(The following article first appeared in the Spring 2007 edition of Impact.)
One indication of the Mackinac Center’s influence is how frequently a governor must publicly respond to our ideas.
Every day a governor chooses which of the scores of voices vying for attention she can — and cannot — safely ignore. Apparently Gov. Jennifer Granholm and those who work for her find they cannot ignore the Mackinac Center.
Gov. Granholm reacted to a Mackinac Center economic analysis during a live interview on WZZM TV-13 in Grand Rapids on March 7 less than two hours after we published it. Asked to respond to our estimate that showed her proposed 2 percent tax on services could destroy as many as 19,000 jobs in 16 months, she told the news anchor, "No, I don’t agree with it ... . they [the Mackinac Center] come from a certain perspective which is that the less you can have any government the better off you are ... . We’ve got a $3 billion deficit. The Mackinac Center believes we can do, we can fill that all with cuts."
Gov. Granholm’s spokeswoman Liz Boyd later told the Midland Daily News for a Mar. 14 story, "We disagree with their [the Mackinac Center’s] findings," and "We do not believe the governor’s plan is a job killer."
Gov. Granholm was Frank Beckmann’s guest on Detroit’s powerhouse radio station, WJR, on Feb. 7. When Beckmann suggested she should listen to the ideas of Mackinac Center Senior Economist David Littmann, the governor countered by saying the Mackinac Center would "privatize all, uh, public safety functions…." Beckmann reminded her of her promise to "consider all views" and indicated she might benefit from the advice of Littmann, who he described as a one-time advisor to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. The governor abruptly moved to end the questioning, stating incorrectly that "he [Littmann] was on my Council of Economic Advisors at one point... ."
Gov. Granholm’s Director of the Department of Environmental Quality, Steven Chester, wrote an Editorial Rebuttal for the Jan. 29 Detroit News responding to a Mackinac Center report on mercury emissions. The analysis by Diane S. Katz concluded that new regulations on power plants’ mercury emissions would be costly and ineffective. Chester defended the governor’s plan while acknowledging it would raise consumers’ utility costs.
State Budget Office spokesman Greg Bird responded to a Mackinac Center idea that would save $85 million per year in state Medicaid costs. Bird told Gongwer News Service for a Feb. 12 story, "We think the figure … from the Mackinac Center is very overstated." His own figure for estimated savings was not included in the story.
Of course, we’d rather the governor simply recognize economic facts and acknowledge the need to reduce spending, cut taxes and enact sensible reforms. We hold out hope that she eventually will. There certainly seems to be little support for her plan to raise taxes and "invest" your money in more dubious economic development programs.
But we don’t take her criticism personally. We’re simply glad to be the agent by which free-market ideas get the public hearing they deserve.