Archive for Michigan Press Association

A Strategy to Stabilize Michigan’s Population

A Strategy to Stabilize Michigan's Population

A recent article by Bridge Michigan brings up an often sited but long unresolved issue — the ongoing stagnation of Michigan’s population. Michigan ranks 49th among states in population growth since 1990, ahead of only West Virginia.

If you’ve lived here for awhile, you are sure to be aware of the reasons and circumstances for this. Notice I didn’t write “excuses” because that would imply that nothing has been done or can be done to fix this. I think our state has plenty going for it and the capability to retain and attract people. A good plan and a consistent governance would help. But I think we’ll get there.

Still, I have to admit to being a bit defensive about this. On the macro level, it’s difficult to see growth-leading states add populations both to places without enough water and places with too much water. Sure, Michigan has an occasional dry spell or summer home slide into a Great Lake, but on the whole it’s an incredibly safe and sustainable place to live. You’d think that would be enough to move us up a few places on the growth list!


We Are Awash in Guns 

We Are Awash in Guns

It’s not as if America didn’t have lots of guns 60-plus years ago. We most certainly did. But then, there was a much higher percentage of people who used them for hunting and sport. The weapons themselves were typically much less lethal — single-shot rifles, revolvers, and the like. And critically, there wasn’t a political party completely beholden to gun manufacturers and their lobbyists.

Reliable statistical data for and about guns are notoriously difficult to find. This is mostly by design (again, the aforementioned gun manufacturers and lobbyists). But it is pretty obvious that the total amount of guns manufactured and sold in recent years is significant — 16.6 million firearms purchased in 2022.

That’s down from a record 21.8 million in 2020, but even if last year’s sales were zero, we’d still have a problem. Firearms aren’t like Chevy Chevettes or modern day dishwashers — they are highly durable and likely to last more than a few years. The old ones don’t go away, and we just keep accumulating more.

The total number of firearms in America is mind bending. Sure, we have 331 million people, but per capita, America still easily dominates the developed world.

We are awash in guns, so it’s no surprise that we are awash in gun violence, or that a loaded weapon might find its way into the hands of an eight-year-old to take to school.

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One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

So, three seemingly unrelated recent events:

And, honestly, the cartoon isn’t about any of that. It’s about how male leaders are often applauded for aggressive, forceful behavior, and women leaders are often, um, not.


But That One Is Still Pretty Broken

But That One Is Still Pretty Broken

It’s now been nine years since the start of the Flint Water Crisis. Nine years since the water source was switched and the troubles began. Looking back, it’s not difficult to imagine how it could have happened. Humans and human institutions are inherently flawed. Choosing an option to save money without taking the proper time to understand the potential consequences is, well, human. Decisions like that happen all of the time and in many places.

However, the especially cruel twist in what happened in Flint is that it took so long — 18 months! — for at least some of the issues to be acknowledged and to begin the process of correcting them by switching the water source back. Clearly, that is not a timeline that a community with more money and different demographics would have experienced. Everybody knows that. But for people dependent on Flint water, they not only know that, they continually have to live with it. Assuming they’re still living.


Individuals Organizing to Protect Themselves

Individuals Organizing to Protect Themselves

There was a news conference this week where several Michigan lawmakers expressed their concern and general opposition to two proposed battery plants for electric vehicles near Big Rapids, Michigan. A summary from a Michigan Radio report:

Michigan lawmakers remain split over whether a U.S.-based subsidiary of a Chinese-owned electric vehicle battery company should receive state incentive funding.

Back in October 2022, the Michigan Strategic Fund Board approved $175 million total in incentives to support the development of a Gotion Inc. battery component plant in Big Rapids.

Despite passing a multi-million dollar spending deal to free up the funding and the fanfare of the moment, some Republican lawmakers have since soured on the idea.

I’m fine with the GOP leaders changing their minds. (When new information becomes available, changing your mind can be the right thing to do.) I definitely get why it’s important to ensure the good stewardship of public money. And given the increasingly authoritarian nature of the regime that controls China, vetting a corporation with ties to China is the right thing to do.

What’s bizarre to me, however, is that leaders so keen to rally Michiganders to organize and stand up for their rights are the very same ones who vehemently oppose citizens doing the same through labor unions. Not exactly the first inconsistency in a political party that I’ve detected, but sometimes certain ones stand out.


I Think I Want to Run for Public Office!

I Think I Want to Run for Public Office!

When I was in college, one of my jobs was refereeing intramural basketball games. It was a mostly positive gig: I loved (and still love) basketball, I had a good understanding of the game, and I needed money. It all lined up nicely.

But while I never had the pleasure of having to deal with rabid fans or angry parents, I did often have to wrangle drunken frat boys. Especially for Friday night games. It wasn’t too difficult keeping them from killing each other. (Inbound the ball as quickly as possible and blow the whistle super loud when necessary — those were the keys.)

However, drunken or not, the one rule they all had trouble with was the no cursing rule. At the beginning of each game I would explain to both teams with great clarity that if they cursed loudly, I would have to call a technical foul on them. How loud? Loud enough for the local residents, who used the track around the outside of the basketball courts for their walking exercise, to hear it. Those nice people didn’t want to hear it, and, more importantly, the Michigan Tech administration (the ones who made the rule) didn’t want them to hear it.

Invariably, somebody would blow a layup and let loose with a salty scream. I’d call a T, and they would deny that they said anything, then deny it was cursing, then deny that anybody heard it, and finally deny that I ever told them about the rule.

Point of all this: sometimes it’s no fun being the referee. Just like I imagine it’s no fun being a politician. At least one that is actually trying to facilitate a fair game. For example, in West Michigan near Big Rapids, local officials are trying to navigate a tricky situation where half the residents are enthusiastic about plans to build two battery plants promised to create 2,350 jobs while the other half, for various reasons, absolutely do not want them.

There are excellent points to be made for both sides, so it will be impossible to find a solution that makes everybody happy. I have a lot sympathy for those local politicians. But mostly it reminds me why I don’t really want to ever be a referee again.


So Let’s Give a Warm, Unironic Hillsdale Welcome…

So Let's Give a Warm, Unironic Hillsdale Welcome...

Florida governor Ron DeSantis is scheduled to come to Michigan this week to give a speech at Hillsdale College. DeSantis hasn’t formally declared his candidacy, but he is very likely going to be a Republican nominee for president, and Hillsdale is something of a traditional spot to test those waters.

The college is generally viewed as a bastion of modern conservatism. It’s a private school with a curriculum based on Western heritage as a product of Greco-Roman culture and Christian tradition. It famously eschews all governmental financial support for itself and its students to avoid compromising its principles.

The DeSantis speech will take place after my deadline for this and the cartoon this week. But I imagine his speech went something like this:

“Thank you for inviting me to Michigan even though most of Michigan is in Florida this week on spring break. <laughter> But seriously, it’s an honor, and the trip here gave me plenty of time for some reflection. Hillsdale has a well-deserved reputation of living its conservative values, and it’s high time I do the same.

For example, purposely turning the power of government against a private business like Disney, threatening them and telling them how to run their company — what was I thinking?

And appointing six of my cronies to the Board of Trustees of New College of Florida so that I could hire and fire whomever I please and mold the school into what I think it should be. I mean, it’s a public institution, not my personal possession. That’s some pretty obvious government overreach right there!

And then there was the whole thing with parents at one of your charter schools in Florida losing their minds over Michelangelo’s David. Man oh man, you were right to call out the cartoonish behavior and pull your support. I apologize for encouraging people to look for the worst in every situation, including confusing classical art with pornography. That’s on me!

Please let me just say that I’m sorry, and I promise to be a more consistently thoughtful leader in the future. Thank you.”

How’d I do? Is this close to what he said?


Lots of Things to Admire About American Democracy, But…

Lots of Things to Admire About American Democracy, But...

The United States is not unique in having the right to keep and bear arms specified in its Constitution. It is, however, pretty rare. The list: the Czech Republic, Guatemala, Ukraine, Mexico, the Philippines, the United States, and Yemen. But even among those countries, there is a pretty wide variance on what that means in practical terms. (In Guatemala, for instance, the Constitution protects the right to keep arms, but only for “weapons not prohibited by law.”)

In other countries, private ownership is allowed, just not constitutionally guaranteed. Like Canada, our very similar neighbor to the north — both of us former British colonies with democratic institutions, diverse populations, and large amounts of land.

Why then is our gun culture so vastly different from Canada? Why are per capita gun-related deaths and injuries ridiculously higher here than in Canada? Why are active shooter incidents in our schools a frequent occurrence here but almost unheard of there?

There are so many things to admire about the United States. I can’t imagine Canada (or any other country) thinks our gun culture is one of them.


I’m Pretty Sure I Don’t Like the Media Anymore

I'm Pretty Sure I Don't Like the Media Anymore

This is a bit of a continuation of an earlier theme of things working the way they should. Recently I did a cartoon about Michigan Democrats and Republicans delivering a tax cut bill quickly and efficiently, but neither were completely happy about it. Which is good because that’s how the system is supposed to work.

Now Democrats are now in control of all the levers of state-level political power (albeit with wafer-thin majorities in the legislature). And with such responsibility comes increased media scrutiny. Which is good because that’s how the system is supposed to work.

No politician should like the media. Respect the media, certainly. But expecting real journalists to be on your “side” is foolish. In slight defense of Democrats, it’s easy to see how they would get the sense that the general media is aligned with them. The continuous flow of Michigan Republican buffoonery these past few years has commandeered most of the media bandwidth.

By way of example, the much more obvious topic for me to address this week was the Michigan GOP ad comparing recently passed gun safety legislation with the Holocaust. I had to look past a lot of low hanging fruit to make sure that I’m calling out those in power on their shenanigans, too. Which is good because that’s how the system is supposed to work.


Maybe Not the Best Spokesperson

Maybe not the Best Spokesperson

It looks likely that the Michigan legislature will pass and Governor Whitmer will sign a repeal of the 2012 law that made us a right-to-work state. It can be kind of confusing, not least because “right-to-work” is really more of a PR victory than an actual description. (Props to the evil geniuses who not only developed it but somehow made it stick.)

At this point, I really only have two thoughts on the situation. The first is expressed in the cartoon. Basically, I would imagine the very “business leaders” responsible for the abjectly stupid decisions that destroyed Silicon Valley Bank are the same folks who would vehemently oppose a union workforce.

The other may seem unrelated, but it isn’t. Earlier this month, the state of Arkansas passed a legislation to reduce oversight of child labor laws. One of the arguments: Less regulation makes them more competitive. But apparently it wasn’t in time to fill their meatpacking industry with enough low-cost 14-year-old migrant children because this week Tyson Foods announced it will close a poultry plant in Arkansas with close to 1,000 employees.

Arkansas is a right-to-work state. In general, I think we should be aiming for less Arkansas.


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