Would never work, they said. Detroit was a small town. It lacked an insufficient economic base to support a major league team. Fortunately, this was an expansion league, and enough of the other owners were willing to take a chance on Detroit.
They had no idea that some country engineer was banging around in an old factory a couple miles from the ballpark, inventing something to vault Detroit into world-class status almost overnight.
We don’t know what’s going to happen next. We never do. Right now, the nation seems to be in near panic. The national government is throwing money at things to try and get credit moving. The soon-to-be extinct Bush Administration and the lame-duck Congress seem willing to bail out just about everybody except the auto industry, to our profound annoyance.
Things have been spiraling down. People are losing jobs and are intensely worried about their futures. And yet - we sometimes forget that we have a lot going for us.
This is an enormously beautiful state, with tourism possibilities and lakes and vistas that most of the rest of the Midwest can only envy. This year, with passage of the Great Lakes compact, we took a giant step forward to protect our water supply.
Michigan’s economy has a strong and vibrant agricultural sector. We have an excellent higher education system. This fall’s passage of expanded embryonic stem cell research promises to help keep our research universities competitive.
Ironically, even the auto industry in some ways is in far better shape than it was, at least for the long-term. The quality of the cars is vastly improved. The industry has been forced to eliminate waste and inefficiency. The United Auto Workers’ union really does recognize that we are no longer in the 1950s. They may lack visionaries like Walter Reuther. But the union does know they can no longer count on more and more for less and less. They get that Generous Motors no longer has pockets that are infinitely deep.
The heads of the Big Three got taken to the woodshed by Congress last week. When they return next week, they are bound to do a better job making their case. And my guess is that the government will agree to help them help themselves. So as we approach Thanksgiving, think of this. Maybe things look a little bleak.
But what if five years ago I had told you, “our next President will be a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama. He will show an uncanny ability to inspire the nation and fill young people with hope.”
What would have seemed more impossible - that, or Michigan making an economic comeback?
I just wish I could have seen the future and known what was coming. If so, I would have done the right thing.
Withdrawn all my money, and headed to Vegas.