Friday, March 14, 2008

Federalism Ascendant

Via GLUE, I find an opinion piece in the Detroit Free Press written by Brookings Great Lakes boosters Bruce Katz and John Austin:

We see a growing understanding in Michigan and the Detroit area that the path to prosperity is about people getting fundamentally better educated than the previous factory economy demanded of them. It also means diversifying the economy to exploit new areas of opportunity in energy, design and engineering, freshwater technology, arts and entertainment, and as a logistics and trading center in North America.

What we don't see is a federal government, or the presidential campaigns, having any understanding of how it could assist metropolitan communities such as Detroit that are the hardest hit by the nation's move from an industrial to a knowledge economy.

Katz and Austin stay on point and cover policy suggestions that fall under the purview of the Federal Government (e.g. international border policy). The problem is that they also reinforce the political silos that Richard Longworth reproaches as handicapping the Midwest's ability to cope with globalization. Getting the various Great Lakes issues on the national political agenda is a worthy cause, but the more important project is getting the region on the same page. Appealing to state-centrism is not helping the matter.

The real work is the concerted and coordinated lobbying effort that needs to be done after the Presidential election is over. Any promises that Michigan or other Rust Belt states secured during the debates won't matter once the congressional squabbles over such items such as transportation policy begin in earnest. Cooperation across state borders is paramount to the success of any initiative dealing with the problems stemming from globalization.

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