Dirty Deal

Regular readers know few things really get my going quite like the subject of governors pretending to create economic growth via personal deal-making with “investors,” whether it’s Hollywood moguls wanting to be paid to film movies somewhere or foreign companies coolly scanning the globe for a place with the right balance of weak regulation and low taxes but a decent standard of living. For one thing, individual solicited investment decisions are rarely more than a small component of economic development; they just happen to be the ones that generate “announcements” and groundbreakings and ribbon-cuttings that pols can exploit. For another, competing with other jurisdictions for happy-feet companies is rarely a smart strategy in the long run, and often results in debasing not only a state’s revenue base but degrading the very quality of life that more durable investors find attractive.

So I’m not real disposed to look very favorably on this news from my home state of Georgia (via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Greg Bluestein):

Gov. Nathan Deal skipped town over the weekend for an economic development trip. Just where he went is being treated like a state secret.

His office won’t disclose where the state’s top elected official journeyed or whom he visited. His public schedule is blank. His name was on the agenda for Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration but he wasn’t there. And his speech to lawmakers on the budget-writing committee is scheduled for Thursday, two days after the main group’s meeting.

We have a pretty good idea where he went, thanks to a few lawmakers and other officials. They say he’s across the pond in Great Britain. Deal’s office won’t confirm or deny this, of course, adding to the intrigue.

Now if there’s any place on earth that ought to treat MLK Day as a big public holiday that public officials just don’t skip, it’s King’s home state of Georgia. If Deal skipped it to fly to London to set up some bogus “announcement” of an economic development “breakthrough” meant to reflect well on his power and glory, that’s worse. And if in order to “close” the “deal,” the governor traded away public policies and public revenues that King would almost certainly have suggested a better use for than political-corporate feather-nesting, then this is damn near close to sacrilege.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.