It’s about jobs: Leave the politics behind; take action

By Paula Holmes-Greeley | The Muskegon Chronicle

We need jobs now.

And we need lawmakers and politicians to be focused on jobs, nothing else.

We don’t need any more proposed bills on peripheral issues and favorite causes or finger-pointing or campaigning. Lawmakers need to think about jobs 24/7 and take action.

Michigan’s unemployment crept up to 11.2 percent in August, continuing a climb started earlier in the summer. The economy doesn’t seem to care that the Great Recession is over or that a presidential election year is just months away. It is stalled, waiting for something to happen.

The prevailing theory seems to be that government can’t create jobs, although it can create the pathway to jobs. And it looks like U.S. global manufacturers like General Motors don’t plan on creating jobs either, at least not in Michigan. As GM’s CEO Dan Akerson put it so succinctly, “We are not a job bank.”

OK, so where does that leave a state starved for jobs? Waiting for a few good ideas, a few actions that will fire up the private sector, today. Here’s a few.

Gov. Rick Snyder offered an intriguing idea for matching workers’ skills with existing jobs when he visited the Chronicle Editorial Board in August. He told a story about a Michigan company that couldn’t find welders. He’s mentioned many times since that visit that he wants to figure out a way to get those with welding skills and those interested in welding connected with the companies that needed them.

That seems easy enough and maybe could even be done by Michigan Works – right now. It seems like with a few clicks of a button a computer program could connect job hunters with information that would let them know where a job requiring their skills is available. Or that would tell an individual based on their current skills, which training program available at Muskegon Community College or Baker College or any other institutuion would upgrade their existing skills in the shortest amount of time to qualify them for existing jobs.

So let’s provide this information now, not later in the fall when the governor plans a talk on workforce development.

Perhaps some sort of apprenticeship or internship also could be coordinated between businesses and community colleges so people can work and train at the same time, especially for positions that need workers now, like Gov. Snyder’s welding example.

Snyder also is interested in building a new bridge connecting Michigan and Canada in Detroit, a bridge that would facilitate more international trade, a significant job provider in this state. The New International Trade Crossing would provide hundreds of construction jobs for several years at no cost to state government. The Canadian government has offered to foot the bill and be repaid by tolls from bridge users. Tolls also will cover bridge maintenance costs.

In addition, the new bridge would leverage more federal transportation funds for Michigan, which has hundreds of miles of roads and bridges that desperately need repair and the workers to make the fixes

What’s holding up this worthy project? Politics.

Politics also is holding up the extension of the federal transportation bill, jeopardizing the collection of fuel taxes. If renewal of the bill is delayed by 10 days, $1 billion in fuel taxes that would help fund at least 4,000 construction jobs will be lost. There are no budget or debt issues here, the taxes fund the construction.

Don’t lawmakers get it? If people are working, they buy things. If they buy things, businesses hire more people to help produce things and then people buy more things.

And, by the way, the workers pay more taxes, too.

Call or write your lawmaker today and tell them to get to work on this issue.

Michigan and the rest of the nation really can’t wait for the politics to get sorted out, we need jobs now.