Michigan’s faltering economy was a key topic of conversation Tuesday morning as members of the state’s GOP delegation gathered for a breakfast meeting in St. Paul. More than half the voters in Michigan’s January Republican primary ranked the economy as their most important issue.
The delegates’ concerns come as little surprise — since 2000, Michigan has lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs and the state has the highest unemployment rate in the United States at 8.5 percent.
Retired General Motors worker and Michigan delegate Ron Michals said that he doesn’t believe raising taxes is the answer to fixing the economy.
“You’re going to hit the employers hard with taxes and they’re not going to expand their business,” he said.
Michals is particularly concerned about his own state, citing the old saying that “when a country catches a cold, Michigan catches pneumonia.”
Delegate Dennis Buchholtz agreed that keeping taxes low is key to reviving the economy, especially when it comes to new growth and opportunities for employment.
“I’ve never been hired by a poor man. You take the money away from a rich man, he’s the only one that has the money to build a factory or build a shopping center, and you raise the taxes to the level that we used to have, and the money leaves the country,” said Buchholtz.
Buchholtz said he felt that Michigan’s lack of a diverse economy has plagued the state for years, leaving residents vulnerable when the auto industry — long the foundation of Michigan’s economy — began to make cuts.
“The auto industry was the economy. Now we have many other businesses, of course, in Michigan but the auto industry was the primary one and with the foreign competition … you know, the auto industry to a certain extent is to blame for its own problems,” he said.
As the Michigan delegates began their day and prepared to resume full convention activities after Monday’s hurricane-related delays, First lady Laura Bush paid a surprise visit to the group and stressed the important role of the state in the upcoming presidential election.
“I just wanted to make a brief stop by and tell you all how important Michigan is to the McCain campaign,” said Mrs. Bush. “I want you to realize that, I want you to feel the pressure of it, and go back home and work really hard because Michigan could be the Ohio of this time.”
“Michigan could be the state that carries the ticket for us,” she said.