So Goldy’s post about having his video commentaries removed from YouTube, presumably at the request of the Association of Washington Business, reminded me that their president, Don Brunell, puts out a column that is faithfully carried every week by The Columbian. Usually I ignore it, but this week’s version is particularly entertaining given the wider economic situation. I’m not sure how many other outlets print it, so now and then it’s worth examining, if for no other reason that to enjoy Brunell’s sheer chutzpah.
Brunell’s column is headlined “Brunell: EU businesses find southern comfort,” and he gazes wistfully at at all the automotive plants being built in the south.
There is a virtual bidding war between southern states for modern vehicle manufacturing. Foreign-based companies now operate 13 assembly plants in the U.S., most of which are in the South.
The Associated Press reports Alabama offered $385 million to VW for the same plant, while Mississippi gave Toyota $294 million in 2007 to build at Blue Springs, and Kia received $400 million worth of incentives from Georgia.
A senior executive at Fiat, the Italian industrial conglomerate, told the Financial Times, “With the amount of money U.S. states are willing to throw at you, you would be stupid to turn them down at the moment. It is one of the low-cost locations to be in at the moment.”
Apparently nothing turns on a free-marketeer like government handouts.
But the most interesting bit is when Brunell sets forth on what is likely his true motivation, attacking unions in Washington state. I’ll only quote a couple of paragraphs, although I’m not clear on whether the AWB can sue people for quoting their corporate socialism agit-prop when they give it away free to traditional media outlets. (Bold added.)
The most attractive states are “right-to-work” states in which individual workers can decline union membership. Washington is a compulsory union state, so if people want to work at Boeing as a machinist, they have to join the union. When the union votes to strike, as the Boeing machinists did, they cannot cross the picket line even if their family is hurting for money.
Incentives and right-to-work laws are part of the decision matrix. A pool of trained and willing workers is important as well. Companies need people who know what they are doing when the factory powers up, and many states are spending millions to train workers for new factories and growing businesses.
Hmmm…so the government needs to educate the population, provide cash and other incentives to global corporations and also pass laws making unionization impossible? Is there a little box in Brunell’s “decision matrix” that reads “destroy the unions?” ‘Cause that seems to be what he’s getting at.
Such a vision reminds me of a certain large country in Asia that vacuumed up an Olympic-size portion of our jobs and currency. In the midst of a huge public backlash against conservative hypocrisy on economic issues, here’s good old Don Brunell admiring statism.
So if we peel away all the ridiculous rhetoric about markets over the last twenty-eight years, what Brunell and progressives might agree upon is this: government plays a key role in the economy. As Atrios observed yesterday about some of the commentary on CNBC:
People who prattle on about “the free market” are usually too stupid to have a clue how complicated and pervasive the “rules” had to be to to get a well-functioning modern market system: sophisticated concepts of contracts and enforcement, property rights, legal entities, proper accounting, bankruptcy, limited liability, etc… etc…, did not descend from the heavens but were, in fact, created.
To be fair to Brunell, he doesn’t seem very free-market oriented in his column at all, so I don’t think the “stupid” part applies. Atrios’s larger point is a great one, though, because societies create markets over time, and the best way to do that is through the expression of popular will, with respect to minority rights, through a truly democratic system. It’s not magical and mystical.
But many Republican candidates, lacking any other message, continue to “prattle” about the evils of government and taxes.
The real argument, as Brunell’s column reveals, is over who benefits from state actions. Brunell seems to like laws that make unionization impossible, meaning he would deny workers the right to collective bargaining, virtually the only means of allowing workers to negotiate on a somewhat even footing with multi-national corporations. In other words, he wants the playing field stacked in favor of business.
Unfortunately for Brunell and the anti-union management at The Columbian, they don’t get to wish away rights earned by our ancestors. For now this is an allegedly free country, and as the people come to understand the economic crimes that have been committed against them in the name of “freedom,” they will likely begin to grow more impatient with those who would tread on them.