Valentine for Michigan

Feb 14, 2011

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day, and Mother Nature has shown Michigan a little love, at least. The temperature this morning was about forty degrees warmer than just a few days ago.

That makes a considerable difference when you have a puppy who wants to go for a mile and a half walk every morning, regardless of the weather. Nevertheless, Michigan needs all the love it can get.

We’ve had a bruising year, and unfortunately, this is shaping up as a week when we’ll be shown a lot of tough love, with the accent on the word tough. The Obama Administration started that before dawn this morning, when the President’s budget began to leak out. He’s proposing to cut a key federal environmental program, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, by twenty-five percent.

This is a program that was designed to dredge old industrial waste out of the lake beds, upgrade and improve sewer systems, and perhaps most importantly, fight invasive species.

This is especially dismaying since the President himself is from our neighboring Great Lakes state of Illinois. But if this makes you worry about the lakes, and plan on looking to the GOP majority in the House of Representatives for relief, you might be best advised to forget it.

They want to cut the budget even more. All this makes me fear that the real winner of the midterm elections may turn out to have been the Asian carp, which, if it gets established in the Great Lakes, could effectively destroy the fishing industry.

We are bound to get another jolt three days from now, when Governor Rick Snyder unveils his first budget. For years, we seem to have operated as though the state’s official song was “Don’t worry, be happy.”  Our lawmakers couldn’t decide whether to cut spending or raise taxes, so they did neither. Now the cupboard really is bare.

We’ve got a nearly two billion dollar deficit, and it doesn’t seem likely that the administration plans to seek any new revenue.

So don’t go looking for caviar or Godiva chocolates from Lansing. It’s going to be an austere kind of year.

Which, if it pays off in the long run, may be the best Valentine’s Day present of all. Last year, I made a speech to a large retiree group around Valentine‘s Day. Afterwards, some sweet elderly lady told me that if I wasn’t attached, I would be a really good catch. I don’t think so, I said.

My hair is gray, I am pushing sixty, and my muscle tone is not something that causes people to suggest iron man contests.

Sadly, she agreed. “True,” she said, “But you’ve got what every women in this state wants today.” What’s that? I asked.

“You’ve got a job,” she said.  That, apparently, is sex appeal today, Michigan style. Well, what nobody disputes is that we need a lot more jobs. Some of us will get, or give, chocolate and flowers today, and that’s as it should be.

But it would be the best Valentine’s present of all if some of this week’s tough medicine pays off in the form of more jobs next year. That’s the kind of love our state really needs to see spread around.