Michigan

I just posted a comment in the Comments thread to Bill H’s post on Michigan from Tuesday, and on a whim, because these issues hit a nerve for me, I’m reposting my comment as a full post here:

I love this post.  It hits upon a few of my obsessions, but especially these two: The lack of metropolitan-area public transportation (the complete absence of it or the utter inadequacy of it) in so many large metro areas in this country, and the local (rather than state or federal) funding of public education.

The public-transportation issue is just so in-your-face stunning in southeastern Michigan.  Detroit, for idiotic it’s-the-Motor-City reasons, is the only large Rustbelt city that has no rapid-transit system.  The most obvious—and I mean, it’s really, really obvious—way to revive Detroit and turn southeastern Michigan back into a thriving region is a system of fast, reliable, reasonably comfortable regional public transportation.  A sort-of diamond-shaped system running from Detroit to Ann Arbor to Lansing to Flint, through Pontiac, and back to Detroit would work miracles in a lot of people’s lives.  Add on a tail that runs from Detroit south through an area known as Downriver (which is mostly so-called working-class white) to Toledo, and ….

Michigan’s a surprisingly pretty state—lakes, rivers, tributaries galore—and it’s very green (literally).  It has large expanses of beautiful beaches.  It has two major public research universities and good regional state university system that includes a large one in Detroit.  It should not be a state in decline.

As for one of Bill’s larger points—this country’s obsession with complete local control over really important, basic government functions, and states’ rights to violate individuals’ rights at will—this plays a huge role in this country’s loss of economic competitiveness and its loss international esteem.  In no other democracy or advanced economy in the world do parents have to obsess about what school district this or that prospective home is in.  Does anyone think that, say, Canadians or Germans or Australians or the French worry about school districts?  Has anyone in this country stopped to think of why they don’t?

Nice post, Bill.

One thing Bill mentioned that I didn’t discuss in my comment is that Michigan (like several other states) tends to vote Democratic for president but Republican for government and state legislators.  That’s very largely a function of the fact that in modern times most states elect their statewide officeholders—governor, attorney general, etc.—in non-presidential-election years, and the drop-off in the number of Democrats who vote in those elections is dramatic.

So ALEC controls most state governments.

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