Taxes — May 6, 2015 at 8:58 am

With the failure of Prop 1 Michigan voters gave Republicans a mandate to continue their dismantling of our state


“Proposal one goes down in flames!,” gloated Todd Courser last night on his Facebook page. “Time to get to work and come up with a solution that will fix our roads without raising taxes! The money is there… all we lack is enough legislators with the political will to make the hard choices necessary to prioritize spending.”

“The taxpayers sent a very clear message today with their rejection of Proposal 1: no new taxes,” said state Sen. Jack Brandenburg. “We in the state Legislature now need to move in the most aggressive fashion to free up funds badly needed for road repair.”

With these comments and many others like them from the Republicans who control our government, the era of post-Proposal 1 Michigan was kicked off. Any Republican who lacked the “political will” that Courser mentioned was surely bolstered by the 4-to-1 drubbing that sent in down in flames. With a nearly unanimous voice, Michigan voters have sent a clear message to our state legislators: “Fix the roads without raising additional revenue”. In other words, slash our state budget to come up with the billions of dollars needed for road repair and maintenance.

The failure of Prop 1 can be seen a decades-long Republican plan being played out to perfection.

Step 1: Make voters hate the government by making it inefficient and complicated and making people feel they have no voice:

Step 2: Once voters are completely turned off by government, use that disgust to solidify and consolidate your power by positioning yourselves as the anti-government party.

Step 3: Force voters to raise taxes on themselves to generate essential revenue with a ridiculously complicated ballot proposal knowing that they no longer trust you and won’t do so. Divide your opposition in the process.

Step 4: Use the predictable and intended results of that vote to justify slashing the state budget, preserving corporate tax breaks in the process.

I knew that right-leaning voters in Michigan had succumbed to this approach. What I hadn’t realized until recently was how much even many liberals have. Take this comment on Facebook, posted last night by a self-described liberal:

You seem angry that it failed. The majority of us had a lot of reasons to vote no. We don’t have to take it or find a solution and be convincing. We elect our representatives to come up with solutions. Maybe, we should go to a part time legislature like many other states. That would cut down on the gridlock and grandstanding. And then of course, we could vote them out of office.

Or this one from a group ironically calling themselves Liberals United for American Progress:

VOTED NO and I am damn HAPPY I DID. Tired of the media pushing their agenda down our throats. Either you are with us or you are NOT. Taxed to death in MICHIGAN.

These are the responses of people who have been successfully turned into cynical tea party liberals. I know that many of you despise me for making that comparison but the fact is, when you refuse to compromise to achieve your goals and when you blame “the legislature” and “the media” for our problems rather than the Republicans who are truly to blame, you’re doing same thing as the tea partiers we decry. I’ve been called a “Republican” because of my support and told that I have sold out. I can take my lumps (you can’t be an effective blogger without having a thick skin) but if you consider ME anything but an ally in the progressive fight, it’s game-set-match for the Republican plan; they have successfully turned you. Tony Trupiano has experienced this more intensely than I have in the dozens upon dozens of appearances he’s made to advocate on behalf of Prop 1.

But it’s not just liberal bloviators like me and Tony who have been maligned in this process by people on the left. Our courageous Democrats in the state legislature have been called “spineless” and worse. I’d be willing to bet that’s a side effect of the Republican plan that even they didn’t anticipate – they managed to get Democrats to turn on each other and to despise their own legislators for being powerless, a lack of power the voters themselves are responsible for. The most eloquent pushback I’ve seen on this absurdity came from East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett:

Forgive me, but I resent the hell out of ridiculous statements like that. “Progressives that don’t stand and fight for what we believe in?” Frankly, it’s cheap and utterly indefensible. I’ll stack my progressive bona fides up against anyone.

The best we are going to get from this legislature? No, it’s the best we’ve been able to do in almost 20 years. The last time the gas tax was increased was in 1997. Here’s an inconvienant truth: we had eight years of a Democratic Governor in that timeframe and the Democrats controlled the State House from 2006-2010. Even then we couldn’t get something better than this.

Gretchen Whitmer doesn’t fight for our values? Carl Levin doesn’t fight for our values? Baloney.

Progressives fight for investments in education. Proposal 1 will provide $300 million for education. A no vote is a vote against $300 million for our schools.

Progressives fight for investments in our communities. Proposal 1 will provide $100 million for constitutional revenue sharing. A no vote is a vote against $100 million for our cities.

Progressives fight for investments in public transit. Proposal 1 will provide $100 million for public transit. A no vote is a vote against $100 million for public transit.

Progressive fight for strong infrastructure. Proposal 1 will provide $1.2 billion for our roads and bridges. A no vote is a vote against $1.2 billion for infrastructure.

Progressives fight for working families. Proposal 1 will increase Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 6% of the federal credit to 20%.

Progressives care more about getting tangible, important things done for our schools, our communities, and our state, even if that requires compromise. We can’t pave our streets with self-righteousness.

Folks clearly have their reasons to vote against Proposal 1, but I’ll call bullshit on the argument that voting no is the progressive thing to do.

Not one of the things Nathan mentions here that were part of Proposal 1 would have been in there had it not been for the shrewd negotiating that our Democratic lawmakers engaged in. To call them “spineless” when they managed to pull that off while being in the stark minority in both the House and the Senate should be lauded and applauded, not shit on by careless, thoughtless liberals who should know better.

So, what’s next?

Next we need to be prepared to see funding for public schools get cut.

Next we need to be prepared to see essential services get cut.

Next we need to prepare to see more and more of those services privatized to for-profit corporations who enrich themselves on our tax dollars.

Next we need to prepare for education investments to be cut again.

And, next we need to prepare for the roads NOT to get fixed anytime soon because, honestly, if the last legislature couldn’t get their act together enough to do it, there is literally no reason to believe this one will be able to in the foreseeable future.

Here’s what won’t happen, despite the laughable amount of liberals who suggested that this is what our lawmakers would, or at least should do:

They will NOT repeal the giant corporate tax cuts they put in place after they took control in 2010.

They will NOT return the Earned Income Tax Credit which benefits Michigan’s working poor back to 20% from the 6% they slashed it to in 2011.

They will NOT ensure that local governments don’t take an even bigger hit on revenue sharing they are owed.

And, they will NOT invest in mass transit.

Republicans wanted Proposal 1 to fail so they could forge on full steam ahead with their corporatist model of small government that puts all of the burden on the citizens and gives all the benefit to the corporations. They created a catastrophe and are using the Shock Doctrine to move forward with their agenda.

And, if you voted no on Proposal 1, you played right into their plan.

Tony is correct when he said this morning that we will pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and unite once again against those who seek to diminish our fine state. We don’t have the luxury of nursing grudges from our disagreements on this issue. We must be united in our progressive efforts and we must continue to show Michiganders that there is a better way and that government doesn’t have to be bad, run by religious zealots, and to serve only corporate interests.

We will keep fighting together to win in 2016 and beyond because Michigan is our home and it is beautiful and it is worth saving. And the writers at Eclectablog will be in the middle of that fight to seize the reins of power back from those who would do it harm.