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Sage Advice for the Don't Count Michigan Out Crowd

More Straight Talk From MSU's Confucius: Economics Prof. Charles L. Ballard

February 7, 2008       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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MSU's Confucius
Economics Prof. Charles L. Ballard

If the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, eventually the rich will suffer as much, or more, than the poor. Conversely, if the rich help the poor get smarter, the rich will get even richer and the poor will be better off, too.

(Analysis of the philosophy postulated by Charles L. Ballard in his new book "Michigan's Economic Future.")

The best strategy for economic development is to have a highly-skilled work force, writes Professor Charles L. Ballard of Michigan State University.

But Michigan can't increase its force of highly-skilled workers unless the rich, powerful and already well-educated come to an epiphany about taxes and growth, he concludes.

"A single-minded fixation on tax cuts will not help," Ballard states in his book "Michigan's Economic Future," noting that Michigan's tax load is about the national average.

"If we put excessive faith in tax cuts and spending reductions, it can blind us to the real issues in economic development," he cautions.

Business taxes are not among top reasons by businesses choosing where to locate, he says. Availability of skilled workers far outweighs taxes. And Michigan's education system is not delivering enough of the highly-skilled, highly-educated creative workers needed for the state to succeed in the evolving global economy.

Many of those skilled workers have to come from the bottom 80 percent of income distribution -- in other words, children of the poor and middle class.

Ballard writes: "The recent pattern of economic policy in Michigan is consistent with a set of values that places relatively little emphasis on the needs of the people of future generations or the people of the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution."

One can readily extrapolate the view that Engler-era policies of "Work First and Get An Education Later, Or Never," were a disaster to a state facing a future where more education for all is a necessity.

"Michigan is under-investing in every single part of the educational system, writes Ballard, who recommends:

  • Provide adequate funding for school districts and allow districts to provide extra funding if voters wish;

  • Provide additional state funding for capital expenditures for public schools;

  • Increase the school year and the mandatory attendance age and full day kindergarten programs.

  • Bolster support for community colleges and universities; and

  • Ensure access to higher education for middle and low income students.


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    Agree? or Disagree?

    Dave Rogers

    Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
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