Monday, June 25, 2007

"Greed is Good" - Poverty? "Yes, It's Your Destiny"

June 25, 2007, 7:15, 9:00 a.m. [times reflect additions to the entry -- for the benefit of those few individuals who check back occasionally during the day -- as well as reflecting the fact that what is called "life" occasionally interrupts blogging]

Three items this morning:

Here's the latest in our "corporatized government" effort to "rob from the poor and give to the rich" -- the central Iowa "Yes to Destiny" campaign. I guess that means, "Yes, suck it up and accept it; your destiny is to continue to make us richer." All you can give the backers credit for is their lack of hypocrisy. There's no pretense of the "SILO" suggestion that "we're doing it for the kids." The stated purpose of the proposed sales tax (aside from some spare change) is to transfer local taxes from those who own property to those who can't afford to; a sales tax the purpose of which is to reduce property taxes. No duplicity here; they tell you, straight out, as Michael Douglas' character Gordon Gekko put it in the 1987 movie "Wall Street," "Greed is good." Before you read the story, read the comments (three as of this morning [now 14 by 11:50 a.m.]). Those writers are "right on." You'll find their comments at the bottom of the screen for Donnelle Eller, "Venues approach 'Destiny' plan as lifeblood," Des Moines Register, June 24, 2007.

More on indoor rain forests, attractions and economic development. John Carlson had a column yesterday about the Iowa Speedway in Newton and the "Iowa Corn Indy." John Carlson, "Iowa Corn Indy 250 revs up town that's seen tough times," Des Moines Register, June 24, 2007. Auto racing is one of the fastest growing attractions in the country, and it brought 35,000 people to Newton. I suspect the town would rather see a replacement for the 2000 Maytag jobs it's lost than 35,000 one-day tourists. But it's a real accomplishment, and congratulations to Newton!

It's another example of some of the economic realities regarding attractions as revenue-generating tourist attractions in Iowa. Gambling, auto racing, rock concerts, and football (and not necessarily in that order) are what bring out the crowds. Newton had roughly the same number of visitors in one day as the Old Capitol, Iowa Hall, or Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and birthplace have in an entire year.

Quasi-educational attractions serve a real purpose (including school children's tours), need and deserve our support -- private and public. But according to the best economists (and experience of other Iowa attractions) something like the proposed Pella indoor rain forest, a quasi-educational attraction at best, will never generate the fans that a winning Hawkeye football team can -- let alone the 1.5 million visitors yearly the promoters have sometimes predicted. (That's a number that would require every man, woman and child in Iowa, from new born babes to the terminally ill, to visit the place and pay the full admission fee every two years for the entirety of their lives. It's just not likely to happen -- especially once located a long drive off of Interstate 80.)

Finally, face it, Iowa is not a "tourist destination" for most Americans. That's not to say we shouldn't create more parks, trails and greenbelts. We should. For our own benefit if nothing else. (Costa Rica devotes more of its land area, 25%, to parks than any other country on earth. For Iowa, that would be the entirety of nearly 25 of our 99 counties. Instead, Iowa is one of, if not the, bottom states in the U.S. for percentage of land in parks and forests.) But our beautiful (to me) farms and prairie grass preserves will never compete for tourists with the national parks, skiing and mountain climbing in the Rockies; the beaches of the East and West coast states; Caribbean cruises; the urban attractions of New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas; or foreign travel.

Fortunately, they don't need to. To our agricultural and manufacturing base, the new ideas and start up corporations from our Regents' universities and entrepreneurial centers, we are now adding the alternative energy sources of biomass, wind and hydro. The 35,000 good paying, full time jobs they are capable of creating will, in the long run, do far more for Iowa's economic development than 35,000 racing fans sitting in bleachers in Newton for one day -- "not that there's anything wrong with that."

UI Prez Search and Executive Compensation. The Des Moines Register runs as an Associate Press Story this morning, "Mason's pay bump at U of I may affect her state peers," Des Moines Register, June 25, 2007. And see in that connection, Nicholas Johnson, "Executive Compensation" in "Prez Mason & Now What? - Life Goes On," June 23, 2007.

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[Note: If you're new to this blog, and interested in the whole UI President Search story . . .

This blog began in June 2006 and has addressed, and continues to addresses, a number of public policy, political, media, education, economic development, and other issues -- not just the UI presidential search. But that is the subject to which most attention has been focused in blog entries between November 2006 and June 2007.

The presidential search blog entries begin with Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search I," November 18, 2006. They end with Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 505 - Next (Now This) Week," June 10, 2007 (100-plus pages printed; a single blog entry for the events of June 10-21 ("Day 516"), plus over 150 attached comments from readers), and Nicholas Johnson, "UI Hostages Free At Last -- Habemas Mamam!," June 22, 2007.

Wondering where the "UI Held Hostage" came from? Click here. (As of January 25 the count has run from January 21, 2006, rather than last November.)

For any given entry, links to the prior 10 will be found in the left-most column. Going directly to will take you to the latest. Each entry related to the UI presidential search contains links to the full text of virtually all known, non-repetitive media stories and commentary, including mine, since the last blog entry. Together they represent what The Chronicle of Higher Education has called "one of the most comprehensive analyses of the controversy." The last time there was an entry containing the summary of prior entries' commentary (with the heading "This Blog's Focus on Regents' Presidential Search") is Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search XIII -- Last Week," December 11, 2006.

My early proposed solution to the conflict is provided in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search VII: The Answer," November 26, 2006.

Searching: the fullest collection of basic documents related to the search is contained in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search - Dec. 21-25," December 21, 2006 (and updated thereafter), at the bottom of that blog entry under "References." A Blog Index of entries on all subjects since June 2006 is also available. And note that if you know (or can guess at) a word to search on, the "Blogger" bar near the top of your browser has a blank, followed by "SEARCH THIS BLOG," that enables you to search all entries in this Blog since June 2006.]

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

RE: Project Destiny and Economic Development

Project Destiny’s main thrust is trails and cultural and recreational programming improvement. It has been a mistake to use it as property tax offset. Getting a more developed trails system and other quality of life improvements help every citizen. The idea that we are going to bring union manufacturing type jobs to Iowa is a fantasy. The jobs that are coming will be white collar service workers in financial services, insurance, and information technology. The US can not compete on a cost basis with foreign labor in manufacturing in places like China and India. Basic economics; Capital (K) follows Labor (L).

Iowa needs to grow its own success and retaining the bright and talented younger people who care about things like trails, parks, and arts fests. These people will drive the markets and create jobs with their ideas. This is laid out well by Richard Florida of Carnegie Mellon University in his book “Rise of the Creative Class”. A summary can be found here;

The property tax is just as regressive as the sales tax. Let’s get real here.

That being said, I fully expect the tax to fail.