Leading UW Regent Donates $$ to McKenna

Jeff Brotman, Democratic power donor, donates $5,000 to Rob McKenna, Seattle Times

Jeff Brotman is well known as a UW regent, founder of Costco, and avid financial supporter of the UW. He has hosted Mr. Obama but now is also donating to Rob McKenna, the Republican candidate for governor.

This is very bad news for Jay Inslee, the Democratic candidate.

It is also bad news for those of us who fear, not McKenna, but his allegiance to an extremist GOP.

The nubbin seems to be that McKenna has made strong proposals for education reform.  McKenna argues that Washington state must maintain the high quality of our higher ed system, even if this means cuts to other aspects of the already tight budget. For those of worried about the UW’s heritage as an elite pubic ivy, McKenna’s promises are very, very good news.

Inslee’s response is oddly Republican .. he is a fiscal conservative unwilling to make promises Governor Inslee could not keep.   Jay Inslee has countered that there is no money. to support McKenna’s worthy goals.

I suspect that Inslee’s claim is true.  McKenna has no real idea how he can pay for the education reforms.

Unfortunately, more than just money is behind the differences between McKenna and Inslee.  Before the plummet of the Republican party into Tea Party madness, the GOP was indeed the part of business.  Lincoln ran the Civil War largely with the support of the industrial northeast. The war could be viewed as a conflict between the factory owners with their cheap labor and the plantation owner with their slaves. Put another way, business is not a bad thing.

Business is also not just a Republican thing. Kennedy’s space program, Eisenhower’s highways, FDR’s dams, and Lincoln’s railroad were massively corporate endeavors.

What has changed for Democrats is the death of the industrial unions.  While the GOP depends on the money from far right neocons, the core of the Democratic part is the union movement.  That core is now down to 7% of the private labor force.  The union movement has become a  movement for government workers.

For education these public sector unions have to support the bulk of their membership, a sadly underpaid set of workers drawn from the bottom end of our higher ed system.  For obvious reasons, these teacher’s unions have opposed reforms that would permit a more elite structure to recruit and reward better qualified teachers.  The NEA and the AFT have insisted on work rules and hiring policies that protect union members as if the classroom were an assembly line. Even changes in curriculum are dictated by the need to employ a work force that is poorly prepared for the revolutionary changes occurring in science and technology. The pretence that teacher certification is a replacement for linear algebra is nonsensical.

In our state, this has meant that union political action has blocked the public charter school model.  The unions claim that charter schools are bad because some of them are run as businesses. In the era of FEDEX and Microsoft, it si bizarre to claim that private entities can not provide provide services. The same, of course can be said of Mr. Brottman’s enterprise, COSTCO,

The existence of a great public school like the UW is not a a bad thing for the union movement.  We provide  damned good evidence that the public sector can excel at serving the public.  For that matter, anyone who thinks that my own Alma Matter, Harvard, is a private school might wonder how long the College would exist without federal money.

The UW has a great medical school supported but the NIH, so does Harvard. As state workers, we compete very well with the  faculties of the private ivy league.The public sector worker cannot only compete, she can excel.

How does a UW supporter read all this?  How does union domination affect the Democratic Party?  Aside from good jobs for today’s workers, the unions are innately egalitarian.  There is little or no support in the Democratic part for the elitism of business or sadly, for the fiercely competitive academic model that underlies elite universities. The Democratic mantra is that all kids can learn and that everyone deserves an degree.

Does McKenna somehow intend to raise taxes?   Jeff Brotman’s support is consistent with other information I have that McKenna is serious about maintaining the UW’s high academic standing.   This may mean he will use “tax reform” as a sneaky way to raise taxes.  Who knows?

There IS a message here for Democrats.   The Brotmans are what I call  hard core business liberals.  They support Democratic ideals like science, healthcare, a fair tax system, peace …. but they also support higher education and, I suspect, very non union ideas about the K-12 public schools.

Supporting the UW is not at all the same as supporting the  “all kids can learn mantra” of the left.  Keeping the quality of the UW high at a time of tough budgets likely will come at the cost of “production” of diplomas for students who are less able.  McKenna seems to understand that. Inlsee may too but his ties to the Democratic core put him at disadvantage.




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