House Calls: Rep. Jeff Irwin — “Snake Oil Salesman” Republicans Have Slowed Michigan’s Recovery
Representative Jeff Irwin, a Democrat, served for a decade as a Washtenaw County Commissioner. In January 2011, he began his first term in the Michigan House of Representatives. In his regular column, House Calls, A2Politico will pose a single question to Representative Irwin and he will answer it. The questions will focus on his work in Lansing and, of course, his efforts to bring the “progressive agenda” to state government that he told voters in Ann Arbor he intended to work on during his time in office.
A2P Asks: The Michigan GOP (including 52nd District Representative Mark Ouimet) is claiming that the drop in unemployment and other economic indicators (budget surplus, i.e.) show that Gov. Snyder’s economic policies and programs are working. I look at high childhood poverty levels (one in four Michigan children still live in poverty, as compared to one in nine in the U.S.), as well as the rising number of Michigan residents on food stamps (2 million) and conclude these claims are just more spin. What’s your opinion?
Representative Jeff Irwin answers: We’re shaping up for an interesting election year. Michigan Republicans must contort and bend like a pretzel to convince voters both that Obama is hurting our economy and that Michigan Republicans are improving our economy. Really, it’s an incredible sleight of hand that they are attempting, and I’m eager to see what millions of dollars can do to create this fictive reality.
I think they’ve got their hands full.
First, most voters know intuitively that the big trends in our economy have very little to do with state government. We know that trade policy, tax policy and infrastructure are only part of the equation, and most of that is handled at the federal level. Most of all, Michigan voters know that our Michigan economy is tied closely to the auto industry.
When the autos are booming, Michigan is booming. When the Detroit Three are faltering, Michigan struggles.
This is the crux of the GOP problem this year in states like Michigan and Ohio. President Obama came to the aid of the Detroit Three and by many estimates saved the domestic auto industry. People in Michigan know that our recent economic recovery is closely tied to President Obama putting his Presidency on the line for the upper Midwest. People in Michigan also know that the Republicans — after spearheading the bank bailouts — turned their back on manufacturing and that Mitt Romney famously took the position that letting our domestic auto manufacturers go bankrupt would be the best course of action.
“Let Detroit Fail,” is a hard sell in and around the Motor City.
Second, the numbers do not support the Republican argument. The economic recovery in Michigan is unquestionably led by growth in manufacturing and specifically the auto sector. In fact, gains in auto manufacturing are greater than the net job gains in Michigan during the recovery. In other words, auto-related job growth exceeds total net growth, and our state unemployment figures would be far lower if we had not fired thousands of teachers, firefighters and police officers. If anything, Michigan’s economic recovery has been slowed by Republicans in Lansing.
I’m not surprised that my Republican colleagues are trying to once again convince voters that raising taxes on seniors and low income workers in order to fund a tax cut for the wealthiest residents is sound economic policy.
However, trickle down hasn’t worked for the middle class before and I’m hopeful that voters will resist the snake oil salesmen this time around.
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