The MC: The Mackinac Center Blog

Skorup on WSJ's 'Opinion Journal Live'

Discussed 3rd Congressional District primary

Research Associate Jarrett Skorup today was a guest on “Opinion Journal Live” with The Wall Street Journal, discussing the outcome of the Republican primary in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, which incumbent Rep. Justin Amash won 57-43.

Vernuccio Discusses 'August Window' for Teachers

How MEA members can opt out of union

Labor Policy Director F. Vincent Vernuccio was a guest on “Capital City Recap” with host Michael Cohen on WILS AM1320 in Lansing Tuesday evening, discussing www.Augustoptout.org and how Michigan Education Association members can resign from the union during the month of August.

Michigan Education Digest

Teachers leaving the MEA, Benton Harbor overspending crisis

The latest version of Michigan Education Digest is available at http://www.mackinac.org/20378. Topics include how teachers can resign from the MEA, the overspending crisis in the Benton Harbor school district and support for a new charter public school in Jackson.

Job Announcements Don't Equal Job Creation

Too many candidates propping up corporate welfare

The campaign season has been filled with claims from candidates that they will create jobs. A common strategy is to target a business or an industry for special state support and to claim credit whenever jobs are added by companies receiving support. A quick look at the job creation and loss figures for the economy as a whole shows that this approach is not a workable one.

There is a surprising amount of job creation and loss in the economy. Michigan added 214,000 jobs and lost 194,000 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In just three months, one out of every 16 jobs was created and one out of every 18 jobs was lost.

Michigan Quarterly Job Gains and Losses

The state already has its own programs to give state tax money to select businesses that locate or expand in Michigan. The most frequently used program today is the Michigan Business Development Program. As Michigan was adding 214,000 jobs and losing 194,000 jobs, the state offered 22 companies $17 million to produce 2,962 jobs.

While MBDP appears to have a better track record at converting announcements into jobs than its predecessor MEGA, the actual jobs created at these companies do not equal the number of jobs promised. They are also not likely to appear in the same quarter as announced, nor can it be guaranteed that these jobs would have located elsewhere without state assistance.

But even at its best, selecting these companies for special favors would only account for 1.4 percent of the job gains in the last quarter of 2013. And the $17 million offered to these companies has to come from somewhere, including the struggling companies that shed jobs in the quarter.

The sheer magnitude of job turnover suggests that the way to improve the economy is to enact broad-based changes to the state’s business climate. Gov. Snyder's administration has a number of accomplishments in this area — eliminating the Michigan Business Tax and enacting right-to-work, for instance.

The state should move away from the programs that use tax money in an attempt to pick winners and losers and provide a fair field for all.

State, National Media Report on MEA Opt Out

August is chance for members to resign if they want to

State and national media are reporting on the Mackinac Center’s efforts to inform Michigan Education Association members about their rights to opt out of the union during the month of August.

Fox News, The Detroit News, Livingston Daily Press & Argus, MLive and the Cadillac News have all reported on the Center’s website, www.Augustoptout.org, which provides teachers with the information if they so which to resign from the union.

Truth Squad’s Failed Proposal 1 Fact Check

Three exemptions to personal property tax, not elimination

The Center for Michigan’s Truth Squad recently rated an ad to support Proposal 1 as clear of factual issues. The ad, however, contains multiple problems.

The ad states, “Proposal 1 will make Michigan more competitive by eliminating the unfair double tax on personal property that small businesses are forced to pay. That will create up to 15,000 new jobs without raising taxes.”

Proposal 1 does not eliminate personal property taxes. Instead, it creates three new exemptions: for businesses that own less than $80,000 in equipment in a taxing jurisdiction, for new manufacturing equipment and it phases in exemptions for older manufacturing equipment. Non-manufacturing businesses that own more than $80,000 in equipment will be unaffected by this proposal.

The state already mitigated the “double tax” on industrial business equipment. Sales taxes are typically levied on purchases of equipment by businesses, and personal property taxes are levied on the value of equipment annually, making the combination a “double tax” on equipment. However, industrial processing equipment is already exempt from sales taxes.

Non-manufacturing businesses with more than $80,000 in personal property will keep paying both sales taxes and personal property taxes.

The ad would be accurate if it was only about eliminating personal property taxes on businesses with less than $80,000 in equipment — the proposal will eliminate double-taxes on non-manufacturing businesses that own less than $80,000 in equipment. Otherwise, the “double tax” will not change. This context may be understandably left out in an ad supporting the Proposal. If the ad were only referencing the small parcel exemption, however, the jobs projections the ad uses afterwards would no longer be accurate.

The jobs projections are based on the entire proposal, a proposal which includes manufacturing exemptions in addition to the small parcel exemption. Moreover, these projections are based on an earlier version of the proposal, one that was later amended this year. The same group analyzed the newer version of the proposal and found smaller job impacts — that it would create between 5,000 jobs and 11,700 jobs.

Proposal 1 is a remarkably clean cut to an economically inefficient tax. But the ads have oversold it, and the Truth Squad incorrectly certified the accuracy of those ads.

While the Legislature is on a summer break the Roll Call Report is reviewing key votes of the 2013-2014 session.

House Concurrent Resolution 11, Authorize "Common Core" school curriculum standards: Passed 85 to 21 in the House on September 26, 2013

To authorize the Michigan Department of Education to spend money to implement "Common Core" curriculum promoted by an entity associated with the National Governors Association, subject to various restrictions and conditions. The Senate adopted the measure with fewer restrictions in an unrecorded voice vote.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4787, Increase CON health facility rationing fees: Passed 82 to 26 in the House on September 12, 2013

To increase the fees imposed under a state “Certificate of Need” rationing regime, which mandates that health care providers must get government permission to open or expand a facility, or add certain capital-intensive equipment (like MRIs). The fee hikes for different types of permission requests submitted to a board comprised primarily of incumbent providers range from $500 to $12,000.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4242, Raise burden of proof to justify new government regulations: Passed 108 to 0 in the House on May 14, 2013

To require government agencies to demonstrate that a rule they want to impose is “necessary and suitable to achieve its purpose in proportion to the burdens it places on individuals.”

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4952, Halt unemployment benefits for failed drug test: Passed 82 to 24 in the House on September 26, 2013

To make a person ineligible to collect unemployment benefits if a prospective employer requires a drug test as a condition of a job offer and the individual either refuses to take the test or fails it.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4770, Restrict accident-related commercial solicitations (“ambulance chasing”): Passed 98 to 10 in the House on October 9, 2013

To restrict public access to vehicle accident reports for 30 days after the crash by requiring outside parties who want the report to file a statement that they will not use it for commercial solicitation ("ambulance chasing"), subject to a $15,000 fine for violations. The original bill's attempt to limit access by defining "journalist" was removed.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4768, Limit DEQ groundwater discharge sodium limits: Passed 65 to 43 in the House on June 11, 2013.

To prohibit the Department of Environmental Quality from imposing restrictions on the amount of sodium in groundwater discharges that exceed limits specified in the bill.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4688, Repeal licensure mandates for dietitians and nutritionists: Passed 71 to 39 in the House on November 13, 2013

To repeal a law that imposes a licensure mandate on dietitians and nutritionists. The mandate has not been enforced since it was authorized in 2006 because the state licensure agency was unable to devise acceptable credentialing and education requirements.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4546, Increase marketing “assessments” imposed on potato growers: Passed 73 to 37 in the House on November 14, 2013

To increase the maximum "assessment" that can be levied on growers under a government potato marketing scheme, with exceptions for smaller growers.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4787, Increase CON health facility rationing fees: Passed 23 to 14 in the Senate on October 1, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on October 15, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4242, Raise burden of proof to justify new government regulations: Passed 26 to 11 in the Senate on December 3, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law Gov. Rick Snyder on December 17, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4768, Limit DEQ groundwater discharge sodium limits: Passed 26 to 12 in the Senate on November 12, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on November 26, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4952, Halt unemployment benefits for failed drug test: Passed 28 to 10 in the Senate on October 17, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on October 29, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4770, Ban vehicle accident-related commercial solicitations (“ambulance chasing”): Passed 35 to 3 in the Senate on December 12, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on December 21, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4546, Increase marketing “assessments” imposed on potato growers: Passed 36 to 1 in the Senate on December 11, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on December 17, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

SOURCE: MichiganVotes.org, a free, non-partisan website created by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, providing concise, non-partisan, plain-English descriptions of every bill and vote in the Michigan House and Senate. Please visit http://www.MichiganVotes.org.

Lovers of liberty are today recognizing the birthday of intellectual powerhouse and Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, who was born 102 years ago in Brooklyn, New York to immigrant parents. Friedman, who died in 2006, was my intellectual hero.

As I have noted in previous blog posts, Friedman revolutionized the economic science while teaching it to the everyman. He is arguably the most influential economist of the 20th Century, perhaps (unfortunately) next to John Maynard Keynes. Friedman cut so many new paths it is difficult to sum up his contributions to economics and public policy in a book, let alone a blog post.

To give you an idea of how much the world has changed since the popularity of Friedman took off, consider this. In college during the mid-1980s I once asked a professor for a good book on market economics or libertarianism and the only book that came to his mind was “Conscience of a Conservative” [emphasis added] published in 1960 by Senator and presidential nominee Barry Goldwater.

My point here is that before Friedman there were very few options available to the earnest student of limited-government. Today, one could fill a library or two with market-oriented and libertarian books and Friedman’s lifetime of efforts helped make that possible.

His book Free to Choose: A Personal Statement was the most popular non-fiction book of 1980 and its wildly popular video series on PBS was viewed by 3 million Americans, despite the attempts of many leftists to keep it from being aired and viewed. The affable professor was respected — even liked — by people who often disagreed with him, including fellow professors and Nobel laureates.

Friedman was an alternative to Keynes in a world that needed fresh ideas and he delivered: monetarism, price theory, “consumption analysis” to name some academic subjects he influenced as well as public policies of enormous import such the all-volunteer military force and school voucher programs.

Today, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, founded by Milton and Rose, is a leading contributor to the school choice debate nationwide.

Milton Friedman should be remembered today as an intellectual giant whose ideas about limited government continue to resonate around the globe. 

~~~~~

A classic clip of Friedman:

Dr. Friedman's Vision for Education

A pioneer in school choice

Today is Dr. Milton Friedman's birthday. The renowned economist who brought economic principles to the masses would have been 102 today.

One of Dr. Friedman's most valuable contributions was his work on education policy. In this regard, Friedman was a visionary. Most people accept the status quo, namely a system of government-run schools, without considering its justification or how it can be improved. 

But in 1955, Dr. Friedman considered the arguments for a public education system and concluded that the valid ones could only justify a taxpayer-supported education system — not an education system of government-run schools.

Dr. Friedman wrote then: 

Governments could require a minimum level of schooling financed by giving parents vouchers redeemable for a specified maximum sum per child per year if spent on “approved” educational services. ... The educational services could be rendered by private enterprises operated for profit, or by non-profit institutions. The role of the government would be limited to insuring that the schools met certain minimum standards.

This system would provide for an educated society, he argued, and would allow parents to choose the best school for their child. Further, Dr. Friedman noted, opening government schools up to competition would create a wide variety of educational options and motivate existing schools to improve.

Dr. Friedman and his wife Rose Friedman spent decades advocating for a system of educational choice. In 1996, 40 years after the publication of Dr. Friedman's article "The Role of Government in Education," the Friedmans went one step further and founded the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, which has provided research and advocated for increased educational options.

The Friedmans' commitment to educational choice is inspiring. When they began the Friedman Foundation, few educational choice programs were in existence. Meanwhile, the status quo has been strongly promoted by its beneficiaries, and the political candidates they support. Most people would not have the tenacity to spend decades arguing for a policy that took so long to take hold. 

But the Friedmans understood that complacence was not an option. The status quo has resulted in rampant increases in spending, without demonstrated improvement. The status quo has meant that only Americans wealthy enough to purchase a house of their choosing could choose a public school that worked for them. The status quo has meant that many generations of students never had the opportunity to achieve their true potential.

This commitment to educational choice has resulted in an ever-increasing system of public and private school choice. In Michigan, the number of public charter schools available to families has increased to close to 300 schools, and they have a demonstrated record of producing better educational results. As of 2013, almost 220,000 Michigan students used some form of choice to attend a public school. 

Though it is tempting to simply celebrate these increased options, the best thing we can do today to honor Milton and Rose Friedman's legacy is to remind ourselves that we must not become complacent.

Families are still routinely investigated in some districts for having the audacity to try to send their child to a better school. State officials have allowed some conventional districts to shortchange students for decades, and there are active efforts to take away the educational choices Michigan families have because they threaten the status quo.

Those who suggest that the status quo is the best we can do lack vision. An innovative system of educational choice that prioritizes the needs of families instead of officials is possible in Michigan, if we fight for it.

F. Vincent Vernuccio cited in Teacher Freedom Article

Michigan Teacher says MEA did not provide information on August Opt Out

Watchdog.org tells the story of Rob Wiersema, a Michigan teacher who says the Michigan Education Association did not give him the proper information he needed to opt out of the union.

The MEA has admitted it doesn't explain how teachers can leave. The Mackinac Center's Director of Labor Policy F. Vincent Vernuccio says he is helping to provide teachers with information so that they can make an informed choice in August with the website AugustOptOut.org.