We Have To Change

The question I get most often these days is for my take on the 2010 elections. To be honest I don’t have a clue what is going to happen. But I do have a sense of the nature of the debate. Likely it will be a repeat of the 2006 elections.

As you remember that was a race where Mr. DeVos told us that lower taxes/small government would restore Michigan to prosperity and Gov. Granholm told us that keeping jobs from going to China would restore Michigan to prosperity. Both are nonsense. But both parties seem stuck on the same failed answers of the past.

To a considerable degree I believe we keep having the same meaningless debate because its what the base of each party wants. What unites Republicans is a belief that lower taxes is the answer to everything economic, despite the fact that most low tax states are characterized by low incomes and low education attainment. For the Democrats – particularly their unionized blue collar base – getting rid of NAFTA and free trade is the magic bullet that they believe will restore a high wage factory based economy. This too ignores reality. There is no policy that will take us back to a successful factory-based economy. Those days are gone forever.

But more broadly we keep having the old debate because  a majority of Michiganians have not yet accepted the new reality that what made us prosperous in the past, won’t in the future. When most of us demand change what we are asking for is politicians to get others to change, so we don’t have to. This is one of those times when – as hard as it is – we have to change. What policy makers can do for us is help us make the necessary changes. What they can’t do is turn the clock back.

The debate we should be having in 2010 – if we care about restoring Michigan to prosperity – is how can we make the transition to a knowledge-based economy. One where a combination of knowledge, creativity and entrepreneurship enables people to realize the American Dream. Its the new reality. Talent is the only reliable path to prosperity in the future. But we can’t have that debate as long as most of us will only vote for politicians – of both parties – who tell us they have some plan for getting our old jobs back for us. Until we realize they can’t, we are likely to have an ineffective politics about the past, not the future.

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