Barack Obama

manufacturing
6:26 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

Vice Pres. Joe Biden to return to Grand Rapids to promote Obama agenda

American Seating Company has been based in Grand Rapids for more than a century.
American Seating Company

Biden visited a Grand Rapids Public High School back in October to promote the President’s jobs bill. Biden returns this week, this time he’s expected to talk to workers at a manufacturing plant about the administration’s tax plan that’s supposed to boost American manufacturing.

Biden will visit American Seating Company in Grand Rapids on Wednesday. American Seating Company has been making seats for tour busses, trains, and big stadiums for about 125 years. Dave McLaughlin is Vice President and General Sales Manager of Transportation Products Group at American Seating. He’s been working there for 27 years. He says the company is trying not to view Biden’s visit as simply a political event.

“I’m sure there are people that are looking at it as a political event,” McLaughlin said, “We really need help as a nation in rebuilding our manufacturing infrastructure.”

The company employs 500, mostly unionized workers. Most are in Grand Rapids, but all in the United States. McLaughlin says about 75-percent of the company’s goods and services are sourced from companies based in Michigan, Ohio or Indiana.

“We just like to do things here,” McLaughlin said simply. “Now having said that we clearly are in the minority.” He says labor costs are the biggest challenge in staying in the U.S.

So if labor costs are the challenge, what can the U.S. government help manufacturers out with?

  1. Tax incentives: “Certainly a way of mitigating that fact of life could be through tax breaks of one sort or another,” McLaughlin said.
  2. Strengthening the Buy America content provisions: “They could raise that threshold to the point where it’s more difficult for offshore organizations to meet,” McLaughlin said.
  3. Have local, state, national projects buy American made products: “It seems ridiculous to me to see those dollars go offshore when quite often they don’t get reinvested back into the United States,” McLaughlin said.
Election 2012
7:50 am
Mon January 30, 2012

Forget about Florida… What about the Michigan primary?

Unless you’ve been living on Mars, or, at least, somewhere where there isn’t radio, television or the internet, you’ve most likely heard MORE than enough about the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, the “game-changing” South Carolina primary and, of course, who could forget about tomorrow's all-important Florida primary.

Well, maybe you’re like me and Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing Bureau Chief Rick Pluta and you feel like Michigan is getting left out of the conversation. Well, fear not, Pluta joined me on Friday to take a look at  Michigan’s Republican primary, scheduled for February 28th.

Romney has got this thing wrapped up... No, he doesn't. Oh wait, yes, he does.

We've got about a month to go before Michigan voters head to the polls for the state's presidential primary and it seems like one day we're hearing that Michigan's primary REALLY matters - that, indeed, the state will be influential in the Republican nominating process. But, then, just when we thought Michigan was important we hear the political pundits take back their political proclamations - claiming that no, in fact, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has got the state wrapped up. "I guess this is further evidence," Pluta says, "that anyone who is allowed to be a pundit should be required to wear something that says 'Don't follow me, I'm lost.'"

Michigan will matter... Really!

"Just a few weeks ago, we were written off," Pluta says, but, "things have changed so much since New Hampshire, we then had the Newt Gingrich surge... called Newtmentum. So, now... everyone is waiting to see what happens in Florida... and, then, we'll come out of that, and we'll go into Colorado and Minnesota - state's that really aren't as big as Michigan - and then, after February 7th, we have 21 days where there's nothing... and then the Michigan and Arizona primaries. And, Michigan WILL matter because momentum is everything going into Super Tuesday which happens shorty after Michigan and Arizona."

It's all about the "Big-Mo"... (Momentum, that is)

It's called the Big-Mo, or Big-Momentum, at least that's what political scientists and campaign strategists call it, and it's important. "I've talked to Republican strategists and they say, in a primary season, everything is about momentum. People are jumping in with whoever is surging and they're dropping off with whoever is lagging and so that's what you really, really want going into that all important Super Tuesday primary and Michigan is going to set the stage for that," Pluta explains. So, the idea is this: win Michigan and you go into Super Tuesday as a strong candidate with the air of inevitability.

Early primary = Fewer delegates

We reported quite a bit, last year, as the Michigan legislature tried to pick a date for the Michigan primary. Republican leaders wanted an early date for the primary - figuring that the earlier in the year the primary was held, the more influence the state would have in the national Republican campaign.

The only problem: Michigan broke the rules by holding an early primary. The date, "violates [Republican] Party rules and that will very likely result in Michigan's delegation to the Republican National Convention to be cut in half but, the [State] Legislature is really dominated by Romney supporters and what they wanted to do was... give Romney an early victory... that creates momentum going forward. It was actually considered more important for Romney to have that early momentum going ahead than to actually rack up as many delegates as he possibly could coming out of Michigan," Pluta explains.

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Education
5:02 pm
Fri January 27, 2012

How does Michigan rank in college affordability?

For this analysis of college costs, Bridge Magazine divided Michigan’s 15 universities by using the Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education, placing each school with public peer schools.
Bridge Magazine http://bridgemi.com/2012/01/college-tax-burdens-students-state

President Obama spoke at the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus today.

He spoke about his concerns over the cost of higher education and called for a college affordability report card.

The Center for Michigan's Bridge Magazine published its own report card with the affordability rankings for every Michigan university.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke to Ron French, Bridge Magazine's Senior Writer.

 

Politics
1:07 pm
Fri January 27, 2012

Crowd gathers in Ann Arbor to hear President Obama speak

Update 12:56 p.m.

President Barack Obama was at the campus of the University of Michigan today, where he laid out his plan for how to make higher education more affordable.

"Shared responsibility" was a big theme in President Obama’s speech.

Mr. Obama called on states to make higher education funding a higher priority in their state; on Congress to extend tuition tax credits, and double the number of work study jobs available; on colleges and universities to do what they need to do to keep costs down.

"So from now on I’m telling Congress: We should steer federal campus-based aid to those colleges that keep tuition affordable, provide good value, serve their students well. We are putting colleges on notice.

You can't assume that you'll just jack up tuition every year. If you can't stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers each year will go down."

Mr. Obama also introduced a new, $1 billion Race to the Top competition to reward states that come up bigger, more systemic ways to reduce college costs:

"We're telling the states: If you can find new ways of bringing down the cost of college and make it easier for more students to graduate, we'll help you do it. We will give you additional federal support, if you are doing a good job of making sure that all of you aren’t loaded up with debt when you graduate from college."

The President also wants to create a "report card" of sorts for colleges and universities, so that parents and students better understand how a school is doing, how affordable it is, how well its students are going.

And while the roughly 4,000 students in the crowd cheered at Mr. Obama's overall college affordability proposal, not everyone is on board with it.

As Tamar Lewin from the New York Times reports, the President's proposal has "raised hackles in higher-education circles":

“When we hear things like a shift in federal aid, it causes our antennas to go straight up,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education. “Anything that smacks of price controls is of great concern on many levels, especially at a time when states are cutting their budgets — and if the effect of this is to limit tuition, what else would you call it but price controls?”

Ms. Broad said that she and university presidents across the nation shared the president’s commitment to affordable higher education, but that it was not so easy to keep tuition down at a time when institutions must also absorb state budget cuts, increase enrollment and bolster financial aid for the growing number of families who need it.

The President delivered his remarks to roughly 4,000 people, mostly students,  at the Al Glick Field House on U of M's campus.

9:20 a.m.

The stage is up, and the crowd is gathering to hear President Obama deliver remarks at 9:35 a.m. at the Al Glick Field House at the University of Michigan.

You can listen to his speech by clicking our "listen live" link above.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra is at the event and will bring us details of the event later today.

Mr. Obama's speech is part of a nationwide tour where he is adding details to plans he outlined in his State of the Union speech.

Today, standing in front of a sign that reads "An America Built to Last," Obama will talk about his ideas for keeping college education affordable.

This morning, the White House released a "blueprint" for his plan. We'll post more on those ideas soon.

Politics
11:21 am
Fri January 27, 2012

WATCH & LISTEN: Obama's speech at UM in Ann Arbor

President Obama speaking to a crowd at the University of Michigan during his last visit to the state.

In case you missed President Obama's speech in the Al Glick Field House at the University of Michigan this morning, you can listen to the full audio of the speech above (the introduction by UM student Christina Beckman is included in the audio).

Or you can watch the entire speech below:

*Note - we originally had video clips from FOX 2 News and CNN loaded here. Those have been taken down now that the full video of Obama's speech is available.

Politics
9:27 am
Fri January 27, 2012

WATCH LIVE: President Obama's Speech in Ann Arbor

Here's the live feed of President Obama's speech today in Ann Arbor.

JOIN THE LIVE CHATVISIT WHITEHOUSE.GOV

Education
6:45 am
Fri January 27, 2012

At University of Michigan today, Obama to lay out ideas for keeping college affordable

President Obama and his director of speech writing, Jon Favreau, go over a draft of the State of the Union address. Obama will talk more about his ideas for keeping college affordable today in Ann Arbor.
White House

In the last two decades, the cost of attending one year of college in a four-year institution has gone from an average of $7,602 in 1990-1991, to an average of $21,189 in 2009-2010.

And for Michigan's 15 public universities, tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates have more than doubled in the last ten years -

  • going from an average of $5,056 in 2001-2002
  • to an average of $10,551 in 2011-2012

The public universities in Michigan, as in many states, have been adjusting to big cuts in state funding.

In her "Open Letter to President Obama" last month, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman called Michigan "ground zero" for higher education funding cuts:

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Politics
3:11 pm
Thu January 26, 2012

In Ann Arbor, thousands wait in line for tickets to see Obama

Update 2:58 p.m.

We caught up with several folks waiting in line to get tickets to President Barack Obama's speech tomorrow. We asked them if there was anything in particular they wanted to hear the president talk about:

"I hope that they increase the Pell Grant, make it more affordable for people so that we’re not re-mortgaging our house over and over to pay for our kids’ to go to college."

         - Angela Lasiewick. Her daughter is a junior in high school.

"My concern is how we’re going to, what steps he’s going to take help us pay back these student loans. If they’re going to decrease insurance rates, if they’re going to make some sort of allowance for us to be able to live once we graduate with these large debts."

      - Ada Nwaneri has racked up $136,000 in student loans from undergrad, graduate, and law school.

"I want to hear specifically what he wants to do with the rising tuition costs...of debt forgiveness. And another issue I care about is what he's going to do with the banks as far as opening up lines of credit for the

     - Leo Esclamado is a graduate student in the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan.

"I was a little skeptical about attending, but I'm interested in hearing his message, what he has to say about the rising cost of higher education."

     - LaFleur Stephens is a graduate student in political science. She has about $30,000 in student loan debt.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama touched on college affordability, and put colleges and universities on notice when he said:

"If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.  Higher education can’t be a luxury -– it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford."

After Mr. Obama's speech, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said in a written statement she "could not agree more with the president that we, as a nation, must recommit ourselves to higher education that is accessible to all."

1:01 p.m.

There were just 3,000 tickets available.

They were free, but people did "pay" for them by waiting in a long line outside the Michigan Union Ticket Office, where the free tickets were given out starting at 9 a.m. this morning.

As the Detroit Free Press' Mike Brookbank reports, the first person to receive a ticket arrived last night:

Teman Evans didn’t intend to do it.

But the 32-year-old turned out to be the first in line at the University of Michigan’s Union Ticket Office.

By this morning, thousands were behind him in a line that snaked for blocks outside the Michigan Union on State Street.

“I got here at 7:30 last night and thought there’d be a whole crew waiting for a month and somehow I was the first one,” said Evans.

People who arrived at 6 a.m. this morning found a long line of people who had been waiting overnight. The line stretched down State Street, down E. William St., and then snaked around to the University of Michigan's Administration building.

Six hours later, 3,000 people had tickets to see President Obama's speech tomorrow at the University of Michigan's Al Glick Fieldhouse. The Fieldhouse is the University of Michigan's football practice facility.

Mr. Obama's stop in Ann Arbor is his second as President. He gave the commencement address in 2010.

This stop is one of many he is making across the country in the wake of his State of the Union speech. He's expected to talk about his ideas for keeping college education affordable.

Politics
3:21 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

Obama's State of the Union guests, two from Michigan

Two people from Michigan will be the guests of First Lady Michelle Obama at tonight's State of the Union address.

Holland resident Bryan Ritterby and Detroiter Alicia Boler-Davis.

Alicia Boler-Davis

Boler-Davis is the plant manager at GM's Orion Assembly and Pontiac Stamping. She oversees the production of the newly released Chevy Sonic - "the first new small car program from GM to be manufactured in the U.S.," according to the White House.

When President Obama and President Lee of South Korea visited GM's facility, Boler-Davis led them on the tour.

Boler-Davis was the first African American woman to be plant manager at a GM vehicle manufacturing plant, according to DiversityCareers.com.

Bryan Ritterby

Ritterby describes himself as an "Average Joe."

Someone who is not all that political, and who normally wouldn't watch a State of the Union address.

Tonight, he'll be watching with Boler-Davis from the balcony in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Garrett Ellison of the Grand Rapids Press writes about Ritterby's invitation from the White House:

Bryan Ritterby’s crazy week started on Saturday with a ring from Energetx Composities, where he works as a lab technician, telling him the White House might be calling.

Thus began a whirlwind adventure that culminates tonight when Ritterby, 58, of Holland, will be Michelle Obama’s guest in the First Lady’s box for the president’s annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.

“For some crazy reason, they liked my story,” said Ritterby, who has spent all day fielding calls from reporters in his hotel room at the luxurious St. Regis Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., a block and a half from the White House.

“I’m so nervous, I’m leaning against the wall so my knees don’t knock.”

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Politics
4:37 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

President Obama to visit 5 states following State of the Union, Michigan included

President Obama will visit 5 states after his State of the Union address next week.
user marcn Flickr

Tonight, we will hear about the "State of the State" from Governor Snyder, next week it's the "State of the Union" from President Obama.

After he delivers the State of the Union address next Tuesday night (January 24), Mr. Obama will travel  around the country with his message.

One of those stops will include Detroit, Michigan.

From the Associated Press:

The White House says President Barack Obama plans to travel to five states critical to his re-election campaign following next week's State of the Union address.

The president will discuss proposals from Tuesday's address in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Phoenix on Wednesday, and in Las Vegas and Denver on Thursday. On Friday, Obama will make remarks in Detroit.

The five states are expected to be heavily contested by both Obama and his Republican challenger this year.

Obama won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, sending him on a path to the White House. Colorado, Nevada and Arizona are three Western states the president's campaign covets while Michigan is expected to get ample attention from Republicans after the economic recession hurt the state's manufacturing base.

Commentary
11:28 am
Thu January 12, 2012

Physics and Politics

The scientific and political communities in this state and country often live in largely separate worlds. Former Congressman Vernon Ehlers, a physicist from Grand Rapids and a classy gentleman, was one of the few who managed to bridge that gap.

Smart scientists know that they usually don’t want to focus political attention on what they are doing. Smart politicians, a somewhat rarer breed, know enough to mostly leave scientists alone.

But there was a development yesterday that united both Michigan’s scientists and politicians in concern.

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Politics
2:07 pm
Fri January 6, 2012

Michigan Dems should work with Obama campaign, says party leader

Barack Obama speaking in Flint, MI during the 2008 campaign
Barack Obama official Flickr page

The Democratic leader in the state House thinks Michigan Democrats and President Barack Obama can help each other win votes in the election this fall.

House Minority Leader Rick Hammel said lawmakers are coordinating with the president’s campaign efforts in Michigan. Hammel said Democrats could pick up seats in the House based in part on the popularity of President Obama.

“Quite frankly, the fact that he helped resurrect the automotive industry, and Mitt Romney said ‘The heck with it – die on the vine,’ that would have lost millions of jobs in the state," Hammel said.  "Not just automotive jobs, but jobs that are related to the industry, and the president stepped up and did the right thing, and so did Debbie Stabenow. So we’ll see enough energy on the Democratic side statewide, as well as nationally.”

Representatives of the state Republican Party say state Democrats are out of touch with voters and have no message of their own if they are embracing the president this far out from the election.

Hammel said a lack of popularity for Governor Rick Snyder and his GOP counterparts in the Legislature will also help Democrats win in November.

Politics
7:00 pm
Mon December 19, 2011

Politics messes up Christmas tree growers' national ad campaign

Percheron draft horses Collette and Clementine pull families and their fresh-cut Christmas trees back to get shaken and bagged at Horrocks' Nursery in Ionia, Michigan. Michigan produces the widest variety of real Christmas trees than any other state.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio.

Sales of real Christmas trees are down more than 20 percent for the past two decades. This season Christmas tree growers wanted to collectively start an advertising campaign to try to reverse that trend. But of all things, politics, got in the way. 

Artificial Christmas trees gaining favor

Real trees still outsell fake trees by about three to one. But artificial tree sales have been increasing for several years. Fake trees now have a slightly higher share of the Christmas tree market than real ones. Michigan is the third largest grower of real Christmas trees in the U.S., harvesting around 3 million a year.

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Changing Gears
8:59 am
Thu October 20, 2011

Small businesses a magic bullet for a down economy? (Part 4)

Dr. Mark Gamalinda owns a dental practice in Andersonville, Chicago.
Niala Boodhoo Changing Gears

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before...

"We genuinely believe small business is the backbone of America, it’s going to the key for us to be able to put a lot of folks back to work."

That’s President Obama earlier this year.

Warm feelings about small business come at all levels, and on both sides of the aisle.

Here’s Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Synder this summer:

"Talk about the jobs you’re creating, even if it’s one job – that is the backbone of the reinvention of Michigan."

Or Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week at the SmallBizExpo:

"Nothing is more important to our econonmic expansion than the small business of Chicago and the small business of tomorrow that will be in Chicago."

It’s more than just political talk.

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Changing Gears
12:49 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Obama, werewolves and silver…er…magic bullets

Curtis Sullivan says silver bullets are for killing werewolves.
Kate Davidson

While we’re on the subject of magic bullets, please indulge this brief sidebar.

Schisms happen.  There was once a tremendous split between the (now) Roman Catholic Church and the (now) Eastern Orthodox Church.  Today there’s also a Great Schism in the bullet world.

Namely, between those who say magic bullet and those who say silver bullet — both parties referring to an economic quick fix.

On one side, you have President Obama, who may be the highest profile proponent of the term silver bullet. While pitching his jobs plan to a recent joint session of Congress he said, “It should not be nor will it be the last plan of action we propose. What’s guided us from the start of this crisis hasn’t been the search for a silver bullet. It’s been a commitment to stay at it, to be persistent, to keep trying every new idea that works.”

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Sports
2:07 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

President Obama to attend MSU basketball game played on aircraft carrier

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson will host the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic on Veteran's Day.
Specialist 2nd Class Joel Carlson United States Navy

President Barack Obama will attend a basketball game between Michigan State University and North Carolina. The game will be held on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Veteran's Day (11-11-11).

The game is being branded as the "Quicken Loans Carrier Classic" and it's billed as the "first ever carrier to host a Division 1 college basketball game."

From the Washington Post:

Obama is expected to lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of Veterans Day and then travel to San Diego for the game.

“This Veterans Day, President Obama will honor our nation’s veterans by laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery and then by traveling to San Diego, California, to attend the Carrier Classic on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson,” the White House said in a statement. “He looks forward to a great game between Michigan State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”

The nuclear powered aircraft carrier is famed for being the carrier from which Osama bin Laden's body was buried at sea. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Education
8:19 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Vice President Biden says students would gain from “Jobs Act"

Vice President Joe Biden visited the more than 100-year-old Central High School in Grand Rapids Wednesday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Vice President Joe Biden says he’ll work to get President Obama’s American Jobs Act through Congress piece by piece if lawmakers won’t take up the entire stimulus bill.

Biden says the bill would invest $25 billion to fix 35,000 schools across the country, including buildings like the one visited in Grand Rapids Wednesday.

Junior and seniors at Grand Rapids’ Central High School showed Biden around their science classroom, listened, and asked questions. He also saw a classroom they can’t use because of health concerns over chipping and peeling paint.

“They’re in a laboratory where they can’t turn on a burner because there’s no ventilation system,” Biden said. “They have microscopes that use mirrors – I mean it’s just totally out of date.” The science classroom is part of Grand Rapids Public Schools district’s School of Health Science and Technology; a “hub” school students can opt into. “Come on man,” Biden told reporters after the visits, “these are talented kids - they chose to come here to learn more.”

Biden says some GOP leaders would rather “do nothing” than pass parts of the bill he says they agree with.

Politics
3:18 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Grand Rapids Mayor asking Congress to pass President Obama’s American Jobs Act

Steven Depolo Creative Commons

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell says the $450 billion jobs bill is “crucial” for Michigan. His comments are part of a campaign to get Congress to act on the American Jobs Act.

 “We know we have to be strong and stand on our own but we also know that we’re not able to keep up with infrastructure needs in our community,” Heartwell said during a White House press conference Friday.

Obama has been urging Congress to pass the jobs bill “right away” since he sent the bill to Congress two week ago. But so far, Congress hasn’t taken any real action on it.

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Legislation
5:12 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Detroit could be home to first patent office outside of Washington D.C.

Congress passed the "America Invents Act." President Obama signed it into law today. The Act could lead to a satellite patent office in Detroit.

President Obama signed the America Invents Act today which could establish Detroit as the first city to set-up a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office outside of Washington D.C.

From the Act:

DESIGNATION.—The satellite office of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to be located in Detroit, Michigan, shall be known and designated as the ‘‘Elijah J. McCoy United States Patent and Trademark Office’’.

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Auto/Economy
5:09 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Bill signing revives plans for Detroit patent office

Congress passed the "America Invents Act." President Obama signed it into law today. The Act could lead to a satellite patent office in Detroit.
user wallyg Flickr

Patent legislation that had a big push from Michigan’s research universities and the Detroit automakers has been signed into law.

The “America Invents Act” promises to speed up the patent process, and help reduce a backlog of some 700,000 patent applications in Washington D.C.

Part of that includes opening a satellite patent office in Detroit and two other locations.  

"It really puts the patent office in one of the invention centers of the nation, which is the Detroit area," said Steve Forrest, vice president for research at the University of Michigan.

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