People should stop picking on vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin because she hired a high school classmate to oversee the state agriculture division, a woman who said she was qualified for the job because she liked cows when she was a kid. And they should lay off the governor for choosing another childhood friend to oversee a failing state-run dairy, allowing the Soviet-style business to ding taxpayers for $800,000 in additional losses.
What these critics don’t understand is that crony capitalism is how things are done in Alaska. They reward failure in the Last Frontier state. In that sense, it’s not unlike like Wall Street’s treatment of C.E.O.’s who run companies into the ground.
Look at Carly Fiorina, John McCain’s top economic surrogate — if you can find her this week, after the news and her narrative fused in a negative way. Dismissed as head of Hewlett-Packard after the company’s stock plunged and nearly 20,000 workers were let go, she was rewarded with $44 million in compensation. Sweet!
Thank God McCain wants to appoint a commission to study the practice that enriched his chief economic adviser. On the campaign trail this week, McCain and Palin pledged to “stop multimillion dollar payouts to C.E.O.’s” of failed companies. Good. Go talk to Fiorina at your next strategy session.
Palin’s Alaska is a cultural cousin to this kind of capitalism. The state may seem like a rugged arena for risky free-marketers. In truth, it’s a strange mix of socialized projects and who-you-know hiring practices.
Timothy Egan writes for the New York Times: