In her 2024 State of the State speech delivered Wednesday night, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer presented her playlist from the 1980s to celebrate her policy achievements of the past year as well as broadcast her policy wish list for the upcoming session.
“Like some of you, I am a product of the ‘80s. I love big hair and bold leather jackets. Classic movies and of course, classic rock,” Whitmer said. “All great albums from the ‘80s have some things in common. Chart-topping hits that everyone loves, deep cuts for the fans, and a few experimental tracks. At their best, these are timeless records whose impact transcends a single year or artist.”
Whitmer continued: “At our best, that’s what we aspire to do, too. Get things done that outlast us. Make policy for future generations. Over the past year, our record, like any great album, had something in it for everyone, and all the tracks—or policies—were bound by a common theme: making a real difference in people’s lives.”
The governor’s speech referenced 1980s party pop artists, including Guns N’ Roses, the Police, Cyndi Lauper, and Starship. Notably absent from her mixtape were songs by Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp, who wrote and performed songs during the decade that depicted the struggles of the economically distressed. Also absent from the playlist is Dire Straits, which is what many perceive to be the true state of our state.
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“We put together a heck of a record in 2023 and we are starting 2024 ready to rock,” Whitmer said.
But many disagree with Whitmer. Like the popular 1980s film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, they give the governor’s message two thumbs down.
Addressing Whitmer’s unwillingness to permanently lower Michigan income taxes, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Michael LaFaive noted: “She’s making a mistake that Economics 101 students can’t make, which is thinking that things are free,” said Michael LaFaive, senior director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “This is just an attempt to transfer wealth to those the governor thinks are more deserving than others.”
LaFaive’s MCPP cohort, James Hohman, focused on Whitmer’s plan to jumpstart the stalled electric vehicle market, which has failed to gain traction with car buyers. Whitmer’s plan would give up to $2,500 rebates to buyers of EVs manufactured by union employees.
“Handing out favors to select firms never works to improve the state economy,” said James Hohman, director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center. “Lawmakers should instead join an interstate compact to eliminate select subsidies rather than expand the preferences lawmakers give to a handful of businesses.”
State Sen. Mark Huzienga, R-Grand Rapids, gave a thumbs-up to Hohman’s assessment while adding: “The governor has proposed spending $25 million of taxpayer dollars on subsidies mostly for electric vehicles that few people can afford. We should be working to lower costs on everything, not just electric vehicles.”
Sen. Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton, didn’t say it but could have been referencing the recent estrangement between 1980s hitmaking duo Hall & Oates when she commented on Whitmer’s claims for leading the state in a spirit of bipartisanship.
“Gov. Whitmer likes to use the phrase bipartisanship, but that has been nonexistent here in Michigan over the past year,” Hoitenga said. “Of the 342 projects in the state’s most recent budget, nearly 90% of the money was sent to areas controlled by Democrats. While the governor hands out our hard-earned tax dollars to her corporate donors, the state’s infrastructure and small businesses continue to crumble.”
Hoitenga continued: “Michigan ranks among the worst states for unemployment, transparency, and median income. Salary increases are wiped out by inflation and jobs are being threatened, especially in Northern Michigan as Democrats’ radical policies — packed with harmful mandates — become law. Our state continues to struggle for population growth while our friends, families, and neighbors move away in search of more welcoming opportunities.”
Senate Republican Leader Aric Nesbitt, R-Porter Township, could have been channeling the 1980s’ karaoke craze when he sounded a note remarkably similar to Springsteen and Mellencamp.
“Gov. Whitmer painted a picture of the state of our state at odds with the reality most Michiganders are facing,” Nesbitt said. “She took a victory lap and patted herself on the back while many of our family members, friends, and neighbors continue to struggle. This was the speech of someone who has spent too much time in the Lansing bubble — someone who doesn’t worry about the price of groceries, or heating her home in the winter, or whether her kids can catch up in school.”
Nesbitt continued: “The governor insists that Bidenomics is working, but Michigan’s unemployment rate and median household income are among the worst in the nation. For most families, any increase in pay has been wiped out by inflation. Thousands of our friends and neighbors continue to seek better jobs, better schools, and better opportunities elsewhere as Michigan sits at 46th out 50 states for population growth. This is the real state of our state, but it doesn’t have to be.”
The ”good times” of the 1980s touted by Whitmer may have included a soundtrack featuring songs by the Clash, Prince, and Michael Jackson, but were also notable due to lower inflation wrought by Republican economic policies after the nation entered the decade with double-digit inflation and the decade also experienced a six-year decline in the price of oil.
“Gov. Whitmer and Democrats in the Legislature last year passed a sweeping package of energy mandates that will effectively ban natural gas power plants and mandate more wind and solar — costly changes to unreliable power sources that will lead to utility companies raising electric rates while blackouts increase,” state Rep. Mike Harris, R-Waterford, said.
In other words, to quote another rock classic of the 1980s: “Money for nothing.”
Watch the full speech here: