Saturday, January 26, 2008

No Way to Treat Your Fellow Michiganders

It's no secret that we're facing tough economic times here in Michigan, and have been for a while. The proposed federal stimulus package is being pushed through Congress as we speak, but the jury is still out on exactly how much good it will do.

The Freep's Susan Tompor had a front-page column titled, "Deal has rebates coming your way," a somewhat rosy-toned take on the stimulus package:

In Michigan, nearly 94% of taxpayers would get some kind of rebate check. About 2.57 million people would qualify for a rebate of up to $600 each, according to estimates by the Anderson Economic Group in East Lansing.

About 1.69 million couples in Michigan would qualify for a rebate of up to $1,200 each, the Anderson Economic Group says.

In the Department of Unintended Irony, right below Tompor's column was a piece titled, Ford May Not Refill Its Ranks. Ford cut 35% of its total work force from 2005 -2007.

This may be good news for shareholders, but for a state with a 7.5% unemployment rate and a drop in median household income of 11.9% over the past seven years, fewer jobs is bad news. A check for $600 or $1200 would be nice, but it won't begin to address the needs of Michigan working families.

What Michigan could really use in this package is a provision to extend unemployment benefits and extra funding for state health care programs (thanks for that third S-CHIP veto, W!).

Governor Granholm is heading to Washington next week to lobby the Senate to include
these two things in the proposed stimulus package, which is expected to give a $150 billion jump start to the U.S. economy.

Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd stated that the Governor wants the Senate to include a "bold plan that provides states' resources to provide health care and extend unemployment compensation to those workers who have lost their jobs. There's no place where these issues are more critical than in Michigan."

Senators Stabenow and Levin, as well as five members of the MI Congressional delegation, sent a letter to the Senate asking for a 20-week extension of unemployment compensation, with an additional 13 weeks for states with high unemployment levels. The legislators also asked for an increase in the amount of weekly unemployment benefits and more assistance for state Medicare programs.

Three guesses as to which member of the MI Congressional delegation went on record saying that Michigan didn't really need any more help...

Yes, you're right -- it was our own Mike Rogers! From the Detroit News:

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, said Friday that Congress should not spend more on government programs like unemployment compensation, but instead should quickly get the rebate checks into the hands of taxpayers.

"We need to help the American people who are hurting by getting money in their hands," Rogers said, saying it will also improve consumer confidence.

Rogers' enthusiasm for reality-defying Bush economics clearly hasn't waned, despite four terms in Washington.

Does Rogers honestly think that a Michigan worker who has lost a good-paying job in the auto industry (who still can't find a job and whose unemployment benefits are running out) will be "hurting" less if he gets a check for $600?

Will a family paying for an individual health insurance policy suddenly become more "confident" if they get a check for $1200? I doubt it; in fact, that is roughly the cost of just one monthly premium for a self-insured family of four.

This is sad, insulting and wasteful all at the same time. It's the modern equivalent of bread and circuses (Hey, go to the mall and buy an iPod -- it will cheer you up! ). Did Rogers miss the class where we learned that trickle-down economics is a fantasy?

Serious, responsible leaders like Governor Granholm and Senators Stabenow and Levin know that we need real support to turn things around. They're willing to do the hard work to make it happen. Unfortunately, Mike Rogers prefers to keep on Bush's good side than to help fellow Michiganders.

Once again, Mike Rogers has shown where his priorities lie.

No comments: