Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This Just In! You Can't Live on Minimum Wage in Michigan

A recent Michigan study confirmed what most of us already know: minimum wage isn't enough to get by.

The Basic Economic Security Tables for Michigan, a study that analyzes the cost of essential needs for singles and families across Michigan, found the cost of providing basic necessities -- such as shelter, food and transportation -- far exceeds minimum wage and the paychecks of people working full-time in low-paying job categories.

So there's that.

A bit further down I've posted a Basic Economic Securities Table. I'm going to give away the ending right now, though. The chart suggests that minimum wage should be somewhere between $12.24/hr and $24.49/hr for a person to comfortably purchase the necessities of life.

"The final income tally can be a bit of a sticker shock," said Matt Unrath of Wider Opportunities for Women, the advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., that created the report using public data. "But when you go expense by expense, it makes sense. Whenever I make a presentation on this, families will say, 'Wow, so it's not my fault.' With these incomes, it's nearly impossible to cover the expenses, even if you worked 80 or 90 hours a week."

It's that highlighted section that gets me...the "Wow, so it's not my fault."

Here we are, living our lives, trying to get by, and though we may be working 60+ hours per week it never seems to be enough. And we blame ourselves.

We feel bad about it. Guilty about it. We feel that if we weren't so lazy or lousy with money we'd be able to do this. The car would be in fine working order. The paint on the side of the house wouldn't be chipping off and we could just go pick up some paint to fix it. We'd just go see the dentist...or maybe going to the eye doctor once per decade wouldn't be An Event We Save For. If only we weren't so hideously bad with money. If only we worked harder for longer hours. 60 isn't enough. Maybe 80. Maybe 100.


There's something horribly wrong with a country where a man or woman working full time can't support their family.

I'm not entirely sure how our conservative neighbors and countrymen and women can, with a straight face, reject the notion that an American working full time should make a livable wage. That they'd reject the notion that a person who works full time should be able to feed and support his or her children. And honestly...I believe most agree that a full time worker should be able to make an honest living off of an honest days work. It's the Republican leadership that's fixated on a trickle down system that has worked smashingly for a few, but has failed everybody else.

Jacobs noted that although the state's unemployment rate is dropping, the number of requests for food assistance is climbing because many of the new jobs being created are low-paying.

If you're working full time, you should not have to use food assistance.

Here's a table of what everything costs and what Minimum wage should be:


It's just getting ridiculous.

Michigan's U6 Unemployment rate is still in the 20% range, with a statewide U3 unemployment level of 10.3%. While it's nice to not see dramatic month over month declines in employment anymore, it would be nice to start seeing some job gains.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rick Snyder De-Invents Michigan

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's budget recently passed with 19 State Senators voting no and 19 State Senators voting yes...the tie was broken by Lt. Governor Calley.

Much has already been made of how this budget cuts large business taxes at the expense of low wage earners and retirees.

Little has been made, however, of another failure of this budget...there's no plan for economic diversification. In fact, the tax credits that had been put in place by Grahnolm's administration to stimulate new industries in Michigan have been removed.

Michigan hadn't been served well by being a single industry state. For the living memory of most people in this state, Michigan has always been a boom and bust economy. The booms became less and less prosperous compared to the rest of the nation. And the busts have became increasingly severe. The last one lasted more than a decade. While the rest of the nation saw more moderated ups and downs from 2001 to 2008, Michigan's single industry economy continued to stall along with the domestic auto makers.

When times are good or improving, our leaders seem to be content to let the state continue as a single industry economy. Engler blew Michigan's chance to diversify during good times in the 1990s...and it appears his protege Rick Snyder is setting us to for the same thing now that the auto companies are profitable again...for now.

And we all know where that leads. We KNOW where that leads. There's no ambiguity. There's no mystery. We KNOW where that leads us. We know, because we've been there most of our lives.

I spoke to Republican State Senator Geoff Hansen about this very subject...about how the budget has no plan for diversifying the economy, that it strips out most incentives for new industries, and he blurted out the general talking point about picking winners and losers. As though it's some moral rule that supersedes good governance. As though several lifetimes of boom and bust cycles weren't evidence enough that we KNOW what Michigan's economy will do, left to its own devices.

We KNOW that left to its own organic growth, Michigan will continue down the road toward a single industry economy as it has for the past 100 years. We KNOW that.

We KNOW that without incentives to grow new industries, we'll stay the same vulnerable and shaky economy we've been for decades.

We KNOW that.

Governor Granholm spent her 8 years in office, during some of Michigan's worst years for a long time, trying to lure NEW industries here: biomedical engineering, film, solar, advanced battery manufacturing, tourism. Those were the only glimmers of hope out there for the past decade while the auto industries crumbled around us.

But Snyder has mostly put an end to that.

Now that the domestic auto industry is profitable again, Michigan leaders can bury their heads in the sand again. They can go back to business as usual.

This tax plan isn't a reinvention of Michigan. It's the pursuit of the same lazy policy that's caused decades of boom-bust cycles...but mostly bust cycles.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Increased Oil Drilling vs. Lowering Demand: Two concepts enter, one concept dominates

Here's an awesome chart from the Natural Resources Defense Council. The point of the chart is to show that increased drilling will have a ridiculously small impact on oil price and supply vs. something like more public transit. Yeah, we can increase supply, but it's not going to drive prices down as much as lowering demand. And in the near term, increased drilling doesn't even register on the oil price reduction scale.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Michigan May Get High Speed Rail Money Turned Down by Florida

Great News! For people not in Florida.

Florida Governor TeaPartyVonWhatsHisFace has turned down $2.4 billion dollars in Federal money for high speed rail projects in the state of Florida. So the Federal Government is taking that money and giving it to states that DO want the cash, and it looks like Midwestern states will be among the recipients of that dough.
Federal officials appear ready to make a big down payment on the future of high-speed rail in Michigan and the Midwest.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will visit Detroit on Monday, reportedly bringing federal money for a high-speed rail line between Detroit and Chicago.

In February, Florida turned back about $2.4 billion in federal aid for high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando. Michigan and several other states have clamored for a share of that money.

LaHood's office would not release additional information Friday, saying only that he would make "a major announcement about high-speed intercity passenger rail" in New York on Monday morning and at the Amtrak station in Detroit's New Center that afternoon.

-- Article

This is great news for Michigan and much needed support for Detroit. Though I admit I'm a little bummed that the big line planned for Michigan is a Chicago to Detroit line likely to bypass the second largest, and growing, population center of Michigan the Muskegon-Holland-Grand Rapids region.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Great Lakes Fishery Commission May or MAY NOT Be Losing Lamprey Control Funding

In February I read an article about how the Great Lakes Fishery Commission was losing part of its funding and would have to cut backhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifhttp://www.bloggerhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif.com/img/blank.gif on lamprey eel control...a potential disaster for Great Lakes states, the ecosystem, and fishing.

That sucked.

Then I read an article about how the Great Lakes Fishery Commission would not in fact lose funding...that it would be FULLY FUNDED!

That was great!

But today I've read a new article about how the Great Lakes Fishery Commission is going to lose funding

Looks like I'll have to call the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to get the straight poop.

MI Court of Appeals Shuts Down MERS Foreclosures

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently handed down a triumph to the little guy. Basically, the questionable foreclosure authority claimed by the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) is over with. Fewer people are going to lose their homes.

This is fantastic.

Up until late April there had not been a significant case going against the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) in the State of Michigan. Not a lot of people challenged them, and even if they did not a lot of courts took the cases seriously.

Who is the MERS? Remember last year when there was that hulabaloo about "robo signers"? Those were the random people pulled off the street paid to sign and authorize mortgage and note transfers in a weird three-shell-game of home mortgage ownership that lead to questionable foreclosure authority.

That was MERS.

For years, MERS swaggered around unquestioned, claiming the right to foreclose on homes and transfer notes...when really, they had nothing. Nothing at all. Little to no authority to do anything.

Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled that MERS cannot foreclose on a house by advertisement. As in, they can no longer just publish your foreclosure in the paper and say "GET OUT." Instead, MERS has to go to court where they would actually have to prove authority to foreclose...which more often than not, they can't do.

MERS held out the promise of easy assignments of mortgages and notes to banks and financial institutions and facilitated an environment of sloppy record keeping as banks bought and sold and transferred and even split up and repackaged partrial ownership and authority over homes.

They invented authority to transfer and assign ownership by pulling poeple off the street, giving them the title of Vice President, and having them sign document after document after document without the presence of a notary...all for the sake of expediency.

And in the end, the chain of ownership got tangled...diffused. Questionable.

MERS claimed authority over mortgages that it never, ever had. Ever. And nobody questioned it until recently.

Now the State of Michigan is requiring MERS to prove in a court of law its authority over a note or mortgage. And they can't. And that's going to put a stop to thousands of foreclosures.

But what about the mortgagee?

Don't they still owe money?


ABSOLUTELY the person in the house owes money to SOMEBDOY.

But to who? In a shocking number of cases, there's really no clear indication who that money is owed to. Many times the company you send a mortgage check to is simply managing the payments...they're getting a small percentage of the money and sending it on to some other company that claims it has the rights to that money. Sometimes, that collection company isn't even passing the money on to another party. It's just pocketing they money because A) they want the money and B) they don't know who to send the money to.

And there's the problem. As it stands now, some random company is coming forward saying it has the authority to kick you out of your house when they in fact do NOT have the authority to do so, and cannot prove their authority to do so.

This is a problem Wall Street created for itself.

And it's high time the courts make them sleep in the bed they've created rather than passing their mess on down to the bottom.

That's not just my opinion...that's the Michigan Appellate Court's opinion, too.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Asian Carp Better Suited to Great Lakes than Previously Thought

The news on Asian Carp is getting worse.

It was originally believed that the fish needed very specific breeding conditions, requiring long rivers to spawn, so some scientists believed the infestation would be reduced. It turns out the fish is less picky about its spawning habitat.
One of the Asian Carps, the Silver Carp, has also been found to eat an algae very common to the Great Lakes, cladophora. It's a native food source that could be stripped from the food chain, just like the small diporeia shrimp.

New evidence indicates silver carp, one of the most common Asian carp in Illinois, can eat cladophora, an algae species prevalent in the Great Lakes. Previous studies had concluded that for Asian carp to survive, they need plankton, which are scarce in the southern end of Lake Michigan.

Evidence is also mounting that Asian carp don't need to travel up long rivers to spawn, which would increase the number of potential breeding areas around the Great Lakes, Carl said. Scientists previously thought rivers of at least 62 miles (100 kilometers) were necessary for carp larvae to develop before eventually moving into a lake.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Snyder Keynote Speaker Wednesday at Muskegon Community College Commencement

From Mary Valentine's blog -- I intend to be there with my camera in my hand

Gov. Snyder is the keynote speaker at the MCC graduation this Wednesday evening, May 4 at the Walker Arena.

There are many people who want to make a statement about the governor and his policies. Although there is no sponsoring organization, there is a group of people that want to have a silent demonstration outside the Walker Arena before the graduation. We will be gathering between 6:00 and 6:15 in front of the Walker Arena for the silent protest, this Wednesday, May 4.

It would be a nice gesture to have signs that congratulate the grads. We are all so proud of their accomplishments. But we also need signs that hold our governor accountable for his leadership: his decisions to gut education, give Emergency Managers unprecedented powers, and raise taxes on the poor and the old.