Saturday, February 28, 2009

Trickle Down You Can Believe In

Can't decide whether I'm amused or annoyed by all the Congressional Republicans who are suddenly so concerned about the federal deficit. Here we are, trying to fix the country they neglected to the point of dilapidation, trying to help the American people get through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and suddenly they discover that money is an issue? Seriously?

Let's get this down to basics. We are going to borrow money at the federal level. There is no getting around that fact. Budget, stimulus, doesn't matter, whatever it is, it's going on the tab for now. Indiscriminately throwing money at everything is not the answer to our problems, of course, but targeted money is necessary to combat the death spiral that we are in. Agreed? Yes, say both parties.

So for an example, we will use the stimulus spending as an indicator of party priorities. The Republicans were more than happy to spend $3.1 trillion dollars for more tax cuts to the wealthy, an idea that would have cost three times as much as Obama's plan, and wait for that money to "trickle down". Even though they are now complaining about all this "spending", they would have "spent" trillions on tax cuts - don't forget that.

Recent history presents the reality behind Republican "spending". According to the Congressional Budget Office, through the year 2007, 48% of the Bush deficit went for tax cuts, 35% went for defense and military spending, 10% went to entitlement programs, and a whopping 7% went for domestic spending. So, where are all those jobs? Why didn't any of that trickle down? Anyone what to ask them why they think "more of the same" would make a difference? Anyone got an aspirin to combat the headaches that come from banging your head on the wall when you really stop and think about all the "crazy" they espouse?

Never mind, Democrats have a better idea. Instead, let's target that spending directly to the people, start to fix what is broken, create jobs in infrastructure and other areas where there is need and growth, create demand for raw materials and local spending, and help people who are struggling stay in their homes.

And that's exactly what we are doing, starting NOW. The best part? Listen for the words "trickle down" in this video.



8,000 jobs predicted for Jackson. And those jobs will start coming within the next month. Congressman Schauer will work to make sure that state leaders get these jobs to Michigan companies and workers. Also for Jackson, funding will immediately go towards housing projects, which will keep people in their homes, make much needed repairs to existing structures (creating jobs and material demand while improving the community property values), and helping families with basic needs such as food and utilies. Grand Rapids has a similiar story this morning as well, about creating jobs and fixing housing. Watch for stories like these to come to a community near you.

And we don't have to wait for Devos to bring the money back from Bermuda to do this. Like a man in the Grand Rapids story said, "Thank you Mr. President, thanks very much."

We now have "trickle down you can believe in" - and not a moment too soon.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Six O'Clock News - A Bad Day for Mike Cox Edition

  • Oh, Mikey. Someone finally stepped up and basically called you a "media whore". It's about time, 'cause we all notice it, you know. Kind of like that embarrassing loud drunk at the party. Seems Mike took things a little too far in his attempt to feed at the publicity trough... and a judge had some stern words.

    A judge dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against three people in the death of Sarah Comer at a Big Rapids nursing home and accused the Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox of being more interested in publicity than the "requirements of justice."

    ...

    In filing charges, the attorney general "did so with the goal of maximizing his media exposure while ignoring the requirements of justice, due process and fair play," the judge said.

    "He spoke about the defendants as if they had been convicted of the charges, which flies in the face of the underlying cornerstone of the criminal justice system -- the presumption of innocence," Grant said.


    Ouch. That's gotta sting.

  • The Freep has a great editorial today - "just say no" to coal. For the good of us all. While they admit that the governor may have overstepped on her directive, they acknowledge that EPA is also heading in the same direction, so good on both of them. Best line? "So Cox can negate the governor's directive and still have no discernible impact on policy surrounding global warming emissions." Halle-frickin'-lujah on that. Mike Cox should have no discernible impact on anything if we are wise.

  • I love it when the GR Press editorial board calls for "more spending" on programs that are successful, and yet somehow will still turn around and endorse people like DeVos and McCain, and call for cuts whenever they can as well. The mental jujitsu involved down there must be fascinating. Anyway, the Press would like us to increase funding for the state's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, citing outreach and education as the reason for a 35% drop in the number of kids with lead poisoning, from 2003-2007. Most of the money to run this has come from the feds. Guess they should have endorsed Obama, huh?

  • The 2010 Chevy Camaro will be the pace car for the Indy 500 this year. Good choice, let's keep making them, even though they look a lot like the new Mustang.

  • And let's hope we can get parts for all these models we are going to save. Lear indicates that they might be reaching that "going concern" problem soon, Visteon is close to the edge as well, and there are numerous reports of layoffs from all over the country from parts suppliers - an Indiana company that supplies Honda will be laying off 200, for example. One wonders if the dominoes have been set in motion and there is no stopping this now, even if they manage to get aid. I guess we are going to find out.

  • Businesses and the Michigan Chamber can chill out a bit now - the feds are going to wave the payments on the interest from our unemployment debt, which means you won't see an increase on your unemployment taxes, you lucky bastards. It has already passed the House, and surely would have passed the Senate had they not been on vacation this week. Be sure and say "thank you" to the nice President and Congressional Democrats who voted for the stimulus package.

    We will give you the weekend to think about that. Happy Friday all!
  • The Amazing Ford

    Here and abroad, car companies are on their knees, begging for assistance from government so they can stay in business.

    Ford? They cut their sales estimates again today, and still they say, "Nah. Thanks anyway. We'll pass".

    Ford's new industry sales forecast matches the worst-case scenario the automaker outlined in a restructuring plan it submitted to Congress last fall. At the time, Ford said that if sales fell to that level, it could need up to $13 billion from Washington. However, Ford said Thursday that it can withstand an even steeper drop -- to 9.2 million cars and trucks -- without needing federal aid.

    "Our position on government loans hasn't changed at all," said Ford spokesman Mark Truby, noting that Congress had asked the company to state how much additional funding it might need in each scenario. "That doesn't mean we would ask the government for that. We have no plans to ask for a bridge loan."


    Not only that, but they will be re-opening the Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1 this spring to produce the EcoBoost engine, putting 250 people back to work.

    The Cleveland factory, which opened in 1951, was idled in 2007 -- three years after Ford invested $200 million to transform it into a flexible manufacturing facility. That flexibility has allowed the company to produce the new engine there with an investment of $55 million.

    EcoBoost combines turbo-charging and direct fuel-injection to deliver more power from a smaller engine. It will be offered in the Lincoln MKS sedan, MKT crossover, Ford Flex crossover and Taurus SHO sport sedan this year, and is expected to be available in 90 percent of the company's lineup by 2013.


    Plant manager Jan Allman states, "We're delivering good news in the middle of this industry turmoil." Yes, you are. Quite amazing news. Ford apparently borrowed the right amount of money at just the right time, and has managed it well. Stroke of genius or pure dumb luck, whichever it is- kudos to them.

    Anuzis Joins Gingrich to Fight Employee Free Choice Act

    And here you thought that Saul would have to get a real job now. Nope. He will be around to serve the wealthy interests that want to make sure the workin' guy can't get a fair break.

    Former Michigan Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis is teaming up with Newt Gingrich to fight legislation that would make it easier for unions to organize workers.

    Anuzis, who in January lost a bid for Republican National Committee chairman, will join American Solutions, a conservative advocacy group founded by former House Speaker Gingrich. Anuzis will head an Internet campaign against the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation unions are hoping to push through Congress this year.


    Given Saul's stellar record of electoral victories here in Michigan, I'm sure he will be quite an asset to Newt. The group is also into the "Drill Baby Drill" scene, and something about reforming air traffic control. Remind me not to fly if they happen to luck into any success there.

    Remembering Rick Beckett

    I never liked the morning show on KLQ. Matter of fact, I detested it. Darla's laugh annoyed the hell out of me, and I considered Rick a "nasty drunk". The kids back in the TV section at Best Buy used to crank their show in the morning, and we in the music department would put on a CD to drown it out...

    Fast forward 5 or so years. Rick & Scott came to GRD's morning show. I was working at Art Express at the time. I don't remember what LAV was doing for the mornings; all I remember was I didn't like it. So, I stuck with GRD. By then, Rick had mellowed a bit. (but just a bit) He had quit drinking, had gone through his bout with diabetes, seemed to be an OK guy. I liked his insights, his honesty, he made me laugh, and Scott Winters was a great balance for him. I grew to like the guy, begrudgingly. He would understand, I bet. Stephanie Webb joined the show, and the three were pretty entertaining. I listened everyday.

    One day, they were talking with a guest about... something, can't remember what... and I was working away, half listening, doing my job. Just a normal morning. Scott interrupted briefly and said (paraphrasing), "a small plane has flown into the World Trade Center". They had a TV in the studio. "We'll let you know more as the story unfolds". And they went back to whoever they were talking to. Didn't think much of it. I kept working, and so did they.

    A bit later, Scott came on again and said, excited voice, "Now another plane has flown into the other tower of the World Trade Center!" And it was Rick Beckett who provided me with a flashbulb memory that will be forever etched in my brain. He simply said,

    "Terrorists".

    And in that moment it all became clear.

    We didn't have a TV at work, and I was stuck listening to the radio. They dropped whatever it was they were talking about and went with this story, of course. It was Rick & Scott who kept me appraised of what was unfolding in NY, and across the country. They stayed on for hours, and eventually the station went to a straight NBC news feed with Brokaw.

    A "Where Were You" bond was formed that day for me, and I will always remember Rick in that instant. As time went on, Rick & Scott left GRD for WOOD, I left Art Express and didn't listen to the radio much. I only caught them once on WOOD. Was glad they were still keepin' on, keeping on...

    Thank you Rick, for the memories. My thoughts go out to Scott this morning, and all those that worked with Rick over the years, peace be with you.

    Thursday, February 26, 2009

    Six O'Clock News - Earmarks Are Good For Michigan Edition

    Question: How will you keep these budget stories separate from stimulus stories? Ha ha. Yeah, good luck with that. The budget passed by the House yesterday was actually a carry-over from the Bush budget that they decided they didn't want to fight over last year. A heads up - all Michigan Republican Congresscritters, with the exception of Miller and Upton, voted against this. Be on the lookout for stories from their districts trumpeting projects, and then look into where the money came from as well.

  • The biogas plant in Flint will receive nearly a million from the feds according to Dale Kildee's office. The plant is the first of its kind in the nation, and will convert waste into fuel. The King of Sweden visited and everything. You remember.

  • Mark Schauer's office announced three projects from the budget - a new runway for WK Kellogg Airport, new buses for Marshall that will help the elderly and disabled with transportation needs, and funding for Starr Commonwealth, which is a living program for emotionally troubled at-risk youth and young adults.

  • Carl Levin joins the earmark parade with $3.8 million to save a portion of Tiger Stadium. The total project will cost $27 million to create a community center and save the field for youth baseball.

  • Not budget, but maybe stimulus. Concrete tramway platforms built in the 1920's in Tawas Bay to ferry gypsum to freighters may be used to study wind power on Lake Huron. A non-profit corporation from Alabaster Township has been formed to approach the state with a plan with the hopes of securing stimulus funds for the project. Two years of data is needed to determine whether or not it would be a viable location. In other wind news, the Saginaw Chippewa's are studying whether wind and solar can be used to power the Saganing Eagle's Landing Casino and neighboring outreach center.

  • Wind energy from solar panels? Ann Arbor based Accio Energy is developing the "aerovoltaic" technology, figuring that panels are better than replacing moving parts in traditional wind turbines. Another Ann Arbor company, WindSight, is looking at commercializing wind-farm site assessment technology. Both companies will be at the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association's 2009 Michigan Wind Energy Conference March 3-4 at Cobo. For more info, click here.

  • President Obama is proposing $475 million for Great Lakes cleanup. This is a down payment on the $5 billion promised overall. Invasive species and pollution will be targeted first.

  • Vacuum sex? Not allowed in public in Saginaw County. What will you boys think of next?

  • Michigan Votes Wingnut Watch: House Concurrent Resolution 9

    Introduced by Rep. Paul Opsommer (R) on February 25, 2009, to reaffirm the right to bear arms under the Michigan Constitution, the supremacy of the Second Amendment over the Commerce Clause, and the intent of the Michigan Legislature to not recognize or enforce unconstitutional firearm restrictions placed upon its citizens.


    Whatever. If it's unconstitutional, how is it the Legislature could enforce it? More Republican legislation looking for a problem that doesn't yet exist - wasting your time and taxpayer dollar. Let's see THAT put on the state "transparency" web site.
  • Obama 2010 Budget Pledges Billions in Aid to Auto Industry

    Oh thank God. This is the best news that Michigan, and the nation, could receive right now.

    The 2010 budget plan outlined Thursday by the Obama administration pledges a $150 billion, 10-year commitment to seeking more energy independence, including research and funding for attempts to boost auto fuel efficiency.


    Wonderful. Keeping them in business in the first place is paramount though, and that's where this next passage comes in.

    The administration's top budget official also said that a $250 billion "placeholder" set aside for new efforts to shore up banks could provide money for additional aid to the auto industry.

    "We don't know exactly what, if anything, will be required, whether in the financial industry or in subsectors." said Peter Orszag, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.


    Coming on the heels of the news that GM lost $30 billion last year and is coming close to a determination on whether or not it can still be considered a "going concern" (translation: bankrupt) - well, we might just save the country from tipping into a full-blown depression if we can get this through. And tieing it to the bank money is just wicked smart. Although one in four are against aid to the auto industry at this point, the other three don't realize how many jobs are affected if we let them fail. Heck, even Michigan Republicans are on their way to DC to lobby for more $$ for auto parts suppliers - which is where the bulk of the job loss would occur with a Big Three failure.

    So, let's do this and save the nation. As an added bonus, we get to piss off Bob Corker and Richard Shelby. I'd gladly incur more debt to do that.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    Six O'Clock News - Voice of the Turtle Edition

  • "For lo, the winter's past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds has come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. Happy New Year everybody! It's Tiger baseball, 2009!" Hear Ernie say the original from 1993 at the Freep. Gave me chills.

    The Tigers win their first Grapefruit League game of spring training, 5-4, over the Atlanta Braves. Fu-Te Ni (who?) picks up the win.

  • The Michigan Chamber of Commerce wants the state to refuse the unemployment benefits from the stimulus. But... but... but... how will we pay for your tax cuts, you heartless hypocritical bastards? Ohhh, I see. You want the money for your interests, but not for the working people of Michigan. Gotcha.

  • South salutes Granholm! South Carolina Rep. Cathy Harvin pens a letter to the Freep and tells us what is really going on in Mark Sanford's state. Hint: Mass layoffs, not so pretty a picture.

  • Battle Creek joins the growing list of communities looking to be a Promise Zone.

  • The state has taken over Pontiac's finances. The city has been in "financial chaos" and cannot come to agreement on budget difficulties. A financial manager will be appointed.

  • Lessenberry brings us sobering and stark reality in today's Metro Times. As one who has been watching the numbers with growing horror, I hate to say this, but he is probably right. Read if you want to be bummed out.

  • Which brings us to our state's finances. According to Gongwer, Mike Bishop says the Senate is "not interested" in the revenue enhancements that the Governor laid out amidst all the wailing over the deep cuts already in the budget. Are the Republicans proposing even more cuts in this time of great need? Take it away, Liz:

    A spokesperson for Ms. Granholm said the governor proposed a balanced budget with "painful cuts" that also aimed at ending the structural budget deficit.
    "The governor is not interested in exacerbating the structural deficit by using economic stimulus dollars in lieu of permanent changes. We hope that is not what the Senate majority leader is proposing," said Liz Boyd. "If the Senate majority leader is not interested in revenue enhancements, we look forward to seeing their votes for additional cuts."


    Given the fit that the House Democrats threw over the cuts already on the table, I'm interested to see how they will respond to more cuts from the Senate as well. Along with the reaction of the public. Serve 'em up.

  • No coal, says the governor. Yes coal, says Mike Cox. The DEQ plays it safe by appeasing both. And here comes the EPA! Fearless prediction: no way they ever build eight new plants in this state. Just can't see it happening.

  • Good news comes out of our snowy winter: water levels in the Great Lakes are rising. Don't know about your town, but Grand Rapids recorded its first back-to-back seasons of over 100" of snowfall in recorded history. As happy as I am for the Great Lakes - that's enough now, thank you. Let's play ball!
  • Tuesday, February 24, 2009

    Six O'Clock News - 8 Out Of 10 Americans Can't Be Wrong Edition

    Sorry no news yesterday, but I came to one of those places in the road where I was about to tell everyone in this unjust, unappreciative, soul-crushing business to go take a flying... so I stepped away from the microphone before someone got hurt. Namely me.

    Better now. Maybe. OK! Moving on...

  • This cheered me up. 79% of Americans are tired of the wingnuts obstructing progress. It's about time. Watch Obama kick some more booty tonight at 9PM.

  • Michigan will receive $882 million for Medicaid from the stimulus. With 1.65 million residents eligible for the program, and 50,000 added within the last four months, this will come as a welcome relief to both our budget and the hospitals that are feeling the strain of a failing health care system. Check out Progress Michigan's diary for more startling facts on what is rapidly becoming this nation's number one issue.

  • More benefits from the stimulus. The city of Howell was considering raising millage (that's taxes!, if you want to make a Republican cry) to pay for improvements to their water system. No more. $66 million will be coming to Michigan for drinking water infrastructure repairs. No only will it create jobs, it will save homeowners some bucks, at least for the short term. We still need $11 billion over the next 20 years statewide.

  • Some people that won't be receiving stimulus money, even through they want to - the city of Detroit, for Cobo improvements. The city council shot down the state plan to expand and improve Cobo today, much to the dismay of everyone that spent years trying to craft a regional solution to the problem. The Auto Show hangs in the balance. Ken Cockel Jr. can veto the council's vote.

  • House Democrats hit the road yesterday to tell the public about their idea for docking legislator pay when they miss session. The package of bills would also prevent lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for at least two years after they leave office. Son-of-Marden's Frankenstein Bill Knowling tries to take Republican credit for these ideas, but for some reason doesn't speak to the fact that the Senate has held up ethics reform as of late. MIRS tells us that Democrats are hoping that because McManus is running for office, she will finally move some legislation this year.

    They had little success last session with ethics reforms moving through the Campaign & Election Oversight Committee chaired by Sen. Michelle MCMANUS (R-Lake Leelanau). (Rep. Tim) Bledsoe said he's been trying to make an appointment with her for weeks with no luck. But he's hopeful, pointing out that she's running for Secretary of State and "you need a record to run on."


    Maybe when Michelle gets back from her latest vacation she will have time for the people of Michigan. Seeing as how she wants their votes and all.

  • About that vacation, another blip in MIRS has the Senate Republicans claiming that they needed this week off to talk to their constituents about the stimulus proposal. Just one problem with that excuse - the vacation was scheduled back in January, well before anyone knew when or if the stimulus package would pass. Which brings us back to one of the greatest mysteries of life - do Senate Republicans ever tell the truth about anything? Our four leaders from the chambers will be traveling to DC later this week to lobby for help for auto suppliers, so at least someone is doing something constructive.

  • Michigan is considering legislation that will put on state's worst tax dodgers up on the internet for the world to see. The DNews claims 350 people that owe the state at least $100 g's for starters. While questions about privacy and accuracy would be an issue, there are 18 other states that already do this, and they have had pretty good results. Georgia, for example, lists 420,000 individuals who owe a total of $1.4 billion - and they managed to snag eight state lawmakers as well. They paid up.

  • A group is lobbying for a change in Michigan's cable TV laws - seems deregulation has not lead to lower prices or increased competition as proponents had promised. Matter of fact, prices are higher than ever, and customer service is at an all time low. Anyone who has Comcast already knows this. Bishop trots out the "not a priority" excuse again when asked whether or not we could count on the Republicans for help.

  • A movie studio may be built in the old Freep building if Cassis doesn't find a way to stop it. Fingers crossed she doesn't, because that would be pretty cool.

  • GM won't build a new facility for Volt engine production, instead using existing space in Flint. Note to GM: Even if you are considering bankruptcy, please call it something other than "bankruptcy". Framing, people. Try "structured refinancing" or some such nonsense, and then get the media to repeat it. Or, sit on your cars for a few years, because no one will buy them.

  • I was never much of a wino, having been raised in Forest Hills where the kids drank straight whiskey right out of the bottle (no joke), but this sounds delicious: the nation's governors were treated to Michigan ice wine from Suttons Bay Black Star Farms at the big governor shindig at the WH last weekend.

    The White House paired the sweet A Capella Riesling ice wine with huckleberry cobbler with caramel ice cream.


    Yum. Sweet dreams. And rumors of conga lines. What happens in DC, stays in DC, and that's probably a good thing.
  • Monday, February 23, 2009

    We'll Take It



    One of the many times that the G has gone on the TeeVee in the past three days to tell the world the Republicans are full of shit.

    Rock on.

    Bishop, Michigan Chamber of Commerce Want Stimulus Money for Tax Cuts

    This should make it clear that the Senate Republicans intend on using stimulus money to cut taxes. Senator Ron Jelinek had previously indicated that stimulus money could be used to replace revenue that was cut from the MBT, now we have Mike Bishop and the Chamber of Commerce echoing that very same thing. Bishop and the Chamber are insiting that we "balance the budget", but they are more than happy to throw that balanced budget out the window if it means more tax cuts.

    Bishop said Michigan's first objective should be to balance its budget — without the stimulus money.

    The Michigan chamber's Holcomb said the money should not be used “as a one-time crutch.” He said budget cuts, government reform and efficiency measures are needed regardless of the federal money.

    But Holcomb did say one question worth exploring is whether the stimulus money could be used to repay the state's federal unemployment borrowing and thus avert the need for higher employer taxes. Or, he asked, is there a way to use the stimulus money to help pay to phase out the surcharge on the Michigan Business Tax?

    Bishop said he would like to find a way to use stimulus money to provide MBT or other tax relief.


    Tax cuts in a time of budget deficit are a form of "spending". Why is it Bishop and the Chamber feel it's OK to use this "one time crutch" to spend money on their special interests, but yet insist that others must keep the budget balanced?

    IOIYAR. In the pocket of the Chamber.

    If the Senate wants to find a revenue-neutral replacement for problems with the MBT, that's fine. Go do it. Please. But spare us the sanctimonious cries about "balancing the budget" when your actions show that you are going to do everything in your power to create another deficit.

    The battle lines are being formed as the Republicans keep floating their ideas for stimulus "spending". Watch for it. The question now is: Will they use this as an excuse to obstruct stimulus money from moving through the legislature, denying us job creation? Will they insist on "tax cuts" before the people of Michigan see the relief the President wants to provide?

    Stay tuned.

    Sunday, February 22, 2009

    Granholm Takes Down GOP on Auto Industry Loans

    This was beautiful. Setting aside the argument of whether or not Democrats should go on FOX (although I just saw Howard Dean on there), if you are going to go on FOX, this is how you do it.



    First of all, put your opponent on defense. She corrects Wallace on the term "bailout"...

    WALLACE: Speaking of bail-outs, two of the Big Three, Chrysler and General Motors, came to Washington this week, Governor Granholm, and asked for another $21 billion in emergency loans. The companies still haven’t resolved all their issues with the unions and the bond holders. They still haven’t shown a clear path to solvency. Why should the taxpayers keep them on life support?

    GRANHOLM: First of all, let’s be clear. This is a loan. It’s a loan that -- they are attempting to prove viability so they can pay it back. When this happened with Chrysler before, Chrysler paid it back. The taxpayers actually won.


    ... and not only sets the terms of the conversation, turns the point into a victory. Now watch as she takes Sanford out before he even gets up to bat.

    WALLACE: Of $1 billion.

    GRANHOLM: Right, right, but it was a different time, too, and a different circumstance, and it didn’t happen during the course of a major national meltdown.

    This problem is -- the problem of the -- with the auto industry is layered upon the lack of consumer confidence. People are not buying cars, I don’t care whether they’re American cars or international cars. My pal here from South Carolina, who I think is a bit -- I mean, you’d have to say he’s a bit of an outlier in terms of economic theory. He’s somebody who is more of a libertarian than the rest of us or most folks -- would say that this creative destruction would be good.


    She then went on to make two very pertinent points...

    Every single country that has an auto industry is stepping forward to help that auto industry. Why wouldn’t we help this industry, too? Because it needs 3.5 million jobs.

    You talk about a stimulus that’s supposed to save or create 3.5 million jobs. Well, we would just take that whole thing away. Communities all across the country, from Michigan to South Carolina to Minnesota, would be seeing devastation.


    ... but Sanford is still stuck on being painted into a corner, and has to defend himself first thing.

    WALLACE: Well, let me bring in the outlier here, Governor Sanford. You have a BMW plant in South Carolina which, as I -- I think is not asking for any federal help.

    SANFORD: Right.

    WALLACE: So tell Governor Granholm why residents of your state don’t want to keep bailing out her companies.

    SANFORD: One, I’d say I don’t know that I’m an outlier. I think I’m really more fitting with where Main Street is, because when I talk to people back home at a town hall meeting, what they overwhelmingly tell me is, “I’m not getting a bailout. I don’t understand why everybody else is getting a bailout.”


    They had spent the first portion of the show talking about the stimulus and mortgage foreclosures. In this case, “Main Street” generally approves of the stimulus; Sanford doesn’t, and has been very vocal and hypocritical about it, and he and other GOP governors are split on this issue. He calls people who support the stimulus "fringe", and with Gallup showing 59% approval, he couldn't be more wrong. Yes, this is a different subject than the auto industry loans, but because the national conversation has shifted, and Granholm herself compared the auto job loss to the stimulus job gain – the two are tied together in this instance, and Sanford does look out like an “outlier”. He has zip for credibility on both issues now.

    Oh, and about BMW? They have laid off 900 temp workers in South Carolina since December, cut 850 temp workers in the UK (with an hour's notice) which sparked protests and a plea to the government for aid, will layoff 26,000 workers worldwide in February and March, have seen their stock drop 49% in the past year, and apparently will be asking Germany for state aid soon. Probably not the shining example of stability that Sanford would like to think they are. Later he brings them up again - but now you know the facts.

    Mark Sanford, always wrong. Doesn't matter what he's talking about. Granholm does a pretty good job on Pawlenty too, asking if he had read the latest Big Three Proposal (beat of silence - he hasn't, and therefore shouldn't speak to it) and she reiterated the concessions that the union has already made.

    All in all, good job by the Democrats today in the FOX Colosseum. Maybe the paradigm has shifted now with the election, and if you argue wisely, you remove the weapons from their hands before they can use them.

    Friday, February 20, 2009

    Six O'Clock News - Michigan Loves Obama Edition

  • 7 out of 10 Michigan voters approve of the job President Obama has done so far, and 47% strongly approve, according to Rasmussen. More good news for John McCain! Also should be wonderful news for all those Congressional Republicans who opposed the stimulus plan. Matter of fact, a poll done for DK shows that the GOP on the Hill is riding a whopping 18 on their favorables. This is probably why I got a nice e-mail from Vern telling me how much he likes science, and why I'm seeing ads on the TeeVee that tell me Fred Upton is a swell guy for voting for SCHIP. This is called "damage control", but I don't think it's working...

  • Also from Rasmussen, a majority of Michigan voters favor aid to the auto companies. 52% said they support, 36% opposed, 12% were unsure. Nationwide polls aren't so kind, with almost two thirds opposed. Perhaps another depression will change their minds. Senator Shelby is voicing his displeasure once again; perhaps Alabama should give up its stimulus to show us how it's done.

  • Governor Granholm walks into the Colosseum on FOX News Sunday to have a chat with Chris Wallace. The Governor and Ed Rendell will attempt to figure out how their Republican friends across the aisle, Mark Sanford and Tim Pawlenty, can be so hypocritical and still keep a straight face. Perhaps this will be an opportunity to get more stimulus money for Michigan by forcing Sanford to live up to his original stance, yes? Extra $$ to the governor that can do so.

  • Speaking of stimulus (cause we will be talking about this all year), the Governor continued her travels around the state today, and this Grand Rapids resident couldn't be more thrilled that this will enable us to add a third lane to 196 through downtown. This is so badly needed it's not even funny. Work was already scheduled to refurbish in 2010, and this saves the city from shutting it down again in the future by doing this all at once. Great news for GR. Now, I'd like to see a third lane on 96 to Lansing...

  • Meijer gets in on the Swift Wind Turbine craze with plans to add them to their corporate office and two lakeshore stores. Demand is rising for the Cascade Engineering product, with 60 installations scheduled over the next several months. With the tax credits offered by the stimulus package, look for demand to keep growing.

  • Just how radical was the Cliff Taylor Court? A Cooley law professor crunched the numbers:

    The results are astonishing: from 2000 to 2008, the Michigan Supreme Court overruled a combined 758 years of precedent in 24 criminal decisions and 697 years in 33 civil decisions. By contrast, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 46-year period (1946–1992) covering a volatile period in U.S. law (remember the Warren Court?), overruled its own precedent in roughly 130 cases. Averaged out, the Michigan Supreme Court overruled over seven cases per year while the U.S. Supreme Court overruled less than three cases per year.


    "Activist" judges indeed.

  • Jack Lessenberry discovers that cable news anchors are idiots. The real question is: When will the Detroit News discover Frank Beckmann is an idiot? Oops, too late, the socialists have already taken over.

  • The election is set for Mark Schauer's old seat in the Senate: Aug 4th for the primary, Nov 3rd for the general. Let the campaigning begin. Whoever wins has to bug the crap out of Mike Bishop. Precedent has been set.

  • Reminder: You can find out why Democrats are the way they are at MDP Convention, tomorrow at Cobo Hall in Detroit. Caucuses during the morning, speeches from all your Michigan favorites in the afternoon, many folks with be twittering the event. Follow all the action at http://twitter.com/michigandems.

    Have a great weekend!
  • Michigan Senate Still Pushing Bush Republican Economic Policies

    Just an update on a couple of things the Senate managed to "accomplish" before they took off for another week of vacation. With Michigan and the rest of the nation in economic crisis, unemployment growing, state budgets facing major deficits - our Senate Republicans are insisting on continuing with the Bush policies that got us here in the first place.

    First, let's continue to destroy the middle class with anti-union measures that will keep Michigan workers in the "race to the bottom" as far as wages and working conditions go. The Senate passed SR 16 along party lines 20-15, Republicans for, Democrats against. Introduced by Senator Jansen, and sent to the US Congress (who will promptly laugh and throw it away)...

    SR 16 - A resolution to memorialize the Congress of the United States to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act.


    Senators Basham, Gleason and Prusi stood up to protest this resolution. Here is Senator Gleason, who summed it all up quite nicely:

    Now there has been an awful lot of blame put on collective bargaining units the last few decades, but also there are quite a bit of evidence that as collective bargaining units have met their demise, so have the middle class. It is unusual we use the same argument over and over again that those who belong to unions have caused some destruction to our national and state economy. Who could argue the fact that the more that we give the hardworking men and women in this state, the more they are going to spend; the more they are going to rev up this economy that has stalled. But how could anyone be small-minded enough to think when only about 11 percent of working men and women belong to unions, that that small percentage of union membership has caused the destruction of the state and national economy?


    Senator Gleason offers that this is yet another attempt in the long line of attempts to make Michigan a right-to-work (for less) state, and he is correct. Destruction of the unions is the goal of Republicans everywhere, and our Republicans are no exception.

    Next, we move on to the other Republican favorite - tax cuts for the rich. From MIRS, in yet another attempt to dismantle the MBT and create more holes in the budget that the Senate refuses to fill, Nancy Cassis offers up SB 69 to a panel for consideration. Under this bill, more businesses would be offered tax breaks by expanding the MBT to include higher wages for CEOs and less jobs created to qualify...

    The bill addresses two tax exemptions. It gives an alternate tax break, or small business credit, to businesses whose gross receipts don't exceed $20 million. Businesses could qualify for the alternate tax if their officers' pay didn't exceed $250,000, up from $180,000 in the existing MBT. Businesses could qualify for the entrepreneurial credit if their gross receipts aren't more than $25 million and the bill would lower the number of jobs they would have to create from 20 to eight and lower the capital investment from $1.25 million to $500,000


    ... and it would dig the deficit $250 million deeper. When asked about that problem, once again Cassis shrugged her shoulders, and offered her "standard answer" of the "cost of doing nothing was much higher", although this is the equivalent of doing nothing, because it won't get past the House, just like last year when they tried this.

    So easy to just "cut", isn't it? Why bother doing the heavy lifting? Cherry and Jacobs called it out for what it is - a tax break for the wealthy with no conditions on job creation or investment.

    But all that was a little hard for some Democrats to swallow. Sen. Gilda JACOBS (D-Huntington Woods) said that "95 to 97 percent" of Michiganders don't pull down $180,000 per year.

    "We certainly need to look at fairness here when the economy is struggling," she said.

    Sen. Deb CHERRY (D-Burton) added: "I do think this is a targeted tax cut for CEOs making $180,000."


    This bill is opposed by, well, everyone with a brain. They asked about what should be cut to make up this revenue...

    The Michigan Fiscal Responsibility Project, composed of the Michigan Municipal League, Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan and the Michigan Nonprofit Association, opposes the bill. In a memo, the group asked legislators to identify which programs should be cut to cover the revenue loss.


    ... and the ball was punted to people outside the Legislature.

    Jacobs raised this a couple times and Holcomb responded that the (Michigan) Chamber (of Commerce) and other groups, including the Center for Michigan, had identified $1.5 billion in cuts.


    Just as long as the Legislature doesn't have to do it, right? After all, we wouldn't want to break the long-running record of the Senate Republicans wasting our taxpayer time on legislation that goes absolutely nowhere.

    These actions show that the Senate Republicans have no intention of either being responsible with the budget or working towards compromise on Michigan's problems. They pass their rightwing resolutions, they cut taxes for the rich, and then they go on vacation.

    How has that worked out for us so far?

    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Six O' Clock News - Takin' It To The Streets Edition

  • Governor Granholm and Senator Stabenow were making the rounds across the state today to talk about the stimulus and job creation. Granholm has been focused on road repairs, talking to transportation people in Detroit, Lansing and Flint. The Freep has some of the Detroit projects already listed - and remember, this can't go to local roads, federal rules apply, so look for a lot of highway and bridge construction. Granholm says that Michigan will receive $850 million for roads, and that is expected to create around 25,000 jobs. Plus save a lot on car repairs. (my words there)

    Stabenow was in Grand Rapids this morning, and Lansing later in the day, and her emphasis was on energy and energy efficiency jobs, as well as green manufacturing for wind turbines and the like. Note to GR: Please stop the "Mom likes you best" routine. Yeah, I do it too, but it's not very dignified coming from our officials.

  • Michigan schools will be spared cuts in the budget - the federal stimulus tells them so. Use of the money stipulates that "funding for schools and colleges must be kept whole to be eligible for federal recovery money". The governor's office doesn't see it that way, but as the Detroit News article says, it sounds like semantics. They intend on the cuts, but the stimulus will make it whole, so then it isn't a cut. Or something like that. I don't know, I'm tired, and they lost me here. It will all come out in the wash eventually. Go read the story for a nice breakdown on the numbers for all categories.

  • The most important thing I've gathered from stories on the stimulus - it has to be done soon. There is a time limit on the funding. Use it or lose it. Whatever needs to move through the legislative process needs to MOVE - not get bogged down in endless fighting. We need jobs now, and the legislators better get that through their thick skulls and not play games. Or I hound you for eternity. Ask Mike, he will tell you.

  • Twitter Pete loves him some stimulus. Congressman Hoekstra joins the growing ranks of Republicans that voted against the stimulus, are running around denouncing the stimulus, but yet will take advantage of the stimulus, if and when it suits their needs, of course:

    Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., recently tweeted: "If you know of someone thinking of buying first home, now may be the time. Stimulus incentive is very generous! Up to 8k! Check it out."


    The ABC story has the long list of GOP bandwagon jumpers.

  • The Michigan GOP will be singing the lyrics to "Dixie" as Haley Barbour will be the big draw in Lansing this weekend. The Goopers look longingly to the only base they have left - that is as the regional party of the South, and politicians that campaigned on keeping the confederate flag as a symbol of honor. What's the matter, Shelby wasn't available?

    Barbour is among a handful of GOP governors who claim they are considering turning down stimulus money to "burnish their conservative credentials", all the while knowing that they can and will accept it anyway. After all, if Mark Sanford has already changed his tune, they can too. Barbour's state of Mississippi is running a $1.7 billion dollar deficit next year. Do you suppose that Mike Bishop will take him aside and chew him out for his "overspending"?

  • Saturn dealers are discussing plans to spinoff from GM, making it an independent company that contracts the cars to be manufactured. That would be sweet, returning Saturn to its independent roots that made it unique in the first place. Wish them luck on getting the funding for something like that, GM will make an announcement after further study. 60 days is the time frame for a decision.

  • Smart auto suppliers are looking to diversify their product lines and check opportunities in "aerospace, defense, medical devices, and alternative energy". Around 300 of them attended the Automotive Manufacturing Diversification event at Grand Valley State University yesterday. While none of them plan on abandoning their auto lines, they are looking at high growth areas: medical supply needs are growing as the boomers age, and, this was a big one:

    Parts for utility-grade wind turbines, the gear or direct-drive control boxes, and the massive blades could all be made in Michigan, he said. The U.S. already has 120 wind turbine manufacturers, but 50 percent of the demand must be imported.


    And that is where we can cash in. Get to it, auto people.
  • Count Her In: Terri Lynn Land Running For Governor 2010

    But you knew that already.

    Land, 50, she will file paperwork for a gubernatorial exploratory committee (with her agency’s Bureau of Elections) today, and plans to discuss her aspirations with delegates to the Republican State Convention this weekend in Lansing.


    Let the digging begin!

    Michigan Budget Deficit is Due to National Recession

    Ha! I knew it. Let's go back a week, when Matt Marsden said this:

    "For us to accept the stimulus package and not address the problems that have gotten us to this place - a $1.6 billion deficit - is irresponsible," said Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.


    Well, we better start addressing Republican economic policy then, because you ARE the problem, Matt. According to the Senate Fiscal Agency (the people that crunch the numbers for the Michigan Senate), our current budget shortfall comes courtesy of George Bush and the Republican Recession. Take it away, Gary Olson:

    If the national economy hadn't dropped into recession, and if the state had not approved the film credits or the Earned Income Tax credit, the state's FY 2010 budget would be $64.5 million in the black, the SFA reported today.


    I don't know the numbers on the EITC, but the film credits weren't all that much (compared to some of the numbers we talk about around here) and they made us more money than they cost, so roughly, we were right in the ballpark for '08. The governor doesn't agree, but we all know she's no fun, being all "responsible adult" and stuff. Olson went on:

    The Governor told the media that she saw roughly $900 million of the $1.4 billion budget hole for FY 2010 as being "structural" and the rest being a symptom of the down economy. But Olson told the Senate today that the budget was actually "structurally balanced" in its '08 budget and that nearly all of the $1.2 billion hole is due to the economy.

    Commenting on this year's budget, Olson said, "This is certainly an imbalance. Whether it's structural or not, I'll leave that up for you to decide."


    Are there things we need to fix? Yes, of course. Fix the MBT so everyone will stop whining about it, first of all. Can we streamline and be more efficient? Sure. But as far as our current budget problems go, we can thank the national economy for that.

    Another talking point bites the dust.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    Six O'Clock News - Overstimulated Republicans Edition

  • Senate Republicans are poking around MDOT, asking for a list of the road construction projects up for funding from the stimulus. Wonder why they didn't just ask the governor since she was the one handling all requests. Hmmmm. How curious. MDOT told them to talk to the Governor's Office. Today, the entire list of requests went live at the Michigan Recovery & Reinvestment web page. Dig in everyone. Now watch for the Republicans to complain a lot about this, that, the other project - unless it is in their district, of course. Or, maybe they will do the honest thing and publicly denounce the new roads and job creation that will come to their constituents. Yeah. That's the ticket.

  • Debbie Stabenow will be in Grand Rapids tomorrow to talk about the stimulus at the Van Andel Institute. They are in the midst of a LEED- certified expansion, and she will talk about her Green Collar Jobs Initiative. Thank you, Senator, for stopping by. Show us what the Republicans turned down.

  • Training for some of those green collar jobs will be done at Kalamazoo Valley Community College - they are starting the first wind turbine technician course in the country.

    The 26-week academy will be based on a European certification standard and train people to work on the utility-grade turbines that are found on wind farms.

    There is a similar program to it in Alberta, Canada, but when this program launches in October through KVCC's Michigan Technical Education Center, it will be the only one like it in the United States, said Jim DeHaven, vice president for economic and business development for KVCC.

    "People are going to be coming from all over the country to get into this class because the waiting list is so long in Alberta," DeHaven said.


    In addition to the wind turbine course, the college is also "contracting with Entegrity Wind Systems Inc. to become the company's U. S. workforce-development headquarters". KVCC recently installed its own turbine at the college, and the company will train in "sales and service personnel in marketing its products, and certify workers in the installation, commissioning, operation and maintenance of its 50-kilowatt, 145-foot turbines like the one at KVCC." You know, jobs.

  • More green news and the jobs that come with it, GM announced they have plans for two more electric models based on the Volt's powertrain. GM received a tax credit incentive along with Ford yesterday for Advanced Battery development - the first credits awarded since the state passed the legislation in January. GM plans to expand it's hybrid and plug-in models from 6 in 2008, to 14 by 2012, to 26 in 2014.

  • The Michigan Campaign for Justice wants to see the state do more to help secure competent legal defense for the poor. Forty-three states spend more per-capita on indigent defense than Michigan. Not only is it the moral thing to do, it might help reduce our prison population if people had better help. Budget issues stand in the way.

  • Michigan fish news. The northern pike in Long Lake have changed color, from dark green with spots to a light color with a "chain link" pattern. Fish experts are scratching their heads, having never seen this before. Meanwhile, a crucial link in the food chain, the amphipod species known as diporeia, has all but disappeared from Lake Michigan due to quagga mussels. This is hurting the whitefish population, as well as the fish that serve as dinner for salmon, trout and other sport species. When do we get that money to clean up the Lakes again?

  • A shout-out to one of my fellow photogs - David Trumpie has a nice gallery of pictures from the State of the State Address at Dome Magazine. He had better floor access than I did. Lucky bastard.

  • A sad note - Owosso native, MSU alum and pro football player Brad Van Pelt passes away from a heart attack at the age of 57. Van Pelt spent most of his 14-year NFL career with the NY Giants, and was nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While at MSU in 1972, he won the Maxwell Award, the first time a defensive player had been honored with an award to recognize the "best player in college football".
  • Mike Bishop Wants to be Your Next Attorney General!

    We're just having a Mike Bishop kinda day here. It's officially official - Mike Bishop has filed the paperwork to form an exploratory committee to run for AG. Something tells me that he would make Cox look like a decent and reasonable fellow. Call it a hunch.

    Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop is exploring a run for Michigan attorney general in 2010.

    The Rochester Republican made the announcement Wednesday. He's the second attorney general candidate to form a campaign committee allowing him to raise and spend money.

    State Sen. Bruce Patterson of Canton announced his bid last month.


    So we have Bishop vs. Patterson for AG, and Brown vs. McManus for SOS. THAT will make for some interesting times in the Senate this year, don't you think?

    Seems we might have to get in line to put in our two cents on Senator Bishop's aspirations though. There are people who beat us to the punch already. Bruce Patterson, for example. When asked about some of their now infamous spats, Patterson replied, "Mike Bishop couldn't get elected dogcatcher in Northville", because of the annexation issue. And on the subject of honesty, here is my personal favorite:

    "I'm not suggesting Mike Bishop isn't credible or articulate, but the honest part, I'm not so sure of," Patterson added.


    Bill Schuette will be running as well, and has already brought up the tax vote as a weapon. Damn, it sucks when your own team uses stuff like this against you, especially when they all voted to spend the money afterward. At least Bishop wasn't visited by the Pink Pig as the Democrats were.

    Now mind you, the income tax has nothing to do with being Attorney General, but in an ultra conservative GOP state convention, delegates may not cotton to a guy who opened the door for that to happen.

    At least that's what the Schuette folks are hoping which is why they played that card even before Bishop gets his tanned bod into the pool.


    His "tanned bod into the pool"? Um, something you want to tell us, Tim?

    Nevermind. We need to take our number and wait our turn. Mike Bishop might get to take a vacation next week, but we never rest.

    Whitmer Questions Why Senate is Taking Next Week Off

    Senator Gretchen Whitmer asks why the need for yet another vacation for the Senate. Seems she has asked around, and someone said, "we don't really have much to do".

    Budget? Create jobs? Hello?



    The House is working next week. According to the Journals, the Senate has spent a total of 12 days in session this year. Just a reminder, today is February 18th.

    And now they are taking another week off. For no apparent reason other than they just don't want to be there.

    This is the resolution that has Whitmer on a tear. Senate Republicans didn't want to pay state employees for President's Day because of our "dire" situation.

    SR 13 - A resolution to urge the Governor to work with the Civil Service Commission to require that state employees either work on President's Day or take the day off as an unpaid holiday to reflect the state's dire financial challenges.


    But they are taking another week off. Bet it's paid, too.

    Just another example of Mike Bishop's work ethic. We have plenty of those we can talk about, and we are going to get our chance pretty darn quick.

    Mike Bishop to Fight Granholm on Use of Stimulus Money

    Wow, didn't see this one coming, did you? From MIRS, Mike Bishop issues a vague threat that he is going to obstruct the process of using the stimulus money to create jobs in Michigan.

    "It is the Legislature that has the responsibility to step up and resolve where the money is going to go," Bishop said. "If she wants to kick the constitution aside, that's up to her to try to do."

    An estimated 109,000 Michigan jobs would be created from the money spent through the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" that President Barack OBAMA signed into law today according to an analysis conducted today by Christina ROMER, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Jared BERNSTEIN, the Vice President's chief economist.


    Bishop, who told the Free Press the other day that the stimulus "makes me sick", wants to put the money in a rainy day fund, and give citizens a "rebate".

    Bishop also disagrees with House Speaker Andy DILLON (D-Redford Twp.), who in a public forum the other day explained that none of the federal job creating money could be stuffed into the state's Rainy Day Fund, which is exactly what Bishop wants to do with some of it.

    In addition, Bishop talked about sending some of it back to the citizens in the form of a rebate, which he argued would help stimulate the economy.


    So.... let's add it up. Republicans, who don't want the stimulus, wouldn't lift a finger to help obtain it, run to the press to cry about what a "disaster" it is, are using it against Democrats in ads already - think that they will be the ones who will tell us how to spend it.

    Yeah. Like that. Is any of this surprising? Anyone?

    Oh, and by the way, Bishop will announce this week he is forming an exploratory committee to run for Attorney General.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    Six O'Clock News - Beyond Extreme Edition

  • Posters at BFM had a little concern last year about whether or not Rep. Jim Slezak from the 50th was really a Democrat or not. Early indications are that those suspicions may have been correct, as he is exhibiting some real Republican behavior already. And, judging from quotes in the story and comments underneath it, Slezak is not endearing himself to his constituents when he does things like this:

    Sure, it's not an overnight stay in the Lincoln Bedroom, but state Rep. Jim Slezak, D-Davison, is hoping his first major fundraiser is seen as refreshingly out of the ordinary. Slezak is soliciting people to go on a cruise with him to the Bahamas.

    The trip costs about $660 per person, including a $350 donation to Slezak, and is so unusual the new lawmaker had to check with the Michigan secretary of state's office to make sure it was legal. The charge doesn't include airfare or all the little umbrella-laden beverages you can drink.


    Been in office a month. Campaign finance guru Rich Robinson said he had never heard of a state legislator doing such a thing. "It gets to a point where it's kind of toxic. It goes beyond extreme," he said. Sure does.

  • Pink hair is no longer allowed for elementary students in Gwinn. "Natural" colors only. Also, no hats, bandanas or sweat bands. Tattoos must be covered. Wait, tattoos? On elementary school kids? Just what are they doing up there in the UP? Someone might want to go check...

  • On to "extreme" drinks. Sen. Mickey Switalski wants the caffeine content listed on energy drinks - to which this caffeine fan says, "Oh, hell yes!". I want the most bang for my buck, and those things are expensive. Switalski even made a YouTube to tempt me. The good Senator has a point though - these drinks are marketed to kids, and no one needs a bunch of hopped-up children running around coloring their hair pink and getting tattoos. Also included in Switalski's effort: legislation to limit the sale of junk food in schools and testing for steroids in high school athletes.

  • Muskegon looks to be the first to take advantage of the new Promise Zone legislation, voting to submit their plan to the state Dept. of Treasury. Three districts in Jackson County are looking to band together and form a plan to pitch to the state. Lansing also voted to submit their plan just recently as well. First come, first serve... a total of 10 districts will be eligible.

  • Former deputy Commerce Department director Greg Main will be replacing Jim Epolito at MEDC. Business folks seem pleased. Key quote: "We were talking about diversification back in the 1980s. As soon as the auto industry started coming back we sort of forgot about that." Uh, yeah. We know. Let's not do that again.

  • Congrats go out to Freep reporters Jim Schaefer and M.L. Elrick for snagging a George Polk Award for Local Reporting with their tireless efforts on the Kwame Kilpatrick text scandal.

  • Saving the best for last: Ford will be receiving a $55 million tax credit (for our economically challenged Republican friends, that's different than a tax cut) for their work on electric batteries. Ford plans to bring four electric models to market by 2012. Read the company release here.
  • UAW, Detroit 3 Reach Tentative Deal - GM To Cut 47,000 Jobs, Close Five Plants

    Breaking - from the Detroit News, GM asking for $16.6B in aid if market conditions warrant. Here are the rest of the details:

    -- Eliminating 47,000 workers -- 37,000 hourly workers and 10,000 salaried workers -- around the world this year, including 20,000 workers in the U.S.

    In the Dec. 2 submission to Congress, the automaker said it would cut up to 31,000 jobs.

    -- Shuttering five more plants in North America, bringing the total to 14 plant closures within the next three years.

    -- GM continues to talk to dealers about the future of the Saturn brand, which could be eliminated in 2011 unless dealers come up with an alternative.

    -- GM has several parties interested in buying the Hummer brand, but the brand could be eliminated by the end of March if a deal is not reached.

    -- GM is negotiating a deal for Saab with the Swedish government, but if none is reached, the subsidiary could file for reorganization this month or next. That would leave GM with four core brands: Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick.


    Here is the UAW/Big 3 link:

    "The UAW has reached tentative understandings with Chrysler, Ford and General Motors on modifications to the 2007 national agreements. The changes will help these companies face the extraordinarily difficult economic climate in which they operate. Discussions are continuing regarding the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Associations (VEBAs) at all three companies.

    "The UAW is withholding the terms of the tentative understanding pending completion of the VEBA discussions and ratification of the agreements.


    And say goodbye to the PT Cruiser, destined to be one of those weird cars you see in collector's garages, as Chrysler hangs on by a thread.

    Chrysler LLC will need an additional $5 billion to survive the U.S. recession, telling the Obama administration today that it plans to cut an additional 3,000 jobs this year as part of its restructuring plan.

    The automaker warns that if it does not receive the federal money and needed concessions by March 31, "management believes the only alternative would be to immediately plan for an orderly wind down of all operations through a court-supervised liquidation.


    The Dodge Durango and the Chrysler Aspen are also on the chopping block. Not to mention thousands of Michigan jobs. Keep you fingers crossed they can pull through.

    Congress' Approval Rating Jumps to 31%

    Check out this new poll from Gallup and smile.

    Gallup's latest congressional job approval rating, from a Feb. 9-12 poll, shows a sharp 12 percentage-point increase from last month, rising from 19% to 31%. While still quite negative on an absolute basis, this is the best rating for Congress in nearly two years.


    And why?

    Democrats' average approval ratings of Congress more than doubled from January (18%) to February (43%). Independents show a smaller increase, from 17% to 29%, while Republicans are now less likely to approve of Congress than they were in January.

    The more positive ratings for Congress among Democrats may also reflect an implicit endorsement of the work Congress has been doing to pass the economic stimulus plan, which had considerable support among rank-and-file Democrats, according to recent Gallup Polls.


    There's some change we can believe in.

    Michigan House Democrats Propose 90-Day Halt on Foreclosures

    Since I teased the lawmakers with the last post, let's focus on some good stuff they are trying to accomplish. House Democrats are holding news conferences today in Saginaw and Lansing to highlight legislation that will call for a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures. This would stop the slide, at least for now, and give banks and borrowers a bit of time to come up with a plan to address the problem. Independent Bank jumped first yesterday with an announcement that they would halt foreclosures for the next three weeks.

    The announcement follows that of Independent Bank on Monday committing to a three-week moratorium on home foreclosures while it awaits details of President Barack Obama's $50 billion foreclosure prevention program.

    Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo & Co. also agreed to suspend foreclosures.


    House Democrats, trying to bring a bit of relief to struggling homeowners. You can guess what side of the debate the Senate Republicans fall on, can't you? Hint: It's not you.

    "I would like to see the details. I guess it gives folks a place to live for 90 days. But what happens to the person who is footing the bill?

    "It seems a little bit short on dealing with the issue -- the people who don't have jobs. They need a job to pay their mortgage."

    Jansen said the measure "feels a little political" as the first significant piece of legislation launched this year by the House.


    Yes, from the people who's first "significant piece" of legislation this year was to increase our budget deficit another $1 Billion with-a-capital-B dollars for business tax cuts (BTW, how is everyone enjoying those cuts to schools? Want more? The Senate will obviously be happy to oblige), now they think that saving people's homes, if even for a time, is "political".

    I think the only thing left to do at this point is to get the Republicans a bigger shovel so they can dig their own "political" graves even faster.

    UPDATE: The Freep has the details of the House Dem plan.

    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Six O'Clock News - Biddle City Edition

  • When you figure in the tax cuts, Michigan's total on the stimulus will be $18B, a figure that numbs the mind for anyone that has watched the numbers on the budget fights of this past decade. I believe that I heard that the state has received $69B in requests, so obviously not everything will receive funding. Fearless prediction: watch for the Republicans to be the first to complain when something in their district doesn't make the cut. Here is a breakdown from Gary Peters office:

    About $847 million is earmarked for highway and bridge projects, $135 million for public transit, $84 million for energy programs, $249 million for weatherization assistance, $237 million for water infrastructure, $1.6 billion for local budgets and $926 million for K-12 education, according to the office of U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.


    States across the nation are examining the question of fairness in the process of distributing the $$. Michigan will have web pages that list the requests and the spending - details still being sorted as to how the money will be allocated. "Some" will go through the legislature, perhaps as part of the budget.

  • The auto industry. Failure is not an option here. With that in mind, Geithner takes over the show, with all avenues being explored. Job cuts and plant closures will happen regardless. Too deep, long and scary to address here, but both links are good reads. Progress reported late today in the talks between GM and the UAW.

  • Jack Lessenberry points out that we need a constitutional amendment establishing a graduated state income tax" here in Michigan. Preach it, brother. Or should I say comrade? (I kid! I kid!) Folks, if you want quality schools, roads, communities, environment... find a way to pay for it. There is nothing more infuriating than people who complain about the lack of services while simultaneously asking for more "tax cuts". Back to the 80's with you. No place for you here in the future.

  • With the budget in mind, so far good reviews are coming in on the plan to thin Michigan's prison population, which actually has already started. In 2008, 71% of prisoners were paroled at their earliest release date, and our prison population has decreased by around 3,000 in the past two years, from 51,000 to 48,000. The goal is to hit 45,000, a figure not seen since 1999.

  • Dow plans to sell solar shingles by 2011. Interesting concept; an official calls them "individual little power plants", probably easier to repair and replace than a large solar panel would be. Hope it works, and takes off in sales.

  • Wind energy saw record growth in 2008. Unfortunately the Bush Republican Recession is taking its toll now as expansion has slowed. Chris Schilling at the Tri-Cities Business Review has crunched some numbers from the American Wind Energy Association, and found that Michigan is lagging a bit when it comes to hitting our potential. Although we are 14th out of the 50 states for overall capacity, we currently are at No. 22 in installed capacity. Gosh, it's a shame that our legislature didn't get a RPS passed sooner, huh? And, for all those who said this was a "fad" that wouldn't create jobs:

    The same report indicated that the share of domestically manufactured wind turbine components grew from under 30 percent in 2005 to about 50 percent in 2008. The report points out that U.S. wind turbine and turbine component manufacturers announced, added, or expanded 70 new facilities in the past two years.

    Moreover, those new manufacturing facilities created 13,000 new direct jobs in 2008.


    Back to you, Dick.

  • If you clean it, they will come back. A beaver lodge has been spotted on the Detroit River, the first in 75 years.

  • I want to be John T. Greilick when I grow up.

  • Lansing celebrates its 150th anniversary with a year-long celebration. The town started as a swampland swindle back in the 1830's, when two brothers from New York returned home and told of a non-existent "Biddle City" to sell plots...

    They told the residents of Lansing, New York that this new "city" had an area of 65 blocks, contained a church and also a public and academic square. A group of 16 men bought plots in the nonexistent city and upon reaching the area later that year found they had been scammed. Many in the group too disappointed to stay ended up settling around what is now Metropolitan Lansing. Those who stayed quickly renamed the area "Lansing Township" in honor of their home village in New York.


    In 1847, mindful of those nasty British across the river from Detroit, plans were made to move the capitol of Michigan inland. After days and days of "political wrangling" in the Michigan House over where to locate the new capitol, they decided in secret to locate in "Lansing Township".

    And so began the long tradition of endless political fighting and rash decisions made in frustration that continues to this day....
  • Michigan Legislation A Go-Go

    Thought we would bring you some of the fun ideas emanating from our esteemed lawmakers down in the pretty Dome. Info courtesy of MichiganVotes.org. Yes, it's the Mac Center, but go sign up for updates. It's very informative. Watch the Republicans increase spending while they reduce revenue! Identify baby wingnuts before they get into the press! Marvel at how they all want to blow holes in the tax code! Fun for the whole family!

    Without getting into the mind-numbing tax stuff, here are some highlights from recently introduced legislation:

    The "family values" party wants to repeal the state law prohibiting adultery.

    Senate Bill 221 (Repeal state adultery law)

    Introduced by Sen. Ron Jelinek (R) on February 12, 2009, to repeal the state law prohibiting adultery. This bill amends the sentencing guidelines statute.


    You go, Ron! We won't tell Gary Glenn. Now that adultery is off the books, let's get that booze flowin' have a par-tay at your local senior village. After all, you won't have to make much of a fuss about checking IDs.

    Senate Bill 216 (Authorize liquor licenses for continuing care retirement centers )

    Introduced by Sen. Jason Allen (R) on February 11, 2009, to authorize liquor licenses for certain continuing care retirement centers.


    Some Democrats got on board with that one as well. Naturally. Farmer's markets, too, can get in on some imbibing, but I have to ask, why not microbreweries? (or are they already allowed?)

    House Bill 4147 (Allow farmers market wine tastings and sales)

    Introduced by Rep. Goeff Hansen (R) on February 4, 2009, to authorize a special liquor license allowing Michigan winemakers (but not ones from other states) to sell wine and hold wine tastings at farmers markets and special events. The license would $25 per day.


    And wouldn't you know it, here we are trying to loosen those puritan laws up a little bit, and the damn Democrats have to go and slap a tax on everything.

    Senate Bill 44 (Impose $3 per customer on nude adult entertainment)

    Introduced by Sen. Ray Basham (D) on January 27, 2009, to impose a state tax of $3 per customer on establishments that provide nude adult entertainment.


    Geez. He's no fun. And under the "What in the Hell Brought This On" heading comes this offering from McManus...

    Senate Bill 197 (Specify putative father paternity suit circumstances)

    Introduced by Sen. Michelle McManus (R) on February 5, 2009, to establish in law the circumstances under which a putative father may sue to establish the paternity of a child born to a married woman. This would limit the ability of a putative father to bring a paternity suit if the mother had been married (to someone else) at any time between conception and the birth of the child, unless certain specific provisions spelled out in the bill applied and are met.


    Alrighty then. Moving on to some wholesome ideas (a-hem), Valde Garcia comes up with some "Now That Hoogendyk is Gone..." legislation. Interestingly enough, this is another bill from a Senate Republican (and co-sponsored by 5 other Senate Republicans) that would "expand government", if only slightly.

    Senate Bill 215 (Expand duties and rename state government Commission on Spanish-Speaking Affairs)

    Introduced by Sen. Valde Garcia (R) on February 11, 2009, to change the name of the state government Commission on Spanish-Speaking Affairs to the “Hispanic/Latino Commission,” and require this commission to “coordinate a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration,” a Cinco de Mayo celebration, and a Cesar Chavez day celebration in addition to its current duties. These include securing "appropriate recognition of Spanish-speaking accomplishments,” advising the governor and legislature on the “coordination of state programs serving Spanish-speaking people” and on “the nature, magnitude, and priorities of the problems of Spanish-speaking people," etc.


    Sounds good to me. More spending coming from a Republican, and this is sweet...

    House Bill 4240 (Require state to pay for all hearing aids)

    Introduced by Rep. Bill Caul (R) on February 11, 2009, to authorize a refundable income tax credit for the full amount paid for the purchase of hearing aids. Essentially, the state would reimburse all hearing aid purchases with no limit or means-test threshold.


    Finally, from the "Awww, Too Bad Your Party Wouldn't Vote For It" Department come this offering from Tom George. Why is it Republicans won't take responsibility to acquire the money, but somehow think they are entitled to tell everyone how to spend it?

    Senate Resolution 6

    Introduced by Sen. Tom George (R) on February 3, 2009, to memorialize the Congress of the United States to tie the federal economic stimulus package distribution to the unemployment rate in each state and to provide that those states with the highest unemployment rates receive a higher percentage of federal funds. Passed in the Senate by voice vote on February 3, 2009


    That's all for now...

    Sunday, February 15, 2009

    Michigan Senate Republicans Demand Stimulus Money For New Spokesman

    LANSING - Michigan Republicans today demanded that a portion of the state's federal stimulus money be set aside so they could purchase a new "Chatty Matty" Matt Marsden Robot Spokesman for Senate communication needs, or they would be unable to continue to obstruct important pending legislation this year. While refusing to put a price tag on the cost of a new model, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop demonstrated how the old spokesman was malfunctioning, combining 2007 and 2008 talking points and applying them to 2009 questions.

    "Watch what happens when I set the program for 2007", Bishop said, as he punched in numbers on a keypad located on the back of the spokesman's head. "It will still issue the standard response we used two years ago when we wanted to block progress Michigan's issues. Here is what we had him say for a good portion of that year."

    "That is not a priority at the top of the Senate's lists" said Matt Marsden, "We're occupying our time strictly on budget matters."


    "I think we used that one so much that at some point we corrupted the program", the Majority Leader went on, "So early in 2008, we had to do a complete wipe of its memory. When we needed a new response around March because the House was upset that we weren't doing anything, here is the statement we programmed in to replace the old message."

    "The focus needs to be on the urgent matters. And that's the economy and jobs right now," said Matt Marsden.


    "That worked great for whatever we needed to obstruct in 2008. Used it all year long, as a matter of fact. For 2009, we needed it to say something about 'transparency' because we had decided that would be our new excuse when it came to the budget and other issues that we won't want to address. But when he spoke to the Detroit News just recently, he simply repeated a combination of 2007 and 2008 talking points", Bishop explained.

    "Our primary focus is going to be on jobs and the economy," said Matt Marsden. "Anything beyond that is going to be pushed off to the side for now."


    "Now, obviously 'pushed off to the side' means the same thing as 'not a priority', but the program has become so dysfunctional he won't even say the word 'priority' anymore. Since we think the public will not accept us using the same excuses that we have used for the past two years, the Senate will not be able to continue its obstruction until we have a spokesman that will say what we need it to say when we are questioned as to why we won't move any legislation this year. Therefore, it's imperative that we receive the funding for a new model immediately".

    Bishop then switched off the power to the spokesman and declared that the Senate was "on vacation until further notice".

    When the original "Chatty Matty" makers, the Norquist Robot Spokesman Emporium and Dog Obedience School, were contacted for comment, the company declined to address this particular case citing pending legal action from Republicans in other states who had purchased similar models. They did indicate that they believe the problem does not lie in the robot itself.

    "These things are breaking down all over due to operator error", one official said. "We told them when they were sold that you cannot have the spokesman repeat the same thing over and over and expect top performance. The election season in '08 was the breaking point for quite a few of them".

    "As a replacement, we're running a special on the Scott McClellans", the official offered. "But after the unfortunate 'book incident', we haven't had any takers".