By Jerry Waxman
It really had to be important. Yes, the White House had a message so important that it couldn’t have been given in the Oval Office. It needed the right atmosphere for maximum effect. It was so important that the details were not released until 24 hours before the event. So important was it that the media hardly had time to respond for clearance by the 12:30 PM Wednesday deadline. I didn’t get the message until 8:00 Wednesday evening. Such important stuff can’t wait. During the years 1967 through 1969 I had top secret clearance when I was in the service so I know how important these important things can be. By the time I responded the White House web site’s Reservation Page had been taken off line; after all, important things can’t wait.
Given that I’ve enjoyed secret clearance in the past and have been cleared by seven Central Florida school boards as well as Broward County plus press clearance for Joe Biden’s speech at the Florida Democratic Convention not three months ago I figured that I would have no problem getting cleared for the press area in the Magic Kingdom. Wrong-O! The young security guard at the parking lot at the Contemporary Hotel said that if I wasn’t on the list I couldn’t gain access to the press area. This was the same security guard who personally walked me through the Joe Biden event. No one seemed to be willing to make phone calls to their superiors so that I could gain access. I guess that it is so important that they didn’t want as much local press there as possible, or else they were much too busy, after all this important event had international implications. This was so important that Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer had to leave the US Mayors Conference in Washington D.C. and hop a ride on Air Force One to be here where the President introduced him with the adjective “Outstanding”. Wow! Talk about being out of touch.
Okay, so I drove home and watched it on my 52” HD screen and recorded the whole thirteen minutes while eating a casual lunch. Yes the whole thirteen minutes. Hardly worth the effort considering the travel arrangements: the use of Air Force One, causing delays of traffic to and from the airport and all the hoopla attached to a presidential visit. You would think that all this important stuff was announcing that Medical Science has just found the cure for Cancer and Diabetes combined. If that were only true. The real reason for this was to announce to the world that in addition to the Travel Promotion Act which helps reduce the wait time for people in other countries to get visas to travel here the President was going to direct the State Department to include countries with growing economies, citing China, Brazil and India, on the speeded up list in order to kick start an increase in tourism, not just here in Florida, but all over the country. “We Can’t Wait” is the order of the day referring to Congress’s lethargic attitude toward job creation.
The sky was blue, and high above…………
Yes it was a picture perfect day in which the President was framed in front of Cinderella’s castle in a perfect setting to discuss his initiative. He was personable, self-deprecating and jocular enough claiming that it would be the first time his daughters envied him and pointing out that with Mickey Mouse in attendance someone finally has bigger ears than he. All he needed was Tinker Bell fluttering around spreading magic dust. He wanted to make the US top tourist destination in the world. More tourism equals more jobs as the saying goes. Sure, the intention is good-no one would argue that. But tourism is the last industry that is going to spur high paying, meaningful and lasting career employment. High speed rail, revitalization of the Space Coast, meaningful manufacturing jobs and high paying technical jobs are what is needed. Citing a conservative code word he said “Florida is open for business”. Hey, Mr. President, I’ve got news for you. So are 49 other states, some of which actually know how to attract good businesses. Tourism is the last thing we need, but it’s all we can get. Tourists from overseas don’t see our crumbling infrastructure, our impoverished school systems, our dismal cultural scene where we have no symphony, no ballet, no opera company, no first class professional resident theaters-the kind of assets that attract businesses to the area where their executive have to live. Tourists are in a bubble from the time they fly in until the time they fly out. Pure Fantasyland.
Instead, we are asking the $13.00 an hour (or less) Indian techies who are working in call centers that used to support American workers at much better money, Chinese sewing machine operators working for American manufacturers who used to employ American sewers, who probably have to save for years to make the trip and Brazilian laborers who are raping their ecology at the expense of the world’s health to come here so that Disney can employ more $7.00 an hour maids, porters, janitors and busboys. The irony of all this is that Disney will then be able to take advantage of a proposed tax break, offered by the Orange County Commission, that few citizens of the county even know about. There is a Republican primary election on Jan. 31, yet there is a ballot initiative that affects all county residents. In the dark secrecy of night the county commission slipped this initiative in, cognizant that only registered Republicans would be aware of it in any significant numbers. The proposal wants to eliminate property taxes for new businesses coming to the county and existing businesses who promise to create jobs, with no checking system for accountability. Disney wins either way. An economist friend of mine, Jim Callahan, pointed out that Disney now owns Pixar, and if they wanted to they could help the economy of the area just by opening a Pixar unit attached to a university here that would bring jobs that pay much more than $7.00 per hour. Speaking of tourist related jobs, the proposed high speed rail, vetoed by Rick Scott not only lost the money coming into the state, but caused highly technical high paying firms like Siemens to take 2500 jobs out of the state and move to North Carolina. Siemens is not alone. Replacing those jobs is going to be difficult. It’s time to get out of Fantasyland and step into the real world.
Another area that the president could have promoted is the artistic community here and elsewhere. Former Florida Secretary of State Sandra Mortham specifically singled out the arts as having returned four dollars to the local economy for every dollar invested, and a healthy arts community attracts tourism. New York’s Broadway couldn’t survive without the tourist business, oh and guess who controls a lot of Broadway theaters? A healthy arts community of theater, opera, ballet and symphony plus a healthy education system would attract actual business here that would build their offices here, executives and other employees who would buy houses here thereby adding to the local tax base and economy, something tourists do not do.
So much more could have been talked about concerning meaningful job creation but it will have to wait until another time. It was very important to be here to help Disney make more money despite their record profits last year. Well, time to go. After all, he had to go to New York and channel Al Green at a fund raiser; now that’s very important.