Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Sunday Paper: July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day.

Late edition today - spent the morning enjoying the quiet of the city. When you remove the constant hum of the everyday traffic and activity, only the chirping of the birds and the rustle of the leaves in the breeze remains. The usually hectic streets become a remarkable picture of tranquility, and you take the time to stop and notice the beauty that surrounds you. My thanks go out to everyone who left town and made that possible. ;-)

Here now the news. Today you get three mini-diaries that thread together that show we may have come to a crossroads in our economic recovery...

  • Rick Haglund writes that for all the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments the gubernatorial candidates are doing over the economic state of Michigan, the indicators this year are definitely pointing up. Nice to have someone in the MSM notice some of the same things I've noticed...

    Jobs appear to be returning, albeit slowly, to Michigan. Total non-farm employment has risen every month this year, even though the unemployment rate is still a too-high 13.6 percent.

    And for all the complaining that Granholm and the Legislature are mismanaging the state's finances, Michigan is in pretty good shape compared to many other states.

    True. They may be slow about getting the job done and that's irritating, but comparatively speaking, we are not facing some of the problems that other states are, simply because we have already made $10 billion in cuts over the years. That's why this is the time to invest, and make the state more attractive to prospective employers - not call for "more cuts".

    But Grimes says Michigan has an opportunity to attract more of those jobs because the state has comparatively lower wage rates and living costs than other places.

    Although the odds seem against it, long-suffering Michigan could be in for a surprisingly strong comeback.

    Although we have made strides towards diversifying the state's economy, this current bump still has strong ties to a resurgent auto industry - and that could falter with the recent drop in consumer confidence and that has produced slower auto sales. Fingers crossed we maintain some momentum, as both state and federal lawmakers grind progress to a halt for the sake of campaigning... because there are some scary things starting to happen...

  • A story from the NY Times shows that manufacturing jobs in America are making a slow but steady return, the problem for employers has been a lack of trained workers to fill the jobs that are available now. Companies are begging for people who have knowledge in advanced manufacturing techniques...

    The Obama administration has advocated further stimulus measures, which the Senate rejected, and has allocated more money for training. Still, officials say more robust job creation is the real solution.

    But a number of manufacturers say that even if demand surges, they will never bring back many of the lower-skilled jobs, and that training is not yet delivering the skilled employees they need.

    Gee, do you think maybe funding a jobs training program that addresses those specific needs might help? Maybe one that lands 75% of its graduates a job? Because the idiots just cut it. If you do, call your local obstructionist Republican and ask why the refuse to help willing and able American workers acquire the skills they need to fill the openings that exist today, and meet the obvious trend for the jobs of tomorrow. Even the "We Hate Everything" rightwing DNews editors agree that No Worker Left Behind is a sound idea and worthwhile endeavor - and as you know, for them to agree with a government program is some sort of miracle.

  • Cheers to Senator Debbie Stabenow, who has been very outspoken on the issue of restoring unemployment benefits, which are critical for helping to keep this recovery in motion. We just threw the equivalent of a city the size of Dearborn off of unemployment in Michigan, people that now may not be able to pay their mortgage or rent or even buy food for their families - and by year's end, that number may grow to nearly twice the size of the city of Grand Rapids. Imagine what that does to any recovery that is taking place. Senator Stabenow points out the double-standard that is happening in DC to Ezra Klein:

    Well, first of all, unemployment extensions have never, under a Democratic or Republican president, been funded other than through emergency spending [which is a technical designation that allows for deficit spending -- Ezra]. I’ve said it 100 times: if 15 million people out of work isn’t an emergency, I don’t know what is. The second issue is that in order to get the stimulative effect out of it, the spending needs to be done on the deficit. Economists will tell you that. And third, Republicans want to pay for it from taking money away from the recovery dollars. Those are dollars being used to create jobs in construction and manufacturing incentives and alternative energy. To take money from job creation to fund unemployment benefits makes no sense.

    Through eight recessions since the 1950s, Congress has never dropped the extension when the jobless rate has been this high. It will mark "the first time since then that extended benefits have been allowed to expire when the national unemployment rate is above 7.2 percent". And this coming on the heels of the "Great Recession" is insanity.

    So, which way will we turn? Will we continue our slow but steady upward climb, or will we put the brakes on recovery through this continued election-year obstruction? Lawmakers are on vacation for the next few weeks, and we will find out the answer when they get back. Maybe.

    Celebrate your country today, and say a little prayer that the people we have entrusted with our future make the right decisions.