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Gov. Snyder was met with protests and boos at Michigan State's commencement address Saturday.
(James Fassinger/StillScenes used with permission.)
Wise counsel from Brian Dickerson, Deputy Editorial Page Editor the Detroit Free Press:
But what do the newly minted college graduates so critical to Snyder's vision see when they look at today's Michigan?

If they're reading the governor's own website, they see a state that "has the 12th-friendliest tax system in America" and is "encouraging long-term, sustainable economic growth in rural areas by enacting a simple, fair and efficient severance tax for mining operations."

(No, seriously: I'm quoting verbatim from the Friday press release in which the governor congratulated state legislators on the completion of their lame-duck session.)

Welcome to Mich-issippi

But if young people are looking elsewhere -- to newspaper websites, for instance, or cable news, or late-night TV comedians like John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, both wildly popular with the 18-30 audience -- they see a different Michigan.

The Great Lakes State being ridiculed on the Daily Show and CNN is a insular, backward-looking place, suspicious of newcomers and new ideas -- a state whose elected officials are busily erecting new obstacles to contraception, same-sex marriage and voting, and new opportunities for people who open for-profit prisons, hunt wolves or pack heat in church.

Really, lawmakers, is there something you're not doing to make young college graduates feel unwelcome? How about raising the age of consent to 35, or booking Lawrence Welk tribute bands at the Palace?

Snyder recieved a chilly reception addressing Michigan State University's commencement on Saturday, being greeted with boos and protests.

Snyder and Republicans promise theirs is the roadmap to prosperity and young graduates of Michigan's many fine schools will make Michigan their home to thrive.

Except they haven't been doing that -- not even in sufficient numbers to fill the high-skill jobs Michigan already has.

Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM), a consortium of the state's largest employers, warns that the supply of workers with two- and four-year degrees could fall a million short of the number needed to meet existing employers' needs by 2025. That's right -- a million fewer college graduates than Michigan needs to fill the jobs Snyder expects to create.

Dwindling government support for higher education in Michigan is a major contributor to the shortfall. "At a time when we need to grow our number of college-educated workers, Michigan's policy on higher education discourages enrollment by making it too costly for many to attend college," J. Patrick Doyle, President & CEO of Domino's Pizza, told fellow CEOs at a BLM summit on higher education last May.

Doyle and his peers have urged Snyder to reverse spending priorities in Michigan, which lavishes 76% more taxpayer dollars on prisons than it spends on public universities.

Yet even many of those who manage to obtain degrees here quickly take them elsewhere -- especially to states that haven't muddled their messages of opportunity with official hostility to reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, immigrants and organized labor.

I can certainly say this all rings true to me. And I was once part of the Michigan youth exodus.

I was born in Michigan and lived there 26 years. I attended college in Michigan and swiftly took my skills and education to New York City and have thrived in business. It will be 20 years ago in another few months.

And this whole week has revealed who are the radicals. The Republicans are the ones seeking in a single week to not only fight the progress made by the labor movement, but also those made by women, racial minorities and the LGBT community. They're trying and succeeding in literally turning back the clock decades. The labor movement once built a strong middle class in Michigan, the historical record is incontrovertible. But the state's political priorities seem focused on crippling them, and beating back the advances of women and racial minorities and the LGBT community, even as other states are moving forward. Radical right wing reactionary are the only words to describe the Michigan political agenda.

When I left in 1993, Michigan was not a progressive state. But it also wasn't a markedly backward state. It isn't only these policies that dismay me—and they do. It's the fact that Michigan has been trending this way for awhile. It's that too many voters apparently support all this backwards, retro nonsense the legislators have been pushing.

I do wish Michigan progressives well in their continued fight. I wish I could say I was optimistic about the prospects for pushback. Wisconsin was at best a mixed bag. And the media outlets are winnowing in the Great Lakes State. For too many people I've encountered in my visits home, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News are seen as credible sources for information. I don't even know how to debate a friend or relative that quotes Rush Limbaugh to me. These are college educated people, some even union members.

Unfortunately, the leaders pushing this are empowered because their politics of division is working wonderfully. While many states saw through the radical GOP agenda, and kicked them to the curb, (see Minnesota), somehow Michigan voters were slower to catch on.

Too many in my home state seem to have drunk the Kool-Aid that the state's economic malaise can be blamed on those darn over-paid teachers, and the blacks, and the gays and those slutty irresponsible women, and if only the DeVos family could hold onto more of their bottomless well of money, everything would get better.

Here in New York City, I have found you can't swing a cat and not hit a Michigan transplant. One of my closest friends was born and raised in Troy and is an MSU grad, we met after we both moved here. There's even a bar in Manhattan's lower east side, The Motor City Bar owned by a relocated Michigander. It's decorated with the iconography of Michigan, and if you're a little bit homesick and longing for the taste of a Vernor's, it's there. It's been thriving for years on a clientele of many transplants.

My mom still lives in East Lansing. She was happy for me when an career opportunity presented itself in New York, and she's always happy, even anxious, to visit me, as much for her love of the City as for me, I sometimes suspect.

Still, she used to ask me hopefully, "Think you'll ever move back to Michigan?"

I used to humor her, and say maybe. And maybe a part of me did long to feel reattached to my roots. But watching from a distance, that's changed. Increasingly, the words of Thomas Wolfe ring in my mind, "You can't go home again."

Now, I don't feel like I even recognize this state called Michigan anymore.

Originally posted to Milk Men And Women on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 12:43 PM PST.

Also republished by Your Government at Work and Progressive Policy Zone.

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Comment Preferences

  •  As a fellow product of a Michigan University, (14+ / 0-)

    but not a native, I have to say: I might have stayed, but found opportunities elsewhere.

    I received an excellent education--in fact, in the particular subspecialty of my particular field, what I got was truly outstanding. Had I been a resident, I would have had a full ride. However, at the time, State schools could not waive out-of-state tuition for scholarship students, so my scholarship amounted to roughly a third of tuition and fees. I quickly learned that my department (and others) had been fighting for years to change that. Had they, I would have been delighted to have made a commitment to remaining in Michigan and working after college. This was 20 plus years ago. Since I fell in love with Michigan, who knows? I might still be there today.

    As I see it, retention of grads is an old problem and an ongoing problem. Snyder doesn't help. We face a similar problem in Maine--everyone leaves and the out of state students don't seem to stay in any great numbers.

    That being said, if you want to retain college educated people in a State, you have to offer something. Not just jobs, but good reasons beyond the affordable tuition and in the case of Michigan, Vernors Ginger Ale, for people to stay. Michigan already has great colleges and universities. Now what it needs are not only the right kinds of jobs, but the right kinds of incentives for people to stick around. For most people who would attend a State U in Michigan, political asshattery all around is not the kind of incentive that is likely to attract many people and is likely to drive away many Michiganders who would love to build a life there in their native State.

    As the beautiful tile from Pewabic Pottery in Detroit that I keep on my desk reads: "In Detroit Life Is Worth Living".

    --commonmass, Oakland University '91

    I am gay, and I'm getting married in the Episcopal Church, just like my great-grandmother did.

    by commonmass on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 01:02:34 PM PST

  •  I don't think I could go back either (6+ / 0-)

    But I didn't grow up in the Michigan you won't go back to. I grew up in suburban Boston, and you'd think that would be a no-brainer, but no.  Not just winter, but commerce hasn't been very good to Boston either.

    Still, I would find it much easier than going back to Michigan. Republishing this to Your Government at Work.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 01:07:01 PM PST

    •  Well, Dave, I moved to Maine from (7+ / 0-)

      Concord, MA. I also grew up in suburban Boston (well, really, rural Worcester County but where everyone worked in Boston). I got priced out. I literally could not afford to live there anymore. My wages were high enough, but my expenses were even higher. By the way, commerce in Massachusetts these days is doing just fine. In general, we're doing pretty well here in New England these days. Now if we could just get ourselves off of heating oil and kerosene...

      I am gay, and I'm getting married in the Episcopal Church, just like my great-grandmother did.

      by commonmass on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 01:12:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  On a lighter note, since both Scott and I (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, ExStr8

    mentioned it:

    The Vernors Highball

    1.5 oz bourbon or rye
    dash of bitters
    twist of lemon
    Vernors

    Put some ice in a highball glass and season with a dash of bitters. Add twist. Pour in the jigger of whiskey you got at the party store and top off with plenty of Vernors. Give it two passes between the glass and a cocktail shaker (but not more, you'll ruin the delicate carbonation in the Vernors) and enjoy.

    Last time my friend visited me here in Portland Maine from Warren, he brought me two cases of Vernors. He's a native. He thinks Vernors tastes like cat piss. I said "which is why it's a perfect foil for whiskey". Then, true to his form, he produced the receipt for the Vernors from Meijer and said "don't forget to write me a check." On the receipt he had figured in his milage (just as a joke).

    I am gay, and I'm getting married in the Episcopal Church, just like my great-grandmother did.

    by commonmass on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 01:21:24 PM PST

  •  I live in Illinois and everywhere I look I see (5+ / 0-)

    maize and blue (the official colors of the University of Michigan). Just a couple of hours ago at the supermarket the checker was wearing the omnipresent Michigan sweatshirt (and not a U of I sweat in sight).

    Illinois is full of former Michiganders and I think it's great that Michigan's tax dollars are largely spent educating Illinois' future workforce.

    But can you blame them for leaving?

  •  asdf (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Scott Wooledge, jayden, Aunt Pat

    I'm really sorry y'all have left. White flight dealt a crippling blow to Detroit in the '50s and '60s. Now, it's the youth exodus and brain drain, leaving the balance of the state to those who find heroes in Ted Nugent and Dick DeVos.

    We thought we'd go. Life circumstances didn't permit that, and now I'm glad. Here we stay, to fight the fight. There are plenty of battles in every direction. We could use your help, folks. The real estate is still cheap, if you want to come lend a hand.

    My teenagers follow The Daily Show and  "Too Informed to Vote Republican" on their Facebook. The little ones were just building a huge American flag out of colored wool in Minecraft this afternoon. Every one of them (down to the 6 year old) volunteered for President Obama's 2012 campaign, and they've all protested in Lansing. Hopefully they will make the choice to stay here and help preserve liberal values into the next few decades.

    Weathering Michigan's recessions since the '70s.

    by jennifree2bme on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 02:10:30 PM PST

  •  I left in 1996 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Scott Wooledge, jayden, Aunt Pat

    Though I was just back for my final visit to the state of my birth this past July.

    Mich-issippi is just about right. Once you get north of say, Grand Rapids, cell phone coverage gets spotty, the Internet is some new fangled big city thing, and a great number of residence seem to be living in a time warp.

    The crushing poverty of the hollowing out of the manufacturing industry really has crushed the spirits of the people who remained behind.

    Wanted: New sig line. Must be insightful with a good sense of humor. Non-smoking, no pets.

    by Herodotus Prime on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 02:59:56 PM PST

    •  unfortunately (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jayden, Aunt Pat, livjack

      if you're talking about the upstate population, that isn't where the voters live, and those aren't the people voting in the maniacs that control the House Senate and Governor's office.

      "The marriage fight is over when we say it's over, and it's over when we win."—Dan Savage

      by Scott Wooledge on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 03:10:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  maybe Herodotus is talking middle Michigan? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Scott Wooledge

        I left for Chicago in 1981, and when I drive home to visit I'm always blown away by the vicious right-wing radio you can tune into through large stretches as you cross east to Detroit.  It really is hard to believe some of what they say is allowed on air.

        Northern Michigan is one of the most gorgeous places in the country--frankly, I think that's why they are so interested in getting their greed mongering hands on it--privatizing the hell out of everything they can.

        And all that nice fresh water and coastline could prove very profitable one day, eh?

        If the plutocrats begin the program, we will end it. -- Eugene Debs.

        by livjack on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 04:43:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Other than Saginaw and Traverse City (0+ / 0-)

          Grand Rapids is the about the northern border of population centers in Michigan. Marquette dosen't even register as a significant population center.

          Yeah, the landscape is some of the prettiest in the country there. Probably profitable. But not without an economic base.

          Rich people can have play homes in easier to get to places. Though as fresh water becomes more scarce, as it's said to be inevitable, corporate interest in the Great Lakes state is sure to become high.

          "The marriage fight is over when we say it's over, and it's over when we win."—Dan Savage

          by Scott Wooledge on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 05:10:02 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  They're turning the state into Mississippi. (4+ / 0-)

    Obesity, illiteracy and rickets will be next.

    "Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' sought and received incentives."

    by Bush Bites on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 03:04:12 PM PST

  •  I appreciate the diary Scott. Tipped and recc'd. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Scott Wooledge, Chitown Kev

    But it makes me...just...very sad.  I think my heart has officially broken.
    I am like a poster child for Michigan history and tourism and culture.  People tell me often that I should work on the Pure Michigan campaign.  Hell, I taught MI interpretive history for a while before my daughter was born.  I volunteered at the Troy Historical Museum and was a tour guide at the historic Wolcott Mill when I worked for the metroparks.  Look at my diaries...I AM Michigan.
    And I am sad.
    Sometimes, on the pretty regular occassions I have to be near the Blue Water Bridge, I look wistfully across the St. Clair and wonder what it would be like to just go...to just relocate to the Canadian side.  It wouldn't change much for my husband and I but it could change everything for our daughter, in the same way it changed everything for the sons and daughters of my immigrant forebears (one of whom escaped from Mlava across the Prussian border in a wagon buried under hay with his brother--they were barely teenagers.)
    Sometimes when I am on I-94 the urge to pass the exit I am supposed to use and just keep driving...one more exit...to the bridge...is almost irresistable.
    But.
    What's left of our family is here.  What's left of our only culture and history is here.  How do you leave that?  How do you even try when your home is worth less than you owe and your options ran out years ago?
    I don't know how to talk to my neighbors, relatives, others in my community anymore.  So many of my nieghbors are either educators or UAW and they have such disparaging things to say about the other--UAW thinks teachers make $90K a year, teachers who thought Proposal A was just the cats ass etc.  It is especially hard,a s you say, to communicate with our more conservative relatives--I truly cannot tolerate them anymore.
    You left the year my husband and I married.  I graduated from high school in Troy.  We share that history, Scott.  From your concern and efforts to inform and advocate (and I've seen you posting elsewhere, too) I know you understand how sad I am.  How it feels to watch it all slipping away...  

  •  At least Michiganers know to slow down on snow (0+ / 0-)

    Our Diaspora comes from California (Yes, including me).

    Every winter, you see big SUV's on their sides or upside down on the freeway or road; driven by someone who moved here from California who thinks that 4WD means you don't have to slow down on snow and ice.

    And our youth hockey programs here are in sad shape and we barely support an ECHL team.

    If you're going to leave Michigan, move here!

  •  I lived in Michigan for much of the 1980's... (0+ / 0-)

    then moved to Arizona for the weather and a promising job. I would never move back: politically it would be pretty much jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Although I could probably buy a condo in my old complex for less than I sold mine for nearly 25 years ago! No, if we move anywhere, it would be something like New Mexico or Cali. I love the sunny southwest.

    Just another faggity fag socialist fuckstick homosinner!

    by Ian S on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 06:35:51 PM PST

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