The MC: The Mackinac Center Blog

2014 Election Aftermath

Unions' bark worse than their bite

Unions protesting over right-to-work in 2012.

Yesterday’s election was not so much a referendum on labor reform as yet another reminder that when elected officials protect freedom and taxpayers they do not need to fear the wrath of the union political juggernaut.

These reformers winning and opponents losing cannot be easily dismissed as “it was a Republican wave which protected the politicians who took on labor reform.” Almost more striking than what was in the Republican wins was what was not in the Democrat losses.

In Michigan for example, the birthplace of the UAW, the state with the 5th highest union membership rate in the country and long considered a labor stronghold, right-to-work was nowhere to be found in the election. Not on the ballot as an initiative or Constitutional Amendment, nor even in the gubernatorial or legislative races.  

During the sole Michigan gubernatorial debate of the season, the only time worker freedom came up was as a subpart of another question and one that neither candidate addressed.

So low was the saliency of right-to-work as a negative issue that even representatives from the Michigan Education Association dismissed it. At a right-to-work panel discussion in October, MEA communications consultant David Crim explicitly stated:

I do not believe that on November 4th when people go to the polls they are going to say ‘you know what I am going to decide who I am going to vote for, for governor, for the legislature, any office on the ballot based on the right-to-work law that was passed…’ See 46:30 on video 

This is a far cry from the violent protests outside the Capitol and a “there will be blood” threat by Rep. Douglas Geiss, D-Taylor, during the passage of Michigan’s right-to-work law in 2012.

In Wisconsin, proxies for Gov. Scott Walker’s reforms have been on the ballot almost too many times to count. In every election that was deemed a ‘must win’ by unions to repeal labor reforms there was a loss. In fact, after the initial flurry of recall attempts, Gov. Walker’s budget repair bill was not a central issue of the Democratic campaigns. 

The same goes for the legislators who voted for right-to-work in Indiana and even for Gov. Kasich in Ohio, whose labor reforms were overturned yet still won re-election handily last night.

Big Labor lost four of the five gubernatorial races the AFL-CIO initially said it would focus on — Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida — with Pennsylvania being their only win.

As Lee Saunders, chairman of the AFL-CIO’s political committee, told The New York Times in February, ousting Republicans in the industrial battleground states was “about survival.”

Labor lost races that were not even initially on their radar. This shockingly includes Illinois, where Gov.-Elect Bruce Rauner dared to take on forced unionism.

The “survival” lesson from the 2014 election is that labor reform is not the third rail of politics. Despite enduring a lot of noise from Big Labor, reformers need not fear its wrath. Voters will continue to reward those who support freedom and taxpayers.

As for labor’s survival, this election should be a lesson. It is time they give up the compulsion and privileges of the past. In order to not just survive but grow, they need to adapt. 

October 31, 2014, MichiganVotes Weekly Report

Tea Party? Occupy Wall Street? Corporate Welfare

While the Legislature is on a campaign season break from voting, the Roll Call Report continues a series reviewing key votes of the 2013-2014 session. This edition focuses on what are called "economic development" bills.

House Bill 4782, Expand a corporate/developer subsidy regime: Passed 87 to 23 in the House on November 14, 2013

To authorize creation of a sixth “Next Michigan Development Corporation,” which is a government agency that gives tax breaks and subsidies to particular corporations or developers selected by political appointees on the entity's board, for projects meeting extremely broad "multi-modal commerce" criteria (basically, any form of goods-related commerce). The new entity would be in the Upper Peninsula.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4783, Expand a corporate/developer subsidy regime again: Passed 83 to 27 in the House on September 9, 2014

To authorize creation of a seventh “Next Michigan Development Corporation” as described in the previous vote, except this one would probably be in Detroit. The Senate has not yet taken up this bill.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 536, Expand real estate development tax breaks: Passed 70 to 39 in the House on June 10, 2014

To authorize property tax exemptions for property owned by a nonprofit organization whose purpose is real estate development, if the local government agrees, and if the organization is approved by the political appointees on the board of the state agency responsible for granting and overseeing selective tax breaks and subsidies to particular corporations and developers.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 146, Extend enterprise zone tax breaks to a particular developer: Passed 93 to 17 in the House on February 4, 2014

To revise a law that authorizes tax breaks for developers whose projects are in an area deemed a “neighborhood enterprise zone,” in a way that would allow the tax break for a particular developer's project, notwithstanding this developer's failure to request the tax break before getting a building permit, which the current law requires. Several such bills come before the legislature each year and are usually passed.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 308, Authorize tax breaks to a Charlotte business: Passed 95 to 14 in the House on December 12, 2013

To revise the criteria in the law that authorizes tax breaks for the rehabilitation and reuse of "obsolete structures" in a way that will allow granting these tax breaks to a particular business in Charlotte. The bill was amended to do the same for another developer in Wayne County.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4998, Appoint “entrepreneurs-in-residence” at Michigan Strategic Fund: Passed 85 to 24 in the House on June 3, 2014

To require the state agency responsible for granting and overseeing selective tax breaks and subsidies granted to particular corporations or developers to appoint up to 10 “entrepreneurs-in-residence” to help it “improve outreach to small business concerns;” identify inefficient or duplicative programs; recommend ways to expand and improve the these programs; and more. The bill has not been taken up by the Senate.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 257, Expand “Business Improvement Zone” borrow-and-spend entities: Passed 77 to 31 in the House on September 12, 2013

To expand the items that a “Business Improvement Zone” can spend money on, revise voting rules in a way that (potentially) reduces the proportion of property owners needed to impose a zone's tax-and-spending powers, increase the proportion of owners needed to dissolve one, reduce notice and public meeting requirements required to establish one, increase penalties for not paying the "special assessments" these entities impose, and more. These zones have the power to impose levies to pay for the debt they incur to pay for projects that are supposed to benefit the property owners.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4487, Authorize DDA debt and spending to promote local agriculture: Passed 81 to 27 in the House on February 18, 2014

To empower Downtown Development Authorities to borrow and spend the loan proceeds on “marketing initiatives," "infrastructure improvements" and more that "promote local agriculture products and farmers markets." The debt incurred by these "tax increment financing" schemes is repaid by "capturing" from other local taxing units the increased property tax revenue that the DDA's subsidies and spending are presumed to generate. The Senate has not taken up this bill.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 218, Expand borrow-and-spend "water resource improvement authorities": Passed 92 to 16 in the House on April 18, 2013

To eliminate the sunset on local governments creating new “water resource improvement authorities," which use extra property tax levies and “tax increment financing” schemes to divert tax revenue to pay the debt they incur for various recreation and development projects. The bill would also expand the scope and geographic limits of these entities' spending.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4327, Allow reset of "tax increment finance" schemes: Passed 86 to 21 in the House on October 23, 2013.

To allow "corridor improvement authorities" to "reset" their tax increment financing schemes (TIF) to reflect declining property assessments, which undermine their ability to divert property tax revenue from local governments and other taxing units to pay for the authority’s debt-funded spending projects and subsidies.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4782, Expand a corporate/developer subsidy regime: Passed 31 to 6 in the Senate on December 11, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder last December.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 536, Expand real estate development tax breaks: Passed 36 to 0 in the Senate on December 11, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on June 24.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 146, Extend enterprise zone tax breaks to a particular development: Passed 32 to 4 in the Senate on October 24, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law in February.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 308, Authorize tax breaks to a Charlotte business: Passed 37 to 1 in the Senate on May 20, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law last December.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 257, Expand “Business Improvement Zone” tax-and-spend entities: Passed 35 to 2 in the Senate on April 11, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law last October.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 218, Expand borrow-and-spend "water resource improvement authorities": Passed 32 to 5 in the Senate on March 14, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law in May 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4327, Allow reset of "tax increment finance" schemes: Passed 33 to 5 in the Senate on December 12, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law last December.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 272, Authorize corporate and developer “port facility” subsidies: Passed 37 to 1 in the Senate on June 13, 2013.

To expand the mission of the Michigan Strategic Fund to include providing undefined subsidies for corporations, developers and other entities involved in port facilities. The House has not taken up this bill.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 269, Make permanent $75 million in annual corporate subsidy spending: Passed 33 to 4 in the Senate on October 31, 2013

To extend through 2019 an annual $75 million earmark to a "21st Century Jobs Fund" program created by the previous administration, which provides various subsidies to particular firms or industries chosen by a board of political appointees. Under current law, the annual earmark expires in 2015. The House has yet to take up this bill.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

SOURCE:, a free, non-partisan website created by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, providing concise, non-partisan, plain-English descriptions of every bill and vote in the Michigan House and Senate. Please visit

Caught With Their Swimming Trunks Down

Great Lakes levels prove climate alarmists wrong

Gosh almighty and gee whiz — what a shock it is to discover that nature often operates in cycles. One would think that obvious fact was as clear as night and day and the four seasons of the year. Apparently to some it wasn’t, or at least it never appeared to have been considered by global warming alarmists who preached putting trust in faulty science instead of historically observable water level patterns on the Great Lakes.

On the other hand, maybe they never really believed the tripe they were spouting. Perhaps it was only opportunistic propaganda to advance their political agenda. Regardless, they should not be allowed to get away with it. Global warming alarmists ought to be called to the mat for either duplicity or foolishness. Attention needs to be called to the fact that nature is proving their disaster-mongering claims about low Great Lakes water levels untrue.

After about 13 years of low water levels on the Great Lakes, the four western lakes, Superior, Michigan-Huron and Erie (not to mention St. Clair) are all above their long-term October averages. Meanwhile, Lake Ontario is two inches below the long-term average, after being a couple of inches above it this summer. That’s according to the Army Corps of Engineers, which has been keeping track since 1918.

During that recent and brief (less than a millisecond in terms of geology and climate) span of years — while the levels were down — the alarmists presented the situation as undeniable evidence of impending climate change doom. A major element of this Chicken Little message was that we — us rascally, irresponsible humans — were the cause of the alleged crisis.

Forget that over the comparatively short 90-some years that consistent records had been kept, low water level periods commenced in 1926, 1963 and 2000. Look closely at those years and you’ll notice the amazing 37-year cycles. Study old newspapers and you’ll find that same basic cycle going back even further. Listen to those who have sifted the sedimentary shoreline evidence and they’ll tell you the high and low cycle can be traced back thousands of years. They’ll also tell you that none of the water level fluctuations witnessed over the past few hundred years have been outside the range of what had occurred previously.

In spite of dire-sounding headlines fostering a provably false message that low Great Lakes water levels signaled something unnatural and unprecedented, the levels are back up again. They are up again, as they were in the 1980s after the low levels of the 1960s and early 1970s. They are up again, as they were in the 1950s after the low levels of the 1920s and early 1930s. They are up again, demonstrating once more how global warming alarmists distort short-term variations of nature to advance their dogma.

Global warming alarmists shouldn’t be allowed to duck this one. They need to be held accountable for all of their past claims. The alarmists screech and holler, but when their assertions and predictions are debunked, they are consistently allowed to move on to the next temporary circumstance they seek to exploit. It’s high time that they suffer the loss of credibility they deserve. News media and politicians have a responsibility to stand up and take notice when the claims of global warming alarmists are revealed to have been hogwash. Our society in general has a right to be told the true score.

The Great Lakes are a major feature of Earth and can be clearly spotted from the surface of the moon. They contain 6 quadrillion gallons of water; fully one-fifth of the fresh water on the planet. If all of the water in the Great Lakes was spread across the United States, it would be 9 feet deep. The Great Lakes are significant enough and important enough to be used to expose just how global warming propagandists operate and why only the gullible believe what they say.

Reporters and interviewers who let this slide will be displaying either their ignorance or irresponsibility. From now on, when global warming alarmists try to sell their mythology, their false claims about the Great Lakes water levels need to be used to refute them.

But don’t hold your breath — odds are that these merchants of misrepresentation will be allowed to escape once more. The manmade climate change/global warming industry is powerful enough to keep the debacle of the Great Lakes crisis scare hushed up. With billions in taxpayer subsidies to be collected by simply spray-painting old-fashioned corporate welfare green, we can rest assured that the propaganda will not cease.

(Editor’s note: Jack Spencer is Capitol Affairs Specialist for Michigan Capitol Confidential and a veteran, Lansing-based journalist. His columns do not necessarily represent the views of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy or Michigan Capitol Confidential.)

State Budget Follies

Senior Olympics subsidies getting old

Michigan’s state budget is a $52 billion-plus document that cuts across most aspects of our lives: police, courts, transportation and education to name a few subjects. Is it any wonder then that few noticed or complained when a $100,000 “one-time” appropriation was slipped in to subsidize an athletic competition between people who are in the autumn of their years?

Subsidizing the “Michigan Senior Olympics” is not a proper function of government. It is unfair to those whose hobbies are not subsidized, it financially supports a group who may already be healthier and wealthier than your average resident, and the state has more pressing uses for the money.

The Michigan Senior Olympics was created in 1979 and is a nonprofit fitness advocate for people over 50. The games it hosts are held in Oakland County and has boasted of 1,100 participants. The 2015 winter events begin Feb 7 and include sports such as billiards, powerlifting and hockey, according to the MSO’s website. The summer events are held in August and include events such as bocce ball, tennis and golf.

The state should kill this subsidy on fairness grounds alone. There are countless hobbies statewide – athletic and otherwise – that are not subsidized by government. Yet those who choose to participate sans subsidy are being forced to pay for the Senior Olympians’ competition.

Does it bother anyone in state government that a cross-country skier in Ishpeming has her own choices (athletic hobbies and otherwise) diminished to cross subsidize the hobby of a bocce ball playing Detroiter? Worse, there are taxpayers dragged into this transaction that have no interest in sports whatsoever.

Relatedly, it would not strain credulity to suggest that Senior Olympians already have many advantages in life over their counterparts. For example, as a direct result of being older and having more time to accumulate wealth, senior citizens nationwide have higher incomes and a higher net worth than many who are footing this Olympic bill.

The September 2014 Federal Reserve Bulletin summarizes its 2013 triennial “Survey of Consumer Finances,” which indicate that average income by the age of head of household is highest in the 55-64 age bracket and drops thereafter but is not much lower than the 35-44 bracket. The Census Bureau reports slightly different numbers, noting that wealth (a different measure of economic well-being) peaks in the 65-69 age cohort.

In other words, it is unlikely this particular set of sportsmen and women need a financial leg up, at least relative to their many poorer peers under the age of 35. Indeed, the under-35 crowd is already engaged in a massive intergenerational transfer of wealth to senior citizens via Social Security and Medicare programs and so should be left out of the Olympic transaction.

If the Senior Olympics really must have $100,000 more to operate, the civil society solution would simply be to ask its 1,100 participants to pay $91 more per person for the privilege of participating. Current MSO membership fees are $25 per person, though one must pay a registration fee and other costs depending on the event.

Another advantage that Senior Olympics’ participants may have is something many people cherish above all: their health. There are many seniors who only wish they could pay full freight to compete in the MSO, if only they were physically able to do so. Forcing unhealthy seniors to pay for those who are healthy is also unfair.

Readers may feel mollified by the knowledge that this is just a “one-time” appropriation. But “one-time” appropriations happen frequently with the same group. The Senior Olympics also got one-timers in three other budgets since Fiscal Year 2000. A fourth attempt in 2002 was made but vetoed according to Michigan’s State Budget Office.

The state has so many other pressing needs – roads and underfunded pensions to name two – that it is hard to believe this line item could get sneaked into the budget. Redirected to roads or schools, $100,000 could fill about 5,000 potholes or buy a school district 1,000 new textbooks.

Senior Olympics subsidies are unfair, unnecessary and waste precious resources that would be better used elsewhere. They should be eliminated during the Lame Duck session or by the new Legislature.

Corporate Welfare and the Michigan Business Tax

Some subsidies extend another 20 years

A common talking point in Michigan political campaigns this year is criticizing Republicans for “giving a “$1.8 billion tax break to business.” As is often the case with political claims, there is more to the story.

In 2011, policymakers here eliminated the much-reviled Michigan Business Tax and replaced it with a simpler corporate income tax and a separate financial institutions tax. This reduced the annual tax collected from Michigan job providers by $1.2 billion. While some firms benefited more than others, the reform was a substantial across-the-board tax cut. And it was a departure from the previous administration that approved huge subsidies or tax breaks for politically connected enterprises.

However, note that the reform’s net tax cut was $1.2 billion annually, not $1.8 billion. The difference is found in accounting for the open-ended corporate welfare that was the previous administration’s primary response to Michigan’s economic “lost decade.”

Specifically, the MBT was the vehicle used to deliver a myriad of financial “incentives” to favored businesses and industries. Through it, the state offered billions worth of “refundable” tax credits. In many cases these resulted in the state writing checks to a particular company. If the firm owed some Michigan Business Tax but less than the credit amount, the tax liability was extinguished and it was given a check for the difference.

The special treatment continues for some companies: The credits were offered through agreements that extended as long as 20 years into the future, and were contingent on a firm meeting certain job creation, investment or output milestones. For example, in 2009 and 2010 the Big Three automakers were given credit deals that will cost up to $3 billion over their 15- and 20-year durations.

To accommodate all that deal making, the “repealed” Michigan Business Tax was kept on the books, but only for firms to whom the credits were granted. Years after the special deals were inked, the state continues to write checks and/or reduce particular firms’ tax liability, both of which reduce state revenue from what it would be under a “fair field and no favors” tax system.

Thus, the MBT is gone except as a vehicle to deliver on past tax credit deals. As such, it doesn’t raise any revenue. In fact, it costs the state hundreds of millions a year. In the current year, state analysts projected that $560 million in these credits claimed by companies meeting their targets. This was later revised down to $429 million.

The political claim that “Snyder gave a $1.8 billion tax break to business” comes from adding that $560 million to the straightforward $1.2 billion across-the-board business tax cut enacted in 2011. Never mind that almost one-third of the “$1.8 billion” claim comes from selective subsidies and tax breaks granted under the previous administration’s open-ended corporate welfare programs.

Michigan Education Digest

Media fails on charter public school reporting

The new edition of Michigan Education Digest is now online. Topics include charter public school success, Brighton release time and school board elections.

The Science Behind Political Polls

Center experts' detailed explanation from 2008

Confused by all the political polls with varying results that seem to appear on a daily basis leading up to Election Day?

Understanding Public Opinion Surveys” from February 2008 provides an in-depth look at polling, including the history of political polls, how to read them with a cautious eye and what questions to ask about how a particular poll was conducted.

A 'Silver Lining' to Potholes?

A lesson from 1850 by Frédéric Bastiat

Frédéric Bastiat

While stopping short of going “full Krugman,” Michigan Radio suggests a “silver lining” regarding the state of Michigan’s roads:

In our recent conversation with MSU economist Charlie Ballard, he reminded us that we're going to pay for road repairs one way or another. Maybe higher taxes or, in Ballard's case, paying now, with blown tires and bent rims.

But, is there some kind of silver lining to the crummy roads? Maybe for local repair shops?

The spending certainly helps the local repair shop, but at the expense of the overall economy. The idea that simply spending money is good without regard to the value produced is relatively common. The best rejoinder comes from an 1850 essay by 19th century French political theorist Frédéric Bastiat, who wrote “That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen.”

Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James Goodfellow, when his careless son has happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation. "It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?"

Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.

Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier's trade – that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs – I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.

But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, "Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen."

It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.

False Pretenses Should be Put to Rest

GOP candidates scrutinized

If current polling is a forecast of the election results, establishment Republicans have no grounds for claiming the candidates they prefer are any better at winning general elections than those that might emerge from the conservative base.

In the U.S. Senate race, former GOP Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land continues to trail Democratic Congressman Gary Peters by nearly 10 percentage points in the polls. Unless something changes drastically in the final week leading up to the election, Rep. Peters will win it in a walk.

That would mark the fifth consecutive Michigan U.S. Senate race in which the Republicans have failed to find a candidate who could mount a competitive campaign. Michigan’s previous four U.S. Senate races featured incumbent Democrats protecting their seats. Briefly in 2006 and 2012 it looked like there would be a chance to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, but those chances turned out to be mirages.

This year, however, the cards seemed to be stacked more in the GOP’s favor. Due to the retirement of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, his seat is open and, in a nonpresidential year, the Republicans should have at least been able to take a decent shot at it.

Though Peters winning this year is not an absolute certainty, at this juncture it must be considered a very high probability. Only the political equivalent of Hail Mary pass for a touchdown in the final seconds of a football game could give Land a come-from-behind victory. Perhaps desperate TV and Internet ads featuring Rep. Peters morphing into President Barack Obama — tied vaguely to topical issues like ISIS and Ebola — could still give Land a slim long-shot chance.

Land faced virtually no competition in becoming the Republican candidate for U.S Senate. There was no serious challenge from Tea Party activists. Early in the process, other potential candidates interested in running were discouraged from stepping in. Some might have fared better than Land, but not necessarily because they were either more or less conservative.

The issue in this particular case is not whether a candidate leans conservative or moderate. It is the repeated establishment Republican mantra that candidates from the right-wing of their party hurt the ticket and diminish the chances of victory. To put it bluntly, when it comes to selecting candidates, their track record simply does not justify such an assertion.

Tea Party activist candidate Clark Durant ran against former Congressman Pete Hoekstra in the race to become Michigan’s 2012 GOP U.S. Senate candidate. Rep. Hoekstra, who was clearly the establishment candidate, won the nomination and was then promptly crushed by about 20 percentage points by Sen. Stabenow.

Considering the strong showing the Democrats had in Michigan in 2012, it is doubtful Durant could have done much better than Rep. Hoekstra, but he could hardly have done any worse. The point is that if Durant had been the GOP candidate and suffered such a huge defeat, establishment Republicans would have insisted it was proof that candidates who lean too far to the right get walloped. But when the shoe is on the other foot and their own candidate selections lose big, establishment Republicans just shrug it off.

Few would argue that, like it or not, there is more to being a strong candidate than just whether a person is far-right, moderate, liberal or some niche in between. Communication skills and just plain likability counts for much — as do factors beyond the control of the candidates, such as unexpected issues arising and whether it is a particularly good year for one major political party or the other.

There is no magical mix of ingredients that automatically synthesizes into a winning candidate. Human judgment and the antennas of the voters are the only instruments sensitive enough to take the measure and make the call.

In early 1980 it was said that President Ronald Reagan was “too far to the right” to win. In 2008 it was said that President Barack Obama was “too far to the left” to win. When an establishment Republican insists a prospective candidate is too far right to have a chance, the context of electability is no more than camouflage.  All they are really doing is revealing that their own political tastes lie to the left of that prospective candidate; it is nothing less than that and most certainly it is nothing more.

Many conservatives are often no less irrational about this subject than moderates tend to be. For example, an axe that continues to be ground too finely by those on the right is the choice of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the GOP presidential candidate in 2012.

Sure, Gov. Romney did not wear conservative principles comfortably, virtually ignored the need to speak of freedom and liberty, and barely mentioned Obamacare. But to hear many on the political right talk, one would think Gov. Romney was picked as the Republican nominee on a dark night in a smoke-filled room.

Gov. Romney won the GOP nomination by winning primaries — and he won those primaries because no outstanding alternative candidate came out to challenge him. Elections are often described as horse races, and the comparison can be a good one. Horses that remain in the barn never win.

(Editor’s note: Jack Spencer is Capitol Affairs Specialist for Michigan Capitol Confidential and a veteran Lansing-based journalist. His columns do not necessarily represent the views of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy or Michigan Capitol Confidential.)

Beckmann Cites CapCon on Film Incentives

Host, state senator discuss Hollywood corporate welfare

Host Frank Beckmann on his WJR-AM760 show Friday cited Michigan Capitol Confidential while interviewing Sen. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, about the Senate’s vote to extend corporate welfare for film makers. Sen. Moolenaar was one of four senators to vote against the measure.

Beckmann mentioned that CapCon had reported some $500 million has been taken from Michigan taxpayers and given to Hollywood over the last five years through the film incentive scheme, but that the number of movie-related jobs in Michigan has dropped by 100 in the same span.