A new tool for officials to cover up bad news

If you enjoy following the latest silly trends in government, then you’ve probably already heard about the Genuine Progress Indicator, or GPI. It’s an alternative metric for tracking a state’s “health.”

Really, GPI is tailor-made for politicians whose own policies are hurting their state’s economy. Got bad economic news to deliver? Don’t! Just change the subject. GDP may be down but things are looking pretty rosy on the GPI.

What is GPI?
GPI is made up of 26 different indicators, covering categories such as resource depletion, C02 emissions, automobile dependence, and leisure time. Former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich wrote in National Review, “Such ‘soft measures’ are indeed convenient to those who wish to distance themselves from objective, value-neutral methodologies (such as Gross Domestic Product) that have long been the mainstay of economic-development science.”

GPI being used in Washington
GPI measurements popped up in the news lately due to the recent scandal in Oregon. The person at the heart of the scandal, now-resigned Gov. John Kitzhaber’s fiancée Cylvia Hayes, advocated for GPI in Oregon and other states. She was paid to do so under one of the contracts that landed her and Kitzhaber in hot water for mixing public business and private gain.

Hayes met with officials here in Washington, who embraced the GPI concept. Gov. Inslee’s director of Results Washington met with Hayes and adopted GPI as an alternative to GDP, unaware that Hayes was being paid to promote it.

Reminiscent of anything?
Ehrlich is right about what GPI is really about:

GPI is classic liberal snake oil for what ails anti-business states. Such knock-off indexes cannot change the objective facts of high tax rates and wealth flight, but they are designed to delegitimize them through a new and politically correct set of criteria more attuned to how one feels about economic development. The GPI mindset is especially useful in explaining away the effects of ill-conceived public policies on hiring and employment. If you are reminded of the famous White House attempt to explain away Obamacare’s destructive impact on job creation by pointing out the advantages of increased leisure time . . . well, so am I.

There’s nothing wrong with alternative metrics to measure what’s going on in our state. What is wrong is to gussy up bad economic news by telling people what they should really care about instead.
-Rob McKenna

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.