That woman in MI, COVID-19 v MI, with guests Riley Beggin and Tom Watkins

March 30, 2020

Michigan Policast for Monday, March 30, 2020

  In this episode:

  • Trump v Whitmer, COVID-19 v everyone
  • COVID-19 v elections and REAL ID
  • Riley Beggin of Bridge on the impact of the coronavirus stimulus on Michigan
  • Quick takes on the upcoming elections
  • Former State School Superintendent Tom Watkins on Covid-19 v Schools
  • Transcript


Public Service Announcement:

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Jump to:

Trump v Whitmer, COVID-19 v everyone






Special Mention: Trump v Yamiche Alcindor, Ventilator v Generator

COVID-19 v elections and REAL ID

For the past two weeks, Secretary Benson has been working with clerks across the state to determine if they need to hold an election in May, or if the entity placing the item on their ballot could postpone to August. The majority of the questions on the May ballots are school district millages and bonds, and many districts have postponed. Benson gave clerks and the entities a few more days this week to make their decision.

For the entities that do not postpone (in several cases, because existing critical funds would expire), the Bureau of Elections will mail absent voter ballot applications to all voters with postage-paid return envelopes unless those voters have already requested an absent voter ballot. The state will include a cover letter that voting by mail is the optimal way to cast a ballot due to the public health crisis. The state will assist local jurisdictions in ensuring postage-paid return envelopes are mailed to all who request ballots. ~Source



Riley Beggin on the impact of the coronavirus stimulus on Michigan

If the bill passes, every adult making less than $75,000 in adjusted gross income would receive a one-time payment of $1,200. A married couple making less than $150,000 collectively in adjusted gross income would get $2,400. Qualifying families would also receive $500 per child. ~ source

Quick takes on the upcoming elections

Former Vice President @joebiden and Senator @GaryPeters hold slight leads over their Republican rivals, according to a recent poll commissioned and conducted by @MRGMichigan To Tweet




.@amyklobuchar is the odds-on bet to become @JoeBiden’s veep choice, and he is the odds-on bet to become #POTUS @henryolsenEPPC Click To Tweet


Former State School Superintendent Tom Watkins on Covid-19 v Schools




Walt Sorg  0:00

Presenting underwriter of the Michigan Policast is progress Michigan providing a strong, credible voice that holds public officials and government accountable and assist in the promotion of progressive ideas.


Donald Trump  0:13

And your governor of Michigan, I mean, she's not stepping up. I don't know if she knows what's going on. But all she does just sit there and blame the federal government. She doesn't get it done and we send her a lot. She is a new governor and it's not been pleasant. And we've had a big problem with the young a woman governor from you know who I'm talking about from Michigan's


they're not appreciative to me. They're not appreciative to the Army Corps. They're not appreciative to FEMA. It's not right. I say Mike, don't call the woman in Michigan. You know what to say? If they don't treat you right. I don't go.


Walt Sorg  0:58

The pandemic spreads. The pandemic of Donald Trump tantrums and insults when he should be focused on leading a nation in crisis. This is the Michigan Policast. We're all about Michigan politics and policy and the outside forces impacting our pleasant peninsulas. Walt Sorg podcasting in place from Lansing


Amy Kerr Hardin  1:15

I'm Amy Kerr Hardin and coming to you from beautiful Traverse City we'll focus on Trump versus Whitmer. We'll talk about what the $2 trillion federal relief build means for you with the help of Bridge Michigan reporter Riley Beggin and what all this means for our schools. Walt will talk with the former state school superintendent Tom Watkins.


Walt Sorg  1:35

We're going to be hearing a lot of Gretchen Whitmer this week Amy because basically Michigan State government as well down to the leadership of Gretchen Whitmer, the legislature to the credit of both the republicans and the democrats are staying out of the way and letting the governor take the lead and she has taken the lead totally working 24 seven literally in working Michigan through this crisis. Donald Trump Meanwhile, he began his whining about governor Whitmer after it conference call with the nation's governors, many of whom were increasingly angry over the lackluster response to the Trump administration to the coordinating crisis. Of course, he began it all with a tweet. All she does is sit there and blame the federal government. She doesn't get it done and we send her a lot start doing your job. Gretchen Whitmer has been taking the high road and responding to Trump's insults


Gretchen Whitmer  2:21

now I don't have energy to respond to every slight I what I'm trying to do is work well with the federal government.


Walt Sorg  2:28

But in interviews on both CNN and NBC on Sunday morning, she noted the lack of federal coordination that is causing huge, huge problems.


Gretchen Whitmer  2:37

The story in Michigan is the same as Massachusetts, the same as New York, the same as Illinois and Minnesota. We the states are trying to actively get every piece of PPE that we can, we're bidding against one another and in some cases, the federal government is taking priority. We've had contracts that were in place that were were set aside or were delayed or were cancelled altogether because The goods that we had contracted for are going to the federal government and it's a source of frustration, not unique to Michigan. But it's a unique situation that we have in our country right now. And it's it's really, I think, creating a lot more problems for all of us.


Walt Sorg  3:14

And here's Donald Trump's basic response was expressed by Steve Carrel on the office.


Michael Scott / The Office   3:19

I don't want somebody sucking up to me because they think I am going to help their career. I want them sucking up to me, because they genuinely love me.


Walt Sorg  3:33

The state did get a little help over the weekend with a partial declaration of a state of emergency for the state. But the operative word is little


Gretchen Whitmer  3:41

while we're relieved, frankly, 112,000 masks yesterday morning means we're going to make it through the weekend. We've got a lot of hospitals that are already at capacity. We had 1000 new cases yesterday, we know that number is going to be even higher today. We are working all angles. So we're grateful for FEMA. We're grateful For the vice president, he and I chatted yesterday. You know, we've got, we know that they're working 24 seven, we are as a state trying to procure everything else that we can to meet the needs of the people of our state.


Walt Sorg  4:12

Amy, an amazing situation. It's a huge crisis in the Detroit area. Right now, the hospitals are already on the verge of being overloaded as the caseload mounts. What's it like in the north country right now,


Amy Kerr Hardin  4:24

we've had a few cases and a few deaths, mostly older people, very predictable, but apparently it is going to peak at about the same time maybe a few days after Detroit area peaks and they're not peaked yet. And also, there's concern about ventilators, she didn't address that yet. But there's only 1000 in the state. Munson medical up here. They have several locations. They have only 81 in here in Traverse City. There's only 29. That's not enough.


Walt Sorg  4:53

And I think that the threat now the president is finally apparently backing off on his idea of quote, reopening the Country, county by county, city by city or whatever it is going to do. Last time I checked COVID-19 virus did not understand what a county line meant. It eventually is going to go everywhere. And in Michigan right now we are one of the hotspots. It's beginning in Detroit. But it's spreading outward here in Ingham County we're getting more and more cases and it's an exponential curve still. do you think people are finally getting the message? I've seen an awful lot on social media, especially from the far right, mostly some of my relatives or ardent Trump supporters, who in the beginning, were saying the whole thing was a hoax. And now they're saying it's overblown. And Dr. Fauci is the devil in the messenger of the devil and CNN's with them and all of that. Are they beginning to believe it now?


Amy Kerr Hardin  5:42

I think so. It's hard to tell they could remain in denial even as they're coughing up a lung. Some good news I saw this morning on CBS on Sunday morning, Dr. John LaPook can talk about a way that we could get around this especially, you know, getting out and working and getting the economy going again, he suggested Using an antibody blood test to determine if people have immunity already, because 80% of the people that get this virus either have no symptoms or very, you know, mild symptoms, and they could even mistake it for seasonal allergies. So anyhow, if we determine who does have immunity, we can put those people out on the frontlines and pull the people that do not have immunity, you know, off off the cashier at the grocery store, and so forth. That really worries me when I go on the grocery store. And I see the same cashier they are and she's about my age in her 60s. And she's working hard every single day sanitizing her conveyor belt, and they've got a sneeze guard and so forth. But she's putting her life on the line every single day because she's in that risk group.


Walt Sorg  6:40

I was looking at a poll that Pew Research did on the whole crisis and a couple of things really stood out in terms of the steps that are being taken restricting our lives to fight the virus. There seems to be pretty broad bipartisan consensus that needs to be done 95% in the case of restricting travel canceling sports events, but there is a bit of a pressure partisan divide when it comes to who's doing a good job on dealing with as it's a huge partisan divide. public health officials such as those the CDC, 74% of Democrats say they're doing a great job 84% of Republicans, state officials, it's about even 6972. But when you look at how people feel about how the President is doing, 18% of Democrats say he's doing a good job 83% of Republicans and on the news media, the divide is almost as Stark with 37% of republicans think the media is doing a good job, the mainstream media and 68% of Democrats. And that, to me is really the fruits of many, many years of attacks on these institutions. And certainly the last three years of Donald Trump attacking everything. The man who says don't believe what you see and read, just believe me.


Amy Kerr Hardin  7:53

Yeah, in Fox News, they're getting their information from Fox and Fox is beginning to come around. I understand. I don't have that on my TV. I made sure that wasn't one of my channels, my cable but I have seen on social media that some some people are saying that some of the reporters on Fox, if you want to call them reporters are actually saying that this might be serious after all.


Walt Sorg  8:15

The other thing that's really going to be important in Michigan and around the nation is going to be our election. And how we respond to this crisis when it comes to the election. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has taken one step already taking the initiative in mailing out absentee voter applications to everybody who's got an election coming up in May. There's not a lot of those going around, but it's mostly school elections, some local elections. And I would assume setting the stage for doing the exact same thing in August so that every registered voter gets an application just the option to vote from home, which really everybody should do.


Amy Kerr Hardin  8:47

Well. The May election will be a good trial run for the Secretary of State to work some of the bugs out of the situation.


Walt Sorg  8:54

They do, however, have to work some bugs out to through the legislature the laws got to be changed to allow clerks to begin Processing ballots earlier right now, they can't even open the envelopes until eight o'clock on election night. Which means if you have everybody voting by mail, it'll be 234 days in November, before we find out who won Michigan's electoral votes and Michigan could very well be the difference in the election, the whole nation could be waiting for a bunch of envelopes to get opened in Michigan.


Amy Kerr Hardin  9:19

And I imagine that because we have a democratic Secretary of State and Governor that Republicans will jump all over that same Michigan just can't get their whatever together.


Walt Sorg  9:29

Yeah, we're already at the point now, where in many, many areas, a majority of people are voting absentee ballot. I know here in the Lansing area, it's like 70 75% people voting from home rather than going to the polls. I used to work as it as an election judge at all the elections around here I stopped doing it, in part because I didn't want to be exposed to all those people and all those germs. But also it gets pretty lonely because not many people show up at the polls anymore. They've already mailed in their ballot.


Amy Kerr Hardin  9:56

And most of those election workers are senior citizens. So we don't Want to put them at risk


PSA  10:03

COVID 19, better known as Coronavirus has spread throughout the world. There are a few ways to help lower the spread of this respiratory disease. Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face, including mouth, nose and eyes. Cover your coughs and sneezes, monitor your symptoms and consult with your doctor. Stay at home and away from other sick people except for medical care, clean and disinfect high touch surfaces. For more information, please visit Thank you.


Amy Kerr Hardin  10:39

Congress more than tripled the federal deficit in the last few days. In a matter of days, there was near unanimous agreement on a $2.2 trillion package of assistance to individuals, state and local governments and business. The appropriation passed the Senate unanimously and on a voice vote in the House. What does it mean for Michigan to get The details won't talk to Bridge Magazine Capitol reporter Riley Beggin


Walt Sorg  11:04

Riley, let's start with the good news for people. They're going to be getting large checks or direct deposits for the federal government. As you read the federal legislation admittedly just passed, what does it look like for the average Michigander?


Riley Beggin  11:17

A lot of people are going to be getting some money. So if you even if you still have a job, it sounds like what you're going to be getting is $1,200 per person who makes less than $75,000 a year which is the vast majority of people. If you're married, that doubles married couple making less than $150,000 a year get $2,400 that's a one time payment. And then those qualifying families also get $500 per child should be just a check in the mail or direct deposit through whatever account you've linked through the IRS last time you filed your taxes.


Walt Sorg  11:57

More important to a lot of Michiganians is going to be The increase in unemployment benefits, both as ordered by the governor and also by the increase that was supplemented by this bill. You noted in your story that a week ago we had 108,000 claims for unemployment. One would assume there were even more in this last week that we just don't know about yet. How much more money is this going to mean for people?


Riley Beggin  12:22

Yeah, I actually think this is the most significant part of this package for the average person. Lots and lots of people either were fired or are essentially on leave from their job because they can't go to work. Due to this stay at home order. There are a lot of changes to that. So under the bill package, you can get Michigan's traditional unemployment benefits, which depending on how you qualify, it could be up to $362 a week. Then with this new package, you can get another $600 every week for four months. On top of that they who qualifies for unemployment has been expanded, which is pretty significant. Not only You do have to be out of work, you can also be a part time worker, a gig worker, a self employed person all qualify under this. And then on top of that the amount or the length of time that you can get these benefits have been extended. So in Michigan, you can get unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks, which is pretty good. I think that the highest level in the country is 28 weeks. That's extended by 13. More weeks under this bill,


Walt Sorg  13:31

is the unemployment insurance system ready to handle all of these new claims? The last time during the Great Recession, the system broke down pretty seriously. They've had ongoing problems since then, are they ready for the onslaught,


Riley Beggin  13:44

we know the problems with the unemployment insurance tech here, and then on top of that, who really could foresee this sort of situation. So I think that is probably fair to say that there are are going to be some bugs in the system as people are going through this. Officials are recommending that to get around overloading the system that people file their claims online in off hours, that is before 8am or after 8pm, which you know, is tough for some folks. But that's a good way to make sure that you don't overload the system.


Walt Sorg  14:20

Another major component of this for the state and for the entire country really is what it means for small business. Small businesses don't have the financial resources of the big kids to stay in business very long without some help. You've been talking with some of the organizations that represent small businesses, are they encouraged that their members are going to build a survive this,


Riley Beggin  14:39

I think that this is definitely going to help. They've been really sounding the alarm here that every single day that goes by small businesses shutter in Michigan under this bill package that's defined as a business with fewer than 500 employees, and they have access to a lot more money under this and a lot faster. So it's going to be 300 and $67 billion worth of guaranteed loans from banks over the next several months, it goes through June 30. those businesses have to promise that they're not going to fire people, they're essentially going to have to pay them to not come to work for that time period. And if they follow through on that commitment, they get that money back. So it's essentially a grant spam, the Small Business Association of Michigan is really excited about this. They think it's going to make a really big difference. I think the thing that is worrying them the most right now is the speed of things. When they talked about this yesterday, they were pretty worried about businesses closing every day that this bill does not become law.


Walt Sorg  15:40

What about for you, as a reporter, your colleagues, the cover state government, how has this changed your method of operation? You know, we're talking right now you're sitting at home I'm sitting at home and that's as close as we're going to get for probably the next few months.


Riley Beggin  15:55

It is tricky because it kind of goes against every bone in my body to not be out in the field trying to talk to people about what's going on right now. It's all a balance of safety. Right? You know, we've had some people out in the field photographers need to be out for the most part, but we're trying to do as much as we can from home. It makes it a little bit more challenging to tell the story, but we figured the the balance is important there.


Walt Sorg  16:22

I was watching one of the governor's Facebook feeds updating the situation. And I noticed as I was watching some of the names that were streaming by, and I saw like 15 reporters who were friends of mine, who are watching the governor's news conference online, which is something you normally don't do.


Riley Beggin  16:38

Yeah. And you know, it's actually been interesting because we, as reporters in Michigan have been really collaborative as we've been going through this kind of by the necessity of the situation. The way that we're doing press conferences is the governor's office will reach out to one print reporter, one television reporter and usually a radio reporter. So there's only a couple people in that room with With her and her staff when they're doing that, and then all of us send questions to those reporters and people have been, you know, I feel like as a journalism community, we've really come together to try to tell the story for the public


Walt Sorg  17:13

Riley, you and your colleagues at Bridge have been doing an incredible job covering the story. There's no way on a weekly podcast, we couldn't even keep up with the event. so strongly recommend that people do not subscribed to Bridge, to get online and get a free subscription.


Riley Beggin  17:26

Thank you.


PSA  17:29

COVID-19, better known as Coronavirus has spread throughout the world. Symptoms of this respiratory disease may include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may show up two to 14 days after exposure. If you are experiencing these symptoms and have come into contact or are in an area with an ongoing outbreak, please call a hotline and or consult with a physician, clean and disinfect high touch surfaces. For more information, please visit Thank you.


Walt Sorg  18:05

Okay, a few political notes from around our state. First of all, Michigan's most controversial member of congress faces a very tough primary election. Rashida Tlaib will be challenged in her Detroit area district by Detroit city council president Brenda Jones. Jones actually beat Tlaib in a special election to fill the unexpired term of john conyers, but Tlaib prevailed on the same day in the election for the subsequent to your term. Significantly, there were more candidates of the latter election which allowed Tlaib to squeak through.  As a result of that two months of service in Congress, Jones is advertising her campaign as a reelection effort.


Brenda Jones  18:43

When we elected as your Congresswoman. My focus will be three prong one, going out with resources to the district two: uniting the district three: Focusing on the issues that are important to the family and the people in the 13th congressional district. But issues that impact us right here at home.


Walt Sorg  19:12

Now this is going to be really interesting. I think, Amy because first of all Tlaib, barely squeaked through in the primary election to winner seat in Congress. It is a heavily African American district. And she was the only non African American candidate who was running against I think there was six African American candidates running against her and it was very close against Brenda Jones. This time if it's a smaller field, I think Rashida Tlaib got real problems. On the other side, though, she's become so prominent and Donald Trump has given her so much publicity. I wonder if that can help her turn things around.


Amy Kerr Hardin  19:45

That and just the advantage of incumbency


Walt Sorg  19:47

and money too, Tlaib has raised $1.6 million. so far. Jones has a quarter of a million dollars and has $1.2 million in the bank as of December 31 Jones ended the 2019 cycle in debt by $23,700, she raised only 11,700 last year, and cash on hand was only $2,000. So the money could make a huge difference. But you got to wonder if ethnic politics will make a bigger difference.


Amy Kerr Hardin  20:16

It Could.  Well every time that Donald Trump smear someone their campaign chest expands. So I imagine if he goes after Tlaib again sometime over the next few months, almost entirely possible still get some more money.


Walt Sorg  20:29

Well, anytime you start your career in Congress by saying we're going to impeach the motherfucker, you certainly get attention nationally. And sometimes national attention is not a good thing for you. Although it's really interesting if you look at the eighth congressional district where I live, and you've got Elissa Slotkin, she's on national media all the time as an expert on national security and related issues. And I think in her case, the National exposures but nothing would positive. I'm not sure this national exposure is going to help Rashida Tlaib back in Detroit.


Amy Kerr Hardin  20:57

Anything could happen over the next few months. It's just nothing but uncertainty out there.


Walt Sorg  21:02

We've got some new polling also from a republican leading consulting firm MRG in Lansing, which shows Joe Biden leading Donald Trump in Michigan and Gary Peters with a seven point lead over republican john James, the man who is running so far the invisible campaign for the United States Senate. Mr. g tried to message this poll as being good news for the republicans in the poll, but there's no getting around the fact that Biden continues to have a decent size lead statewide polls 600 likely voters show the vice president with a lead of 42 to 39 over Donald Trump, and as this coronavirus situation gets worse and worse and worse, especially for the air for the Detroit area. I think it's gonna get worse and worse and worse for Donald Trump. Meanwhile, though, john James has some heavy lifting to do still seven points behind Gary Peters Peters has been very active, but a lot of money's already being spent on that race to identify John James is the guy who is against healthcare. This is not a good time to be against universal health care.


Amy Kerr Hardin  22:05

Yeah, I've been seeing a third party ads, both for and against him and the one that is against him. I don't know who put the ad out. But it was it's a PAC obviously, they really hammered him on the health care thing and showed him, you know, quotes of him saying that we have to get rid of Obamacare, and then during the covert epidemic, that's probably not the best message.


Walt Sorg  22:26

Yeah, this response I've had so far is they're running an ad one saying that he supports protecting people against pre existing conditions, even though he supports the lawsuit that would take away those protections. It's been supported by the Trump administration. And then they're running another ad attacking Gary Peters because he collects a pension from the state of Michigan for the time he served in the Michigan legislature, which is a big nothing burger. People have been doing that all the time. And there are both Republicans and Democrats in Congress who are doing exactly the same thing. I know Tim Wahlberg's got I think it's $65,000 state pension that he collects every year Debbie Stabenow has about The same amount that she collects every year. And what they don't understand or don't want to say in the ad is that pension program for the state legislature was actually fully funded by payroll deductions from the legislators.


Amy Kerr Hardin  23:12

I think that that's just indicative. That messaging is just indicative of how little they how little dirt they have on Gary Peters because he's, he's pretty squeaky clean. He's a hard working guy. And he's very likable.


Walt Sorg  23:24

Another story this week that could have big impacts in Michigan down the road. It shows that Michigan is going west and north population is shifting away from Southeast Michigan Metro Detroit, with the biggest percentage gainers including the Grand Rapids and Traverse City areas, which of course is what are those areas is your area. Washington County, home of University of Michigan lost population is first declined since 2008. That according to these estimates, the biggest winners if you look at the chart, we'll be publishing a link from the detroit news showing the map it really is as people move in North the Grand Traverse area, especially, and the Grand Rapids area is doing really well. I think that's probably a reflection of the economies being much more diverse.


Amy Kerr Hardin  24:08

related to note, the mayors up here the mayor of Traverse City, Jim Carruthers, and the mayor of elk rapids, which is a little bit north of us. And the mayor of pataskala, among other mayors are urging people to not come up to their summer homes, especially if they're coming from a metropolitan area, because they just don't we our infection rate is pretty low right now. And we just don't have the capacity of if it blows up because our population is blowing up but our medical center isn't big enough for to handle too many cases.


Walt Sorg  24:35

So you need one of those big beautiful wall so your county line, so are you saying Yeah, get a big, big, big, beautiful wall. Ah, another really important story this week related to this population shift what we were talking about were estimates. Of course, the most important thing is the actual census which is going on right now. And it is a bit of a bear. The self response rate is Very important, because you don't want census workers knocking on your door, quite honestly and the Census Bureau I think's having trouble hiring people to knock on your door. So far more than a third of the state has responded to the census. You can do it right now online. And we'll publish a link to that on our website. So you can go to it. You don't need the code number from the Census Bureau to fill out the census. Although it helps if you've got it. The website is set up so you can just simply enter your address and fill out the data they want. is really quick. I think it was like nine questions they asked.


Amy Kerr Hardin  25:30

Even though the Supreme Court did strike down Trump's citizenship question, there is still the damage is done, got the message across to people that they're afraid to fill out the census and that's really a shame. And that's where we have to get people going door to door to you know, really talk to them and have neighbors do it so that it's a trusted person.


Walt Sorg  25:50

You know, the self response rate so far for Michigan, according to the latest numbers from the Census Bureau just under 37%, nationally, it's 31 and a half percent. In 2010, the self response rate at the end was two thirds 67.7%. Now, internet saturation was a lot less 10 years ago. So one could hope that because more people have access to the internet, because it's so easy to do online, that we have a higher response rate and every body that is recorded on the census makes Michigan money and that is really the bottom line there. We absolutely got to get that done. If you haven't done your census, hey, what the heck, if you're sheltering in place, you had nothing else to do. It'll give you some entertainment for 10 minutes, something you can talk about


My favorite Article of the week from politics and pundants was in the Washington Post. Of course, they've got no actual campaigning to cover, Joe Biden campaigning from his basement with a newly installed TV studio. You've got Donald Trump with the daily reality show that they call a press briefing where he rants and raves before Dr. Fauci comes on and actually says something that's worthwhile. That's basically our campaign right now, but there's a great article in The Washington Post speculating on the 10 women most likely to be the first female president. Now, of course, we thought the first female president would be finishing up her first term by right now. But that didn't quite work out for Hillary Clinton, thanks to the anomoly of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan and the 80,000 votes that needed to swing there. But the rankings that they have I find really, really interesting. They say the most likely woman to become president. first female is Nikki Haley. And I find that very difficult to argue with if there's going to be a republican president in the future be somebody like Nikki Haley. She as a politician is whip smart. She's done a great job of positioning herself so she doesn't piss off the Trump base all at the same time not identifying real strongly with Donald Trump. Numbers two and three are no surprises Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, and if one of them is Joe Biden's running mate, they will immediately move to the top of the list if Biden is elected president which right now who knows? Number four, those are real Interesting name Gretchen Whitmer of all the people in the nation. All the women in the nation all the leaders in Washington and in the various states. She is now number four. She's become very prominent in the last couple of weeks as a result of the Covid-19. But just the fact that you won Michigan by 10 points, two years after Donald Trump carry the state get a lot of people's attention. Number five, Tammy Duckworth the Senator from Illinois has just got a great backstory, war veteran double amputee, great personality really smart. Number six Stacey Abrams, I think that's probably a stretch at this point she needs to beef up her resume before she can think about President I think number seven another interesting choice. Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president who is already in a top leadership role in the Republicans in the House of Representatives. The thing that will probably hurt her the most is that Republicans are likely to remain in the minority in the house. Number eight Joni Ernst from Iowa who first has to get reelected she's got a tough race this year. Number nine is Nina Turner. The former state representative who has been Bernie Sanders opening act on the campaign trail and gets a really enthusiastic response from the Bernie people. She is just a state representative though. But then again, barack obama was a state senator, when he spoke at the 2004 democratic national convention that seemed to workout and then number 10. Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island somebody nobody's ever heard of.


Amy Kerr Hardin  29:24

Walt!  Where's Ivanka Trump?


Walt Sorg  29:28

Yeah, I forgotten all about Ivanka. Other days that they got votes in this little poll that the Washington Post did have their opponent some of the names that really kind of funnels with Warren of course is on the list. I think probably because of her age. That's a long shot. Senator Katherine Cortez masto of Nevada. Katey Porter, the member of congress from California who's a real media darling on the left, she's just absolutely incredible. Representative Elise stefanik of New York who has been one of the most outspoken Trump supporters on the right is mentioned as well. Governor Michelle Lewis Bertram over New Mexico, Melinda Gates, who I think could probably self funded campaign pretty well, since she and her husband are one of the three richest couples on the face of the planet, although it didn't work out real good for Bloomberg. And also on the list just because somebody had fun. Malia Obama, I kind of like that. But then again, I'm kind of against the two as a student at the University of Michigan, and I'm a Spartan.


Amy Kerr Hardin  30:26

I'm not sure.


Walt Sorg  30:28

She's an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. So what do you think of the idea of Gretchen Whitmer?


Amy Kerr Hardin  30:34

Well, right. I like her being the governor of Michigan, she will turn out here in a little while she's reelected. So it would be a little bit of a gap between her public service but yeah, I'd like to see that


Walt Sorg  30:48

you know, the other thing that could happen too, and again, this is just great speculation because we don't know how the rest of her first term is going to go. We don't know she's gonna get reelected. But if things continue on the upswing for politically a logical next spot for wood The United States Senator Debbie Stabenow is in her mid 60s right now. Possibly we'll run for one more term might not run for one more term, but that would be a logical next step for Gretchen.


Amy Kerr Hardin  31:10

Oh, she'd be very electable to that position.


PSA  31:15

COVID-19, better known as Coronavirus has spread throughout the world. Symptoms of this respiratory disease may include fever, cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms may show up two to 14 days after exposure. If you are experiencing these symptoms and have come into contact or are in an area with an ongoing outbreak, please call a hotline and or consult with a physician, clean and disinfect high touch surfaces. For more information, please visit Thank you.


Amy Kerr Hardin  31:51

The Covid- 19 crisis is also a crisis for our schools is looking like the school year is over.


Gretchen Whitmer  31:57

We are working diligently to come up with a plan plan to meet the needs of our kids. I think anyone who is watching what is happening globally with this pandemic knows it's probably very unlikely they're going to get back in school before the end of the year. I haven't made that call yet, because I want to make sure we've got a plan to meet the needs of our kids. And that's what we are working on.


Amy Kerr Hardin  32:17

Where do our kids go from here? Well talk to someone who should know former state school superintendent Tom Watkins.


Walt Sorg  32:24

Tom, we begin with the the challenge for parents, their kids are at home, it looks like the school year is for all practical purposes over what does it mean for the kids? How do we catch up?


Tom Watkins  32:34

Well, one of the things we need to take a look at is that education does not need to end simply because the governor governor Whitmer made the correct right decision to close the schools. Public Health has to come first. But children have the ability to continue to learn using e learning platforms and there are a number of them that are available one company that I've been affiliated with Way American school or  way online. dotnet is offering to schools for $1 a student to use their education platform and to continue learning. There are issues and one of the things that this Corona virus is bringing front and center is the inequities we have in our society. And they're spotlighted in our schools, because you do have school children that don't have laptops or, or handheld devices or a desktop at home. Some communities in our rural parts of the state don't have good broadband don't have access to internet. So this problem is one that we should have been, in my estimation better prepared for and to is something that we're gonna have to evaluate going forward. But there are ways that a good number of our children can continue using e learning There's also the challenge for people that are still working in the essential workforce that's out there, whether it's the first responders, or healthcare workers, grocery workers, whatever, but they're out there. And if they're single parents, again, their kids may be at home, and they maybe have some form of daycare, but they're also at a disadvantage. Absolutely. And that's what that's the point that I was making was that, you know, we take a look at this. And you can say, yeah, that's really great. If you have a stay at home mom, that's college educated, and a dad who's now at home, and a solid income, and two or three laptops and other handheld devices, and a couple of old desktops in and around year two or three children have access information, and parents that are digital natives themselves, and it makes it a lot easier to keep up. But as you just pointed out, there are families where maybe there's three or four children in the home, a single head of the household, that is not particularly well equipped. Good without broadband access in the home, and without maybe they have one old computer, but how do you divide that among the multiple children? So this is pointing out that there's some preparedness issues that we need to take a look at. And I'm finally encouraging governor Whitmer is after this is over, is to bring some people from both within government and out and take a look at how we are prepared to use technology and other policies and procedures that could should be in place. If something like this happens again.


Walt Sorg  35:35

What about for the shorter term response at some point, the schools will reopen and you're going to have a very uneven student body coming back to kids that are seniors. The governor feels that herself. One of her daughters was due to graduate this spring and obviously won't now. What do we do with these kids?


Tom Watkins  35:51

Well, one of the great things that I've heard from Governor Whitmer today is that she says all children that seniors are going to be able to graduate they're not going to be held back because of this, I wait, the detail of how that's how that's gonna play out what are they going to have to do? Is it just a blanket, because if you think about it, credit is currency for education. And if you told employees that you continue to collect their paycheck, but they don't have to show up, they don't have to do any work. Just just, you know, sign up and you'll get your check. So how she's going to do that? I think it's the right decision to make and I wait, how she's going to be able to pull that out, pull that off, and what the expectations are going to be for our schools and parents and most importantly, for our students to enable them to graduate on time.


Walt Sorg  36:42

Now, we've had a system in Michigan where the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent do not report to the governor. They're a part of the executive branch and they've made a decision regarding counting classroom time that basically says your online learning time right now unless it's accredited, I guess is not going to count as classroom time. For the school, something the governor is decried. Where do you come down on this? Should that


Tom Watkins  37:04

time count? Well, I think that it should count and, and we should be doing everything we can to assure learning continues during that time. There's ways to make it make it work during this time. The education vendors, if you will, that are on E learning are sitting there almost providing too much information for districts. Some districts will say, well, we don't have computers, we don't have broadband. There's ways to address those problems. Is that a challenge? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, the state of Michigan is spending at least a billion dollars a month that's with a B, for K 12 education. We can ill afford to be spending $12 billion and telling the 1.5 million children in the state that they're not going to get any education that they need and deserve Going forward, it appears that schools not going to restart as we started off at the beginning of your show kind of saying from the governor's tilting in that direction, the fact that they would stay home for months on end, not receiving credit, and not getting the education is certainly from a policy standpoint is simply unacceptable. And I think for most parents point of view, unacceptable, but there's a lot to work out. And I know, educators, k 12. educators, the associations, the teachers union, the governor's office, state board, and the superintendent are working diligently trying to put policy behind those statements that are coming out. Is this also an opportunity to reimagine a little bit the relationship between our educational establishment and new ways to teach? It absolutely is, Walt, and in fact, you know, if anything, and I don't want to be a Monday morning quarterback, but 11 Learning has been around for nearly two decades. And 2005 after I left the state superintendent, while at Wayne State University, I wrote a in depth report called e learning for Michigan schools, the new education revolution, and talked about policy changes that we need to make in order to do this. So this isn't something new. And I think that what you're going to see, not only on education, and this is the point that I was making earlier about the governor wanting some type of task force or commission to look at ways to assure that we utilize technology and new information differently. I think you'll see elearning become more ubiquitous than it is today. I also think that you're going to see office buildings have a challenge in the future, because I fully expect some major corporations are going to realize that their employees are just as productive working from home as they were working from the office and they're going to look at it Do we really need all this office space in downtown Lansing downtown Detroit downtown Pontiac? Are we going to need all that office space? Or can we allow employees to telecommute? And so I think this virus is going to affect us in ways that we perhaps haven't even considered.


Walt Sorg  40:20

Let's do a complete shift from the subject and go to something else that has come up as a result of this crisis. And that is an area that's especially sensitive for you as somebody who spent a lot of time doing business in China. The growing attacks on Chinese natives and Chinese Americans just simply, basically racist attacks because the virus in this case happened to originate in China.


Tom Watkins  40:44

It's very sad and tragic. And yet, if you look back, Walt in our history as a nation, this isn't the first time whether we've heard whether it's the Chinese exclusionary act, I think back in the 1880s when there was economic trouble The Chinese labor was helped build the West building the railroad. And as soon as that was over, there was a fear of this cheap Chinese labor. And we actually passed the law, the US Congress passed the law, excluding Chinese Americans come, you look back to World War Two, where we in turn, we imprisoned Japanese Americans. You look at Vincent Chin back in the 80s at his bachelor party and a couple of drunk father and son ended up beating them to death with a baseball bat while they slurred you know, with racial slurs, we're attached to it. And you see our president that has said some really hateful things against immigrants in general and even calling this virus, the China virus of the Wuhan virus. Two nights ago, the g7 the top nations in the world couldn't agree on a statement. As the United States was insisting that we call the coronavirus COVID-19, the Wuhan virus, so we have some real problems. And there's cyber bullying that's happening to high school grade school students. I've talked to my colleagues back on my campus at MSU, which has a lot of Asian and Chinese students, that the discrimination is coming forth. And I'm so proud of Attorney General Nessel who stepped forth yesterday and I think over a year ago has put out a hate crime unit to take a look at and study. This is unacceptable behavior at any time. And at a time like this. We need to nip it in the bud. I wrote a piece that's in today's detroit news about the Chinese American community here in Michigan that have raised over $200,000 and donated medical equipment, facemask gowns, other things to hospitals. These are true patriots. to Americans and they're standing up in a way that makes us all proud.


Walt Sorg  43:06

I'll tell I've got to give you some compliments as we end this discussion. The people listening to the pilot obviously don't know this, but I've been watching you and you haven't touched your face once during this entire interview. Congratulations.


Tom Watkins  43:19

Well, that is something particularly with his old gray beard.


Walt Sorg  43:22

Yep. Tom Watkins it is always a pleasure to talk with you. Thanks so much for joining us.


Tom Watkins  43:26

Thank you all enjoy the day and stay  safe and healthy and wash your hands like your mother's watching


Walt Sorg  43:32

and stay home.


Tom Watkins  43:34

Yes, be well.


PSA  43:37

COVID-19, better known as Coronavirus has spread throughout the world. Information about children with this disease is limited but they are known to have had mild symptoms. Many organizations are responding accordingly depending upon their area. It's best to stay home and away from others, especially when sick and continue following healthy hand wash guidelines. Covering mouth and nose and not touching your face or high touch surfaces clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly and for more information, please visit Thank you.


Amy Kerr Hardin  44:15

That's going to do it for this week's Policast for more information on today's subjects head over to for links, videos, tweets, meetings and general snark,


Walt Sorg  44:26

we welcome your feedback as always, and right now we're so bored. sitting at home all the time. We really appreciate some email. You can write us at


Amy Kerr Hardin  44:37

Thanks for listening.


Donald Trump  44:45

The young a woman Gov from you know who I'm talking about from Michigan



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