Don't Let 'Job Maker' Be State's Destiny

November 27, 2006
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If there is one thing that can be said of this past electoral season, it is that being a “job maker” is suddenly very important.

Oddly, the electorate, politicians and media all accepted the job maker as a concept of dire importance. Yet the moniker is so foreign that media outlets have been unable to consistently punctuate it. Should it have a hyphen? Is it “job” singular, or “jobs” plural?

In fact, the state’s first public use of the term in reference to a specific individual or entity was in the first Dick DeVos for Governor ad in February. According to the Proquest database, no Michigan media outlet has ever used the term to refer to any individual other than Gov. Jennifer Granholm or DeVos. Nationally, there are scant few times the term has been applied.

It’s worth noting that Merriam Webster does not believe the noun “job” is a synonym for employment. Instead, it defines “job” as a finite task or piece of work. In the context of “job maker,” its use, then, seems almost counterintuitive. Why create more work? This sounds a bit like socialism — putting people to work for the sake of contribution, a reason to be fed.

Semantics aside, the job maker — or job creator, as economists prefer — has been perverted into yet another political slogan for maintaining the status quo.

By contrast, the Melbourne University-published “Ideas for the New Millennium” identifies the difference between job makers and job takers. The former is a leader, interchangeable with “future maker” or “path maker.” It is not someone who makes work for the job takers, but someone adaptable enough to always be employable.

According to the book’s author, Peter Ellyard: “The more auspicious and effective way to develop your career path is to first look inside yourself and discover your destiny. Fulfilling your destiny defines your work, that which you do to give meaning to your life. The next step is to turn your work into your employment, thereby generating financial security. This you do by matching your work to emerging industries, job markets and job categories; thereby developing a fulfilling career path from realizing your destiny.”

In simpler terms, Michigan does not need jobs, especially at the cost of productivity or profitability. Retaining job banks or repaving highways for no good reason is the stuff of charity. John Widdicomb did not make jobs; he made furniture. Henry Ford did not make work; he made cars. Likewise, no firm would list “jobs” as its primary offering.

The problem facing this state is not a lack of work to do, but a lack of workers to do what needs to be done. Health care, high technology, advanced manufacturing, good old-fashioned salesmanship — in these areas, the state has more jobs than it can fill. With the election passed, economic developers, public and private, should be reminded of this.

The old adage about giving a person a fish for dinner or teaching him how to fish so he can eat forever rings true. For the sake of the state, it is not a matter of how many “fish” can be meted out during a tax abatement hearing or how many “fish” can be hired at Taco Boy, but how many fishermen Michigan can make.    

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