It’s been a minute since I’ve posted here, as virtually all my time this year has been spent on The Center for Economic Accountability, where I’m the president and one of the founding board members.
I’ll keep this site for stuff that doesn’t relate to my work on behalf of transparency, accountability and free-market-based reforms of state and local economic development policy, but for the most part you should be paying attention to the CEA’s website (or Facebook page, or Twitter feed) if you want to see what I’m working on at any given time.
(I’m not quite sure why anyone would, but life’s full of mysteries. Thanks for visiting.)
I’m proud to have co-written an op-ed in the Des Moines Register with John Hendrickson of Iowans for Tax Relief. Iowa’s politicians have gone hog-wild (pun intended) for economic development subsidies, and it’s time for the state’s taxpayers to have the transparency and accountability they need to decide whether or not they’ve gotten a good deal for their money.
My most recent op-ed on economic development ran in The Oakland Press this week. In it, I try to get the reader to think about whether or not the stakeholders in economic development subsidies are generally telling us the truth about what’s going on, and what we should require of them in the process.
As I wrote in the Detroit News this week, “The true purpose of economic development incentives isn’t to create jobs. Rather, it’s to make voters think that politicians are creating jobs.”
My latest Detroit News op-ed takes on the “we must have public mass transit if we’re going to compete for companies like Amazon” argument. If giant tech companies think their employees need help getting around metro Detroit, they can run their own shuttle services like they do in Silicon Valley rather than asking the region’s taxpayers to foot the bill.
The Detroit News published another op-ed from me today, taking on the proposed voting reform ballot initiative. I think most of the practical fixes are decent ideas (other than the restoration of straight-ticket voting) but I think the realistic effect of adding more unengaged voters will be an increase in candidates winning on name recognition or partisan ID rather than their merits.
I think the real lesson here is that if we’re this dysfunctional at choosing the people who run our government, we should probably rethink how much power we give that government — and those people — over our lives.
Frustrated reformers need to take away one key lesson from the recent U.S. Soccer Federation presidential election: Passion doesn’t matter unless you channel it into powerful incentives. Unless they organize into an active constituency that must be reckoned with by those in power, advocates for a more grassroots, club and athlete-centered model of American soccer will continue to fail to achieve real change.
It’s a fundamental tenet of public policy advocacy that the overriding priority of people with power is to retain that power. Politicians of whatever stripe and in whatever environment value reelection over everything else. That’s why elected officials need to believe the support or opposition of people sharing a point of view will play a meaningful role in that equation, or else they will be set aside in favor of interests with more perceived power. Given this reality, American soccer reformers must organize the amorphous mass of frustrated fans, supporters, players, parents, club owners and other stakeholders into a functional constituency for their shared interests. Only then will they have the power to demand and expect meaningful change from the people with power over the sport’s official structures in our nation.
If they don’t, the future will hold more of the same.
Continue reading “American Soccer Reformers Must Learn How to Force Real Change”
The Detroit News published a new op-ed from me this week, in which I argue that if Michigan can’t even make it into the top 20 for the Amazon subsidy game then we should stop playing altogether. Let’s compete as the one state that doesn’t take money from working families and small businesses and hand it to giant corporations and billionaires.
Two articles published today, and there’s a serendipitous common theme of people in government doing what’s best for themselves rather than what’s best for their constituents.
At Think Freely Media, I make the point that any discussion of the “federal budget process” should start from the basic point that we really don’t have “federal budgets” any more, at least in terms of how most people think of a budget. That’s great if you’re a politician or lobbyist; not so good if you’re a taxpayer.
Once politicians get our money, it’s a core tenet of representative democracy that we should be able to keep tabs on what they’re doing with it. That’s why we have FOIA, the Open Meetings Act and other transparency laws. Michigan’s already one of the worst states in the country for transparency, but the City of Detroit seems to have found a new way to get around the FOIA law’s requirements: They told me closing their Law Department for a week paused their 15-day deadline to respond to my FOIA request:
Journalism and transparency advocates think this is a terrible precedent to set.
I’ve got a new article in Think Freely Media’s “What Should Be Said” series, looking at the rhetoric from Venezuela’s socialist leadership versus the reality of societal collapse in a formerly prosperous country: Venezuelan Socialists Blame Capitalism for Socialism’s Starvation.