But then resorts back to Democratic talking points and says Michigan rebound because of auto bailout
U.S. Rep. Gary Peters announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate by praising Michigan's economy recovery and calling Washington D.C. "a mess."
In doing so, he may have stumbled upon the truth.
Rep. Peters is running to replace U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, who announced he won't seek re-election in 2014.
"Washington is a mess, but Michigan is on the verge of re-inventing itself with a new economy and a middle class that's stronger than ever — and I want to be on the front lines of that fight," Rep. Peters said May 1.
That prompted Michigan Republican Party Chair Bobby Schostak to say Rep. Peters was affirming the effectiveness of the efforts of Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-led Michigan legislature to re-invent Michigan.
On the following day, Rep. Peters made what appeared to be an attempt to clarify his earlier statement. He returned to the standard Democratic Party line, which is to credit President Barack Obama and the auto bailout for Michigan's improving economy.
"Michigan has seen growth in jobs because of the auto sector," Rep. Peters was quoted as saying.
Although that might have put Rep. Peters back on message, it doesn't completely reflect what's really happened in Michigan.
"I'd say that the auto industry is an important part of it, especially in the early stages of the recovery," University of Michigan Economist Don Grimes said. "But it has really been much broader than that. There has been quite remarkable growth in other sectors, such as construction. If anything, the economic rebound in Michigan has been underestimated."
Grimes didn't hesitate when asked if there remains a tendency to overrate the auto industry's real economic impact on Michigan.
"Yes, there is," Grimes said. "Autos are still important, but not the way they used to be. Between 2000 and 2009, Michigan lost more than half of its jobs in the auto industry. One way of looking at that is that, if something happened to cause a similar situation to occur again, it would be impossible for us to lose as many jobs in the auto industry as we have already lost."
Labor statistics show that 3 percent of the total jobs in Michigan are in the auto industry. Grimes has completed a study that showed that much of Michigan's current recovery has not been tied to one economic sector.
"Michigan's economy is doing better than you could have expected," said James Hohman, a fiscal policy analyst with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "The broad-based economic policy reforms of the Legislature and the Snyder administration have helped.”
Grimes said he thinks Michigan's economic recovery under Gov. Snyder has been underestimated.
"We have been recovering from an extremely severe recession that wiped out an awful lot of wealth," Grimes said. "The degree to which the effects of the recession have held on in Michigan has been overstated. To some extent, that's probably also the case nationally as well. However, Michigan is doing extraordinarily well — really much better than could reasonably have been expected.
"Even within the auto industry itself, job growth in Michigan is misunderstood," Grimes continued. "A lot of the increase has been in white collar jobs, like engineering and so on. In fact, about 40 percent of the auto industry job growth in Michigan has been white collar jobs. They (the jobs) have really been a lot more of what might be considered non-manufacturing than a lot of people would think."
Rep. Peters' campaign did not respond to a request for comment.