Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Sunday Paper: September 19, 2010

Elephant Perp Walk. Unfortunately not the Republican kind. Every year when Ringling comes to Grand Rapids, the elephants and horses have to get off the train some distance from Van Andel Arena, so they hold a very brief parade through the downtown streets to get them to the show. I was surprised at how fast they move along - so much so I couldn't change the lens in time to get more of the line-up in this picture.

What is going around? I've had this horrible cold for a week that is just now finally going away. A few mini-diaries of pent up frustration for you...

  • According to WOOD TV, odds are increasing that Rick Snyder and Virg Bernero will not be holding any debates. Rick Albin reported that news following the policy forum in Grand Rapids last Friday, and he seemed pretty unhappy at the development. Oddly enough, WOOD chose not to put that report up on YouTube or their site, instead opting for the AP story and noon news video, where Tony Tagliavia previewed Albin's report by saying the campaigns "are not giving voters the full picture of their choice for the state's top office". Indeed. Hope other reporters pick up on non-answers too. The Freep has already made their views known on the debate issue.

  • In that AP story it is revealed that Snyder's lack of experience in government shouldn't be a worry because "he has spent time with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a fellow Republican, to discuss running a state". Indiana's unemployment rate is above the national average, currently 11th in the nation at 10.1%, and their poverty rate has jumped to 12th in the nation at 16.1% - well above the national average of 14.3%. I know Michigan Republicans get all starry-eyed about Daniels (he's soooo dreamy), but with these numbers, is Mitch really someone we want to be taking tips from? Uh, no thanks.

  • Even after all the hard knocks we have taken, Michigan's poverty rate ranked 20th in the nation at 14%, surprisingly below the national average. Not that any of these numbers are good, mind you - we have a severe problem across the country that is expected to go even higher when this year's numbers are added up. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that nationwide 3.3 million people were kept out of poverty thanks to the extended unemployment benefits, so, thank the Democrats for that.

  • Governor Granholm serves up the green jobs in this great article at Grist, explaining the steps we are taking in Michigan and making the pitch as to why the nation needs to get its act together and start investing more in clean energy.

    The question for America is: Do we want the U.S. to lead in clean energy, or do we want to take a backseat to countries like China? To paraphrase a line from Wayne Gretzky, China realizes that clean energy is where the puck is going, and they're skating toward it. According to a recent Pew study, China invested $34.6 billion in clean energy and energy efficiency in 2009 -- more than any other country. The United States was a distant second with $18.6 billion invested. China manufactured and installed more wind turbines than any other nation last year. These facts only bolster the case for why the United States must adopt policies to create a long-term sustainable market for wind energy -- or risk being left in the dust.

    National RPS, anyone? Please?

  • Action on the trade/manufacturing front: The US Steelworkers have filed a complaint with the Obama administration accusing China of World Trade Organization violations by illegaly subsidizing exports of clean energy equipment like turbines and solar panels. It's about time someone made it official. The administration has 45 days to decide whether to take up the case, and if they do, that might lead to formation of a W.T.O. dispute resolution panel in Geneva. For an extensive look at how China has rapidly cornered the global clean energy market (and may be creating their own financial bubble that could burst), check out this article in the NY Times. Reports of green American jobs leaving for China already is especially disturbing. Krugman has some thoughts on China's currency manipulation as well. Stay tuned...

  • Michigan's film incentives are back in the news in a big way. The Wall Street Journal published a glowing story on how the film industry has brought a new spark to Detroit; jobs and training for workers, money for local businesses that serve film crews and celebrities, the promise of studios that will provide year-round permanent employment. On the heels of that comes a report from the Senate Fiscal Agency that claims a net revenue loss - but with a caveat that they cannot yet adequately measure the total economic impact of the incentives.

    "Estimating the revenue impact of the film incentives adopted in 2008 has been difficult and will remain vulnerable to a wide margin of error until the State has enough experience to discern the correlations between projected media activity, the claimed credits, and wider economic conditions. In addition to major uncertainties, such as those created by the current weak economic climate (and associated lending crises), the ever-changing landscape of competing film incentives in other states and countries, and the wide variation in the costs associated with different productions, a variety of more administrative issues have complicated the estimates," the paper said.

    And as the Freep points out, you can't measure the "intangibles". SFA director Gary Olson admits as much as well, and the story goes on to give some very tangible examples of how the industry has brought a boatload of economic activity to workers and local businesses alike. Nancy Cassis, of course, has chosen to ignore all these points is yelling her head off about "holding hearings" on the report to continue her anti-film crusade. Maybe it's a good thing that Bishop is refusing to work for the rest of the year.

  • Good news for small businesses looking for help getting loans: After months of Republicans blocking the legislation, the US Senate finally passed the package that will set up a $30 billion fund to help community banks provide loans, as well as "cut capital-gains taxes to zero for some small-business investments and expand expensing of investment in new equipment." One Michigan business that has already been helped by SBA loan assistance is Proos Manufacturing in GR, who has now hired back employees they previously laid-off during the downturn in '09. With this funding, more small businesses will be able to get the credit they need to get rolling again...

    Moral of all these stories? Better vote for Democrats, or we end up the "Indiana of the North". You've been warned.