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I love the state of Michigan. I grew up there. I may live in Iowa, but my mancave is adorned in maize-and-blue. I still allow the Detroit Lions to rip my still-beating heart out of my chest and show it to me 16 Sundays per year. I use Detroit Red Wings championship banners for curtains. I can still recite the entire everyday lineup – in order – of the 1984 World Series champion Detroit Tigers.
I say this to point out I am one of you. Heck, I was also a Teamster. I worked at the nation’s first automated UPS plant in Grand Rapids as a truck loader to put myself through Grand Rapids Community College. When I stopped working there, I made sure to pay up all my dues to leave as a member in good standing. I grew up with a stepdad who was an active Teamster at Grand Rapids Gravel driving ready-mix trucks.
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I think unions historically have been an imperfect but mostly necessary check-and-balance against corporatism, which I and most other liberty-loving Americans loathe. I can’t stand crony capitalism any more than you can. It’s an oxymoron like “gay marriage”, “moderate Arab nation”, and “local celebrity.” There’s no such thing as “crony capitalism” because capitalism is based on the objective worth of an asset as determined by a free and competitive market. Whenever cronyism gets involved, it becomes about the subjective nature of palm-greasing and back-scrubbing, which is antithetical to capitalism.
I agree with you that it’s hypocritical for those claiming to be for economic growth to fight Obamcare and then fight to nominate as an alternative in the other party the guy who gave the administration the idea in the first place. I agree it’s hypocritical of ruling class Republicans to say that a union worker in Toledo making $15/hour at the local Chrysler plant doesn’t deserve a bailout from the federal taxpayer, but their buddies at “too big to fail” Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs do.
I share many of your laments, but what you’re being sold as the solution to these problems is actually what caused the problem.
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You’re being used as sympathetic cannon fodder/human shields by those who don’t have the love for America you do but would rather take America down the same road to perdition they’ve already taken Greece, France, Spain, and most of Western Europe. They are manipulating you with talk of “fairness” and “equality”, except historically anytime in human history these people have had their way, what they’ve actually done is produced a tyranny that imposes itself on folks like you first and foremost.
Think I’m wrong?
Then ask yourself some very simple questions. Those selling you on magical thinking have had their way in state government for at least a decade, so they’ve got a record of accomplishment – or lack thereof – to be held accountable to.
Are your kids any more literate and equipped to compete in the workforce? Those promising you the moon control the education system in your state. Only 7% of 8th graders in Detroit are proficient in reading. That’s right—just 7%. Where else could you fail at your job 93% of the time and still have one, let alone demand raises and an increase in benefits? Florida and Georgia are the only top 10 population states with a lower graduation rate, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
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Are your children growing up and staying close to home after high school/college? Are they finding a job and raising your grandchildren close by? Michigan was the only state in the 2010 U.S. Census to actually lose population, with the city of Detroit dropping to its lowest population total since 1910—before Henry Ford invented the assembly line.
Have they delivered on all the jobs they promised you? Only once since August of 2008 has Michigan’s unemployment rate been below 8.5%; and in 34 of the previous 50 months, the unemployment rate has been 10% or higher. Furthermore, the unemployment rate in Michigan soared to 12% or higher for 20 consecutive months at one point in 2009 and 2010, right before a new governor and legislature were elected by the state’s voters.
Is that a record to be proud of and persist in pursuing? Albert Einstein once famously said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result each time.” Isn’t it time for some sanity to be restored to the Great Lakes State?
Suppose you actually persist in this insanity. What would happen? Look no further than California for evidence. That’s a state that’s about a decade further down the drain.
The state’s population is the next to face a demographic winter, with more people moving out than moving in. And where has most of that exodus gone? Why, to Texas of course, whose policies are almost the polar opposite and have therefore produced much more opportunity and prosperity.
Other than Hollywood, about the only people prospering in California nowadays are government employees. The state has over 245,000 employees, by far the most government workers in the nation. Those workers are paid an average of $60,317 in salary plus a phenomenal retirement/benefits package, also by the far the best in the nation. And the $963 million California taxpayers shelled out in overtime pay to state workers in 2011 is more than the next 7 most populous states combined. By the way, on average, the typical California state employee makes over 30% more than Californians employed in the private sector.
That is simply unsustainable because government jobs aren’t the result of wealth creation but rather wealth redistribution. In other words, when a business owner or entrepreneur has a concept he wants to produce for consumers, he needs to hire employees in order to produce and distribute that concept. If the venture is successful, that creates wealth and job opportunities that previously didn’t exist.
However, government doesn’t create wealth but confiscates it. To meet its needs, it must confiscate the resources of those who have wealth in order to acquire its own. The more wealth the government accumulates to meet its needs, the less wealth there is for a business to meet its needs (paying off vendors, expenses, employees, shareholders, general cost of doing business, etc.). When a business gets to the point that it can no longer meet its expenses, it will either go out of business or re-locate to a place where it can. Either way, it takes those jobs with them. Most of the businesses creating new jobs are small businesses that aren’t “too big to fail,” so they can’t bully their legislature or Congress into a handout.
This explains why California trails only New York in state debt, and thus why people and businesses are leaving a state that for generations was flocked to for perpetual sunshine and opportunity.
Those selling you on the idea that the gravy train is endless don’t live in the real world. They either live off the dues your hard work provides for their salary, or they live in a subsidized Valhalla like academia where they can bully gutless politicians, who themselves live outside of economic reality. People simply will not continue working for someone else to get paid if they have other options, and that’s why they are leaving states like yours and California.
Now these utopians want you to help them raise millions more to recall the Michigan politicians who are actually giving you a chance to prosper again. Just as they did in Wisconsin, which failed twice. Just like they did in Michigan this year, when they tried to enshrine their schemes into the state Constititution and lost by 16 points.
Ask yourself a simple question: if they lose an election by 16 points with Barack Obama winning at the top of the ticket, how do they expect to win an election without his coat-tails? Is that really the wisest investment of your hard-earned resources? Wouldn’t a better investment be to provide job training to create a more skilled workforce that can really compete in a technologically-advanced age?
When you really care about workers, you do what’s in their best interests. When you really care about currying favor with the ruling class to maintain your seat at the table, you do what’s in yours. Do you really think the president of the UAW making $618,000/year, or the president of AFSCME making $480,000/year, can really relate to what you’re going through on a daily basis? Do they care more about what you think, or what the ruling class thinks?
Futilely challenging Michigan’s duly enacted Right-to-Work law will enrich no one other than your six-figure salaried national union officials, as well as the six-figure salaried political operatives/media consultants in both political parties. And you’ll get the bill for their expense reports, too.
Besides, why would you want to overturn the Right-to-Work law when the top 7 states with the lowest unemployment are Right-to-Work states, and 9 of the top 10 states to do business according to CNBC are Right-to-Work states? By the way, remember when we said Texas is the place where most Californians are fleeing? It’s the top-rated state on CNBC’s list and is also a Right-to-Work state.
Look at some of the neighboring states you’ll be competing with in the so-called “rust belt.” Wisconsin isn’t yet a Right-to-Work state but has passed measures recently to make it more competitive and limit union domination. Indiana is now a Right-to-Work state. Concerned about the population shift to the south? Perhaps that population is shifting to where the jobs are, and half of the 24 states that have Right-to-Work laws are in the south.
Perhaps you’ve been told that it’s true Right-to-Work states produce more jobs, but they’re low paying jobs. Suppose that’s correct for a second. Is it better to have no job, or any job? Of course, you’d rather have any job; so the point of that argument is without merit on its face.
Not to mention the fact the argument is false to begin with. The truth is that Michigan hasn’t ranked among the top 30 states in per capita personal income since 2004. It hasn’t ranked in the top 20 since 2000. It hasn’t ranked higher than 17th since 1990, which is the furthest back I could research. Michigan isn’t alone.
Other “rust belt” states with similar union influences have suffered similar fates. Ohio has never been in the top 20 states by personal income (measured by an individual’s annual average earnings) in the past 22 years, and neither has Indiana. Wisconsin has only done it twice in 1998 and 1999.
On the other hand, job growth in Right-to-Work states grew by 3.7% from 1999-2009 and fell by 2.8% in forced unionism states. From 1999-2009, personal income in Right-to-Work states grew by 28.7%, compared to 14.7% in forced unionism states.
Which would make sense because more jobs equals more demand for workers. Higher demand for workers increases competition for employees. More competition for employees means higher wages and better benefits as companies compete to attract the best human resources.
That’s how a free market works, which your leaders have been trying to exempt you from. Instead, all they’ve done is exempt you from freedom and prosperity, all the while lining their own pockets to exempt themselves from the recession they helped to cause.
For the sake of your children and grandchildren, don’t repeat this mistake for another decade. You’ve already lost too many young families like my own, who can maintain a better standard of living by living someplace else.
Michigan deserves better, and so do you and your families.
(You can learn more about Steve Deace’s nationally-syndicated radio show by visiting www.stevedeace.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)
Photo credit: jimmywayne (Creative Commons)
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.