Impeachment, Michigan opinions, FTDR with debt, and Kerry Ebersole Singh on census 2020

July 29, 2019

Michigan Policast for Monday, July 29, 2019

  In this episode:

  • Impeachment:  good or bad?
  • Michiganders split on some key issues, unified on others
  • Fix the Damn Roads!  With more debt?
  • Interview:  Kerry Ebersole Singh on the state census
  • Transcript


Jump to:

Impeachment:  good or bad?

'...some of these folks need to think about their career two, three, four, five years down the line ... Because, for all but one of the 20 candidates who take the stage in Detroit, the nomination battle will end in defeat.' Click To Tweet


Michiganders split on some key issues, unified on others


Source: FACT SHEET: Immigrants in Michigan

The border security/immigration issue is being driven by respondents whose primary source of news is Fox News. Among those respondents, 43.3% list border security/immigration as their top concern dwarfing all other issues. Among respondents who get their news from the remaining news sources, Donald Trump is the nation’s most important issue. ~DETROIT REGIONAL CHAMBER MICHIGAN STATEWIDE POLICY SURVEY

Source: Economic impact of immigration in Michigan by the numbers 

Fix the Damn Roads!  With more debt?

Source:  US Government Spending

Republicans’ central dilemma: how to raise the roughly $2.5 billion a year needed for road repairs while avoiding — or, at least, limiting — tax increases that are anathema to the party and much of its political base? ~Michigan Radio


Interview:  Michigan Statewide Census Director Kerry Ebersole Singh

“It is critically important for all Michiganders to participate in the 2020 Census count and this committee will make sure our residents are informed across all communities throughout the state,” said Whitmer. “Our children depend on the federal dollars that come from Census Data and it is our job to make sure we do our best to be counted.” ~via @MichiganAdvance 

Make sure you fill out your form on April 1. there are federal dollars at stake, and if they don't come to Michigan, they're going to another state. And we're expected to lose a congressional seat. It will come down to #census2020Click To Tweet


Walt Sorg 0:04
This is the Michigan Policast. And this is the week that was,

Speaker 0:09
from your testimony today I gather that you believe that knowingly accepting foreign assistance during a presidential campaign is an unethical thing to do,

Mueller 0:19
and a crime.

Speaker 0:20
and a crime.

And what about total exoneration? Did you actually totally exonerate the president?

Mueller 0:25

Speaker 0:26
Now, in fact, your reports expressly states that it does not exonerate the president.

Mueller 0:32
It does.

Speaker 0:32
So it's fair to say the president tried to protect himself by asking staff to falsify records relevant to an ongoing investigation.

Mueller 0:40
I would say that, generally the summary.

Speaker 0:43
Could you charge the president with a trial after he left office?

Mueller 0:46

Speaker 0:48
You believe that he committed you could charge the president of the united states with obstruction of justice after he left office?

Mueller 0:53
Yes. The President was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed.

Speaker 1:01
Presumably the Russians could record that conversation. could they not?

Mueller 1:04

Speaker 1:05
And so if candidate Trump was saying I have no dealings with the Russians, but the Russians had a tape recording, they could expose that, could they not?

Mueller 1:13

Speaker 1:13
that's the stuff of counterintelligence nightmares. Is it not? the Trump campaign officials built their strategy, their messaging strategy around those stolen documents?

Mueller 1:25
Generally, that's true.

Speaker 1:27
And then they lie to cover it up.

Mueller 1:29
And generally That's true.

Donald Trump 1:31
There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction and none whatsoever. And it was a complete and total exoneration.

Richard Nixon 1:45
Or when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.

Speaker 1:49
By definition.

Richard Nixon 1:50

Walt Sorg 1:51
And Richard Nixon has it right. The President of the United States is a racist and a criminal, he just can't be charged. I'm Walt Sorg and I'm joined today by Christine Barry will take a look at how Mueller Wednesday could impact this week's Motown mashup. And the 2020 congressional races in our pleasant peninsulas.

Christine Barry 2:08
And there's some movement on fixing the damn roads, but the path to a solution is still strewn with potholes. And a new poll reinforces what we have long suspected, the path to political victory in Michigan is right down the middle.

Walt Sorg 2:21
And I'll talk with the newly appointed head of the state's program to maximize Michigan's participation in the census. To make sure we count every single Michigander Kerry Ebersole Singh. Amy Kerr Hardin is off this week will rejoin us next week. Let's begin Christine with the Mueller hearing. The announcement that an impeachment inquiry has begun made on Friday by the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, and what it means for Michigan. You know, we've got a two day democratic debate in Detroit beginning on Tuesday, it's already happened for some people listening to the policast, there's no doubt that Anderson Cooper will raise the issue of impeachment with the candidates. What should they say?

Christine Barry 3:00
Most of them have already taken a position on it, and I suspect that they will be able to use the recent Mueller hearing to strengthen whatever that position was simply by being selective about what they've heard. In Michigan, we saw with that recent poll that I think it's over half, actually just slightly over half Michiganders are not really interested in impeachment. I think considering the fact that impeachment the process itself, the outcome is just it's not going to be a full impeachment of the President doesn't even make sense at this point for Democrats to pursue it. As as a presidential candidate in the primary, you go after your progressive base, right, just like in the Republican primary, you go after that more conservative base. So the more progressive base is saying, yes, we want impeachment, and that's what you do in a primary? It's a difficult question, I think. But because they're Presidential candidates, I don't think it's going to change what they've already said.

Walt Sorg 4:05
I think from the perspective of the 2020 election in Michigan, what Jerrold Nadler in the judiciary committee did on Friday, basically saying we're going to start an inquiry without the authorization of the full house. And we're going to do that so we can get more of the information through the courts. And finally get some evidence. It really provides some cover for those 40 democrats in swing districts that the tipped republicans in the last election. They've basically got plausible deniability. They can say, well, we're not the ones going after the President at this point. We're willing to look at the facts. But it's the judiciary committee that's pursuing impeachment. And so they they're getting their cake and eating it too, if you will, they're going to have the exposure of all of Trumps many, many misdeeds. By having an impeachment inquiry in the committee, they can get more information on his taxes, they can get more information on the campaign finance violations involving Stormy Daniels and the playbook playmate and they can possibly get into things like the Moscow deal, much more so than the Mueller report did. And at the same time, the Elissa Slotkin's and the Hayley Stevens at all can say, well, that's them. That's not us.

Christine Barry 5:14
They can and they're still going to be painted, regardless of who the candidate is. And what the candidate specifically says about impeachment. They're still going to be painted as the, you know, as some kind of member of the squad as some pro impeachment, obstructionist Democrat. So it almost doesn't matter what happens at the presidential level for those candidates because they're still going to have to fight back against that messaging. I think what we really need to focus on though, just as Americans in general is that if a full impeachment process went through the house if if they actually went into impeachment hearings, you know, that's not going to go anywhere. And at the end of it all, when the Senate acquits, you know, Donald Trump will call it an exoneration, just like he's doing now. But he'll call it a full exoneration. Does that strengthen him for a second term? And, you know, the second term of Donald Trump is is not this is not a choice between like, good and bad. This is a choice between good and absolutely horrible, unimaginable awfulness for America.

Walt Sorg 6:24
Well, we know he's gonna lie about whatever happens. Anyway, I got an email, a fundraising email from the Trump campaign, about two hours after Mueller spoke to the House Judiciary Committee in which he said, No, this does not exonerate the president. And the top line of this fundraising email was, Mueller says it. Trump totally exonerated, no collusion and no conspiracy.

Christine Barry 6:47
Well, he'll never stop lying about it, but having the senate behind him at that point, even though like you and I know how people would vote on it anyway, I mean, it very, very few Republicans would ever support impeachment, either because they care about their influence in the Senate or the House, or they care about their political party apparatus, or whatever, they're never going to support it, which means you'll never get an impeachment through. So he's going to lie about it. But the really push the process through I don't actually have an answer to that. I know that there are a lot of good reasons to do it. I think the hearings are great idea. I've always thought that. But whether it goes to a full impeachment like Elizabeth Warren, who right now is my preferred candidate is just pushing and pushing and saying it has to be done. Because we have to make sure that this never happens. Again, we cannot allow these things to go unaccounted for. There's a point there. But if ultimately, it strengthens his chance at a second term, a second term of Trump, what does that mean? It means a very long term, horrible Supreme Court, no reproductive rights, no chance to reverse climate change. Just so much horribleness, more racism, more violence, probably a war. That's what it is. It's a choice between the process itself, are you going to pursue it, and most likely give him something that supports his exoneration lies? Doing the hearings, I don't think takes that much wind out of your other policy messaging, that you need to focus on getting out there.

Walt Sorg 8:24
I think the scariest outcome of all of this would be Trump winning the Electoral College. Even though he gets destroyed in the popular vote, he lost last time by 3 million votes. I've seen speculation that he could win the election, even when he got falls 5 million short in the popular vote because of the way the electoral college gives so much extra strength to the smaller states that tend to vote Republican. And I think that'd be the worst possible outcome because he would basically take seriously what he said to that youth group that he spoke to earlier this week, that article to gives him the power to do whatever he wants. He believes that

Christine Barry 9:00
He's nuts.

Walt Sorg 9:06
And all this discussion of 2020 takes us really logically into a poll that was commissioned by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and released in the last few days, the polling done by Glengariff Associates. And it really is fascinating outcome because it kind of reinforces what I believed all along, Christine, and that is that this is a moderate left leaning state. What are some of the top lines from this poll?

Christine Barry 9:31
Well, there are four that I really picked out voters are split on Medicare for all, Medicare for all would eliminate private insurance. So you have about 51%, who oppose the elimination of private insurance, but are in favor of some kind of public option, Medicare for all who opt in perhaps. You have nearly half of the voters that's 47%, who are opposed to the tariffs on on cars and the tariffs on foreign products. That's not really a surprise here in Michigan.

What this poll did, I think is really underscore what Michiganders experience every day. Look, some of these other numbers by two to one voters say climate change is a threat to Michigan and the Great Lakes. And we know that right in Michigan, we are never more than 80-85 miles away from a great lake. Many of us have great lakes is just part of our part of our lives. That's where we vacation, that's what we do. You know, we go fishing there we do whatever in a great lake somewhere, surface temperatures are up like ice is down, we can see that we can experience that.

By a three to one ratio. 56% of Michigan voters believe that immigrants are good for Michigan's economy. And we know this because, you know, they make up over 10% of our professional services like healthcare services and things like that. And not only the professional, educated and entrepreneurial immigrants, but also because tourism is such a huge piece of our economy as well as agriculture. immigrants are a big piece of that of that workforce. So these are things we experience every day we see this and we support immigration, we support things that push back on climate change. But when you get into the things like Medicare for all, and the tariffs, it's like you said straight down the middle.

Walt Sorg 11:19
What I found really frightening was the disparity in views between people who watch fox news and those who don't. just using one example, the climate change questions, is climate change a threat to the Great Lakes overall, the response on that was 60.8%, yes, 33.8% know, but amongst people who get their news, primarily from Fox News, it was only 23.9% saying it's a threat. And 70% saying it's not a threat. Now admittedly, it's just it's a smaller subgroup, and there's a larger margin of error. But that is consistent throughout the poll, where people who watch Fox News just have a completely different view of everything, everything it seems, than the rest of our state.

Christine Barry 12:02
I don't even know how to respond to that I have like my personal suspicions on how that happens. But you know, we need Amy here to talk about the amygdala, and why it works the way it does. Because that's just if if you consume Fox News all day long, you shift in the way that you think and the way that you feel about everything around you. And it's been proven in poll after poll after poll. And there seems to be just nothing we can do, but work harder to fight back against it. It's very disturbing, especially when you get to the you get to these life threatening opinions. I mean, it's not just climate change, climate change is life threatening, but it's taking time. And it's here, you know, people are dying from overheating, right. And there are species that are dying off due to the temperatures and whatnot. But look at what they've done to people like Ilhan Omar, flat out lie about these people of color. And Fox News is just it's a damaging, damaging force.

Walt Sorg 13:09
I think one other thing that's happened in the last week, too is I watch some of the response to some of the racism that's been coming out of the President's mouth is that I thought Rashida Tlaib would be a one term Congress person, because she basically comes from an African American predominant district, and she's not African American. But I think now voting for her is going to be seen as an act of defiance against Trump. And it could very well save her politically How ironic that would be.

Christine Barry 13:34
That's interesting, because I was thinking that as well. And I don't know anything about Ilhan's district. I don't even know that much about hot Omar. But because of how much he hates her, I actually like her better.

Walt Sorg 13:48
She's a former, she was a state legislator was elected by a very large margin. She's not a danger politically, all of these people in the squad come from very, very, very deep blue districts he's never going to do he's just trying to use them as a symbol to replace Nancy Pelosi as the chief Boogie person for the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, of course, Democrats are going to be using Mitch McConnell, which is probably more justified given his current support for the Russian intrusion into our elections.

Christine Barry 14:17
Right, I think Rashida, like we talked about last week was just in a unique position because of how she came to that seat, and what her district is like, but I do think you're right, I think his constant attacks on her. And that video that they brought up before she was even in Congress was that 2016, where she was out protests at a protest, and they were pulling her out. These things strengthen her as a force against Trump. And that's a good thing in her district.

Walt Sorg 14:46
One other thing from the poll before we leave it that I found very striking was in fact, the mix of responses on health care, a lot of support for the general concept of health care options for everybody so that everybody got covered, put split right down the middle on whether or not the Affordable Care Act should be repealed. But I think more important for Democrats was the idea that getting rid of private insurance, which is basically what Bernie Sanders wants to do, is very unpopular. People really like the idea of a public option, Medicare for those who want it. And I think that if democrats want to win, those states that they lost by a few votes in the last election, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, plus the other states that are battlegrounds. This time, I think the position that the candidate has to take is that we phase in Medicare for all by having a public option.

My sense is Americans don't like to be told what to do by the government. They want it to be their idea. But I also believe that Medicare for all ultimately will prove to be very popular, just as Obamacare proved to be a lot more popular once it was a reality. It's the fear of the unknown plus that American thing about Don't tell me what to do. Let me make up my own mind, we report you decide, that's what Fox says, of course, that's not what they do. But that's the way Americans really respond to policy change. They want it to be something that they're doing, because they believe in it, not because the government tells them to do it.

There's been a little bit of movement on how to pay for fixing the damn roads, Christine, it's complicated. It's controversial. But it seems like the republicans are coming closer to a real plan for raising the two and a half billion dollars or so a year needed for the roads. What's it all about? And can you put it into English?

Christine Barry 16:33
Well, it's controversial because Governor Whitmer is moving towards something that she did not want to do, which is approaching a change in the way that we fund our public school retirement system.

So let me back up a little bit. The public school Retirement System represents about $30 billion dollars in unfunded liability, Michigan is paying off that debt, it's scheduled to be paid down in about 20 years. And in fiscal year 2019, that that cost us almost 10% of our budget, what she is open to now is, instead of paying it down in 20 years, maybe we extend that by five or 10 years, that reduces that 10% number, and it frees up a couple of percentage points for road money.

The problem is that, number one, it ties pensions to road funding, which she didn't want to do. But number two, you know, we already paid almost 3% of our budget each year on interest for debt. So really, all we're doing is freeing up some cash now, so that we don't have to raise taxes now, we'll pay more for it later, somebody else will have to pay for it. Everybody who has ever deferred a student loan payment knows how this works. You know, you have a ton of money you owe to somebody, maybe you'll pay it off in 20 years, but you need a different government. So you fill out the paperwork and you get a lower payment or you don't pay for a while and then you pay more later. And that's really what this is. And it's all because the republican ideological position that we cannot raise taxes.

However, Governor Whitmer has said there will be no bond, which is really important, because that was the idea they came to us with a few weeks ago was that we would borrow a bunch of money to pay down this pension system, which like I said, represents 10% of the budget every year. And she just rejected that out of hand.

Walt Sorg 18:35
And also, they've been floating the idea that we could instead be going to a ballot proposal for graduated income tax, which has been roundly defeated in the past. But the most recent polling shows support for it. Now, it's easy to run a campaign against the graduated income tax based on fear that the government's really going to raise your taxes instead of lowering them. But that is an option that's on the table. And it is possible to get that on the ballot using citizenship participation, especially if you got a group like Voters Not Politicians to weigh in on that issue. I don't know Voters Not Politicians would be interested in taking out an issue that's so highly charged and from a production standpoint, but that is something that she can least wave out there as a possibility

Christine Barry 19:16
and the graduated income tax, how would that work, that would be a constitutional change,

Walt Sorg 19:21
it would have to be a constitutional changes. Right now, the Constitution prohibits attacks that is graduated based on either rate or base.

Christine Barry 19:29
Now we can go all the way back to our first podcast, but Brandon Dillon said the same thing, it will probably have to go to the voters in some way. Whether it's the graduated income tax or some other kind of tax, it probably has to go to the voters, which is sad, you know, this is why we elect people, we elect them to look at all the information, do all the legwork, and make decisions that aren't necessarily based on ideology, but are based on the information in front of you. Yeah, you could be opposed to taxes all day long. But it's the only way to get that money to pay for the roads that we need is to raise the tax, then then you raise a tax or you levy a new one.

Walt Sorg 20:07
And it also means that if we have to wait until the 2020 election, to raise the money for fixing the roads, we are going to get started on fixing the roads until 2021. And meanwhile, the potholes just keep growing

Christine Barry 20:19
and costing people tons of money and hurting people and causing injuries and making it worse because once these roads get to a certain percentage of bad they just have to be redone. You can't even repair them anymore.

Walt Sorg 20:37
2020 census is to borrow a phrase from Joe Biden, big fucking deal. There's hundreds of billions of federal dollars at stake Not to mention our representation in Congress, Governor Whitmer is launched an aggressive campaign to make sure every Michigander gets counted in the census, she set up a complete count committee with representation for community organizations, state and local governments faith groups business and labor. Next week Kerry Ebersole Singh will take over as the Michigan statewide census director to coordinate the two year effort. I talked with her about the challenges of making sure everybody in Michigan is counted.

Kerry, it's obviously pretty important for the state to get the census, right. important enough. So you've basically put your own career on hold to take on this temporary position. What What motivated you

Kerry Ebersole Singh 21:26
It's important work and important time, there's $675 billion of federal program money that's at stake and the census is is is the first step and to establishing what funds will come into Michigan for really, really important programs that are that impact our communities and families here. So as the Constitution states, we need to count everyone. So that's one of the reasons why I want to take on this role.

Walt Sorg 21:56
Counting most of the people in Michigan isn't a very difficult task. But making sure you count all of them gets very complicated very fast. What's the biggest challenge?

Kerry Ebersole Singh 22:06
There's a few. I think that, you know, coming up here this fall, we have snowbirds that will be leaving the state. And while they may spend most of their year in Michigan, they may not necessarily fill out their census form here. So I'd say just an education piece is a big challenge of especially those folks that are going to be leaving the state here in the short term for the winter. So the education piece, so folks understand why the census matters. I mentioned the federal dollars here on the front end, and also plays into how many congressional seats will be had here in Michigan. And that that leads to the voice we have in Washington, DC. So these are just, you know, getting over that hump and having folks understand the importance of this, and then to getting everyone to fill out their forms April 1. And and luckily, this year, you'll be able to have an opportunity to do that online by phone or to the traditional form.

Walt Sorg 23:14
Part of the challenge, I would assume will be people who are homeless or people that are in transit. How are you going to reach the homeless people?

Kerry Ebersole Singh 23:21
We have amazing committee and the Michigan nonprofit association has been leading this work for a good couple years now getting ready for the 2020 census. And I think that you know, there are a tremendous resource and network around the state that work with key nonprofits and communities, servicing those individuals that may be find themselves homeless at this point.

Walt Sorg 23:45
Another challenge will be immigrants, both undocumented and documented. Are you concerned that all the publicity over the fight on the citizenship question is going to make your job tougher?

Kerry Ebersole Singh 23:56
I think any you know, just if you look at the first step, but if folks under fully understanding the importance of why the census matters is a challenge than any additional confusion that that's brought to that presents an additional challenge

Walt Sorg 24:14
is a lot of this basically community organizing, working at the grassroots level, so that you've got community groups really reaching out rather than trying to do a top down.

Kerry Ebersole Singh 24:22
Yeah, I mean, I think you should think about this as just a complete statewide effort, grassroots organizations, neighbors, talking to friends and community members. Also, those community leaders, whether they're, you know, servicing a nonprofit or elected official, it doesn't matter what partisan stripes, you wear that the census matters, I think they'll be additional, you know, paid communications on different venues, trying to reach hard to count areas and hard to count individuals. And, you know, digital work has really changed in the last decade, in terms of how people are engaged through their phones, through their TVs and beyond,

Walt Sorg 25:09
will you be interfacing with the Census Bureau, especially in terms of getting ground forces hired?

Kerry Ebersole Singh 25:16
You know, the Federal Department of Commerce has staff supported in the state and the region offices in Chicago. So, you know, I plan on meeting with them early on, soon as I take on the role. So they are working to staff up there has been challenges and staffing up for those hourly jobs. There's also the Michigan nonprofit association, as I as I mentioned, you know, they're working with their hubs around the state that are being led by community nonprofits to do outreach on the census. So there's also some capacity there for ground troops as you reference. And then, you know, that's, you know, one of the things I need to, you know, figure out what all his plans by the core organizations, and then how the state can step up and support with additional resources, the effort.

Walt Sorg 26:10
What can an individual do to contribute to the effort?

Kerry Ebersole Singh 26:13
Well, first and foremost, make sure you fill out your your form on April 1. Two is help communicate the importance of the census, that regardless of partisanship, that there are federal dollars at stake. If they don't come to Michigan, they're going to another state. And then you know, we have high stakes, we're expected to lose a congressional seat. It will come down to how we do our job counting folks and also how the other states count.

Walt Sorg 26:45
Kerry, appreciate your time. Good luck with this is an important job for the state, as you say, a ton of money $675 billion at stake, and of course, our representation in Congress as well. Thanks for joining us.

Kerry Ebersole Singh 26:57
Thank you Walt

Walt Sorg 26:58
Before we wrap for this week, let's mention the Traverse City Film Festival which runs this week, and includes the Michigan premiere of Slay the Dragon, the documentary on how Voters Not Politicians stun the political professionals by successfully creating and passing proposal to to end gerrymandering in Michigan. There will be two showings of the documentary. Amy and I will be part of the premiere on Wednesday at noon with a repeat showing on Friday at three o'clock. Of course that's up in Traverse City, Michael Moore will be on hand. I saw it last week and Seth Meyers program plugging it and specifically say that the reason that Michigan flipped in the election last year because proposals wanting to grow voter turnout marijuana and gerrymandering.

Christine Barry 27:40
And of course we have the presidential candidate debates in Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday, there will be watch parties all across the state sponsored by individual campaigns and the Democratic Party. And the Michigan Democratic Party is hosting All Star fundraisers in Detroit on both nights and we'll have a link to those events on our website.

Walt Sorg 28:00
That's it for this week. For more information on this week's discussion, head over to Christine's library of links, videos and tweets. At

Christine Barry 28:09
and you could help us out a bunch by rating the podcast on iTunes. The more five star ratings the higher we appear in the listings. treat us like you treat your favorite Uber driver or Lyft driver or really your favorite anything. Yeah, that's a good one bartender favorite partner, and you can contact us on the email machine at Amy Kerr Hardin will be back with us next week with her review of slay the dragon. On behalf of absent Amy and Walt. I'm Christine Barry. And thanks so much for listening


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