One must wonder what Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's main constituency thinks about her junket to SOCIALIST Europe, to Germany and to France, whose new president is nominally a SOCIALIST. One must wonder what the Germans and French think of Brewer, the head of an American state that continues to up the bar not just on craziness (See Bennett, Ken) but violent craziness. Gun deaths in Arizona now exceed automobile fatalities. The extremism was loud enough to call for a New York Times essay from Timothy Egan: "We interrupt reality to bring you Arizona..."
According to the newspapers, Brewer's trade mission "includes leaders of the Arizona Commerce Authority and Arizona Office of Tourism." Just who these mammals are — as in, name names — is unclear. (The Republic's Yvonne Wingett Sanchez got at least a partial list of the entourage, but the governor's office declined to give the budget). The purpose of the trip is also murky. Stories mention that the EU imported $770 million in Arizona products in 2011. Germany is the state's sixth-largest trade partner, France No. 10. These are meaningless numbers because Arizona exports are distorted by the huge footprint of Intel semiconductors and, to a lesser degree, Boeing and Raytheon defense products. Arizona is not a conscious player in the export world.
As for tourism — forget it. Germans who want American sun go to Miami. Unless the state could lure or underwrite direct flights to Germany and France, it will never be a big player in this field.
The opportunity is for foreign direct investment. In the 2000s, this accounted for about 65,000 jobs in the state, so there's plenty of room to grow. South Carolina, which pursued an aggressive push in this area in the 1990s, boasted about 134,000 jobs and a BMW assembly plant.
There are a few problems. First, the eurozone is in an existential crisis, so this might not be the best time to be seeking business ties. And other states are way ahead of you. Second, South Carolina adopted a very focused strategy, targeting a specific company with lavish incentives that in-state employers didn't receive, and at a time when foreign automakers were establishing transplant factories. South Carolina used the same toolbox to win a 787 assembly line from Boeing. For all this, much of the state remains economically devastated by China and its sucking away the textile and apparel industries.
I don't get the sense Arizona even understands the Southern economic-development strategy. Instead, Brewer is "pitching its business-friendly atmosphere, and fiscal-turnaround — a reference to the state's currently balanced budget." Huh? Every state is required to have a balanced budget. And the "business-friendly atmosphere" may make a nice right-wing talking point, but genuine competitiveness doesn't come from low taxes and "light" regulations. Otherwise, Somalia (and Mississippi) would be Hong Kong. It requires public investment in universities, public schools, logistics and transportation, and helping seed leading-edge industries. None of that came out of the latest, ideologically driven, Legislature session.
I wonder, too, if Brewer gets the irony of "touting" the state to the solar-power moguls of Germany. The solar industry was founded in Phoenix in the 1950s, and we let it get away precisely because of a lack of public investment, leadership and focus. Sunshine and Randian rhetoric are not an economic-development strategy.
It is perhaps salutary to get out a bit. Germany and France enjoy universal health care, high-speed trains, cutting-edge research, top universities and — hello — vibrant capitalist economies, whether the party in power is conservative or social democratic. Such strengths will allow the two to weather the crisis, whatever the damage to the rest of Europe. Maybe. Still, I expect Brewer to return home from this holiday full of condemnation and confusion over SOCIALISM. Speaking of getting out, what about a "trade mission" to Mexico, Arizona's largest trade partner. Awkward.
I still wonder about this "public-private" Arizona Commerce Authority that replaced the state Commerce Department. Who is behind this, besides Kookocracy politics, and who will use public money for private profits at the expense of the common good (as in the charter schools racket)? Does this entity face the auditory microscope of an independent inspector general? It smells like the next alt-fuels scandal, but maybe I am too skeptical. Heaven knows, Arizona hasn't given me reason to be.