The decade in politics
|By Kyle Melinn|
In the "naughts," politicians tried, but failed, to revamp MichiganEarlier this year, former Gov. John Engler declared the last 10 years in Michigan as "the lost decade."
He chose to delete the first three years he was steering this ship before hightailing it to Virginia to head the National Association of Manufacturers, several members of which collapsed and broke the back of Michigan’s economy.
But this column isn’t going to be about casting blame. There’s been too much of that flying around without me piling on.
If it wasn’t Gov. Jennifer Granholm blaming Engler for leaving an expensive state government and an empty checkbook, it was Democrats blaming former President George W. Bush for being too laissez-fair in his trade policies.
Once Granholm had enough years under her belt to frame her own legacy, it was the Republicans’ turn to play whack-a-mole on her. (And Lt. Gov. John Cherry, too!)
What nonsense. The last 10 years in Michigan politics and government certainly has been "The Lost Decade."
Don’t use "the 2000s" or "the aughts" or "the zeros." The last 10 years has been the "the naughts." Ten years symbolizing the old English definition of the word: Nothing.
It’s not about Engler or Granholm or the Legislature or any of those clowns who make their living under and around the Capitol dome. They tried to do something, but nothing worked.
The giant wrecking ball they were trying to stop was too powerful. The enormous, historic collapse of our automobile industry and our comfortable way of life made Engler, Granholm and everybody else bit players in a much larger tragedy.
Ford, General Motors and Chrysler failed to sell enough cars. They laid off workers, closed down plants, declared bankruptcy, and on.
The enormous, historic collapse of our automobile industry and our comfortable way of life made Engler, Granholm and everybody else bit players in a much larger tragedy.
Every politician running for statewide office wanted to change that. They wanted to fix the economy. If I had a dollar every time I heard a politician say, "My top three priorities are ’jobs, jobs, jobs,’" I could retire comfortably.
And, yet, when our newly elected leaders arrived in Lansing, they quickly discovered how little power state government has. There’s no magic wand: simply "wanting" to create jobs isn’t enough.
The Republican Legislature crowed on and on about a "low-tax climate" and "cutting red-tape." So Granholm went along with it.
In her first four years, Granholm signed every boutique tax cut that came her way. She cut the Department of Environmental Quality to near non-existence. She put more state government permitting on the Internet.
Where was Michigan after it was all said and done? Deeper in the hole. Michigan government still could not give its cities, universities, schools, prisons, public health system or welfare system the funding they had received in the past.
Another year, another round of cuts and state budget freezes.
Then the single business tax became the boogeyman. Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson and recall "specialist" Leon Drolet chased the "SBT" around the state for a while until the Legislature voted to get rid of the "job-killing tax" … only to have the Legislature replace it with an equally confusing business tax that extracted more money from business’ pockets than the SBT ever did.
The new Michigan business tax was written for the Big Three automakers. It made little difference. The jobs kept disappearing.
Granholm hoodwinked the Legislature into creating a 21st Century Jobs Fund by borrowing against
Every new penny in higher taxes went back
All attempts to change the outcome have gone for naught.