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Michigan is last in too many of the categories that really count

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  • Charles C. Primas
    Sunday, January 30, 2005 Michigan is last in too many of the categories that really count By Daniel Howes / The Detroit News
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 30, 2005
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      Sunday, January 30, 2005

      Michigan is last in too many of the categories that really count

      By Daniel Howes / The Detroit News


      Daniel Howes <http://www.detnews.com/pix/folios/autos/howes2003.jpg>

      These days Tom Clay of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan travels
      the state making presentations on the state school budget.

      It's exceedingly dry stuff, fit mostly for educators, politicians and
      policy wonks who find fulfillment in bureaucratic wrangling over line
      items and percentage changes. To rouse them from their lethargy he shows
      a slide that is simply frightening.

      According to "State Policy Reports" from the Federal Funds Information
      for States, Michigan is:

      Dead last among the 50 states in personal income growth.

      Last nationwide in employment growth.

      Last in the national index of economic momentum.

      And, as we've heard repeatedly the past week, it's No. 1 when it comes
      to having the nation's highest unemployment rate.

      His point? "There's not a very good understanding about how serious the
      problems with our economy are," says Clay, director of state affairs for
      the non-partisan research council. "The rest of the country is doing
      much better. What these statistics say is which state is the worst in
      terms of climbing out of this mess."

      That would be Michigan, where Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, and a
      Republican Legislature are presiding over a bipartisan economic mess.
      For perhaps the first time in modern times, Michigan and its bellwether
      auto industry are mostly sitting out an economic recovery that is
      creating jobs and wealth around the country.

      Michigan's largest company, General <javascript:companybox('GM')>
      Motors Corp., is one step away from seeing its corporate debt labeled
      "junk bonds." Its highly touted cash hoard of $23.3 billion is, in fact,
      running $9.2 billion in the red because of health-care obligations to
      retirees, and the growing talk around the industry is that GM appears to
      be losing its way.

      Michigan's major city, Detroit, has a mayor who's again making national
      headlines. Thanks to the "Navigate" scandal, the front page of The Wall
      Street Journal gave him a chance to exchange shots with political rivals
      before the paper told business-minded types from Augusta to Arizona that
      the financial bottom is falling out of Detroit and that people are
      leaving its schools in droves.

      None of this exactly inspires confidence with outsiders. They mostly
      aren't interested enough to take the time to understand how productivity
      is transforming manufacturing, why auto employment is shrinking even if
      production isn't or what, exactly, drove Detroit off a cliff.

      "As a business in the public markets, Detroit's reputation is a drag
      from time to time," says <javascript:companybox('DTE')> DTE Energy Co.
      <javascript:companybox('DTEpB')> p. Chairman Tony Earley. "We're tied to
      the perception of Detroit."

      And Michigan, which feels more and more like a place mired in a funk it
      can't shake. Its automakers still aren't firing on all cylinders; its
      political leaders still cannot clearly articulate solutions to the
      crises they face because they refuse to honestly acknowledge the causes;
      and its people just seem to want "them" to "fix it" so they can get back
      to the game without feeling any pain.

      Doesn't work that way. When you're dead last, as Michigan is, even
      die-hard sports fans know the road back is tough. Because it is.

      Daniel Howes' column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He can be
      reached at (313) 222-2106 or at dchowes@....


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