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Time for a new approach for achieving prosperity

From our inception more than a quarter century ago Michigan Future’s focus has been on achieving prosperity for all Michigan households. Recreating a Michigan that is one of the most prosperous places on the planet as we were for most of the 20th Century.

In our first-ever state policy agenda we pull together all that we have learned about the policy levers that matter most to achieving that goal. In a set of reports all that share the title A Path to Good-paying Career for all Michiganders we lay out detailed recommendations in how Michigan can best get on a path to prosperity.

But what matters most is not the specifics we lay out in the reports, but rather fundamentally changing what we are trying to accomplish with state economic policy. Starting with a new mission: a rising household income for all. And laying aside, once and for all, the notion that low-tax, so-called business-friendly states are the most prosperous. They aren’t.

What follows are ten shifts in Michigan’ approach to state economic policy that we have learned are required to meet the goal of achieving prosperity for all Michigan households. In some cases these shifts require altering our approach, in others it requires us to understand that the topic is central to economic well being, not something that is unrelated to the economy or something that is nice to do after we are prosperous rather than an essential component of achieving prosperity for all.

Making these shifts will result in a transformation in state economic policy. It will require a different approach to economic policy by both parties. But transformation is required for recreating a high-prosperity Michigan.

  • Shift: from a state economic policy focused on low unemployment to one that puts rising household income for all as its top priority.
  • Shift: from an emphasis on being a low-cost state to a state that develops, retains and attracts human capital as its core strategy for economic success.
  • Shift: from the view that the best social program is a job to the perspective that a good-paying job as part of a broader career path is the best social program.
  • Shift: from an economic strategy based on low taxes to one that recognizes taxes must be balanced with the need for public investment in lifelong learning, workplace skills, placemaking and shared prosperity.
  • Shift: from an education policy driven by standardized testing and first-job skill development to an education system that broadly serves residents from birth through college, building in all students 21st century rock-climbing skills: collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creativity and confidence.
  • Shift: from a crumbling 20th century infrastructure to a world-class 21st century infrastructure that includes good roads, clean drinking water, public transit, universal broadband internet access, and protection of our Great Lakes and other natural resources that define Michigan.
  • Shift: from a stick-based 20th century safety net to a 21st century carrot-based approach that lifts working-age adults into the labor force, helping them earn wages and benefits to pay household bills, pay for their children’s education and save for retirement.
  • Shift: from intolerance to welcoming all people who will increasingly be needed in a 21st century economy as Michigan’s population rapidly ages.
  • Shift: from imprisoning too many people and creating roadblocks that prevent them from working after they have served their time, to imprisoning fewer people, shortening sentences and removing barriers to work when they are released.
  • Shift: from state limitations that prevent cities and regions from controlling their own destinies to giving them the flexibility to develop, finance and implement their own quality of place strategies.
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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

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