If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you

Here in Michigan, when someone wants to tell you where in the state something is what they do is raise their right hand as if taking an oath and then point at their palm. You see, if you look at a map of Michigan it sort of looks like the flat of the hand. Except, that is, for the upper peninsula, which is properly referred to as the you pee, and which can be represented by making the Boy Scout sign with your left hand and then holding that (again, palm out) over the right hand, slightly tilted, on the pinkie side, but isn't.

Which I mention by way of giving context to of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's current ad campaign. Here's Gov. Granholm introducing the theme:
“CEOs are choosing Michigan for their business growth because they think Michigan is a great place to do business,” Granholm said. “We want those CEOs sharing that story with the world so that when other businesses are looking for a place to grow and create jobs, they look at Michigan first. MEDC’s advertising focuses on companies and CEOs who capitalized on Michigan’s business resources to give them a global competitive edge.”

The initiative will highlight Michigan’s key business-attraction tools including its competitive business environment, its world-renowned universities, its highly skilled workforce, its status as the world’s research and design hub, and its new, $2 billion 21st Century Jobs Fund. Together, these tools give Michigan businesses “The Upper Hand.”

That tag line -- 'giving Michigan business the upper hand' gets repeated, by Jeff Daniels no less, at the end of each of the TV ads.

To a Michigander, the practice of pointing at the hand gives this slogan an overt meaning which is at once banal, immediate, and difficult to resist. But come on. This is a dog-whistle for the investor class, a signal that the state will take the side of capital in disputes with labor. The invisible hand, as they say, helps those who help themselves.

Which isn't to say that I'm not sympathetic, on a whole lot of levels, with the goals and (explicit) arguments of the campaign. Jobs are good, good jobs are better, arguments that link jobs to investments in university funding are best of all.

And maybe I'm just an optimist because I haven't lived here through the last thirty years of economic stagnation and contraction, but it seems to me that the fundamentals look good for growth in the state. The MEDC campaign is right that Michigan has a very skilled workforce. What the ads don't mention, but which everyone knows perfectly well, is that a whole lot of the people who make up that workforce are unemployed or underemployed. Another thing they don't mention is the weakness of the dollar, but that can only help.

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