One year. One city. Endless opportunities.

The Circular Firing Squad of Michigan Politics

My man Jack Lessenberry nails it, especially with this line:

What we do know is that without some form of higher education, the good life, or maybe even any kind of job, is not going to be possible for today's Michiganders. You simply cannot support yourself flipping burgers at McDonald's, even if you can find a job there. Everybody in the state Legislature knows this.


The Legislature already has voted to sabotage our future. They have slashed funding for early childhood development, and are cutting spending for public education by $165 a pupil. The cynics, careerists and hypocrites among them are acting as if that were a victory for the kids, since earlier, the "leadership" had happily agreed to cut it by $218.

Now, Republican legislator Mike Bishop, the state Senate Majority Leader, is apparently trying to draw a line in the sand when it comes to restoring funding for the Michigan Promise scholarship program, which provides $4,000 to each Michigan student who completes two years of of post-secondary education with a 2.5 GPA or better. Meanwhile, the costs of going to school continue to increase: our 15 state universities raised tuition by 35 percent between 2003 and 2007, largely because of cuts in their state funding. (Our Democratic governor certainly isn't without blame in the ongoing Michigan budget fiasco, but visceral and nonsensical attacks on public education funding are straight out of the GOP playbook. And, yeah, I said it.)

Some of this isn't surprising because, around here, many politicians and residents (of all stripes) often fail to hold education in the highest regard. We're not necessarily anti-intellectual in Michigan, but many of us have a long history of doing just fine without a U of M sheepskin -- or even a Detroit Cass Tech High School diploma -- adorning the wall. As Jack points out, a booming auto industry meant high-paying jobs for even the lowest-skilled workers. Even I can remember tales of guys who would could shout "screw high school" in the 11th grade, drop out to take jobs at Ford and Chrysler and still earn as much as some accountants and other professionals.

But those days are gone. And they aren't coming back. So education has to become a greater priority for us, and it's value should be reflected in how we allocate our money, despite deficits and other woes. We cannot afford to stop investing in our kids' education, even when we think such opposition can be fashioned into a winning political sound bite. And reneging on the Promise program is, to me, as cynical a political betrayal of that ideal as I can imagine.

You'd think the leaders in Lansing, our state capitol, would understand that.

Guess our high-school students aren't the only ones in need of higher learning.

  • Print
  • Comment
Comments (33)
Post a Comment »
  • 2

    The stereotype of high school dropouts manning the assembly lines was outdated long ago, if it ever truly applied. I don't know about GM, but Ford always pushed education for employees and tested promising employees for potential. A friend of mine (a Spanish major in college) retrained as an engineering tech at a local community college on Ford's dime while working there. Remember, at a time when a lot of people didn't have home computers or laptops yet, Ford gave everyone computers as their bonus?

    Chrysler's most advanced engine plant in Dundee hired only college grads when it opened.

    We really need to dispel the overpaid high school flunky meme. The current undereducated in Detroit have never spent a second working on a Big 3 line and likely never will unless the companies institute an education program for their benefit.

    As far as the politics go Bishop is 100% narcissistic, power-mongering obstructionist and is the prime example of how screwed up the GOP has become on so many levels. Though I'm ticked at Granholm, too, for abolishing by executive order the Department of History, Arts and Libraries (HAL).

    • 2.1

      For YEARS the Big 3 did, in fact, offer an education benefit for all full-time employees. My husband utilized this benefit - earning both a bachelor's and master's degree while working full-time plus overtime on the line and as an electrician for Chrysler. Sadly, very few workers took advantage of this tremendous opportunity and due to the current economic crisis the tuition plan has been eliminated from current contract between the Big 3 and the UAW.

    • 2.3

      Now this is a classic bias - "dirty" jobs vs "clean" jobs and equating "dirty", "industrial", and jobs requiring physical strength with lack of education or intelligence.

  • 3

    [...] from: The Circular Firing Squad of Michigan Politics – The Detroit Blog … Comments [...]

  • 4

    Somehow, I managed to graduate from Eastern Michigan University in 1979 without a State of Michigan Promise Scholarship. My parents were unable to pay for my college education. Through a series of students loans and employment, I was able to receive my degree. Students at Michigan's colleges will have to figure out how they will pay for their education without the Promise. It can be done!

    The State of Michigan cannot afford many of the programs that it formally funded. All of the crying and finger pointing will not change this fact!

    • 4.1

      A college education was a lot less expensive, relatively speaking, than it is now. I finished grad school in 1990 with a combined grad and undergrad debt load of under $10K, working to pay my own way along with whatever financial aid was available then, no help from the parents. There 's no way I could do that now. The cost of higher education has gone through the roof since then.

      I truly believe higher education and the medical/health fields are bubbling right now and will be the next two to burst.

  • 5

    How about the school/day care grants to welfare recipients? Are these being cut, also?

    I think that welfare payments could be cut 10-20% across the board. Also REALLY require either work or volunteer time for free government money, such as Medicaid, WIC, payments for babies and mothers under welfare. For Head Start, require family members to volunteer in schools. We give away far too much away for free to people whose only requirement for money is having babies. Let these families take responsibility for their actions, if they want our tax money to support them.

    • 5.1

      Can you please spell out the qualification requirements, actual benefits granted, and length of time restrictions for all of these programs?

  • 6

    I am too busy working with these welfare babies and mothers to do this, maybe someone else can. I just know that when a girl/woman gets preggers, she gets Medicaid for a LONG time, as do, of course all of her children. They get housing, food, and then schools starting from age 3, oh and of course free formula, since very few of them have the time or energy to breast feed. Most teenage mothers have a second child within 2 years. Many get pregnant by men over 18 years old, but this is never pursued. As long as they are not married, and the man is not around, they get more generous benefits. And free cell phones now, there is a programs. Disincentives? None that I can tell. The mothers and their sisters, and their mothers pool the money and seem to do quite well on the government dole. In California, welfare was short on cash, so recently they cut out the work component, because the workshops and employment assistance were too expensive. it is cheaper to just give away the money.
    Often, there is a welfare mother at home with several children,.and her teenagers are already starting their families by age 16, so the aunts and uncles are 3 and 4 years old , since the teens are having babies already! I was so hoping that the Obama man would address this part of the budget, but these are his voters, so mmmm, no way!

    I don't know exactly how much of the Michigan budget this is, but I think a cut of 10% would be reasonable. Working people should not be forced to support this lifestyle, but if this is the American way, at least let us keep other services in Michigan and and include this in cutbacks, along with all of the other sacrifices being made.

    • 6.1

      It sounds more like you're unfamiliar with program specifics and are really interested in promoting stereotypes and waging biased attacks.

  • 7

    No, I work with this population 40-60 hours a week and they are real, not a stereotype. What's the bias? I think it's a very real part of the population that sucks up federal, state and local tax dollars. I pay taxes and sometimes I think I might as well hand it straight over to these teenage moms and babies. I see them every day, why is this biased? Do you think these mothers and babies don't exist? I doubt you have had much contact with the welfare population. That is too bad, because then you and others would be more sensitive to rectifying the situation. I see no reason that taxpayers should support them, but obviously, we can't let the babies starve, so that is always the argument for perpetuating the welfare class in the US. It is a giant problem, socially and fiscally, that no politician has the courage to address. I wish it weren't so, but again, there is absolutely NO disincentive, so now we are into our 3rd and 4th generations.

  • 8

    to "announced action": I see that you have finished graduate school, and wonder what field is immune from contact with the welfare class? Accounting? This is a serious, not a rhetorical query.

    • 8.1

      I am not immune to contact with people drawing aid and have experience with some of them as co-workers, that's why I take exception to the biased portrait you paint.

  • 9

    I am not speaking about those who have at least risen a little above the welfare mass and re actually working with you. I am speaking of the multitudes of teens and babies who are firmly wedded to welfare payments through the generations. These programs are: Medicaid, WIC, food stamps, housing grants, day care, subsidized education, Head Start, etc etc etc, that are all free, and often with no strings attached, if the babies are plentiful enough, and the mothers are young enough. A denial of this knowledge really means that you must not be working in places like FIA, schools, hospitals, clinics, WIC offices, or the other offices, all financed by the federal, state and local governments, and all of which are designed and dedicated to giving out money to women and children. None of which is lost on the welfare class. Just spend time hearing them complain about how their "worker" didn't call them back soon enough about their benefits, while they are texting on their free cell phone with their designer nails. Just a fact of American life! If you don't believe that this exists, take a field trip down to either a WIC office or FIA office and ask to hang out for a day. You will see it all! Guaranteed!

  • 10

    Actually, teen pregnancies are up this year across the US. The link above states that as of 2004, 1 out of every 2 babies in Michigan are enrolled in the WIC program. I personally think that WIC is probably the best Federal/State program for nutrition, because it actually dictates what can be bought, it is not just free cash. I do recommend that if you want to even begin to see the extent of this welfare class, you go down to a WIC office or FIA office for a day or a week and see what is happening there.

    By the way, some of the most cynical people I have met are the occasional coworker I have had who was on government aid in the past.They report seeing some recipients drive up in SUVs with their boyfriends in their designer jeans to get their benefits. Generally, there is a huge sense of entitlement in welfare recipients. Do you have any idea how much welfare money goes to buying cigarettes and junk food, adding to health care costs? A lot.

    t's very disheartening to know that so many billions of $$ go to supporting people who are now in their 3rd or 4th generation of being government supported. It's a racket for many of them. There are many ways to save tax dollars on these programs, but there is no one in the government who will do it. Anyone who has tried has had his or her political career destroyed.

    By the way, this goes for many SSI recipients, as well.

  • 11

    I'll bet you don't make less than $9.63/hr, do you?,1607,7-132-2942_4910_6329-12671--,00.html

  • 12

    That's besides the point, to ask me if I earn a certain wage.
    This has to do with personal responsibility. It means not having children until one can afford them, and to not think that the government is a big sugar daddy that provides everything from birth to death. It means starting at the bottom and working up. It means thinking of whom one has a baby with as to whether that person will contribute to the baby's future (and this will not be the 16 year old boy who sits next to you on the bus, when you are a 14 year old girl.)
    It means parents actually acting responsibly so as not to perpetuate the welfare class.
    In the meantime, I would suggest that all of the problems of the welfare class be looked at very critically because we can't afford this system to proliferate, as it has done for decades.

  • 13

    I'm Pro: "Have Babies When You Can Afford Them and can Pay For Their Upbringing, Not When I Have to Pay for Them."

    The same standard for my family and for the rest of the world. Unfortunately, I pay lots of taxes for the teen mothers to have babies. I feel that since we are supporting them, we should be able to have more input into what happens with their children, and with them. But instead there is a free market approach in that we work for them, and they do what they want with our tax money. So now there are cutbacks in the budget, state and federal for deserving programs, while the welfare benefits are still as generous as ever, with no disincentives. It is really not fair. But it is the American way, since LBJ.

    I don't want children starving, but I also think that the welfare system has turned into a giant, uncontrolled entitlement program that overall is not good for children, mothers and families. I really have said all that I have to say on this issue. Thank you for listening.

    • 13.1

      You do realize, don't you, that people work to support you, too? That you benefit from taxpayer funded protections and programs in many ways?

  • 14

    I have paid a lot of taxes. There are many people who do not pay taxes that we taxpayers support. I appreciate all of those who pull their weight in this country.

    Unfortunately, many people don't pay taxes and never will. They are on the taking end. Eventually, this country can't keep printing money and the takers will overwhelm us financially. But as long as welfare without limits is supported, then we taxpayers will keep trying to give huge amounts to perpetuate it. It's the American Way.

    I do believe this subject is exhausted, and I am heartened to know that you, whom I assume pays taxes, is so enthusiastic about welfare. That can counterbalance others who are a bit fed up with the system.

    • 14.1

      Despite your assertion there ARE limits to welfare and if you really knew the system instead of spewing political rhetoric you'd know that.

  • 15

    No Mr Dawsey, I was speaking in this case about the teen mothers who are 4th generation welfare recipients, that my tax dollars support. But while we're on the subject, how about us supporting TIME magazine reporters who move into an area, ie Detroit, and then spend a year "bloodsucking" off of Detroit for their own "cesspool of cronyisms?" You could have hired local and at least had more of a sense of history instead of going on and on about things we know, such as Sanders chocolate.

    I have never seen such a ridiculous assignment, coming to "study" us and then write things like gee gosh, Detroit just ISN'T so bad after all! And acting as if we should be flattered you noticed us. Talk about "parasites"!

    And you all act so self-righteous, as if we should be THANKFUL you noticed us! I say, stop pointing fingers at "welfare-guzzling executives" and look in the mirror yourself. Maybe you should embed yourself in Iraq, as you are acting as if you are in some kind of strange country, smarter and wiser than us. Like, gee gosh, they have food and art here! Who knew it got ALL the way out to the Midwest!!!!!

  • 16

    Well then. I was gaining information by reading this blog...........then it got a bit mean.

    According to one post, Time has concocted a ridiculous assignment by sending a bloodsucking, self-righteous, parisitic reporter... who acts as if he is smarter and wiser than us... to cover the goings on of Sanders chocolate. He manages to do this while A) pretending he is in a strange kind of country and B) never admitting his actual home is a cesspool.

    I'm glad somebody knows what's going on.

  • 17

    Here's a different perspective -- I am the child of an educated divorced white mother who spent a lot of time on and off welfare when I was a kid. After my dad left, we had a very hard time financially as a family. My mom is a super hard worker, and would take any job offered -- including things like assembling widgets in a factory in Novi, and all the commuting and making arrangements for babysitters for my younger brother and me. She'd work hard to get off assistance, only to suffer another set back and have to go back on.

    But the system did not work. First, because we were treated like garbage by the people working in welfare offices, where there was absolutely a lot of racial favoritism of the reverse racism kind, and where people with a good education who fell on hard times through no fault of their own were treated like pariahs.

    But also because the rules were so stupid. If we owned a car, it got counted against the benefits we could receive. The worker told my mom she should sell the car and live off that. Well, it was an old, used car, and we couldn't have lived on what she could get for it for a month, and then it was gone. We needed that car for her to have a chance to get a job, because public transportation stinks in the Detroit area, where it exists at all. And try living on the piddling little amounts you were given -- though it was my mom's pride more than anything that kept her pressing hard to get off assistance.

    As an adult myself, I have worked all my life and gotten a very good education. Nonetheless, I had a year in the middle of all that when I fell on hard times -- and there was no safety net for me. I was unemployed, so I was playing women's pro football (which is only technically pro -- our team never made enough to actually pay the players), so I lost my unemployment benefits (you have to be ready, willing and ABLE to work). Until we knew how long my disability would continue (i.e. would I ever walk again?), I didn't qualify for Federal Disability. Because I had lost my previous job 4 DAYS over the limit for receiving NYS Disability, I didn't qualify for that either. But when I went to apply for assistance, in an office with a woman even more nasty than the ones we ran into as a kid in Detroit, I was not even allowed to apply because the system had no provision for parents who had equal shared custody with no custodial parent and the kids really spent exactly the same amount of time with each of us. I had to get intervention by my local county legislator and a disabled persons' advocacy group just to be allowed to APPLY for welfare. When I finished jumping weeks of hoops, and turning in my doctor's note as to why I could not participate in the otherwise mandatory "workfare" (due to my disability) -- I was told I had to wait 45 days before I would receive any benefits. If I had income from any other source during that time, my benefits would be reduced and if I got caught with any income and not reporting it, I could go to jail -- but what was I supposed to live on for 45 days when I was already long-since run out of money?!??

    Then I got a report of my package. I was renting a small but clean and decent apartment for $350 a month, and excellent price in this area. But welfare only allows $200 a month for housing, and I would only receive a TOTAL of $316. You tell me how I was supposed to live on $316 a month, and if I earned anything to supplement it, I'd lose it.

    An educated, qualified, experienced person, who had worked and contributed to the system, supported herself and her family for many years, and I fall on hard times and there was NOTHING for me, no support network, no safety net, not even reasonably polite treatment by public officials.

    I was trying to get any job. I worked on my job search every day. But there were just plain no openings in a position for which I was qualified, not in a 3 hour radius. I could do any kind of office work, and I could do it well. But I could not get any of three different temp agencies to even LOOK at my resume. When they heard I had a BA, MA and MLS, they decided I was overqualified for anything they had. Kids -- I still had to eat, to pay bills, to do my share to take care of my children.

    I got lucky. I worked my tail off in PT and was able to walk again, which gave me back the last of my unemployment benefits. And 3 days before those ran out, knowing there was nothing on which to fall back, a family friend offered me a minimum wage job an hour away and I took it gratefully. After a few months there, finally some library jobs opened up -- I applied for 3, was offered 2, (was top candidate for the 3rd, but they lost their funding and didn't hire anyone) and started work here where I am now.

    But it was as much luck as hard work that landed me in a better position. I don't doubt for a minute that there are lots of good, decent, hard-working people out there -- in Detroit and elsewhere -- who are getting the shaft and having all kinds of people -- including those in the assistance offices - treat them like worthless dirtbags.

    I am sure there are also people who work the system. It's such a stupid system, they probably figure it's the only way. Maybe some of them grow up thinking this is the way. It's a very different culture in the inner city, I think. But that doesn't mean there aren't lots of good, hard-working people who are forced by bad luck to need assistance -- and what a rotten thing it is to make it so hard for them because you are feeling vindictive against the abusers.

  • 18

    You are whom the system should be helping, It is supposed to be a program to help people get back on their feet financially. It was not meant to be the primary support for generations of families, who have several babies as teenagers, don't get an education, and continue on government support of various kinds indefinitely. It also rewards having the most kids possible for the government to support.

    I had contact recently with a woman in her 20s who has 6 children by 5 different fathers, with another one on the way. No job, no plans for a job, and none of the fathers provide support. The fathers are anonymous (not in any records), so as not to complicate the government support. First child was at 15 year old, grandma was 30 when the first grandchild was born..This is a typical story, as I have seen family sizes (mother and children) from 4-14. You were not in the typical mode for receiving benefits. I think it works best if one has lots of babies and never works, and keeps having more children over a period of time. The programs are for the "good of the child" so they don't get touched or have to deal with something like a 10% cut across the board. They are true entitlement. Unlike social security or Medicare, recipients do not have to pay into them, it is all just a take program.

    I am sorry you did not benefit, but the current program favors those who have never worked, have a lower educational status, have a multitude of kids, and do not declare ownership of anything, such as a car.

    You were caught in the system without the typical story or attitude, so the cards were stacked against you. Your mother was also honest about owning a car.

  • 19

    My mother is incredibly honest, even when it means losses for her she can ill afford.

    Not being typical is no excuse for us not to have been helped by a system which is supposed to be there to help people in exactly the situations we were each in.

    All of the above is proof that the system does not work. It does not mean we should scrap the system and there would be nothing for those for whom it was intended (even though, obviously, that happens sometimes as things stand). It also doesn't mean it's a good idea to impose even more difficult hoops to jump -- because the users will find ways to negotiate the hoops to their advantage while the honest folks will find themselves shut out -- you have to add to my picture above that I had been seriously injured and was in a wheelchair, in horrendous pain (I went through 3 different pain meds and had to abandon them all because I had reactions and they made me sicker than without), and could not even just sit up for more than about 15 minutes without being utterly exhausted. I had to arrange for friends to drive me 25 minutes to town, then sit in a waiting room for hours, filling otu paperwork, dealing with every bureaucratic roadblock, and all while in a physical state where I really should have been home in bed just trying to rest and heal. But because of HIPPA and all that, it had to be ME personally who had to make calls and write letters and attend meetings -- it just wasn't right.

    The whole system is not right. We need to back up and re-think from scratch -- which is what I've been saying about other aspects of the situation in Detroit as well. Detroit is uniquely placed to wipe out all the old stuff that didn't work and start over again fresh from scratch. The usual approach when there is an economic mess is to try to find ways to lure Big Business back, get financial backing from banks, etc. My advice is -- Don't do it! Politicians, banks and big corporations are what put Detroit (and many other parts of the country) in the mess it is in now in the first place, and when things got bad, they just walked away and abandoned you. Instead of whining and feeling bummed about it, be glad. You are free and can start out without that millstone around your necks -- don't be welcoming it back. Think outside the box. If I had answers, I'd have to run for office -- I don't, but I can see pretty clearly what does NOT work and am hopingm y hometown won't crawl right back into the same trap. Take your fresh opportunity and run with it.

    Just don't forget the decent people who are hurting -- people who've lost jobs and homes due to the economy, not personal irresponsibility.

  • 20

    [...] since we all love to laugh at dumb politics, I want all my fellow Lions football fans to check out detroit.blogs.time and tell me what you think about[...]

Add Your Comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.
The Detroit Blog Daily E-mail

Get e-mail updates from TIME's The Detroit Blog in your inbox and never miss a day.

More News from Our Partners

Quotes of the Day »

NICHOLAS FISHER, expert at Stony Brook University in New York who took part in a study which found that bluefin tuna contaminated with radiation believed to be from Fukushima Daiichi were present off the coast of California just five months after the nuclear meltdown.