Posts Tagged: Michigan

Crisis at the FAA

Overlooked in the agreement reached by Barack Obama and Congress on the debt ceiling is that an entire federal agency — the Federal Aviation Administration — has shut down with Congress on vacation until September. That means, among other issues,  that the agency has no authorization to keep funding projects like the expansion of O’Hare airport in Chicago or, as Nathan Hurst of the Detroit News reports on today, the reconstruction of a taxi way at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The agency has shut down because of a dispute over how airline workers can unionize and how much subsidies should be provided to rural airports. These are fairly significant issues — but ones that a Congress that cares in the slightest about a functional aviation agency should have been able to solve.



Detroit-area Latinos don’t believe ICE

John Morton

Niraj Warikoo of the Detroit Free Press reports on Latino leaders’ charges in the Motor City area that the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement agency has abused and wrongfully racially profiled Latino citizens in Michigan. John Morton — the head of ICE — had agreed to conduct a study on these charges when they were brought up in April. A just-released ICE report, though, calls the charges baseless — and now Michigan residents are questioning the credibility of the federal study.

Beach (clean-up) reading

This blog has looked a lot at the federal money available, and unavailable, to clean the Great Lakes. Laura Fosmire of Wisconsin’s Ashland Current has an in-depth look at the issue of money for monitoring beach contamination, clearly an unavoidable issue, especially with the atrocious heat wave that has hit the Great Lakes region in the last week.

Naturally, there’s a major funding issue here: Ohio gets almost as much money as Michigan, even though Michigan has three times as many beaches. The funding formula used by the EPA doesn’t sufficiently take into account the fact that Michigan and Wisconsin have a lot of beaches — many which become very popular when it gets up to 95 degrees each day.

Undercounting the long-term unemployed

Sara Murray and Phil Izzo of the Wall Street Journal report on the long-term unemployed in states like Illinois and Michigan: About 30 percent of those seeking work in Illinois and Michigan have been doing so for at least a year.

But even that statistic doesn’t do justice to the problem, because many of the really long-term unemployed have stopped looking for work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics does not include those not looking for work in their unemployment rate (which, right now, hovers around nine percent nationally). The Labor Dept. does however, count such people in a monthly “true” unemployment rate that also includes the underemployed and is typically closer to 16-17 percent.

GOP governor praises immigration

This is pretty interesting: Rick Snyder, Michigan’s newly elected governor and a Republican, gave a speech at Wayne State University yesterday extolling the economic virtues of immigrants. Kim Kozlowoski of the Detroit News reports that Snyder and Michael Bloomberg were the premier speakers at a conference called “Immigration & Michigan’s Economic Future.”

Obviously, Detroit could use international immigrants, Indiana immigrants, really any immigrants to restore its rapidly dwindling population. But it seems politically risky for a national Republican figure to encourage immigration. Perhaps the chances of immigration reform are so dead that Republicans are no longer nervous about the issue.

Will cooler heads prevail in state helmet law dispute?

The National Transportation Safety Board is urging Michigan not to repeal a state law that requires motorcycle drivers to wear helmets. The State Senate had previously passed such laws only to have them vetoed by Michigan Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm. New GOP Governor Rick Snyder is more receptive to getting rid of the safety measure.

This naive, safety-first blogger mistakenly presumed that all states required cyclists (including bicyclists) to wear helmets. But only 20 states have laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets. Illinois is one of three states, along with Iowa and New Hampshire, to have no motorcycle helmet-use law on the books whatsoever.

Oh no, my taxpayer money is going to Michigan

Michigan gets $1.64 back from the federal government for every $1 it provides in taxes, according to Todd Spangler of the Detroit Free Press. As new Republican Gov. Rick Snyder points out, this is nothing to be proud of. Michigan doesn’t get a lot of money because the federal government has invested in its economy (this statistic does not include the auto bailouts). The ratio is because the state is poor and doesn’t generate a lot of tax revenue. And it has a relatively high percentage of residents on public assistance.

The bailout that worked

Kate Linebaugh of the Wall Street Journal puts together a lot of evidence that the Michigan auto industry is revived. Auto makers have announced more plant expansions and new jobs in Michigan; GM, Chrysler and Ford are at 37 percent production capacity, compared with 30 percent a decade earlier. “In Sterling Heights, Mich.,” Linebaugh writes, “a Chrysler plant saved from closure last year is now churning out two midsize models with 2,300 workers.”

Incredibly, Linebaugh goes the entire piece without mentioning the $80 billion U.S. Treasury Dept. bailout that enabled this revival! The Journal did report three weeks earlier that taxpayers will ultimately be responsible for $14 billion of this $80 billion. But in return, the Obama administration claims that hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created.

Michigan at odds with itself on medical marijuana

An advocacy group in Michigan for medical marijuana has appealed a federal judge’s ruling that lets Obama administration drug agents look at the records of certain medical marijuana patients, reports John Agar of the Grand Rapids Press. The desire by drug agents to snoop around the files of medical marijuana patients is another indication that, after some initial steps to the contrary, the Obama administration has earnestly continued the “War on Drugs.” But it also indicates Michigan’s ambivalent support of its own law: the state’s attorney general is a medical marijuana opponent who refused to defend the state’s law in court.

Eric Holder’s marijuana problem

AG Eric Holder

A federal judge ruled that the Michigan Dept. of Community Health must turn over records to the U.S. Justice Dept. that relate to a medical marijuana investigation.  John Agar of The Grand Rapids Press reports that this is hardly surprising: While medical marijuana may be legal in Michigan, it remains a federal felony to grow and distribute pot. But attorney general Eric Holder has spent his two-year tenure providing mixed messages on medical marijuana, creating a haze of confusion among both federal agents and state lawmakers. (more…)