THE BLOG

Bringing Back Michigan, Baby

01/18/2008 02:53 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The campaign caravan has moved on and the national press is about to forget Michigan again until some new disaster in the Upper Midwest impresses itself on the national consciousness. Before we go though I'd just like to echo the words of commentator and former University of Detroit basketball coach and Athletic Director, Dick Vitale when he said; "'S'bout bringing back Michigan, baby!"

In the recent Republican Primary you had the two leading GOP contenders of the week, Mitt "say anything" Romney, and John "hundred years War" McCain, treating Michigan to their contrasting visions of the future for the state.

McCain gave them his "straight talk" about bringing green jobs to Michigan, since "the old jobs are gone, and they ain't coming back." Romney opposed McCain's "defeatist talk" with a scheme of his own: massive government intervention to right the auto industry; a hazy twenty billion dollar plan marrying some sort of government bailout with talk of good old American entrepreneurial drive. While the specifics of the plan were rather nebulous, Romney's larger point won the day and the primary: the point being that we, the American people, cannot let Michigan fail.

The Devil of course is in the details.

Romney's right, the government is going to have to intervene in Michigan, but as the political class is fond of saying these days, it's going to have to be "smart" intervention. Meanwhile McCain is also right, the future is in green collar jobs.

One two-part idea America might try is this. To begin with, the Federal Government would assume the health care and legacy retirement costs of US auto workers from GM, Ford and Chrysler. This would help the Big 3 get back on their feet and stabilize job loss in the upper Mid West. In other words, your basic corporate bailout--I'm sure Mitt would approve.

However at the same time that the government is bailing out the big auto companies, it would also underwrite the creation of a new, Public Automobile company based in Detroit-- or Dearborn, or Flint. This Publicly owned, and what the hell, worker managed, company would utilize closed and abandoned GM and Ford plants. It would be dedicated to building stripped down, low cost, hybrid vehicles at eight to ten thousand dollars a pop. These new vehicles would be like a green version of the original Model-T.

The great thing about "The Green T" is it could be built to environmental standards, not corporate ones. The "Green T" might be able to get 100 miles to the gallon as do some prototype hybrid vehicles now being tested at the University of California, Davis. Whatever the case we know one thing; these cars would sell, sell well enough to help underwrite the costs of the government's legacy buyouts, pay good wages and make back the initial Public investment. We also know that since the company will be worker managed, the Public commission overseeing the company will be able to make a deal with the UAW to let the workers adjust their own pay rates and working conditions.

Taken together these two proposals would not only address the collapse of manufacturing in Michigan and the Mid West as a whole, but also climate change and the taboo against public ownership of industry. Further, it would point the way for Detroit to once again achieve profitability. The future, after all, is Green.

Now I know it might take McCain and Romney a minute to digest these twin proposals, so while they're digesting, let's talk amongst ourselves for a moment.

The big problem with this plan is not that it wouldn't work. The big problem with this plan is that it violates the taboo on public ownership of industry and anything smacking of government intervention in the market--even while the market is slowly collapsing, under the weight of its own greed and malfeasance, right before our eyes.

This final issue; the relationship of the public sphere and the private sphere is actually the key socio-economic issue of the historical moment. It should be a central issue in the coming election but the Republicans sure ain't gonna raise it, and with corporate Democrats Clinton and Obama currently leading the Democratic field, we know the Democrats won't either.

As we can see, bringing back Michigan won't be easy. It can be done, but only over the dead bodies of the two major political parties, the ruling corporate oligarchy and their gatekeepers in the media.

But personally, I feel like one could profitably spend a lifetime just making good on Mitt Romney's broken promises. And that's a good enough reason for bringing back Michigan to me.