Obama, Werewolves and Silver…Er…Magic Bullets

Curtis Sullivan says silver bullets are for killing werewolves.

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.” Continue reading “Obama, Werewolves and Silver…Er…Magic Bullets”

‘Occupy’ Protests Gain Traction Throughout Midwest

Four weeks ago, a small group of demonstrators began protesting the grim state of the U.S. economy in New York City with little fanfare.

Now, a growing movement based on the Occupy Wall Street protests has spread throughout the country, including demonstrations in several Midwest cities.

Separate groups protesting the role of big banks in the U.S. foreclosure crisis marched Monday and Tuesday through Chicago, meeting at the Art Institute of Chicago, where the Mortgage Bankers Association was holding its annual conference.

“People are mad as hell at these financial organizations that wrecked the economy, that caused this whole mess,” Catherine Murrell, a spokeswoman for Stand Up Chicago, a coalition of approximately 20 Chicago community organizations, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “They broke the economy. They played with it like it was a toy.”

Continue reading “‘Occupy’ Protests Gain Traction Throughout Midwest”

Detroit, Milwaukee Get Ready For Post-Season Economic Boost

There may be no joy in Boston or Atlanta, but there is plenty among baseball fans in the Great Lakes. The Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers are headed to division playoff series in the American and National Leagues, respectively.

The Brewers have a leg up on their neighbors across Lake Michigan: they’ve clinched home field advantage in the best of five series. They play the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday and Saturday at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

The Tigers face the New York Yankees those same days at Yankee Stadium in New York, then return to Comerica Park on Monday.

Both teams have been big economic drivers for their home towns, and both cities will get another economic boost from post-season games, which could last all this month, depending on how far each team goes. That’s good news for everything that benefits from a sports team: restaurants, parking lot attendants, hotels, souvenir sales and the guys who hawk peanuts. Continue reading “Detroit, Milwaukee Get Ready For Post-Season Economic Boost”

Midwest Memo: Ohio Home Sales Rise, Changing Face of Chicago Office Space, Construction Activity Upswing

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Changing face of office space. Sixty-six acres of land with 1 million square feet of office space located close to O’Hare Airport traditionally shouldn’t have trouble selling in Cook County, Illinois. The fact the former United Air Lines corporate site has lingered on the market for two years not only reflects a stalled real estate market, but the changing needs of corporate office environments. Our partner station WBEZ examines the changing corporate campus culture, as well as the move of several suburban headquarters toward downtown Chicago.

2. Ohio home sales rise. Home sales rose throughout Ohio in August, according to data from the Ohio Association of Realtors. Sales increased 22 percent year over year, and 10 percent from July. “Throughout the state, we experienced a significant uptick in activity in August for the second consecutive month,” the president of the association tells The Columbus Dispatch. In the Columbus area, sales were up more than 15 percent from the previous August.

3. Construction activity on upswing? Following four consecutive months of declines, the Architectural Billings Index surged upward in August. The ABI score rose to 51.4 in August after posting a 45.1 in July, a gain that caught some analysts by surprise. “It’s possible we’ve reached the bottom of the down cycle,” AIA chief economist Kermit Baker said. The ABI is an economic indicator of construction activity. The Midwest regional average was 49.0, highest of the four regions covered in the data.

Thursday in Mt. Pleasant: The Outlook for Michigan and the Midwest

Tomorrow, Changing Gears’ senior editor, Micki Maynard, will be in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., to talk about the outlook for the economies of Michigan and the Midwest. It’s an uncertain time, with unemployment back above 11 percent in Michigan, and budget crises in many of our states. But there’s also some optimism in the new UAW-GM contract, and the return of profits for Detroit auto companies.

Join Micki and the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort. Details are here.

Are you a member of the middle class?

Forty-five percent of Americans define themselves as middle class, according to an ABC News poll in 2010. Those polled generally agreed upon some basics of a middle-class lifestyle: They worked in stable jobs, owned homes in safe neighborhoods, owned at least one vehicle, saved a little for retirement and college tuition.

“That set of things is becoming increasingly unattainable for a lot of people,” said Amy Hanaurer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, who spoke to The Columbus Dispatch as part of the newspaper’s wide exploration of what it means to be middle class that was published last week.

The topic is a central and divisive one in Ohio, where presidencies have historically been decided and a current debate rages over Senate Bill 5, a piece of controversial legislation that limits the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Special-interest groups fighting the legislation all claim they’re working on behalf of the middle class.

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Barack Obama’s Labor Day Speech Hints At Broader Jobs Proposal To Come

Consider President Obama’s Labor Day speech in Detroit a preview of coming attractions.

Speaking before an audience of union supporters Monday, he hinted at some of the major initiatives he is expected to outline during a speech Thursday before a joint session of Congress. He suggested his plans will include road and bridge construction that utilizes private companies, but did not expand upon the scope of the project.

“Because I want you all to tune in on Thursday,” he said, “I’ll give you just a little bit.”

Continue reading “Barack Obama’s Labor Day Speech Hints At Broader Jobs Proposal To Come”

Chicago Fed President ‘Somewhat Nervous’ About U.S. Economic Prospects

Saying he was “somewhat nervous about the economic recovery,” Chicago Fed President Charles Evans offered a tepid report Tuesday on the fragile state of the American economy during an appearance on CNBC.

Although the country has technically ended its recession, Evans said people are “kidding themselves” if they think the nation’s 9.1 percent unemployment rate isn’t consistent with recessionary rates.

Continue reading “Chicago Fed President ‘Somewhat Nervous’ About U.S. Economic Prospects”

The First 100: How Is Rahm Emanuel Doing On The Economy?

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel marks his first 100 days in office this week. Tonight, he’ll be taking

part in The First 100, a forum put on by our partner station WBEZ. Changing Gears will be there and we’ll be paying close attention to what he says about the city’s economy.

But there’s already a report card on his performance — based on the goals Emanuel set out in February — and the results are mixed.



Continue reading “The First 100: How Is Rahm Emanuel Doing On The Economy?”

Midwest Memo: Obama Plans Jobs Speech, Ohio Trims State Employee Ranks, Great Lakes Projects Receive Funding

Three stories making news around the Midwest today:

1. Obama revising economic plan. Seeking a boost for a flagging economy, President Obama will “give a major speech in early September to unveil new ideas for speeding up job growth,” according to a report Wednesday from the Associated Press. The plan will likely contain tax cuts, infrastructure ideas and steps to help the unemployed, according to the report, and will go beyond the “infrastructure bank” idea the President has pitched in recent weeks that would finance construction jobs.

2. Ohio loses public employees. The number of Ohio state employees dropped by more than 1,000 in the first half of Gov. John Kasich’s first year in office, according to our partner station Ideastream. The current count is just more than 57,000, although more trimming is expected because of spending cutbacks that took effect in July under the current fiscal budget.

3. EPA awards Great Lakes funds. Federal officials announced Wednesday a list of upcoming projects that will be funded under the ongoing Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. More than $700 million has been spent or committed under the initiative under President Obama, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “For the regional economy to thrive, we need to accelerate our efforts to comprehensively attack problems such as habitat loss, invasive species and pollution,” said Cameron Davis, the EPA’s spokesperson for the program.