All governments, federal, state and local, do dumb and irresponsible things – it’s the nature of the beast – but my home state of Michigan is cutting a trail through Idiot Jungle, overworked machete in hand, for other government boneheads to follow. If we’re not careful, we might run into California and accidentally hack each other to death – mercifully.
Michigan has an over $1 billion budget deficit and an unemployment rate so high that we’re a 7/11 closing away from overtaking Mississippi for the lead. If this keeps up, I fully expect the Upper Peninsula to secede to Wisconsin.
Businesses in the state are fleeing the area like the lactose intolerant after hearing an ice cream truck. One recent example of those trying to escape proposed new taxes is Comerica Bank. Comerica had been in the state for 160 years, but recently announced they would be relocating its headquarters to Dallas, Texas.
Weeks earlier, Pfizer announced they were also fleeing Michigan and closing research facilities and laying off 2,400 workers.
The reaction by many state politicians can be summed up with one word: clueless. Well, okay, maybe two words: terminally clueless.
Businesses and individuals are exiting at a frequency that United Van Lines says makes Michigan the number one state in the nation when it comes to outbound move rate. Meanwhile, our state government, including a tax-happy governor trying to lure in businesses (watching somebody try to fish with no bait, hook, line or pole is indeed sad) can’t convince existing companies to stay here, and has decided to continue on with anti-business-as-usual – up to and including using the Jedi mind trick to try to convince business owners that what they see isn’t really there.
The problem for Michigan, the ”France of North America” as it’s been called (”the Chernobyl of the business world” is also an acceptable title), is that the Great Lake State is a stew of everything businesses hate. It’s heavily unionized, the government is run by buffoons, and the tax schemes are unpredictable and shift more often than a mountain biker on a 20-speed.
Every time there’s a new idiotic tax, it is often recognized later on that it was a stupid idea, and thus repealed. Businesses seeking a base of operations look at Michigan and know based on our track record that, even though a particular tax has been repealed, it will be replaced – probably by something even dumber.
For example, Michigan’s three-decade-old Single Business Tax was repealed. That’s great news, right? But wait – state politicians have said they’ll need to replace the $1.9 billion brought in by the SBT with something else – it’s just that we don’t know what yet. If a business decides to relocate to Michigan under these circumstances, I hope the state legislature sells them the Brooklyn Bridge while they’re at it.
But this madness isn’t confined to the governor’s office. No, sir. Democrats in the state House are doing their best to see that no child is left behind … at least not without an iPod. On Thursday, Michigan House Democrats offered a spending plan that would buy an MP3 player or iPod for every school child in Michigan. The Detroit News put it more appropriately than anyone ever has: “Are they !#$!ing idiots?”
The list of sorry examples goes on and on, and these things are huge turn-offs for base-of-operations seeking companies.
Another example of Michi-madness includes the time not long ago that state officials put a petition on the State of Michigan website calling for a lowering of oil company profits, but they never mentioned that the state pension fund had $832 million invested in Exxon-Mobil stock. Essentially, the state was asking state employees to sign a petition to devalue their own pensions. Brilliant.
Until Michigan’s politicians, and more importantly, voters, recognize the path we’re on and make it clear at the ballot box they demand change, the state will continue to be like an unwashed girl with bad breath wondering why she’s not being asked to the prom. Other states might take a shower and swig some mouthwash. Michigan just tries to plug all the guys’ noses.
It’s not working.
Perhaps you’ve seen or heard the ads starring actor and Michigan native Jeff Daniels touting our state’s ”21st Century Jobs Fund.” The ads have the tagline, ”Michigan gives you the upper hand.” That would be great, if the hand didn’t then pick your wallet and give you the finger.