\ The image to the right was making the rounds on Facebook over the weekend. I can take a joke. Hahaha. On a more serious note, the state Tourism Office spent $200,000 on advertising in Chicago reminding residents that they can "warm up in AZ." If this brings in some visitors with money to spend, good on them. Like it or not, tourism is one of Arizona's most important industries — and also a source of mostly low-paid jobs.
On the other hand, if it brings more people to stay, it is a calamity. Arizona needs about 4 million fewer Midwesterners. And the ones — Anglo, older, Republican — that come will merely reinforce the reactionary politics of the state, a la "the Big Sort."
Arizona's experience has made me deeply suspicious of people who move places for the weather or of states that promote sunshine as their prime asset.
Nobody moves to Seattle, Portland, Denver, Minnepolis-St. Paul or Boston "for the weather." And yet all of these metros leave Phoenix far behind in any measure of economic, social or cultural quality and competitiveness.
States that promote their weather have the least civic connections, the worst economies, the most horrific social injustice this side of Mississippi. Instead, we get a bunch of fools contemptuous of the fragile beauty of the state, ignorant of its history, sending their donations "back home" and braying about how "you don't have to shovel sunshine."
The Office of Tourism doesn't mention the foul cloud of smog I can see from my Midtown aerie. Nothing about the looming consequences of climate change or even the "local warming" that has raised temperatures 10 degrees in my lifetime, making summers hotter and longer.
Come July, when it is 110 in the shade at Sky Harbor and 140 degrees on the abundant surface parking lots and concrete, nobody will be making smug comments about the Midwest.
Come the day of a crisis with water, power, gasoline or the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, the joke will be on us. "We will rebuild." Really?
One more thing: The most inviting things about that image are the shadows of shade trees and grass, two things that are fading fast as the oasis is turned into a ghastly wasteland of rocks by people preening "don't you know we live in a desert!"
Meanwhile, politicians made their regular pilgrimage to the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. As the Associated Press reports:
Leaders of the Arizona Legislature showed unexpected signs of interparty cooperation Friday as they joined in committing to reforming the state’s child welfare system, crafting a budget and working to boost education funding.
If they really increased education funding to move the state out of the bottom of the union in per-student spending, that would be progress. But that won't happen.
Instead, the agenda will be more of the same: "Decreased regulation and taxes." Nevermind that the one coup in an otherwise drowsy economy, luring an Apple operation to the fringes of Mesa, is based on heavy incentives (i.e. "industrial policy," not "economic freedom."
More of the same keeps an economy that produces low-wage jobs, tract houses, back-office operations and a heavy brain drain of talent. "But Arizona is a young state." Yes, mostly among the Hispanic cohort, which is despised and kept as a permanent underclass. The old Anglos vote and perpetuate this toxic status quo.
Sunshine doesn't create a high-wage knowledge economy. It doesn't create high-value economic connections with the world. It sure doesn't build the kind of real cities that attract the most talented young people and empty nest boomers. Arizona has been trying to rely only on sunshine for decades and the results are self-evident.
Any real vision would be unwelcome at the Arizona Chamber. To use but one example: Commuter rail for metro Phoenix, restoring Amtrak service to Phoenix and state-funded rail between Phoenix and Tucson.
Or pushing the ideologues in the congressional district to get federal funding for the state, especially for research (including a national laboratory) and locating high-end federal offices here.
There's a need to radically increase funding for universities and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus. To go after such low-hanging fruit as biomedical manufacturing in Southern California or creating a logistics hub for rail and air freight at Sky Harbor, as Charlotte is doing.
Or — gasp — enacting a combination of land-use rules and taxes that would refocus development inside existing urban footprints (and I don't mean "Greater Buckeye") and get serious about stopping exurban building.
No, better to stay in the hole and keep digging. It is highly profitable for the elites. The bill comes due every day. Some day the leg-breakers will show up to collect.