Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Michigan needs jobs, ‘right to work’ won’t even bring in crappy jobs

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We’re trained with a cynical mind not to believe what politicians have to say, Even in that world, Rick Snyder sunk himself to a new low, and dragged down the state of Michigan with him.

In lightning fast speed, the Republicans in Michigan put together and Snyder signed legislation making Michigan the 24th state to be “right to work.’ Or as the liberals have put it so well, “right to work for less.”

The statistics are consistent: “right to work” (RTW) states consistently have lower wages, more poverty, and less access to healthcare. Why wouldn’t Michigan be any different? The state may not even get the crappy jobs other RTW states get.

One of the proposals on the Michigan ballot in November tried to strengthen the resolve of unions, and voters rejected that proposal. For having the “audacity” to try and strengthen unions ā€” this is one of the reasons why Snyder and his GOP cronies pushed through the RTW legislation so quickly. Except that this was in the planning stages for some time. Why let facts stand in the way of a good story.

We know this is about politics, about Michigan once again voting for a Democratic president. The last Republican to win Michigan? George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Like most legislation where Republicans claim is about jobs, let’s pretend this is about jobs. Someone has to care about jobs, especially in Michigan, even if much of that hasn’t happened in Lansing in the last couple of years.

State Senator John Proos, a Republican who backed the RTW bill, predicted that the public anger would subside because jobs would be coming to Michigan.

“As they say in sports, the atmosphere in the locker room gets a lot better when the team’s winning,” Mr. Proos told The Associated Press.

This gets to the crux of the legislation. “Unions are the reason why Michigan has failed to generate jobs,” goes the argument. As soon as jobs come, regardless of the wages and conditions to follow, they will shut up and be glad they have a job.

This isn’t Alabama, this is Michigan.

As it turns out, I sort of know Proos. I went to the same high school as Proos ā€” he was a few years back. He might remember me, I might remember him. Others that we know know him and me better than we know each other.

The idea that a crappy job is better than a good job is an attitude that plays well in the South, the dominant region of RTW states. Michigan has a stronger tradition that Proos and his fellow colleagues will find more difficult to switch over.

Proos should have learned in school, though I can’t remember if we learned it there, the words of Henry Ford. He was smart enough to realize that if his employees were going to buy his cars, they needed to earn enough to buy them. With the escalating costs of college education, parents need to be able to save money to help put their kids through school. Of course, since costs have skyrocketed, they can’t afford to repay their loans, even if they could find good wages. Since lower wages are coming to Michigan, if those magical jobs suddenly appear, a whole new generation can’t afford to live, buy a house, or reproduce.

The salaries of Snyder, Proos, and the other GOP politicians aren’t shrinking, so they don’t have to worry. And they’ll get plenty contributions from business that suddenly have more money because they won’t have to pay that cash to the workers.

Why hasn’t Michigan generated jobs?

Let’s started by quoting from a Salon article by someone I know better than Proos: Edward McClelland, a Michigan native now based in Chicago.

Fifty percent of Michigan State students now leave the state immediately after graduation. That ratio doubled in the 2000s, which is known in Michigan as “The Lost Decade.” In those 10 years, Michigan dropped from 30th to 35th in the percentage of college graduates, and from 18th to 37th in per capita income. (Michigan was also the only state to lose population in the last census.)

Brain drain is definitely a factor. And through my own experience, Michigan State isn’t the only university being affected. Chicago is filled with graduates of many Michigan universities. Go to a Red Wings or Tigers game in Chicago to get a sense of the love for the Michigan teams.

Even if you think Michigan made a wise choice by becoming a “right to work” state, ask yourself this simple question, “Why would a company pick Michigan over the other RTW states?”

This is a state where its citizens get upset if you are seen driving a “foreign” car, as in not a car with a stamp of a “U.S. company.” They don’t care if the car was “made in America” ā€” the make has to be USA.

In the other 23 states, their attitudes toward unions and union labor aren’t as strong or intense. Most of these states, the majority of them in the South and West, have better weather, better kept roads, worse education, and an attitude that accepts lower wages as “God’s will.”

Even those who are vehemently against the concept of RTW can understand objectively why Southern states would go that route. Lower wages plays along with the anti-establishment mood.

Michigan has generations of people who had middle-class jobs with just a high school education. This may seem long ago to some Michiganders, but having that memory makes people less likely to settle. Employers might break that down in a generation or two, but that won’t help Michigan residents who want a job.

We’ve heard that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder wasn’t that bad before this RTW vote. Consider, though, that Snyder pushed through and signed legislation limiting unemployment insurance from 26 weeks, the standard minimum, to 20 weeks. In good times, this action is cruel, but in a state that has suffered economically, even in good times, the cruelty is downright unconscionable.

Even though all this legislation is about “jobs,” the GOP and Snyder got around to passing a bill that severely restricts abortion and access to women’s healthcare in the state.

The voters said no to Snyder’s ridiculous notion of seizing control from local officials. Funny how Snyder only picked cities with predominantly African-American populations. And if Snyder did that in cities with mostly white populations, the same people who voted for Snyder would scream for his head.

Voters took that power away from Snyder. Snyder got that power back with a bill passed by his GOP buddies. And like the RTW legislation, Snyder put a provision that makes it impossible for the voters to rescind the law.

Style does say something about a politician. If you deliberately pass a law with a provision that voters can’t turn around that law, you don’t have much faith that what you passed has any legitimacy or usefulness.


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