It was announced this week that former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm will be writing a regular column for Politico. Those familiar with Granholm’s track record as governor are likely scratching their heads as to what expertise the former governor could offer that warrants a bi-weekly column. Her time as governor was marked by the imposition higher taxes, unsustainable spending and excessive regulations that resulted in a lost decade for the Great Lakes State.
In her maiden column this week — which is comprised of tired liberal platitudes, disingenuous DNC talking points and dumbed-down rhetoric reminiscent of blather straight out of a Daily Kos comments section — Granholm referred to Michigan as a laboratory of democracy, evoking former Supreme Court Justice Brandeis’s famous reference to the states’ utility as 50 guinea pigs for testing new policies. Yet, a look at Granholm’s record shows that on her watch Michigan was more like a lavatory of democracy.
The national unemployment rate currently stands at 8.3%. In terms of economic contraction, it appears Michigan was way ahead of the curve under Gov. Granholm. Back in 2008, when the national unemployment rate stood at 5.8%, the unemployment rate in Granholm’s Michigan was already at 8.3%. Impressive. I would sarcastically remark that someone needs to get this woman her own television show, but it turns out that Al Gore’s Current TV already has.
Let’s take a look at how Michigan faired during the entirety of Granholm’s time as governor. Granholm assumed office in January of 2003 and left office at the end of 2010. During that time Michigan had an average unemployment rate that was a whopping 37 percent higher than the national rate.
The chart below shows that even when the national economy was humming along prior to the financial crisis and the bursting of the housing bubble, Granholm was overseeing a one-state recession in which Michigan led the way on misery and joblessness, with the state’s top export being its most productive and highly educated residents.
Unemployment: Granholm’s Michigan vs. National Average (Source: BLS)
In her first column, Granholm took the economic proposals of the GOP presidential candidates to task. Yet, as the aforementioned data indicate, Granholm’s not really one to comment on the topic. If her first entry is any indication, the column would be most appropriately titled “Throwing Stones from Glass Houses.”
Granholm’s tenure in Michigan is a case study in how high taxes and bigger government drive away businesses, individuals and families. While she was governor, hundreds of thousands of people left Michigan, and it’s not hard to see why. Michigan has a top marginal income tax rate of 4.35 percent, which is 55 percent higher than the average top rate among states that will be gaining congressional seats as a result of the last census (Michigan is losing a seat). Per capita government spending is also nine percent higher on average in Michigan than in states gaining congressional seats. Granholm herself fled Michigan as soon as she could and now spends her days teaching classes and cruising around Berkeley in her taxpayer-subsidized Chevy Volt.
Life under Granholm wasn’t bad for all Michiganders. In fact, government workers did quite well, especially during Granholm’s second term. According to a review of Bureau of Economic Analysis data by the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, private sector compensation in Michigan decreased by 10.3 percent between 2007 and the third quarter of 2009 while state and local government employee compensation increased by 5.5 percent.
The interests of taxpayers and the private sector were never much of a concern for Granholm. Through either ignorance of basic economics or sheer ineptitude, Granholm protected government workers at the expense of those who pay their salaries, effectively putting the nail in the coffin of the state’s golden goose, the private sector. Granholm signed a $1.35 billion tax hike into law in the fall of 2007 to avoid necessary spending restraint. The state’s unemployment rate then skyrocketed, rising from 7 percent at the time she signed that tax hike into law to an annual average of over 12 percent when she left office at the end of 2010.
In light of all this, it’s going to be comical to read Granholm’s forthcoming columns slamming the economic policies proposed by Republicans. However, her column could be so much more than mere ironic hilarity. Granholm should consider making “how not to govern” the angle of her new column. She’s eminently qualified on the subject and such an approach could yield information that is genuinely helpful for lawmakers, candidates, the media and the public.
Patrick Gleason is director of state affairs for Americans for Tax Reform.