As Gov. Snyder touts Michigan’s economy, local municipalities and families circle the drain


In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder pointed to Michigan’s economy as heading in the right direction.

Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday said people should be mindful of Michigan’s continued economic resurgence even as the state grapples with lead in Flint’s drinking water and enormous debt in Detroit’s public school district.

The Republican governor, while acknowledging his administration’s “challenges,” said he is trying to “set the tone that we need to be more positive and proactive.” He said the state’s 4.8 percent unemployment rate has stayed flat despite the addition of 104,000 people seeking work, and its per-capita personal income growth was fourth-fastest in the U.S. last year.

“We’re putting solutions in place in Flint. We’re working hard on a solution for Detroit Public Schools and education in Detroit,” Snyder told The Associated Press in an interview at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual three-day policy conference on Mackinac Island.

At a speech the same week at the Mackinac Policy Conference, Gov. Snyder should keep our eyes on the future and not look at the past. He lambasted the media for being too negative saying listening to them “was like talking to Eeyore”. “The reports of my demise are well overblown,’ he told the audience.

While Gov. Snyder’s demise may be “overblown” (at least in his own mind), the demise of our cities, villages, and townships is not. And neither is the demise of the middle class in our fine state. They are, in fact, circling the drain, largely because of policies put in place and/or continued by Gov. Snyder and his colleagues in the state legislature.

The folks at the Michigan Municipal League (MML) analyzed census data from 2002-2012 – the most recent period for which data is available – and found that our state revenues had increased by 39%. However, local municipalities saw a shocking drop of nearly 60% in their revenues. In fact, Michigan was the state that had disinvested in its local municipalities the least out of all 50 states. Here’s what that looks like in graphical form:

That little red line on the far right there showing the only state with a DROP in municipal revenues? That’s us here in Michigan.

Every other state saw increases in municipal revenues. But not us. Why the drop? Money going back to the states in the form of revenue sharing is the primary cause. Here’s that graph:

Again, Michigan “leads” the way.

The MML has a terrific website – – that has much more data and analysis about the demise of our state’s municipalities. When you look at it, you’ll understand that my use of the phrase “circling the drain” is not hyperbole. This doesn’t even take into account the full scope of the ongoing tragedies in Flint, Detroit, and our other urban centers or the insanely high level of disinvestment in our schools statewide.

What’s the result of this intentional effort to disinvest in our cities? It means local municipalities are forced to cut services and/or raise taxes just to stay afloat.

It’s also having a devastating impact on the middle class in our state. A study released last month by the Pew Research Center shows that Michigan “leads” the way in shrinking its middle class, increasing the divide between the haves and have-nots and plunging more and more families into poverty:

The middle class in the United States has been shrinking since 2000, and nowhere is the trend more evident than Michigan, according to a study released this week by the Pew Research Center.

What makes the Michigan numbers especially distressing: In three-quarters of U.S. metro areas analyzed, the shrinking middle class was partially offset by a rise in affluent households, a trend that didn’t occur in most of Michigan.

Adjusted for household size and inflation, Michigan’s median household income declined 17 percent between 1999 and 2014 — from a median of $75,370 in 1999 to $62,608 in 2014 — the biggest drop among the 50 states and District of Columbia, the Pew study found.

In 1999, Michigan ranked ninth in U.S. median household incomes. By 2014, the state had fallen to No. 30, according to Pew’s data.

The upshot is that Michigan families have less income to survive on while their local municipality has fewer resources to provide essential services, all during a time when state revenues are actually up by 39%. As the Flint Water Crisis and the collapse of our public education system roosters come home to roost – both of which were created by Republican policies, by the way – the situation will only become more dire.

But, hey, Michigan corporations got a hefty $1.6 billion annual tax cut. So, in the eyes of the corporatist Republicans running our state, everything is just fine.

Keep that in mind as we head into election time. You have a choice to make: continue down the same path with the same corporate puppets calling all of the shots or make a change and put people in charge who actually care about the future of our state, who value public education, and who actually care if our local governments can continue to be sustainable.

Disinvestment vs. investment. People vs. corporations.

The choice is ours to make.

In the meantime, don’t let Gov. Snyder’s happy talk lead you to believe our state is headed in the right direction. Under his “leadership”, quite the opposite is true.

And pointing this out doesn’t make me “Eeyore”.

Meanwhile, there’s this:

UPDATE: A short time after I published this piece, I got an email from Gov. Snyder’s “Relentless Positive Action PAC” (RPAPAC) asking for money. The title of the email was “Gov. Snyder: Michigan’s Revitalization Can Be Model For U.S.”

This is EXACTLY why the rest of the country needs to pay attention to what is happening in our state. Michigan is the beta testing ground for corporatist governance and everyone else in the USA should be paying VERY close attention to what’s going here lest it be YOUR future, as well.

By the way, in the email, Gov. Snyder crows about how Michigan has the “lowest unemployment rate in 15 years” and how he “balanced a $1.5 billion deficit and cut taxes for small businesses”.

As I have said before, low unemployment coupled with increasing lower wages is the corporatists’ dream scenario. Also, Gov. Snyder and the Republicans didn’t balance a $1.5 billion deficit. Our state constitution prohibits the state from running a deficit. We have literally never had one. Finally, yeah, he cut taxes on small businesses. And medium businesses. And large businesses. And HUGE businesses. They ALL got a tax cut (“YOU get a tax cut! And YOU get a tax cut!…”) Republicans did this by carving over a billion dollars a year from public education and raising taxes on over half the citizens of our state, including a new tax on senior citizens with pensions.

Gov. Snyder has good PR people, I’ll give him that.