Motown needs more than empty promises - Joel Hall

I was saddened last week by Mitt Romney's and John McCain's romp through Michigan, which in my opinion, was insincere.

Romney told audiences of economically depressed Detroit citizens he has "cars in his blood," and plans on making the city an automotive powerhouse once again. Apparently those cars in his blood are being driven by drivers way over the legal alcohol limit.

I'm not trying to pick on Romney, but I do believe he was disingenuous.

McCain wasn't much better. He told audiences that America is still "the world's biggest importer, the world's biggest exporter" and No. 1 at everything.

America is a great country, but McCain's assertions are about 20,000 leagues below the truth. America is perhaps the biggest exporter of ideas, but China is killing us in merchandise.

In campaigns, I expect to hear a few empty promises. A promise of change here, a promise to bring the troops home there. However, I get really angry when people make empty promises to struggling people who are waiting for a miracle.

Those in the "Motor City" are not the only people struggling. People living in American industrial centers all over the country are suffering from the outsourcing of American jobs, which started in the 1970s.

In the 1960s, a blue-collar, high school graduate could make a decent $40,000 to $50,000 living, if he or she was able to work with his or her hands, and willing to take the risk associated with factory jobs. In the 1970s, those jobs started being shipped oversees to countries that would do similar work at a fraction of the price.

The result left a handful of powerful executives and cities full of disgruntled, former blue-collar workers forced to take low-paying, menial jobs. Economists have made direct links to the rise of gangs in the late 1970s and 1980s to the decline of the American factory industry.

Native son or not, rolling into Detroit and making those kind of promises without a preconceived plan is pretty criminal.

If Romney and McCain are really serious about revitalizing the American car industry, they need to make drastic changes and incentives so that people will adopt them wholeheartedly.

As it stands, America is quickly becoming a country that doesn't really make anything. However, we are sitting on a technology that could put a shot in the arm of the American economy and take our nether regions out of the vice grips of foreign oil exporters.

Right now, we have fuel cell cars that run on hydrogen and leave only water coming out of the tailpipe. We have flex-fuel vehicles that run on the byproducts of corn and tree bark. Why not grant special federal contracts to American car companies willing to replace their entire production line with flex-fuel vehicles?

Why not make it a free government service for people to get the $300-$500 worth of engine modifications necessary to take a regular car and make it flex-fuel friendly?

Even better, why not give huge government contracts to scientists and engineers designing new types of cars and fuels? Why not assist all American gas stations in installing the infrastructure for flex-fuel gas pumps, free of cost?

In the first two World Wars, the government granted contracts to Ford Motor Company and General Motors to make tanks and planes. Detroit could become the new Motown of alternative fuel vehicles, but only if the government takes a serious interest.

If we start using the resources available to us, we can pull ourselves out of the economic slump in which we find ourselves.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.