Bloomberg’s Plan: Bold, but Beside the Point

3 05 2011

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg isn’t exactly a source of prizewinning ideas, but occasionally, when he’s not crusading against table salt or fighting the good fight against soda, he says something that is, at the very least, interesting.

Take, for example, his recent musings on America’s immigration challenges. Bloomberg’s proposed solution? Well, in his own words:

“Assuming you could wave a magic wand and pull everybody together, you pass a law letting immigrants come in as long as they agree to go to Detroit and live there for five or ten years.”

There’s more at the New York Daily News.

Like the proverbial broken clock, Bloomberg is bound to be right from time to time, if only accidentally. I’m not sure whether this is one of those times or not; still, Bloomberg’s proposal at least merits discussion. After all, the last time Detroit opened its doors to hard-working immigrants from around the world, the city experienced a tremendous boom and enjoyed enviable prosperity.

Yes, this is (or rather, was) Detroit

Of course, the Germans, Irish, Greeks, Italians and Poles that flocked to Detroit were able to make their livelihoods in an environment free of the stifling bureaucracy and big-labor meddling that defines Detroit (as well as the rest of the state) today.

If I had Bloomberg’s hypothetical “magic wand” and could somehow “pull everybody together,” I would go a step further than merely welcoming immigrants to Detroit in exchange for citizenship: I’d follow up on the briefly-discussed plans to make Detroit a giant low-to-no tax enterprise zone, and push for statewide right-to-work status as well.

It’s not surprising that a big-government technocrat like Bloomberg is blind to the root causes of Detroit’s (and, by extension, Michigan’s) decline. That’s why his solution involves turning the city into a holding pen for immigrants instead of clearing the way for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Unfortunately, many of Michigan’s leaders have long suffered from the same myopia as Mayor Bloomberg. Politicians will always choose gimmicky initiatives (Granholm’s “Cool Cities”) and targeted incentives (a slew of controversial tax credits) over truly competitive free market policies because those pesky free market policies neither build dependent constituencies nor provide convenient photo ops.

It all adds up to a sort of institutional inertia that makes altering the status quo very difficult; as the most recent census has shown, many find it easier to simply leave the state than to stick around and hope for change.

Immigrants have helped shape Detroit’s past, and they will undoubtedly play an important role in the city’s rebirth. Yet instead of the half-baked, carrot-on-a-stick citizenship incentives Bloomberg has proposed, both Detroit and the state of Michigan as a whole must tantalize new arrivals with the kind of genuine economic freedom and opportunity that first sparked the region’s explosive growth a century ago.



2 responses

12 05 2011

What about the decision to buy taxi cabs from Nissan?

13 05 2011
Graham Kozak

That there was a taxi cab “decision” at all tells me everything I need to know about the mentality of Bloomberg and the other bureaucrats like him that run NYC and, tragically, the country.

I couldn’t care less whether it was Ford, Nissan, or that random Turkish company building the cabs–hell, the Fords would have been built in Turkey because of a byzantine tariff scheme, while the Turkish manufacturer promised to employ American workers at a proposed plant outside of the city.

What irks me is how tightly regulated the taxi industry is in the first place, to the point where taxi drivers or companies cannot choose their own vehicles. If I want to run a Rolls-Royce yellow cab service, or, conversely, a company that uses all domestics, is it really NYC’s business?

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