Don’t listen to what elected officials say they’re going to do; use these resources to find out what they actually do.
following is an edited version of a commentary that appeared at www.mackinac.org.)
Well, the Republicans did it. One of their strongest election
showings was in Michigan, where they decisively recaptured the governorship,
the Supreme Court and the state House by large margins. They increased their
Senate majority to a supermajority. They picked up two seats in Congress. They
maintained control of the Secretary of State and Attorney General offices. It
was a sweeping political victory, but it says nothing yet about policy change.
Voters should not take for granted that any lawmaker, once elected, will automatically do what he or she was elected to do.
That’s because political victories do not
guarantee policy victories. We need only remember how Republicans behaved after their historic
congressional victories of 1994 to know that shrinking government is different
from promising to shrink government. Likewise, when Republicans controlled
Michigan’s executive and legislative branches in the 1990s, they grew state
spending at a pace far exceeding inflation and population growth combined.
At least Michigan’s deepening economic crisis
helps clarify what “policy victory” must look like. Balance the budget. Stop
overpaying for things like gold-plated public-employee benefits. Wrestle down
tax burdens for all businesses so we don’t have to bribe them with ridiculous
subsidies and gimmicky tax deals. Stop driving employers crazy with
labyrinthine, nonsense regulations. Limit government to necessary, core
And when interest groups like unions try to block these reforms,
eliminate the lucrative sweetheart deals they’ve cleverly baked into the law
for themselves over the last five decades.
But I must warn you. Don’t expect Republicans, who now control
everything, to just start sending Gov. Rick Snyder bills to accomplish these
things come January. The reasons for this are many, but let me illustrate the
situation with a statement made in a radio interview by the Randy Richardville,
R-Monroe, the new Senate majority leader.
When asked about a right-to-work law, which would prohibit
employers from firing workers who do not support a union, he said he did not
“see it as being a top priority” this year. He added that a right-to-work law
“… seems to me to be more disruptive with little positive results,” and that it “… could possibly reduce the strength of our workforce.”
Those were just words, and we have to judge a lawmaker more on
what he does than what he says. But I bet a lot of voters who elected the new
Senate Republican supermajority will be unhappy to learn that the man who
decides which bills come to the floor for a vote has already effectively nixed
a labor reform adopted by 22 other states, all of which are outperforming
It’s also possible that putting right-to-work legislation on hold
is a political tactic to allow lawmakers to immediately address even more
urgent fiscal matters, such as saving some $5.7 billion annually by bringing
public-sector employee benefits in line with the private sector.
The point is that voters should not take for granted that any
lawmaker, once elected, will automatically do what he or she was elected to do.
Watch what they do, not what they say, and don’t stop watching them after the
The Mackinac Center is crucial to this part of the process. Only
the Mackinac Center posts online the complete voting record of every lawmaker
on every bill and every amendment. Only the Mackinac Center describes every
bill in plain English. And only the Mackinac Center provides free, daily news
coverage of the Legislature to tens of thousands of engaged citizens.
Armed with what you’ll find at Michiganvotes.org, Michigan Capitol
Confidential and among our two decades of policy research and commentary, you
can keep your lawmakers accountable to the principles and policies you want
them to support.
The Mackinac Center is dedicated first and foremost to the
free-market perspective, independent of any pressure group, political party or
Since no one is paying us to do their bidding, we’ve made it a practice to ask
those who already believe in free enterprise and limited government to support
Paraphrasing what Milton Friedman said, it’s
not enough to elect the right people, because the right people will do the
wrong thing if we don’t change the incentives.
Joseph G. Lehman is president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a
research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint
in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center
are properly cited.