Poland and America heading in opposite directions | Don Brunell

Poland broke the shackles of Soviet domination two decades ago with the rise of Lech Walesa and the Solidarity labor movement. Free for the first time since World War II, Poland cast off its yoke of government control and central planning in favor of an American-style free enterprise system.

Poland broke the shackles of Soviet domination two decades ago with the rise of Lech Walesa and the Solidarity labor movement. Free for the first time since World War II, Poland cast off its yoke of government control and central planning in favor of an American-style free enterprise system.

Today, Poland is the European Union’s largest eastern economy, the only member of the 27-nation bloc to avoid a recession in 2009. While most of European economies are in the tank, Poland’s gross domestic product expanded by four percent this year.

By contrast, the U.S. economy is struggling. According to an in-depth analysis by the Associated Press, our economic recovery is the weakest since World War II, and consumer spending has never been as slack.

Most troubling, President Obama and his allies believe the way to restore prosperity is more government intervention, higher taxes and more regulation.

But government intrusion never works, and as the Polish people know all too well, it leads to shortages, higher prices and lost opportunities.

Poles are hungry to learn about the innovation and creativity of our market-based economy. In fact, they eagerly invited Washington Business Week leaders to come to their country to show teachers and students first hand how private-sector businesses operate.

Business Week, started in 1975 by the Association of Washington Business, is a series of week-long business “boot camps” in colleges and universities where high school students get hands-on experience in what it’s like to run a business, create new products, compete in the global marketplace, and make decisions that change people’s lives.  Since its inception, Business Week has spread to 22 states, Australia and Poland.

During the school year, Polish students follow a very structured academic curriculum.  But with Business Week’s mix of American educators, students and business leaders, they learn how to unleash their creative abilities — something that was totally suppressed by the former Communist government.

Just a few blocks from the Gdansk technical school where Business Week takes place is the Solidarity Museum. The museum is a stark reminder of life under a system of government control, restricted freedoms and mediocrity. One of the museum’s displays is a series of empty grocery shelves, a haunting reminder of the time when poor working people in Poland had only a meager selection of rationed food, clothing and household supplies.

Polish students see our nation as a beacon of hope, but they feel that bright light is dimming. Poles embrace the need to protect the environment, worker safety and conserve resources, but they don’t understand why our government is inhibiting the private sector’s ability to innovate and solve problems.

They see Ford as emblematic of the way our system works. When a desperate Bill Ford recruited Alan Mulally from Boeing in 2006, Ford was heading for a $12.7-billion loss.  Poor management and an uninspired model line had Ford on the verge of losing its No. 2 sales spot in the U.S. to Toyota. Four years after Mulally arrived, Ford reported a $6.6-billion profit — the biggest in the sector that year — and Toyota ads were comparing its cars with Fords, not Hondas.

Mulally’s leadership led to one of the greatest turnarounds in business history, and it happened without a federal government bailout.

Poles are puzzled at the path our nation is taking. They see more government control of the market, government picking winners and losers, and government planning what consumers will get and what they won’t. They remember what that was like.

America’s economic freedoms inspired a revolution in Poland. Now the Poles wonder if we’ve lost our way and are on the wrong track.

 

More in Business

Avoiding trouble while Tweeting | Don Brunell

Your social media can hurt you or help you when looking for a job.

Lampson beating odds for family-owned businesses | Don Brunell

According to The Family Firm Institute, only about 30 percent of family-owned businesses survive into the second generation and fewer than 12 percent are still viable into the third generation.

Columbia River treaty talks too vital to ignore | Don Brunell

The United States and China are currently renegotiating the Columbia River Treaty.

Bellevue company patent infringement win gives small investors hope | Don Brunell

Until recently, our courts have been little help to patent owners.

Podiatrist opens Enumclaw practice

Go see Dr. Bock at 853 Watson Street North, Suite 100.

American giving has surpassed $400 billion | Don Brunell

“Americans’ record-breaking charitable giving in 2017 demonstrates that even in divisive times our commitment to philanthropy is solid.”

Cementing radioactive wastes could save billions | Don Brunell

According to a recent article in the Tri-Cities Herald, the first phase of the demonstration project, grouting three gallons of waste held in Hanford’s underground tanks was successfully completed last December.

Mining contaminated waters to increase copper supplies | Don Brunell

With worldwide demand for copper soaring and there is new pressure to open new mines, expand existing ones, and add ore processing capacity — all of which have serious associated environmental challenges.

GE’s tumble from grace | Don Brunell

General Electric, once the world’s most valuable company, has been topped by Walgreens.

Vintage items, gifts and more at new Enumclaw shop

Featuring an eclectic mix of merchandise, partners Tori Ammons and Melissa Oglesbee… Continue reading

Jetsons cartoon robots now reality | Don Brunell

In April, the U.S. Labor Dept. reported a record high 844,000 unfilled positions in the hospitality industry — which is one out of eight jobs available today.

New shop a sweet spot in downtown Enumclaw

Cole St. now has a new fudge and bakery shop.