Our shared prosperity state policy recommendations

As we explored in my last post Michigan structurally has too many low-paid jobs. About half of Michigan jobs pay less than $15 an hour. Add to that lots of part-time jobs and more and more contingent jobs. That leads to the Michigan Association of United Way’s ALICE report results that 40 percent of Michigan households cannot pay for basic necessities. The data in that report make clear that this is an all Michigan problem––irrespective of county, race or age.

The Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives projects that 55 percent of the job openings in Michigan from 20014-2024 will be in occupations where the median annual wage is $37,040 (the national median for all jobs) or less. So that going forward Michigan is almost certainly going to continue to have too many low-paid jobs.

So it is clear that if we are going to meet the goal of our new state policy agenda of rising household income for all Michiganders that we need to make sharing prosperity a state priority. What a shared prosperity agenda for Michigan should look like is the subject of our newest report: A Path to Good-paying Careers for all Michiganders: Sharing prosperity with those not participating in the high-wage knowledge-based economy.

We believe that the key to having an economy with rising household incomes for all are good-paying jobs and careers. Where careers are for forty years, not a first job. The prime focus of economic policy must be helping people have a career of good-paying work.

We agree with President Regan when he said a job is the best social program. To us a good-paying job is the best social program. Except for those retired or unable to work at a good-paying job due to physical or mental disability, the best path to a middle class forty-year career are good-paying jobs.

We do not believe that we have a too generous safety net that discourages people from working. As we documented in our State Policies Matters report Minnesota has a far more generous safety net than Michigan. And it is third in the proportion of those 16 and older working, Michigan is 40th. If the same proportion of Michiganders age 16 and above worked as Minnesotans there would be 830,000 more Michiganders working today.

Our agenda for getting more Michiganders working and to make work pay more for those in low-wage jobs has four core pillars:

  • Helping Michiganders get family-supporting employment through a combination of income supports and comprehensive and customized case management. Services could include housing, childcare, transportation, substance abuse support, mental heath, job training, financial education, etc. These services and  income supports should continue beyond a first job.
  • Using TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) funding to help those out of work or underemployed get family supporting jobs. To provide low-income families with a safety net that acts as a trampoline rather than a snare (as described by former Massachusetts Governor William Weld). Michigan instead has been a leader in getting out of the business of providing cash grants or services designed to help people get to self-sufficiency.
  • Augmenting wages and benefits through some combination of employer mandates and/or a strengthened safety net. The employer mandate recommendations are the area where we have the most disagreement amongst the Michigan Future Board and staff. But we all recognize that to achieve the goal of getting all Michiganders on the path to good-paying careers that income from work will need to be augmented for many.
  • Reforming the criminal justice system: To achieve fewer imprisoned, shorter time spent in prison and barriers to work removed after release by providing alternatives to arrest and prison sentences; shortening sentences and reducing recidivism; and mitigating the negative impacts of incarceration once time has been serve.

In our next three post we will explore in more detail the specifics of each of these pillars.


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