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Child Care Support in Michigan…Finally!

Child Care Support in Michigan...Finally!

First, credit where credit is due: the Michigan legislature and the Whitmer administration came together to create a budget for next year that does in fact significantly increase funding for child care in Michigan. As reported by Bridge Michigan:

The budget allocates $1.4 billion in federal COVID relief funds to help support child care providers, bring down costs and expand subsidies to another 105,000 Michigan families. The budget also includes $30 million for a one-time $1,000 bonus for child care staffers.

Of course it was relatively easy to do because of the boatload of federal funds. But still, they did it. And ahead of an October 1 default deadline. (Note to Mitch McConnell: This is how grown-ups work together to avoid financial defaults.)

So I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but the self-congratulations from Whitmer, Shirkey, and the lot are a bit hard to take. Specifically because, as later noted in the Bridge Michigan article, Michigan currently helps families with child care costs less than almost any state. (When Mississippi has been kicking your butt, it’s time for some soul searching.) Here’s hoping the 2022 budget is the start of a continued investment in supporting Michigan families and businesses, not a one-time bonus.

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Crazy Weather

Crazy Weather

I was over at my folks’ house this week and the news on the TV was showing clips of the latest devastation suffered in Louisiana. I joked with my Mom, “Aren’t you glad now you and Dad decided against buying that retirement home in the bayou?” She gave a little chuckle but then also grimaced at the very idea. Louisiana is one of the last places on earth she would ever want to live. She has never been able to tolerate heat and humidity, and those are pretty much the main ingredients there.

But as I watched more, my little joke got less and less funny. Louisiana has now endured Hurricanes Ida and Nicholas in a two week span. The flooding and damage have been biblical. And hurricane season is not over.

It is true that we’ve experienced some quirky weather patterns here in Michigan recently. And I hesitate to call them “quirky” because they have caused some very real damage. But they hardly rate relative to what has been going on along the Gulf Coast. Thankfully.

Makes you wonder if maybe our scientific community has looked into this. You know, tried to figure out why storms are becoming more violent and more frequent, and what we might be able to do about it. Yep, sure makes you wonder… (That’s also a joke that gets less and less funny).

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News Media vs Social Media

News Media vs Social Media

In the olden days (you know, only a couple of decades ago), editorial cartoonists could draw a guy in a frumpled suit and trench coat wearing a fedora with a card reading “PRESS” sticking out of the band to represent the news media. Maybe holding a pencil and notepad. Or a camera with an absurdly large flash. And it would be universally recognized as a journalist. Well, a newspaper reporter, but those were pretty much the same thing.

Nowadays, none of that is nearly as clear cut. So for the cartoon, I drew a person dressed in general work attire and labeled her “News Media.” This leaves an uncomfortable amount of room for interpretation. What I intended by “news media” is straight-up journalism, reporting, the sharing of information as observed by a trained professional. What I didn’t intend was cable news, talking heads, carnival barkers, and the like. Unfortunately, those are often conflated, which is one of the reasons why the media in general is held in such low regard.

Conversely, my demonic “Social Media” guy is probably too specific. I mean, social media also includes pithy memes and cat videos, and I think those are lovely. But it has proven itself to be by far the best spreader of disinformation that the world has ever seen, and that’s the part that isn’t so lovely.

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Labor Day

Labor Day

This is really just a silly cartoon intended as a hopeful reminder that (1) it’s Labor Day, (2) Labor Day is for honoring and celebrating working folks, and (3) it’d be nice to give them a break, especially a year and a half into a pandemic.

So if you find yourself upset by, say, being served some less than crispy french fries over the weekend, consider channeling your anger elsewhere. And if you can find a memorial for labor leaders of the past, that may provide some additional perspective.

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Supporting Locally Produced Products

Supporting Locally Produced Products

The goal in Michigan has been for 70% of us 16 and older to have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As of this week, the rate is at 65.2%, which is below that national rate of 73%. So what’s holding us back?

Well, lots of things. Access was a huge problem at the start and still is, especially in Detroit. There continues to be, of course, a great deal of fear ginned up by disinformation campaigns. And there have been functional concerns like for folks working paycheck to paycheck who can’t afford to take a sick day in case they have a reaction.

It’s not for a lack of promotion. The governor and the health department have been consistent in the messaging on the benefits of vaccination both in terms of personal and economic health. And the state has gone to additional lengths. This week an Oakland County woman won the $2 million grand prize in the final round of drawings of the MI Shot to Win COVID-19 vaccine sweepstakes. The Protect Michigan Commission just named nine young winners of $50,000 college scholarships.

What else can we do? Time to take it to the next level and appeal to our pride. A great deal of the Pfizer vaccine is produced in facilities in the Kalamazoo area. If we can tie into the same satisfaction we get from enjoying other locally produced products — fresh fruit, craft beer, pickup trucks, etc. — maybe we can get that vaccination rate to where it needs to be.

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C’mon Think People, Think!

C'mon Think People, Think!

Details from the 2020 US Census were released last week, and while Michigan as a whole did better than the last decade, we didn’t do great. Meager growth in population was not enough to avoid losing a congressional seat. Equally important, low population growth means less federal support, which means less money for us. And while some slow-growth states like Kentucky seem to be adept at pulling in more resources than they contribute to these United States, that’s never been a core competency for Michigan.

What to do? What to do? Well, answers may lay in the stats. Let’s start on the rural side. All of the UP’s counties lost population (with Luce Country down 19.5%). Except for one — Houghton County, which managed to gain 2%, largely in thanks to the city of Houghton, which is home to my alma mater, Michigan Tech and the students it attracts.

There was an even wider variance among Michigan cities. Dearborn gained 12% while Flint dropped 20.7% of its population. In a more apples-to-apples comparison, the Detroit enclave of Highland Park lost 23.8% of its people, while neighboring enclave Hamtramck gained 26.8%.

What’s a common denominator? The counties and cities that gained did so by attracting immigrants — newcomers looking to establish new lives and grow communities, many not native-born US citizens, some refugees seeking a chance at a decent and safe life.

So how can Michigan best grow its population (I mean, before everybody gets thirsty and comes here looking for plentiful fresh water)? The same way we grew before: through waves of immigration and migration. And I can’t think of a group of people more eager and perfectly suited to become new Michiganders than the refugees currently motivated to escape from Afghanistan.

https://www.bridgemi.com/michigan-government/census-2020-look-population-changes-your-michigan-community
https://www.michiganradio.org/post/2020-census-update-what-are-michigans-biggest-population-changes-past-decade

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Why Do You Have to Make It Political?

Why Do You Have to Make It Political?

I feel like we’re at an advanced level of disinformation — where disinformation can now not only obscure the truth, it can completely replace it.

Case in point (and quoting from a Detroit Free Press story): 

The highest ranking elected Republican in Michigan expects to skip a popular policy conference on Mackinac Island this year because of the organizer mandating attendees be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said the Detroit Regional Chamber “cowed to political science rather than embrac(ing) actual science” by mandating vaccines to attend the Mackinac Policy Conference. The statement contradicts the results of a recent study that indicates the previously infected who remain unvaccinated are at least twice as likely to get COVID-19 again as someone who is vaccinated.

Shirkey does not just imply but openly claims that science is on his side. What he is arguing, of course, has nothing “science” about it — he’s just using the word. But if he can use “science” as his own — just say, “this is science” — then he apparently wins.

Similarly, if you accuse somebody of being political, but you yourself are the one that introduced politics into the discussion, you apparently win that, too.

Please note that I’ve appropriated “winning” here to mean “everybody ends up losing.”

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The End Justifying the Means in Hillsdale

The End Justifying the Means in Hillsdale

Michigan Radio ran a story this week where the city council of Hillsdale, Michigan is considering an ordinance that would basically criminalize anything related to having an abortion within the city limits. Obviously any story about abortions comes packed with visceral feelings and opinions. But what struck me about this particular story was its nuances and complexities (and how it was told).

I encourage you to read the whole article, but briefly, the wife of a Hillsdale city council member asked a Texas-based pastor to come to town to promote his “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn” initiative. She collected signatures of support and brought it up in the public comment portion of a meeting this week. Hillsdale is famously a conservative town, so it was hard to find opposition to the idea itself, but there was plenty of concerns about how it was executed.

What I found most interesting was watching a community determine how far it is willing to go for an end to justify the means. Is it okay to skirt rules, bypass convention, take some shortcuts? And if so, then how about rigging the game, locking down the opposition, declaring rule by fiat? Would that be okay, too? It will be interesting to see how all this plays out in Hillsdale.

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They’re in Cahoots with Big Pesticide!

They're in Cahoots with Big Pesticide!

I’m on vacation this week. Prudently applying mosquito spray as necessary. Hope you’re getting to enjoy some time off, too!

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We Are Definitely “That One Neighbor”

We Are Definitely "That One Neighbor"

Full disclosure: I am a member of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists. I am not Canadian, nor do I have any Canadian clients. But a few years ago at a joint convention with the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists — the professional organization for U.S. cartoonists — the Canadians invited me to join their organization, too. Being based in Michigan, I draw an occasional Canada-related cartoon, and that was good enough for them. (There is a reason for the stereotype — they really are incredibly nice.)

But I am an American and proud to be one. I will be in full-throated support of our American athletes at the Olympics in the coming weeks. Already this week I woke up at 4:30AM to watch our women soccer team’s game against Sweden (and felt like throwing up after they crushed us, 3–0). They worry me now. Our men’s basketball team worries me. Simone Biles does not worry me.

I just wanted to say that to make clear that I can see both perspectives of the recent churning over who is going to be letting whom into their country. Last week, Canada announced plans to open (with restrictions) their borders to non-essential travel from the U.S. This week, the U.S. announced it was extending current restrictions on nonessential travel from Canada through August 21.

It’s complicated: Unlike Canada, the U.S. has a second significant border to manage. Officials have to take into consideration the increasingly dangerous Delta variant, vaccination levels, short and long-term economic implications. And most Michiganders know that it has always been way more strict (and stressful) coming into the U.S. than going into Canada.

Still, from the Canadian perspective, I can imagine how they would currently be perceiving us as boorish and selfish. I mean, the fact that we’re making them pay the whole cost of building a badly needed second bridge between Detroit and Windsor (for our mutual economic benefit) — that kind of sets the tone, right? At least we’re building bridges and not fences.

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