More than a dozen state senators have sponsored a bill that would eliminate Michigan's income tax by 2022.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Last week I talked about the fact that Michigan is headed for a serious budget crisis that threatens everything from education to foster care to public safety.  

We’ve been cutting state government spending on programs that give people a chance at a better life for years. We’ve been neglecting the vitally important public sector of our economy, which is why so many of our roads and bridges are falling apart.

These days, the place to go for solid in-depth print reporting on what’s happening in this state is not a newspaper, but Bridge, the online magazine.

Bridge, a publication of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Michigan, has hired many of the state’s best journalists to do deep-dive, penetrating reporting about conditions in this state.

Today, they have a blockbuster story that indicates that Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and a number of union leaders are trying to recruit another Democratic candidate for governor.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking at Cobo Hall Detroit, June 23, 1963.
50th Anniversary Freedom Walk Facebook Page

Today is not only the Martin Luther King federal holiday, but Dr. King’s actual birthday. Had he not caught that bullet on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel half a century ago, he might still be with us.

John Dingell, the longest-serving congressman in our history, is still very much alive, and sending daily tweets about the insanity that is Washington today.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The future arrived Friday, courtesy of General Motors.

Just in time for the Detroit auto show. Imagine that.

Yep, that alleged archetype of American industrial decline says it will have a fully self-driving car on the road next year.

Not in three years, like its rival Ford. Not in whenever, like Elon Musk and his Tesla. Next year.

But let’s be clear: This isn’t the end of road for anything. It’s barely the beginning of the revolution transforming the auto industry.

Most people don’t know this, but both branches of the Legislature have nonpartisan fiscal agencies that analyze the economic impact of bills on the Michigan economy.

Five days before Christmas, the Senate Fiscal Agency published a short book that was guaranteed not to become a best seller: Michigan’s Economic Outlook and Budget Review.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner used to do a routine called "The 2000 Year Old Man." In it, Reiner was a reporter interviewing Brooks, a man from ancient times. It was largely adlibbed with the reporter deftly setting the premise with genuinely curious questions and the old man providing outrageous answers (in a thick Yiddish accent).

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow
Studio08Denver / Flickr - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCl0

For Michigan Republicans, running for the U.S. Senate has become an exercise that reminds me of a group of single guys who go off to the bar. They are happy, relaxed, they’ve just been paid, and they sit there and drink and talk about all the worlds they will conquer.

But the hours go by and dawn approaches, and in the morning, they trudge back to work in the cold gray half-light of reality. That’s what we are starting to see now, in Michigan Republicans' attempts to win the seat held by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Courtesy of the Michigan Dental Association

I was given a very lovely birthday dinner last year by people who care about me, and while I attempted to put on a good show, I was miserable.

That’s because I had suddenly developed an abscessed tooth, and the next morning experienced all the delights of an emergency root canal. However, I was lucky. I have dental insurance, and was able to pay for that part of the bill that wasn’t covered.  

President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office, 1972

Probably few are thinking about him today, on what would have been his 105th birthday, but there was a time when everybody thought about him all the time.

For a while, he was one of the most divisive figures in this nation’s history. I never met him, but I was in a room with him more than once. The last time was nearly thirty years ago before a packed crowd at the Detroit Economic Club.

SamPac / creative commons

Fifty-four years ago, kids were bused from my suburban Detroit high school to Ann Arbor for a special event. The president was coming to the University of Michigan to give a historic commencement addresses. Lyndon Baines Johnson, in office exactly six months following the assassination of President Kennedy, announced his plans to build what he called the Great Society by launching a massive war on poverty.

When Democrats won massive majorities in both houses of Congress that fall, he was able to do just that. These days, popular legend sees the War on Poverty as a failure. In reality, statistics tell a different tale. Some of the programs were clearly poorly thought out, and funding for and interest in poverty waned as the Vietnam War heated up.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The American car is dying.

And it took an Italian to point it out.

That’d be ol’ Sergio Marchionne. He’s the heretical CEO who shocked the industry when he said Fiat Chrysler would stop producing cars in its U.S. plants. They’d be converted to building higher-margin SUVs because that’s what Americans want in more shapes and sizes. 

Thirty years ago, both Detroit newspapers circulated statewide, had hundreds of thousands of readers, and had squads of reporters in Lansing, covering state government.

The Detroit News at one time had 13 reporters there, on the reasonable theory that state government was really the most important branch of government in the lives of people.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

My Dad let me use a car for the winter term of my senior year at Michigan Tech. It not only was a generous thing to do, it was also very smart, saving him from making multiple trips between Flint and the hinterlands of the Upper Peninsula to drop me off and pick me up.

It did, however, come at a cost.

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger
Macomb Daily

There’s a principle in law called the “presumption of regularity” that holds that, generally speaking, the things government does are considered to be legal unless proven otherwise.

That’s why, a law professor once told me, it took so long for people to really believe that President Nixon was lying and encouraging members of his administration to break the law.

Larry Nassar at a hearing in Michigan in 2017
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Here’s something those running Michigan State University have to know: The lawsuits stemming from former university physician Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse are likely to cost the school hundreds of millions of dollars.

MidMichigan Urgent Care - Houghton Lake
MidMichigan Community Health Centers

For the last year, there has been a lot of news about Republican efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act, or failing, that, to try and strangle its funding.

In recent weeks, we’ve also become increasingly aware of the crisis facing the federally funded Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, which provides health insurance for more than nine million kids nationwide, more than 100,000 of them in Michigan.

John Auchter / Auchtoons.com

Whether you were delighted with the politics of 2017 or devastated, we can all look forward to expressing ourselves in 2018. An informed and engaged electorate is the catalyst that makes this grand American experiment work. Thank you for reading — Happy New Year!

John Auchter is an independent editorial cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

For way too long, the Detroit narrative arced only one way – and it was down.

It’s the nation’s poorest major city. It’s home to “ruin porn,” an American affliction so fascinating to condescending Europeans. Nearly half of the city’s adults are functionally illiterate, we’re told. And economic revival of this moribund municipality is about as likely as achieving peace in the Middle East.

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

One day this fall, I was listening to the news while driving to Lansing. The announcer, in a manner-of-fact tone, talked about the tweets the President of the United States had sent in the wee hours of the morning attacking his own secretary of state. It seems the two men differed on what approach to take in handling the dictator with nuclear weapons our chief executive was calling “Little Rocket Man.”

What struck me was the degree to which this all seems normal now — the degree to which late night comedy, so-called reality TV, and the affairs of state have all merged into one giant infotainment center. There are days when I even think that I’m getting used to this, and to me, that’s the most worrisome of all.

Christmas gifts
Alan Cleaver / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Christmas is here once again, right on time.

I can’t say this is that big a deal for me. I’ve seen 53 of them – and really, at my age, if I really need it, I’ve already got it. Why I really need is less stuff, not more of it.

But my view of the holiday flips completely when I think of my son, who’s just two-and-a-quarter. He’s old enough know what gifts are, and asks for “Presents!” almost as often as “Ice cream!”

Because he’s the first grandchild on my wife’s side, and the first in a generation on my side, this kid is spoiled rotten. So, what do you get a kid who already seems to have everything?

Last Christmas we got him a mini-hockey net with mini-plastic sticks. He grabs both sticks, whacks the ball toward the net, and when it rolls wide, he yells, “Gooooooooooaaaalll!” Then he waves the sticks around, until he whacks himself in the head, and starts crying.

We’re working on the fundamentals, but I like the passion.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Sorry. I tried to come up with a positive, hopeful holiday message. But as was often the case in 2017, cold, harsh reality won out.

moare / MorgueFile

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday that the state has to refund more than half a billion dollars improperly taken from the state’s teachers.

That has to be an extremely welcome holiday present for Michigan’s beleaguered teachers, who for years have felt under siege from politicians who have weakened their unions, their pensions, and made them pay more for health care.

This should also be a political gift to the Democrats, who have in recent years become the party of choice for the state’s teachers, especially since Republicans in the legislature often seem to have declared war on teachers as a class.

prescription drugs
Charles Williams / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

I was a teenager during the psychedelic 1960s, when my friends were tuning in, turning on, dropping acid, and later dropping out. For those of you who weren’t there and are seized with Sixties nostalgia, it was, more than most TV specials suggest, an age of anxiety.

Thetoad / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Getting a state constitutional amendment on the ballot is a lot harder than it sounds, as many groups have found out over the years.

Vincent Duffy / Michigan Radio

We once had a President who believed anything he did was legal, just because he was President, and that he had the right to keep anything from the public he wanted to.

His name was Richard Nixon, he attempted to lead a vast criminal cover-up, and in the end, that didn’t work out too well. He was driven from office in disgrace, largely because even top members of his own party believed America was meant to be a democracy.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

After nearly 20 years of waiting, nostalgia-mad Detroit got what it’s long been waiting for. Mortgage mogul Dan Gilbert, architect of downtown’s revival, cut the ribbon on the site of the ol’ J.L. Hudson’s store.

It’ll be a, quote, “city within a city.” It’ll be a “vertical” statement. It’ll be the tallest building in Detroit, overtaking that one built by the last pair of heavyweights who aimed to change the city's direction by sheer force of will.

Max Fisher and Al Taubman meant well with the Renaissance Center. But their timing stunk. Gilbert? Not so much.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has wrongly accused tens of thousands of people of cheating on their unemployment claims.
Bytemarks / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin once said that the death of one man is a tragedy; the death of a million is a statistic. Well, tragedy can also result from treating people as statistics, and that’s what happened to at least 37,000 Michiganders in recent years.

When I was a 20 year-old college student, I got a summer intern job at a GM foundry in Saginaw. I was a second shift supervisor. For the three months I was there I had various assignments and was responsible for anywhere between 8 and 16 workers. It was this type of job: Thankful for having the experience, thankful for never having it again.

gretchen whitmer
Michigan Senate Democrats

For more than a year, the sexual assault scandal at Michigan State University has been simmering in the background, a ticking time bomb that was certain to explode with devastating consequences for the university.

That this would have a political dimension was also certain.

prison bars
Flickr user FatMandy / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

For many years I’ve admired Milton Mack, who is about as authentic a Detroiter as they come. Two of his ancestors arrived with Cadillac when they founded the city in July 1701.

I don’t know how long it was before those French voyageurs built their first prison stockade. But today, Michigan has tens of thousands of people in prison, which costs us almost $2 billion a year. Mack, who spent years as chief probate judge in Wayne County, has studied our prison system for years and made recommendations for improving it.