Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Detroit Free Press- Governor won debate with specifics

The Free Press declares Granholm the winner.

Political debates usually find challengers on the attack and incumbents playing defense. But Gov. Jennifer Granholm reversed roles on Dick DeVos in their first debate Monday night, keeping her Republican opponent on the defensive for much of their hour together.

While too often longwinded, Democrat Granholm made the most of her opportunity to be on equal TV footing with multimillionaire DeVos, who has vastly outspent her in purchasing commercial time.

While she does have a tendency to launch into what I like to call "Senator speak", this time she stuck to specifics in her answers without wandering into another subject, which has been a problem in the past. Some questions require a thoughtful answer and cannot be parsed into simple sound bites, and in this debate I think she managed to convey her answers clearly.

Christoff's story went into details-

Granholm went on the offensive early and kept DeVos on the defensive throughout much of the debate.

She said that DeVos, as president of Ada-based Amway from 1993 to 2002, used his wealth to lobby Congress for international trade and tax laws that benefited him personally. She said those federal policies have hurt the U.S. automotive industry.

"He's not a solution to the problem; he's part of the problem," she said.

Can't argue with that.

"The governor is responsible for setting an atmosphere that's going to foster growth and expansion and opportunity," DeVos said. "And that's not the case now. The atmosphere clearly is not here for job creation."

That is debatable. How much can a governor do? One economist at Oakland University says not a lot when a state requires a balanced budget during a time of economic downturn.

I address this not from any political standpoint but as an economist. The basic economic question is whether a state's governor can significantly influence the economic performance of the state -- and the answer from the economics profession is no.

Government, to the extent that it can influence macroeconomic activity, does so through two channels: monetary policy (i.e., interest rates) and fiscal policy (taxing and spending). States do not engage in monetary policy.

States, of course, do set some of their own fiscal policies, setting tax rates and determining the amount they want to spend on public goods and services. But many states, including Michigan, choose to tie their own hands by requiring a balanced budget.


My basic point, then, is that the state's poor economy cannot be blamed on the governor. She simply does not have the fiscal or monetary policy tools at her disposal either to have caused it to tank in the first place or to yank it out of the doldrums now.

Either Dick doesn't understand these things or he is being purposely deceptive on the claim that a governor can single handedly set "an atmosphere".

The subject of advertising led off the debate-

At the outset, each accused the other of lying in their TV ads.

DeVos called disappointing Granholm's ads that accuse him of shifting jobs from Michigan to China when he was president of Amway in the 1990s. He said expanding into the Chinese market saved jobs in Michigan when Amway faced tough times in the United States.

Dick basically is saying that even more jobs would have been cut at Amway during his tenure- not a sign of the successful businessman as he claims to be.

He has waffled on this number repeatedly- at one time he says that the China expansion created 1000 jobs, next he will say that it "saved jobs". There still has been no proof that he is a jobs maker. Once again tried to take credit for "turning around" Grand Rapids and pointing to that as job creation, a statement that has been described as "revisionist history" by the GR Press.

More on ads-

Granholm called untrue a DeVos ad released Monday that says she did not meet with Honda executives during trade trips to Japan, and did not do enough to lure a Honda plant that will be built in Indiana. "It's an outright lie," she said of the ad.

Granholm's campaign Web site shows a photo of her meeting with Honda officials during her first Japan trip in 2005.

This is the second time Dick has pointed at Honda and claimed that Granholm didn't meet with them, which is easily disproved. She met with them, her team met with them, and Michigan didn't have a chance to land them anyway, but at least we tried. Point is, Dick is outright lying in this ad.

Moving on to the issues-

Granholm has repeatedly challenged DeVos to release his actual tax returns, rather than the extensive summary of holdings he has disclosed.

The debate careened from economic issues to social issues, with each candidate defending their positions -- sometimes uncomfortably -- on social issues such as abortion and stem cell research.

Uncomfortable for DeVos, Granholm seemed firm in her convictions.

DeVos restated his pro-life positions on abortion and stem cell research, but he did it in a roundabout way. He talked about the Governor's friends(?) - like that mattered. He danced around on these issues, trying to make them palatable and claiming that the people of Michigan agreed with him.

Basically, he sounded very defensive about his views because he knows that they do not play well with the public. Once again he was being deceptive.

Granholm absolutely nailed him with this next one- and the press is picking up on it this morning.

In one tense moment, Granholm accused DeVos of not disclosing publicly that he had invested $173 million in an assisted care company that was accused of allowing abuse of some of its patients.

"This was an investment that was not disclosed like other interests," she said. "Perhaps because you didn't want people to know about sexual and physical abuse of seniors."

DeVos said his investment amounted to 1% of the holdings of the company, Alterra. He said he only recently became aware of the abuse allegations.

"It was a tragic situation," he said. "It turned out to be a very bad investment."

Dick came off as more concerned about his "bad investment" rather than the abuse of seniors and seemed blindsided by the charge.

This story broke at Michigan Liberal. Read about it here. There is also a story that shows the DeVos family owned 20% of Alterra and a DeVos family employee was the Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Busted. What else is Dick hiding?

Last but certainly not least, the SBT. At one point, DeVos said he has a "specific plan", which took Granholm (and myself, and maybe the rest of the state) by surprise.

Dick has repeatedly said he can't tell us specifics on the SBT until "after the election, that he didn't have the tools, needed to study other states", etc. etc. Last night he forcefully claimed he had a plan. Early on he said a "majority" of the tax would be replaced, later he said 50%.

Which is it, Dick?

They also clashed over the state's business taxes. Granholm accused him of supporting deep cuts in state programs by backing elimination of the Single Business Tax without a specific plan to replace the $2 billion in lost revenues.

Granholm said she supports revising the SBT so that it is more fair to all businesses, but without a net cut overall.

DeVos offered broad concepts, such as replacing only half of the lost revenues of the SBT. He said a new business tax should tax profits more than the current tax, but offered no specifics on what a new tax would look like.

"I think we can preserve essential services, as we reduce government spending," he said.

"I think" doesn't quite cut it when it comes to essential services, does it? No. Lack of specifics in this case will get people hurt, or worse. DeVos should not be trusted on his "plan".

The Free Press wraps it up.

Generally, Granholm was long -- too long -- on specifics while DeVos continued to deal in generalities. Rather than seizing obvious moments to go toe-to-toe with the governor, he preferred to characterize her attacks and rhetoric as "so disappointing."


The freewheeling format favored Granholm. Her commercials may not be as polished or frequent as the DeVos ads, but she showed Monday that she can make up a lot of ground in the debates.

I'm not so sure she has to "make up a lot of ground", but the first debate showed that she is in command of the facts, the plans, and the direction she wants to take the state, while DeVos can only dodge questions and speak in platitudes.

The choice is obvious. It always was.