Political war reminds me a little bit of trade wars. When country A is not allowed to sell its goods and services in Country B, Country A raises a fuss. It threatens a trade war. It puts tariffs on Country B’s goods and services. It accuses Country B of currency manipulation. Country A may even go as far as waging a military action against Country B in order to destroy Country B’s currency and disrupt the trade alliances Country B has with its neighbors. Country A’s goal is to be the dominant economic actor on the block. It will put up with a weakened Country B as along as Country B trades with the world on Country A’s terms.
Political wars are similar. This tidbit is not new but we need to be reminded: candidates are battling for power and privilege. To the extent that they have to craft welfare programs to win votes, what they can do for you is secondary. How they see themselves in political history, their legacy, is more important.
Political wars are quietly continuous. A smart incumbent maintains the illusion that she is looking out for her constituents by presenting the optics of an engaged and caring politician. Take Cleta Winslow, a member of the Atlanta city council representing the West End. Ms Winslow has served as the District 4 representative for a quarter of a century. For the ten years I have lived in District 4, Ms Winslow has not faced much a challenge, at least until the last election challenge where fierce loyalty especially by older residents helped her keep her seat.
Demographics can be a potent weapon when warding off potential threats to one’s dominance of a political market. That weapon can backfire especially here in the West End as the residents become ethnically diverse. Loyalty t o Winslow based on what she did in the 1990s and her attempts to save a firehouse back in 2008 can only go so far with a younger African American population that sees bleak economic opportunities and more whites with capital moving in to takeover relatively cheap real estate.
The consumers of Ms Winslow’s goodie bags are leaving and new entrants into the 30310 political market may not like what she is selling. A couple contenders in the last city election were able to raise sizeable amounts of campaign funds and as the 30310 political market becomes more diverse, Ms Winslow’s political trade days may draw to a close.
Strategy wise, a potential deathblow to Ms Winslow’s hold on the 30310 political market would be a salvo of economic initiatives, preferably salvos that circumvent her influence as much as possible and led by potential candidates. These individuals should win over as many allies as possible to avoid last year’s scenario where there were too many opponents on the ballot. Opponents cannot afford to have their optics and influence diluted by too many candidates on the ballot. It creates too much noise.
New residents could just exercise patience and watch the demographics change in their favor, but delay won’t help the young and underemployed who would benefit the most from the election of an economic visionary.
I don’t know if it is still done, but I remember watching some movie filmed in black and white where in one scene there was an attractive white girl walking around with a box strapped in front of her containing cigarette cartons. She would use her voice, smile, and good looks to charm the men in the room into buying a cancer stick or two. From a consumer perspective this type of traction creation for marketing and selling product is standard operation. I see it when good looking women are pictured on magazine covers laying on the top of race cars. I see it at conferences when the best looking bartenders are placed behind the cash bar. I see it when a pretty face women is placed at the receptionist desk of an office or at the registration table of an event.
An event planner realizes that her staff responsible for connecting with clients must be able to create a level of trust and comfort such that the client pays attention to what the event’s sponsors are selling. The sponsors want event planners to weave the sponsors’ products into an event’s theme creating exposure of the product’s benefits to the prospective consumer. The greater the exposure to the product, the greater the likelihood of a sale in the short or immediate term.
In politics, political messages are the products pushed through partisan politics channels. Those messages ask tax payers to vote for a particular candidate or support some policy. Today’s post Martin Luther King civil rights movement has become an event planning channel for partisan messages from the left. Some of the “event planners” are familiar to some of you: the NAACP, the National Urban League, the National Action Network, the National Rainbow Coalition. Others have emerged over the past decade such as Color of Change and Black Lives Matter. Their business model is simple. Led by a bunch of college educated black elites, they invite people from the black masses to participate in forums, panel discussions, parades, etc., where they can discuss issues impacting the “black community.” During these forums they intertwine the messages of the progressive left and then close with calls to action, including during an election season, a call for blacks to vote for liberals.
During Dr King’s time, civil rights leaders exchanged information and inspiration in their church meetings. Other than planting a bug in a church (I wouldn’t be surprised if the FBI did this often), you couldn’t “hack” these meetings unless you convinced civil rights leaders that it was important for you, especially as a non-white, to attend. Contrary to the images you saw on “Mississippi Burning”, of helpless blacks dependent on the white man to get him through, black Americans were very resourceful in addressing and pressing their grievances on their own.
Today they have been convinced that a “go it alone” approach is not feasible. By relying less on their own resources, blacks have opened themselves up the carpet bagging of liberals who have sold them on a new corporate model where the black civil rights movement is underwritten by the Democratic Party and other progressive groups. There is a price to pay for the underwriting. The price is a dilution of message.
Now civil rights has extended to groups that quite frankly don’t need civil rights attention or protection: white women, other ethnic groups, and the LGBTQ communities. Black Americans have been pushed so far down to the bottom of the civil rights ladder that they are a fossilized movement, compressed by the weight of all the other communities that have managed to get ahead of them that today, just like the fossils of dead dinosaurs and mammals, they are fueling the civil and human rights campaigns of everyone else.
Martin Luther King’s death removed any last viability of a movement that was moving its focus toward economic empowerment. The movement opted to go the route of political empowerment, falling for its glamour and surface glitz. That power has traditionally been urban based, but as whites return to core cities and old black neighborhoods gentrify, that power is quickly eroding. Fifty years after his death, all the black civil rights movement may have going for it is putting another event on a calendar.
Georgia state senator Burt Jones wants the state of Georgia to take over the operation of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He has sponsored a resolution that forms a committee to study the feasibility of the State of Georgia taking control of the world’s busiest airport. The rationale for the study and a takeover include the vitality that Hartsfield-Jackson provides to the traveling national and international public; the role the airport plays in the economic development of the state; and the increase in the public welfare, national security, and economic stability such a transfer could bring to Georgians.
I have lived in Atlanta for ten years and like thousands of this city’s residents have flown numerous times from Hartsfield-Jackson International for business and pleasure. Given Atlanta’s role as a headquarters town for a number of Fortune 500 companies, host of a major freight train terminal, a movie making and entertainment hub, and the capital of the largest state east of Mississippi River in terms of land size, I am not surprised that it is a lever in Georgia’s economic growth.
When you combine airport, airline, security, concession, and state and federal activities, Hartsfield-Jackson International plays host to the 63,000 people that make these activities happen. Delta, Georgia’s largest private employer, puts 33,000 people to work statewide and claims an economic impact on the state of $43.5 billion. Hartsfield-Jackson International claims an impact of $34.8 billion on the metro Atlanta economy.
Delta also claims to contribute $200 million a year toward Hartsfield-Jackson International’s operation expenses and that its direct flights out of Atlanta supports $11 billion in foreign direct investment. This foreign direct investment has led to the creation of 42,000 jobs throughout the state.
By law, Mr Jones can make his power grab. Under the Georgia Constitution, cities have the authority to provide certain services including terminal and docking services such as those provided by an airport. This power is further expressed in state statutes where cities can acquire, construct, maintain, and control airport facilities. The State, however, can enact laws relative to the authority cities have to provide services including, by my reading, airport services. The General Assembly, by general law, can regulate, restrict, or limit Atlanta’s authority to provide these services. The General Assembly, however, cannot withdraw these powers.
This is where Mr Jones may run into trouble. First, he should explain to the public how the city of Atlanta is failing to meet the State’s public welfare via the way it operates the airport. He should also be made to explain how transferring operations of the airport to the State will increase national security. On the economic front, will State operation of Hartsfield-Jackson International increase the number of employees in Georgia? Will foreign direct investment increase as a result of Georgia taken over operations?
Would Georgia taking control of Hartsfield-Jackson International be constitutional? Under the constitution, Atlanta’s authority to acquire, maintain, and operate an airport cannot be withdrawn. Although the State can regulate and limit this authority, how far can it go in its regulation before it crosses that constitutional line in the sand?
Finally, from the legal to the political, does Mr Jones want to inadvertently escalate tensions between Delta and the State? Delta has already lost a $50 million per year fuel tax exemption because it took a stance on another political issue, the sale of semi-automatic weapons. Is Delta willing to swap out a seemingly amicable working relationship with the city of Atlanta for a potentially hostile working relationship with a landlord that jacked up its rent?
Rather than deal day in and day out with a new and hostile landlord, why wouldn’t Delta exercise its options to move its headquarters elsewhere? It could argue that the State’s takeover was a force de majuere resulting in voiding its 20-year lease agreement. Even if it didn’t move its headquarters wholesale, it could drastically reduce its exposure to Atlanta, including subletting significant number of gates and moving employees to other hubs.
And let’s not forget Amazon who may view Georgia’s political play makers as immature and creating a level of business uncertainty that makes Atlanta and Georgia less welcoming.
On the occasions that I ride MARTA, I am always saddened by what I see in the ridership. It is mostly black, overweight, loud, low to middle income in dress and carriage. The body language of the ridership transmits defeat and a lack of control over its resources. Hell. We have no resources.
When blacks engage each other on the train, bus, or the grocery aisles, the conversation tends to center on food prices and domestic turmoil. Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter have only served to increase the noise, giving a platform for ratchetness in text and in video.
On social media, it seems like blacks are interested in becoming video stars, drinking the Kool-Aid that Atlanta’s “Black Hollywood” narrative transmits. It is not uncommon now to see a bunch of twenty-somethings walking around the West End posing in front of cameras and smartphones shooting videos to be posted on Instagram or Facebook.
But when I visit Peachtree Center I see much less swag and more of “playing it safe, gotta keep this job” demeanor from the few blacks that I see there versus whites and Asians who carry themselves with more confidence likely due to their much greater representation in much higher paying jobs. If Atlanta is the “Black Mecca”, then its tribal chiefs are doing a poor job of representing it.
I say poor job because Atlanta’s black elite have forgotten the basic rule of leadership: you are only as valid as the prosperity of the people around you. Assuming that Atlanta’s black wealth is reflected in national statistics, then blacks are in pretty bad shape. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, 57.6% of blacks own an interest earning account, while 78% of their white counterparts and 78.5% of Asians own such an account. Fifty eight percent of Hispanics own an interest earning account.
Blacks are not as diversified as whites and Asians in terms of participation in the equity markets. Just over six percent of blacks own stock or mutual fund shares, according to U.S. Census data, while 25.2% of whites and 26% of Asians own stocks or mutual funds. Hispanics come in at 5.5% of their population investing directly in stocks or mutual funds.
Blacks have not gotten into the game of owning their federal or local governments’ debt. Three percent of blacks own U.S. government bonds while 0.5% own municipal bonds. Ten percent of whites own U.S. government bonds while three percent of whites own municipal bonds. Other ethnic groups are in the single digits as well when it comes to owning public debt. Four and one-half percent of Asians own U.S. government bonds while just one percent of Asians own municipal bonds. A little over two percent of Hispanics own U.S. government bonds while 0.3% of their population own municipal bonds.
Even with their numerical majority (which is waning with each passing year), black Atlanta couldn’t influence a political outcome without blowing its basic house budget. One is naive about American politics if they believe the vote alone can sustain any level of political power.
Decreased political power is a boat with a big hole in it, rudderless, with a stalling engine and a navigator that cannot read a compass. For 44 years, the Atlanta black political elite have benefited from enjoying a political largess that is increasingly scarce. Rather than dominance, the political elite appears willing to settle on being the minority pivotal vote. Will the Atlanta black political establishment fare well at its future deal maker role and will new pluralities in the future be willing to pay the bribe?
Casey Cagle is tired of attacks on conservatism and wants to make Delta Air Lines the whipping boy for a brand of conservatism that quite frankly does nothing for the masses of Georgians that expect their government to provide an environment that fosters economic growth and public safety. Mr Cagle, who announced earlier this week that he would hamper the shepherding of a bill that would reintroduce a policy of preferential tax treatment for the world’s largest airline, is practicing what I call “entertainment politics.”
Whereas “real politics” applies the various rules of persuasion for moving resources from one group to another group, entertainment politics speaks purely to the emotions of the policy maker and the policy maker’s constituents. In Mr Casey’s case, he did not take too kindly Delta Air Lines’ decision to discontinue a discount issued to members of the National Rifle Association for travel to their national convention. Delta, after being called out as a sponsor of the NRA in the wake of the recent shooting at a Florida high school, decided to quickly dampen any more negative publicity by putting the discount and its association with the NRA on ice. This move got Mr Casey and other conservatives all up in their feelings.
Given that Mr Casey, Georgia’s lieutenant governor since 2007, has thrown his hat in the ring for the governorship, this bold move may be just a play to seal the votes from the social conservative wing of the party. It is bold for five reasons.
First, Mr Cagle put himself way out there. He can’t take back his threat against Delta. Should he win the governorship, he will have to follow through. Delta will face a similar dilemma. To go back on its stance will create bad optics.
Second, whoever wins the Democratic nomination will most likely not get a significant amount of the conservative, gun lobby vote anyway. Mr Cagle did not need to take this action in order to protect his voting bloc from a left wing attack.
Third, Delta has options to move. New York City, Birmingham, Alabama, and Northern Virginia have sent overtures to the airline to move. Mr Cagle may be betting that Delta does not want to incur the legal liability that would result from vacating his lease. Under section 18.03 of the agreement between the city of Atlanta and Delta, there is no specific “termination fee” described. Besides rent and taxes owed, Delta would have to pay the City’s expenses for taking over the south terminal and other properties plus other fees determined by the city. However, under contract law, the city will have the burden of mitigating Delta’s termination by looking for another tenant. Delta, under those circumstances, may be willing to take the hit in order to fly off to greener pastures.
In addition, Delta can argue that Mr Cagle’s action creates a force majeure (unforeseen circumstance) that cancels the contract. The circumstances are unforeseen because Delta did not expect that taken a moral stance on school shootings would be met with such an oppressive move as opposing a tax preference.
Lastly, if Georgia stays a “Red State” (and I see no indication that status will change), then the opposition to a tax preference renewal may continue for years. Rising rates may make the purchase of fuel increasingly expensive making the tax preference all the more important in the next few years. Delta may decide to cut and run.
I believe Delta has more leverage. In the short run, if they stay it will be because their profits were sufficient enough to absorb the loss of the preference. The longer run is another issue. If Mr Cagle backs down, he will likely lose the nomination. Even if he backs down and is able to squeak out a primary win, would he be able to withstand a media onslaught that describes him as a policy maker whose poor judgment may cost Atlanta a major employer and cause businesses to retrench?
Atlanta is in the running for Amazon’s second headquarters. According to Amazon’s request for proposals from cities across North America, the company expects to hire 50,000 people as a direct result of constructing headquarters equivalent to those in Seattle. Amazon estimates capital expenditures of some $5 billion and on average that its new hires will earn approximately $100,000 annually in compensation.
Amazon has a location preference for metropolitan areas of at least one million people; a stable and business friendly environment; urban or suburban areas with the potential to attract strong technical talent; and communities that think big and creatively.
Access to an international airport ( under 45 minute drive) as well as access to major highways, subways, rail, and buses are also at the core of Amazon’s preferences. Yesterday’s power outage at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport raises issues of redundancy and reliability for an electrical system that powers the world’s busiest airport located in a global gateway city.
So far there has been no public expression of concern from Amazon about how this debacle could impact Atlanta’s attempts to persuade Amazon to move here. There are no specific Georgia Power tariffs spelling out any terms and conditions for service that are particular to Hartsfield-Jackson International.
Politically, this event should also raise issues about how resilient the city truly is if one of its key factors for economic growth and commerce goes offline for so long.