Follow the dashboard to Michissippi — or Michesota

By • on February 7, 2011

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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