Data released last Friday by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that for the second month this year, Michigan was burdened with an unemployment rate exceeding that of Puerto Rico. Michigan’s rate was 15.2 percent while Puerto Rico’s stood at 15.1 percent.

Until August, only two states had ever exceeded Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate. The first was Louisiana after it was blasted by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. The second was Michigan in June of this year. Michigan now holds the dubious distinction of being the only U.S. state since January 1976, to have twice suffered a higher monthly unemployment than Puerto Rico.

Broad statistics, including unemployment and state Gross State Product, indicate that Michigan’s economy has sunk to new lows despite attempts by the state’s politicians to “create” jobs with targeted tax credits or subsidies for select corporate beneficiaries under programs like the Michigan Economic Growth Authority or Michigan film incentives.

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This handing out fiscal favors almost willy nilly has dominated the state’s efforts to resuscitate its gasping economy. Initiatives like eliminating the Michigan Business Tax and its 22 percent surcharge and replacing the revenue with transformational spending reforms, have been deemed too difficult by the state’s political class. The same applies to passing a right-to-work statute.

Accomplishing either would lower the cost of doing business for all Michigan job providers, and would almost certainly give the economic lift that granting discriminatory favors to one business at a time has failed to provide. Unfavorable comparisons of Michigan to regions long considered poor and bereft of opportunity might then become a thing of the past.

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