The Detroit Free Press printed its endorsement for Michigan governor in last Sunday's edition. They said it was a tough choice because both candidates, current GOP Gov. Rick Snyder and challenger Dem Mark Schauer, have important advantages and significant drawbacks. So they took three full pages to explain their choice with articles looking at Snyder's record and Schauer's campaign. The six areas are Taxes and the Economy, Education, Detroit and other cities, Values, Environment, and Leadership. The conclusion: Snyder was a bit better, thus gets the endorsement. The paper gets praise for being so thorough in their analysis of the two candidates. But since I disagree with their choice I'll use this post to critique their reasoning.
I heard through a news report on Michigan Radio that the Toledo newspaper didn't like either candidate for governor of Ohio and thus didn't endorse either one. But the Free Press (I'll use their own nickname of Freep) attitude was that one of these two guys is going to be governor; we need to state our view. Michigan Radio also said lots of progressives in Michigan are furious with the Freep but some also said the newspaper's endorsement, especially made 10 days before the election wasn't going to make much difference.
Taxes and Economy
In the last four years Snyder has made significant changes to Michigan's tax system with claims that it would boost the economy. While Michigan's economy is better, not much has to do with Snyder's tax system. Alas, his changes have significantly shifted the burden from corporations to poor and low-income people in the form of higher taxes, reduced services, and worse education. But with some "tweaks" (Freep's word) the tax system can be improved. They still gave Snyder the edge.
Their complaint against Schauer is that he is too vague. Also, he has no plan on how he would get his changes through a hostile legislature. The legislature would indeed be hostile – the state Senate is in GOP hands and isn't up for election.
My reaction: I seriously doubt Snyder has any inclination (even if he isn't beholden to the Tea Party) to even try to shift the tax burden away from the poor or to make their plight any better. Besides, tweaking the tax code won't be enough. Yes, the tax code needed simplification, but it could have been done in a revenue neutral way to maintain funding for schools and services for the poor.
Snyder touts his increased funding for schools. But most of that money went into underfunded retirement programs, to the detriment of the classroom. With a proper tax code he could have funded both. He talks about the need for high quality education but his actions don't match.
Schauer says enough of the right things that the Freep gives the education advantage to him.
Detroit and cities
Snyder was instrumental in getting Detroit into and through bankruptcy (final ruling next week) and pushing the Grand Bargain between donors, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the legislature, and unions to make it happen. Snyder also pushed for the Emergency Manager law (over strong voter objection) that allowed the recalcitrant city gov't to be pushed aside so that the bankruptcy could happen. Detroit's finances will be in a much better place. Snyder wins this round.
The Freep has significant doubts that Schauer, a Democrat tied to unions, could have made any of it happen. Schauer is running on his opposition to the Emergency Manager law. The Freep says "But there's got to be a middle ground between noninterference and bankruptcy."
My reaction: Yes, there is a middle ground. It includes such things as: Restoration of revenue sharing that the state promised, then chopped (Detroit isn't the only Michigan city with shaky finances). Filing suit against some of the fraudulent bank deals that ensnared Detroit's finances and decimated the city's housing. Work out deals before bankruptcy to avoid cutting pensions of city workers.
Snyder has repeatedly said he is above and outside the social and cultural battles being waged in Michigan. But every time the GOP controlled legislature indulged in extremism (which has been often) Snyder went along with it. That means in the areas of gay rights, abortion rights, minority rights, and labor rights Michigan or "Michissippi" has become a much less tolerant place under Snyder's leadership. Snyder also touted transparency, which the Freep says "has become a joke."
In this area Schauer's chief qualification is his willingness to veto GOP extremism. Schauer also says he will push for a non-partisan redistricting commission to end gerrymandering. The Freep says "Schauer is far and away preferable to Snyder."
My response: This issue alone is enough for me to choose a candidate. I guess that makes me a "values voter." How a candidate views minorities (including gays), women, and the poor (including those in a labor union) colors everything – tax code, education funding, health of cities, environmental protection, and even leadership – he or she does. Get the values right and everything else follows. And Snyder's values are opposite of mine.
Snyder's record is pretty bad. He has supported fracking, cut funding to both Dept. of Environmental Quality and Dept. of Natural Resources, backed a steel plant that wanted pollution limits to be raised, and not opposed the legislature from opening public lands to industry and private use.
There was a big oil spill in a Michigan river a few years ago. The cleanup is just now being finished. That spill was in Schauer's district at a time when he was in the US House. He led the response in Washington for appropriate punishment and cleanup. Here's a place where Schauer has a record, one the Freep likes.
There are some important projects that Snyder made happen. These include: A second international bridge between Detroit and Windsor over fierce opposition from the billionaire who owns the existing bridge (clearing of land has begun). Getting the legislature to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Tax reform. Detroit finances. I don't agree with all of them (though I do agree with the bridge and Medicaid).
There have been a few leadership failures: Road repair funding. Refusing to stand up to the Legislature's extremism.
Alas, Schauer hasn't been in big leadership roles and isn't using the campaign to demonstrate whatever leadership skills he has. The Freep nod goes to Snyder.
So, according to the Freep Snyder wins on tax reform, guiding Detroit into solvency, and leadership. Schauer wins on education, values, and environment. Three each. Yet, the Freep goes contrary to its own values (by their own admission) to break the tie in favor of Snyder. Since I oppose how Snyder went about tax reform and guiding Detroit my choice is clear. I will vote for Schauer and recommend you do too.
The latest polls show the race too close to call.