Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Alex Sink: won't swim in the deep end of the pool ... by gimleteye

What is hobbling the Alex Sink campaign for governor is no mystery. Sink expressed frustration to the St. Pete Times when asked about the clarity of her message: "I'm running for governor to bring my business experience to focusing on rebuilding our state and to getting jobs for Floridians." So, how would that work, when the principal lines of commerce in Florida: sprawl, putting down highways, draining swampland, laying utilities is bankrupt?

Sink's campaign needs to re-tool immediately, but there is a problem with retooling: it means that the candidate and her top campaign advisors have to admit there is something fundamentally different with the operation of the economy and what ails voters than we have experienced in modern times. It is hard to give up the safety of the shallow end of the pool. But this is not Lawton's or Bob Graham's Florida, anymore.

The American Dream, and middle class, was not based on building houses. It was based on wealth from manufacturing. Florida's economic model-- providing a warm weather habitat for millions of new residents-- did not operate in a vacuum independent of the national economy. Ours depended on constant inputs of new consumers and real estate buyers, whether from foreign nationals buying first world properties at a discount or a steady in-migration from other states. Those domestic inputs depended on the supply chain of industry from other states. The model of wealth creation eroded over the course of decades, and in the most recent decade only survived through more and more extravagant layers of debt. Now it is dead and gone-- at least the domestic part of it. It is no wonder that our politics are frozen. The funders of political campaigns are still hoping to revive the beast, like scientists trying to build a wooly mammoth from tufts of hair.

So if you are an aspiring governor, and you are basing your 2010 message on a model of experience that ground to a halt on the false claims of increasing tax base no matter what development scheme comes down the pike, home equity lines of credit and liar loans, you can't promise that your past business experience is going to lead Florida to a better future.

Two things happened to the US economy beginning in the late 1980's: we began losing, or giving away, our manufacturing base. At the same time, we began drawing down the equity of the middle class. As a nation, we were wealthy and fortunate with both massive increases in productivity during the 1990's and the galloping dot.com boom. But when internet stocks collapsed and national security was threatened by 9/11, the right thinkers turned to real estate development (thank you, Alan Greenspan) to inflate a weak economy. But the housing boom was smoke and mirrors. Today, a former Miami billionaire builder is reaching for low income housing to keep busy. Another is using federal visa policies to pull foreign buyers in the door. For the builders, it is anything to ride out the storm. For voters, it is just plain anger.

Sink tells the Times, "I'm going to be waking up every day when I'm governor thinking about what am I doing that day to build a new economy for Florida and bring more sustainable types of jobs back to our state." And what would those jobs, be? Our educational system is foundering, our budgets are deep in the red, and we're not even close to taking care of Florida's future.

Anyhow, I'll tell you who has a great stump speech: candidate of Attorney General in Florida, Dan Gelber. Part of Gelber's energy is that his experience is not shaped from the world of cramming anyone who could fog a mirror into the endless platted subdivisions around the state. We still don't have a political candidate for state-wide office who will stand up and say, "You know, that boom we went through wasn't a good thing." And, "we are not going to retrace those steps, any time soon." That's tough love.

When Sink says, "I'm going to hold the politicians in Tallahassee accountable for the money they spend, and I'm going to make our state government operate more efficiently and effectively... To me, that's a pretty clear message.'' But it is not a message that most Floridians believe. With the state GOP in disarray and a weak opponent, Alex Sink does have a chance to be governor. But Sink has to re-tool her message and she has to do it quickly.


Anonymous said...

Probably one of your best commentaries to date. Didn't Alex learn anything from her husband's historically bad run?

andrew said...

The office party has been cancelled because the business, USA Inc., is shutting down. The pretty boy from Indiana got the memo, Lincoln Diaz-Balart got the memo, Charlie Crist got the memo and is desperately seeking refuge in D.C., even Katy Sorenson managed to figure it out. These people would rather not be around when the pitchforks come out soon.

Left behind are the dim bulbs like Alex Sink who will still be repeating her hackneyed campaign speech as they are puting her on the truck bound for the labor camp. Don't waste your time trying to reach her gimleteye.

Anonymous said...

She has to lose her fear. And speak from the heart. At least then we'll know what she stands for. If she can't get her base excited (or even figure out what it is), she won't get the turnout she needs to win. And will go down just like Buddy Mackay and her husband's (what was his name?) campaigns went. Unfortunately we will be left behind to suffer under the likes of a Republic Governor and legislature. Oil drilling will be passed on the first day of the new regime. Public Schools will be closed on the second. On the third, they'll privatize state government and sell the Capitol for a "speciality shopping center."

Anonymous said...

Florida will be one giant Venice, Italy soon enough. We need to begin training gondoliers, boat captains, scuba instructors and mermaids who can entertain people from Georgia and Alabama, which will be the new Floridas...

Anonymous said...

To both of the last 2 posts.