When Republican Bob Riley ran against Don Siegelman for governor of Alabama in 2002, he repeatedly bashed the Democratic incumbent on two issues: no-bid contracts and the state's stumbling economy.
We've already learned that Riley is a two-faced phony on no-bid contracts, dishing out a $13-million sweetheart deal to a company that doesn't even have a business address. Now we learn that Riley is a lousy steward of the economy, too. In fact, Alabama's economic woes are far worse than they ever were under Siegelman, who had to wrestle with the bursting of the dot.com bubble in 2001-02.
A recent report shows that Birmingham's jobless rate for October 2009 took the fifth highest jump in the nation among metro areas of 1 million or more people. Only Riverside, California; Las Vegas, San Jose, and Detroit were worse.
At the state level, Alabama's jobless rate had the third highest increase in the nation. Only Nevada and Michigan were worse.
In short, Bob Riley is presiding over the worst Alabama economy since the Great Depression. To be fair to Riley, a governor can only do so much when the national economy tanks--as it did under President George W. Bush. But Riley was one of Bush's most staunch supporters, hitching his box car to an economic train that went wildly off the rails.
And how is this for irony? No state has sucked up to (and sold its soul to) the U.S. Chamber of Commerce more than has Alabama. The chamber has bought up our state courts and has one of its acolytes, Riley, leading the executive branch. Only Alabama's legislative branch remains out of chamber control, and Republicans are making a well-publicized bid to take over the legislature in 2010. William Canary, president of the Business Council of Alabama, is a player on the chamber's national stage and a self-appointed kingmaker inside the state. (Just ask Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Artur Davis.)
In other words, business interests have come to dominate Alabama's political landscape. But our economy, in terms of rising unemployment, is one of the worst in the nation. Alabamians have consistently voted conservative for statewide offices since Karl Rove slithered into the state in the 1990s. What do we have to show for it? The worst economy in what is supposed to be the prosperous Sun Belt--the worst economy of any deep-red state.
Dear God, one can only wonder how bad our economy would be if we didn't have such a "pro business" environment in Alabama.
Here's another irony: In the first few months after I started this blog in June 2007, I regularly received anonymous comments from Riley supporters, touting his "stellar" record on the economy and jobs. Sometimes, they would include a line or two about Riley's high ethical standards.
Funny, haven't received any of those comments in quite a while.