We often say the Mackinac Center is a state-based think tank with national impact and an international following. This year is bursting with examples.
This spring, my family visited Rancho del Cielo, the longtime home of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. The ranch, beautifully preserved by Young America’s Foundation, is a tribute to President Reagan’s optimism and humility, and the American ideal.
Next to the ranch in Santa Barbara is the Reagan Ranch Center. I saw three direct connections to the Mackinac Center in the gift shop. One was a book from president emeritus Larry Reed, “Excuse Me, Professor.” A second book, “The Myth of the Robber Barons,” was from senior fellow Burt Folsom. The third item was Paul Kengor’s book “11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative,” in which he acknowledges the research contributions of our director of marketing and communications, Jarrett Skorup.
Each year, the University of Pennsylvania ranks more than 8,000 think tanks worldwide, 1,872 of which are in the United States. The latest report placed the Mackinac Center in the top 5% of U.S. think tanks.
The Overton Window of Political Possibility, a model conceived and popularized by the Mackinac Center, is part of the political and cultural lexicon. In February, The New York Times did an excellent job examining the idea, and in April, a popular TV show ran an episode named “Overton Window.”
Our policy ideas continue to take root in Michigan, even with the recent political realignment. In May, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed her third bill that contained a Mackinac Center idea; reforms to civil asset forfeiture, auto insurance and criminal justice are now law.
The Trump administration is also adopting our policy recommendations, proving the maxim that states are the laboratories for democracy. Our director of environmental policy, Jason Hayes, presented his research on public lands to U.S. Forest Service officials, and the agency recently announced plans that allow for better uses of federal lands.
In May, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a new rule that prohibits unions from skimming dues off the payments Medicaid sends to home health care providers. This should sound familiar to long-time Mackinac Center supporters. We discovered this problem in Michigan in 2009. Our creative team gave it a name — “dues skim” — that is now universally used. We killed the SEIU skim in Michigan in 2013 and contributed to litigation that led to a favorable U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Still, the practice continued in nearly a dozen states, costing vulnerable adults $200 million annually by our estimate. When President Trump took office, our team provided research and recommendations for the federal rule.
The dues skim has given the Mackinac Center the opportunity to use its capacities as a beacon for freedom: Our journalists reported extensively, our legal team drove the issue in the courts and our policy and outreach teams laid the foundation for significant policy change.