is dependent on a healthy population, which is only possible through means of an affordable and efficient healthcare system.
“I felt strongly that if I really wanted to make a difference for growing jobs and improving quality of life that we have to make health care affordable for everyone,” Shumlin said.
In addition to the need for an efficient health care system, Nixon said he believes the most fundamental key to improving the nation’s depressed economy is better and more affordable education.
“The greatest economic tool that exists in the world is making sure that people are living up to their god-given potential by getting the training they need to be as powerful as they can be,” Nixon said. “This is only accomplished through education.”
The group concurred with Nixon by stressing the importance of educating children ages 1 to 5 in order to demonstrate the importance of a proper education to keep impoverished youths off the streets.
The five governors, along with the audience, agreed that the federal government is incapable of making the necessary changes to improve the nation’s well-being. Therefore, the governors asserted that they must take it upon themselves and local governments to move the country forward and out of the current economic crisis.
“Washington, D.C., is producing bupkis on these issues. It has to be us in the states to lead the country and in turn the world,” Inslee said.
Scott Schlafer is an editorial intern working for The Aspen Times through July.