Follow the dashboard to Michissippi — or Michesota


Dashboard is the buzzword of the day.

Gov. Rick Snyder has laid out one for Michigan citizens to use, to measure progress. It has 21 items on it, including many that are outcome driven (children in poverty) and many that are input driven (state and local spending as a percent of gross state product). Business Leaders for Michigan has a giant “benchmarking study” that has even more dashboard gauges to watch.

It’s a lot for a citizen to keep his or her eyes on – sort of like the busy cockpit of a jet liner.  But despite the dozens of instruments a pilot can watch, most keep their eyes on three: air speed, compass and altimeter.

My dashboard would come from the land of Mr. Spock. The Vulcan salute was simple: Live long and prosper. I bet that’s the main goal of almost every Michigan citizen: To live long and be prosperous.

Here’s my simple set of dashboard-ready outcomes most citizens could watch to see if we are making real progress: We want a Michigan where people have long life expectancy, with high per capita incomes and low poverty rates (I’m assuming we don’t want to have five billionaires and the rest of us living on minimum wage. A prospering society, it seems to me, has a fair amount of wealth spread relatively widely around the populace.)

What states have the longest life expectancy: Hawaii, Minnesota, Connecticut, North Dakota, Massachusetts, California, Vermont, New York, New Hampshire.

What states have the highest per capita incomes? Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Wyoming, Maryland, Virginia, Alaska, California and New Hampshire.

Lowest poverty rates:  New Hampshire, Connecticut, Alaska, Minnesota, New Jersey, Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts, Virginia.

We see a few consistent big state winners here. Connecticut. Massachusetts. California. New York. Minnesota. These are the states we should emulate.

What do winner states have in common? Well, readers of this blog should have guessed by now. They are among the nation’s leaders in education attainment. They grow, retain and attract college graduates. They use brains as a magnet for knowledge industry businesses. Smart people earning good money in the knowledge industry hire plumbers, build new homes and shop in retail stores, benefiting all. And college attainment is a decent proxy for long lives.

Unfortunately, it seems that Michigan is doing all it can to ignore the policies of these states. Instead, we are focused on cutting taxes, cutting education, and becoming a so-called “economic growth” state. The problem is that those states tend to look a lot like Mississippi (dead last in per cap income for generations, shortest life expectancy, high poverty rates) than Minnesota (very low poverty rates, top 15 per cap income, one of the leaders in long lives.

Preparing, retaining and attracting college graduates will help get you the Vulcan ideal: Live long and prosper.

Low taxes will get you Michissippi.

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3 thoughts on “Follow the dashboard to Michissippi — or Michesota

  • Riley

    Just found this site, and yes, I completely agree that Michigan’s inability to retain and attract young, educated talent is holding it back. I’m from the west side of MI, left for college at 17 and haven’t been back to Michigan for longer than two weeks since I was 19. My husband and I are from Michigan with family ties to the state but have decided that we want to stay in NYC (despite the costs) because it offers so much more in terms of people, entertainment, and business opportunities.

    It is very frustrating that neoliberalism has choked urban policy in Michigan; jobs and taxes are only one part of the equation. The refusal to look at cultural development, entertainment, and undefinable-but-important atmosphere – all are impacting the attraction of talent to MI. Natives are usually nice but – god this sounds terrible – but lack worldiness. It’s so weird to go to a bar and everyone has lived in the same 40 mile square radius their entire life. An anecdote: last spring, I was in restaurant in Milwaukee and somehow ended up chatting with a man and his wife who were there with their infant son. He’s a CPA, originally from Chicago, and mentioned that he had been offered jobs in both Muskegon County and Milwaukee. He and his wife visited both places and said the clear winner was Milwaukee due to the cultural attractions, people, and vibe despite having nearly similar natural resources and MKE’s higher cost of living.

    • Lou Glazer
      Lou Glazer

      Welcome to the site. Hope you continue to contribute. In two paragraphs you have made our basic case. Attracting mobile talent is what matters most and they are looking for quality of place in addition to economic opportunity. Vibrant central cities are essential!

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