Hows the economy doing there? I asked.
Not all that great, but better than here, he said.
It sounds like a pretty sweet deal, working as an accountant in Brisbane, which is a city on Australias Gold Coast of spectacular beaches and tropical skies. Brad said he planned to learn how to surf and would be making frequent trips to New Zealand and New Guinea to audit businesses on behalf of the firm that is sending him Down Under.
Although he‘s from Florida, Brad‘s story made me think of all the people in Michigan who are moving on in search of a job.
Consider this astounding fact: According to the Detroit News, 109,257 people moved out of Michigan between 2007 and 2008. Factoring in births and the 16,627 brave souls who actually moved to Michigan last year, our population dropped by 46,000 in total. But the number of those moving on continues to rise: more than 260,000 have left since 2005 for places like Texas and Arizona. Our state‘s population is dipping below 10 million.
That‘s not all bad, because when the economy turns around, there will be work for those who stuck it out in the Wolverine State, but still...
It calls to mind the exodus of the early 80s when many laid-off auto workers fled the Rust Belt for western horizons. Michigan license plates were a common sight in Texas in 1982, and a popular bumper sticker from those days was Last One Out of Michigan, Turn Out the Lights.
Now those times have come again, and everyone seems to know someone whos left for Atlanta, Colorado, Oregon, Houston -- anywhere that jobs are available. Its not all the Grapes of Wrath -- some are happy to experience the excitement of a new beginning.
Someone commented over the holidays as to how sad it was that so many people are leaving Michigan, but you can also see moving on as a good thing. Moving on to new horizons is as old as the human race. Virtually everyone who lives in America has ancestors who came here as the result of economic hardship or social pressure in some long-lost land. People didn‘t forsake their families in the Old World on a lark: they were driven here by the depressions, wars and famines that swept countries such as Germany, Ireland and Sweden. The same applies to more recent newcomers from Laos, Vietnam, Guatemala, Mexico and China. Even the Indian tribes living in the region migrated here from other parts of North America.
But it must be a fearful decision to move on, because not everyones got a sure deal laid out for them in faraway Australia. How do you know where the jobs are? And how do you wrap up your obligations at a time when it seems impossible to sell your home?
Some dont leave gracefully. In the metro Detroit area, my brother tells of a neighbor in his 30s who walked out on his mortgage and his home. He didnt bother to shut off the water in the house, and when the heat was cut off, the pipes burst and wrecked the place. Needless to say, his credit is screwed forever.
There are a lot of stories like that going around -- people taking out their rage and frustration over a foreclosure by wrecking what theyve left behind -- kicking holes in walls, busting toilets and sinks. It doesnt sound like a good kharma way to move on.
You also hear sad stories of people who are paralyzed by their circumstances. On public radio over the weekend, I heard the story of a woman in Chillicothe, Ohio, whose husband had lost his job. The guy stood five hours in line for an interview, hoping to get a job at a new Menards store in town. If that didnt come through, the family didnt know what theyd do.
What to do? Move on. There are many different ways to leave your old life behind: go to college, seek out a new career, move to Australia, join a commune... the important thing is to take action -- do something -- seize the day.
Five ideas for Obama
The guy hasn‘t even taken office yet and already the pundits are fretting over how Barack Obama will handle two wars, the mess in the Mideast and the biggest recession since the Great Depression.
Well, here are a few ideas off the top of my head that Obama can borrow starting Jan. 21. No charge, dude!
1. Recognize Cuba and begin trade immediately. Fidel Castro has stepped down as el presidente and it‘s time for us to get over it. Trade with Cuba will spark up to economies of both our countries.
2. Close Guantanamo. It costs $118 million to run the Gitmo prison to house 200-300 prisoners. Give the really bad guys a one-way ticket to Greenland and send the rest home. And send the money we‘ll save to Detroit.
3. Start pulling out of Iraq tomorrow. And give the guy who threw his shoes at Bush a new job in the Iraqi army to help maintain order while we pull out.
4. Put Israel on a “time out.“ This works well for kindergartners and could do wonders for our irritating ally. As in, no more foreign aid until they stop bombing civilians. What about those rocket attacks? Simple. Move the Israeli settlements out of range.
5. Don‘t worry, be happy. The best thing President Obama can do is project confidence and leadership -- qualities we haven‘t seen over the past few years.