Sunday, March 2, 2008

Lemon Aid Yourself, Michigan!

Three proactive steps which Michigan can implement to improve our economic climate.

Health CareMichigan must provide leadership in health care if we are to attract more businesses and keep those we have. Long ago, our corporations gave up providing adequate health care benefits. And, the federal government has repeatedly failed to meet the health needs of our people. We have literally allowed ourselves to be lulled into child-like dependence by our health care industry and a “not-my-job-man” federal government. As a result, more and more “middle Americans” can no longer afford even the most rudimentary preventative health care. We are now in a crisis which will become increasingly acute in the days ahead as more “boomers” discover that they, too, need medical help... just like their parents did.

I’m not sure why, but for some reason, we thought the health care industry would serve the needs of the people instead of their collective, ever-growing bank accounts. Through our willful negligence, what have we created? We have managed to turn a healthcare industry into a gluttonous monster which deposits our “uninsured,” disoriented, ill and helpless people onto the streets in their pajamas and slippers in the dead of the night. Who is dumping these poor people onto skid row? Why, they are the bonus-rewarded and well-paid administrators of some of our most prestigious nonprofit hospitals.

By default, but more importantly, to make our state clearly different from other more attractive locations, Michigan must turn the health care burden into a compelling reason to locate here. What can we do? We must become proactive and pickup leadership responsibility. We can review what the other states and foreign nations have done to help their people survive in today's “global economy” and enact what is working elsewhere.

The balance of the Western world has far surpassed our “system” with programs that at least attempt to meet the needs of their people. If we are going to change Michigan, then we must make our home a place where others will want to live. Let’s change the health care system for us, for our families and others, too.

More than Politics, We Need Statesmanship
Here’s a glum, but I believe, honest snapshot of where we are today: the United States is a nation run by global corporations which have no local, state or federal-level accountability; provide executive-level compensation that is shameful when compared to the balance of employees who are now forced to accept McDonald’s wages; and, perhaps worst of all, by default, encourages and rewards robber-baron, “me first” corporate (read, “global”) leadership.

Old fashioned, Cincinnatus-like statesmanship is called for now. Will we meet the challenge? Will we find the leadership to meet the challenge? Will we elect statesmen and women who will work to alter this disgusting decline and regression into the dark ages of the worst of American capitalism? Who will come to the defense of the interests of the everyday American… Joe and Janet Lunch Bucket… or, perhaps more accurately described, Mr. and Ms. McDonald’s employee?

Capital for Small BusinessEver tried to launch a new business? Not only is it a physically exhausting; it’s downright frightening to risk your life savings, the welfare of your family and your health. The worst of it is not the risk or the hard, never-ending work. It’s the disdain one faces in the financial market, from chamber of commerce employees and government workers that hurts most deeply. The leaders of those institutions are not “small business” oriented, to say the least. My experience has been that these people have never risked a dime in their lives and have never concerned themselves about making a payroll or even scrambling to make a payment on an outrageous 30%-plus-interest-rate credit card debt. Their paychecks are regularly deposited into their accounts. When it comes to comprehending what it takes to transform an idea into the marketable concept, service or product, these people have a long path to walk toward understanding.

To many of the bankers, investors and chamber managers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, business has only one definition: “big.” “Small” is not in the vocabulary. My guess is that working with small business is just too hard and the risk of failure is too great. Big business is easier. For example, we all know that Ford sells cars and trucks, so loaning a car dealer money for inventory is not that big of a risk. Or, since Google is now a mega-billion corporation and the fastest and best thing on the Internet, let’s give it the tax breaks and all the publicity in the world because they may employ a few people in downtown Ann Arbor.

However, historically, it’s small business people who come up with the innovative ideas and employ the greatest number of people throughout the U.S. Big business is simply not very good at doing either of those things.

Well, if Michigan is to recover from the past several years of depression, it must become the state to offer entrepreneurs and small businesses unfettered and easy access to investment funds, grants and low-interest loans. It will be the small business owners and entrepreneurs who will generate the unstoppable drive to make their dreams come true. As a result, they will employ more people by creating new services and products. Find them, Michigan. They are here, right now, struggling to stay in business while you give the massive tax breaks to the global corporations. Seek them out and support them. They are Michigan’s future.

Come on, Michigan! Health care will soon be out of reach for the average person; our leadership needs some lessons in statesmanship; and we've forgotten that the little companies made us great. So, we have a bunch of lemons... let's meet those challenges with solutions...  let's make lemon aid! ... RB

No comments: