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September 05, 2006 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-05

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New Student Edition 2006 - The Michigan Daily - 13C

Fixing Michigan's
struggling economy
A debate between the Michigan Daily and the Michigan Review on
what needs to be done to revitalize Michigan's struggling economy

Engineering sophomore Chris VanDeusen takes a break outside his dormitory for a cigarette. Chris began
smoking his freshman year.
Smoke sig nal
Alarmin number of students
become smokers freshman year
By Ashlea Surles I Daily Staff Reporter

By Christopher Zbrozek
Back in the 1950s, Flint - yes, that Flint
- had one of the highest per-capita incomes
of any city in the country. The wages "Gener-
ous Motors" and other industrial firms paid
to line workers straight out of high school
made an education almost superfluous. Those
days are gone and will not return. The state's
economy - particularly its manufactur-
ing sector - has been stagnating for years,
driving residents from the state in search
of greener economic pastures. According to
the U.S. Census Bureau, Metro Detroit led
the nation in the outflow of its young adults
between 2000 and 2002, well before auto-
motive suppliers like Delphi and now Dana
Corp. went bankrupt.
To revitalize the state's economy, Michi-
gan needs neither the greater protectionism
some on the labor left advocate nor the slash-
and-burn tax policies of the political right.
Rather, the manufacturing-dependent state
that was once the "Arsenal of Democracy"
must develop and retain a highly educated
workforce that can compete in the high-tech,
knowledge-based fields that are shaping the
21st-century economy.
Protectionist tariffs - such as the 25-per-
cent duty on trucks imported from Thailand
likely to be axed in an upcoming U.S.-Thai
free-trade deal - might provide some tempo-
rary breathing room for Michigan manufac-
turing workers, if at the expense of broader
national economic growth. There is, however,
hardly enough political support for increased
protectionism to override the broader trends
embodied by the so-called Washington Con-
sensus. And Michigan's leaders can do little
but beg to change the nation's trade policies
The notion that slashing the state's taxes
will return it to prosperity even further off-
base. The argument that the cost of doing
business in Michigan drives companies away
might have made a bit of sense when the
state's competitors for unskilled manufactur-
ing jobs were nonunion states in the South.
But in an era when we face competition from
foreign workers paid less in a day than even
poorly paid American workers make in an
hour, no state in the union can hope to attract
much investment through the comparative
advantage of low-wage labor.
The path Michigan needs to follow is that
set by states such as California and Massa-
chusetts, where a commitment to education
and a culture of entrepreneurship that starts
at research universities and extends to startup
firms has built a knowledge economy hardly
affected by the ongoing decline of American
So far, the state's political climate hasn't
allowed this agenda to flourish. There are,
however, some recent signs Lansing might be
starting to get it. This year's budget includes
a slight uptick in higher ed funding, although
not enough to offset four years of cuts. It
looks like we might actually see a tougher
high school curriculum. And despite much
political wrangling, a version of Gov. Jen-
nifer Granholm's plan to invest in growing
high-tech firms is going forward.
Michigan has some great potential eco-
nomic strengths. We're the global hub for
automotive engineering. We've got solid
research universities. We're in a strong posi-
tion to develop the alternative energy sources
our nation will need to shift away from fossil
. fuels. With foresight and determination, we
can build a stronger economy to replace the
manufacturing jobs that are rusting away.
- This editorial originally ran Mar. 8, 2006.

By Nick Cheolas
Do good businesses attract smart employees,
or does a skilled population attract business? The
answer to this question will determine the form
of Michigan politicians' attempts to revive Michi-
gan's ailing economy in years to come.
It appears, though, that the latter is the case.
What's accepted as a given is the need to revive
the economy. Not only do an estimated 1,000
Detroiters leave the city per month, but Michigan
is hemorrhaging residents as well. According to a
recent Detroit News editorial, Michigan lost near-
ly 80,000 people over the last two years and is the
largest contributor to other states' repopulation.
Worse than the abnormally high amount of
people leaving Michigan is the type of people who
leave it - fresh, college-educated 20-somethings.
The very people who could save the failing Michi-
gan economy leave because - irony of ironies
- the economy cannot support their ambitions.
Save innovative thinking, this could be the vicious
cycle to which Michigan is doomed.
But economic improvement is often miscon-
sidered. We debate whether small-scale tax cuts
create an entrepreneurial climate in Michigan that
encourages risk-taking and innovation. Whether
osnot Michigan's Single Business Tax is eliminat-
ed is immaterial to the state's economic prospects.
It'll grab headlines and inspire plenty of rhetoric'
in Lansing, but it won't seriously affect the num-
ber of businesses in Michigan. Businesses don't
relocate wholly or even largely on account of taxes
- if so, why do businesses continue to operate
in New York and California? They stay because
of the skill and education level of the population,
who are the potential workforce and consumer
base for a firm's products. The only way to keep
the 6,000 University grads and the thousands of
other young college graduates in Michigan is to
create an atmosphere which supports their ambi-
tions. Many on both sides of the political aisle
agree that education is the key to prosperity. How-
ever, the traditional approach to "improving" edu-
cation - through increased funding and stiffer
requirements - has been misguided and funda-
mentally flawed.
Make no mistake - school funding and high
standards matter, but they are by no means the
solution to Michigan's economic crisis. Quite
frankly, those who fail to graduate fail to care
about graduation requirements. Also, all the stan-
dards in the world matter little to a teacher in
charge of 35 students who have no motivation to
learn, no role models, no aspirations and no real
sense of how education can improve their life.
The bottom line is that the current K-12 edu-
cational system - regardless of funding or stan-
dards - is designed strictly to impart knowledge
and polish skills, not to provide motivation, men-
torship or the personal relationships that are criti-
cal to many - particularly those who come from
low-income families - to succeed. Scholarship
money and graduation standards have little effect
when students drop out before the 11th grade.
Inthe American university systemfor example,
is responsible for keeping us ahead of the curve
despite our lackluster K-12 test scores in relation
to the rest of the world. Students choose a college
which best suits their needs, Competition to attract
students results in newer facilities and innovative
programs. Nothing in the constrainedK-12 system
provides this type of environment.
State legislators - many with little or no
experience with educational policy - can allo-
cate all the money and implement all the require-
ments they wish. But until Michigan stops trying
to educate the children of single-parent welfare
homes in Flint the same way as children of doc-
tors and lawyers from Birmingham, we will
never achieve the educated workforce needed for
a vibrant economy.
- This editorial originally ran Mar. 8, 2006.

n a grave voice, University Vice President
for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper pre-
sented a shocking pair of statistics to the
University Board of Regents at its meeting
last month.
About 3 percent of incoming freshmen report-
ed smoking cigarettes when they came to the
University, Harper said.
But by the end of freshman year, the number of
smokers had leaped to an eye-widening 25 per-
cent, she said.
After Harper read the numbers, a murmur rose
in the room among both the audience and the
regents, who seemed stunned by the statistics.
University officials link the dramatic increase
to a variety of causes.
Robert Winfield, director of the University
Health Service, said students may begin smok-
ing during their freshman year as a result of
increased alcohol consumption, the stress of
being away from home, heightened social pres-
suies and late nights that are part of the college
"When I talk to smokers about smoking they
usually say they smoke because it's a habit, they
use it to take breaks, and they do it socially,"
Winfield said.
Malinda Matney, senior research associate for
the division of student affairs, agreed that the
increased alcohol consumption of students tran-
sitioning from high school to college may be a
"Oftentimes smoking behavior travels with
alcohol behavior," Matney said
Carol Tucker, an educator for UHS, said "col-
lege is a time when people experiment," specu-
lating that most people who smoke in college do
so socially and are not heavy smokers.
"Unfortunately, some become addicted," she said.
There is some dispute over the accuracy of the
numbers presented to the regents.
Kenneth Warner, dean of the School of Public
Health, has done significant research on smok-
ing trends and said, based on other surveys, that
3 percent is far too low to be correct.
"There's no way that's accurate," he said, add-
ing that he suspects freshmen taking the surveys
may have been reluctant to report tobacco use.
There is also a discrepancy between dates of
the two surveys Harper used.
The 3 percent figure likely came from the Uni-
versity's annual student life survey on freshmen
who entered the University in 2004 - this year's
* sophomore class, Matney said. The 25 percent fig-
ure likely came from a University survey conduct-
ed among freshmen who entered in 2001 at the end
of their first year - last year's senior class.
Harper did not return phone cafls or e-mails
asking for clarification.
A pair of surveys the University took in 2001
suggests the dramatic increase from Harper's
report holds up to scrutiny.
Although only 4.7 percent of 2001's incoming
freshman said they had smoked within the last
year, a later survey of the same class found that
25 percent had lit up by the end of their fresh-
man year.

of students smoke
of students smoke after
freshman year
Everyone agrees that whatever the percentage
increase in smokers in that critical first year at
the University, students picking up the habit in
their first year is a problem.
Winfield said UHS encourages students to stop
smoking, but reducing students' use of tobacco
also takes preventative measures, such as the
prohibition of smoking in all residence halls that
was implemented in 2003.
Warner believes this policy effective in reduc-
ing the number of students who smoke, citing
workplace research that links the implementa-
tion of smoke-free policies with increased num-
bers of employees who quit.
UHS offers "quit kits" for students interested
in kicking the habit. Kits include information on
the dangers of smoking, a list of local quit pro-
grams and discount coupons for nicotine substi-
tute products at the UHS pharmacy.
The University also runs an annual "Smoke-
out" campaign in conjunction with University
Students Against Cancer. Volunteers distribute
information packages and provide visual aides
on the Diag to encourage smoking cessation.
Warner said there is no question that the Uni-
versity could influence students' decisions to
permanently ditch their lighters.
Others question whether the University's programs
could lure students away from their nicotine.
Mike Reid, a freshman in the School of Nurs-
ing, speculated that programs are ineffective
because "people who smoke wouldn't make an
effort to go."
Reid said hearing and becoming aware of
the dangers of smoking "doesn't entice people
to quit because, especially with addiction, it's
something they have to want to do."
- This article originally ran Jan. 13, 2006.

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