For years I have been writing that as relates to the economic and demographic changes that have swept our nation, changes that have been collectively called the New South, our state and region has lost out to so many other cities and states.
What made me and my co-thinkers so frustrated have been the obvious facts that Louisiana and the New Orleans Region had and has been endowed with so many innate assets than other states offer, assets that could have been used to attract businesses and business minded people. Natural resources, the ports and inland transportation, fisheries, tourism, agriculture, the primary materials manufactured in our chemicals industries, the list goes on and on. Yet, as most other southern states have passed us, we have been so fixated on a political viewpoint first imposed by Huey Long a hundred years ago and we have literally missed the boat to prosperity. And for decades the Advocate and its predecessors have failed to grasp the positive significance of us taking advantage of those assets and reaping the benefits of becoming a pro-growth state.
I liken us to the example of Detroit to demonstrate our predicament. When the political and labor climate of Detroit got so bad that automobile manufacturers could not make a profit they moved south. Car companies decamped to every southern state except one. You guessed it, though we had a short-lived plant in Shreveport, we currently have no car parts or assembly plants in our state. Simply put our politics and business climate are not aligned with the expectation that these corporations can make a profit, so they simply went elsewhere. And yet our media failed or did not want to expose the hard reality that we have been our own worst enemies.
Well finally I can say with some reservations that the Advocate may have seen the light. In a recent editorial they acknowledged that though we have been an economic failure, we can still reverse course and seek prosperity by becoming pro-growth. In their editorial they made some very bold statements, statements that go far afield from their normal positions.
“Great places to live are governed locally, not hemmed in by state legislators and governors who live hundreds of miles away, still fantasizing about being Huey P. Long.”
Bingo! While I don’t agree that local governance dominated by far left leaders of our cities has any chance to impact any difference to the economic climate (probably it would be worse), the simple fact that the Advocate solicits abandoning the Huey Long school of governance is huge leap forward for our only print media outlet.
“Great places to live have great colleges, and they don’t lard up their higher education system with five different governing boards.”
Another bingo! In my Senate career I tried three times to merge all those boards into one, I tried once to merge all NOLA institutions into one new model of higher educational institution for the region, and I implemented an outcomes-funding model, concept of which has been gutted by the status quo bureaucracy. The simple fact is that the process of education, as like everything else, has changed and just doing the same things that we have done for a hundred years will not cut it in the 21st century. This statement is even more true for pre-K-12 education. We have for too long just assumed that the model that we use for school governance will somehow be able to overcome our fundamental failings to educate. It will not and it must be changed.
Where I diverge with the Advocate is that they are overly naive when discussing the significance of “culture” and “inclusion” to business or to career minded people. To put it simply, if these characteristics were so important and valuable, today we would look like Atlanta and we do not.
Culture is fine and it is one of many amenities that attract people, but it is not the top of the list of reasons business minded people move to or stay in a region. Inclusion is important to the prosperity of our people, but nothing about it makes us special, as inclusion here does not assure profits for companies. Businesses can go anywhere and meet the politically acceptable moniker of being inclusive. There is no innate advantage to having a business in our state or region that wants to promote itself as being inclusive. Since we want all our people to have the best chance to prosper, the real goal is opportunity so that all may participate in our new economy.
In a way, being pro-growth aligns with the political goal of inclusiveness, as growing businesses must meet expanding workforce needs by recruiting from our disparate population. Of course, that assumes that all potential employees are equally qualified and educated. As noted, we have failed at education, so the goal of real-world inclusion is at least currently not realistic for so many citizens. Only when all are equally educated and all share in the work ethic that businesses need is there any chance for free market inclusiveness to be a reality. And an economy based upon competitive, free market employment, not public sector employment, is the only real path to large scale prosperity.
What attracts businesses and business minded people are some very fundamental things. Low taxes, security, limited government regulation and control, low cost of operation, high quality public education for the families of employees, good job opportunities for spouses, truly significant higher education, natural resources, transportation, low cost utilities, a legal climate that is fair to businesses, a workforce not burdened by the dictates of union bosses, and a place where people want to live, not just to visit and then go home. There are many more, but of this list today we probably only meet a few items. We need them all.
As I have written, to become a pro-growth state and region we must elect leaders who will rapidly lead us away from the clinging tentacles of Longism, leaders that recognize that the rising tide lifts all boats. These would be leaders displaying an open arms policy toward business and to career minded people seeking prosperity through the free market. Leaders who understand that we need to get away from the idea that our culture is somehow so special that it will overcome our shortcomings. It is not and it will not!
Ideally, once we have achieved the reputation of being a place people and businesses are attracted to, we can once and for all get away from the folly of using tax giveaways and tax policy to equalize the cost differences that exist between us and other states and cities. As prosperity grows, we will see our government revenues increase and we can rebuild our leaky ship of state with those revenues. Without pro-growth polices only stagnation and malaise beckon to the downward spiral that we have been engaged in for so long.
I am so hopeful that the Advocate means what it has written. It is a promising start, but it must be followed up. We have three years until the next governor’s election and our goal should be to identify pro-growth policies and potential leaders who will implement those policies. The Advocate can be a huge help in moving our state out of the mire that Longism has left us in, as well as our own refusal to grasp what a New South economy could mean for us. They can shine a light on the fallacies that we have placed our trust in and demonstrate the prosperity that exists in so many other areas with so much less to offer than we have. They can fundamentally change our thinking from one of comfort in poverty of spirit and body and challenge us to use our God given assets to achieve greatness.
Or they can revert to the same old left-wing victim drivel that has marked their editorial policy for so long.
I want badly to see us succeed, so guardedly to the Advocate I say – welcome to the fight!