Commentary Magazine


The Michigan Example

Phil Gramm and Mike Salon provide some interesting data:

Ranking states by domestic migration, per-capita income growth and employment growth, [American Legislative Exchange Council] ALEC found that from 1996 through 2006, Texas, Florida and Arizona were the three most successful states. Illinois, Ohio and Michigan were the three least successful. The rewards for success were huge. Texas gained 1.7 million net new jobs, Florida gained 1.4 million and Arizona gained 600,000. While the U.S. average job growth percentage was 9.9%, Texas, Florida and Arizona had job growth of 18.5%, 21.4% and 28.9%, respectively.

Remarkably, a third of all the jobs in the U.S. in the last 10 years were created in these three states. While the population of the three highest-performing states grew twice as fast as the national average, per-capita real income still grew by $6,563 or 21.4% in Texas, Florida and Arizona. That’s a $26,252 increase for a typical family of four.
By comparison, Illinois gained only 122,000 jobs, Ohio lost 62,900 and Michigan lost 318,000. Population growth in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois was only 4.2%, a third the national average, and real income per capita rose by only $3,466, just 58% of the national average. Workers in the three least successful states had to contend with a quarter-million fewer jobs rather than taking their pick of the 3.7 million new jobs that were available in the three fastest-growing states.

In Michigan, the average family of four had to make ends meet without an extra $8,672 had their state matched the real income growth of the three most successful states. Families in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois struggled not because they didn’t work hard enough, long enough or smart enough. They struggled because too many of their elected leaders represented special interests rather than their interests.

Gramm and Salon frame this as an issue of policy and governance: the above stats show the superiority of a low tax, free trade, modest regulatory regime which John McCain favors. As I have argued, this forms the basis of a rather potent political argument for McCain, especially in Michigan, where voters have experienced Democratic ascendancy first hand. (Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm has popularity ratings worse than Bush’s.)

Barack Obama delights in calling McCain George W. Bush’s “twin” or “clone.” It may be that McCain’s best counter is to suggest that Obama will do for the country what Granholm did for Michigan. That’s enough to scare some voters — and not just in Michigan.

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