Déjà Vu All Over Again

For the second year in a row, the Mackinac Center has compared a governor’s State of the State speech to one given 20 years ago. Last year, we published the essay Past as Prologue, comparing the speeches of Gov. James Blanchard in 1986 and Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2006. The Center has long argued that there is too little new under the public policy sun. In other words, politicians often use these events as political theater and their speeches are frequently long on rhetoric and short on substance. So short, in fact, we question whether or not politicians are familiar with even recent state history. A quick look at past gubernatorial speeches reveals that we’ve been here before. Consider the following 13 statements made by Gov. Blanchard in 1987 and Gov. Granholm 20 years later; the ideas that are "new" are superficially new at best.

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Blanchard 1987

Granholm 2007

That’s the same spirit we must unleash to master our next challenge — the challenge of rapid economic change — of global change.

The world around us has changed, and it is not changing back.

Four years ago, our state budget showed a $1.7 billion deficit.

In the four years since I first took office, I resolved billions in deficits — more than any governor before me.

… as more people come to Michigan to find opportunity and to create more opportunity.

A Michigan of in-migration and innovation. …

When the people of Michigan put our minds, our hearts and our energy into any effort, together we can accomplish anything.

We did not arrive here in the same way or at the same time, but we are all here together, headed toward the same destination. We are One Michigan.

It means continuing our efforts to diversify Michigan’s growing economy. … Today Michigan’s people have made our state a leader not only in manufacturing, but also in financial services, food processing, furniture, robotics, tourism, forestry, retailing, agriculture, entrepreneurial startups and high technology.

[W]e’ll continue to diversify our economy by pursuing growth in four promising sectors: the life sciences, advanced manufacturing, homeland security, and alternative energy.

Remember when Chrysler Corporation jobs were on the line in 1979? That’s the same Chrysler Corporation that just invested $3 billion in Michigan during the last year.

Though Ford had its worst financial year ever, the company is investing $6 billion to grow.

We also have an economy that is more than just automobiles.

While our auto sector is contracting, other sectors are clearly seeing growth.

[W]e also see the opportunities that change creates.

The world around us has changed, and it is not changing back. In this fiercely competitive world, every day that Michigan is not advancing, we are retreating.

Today because of our efforts to redeem Michigan’s finances and repair Michigan’s economy, we have made it possible to design a strategy that lies at the heart of our future — a strategy to invest in the knowledge and the skills of our people.

Will we invest in our people so they and their children can compete and win in the new world economy? Will we invest in our people so they can build great lives here in Michigan? Will we? Or will we fail them?

We will implement a pre-school program for early education. …

We’ll begin with an important expansion of early education.

We will continue to invest in higher education. …

This year, we will also help our cities use the promise of higher education to fight poverty and high unemployment.

[W]e will make good on our commitment that any child in Michigan who wants to go to college will be able to afford to go to college.

College for all.

Through our community colleges and job training efforts, we will make sure that Michigan workers are the most skilled, most flexible and most adaptive in the world.

We will provide free community college tuition to unemployed workers who want to learn the skills needed to fill high-demand jobs.