Platform for Mass. Economic Growth

(facebook is not the only startup conceived in the innovative laboratory that is Massachustts to leave.  A good article and some ideas for thought by Mr. Lyons. – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)

So today in the Boston Globe, their technology correspondent wonders about our economic growth in a story titled, Can Massachusetts Produce the Next Google?

The gist of it is that we have a lot of small high-tech startups, but none seem to grow large enough to become the next Fidelity. Scott (I have met him, of course, as he covers my industry) talks about how the high-tech investors and leaders can help, but he doesn’t cover the bigger issues – issues that are very important outside of the 495 hub, where you’ll have a lot less high-tech stuff.

What can we do?

Note: This is a key issue for all MassGOP legislative candidates! I hear all kinds of lame slogans from our candidates who need a much better sales pitch and much more radical solutions.

Here are my thoughts… (read more)

First, for the sake of contrast, let me quickly outline what I see as the Democrats’ economic growth agenda. (No, I am not going to be a jerk about this – the BMG folks should look at this list and agree.)

1. More local aid (financed by taxes, lottery/gambling revenue, etc)

2. Some infrastructure improvements (financed by taxes, fees, and federal stimulus)

3. More spending on traditional education (teachers, buildings, aids in the classroom, special education)

4. Small and medium investments in green technologies (solar, etc)

5. Very small investments in startups (some incubator stuff)

6. Medium-sized investments in business facilities (things like enlarging the Convention Center on the waterfront)

7. Medium- and Large-sized investments to develop distressed property (lots of examples of this, East Boston and South Boston Waterfronts being good examples)

So…. What should MassGOP candidates, by contrast, advocate?

1. Less local aid (I am serious – time to stop laundering money from the local level to Beacon Hill and back to the local people) In exchange, we will help the localities control their own costs by helping them manage their union contracts. They will get more out of this formula.

2. Much more infrastructure. The Democrats are too timid on this. We need a lot more improvements on roads, bridges, and airports. We can finance this by lowering the costs by abolishing the nonsensical prevailing wage laws and also by levying a large tax on the wealthy to finance infrastructure – and nothing else. Much of our state’s infrastructure, built in the 1930s and 40s was financed 100% by taxes on the wealthy. They could afford it then and they can afford it now. We can sit down and explain to the rich (I know many of them) that this money will go to meaningful things, not the pockets of corrupt housing chiefs.

3. Move education funding from traditional to non-traditional. Fund the creation of infrastructure to enable curriculum and certification to work across public, charter, private, and home schooling. Unite these systems and remove the friction between them. This will increase competition and, over time, radically reduce the costs of delivering traditional education.

4. Stop investing in green technology.

5. Don’t directly invest in startups. Instead, improve transportation options to areas where startups can afford the rent.

6. Stop investing in business facilities. We should not be handing money out to hotel and convention-center businesses. The private sector can handle this all by itself.

7. Continue developing under-developed areas. I think the Democrats are right to do this kind of thing. We need more of it.

Beyond these contrasts, let me add a few more things:

8. To help get control over our #1 cost in this state (health care) add this to the exchange: a site where people can anonymously post their own medical records and care so that other people can make recommendations for treatments and providers. Maybe the state can bid this contract out and let others implement it. My best friend is on Commonwealth Care and she has multiple chronic problems and coordination is not happening – which causes tremendous waste. Her case is typical. There needs to be a way where lots of people can post their status, share tips, and doctors can also make anonymous recommendations to improve their care and lower costs. Yes, the system should be able to do this, but we know it does not. This approach is better than a top-down approach such as the accountability stuff the legislature just passed. In addition, the state should set up a Yelp-style recommendation site that would help determine which services are and are not effective. (This would be a tremendous cost reducer.) Or the private sector should do it and the state should not strangle it with regulations.

9. We must radically change the way that cities and towns run their governments. There is a great deal of IT infrastructure that is available that could dramatically lower costs. Organizations like Code for America are dedicated to do this, and have a good presence in this state. It’s time to create a common infrastructure platform for all municipalities to use. And by God – don’t let the state choose that platform! Ask Code for America what to do – and then do it.

10. Get control over the unions (or more accurately, get control over the parts of government that the unions control). Unions suck the life out of state politics and local politics. Local politicians are unable to match the pressure of national and state-level unions over their finances. We must level the playing field between the average town and the unionized employees there. This is a hard fight, but we must first explain convincingly what the costs are to cities and towns on the contracts they have. If we can show the price tag for union dominance of local politics, and show what that money would buy, that would be the first step in redirecting that money to infrastructure, development and better education.

11. Radically improve the transportation in this state. Get control of the MBTA and the unions there (slash costs, obviously). Allow more lightweight options (think Bolt Bus, not Amtrak) to develop.

There is so much more I could put in here, but I hope that this at least inspires people to think bigger about why the public should give us more power in this state.

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