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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

October 27, 2009 at 9:55 AM

County executive will inherit the great reset, but do the candidates know it?

Top of the News: Both Dow Constantine and Susan Hutchison make only glancing blows at the role of the King County Executive in the regional economy, based on this rundown of their major policy positions.

Both oppose Tim Eyman’s disastrous Initiative 1033, which would essentially cap government spending at or close to today’s revenue-starved levels. The initiative would prevent government from making adequate investments in such areas as education, transportation and quality of life infrastructure. In other words, what’s needed to keep luring talent here. While some point to small differences between this measure and one enacted in Colorado, the results would be similar — and it’s been a calamity for Colorado.

Hutchison makes me suspicious about her real support for transit. She says she supports light rail, but wants it to go on a future 520 bridge. This is a classic conservative tactic to oppose by delay. Tellingly, she is against using part of a gas tax for transit. A future of high-cost energy, the environmental consequences of fossil fuels and the lost productivity from endless single-occupancy car driving makes transit and trains essential choices for “winner” regions.

While both candidates have said nice things about creating a better business climate, nether has gotten too deep in the weeds. What, for example, should be our strategy when Boeing inevitably starts moving to South Carolina and elsewhere? Lowering Puget Sound living standards to those of exurban Charleston is not a strategy. What about global moves, luring foreign direct investment, etc.? Where do they think Seattle will come out in the great reset and what role should the executive play in crafting smart policy?

As for Hutchison’s “bloat” in county government — where is it? I’m not necessarily disagreeing, but some specifics would be useful. When an elected Hutchison starts slashing programs and infrastructure investments that she considers “bloat,” voters might have regrets.

Successful regions around the world have governments that do certain things very well. And not just slash their budgets.

The Back Story: Finland leads the world in the 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index, which measures economic fundamentals, entrepreneurship and innovation, democratic Institutions. education, health, safety and security, governance, personal freedom, and social capital. The U.S. comes in at No. 9, Canada at No. 7.

The U.S.suffers when rated on economic fundamentals, health safety and security, and governance. It ranks tops in entrepreneurship and innovation. The U.S. still came in ahead of the larger European nations.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Anyone believe

That McNerney hasn’t picked?

And Puget gets punk’d

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