Once in a while a column comes along that requires little or no comment from this blogger. After reading the column, the author was contacted for permission to reproduce the column here. Jack Markowitz enthusiastically granted that permission. Mr. Markowitz is the retired business editor of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He now writes a twice-weekly column for that paper. The original online article, published August 4, 2005 can be found at this PittsburghLive website. Here is the article:
Businesses might end up paying for checks
By Jack Markowitz
FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, August 4, 2005
Starting now, would you want to go into business in Pennsylvania?
Forget the statistics detailing one of the worst business climates in America. Focus on what you see directly in front of you. First, perhaps, generous-seeming state aid. Taxpayers will subsidize you. Gov. Ed Rendell handed out checks totaling $51 million with a smile recently to 38 different projects.
You might be able to get yours, realizing that any factory, any warehouse, any store that might add or keep employees has got to ask, it's crazy not to. The money might help build or equip a plant, a warehouse, a road, a sewer connection. Or pay for training workers and beef up a research budget.
But nothing comes for nothing, you know that. Another layer of paperwork is the least of it. You've taken on various levels of government as "partners." You may not precisely owe any specific politician, you've dealt with their bureaucrats. But when the politicians stand for re-election, how can you say no to their fundraising? They helped you, you're going to help them.
You also realize it's suddenly awkward to criticize anything. Just as a citizen. Sure, you have free speech. Nothing prevents you, for example, from voicing outrage at the two worst pieces of legislation in memory -- the 11 percent to 34 percent pay raises grabbed by legislators, and the legalization of slot machine casinos. The latter will multiply social problems in the state, divert consumer spending from existing businesses (maybe yours) and elevate gambling interests to dominance in state politics.
But you can't say any of those things. It would be ungrateful; you'd expect some vague political punishment sometime. And when governmental costs go up, as they surely will when state employee unions "want theirs," using the piggish Legislature as example, and perhaps infecting your own unions as well, keep quiet, swallow it.
Because who else is standing up? Not the universities, now addicted to money from Harrisburg. Nor the "arts community," because even world-class symphonies pant for state aid when audiences shrink in line with an aging, stagnant population. Nor even the opposition party, which is hard to identify, because although in the legislative majority, it reliably provided the votes to pass the two recent legislative acts of shame.
You begin to suspect that free enterprise in Pennsylvania is fast becoming more slogan than reality. Unremovable career politicians distributing the taxpayers' money have managed to bully you as well as the rulers of socialist, underperforming economies always do.
But maybe there are other states where enterprise is freer, unions less politicized, and taxpayers' "help" less damaging economically in the long run. You will think about that before going partners with "a friend in Pennsylvania."
Retired business editor Jack Markowitz writes Sundays and Thursdays. E-mail him firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you Mr. Markowitz. I couldn’t have said it better.
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