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Friday, May 30, 2014

Snyder claims “success,” but for whom?

This afternoon, Governor Rick Snyder gave a keynote address at a policy conference on Mackinac Island.
He used some of his favorite platitudes, buzz words and campaign slogans, like “relentless positive action,” calling Michigan “the Comeback State” and talking about “reinventing Michigan.”
While Republican legislators and wealthy special interests applauded the Governor’s speech and the policies he highlighted, I have to ask you, who were the successes he touted really for?
Snyder said he got our economy back on track, but his policies have only helped those at the top while working families continue to struggle.
He succeeded in cutting business taxes by billions of dollars while drastically raising them on retired seniors and working families.
He claims he has increased money for schools while cutting public education billions of dollars—$470 per pupil—in his first year in office alone. And he and Republican legislators have continued to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from the School Aid Fund every budget year he’s been in office.
And Snyder says he wants to move all of Michigan forward while he and Republicans have passed socially conservative policies that unduly hurt women, low-income workers and the LGBT community.
These don’t sound like successes to me, and I’m sure they don’t to you, either. And it’s because Michigan Republicans consider these awful policies “successes” that they need to be defeated this fall.
Please consider making a contribution today to help us unseat these out-of-touch Republicans and start working toward real successes for the people of Michigan. Thanks for all you do,

 Senator Bert Johnson

Monday, May 12, 2014

For 20 years Michigan has cut taxes with little to show for it

Every society functions at least partly on a set of myths. Sometimes these have been highly destructive. For example, believing you are the master race and everyone else deserves to be slaves has potentially destructive consequences.
America has largely operated on good myths, good because most of them had some grain of truth.
For example, the theories that all men are created equal, or that anyone can become rich or succeed at any occupation they choose. Those ideas have, by and large, encouraged hard work and a belief in the future.
However, there’s another myth too many of us have been blindly following for years, and that’s the belief that lower taxes are always a good thing.

In its classic form, it goes like this: The more you cut taxes, the more business and industry will flock to the state. So much money will pour in that government will take in more revenue even at sharply reduced tax rates.
That’s a wonderful theory, but one that unfortunately has little basis in reality.
True, if you set tax rates too high they are certain to drive away business and destroy any incentive to work. But for 20 years Michigan has been vainly cutting taxes with little to show except poorer public services and considerable damage to education.
Those are the findings of a study released yesterday called the Drake report, named for its author, Douglas Drake, a former head of the state treasury department’s office of revenue and tax analysis.
The study was, indeed, funded by people who have an agenda: a coalition of teacher and school administrator groups and unions, but it is not just propaganda. Its methodology looks sound, and its conclusions are clear.
To quote Drake himself:
“We can see from Michigan results since 1994, or from national data doing back to the Great Depression, dramatic cuts in taxes do not increase prosperity as measured by the income of average citizens.”
What such cuts have meant, according to Drake, is that state and local revenues in Michigan have been cut by a total of $51 billion over the last 20 years. Three quarters of that loss was to education.
The Drake report found that Michigan businesses pay a smaller percentage of the overall state and local tax burden than in 48 other states, and we have virtually nothing to show for it.
Michigan is worse off in nearly every way since the tax cutting orgy started.
Granted, the vast downsizing of the automotive industry was a big part of this as well, but there is more than enough evidence here to support Drake’s claim that "the [tax-cutting] experiment has failed, and we should stop repeating it."
There is some sign that people are starting to get it.
Republicans in the state Senate began talking about another tax cut late last winter before they were set upon by furious constituents.
They didn’t want a tax cut, they demanded the roads be fixed.
If Michigan is ever to prosper, we need services, schools, good roads and quality of life - and just like food, clothing and shelter, that costs money.
But trust me: Civilization is worth it.

Jack Lessenberry,  May 8, 2014

Friday, May 9, 2014

ALEC vs. American Democracy

From the Thursday, May 08, 2014 issue of The Detroit News:

Organized labor has been under attack for decades, with devastating results for the middle class.

Wages have not kept up with inflation, even though American workers are the world’s most productive.

Worse yet, without a strong labor movement, both union and nonunion workers have no real avenue to compel employers to provide decent wages, affordable health care and retirement

Workers may eventually be left at the mercy of corporations.

And that’s the way the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wants it.

ALEC, a shadowy organization of corporate lobbyists and (overwhelmingly Republican) lawmakers, purports to
exemplify “Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty.”   

It stands for unfettered corporate interference in the legislative process. It hosts all expenses-paid conferences with lawmakers — usually at swank resorts where the media and the average Joe and Jane are denied access — and crafts “model” legislation to further the goals of corporate America.

Much of its legislation is pushed by lawmakers in statehouses around the country, usually word-for-word.

Unsurprisingly, some of its largest contributors are the Koch Brothers, oil, pharmaceutical and tobacco giants and many other concerns that run roughshod over our democratic process.

According to ALEC Exposed, a group that monitors ALEC’s outsized influence on our democracy, here is a sample of the types of legislation it pushes:

“Right-to-work” bills that seek to destroy unions’ ability to represent workers by preventing dues collection for services such as grievance handling and collective bargaining.

As unions decline, so does their ability to support working-family friendly candidates.

A bipartisan alliance of Missouri state representatives recently defeated ALEC’s right-to-work legislation, after the
same legislation was passed in Michigan and Indiana.   

Tort “reform,” which makes it harder for citizens to sue large corporations when injured by dangerous products.

Limits on damage awards do little to convince careless corporations to keep consumer safety in mind.

Private prisons, which are one reason for outrageously high incarceration rates in the United States.

Our nation has about 5 percent of the world’s population, but one-quarter of the world’s prisoners, according to the International Center for Prison Studies.

Americans are locked up for crimes that would rarely warrant a prison sentence elsewhere. Empty cots interfere with private prison profits.

Charter schools, destroying the quality of public education everywhere, not just in the inner cities.

ALEC promotes the false narrative that America’s public schools are failing and educators (read union teachers) are to blame.

Much like the effort to starve unions of funding, ALEC and other public school opponents seek to destroy public education by gradually defunding it. Investors in charter schools, rewarded with your tax dollars, are the only winners.

ALEC claims to be a 501(c)(3) exempt nonprofit.
   It maintains it merely reimburses public officials for their work on legislation —at high-end resorts where they are free to bring the family along for a vacation. It claims it isn’t lobbying, that its mission is “educational” in nature.

The same corporate lobbyists are also responsible for millions in campaign donations to these lawmakers. 


Americans are starting to catch on to ALEC.