The standards for getting a federal college loan are low, and too many people have gotten themselves in trouble with their student debt. I spoke with Preston Cooper, senior fellow at the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, about federal loans and college costs for the Overton Window podcast. We also spoke about his plan to change federal loan rules to encourage lower costs and better value in college programs, and to keep people from defaulting on their student loans.

Congress set aside $42 billion for broadband internet in its massive 2021 federal infrastructure bill. States can apply for this funding and re-distribute this money as they decide.

Areas without high-speed internet will get top priority for funding. Internet providers also need to have no data caps, maintain reliable and secure networks, be open to everyone in the service area, and take part in a federal program which gives low-income households grants to pay for broadband.

Legislators are likely to pass a state budget that spends less than Sustainable Michigan Budget limits. Yet they will do so without having to practice much restraint.

According to the state’s forecasters, revenue for the upcoming year is expected to decline slightly from the current fiscal year.

Politicians don’t seem to need evidence of success to declare a program a success. Gov. Whitmer has publicly claimed that two college scholarship programs “are working” and helping create “rewarding paths to those high-wage, high-demand careers.”

The governor cites no data to support that assertion. And there seem to be no data to cite. Like many government programs, Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect are long on upfront promises but short on both assessment and follow-through.

Traverse City’s public utility is comingling sources of funds while trying to go deeper into debt in an effort to keep its broadband network alive.

The government-owned network was originally projected to cost $4.2 million – the loan for which was supposed to be paid back within a few years by customer billings. After repeated delays, far fewer customers than projected, an expansion of the project and several rounds of new loans, the network’s cost has ballooned to nearly $30 million.

The federal ban on the sale of alcohol and its relegalization just 12 years later was probably the biggest policy ever imposed on the United States and then rapidly reversed. Economic historian Jason Taylor recently marked the 90th anniversary of relegalization with an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. He joins the Overton Window podcast to discuss the lessons for social change today.

This article is edited and expanded from testimony submitted to the Michigan Legislature.

Some Michigan legislators are looking to pass some of the strictest occupational licensing regulations for hunting and fishing guides in the nation. Senate Bills 103 and 104 mandate that people do the following in order to earn money guiding people to capture game. They must:

The Mackinac Center’s Workers for Opportunity initiative is proud to champion labor reform efforts across the country. Florida is the most recent state to codify our proposed reforms into law. Thanks to legislation signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 9, teachers and other public workers in Florida will now have more control over their hard-earned paychecks.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is one of the largest public sector unions in the United States. But the union has shed members since it lost a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case, Janus v. AFSCME, which extended right-to-work to government workers nationwide.

Editor’s note: A condensed version of this op-ed, entitled “A New Deal on Beer,” first appeared in The Wall Street Journal on April 7, 2023.

A little more than ninety years ago—on April 7, 1933—beer became legal to produce, sell, and consume in the United States for the first time since the enactment of Prohibition in January 1920.

Lansing lawmakers are working on the fiscal year 2024 state budget which begins in October. We have long recommended restraint in state spending and last year announced our Sustainable Michigan Budget initiative. The goal of this initiative is to recommend to lawmakers a spending target whereby year-over-year budget growth is limited to changes in population and inflation combined.

A good policy is meaningless if it isn’t carried out, and the state’s teacher evaluation system is a good example. It aims to give schools the tools they need to identify high-quality teachers, retain them, develop promising prospects and encourage ineffective educators to find another line of work. But school districts have not fully implemented it.

We hear very little persuasion in political debate. In campaign advertisements, on political talk shows, or on social media, people shout at each other more often than they make a good case for others to change their minds on an issue. My colleague Jarrett Skorup explains why that is on this week’s Overton Window podcast.

Amy Elizabeth Kellogg Green, who served the Mackinac Center for decades in many roles, died May 1, 2023 after a yearlong struggle with cancer. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy sincerely mourns the passing of Amy, the eighth employee hired and a beloved member of the Mackinac Center family through most of its history. Below is Amy’s obituary, a slideshow, and memories shared by her friends and colleagues.

You would probably be skeptical if someone were to say that a huge portion of people in Michigan are on the verge of starvation and death due to lack of income. Yet United Way continues to say that a third or more of Michigan households do not earn enough to survive. The non-profit network’s latest ALICE report pins the number at 39%. The extreme claims are not backed up by the methods the report’s authors use, yet the United Way and reporters continue to reiterate them.

The Florida Legislature Wednesday approved a bill that, if signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, will help protect workers from predatory union practices. Florida Senate Bill 256 is a positive step toward getting government out of the practice of subsidizing unions.

Looking back on the first quarter of 2023 it is not hard to be reminded of James Coffield’s famous description of the British income tax system as “Scaffolding for Plunder.” Yet in Michigan recently it feels broader, as if it is the whole government system working to plunder us, not just the tax system.

As basic civics classes will tell you, there is a separation of powers in America. Legislators have the power to create laws. Presidents and governors enforce these laws. Judges interpret the laws and settle disputes. State departments and administrative agencies, although technically part of the executive branch, get to do all three. Jon Sanders, the director of the Center for Food, Power and Life at the John Locke Foundation, joins me to talk about it for this week’s Overton Window podcast. Sanders helped legislators in North Carolina restrict the rulemaking authority of administrative agencies.

Democrats targeted Michigan’s decade-old right-to-work law immediately after taking control of the Legislature in January. When the question of whether workers can be fired for not paying a union came up, many of the points being made by unions and their democratic allies were disingenuous. One key argument used to advance these bills was that a union shouldn’t be forced to represent the workers who have opted out of membership. Commonly called the “free-rider” problem, this argument is straw man. Unions do not want, and in fact vocally oppose, any solution to this problem other than forcing workers to pay them.

This article originally appeared in the Detroit News March 19 2023

A new bill in the state House would force Michigan taxpayers to subsidize unions and their political activities. House Bill 4235, which was introduced early this month by Rep. Alabas Farhat, D-Dearborn, with more than 30 Democratic co-sponsors, would provide a refundable tax credit to dues-paying union members as of January 1 of this year. If union members’ dues exceed their state tax bill, the treasury will cut them a check.

This article originally appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business March 27, 2023.

Now that the end of the federal public health emergency over COVID-19 is in sight, states are set to resume checking eligibility for those receiving Medicaid. But Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have announced plans to delay the verification process in Michigan.

This article originally appeared in The Hill March 18, 2023.

Michigan is about to become, once again, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Labor.

Fresh off their narrow election victories in November, Democratic majorities in the state legislature have joined with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to repeal the state’s decade-old right-to-work law, which ensures that no worker can be fired if they decide not to join a union. The House passed the repeal March 8, and the Senate followed suit this week, and Whitmer appears ready to send right-to-work to oblivion. This about-face, which is deeply unpopular with voters, will reverse Michigan’s hard-won economic progress.

This article originally appeared in the Detroit News March 16 2023.

On March 12, daylight saving time began. The change pushes sunset back by an hour, bringing us more sunlight in the evening. But there’s one area where sunshine is still sorely lacking: Michigan government. That needs to change.

This article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal March 10.

New York has created a cigarette-smuggling empire, and the worst is yet to come. It’s the unavoidable consequence of the state’s decadeslong history of raising the cigarette tax, which Gov. Kathy Hochul wants to continue with an additional levy of $1 a pack. She also wants to ban flavored cigarettes. This will only lead to more lawbreaking and less tax revenue, defeating its purpose.

Michigan’s government may be planning for more revenue than it is entitled to. The state’s income tax rate has dropped to 4.05%, but administrators refuse to collect less from people’s paychecks this year. In addition, Attorney General Dana Nessel made a bad reading of the law that triggered the 0.20% reduction in the income tax rate, arguing that the rate is going back up at the start of next year.

Amy Green: 1971-2023