Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Golisano: Visionary or Dilettante?

We're not sure about Tom Golisano when it comes to politics.   Many good ideas, heart in the right place, but, perhaps, politically naive.   If so, then altogether not much different from most business successes who decide to go into politics.   They've mastered one world and expect to do it again, in a wholly different sphere they know superficially and whose rules and dynamics are completely different.   Some, like Bloomberg, make it, and accomplish something useful; others, not so much.

The ostensible goals of Golisano's new PAC remain too broad for us to know, yet, whether he's on top of the political game or not.

Here's how we're all going to find out.

The unique collection of problems that place New York first among states on all the lists of bad characteristics -- high property taxes, out-migration to other states, for example -- and last on the lists of good characteristics -- job creation, ease of doing business, affordable taxes -- involves two separate, even though often related, areas:   policies and process.

Upstate New York's economic death spiral will continue until the policies are changed.   Changes to process are relevant to curing the disease only to the extent they facilitate adopting the right policies and ditching the wrong ones.

Every politician recognizes that it's impossible to deny the deep problems with government in New York and maintain credibility with voters.   Therefore, politicians who want to preserve the policies crushing the people of this state, or who are supported by special interests that do, talk a lot about dysfunction, and fixing processes in state government.   This gives the appearance of doing something, while leaving the causes of the problems untouched.

Therefore, if we hear Golisano and the candidates he endorses talking about changing policies (e.g. "I'm funding Candidate X because she'll vote to repeal the Wicks Law," etc.), we'll know he gets it and that his PAC can do some good.   We think this is what he'll do.

If, on the other hand, we hear him focusing on process changes, transparency, etc., without talking about specific policy changes, then he's just another clueless Captain of Industry dreaming of apotheosis into a "Statesman," as he's played for a sucker by the political hacks.

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