Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Next Washington is the Last Washington

The Governor's economic game plan is hard for a committed anti-corporatist to swallow. As our readers may know, the Guv is my favorite elected official.

Chris Gregoire is a leader, not a leaper in front of parades, not a facilitator, but one who determines what needs to be done and generates the energy and support to get it done. She's doing it in education. She's doing it in health care. In economic development, she needs to expand her sources.

As one who ascribes to corporations the authorship of the misery of billions and the frustration of most of the key public policies essential for a successful future, it is difficult for me to swallow the Governor's Next Washington project. (Check out the governor's prosperity page, too.)

This is the draft of Gregoire's economic game plan for the state. Marbled throughout it are all the elements of corporate capitalism which I hate so much.

It is embarrassing that the state and its governor are operating a deluxe welcome wagon for free agent corportions. Better we should take care of our citizens, including our current corporate citizens, through education, health care, transportation and disciplined regulation.

The Next Washington document came out ten days ago. I have not been able to get a critique together because Thomas Friedman's corporate bias has so thoroughly infected it.

The basics are also there, I admit. Number two is "Education is the single most important economic investment we can make."

The fact that there is no trade-off between economic development and enlightened environmental and social policy is explicit. But the absurdities are there, too, distilled in the conclusions (which does not match the manual of market capitalism, as usual) that states must compete for companies.

Corporations are the basic engines of prosperity. States and nations compete on the basis of cost as in cheap labor, on the basis of cost as in big tax giveaways, or on the basis of sophisticated public goods such as in an educated work force and sufficient infrastructure.

Of course, we hope to be in the last category, because we like education and sufficient infrastructure. But what happened to companies competing and states taking care of their citizens? That would be the situation right side up.

The Guv's Competitiveness Council document last spring was chaired by Alan Mullaly, or however you spell it, famous downsizer, outsourcer, tax code raider.

Once of Boeing, Mullaly is now downsizing, laying off and cutting everything except the earnings per share number at Ford. No wonder it concluded that corporations need welfare and the public needs to accept the harsh realities of the market.

It bothers me when the Guv says, as she often does, that when she goes to Beijing, she flies in on a Boeing jet, passes by a Microsoft office tower, and sits in a hotel across the street from a Starbucks, and it makes her proud.

Better she should reflect on the dozens of thousands of individuals in China benefitted by Washington's Universities. Those corporate logos don't represent five percent of the good that has come from Washington.

It is, in fact, by the education of people and by organization of our society through courts and regulatory agencies and by the facilitation of product movement via transportation systems that the state increases our common well-being. Those companies benefit from us and ride on our effort, not the other way around.

The role of corporations (at least if you look directly at how they act on the stage) seems to be to increase the benefit of stockholders and corporate managers wherever they live and whatever the cost to the rest of us.

Corporations adhere to this mission even if it means frustrating educated common sense. Nothing is more absurd, for example, than the current energy plan based on ever more extensive use of a shrinking resource that poisons the environment.

This is not the choice of anyone other than the corporate elite who muscled it in by way of their flunkies in the political process.

(Another parenthetical example is the dominance of public health care policy by corporate profiteers in the face of evidence and more evidence affirming that public health care systems are more efficient and less costly.)

By rediscovering and promoting the fundamental role of government in providing public goods which all can share -- irrespective of access to offices in Olympia -- the Guv will do far more to enhance economic development than she will be being the shill for corporate newcomers to our state.

Read the document. It's in discussion phase. Send your comments to:

Marc Baldwin
Executive Policy Advisor
Marc.Baldwin (at) Gov.WA.Gov.

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