Monday, May 18, 2009

Mackinac Center Has No Credibilty on Right-to-Work Claims

UPDATE: Lookee all the hits from Midland. Never fails, you blog about the Mac Center, and they come a runnin'. Wonder why they get so bothered by this...

The Mackinac Center has been busted before for giving the public misleading information when it comes to Michigan's fiscal matters. Back in 2007, Mitch Bean of the House Fiscal Agency pointed out all the ways their claims about solving the budget deficit simply did not add up, and that they would cherry pick statistics to push their anti-worker agenda. This was ignored by the traditional media, and was only reported in MIRS. Probably not the first time this has happened over the years.

Well, they are at it again, running to the press to make the claim that somehow Michigan's recession can be laid right at the feet of the unions, and to create jobs, we need to enact right-to-work legislation. As usual, the traditional press seems to take them at their word, and refuses to do any simple research on their claims. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to knock them down. Here's David Littmann from the Mac Center:

An economist for a conservative think tank says Michigan could be headed for 20 percent unemployment by the end of the year - and he thinks the way out is for the state to get away from unions.

David Littmann, senior economist for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, predicted anywhere from 17 percent to 20 percent unemployment by the end of the year. He said the key to attracting jobs is to become a right-to-work state.


Littmann said unions have "strangled this state to death." Without a right-to-work provision, he said, the state will continue in its "graveyard spiral."

Easy enough. Let's go to that expert named "Reality" when it comes to "right-to-work" being the key to having jobs. A simple check of the unemployment stats will do. In February of this year, when looking at the top 20 states in jobless percentage, eight states - getting close to half on the list - were "right-to-work" states, with two in the top five (North and South Carolina). If "right-to-work" guarantees jobs, why are there so many of those states with high unemployment rates? Totally ignored by Mr. Littmann, of course.

Unions and Michigan. The interesting thing about that one: In 2000, when Michigan recorded it's lowest unemployment rate of 3.7, union members were 20.3% of the workforce. By 2008, when Michigan came in with an unemployment rate of 8.4, union members had dropped 18.8% of the work force. What does this prove? Not a lot, actually. We've been bouncing around an average of 20% union membership, and yet the unemployment rate has swung to extremes, regardless of how many people are in unions. If we want to use the Mac Center theories, we had lower unemployment when more people were in unions, for this decade anyway. Looking at the BLS statistics from 1989, Michigan was at 26% in unions back then, and only 18.8% now. Should be swimming in jobs, right? To further discredit their claim that low union membership = more jobs, North and South Carolina, both in the top five for unemployment, are #1 and #3 on the list of states with the lowest union membership. And Georgia, coming in at #2 on that list, is #15 in the country for unemployment as of February.

Once again, the Mackinac Center's arguments don't add up. To be fair, this story did provide some counterpoint:

Richard Block, an MSU professor in the School of Labor and Industrial Relations who studied labor laws in states, said there's no evidence that being a right-to-work state has an effect on economic growth.

"Whether or not there should be a right-to-work law is a philosophical question," Block said. "It is not an economic question."

Perhaps it is time for the traditional media to stop giving the Mackinac Center so much ink when in comes to their claims. Or at least, do some simple searching to find out if what they say has any basis in reality - and report the findings.