Just Ask Us To Leave

What would Henry Ford do or Willie Durant or the Dodge brothers? Would they stay and accept what this state has become or would they head for the exits like over 30,000 Michigan citizens did last year?  Could any of those who were instrumental in making Michigan the nation’s most prosperous state by the 1950’s have imagined such a steep fall?  Not only do we stifle entrepreneurial spirit, we expect those who survive the financial risks and long hours associated with starting a business to be apologetic for their success and willing to surrender a disproportionate share of what they have earned. The Michigan entitlement mentality jealously discourages individual success by stacking the deck in favor of shared mediocrity. History tells us that small business plays a key role in leading the country out of a recession. An indefensible 22% tax surcharge is certainly no way to help Michigan businesses do their part.    

If you own a business that does not derive a significant portion of its income from in state sales or if you are a professional who can move your skills to another market, why would you stay? If you stay, if you somehow beat the odds and enjoy a little success, what will be your reward? You will be told that Michigan needs a graduated income tax because you don’t pay your fair share … as if paying a percentage of every extra dollar you earn is not fair enough. If you decide to reward your efforts with that luxury car you’ve always wanted, you’ll find that you paid two or three times as much for your license plate (every year) as someone who uses the same road the same way you do but in a less expensive vehicle. You can renew that plate as long as you check the schedule for furlough days; the same level of taxes now buys you less access to service, something your business could never get away with. Of course for you’re higher than average share of the revenue burden you get the privilege of driving that car on roads that resemble poorly maintained trails, most of which are now salted and plowed less often in the winter … talk about bang for the buck. If you somehow stick it out till retirement you can at least recoup some of your loses because Michigan doesn’t tax retirees … not yet anyway. In another well thought out proposal some are eyeing retirement income to plug a few holes in the dike, giving seniors a valid reason to take their money and run. Never mind that our elder citizens no longer consume expensive services like schools and they don’t strain law enforcement budgets with their crime sprees; we can afford to push them out too. It makes solid economic sense to alienate a group that spends the money they have saved along with any additional they receive right in their local community.

How long will businesses owners stay if they are only “utility profitable” … or making barely enough money to keep the lights on?  I like to work 60 plus hours a week without getting a paycheck as much as the next guy but it can only go on for so long. Groups of well intentioned business owners have generated detailed plans on their own time to help Michigan deal with its structural deficits. These plans are offered by people who are simply saying; give me a reason to stay. Our state leaders travel the globe and ask others; what can we do to bring you here. If the goal is more jobs as quickly as possible why not start by asking Michigan businesses; what can we do to keep you here? Someone needs to explain to our governor that the unbroken line of signs you see in every commercial area does not end with the words Burma Shave.  They all say For Sale or Lease and they each represent a tragically missed opportunity to change before it’s too late.

For many, too late is not too far off, so during an election year when tough decisions are typically avoided, it may be best for the powers in Lansing to do the right thing and just ask us to leave. Make it official, issue a press release proclaiming that Michigan does not value small business and has no plans or any real desire to make the changes needed to ease the anti entrepreneurial conditions that exist. I don’t for a minute consider myself or any business owner to be more valuable or entitled to greater rights than any other citizen; this isn’t about any of us as individuals. It’s about the fact that when a business owner leaves, the business and the jobs it produces cease to exist or leave also. In much the same way, when a retiree pulls up stakes their impact on local commerce crosses the border with them.

Quit pretending you care, make the decision easier … just as us to leave. I know I would miss the annual budget drama with its endless supply of new fee and tax ideas, loosely linked to promises to cut and reform that vaporize with the final vote. The transparent attempts to get the citizens of Michigan to demand more taxes by releasing prisoners and cutting school funding instead of confronting the well connected groups that fill the campaign war chests. Taking years too long to eliminate the single business tax and then cobbling together a replacement that may well be worse. Most of all I would miss trying to compete in the 21st century while Lansing operates as if nothing has changed in the last 30 or 40 years. On second thought, I wouldn’t miss any of that. No need to ask, I’ll show myself out.

Thanks for all the help, I’ll be sure to write.

James A. Krause … The Dogged One … 2010