Tales from the Future Flint, Michigan!

Tales from the Future Flint, Michigan!

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
October 4, 2015

Also posted online at MLive.com, October 3, 2015

When my family moved to Michigan in 1973, it felt quite literally like we were moving to the future. Gaffney, South Carolina, wasn’t like a total backwoods, but Flint — Flint was shiny and prosperous! There were the huge factories and a downtown with one-way streets and a cultural center with a freakin’ planetarium! Not that I had the slightest idea what a planetarium was, but it sure looked space-age. The clincher for me, though, was Safetyville. I had seen a story about Safetyville in a school magazine and marveled at the miniature town with electric cars built to teach elementary kids the basics of driving. Actually getting to go there was a dream come true. (Some still have the licenses they were issued upon successful completion, which even today fills me with envy.)

Little did I know that we had arrived at Flint’s peak. At the time, it would have been difficult to imagine the eventual and deep decline. But if somebody from the future had come back to describe it, I think it would have been at least somewhat believable: the intense pressures of globalization, the gross mismanagement by GM and the UAW, the parade of inept and/or corrupt city leaders. Yeah, that might have all seemed possible, I suppose.

However, if you had told me even a few years ago that the water would be poisoned, I would have said, “Hold on. We’re still talking about Michigan here, not some heartless futuristic dystopia. We may not guarantee our citizens safe roads or affordable education, but we’re all about clean, fresh water.”

And yet, here we are. So I’d like to propose a new Safetyville, one in which students are taught how to properly test a water treatment system to ensure high levels of lead cannot leach into the drinking water. And how, if you can’t guarantee that, then you don’t take the chance. Nobody would be able to hold a public office till they earned that Safetyville license.


Auchter Editorial Cartoons on MLive: Update and Next Steps

As you may recall back in May, budget cuts at MLive reduced my cartoons from every Sunday paper to one Sunday per month. It was both disappointing and shortsighted — you’d think that newspaper owners would want more uniquely popular, original content, not less. Alas for me, budgets tend only to consider numbers, and the numbers say print revenue is not growing. But they do say that online revenue is growing.

So to create a measurable sample to prove the value of online cartoons, I continued to provide one cartoon per week (along with a supporting article) for free. These were posted every Saturday morning on MLive.com (as you know from the links I’ve been sending all summer). As far as my editors and I can tell, the experiment has been a success. (Again, alas for me, my editors are not the ones making budget decisions.)

Next Steps
The online metrics data are now available to those MLive folks who set the budgets. I have met with my managing editor, Todd Fettig, and loaded him up with compelling, financially sound reasons for paying me to provide weekly editorial cartoons both online and in print. I have also strongly encouraged him to include the thoughtful, persuasive emails many of you sent him back in May.

Todd is advocating my case. There is no specific deadline for results; I am hopeful for a spark of reason soon from within the corporate machinery. My only leverage:

  • I am only drawing what I’m paid to draw. (No more free stuff)
  • I am using my “not drawing” time to seek other cartooning opportunities.
  • Any additional support you guys can provide. You can feel free to write Todd (tfettig1@mlive.com), but it might be more helpful to go up the chain and contact MLive President, Dan Gaydou:DGaydou@mlive.com. Or contact your local MLive newspaper:http://blog.mlive.com/mlive_contacts/newsrooms.html.

Bottom Line
I continue to deeply appreciate your interest and support. Thank you!

Sincerely and respectfully,


Fortunately for Colleges and Universities

Fortunately for Colleges and Universities


Also posted online at MLive.com, September 12, 2015


MLive had an interesting article this week about rising college costs, along with a slideshow of the biggest increases in room and board in Michigan. As a parent of college-age students, I felt it hit a chord. And by “hit a chord,” I mean “made me draw a cranky editorial cartoon.” Which I did.

The truth is, my feelings are much more nuanced on the subject. Take my alma mater, Michigan Tech, for instance: I graduated with manageable debt and a degree that has returned value over and over in my career. Not this career — the cartooning gig has always been freelance and is largely self-taught. I have the artistic prowess you might expect from somebody with a bachelor’s degree in Scientific and Technical Communications with a minor in Metallurgical Engineering. (Although I did draw for the school newspaper.)

But would a Michigan Tech degree be worth the price if I were getting that degree now —especially at those room and board prices? Maybe. Could I afford it? I don’t know.

Actually, the cartoon is more a crack about what K-12 education has been forced to become than it is about higher education. A few years ago I did a cartoon that was a variation on the same theme.

Not quite as mean, but just as cranky.


Rampant Epidemic in Michigan

Rampant Epidemic in Michigan

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News September 6, 2015

Also posted online at MLive.com, September 5, 2015

The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan has this brilliant campaign called “be nice.” It is a mental health awareness, bullying and suicide prevention initiative that focuses on change through simple, daily actions. It is really where the rubber hits the road for making a real, positive difference. The primary audience for “be nice” is youth in schools, but certainly the principles can apply to all ages.

Still, not all people learn the same. I’m afraid the “be nice” approach might not resonate with many of us middle-aged men. Perhaps there should be a program designed specifically for us. Let’s call it “Don’t Be a D—.” Crude? Yes. Negative? Absolutely. But it may be exactly what is needed to get through.

Listen, Virgil Smith Jr. did what he did and he still has the audacity to show up for his job as a senator. Todd Courser is not only showing up, he is actively trying to take the system down with him. It is obvious that cajoling and appealing to better sense won’t dislodge either of these guys. It’s time to say to them, “You’re being a d—. Don’t be a d—. Do the right thing. Resign. Start over. Rebuild your lives. For yourself, for your family, for the state of Michigan.”

Oh. And apologies to my father, Richard. Growing up, I got into more than a few fights defending the honor of his nickname. People may call him Dick, but he was (and is) anything but one. Of course then, he is the guy who named me John, which has had its own set of issues …


Do You Think Maybe There Are Just Too Many Guns?

Do You Think Maybe There Are Just Too Many Guns?


Also posted online at MLive.com, August 29, 2015

Now is probably a good time to remind readers: I don’t draw editorial cartoons intending to change opinions; I draw them to provoke thought.

Cartoons (good ones, anyway) are much more about throwing a chunk of raw meat into the wolf den than they are about trying to herd the whole pack to a specific destination. Besides, recent articles on MLive regarding gun deaths have demonstrated that opinions are pretty well entrenched. But I do think it’s worth considering the notion that the number of gun deaths is unacceptably high in Michigan and the rest of the United States.

So … what can be done? What exactly, I don’t pretend to know. But somewhere between the naive desire to pass a magic law that makes all bad guns disappear and the creepy desire of the gun lobby to load up every man, woman and child with multiple firearms, there must be solutions to reduce those deaths. It is a legitimate public health concern.

As a state and as a nation, we need more gun-related homicides, suicides and accidents like we need, well, like we need a collective hole in the head.


Public Service Award for Michigan

Public Service Award for Michigan

Also posted online at MLive.com, August 22, 2015

 I’m a bit late getting to this one. I was on vacation when the Courser/Gamrat scandal broke, so I felt I needed find a different angle. A lot has already been said, but the irony of two family-values tea partiers behaving in a manner typically associated with corrupt political-machine bosses has been largely untapped. I couldn’t let that go by. That’s editorial cartooning gold, baby!

Still, I was honestly hoping to find a more positive takeaway from all this. I tried to figure out a way to juxtapose Courser and Gamrat with genuine, selfless public service. If they win the Kilpatrick, who gets the Bing? That would be Dave Bing, the Detroit Pistons star who after his basketball career became a successful entrepreneur and business leader in Michigan.

At the point of comfortable retirement and with a well-earned reputation, Bing sought and got the most difficult job imaginable: mayor of Detroit in the depths of the Great Recession after the city had been bled dry. He made unpopular but necessary decisions with limited power while navigating the uncharted waters of big city bankruptcy. That, my friends, is public service. I don’t expect Courser and Gamrat to be up for a Bing any time soon.

On a personal note, I would like to mention the passing of Richard “Dick” Daly on Tuesday, August 18. Dick was an exceptional public servant in the Flint community, dedicating his professional career to providing positive growth opportunities for citizens of the Flint area, most notably with his work in developing the Flint Olympian and CANUSA Games. Again, that is public service.


Annual Public Service Reminder: Driving in Michigan

Annual Public Service Reminder: Driving in Michigan


Also posted online at MLive.com, August 15, 2015

I’ve done a few of these “public service reminders.” Here are links to a couple more:

Not exactly hard-hitting editorial commentary, but they do tend to elicit strong emotions. And anyway it helps me channel my road rage.

Comments (1)

August Is Precious

August Is Precious

Also posted online at MLive.com, August 8, 2015

 Here are three other pieces of dialogue I considered for Panel 4:

  • “What’s this Planned Parenthood thing all about?”
  • “What do you guys think about Obama’s new emission controls?”
  • “How ’bout those Tigers?”

In the end, I felt talking about an election that is 15 months away fits best the definition of “needless distraction.” It’s certainly the least controversial — especially the Tigers topic. I mean, what the heck happened there? The season had such potential, such promise. Then a few injuries, the bullpen never gels, inconsistent offense — boom! It all implodes. They trade away their ace, their closer, an all-star left fielder. Now Dombrowski is gone. And… wait… sorry….

Back to the original point: It’s summertime and the living’s easy. It’s our best hope to recharge. And February will be here soon enough.


Hope College to Provide Spousal Benefits to Gay Employees

Hope College to Provide Spousal Benefits to Gay Employees

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
August 2, 2015

Also posted online at MLive.com, August 1, 2015

So that’s my prediction: Within 30 years the United States will have a national health care system. Now you can debate how it will be paid for; you can debate what will be covered; you can even debate how the status of your citizenship will or will not qualify you. (Oh, and those debates will rage!) But there will be single, federal system.

It will not be like Great Britain’s, because we won’t tolerate waiting in line for ice cream, let alone important medical services. It won’t be like Germany’s, because as the ACA has demonstrated, we don’t have the capacity to follow complicated rules. It won’t be like Canada’s, because everything would be fair and even, and we hate it when there is no clear winner. No, it will be something uniquely American. My guess is that it will be designed by Republicans — probably with vouchers, along the lines of what Paul Ryan has proposed for Medicare. But when a Democratic president implements it, the Republicans will call it socialism and undermine it by naming it “Chelsea-care.”

The one thing I do know is that your employment situation will no longer have anything to do with your health insurance. Why? Our current system is a historical anomaly. After World War II, companies started granting medical insurance to employees to attract workers. It was more cost-effective than raising salaries, and soon the government began to grant tax breaks to support it. It snowballed, and after a generation or two, we came to expect it.

But it has turned out to be grossly inefficient, and nobody really likes it. Take the tax breaks away, and employers will gladly give up having to administer health coverage. Private employers will be especially glad not having to make moral decisions such as whether to provide benefits for gay spouses. We will look back and think, “Wow, that old system was really dumb; I’m so glad we came to our senses.”

Of course if we go ahead and let Emperor Trump come to power, all bets are off.


Accepting What Is Necessary to Keep Business Profitable

Accepting What Is Necessary to Keep Businesses Profitable


Also posted online at MLive.com, July 25, 2015

Years ago, a good friend of mine was planning a party — just a summer get-together with friends and co-workers, a potluck, some volleyball, board games, that sort of thing. He asked me to create an invitation and made the mistake of giving me free rein. It had such a communal feeling, I decided to call it a Communist Party.

Using a newfangled scanner at work, I got images of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, etc. and set about rewriting history. The basic premise was that the original intention of communism was potlucks with friends and workmates, not the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and world domination. But through a series of misunderstandings and poor coordination (e.g., a million Bolsheviks all bringing potato salad to the first Russian shindig), people got angry, turned on each other, and eventually the whole thing spiraled out of control. And so the theme of the party was a return to communal roots. It turned out great! (Only one person brought potato salad.)

So, despite inferred sympathies for UAW workers in the cartoon, that is the only communist party that I have ever been a member of. There. Hope I nipped that comment thread in the bud.

However, if airline travel continues to be the soul-crushing experience it has been these past few years, I might be persuaded to sign on to a Passenger Manifesto. (Airline travelers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your luggage!)


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