Blue Louisa: A blog Covering Central Virginia & national politics from a progressive perspective
The state of Wisconsin recently maneuvered itself into a position of granting enormous tax breaks – and other advantages that included providing additional infrastructure – to a company (Foxconn) that made grandiose promises that weren’t intended to be kept, were unable to be kept, and have no hope of being kept
You have to ask relevant questions to get some insight or to speculate about the motivation and the ability of any government level to impose a financial burden on an unsuspecting public and expect it to willingly submit to its backdoor machinations. Tony Evers, the new governor or Wisconsin inherited the responsibility to resolve the sham that was named “economic development.”
Without an investigation, there is only speculation about how that fiasco occurred but we can also use that speculation to consider if Louisa County is headed for a similar disaster with the Shannon Hill Project – or Megasite
The Wisconsin Foxconn projections were overly optimistic from the start, but who could’ve known that of the thousands of estimated jobs, only about four to six actual employees had been identified. How certain are we that the Megasite projections don’t have similar flaws? Someone should’ve anticipated what would happen.
We can be confident that the Foxconn mishap likely has its origins in misinformation, disinformation, and intimidation (to some extent). There are really three participants in this drama.
All the participants have access to varying levels of information but in typical fashion, taxpayers have the least information, which almost always manifests itself as the amount of the bill when government and business complete their collusion in a financial enterprise. The victim role is the one assigned to taxpayers, while government and business exchange levels of culpability and responsibility for perpetrating deception. It’s conceivable that government can rightly plead “not guilty” in a few instances when it allows itself to indulge in gullibility.
Business is the “usual” culprit in manipulating and taking advantage of the Economic Development mechanism in its continuing quest for profit – it’s a natural pheromone. Government misunderstands it but submits to the overtures of financial promises, even if they’re unrealistic. But, does government really know how to make a sound business determination?
Taxpayers are at the greatest disadvantage because they lack the exposure to the language and experience with the processes that the government and business have created and protected between themselves.
Land ownership is a significant incentive to entice “development,” especially if the price is right and there’s no further use for that land. If a significant short-term profit can be made because of bleak long-term prospects some business enterprise will certainly offer a large tract of land. Business is extremely adept at getting government to become an accomplice in any venture as long as the magic word is used – Economic Development.
Misinformation can easily be viewed as the propagation of incorrect information without any necessary intent to deceive. This is a familiar pattern with large and diverse groups. It’s a natural phenomenon that’s displayed in communication models as “noise.” It can happen through honest misinterpretation at the start of sending information; through the various levels of business, government, and public; and, the final destination where taxpayers are usually expected to suffer the consequences of mutated information.
Part of this noise is the result of bias and unreasonable expectations. The concept of Economic Development creates optimistic – but unrealistic – expectations even when there is no justification for it. As a society, we tend to ignore any deeper meaning beyond the sound bites we’ve grown accustomed to receiving. The inquisitiveness that accompanies critical thinking has moved along the path of atrophy.
This is a dangerous state that leaves citizens exposed to manipulation by business – sometimes with the aid of government, unwittingly caught in the misinformation trap. And this is only the most benign of the “bad things” that can happen.
Disinformation is even more sinister – an active attempt to deceive and mislead. It becomes worse when government willingly and knowingly abets business. Elected and appointed officials do not simply fail to perform all the fiduciary duties and responsibilities on behalf of the taxpayers, but actively participate to disrupt and distort information. Under these conditions, the reaction is to preserve the undeserved image of a functioning government.
Claims of restrictions to sensitive information are only used to add to the perception of importance – if you believe government can be serious about that. If these distractions work, the government is emboldened to continue its deceit – in concert with business – and increases the risk of further damage to the financial structure that should be benefiting citizens, instead of business.
Intimidation has many facets but its utility is best seen when there is insufficient justification for a planned enterprise and a false choice is offered between only two options when other possibilities exist. Taxpayers are challenged and humiliated to participate in the process – this is the intimidation – then that participation is trivialized when blic comments don’t allow enough time to adequately express concerns.
This is in direct contrast to the audience granted to business. Any obstacles the government places to prevent or minimize public participation are intimidation. Another example of intimidation is government dismissively taunting the public to vote its representatives out of office if the decisions are unsatisfactory. By then, too much time would’ve gone by and even more disasters burden the taxpayers.
The problem with either, misinformation or disinformation is that the results are the same. And, the solutions are the same:
That perspective may have complemented or conflicted with the government understanding, but the right of the people takes precedence. In Louisa, it might make a difference to its citizens if they knew that the biggest beneficiary of Option 1 to the Shannon Hill Industrial Park Development is a Richmond entity – not someone from Louisa. Under Option 3 of that plan, the only beneficiary of the land sale is the Richmond entity.
That information is available if someone knows where to look for it, but it wasn’t forthcoming from the Louisa County government.
Consider how Wisconsin could have facilitated the participation of its citizens to reach an equitable agreement with Foxconn – if all the information were made available. The government could have ensured that all reports and studies would be readily available well in advance of decision milestones, if for no other reasons than:
Exchange of clear information is necessary for the security of the public – both financial security and, especially, political security. Sometimes we can see the government adopt an arrogant tone with voters because of how it manages to portray itself in the hierarchy. Too often, that kind of intimidation succeeds because citizens don’t always realize the rights that they still have, or the rights they’ve abdicated along the way.
Consider what the Wisconsin voters could have done without the arbitrary obstacles of a government. As a society, we’ve become too timid – timid to the point where our employee, the government, is telling us what to do. In some ways, it’s the same thing as a contractor (business) telling the government what to do. There’s very little difference. Business tells the government; and the government tells the people. This is the process of government going in the wrong direction.
Is there that much difference between the state government of Wisconsin and the county government of Louisa?
In magnitude, yes. In the ability and capability to serve all the information to the taxpayers that allows a consensus decision, both the government and business are successful in isolating the public from deciding on those issues that affect it.
Is there that large a difference between the vulnerability of the citizens of Wisconsin burdened with Foxconn and the citizens of Louisa disadvantaged by the Megasite?
The risk to and alternatives for the public don’t get to be addressed when the path to “Economic Development” machinery is already in motion.
Do the citizens of Louisa County deserve the risk and burden of Shannon Hill Industrial Park turning into a Wisconsin Foxconn?
The taxpayers of Louisa still haven’t received a full accounting of the decision made by its government. The voters of Wisconsin could have avoided the Foxconn fiasco with information, participation, and control. These same things are needed in Louisa because of the steps taken by the government without our consent.
We make the mistake of sometimes forgetting that our elected officials work for us. It’s not up to the government to make decisions for the people; it’s government’s duty and responsibility to implement the decisions of the people.
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