Glory Days: In Michigan, Nostalgia For A Romanticized Past Outstrips The Reality of An Economic Rebirth

FLINT, Mich. — For a decade or more, when you drove through Michigan the most ubiquitous posting was the “For Sale” sign. Cars with phone numbers written on the windows. Entire blocks of boarded up homes. Craggy industrial parks with weeds poking through the parking lot. Billboards with space for rent. Each told its own tale of someone that found — or was looking for — better options elsewhere.

But this summer, as I took a post-Fourth of July trip across a state festooned with red, white and blue, a different posting dominated the roads from Lansing to Flint: “Help wanted.” A hospital outside the state capital advertised cash rewards for referring nurses. Trucking companies touted higher pay and more time at home. Auto part factories were raising wages — sometimes multiple times — and still struggled to find workers. Fast food joints had public wage duels with their rates posted next to the drive through.

On the surface, those signs point to a rebirth – one that both parties in Washington are eager to spark with their newly rekindled affinity for American industrial policy. Each claim they will be the one that brings back American industrial jobs, and

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