With the Michigan primaries just one day away, the spotlight has been put back on the economic pain felt across the state. On MSNBC's "Up with Chris Hayes" this Saturday, Demos' Bob Herbert posed the million dollar question to advocates and civic leaders from the hard-hit city of Detroit:
One of the big problems in Detroit is the concentrated poverty, it's so many poor people, there's a problem with lack of demand which makes it difficult for businesses to get started locally, so my question is how do you attract people to come into Detroit if you don't have jobs that attract them and you don't have a base of income that would support a business that they might try to establish there?
The show's guests took a stab at answering Herbert's spot-on question, praising local initiatives including online microlending and Housing and Urban Development funding. These solutions did not include big-picture solutions, instead relying on smaller projects to entice projects into the state.
On the show, Rishi Jaitly answered Herbert's concern by singing the praises of the microlending project Kiva Detroit (which he is an organizer of). The project certainly can claim some successes, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for small projects including Thrive Detroit Street Newspaper, a new paper covering Detroit's homeless community. Kiva Detroit can't save the city and state, though. It will take serious public investment to reverse the decades of economic decline.
For bigger scale solutions to Herbert's question, policy makers should turn to more in-depth analyses like Demos' recent report "Building Michigan's Future Middle Class." The report, co-authored with the Michigan League For Human Services, recommends steps that state and federal officials can take to save future generations of Michiganders, including creating a comprehensive public jobs program, increasing funding for higher education, and indexing the minimum wage.