There is troubling news for Michigan’s economy, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual “Rich States, Poor States”state competitiveness index. The index ranks states on both economic performance in the past and the outlook for the future.

In the 2015 index Michigan experienced the worst decline of any state on economic outlook, dropping 12 places to No. 24. The index is based on 15 state policy variables found to be important indicators of where a state is heading economically. The factors include eight measures of taxation plus measures of state debt, government employment, minimum wage mandates and right-to-work status.

The economic performance ranking, meanwhile, incorporates state domestic product, domestic migration, and nonfarm payroll employment changes from 2004 through 2013. Michigan’s overall rank in this category is 50th among the states, the same as the previous year. ALEC calls this a “backward-looking” index because it measures performance over the preceding 10 years, which in Michigan’s case still includes a good portion of its “lost decade” of the 2000s. Unless the state experiences a sudden economic reversal it is likely that this ranking will begin to improve going forward.

In 2009, Michigan’s outlook ranking hit an all-time low of 34th place. It improved to 26th in 2010, 25th in 2011 and 17th place in 2012. The state dipped back to 20th place in 2013 but then leapt to 12th best in 2014. Then, in the past year it has fallen to 24th place. Why such dramatic movement from one year to the next?

The improvement in economic outlook to No. 12 was largely a result of Michigan becoming a right-to-work state in 2013. The drop since last year can be attributed to two events: Increasing the state’s minimum wage to $8.15 per hour as of next Sept. 1 (rising to $9.25 in 2018), and recently legislated tax changes (in 2013 and 2014) that increased the tax burden by 66 cents per $1,000 of personal income, compared to a 72-cent decline in the previous report.

These indexes provide insights into which places constrict economic liberty the least, a key component of nations’ and states’ economic well-being. The public and policymakers should not ignore the potential consequences of losing ground in these comparisons.



Personal Libert Digest New

baby with U.S. flag

by Chip Wood

Federal officials raided a bunch of apartments in California last month, as part of an investigation into a “birth tourism” scam. It seems that thousands of pregnant Chinese women have flown into the United States on fraudulent visas so their babies would be born in this country — and, thus, become instant U.S. citizens.

The women allegedly paid between $40,000 and $80,000 for the arrangements, which included being escorted from the airport, taken to pre-arranged housing, provided with groceries and other supplies, and even provided with prenatal care.

The Department of Homeland Security says that the pregnant women were coached in China to lie about their travel plans. They were even told to wear loose clothing to hide their pregnancies. The Associated Press quoted Claude Arnold, a special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as saying, “These people were told to lie, how to lie, so that their motives for coming to the U.S. wouldn’t be questioned.”

The participants were allegedly promised that their babies would become U.S. citizens as soon as they were born, and that they would be issued with Social Security numbers and U.S. passports. And amazingly, it seems they are correct.

But these scammers are just a drop in bucket, compared to the number of illegal immigrants from other countries, especially Mexico, who do the same thing. In fact, in reporting on this story, the Los Angeles Times quoted one person as saying, “Come on, people go across the border to have a baby from Mexico all the time, so what’s the problem?”

What’s the problem? It’s that it is the official policy of the United States government that any child born in this country to both legal and illegal immigrants automatically and immediately becomes a citizen of the United States. Not only that, but by becoming a newly franchised citizen, that infant is permitted to sponsor American citizenship for its mother, father and other relatives.

Such infants are sometimes referred to as “anchor babies,” because their immediate and automatic citizenship is the “anchor” on which a host of other claims, from welfare to the citizenship of others, can be made. At least most of the Chinese women who come to this country to give birth then return to China with their child. Not so the ones who sneak in from Mexico.

How did such an insane policy come to be accepted as the law of the land? Well, the first thing you should know is that there is no such law. No, the whole bizarre policy is based on a very twisted interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Here’s the relevant section:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State where they reside.

When this amendment was first proposed in the aftermath of the Civil War, no one suggested that it would include the children of aliens, even if their parents were in this country legally when they were born. Since the parents were “subject to the jurisdiction” of the country where they were citizens, it was assumed that their children would also be citizens of the same country.

There were very rigid procedures in place for people to become citizens of this country. They included passing a written test (which was given in English), taking an oath of allegiance to the United States and renouncing their prior citizenship.

Obviously, newborn infants can’t do any of these things. So how can they possibly qualify for citizenship?

It’s time for Congress to correct this incredible misinterpretation of the law. In fact, it’s long past time. I believe the vast majority of Americans would agree on this. So where is the political leader who will promise to make it happen? We’re waiting.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Personal Libert Digest New

unemployment rate concept

As weak as the monthly jobs reports have been for a long while, last month’s report is bad enough that the usual suspects aren’t even attempting the typical spin.

According to monthly data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. labor force added a slight 126,000 jobs in March, even as the rate of participation in the total labor force fell, once again, to 62.7 percent. That’s the lowest rate of participation since 1978, and it’s one that the U.S. economy has repeatedly flirted with throughout President Obama’s second term.

“Five times in the last twelve months, the participation rate has been as low as 62.8 percent; but March’s 62.7 percent, which matches the participation rate seen in September and December of 2014, is the lowest since February of 1978,” CNS News reported Friday.

March’s figures also mark the first time in the nation’s history that the number of qualified people who have opted out of the labor force has exceeded 93 million. BLS considers people not to be participating in the labor force if they have not actively sought, held or obtained employment during the most recent four-week period.

While Obama’s Secretary of Commerce blamed the poor report on bad weather, Obama himself blamed globalism and a strengthening dollar.

“Because the economies in Europe are weak, the economies in Asia are weak, the dollar is becoming stronger because a lot of people want to park their money here, they think it’s safer, but that makes our exports more expensive,” Obama told a Kentucky audience. “So we’ve got to stay hungry.”

The BLS numbers also revealed a decline in income for Americans across all economic segments — except those in the top 20 percent — in 2014. The top 20 percent of earners’ annual incomes managed an average of .09 percent growth from July of 2013 to June of 2014. The national average income — including those in the top 20 percent —declined by .09 percent over the same period.


Indiana’s Religious ‘Anti-Gay’ Law That Wasn’t


You’ve probably heard by now about Indiana’s horrible new anti-gay law.

That would be the one signed by Republican Gov. Mike Pence, allowing religious people to exempt themselves from any generally applicable law they feel like and permitting businesses to discriminate against gays.

No shoes, no shirt, no heterosexuality, no service.

Celebrities and all right-thinking people are boycotting the new “hate state” over its discriminatory return to the dark ages. There’s just one problem: the law doesn’t say any of these things.

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act doesn’t give blanket permission to businesses to deny service to gays or anyone else. (If a business truly wants to avoid serving sinners, it will have zero customers.) It doesn’t mention sexual orientation at all.

What it does say is that government entities in the state “may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” only “in the furtherance of a compelling government interesting” and using “the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest.”

Frankly, that should be the requirement for all government action, even when religion isn’t involved.

If a person feels their free exercise rights have been or are likely to be substantially burdened, they can make a legal claim or assert this as a legal defense.

Whether that person’s legal argument would prevail or not is ultimately up to a judge.

That’s it.

The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been on the books since 1993, passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

It was enacted in response to a Supreme Court decision in which Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion. Ted Kennedy, Charles Schumer, Harry Reid, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Barbara Mikulski, Paul Wellstone, Barbara Boxer and Russ Feingold were a few of the senators who voted for it.

Jesse Helms was one of only three senators to vote against it. Former Klansman Robert Byrd was another, for all you out there who think religious freedom laws will usher in a new Jim Crow.

After the Supreme Court held that this law generally applied only to the federal government, states began to pass their own versions. One was Illinois, where the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed the state senate unanimously in 1998  – including the vote of Barack Obama.

With 40 percent of the country living under state-level RFRAs and the federal version being in effect for 22 years, we have not seen a huge surge in courts ruling in favor of discrimination against gays.

Indiana doesn’t ban private sector discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the first place, so businesses inclined to discriminate don’t necessarily need to sue under a religious freedom law. It doesn’t appear that many are so inclined.

In fact, large corporations are protesting the new Indiana law — just as hundreds of them have also asked the Supreme Court to declare a constitutional right to gay marriage.

Which brings us to why religious freedom laws are suddenly controversial: some Christian wedding vendors have been penalized for refusing to participate in same-sex weddings on religious grounds. I’m not aware of any of them trying to deny service to all gay customers. The Washington state florist who was fined had been doing floral arrangements for the couple whose wedding she declined to work for nearly a decade.

These laws don’t even provide a guarantee that the Christian wedding vendors will win. But these statutes will give future florists, bakers and photographers a legal claim. Even this is too much for some liberals if religious freedom doesn’t just mean that Muslim prison guards might get to wear beards, but that evangelical Christians can use the law to protect their religious practices.

Now, if you don’t trust your state’s judges to regularly make non-insane decisions when weighing religious liberties against other values and policy goals, that might be a good reason to oppose such laws. But the text of these laws by no means mandate the crazed hypotheticals, such as religious hospitals refusing to serve gay patients, flooding the internet.

Some argue that these laws protect hate, not faith. First, the whole point of religious freedom is that the government doesn’t get to decide which religious teachings or claims are true.

Second, people disagree about sexual morality all the time without engaging in hate. According to Gallup, only 7 percent of Americans think adultery is morally acceptable. I’m willing to bet that way more than 7 percent of Americans have friends who are adulterers, would allow adulterers to patronize local businesses and have even themselves engaged in adultery.

 Finally, peruse the #BoycottIndiana hashtag on Twitter. Those tweets don’t look very loving.

These are difficult questions that courts may get wrong. But let’s at least get the basic facts right.

W. James Antle III is managing editor of The Daily Caller and author of the book

 Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? Follow him on Twitter.

Personal Libert Digest New


unemployed woman

by Ben Bullard

Most mainstream news outlets and Wall Street watchers hailed Friday’s release of the latest jobs data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics with optimism and enthusiasm. “Good news: Unemployment at lowest in 7 years,” a CNN headline read. NPR hailed the new information as “a sign that the nation’s economy is finally picking up steam.”

Maybe. But there’s a massive chunk of the nation that isn’t presently involved in the labor market or in contributing anything to the economy. In the past two years, there have been 13 months when the non-participation rate in the U.S. labor force matched or exceeded lows previously seen nearly four decades ago.

“The labor force participation rate hovered between 62.9 percent and 62.7 percent in the eleven months between April 2014 and this February, and has been 62.9 percent or lower in 13 of the 17 months since October 2013,” reported CNS News.

“Prior to that, the last time the rate was below 63 percent was 37 years ago, in March 1978 when it was 62.8 percent.”

If you like low unemployment percentage figures, then non-participation in the labor force is your friend. The national unemployment rate in the February jobs report sank to an impressive-looking 5.5 percent. Meanwhile, the labor force’s high non-participation rate barely budged.

“The numbers of those not in the labor force, seasonally adjusted, continued to grow,” Ed Morrissey wrote Friday. “… In February it hit 92.9 million people, up 1.5 million people from a year earlier and 3.45 million from February 2013. It rose 354,000 just in the past month, outstripping the 295,000 jobs added. This tends to grow anyway, but the rate at which it’s growing shows why the U-3 and even U-6 [different metrics the BLS uses to measure unemployment] may not be capturing the real scope of the labor problem in the U.S.”

There were a reported 92,898,000 people who weren’t part of the labor force in February; 56 million of them were women. The BLS considers people not to be participating in the labor force if they have not actively sought, held or obtained employment during the most recent four-week period.




More Jobs, Higher Pay Since Right-to-Work Passed in Michigan

Since its right-to-work law took effect, Michigan has experienced the nation’s sixth-largest growth in the number of people working, adding 141,990 jobs from March 2013 through December 2014, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

California saw the largest increase during that span, adding 603,174 jobs.

On a percentage basis, Michigan employment grew 3.3 percent, ranking 15th overall in the nation. North Dakota held the top spot, growing its workforce by 5.4 percent.

Michigan had 4,294,532 jobs in March of 2013, a number that increased to 4,436,522 in December of 2014.

The data on jobs comes from the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS), also known as the household survey.

Unions and their allies have criticized Gov. Rick Snyder for signing right-to-work into law, claiming it has not helped the state.

“Gov. Snyder can’t point to a single job that has been created by right-to-work since it’s been implemented,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, in a press release.

However, James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said not only has there been an increase in employment since right-to-work was passed in Michigan, but incomes in the state have grown.

Since right-to-work became effective, average weekly earnings increased 5.4 percent, faster than the national increase of 3.7 percent. Weekly wages were $773.60 in Michigan in March 2013 and rose to $815.71 in December 2014.

“Michigan’s economy is moving in the right direction and right-to-work continues to be a positive for the state,” Hohman said. “The extreme warnings from union partisans about the law have fallen by the wayside as Michigan adds more good-paying jobs.”


Personal Libert Digest New


by Chip Wood

No wonder Barack Obama and his team of sycophants didn’t want Israel’s prime minister to address a joint session of Congress. They were afraid that Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s powerful, passionate presentation would make Obama’s own stumbling, apologetic efforts look pathetic by comparison.

If that was their concern, boy, were they right. On Tuesday, Netanyahu delivered what has been described as “a speech for the ages.” It left a lot of viewers, including this one, wishing that our own president were half as eloquent about defending our country and promoting our interests.

The Israeli leader made it unmistakably clear exactly what is at stake in the current negotiations with Iran. “The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons,” he declared. “To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle but lose the war.”

When he added, “We can’t let that happen,” the audience lept to his feet and gave him another of more than two dozen standing ovations.

Netanyahu pointed out that both ISIS and Iran are the enemies of freedom. “Don’t be fooled,” he warned. “Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire.”

Have we ever heard such unmistakable moral clarity from our own president? Of course not. All we get from Obama are apologies for our past behavior, combined with a mushy-headed defense of Islam and Muslims.

Netanyahu sees things differently. “When it comes to Iran and ISIS,” he proclaimed, “the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.” That will surely be one of the most quoted phrases from the Israeli leader’s remarks. And it deserves to be.

From the time John Boehner, the speaker of the House, announced he had invited Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress, the Obama administration made it clear it wanted nothing to do with the prime minister’s visit. No one from the administration attended the speech. Some 48 representatives and at least eight senators boycotted it. Several of them issued some petty and divisive critiques afterward.

Obama said he didn’t bother to watch the speech, but when he looked at a transcript, he didn’t see anything new in it. Such a childish dismissal did nothing to enhance his image as a leader; instead, it merely made him look churlish.

It didn’t have to be this way. Obama would have demonstrated some magnanimous leadership if he had welcomed Netanyahu to Washington and agreed to meet with him. But his spokesman said the visit was too close to elections in Israel later this month. What a bunch of baloney!

And what a contrast with Netanyahu, who began his speech with effusive thanks to Obama, as well as to Congress and the American people, for their past support of Israel. It was another lesson in how a real leader should conduct himself.

Let’s face it. Iran is the chief supporter of terrorism in the region and around the world. It has repeatedly said it is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. It has proven over and over again that it will break any promise and violate any treaty whenever it wishes.

No wonder the Israeli leader said, “If the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires.”

After urging his audience to insist that what he called “a very, very bad deal” be changed, Netanyahu concluded with a solemn and sober warning:

I can guarantee you this, the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over. … For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves. This is why — this is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.

As I said at the beginning of this column, Netanyahu delivered a passionate and powerful speech to Congress. It had a fervor and moral clarity we have never heard from our president — with the possible exception of his attacks on the rich.

No wonder that Netanyahu has more respect among the American people than our own president. He deserves it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood