Alabama, the co-chairs of Kay Ivey’s inaugural committee want us to believe, is indeed fortunate to have this long-time public servant as governor. Count our blessings, even. Without her as the replacement for Luv Guv, the departed Robert Bentley, Alabama would be a desperate place.
“In less than a year and a half, Governor Ivey led Alabama to record job growth, improved education and set Alabama on a path of prosperity,” Jimmy Rane and Cathy Randall, the inaugural committee co-chairs, said in a release earlier this week. “The 2019 Inaugural theme, Keep Alabama Growing, underscores Governor Ivey's promise to build upon these successes and grow more opportunities for Alabamians. We’re inspired by Governor Ivey’s bold vision for Alabama and look forward to celebrating this exciting new era.”
We’ll give Ivey’s inaugural committee a break since (a.) Ivey destroyed both her Republican challengers and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, her Democratic opponent; and (b.), every inaugural committee uses a mixture of fact and propaganda to boost interest in the upcoming gala. It’s hard to sell an inauguration party with a lukewarm politician and milquetoast results.
That said, let’s consider this premise that Ivey “set Alabama on a path to prosperity.” And let’s go back to January 2011, the month of Bentley’s inauguration.
The national unemployment rate had skyrocketed due to the Great Depression of 2008, and Alabama’s joblessness had been a central part of Bentley’s campaign. As a candidate, the Tuscaloosa dermatologist famously promised not to accept a gubernatorial salary until “Alabama reaches full employment.”
Alabama’s unemployment rate was a dreadful 10 percent when Bentley was sworn in.
It fell to 9 percent that October.
It dropped to 8.1 percent -- nearly 2 percentage points lower than when Bentley became governor -- on the one-year anniversary of his inauguration.
It dipped below 7 percent in July 2014.
In March 2016, it crossed the 6 percent threshold and neared the point where Bentley’s no-salary promise would come into play.
And in April of last year -- the month of Bentley’s resignation and Ivey’s rise to the governor’s chair -- Alabama’s unemployment rate was 4.8 percent.
Granted, Bentley wasn’t necessarily Alabama’s savior from joblessness. America’s employment rebound following the Great Depression is one of the nation’s undeniable economic successes and a legacy of Barack Obama’s presidency. Alabama’s unemployment improvement largely mirrored that of the nation at large. And today, with Ivey set early next year to begin her first term as the state’s elected governor, Alabama continues to reap the benefits of a positive trend that began more than seven years ago.
We’ll give Ivey this much: Since replacing her disgraced predecessor, her administration hasn’t derailed this welcomed improvement. But any insinuation that Alabama’s version of economic revival is an Ivey byproduct leaves out the pertinent facts.