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We're like that friend who never picks up the dinner tab

Jack Lessenberry

Most of us resent freeloaders – people who take and take, but don’t give back. People who never pick up the check at a restaurant. Everyone knows someone like that.

Well, today I want to introduce you to a new one.

This time it is a country, not a person, and she is refusing to pay not just her fair share, but any part of a mutually beneficial business proposition essential for Michigan’s future.

Worse, she is exploiting her closest ally and best friend.

The name of our welfare cheat, who happens to be rather rich herself, is the United States of America. And who she is exploiting is Canada. And on top of all that, we are doing so in a way intensely humiliating to ourselves.

Let me explain.

What we are talking about is the New International Trade Crossing Bridge that is to be built over the Detroit River.

Talk to virtually any business executive and they will tell you this is crucially needed, but for years, it has been held up by the owner of the only game in town, the decaying 84-year-old Ambassador Bridge.

For years, Matty Moroun successfully kept the Legislature from allowing a new bridge by spreading around a lot of legal bribes, or as we call them, contributions.

Finally, Gov. Rick Snyder found a way to make his own diplomatic agreement with Canada.

The Canadians, who need this bridge even more than we do, are making it a lot easier by paying almost all the costs, or allowing Michigan, say, to eventually pay its share years from now out of our cut of toll revenue. But they’ve been balking at one thing: the customs plaza our immigration folks need.

The new bridge, like the old bridge and the tunnel, is also an international border crossing, and so immigration facilities are needed.

In the past, this was something Washington did without question whenever a new border crossing was established.

But the Obama administration is dragging its feet. Not because they don’t favor a new bridge, but because they think they can get Canada to pay for our customs plaza, too.

... for our own dignity and self-respect, it shouldn't happen now. This bridge is vital to our economy, and it is time for President Obama to step up.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson did visit Detroit last week and said he was working on ways to fund the plaza, but he is new on the job and not a major power player.

Yesterday, Canada’s transit minister indicated her government might be willing to throw in the towel and fund the customs plaza if it has to.

“This has never happened before, in the terms of the United States not paying for their own plaza,” she said, shaking her head.

Well, for our own dignity and self-respect, it shouldn’t happen now. This bridge is vital to our economy, and it is time for President Obama to step up. The best newspaper in Canada, the Toronto Globe and Mail, began its main editorial yesterday this way:

“If only we’d held onto Fort Detroit until the end of the war of 1812.”

You can hardly blame them.

Throughout this whole process, the Canadians have behaved like statesmen. But with the exception of Gov. Snyder, our own state and federal governments have made me ashamed.

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