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

Washington’s expensive culvert court case

Too much money is spent in court where it should go to increasing the salmon population

Straw pulp looks like a game changer

250,000 tons of straw will soon be pulped for paper products.

New Enumclaw wine bar aims for broad audience

Bordeaux Wine Bar is scheduled to be open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Streamlining regulations makes more housing affordable

There were over 21,000 people homeless in Washington State last year.

New approaches needed to fight super wildfires | Don Brunell

Last year, wildfires nationwide consumed 12,550 square miles, an area larger than Maryland.

Skilled trade jobs go unfilled in our robust economy

Known as blue collar jobs, they routinely pay $45,000 to $65,000 a year or more.

Streamlining regulations helps Americans compete

The cost of regulations is a key American competitiveness issue. It is a major reason our companies re-locate to other countries and our manufacturers and farmers have difficulties competing internationally.

Water pressure mounting in West as population spikes

What is happening in California with water allocation disputes is a harbinger of what is to come in our state as well.

Railroads implementing positive track

While the investigation continues into the deadly AMTRAK derailment near Dupont, the clock continues to tick on the implementation of Positive Track Control (PTC). The deadline is Dec. 31, 2018.

Keep the holiday spirit all year long | Don Brunell

During the holidays, our thoughts naturally turn to giving — not just giving gifts, but donating our time and money to charities, disasters and community programs.

Finding balance in occupational licensing

Recently, the Institute for Justice (Institute) determined state licensing barriers for lower-income workers and aspiring entrepreneurs not only hurts people trying to establish themselves in a profession, but annually drives consumer prices up by $203 billion.

Remember 1993

Twenty-five years ago, business took a beating in Olympia. The swing to the left in the 1992 general election was swift and potent. It drove higher costs to employers and more government regulations.