Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Will Republicans, Mackinac Center Criticize Snyder's Overseas Trade Trips?

Need to clarify a little something in Paul Egan's column about Snyder's upcoming trade mission to Asia...

When Gov. Rick Snyder leaves Sept. 24 on his first overseas trip, he will do something former Gov. Jennifer Granholm never did in eight years.

"Gov. Snyder will be the first governor to visit China since Gov. (John) Engler visited there," Snyder communications director Geralyn Lasher said in releasing details of his weeklong trip to China, Japan and South Korea.

Snyder "will be talking to … businesses about why investment in our state is such a sound idea," and promoting Michigan farm products, Lasher said.

Granholm was criticized for not including China, the world's most populous nation and a fast-rising economic powerhouse, among 10 countries visited by her or Lt. Gov. John Cherry on 13 overseas trade missions. The trips included four visits to Japan and one to South Korea.

Actually, Granholm was repeatedly criticized nearly every single time she went on any trip at all. The Republicans and their supporters were quite vicious about it, too, enough so that this is one that really deserves a look back at the archives. Specific countries rarely entered the conversation; it was just a general, constant complaining about trying to drum-up international business. Here are a few examples to make the point:

  • April 2008, before Granholm's trip to the Mideast, the Mackinac Center called such trips "demeaning".

    "I wonder about the degree to which these deals were already cut and the governor just goes over for a symbolic ribbon-cutting ceremony," said Michael LaFaive, fiscal policy director for the Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "Companies and people were moving to Michigan long before government officials got into the business of picking winners and losers in the marketplace."

    LaFaive said it's "demeaning" for the leader of the state to go overseas, hat in hand, and beg businesses to come to Michigan. (DNews 4/17/2008)

    Wow. Is it now "demeaning" for Snyder to go? Would love to see a follow-up question on that particular terminology. And from the same article, the ever-present whiny drone of Saul Anuzis:

    "The governor is trying to attract businesses from places where they don't know her because she's an abject failure at attracting business among those who do know her."

    Hmmm. OK, please point to the businesses that former CEO and businessman Rick Snyder has attracted to Michigan since he took office. You would think that he would "know" all sorts of leaders of industry and could have acquired some deals fairly easily by now, yes? Just to score some points? And yet here he is, leaving the country to attract jobs and score points. Wonder why that is.

  • July 2007, before a trade mission to Sweden and Germany, here's Saul again:

    Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, called the trip "Granholm's European Vacation."

    He said Granholm should instead take a tour of Michigan businesses to find out what is needed to spur the economy here or to other states that have lured away Michigan companies.

    "If the governor wants to go on a 'real' jobs mission, she should travel to other states to convince the hundreds of companies that have left Michigan on her watch to come back," Anuzis said. (DNews July 11, 2007)

    Perhaps Snyder should think about doing the same. Besides the well-publicized example of solar-company Fronius USA moving its HQ from Brighton, MI to create manufacturing jobs in Indiana, we have Spartan Motors and Molded Foam moving to the Hoosier state as well, and recently Durcon Inc. of Canton has left us for Texas. These came during or after our new "business friendly" tax code passed, too. Those are just a few that have made the press, there are probably others that didn't receive any publicity.

  • May 2006, Japan. If you want to talk about China, Egan's story did bring up an important point. While Governor Granholm may not have gone to China herself, MEDC did, and "made at least six China trips under Granholm and helped bring 41 Chinese companies to Michigan". You don't hear about that too often. MEDC head Jim Epolito traveled on to South Korea and China during this 2006 trip; Saul was busy yip, yip, yipping to the press:

    Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis criticized Granholm's trip, saying the "taxpayer-funded trip is nothing more than a publicity stunt."

    But Jim ratted them out in a bit of candor that would foreshadow what was to be Page One of the Republican playbook after the election:

    Election-year politics coupled with a (MEDC) budget slashed 72 percent over the past four years are affecting the state's ability to move forward, he said.

    "We do have a legislature, a Republican-controlled legislature, that really doesn't want to see economic development," Epolito said. "There's a few of them that don't want to see any action this year because it's an election year."(GR Press, May 4 & 15, 2006)

    Republicans obstructing job creation because a Democrat is in the top office? Who woulda thunk it. Anyway, the intensity of the criticism is something that grew over the years, as you can see. They laid the groundwork by being "skeptical" and criticizing around the edges during earlier missions. After all, Engler had made many of these trips as well, and Blanchard before him...

  • August 2005, after Granholm returned from Japan.

    "Did the governor taking a trip to Japan for five days suddenly make these companies want to come to Michigan?" said Ari Adler, spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Ken Sikkema. "Was it necessary for the state's top elected official... to go to Japan to net less than 1,000 jobs over the next five years?

    "Whether this trip produces any further results remains to be seen."(GR Press, 8/3/2005)

    Will all these same questions and criticisms be applied to Snyder? I'm not holding my breath. But it's important to point out that, just as with the MEGA business tax credits, Michigan Republicans are simply continuing economic practices that they once used as campaign weapons, and that they also used in the "politics of personal destruction" against Granholm. The world-at-large tends to forget these things, and perhaps if the hypocrisy is brought to their attention more often, the misdirection and falsehoods perpetrated by the Republicans during the tenure of Democrats in power wouldn't carry as much weight.

    A girl can dream, anyway.