Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Michigan's May jobless rate hits 8.5 percent

Could the economy become a bigger election issue than gay marriage? Here in Michigan, it absolutely must.

With Michigan's unemployment reaching 8.5 percent in May, the highest rate in 16 years, Democrats have a golden opportunity to pitch a total overhaul of domestic economic policy. Just this week candidate Obama delivered an extensive economic policy speech in Flint.

According to the Washington Independent:
"Obama promised a $150-billion energy plan to create a green sector of the economy that would create 5 million jobs over the next 10 years. With that, he promised that jobs--"good jobs"--would return to Michigan. People would return to the assembly line, but this time to build hybrids and electric cars, along with the wind turbines that will supposedly power America in the years to come. He pledged to double federal funding for research and development at Michigan universities and to invest in high-speed rail."

In the meantime, as automakers continue to slash staffs, economic constriction will continue to choke Michigan. Each auto job lost represents multiple jobs in communities.

A pressing question: are social service agencies of Michigan positioned to meet the impending wave of demand?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ford Exec. calls for plug-in hybrids

Too little, too late. That's what this is.

Yesterday, Ford Motor Co. President of the Americas Mark Fields said that the federal government should make plug-in hybrids a "national priority" and invest heavily in the technology.

He said Japan, China and Korea are investing in research and development and that we should too. You think?

Am I missing something here? We've known since the 1970s that dependence on foreign oil could devastate our economy. We've known about peak oil for nearly 20 years. And we've watched U.S. auto manufacturers pander to the conspicuous consumption of consumers with SUVs and trucks. The U.S. auto industry could have been proactive and pursued a long-term development strategy like say...Toyota or Honda. But instead the industry chased after short-term profits by selling wasteful vehicles. They backed themselves into a corner.

Now, suddenly they see the light? We need vehicles that don't guzzle $5-a-gallon gasoline. And the industry needs subsidies because research will cost money and retooling will cost money.

The people who really need help right about now are laid-off workers stuck driving gas guzzlers. Not everyone is in a position to purchase a new fuel efficient vehicle at the moment.

Let's help families first. Take a number, Ford.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Michigan, my Michigan

After sixteen years, a place makes its way inside you.

You know its smells and sounds -- after a thunderstorm, downtown, at the grocery, in the middle of the night. You know your way around -- the side streets and back ways, the quickest routes across town, the best views, the best pizza.

You know the place like a lover. Its hidden tender spots. Its weaknesses. Its strengths. What it needs to thrive. How it often resists change in favor of a familiar old way.

Michigan has so much potential, but it is languishing. To make room for a new Michigan, a lot of people will have to let go of attachment to the old -- the old ways of doing business, education and employment.

Right now, I'm in the midst of moving and the process (when it isn't exhausting) is powerfully magical. You have a chance to let go of things and put bad memories behind you by discarding stuff. You must reconsider your attachments to your possessions. You are poised to receive surprises beyond your perception. You get to make room for newness. You can affirm that some things are truly behind you -- no need to grasp reminders of what seemed a golden age or better day. Truth is, great days are ahead if you make room for them.

Letting go, purging, opening, assessing what really is past, preparing for a new kind of future -- Michigan needs to do this. And economic development experts like Phil Power, Lou Glazer and others have been urging such an approach for several years.

In the absence of collective crisis, embracing statewide change seems a long shot. We can each bring it forth in our own lives, though, in small daily ways. Take a different route to work each day. Donate to charity everything you haven't used in six months. If you are shy, talk to every cashier you encounter and wish them well. Talk about the presidential election with your neighbors. Read a literary genre you think you dislike. If you don't have kids, volunteer at your local elementary school. Get comfortable doing things that are unfamiliar and get out of your comfort zone.

This daily practice can prepare you to make bigger change, the kind Michigan needs.

So get out and do some things you never imagined doing. Don't worry about getting messy and making mistakes. The worst mistake would be to keep things just as they are.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Economic Roundup -- more pain

General Motors will probably announce more cuts and restructuring today.(Reuters) According to the Globe and Mail this will include 1000 jobs slashed at the Owasha, Ontario plant that makes large pickups. Expect cuts in Michigan, as well.

Gaming the system? Greektown Casino has filed for bankruptcy and will seek court approval today of a bankruptcy loan. (Free Press) Borrowing money to lose less money -- you have to love that.

High school dropouts cost the state billions in lost wages, say experts. (mlive)