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Bashing of Enterprise Florida has the Appearance of Baloney

February 17, 2013 - 6:00pm

One thing conservatives and liberals agree on is that crony capitalism is bad.

But, it is a matter of definition.

President Obama savaged Citigroup and condemned it for awarding bonuses while getting government handouts. Yet, his choice for Treasury secretary was a Citigroup bigwig who got nearly a million dollars in bonuses.

As a Washington Post columnist said, In Washington, where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit.

Enterprise Florida is under attack, suspected of crony capitalism and conflicts of interest.

One complaint is that Enterprise Florida has not met its goal of creating 200,000 jobs.

When has any program devised by government met its expectations? Shall we talk about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or the coming failure of Obamacare?

Enterprise Florida created 100,000 jobs. So the relevant question is, was that done at a reasonable cost?

Another whiff was the complaint that some kind of six degrees of Kevin Bacon connections give the appearance of collusion, or conflict, or some other nebulous moral hazard.

When liberals start talking about ethics, my eyes roll. When they dilute it by gives the appearance of being unethical, I reach for the NoDoz.

What rational person expects politicians to be ethical? Most of them probably are, most of the time, but the incentives are perverse and people act on incentives.

Everyone has connections to someone, so there is always the appearance that he is doing someone a favor. God knows, almost anything anyone does is illegal these days. From "Atlas Shrugged": "One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."

Has anyone done anything illegal? If one has transgressed, charge him and give him a trial.

I've always been skeptical of government attempts to lure business. I understand that they do it because everyone else does.

Man-made disasters like Detroit, where politicians have ruined a once-great city, probably need to pay companies to operate there, but why should Florida have to bid against them? Florida has low taxes, great weather, improving schools and everything else that a business wants. It shouldn't have to pay them to come, or not to leave especially "mom-and-pop" operations like Wal-mart and Coca-Cola.

Yet, sometimes it is necessary, especially in the case of manufacturing jobs, says Dominic Calabro of Florida TaxWatch.

Assuming Enterprise Florida can show that it has gotten a fair return on whatever investments have been made, then it should continue doing business as usual. More transparency is always good. But I don't think Floridians need to lose sleep over the appearance of impropriety.

Politics is all about appearance, not substance, and so when they bring in the appearance of something, we are entering the realm of politics.

At least Enterprise Florida is made up of businessmen, who are for more likely to make sound business decisions than politicians. Remember, the biggest boondoggle concerning incentives was Digital Domain rejected by Enterprise Florida but embraced by Gov. Charlie Crist.

Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After retirement he served as speech writer for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

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