Opinion | Michigan Radio


Daniel Howes / Detroit News

It must be good to be Dr. Eden Wells. She’s Michigan’s chief medical executive.

Just days before a judge ordered her to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in the Flint water crisis, she got a new government gig. The job is newly created and posted for all of six days, and get this, she was the only applicant.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

On Wednesday this week, Governor Snyder signed a bill into law that will allow a tunnel for a new section of pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac to move forward. The intention is to resolve the status of the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline, which currently is laid across the bottom of the Straits and poses a potential for catastrophic disaster.

John U. Bacon

The people who run all 39 college football bowl games recently picked the 78 teams they want to showcase this holiday season – even though there are only 130 teams to choose from. In other words, they have to dip into the bottom half of teams to fill the bowls.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

With apologies to Mark Twain, reports heralding the death of auto production in Detroit are exaggerated.

Bill Couch / Flickr / https://bit.ly/2Ejgq34

Last Sunday, the Peach Bowl in Atlanta invited the Michigan Wolverines to play Florida. But is that good news for Michigan fans, or bad?

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

It was hard not to notice the stark contrast this week between events celebrating the late President George H.W. Bush's life and the shameless actions of the Michigan (and Wisconsin) lame duck legislatures.

Howes: GM Drops Bomb

Dec 1, 2018
Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The president came to office promising to bring auto jobs home to Michigan and Ohio. And it looked like he’d be the Detroit industry’s best friend in decades.

It’s not exactly working out that way.

General Motors’ plan to end production at four U.S. plants next year … to imperil 3,300 hourly jobs … to cut 6,000 salaried employees elicited a fit of twitter rage from the commander in chief.

With apologies to King Canute who believed he, alone, could command the oceans, the president is learning he, alone, can’t command the auto industry.

On day one, Trump threatened to revoke electric-vehicle credits, even though he probably can’t. Then he threatened import tariffs on foreign-made cars, presumably including the Buick SUVs that GM makes in China and the sedans it mints in Canada.

On the third day, he used Twitter again to deflect blame for GM’s decision, saying his tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum aren’t the problem. “The USA is booming,” Trump wrote, quote, “Auto companies are pouring into the U.S.”

Except they aren’t. No, BMW isn’t building a second plant down South, as he reported. It’s thinking about it, in part as a hedge against presidential brow-beating. No, tariffs don’t help a Detroit auto industry greased by foreign parts and some production. They increase cost, decrease certainty and force CEOs to make hard calls. Or none at all.

That’s the thing about policy, Mr. President. It has consequences. And as much as Trump wants to shirk responsibility for at least some of the headwinds buffeting the industry, he can’t.

This isn't what candidate Trump envisioned when he barnstormed the industrial Midwest two years ago promising the return of auto jobs. Or when he vowed that tariffs on foreign steel, aluminum, even imported cars and trucks, would restore the Arsenal of Democracy to its former glory.

Ain't working out that way. The short-term pain of tariffs is plain for all to see. The long-term gain? Not so much.

GM has its own problems, legacies of its past. Too much excess plant capacity … and too many plants building traditional cars consumers don’t want. By its own admission, GM’s cash-flow generation is too meager … and its engineering staff is not optimized for the techy tasks ahead. None of that, it should be said, is Trump’s fault.

It’s GM’s. After American taxpayers fronted billions of their dollars a decade ago to keep The General afloat, it shouldn’t be at all surprising that critics are howling about GM’s responsibility to its people, its communities and the country. And as this restructuring unspools next year … and the fates of those four plants is decided in talks with the United Auto Workers … the howling will continue.

History can’t be erased that easily. A few years back, GM CEO Mary Barra asked me when people would start believing the new GM is for real. When it can prove its mettle to manage tough times and well as this long run of good times.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

I wouldn't say Michigan's relationship with General Motors is dysfunctional. I think it's more a case of unrealistic expectations. The auto industry is an integral part of our Michigan identity. So we, as people, tend to take it personally when GM does something that affects Michigan people negatively, such as the plan announced this week to layoff workers and close plants in Hamtramck/Detroit and Warren.

Kaveman743 / Flickr / https://bit.ly/2KKaWih

After Michigan football finished a disappointing 8-and-5 last year, most pundits figured the Wolverines wouldn’t be much better this year. Worse, they had one of the toughest schedules in the country.

John Auchter / Auchtoons.com

I imagine that some Thanksgiving dinners were a lot less tense when The Game took place the weekend before the holiday instead of after. Sure, a certain amount of tribalism is inevitable — it's who we humans are. But usually we're somewhat more civil after a battle.

Whatever your particular situation, I hope you had a safe and relaxing Thanksgiving Day. I hope you were able to share time with the ones you love. I hope you were able to both give and get kindness and acceptance from those around you. And I hope that Michigan beats the crap out of Ohio State.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Amazon.com announced the winners of its HQ2 sweepstakes. In case you missed it, the winners are... wait for it... New York and suburban Washington.

What a surprise.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

On the campaign trail, Governor-elect Whitmer promised she’d repeal Michigan’s right-to-work law, kill the so-called “retirement tax,” and revive the state’s Prevailing Wage Law.

All she’d need to make that happen is a Legislature controlled by her fellow Democrats. That ain’t happening because voters this week delivered divided government to Michigan. That dreamy, organized-labor wish list has pretty much no chance with Republicans controlling the state House and the Senate.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

When my kids were in elementary school, they would take AR tests. AR was short for Accelerated Reading, and the idea was positive reinforcement. At any time a kid could take a quick comprehension test on a book that they had read. If they passed, they got points, and there were rewards for a certain number of points.

Michigan v. Penn State

Looking at this year’s Michigan football schedule, everyone who plays, coaches, covers, or follows the team knew it would be a tough run, maybe the toughest in the country.

Michigan’s schedule included five ranked teams almost half the schedule. Three of them sat right in a row, in the middle of the season: Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State. The players called that the gauntlet, until defensive end Chase Winovich renamed it “The Revenge Tour,” because all three teams had beaten Michigan last year.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

To hear the two candidates for governor on the campaign trail, Michigan’s either finishing another “Lost Decade” or it’s poised for another one.

Couldn’t be further from the truth. Simple fact: whatever you think of Rick Snyder and his eight years as governor, his successor’s gonna inherit the best economy in at least 30 years. Jobs up. Per capita income up. Foreign investment rising. Unemployment down and plumbing record lows.

John U. Bacon

D.J. Durkin coached for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford for three years, and at Michigan for one. I liked him, but I didn’t play for him. Among the Michigan players I know, some liked him, some didn’t, but I never heard any of them say they thought he was dangerous.

In 2016, Durkin accepted the head coaching position at Maryland, which was entering its third season in the Big Ten. The year before, the Terrapins had finished dead last in the Big Ten East Division.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

The truth is, I have lots more to say about the election next week. Lots and lots. Opinions, comments, bitter asides, personal observations. Oh, and advice. I have a tremendous amount of incredibly valuable advice!

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The stock market’s tanking, thanks to rising rates and an aimless trade war with China.

But two American automakers battling their own separate demons are making real money. And they’re getting decidedly different reactions on Wall Street -- which tells you a little something about Detroit you might not want to hear.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Health care is a hot topic on the campaign trail this year, nationally and in Michigan. This should come as no surprise — health care is highly relatable. We all need it, we all use it, we all hope for high quality and low cost.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Judging by conventional wisdom and all-knowing polls, President Donald Trump and his Republicans face a historic wipeout in the coming mid-term elections.

But if you accept the Clintonian notion that “it’s the economy, stupid” such thinking may be just a bit too conventional.

In our early years as a couple, my wife and I used to make a yearly visit to Pennsylvania to visit relatives — grandparents, great aunts and uncles. On one such visit in the fall of 1988, a post-dinner conversation turned to politics. Among the Sanka and Jell-O 3-2-1 Jello, opinions were expressed about the presidential candidates. 


John U. Bacon

Michigan and Michigan State both faced highly ranked opponents last weekend.

The unranked Spartans suffered a couple bad losses, and entered last week’s game looking for a miracle against eighth-ranked Penn State at Penn State, no less, one of the toughest places to play. But the Spartans pulled the upset, earning them a 4-2 record and a return to the top 25.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Judging by the stock market this week, you’d think the economy’s in the dumps, unemployment is up, and corporate profits are down.

But you’d be wrong. Just the opposite, actually.

No, the proximate cause for the hand-wringing on Wall Street is the realization that the good times of almost-free money and steadily rising stock prices really can't go on forever. And that President Donald Trump’s trade battling with China really isn’t helpful.

The response: sell, sell, sell for some, anyway.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Look, it's not like I'm unaware of my own inconsistencies and, well, let's just say it: hypocrisy. I've drawn cartoons on several occasions expressing my opinion that ballot proposals are a bad idea and, well, let's just say it: stupid.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

You’d think eight years of economic growth declining unemployment … and the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history would be the makings of a “new” Michigan. You know, one unhitched from its contentious, anti-business past.

You’d be wrong, no matter what Republicans and the Detroit revival crowd say. From the Democratic nominee for governor and the Detroit City Council to labor unions and neighborhood group’s markers of Old Detroit are resurfacing.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

As a general disclaimer, my deadline for the cartoon was before the actual hearings with and Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh started.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Detroit lost a giant this week: the diminutive David DiChiera died at 83. He founded Michigan Opera Theatre just a few short years after the ’67 riots, prompting friends to question his sanity.

He envisioned transforming a decrepit Roaring Twenties movie theater into a European-style opera house long before Comerica Park or Ford Field became reality near Madison Avenue.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Earlier this week, the Washington Post had an article, "American paradox: Voters want the anger to stop but can’t stop being angry." It really could have been about anyplace in the United States, but the dateline was from Rochester, Michigan and centered on Elissa Slotkin's campaign against incumbent Mike Bishop for Michigan's 8th Congressional District.