Monday, October 11, 2010

Embarrassing debate

For those of you who missed the great gubernatorial debate Sunday night, you did not miss much.

I felt embarrassed to listen to it.

Rick Snyder has vowed not to stoop to attacks, Virg Bernero has no such inhibitions.

So the entire thing was Bernero attacking Snyder and Snyder doing a poor job of defending himself.

The attacks, which were quite clever in their outline, consisted of accusing Snyder of outsourcing jobs from Michigan while he was head of various companies. Bernero contrasted this outsourcing with all the jobs he had brought to Lansing while mayor there.

It is a clever attack because the answers are not politically correct.

So I thought I should state them here:

No one who has been involved in a successful business in the U.S. can escape the charge of outsourcing jobs. To stay in business, it is economically necessary to outsource unskilled manufacturing jobs to countries that can do it cheaper. US companies that do not outsource, go out of business. So the loss of jobs happens either way.

So does this mean that anyone who has a background in business should not be elected? I think not. Michigan is going to need business skills to succeed in the global economy. One of our problems is that we tend to look back at how things were before the global economic revolution and incorrectly assume that we can get back to that pleasant past. We can't. Those who ignore the global economy will be consumed by it.

Second, the only candidates for office who can claim no taint of outsourcing are career politicians (and even they are guilty of some outsourcing if you dig deep enough). Many of the problems Michigan faces are the result of political ideology that cannot be changed. We can no longer afford the high cost of past political thinking, political deal making and political cronyism. Taxpayers need help now and that means a very different approach to how government is done.

And finally, there are a lot of politicians -- including Bernero -- who campaign on claims of creating or saving jobs.

The way these jobs are created or saved is by getting out into the national and international marketplace and offering tax incentives and grants and loans so that businesses will locate and create jobs in Michigan.

Those created jobs come at a very high price. And I am not arguing that we should not spend the tax dollars (or agree to lose the tax dollars) in order to bring in or save jobs. But I am pointing out that there is not enough money to save all the Michigan jobs that are being lost or to replace all those that have been lost. That is unfair to anyone whose job has been outsourced while their tax dollars are being spent saving someone else's job.

Replacing and saving all those jobs is going to be done by changing the economy of Michigan -- and that should be the topic of the debate.

The debate should not be a claim from one candidate that voters should vote for him, because the other is worse.


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