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Friday, December 7, 2007

What's wrong with this picture?

An annual report by the Michigan Bureau of Labor Statistics produced the chart that you see here. It shows that Michigan has not only lost over 200,000 manufacturing jobs in the last few years; but, also that Michigan now has more state paid workers than it has manufacturing workers. We have long had more services industry workers than manufacturing workers and the farming and mining industries in Michigan are far smaller than in the past. So, basically we have more people shuffling money around or spending money than we have creating new value - manufacturing, growing or digging something up.

I suppose this will not come as a big surprise to many. We've all heard for some time that Michigan has been losing manufacturing jobs at a rapid rate (across the last two administrations it was noted). This chart was in the middle of an article about Michigan's economic forecast and that was not a very rosy picture. The article pointed out that Michigan is the highest tax state in the upper, eastern Midwest group that we belong to (with Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana) and spends more on education than Illinois, yet retains less of it's college grads than Illinois. We are also a net negative migration state, having lost population in the last census and being a "net out-move" state for the moving companies in the state.

The article tried to show some hope for the future by pointing out things other than the automotive industries that Michigan could focus upon for the future. The gist of those suggestions revolved around trying to leverage our State Universities while we still can and working with what pharmaceutical industries that we still have to increase drug manufacturing. There was also the expected bow towards increased tourism to take advantage of our lake frontage and even a fleeting mention of leveraging our water resources - a touching subject at best. The article also outlined several things that Michigan needs to do at the state level to make the state more hospitable to businesses. The cornerstone of that list was getting rid of onerous laws and rules that require unionization and so-called "prevailing wages contracts", i.e. make Michigan a "right to work" state. There were also numerous other examples of Michigan laws that are considered not to be business friendly and which purportedly discourage investments by business in Michigan.

So, what was the conclusion of this gloomy article? That there's still time to "save" Michigan from total collapse, but that we'll have to save ourselves from our government first. Strange. That's what some are saying at the national level, too. We'll likely not regain our previous preeminent manufacturing status, but we have enough going for us to survive and prosper again, if we can only keep those pesky government hands out of our pockets and out of trying to dictate how we live our lives. Less is more is the theme and it should start with the state government.

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