Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Sunday Paper: April 25, 2010

At the Drive-in
Speaker from the Getty Drive-in Theater in Muskegon. One of the few remaining drive-in theaters in the country, the 4-screen is now open for the season. Want a little nostalgia this summer? Take I-96 West until you can't take it no more, exit on Getty, and it's right down the road.

  • Geoffrey Fieger. Instant front-runner. Tells you something about the state of the Democratic ticket this year. Exactly what it tells you is up to your own interpretation... Fieger is waiting to see if Pacino has coattails before he makes a final decision on a run. Time is growing short, expect something soon.

  • Paul Krugman, on the Republican starve the beast playbook:

    The conservative answer, which evolved in the late 1970s, would be dubbed “starving the beast” during the Reagan years. The idea — propounded by many members of the conservative intelligentsia, from Alan Greenspan to Irving Kristol — was basically that sympathetic politicians should engage in a game of bait and switch. Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the government’s fiscal position. Spending cuts could then be sold as a necessity rather than a choice, the only way to eliminate an unsustainable budget deficit

    Mike Cox doesn't even bother with the niceties.

    Cox said if you cut taxes first, the spending cuts would be forced and noted that Michigan spends $1 billion on Medicaid services not required by federal law.

    1.7 million Michigan residents - one in six - rely on Medicaid. After last year's 8% reimbursement cut, doctors have started dropping patients. The government has cut 10,000 employees since 2001, and caseworkers juggle up to 700 cases each. Our Legislation has already cut optional services such as adult dental care, chiropractic care, hearing aids, eyeglasses and podiatry. What is left? "The only optional services still covered for hospitals are mental health, prescription drugs, orthotics and prosthetics." Oh, and throwing grandma out of the nursing home, if Mike Bishop doesn't beat him to it.

    Don't say you weren't warned.

  • Governor Granholm took her education reform message to the "belly of the beast" (two can play at that game, Senator Bishop) this week, writing a very nice editorial for the Detroit News that tells us that now is not the time for "mediocrity or timidity". Unfortunately for us, we have a Legislature that has made a career out of inaction - evidenced again this week by further stalling on the state employee retirement bills. Remember how they were going to get that done first thing after vacation? Yeah, me too. FYI - Governor will be on CNN's "State of the Union" today, check local listings.

  • Even the conservative Jackson Cit-Pat concedes we need to look at expanding service taxes to address our chronic budget problems.

  • While President Obama highlighted the auto industry recovery in his weekly address (read the full White House report here), auto industry analyst Eric Merkle has crunched the data, and points out that the car makers and their suppliers will have to pick up hiring soon. Thank the nice President for saving our state - as he said, liquidation could have cost the country up to one million jobs (or more), and would have devastated Michigan. Instead, we are back to adding jobs.

    "Productivity usually grows at 2 percent annually, but it's running now at 7 to 8 percent," he said. "That's not sustainable. All those people out there must be working like dogs."

    He doesn't foresee a "jobless recovery," because auto production will need to accelerate.

    "There's just over two million vehicles in inventory," Merkle said. "It's the lowest inventory-to-sales ratio in 15 years. I expect strong production in the second and third quarters this year."

    He knows his stuff. And as if to prove his point, supplier Johnson Controls announced a few days later that its automotive segment posted a 70% increase in sales, and auto mirror maker Gentex reported record sales and profits for the first quarter.

  • Housing starts in West Michigan are going through the roof, so to speak.

    Single-family home starts in Kent County are up 159 percent from the first quarter of 2009. Along the Lakeshore -- Ottawa and Muskegon counties -- starts are up 113 percent. And in the Kalamazoo County area, they're up 22 percent, according to Ada-based Builder Track.

    Home buyer tax credits and rising consumer confidence are behind the surge. Nationwide, sales of new homes grew 27% in March from February's record low - biggest monthly increase in 47 years.

    Keep that good news coming... it blows the Michigan Republican talking points all to hell.