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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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August 6, 2008 1:40 PM

Gregoire's delicate walk around economic woes

Posted by David Postman

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s announcement of a hiring freeze this week was, as reported in The Times, her most significant action so far to confront a growing economic downturn. But she was oh-so-careful to separate Washington's situation from the poor economy nationally. There’s no mention of a recession, even outside of Washington state. Instead there is a “weakening” and “softening” of the national economy.

Her memo to state agency directors read as much like a campaign press release than an order for fiscal restraint. It opened by describing the state economy as “resilient” and boasted of Forbes’ ranking of Washington as the third best state in the nation for doing business. She talked of the “strategic investments that have enhanced the ability of businesses to thrive in even the toughest times” and pointed out the high ranking her administration got from the Pew Center on the States for managing the budget and state personnel.

Gregoire wrote:

Even though Washington’s economy remains healthy, a weakening national economy has affected us. The skyrocketing costs for groceries and the high price of fuel are being felt by all Washingtonians and by state agencies and institutions as well.

It’s as if the governor is afraid that acknowledging rising unemployment figures here, dropping state tax collections and projections of a widening budget gap could trip us into a recession. She is mindful of that sort of behavioral economics. Throughout this campaign year Gregoire has urged Washington residents to ignore the bad news spreading through 49 other states.

In her State of the State Address in January, Gregoire tried to boost consumer confidence:

I’d say to those folks wanting to buy a house -- our economy is strong.

She told the Washington Realtors in January that

she sometimes wishes people wouldn't watch the evening news because of all the "doomsday" talk of a home mortgage meltdown and a pending recession.

She elaborated on that at a February economic forum in Seattle:

I ask all of us to make sure that we do not buy into, or even for that matter, listen to, the dire talk internationally and nationally, because it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy for us. … We must be optimistic. We must understand our economy is strong and growth is going to continue to be the future.

It’s a tough chore for anyone to talk away economic uncertainty. Gregoire’s job is made more difficult because her fellow Democrats at the federal level make the national economy a keystone of their campaigns against Republicans.

She drew the distinction this way in the opening line from her first TV ad of the campaign:

In George Bush's Washington, the news isn't good.

But in our Washington, Governor Gregoire is helping the middle class fight back.

Dino Rossi, Gregoire’s Republican opponent, has the opposite problem, of course. He needs to convince voters that times are tough here because of Gregoire’s policies, without reminding people how bad things are nationally, which could lead to generally bad news for Republicans on the ballot this fall.

His response to Gregoire’s hiring freeze focused on increased state spending on Gregoire’s watch.

If Republicans don’t want to push the recession, the governor’s biggest opponent in her fight to keep Washingtonians thinking positive may be a TV pitchman. But not just any pitchman, he played a president on television.

There’s an Allstate insurance commercial running now that appears to be on heavier rotation than any ad in the gubernatorial campaign.

The company calls the ad, “Grocery Store” and it features spokesman Dennis Haysbert -- who played the president on the Fox series "24" -- standing in the aisle of a store. He says in his basso-profundo:

If this isn’t a recession, it sure feels like one.

If the recession is a sales pitch -- and clearly, “That’s Allstate’s stand” -- how long can Gregoire keep such thinking from the minds of TV-watching, insurance-buying, voters?

Conservative commentator John Carlson said in a recent column that a political “catechism” has emerged about the national economy.

A liberal politician or media pundit claims that the economy is in recession. Their Republican counterpart disputes this, whereupon the aforementioned commentator or candidate promptly attacks the Republicans for being heartless, callous and out of touch.

Carlson says that, locally at least, Republican candidates and commentators should embrace bad economic news.

They should then point out that for the first time since Gregoire became governor, the state unemployment rate now equals the national unemployment rate -- 5.5 percent. When the state unemployment rate was about 4 percent, the Gregoire administration happily took the credit. Let her now take some blame. …

And so, let us try and weather these economic storm clouds and endure the “Gregoire Recession.” And if any of her supporters claim that such a charge is unfair and unfounded, the Republicans should attack them for being heartless, callous and out of touch.

There’s a danger there, though. I bet Republican backers in the state, particularly among small business owners and R-leaning Realtors, have been quietly applauding Gregoire’s Norman Vincent Peale approach. They wouldn’t want to see Rossi and other local Republicans talking down the economy at a time when businesses need confident consumers.

Maybe Peale, the great promoter of positive thinking, offers something for politicians who get gummed up when trying to figure out how to blame the other guy for bad economic news.

Everybody together now, recite after NVP:

Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure.

I feel better already.

MORE: Here's an even better answer to the question of who to blame for the economy:

Economy has own mind

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Posted by P

2:10 PM, Aug 06, 2008

When Gregoire won, so did her donors - Times headline in today's Seattle Times.

Is it any wonder the state's surplus was been squandered? Whether or not we are currently in a recession, which technically we are not, the economic downturn has been dramatic, especially in this state.

Large tax increases, especially on gasoline, have caused this state to suffer a cascading effect on the state's economy. Coupled with the tax increases, the huge spending spree the governor and her party in the legislature have gone on, during the past legislative sessions, have been the deathknell for our economy.

This state has been in the control of the Democrats for decades, and now we are going to pay dearly for this one-party control.

Gov. Gregoire has sold her office to the special interests who helped her steal the 2004 election. And, according to the Times article in today's paper, these special interests have been paid back using taxpayers' money.

Throw this crook out of office and never let her work in the public sector again!

Posted by Jake

3:28 PM, Aug 06, 2008

Governor Gregoire has a new title “The most dangerous woman in the state”

Her denial on our economy. Her lack of compassion for all who are suffering in her downturn and for her to play politics on this is disheartening.

Posted by Bothsides

4:05 PM, Aug 06, 2008

"There’s a danger there, though. I bet Republican backers in the state, particularly among small business owners and R-leaning Realtors, have been quietly applauding Gregoire’s Norman Vincent Peale approach. They wouldn’t want to see Rossi and other local Republicans talking down the economy at a time when businesses need confident consumers."

Too bad we can't say the same for the local media, including the ST, they use adjectives such as "crisis" and any others they can think of in their headlines every day to sensationalize the data, they have the power to create a recession by lowering consumer confidence. So people are brain washed day after day that we are in a recession, and the Dems love it, they want a recession to help them in the next election. If the R's say we're not, they are heartless, just like Carlson says in his editorial. CG doesn't want those nasty words thrown around because she's been at the helm of a tax and spend machine that's driven us into a budget shortfall of $2.7B, can you blame her.....well we can for the "recession"!!

Posted by Particle Man

4:08 PM, Aug 06, 2008

Most will agree that the economy here has been slow to decline as a result of the sound decisions made by this governor with support and leadership from both houses of the legislature.
Most will also agree that it is Bush's policies that have our nation in the economic mess it is in. The Bush policy of spending and borrowing us into trillions of dollars in debt is at the core of this crisis.
While looking the other way as our oil prices grow and taking no action and failing to even support forward thinking state actions, Bush has compounded the problem.
That we have had such success here with Bush in the other Washington should cause folks to stop and think.
Gregoire does not need to own the Bush/McCain/Rossi economic crisis as it belongs to the Republicans and the GOPP. What we do know is that Obama will be our next president and will have a real majority in the US Senate. For the first time in 8 years we have a chance at real federal cooperation on so many issues important to Washingtonians and this is a cause for the kind of genuine optimism shown in our governors recent comments.
Folks like P will cry on about stolen election fantasies and will do their best to throw voters off the scent when it comes to REAL corruption. Gregoire has NEVER taken a dime nor I expect has she ever given such a notion a second thought. P's hero Rossi has sought and received hundreds of thousands in personal income from his activities as a candidate and most of that cash came right from BIAW. When last in office Dino drew powerful lobbyists into a real estate scheme which gave Dino another several hundred thousand dollars in excess of what a legitimate partnership would have netted him. THIS is what corruption looks like. THESE are the actions of a politician who seeks public office for personal wealth. THIS is not what we need moving forward.

Posted by Jake

4:19 PM, Aug 06, 2008

Particle Man:
You too tip toe through the tulips very good while having blinders on.

Posted by Sonya Jones

8:04 PM, Aug 06, 2008

Her memo doesn't even count as a "directive" to be posted on the state's website. Furthermore, she "asks" state agencies to comply and that they "should" impose hiring freezes. Read it again.

Her web of deceit knows no boundaries.

Posted by JimD

9:09 PM, Aug 06, 2008

P is simply wrong when he says the "downturn has been dramatic, especially in this state."
Washington State has suffered far less than many - if not most - other states from the national trend.
California, with one of the lowest per capita total tax burdens and piloted by a republican governor no less, better fits the "especially in this state" description..
Relatively speaking, Washington is demonstrating an economic resilience others only dream about.

In any event, If you think Washington State is suffering, check out just about every other state right now.
Utah's going to a four-day work week, California's governor is insisting on temporarily cutting many state workers back to minimum wage till things improve...
Gregoire has no reason to talk down what's obviously one of the better state success stories in this difficult time.
Let Rossi be the one to misrepresent us as bad for business, when all the evidence - and the opinion of the national business community in general - knows we're quite the opposite.

Posted by American

9:49 PM, Aug 06, 2008

This is the first economic action (or any action) she has taken as governor.

Posted by hinweis

10:28 PM, Aug 06, 2008

Gregoire loves to take credit when things are good, or when there's any credit to be given -- she's always good about being there to accept it.

But when things aren't so good, it's always someone else's fault. This is the typical bureaucratic setting. Failing to acknowledge the pending deficit is a risky move, but it's not too much of a leap that she has OFM running multiple scenarios -- some which may include tax hikes.

Shouldn't someone ask Gregoire whether she supports a state income tax?

Posted by YIKES

7:35 AM, Aug 07, 2008

Gregoire's $8 BILLION of increased spending has consequences. Duh!
She calls salary increases "an investment"!
How ridiculous to the non-Government Employee, tax-paying voter.

Gregoire is beholding to the State Employees Union. Her campaign payoff has created this Deficit. The only way out is a huge tax increase.
Rossi has done a fine job of delivering facts surrounding the mess Gregoire has created like this:
"I’m glad that Governor Gregoire has started to recognize the budget crisis she’s created. She had to know that by increasing spending 33 percent in her first term she was heading the state toward a budget deficit. Unfortunately, her announcement today does not go far enough.

“Dealing with the incumbent’s $2.7 billion budget deficit will require a lot of effort and belt tightening across state government. In the last four years the expansion of government has started at the top. As Governor, I will see to it that cutting waste starts at the top. I will reduce the size of the governor’s office budget, which has nearly doubled over the last four years.

“In addition to a hiring freeze, we should also freeze salary increases for politically appointed state employees. Further, Governor Gregoire should suspend salary negotiations with state employee groups over pay increases until we know the full extent of our deficit next year.

“Other governors around the country began tightening their state budgets months ago. In January, I called on the incumbent to use her supplemental budget to reduce rather than increase the total spending for the biennium. But instead, she passed a supplemental budget that increased spending by an additional $291 million."

Rossi is spot on.
The Gregoire minions are scrambling to put a smiley-face on the budget trainwreck....but it won't work.

Posted by ForbesList

10:52 AM, Aug 07, 2008

Hey is she can get the deficit up to $4 billion, will we make number one on the Forbe's list?

Everytime I see a homeless person on the street asking for money I tell them " You should be grateful you live in a state on the Forbe's list!"

Posted by RB

11:23 AM, Aug 07, 2008

To not know what was about to happen to the economy and spend anyway is probably the worst display of poor management I have seen in decades. This Governor should be shown the door now, why wait until election. All she has accomplished is to pay off everyone that found the 200 votes for here. Shame on us for allowing it.

Posted by Patriot

7:05 PM, Aug 07, 2008

No one can blame her.

Governor suffers from delay reaction syndrome.

The only cure is defeat.

Posted by earnest rheault

2:19 PM, Aug 08, 2008

Ahhh; We are at the beguining of the fiscal train wreck with much more to follow if you remember when the last person out of Seattle was to turn out the lights that fiasco started out in the East coast and a year later it arrived here this fiasco has the same pattern, As for the govenor she hasnt seen a spending bill that she hasnt sighned Year beforelast it was in the neighborhood of 550 bills this last year it was over 250 bills signed including patting herself on the back for the 90%passing their tests on reading never mind Math and science or historywhile adding 2 million dollars to the WASSAL crap pot.
The state will be so far in red ink that taxes will go through the roof adding feesfines penalties to every thing possible At the current time one out of every five workers in the state is employed by the goverment, Will they chop off at the head office or the lower workers Care to bet which?,
The taxpayers over the years have paid for our roads now she wants to charge tolls to use them for this alone she should be removed from office not to mention the Casino money that she traded off for campain cash.

Posted by JimD

9:17 PM, Aug 08, 2008

"...the fiscal train wreck with much more to follow if you remember when the last person out of Seattle was to turn out the lights that fiasco started out in the East coast and a year later it arrived here this fiasco has the same pattern..."
That's crazy, John.
The "last one to leave Seattle..." recession was caused by the the failure of Boeing's SST project.
Remember that?
The SuperSonicTransport that got killed along with half of Boeing - back when Puget Sound was a Boeing town.

"At the current time one out of every five workers in the state is employed by the goverment, .."
No, not even close.
Where do you get this baloney?
The rest is much the same....sounds like you've just made it up since there isn't an ounce of truth to any of it.

Posted by Hinton

9:54 PM, Aug 09, 2008

The FACT is this: Queen Chrissy takes all the credit when the economy is doing well (Remember her moronic reaction to the Forbes article?)

... So her and her winged monkeys get all the credit when it tanks... and she CERTAINLY gets the credit for the multi-billion dollar deficit she led our government into.

Posted by JimD

10:40 PM, Aug 09, 2008

Yeah well...that's what politicians do, ya know.

The FACT is, she has every reason to point out that EVERY outside indicator - not just Forbes - but EVERY independent, outside indicator shows Washington as doing better than most states in almost every respect - in defense against those who try to paint our state as something far less accomplished than it is.

Interesting that you call telling the objective truth, "moronic".
At least you're in-step with Rossi on that one.

Posted by mrrcguy

11:03 AM, Aug 10, 2008

Three words, tribes and SEIU.

Posted by Ron

6:21 AM, Aug 11, 2008

When ex-Senator and McCain advisor Phil Gramm said the US is not in a recession (saying the country is in "a mental recession") he was fired.

Who is going to fire Gov. Christine Gregoire for saying the same thing?

Posted by JimD

3:29 PM, Aug 11, 2008

The "same thing"?

When has Gregoire said we were only in a "mental recession".

To the contrary, she's acknowledged the very real nature of our national economy while accurately pointing out our state's relative resilence to it.

You think that's the "same thing" Graham said?

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