President Obama recently traveled to Michigan to announce a 10-year, $12 billion plan to fund upgrades to community college facilities, curricula and scholarships. These colleges currently have 6 million students.
It is ironic that Obama chose Michigan for the announcement, once one of the richest places in the world and now suffering the highest unemployment and most dire economic circumstances in America.
The reason for the misery? The labor unions smelled all that money back in the postwar boom, commandeered the state, and sucked the auto industry dry with endless wage, benefit and pension demands. Auto companies since have decided that it is no longer worth making cars in Michigan with wage rates of $70+ per hour for unionized assembly-line workers with a high-school education. Many factories in Michigan have been shuttered while new plants are opened in Mexico and other nations.
And who could blame the car companies? If you had a child that always cried for more and more in allowance, wouldn’t you just eventually say no?
Now look at the most devastated cities in America: Detroit and Flint in Michigan; Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown in Ohio; Buffalo, New York; and all the former manufacturing centers of the Northeast.
What do they all have in common?
They all were heavily unionized. And the unions drove hundreds of successful companies out of business, killed millions of jobs and trillions in wealth. They drove the steel industry out of business with endless strikes and wage demands, they almost killed the railroads, and today they are seeking new power over the American worker.
And today those same states devastated by private-sector union activism have some of the highest tax rates in America because unionized government-sector workers have pushed up the cost of services dramatically, requiring more and more in taxes. It is a vicious cycle.
So what does this have to do with Obama’s community college plan?
Some history: In 2007, ultra-liberal Canadian-born Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm declared that she was standing for “the dignity of having a job” and proposed Michigan Promise college scholarships of $4,000 for all state students; training programs for nurses to fill jobs in Detroit; and state and federal payments for two years of tuition at Michigan’s community colleges.
She said NWLB training would help workers who have been “hurt by globalization”.
“Hurt by globalization”? How about “hurt by labor union activism”?
In 2006, after driving the auto industry out incrementally over decades, a group of belligerent United Auto Workers activists drove Toyota out of the state when Toyota had proposed building a state-of-the-art non-union engine manufacturing facility in southwestern Michigan.
How about workers “hurt by excessive taxation”? That would be accurate. Because “globalization” is a phenomenon where manufacturers find cheaper labor and less regulation and taxation. Today, in addition to exorbitant labor costs, American companies are fighting radical environmental regs that are making business impossibly expensive, along with corporate taxes that are the second highest in the world.
All these forces – unions, taxes, environmentalism, regulation – come from the Democrat party while Granholm blames only “globalization”.
In her 2007 proposal, Granholm also launched a No Worker Left Behind program whose goal was to use state and federal government funding to train and place 100,000 of the state’s unemployed in job vacancies. Only problem is, Michigan at the time had (and still does have) a high unemployment rate and a weak economic outlook, so there could not have been that many jobs begging for more skilled workers at the same time that tens of thousands of already-skilled workers had lost employment in the state’s declining economy.
This is the kind of circular logic that the Democrats never understand.
With Granholm posing to announce No Worker Left Behind with 28 community college presidents from around Michigan, along with ‘state job training leaders’, one could start to see the bigger picture. After all, who would be getting state and federal wealth for training workers under NWLB?
Yes, the community colleges and their unionized public-employee professors. And state job training bureaucrats.
And who would have all the power over this program?
The state of Michigan.
But there is a big problem with NWLB: Who is to say what jobs workers should be trained for in Michigan or anywhere else, for that matter? Granholm talked glowingly of the bright futuristic Michigan economy with a mix of manufacturing, biotech, health care and renewable energy. First, however, you have to attract those companies from the outside or nurture them from within. But the economic climate in Michigan has been utterly unfavorable. Just ask Toyota.
Second, if you train a worker for some future job — to be a data acquisition specialist for instance — and there are only respiratory therapist jobs available in your region, what good is that training? How many people do we all know who have wasted many years and many thousands of dollars on training that did not pay off when jobs were not available in the chosen field?
In an evolving capitalist economy, private employers use a totally natural and highly efficient system called “hiring people” in which they will take on new employees at various levels on the skills scale, and then will train those workers on the job for advancement. That is how companies for millennia have developed their own workforces tailored to the company’s needs.
But to the anti-capitalist lefties like Granholm and Obama, companies should not have control over their workers, and this natural apprentice system is considered to be antiquated. Liberals wish for every worker to pass through the universities – or the community college system – which includes a heavy does of liberal indoctrination with any training that a student may get.
In a place like Michigan, however, where jobs are scarce and many skilled workers already are out of jobs, is it an efficient use of scarce government resources to train large numbers of workers for jobs that may never exist?
The answer is no.
So why was Michigan doing this?
Because Granholm is a Democrat, that is why, and it’s all feelgood Democrat politics, wealth redistribution and a grab for liberal political power. Her state was setting up another bureaucracy in NWLB and will funnel large amounts of money to her political allies while not necessarily doing anything on a scale large enough to rationalize all those taxpayer dollars.
How would sensible conservatives deal with this issue? In a direct and accountable and efficient way, that is how. Like this: Let companies hire and train workers. And for every person hired by a private company who needs any kind of outside training, that company could take a federal and state dollar-for-dollar tax credit to fund that employee’s training. That would direct government credits straight to existing jobs, not approach the problem in an inefficient scatter-shot manner with hits and misses, certainly more of the latter than the former.
Granholm should have scrapped NWLB and urged Democrats in Michigan to move away from antagonism to business and toward prosperity and growth and accountability. That would be rational policy. Hers is only emotion politics.
What does this have to do with Obama’s community college plan?
It is important to remember who runs the community colleges of America. They are part of the public-education bureaucracy, like a step between public high school and public universities. CC professors are generally unionized state employees making exorbitant wages ($80,000 per year for a CC professor in Houston, with summers off, and surely much less than 40 hours per week). Generous benefit and pension packages make up the other half of the equation.
So Obama plans to shovel more cash to his unionized CC friends when already it is known that many CC curricula are not necessarily even targeted at specific employment, and many are designed to teach kids subjects they once were taught in high school but no longer are thanks to the union radicals who control much of the public-ed agenda.
It is time for American to look rationally at how to help students, workers and the economy in general. The first step is to allow the economy to create jobs through policies that will keep growth here in America. Then the rest will fall into line if we allow employers to make the decisions. After all, they are the ones creating the wealth in the first place.
Please visit my website at www.nikitas3.com for more. You can print out for free my book, Right Is Right, which explains why only conservatism can maintain our freedom and prosperity.