Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Unholy Alliance, Part One

This February 11 article from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader mentions our very own Uncle Buck, who as we know, believes Wal-Mart will drive away "excellent" professors by making Pullman a "big box clone of a thousand other places."
James Krueger directs a Washington State University laboratory studying what occurs in the brain chemically during sleep. His research group directly employs five physicians and associates with three others and brings about $2 million in grant funding annually to that university.

"In the basic biomechanism of sleep, we don't think there's any group in the world better than us," he says.

Krueger has worked as a scientist at Harvard, the University of Chicago and the University of Tennessee, and he brought his research to Washington State a decade ago in part because it is not in a metropolitan area. Pullman is about the size of Brookings. Seattle is 300 miles away, across the state, and the nearest city, Spokane, with 200,000 people, is 80 miles." And most people on the East or West Coast would not consider Spokane a large city," he says.

"We chose a small town life because it's safer, easier. I lived in big cities my entire life - Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston. I get about two extra hours every single day by living in a small town," he says. "We have a rush minute, not a rush hour."

Advances in information technology made such a move feasible, he says. "If you tried to do this 30 years ago, you couldn't have done it. Lack of communication would have made it impossible, No computers." But now, "why not be in a great spot?" he asks.
So, it would appear that behind all Krueger's liberal rhetoric about Wal-Mart's "low wages and poor benefits," "gender discrimination," "child labor violations," "forced unpaid overtime," and "exploitation of undocumented workers," and his Democratic pedigree, he is just a garden variety elitist "pull up the drawbridger." You know, the type that has made their bones in the big city and now wants to find a little slice of paradise to get away from the rat race, enjoy a minimal commute, have a nice big McMansion in a upscale suburban development on Pioneer Hill, and then pull up the drawbridge, fill up the moat, and put up a "No Vacancy" sign.

Krueger's position as a professor combined with his obvious NIMBY stance reminded me of a quote from this Cato Institute column:
Perhaps the oddest political coalition in America today is that of anti-suburban intellectuals and suburban "slow growth" activists. The two movements are allied in a campaign to combat suburban sprawl and promote strict governmental controls over land use and communal organization (controls termed "smart growth" by their advocates). So why would suburbanites make common cause with those who loathe both their communities and their way of life, who sneer at their tacky, soul-less neighborhoods? Because both factions seek the same goal: the end of migration from the major cities.
If that doesn't describe PARD, I don't know what does. I'll be examining this odd coupling more throughout the week.

In the meantime,what of all those poor "excellent" professors? The Argus Leader continues:
[Head of the University of South Dakota's Cardiovascular Research Institute Martin] Gerdes, too, contends Sioux Falls, with low crime, good schools and health care, is an asset in attracting scientists. A new researcher earning about $75,000 can afford to have a spouse stay home with young children.

"On the West or East Coast, that's not doable," he says. "Your spouse has got to make an equal salary. Your commute is probably longer. Crime, taxes and the cost of living are all higher. Yes, there's a wonderful beach a few miles away. But you certainly can't afford a house there."

Sanford Health is capable of duplicating its success in cardiovascular research in other biomedical disciplines, Gerdes says.

"We have enough know-how to pull this off. We've done all the hard work.

"It's been fun being a big fish in a small pond. It's going to be even more fun being just one of the fish in a bigger pond."
One reason, no doubt, why Sioux Falls is so affordable for families with young children, and thus attractive to scientists, is the presence of TWO Wal-Mart Supercenters.

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Paul E. Zimmerman said...

I've got the solution: we'll put all of the drawbridgers on their own island.

Krueger said it himself: modern communications technology makes such moves possible.


pete3397 said...

How many Nobel prize winners are at WSU or UI? Say, as compared to the low quality faculties at schools located in a "thousand other places" like Chicago or Boston or Knoxville?

Where are all the excellent professors going to go if not Pullman? Moscow, or Brookings, or Laramie? Missoula and Bozeman are probably too trendy and overbuilt for these guys, so Montana and Montana State are out of the picture. Unless excellent professors are more interested in the actual university they're working at, the department they're in, and the faculty and student body they'll work with.