When things are going as badly as they are in Michigan, it is tempting to look for magic potions to cure what ails you. For Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, the elixir du jour is immigration, and lots of it.
Michigan has been in a long and steep decline, brought on by the woes of the auto industry. Unemployment exceeds 10 percent, and Detroit has hemorrhaged population, dropping from America’s fourth most populous city to the eighteenth. Speaking at a conclave called, “Immigration and Michigan’s Economic Future,” the governor embraced immigration as a key to the state’s renaissance. (See also article on MLive.com).
“One of the keys to Michigan’s future is to look to our past,” Snyder stated. Snyder asserted that it was immigration that was responsible for Michigan’s glory days, “And it’s going to again be the key to our future.”
Not quite. What made Michigan prosperous was the auto industry. It was innovative thinkers like Henry Ford (as deeply flawed as he was in other areas of his life), Alfred P. Sloan, and Walter Chrysler, who figured out how to make a highly desirable product affordable to average Americans. There may have been immigrant workers on the assembly lines, but immigrants did not create the auto industry. It was organized labor (as often corrupt as it was) that helped Michigan prosper by ensuring that workers shared in the prosperity. It was also the lack of any meaningful competition from foreign automakers for a slice of the American car-buying market.
If prosperity were as easy as throwing up the doors to immigrants states like California and New York would be the envy of the nation. Instead, these states lead the nation in erosion of the middle class, crumbling infrastructure and are in danger of drowning in red ink.
Speaking of New York, the conference was kicked off by none other than Michael Bloomberg (appearing not in person, but by video teleconference) who urged Michigan to recruit more immigrants to work and invest in the state. Apparently no one asked the obvious question: Why not recruit American investors and millions of unemployed Americans to rebuild Michigan? They’re a lot closer and they don’t need visas.