Thursday, October 22, 2009

Waiting on the Jobs of Tomorrow

cross posted at Right Michigan

When did it become an accepted theory that government has the ability to create jobs in much the same manner that my kid sister used to pop out cool multicolored extrusions with her Playdoh Fun Factory?

Nowadays, progressively bent government operatives assume that if they throw enough proper ingredients into a bowl and add a little flowery sentiment, they can force the concoction through a die and out the other side will come a never ending stream of gainfully employed citizens. Push this button and that button, keep a foot on this pedal, push two levers, flip three switches, turn a dial, make a hand in the armpit farting noise, and voilĂ !, you have a job of tomorrow!

You can rarely go a day without some public servant promoting a great idea that he cooked up where this initiative and that regulation can, in tandem, create the necessary habitat for a job to squirt out. Of course, this initiative and that regulation can rarely work perfectly the first time they are tried, and a little tweaking will be necessary.

This is how our corn ethanol craze was born, and how it became a highly successful industry that literally leaped from the dark soils of America's heartland. An artificial demand was created by law that forced gasoline to contain a certain percentage of ethanol, and tariffs were imposed on more efficiently produced imported ethanol so that the American farmer would get a piece of the action. A few additional subsidies were tossed around for good measure to grease the wheels of infrastructure, and away it went. It was easy.

Many years later, however, there has arrived a more modest critique of its success. Several of the largest ethanol producers are bankrupt, gas prices are artificially high, more subsidies are needed to keep ethanol businesses operating, prices are rising for most other crops because less land is being allocated to their production, corn fed livestock prices are booming, and Iowa has been turned from a state that has historically fed the world's starving into a net corn importer. All this because a gaggle of bureaucrat jackasses decided without thinking that America needed to produce an inferior fuel with an ultimately negative energy impact (estimated at up to 20,000 BTUs per gallon) that uses up to 1,700 gallons of water for the production of one gallon of the environment-friendly elixir.

Pure genius.

This is not an article about ethanol, but rather about the thought process that allowed the production of corn ethanol to become a blessed industry in this country, for Michigan possesses one of the finest stables of government jackasses ever assembled, and each one of them is dying for the opportunity to promote the next government blessed Fun Factory capable of popping out jobs like a 4H bunny shoots pellets. Someone has to keep an eye on them.

The "jobs of tomorrow" phrase is little more than a sales pitch devised by politicians that have little intent of creating many jobs for today. It is a throw in the towel sentiment wrapped in an advertising slogan. Sure, future job hawks brag often about snaring the occasional Washington grant of borrowed Chinese money to build a bridge or pave a road here or there, but these earmarked funds do nothing to create a robust long term employer/employee relationship. For statistics sake, I suppose, the Chinese funded two month job is every bit as valuable as the job that a person can land right out of college and work in until his retirement, though it doesn't do much for either the deficit or the economy.

The jobs of tomorrow, the ones being championed by today's bureaucrats come with a list of requirements. They require the government funded retraining of workers, the government subsidy of high speed rail, government provided safety, education, and welfare, and perhaps most importantly, the government blessing of a green outcome. When the government is able to line up all the properly considered components we will be, as Governor Granholm puts it, "blown away." These are, of course, all hugely expensive propositions that require the extreme taxation of today's citizens who are still lucky enough to hold down one of today's jobs. Each dollar taken from one of today's taxpayers is a dollar that is no longer available to be spent on one of today's businesses. Another cup of coffee is not consumed, another hamburger goes uneaten, and another roof project is delayed. Soon the waiter and the roofer's gofer are holding hands outside of the Michigan Works office.

Interestingly, the purveyors of tomorrow's jobs see little need for the relaxation of taxes and regulations that would allow a business of today to create jobs for today. They talk a good game about creating a place where businesses will relocate, and about laying the foundations for the jobs of tomorrow, but they do little to allow today's Michigan businesses to grow profitably today.

Michigan is not tax friendly. It is not regulation friendly. It is not labor friendly. I have heard it is even mean to puppies. Many businesses are leaving and others are closing outright because they cannot make a profit or they scrape buy on margins so thin it makes the whole enterprise unworthy of the effort. With each loss of business goes the loss of more and more of today's jobs and left behind are unemployed workers who no longer contribute taxes to the public coffers, but instead become a drain on them.

Legislators and the governor are nearing the end of a brutal budget process. There have been painful cuts and there will undoubtedly be more. It is time for the Michigan legislature to create a freer atmosphere in which businesses can survive and grow profitably today, and to stop meddling in the business environment by creating a never ending expansion of regulations designed to herd existing businesses, taxpayers and consumers down a blessed path.

Perhaps legislators and the governor can afford to wait for the jobs of tomorrow. Today's workers cannot.

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