[C]an we think of a recent example in the United States where helping to preserve an industrial cluster was an important policy consideration? Indeed we can: the auto bailout. A key argument for the bailout was that if the major US firms were allowed to go bankrupt, a whole industrial ecology would be lost with them. And the auto bailout has been a huge success, not least because it did preserve that ecology.
Aren't you glad that Obama didn't listen to the other party on this issue?
Right on cue, immediately after President Obama listed his administration's foreign policy achievements, he pointed out the success of the auto company bailout in his State of the Union speech.
On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is back on top as the world's number one automaker. Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.
We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back.
What's happening in Detroit can happen in other industries.
In the same post in which Krugman praised Obama for bailing out the auto companies in the name of preserving the industrial ecology supporting auto manufacturing in the U.S., he posted this graph of the Michigan's unemployment rate.
That's quite a recovery, although it was interrupted by the short-lived slump that accompanied the rise in oil prices during the first half of the year. In fact, the following graph from Calculated Risk displaying the unemployment rates of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia shows that it was the best recovery of all 51 reporting.
Unemployment has fallen nearly 5% since Fall 2009, when Michigan had the highest unemployment rate in the Union. Now, Michigan is below 10% after three years of double-digit unemployment and is out of the ten worst states at 11th. Both Krugman and Bill McBride of Calculated Risk are showing that what happened in Detroit (actually all of Michigan) is indeed worth emulating. Isn't that a pleasant surprise?
As the next Congressional fight over payroll tax extensions and unemployment benefits and pipelines gets set up in the next few weeks for either its final chapter or to be kicked down the road a bit farther, one or the other, you're going to hear a lot from our Republican friends about how much they value work and workers; most especially, they'll tell you, they value American jobs for American workers.
After all, they'll say, creating American jobs is the most important thing of all.
But if we were to look back over just the last few months, some would tell us, we could quickly find examples of how Republicans promote ideas that don't seem to value work or workers at all, much less American jobs.
Well as it turns out, "some" seem to be right; to illustrate one of those examples we'll look back a month or two or three to a time some Republicans might wish was long, long, ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Republicans in Congress are at it again. For the fifth time in two months Congressional Republicans blocked Democratic efforts to extend the payroll tax cut for 160 million working Americans and small business owners. Why? Because it asks the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share by including a tiny surtax on income - excluding small-businesses and job creation - above $1 million.
Republicans are using your money as leverage to protect the millionaires and billionaires that bankroll their campaigns.
That’s not right.
In Michigan, the tax cut would mean an average of $1,430 in lower taxes for a typical working family - money that families need to pay for costs like health care, education and mortgages. As wages struggle to keep up with the cost of living, working Michiganders can hardly afford a $1,000 tax increase, but Rep. Dan Benishek isn’t listening: "The temporary tax breaks for the payroll tax ... I'm not in favor of that."
Rep. Benishek’s Congressional District was hit hard by the recession: 15 percent of his constituents and 21 percent of the children living in his district live in poverty. But if Congress doesn’t act, 5.2 million Michiganders will see their taxes increase by an average of more than $1,000 next year.
But Northern Michigan’s Dan Benishek isn’t the only Michigan Republican letting politics get in the way of helping the middle-class. In fact, nearly every Congressional Republican from Michigan is on record as opposing the payroll tax cut - or won’t say whether they support it. The list reads like a Who’s Who of paid-for far-right ideologues beholden to the deep-pocketed corporations that have bankrolled their campaigns:
You know what the problem is with America?
The poor don't get just how great they have it.
I've been hearing this a lot lately; the basic thrust of the discussion is that all those cars, TVs, DVD players, refrigerators, and stoves that have found their way into the homes of the economic underclass are proof there's really no such thing as "poor" in America.
If they were truly poor, the argument goes, well...think recycled corn.
And if the poor want things to get better, let 'em pull themselves up by their own bootstraps - and if they can't, then let 'em rot, because that's the best thing for the economy.
But I don't buy all that, and by the time we're done today, I hope to have given you a whole new perspective on how jobs get created in this country.
Like a lot of people these days, we have come to the conclusion that it's time to change our lousy bank.
And it wasn't even like we chose badly, either - we were customers of Washington Mutual for almost two decades, and we loved 'em: they were nice people to deal with, they didn't constantly hammer you every time you came in to the branch with desperate sales pitches, and they didn't even charge you for using another bank's cash machines.
It turns out, however, that all that beneficence came at a cost: WaMu made a lot of money making sketchy mortgage loans, and when it all came crashing down, we found ourselves customers of JPMorgan Chase, who we now hate with the fire of a thousand suns.
But it turns out choosing a new bank ain't all that easy - and that's where you come into today's conversation.
I took a break to enjoy the holiday, as I'm sure many of you did, but my inbox kept busy, and on Friday came a doozy, courtesy of the Washington Post.
You remember that little bit of a banking crisis we had a couple of years back, where banks around the world might have possibly, maybe, just a little, conspired in a giant scheme to package toxic mortgage loans into Grade A, investment-ready securities instruments, which then blew up in everyone's faces to the tune of a whole lot of taxpayer bailouts?
Well all of a sudden, it looks like an agency of the Federal Government is looking to do something about it, in a real big way.
Last Friday the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced they're suing 17 firms (I'll give you a list, bit it's pretty much all the usual suspects); depending on who you ask the Feds are seeking an amount as high as $200 billion.
As Joe Biden would say, it's a big...well, it's a big deal, anyway, and that's why we're starting the new week with this one.
When last we met, it was to discuss a Big Idea that the Obama Administration might apply to get some job creation going, despite a difficult Congress; the Big Idea was to look at the "Buy American" provisions that exist in our laws, regulations, and Executive Orders and see if we could practice a bit of "jobs arbitrage" by not just meeting the "Made in USA" requirements when governments across this country make purchases, but exceeding them.
(As it stands today, pretty much any "good or service" with more than 50% Made in USA content qualifies as a Made in USA purchase, even if 49% of the "good or service" comes from somewhere else).
At the time, I told you that if all went well we could look forward to comments from both Labor and the Administration as to the practicality of the Big Idea, and as it turns out I have comments for you that hit close to that mark - and a bit more besides:
On Saturday I just happened to bump into Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09); in the course of that conversation I told him what we're doing here, and he wanted to offer a few thoughts of his own...and when you put all that together, I think we're going to have a lot to talk about.
I have not been talking about the insanity around the debt ceiling and debt and deficit and the efforts of Republicans to drive us all off the cliff, but I am today - and I'm going to do it by allowing you to grab ahold of this problem and see for yourself just how unbelievably bad this manufactured crisis is going to be.
You will hear a lot of conversation about the consequences from others; today, however, you are going to get the chance to be both the President and the Secretary of the Treasury, and you will get to decide for yourself exactly what bills the Federal Government should and should not pay as the cash runs out if a deal is not made by the time borrowing authority runs out.
At that point you'll be able to see what's coming for yourself - and once you do, you won't need me to tell you what ugly is going to look like.
(FNS - Washington, New Germany, April 17, 1947) America's new Führer, Adolf Hitler, announced today that his official War History would in fact acknowledge that one of the biggest contributing factors to the defeat of the Allies was the insistence of the former United States of America on sticking to its Balanced Budget Amendment, which left them unable to fund the wartime conversion of the US economy for the benefit of the Alliance.
"All those ideas Mr. Roosevelt spoke of", said Hitler, "Lend-Lease, modular shipbuilding, War Bonds, secret weapons...in the end, all of them were just words, since the Americans' Congress was never willing to allow the country to fully fund its war effort."
In America, today, there are three kinds of drivers: those who look at the other gas pumps down at the ol' gas station and think: "Oh my God, I can't believe how much that guy's spending on gas", those who look at their own pump down at the ol' gas station and think: "Oh my God, I can't believe how much I'm spending on gas" - and those who are doing both at the same time.
Naturally, this has brought the Sarah Palins of the world back out in public, and once again the mantra of "Drill, Baby, Drill" can be heard all the way from the Florida coast to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
But what if those folks have it exactly backwards?
What if, in a world of depleting oil resources, the last thing you want to do is use yours up?
To put it another way: why isn't all our oil part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?
They tell us we're dropping about $10 billion a month in Afghanistan so we can catch that Bin Laden guy...but eventually, we're gonna catch him, and as soon as we do you can imagine that folks will be wondering why we're still over there - and I gotta tell ya, I'm one of those people.
I mean, we're over here talking about how we're so broke that we have no choice but to cut a couple of billion from heat assistance for the poor, and a billion-and-a-half from the Social Security operations budget, and money from food stamps and childcare assistance and tornado forecasting in Alabama...but every single month, just as regular as clockwork, we seem to be able to find another $10 billion to spend in Afghanistan, even as we have an economy that could badly use another round of truly productive stimulus.
And I don't think y'all even realize just how much money $10 billion really is - but today we're gonna see if we can't fix that with a bit of a thought exercise.
Imagine if we set up a program that took that Afghanistan money and spent it right here at home for a year or two - and it was spent in the form of a lottery, where we stimulate the larger economy, help fix the mortgage crisis, and create a more energy-independent nation, all at the same time.
I got all we need except a catchy name; with that in mind let's move on to the description of how the Happy Super Fun Day Peace Lotto Stimulus Thingy works.
Just as I started last month on Crazy Eddie's Motie News with a good news post based on a press release that assumed Business as Usual (BAU) will return, so I ended last month with a post based on another optimistic BAU press release, this time from one of my alma maters.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.-After posting modest job losses last calendar year following an abysmal 2009, the Oakland County economy should add nearly 29,000 jobs over the next three years-the best years since 2000, say University of Michigan economists.
That looks really good, doesn't it?
In their annual forecast of the Oakland County economy, George Fulton and Don Grimes of the U-M Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy say that Oakland will add nearly 11,000 jobs this year, another 8,000 next year and more than 9,700 in 2013.
This year looks like the best of the three and next year the worst of the three. If you're a politician up for re-election in 2012, that may not be the best news, but at least the projection isn't for job losses that year, either.
Last calendar year, Oakland County lost less than 1,200 jobs after losing nearly 60,000 jobs in 2009, and is currently adding jobs-the majority in sectors most tied to the New Economy.
Now does adding 29,000 jobs in three years look that good? Not when you realize that more than twice as many were lost in one year.
Even so, the good news continues.
"The resurgence in the Oakland County economy appears to be no fluke, not related to any unusual events, but rather is backed by improvements in the U.S. economy, a reborn auto industry and the county's still-strong economic fundamentals and forward-looking policy initiatives," Fulton said. "Although the recovery is slower than what we've seen in the most recent expansions-a trend we also anticipate for the nation as a whole-we do see the county economy as being on an upward and sustained growth trajectory.
Until the start of the Great Recession, Oakland County was consistently among the ten richest counties in the country. It isn't any more, although it's still the wealthiest county in the state. Looks like things are reverting to the mean, which means climbing back up the rankings.
Despite the economic difficulties of the past decade, Oakland County still remains among the premier local economies in the country, with its coveted AAA bond rating and high ranking among 33 comparable counties in the United States on a series of measures that indicate future economic prosperity.
"Oakland ranks 8th overall-an impressive standing, especially considering that a number of these counties house some of the most thriving local economies in the nation," Grimes said. "This is even more impressive in light of Oakland's location within the state that has become notorious for its recent position near the bottom of the economic barrel.
"It is clear that whether we assess Oakland County with respect to how it is positioned in key economic fundamentals across all regions of the United States, or more restrictively here among its peers, there are few local economies with a more favorable composite profile for succeeding in the New Economy."
See, I told you, climbing back up the rankings.
Speaking of good news, is there any more?
"The net gain in jobs forecast over the next three years (including 2011), however, indicates only that the broad decline in employment has ended. It does not mean that the economy is back to normal. For many residents, the economic struggles will continue."
And who are the ones most likely to struggle, in addition to the long-term unemployed?
While the private sector in Oakland County will post job gains over the next three years,
Nearly 31,000 in fact.
jobs in the government sector, which includes public schools and local government administration, will continue to shrink, with more than 2,000 jobs lost through 2013. Nearly 70 percent of these losses will occur this year.
Remember I said that slow growth might harm the chances of any politician up for election next year? There are some politicians who public sector employees don't care for already who might be up for re-election, after a fashion, this year. Watch the following clip from WOOD-TV.
A longshot effort to recall Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder can begin collecting signatures aimed at getting the measure on the ballot.
Also the following clips from WXYZ-TV:
Hundreds protest as Governor Snyder delivers address
We are continuing a recent theme here today in which two of my favorite topics are going to converge: Social Security and in-your-face political activism.
I have been encouraging folks to take advantage of the recent Congressional recess to have a few words with your CongressCritter about the proposed Death Of Medicare and all the proposed cuts to Social Security...and you have, as we'll discuss...and now we have an opportunity to do something on a national scale, just as we did a few weeks ago in support of Social Security.
This time, we're going to concentrate on fighting the idea that retirement ages should go up before we become eligible for Social Security and Medicare (and elements of Medicaid, as well), and that Americans should just keep right on working until the age of 67 or so-which isn't going to be any big problem...really...trust us.
Now that just makes no sense, and to help make the point we have a really cool video that you can pass around to all your friends-and your enemies, for that matter, since they'll also have to worry about what happens to them if they should ever make it to old age.
News is suddenly moving so fast that it's becoming hard for me to keep up; that's why we're not finishing the story today that we just began Tuesday. You know, the one about Titan Cement suing two North Carolina residents who appear to be doing nothing more than speaking the truth.
Unfortunately, other important news has forced itself to the front of the line, and it's going to demand that we break schedule, whether we like it or not.
That's why today we're going to be talking about Wisconsin, and how workers there are fighting back against the State's Republican legislators and Governor, who seem to have gone out of their way this past three weeks to govern without the consent of the governed.
It's kind of chilly today in Wisconsin...but I can assure you, things are heating up fast-and it ain't because of spring.
There's a lot of ways to be petty and cheap and stupid, and a lot of ways to stick it to a program you don't like, and by extension, the clients of that program...and this week the House Republicans have embarked on an effort to combine the two into one petty, cheap, and stupid way to stick it to the clients of Social Security and the workers who administer the program.
They're going to sell it to you, if they can, as a way to "lower the deficit", or words similar...but what this is really about is making the actual Social Security program work less well-because, after all, if a program is popular today, the best way to make it less so is to apply a bit of "treat 'em like their cars were impounded" to every interaction customers have with the system.
And what better way to make sure that happens...then to aggressively demoralize everyone who works down at the ol' Social Security office?
So it's Day 3 of my fake campaign for Congress, and we've run into our first obstacle
The Fake Campaign, as you may recall, is fake headed for Wisconsin, to show solidarity, and we've fake hitched a ride on a delivery truck headed for Rush Limbaugh's Florida broadcasting studios-but we fake found ourselves caught up in the all-too-real Giant Grip Of Winter that has seized the Midwest over the past week.
We're back on the road now, but we were stuck for darn near a half-day there at Wall...and if you know anything about South Dakota, you know there are really only two things to do in the City of Wall: you can shuffle back and forth between Gold Diggers and the Badlands Bar, partaking of numerous intoxicating liquors along the way...or you can head on into Wall Drug (the same one that's on all those bumper stickers and signs) and partake of the finest display of Giant Jackalopia on the planet.
The Campaign, naturally, chose Jackalopia-and that's why today's Manifesto is all about the fake impromptu 5-cent-coffee-fueled Social Security Town Hall that we held in the Wall Drug Mall for several hours while we waited for I-90 to reopen.
We have spent the past two years watching as insanity has gripped Congress, and even more so with Republicans now running the House.
We have a wavering President, far too many feckless Democrats, and Republicans that have decided to dive headfirst into total "insane mode" in a full-blown effort to destroy this country just as fast as possible.
To give but one example, in my own District, WA-08, we are represented by the absolutely useless Republican Dave Reichert, whose best-known legislative achievement is that he has virtually no record of any legislative achievement whatever.
Now we've had a very interesting relationship, you and I, over these past few years; in my efforts to "bring you the story" I've been a fake political consultant, a fake lobbyist, even a fake historian...and now, I think it's time to try to bring our relationship to a new level.
And that's why, America, I'm announcing my fake candidacy for Congress.
Tonight, December 29, 2010, at 8 P.M., WKAR-TV presents 'An Evening with Gov. Granholm'. This will be Jennifer Granholm's last interview as Michigan's Democratic Governor. It was conducted by Tim Skubick, host of the public affairs program "Off the Record."
For details on this program, when you can watch it again, and how you can watch it if you are outside of Michigan, along with other political news originated by Michigan's research universities this month, follow me over the jump.
Over the course of the past couple of weeks we've been talking about how the War On Social Security was about to get under way and what happens when countries choose to privatize their systems.
Today we take on another bite-sized chunk of economic analysis: how can you get to a situation where Social Security is financially stable for the next 75 years?
We'll describe some proposals that are out there-but the big focus of this conversation will be to look at one change that, all by itself, could not only solve the entire funding problem, but could actually allow us to lower the Social Security tax rate, immediately, and still achieve fiscal balance.
"Well, if that's such a bright idea" you might ask, "why haven't we adopted it already?"
That's a great question-and after you hear the proposal, you may well have explanations of your own.