What the Devil won't tell you
Ducey's SoS: Sharing in no way means caring
Gov's vision for Arizona's economy is downright Hobbesian, brutish and hustling
Gov. Doug Ducey's State of the State address on Monday reminded me of my favorite joke about socialism.
It goes like this: A socialist is explaining how the system works to a buddy who has no idea. The socialist says, "It's easy. If I have two houses and you have none, you get one of my houses. If I have two cars and you are without one, you get one of my cars." The friend says "Ohhhh. I get it and if you have two TVs, I get one of your TVs."
The socialist shakes his head, saying flatly, "No."
Well his friend is perplexed. "Wait, if you have two cars and I don't have one, I get your spare. And if you have two houses and I'm homeless, I get one of your homes."
"Absolutely," the socialist says.
"Well then why don't I get your extra TV?"
The socialist sighs: "Because I have two TVs."
See, the joke being that the socialist is only willing to give to his friend what he, himself, doesn't have.
Doug Ducey apparently heard this joke and shouted "Eureka! There's gold in them there hills! Or maybe it's not gold but some other rock no one has been able to sell — but there's always a chance on Ebay."
Ducey's State of the State speech began with a series of bows that I would question, but he won the election and gets the podium (those are the rules). Then he turned to his grand vision of slashing regulations — licensing requirements in particular. He made a point that talent agents should be free to represent clients without licenses. Well, that problem is solved. We can all go home now and find our future discovering the next Grimes only to lose her to Jay Z.
Then Ducey dropped the bomb, discussing — quite legitimately — how Uber can't pick up passengers at Sky Harbor and deriding past sting operations against the enterprising startup (as opposed to Enterprise, who picks you up). Fair point, governor. Free enterprise is at times too regulated and those regulations are often aimed at barring market entry. No competition. No free market.
But Ducey can't leave well enough alone. No, then he takes the big dive with a vow to plunge Arizona's economy into a pool that isn't filled yet.
Ducey: "Arizona should be to the Sharing Economy, what Texas is to Oil and what Silicon Valley used to be to the tech industry."
I'm sorry, what? What?!
Share and share dislike
The Ducey Doctrine would seem quite the grand vision for a dystopian freelance future for all, in all its Hobbesian glory. Realize, he's not seizing an opportunity to bring headquarters here to Arizona — that would be groovy. He's talking about how Arizona needs to be known for its profligate sharing in the absence of reasonable median incomes. Maybe in this odd-job economy we can even sell tickets for to-the-death cage matches over which Uber driver gets the next fare.
Can we go back to massive tax giveaways for call centers? Can't we just change the state Constitution so we can do what other states do and bribe business to come? Next to this idea, Sun Corridor Inc's devotion to Mexico sounds bleeping great (I'm sorry I dissed you, Joe Snell...).
I'm left to draw one conclusion. Boy, you hate taxes even more than I thought you did, Governor.
See, it makes perfect sense if you think about it. The future is here, Ducey rightly points out, but the knowledge economy would be too expensive for Arizona taxpayers. It requires shit like schools and higher ed, some infrastructure and maybe even free wifi for all. No. That would inconvenience Paradise Valley and Pima Canyon Estates.
Doug Ducey's vision for Arizona's economy is that you share that extra TV for a few extra bucks because you don't have a job. You are all now hustlers that require little in the way of public investment. This is what Arizona will be known for if Ducey has his way. It's Bronze Age barter and high-tech hunting and gathering.
Governor, were you reading X-Men comics or watching Star Trek when you crafted this address? Because the sharing economy has barely begun and promises more destruction than creation until well into the future. It's a good way to score some cash on the side, but it's nothing to be known the world over for. I'm not even sure you can be the global capital of the sharing economy because the Internet has no geographic center. If it does it's in Estonia, Bulgaria or some -Stan I never want to visit.
It's sharing and not ownership. It's hustling and clawing your way to survival in a cold cruel world absent benefits, retirement or enough money to afford much of either. Governor, someone has to be able to afford that second TV for it to be shared. That requires jobs.
The gig-ification of the job market is scary, not something to luxuriate in. It's like the hot lava in the movies. The idea is to climb away from it, not swan dive into it in the name of freedom. Yes, we all see it coming — but no — let's not rush it. The 40-hour workweeks with retirement and health care are still far more preferable.
Yet in an Arizona future where no one can afford their own computer or car, we can just share our neighbors. It's a "gig economy" where we trade a cubicle and a paycheck for walking our neighbor's dog and washing our cousin's car. Flying signs online is one step up from "Will work for food."
As long as we are talking Forbes, Governor, the magazine came out with a list of the top 12 sharing economy companies. They involve three "want-a-ride" companies, along with a dog-sitting business and a website allowing us to rent rooms out to strangers. Another creates the opportunity to share wifi for more free wifi (not sure how that works), borrowing from random people and a whole bunch of handyman/woman stuff that is anything but a job.
Can we go back to the part where we do fantastic tax giveaways to call centers? Next to this idea, Tucson tying its financial future to the developing economy down south is sheer genius.
You aren't familiar with the sharing economy? Let's take a look at what that means via the peoplewhoshare.com blog.
The Sharing Economy encompasses the following aspects: swapping, exchanging, collective purchasing, collaborative consumption, shared ownership, shared value, co-operatives, co-creation, recycling, upcycling, re-distribution, trading used goods, renting, borrowing, lending, subscription based models, peer-to-peer, collaborative economy, circular economy, pay-as-you-use economy, wikinomics, peer-to-peer lending, micro financing, micro-entrepreneurship, social media, the Mesh, social enterprise, futurology, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, cradle-to-cradle, open source, open data, user generated content (UGC).
Never mind not having a clue what those mean, let me ask you a couple things: Do you see the word "job" anywhere? No. Jobs are passé. Jobs are so 1990s. What Ducey seems to believe Arizona should plunge into is a job market full of glorified rickshaw drivers and racketmen. Second, doesn't the description sound like everything Republicans would hate for themselves and oh, don't even try to suggest it for the 1 percent? Their money is too busy earning 10 percent to be used for schools. They get to own. We get to share. It's the natural outgrowth of the wealth gap, but I didn't expect a governor to so brazenly embrace it.
It's not just that Ducey wants us all to have the opportunity to hustle to find extra income. That's fine. What he wants is the gig economy to be the backbone of Arizona's 21st century economy — where we are as known for scavenging workers staving off homelessness with a dog leash as Texas is for known for oil and Silicon Valley is for computers.
So, we gotta detail Joe Salkowski's car over at Tucson Electric Power to keep the lights on? I have to write love letters to the brain trust at Southwest Gas to keep the oven lighting up?
Sold - er, bartered - down the river
Governor, this is not an economy. This is not a labor force. It's the post-apocalyptic series over on the USA Network. Borrow your cousin's TV and check it out.
Yet this is what you get when you do what Arizona has done for 25 years and reach the end of the cul de sac. The state has the most limited food stamp program in America, the most restrictive welfare program in America, is the only state without an federal SCHIP program for kids' health care and we rank 49th in K-12 spending.
Look, kids. That's what's left of the social contract floating down the Salt River.
What's more — the key word in sharing economy isn't economy — it's sharing. It means joint ownership. It's free-market socialism. It's all the Marx and none of the personal upside.
The peer-to-peer economy promises to do to Arizona's job market what Napster did to Columbia Records. The Craig's List Monster is finishing off newspapers and is now coming to eat the whole labor force. This, Governor, is a trend to be mitigated and not one to be embraced as the future.
I would feel better about this if I didn't have reason to believe Ducey hates carpool lanes.
Here's a big problem for Arizona and the sharing economy: It requires that benefits like health care be regulation and provided by the state.
See, when workers in the sharing economy don't get benefits like health care, they need to have it provided for them by the only other game in town. The government.
Don't believe me? There's this guy Travis Kalanick who argues the same thing. He founded a little company called "Uber." This is what he said about Obamacare as a lynchpin of Uber's success:
“It’s huge," he said, according to BuzzFeed. “The democratization of those types of benefits allow people to have more flexible ways to make a living. They don’t have to be working for The Man.”
Yet working for The Man is actually how the bulk of Americans still make a living and raise families. This may not be the case in Haiti, but here in the U.S., we're still what they call "an advanced civilization." Together advanced civilizations make investments in institutions that allow the broader economy to grow.
The more Wild West the economy can be, the more it needs to be tamed with some basic rules and regs, requiring payment by somebody.
I will use a real-world situation involving a writer named "Drake." Drake did some work with a guy who did 3D printing in Hong Kong. But rather than pay Drake a salary he decided he would pay Drake's rent. Money is fungible. Drake agreed and told him when rent was due. The bossman in Hong Kong forgot. Then he refused to pay with a debit card; someone could steal that, see. So the money bags wanted the apartment complex management to (I kid you not) provide him their bank account and routing number — and send it off to ... t-dee, t'dah: Hong Kong! What property management firm wouldn't do that?
Needless to say this didn't go over. So he didn't pay until Drake faced court and a local associate paid with the promise that Mr. Hong Kong would reimburse the guy in Arizona. Hong Kong never did, protesting he didn't know about late fees even though October rent was paid on the 22nd of the month. Hong Kong would take that off the next month, leaving Drake in lurch and terminally behind on rent, until three months later when he was evicted.
T'dah! Say hello to the future of the Arizona economy. Why? Because Gov. Doug Ducey promises no regulation on the gig economy to ensure people are actually paid for their work. It's unnecessary because the free market will work it out. Meaning, the guy in Hong Kong eventually won't be able to find writers if his keep going homeless.
Yet Ducey is promising to eliminate rules to make the free-for-all flourish.
Absent that, Arizonans have no choice but to embrace less and less, clinging to it harder and harder, forced to hustle more and more. "Why should I pay for them?" is an undergirding question governing conservatism and frankly it's not a bad one. Why should the money we make go to others? There better be a good answer.
Here's a good two word answer: "Advanced civilization."
However Ducey is looking at a state that has one of the lowest tax burdens in the country and promising to cut taxes further every year. From his speech: "Together, we will lower taxes this year. Next year. And the year after."
This means — eventually, I'll do my piece on the Laffer Curve later — collapsing revenues cause budget crises that squeeze state expenditures down to levels they do not recover from just so politicians can say, "We cut taxes."
In the absence of institutions like health care and public education, Arizona isn't going to be able to cash in on the Knowledge Economy — but Ducey wants us to swallow its backwash as the primary staple of our diet.
But it's all good. I heard you can do really well in the sharing economy without burdensome regulation. Why just the other day, I heard about this Nigerian prince who wants to share my bank account and he'll give me....
Blake Morlock covered Arizona government and politics for 15 years, including 11 in the Tucson Citizen. He also worked on Democratic Party campaigns in the field of political communications. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.