THE PLANK JULY 27, 2009
Michigan Democrats are worried about their
political future--and rightly so. In a state with the highest unemployment rate
in the country, the political fallout from Michigan's economic woes seems imminent.
Barred from seeking a third term, Governor Jennifer Granholm has left the
Democratic field open for the 2010 gubernatorial race-and a bitter electorate
in her wake. Granholm's own popularity has plummeted as the economy has
faltered, and early polling shows the leading Democratic candidate, Lieutenant Governor
John Cherry, losing
to three Republican contenders.
about their 2010 prospects, the state's party leadership is now considering a
leftward, populist turn to bring voters to the polls next year. According to
Free Press, state Democrats are considering adding a number of ballot
initiatives in 2010 to demonstrate that their party is "on the side of the
people." The ideas on the table include:
- Increasing the minimum wage to $10 an hour
for all workers.
- Imposing a blanket moratorium on home foreclosures for 12
- Cutting utility bills by 20 percent across the board.
- Requiring all employers to providehealth care
to employees and their dependents.
- Increasing by $100 a week -- and extending for six months
-- unemployment benefits, while expanding eligibility.
any of these measures really alleviate the impact of the recession without further
dragging down the state's economy? Jacking up the minimum wage from the current
level of $7.40 an hour could have an adverse impact on the handful of
businesses in Michigan
that actually are employing people, leading to further layoffs. (The $10 an hour
rate would be the highest
in the nation.) And while improving unemployment benefits could provide a much
needed lift to individual families, Democrats need a clear way of explaining
exactly how the state government would manage to support such measures in the
midst of the state's "big,
bold budget crisis." Given the precarious state of Michigan's economy, leaving any of these
policy measures up to a popular, one-time vote seems like a particularly risky
venture. If the state Democrats really want to make any of these changes, they
should consider simply making them part of their campaign platform. Either way,
they need to make sure the longer-term impacts of such proposals are as sound
as their short-term political calculations.