Mark Schauer, Rick Snyder — October 27, 2014 at 8:57 am

Detroit Free Press extols Mark Schauer’s values as “embedded in Michigan’s DNA” then endorses Rick Snyder for Governor


For the most part, I give little credence to newspaper endorsements except when they are out of character. However, the Detroit Free Press endorsement of Rick Snyder deserves to be discussed derisively for the absurdity that it is.

If you read the commentary accompanying the endorsement, you would assume that Mark Schauer would have been their choice. These are some of the ways they talk about Democrat Mark Schauer and his campaign for Governor:

  • [Schauer has] progressive values the Free Press Editorial Board believes are embedded in Michigan’s DNA — expansion of civil rights, protections for workers, environmental stewardship, plus investment in schools, roads and the social safety net.
  • When we analyzed the challenges Michigan will face in the next four years…Schauer pulls his weight, often carrying a slight or distinct advantage.
  • Schauer’s vision is more progressive and forward-looking than Snyder’s.
  • Schauer’s plans to reform business taxes sound good and are worth debating.
  • Schauer says all the right things about investment in schools: Restore cuts, lower class sizes, boost accountability for all schools, help teachers with training and find more money for higher education.
  • Schauer said he would hold charter authorizers more accountable for school performance and address failing schools [and would] create a refinancing authority for college debt to give borrowers lower interest rates, a plan that could add to the number of Michiganders with degrees.
  • Schauer, more than Snyder, has recognized the need for systemic change in the way local government is funded.
  • Schauer speaks passionately about equality and anti-discrimination, and says his administration would pursue both vigorously. He would seek to roll back the Snyder-era restrictions on abortion providers and women’s reproductive rights.
  • Schauer is also strong on transparency, having sponsored important legislation at the state and federal level, and promises to push forward even when the Legislature doesn’t.
  • Schauer would also pursue a non-partisan redistricting commission, which could stop the gerrymandering that carved Michigan’s legislative maps into jumbles.
  • Schauer staunchly opposes fracking and argues Michigan needs better, safer investment in alternative energy. And he argues for more investment to develop a “green and blue economy” in the state.

In contrast, the Free Press blasts Snyder on a number of highly critical issues facing our state:

  • Snyder…promised a pragmatic approach to the state’s problems and delivered — except when he was caving to radical elements of the GOP-led Legislature or going back on his word about transparency.
  • The governor balanced the budget at the expense of cities and school districts. His disdain for politics is inappropriate in the state’s chief politician; his deficiencies as a deal-maker have sometimes resulted in terrible consequences for Michiganders.
  • We are also fearful of what Snyder’s next term could hold.
  • Snyder’s economic policy featured a massive tax reform (really a tax shift) that lowered the burden on businesses, all but eliminated tax credits and levied a new tax on pensions. The governor argued this would spur formidable job creation, but four years later, it hasn’t.
  • Snyder’s move to eliminate or pare back most tax credits hit middle- and low-income earners hard. Overall, individuals pay about $900 million more each year than they did before Snyder was governor…Each year since the new tax system has been in place, Michigan has added fewer and fewer jobs
  • When it comes to education, Snyder just doesn’t seem to get it. He’s mixed radical deregulation with efforts to move existing funds around and call it reinvestment — hardly a proud first-term accomplishment.
  • The governor also refuses to accept that Michigan’s method of school funding won’t sustain the largesse of districts we have, and stood idly by as some simply ran out of money.
  • Snyder resists even gesturing toward a big re-think [on funding cities.] He’s seemingly content to manage cities’ problems through the emergency manager law, a decidedly shortsighted approach to a very big-picture issue.
  • [D]uring Snyder’s tenure, [Michigan] has become a less tolerant state — with more restrictions on reproductive rights and fewer labor protections.
  • Snyder’s self-fashioned profile as a champion of transparency has become a joke.
  • Snyder’s first mistake was indulging the vindictive GOP legislative move to make Michigan a right-to-work state.
  • [O]n gay marriage and other anti-discrimination measures, Snyder resists principled stances.
  • Snyder has also indulged a great deal of secrecy as…[and] flip-flopped badly on his commitment to more transparency in campaign finance.
  • The governor’s record of protecting Michigan’s natural assets is pretty sorry, and reflects a misguided attempt to placate free-market forces at any cost.
  • Snyder has also failed to stop a conservative Legislature from opening up public lands for industry or private use, and from limiting the amount of land the state can own and manage for recreational purposes. And he’s failed to take a strong stand as legislators clamored to protect an oil company from having to replace an aging pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac.
  • The governor’s leadership failures include his inability, so far, to get a roads package through the Legislature, and his many refusals to stand up to his own party when its instincts run to the politically obnoxious or vindictive. Too often, Snyder has ducked responsibility by insisting issues “aren’t on his agenda,” only to acquiesce to legislative actions.

So, after this damning assessment of the tenure of Gov. Rick Snyder, why did they choose to endorse him? Essentially because they are choosing moving forward in the wrong direction – something they explicitly claim to be worried about – over the gridlock that would occur if Mark Schauer were Governor with a GOP-led legislature.

This endorsement is as perplexing as it is cowardly. There is plenty of precedent for a major newspaper to simply decide to not endorse when they are as divided and conflicted as the Free Press editorial board claims they are. For example, in Ohio, the Toledo Blade didn’t endorse anyone for Governor this years. Instead, the Free Press chose the status quo, a status quo they are clear is not working.

They give Gov. Snyder far too much credit for his role in bringing Detroit through its financial crisis. One of the hallmarks of the bankruptcy process is that it protects Detroit and its assets far more than the cutting and slashing of an Emergency Manager would ever have done. Giving Snyder credit for that is absurd. The credit for that lies with bankruptcy judge Stephen Rhodes and the bankruptcy process itself. In fact, if Gov. Snyder hadn’t imposed an undemocratic Emergency Manager on Detroit BEFORE the bankruptcy, the bankruptcy process would have preserved democracy in our state’s largest city because the law ensures that.

Mark Schauer has a vision for Michigan that would take us in the direction that the Free Press would appear to heartily endorse. Their claim that they favored “pragmatism” over Schauer’s vision makes this endorsement something that is being widely and appropriately ridiculed and will damage their credibility as a credible voice in Michigan politics for years to come.

One more thing: the same morning that this endorsement came out, the Free Press ran an article showing that Gov. Snyder, while making more money than Mark Schauer in 2013, actually paid LESS taxes. $28,000 less, in fact. Gov. Snyder had an effective tax rate of only 9% compared with Schauer’s rate of 20%. In fact, Gov. Snyder took more deductions – $423,000 – than his reported income of $394,611.

It’s just another example of how our CEO manipulates the system to benefit the wealthy and well-connected, in this case with himself as the beneficiary.