Commentary
10:51 am
Tue October 4, 2011

Detroit sports teams doing well, what about Michigan politics?

If I were a politician and had something embarrassing I knew I would have to reveal, I know exactly when I would do it.

I’d wait to see if the Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankees tonight, and if they do, I’d immediately make my confession.

Why is that? Because almost no one would notice. Everything in life is a matter of timing, and we can handle only so much news at once. Here’s something baffling about that.

Normally, bad news drives out good. Everybody knows all about Casey Anthony, and nothing about millions of other mothers who take good care of their little girls. Ditto to rich teenagers who go party on Aruba and don’t disappear. But sports is an exception.

The Tigers are on the verge of finishing off that symbol of evil in the modern world, the New York Yankees, and people who haven’t been to a game in years can talk of nothing else.

The Detroit Lions have won their first four games, which is more games than they sometimes win in several years combined. These two events are being greeted with unbelievable enthusiasm. I don’t think people could be happier if General Motors announced it was bringing back Oldsmobile, and would create a hundred thousand new jobs in Michigan as a result.

Our sports obsession is probably a good thing for Wayne County executive Robert Ficano, whose bizarre employment practices are the subject of a hearing by angry county commissioners today. It recently surfaced that Ficano, who has asked most county workers to take a twenty percent pay cut, has been lavishing huge salaries and bizarre severance contracts on others.

More than eighty of his favorites make more than a hundred thousand dollars a year. When he got one of these a new job at a quarter million dollars, he arranged for her to get another two hundred thousand dollar “severance package” at taxpayer expense.

My guess is that Ficano would like as few citizens as possible to pay attention to this. There is some indication, however, that he may be in danger of losing the common touch. Asked about all this by a newspaper yesterday, the county executive said “Whatever we’re going to do, we’ll do tomorrow.” Normally, only sitting royalty speak of themselves in the third person. Well, maybe Justin Verlander could get away with it.

There’s something else going on under the radar that, in the long run, could be very good for Senator Debbie Stabenow. For years, she’s been pushing for the U.S. government to crack down on China for undervaluing its currency. That makes it easier for them to sell their products to us, and harder for us to sell ours to them.

Now, it looks like her measure will come up for a vote. Her position is opposed by the big multi-national corporations who do business in China. The White House also doesn‘t like it.

President Obama feels that throwing down this challenge could lead to a destructive trade war. But standing tough on Chinese currency manipulation could gain her a lot of votes next year.

But as Bob Ficano might say, we’ll just have to see. And we will be back tomorrow with more thoughts that have been on our mind.