Mrs. Hardaway Goes to Washington

by francine Hardaway on April 26, 2012

Washington was interesting and depressing at the same time. The part around the

Phoenix Business Leaders in the White House

White House, where I went to a meeting of “business leaders” from Phoenix, is green and manicured, and reminded me of the area around the government buildings in Delhi, where the beautiful architecture of the Raj is maintained by low-wage workers, and the surrounding areas are in poverty. I stayed in a hotel in the NE section instead of the NW, and I got to see a whole lot of what’s NOT around the government buildings.

Everyone in Washington seems to be either a government contractor or someone working for the government,and the people who work for the government often had worked there 20 years or longer;  a government job is definitely a job forever. The Uber drivers I talked to explained how the town works: you try to get your government job, but then you do things on the side to make more money.

Although we had to go through metal detectors, get security clearance, and show ID, a meeting at the White House doesn’t really mean a meeting at the White House. It means the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is right next door –the building in which the White House counsel, the public engagement people, the Secret Service and the National Security staff are officed. The EEOB is a very beautiful old building, with high ceilings, marble floors, and power outlets in the floors. We were in a large conference room up on the fourth floor, where an apparently unending series of meetings takes place.

The people we with were  part of an organization called Business Forward, which was founded by Jim Doyle to engage business leaders across the country in public policy/. They’ve been holding meetings and trying to find out what’s going on in various hard-hit places across the US. They invited various people in the administration with expertise in housing energy, and economic development to talk to us and hear from us. Everybody was an Assistant Secretary.

I get the feeling they think Arizona could be a swing state this year, so they want to make sure the have enough “influencers” aware of what the administration has already done or plans to do — so that we can help get Obama re-elected.

The problem is,  there isn’t very much the federal government can do to help us. Our problems in Arizona are with the state and local governments. Our education system, which took 30 years to destroy, is going to take 30 years to transform, and in the meantime we don’t have the right people to fill the software jobs  we have created.

There’s not too much the federal government can do about a shortage of technical cofounders for our entrepreneurs– especially since they seem unwilling to tackle the immigration issue. For now, we are going to have to import our talent in order to get anywhere,  at least in the part of the community I serve. Every entrepreneur I know has openings for software developers and can’t find them. Many are outsourcing, driven to it by a dearth of local talent. I don’t care who needs a job in Phoenix, if they can’t program in PhP, they’re not appropriate.

I'm trying to explain that what we need is more help and training for entrepreneurs.

I ate by myself both evenings at hopping bars full of young people talking about their jobs. I love to do that, because I can eavesdrop on conversations and learn stuff.

There is so much public money floating around in Washington; the streets are clean the buildings are new and beautiful or renovated, and it is clear that federal government has been the only sector of the economy that’s been growing. Everyone either gives or gets government contracts. It’s also clear that Obama lives in a bubble and can’t possibly get out. In Washington, you get everything you want — including two dozen people who take two or three days out of their lives to fly in at their own expense to meet with you. But that doesn’t give you a sense of life in the “real” economy.

So while I’m glad I went, I suffer no illusions that anything will happen out of this meeting. Good people in Washington will continue to try to dream up programs and throw money at them, but they won’t be the right programs to help the right people, because there’s nothing they can do to help us.

We have to help ourselves.

(Note: @vivekwadhwa, who was in Washington the same day I was for a different meeting, wrote his opinion here. I swear, we didn’t plan it!)



Enhanced by Zemanta

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Popper April 26, 2012 at 9:26 am

Saying the “government is unwilling to tackle the immigration issue” is an unenlightening statement. The Administration controls the issuance of H1B visas, not Congress. The Administration is “unwilling” to grant H1B visas to technically competent people we need because it wants to force the admission of uneducated Mexicans who will vote Democrat.

hardaway April 26, 2012 at 9:29 am

I think attributing such a complex theory to their actions is giving them too much credit. It’s more like they are getting pressure from unions not to give H1-B visas.

Neal Mody April 26, 2012 at 10:22 am

Francine it was great that you went to represent AZ :-)

Akira Hirai April 26, 2012 at 10:48 am

Was there ever an “aha” moment when one of the White House staffers seemed to “get it”?

hardaway April 26, 2012 at 11:21 am

Yes and no. The HUD woman got it, but then couldn’t offer a solution because, as she said, budgets have been cut. It is always about money, and never about whether the program is appropriate or is managed well. Many of these programs aren’t managed so the money gets to the end user.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: