It's a very tough time to live in Michigan.
With yesterday's vote by Senate Republicans that effectively killed any hope for a bailout loan for the auto industry till Obama takes office in over a month, people here are scared, and for good reason.
To the 10 million or so of us that live here, it's as if we've been told to go to hell by Congress. Last time I checked, the United States included Michigan, although with the way we've been slapped and kicked around in DC, you wouldn't know it.
I've spent the last 18 hours trying to figure out how to verbalize the rage, the frustration, and the deep sadness I feel after the asinine vote by the Senate Republicans in Congress that killed the auto industry bailout. And then I saw this quote by our Lt. Gov. John Cherry that seemed pretty spot on -
"We are witnessing Congressional unraveling of the American Dream and the demolition of the very foundation of our national security. A few beltway insiders who are completely out of touch with the struggles of American families decided to settle old political scores at the expense of millions of jobs and our national economic security. While bankers get the keys to the Treasury our manufacturers get a one-way ticket to bankruptcy and American families are left unprotected."
If only Congress were as sharp and cared as much about working families as we do, they'd realize what letting the Big Three fail really means: not being able to retire, not being able to have health care, not being able to put food on the table - not being able to enjoy even a hope of achieving the American Dream.
These aren't just "workers". Every time I hear this topic discussed on the airwaves, I wonder how many people truly understand that these "workers" are actually people like my dad, my aunt, my neighbor, your friend, even you. Do they get that there are actual people behind this very in-personal collective group term, also used to describe insects like honeybees and ants?
We owe American workers, who had nothing to do with the onset of the economic crisis or the strategy of auto management, the benefits and pay they agreed to, and we owe it to them to fight for their jobs and well-being.
Do Senate Republicans know what it's like to lose a job for no reason other than credit markets seizing up? We bailed out the financial institutions that got us into this crisis with much less rancor than providing much less money in a LOAN, not a bailout, to one of our most important manufacturing industries.
And has Congress been to Michigan lately? Have they seen the job losses we've already suffered, and the pain workers have already faced as the Big Three restructure?
I'm sure any of Michigan's real fighters like Gov. Granholm, the Lt. Governor, Carl Levin or Debbie Stabenow would be glad to give Richard Shelby a tour of some of Michigan's automobile neighborhoods and cities, and let him know what Federal loans to the auto industry are all about, or show cities like my town, Lansing or Flint, or Ecorse, cities whose very economic success depends so much upon the auto industry.
It would be great if our state's economy didn't depend so much upon the success of the auto industry. For the last 6 years, Gov. Granholm has been working night and day to turn manufacturing away from cars and towards the green economy sector. It can't be done overnight, or even in 6 years. It's on it's way, but as we see now, we've still got quite a ways to go. So until then, Michigan needs our auto industry to stay alive, even if it means using life support in the form of federal loans.
This bailout is about saving an entire state from bankruptcy, not to mention the 49 other states that are home to auto plants and suppliers. It's not about "greedy labor unions," which have made unprecedented concessions before and are continuing to do so to keep the Big Three afloat.
It's about people, while our leaders are fighting tooth and nail for it, God help us that it should finally sink through the thick skulls of those who sit on high in DC. This isn't about Allan Mullaly's salary, or how stupid Rick Wagoner and the other Auto Executives were by flying down to beg for money in corporate jets.
This is about real people, who are in real danger, and the very real possibility that an entire state could literally go broke, should our federal government leave us hanging out to dry in these cold winter months.
We've already started to feel some serious effects from the downward slide. A report from today's Detroit Free Press shows that Michigan families are being forced to cut back and spend less on nearly everything as a result.
For my own family, it's more than just residual effects. My dad at nearly 60 years old is unemployed, desperate and willing to do just about anything after being laid off as an autoworker. Also unemployed in my family are two uncles, an aunt, and just yesterday my mom started a new job. My sister works for a media outlet that has been bleeding laid-offs, a result of decreased ad revenue as the auto companies cut back. The ripple effects are really everywhere you look.
Christmas is going to be difficult for us and the rest of the state. We'll be cutting back, but unlike many Michigan families, we'll still be able to have Christmas. With requests for assistance skyrocketing for non-profits across the state, and donations dropping drastically, it seems as if our state has been swept in a whirlpool headed straight down the drain of total bankruptcy.
So if the leaders of these United States really intend for us to remain united, how is that they can stand by and actively participate in the bankruptcy of an entire state, something for which there is virtually no precedent.
Simply put, Michigan, all of her residents and auto workers everywhere deserve better than the U.S. Senate Republicans.