Corporatism — March 26, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Michigan ALEC meeting flops when (almost) nobody shows up


This past week, the corporatist front group and bill mill for corporate America, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), held a breakfast gathering for Michigan state legislators. Our friends at Progress Michigan were there and reported that only SIX legislators actually attended. Here is the all-Republican list of attendees:

  • Rep. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton)
  • Rep. Peter Pettalia (R-Presque Isle)
  • Rep. Triston Cole (R-Mancelona)
  • Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw)
  • Rep. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake)
  • Senator Mike Green (R-Mayville)

According to Progess Michigan, Sen. Green and Rep. Nesbitt are Michigan’s ALEC co-chairs and were listed on the invitation to the event.

As Progresss Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott explains, this is a hopeful sign that the Koch brothers-supported corporate lobby group is experiencing a drop in influence, at least in Michigan:

Even one ALEC enthused legislator can lead to horrible public policy. But we are cautiously optimistic that the low turnout today at their Michigan breakfast coupled with the mass exodus of corporate backers in recent months means that their power is waning.

At the event, ALEC representatives distributed some of their propaganda and Progress Michigan got their hands on some of it which you can read here:

What’s fascinating about the documents is that they show Michigan as dead last – #50 – in their “Economic Performance Rank”. When you look at the charts associated with the three “important performance variables” that are used to determine the rankings, Michigan was on its way to a full recovery from the Bush Recession until Gov. Rick Snyder took office in 2011. After that things plateaued or got worse. Michigan has, in fact, been dead last in ALEC’s ranking for three consecutive years now.

Thanks, Snyder.

Michigan was, however, ranked 12th in ALEC’s “Economic Outlook Rank”. This ranking is based on 15 variables that describe various taxes as “burdens” on businesses. In the world of ALEC, paying taxes that provide the vital revenues that allow our state to provide essential services – even services that businesses rely on like fire and police protection, road building and maintenance, and water – is a “burden” rather than a “responsibility” or “duty”.

These two documents are part of a larger piece titled “Rich States, Poor States – 2014 ALEC/Laffer State Economic Competitive Index“. This index has been roundly ridiculed by various groups. ALEC claims that “states that spend less…experience higher growth rates than states that tax and spend more.” This idea was debunked by PR Watch in their piece titled “ALEC’s Economic Policies Do More Harm Than Good, New Report Shows“:

Corporate lobbyists and right-wing legislators of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will be gathering in Washington, DC today for ALEC’s annual States and Nation Policy Summit. Today also marks the release of an in-depth report on the failure of ALEC’s economic recommendations for the states. The report claims that “states that were rated higher on ALEC’s Economic Outlook Ranking in 2007,” the first year the ranking was published, “have actually been doing worse economically in the years since, while the less a state conformed with ALEC policies the better off it was.”

The ALEC rankings are based on the so-called “Laffer Index” which was created by corporate economist Arthur Laffer. There are at least five different debunkings of Laffer’s supply-side model which the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy calls “junk economics”. The five critiques of the Laffer Index can be found in their article “Five Critiques of Arthur Laffer’s Supply-Side Model Show Tax Cuts as Junk Economics“.

PR Watch also put out a “Reporters’ Guide to the Koch-funded Rich States, Poor States ALEC” where they have this to say:

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is slated to roll out its annual “Rich States, Poor States” publication this week. The document, whose lead author is economist Arthur Laffer, is sold to the press as an objective, academic measure of state economic performance, but should instead be viewed more as a lobby scorecard ranking states on the adoption of extreme ALEC policies that have little or nothing to do with economic outcomes. This year, leaked documents revealed that the report is directly funded by the Kochs, on top of longstanding Koch support for ALEC itself.

Given the junk economics on which ALEC bases its state rankings and the policies it promotes as good for America, it’s unsurprising that their influence is on the wane. That’s good for America and it’s most definitely good for Michigan.