Bob Piazza has made quite the show of moving his Price Pump business out of Sonoma and to Boise, Idaho. The following screed (second letter down) about sums up his arguments. Bob is also a good employer and treats his workers well; that good will however, seems to stop at the end of company property, as the company becomes part of society as a whole.
Let’s have a quick look at Idaho: last in education spending per pupil, high rates of uninsured, high cancer rates, high suicide rate, low immunization rate, bottom ten for household income, bottom five in per capita income, near lowest overall taxes nationally, higher food stamp rates, worst state for working mothers, more bullying, and it’s the second most hateful state. Even the Trump administration blocked Idaho’s attempt to circumvent national health care laws. Is this kind of stuff that is good for business? If business needs these kinds of conditions to succeed, maybe there is something really wrong with current business values?
From the Idaho Statesman, 2016: “Idaho receives more federal funding relative to its total spending than two-thirds of all states. And because of its near-bottom average wages, it is reimbursed for social programs at a higher rate than all but two. The state’s proposed budget for next year is one-third funded by federal dollars.”
Here’s the picture I see, all the putative liberty and freedom Bob wants comes at a cost in Idaho. Lack of taxes and spending, and chronic low wages puts Idaho at the bottom of health, education, and social service metrics. Yet, the Californians that Bob vilifies, who want to pay higher wages, who want to be socially responsible, their federal taxes will be paying to support Bob’s and his employee’s Idaho “freedom.” Idaho has a welfare state, hangs poor skinheads et al out to dry, has “a lower cost of doing business”, and the rest of Americans pay for it. Maybe the low wages and lack of help, and the stigma of social devaluation, contributes to Idahoans alienation and propensity to be hateful? A vicious rather than a virtuous cycle there?
Are poor white Idahoans “losers” and “takers” because they don’t get up early enough in the morning to work harder? Or is the system there, run by anti-government ideologues, set to encourage systemic failure by riling up voters about guns and immigrants, even at the cost of their own health and economic well-being? And why should national citizens have to pay for Idaho right-wing values obfuscation and social malfeasance? If government is so bad, why are they sucking off it like that?
Bob doesn’t want to pay a $15 minumim wage here in Sonoma. How can he then expect everyone else to pay for Idaho? Bob conflates his views with those of David Cook, who is running for county supervisor. Can Piazza-style right wing radicalism win in the North Bay? Not likely. I’ll leave that for future columns. Anonymous comments, and anonymous local political attacks and ads show that the right wingers here are embarrassed and ashamed to put their names on their own material, hardly a groundswell. Cook will have to moderate, and find some nuance beyond slogans of common sense and local control, if he wants to appeal to a highly educated middle ground and garner the liberal percentages he needs to win.
Apparently, Bob will feel comfortable in his new more hateful, less compassionate Idaho environment. (Word to Bob, the Idaho Democratic gubernatorial candidate won in Ada County, and Boise in 2018.) Idaho Bob can then pay good wages to his Price Pump employees with all the money he saves on taxes, the same lack of taxes for social services that keeps Idaho at the bottom of the health and education pile. This is the exact same impulse that has had most American manufacturing go overseas, a race to the bottom for the lowest tax obligations.
Bob, you can run, but you can’t hide from social and environmental responsibility. How this Idaho-style avoidance of responsibility is a virtue, escapes me.
Price Pump employees beware: it’s only a matter of time before the company gets sold and goes overseas; Idaho is just the first step. And then your families will be stuck in Idaho with no help or hands up.
Baseline compassion and social responsibility is a feature of all moral and religious human systems. People see this as good, not bad. Compassion and inclusion are where our higher angels lie. Yet, as JK Galbraith said, “the modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
And so, as Bob and Price Pump slide out of town, they trade one set of perceived California costs and evils for other actual, real Idaho costs and evils. Baseline universal human morality and ethics are turned on their head in Bob World, and in Idaho. Bon voyage, and enjoy your own success as it comes at the cost of depriving other Idahoans of theirs, and as national citizens pay for it. And remember as well, the same people you misuse on your way up, you might meet again, on your way down.