Conservatives, Rick Snyder, Taxes, Tea Party — February 2, 2015 at 11:06 am

Corporatists benefit most from fight over increasing Michigan’s sales tax for road repair


Let’s you and him fight…

Thanks to the division within the Michigan Republican Party, the state legislature which is dominated by Republicans was unable to find a way to fund our roads. Their internal disputes led them to toss the decision to voters who will decide if we should the state sales tax by one-percent to pay for road repairs, help low income and working poor people, and to ensure our schools don’t take a financial hit.

That internal rancor has now manifested itself in the formation of at least two conservative/tea party groups who will fight the tax increase and a promise by a third – the Koch brothers front group Americans for Prosperity – to join their fight.

On one side we have Gov. Rick Snyder and a coalition of Republican and Democratic legislators. Gov. Snyder’s efforts to encourage a “yes” vote started with a plea during his State of the State address (which one tea party group is saying was illegal.) He put together a group of political consultants to push the “yes” position but they all quit this past week due to “philosophical differences”. He has hired a new group called “Michigan Citizens for Better Roads and Schools” to head up the effort but has lost valuable time while opponents are moving ahead. Other groups who are supporting what will be Proposal 1 on the May 5th ballot include a group of CEOs called “Business Leaders for Michigan” along with the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association which is trying to raise $5 million for the pro-Prop 1 effort.

Groups that have been allies of Gov. Snyder in the past like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Association of Michigan have yet to take a position and the National Federation of Independent Businesses actually opposes it.

On the “Vote No” side, there is a group called “Protect MI Taxpayers” and another called “Coalition Against Higher Taxes and Special Interest Deals” (CAHTSID). Protect MI Taxpayers is headed up by failed legislative candidate and tea partier Keith Allard from Grand Rapids. CAHTSID is headed up by another failed legislative candidate and tea partier, Paul Mitchell of Saginaw. Mitchell’s position is that the Prop 1 is a “grab bag” of spending on “special interests” like school children and the working poor.

Joining these two groups is Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers group formed to promote the interests of corporate America and wealthy individuals. You might think that a corporatist group like AFP would be happy to see tax dollars spent on something like transportation infrastructure that benefits their corporate interests. However, there is something much more important going on here and AFP is at the center of it. The overarching goal of pro-corporate, anti-government groups like AFP is to portray government as dysfunctional and incapable of solving problems. This battle over Proposal 1 is literally the perfect venue for showing that in action.

The fight has everything they need to amplify their profit-driven meme: Democrats are too far in the minority to do anything and the anti-government forces have already effectively labeled them as “tax-and-spend” liberals despite ample evidence proving that idea wrong. With their inability to solve this problem, Republicans have shown they are aren’t able to lead and govern.

All of the elements needed to prove that government is bad are here in this argument and AFP and their allies are happy to exploit it. Their hope is that, if they do this well enough, voters will choose to hand over their hard-earned tax dollars to corporate America, turning our society into a corporatocracy – government of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation.

For the corporatists, the fight over Prop 1 is a gift beyond measure and they will spend millions if necessary to keep the fight going. Because the more the various sides fight, the more it looks like government doesn’t work and the better increased privatization of government services to for-profit corporations looks to voters. This is an investment, pure and simple. And, if they lose and Prop 1 is passed, they simply point at it and say, “Look, government just raised your taxes again.”

The irony of this is that only a tiny percentage of people will vote in the May election. Turnout of less than 20% is likely which benefits tea party groups – aided and abetted and funded by powerful corporate interests like the Koch brothers – who do a much better job of getting their voters to the polls in low-turnout elections than any other group.

If pro-corporate, anti-government groups are successful and Prop 1 goes down, the degradation of our roads will continue and the resources needed to repair them will climb astronomically because we will no longer be discussing road repair but, rather, complete road replacement. It might be time to invest in a second set of tire rims now.

[Photo by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]