The new unemployment numbers came out in June and were largely unchanged at 9.5 percent, down .2 percent, which is at least in the right direction for most states. There is a handful, including Nevada, that lead the way in unemployment with an eye-popping 14.2 percesnt, which still had the misfortune to see a slight uptick in the rate, and have lost more jobs.
Michigan, California, Rhode Island, Florida and Mississippi, in that order, are the other hardest-hit states, all above an 11 percent unemployment rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Vermont, New Hampshire, Nebraska and North and South Dakota are at the other end of the scale with a rate of six percent or less, and have all gained jobs with the exception of South Dakota, which held steady at a low rate of 3.6 percent.
The states that are suffering the most were also the hardest hit by the housing bubble that burst and are a commentary on what happens when too much of a city or state's economic health is in one basket. Both the private sector and the state and local governments had become dependent on an influx of new money or higher taxes as a means to support a larger lifestyle without asking enough questions about the structure it would take to keep the party going.
As the congressional elections approach, remember to ask a lot more questions about who was in power during those-decision making years, when casting a vote this fall. The leaders who were willing to give the voters what they wanted willy-nilly without a plan for leaner times are the ones we want to avoid ever electing again. Big budgets that didn't hold enough revenue back for rainy days have put a lot of states in enormous financial trouble.
That same rise in housing prices was already siphoning off one of Florida's old mainstays, retirees who were already starting to choose other more affordable locales a few years before the mortgage-lending scandal was exposed.
Analysts have also pointed to the lack of a diversified, private, industrial base as another factor that has hurt some states' bottom line. Once the artificial rise of new construction and real estate speculation was removed, there was nothing to fill the vacuum. No new technology base or corporate headquarters, such as in Virginia or Minnesota, who are riding out the Great Depression a bit easier with a rate of seven and 6.8 percent unemployment.
These are the same states that showed some restraint in adding on services during the fat years and are now able to at least consistently continue with basic needs for their constituents. Both states have reasonable sales taxes, no inheritance tax and real estate taxes that fall in the middle of the pack.
In other words, their long-term legislation seems to be more balanced and, therefore, there's less fluctuation in the good or the bad times.
However, that still leaves an awful lot of states and certain cities, such as Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix, and Detroit, that are really feeling the pinch. But maybe there's also an opportunity. To all of the entrepreneurs out there, consider the idea of a new American frontier. In the 1800's, a lot of Americans were willing to risk their lives just to travel west, and that was for land that had no infrastructure and a lot of perils, in order to stake their claim.
In the new millennium, the new frontier consists of all of these cities, which already have an infrastructure of sewers, technology, schools and roads and would welcome a budding industry or even a company. It's not to say that choosing Detroit as a new horizon would be easy, but it would be very American and a great place to bargain for advantageous tax breaks or real estate, and then hire locally.
Maybe Wall Street can cease to be the place where all of our money is pocketed and we can start to spend it on different Main Streets instead. Our forefathers, who struck out for new ground, knew they'd have to think on their feet when it came to every aspect of their new lives, but they were determined to see it through.
There have got to be some people out there who are looking for the same opportunity in this generation, and have the steely backbone and quick wit to do the same. Yes, we have gone through a Great Recession where all of our bad habits were stripped away. But, maybe it was so a new Renaissance would have a clean slate, and some obvious places on the map from where it can all begin again.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.