The Long Hard Grind

I watched Governor Granholm’s town hall meeting on WILX 10 last night.

What struck me were two things that had been bothering me about the debate between the Republicans and Granholm, but I couldn’t put my finger on them until now.

Granholm talks about investing in things that will develop an educated workforce that will entice employers and grow new companies started in the state. She wants to do this with no cuts to education funding, providing retraining to laid off workers, and working with the business community to implement the kind of training programs at the community colleges for the workers needed.

The Republicans talk about government waste and no tax hikes. (And, as sick as I am of saying it at this point, the Republicans still won’t reveal what programs they want to cut or in what way certain departments are to be reformed to save money.) They believe that if we lower taxes enough it will encourage businesses to relocate here.

They are two very different views of both the situation and the solution. This is the first thing that struck me: I realized that Granholm and the Republicans are talking past each other.

What this state is going through is something that many other states in this country have gone through. Here it’s the decline of the manufacturing sector, based on the auto industry. States such as New Jersey, Illinois, California, New York, and Massachusetts, have gone through this. The shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a high-tech-based service economy is a long and very painful process.

For years, cities like Chicago were on the decline. In the suburb where I grew up, I saw GTE, International Harvester, and Western Electric all go away.

People who think a big company is just going to plop itself down in this state and hire a couple thousand people are living in a fantasy land. The future is in the 10-person company just started or the 50-person company started a few years ago. Eventually, with encouragement those companies will grow and hire more people. This is small consolation right now for many people here. But that’s where we are in Michigan. It’s going to be a long hard grind back to a successful growing economy.

There are no short-term solutions to the problems we face. Tax cuts and budget cuts alone are short-term. Strategic spending on things such as education, public safety, and infrastructure are the way to go. Those are the things Granholm talks about. I’m still waiting to hear the Republican solution, and their vision for Michigan. So far, Granholm has provided hers and she’s been more than willing to go out there and sell it and answer for it.

Which brings me to the last thing that struck me, which is this: it’s been pretty much Granholm, with some help from Senator Mark Schauer, taking on the Republican party.

With Speaker Dillon telling Tim Skubick he doesn’t have the votes for the tax increase, the Democrats are playing right into the hands of the Republican party. Republicans can afford to sit on the sidelines and do nothing when the Democrats haven’t united behind the Governor’s strategy. The Republicans don’t have to offer any proposals if the Democrats won’t even bring elements of the Governor’s budget to a vote.

If I were Senator Bishop, I wouldn’t be in any hurry to propose a thing. I’d wait until the Democrats sunk themselves in disagreement before coming to the “rescue” with a plan. I don’t share Senator Bishop’s view of how to fix what ails this state. But I don’t blame him for waiting until the Democrats come to a consensus. With Speaker Dillon’s attitude, Senator Bishop can afford to wait a bit longer.

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