Changing Gears is a public media project about the future of the industrial Midwest. Each week, reporters Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland, Niala Boodhoo in Chicago and Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor cover issues of interest to the Great Lakes region. Changing Gears also sponsors public events and conversations.
Dozens of protests have swept across the Changing Gears states in the past few months. Some people are demonstrating to show how much they disapprove to changes being made to unions’ collective bargaining rights, while others are upset about the way their states propose to eliminate budget shortfalls.
We already told you about the zombies who took to the streets of Wisconsin to support unions this past weekend. On Monday, groups in Michigan and Ohio linked their disapproval of recent laws limiting collective bargaining rights to the 43rd anniversary of the death of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights activist, protesters argued, would have been on their side supporting the rights of union members.
ANN ARBOR — So what do the words “Scott Walker,” “Madison,” and “Maddow” have in common? They are among the search terms included in an open records request for the emails of labor studies professors and staff at three public universities in Michigan – Wayne State University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.
When it comes to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposed law to limit public unions’ collective bargaining rights, the opinions of union members and state legislators have been covered pretty thoroughly. But how does Wisconsin’s zombie contingent feel about all this? Well, this past weekend dozens of people dressed like zombies marched in Madison, WI chanting. “What do we want? Brains! When do we want them? Brains!”
Apparently,these zombies are neither fond of the proposed law, nor are they on a diet. But they have their own Facebook page and call themselves a “political organization.”
Personal income per capita has grown nationwide over the last ten years by 5.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Yet, Americans are not really any better off, because that growth is due to an increase in tax-exempt benefits. That’s what Donald Grimes, an economist at the University of Michigan Institute for Research on Labor, Economics, and the Economy has found. For a look at how Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio residents are faring, scroll to the graphs below.
Tax exempt benefits, also known as nontaxable transfer payments, include programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, health insurance, unemployment, welfare and disability benefits provided by the government and employers. It you subtract those nontaxable transfer payments from the equation, U.S. income actually decreased. In fact, U.S. taxable income per capita fell by 3.4 percent, from $32,403 in 2000 to $31,303 by 2010.
The Midwest is known for many great institutions of higher education. The same cannot always be said about the region’s secondary and elementary schools. Standardized test scores around the nation have dropped significantly since the 1950’s, when U.S. high school graduation rates were among the highest in the world. In the Midwest population decline and a loss of jobs has meant fewer students in schools from poorer neighborhoods.