Debunking the Republican myth that Michigan is a “Comeback State”


come·back – noun \ˈkəm-ˌbak\ — A return to a former position or condition (as of success or prosperity)

I feel like Governor Snyder and his administration have a different dictionary than I do. He has repeatedly claimed lately (as part of the non-launch of his 2014 campaign) that Michigan is the “Comeback State”. The only thing that I can figure is that when you look up the word “comeback” in their dictionary, it says “to stop developing, progressing, moving, etc. : to be or become stagnant”.

In an email this morning from the governor’s office titled “This is what it’s all about”, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is quoted saying:

“It’s a really exciting time to be in Michigan,” says Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley. “We are the comeback state.”

Let’s take a quick look at two solid metrics that can answer the question, “Is Michigan the ‘Comeback State’?”.

First, here’s the unemployment rate in Michigan over the past year:

It’s funny but, after going down for months, shortly after the governor signed the bill to make the birthplace of the modern labor movement a right to work state, the unemployment rate reversed course and started going UP. For the past three months, while most other states have enjoyed a decreasing unemployment rate, Michigan has flat-lined at 9%, nearly two percentage points above the national average of 7.3%.

Let’s take a look at the number of schools and municipalities facing financial crises:

See the trend? Does that look like a “comeback” to you?

In the same email from this morning, Gov. Snyder crows about the fact that a Fortune 500 company, SpartanNash, has decided to build keep its world headquarters here.

SpartanNash is a newly created Fortune 500 company that has chosen Michigan to be the home of its new headquarters – and that means more and better jobs for our state.

“We could be located in many places, and that was a significant decision we needed to make,” said David Staples, Executive Vice President and CFO of SpartanNash. “We did pick Michigan, and the reason for that is the business environment is improving dramatically. This is a wonderful state.”

That sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Here’s the reality: SpartanNash already has its world headquarters here. It’s a merger between Spartan Stores and Minneapolis-based Nash Finch. How many jobs will keeping their headquarters here create?


SpartanNash’s will receive $2.75 million in state and local tax incentives approved by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation board Wednesday, Nov. 20.

The package is tied to keeping the company’s headquarters in Michigan, along with retaining 620 jobs and creating 72 new positions in West Michigan. The deal also includes the potential for adding 300 new jobs, although no information was immediately available on what kind of positions those would be.

Without putting too fine a point on it, those state and local tax breaks cost $38,194.44 per job created. And, as reports, “it’s unclear if those will be transferred from Minnesota or new hires.” In other words, those new jobs might actually be people who are moving to Michigan for them rather than new jobs for current residents.

David Staples, Executive Vice President and CFO of SpartanNash, released a video that raves about Michigan with particular focus on the “tax environment”. He’s clearly a big fan of our CEO governor:

What’s interesting is the subtle lie that Mr. Staples tells in the middle of the video, a lie that you hear repeated regularly by Republicans and their supporters:

You know, there have been a lot of things that have changed in this state. The fiscal responsibility that has been brought about by the leadership to this state. This was a state with a significant unbalanced budget, a significant deficit. This administration and the leaders in the House and the Senate have balanced that budget. You know, it’s not been just revenue, but it’s also been cost control and that’s really resulted in a tax environment that we think is much more favorable than our neighboring states.

The lie here is that Michigan has never had an unbalanced budget or a deficit. It cannot, by law, have a deficit. Unlike the federal government, Michigan’s constitution prohibits deficit spending. Period. To say otherwise is a lie.

[T]he Michigan Constitution contains one of the strongest balanced budget provisions in the nation and its requirement that no money may be withdrawn from the treasury “except in pursuance of appropriations made by law” means that state expenditures may not be incurred without an adopted budget.

By the way, the state government website actually makes this explicit:

Is the State of Michigan required to have a balanced budget?

Yes. Article V, Section 18 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963 states, “Proposed expenditures from any fund shall not exceed the estimated revenue thereof.”

Don’t get me wrong. I live in Michigan and I want Michigan to be the “Comeback State”. It’s just that it’s not and reelecting the same “leaders” who have made us the “Stagnation State” isn’t going to solve that problem.