Michigan Radio: Jack Lessenberry: Jack's Take

Michigan Radio: Jack Lessenberry: Jack's Take

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Daily interviews and essays about politics and current events with newspaper columnist Jack Lessenberry.More from Michigan Radio: Jack Lessenberry: Jack's Take »

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Health insurance companies' favorite Michigan legislator

There's little doubt that State Senator Joe Hune is the health insurance companies' favorite Michigan legislator. While it wouldn't be nice to say he's been bought and paid for, they've invested heavily in him over the years; nearly a hundred thousand in campaign contributions, according to conservative Detroit News columnist Frank Beckmann. And now they are counting on their investment paying off. Hune is chair, surprise surprise, of the insurance committee. And he is working hard to ram a bill through the legislature that would weaken coverage and protection for those terribly injured in catastrophic auto accidents. And in an especially underhanded move, Hune and his allies have stuck a token $150,000 appropriation onto this bill to prevent voters from trying to repeal it. They have to do that, because the people would repeal it. They have twice before rejected efforts to change the laws and weaken benefits. This is a program, by the way, that is not broken. Doctors and patients say it works. There is plenty of money in the long-term liability fund to take care of people who need lifetime care – billions of dollars. But the big insurance companies want to get their hands on some of that money, and reduce what they are paying in. Last year, they tried to get a bill through the legislature that would have drastically capped benefits to the catastrophically injured. That failed, in no small part because of opposition from one of the state's leading conservative Republicans, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. He is a survivor of a terrible car accident, and knows firsthand how important this coverage is to people. This year, the insurance companies and their allies are being sneakier about it. Instead of directly limiting benefits, they're trying to cap what doctors can charge and what those providing the care can be paid. Once again, the people's only hope may be Brooks Patterson. Yesterday, he told the Gongwer News Service "I don't know why these guys are hell-bent on destroying one of the most thoughtful pieces of legislation drafted," he said, meaning the current system. He called Hune's bill "the worst piece of legislation they ever came up with." The hospital and medical communities are solidly opposed to this bill. So are virtually all the Democrats. Tom Cochran, their leader on the insurance committee said it would "increase unfunded care for hospitals, reduce pay for medical professionals and ultimately leave victims of catastrophic accidents with fewer options and higher bills." But they are in the minority. Republicans are needed to stop this bill, and Patterson is lobbying all the state representatives from Oakland County to do just that. Interestingly, the change is also opposed by the Tea Party's Todd Courser, who says he doesn't like it because it "seems to benefit the insurance companies without any rate reductons." This could be the most important drama in the legislature this year. The insurance companies and their allies are trying to rush this through before most voters realize what is happening. If this matters to you, or you have ever been touched by a terrible car accident, you might want to let your state legislators know how you feel. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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Remembering Elizabeth "Betty" Weaver

Over the past week, there's been a lot of attention paid to the death of Detroit philanthropist Al Taubman, and a lesser amount paid to that of former U.S. Senator and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bob Griffin. But buried in the back pages of today's papers are obituaries of one of the strangest and most fascinating people ever to sit on the Michigan Supreme Court. Elizabeth "Betty" Weaver's death at age 74 on Tuesday seems to have been about as mysterious as her life. We don't know exactly where she died or the cause of death; in fact, we were never quite certain about her age. All we seem to know is that a funeral home in Traverse City said that they had her body, and that her family doesn't want any services. Betty Weaver was anything but predictable. She was a woman from Louisiana who moved to Northern Michigan when she was in her thirties and already a lawyer. She soon was elected a probate judge in Leelanau County, where she became noticed and won praise for her efforts on behalf of children in the judicial system, possibly the least controversial thing about her. Today you can read mild praise for her from politicians and fellow justices, mostly Republicans. Most of those statements are basically insincere. They loathed her, and she loathed nearly all of them, including Governor Snyder. I know, because she told me so, in a long and rambling phone call one Halloween night a few years ago. She wanted to enlist my energies in helping to destroy them. She was a bundle of contradictions; a Republican who came to hate her fellow Republicans on the court; a woman who crusaded for justice and who secretly taped her colleagues' conversations in order to successfully embarrass them. She was first elected to the high court in 1994, and was unanimously elected chief justice five years later. Yet there were questions about her administrative competence, and her colleagues refused to reelect her chief two years later. After that, she seemed to change. During her last years on the court, her behavior seemed to become more bizarre. She attacked her fellow Republicans as "Engler's Gang of Four," after the governor who appointed them. Embarrassing fights broke out in which she savaged her colleagues, and at least one made fun in public of the way she dressed and spoke. When Chief Justice Cliff Taylor was unexpectedly defeated in 2008, she crossed over to help Democrats elect Marilyn Kelly as chief. Twice Weaver announced she was going to retire from the court and didn't. Five years ago, she announced she would run for reelection as an independent – and then suddenly quit, apparently after working out a deal with then-Governor Granholm to replace her with northern Michigan Democrat Alton Davis, who ended up being defeated that fall. Weaver then wrote a nearly 800-page book called "Judicial Deceit," blasting her colleagues, and calling for court reform and eliminating partisanship and secret money from judicial elections. Not all her ideas were bad, or her criticism wrong. But her flamboyance distracted from her points. Betty Weaver had much worth saying, but the way she said it caused many to tune her out. That may be worth remembering most of all. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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Genocides remembered, forgotten, and denied

April always has been a month of hope and renewal, when the last snow disappears, the forsythia blooms, and leaves sprout on the trees. I've always been struck by the fact that America's two worst wars came to an end in spring. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox 150 years ago. Seventy years ago, Adolf Hitler killed himself at the end of April, as the worst regime in history collapsed. But April is also when we commemorate the two worst crimes in human history. Last Sunday, temples and synagogues across Michigan marked Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Armenian-Americans have been observing the 100th anniversary of their own genocide this week at the hands of the Turks, during World War I. Hitler, in justifying a policy of unspeakable brutality at the start of World War II, is supposed to have said to his generals, "Who speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" He thought mass murder could easily be forgotten. Well, that one hasn't been, though the survivors are nearly all gone now. The Turkish slaughter of the Armenians was much less efficient than the Nazi murder machine. It largely consisted of driving more than a million men, women and children into the Syrian desert without food or water during the First World War. And today, in an ironic twist, the Armenian Holocaust has not only not been forgotten, it remains a sensitive political issue. Nobody sane denies what happened to Europe's Jews. But the Turkish government continues to deny there ever was a policy of genocide against the Armenians, and the United States government won't contradict them. Turkey was an important ally of ours during the Cold War and remains one against Islamic extremism, and Washington doesn't want to make Ankara mad. President George W. Bush recalled our ambassador to Turkey nine years ago after he said the Armenian genocide was an undeniable historical event. Even President Obama has gone no further than using Armenian words to label it a "Great Calamity." Pope Francis, however, flatly called the killings a genocide, which angered the Turks and comforted the Armenians. I am not an expert on that region. But over the years, I've interviewed enough survivors of the death march, including Detroit industrialist Alex Manoogian, to have no doubt whatsoever that mass murder occurred. That doesn't mean we, even the Armenians, should hate the Turkish people; after all, Israel and Germany are allies. It does mean we can't forget. When American troops liberated their first concentration camp, a relatively minor one, General, later President Eisenhower did all he could to have the press see it and other liberated death camps as well. Eisenhower said it was the greatest shock of his life. Though it made him sick, he forced himself to inspect every "nook and cranny of the camps" and to have as many pictures as possible taken so that nobody could ever deny that the Holocaust happened. He was righter than he knew. This week, we owe it to ourselves to remember both horrors, and the ones that have happened since, in places like Rwanda and Cambodia. We need to prove Hitler wrong, and, in a world still filled with hate, try to prevent it from happening again. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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The Synder campaign

There's suddenly a new flurry of rumors that Governor Rick Snyder is inching towards making a run for President. There is some evidence that there's something to this. The governor, or his supporters, are creating a new non-profit fund, "Making Government Accountable" to pay for his jaunts around the country. He is ostensibly doing this to help tell the story of Michigan's comeback across the nation, perhaps to drum up more business for the state. But it could be that he's trying to sell himself as well. Anonymous sources say he is thinking about running, though Snyder himself is coyly denying it, saying things like, "I've got a full plate right now, and I am focused on being governor." And while he does plan to travel a lot, he has no plans to join the mob of more open presidential candidates in early caucus and primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire. So what's really going on here? Three months ago I said that I didn't think Snyder would run and that he would not be an especially strong candidate if he did – and I still think that. But he clearly wants something, and wants to be noticed. My guess is that he is primarily positioning himself as a vice-presidential candidate, or possibly a contender for a slot in a potential Republican president's cabinet. He can't run for governor again. Defeating Senator Debbie Stabenow if she runs for reelection during his last year in office would be difficult at best. There is, however, one very remote chance Rick Snyder might have to be the presidential nominee, and here's what it is. What if the Republicans get to their national convention in Cleveland next July and no candidate has a majority of the more than two thousand delegates? Let's say when they call the roll of states, Jeb Bush ends up with 40 percent of them, Scott Walker has 30 percent, and Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and a smattering of others have the rest. That would mean another ballot, or ballots, and what might ultimately be a brokered convention, with deals made and a compromise candidate coming out of nowhere. That hasn't happened in more than sixty years, but it used to happen all the time. Sometimes candidates have been nominated who weren't on anyone's radar screen when the convention started – Wendell Willkie, for example, after six ballots in 1940. This hasn't happened lately because things tend to get settled quickly after the early primaries and the amount of money needed. People soon stop giving to the losers. Usually, a winner emerges by March. But something is different this year. For the first time since 1960, this contest starts without a clear Republican front-runner. It is just barely possible that a deadlocked convention could turn to an uncontroversial Midwestern governor as a compromise choice. However, that's a long shot indeed. Snyder's got another problem. If the polls are right, two weeks from today Michigan voters are going to decisively reject his plea to raise their taxes to fix our disgraceful roads. That won't help Snyder sell either himself as a leader, or this state. But for now, we'll just have to wait and see. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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Robert Griffin's moment

Former U.S. Senator Robert Griffin, a conservative Republican from Traverse City, died last week, and if you aren't at least in your fifties, you may never have heard of him. Carl Levin beat Griffin when he tried to win a third term thirty-seven years ago. Griffin pretty much vanished from the radar screen afterwards. He did serve one term on the Michigan Supreme Court, but that ended twenty years ago. He wasn't flamboyant; for a politician, he was shy. Nor did he have a compelling personality. But he had a moment at center stage of one of the greatest dramas in American history, and that deserves to be remembered. Even apart from that, Bob Griffin was a heavyweight politician in his day. In winning two terms in the Senate, he defeated two giants of Michigan politics, men who otherwise never lost an election – Soapy Williams and Frank Kelley. His major congressional accomplishment was seen as controversial and partisan. He was co-sponsor of the Landrum-Griffin Act, which gave the federal government new powers to intervene in union affairs and elections, something deeply resented by organized labor. Griffin also led a successful filibuster that prevented President Lyndon Johnson from making Abe Fortas, then on the Supreme Court, Chief Justice of the United States. Not long afterwards, Fortas had to resign altogether because of a financial and ethics scandal. But the moment for which Bob Griffin deserves to be remembered happened on a weekend in August forty years ago, when he wrote a letter to one of his oldest friends and mentors in politics, a man who had campaigned for him in his very first election to Congress. He told that friend, who he learned had lied to him and everyone else, that he was going to be impeached. He pretty much told him that he needed to resign, and that if he continued to defy a subpoena from Congress, he too would vote to convict him. That friend, of course, was Richard Nixon. Griffin's letter was a huge national sensation. A year before, nobody, including Bob Griffin himself, could have pictured him demanding that a President of his own party resign. But Watergate was a scandal like no other. Griffin's letter was said to have shocked Nixon. Afterwards, according to Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein, one of the President's sons-in-law called the Michigan senator, and said Nixon was drinking, irrational, incoherent, and might kill himself. A shaken Griffin asked Billy Graham to help the family. Within days, Nixon did in fact quit. We may never know how much Griffin's letter speeded the end of what Gerald Ford called our "long national nightmare," but we do know this: When things seemed to be falling apart, Robert Griffin went outside his comfort zone, did the right thing, and took a stand. His career didn't blossom after that. He lost a race for Senate minority leader and seemed to lose interest in his job. He first said he wasn't going to run for reelection, but then changed his mind. But the damage had been done. He was defeated. Today, he is pretty much forgotten. But for one brief shining moment, he was indeed a profile in courage, and that deserves to be remembered. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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Auto Insurance ... reform?

During his first term, Governor Rick Snyder attempted to get the legislature to pass bills that would have severely limited the amount victims of catastrophic auto accidents could collect. But that was one of his biggest failures. The bills went nowhere, especially after they were fervently opposed by his fellow Republican, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who was severely injured in an auto accident three years ago. Well, it was clear then that the insurance industry would eventually try again, and yesterday, they succeeded in the Senate. Led by Republican State Senator Joe Hune, the upper house rushed through a confusing bill, slapping things on and peeling things off at the last minute. Their bill would appear to limit payments to attendants caring for the injured and to health care providers, but does not cap medical benefits, something the previous bill did. For once, this was not a party-line vote. Seven Republicans voted against this bill, while State Senator Virgil Green, a Detroit Democrat who marches to his own drummer, voted for it. Other Democrats were bitterly opposed, but they have less than a third of the members. The bill finally passed, 21 to 17. Part of the reason for the intense opposition is that while this bill clearly means a financial break for insurance companies, it doesn't require them to lower their auto insurance rates for consumers at all – something the previous bill did do. Senator Hune, a believer in the justice of the free market, said he thought this would just happen automatically, and said he'd be happy to revisit the issue in a few years if the rates don't decline. For the opponents, that wasn't nearly good enough. This bill was rushed through in a day, with one major overhaul and then a flurry of five last-minute amendments added without any discussion whatsoever. It was clear these had to be added to win enough GOP support to get the bill through. But it is not at all clear what effect all this it would have on the cost and availability of catastrophic health care, or will happen in the state House of Representatives. Democrats are in a somewhat stronger minority there, and if an equivalent ratio of House Republicans opposes this bill, it won't pass. More changes to this bill are almost certain. What is certain is that the senate lawmakers chose to rush a bill through that even some of them may not have understood, but which could have a major effect on health care in Michigan. It's also certain that they were disgracefully afraid of public reaction; in what has become a new favorite trick, the lawmakers tacked on a token appropriation to prevent the possibility of voters overturning this in a referendum. The major worry many people have was expressed by State Senator Rebekah Warren, whose own sister depended on the state's insurance system after a horrific accident. "The cracks that start today undermine the system forever," she said. You had to wonder what Brooks Patterson, whose health has never been the same since his catastrophic accident, would have thought of this. But it was said he was "not available" to come in and testify. And you had to wonder about that, too. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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The scariest drugs you can take

ike most people who grew up in the sixties and seventies, I knew a lot of people who tried a lot of drugs. Marijuana of course, but also LSD, psilocybin, peyote, later cocaine. But the one drug that was not in, back in the day, was heroin. We saw heroin as something horrible and frightening, which was used by filthy street prostitutes, skid row junkies and failed jazz musicians, most of whom would be dead soon. Maybe a few wounded veterans had turned to it when they could no longer get morphine, but it was not a drug that was cool. Well, guess what? There's a new heroin epidemic, and the face of it is not a junkie in the alley behind an inner-city mission. It could just as easily be your son or daughter. Heroin deaths are rapidly increasing, as are those from an even more dangerous painkiller, fentanyl. Last month I had Jeff Gerritt, a journalist who is an expert on these issues, on a television show I do in Ohio, together with a woman named Colleen Jan. Jan is a thoroughly middle-class, retired teacher whose 33-year-old son, Brett, died last summer of an overdose of heroin combined with fentanyl. He had battled addiction for years, but treatment facilities were inadequate. What's even scarier is that the number of heroin and fentanyl deaths has been nearly doubling every year in Toledo. I suspected the same might be true here, and I was right. In Wayne County alone, deaths from things like cocaine and Oxycontin have been declining. But heroin deaths are increasing, and deaths from fentanyl have tripled. And there have already been nearly as many deaths from fentanyl in combination with heroin and other drugs this year as there were in all of last year. I don't think anybody ever sets out to become a heroin addict. What's been happening is that doctors have been all too willing to prescribe prescription painkillers. For many people, these tend to be addictive, at least psychologically, and also terribly expensive. So, they turn to what they can buy on the street, and that is heroin, fentanyl, or heroin cut and combined with fentanyl and other drugs. Tom Watkins, the head of the Detroit-Wayne Mental Health Authority, is acutely aware of how big a problem this has become. Last fall, his agency took over substance abuse disorders, and they are launching a massive community education project on where to call for help. The number is 1-800-241-4949. Operators are there around the clock, and able to refer people to prevention, recovery and treatment facilities. If the problem is outside Michigan's largest county, they can refer you to the proper facilities in your area. Watkins, a former state schools superintendent, told me his agency is putting up billboards, and hopes to make that number at least as well known as the one for a famous ambulance-chasing law firm. The goal is to increase awareness of what drugs do and the treatment options there are, and erase the stigma around admitting that there is a problem. If what they are doing saves even a few of the thousands of lost lives, they think it will have been more than worthwhile. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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Spring: a time of promise tinged with shadows of the past

History buffs know that Abraham Lincoln died exactly 150 years ago today, his great heart stopping forever at 7:22 in the morning. When I was a child the story of his assassination was as well-known as any story in the Bible. The president lying across a bed too small for his huge frame, his wife hysterical; the Secretary of War saying, finally, at the end "Now he belongs to the ages." Actually, he said angels, but being a politician, edited his remarks for public consumption. Though he spent most of his life in the Midwest, Michigan never figured prominently in Lincoln's life. He gave a speech once in Kalamazoo, and years before, was on a boat that got stuck on a sandbar in the Detroit River. That led to Lincoln's inventing an inflatable device that ships could use in such cases, though it was never built. But this week marked another major parallel anniversary that went virtually unnoticed. Seventy years ago Sunday, while sitting for a portrait, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said ,"I have a terrific headache," lost consciousness, and died, the victim of a cerebral hemorrhage. The similarities are uncanny. Both men saved the nation. They had successfully led us through the two most horrible and important wars in our history, and died just weeks before they ended. Both men had known their wars were essentially won, and their minds were on the future. They also died in early spring, a time when the year ahead seems still full of promise. We mostly blew the opportunity we had after Lincoln's death. Reconstruction was a bitter failure. We failed to elevate black Americans beyond anything more than second- or third-class citizen status, and things would remain that way for nearly a century. Race hatred and sectional bitterness would endure as well. But precisely the opposite happened after World War II. America presided over the rebuilding of Europe and Japan. We turned our former enemies into democracies, and allies, and set the stage for our ultimate victory in the Cold War. It may have been our finest hour. Now we are in another spring after years of economic battle. In some ways, Michigan today reminds me of the way it was when FDR first took office in 1933, after years of crippling depression. Detroit may be out of bankruptcy, but is desperately poor. Parts of the city look the way Germany did at the end of World War II. Statewide, our roads are a disgrace. There's an education crisis, and the industry that defined our economy for a century is no longer the kind of mass employer it used to be, and never will be again. The Legislature is essentially dysfunctional, and largely avoids dealing with our major issues, preferring to discuss whether people should be allowed to hunt from motorized wheelchairs. Despite oceans of manufacturing know-how, and some of the best scenery in the nation, we are now a state that is poorer and older than average. We need to find the leadership and the will to turn things around, as we did for the world 70 years ago. That won't be easy. But it is again spring, and anything just might be possible. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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Lessenberry not running for president

I have decided I owe it to my listeners to announce today that I am not running for President. I am indeed old enough and have no felony convictions, but I have decided not to run, for a number of reasons. One of which is that I don't have access to the billion dollars anyone nowadays needs. There is also the minor drawback that I can't imagine anybody in either party voting for me, and one major one, which is that the woman I live with would leave me and take the dog. But the real problem is that the voters just aren't willing to elect anyone from Michigan President. We've had a black President, almost had a Jewish vice-president and our next President may be a woman, but not a Michigander. You saw what happened when Mitt Romney ran last time. He couldn't even carry Oakland County, where he grew up. His father ran in 1968, and didn't make it to the first primary. Gerald Ford, our only appointed President, lost his bid for election, and only made it that far because he was really born in Nebraska. Lewis Cass, our founding political godfather, won the Democratic nomination but lost the general election back in 1848. His autographed portrait hangs over my desk as I write these lines, scowling. Exactly a century later, the Republicans nominated Owosso native Thomas E. Dewey. He too lost, as he had the time before. Nobody wants a Michigander in the White House. This is worth mentioning because just about everyone else seems to have suddenly decided this is the time to announce they are running for President. First there was Ted Cruz, then Ron Paul, then Hillary Clinton, then Marco Rubio. Yesterday, Ohio Governor John Kasich came to Detroit to pretty much announce he was running, and you know still more will get in. Personally, I'm staying on the fence until I see whether either Dan Quayle or Al Gore decide to run. Both have been vice-president, both are still in their sixties, and both are more qualified than some of those now running. But neither has been seen in public for years, unless maybe on a missing persons' milk carton. If I can turn halfway serious for a moment, there are two interesting things to consider about this year's crop of candidates. First of all, for the last six years, some Republicans have been claiming – falsely --that President Obama is ineligible to hold the job because he was born in Kenya. But today, some of those same people are supporting Ted Cruz, who was born in Alberta to a father who was a Cuban. Second, those of us who have been around for a while remember that when Ronald Reagan first ran, there was great concern over whether, at age 69, he was too old to be President. That's precisely the age Hillary Clinton will be next year, and I've never once heard her age mentioned as an issue. We're all older these days. Nobody knows yet whether she will be nominated or elected. But she has already accomplished this: When it comes to Presidential politics, we will never again be able to say, let the best man win. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan

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The graying of Michigan

Remember when people used to make fun of Florida as "God's waiting room" because of all the elderly who went there to live out the last years of their lives? Well, here's something startling: Michigan is rapidly becoming an old people's state. Instead of arguing about whether maize and blue or green and white should be our state's official colors, we might be more honest if we made them gray and white. I learned some new sobering facts about the aging of the automobile state from an article by Kurt Metzger in the current issue of the online Bridge Magazine. Metzger, who I like to call the Great Demographer, had a long career with the U.S. Census Bureau and Wayne State University before founding Data Driven Detroit. Today, he serves as the mayor of his little Oakland County city of Pleasant Ridge, but still keeps his eye on population trends. Nobody knows the numbers better than Kurt. And in this case, they illustrate very starkly what happens when a state stops providing good jobs for young people. In more than a dozen Michigan counties, the median age is now over 50. Statewide, as of two years ago, almost half the population was over 40 – the oldest ever recorded. That was less than two years younger than Florida's median age. We are almost certainly older now. Michigan's population is now older than that of all but eight other states. That's a dramatic change from even fifteen years ago, when we were still younger than more than half the country. What's happening here? Well, Metzger's data makes it clear enough. In two-thirds of all Michigan counties, more people are dying than are being born. While some migrants are coming in, roughly speaking, the northern two-thirds of the state has been losing population; so have the counties along the shoreline of Lake Huron. Wayne County, which includes Detroit, is losing the most of all. Overall, Michigan is estimated to have slightly more people than it did five years ago. But this is based almost entirely on population increases in Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties in the southeast part of the state and in Kent and Ottawa Counties, home to Grand Rapids and Holland. Elsewhere, the situation is bleak. In the Upper Peninsula, Marquette and the tiny Keewenaw Peninsula are the only areas to show gains. And even this growth may be temporary. Metzger notes, "As the population continues to age, the number of deaths will continue to increase while the number of births continue to decrease. Worse, every year more people move out of Michigan than move in, meaning, that "the forecast is one of continuing population loss for most of the region." Metzger doesn't sugarcoat it. He says, "While I love baby boomers as much as the next guy, we are really only serving as the 'new face' of retirement and health care." If we have any hope of regaining prosperity, he says "Michigan must start appealing to youth at rates far higher than downtown Detroit and Grand Rapids can handle.' "We know what we need to do to attract the young," he concludes, adding. "The question is, do we have the political will to make it happen?" Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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