THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
An Exclusive Interview with Democratic Candidate Mark Schauer on His Vision for Michigan's Future & Campaign to Unseat Rick Snyder
13th March, 2014 1
As the 2014 election season starts to shape up, all eyes are on the Governor’s race that will pit incumbent Rick Snyder against Democratic challenger Mark Schauer, who lives in Battle Creek with his wife Christine and first entered politics in 1994 when he served on the Battle Creek commission and later was elected to serve in both the State House & Senate, where he earned a reputation for fighting back against the outsourcing of Michigan jobs.
Mark was elected to represent Michigan’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008, where he was instrumental in passing tougher laws to combat the outsourcing of jobs, helped to rescue the auto industry, ensure quality health care of millions, and make college more affordable for middle-class families.
In addition to graduating from Albion College, which is also my own Alma Mater, I found Schauer to possess a keen intellect that is capable of discerning the inter-related synergy between many of the adversities that Michigan currently confronts.
Saginaw County Commission Chairman Michael Hanley also had the privilege of working closely with Schauer during his own stint in the Michigan legislature. “I first met Mark in 1996 when he was running for State Representative and I went to Battle Creek to campaign with him,” reflects Hanley. “He was very well qualified by education and work experience and beat an incumbent to get elected and I found him to be a leader in the State House from the start. During my final term as Democratic Minority Leader, mark served as Assistant Leader and of course, after I left Lansing, mark stayed and eventually became the Senate Democratic Leader and then went on to Congress. Mark is one of the most talented and dedicated individuals I’ve served with and will make a great Governor.”
“Mark understand that with what Michigan families are going through in 2014, to call this a comeback state shows that Rick Snyder is out of touch with the average Michigan family. If the outcome of this election is based on the question ‘Is Michigan better off today than it was four years ago’ Mark Schauer will be our next Governor.”
The topics covered in our interview focused mainly upon the economy, our natural resources, and the differences that he perceives between himself and Snyder.
Nearly five years into the recovery from the Great Recession and the American economy remains fundamentally broken. Inequality is getting worse: 95% of income gains since 2009 have gone to the top one percent of earners. Private employers have added more than 8 million jobs, but nearly 2/3 of those jobs are low-wage positions; and the bottom rung of the economy is growing more crowded, with 3.8 million Americans laboring at or below the minimum wage.
These topics and more are what Schauer discussed during our interview, which we hope you will find both informative and engaging.
Review: I would like to explore your assessment of Governor Snyder’s performance in the context of how it prompted your decision to run for Governor and what your top three goals would be if you were elected to office.
Schauer: My vision for Michigan is to see us create a high wage, high skill and high growth economy. Currently our state is in a downward spiral. We have the fourth worst unemployment rate in the country that demonstrates how Rick Snyder’s policies are not working. We are 49th out of the 50 states in terms of job growth over the next ten years, which is second to last only to the state of Maine. So these policies of trickle down corporate tax cuts paid for by cutting education and raising taxes on retirees and working families and the working poor are not working and actually are counter-productive.
The Middle Class is shrinking and we have the highest proportion of children living in poverty of any state in the Great Lakes region. Our schools are in deficit and in some cases, as demonstrated with the Buena Vista district, have disappeared entirely. Michigan communities are struggling and cutting police and fire and cannot maintain their infrastructures, so our competitiveness is falling behind. My priorities are all about getting our economy growing and creating the type of economy that works for everyone.
Review: Fair enough. Let’s move to specifics. How exactly do you accomplish that?
Schauer: This constitutes my top three goals that you asked about. My first priority is education. The key to a good job is a good education and my goal is fulfill our constitutional promise to a quality education for every child regardless of their zip code, otherwise we’re hurting our future and not doing right by our kids. We’ve got to commit in a big way to public education and restore Rick Snyder’s budget cuts to our schools and reverse the systematic privatization of education in Michigan.
80% of Charter Schools in Michigan are run by for profit corporations and cyber schools that sit kids in front of computers instead of classrooms are not working. We have to made education our top priority and related to that is making college affordable for young people and adults re-directing their careers.
Snyder came in and cut higher education by 15% right out of the gate, so we have to become the talent state. Entrepreneurs will come to Michigan and we can attract business if we value all our people. We’ve seen women under attack, unions under attack, gays and lesbians under attack – all of that weakens us from the perspective of having talent and finding value in our citizenry and sending the right signals to the outside world.
My second goal as Governor is to build healthy dynamic communities. I started in community development and as a Battle Creek City Commissioner was on the receiving end of revenue sharing and policing grants to make sure we could put cops on the street. But our current Governor’s top priority was a $1.8 billion corporate tax cut paid for by cutting all these other things and raising taxes on retirees and families and the working poor.
Having healthy communities creates a magnet for jobs by drawing creative people for outside investment. Healthy communities become breeding grounds for entrepreneurs to spring up by having a good infrastructure. The fact this governor has completely failed communities with revenue sharing cuts means communities don’t have resources to fill potholes and cannot marshal resources to provide a good infrastructure and amenities that attract talent.
The third goal that it is very important to focus upon is leveraging our natural resources as economic drivers. I will embrace that special responsibility to not only protect our natural resources, but also use them to help us be more competitive.
One area that’s important when it comes to protecting the environment is to be a leader in renewable energy. I was in the legislature when we established the 10% by 2015 requirement for utility companies for renewable resources. They’re meeting that goal which will come to an end next year and one way we can lead on that issue is to build a consensus to become a national leader on this level through protecting natural resources and providing cleaner air. Renewable energy drives will create tens of thousands of great manufacturing, engineering and construction jobs, whether it’s solar, geothermal, or biomass. So protecting and leveraging our natural resources is also a top priority for me.
One other point that falls under that first bracket about talent and our people is that I want to make sure people earn a good and fair wage here in Michigan. I believe its morally wrong and most people in this state would agree that a parent working full time and raising kids in poverty is unacceptable. We’re better than that. We’ve developed a specific plan to raise the minimum wage for three years and index it to inflation and lift people out of poverty, but this governor said that is not a significant issue.
Days after I introduced my minimum wage plan in December he gave 80 to 90 percent pay raises to his chief investment officers here in Michigan. His top person went from making $174,000 to $330,000 per year. Those are the wrong set of priorities. We need to build our economy from the bottom up – that’s the way you build a sustainable economy with sustainable growth.
Review: All these points are inter-related, but I would like to focus on the point of embracing the inherent value of our natural resources and address the issue of hydro-fracking, which to my mind has gotten out of control in Michigan. Not only does it destroy our water and land by injecting all variety of dangerous chemicals such as benzene into the ground, but also other states have adopted moratoriums on hydro-fracking and restrictive language for companies pursuing it. The Pure Michigan campaign has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in new tourism revenue for Michigan, but if anything happens to our water and environment, all of that progress is right down the toilet.
Schauer: Exactly. Not many elected officials have seen the impact of environmental contamination like I have because the Enbridge Pipeline spill happened in my district and I used every ounce of my authority to hold that company accountable and make the communities and people impacted by that disaster whole in the process. I learned a lot of lessons and learned a lot about pipeline safety and corporate responsibility through that disaster.
House Democrats introduced a package of bills that say Hydrofracking in Michigan cannot happen unless a number of things occur: the public is entitled to public hearings and everyone in the affected community must have a say. In many cases people don’t’ even know what’s happening, especially when it comes to proposed water withdrawals. All the chemicals used in the process need to be identified and a list provided beforehand, along with proper material safety data sheets. In my opinion all this must be provided before any permits are granted.
Review: That’s all fine and good, but what about monitoring? Once these fracking plants get operational the state doesn’t have the resources to properly monitor the wells.
Schauer: Exactly. Governor Snyder has cut environmental protection by 15 percent, so not only do these up-front assurances need to happen; but yes, part of being the Great Lakes Governor is to make sure we’ve got the proper environmental protections and personnel in place.
One of the things I took away from the Enbridge pipeline rupture was that the federal government had inadequate resources to properly regulate and oversee the pipeline. And now we have Line 5 at the Mackinaw bridge that transports oil and is a pipeline older than the Enbridge 6B line that ruptured. That pipeline needs to be replaced and I am coming out with my own proposals on how to deal with that.
Review: Getting back to the economic issue of jobs in Michigan, recently our area lost the TRW plant and similar closings are happening all over the state in different communities. How would you contrast your approach to attract business with that of the current governor’s approach?
Schauer: I’ve talked to companies all over and in many cases for them the key issue about locating comes down to the talent and workforce that is available to them. For Governor Snyder it’s all about taxes, which is a factor; but having the available talent to help a business grow is the key factor.
I go back to healthy communities that provide the amenities and infrastructure that companies need to grow and will say one last thing. I will stack my credentials of working hand-in-hand with business to help them grow and create jobs, including my time in Congress when I worked with President Obama and Gary Peters and former Congressman Kildee to roll up our sleeves and make sure GM and Chrysler survived, against anything Snyder has done.
Prior to that I worked with an Italian brake company that had a small facility in Homer, south of Albion in my district, that because of changes in our state economic development policies that I introduced actually moved their manufacturing jobs from Mexico to Michigan.
So part of it is being in tune. It’s not a $1.8 billion tax cut is what companies need, or necessarily want. This company that relocated from Mexico to Homer, Michigan is called Brimble Brakes and are used on the Chevy Corvette, which is the car of the year. They are on their fourth plan expansion and make brake calipers. Plus when GM was making a decision about what plants to open and close, because of our policies they decided to move the Chevy Traverse plan from Tennessee to the Lansing area, rather than Wisconsin or Mexico.
Really the difference between me and Rick Snyder is one of philosophy: providing the talent with strong communities that have solid infrastructure and economic development tools is what they need and want more than tax cuts.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)