Masks, emergency powers, education. Guests Sen Gary Peters and Susan Demas

July 13, 2020

Michigan Policast for Monday, July 13, 2020

  In this episode:

  • Mask up Michigan!
  • Emergency powers of the Governor
  • COVID-19 and K12 and higher education
  • Senator Gary Peters on unemployment, CARES, and more
  • Susan Demas on sexism in Michigan politics
  • Political Notes
  • John James says what?
  • Transcript

Jump to:

Mask up Michigan!


We need to keep our distance, wear face coverings, and pay attention to hygiene to tamp down the case increases and remain on the path to continued reopening. ~@DrMcGLocal4 @Local4News @clickondetroit #MaskUpMichigan #COVID19 Click To Tweet

The executive order to include implicit bias training in healthcare licensing is important. #COVID19 highlighted a very important gap in the care delivered to minorities, not just in Michigan but across the US. ~@DrMcGLocal4 @Local4News @clickondetroitClick To Tweet



Hopefully, this will keep us from having to move backward. I don't want to move backward. I don't want to close things down again. So this is an effort to avoid that. ~@GovWhitmer @Local4News @clickondetroit #MaskUpMichigan #COVID19 Click To Tweet

Emergency powers of the Governor


It's unbelievable that they would want to take action right now to repeal a law that has made Michigan the number one state in the nation when it comes to responding positively to the virus. ~@MichCurmudgeon @GovWhitmer #COVID19Click To Tweet



COVID-19 and K12 and higher education










Senator Gary Peters on unemployment, CARES, and more

.@senatemajldr has been unwilling to extend supplemental benefits even though economists across the board and across the partisan spectrum are saying we need to act quickly. ~@SenGaryPeters #COVID19 #CARESAct @garypeters #PetersForMichiganClick To Tweet
.@senatemajldr is unwilling to extend supplemental benefits even though Chair of @federalreserve says we need to continue to put a stimulus in the economy or it will get worse. ~@SenGaryPeters #COVID19 #CARESAct @garypeters #PetersForMichiganClick To Tweet
.@SenGaryPeters' Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act expanded #unemployment benefits for people unable to work due to #COVID19 #PetersForMichigan @GaryPeters #CARESActClick To Tweet
We can't have a repeat of the last financial crisis where so many people lost their homes. I think we all agree we have to solve the #publichealth crisis to solve the economic crisis, so that's a priority. @SenGaryPeters #COVID19 #PetersForMichiganClick To Tweet


You cannot be a great country if you don't make things. Manufacturing is so important to an economy because the jobs tend to be very high paying, good middle-class jobs, and every job in manufacturing multiplies to other jobs. ~ @SenGaryPeters Click To Tweet

Many of our veterans who may have been suffering from #PTSD, were not diagnosed while they were serving, and then received a less than honorable discharge because of some of the behaviors associated with PTSD. ~@SenGaryPeters #FairnessForVeterans Click To Tweet
We are in the middle of a pandemic. People are afraid for their health. We should open the enrollment of the #ACA. Anybody who wants to get in now should be able to do that. @RealDonaldTrump has said no. That's unconscionable. ~@SenGaryPetersClick To Tweet
We have to protect our Great Lakes. Next to our people, without question, the most valuable resource that we have here in our state is the Great Lakes. @SenGaryPeters #EnbridgeLine5 @garypeters #PetersForMichiganClick To Tweet


Susan Demas on sexism, diversity in Michigan politics and coverage

if we have an all-male Democratic lineup in the executive branch, you would still see clashes. I just don't think that would be so personal. You wouldn't have the Senate Majority Leader call the governor batshit crazy. ~@sjdemas @SenMikeShirkey #MiLegClick To Tweet
These are male-run GOP caucuses. They have trouble recruiting women and getting women through GOP primaries, and it's often uncomfortable for them to have a woman who has more power than they do. They do not like it. ~@SJDemas #MiLeg @MiSenateClick To Tweet
There are a lot of women covering the Capitol now, unlike when I started. I was the senior female member of the press corps for a while, and I was in my early 30's. That's ridiculous. ~@sjdemas shout out to @KathyBHoffman @michpoligal Click To Tweet
The press corps has never been terribly diverse, and those are voices that are missing. A lot of people don't think about it, except for the people who are impacted. It's not the way it should be, and it also impacts coverage. ~@sjdemasClick To Tweet
.@MichiganAdvance covers stories that are under covered .. low-income people, people of color, immigrants, women, LGBTQ people. I really like to cover those issues and talk to people outside of the six blocks around the Capitol. ~@sjdemasClick To Tweet
Everything that goes on in Lansing affects you whether you want it to or not. But we have a state of 10 million people, it's very diverse, and a lot of voices get drowned out by the press always quoting @michamber for everything. ~@sjdemasClick To Tweet





Political Notes

This comprehensive package focuses on holding those who take an oath to protect and serve our communities accountable for their actions when they betray that oath. ~@repyancey #MLBC #DetroitCaucus #MiLegClick To Tweet



Ad of the week



Maddow segment


John James says what?

The @NRSC’s claims distort or ignore votes @SenGaryPeters has cast as a member of Congress and his own efforts to introduce and sponsor legislation to support veterans. ~@freep To Tweet
Overall, the @NRSC claims are not accurate. We rate them as False. ~@Freep To Tweet





Walt Sorg  00:00

The presenting underwriter of the Michigan Policast is Progress Michigan, providing a strong, credible voice that holds public officials and government accountable. And assists in the promotion of progressive ideas.

Gretchen Whitmer  00:13

I'm not going to be bullied into moving before it's safe. And if we have to move back, we're going to, and we've done an incredible amount of work. And I would hate to think that the sacrifice that we've made could be made in vain because some people are losing interest or are dropping their guard, we've got to double down right now more than ever, so not having bars that are serving indoors. That's one thing but you know, we're going to continue to monitor the numbers. If they keep moving up. We're going to dial back if we have to, and that's the last thing any of us wants. We're seeing things like this play out across the country. We've got an all do our part to make sure that that doesn't happen. The numbers that we're seeing in the south in particular are really concerning. We've not seen that kind of an uptick yet, but that's precisely what we want to avoid.


Walt Sorg  00:56

Michigan is backsliding as a state we had reduced new COVID 19 cases to 100 in a day. Last week, the daily average was a tick over 250. And now we're up to about 600 a day. The curve definitely headed in the wrong direction. So the governor put some teeth into the Mask Up Michigan program. This is the Michigan Policast. We're all about Michigan politics and policy and the national issues impacting our polls and peninsulas. I'm Walt Sorg.


Christine Barry  01:23

I'm Christine Barry. Even as the governor takes one more step to protect Michigan from a second wave of the virus, a group of Republicans led by lame-duck Congressman Paul Mitchell and lame-duck Senate  Republican leader Mike Shirkey launched a petition drive to show governor Whitmer who's boss so to speak. And the Legislative Black Caucus introduces a police reform package that would hold rogue cops accountable but does not call for defunding the police. Attorney General Nessel takes the lead with the half dozen other states suing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over diversion of public school money into well-heeled private academies. And also on the pod this week a new regular feature the political ad of the week.


Walt Sorg  02:07

Our guests on the pot this week Michigan's Junior United States Senator Gary Peters joins us to talk unemployment benefits and social justice reforms and maybe some electoral politics. And we'll get a Lansing Insider's take from the editor of Michigan Advance Susan Demas. First though Christine, an apology for a grievous oversight on last week's pod. We were talking about possible replacements for the Louis Cass statue at the United States Capitols Hall of States and we left it very obvious and most deserving possibility. The longest-serving member of Congress in history representative John Dingell, my bad on that one, my apologies to Debbie Dingell as well. She didn't complain but you should have.  We begin Of course with the Friday executive order from the governor putting some teeth into mandatory use of face masks inside public buildings open to the public. The initial reaction online I've been seeing Christine has been kind of mixed, mostly supportive. but still there are people out there, including a couple of sheriffs who are saying this is unenforceable. And why are you doing this, even though every public health expert on the planet is saying that this is the right thing to do, even the president finally put a mask on after 130,000 people have died.


Christine Barry  03:18

There are some exemptions that she laid out in the executive order, for example, children under five or if you have a medical reason, for there's identification purposes, that kind of thing. There are a couple that I think was just her not wanting to get into battles that were unnecessary. For example, if you're in church, you don't have to wear the mask, but you should. But you are right there. There are some law enforcement agencies that have come out and said that they simply won't enforce it won't investigate violations.


Walt Sorg  03:49

I was fascinated to watch a one of the Sunday shows that the Trump administration had sent out the Assistant Secretary of Health, Admiral Giroir and he was asked what should we be doing Right now as a nation, and he said absolutely anywhere where there is a where the cases are going up, we should be wearing masks. Anytime that we're in public. He said we should be shutting down the bars. And we should be limiting the number of people in restaurants, which is basically what the governor is doing, and where she's getting pushback, mostly from Trump Republicans.


Christine Barry  04:20

And it's disappointing, not just that they're pushing back on it. Because first of all, I don't understand why, as a fellow human, you can't accommodate this minor request of wearing a mask when you go into a place or, you know, staying outside instead of going into a dining facility, whatever. They talk a lot about civil liberties and they encourage others to resist wearing the mask and that's the problem that I have with not only them but the law enforcement people who have spoken openly about not enforcing the executive orders. “We're the last line of defense between you and your civil liberties,” that just encourages resistance to this. And it should be us versus COVID. Not us versus these idiots who don't want to wear a mask,


Walt Sorg  05:12

and everybody can help with the enforcement of this, obviously, it's going to be mostly voluntary compliance. Even though there are fines attached to this now, they're not going to be going around handing out a lot of tickets to people who walk into your local Speedway station to get a drink and don't wear their mask, although the speedway should not be selling to them in the first place. But what you can do is you can report violations to the state there's a handy dandy online form which we will link to on our website. It tells the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs that a business is not following the rules by selling to people who are not wearing masks or letting them into their businesses, and then let the state deal with it because it is going to rely on the general public cooperating with this thing to make it work and the only way we're going to stop the virus until we have a very effective vaccine is through masking, and with everybody worrying as they say 80 to 90% compliance is what we need to get this thing under control.


Christine Barry  06:07

And you know, again, though, it's unfair to the employees of these businesses who are who's out there working. It's the convenience store employees, the grocery store employees, the restaurant employees, all people who are generally at the lower end of the pay scale, who are hourly employees, essential workers, they already have a hard enough time people wanting to buy liquor after hours, they want to buy cigarettes without ID, they're already getting pushed around quite a bit. And they have some of them have a pretty crappy job. And now they if they sell to somebody who's not wearing a mask because they don't want to fight with them, they could get in trouble and lose their jobs. This isn't really fair. I don't think but I again blame that on people who are encouraging resistance. I don't blame that on the governor.


Walt Sorg  06:51

I've been joking that I would walk into one of these places that doesn't enforce it, wearing nothing but a speedo. And see if they provided me service then you know, no shirt, no shoes, no service has been the standard for an awfully long time. Now a lot of the larger businesses are actually just posting people at the door to enforce it. Shout out to some businesses I've seen do this Costco is very intense on doing this, Walmart's doing the same thing. Now, when I went to an Aldi, not long ago, they had somebody at the door, not only did they make sure you're wearing a mask, they also were cleaning up the carts after everybody use them, they would wipe them down after every use. The same goes with several other stores where they're just posting somebody at the door. So it is possible to do it for the really small business for the small mom and pop liquor store or something like that is going to be a real challenge. And it's going to really require some goodwill on the part of the public. And it does require leadership. Maybe the president if it wasn't just a phony gesture on his part, which I'm concerned that it was kind of a one-off thing. But if it was a sincere gesture on the part of the President, maybe that'll help as well. Meanwhile, you've got this petition drive that the Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirky is a part of basically saying Governor, we don't like the way that you've been running this operation. And so we're going to repeal the law that makes it all possible,


Christine Barry  08:07

what in the world? so they're talking about the 75 year old law that gives the governor the emergency powers that she used to continue to extend our state of emergency beyond what the legislature was willing to approve. Now, the ballot initiative to repeal that law is spearheaded by a group calling itself Unlock Michigan, they need over 340,000 valid signatures in 180 days to get it approved to be put on the ballot, at which point of course, the legislature will surely adopt it, which will make it veto-proof. I don't know Walt, you're the expert. Does that seem like that's something that's doable? 340,000 valid signatures.


Walt Sorg  08:48

It's doable. If you got unlimited funds, which I think they do. It is possible to hire enough professional circulators so that you can get the signatures. You better believe that every one of those signatures will be careful. scrutinized and there will be challenges to it. I don't understand it, though, because the states that are unlocked and did unlock are Florida, Arizona, Texas, and they are all going through hell, we now have more than 60,000 new infections confirmed every day, which is more than the rest of the world combined. It's unbelievable that they would want to take action right now to repeal a law that has made Michigan the number one state in the nation when it comes to responding positively to the virus.


Christine Barry  09:30

Well, even as that battle goes on the court cases continue. We have two court cases of import right now. One is focused on the governor's emergency powers as they relate to stopping medical services that were deemed not essential. That lawsuit was launched back in May. It was filed in the Western District of Michigan in federal court. The judge in that case is US District Judge Paul Maloney, and he has asked the Michigan Supreme Court for clarification on the law. That is on the governor's emergency powers that law stating that rather than interpret a novel question of state law for the first time, this court turns to the ultimate authority on what Michigan law is just the Michigan Supreme Court. So once the Supreme Court of Michigan answers that question, then judge Maloney can use that answer to go ahead and make a ruling in his case, on these non-essential medical services, which, by the way, I think are, there was always flexibility there. If you really needed to have a medical procedure. You could have it even if it was deemed nonessential.


Walt Sorg  10:37

Yeah. And the restrictions are gone now. Anyway.


Christine Barry  10:40

Yeah, they are. That's one of them. As soon as the Supreme Court answers that question, though, for judge Maloney, that answer will become state law. those arguments begin on September 2. And then the second case is the case that we've kind of talked about leading into this is the republican caucus in the Michigan legislature which, unfortunately is the majority. So it's the Michigan legislature suing. This is a question of whether the emergency powers and violate the separation of powers between the governor and the legislature because of the 1945 law, that she can extend the state of emergency. For as long as she wants. They're saying that this is what violates separation of powers. That case is going to be argued and decided in the court of appeals by August 21. Somebody will probably appeal it up to the Supreme Court after that.


Walt Sorg  11:32

And the Supreme Court has made it pretty clear, they're in no rush to decide these cases. They're playing this slow dragging it out, appropriately dragging it out in terms of the law, but still, they refuse to have an emergency hearing other than expedite the case, which I think is a clue to how it's ultimately going to end up.


Christine Barry  11:53

Well, as you can see, so far the pandemic is dominating everything, including three big stories. about schools and students first the lawsuit filed by Michigan and a half dozen other states against Betsy DeVos. And the US Department of Education Attorney General Dana Nessel is taking the lead on a multi state lawsuit against divorce. DeVos, who has devoted a lot of time to diverting public tax dollars into privately owned schools is at it again by using CARES funds, which Congress intended for low funded public schools.


Dana Nessel  12:28

We cannot and will not sit on the sidelines while critical funding specifically allocated based on low income status allowed to be reallocated by counting students who have privileges and resources already available to them.


Christine Barry  12:46

Yeah, the issue is pretty simple. Private schools are generally speaking less in need, they're less accountable for sure, and they're less likely to use accredited teachers, which makes them profitable for their owners. That's Betsy DeVos' lifelong goal.


Dana Nessel  12:59

Unfortunately, this most recent action by Secretary devices, really just another example and a long history of an administration that uses any and every opportunity available to tip the scale in favor of private schools at the great expense of our public schools.


Walt Sorg  13:20

At the same time, the administration is turning on the heat for all schools in the nation to open in the fall on a full time in the classroom basis, regardless of what's happening with the pandemic. That's he was on CNN on Sunday, talking about this and her her message was basically kids need to be in school kids need to be in school kid need re in school. And Dana Bash kept asking her Well, what's the plan to keep everybody safe? Because this can be used to spread the virus incredibly across the country and make it even worse than it is now. They point to well, the schools are reopening in Europe. But in Europe, they've got the virus under control there. They flatten the curve. Our curve is just growing exponentially. It seems like the administration, they don't care how many kids get sick or how many kids take the disease home to their parents into their grandparents and other loved ones, or how many teachers get sick. They want the schools open because they want a sense of normalcy when the election comes around.


Christine Barry  14:15

Yeah, that's exactly it, and this is a sleazy bush league thing by DeVos because what she said specifically was school must reopen, they must be fully operational. So you can't send kids for part of the time into the buildings, take them out for a day so you can deep clean and have them learn online, they have to be fully operational. What she said was how that happens is best left to education and community leaders. So she's putting it on us to figure out how to do this. And meanwhile, going back to our last point, Walt, she's taking money away from districts like Detroit and Grand Rapids, they're expected to lose roughly two and a half to $2.6 million each. If those private schools get the CARES funds and still making the local communities try to execute on her plan of just do it. She needs to get her bitch ass back to Grand Rapids, is all I'm going to say about that she was in a terrible position for us, she should never have been in this office, because all she cares about is money siphoning the money out of public schools.


Walt Sorg  15:22

My suggestion for Secretary DeVos is if the schools must reopen in fall, I'll go along with your idea, as long as you agree in turn to spend two weeks working as a teacher's assistant in a public school in Houston or Miami.


Christine Barry  15:35

Hey hopefully there'll be teachers to assist. Teachers are talking about quitting. Some teachers have come right out and said I am not going back into the classroom. And for a lot of schools like ours, when we bring teachers into our schools, we want their kids to be there to we want their families in the community. And so when we lose a teacher over something like being afraid of COVID, I can guarantee you that the kids aren't coming back either. It's really, really poor leadership from DeVos. And it's painful for me personally, because, you know, I'm in in the small group of people who has to figure out how to make this all happen safely


Walt Sorg  16:14

in a school district that doesn't have a lot of money.


Christine Barry  16:16

No, and we're going into a year where we're going to be cut because of the pandemic. We had already been underfunded for many, many years. I mean, we're not unique in this. It's just how it is. But DeVos just does not have the perspective. She doesn't have the philosophy and she doesn't have the credentials to be dealing with this. At the level she is.


Walt Sorg  16:37

okay, then we move up to the college level, and that's concerns me greatly as somebody who lives near a major university and what could happen in the lines East Lansing area, as well as Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, etc. and adding to the fun now and the financial problems for the universities ICE has issued a rule which will force the deportation of foreign students who are only attending online classes. For Michigan's big 10 schools, that could mean the loss of literally thousands of students, the University of Michigan reports 7000 international students, Michigan State has more than 5500. Of course, they all pay out of state tuition, which is a lot higher than in state tuition. And in both Ann Arbor and East Lansing, foreign students are more likely to occupy the higher price off campus housing. And to that now, the fact that college football is beginning to realize it may not happen in the fall. Already you had the big 10 and the PAC 12 announced that they are going to cancel all non conference games, which hurts the big 10 Pac 12 universities a little bit, but it's devastating for the small schools they were going to play because for them, it's a big payday. And more importantly, I think it's going to get the attention of all the people out there that are, shall we say, reluctant to wear masks realizing that hey, maybe this thing is serious. Ohio State's already suspended their practices because of COVID infections amongst their athletes on campuses. Wasn't even started yet. So yeah, throughout the air, the whole thing up, it is a huge, huge, huge mess. And it is going to create chaos on the campuses.


Christine Barry  18:09

It is and it's going to have implications from for many, many years, a lot of these international students wanted to make lives here, they're, you know, whatever they're studying, but they're, you know, a lot of them are engineering students who want to go into the innovation economy here in the United States, and they're going to be set back a little bit. You can't really measure all the impact. This is going to have all the ripple effects. But it's a shame that that that would happen.


Walt Sorg  18:36

So if we would occurred to me was this ice rule on foreign students? As an older person, I see more than one doctor and two of the specialists I see are foreign born. Would they still be here if this kind of rule had been in effect back when they were going to medical school in the United States? I don't know.


Christine Barry  18:54

Yeah, I work for a Silicon Valley company. I can't tell you how many people I work with who came went to MIT and then went to Silicon Valley to work in startups or can companies like mine, which which was a startup? I guess 1517 years ago? Would they be here I, that's those are the people I'm thinking of people come here to live the American dream. And, and they can't. They have to be sent away.


Walt Sorg  19:26

Michigan's unemployment rate is still around 20% the worst since the Great Depression. In less than two weeks. The Federal unemployment assistance program ends there are more than 1 million Michiganders who have been collecting an additional $600 a week in UI benefits through the cares Act. The program ends in Michigan on July 25. That could mean a crash in consumer spending, evictions for non payment of rent and mortgage foreclosures. What now? That's where I began my conversation with this week's very special guest United States Senator Gary Peters,  Senator Peters Let's start off with the cliff that Michigan is facing the whole nation is facing at the end of this month. The supplemental federal benefits run out for a million Michiganders, and a lot of economists are saying this could be a second recession on top of the first one is the senate couldn't do anything.


Gary Peters  20:17

Well, I share your concerns. On July 25, it ends here in Michigan, the additional money to help folks who are who are unemployed and the jobs are not coming back as quickly as anyone would like them to come back. So it could present a significant problem if it's not extended. That's why I'm going to work to extend those benefits for folks.  We're hoping Mitch McConnell will actually take up a second Bill, you know, he's been resisting that and has been unwilling to move legislation forward even though economists across the board and across the partisan spectrum are saying we need to act and we need to act quicker versus later. Even though the chair of the Federal Reserve says it's important for us to make sure that we continue to put a stimulus in the economy. And if we don't do that, the economy can get worse and dig a deeper hole. And then it's more difficult to turn it around.  But just think of the human cost. And we were talking about families. So we're talking about people who need to continue to put food on the table and make sure that there is a roof over their, over their head. That's why I work to aggressively get the unemployment insurance in the first place. In fact, if you if you look at the the cares act that passed that provided that unemployment insurance, it's actually my legislation that I wrote, which was the pandemic Assistance Act, that was put into the cares act. And what that did was expand, extend extend eligibility to folks who normally would not be eligible to to get assistance, normally unemployment surance or work for a company that kind of a regular type of employee that then qualifies if you're laid off.  But under the pandemic Assistance Act, which was incorporated that I wrote small business owners who've suddenly found their business they're your sole proprietorship and suddenly your business disappeared, you needed to have money or you're in serious trouble, you can qualify. If you're an independent contractor, if you're a part of the gig economy, think people who are like Uber drivers who drive for Uber, then suddenly you don't have any business, you're in serious trouble. Traditionally, you would never be able to qualify for unemployment insurance. But it was key to make sure that people in my mind that people could continue to maintain a household and to put food on the table, we had to get that assistance to them as quickly as possible and as broadly as possible. And we wanted to try to replace as much of the income that they were receiving before.  And in order to do that, given a very antiquated unemployment system in states across the country. It was decided, with the advice from the Department of Treasury to have a flat $600 per week on top of the normal unemployment. And that's been a lifeline for people there's no question about it is as long as people have money in their pockets so they can continue to provide for the basic essentials, which are critical for them to move forward. And now as we're reopening an economy and we all want to open up it up as as soon and as safely as possible to make sure we're operating safely and, and that customers feel comfortable going into businesses. But business if you're going to open up one, you need customers who feel comfortable coming to your business and two, they need money in their pocket to actually patronize your business. So it is critical for us to get through this economic crisis to make sure our small businesses survive to make sure our families get through. And certainly the unemployment compensation is vital to that.


Walt Sorg  23:28

Do you see the possibility as well have another foreclosure crisis like we had in 2008 and 2009, which really tanked Michigan's economy for a long time?


Gary Peters  23:37

Well, there's no question which is the problem. For example, with unemployment if folks continued to be unemployed and jobs do not recover as quickly as any of us would like them to, then you have to make tough decisions and paying rent and mortgage payments are, are usually a very large percentage of someone's income and if the income isn't there, they they will default And then you can see foreclosures, you know, we're trying to do everything we can to keep people in their homes, we can't have a situation like we had in the last financial crisis where so many people lost their homes. Let's keep them in, as we simultaneously deal with the public health crisis, which, although these are simultaneous crisis, I think we all agree that we have to solve the public health crisis in order to really solve the economic crisis. So that's going to go first.


Walt Sorg  24:23

And the long term economic crisis, Vice President Biden has addressed that this week with a very comprehensive plan. And you're a part of a major part of that, and that is the revitalization of American manufacturing. What are you doing to bring the jobs back to Michigan that have gone overseas? The President talks about it, but doesn't seem to have done much about it.


Gary Peters  24:43

No, there is no manufacturing policy out in the Trump administration. That's I would say, you know, there's there's a lot of rhetoric but no substance is what we see. And we have to focus on manufacturing I, I believe you cannot be a great country if you don't actually make things you got to manufacture.  Manufacturing is just so important to an economy. The jobs in manufacturing tend to be very high paying good middle class jobs, the multiplier effect for every job in manufacturing multiplies to other jobs. So throughout the economy, and unfortunately, we continue to see a decline of manufacturing in the United States relative to the manufacturing in other countries around the world. And if I may talk about manufacturing, I'll talk about a National Institute of manufacturing that is proposed and have the strong support of manufacturing sector. But let's go back to the the pandemic and it really illustrates how dangerous it is not to have manufacturing here in the United States. Last year, I put out of my committee, I'm the ranking member, which means I'm the top democrat on the senate Homeland Security and government affairs. When we take the majority I will be the chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. And in that committee, we put out a report, concerned about drugs. shortages in this country. And most of the some of the key drugs that we have that we use every day. We are dependent on foreign sources for. In fact, even the manufacturer of drugs the the precursors, these are the basic chemicals that go into nearly every drug that we use, comes from 80% comes from overseas, most of it all from China. China basically provides all of the basic precursors necessary for drugs, when you're thinking of medical supplies, like mask, when you think of cotton swabs that we use for the samples. So for testing, all of that comes or most of it all comes from China, we only have one cotton swab manufacturer in this country. So we are dependent and the report. My conclusion in the report last year was when there's a pandemic in this country, we're going to be in serious trouble. Little did I know here we are a few months later, that's exactly where we are. And I look at this as a national security issue, a homeland security issue. I'm on the Armed Services Committee and and i Focus on the industrial base there to make sure that we produce the the equipment we need. Should this country go to war, we have to make sure we make it here in the United States. And, you know, to give you an example, and I'm a former naval officers and US Navy Reserve, and I can assure you, we do not buy our US Navy warships from China. We make sure we have shipyards in America that make our warships and we make sure that they're healthy. And back here in Michigan. We're right we have although it's in Wisconsin, it's right on the border of Wisconsin and Michigan. We have Marionette Marine, for example, that has been building the Navy's Littoral Combat ship. Half the workers there are Michiganders, but it's made here in Michigan. We're building warships or when you think of our M1 Abrams tanks for the US Army, the engineering and new manufacturing is in Michigan and Ohio and Indiana in the Midwest. We make sure we make that.  And so the same thing should occur when you're talking about life saving drugs. When you're talking about critical medical supplies. We need to make them in America. We need to have a American workers, we need to take back that production. And I'm focused on that with a variety of pieces of legislation. But manufacturing in general, you mentioned is the National Institute of manufacturing that I'm proposing, which would basically create a, a one stop shop and one coordinated voice for manufacturing. And when you think of manufacturing, most manufacturers are actually small businesses. Fact 75% of manufacturers have 20 or fewer employees, we need to be on the side working with those smaller manufacturers making sure those jobs are secure. We have to have policies similar to other countries that that really focused on manufacturing. And I've done a great job. You know, think of the Germans and think of the South Koreans, they know manufacturing is important. They think about this in a coordinated way. That's what my proposal is. And if you think of the of the federal government, we have 58 programs right now that deal with manufacturing, but they're spread out over 11 different agencies. There's no coordination. It's a waste of taxpayer money. There's redundancies We can streamline it and make sure the money is actually going into creating good paying manufacturing jobs in this country. But do it in a whole lot smarter way than we've been doing it in the past.


Walt Sorg  29:11

You mentioned your military experience, I find it intriguing that your opponent is running basically, it seems like his whole campaigns built around his military experience, which is quite honorable. He's served well, yet your record is comparable in the military. And what I've seen so far, the endorsements from military groups will seem to be coming to you.


Gary Peters  29:30

Well, I've been pleased. The work you know, certainly, I served in the US Navy reserves rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and, and I bring that experience to the work that I do in the Senate and basically, and I can focus it based on national security issues that I deal with every day. We've just been talking about Homeland Security and the Armed Services Committee. And I've worked aggressively to take care of the men and women who are in uniform today and those who have served who are who are veterans. For example, I was the legislator of the year from the Vietnam Veterans of America their national award because of the work I did, to make sure that men and women who are suffering from PTSD get the treatment that they have earned, and they deserve the piece of legislation that led to that award from the Vietnam Veterans.  So it was a very sad fact is that too many of our men and women who have served who may have been suffering from PTSD, were not diagnosed while they were serving, and then received a less than honorable discharge because of some of the behaviors associated with PTSD. And to give you a story, it came to my attention in very, very real terms from a man in Grand Rapids, a veteran who was homeless, a homeless vet on the streets of Grand Rapids. And basically His story is that he served in Afghanistan. He's a Marine, he served with honor in Afghanistan, but when he came home, things were not so great. He suffered bouts of depression. He's self medicated with substances missed muster, basically demonstrating many of the symptoms associated with someone suffering from PTSD. But because of that it wasn't diagnosed, he was then basically kicked out with a less than honorable discharge a bad paper discharge. And he ended up homeless on the streets of Grand Rapids. He went to the VA, the VA, then checked him out, and they said, you are suffering from PTSD. But we can't help you. Because you have a bad paper discharge from the Marines, which is outrageous. And we have learned through the work on this legislation, we may be talking 10s of thousands of other men or women are in a similar situation.  I was able to get the support of every major veterans group in the country. And we went and changed the law. So now, if a person is situated similar to that, gentlemen, if you go in and you have credible evidence that you're suffering from PTSD as a result of your service in the military, and Have a bad paper discharge, you can petition to get that discharge changed. And now you can get the treatment that you certainly have earned and deserve in our veterans administration. And so it's that kind of work. In addition to the work I've done to expand employment opportunities for veterans, I just had a bill passed and signed into law by President Trump. Then I'll expand apprenticeship opportunities dramatically for men and women who are coming off of active duty who may not want to use their GI bill for college but want to go into skilled trades and apprenticeships, which are professions we need and are great jobs. We're going to be able to help veterans get into those jobs in skill training.  And that's why I actually have a group Veterans for Peters and General Vadnais, who is the is the chair of the group. He was Adjutant General for the Michigan National Guard. It was appointed under Governor Snyder. So I have a the former adjutant general who I work very closely because we have an amazing Michigan National Guard here I work closely With the men and women of the guard every day and, and to have him now that he's retired to come out publicly and in a political race, which is after serving under a republican governor, I think speaks volumes of the kind of bipartisan support I have from veterans all across the state.


Walt Sorg  33:15

I get the feeling you've almost answered my final question, but I like to wrap up interviews with all candidates for office is a really simple question. But the answer can be pretty complex. Why do you want the job?


Gary Peters  33:25

Well, I still have a lot more work to do. You know, I i've always, I've always believed in public service as part of my DNA. We talked about my military background is one of the reasons why I went into the US Navy Reserve, because I believe in giving back. But But ultimately, I know we face significant challenges as a country right now. And a big part of that challenge is the polarization that I see and the inability to really address it a thoughtful, comprehensive way some of these tough problems, and that's what I've done throughout my public service. bring people together to get things done.  I'm proud to have been ranked as one of the most effective members of the United States Senate the most. I think I'm the fourth most effective democratic senator, as well as one of the most bipartisan, I'm a Democrat, I'm proud to be a Democrat. But I also know we can find common ground and get things done. And when you think about the issues that I care about, and I've talked about some of them already, we have to do a whole lot more to make sure that people get the kinds of skill training that's necessary for for jobs that they need to continue to upgrade their skills. I strongly believe we need to certainly support folks who want to go to college and have a college education. But most folks in our state are don't choose that they want other careers, and we have to make sure they have every opportunity and we have to invest more. It's why I work so hard to make sure veterans are coming off of active duty can pursue and pursue skilled training and a career. In my mind. Everybody has a different paths that they want to take and everybody should be able to take a different path, but everybody should start with us. Same opportunity. And that's what I'm focused on to make sure that that is happening.  I also care deeply about making sure that everybody in this country no matter who they are, no matter where they live, that they have access to quality, affordable health care. It's absolutely critical. We do that we have to continue to expand that aggressively. We have to protect the Affordable Care Act. And we have to expand and continue to move way beyond that. And that's why I'm right now pushing the Trump administration and it's just conscionable that they are not doing this is that the Affordable Care Act, we have open enrollment for folks can get into get affordable health care. At the end of the year, there's open enrollment. My view is pretty simple. We are in the middle of a pandemic right now. People are afraid for their health, people who do go in the hospital with us can leave with enormous bills. We should open up the enrollment of the Affordable Care Act. Anybody who wants to get into the Affordable Care Act now should be able to do that. The Trump administration has said no, that's unconscionable. That's why we need to make sure we have folks in fact, that's a clear difference. My opponent believes the Affordable Care Act, I think he quotes it as an abomination. He'll do everything to undermine health care how you how why opponent can campaign on getting rid of health care while we're in the middle of a pandemic is beyond me. It's why we all have to come together and stand up and say that everybody in this country is entitled to it's a right to have healthcare.  The other issue I'm passionate about is the Great Lakes and the environment. I believe we got to fight to make sure we're dealing with climate change. Climate change is something that is a existential threat, and we have to aggressively deal with it. And we have to protect our Great Lakes which is next to our people without question, the most valuable resource that we have here in our state and that's why I've consistently worked to toughen environmental rules to protect our water from PFS contamination. And, and to make sure that we protect the Great Lakes from contamination from oil pipelines.


Walt Sorg  36:52

Senator, thank you very much. You've said more than the last 20 minutes. I think that john James has said the whole campaign


Gary Peters  36:59

Well, it's great to be with you, you know this ultimately campaigns are about issues, and you need to talk about it. And I think in addition, our campaigns are about issues. There is a clear difference between candidates and it's important for the people across Michigan to know those differences and to make sure their voices heard.


Walt Sorg  37:17

Stay healthy.


Gary Peters  37:18

You too, thank you so much.


Christine Barry  37:24

And the aftermath of the George Floyd murder continues to ripple through the nation and the state in Lansing. The Legislative Black Caucus has taken up the challenge with a package of bills which address many of the challenges and abuses. Representative Tanisha Yancey:


Tanisha Yancey  37:40

We are tired of being tired, tired of pointlessly losing the lives of our brothers and sisters. My pillar in this comprehensive package focuses on holding those who take an oath to protect and serve our communities accountable for their actions when they betray that This includes requiring law enforcement officers across the state to use body cameras, eliminating governmental immunity for those who use unreasonable and unnecessary force in Michigan, and encouraging Congress to do the same. And establishing a statewide Review Board for incidents involving law enforcement officers with special prosecutor authority that requires independent prosecutor or the attorney general's office.


Walt Sorg  38:29

There are a lot of reforms in the package too many for us to go into in detail here on the pod. We will link to a couple of resources for everything that's in there. But what I found intriguing was there's no reference to the phrase defund the police, but rather focusing on doing a better job with the police officers that we've got in terms of training. They do of course, outlaw things like chokehold which the governor's come out for as well as the Attorney General. They also go one step beyond the governor in banning the use of facial recognition software. Which has been shown to have a racial bias it really misidentifies people of color a lot more than it does Caucasians. And that is that's a real problem, which they're trying to avoid. And it causes some of the problems within the community and suspicions about the police. So it's all now it's a very positive step forward, which I think is really important. The rhetoric and the vitriol of the rhetoric on both sides has been a little much at times people saying it's my way or the highway and to have people talk reasonably you say look at these are some of the things that we need to talk about and the leadership of the Black Caucus along with lieutenant governor Gilchrist, I think is a really important and coming up with solutions that are going to work.


Christine Barry  39:39

Yeah, I agree. And just to make a point about the facial recognition software, it has been demonstrated over the last few years that artificial intelligence and machine learning in general when it comes to doing things for us, so for example, self driving cars and this kind of recognition software. It has is a racial bias. There are self driving cars that actually hit black people because it doesn't recognize them as people. And I feel like that's kind of a really good representation of the United States right now. We don't recognize black people as people or something.


Walt Sorg  40:17

I wonder how your iphone how the iPhone handles it. So my phone's got no problem with me, but I'm whiter than white.


Christine Barry  40:24

I don't know how the iPhone does it. I just know that when people talk about a racial bias in artificial intelligence, a lot of people laugh at that because they say it's a computer it can't be racist. Well, no, the computer isn't racist. But when you have mostly Caucasian people writing the algorithms and the programming and all of that it's it just happens. Michigan government is run mostly by women, at least on the Democratic side, the governor, Attorney General Secretary of State one you US Senator five US House members and the State House Democratic Leader are all women. Is sexism still an issue in Michigan politics? That and other political observations from a longtime Capitol reporter Susan Demas, the founding editor of the online Michigan Advance newsletter.


Walt Sorg  41:19

Susan, let's start with the battles with the Capitol. You've got a legislature run by Republican men and an executive branch run by democratic women. is the problem partisan gender, or both?


Susan Demas  41:32

Oh, it's definitely both things are so polarized and the republican party has gone so far. Right? That, you know, if we have an all male democratic lineup in the executive branch, you would still see clashes. I just don't think that would be so personal. You wouldn't have the Senate Majority Leader call the governor batshit crazy. For instance, I hope it's okay that I'm quoting him directly.


Walt Sorg  41:57

No problem at all. This is a podcast you can say whatever the hell you want, damn it.


Susan Demas  42:04

Great. This is really made for our era. And the attacks on Dana Nestle, the Attorney General have been extremely personal. A lot of times for sexual orientation has been brought up gratuitously. I tend to think that, you know, race and gender rear their heads, oftentimes in more subtle ways for some people, for somebody like me that, you know, has been covering gender issues for so long. It doesn't appear to be so subtle, but I just I think it heightens things quite a bit, because, yeah, let's face it. These are male run republican caucuses. They have had a lot of trouble recruiting women and getting women through Republican primaries, and it's very uncomfortable for them to have a woman who's the boss and have more power than they do in many instances and they do not like it.


Walt Sorg  42:58

It's also changed the media. coverage. In terms of the makeup of the video when I first started covering the Capitol, 100 years ago, there was one woman in the Capitol press corps, and she was undergoing sexual harassment on an hourly basis. Now it's much more mixed is still male dominated. But there's a lot of women in the press corps does that change the tenor of the relations between those who are being covered and they those who are doing the covering?


Susan Demas  43:24

There's definitely different dynamic than when I started covering things in 2006 2007. Kathy Barks Hoffman was about it. Kathy Gray from the Free Press would come up sometimes, but she was covering a lot of things back in Detroit. And so you know, after Kathy left to do PR for a while I was the senior female member of the press corps and I was in my early 30s, which is ridiculous. There are a lot of women covering the Capitol now. Not a lot of them in senior positions. You know, I run my own newsroom, the nonprofit Michigan Advanced, that's highly unusual. Not a lot of women make it to upper management or running publications. And I'm 43. And I've run two, which is something, you know, that doesn't exactly thrill a whole lot of people. But you know, tough I paid my dues.  I've had the pleasure of giving a lot of women their shot, hiring them, whether it's on staff or freelance, you know, which are some opportunities, I think, are closed to a lot of women. Another issue is the press corps is never been terribly diverse. And those are voices that are missing. It's something that I think a lot of people don't think about, except for the people who are impacted, which is not the way it should be. And that also impacts coverage.  In terms of the interaction with people we're covering. You have probably some of the most diverse caucuses the democrats have ever had. So I think there's been very little pushback for women and the few people of color in the Press Corps from the Democratic caucuses. The Republican caucuses are a different animal. We had a really high profile incident with one of our reporters Allison Donahue, back in January, we're state senator Peter Lucido sexually harassed her in front of a bunch of school boys. A state senator Mallory McMorrow came forward with a very similar story. So did a lobbyist from a banking organization. And many other women privately did too. And actually the republican led Senate did find that he did sexually harass women more than likely he had to undergo some training, lost a Committee, which is about as good as we can expect in this day and age. But you know, he's running for McComb county prosecutor he may win. A lot of reporters don't even bother asking him about his disgusting behavior towards women. And, you know, let's be honest, those are male reporters.  So it does make a difference. to have representation and it is something that I think some of the old fashioned Yes, most of them are Republican members of the legislature don't really like because, you know, having men run everything having white people run everything works just fine for them.


Walt Sorg  46:15

You mentioned, of course, you are the editor of Michigan Advance and the the founding editor, of Michigan Advance, something that has changed also in the press corps, I think is the economic model of covering state government. Again, going back to when I first started with the Capitol way back when the dominating news coverage was the newspapers, radio stations, several radio stations actually had bureaus with the Capitol. And now it seems like the most comprehensive coverage for the general public is coming from a couple of nonprofit publications online, you and bridge and the audio side, it's coming more from podcasts and it is from broadcast.


Susan Demas  46:52

Yeah, the press corps has definitely changed. I do think that Michigan is pretty lucky unlike a lot of states. We still Have a pretty robust press corps actually, more people part of it, then we're during the Great Recession, which is wonderful in part because of, you know, startups with podcasts or, you know, the, you know, outlets like the Michigan advanced not to toot our horn too much that are adding coverage. We all know that there are plenty of states out there where there are just a couple of reporters in the statehouse. And less reporters mean that officials can get away with a lot more because people don't know what's going on with their governments. So I think that that is great.  I think a lot of times, a lot of people cover the exact same stories, which is fine. You know, we try and cover stories that are under covered which often have to do with marginalized groups, low income people, people of color, immigrants, women, LGBTQ people. I really like to cover those issues and talk to people outside of the six squares. blocks around the Capitol, because most of Michigan does not live in Lansing. everything that goes on in Lansing affects you whether you want it to or not. But we have a state of 10 million people. It's very diverse. And there are a lot of people's voices who get drowned out by always quoting the Michigan Chamber of Commerce for everything. I'm really happy to add that. And, you know, I think the more people we have covering things, the better.  The thing that I worry the most about is the lack of coverage that we have in a lot of smaller areas around Michigan, you know, radio stations, closing newspapers, downsizing to one reporter or closing all together. Those are the areas that are just really hungry for news and we try and cover things in other parts of Michigan but I still have a small staff. And there are a whole lot of areas out there where they don't even have her Reporters covering their township board or their city council and or their school board. And a lot of really big decisions are made there.


Walt Sorg  49:07

Susan, a pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much for joining us on the pod.


Susan Demas  49:10

Thank you for having me.


Walt Sorg  49:12

It was interesting, Christine. After the interview, there was an article published in the New York Times which we can link to talking about the battle between Donald Trump and the women of Michigan and pointing out really, Donald Trump has a tough time dealing with powerful women. And the fact that Michigan is completely run by women must be making him crazy.


Christine Barry  49:30

He hates us, hates us. All right, time for some political notes. First, another victory for Michigan's independent citizens redistricting commission. Walt, you want to take a victory lap.


Walt Sorg  49:48

Oh, yeah. It's a great victory lap the Federal Court of Appeals in Grand Rapids throughout the republican lawsuit which questioned the constitutionality of the redistricting commission. The Republicans were complaining that because the commission, first of all precluded some members of the public from being on the commission because of their political ties. And also because it didn't allow the republican party to pick the Republican members of the Commission, that it was unconstitutional. And the court basically said, bullshit, go away, leave us alone. It should be over they may appeal to the US Supreme Court, which can always be a bit of a challenge, especially given the way the court is right now. However, the fact that it passed was 61% of the vote. It seems to me that this Supreme Court, especially john roberts, are aware of public opinion on things like this. The trend is definitely going for independent commissions, to more states just had their petitions turned in, so that they would have referenda to do pretty much what Michigan did. They were in fact, inspired by the Michigan success. So it is moving in that direction, no question about it.


Christine Barry  50:51

And how about what john James not saying this week? Actually, I'm gonna turn that around a bit, and it's going to be what john James' supporters are saying that is not true. The National Republican Senatorial Committee attack senator Peters on Veterans issues and the Detroit Free Press fact checked it and found so many things wrong with it. It was just ridiculous. They looked at every single point and they either debunked it or they added the context to explain it. Like, for example, one bill that he voted against, that they attacked him on the reason he voted against it was because it included cuts to other important services. So that kind of thing. So the Free Press rated the NRSC claims as false. And the NRC called out the free press and said that they were carrying the water for Democrats.


Walt Sorg  51:43

What's intriguing is john James has as a part of his campaign, a code of conduct for all of its volunteers and one of them has always told the truth. What does he have to say about this ad that has been totally discredited by the Free Press? And our new regular feature our favorite political ad of the week. Our winner this week comes from the republicans at the Lincoln project they're taking on Donald Trump's placid enablers in the United States Senate, basically calling for the defeat of every damn one of them is their names and pictures stream across the screen. They're condemned by this indictment.


The Lincoln Project  52:27

Someday soon, the time of Trump will pass. This circus of incompetence, corruption and cruelty will end. When it does. The men and women in Trump's Republican Party will come to you telling you they can repair the damage he's done. They'll beg you to forget their votes to exonerate Trump from his crimes ask you to forgive their silence, their cowardice and their betrayals as Trump wrecked this nation. Every time they had a choice between America and Trump, they chose Trump.  Every time they were called to the service of this nation and their sacred oath. They chose Trump Every time.  Learn their names.  Remember their actions.  And never, ever trust them again.


Christine Barry  53:25

And that is such a great ad and you need to see it, you need to watch it because you want to see the visual with the audio. So we will have it in the show notes. Of course,


Walt Sorg  53:36

when you have people who are the campaign managers for the last three Republican candidates for president calling for the defeat of the entire republican caucus in the United States Senate. That is incredibly powerful and probably unprecedented. Our runner up comes from the Meidas Touch PAC, which is a really a family operated organization quickly responding to the President's trio of losses of the US Supreme Court.


The Meidas Touch PAC  54:00

Wake up Donald. Remember when you said this?


Donald Trump  54:03

I will absolutely get my return but I'm being audited.


The Meidas Touch PAC  54:05

So how's that audit going? Oh, right. That was just another pathetic lie. You know who wasn't too weak and scared to release their tax returns every other presidents you thought the Supreme Court was gonna save. But guess what? You lost like bigly. If only you fought as hard when you learned Russia paid bounties to kill American soldiers and did nothing or to save the more than 130,000 Americans who died from the Coronavirus while you did nothing for to prevent more than 40 million Americans from losing their jobs in the Trump depression. While you did nothing, let's face it, you don't care about America. All you care about is pathetic, ignorant, murderer, liar. can't wait to see what's in those tax returns Don. Meidas Touch is responsible for the content of this advertising. That's that's the kind of ad I like because you know he hates it.


Walt Sorg  55:03

Yeah, it gets under his skin.


Christine Barry  55:05

Well, we tend to lose track of all the outrages of Donald Trump, his latest Friday night scandal giving his buddy Roger stone a get out of jail free card. A big thank you for lying to cover up Trump's collusion with Russia and WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. The night before that Rachel Maddow opened her msnbc program with one of those uniquely Maddow monologues taking note of how Trump does something seemingly every week that would have forced any other president out of office,


Rachel Maddow  55:36

pick a week that he's been in office running for office throw a dart, you can name something like this right along these lines. I mean, any individual one of these things would be among the biggest scandals, if not the biggest scandal to ever afflict any other presidency. But by virtue of the sheer number of scandals that surround him like flies around pig pen These have just become part of what we expect, right? We have a little momentary shock in a short period of interest with each new low blow. But then we just wait for the next one. They all just pass by.


Christine Barry  56:11

And we'll have a link to the video of her full essay on the website. Powerful and it is maddening.


Walt Sorg  56:20

That's it. We're done.


Christine Barry  56:21

We're done. We're done for this week. For more information on today's subjects, head over to our website. That is Michigan Policast. calm. We've got links, tweets, photos, all yours all for free by the way, don't have to pay for anything.


Walt Sorg  56:38

As always, your comments are welcome. Email us at or reach out through the Michigan Policast pages on Facebook or on the Twitter


Christine Barry  56:46

and we will be back in a week with another thrill-packed episode of the Michigan podcast. Thanks for listening

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