No matter how you voted Nov. 4, it would be hard to argue that the Democrats are bad for Michigan.
For starters, the Mitten State may be in line for $600 million or more from Washington, thanks to President-elect Barack Obama's federal stimulus proposal. We could get a shot in the arm for big infrastructure projects (I-94 could be widened at last!) and a bigger federal match in Medicaid funding (could we get the same sweet deal as Alabama? Dare to dream).
Those following our ongoing state budget nightmare know that federal funds could go a long way to plug the current hole, which is anywhere from $400 to $900 million. And a few large-scale construction projects will help tamp down what will soon be double-digit unemployment.
But wait, there's more. Democrats, even uber-liberal U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are the loudest voices pushing for help for the Big Three. Chrysler, GM and Ford now say they need a $34 billion bridge loan to stave off bankruptcy.
If the domestic auto industry fails, this will in all likelihood spark a depression, just as Chrysler Vice Chairman Jim Press warns. Three million jobs will be lost in the first year alone, according to the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research.
Yes, this would be a debacle for Michigan, but anyone who says this ain't a national problem (U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.) should be forced to take a Breathalyzer.
Right now, Democrats are the only thing standing between Michigan and disaster. And that should absolutely terrify the divided and nearly decimated GOP, which is praying for a comeback in 2010.
To be sure, there are some Republicans making noises against these moves, although none that I know of in Michigan. If U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, hadn't just been axed by the voters, I'm sure he'd add his voice to the free-market choir, but he's busy lookin' for work. Walberg, it should be noted, is the only member of our congressional delegation who's still on the fence about rescuing the Big Three.
This week, more than 40 governors, including Jennifer Granholm, lobbied Obama for at least $136 billion in infrastructure projects. No less than 43 states are facing budget shortfalls and some, like California, have flirted with the idea of asking the feds for an outright bailout.
Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Mark Sanford of South Carolina didn't join in the reindeer games. Instead, they penned a sanctimonious op-ed in the Wall Street Journal sniffing that the joy of capitalism is that "winners create wealth, jobs and new investment, while others go back to the drawing board better prepared to try again."
Successful states will pull through this crisis. As for you 43 losers, good luck and try again. What this means in the real world is unclear. When a business fails, it closes (except giant, multinational banks). If states go under, what exactly happens?
Unlike the federal government, states have to balance their budgets. Thanks to the credit crunch, it's harder for states (and everyone else) to borrow funds to get through.
This isn't to say that Michigan should halt plans to aggressively reform and consolidate government and hack the budget. Indeed, we have no choice. Our fiscal problems won't go away even with a generous check from Mr. Obama.
But there is justice in getting some juice from the feds. Let's not forget that Michigan only gets 90 cents back on each dollar we send to Washington, whereas Alaska gets $1.87.
States already have slashed $7.6 billion this fiscal year and more cuts will have to come. But it's conceivable that some will have to cut so massively that their governments will have to partially shut down.
This is when the Ayn Rand crowd gets really excited. Let government fail. Individual liberty for all. Throw the bums off welfare. Nobody needs to be able to have trash collected or flush the toilet. Private enterprise will take over (eventually). Until then, ignore the stench.
The let 'em fail ethos might fly in Texas, one of the seven lucky states sans deficit. But I doubt Michiganders will be as charitable. Look at the Herculean struggle Democrats and Republicans alike have had in slashing the budget in years past. Remember, cutting taxes is fun. Education and health care, not so much.
This is a losing argument for Republicans. Why? You're asking people to go against their self-interest in the name of ideology, to turn down federal money that could make their state and their lives better. Not gonna happen.
The scarier concept for conservatives is that Ronald Reagan's maxim (government is the problem, not the solution) showed its age in the last election. Polls show Americans are willing to go the big government route if that will pull us from the jaws of economic crisis.
Now folks still don't want their taxes raised, to be sure, but the ideological debate is shifting away from the right. Obama has shrewdly outflanked theme GOP by promising bigger middle-class tax cuts.
Our new president may have just tapped into the winning formula for the Democrats to run the show for awhile. Hard to remember that a year ago, Barack Obama was universally savaged for being hopelessly naïve.
Oh, how Republicans must wish he was.