Biden agenda, vaccines. Doug Pratt of MEA, Jonathan Oosting of Bridge

February 22, 2021

Michigan Policast for Monday, February 22, 2021

  In this episode:

  • The American Rescue Plan, vaccines, and Biden's economic agenda
  • Doug Pratt of the Michigan Education Association
  • Mike Shirkey and the Big Lie
  • Jonathan Oosting from Bridge Magazine
  • Political notes
  • Transcript


Jump to:

The American Rescue Plan, vaccines, and Biden's economic agenda


Doug Pratt of the Michigan Education Association

Mike Shirkey and the Big Lie


Jonathan Oosting from Bridge Magazine

Political notes



Joe Biden  00:04

I can't give you a date when this crisis will end. But I can tell you we're doing everything possible to have that day come sooner rather than later. All of you here we're doing some of the most important work in this facility right here that can be done.


Walt Sorg  00:19

President Biden visits the Pfizer plant in Portage celebrating the ramp of vaccinations, but reminding us that we're still in a deadly battle with the virus.


Mike Shirkey  00:30

Too many dead people voted.


Christine Barry  00:39

State Senate Majority Leader Mike shirkey reinserts foot into mouth even as he tries to walk back earlier screw ups. Can he survived the turmoil? We'll talk with bridge magazine Capitol reporter Jonathan hosting. I'm Christine Barry


Walt Sorg  00:54

and I'm Walt Sorg wishing I had a flight scheduled to Cancun. This is the Michigan Policast. We're all about Michigan politics and policy and the National stories impacting our pleasant peninsulas. Later in the podcast. We'll also be joined by Doug Pratt from the Michigan Education Association on efforts to get kids back into classrooms. But first a visit to Kalamazoo


Joe Biden  01:16

just over four weeks ago, America had no real plan to vaccinate most of the country. my predecessors, my mother would say God's love him, and failed order enough vaccines failed to mobilize the effort to administer the shots, failed a set of vaccine centers that changed the mood when we took office. We're now on track to have enough vaccine supply for all Americans by the end of July. And doesn't mean it'll be an all Americans arms, but enough vaccine will be available. By that time.


Christine Barry  01:51

President Biden was just here in Michigan last week to tour Pfizer's main production facility outside of Kalamazoo. This was in part a victory update on the efforts to ramp up vaccinations. The numbers are getting better there. But one issue the President will continue to face his widespread public skepticism about the safety of the vaccine. polling shows that as many as one third of Americans aren't ready to get vaccinated.


Joe Biden  02:15

We all know there's some history is there some hesitancy about taking this vaccine? We all know there's history in this country of having subjected certain communities to terrible medical abuses in the past. But if there's one message to cut through to everyone in this country is this, the vaccines are safe. Please, for yourself, your family, your community, this country? Take the vaccine when it's your turn and available.


Walt Sorg  02:48

A stunning statistic from the clinical trials with the three most advanced vaccines between them Pfizer moderna and Johnson and Johnson ran studies involving more than 100,000 participants. Absolutely none of them, who were part of the study were hospitalized. None died from COVID. And none died from the vaccine. That's 100% safety and virtual 100% effectiveness. President Biden also use the Portage event to warn that we don't know how much longer until life returns to normal. But the road back to born normal will be much faster if Congress passes is $1.9 trillion Recovery Act. polling shows strong bipartisan support for the entire proposal across the nation. But in Washington, congressional Republicans are saying it's just too much


Joe Biden  03:35

Let me ask them, what would they have me cut?. Should we not invest $20 billion to vaccinate the nation? Should we not invest $290 million to extend unemployment insurance for the 11 million Americans are unemployed so they can get by while they get back to work. Should we not invest $50 billion of small businesses stay open when 10s of 1000s of had to close permanently? Should we not invest $130 million to help schools across the nation open safely? right now. 24 million adults 11 million children don't have enough food to eat and less you think I'm exaggerating? Think of those scenes you've seen on the television cars lined up with seemed like miles to wait to have someone put a box of food in their trunk. People will never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever thought they would need help. If you don't pass the American rescue plan. 40 million Americans will lose nutritional assistance through a program we call snap the old food stamp program to not invest $3 billion to keep families from going hungry.


Walt Sorg  04:40

The President's pitch is being reinforced by political leaders in both parties outside of Washington. mayors and governors who agree that we need to go big among them Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan,


Mike Duggan  04:52

we have five straight balanced budgets. Our credit rating kept going up GM and Ford and Chrysler and Amazon brought 1000s of jobs and we felt like We had it going the right direction. And then overnight, we just got hammered with businesses closing. We had a $360 million loss of revenue today. I've got 1000 employees on partial layoff, everything underlying is still good. We're going to be fine if we could just get through to the end of the year. And that was a message I think President Biden heard from Republicans and Democrats across the country.


Walt Sorg  05:23

So Christy, what do you think's going to happen in Washington, it's hard to make predictions, but certainly has a direct impact on Michigan. I know the governor is counting on getting a lot of money in and I know a lot of local officials are as well, including school districts.


Christine Barry  05:35

There's some polling out there that shows that there's overwhelming support for Biden's plan or for what is in Biden's plan. And I think that if you took out Biden's name, and the democratic brand, if you will, there would be more support for it among Republicans. But right now, let's look at a navigator research poll that just came out recently. Overall, Biden's plan has 73% support for for passing a package that includes what Biden has in his plan. And that's why I say if you took his name out of it, it would have a lot of support. 48% strongly support passing that package. 65% of the people in this poll expressed that they have more confidence in Joe Biden and the democrats for expanding Coronavirus relief and unemployment benefits. 48% say that Joe Biden is more capable of getting Americans back to work. There's a lot of support already for Joe Biden and this package. It's really just Trump republicans and a little bit beyond that, who are opposed to it. So I don't know why we're digging in and saying that this cost too much COVID-19 the toll that it's taken on our people and our economy, and even our relationships around the world. It's already more of a cost than that. So I don't know how much Republican support they'll get for it in the Senate. But it's just they represent a minority of people. They should not hold up this relief package. And think of what's at stake here. Well, we're talking about renters being kicked out of their homes. We're talking about landlords who have a mortgage on a house not being able to collect rent. And they've already had a moratorium, you know, it's not just people going hungry, it's people being put out in the cold.


Walt Sorg  07:29

Yeah. And it's something for the republicans that sort of like they're going back to their old playbook from when Obama first took office. And mitch mcconnell was very open about saying that his goal was to make sure Obama was a one term president, which meant that they were no on everything. Joe Biden learned from that you had the Obama administration back then, in trying to recover from the the bush recession, they were basically negotiating against themselves in hopes of getting some bipartisan support, and ultimately ended up with no bipartisan support for the package, they got it through just because they had the votes in the Democratic side. This time, Joe Biden is not negotiating against himself. If Republicans are willing truly to come on board and support a bipartisan package, he's willing to do that. But he's not going to negotiate it down from 1.9 trillion to less than half of that, just to show that he's being bipartisan, because he learned the last time going too small, really slows down your recovery. And if you go big, you can have a very fast recovery, a lot of the economists are saying that we are ready for an economic boom, as we get this virus under control with the vaccine. And as people start getting back to work again, there's a lot of disposable income out there right now. Because this has been a two tiered recovery, you've got a lot of people at the top end who have not suffered economically, and are doing just fine. And they've been sitting on their money, because they can't spend it as effectively as before. And you've got a lot of people at the bottom end who are hurting drastically and obviously can't spend money because they don't have it. The economy is ready to bounce back. And Joe Biden realizes the best way to make that happen is to go big. The other part of the story that we're kind of overlooking is that the numbers are really getting much better by the week still in Michigan, we've had week after week after week of declines and all the numbers you want to see goes down. And the numbers going up are the number of people being vaccinated. And Michigan now has I believe, 12 13% of the total population that's received at least one dose of one of the two vaccines that have been approved so far. Those are all good things. It can get us back to normal quicker, especially if people accept the idea that the vaccination is good, which unfortunately, a lot of people are not accepting.


Christine Barry  09:35

Yeah, I mean, if one third of the people don't don't want to take the vaccine, I don't see how we get to herd immunity on this. I think the last number I heard from Fauci was 90% that's that's a lot of people and I understand that trusting a new vaccine when it when it first rolled out. We saw the trucks leaving Pfizer. I thought I'm not taking that. I'm ready to now.


Walt Sorg  09:58

I think what will help a lot is word of mouth on the vaccine, you know, Fauci can talk and people tend to believe, Dr. Fauci, the President can talk. And he can lead by example, by being vaccinated on TV and other leaders can do the same. But I think the most powerful marketing tool for the vaccine is going to be word of mouth. People like me that have already been vaccinated and had no problems with my neighbors, the young web, I live with a bunch of old folks in the condo here. And none of my neighbors have had any problems either with the vaccination. And as more and more of that word of mouth gets out there more and more people who are skeptical will be less skeptical and willing to go for the vaccine when their turn comes up, as the supplies allow it. So hopefully, we'll have that mass that herd immunity sometime this summer, we'll certainly have enough vaccinations available by July according to the President's projections so that we can get that herd immunity. It's just a matter of people stepping up and being willing to take what is really a very painless process. Are you ready?


Christine Barry  10:56

Yeah I am ready to go now. I'm looking forward to leveraging my my fragile health. I will you know what, the mutations of this virus are coming, everyone should get vaccinated as soon as possible. I mean, that's why they're ramping up production. That's why, you know, Pfizer was talking about we're going to double production in the next couple of weeks. I mean, we need to get this done, not just for the original one that hit us so hard, but for all of these mutations that are coming.


Walt Sorg  11:29

Before we leave this up here, I want to put in a quick plug for our friends over at bridge Michigan. They are hosting an online discussion of the COVID-19 vaccine and its distribution in Michigan. That's coming up this Thursday. It's going to be at one in the afternoon. On the discussion, we'll be the state's Chief Medical executive director Janae Khaldoon and Ingham County's health officer Linda Valle, who has done a superb job of organizing distribution. Here in Ingham County. We will put a link for that on our website, Michigan Public And you can sign up for that there's no cost for it. It's called their lunch breaker forum. And it's a it's just a one hour discussion where you get your questions answered, actually so you can ask questions of the two of them and find out everything you need to know about the vaccine and the problems that you may or may not have or your apprehensions all about it.


Christine Barry  12:22

You know, and I'll give a shout out as well. Every week we link to the bridge Michigan Coronavirus dashboard. They have amazing content. I will say I think that Michigan's media outlets, our journalists have done a wonderful job, we have up to date COVID information. But bridge has really developed some expertise in this area. I know it's helped you and I won't keep up on on the numbers and the trends. So shout out to them for that.


Walt Sorg  12:49

Yeah, I go there almost on an everyday basis to see what the trends are to see if any spikes start developing. A big part of the efforts to return to normal, of course, is getting kids back into school in Michigan, the decisions in Michigan are being made by local school boards, administrators and teachers. It is a tough call. You know, just think about it, you're asking people to go back to work in a situation where they may not feel safe. And it's easy for you to ask somebody else to do that. But if you're the person being asked to go, you've got a tough decision to make. Earlier this week, I talked with Doug Pratt of the Michigan Education Association, the MEA represents more than 120,000 educators and support personnel across the state. We're pleased to welcome Doug Pratt from the Michigan Education Association to the Policast. Doug, first of all, that the big controversy on getting kids back to school, a lot of give and take. But it seems like the majority of people in the country and in the state are supportive of the idea of letting this decision be made locally by school boards and by the teachers.


Doug Pratt  13:49

Well, and that's what's covered under the bipartisan law passed last summer. These are local decisions, and they should be local decisions. They need to include the voices of the community, they need to involve the voices of the educators in the school employees who are working, we need to do what's right in different communities and different communities have different needs. That said, educators want to be face to face with their students, you know, but we have to do it safely. We have to make a commitment to protecting everybody's health and safety. And that commitment happens at the local level. And frankly, the what needs to be done can look different from school building to school building. You know, we need to take all the recommendations that the CDC has made about how to keep people safe seriously, we can't pick and choose. And so that's got to get done local level. So this decision really is where it belongs.


Walt Sorg  14:47

One of the challenges you've got is not all school district physical plants are built the same. You've got some that are very, very old. You've got some that were built 510 years ago. Clearly there's a there's a difference in how safe each of them Couldn't be made. How do we address that?


Doug Pratt  15:02

Well, part of that is the the federal funding the the COVID, early funding for schools that came down from Congress that got passed in December, there's a new round of it being discussed. Now, those funds need to get to local school districts, which is why it's so appalling that the legislature has been holding this up and playing political games. This this funding was passed by a Republican Senate, signed by a republican president. And now it's a political power lever in Lansing. This money needs to go to school districts in their entirety right now, today. And districts need to be able to make decisions about that it's not enough. That's why Congress is discussing further steps and further relief funding to make sure that we can safely educate students and meet their needs in this pandemic. But you know, for starters, the money that's been sent to Michigan, by taxpayers across the country needs to get into school district hands,


Walt Sorg  16:07

we also have a challenge with the number of teachers in the classrooms, we need more teachers because of social distancing smaller classrooms, yet the trend seems to be in the opposite direction. A lot of your members are just saying, I've had enough of this, I'm going to retire or I'm going to seek another profession.


Doug Pratt  16:22

Absolutely. We've been monitoring it. And we're concerned, let me look, the educator shortage was a crisis. Before all this, we have seen for a decade declining enrollment in teacher prep programs, people leaving the profession within their first five years, but but in this pandemic, with the safety concerns with the change in how we educate students, all the challenges, the burnout is incredibly real for both educators and for students. So we've seen a lot an uptick, roughly 50%, higher, mid year retirements. And that's just people who are eligible to retire. And you get many, many more, who are, you know, early in mid career, just saying this is not this is not what I signed up for, this is not worth it, it's not worth my family safety. And they're heading for the exit. So I mean, it's, it's a real concern. And by the way, it's not just teachers. You know, that's what we get a lot of focus. But bus drivers, recruitment of bus drivers is incredibly difficult. paraprofessionals custodians, it's across the board in terms of educators of all types, whether they're in the classroom or the bus garage, or the cafeteria, you know, the the shortage that's going on. And part of that's clearly safety. But part of that stuff that's been going on for a long time, respect for the profession, respecting these people as professionals, and giving them the autonomy to do what needs to be done to educate students. And of course, compensation, you know, we need to increase compensation for school employees across the board so that we can recruit and retain the best and brightest into the profession. And that goes back to school funding.


Walt Sorg  18:12

The other challenge that teachers are going to face as kids come back into the classroom is we've lost a lot over the last year, in terms of progress is as good as they've been trying to be online, you just can't replicate online, which you can do in person, how do we make up for it? On the plus side, it seems like your members have learned an awful lot about how we can avoid snow days in the future, we can just go online for those days when we have 15 inches of snow on the ground.


Doug Pratt  18:40

You know, in the end, there's a lot of controversy about that, too. I mean, you know, there's there's districts that still think that, that kids need that normalcy and the to be able to go out and play and then, you know, that makes a lot of sense. But you know, it's something virtual is going to be with us for a while. And that's why it's so important that educators have been doing great work, trying to figure out how to make this as effective as possible. There's more work to be done. But we've got to be able to focus on the, you know, getting time with students. And I mean, that's another fun thing, a raise relative door, we go from here, you know, testing, you know, there's a waiver that's been put in with the federal government to waive the standardized testing requirements for this, we shouldn't be spending time the limited time we am testing, we need to be teaching. We need to be working with students getting them the the the learning that they need. And so that's a that's another really critical component going forward.


Walt Sorg  19:47

Let me end on what is probably a happy note for you. And that is the celebration you had on January 20. When you recognize that Betsy DeVos was no longer the Secretary of Education.


Doug Pratt  19:57

Yeah, it was a it was a good day. You know, we been joking with folks nationally, it's like, we get her back. She, you know, she's she's coming, she's coming home. But at the same time, I'm moving to a place where educators are respected nationally. Having Dr. Joe Biden in the White House, you know, in the presidency are a working educator, somebody who's still working, still teaching at our community colleges, is a big, big deal for educators. And so, um, you know, look, there's, there's all sorts of problems to tackle, but we can tackle them if we stay focused on what students need. And we believe that this new administration is really going to take, take that approach and view educators as a partner in that work, which has been sorely lacking for the last four years.


Walt Sorg  20:49

Our little chat got delayed a few minutes because you're late, bringing your kids to drop them off at school. Are you comfortable with your kids in school right now?


Doug Pratt  20:58

I am, you know, I, you know, we're taking the precautions, you know, but I also, it's really important to me, and this is why, you know, having somebody like governor Whitmer in the governor's office is so critical. You know, Michigan's doing a lot better in terms of vaccinating school employees than other states. Last week, nationally, survey got put out 18% of school employees across the country have received at least one shot. That number here in Michigan, according to surveys that we've done is well is pushing two thirds. So prioritizing educators and making sure that they are safe, that their families are safe, helps make sure that students like mine. And our family is safe. I frankly, I'm glad they're getting a vaccine before they need it.


Walt Sorg  21:51

Doug Pratt for the Michigan Education Association. Always a pleasure. Thanks so much. Thanks. Well,


Christine Barry  21:56

I was thinking about public pressure on school boards. You know what school boards hold up to it. And if there's public pressure on a school board like mine, which is we're a small district, and we had a seven member board. And if you put a lot of public pressure on our board, we would consider it. But there's not a single person on our board, who I served with, who would have said it's not safe, but the community really wants us to do it. And I think that's true for most, most school boards. Yeah, it's tough. I mean, a lot of school districts are struggling with it, not just because they're concerned about the health of the students and the faculty, but because you can't keep faculty in some of these places. They're just leaving. And so you have big classrooms.


Walt Sorg  22:41

As I discussed with Doug, the physical plans of the various school districts are varying tremendously. You have some school buildings that are 60 70 80 years old, and are constantly being upgraded to try to keep up. You've got other buildings that are 2-3-4 years old state of the art when it comes to ventilation systems and the ability to do some social distancing and things like that. So it's it's hard to have a one size fits all rule and I think the governor made the right call and in conjunction with the legislature and leaving it up to the locals to make the decision based on their circumstances.


Christine Barry  23:17

Well, Mike shirkey is back at it. The beleaguered state senate majority leader went on his local radio station WKHM and Jackson to spend 10 minutes and basically explaining and or apologizing for a string of Foot and Mouth statements he's made in recent days. spanking and or having a fist fight with the governor weird. Calling hometown utility consumers power his number one enemy, and calling the DC insurrection a hoax.


Mike Shirkey  23:45

The attack was very real. President Trump could and should have acted sooner and more forcibly even to call off that attack. But he did not cause the attack. That's the narrative I was referring to when I said hoax.


Christine Barry  24:01

But even has he was trying to make amends for previous screw ups. He came up with a new one. This time he casually claimed


Mike Shirkey  24:09

it was a little too lose too many dead people voted.


Walt Sorg  24:13

Oops. No dead people voted?


Christine Barry  24:15

No, no.


Walt Sorg  24:16

Yeah, technically, some people did cast ballots. They just didn't count.


Christine Barry  24:21

They did it when they were alive, though. It was their ballots. 3469 people did in fact, mail and ballot but they died prior to election day. Those ballots are discarded. They were not counted.


Walt Sorg  24:36

I know from personal experience, my father in law passed away after receiving his absentee voter application, which of course he didn't fill out and didn't return, but had had been filled out had the timing been a little bit different. And we'd lost him just before the election. His vote would have been would have been disallowed. And that's what happens. they've they've done audits all over the state. The non Believers don't believe the audit say, well, who's doing that? It's Jocelyn Benson. What's that? It's their local clerks to the all the recounts and everything else. The Secretary of State is supervisor. But the hands on running of elections is by local officials, Republicans, Democrats and independents. It is just a continuing crock.


Christine Barry  25:18

You know, a couple of things here about this, first of all, Mike shirkey. Wow. And not just on the dead people thing. But look, if you watched his conversation, his meeting with the Hillsdale Republican leaders talking about the hoax, he didn't say he did use the word hoax. But what he said was, it was staged. He said it was staged. And then DC mayor was a puppet. He didn't say anything about Oh, it was real, but Trump didn't incite it. That's not what he said. And that's about 31 minutes in, by the way, if you want to refer to that, when the Hillsdale Republican Party leadership was saying the election, you know, was bad, and we feel spiritually that Trump won, Shirky came back and he said, we've done the audits. We've looked at it, there's no evidence of it. So no matter how you feel, there's no evidence of it. There's nothing we can do. And now he's saying he thinks dead people voted. I mean, this guy just says stuff. I don't I don't know if it even matters what he says, Good God. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth for Shirky,


Walt Sorg  26:29

the problem is that feeds into this feeling amongst a group of voters that it was in fact rigged. There's a new survey that was published in the detroit news this week. More than 30% of surveyed Michigan registered voters that President Joe Biden did not win the presidential election, or they're not sure who did that poll commissioned by the detroit news. The poll commissioned by the detroit news found nearly 23% of voters believe Biden did not win the election. Another 9% said they weren't sure which candidate prevail, about 77% of voters who identified as Trump republicans supported the idea that Biden fraudulently took the election over President Trump. And that is the problem that you end. There's also a USA Today survey that just came out on Sunday, which indicates that a majority of Trump republicans believe that the January 6 events in Washington DC were not the fault of Trump supporters or President Trump. But rather, we're inspired by an Tifa, which is absolutely batshit crazy. Nobody in law enforcement, including the FBI will give any credence to that at all. And all you have to do is look at the people who were there and listen to them and check their social media profiles. These were ultra right wing crazy people that were responsible for that insurrection.


Christine Barry  27:50

And one of the things that these numbers highlight, I think is, is that there's a problem for the Republican Party because three fourths of Michigan voters support casting a mail in vote. And yet, as you said, the majority of Trump republicans opposed male in voting at least I think you said that. I think you just quoted that. But this is something they have to come to terms with. They have to figure this out. And I'll tell you what, the legislature can't do much about it, right? Because the voters took care of that. And by the way, we took care of that by voting in all those reforms prior to actually having the reforms in place that made voting easier. So I would say the support for all of those voting reforms that allowed easier registration and mail and voting and whatnot, is much higher than gets polled from, from time to time.


Walt Sorg  28:42

Yeah. Well, it's a mess. You're talking about Mike shirkey. And all the problems he's having his travails could stand in the way of a slew of political reform measures the legislature is going to be facing this year. One of the first has been introduced with bipartisan support in the State House, it would put an end to the legislative practice of jamming through dozens and even hundreds of laws right after an election, a time when many lawmakers aren't accountable at all to the people. It's called the lame duck legislative session. The new proposal would amend the constitution to stop the abuses of lame duck sessions. Jonathan Oosting from Bridge magazine has been covering lame ducks and the duck hunters aiming to put them out of their misery. Jonathan Oosting from bridge magazine, great to have you on the podcast talking about lame duck First of all, for people who aren't familiar with the term what is a lame duck legislature?


Jonathan Oosting  29:33

Sure, so yeah, lame duck, sort of references the idea of injured duck, it conjures that image it's like, you know, it's used traditionally in the parlance of a lawmaker who has been either termed out of office are voted out of office, but still has maybe a month or two left to serve. So a lame duck legislature then is the legislature that needs in that window. So hold selection in even years in Michigan, so, you know 2016 2018 2020. And now coming up in 2022, where a number of lawmakers might not be returning the following year, but are still on hand to try in and still have some time to try and push to do some projects or hyperpartisan bills in the final days of the year.


Walt Sorg  30:23

Now doing that has been around for a long time. But with term limits, it's becoming much more pronounced because you have so many people that are in fact automatically leaving office at the end of a two year term or four year term, and all sorts of mischief could prevail.


Jonathan Oosting  30:39

Yeah, I mean, the real dramatic example that a lot of folks probably recall most recently was 2018. When, you know, not only did we have some of the highest turnover, I think historically in the legislature, because the term limits, we also had, you know, Democrats keeping control of all statewide offices, yet republican is still holding total control in Lansing for two months. So during that window, we saw some very aggressive legislating. Some of it signed by former Governor Rick Snyder, and some of it he even thought was a step too far. And he vetoed but a number of attempts to try and limit the power of Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nestle before they took office to spend down like a billion dollars in reserves. You know, they said, Well, we know how to spend that we don't want to leave this money to the next administration to decide, and, and some really tough new rules for petition drives that were implemented and are still subject of ongoing litigation.


Walt Sorg  31:51

Historically, this has also been a time when legislators have saved legislation that they want to get through that they know the public will hate. And you could probably go back to the first Rick Snyder term at the end of his first two years when they jam through the right to work legislation in the lame duck.


Jonathan Oosting  32:08

Yeah, that's right. As you mentioned, you know, while this this is not a new phenomenon, but it really picked up steam in the 2010s when Republicans control both the legislature and the governor's office right off the bat and 2012, right to work happened, but also that same year, voters in the 2012 election chose to overturn to repeal the state's emergency manager law. Well, in lame duck, the Republican legislature and Governor Snyder's simply passed the new version of that same law that did much the same thing, sort of circumventing that process. We saw that sort of circumvention, again, in 2018, when groups had initiated legislation via petition drive for new paid sick leave protections or guarantees and minimum wage increases that the legislature adopted, adopted before lame duck, which was some somewhat popular thing with the public, but then gutted them during lame duck really weakened a lot of those provisions, after the public had already voted on their own reelection or not, in that 2018 election.


Walt Sorg  33:22

The politics obviously have changed since it was really being used a lot with total republican control. Now you get split control. What are the politics of getting this past? One thing that's changed is you get a speaker of the house who is behind it, which is a big difference from before.


Jonathan Oosting  33:36

Yeah, that's right. Lawmakers have been talking about the idea of reining in or ending lame duck session altogether for a number of years. But yeah, it's got a new, you know, new momentum this year, because how speaker Jason Wentworth is making this one of his top priorities in the legislature, it's the only piece of legislation he's introduced so far, in this session, it's a joint resolution, which means would require two thirds majority support in both chambers of the legislature, and then require a vote of the people because it would amend the Constitution. And it would do so by not in a lame duck but requiring any votes in that two month period after the November election and before the end of the year, and then even a year, it would require two thirds majority support for any legislation to pass during that time. So if there is a critical need, like a, you know, a global pandemic, for instance, that everybody can agree on the need to do to convene and to do something the legislature still could, but it would require bipartisan support, since neither party is likely to have a super majority in both chambers anytime soon.


Walt Sorg  34:55

How does it look in the Senate, you've got a lot of people there who actually are already lame duck They're in the final two years of service and they can't come back because they're termed out. Is the senate more likely to look favorably on this than it has in the past?


Jonathan Oosting  35:08

Well that's an open question. I haven't gotten any answers yet out of Senate leadership on this front, there's been a few distractions in the Senate in the last week or two. Speaker Wentworth, of course, has a, you know, as a conduit to the Senate Majority Leader as well. So he'll certainly be able to advocate for this. But, you know, the Senate has blocked what advocates called good government reforms a number of times in recent years. The public records FOIA expansion to include the legislature and governor's office, for instance, has passed the House, each of the last two sessions, but never been taken up in the Senate. So it's unclear whether there's going to be an appetite. And again, because of that two thirds supermajority, not only would you need, so the majority leader Mike shirkey, on board, but you need bipartisan support for the proposal for it to pass. So certainly faces a long road ahead in a number of obstacles.


Walt Sorg  36:04

We should give credit where credit is due as well, and that is for a representative Gary Hall, who has been advocating this for a long time republican state representative, I remember talking to him about it during the voters, not politicians campaign, and he was adamant about it then and he's, he just continued the fight.


Jonathan Oosting  36:21

Yeah, definitely. He was an interesting story. He was he won a special election to actually replace disgraced and resigned representative Todd courser back in 2016. And that same year, then so you know, nine months on the job or something like that he got thrown into lame duck, you know, headfirst and, you know, as the lawmaker, not only was he a super freshman, but he was, you know, slammed with hundreds of bills that he was expected to analyze, understand and then vote on. He told me, you know, what was sort of the tipping point for him in 2016, was this huge energy overhaul bill that ended up passing with bipartisan support. It wasn't necessarily an example of the hyper partisan legislature, legislation we've seen in lame duck, but it was a massive proposal that was over 200 pages long the bills. Governor Snyder brokered a deal overnight, last minute deal in late literally the last day of lame duck met with House Republicans that morning and and asked them to, to approve this bill, you know, represent president how me thought that was absurd. You know, folks were barely conscious at that point, he said, let alone able to understand the implications of a major bill like that. So he has been banging the drum for a number of years, and it has not gone anywhere. But again, that's why speaker Wentworth, you know, championing this cause now is a pretty big deal in Lansing.


Walt Sorg  37:59

And one of the less lame duck actions under Rick Snyder, of course, was the Enbridge deal, which is still controversial, and the governor has been the Attorney General have been trying to undo it ever since.


Jonathan Oosting  38:10

Yeah, that's right. I mean, that was another example of the legislature basically trying to hamstring, the legislature and the governor in that case, trying to hamstring the incoming democratic leadership in state government. There was Enbridge, as I mentioned, there was another bill that Governor Snyder actually vetoed, that would have allowed the legislature to intervene in any lawsuit involving the state. They can petition courts now to intervene, but this would have in an attempt to automatically give them standing. So for instance, they could intervene if Nestle was taking legal action against Enbridge or something like that. So the former Governor Snyder to get a veto that is sort of a separation of powers issue. He did sort of stand up for some of the powers of the executive branch on his way out of office.


Walt Sorg  39:05

One last question. You mentioned earlier, the travail that's going on right now in the state senate with Mike shirkey, seemingly and inserting foot into mouth on a regular basis. Is it impacting him yet in terms of his ability to be the leader of the senate?


Jonathan Oosting  39:19

Well, I'm not privy to what quadrant meetings are like those are private meetings between the governor and legislative leaders, but I can't imagine they're extremely friendly right now. Within within his own caucus, and it Republicans, it seems like folks are standing by him. There doesn't seem to be any concerted effort to change leadership in the Senate Republican caucus, which would be a rare step. But yeah, I mean, it's certainly sucking up a lot of oxygen in Lansing. You know, you had both today, which is Wednesday and last week, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, you know, taking time in the Senate to speak out against turkeys comments and to say, you know, there was there was acrimony senator and except between Republicans and Democrats in the past under former Senate Majority Leader Arlen Meekoff, but Ananich said that at least he was never embarrassed to be a member of the Senate at that point he said he was last week. So when sort of some of these comments came out, so certainly, you know, some relationships are on the rocks right now in Lansing because of these comments.


Walt Sorg  40:29

Jonathan Oosting from bridge magazine, you can read his prose on And we thank you so much for joining us on the podcast talking to you again soon.


Jonathan Oosting  40:38

Yeah, thanks Walt.


Christine Barry  40:40

It's time for some political notes. First up, a new job inspires a 180 degree reversal from former State House Speaker Lee Chatfield. Now, as I'm sure you've heard, Lee Chatfield has taken a position as CEO of Southwest Michigan first, this is an organization in Kalamazoo, that, you know, is meant to spur business development and entrepreneurship and that kind of thing. So he came out and said that Southwest Michigan first supports the expansion to the Elliot Larson civil rights act to include LGBTQ and as you know, while when we Chatfield was in the legislature when he was elected in 2014, he was against marriage equality. And ever since that time, he had oppose the expansion of Elliot Larson,


Walt Sorg  41:33

he said it wouldn't even come up in session while he was speaker, he wouldn't bring it up.


Christine Barry  41:37

Yeah, that's our guy. Now, he did try to explain this, in the media, that when he was in the house, it was his job to protect religious liberties. It's not his job anymore. So now he can protect civil liberties. While this is not leadership, as a business leader, it's his job to support inclusion because it's good for business as a Republican leader, it was his job to oppose it. Because these protections are bad for bigots. This just shows you one of the benefits of term limits. I think they get to hire former legislators, legislators who have relationships with existing lawmakers. And now if he really supports this, he's going to get to some policy work through a backdoor.


Walt Sorg  42:19

I'm a little more skeptical. I think he's tried to project he's not trying to protect religious liberty is trying to protect his paycheck. What happened in Kalamazoo was that the one member of the Kalamazoo city commission is Erin Knott, who's the executive director of Equality Michigan, which is the leading group supporting the LGBTQ rights movement, along with fair and equal Michigan, she got the city council to basically withdraw his financial support for Chatfields employer. So in order to save that money, and perhaps save his job, all of a sudden, I think Lee Chatfield had a change of heart. And I think any support he gives to the amendment to the Elliot Larson Civil Rights Act will be purely lip service, he's not going to lift one finger to really get it passed.


Christine Barry  43:04

Yeah, I don't think it's even a voluntary statement on his part, I think you're right, that the threat of losing the funding from Kalamazoo, which is an investment the city makes, because this organization is supposed to bring, you know, job development and spur economic activity in the area. If they're going to take away that investment, then, you know, the organization is going to say, Okay, now it's time to do a little something about this. Going into the business community as a business leader, he is now within a sector that supports it. And but like I said, this is not this is not leadership in any way. I think people are always glad to hear high profile people give lip service, and even Dana Nessel made some comments on on Twitter saying that she appreciated what he said. She can take that for what it's worth.


Walt Sorg  43:55

Yeah, Dana isn't normally that diplomatic, but I think she's being nice. In this case, the national debate a month ago was about the Electoral College. Now it's all about the electrical grid. Okay, that's a bit of a stretch, but give me give me a break. The Republicans who have turned Texas into a deregulated paradise for businesses in the name of prosperity, have found themselves bitten in the butt by their randian utopia. And the ripple effects are even impacting Michigan. All of the electrical problems in Texas have meant that they're now part shortages at auto plants all around the nation because of the interconnection between the states for the the auto industry, that the whole thing just shows that government regulation, if done properly, makes a whole lot of sense. In Texas, they decided we're not going to be regulated by the federal government by effort, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and we're not going to really regulate the utilities ourselves. We're just going to leave it up to them to do the right thing. While the utilities being the creatures that they are decided instead of winterizing and spending That money necessary to protect their equipment to keep them operating in a once in a century storm. They decided, well, it's gonna make increase our profit margin if we just go on the cheap. So they bought the cheapest windmills they could they didn't get them winterized. They didn't winterize their gas plants. They didn't winterize the nuclear plants. So now they've got no, they have a huge crisis, it's going to cost more they say that any hurricane that has ever hit Texas, it's a huge natural disaster. And the idea of trying to blame it on windmills is just so bizarre. You know what the two states that use the highest percentage of windmill generated energy are the two Dakotas. Last time I checked, it is bitter cold in the two Dakotas, every damn year. Denmark is basically a wind energy Haven, Michigan's got a lot of wind energy, our windmills are still pumping. The difference is you can winterize the things in terms of the materials you use for the for the blades, as well as for some of the internal structures as well. windmills are very reliable. If you're prepared for what happened in Texas and is increasingly going to be happening more and more as climate change more and more impacts us with the extreme weather. It is just it's a classic example of why something along the lines of the green New Deal makes sense. When they're trying to say the green new deal would destroy us.


Christine Barry  46:22

You know, they're Destroying Themselves just with the decisions they make. I thought it was clear that Texas was a failed state, when the West fertilizer company facility blew up and killed people and destroyed the the school that was next to it, the nursing home and the apartment buildings and all of these surrounding businesses and places were destroyed. 150 people hurt. I can't remember how many people killed Texas didn't require any liability insurance for storing hazardous materials. So that company only had a million dollars of insurance. Well, that's not going to even cover the school, Texas had not done any enforcement of their already very low safety standards they had in place for hazardous materials. And so if that didn't tell you, the Texas approach to regulation was a really bad approach. It really should have and I you know, conservative republicans like to say that the market will decide if a company is doing something wrong, that company will go out of business. Well, that's not how it works. It really isn't how it works. You know, the electrical grid, the windmill farms, these things aren't going to go out of business because they don't invest in weather protection. If Texas would do the right thing, I talked about the Texas leaders who are making these decisions if they did the right thing and got up and owned it, rather than go out on a PR campaign and say that wind turbines are the problem. The green new deal is a problem


Walt Sorg  47:47

or they go to Cancun.


Christine Barry  47:49

Yeah, that too. And look what the governor did. The governor went out and said, Well, we appreciate joe biden's partial approval of our disaster plan. You know, Joe Biden approved almost everything they asked for, they follow the process of evaluating the individual counties application for the individual part of need, which is, you know, you can get some money for a car for rent to that kind of thing, instead of owning what they did and saying, you know what, we hedged our bets on this weather protection, and we were wrong. They go out and they blame Joe Biden, and they blame the wind turbines. And so that part of Texas is not going to change. But the demographics of Texas, they are changing, and perhaps with the convergence of the climate change conversation, and the disaster that you have here, the failure of government here, the very poor optics of Ted Cruz just taking off, perhaps that will make a big difference in the next five to 10 years.


Walt Sorg  48:51

I think governors are beginning to find out to the competence matters. In running your state. Whether you are Gavin Newsom in California or you're Greg Abbott in Texas, or you're andrew cuomo in New York, incompetence hurts, and people don't want that. Ultimately, it's not about ideology with most voters. It's about getting the job done being there when you are needed and doing it right, which is why governor Whitmer has continued to enjoy very high approval ratings throughout this entire horrific pandemic because the majority of people in Michigan thinks he's doing the right thing. The other thing I think they're gonna learn in Texas down the road and not too far down the road is that the deregulation of their insurance industry is going to mean a lot of homeowners are going to submit claims that are going to be rejected because the insurance industry was allowed to insert all sorts of loopholes into policies so that a lot of the damage is not covered.


Christine Barry  49:44

The vote to impeach Donald Trump continues to impact West Michigan Trump backers in the Grand Rapids Bay sixth district remain furious with the newly elected congressman Peter Meijer. He hasn't been censured yet by his local republican county parties. But his constituents are making themselves heard. Now, you know, Peter Meijer is not the only person from Michigan who voted to impeach Fred Upton did as well. But I really don't think there's going to be that much damage done to either one of those. You know, Fred Upton was looking at retiring before this last election, Peter Meijer, who is brand new, and was, by the way, attacked and in hiding on his, his first week there his first day, I'm not even sure if it was his first day came right out and said, Look, it might cost me my career, but this is what I believe. And he also says things like, we can't be the party of conspiracy theories. And that right there might might hurt him just as much as this impeachment. But look, both of them are millionaires, how much? How much does this loud group of people like really represent the overall district? You know, those, those districts are kind of moderate, you know, leaning right.


Walt Sorg  51:03

Yet the USA Today poll that I referenced earlier that just came out, indicates that 80% of Trump voters would not vote to reelect a Republican who supported impeachment. Now, I don't know how that impacts West Michigan, let's have Trump got a lot of votes over there. He didn't win Kent County, but he came close to winning Kent County, and he did win and Fred Upton's district, and he did win and Peter Meijers district. So the fact remains that it's it's a political risk for Peter Meyer. But the props to him, even though I don't agree, I'll probably not agree with him on a lot of issues, ideologically, but I give him credit for sticking to his guns and being willing to say, hey, if this costs me my career, screw it, I'm going to do what's right. And so be it. I'll live with the consequences. But it's going to be a continuing battle with the Republican Party, not just in West Michigan, but all over the state and all over the nation. The other thing that's going to impact both of them, too are the decisions reached by the new citizens redistricting commission, which is drawing new maps for Michigan, and has to probably eliminate one of our 14 congressional districts because of population shifts in the country. Now, the Commission has already stumbled into the first of what is likely to be many controversies. They are trying to figure out what to do with this census delay and how it conflicts with the constitutional mandate in Michigan to get the maps drawn and submitted by the middle of September, when they won't even have the census data until the end of September, it was recommended to the commission that they hold a closed session to discuss their legal options. One problem with that is the constitutional amendment requires that they conduct all their business in public, they can't have closed sessions. So that is beginning to cause some problems for the commission as they stumble their way through this initial challenge of what will be many, they're likely to make a few more major boo boos and coming months, in part because the commissioners deliberately decided against hiring any staff with significant political experience. Now I should disclose I was one of the people who applied to be on the staff. And during the discussion on me and a few other people, we were rejected by some commissioners, because we're too political. They didn't want people who had political ties to commissioners decided as a group that they wanted to look totally non political, that was the best way to navigate what is fundamentally a political process drawing legislative and congressional map boundaries. I hope they can figure it out. I hope they can avoid too many other controversies. They've made one other big mistake too, which is probably going to bite them down the road, the constitutional amendment provided that their pay should be no less than one fourth of what the governor is paid during the year, which would be a salary about $40,000, one of their very first public votes before people were paying attention to them was to give themselves a 40% pay raise. So instead of 25%, of what the governor makes, they're getting 35% of what the governor makes. So at some point, somebody's going to take issue with that as well, especially if they start running out of money in this process.


Christine Barry  53:55

Well, I you know, I've got to tell you, between the fact that they gave themselves a raise before doing anything else, which really kind of cuts me the wrong way. Now they want to go into closed session to hide a discussion that we don't even know really, I guess if it's a legal strategy, maybe there's privilege that applies, but


Walt Sorg  54:16

privilege doesn't Trump the Constitution, though?


Christine Barry  54:18

That's not and, and this is, this is why I'm losing confidence in this body. And I never really thought about it before. But obviously they they are in a political circumstance, not necessarily that they have to be partisan, but they do have to understand the politics of what they're doing. And I'm seeing the shades of arrogance that really shouldn't be there for a group of people who didn't do anything but win a lottery. And I'm just getting kind of disgusted with the whole thing. One because they give themselves a raise. Nobody. I can't go in and vote myself a raise. You can't do it while nobody else can do it. Part of public service is being humble and I realized there aren't a lot of role models for that. But public service This is supposed to be this noble thing where you give of yourself and they give themselves a raise first thing of our tax dollars now I want them to be successful. I've had I've had nothing but praise for this whole effort and for this Commission's ultimate outcomes, but I am really starting to lose confidence in the members as they are right now. I don't know if this body is up to the job that it has is what I'm saying.


Walt Sorg  55:30

we will find out I'm hopeful that they'll ultimately stumble their way into figuring it out. But unfortunately, with the census as screwed up as it is, the challenge is even greater.


Christine Barry  55:42

Well, Michigan's ongoing tensions over massive pumping of our water so that people in the Midwest can buy it by the bottle have grown a little bit. Nestle has sold its water bottling operations to a private equity company for 4.3 billion. And the concern is that the new owners will be focused on short term profits rather than in protecting Michigan's most precious natural resource which is our Great Lakes. And I do believe that concern is well founded. Now what has happened here is that the Nestle company sold its North American bottled water business, which includes, you know, some allied brands, Poland, spring deerpark, that kind of thing. And they kept some premier banned brands. Part of this is because Nestle as a water bottler or just can't compete against the big bottlers like Coke and Pepsi, who also have their own bottled water. The thing with Nestle is even whenever you thought about Nestle, pulling out that much water for like a $200 per year permit, from the Great Lakes, they committed to making its entire their their water portfolio carbon neutral, so they at least kind of threw us a bone. But the new company and the private equity firm hasn't committed to anything. They talk about Nestle in terms of, you know, a valuation, a valuation, right, being attractive for this kind of business, they talk about it in terms of profits, I'm reminded of mitt romney's comment about harvesting profits. And that I think, is exactly what a private equity firm is there to do now, buys like this, in the business world can be good for a company, it can be good for some underperforming company because they can come in and they can say, Okay, here's where you have a bunch of business processes that can be made more efficient. Here's how you can sell more and do those kinds of things. And sometimes they can fix internal problems, to make the company better. But this new private equity firm in there, everything that they've said publicly about buying Nestle, not a single thing has been about protecting the Great Lakes. Not a single thing has been about that. Make money that concerns are well founded. Yeah,


Walt Sorg  58:05

make money and the rest be damned. It was really was stated by the president of the Michigan citizens for water conservation. Peggy case quite concisely, their businesses making money, there's no doubt about it. We don't want to go one step further than Nestle has already gone. What are they going to cut corners on the minimal environmental standards we've been able to extract from Nestle? It's a good question. And it's a question I think that really needs to be answered fully. Because as you say, they only pay a permit fee of $200 a year to basically suck a million gallons a year of water out of the ground in Michigan water that is our most precious natural resource by a zillion. While we worry about that we also have to worry about voters rights across the nation, Republican run state legislatures are working to pass a whole bunch of new laws to make it harder for Democrats to vote. It's a direct outcome of the assault on the integrity of elections launched by Donald Trump and the fact that he lost. It's especially grievous in Georgia, where Republicans are just incensed that their state all of a sudden turned a light shade of blue. After all these years of Democratic support. It's also happening in Arizona, which has been flipped now where they now have two democrats as United States senators, and also flipped for Joe Biden. The list of efforts around the country to make it harder to vote has been compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice, we'll put a link for that on our website. But there's there's more than like a gross of them, you know, 140 150 bills that have been introduced to do all sorts of things. Now, the one way to stop a lot of this voter suppression would be a national law, Christine passed by Congress, which would only impact federal elections, but by inference winning would affect local elections as well because it states aren't going to want to set up a separate system for their local elections. The problem is getting it through the United States Senate. Because of the filibuster, I for one say it's that the filibuster has got to go. We've gotten to the point now where you cannot govern in the senate with a filibuster, United States Senate Democrats represent 40 million more Americans than United States Senate Republicans. That's because of course, the small states have an inordinate amount of influence in the United States Senate. And I think the majority for once actually needs to make the rules. We need to have majority rule in this country, we have the close majority of it's still a majority in the House of Representatives, despite gerrymandering, and in terms of representation. We have a significant majority in the United States Senate. And thanks to the tie breaking vote of the Vice President, we at least have a thin majority. But with a 60 vote requirement to pass most bills that aren't budget related. Nothing's going to happen, as long as mitch mcconnell's got that filibuster in his pocket. Yeah, I


Christine Barry  1:00:54

agree. And I don't think the filibuster, really, while the 60 votes to cut off debate, I don't think that number had to fail. I think this is a personality issue. But it's gotten to the point now where it is such a precedent, if if you find that a senate leader can come in and say the only thing we're going to do is say no for the next four years. If that person is going to do that, and they have enough, you know, they have at least 40 senators, and there's no reason to have this filibuster, because all we're doing is obstruction. That's it, understand that veterans in the senate don't necessarily want to get rid of the filibuster, because they know minorities change. I understand that. Well, you understand that too. But look, I mean, how much more Are we going to take? How much more Are we going to take from these republicans, they do what they want, they didn't end the filibuster this time, but they just let Trump do whatever he wanted. He's the one who just went out and did a bunch of illegal stuff, firing people, he's not supposed to fire and doing all these different things. Look at what's at stake here for anybody who's who's still wants to keep the filibuster in place, look at what is at stake in the next few years. Climate change, voting rights, which we were just talking about, we have the opportunity, by the way, with our majorities right now than as they are to end 40 years of disinvestment in this country, which started with reaganomics. The basically 30 years of predatory lending that keeps people in poverty, we can strengthen our health care, we could make dc a state which in my opinion deserves to be and put as much of it and as possible to, what 100 years of voter suppression. And we can't do that with with the filibuster in place. We can't do any of that with filibuster in place, and we have to act on climate change. Now. These are all good reasons to end the filibuster and just get to work,


Walt Sorg  1:02:50

you know, called Joe Manchin called Christian cinema and tell them it's time to end the filibuster, because they're probably the only two people standing in the way of that. One other statistic before we move on, I figured out on the spreadsheet that it is theoretically possible. If 41 senators from the 21 smallest states unite together, they can stop any legislation. If you assume that that's the way it breaks out. Of course, it never would. But if you assume that's the way it breaks out, those 41 senators would be representative of 17% of the nation's population,


Christine Barry  1:03:20

this is going to get worse because people are leaving the small states to go to the more populated states. And I have I'll have a link on that. But if you look by I think they predict by 2040 is going to be a ridiculous number.


Walt Sorg  1:03:38

Meanwhile, back in the world of Michigan politics,


Christine Barry  1:03:40

congratulations to lavora. Barnes re elected to a second term as chair of the Michigan Democratic Party over the weekend at a somewhat low key convention, I think, nothing much. I think this is an example of what Trump the effect that Trump has had on both parties. You know, for the Democrats, they were shocked by what happened in 2016. I think they learned from it, and they did a pretty good job of executing on those lessons. I think Democrats are excited by President Biden's bold agenda. They're excited by the fact that Kamala Harris, the first mixed heritage woman to be elected vice president, maybe will be the first woman president and all of that is very exciting and energizing. So I don't think they'll get complacent, but we definitely have to stay on our toes. And the republicans Meanwhile, are still dealing with conspiracies and prosecutions for you know, election interference for treason. I mean, they got big problems, and they'll work through them eventually. But I will say this every week forever. Right now when you have Misha Maddock. And even to a certain extent Ron wiser in charge, you cannot be a dues paying card carrying member of that party and say you don't support violence, because you do you support violence, as a political tool.


Walt Sorg  1:05:01

I think the fundamental difference between the two parties right now is that when democrats disagree, it's over policy. And it's a, it's a polite, it's a fervent, but it's a polite disagreement. Whereas in the Republican Party right now, it's becoming a cult of personality as much as it is about any ideology. And that is much more divisive. It's also very much a entity ology of grievance, people that are angry about things, people that are fearful of things. Whereas I think right now, and this can all change, but right now, I think the democratic agenda is more forward thinking and is more about what we can achieve. Whereas the republicans are, what can we stop? And how can we continue to support this charlatan? Who is the unquestioned leader of the party right now. One of the things that's a part of the Trump legacy, despite in addition to the politics that he is left behind is the level of service from the post office which continues to go downhill intentionally as the Trump installed Postmaster General outlines continuing plans to make service less and less efficient. Michigan's senator Gary Peters aide having it. And as chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over the post office, he's fighting to maintain the quality of service at a federal agency that was created in the US Constitution, and was first run by Ben Franklin.


Gary Peters  1:06:21

We're asking the postal service to present to us their strategic plan for the future, which is a number of reforms to streamline operations. But at the same time, make sure that you're maintaining service to me, that is absolutely critical to remember that the Postal Service is a service. It provides mail to every single address in America every single day. But it has to do it in a timely and efficient manner. We are certainly committed to doing what we have to do to support those efforts going forward.


Walt Sorg  1:06:52

And for those who asked why is Louis DeJoy still the Postmaster General? The answer is that he reports to an independent board. And that board is totally dominated by people appointed by the the last guy and not the current president of the United States, although there are some vacancies in President Biden's going to kind of alleviate that problem.


Christine Barry  1:07:11

Yeah, and it's important that Senator Peters, and you know, Congress keep investigating this, because in order to make a change at the United States Postal Service, like you said, it's a functionally independent agency, its governing body is the Board of Governors, and there are some vacancies there. But you cannot, the president cannot fire the Postmaster General and he cannot fire members of the board except for cause. So he can fire members of the board for cause. And, and I, you know, we assume that's not, you know, causes not that he doesn't like what they're doing, for example, but just because help out there because you


Walt Sorg  1:07:50

hired a Postmaster General, or somebody with a conflict of interest the guys in the trucking business. And one indication of how bad it's gotten. My son in law is in retail sales in a national company, they ship everything that goes out, they have very few people coming into their on site location to purchase things. And he stopped shipping things using the post office, even though it was more cost effective, because they just couldn't rely on the delivery. They're now sending everything FedEx or UPS, it's raising their costs, but it's also raising the potential profits for FedEx and UPS. You know,


Christine Barry  1:08:25

the Postmaster General, he wasn't even recommended by any of the headhunters that the governing board hired to look for a candidate this this is not a traditional candidate or employee. However, if they uncover cause, then we can act on it and start making improvements. But in the absence of that, and this is legitimate work that needs to be done anyway, because, as you said, I mean, things are just screwed up. And this is screwed up people's paychecks, their prescriptions, you know, their their bills, their rent payments, all of that screwed up by this postmaster General's ideas that we need to cut the post office in half or whatever, whatever he's doing. So kudos to Senator Peters and keep it going.


Walt Sorg  1:09:10

The destruction of the post office of the deterioration of the post office leads me to my favorite video of the week, and that is the demolition of the Trump Plaza casino and Hotel in Atlantic City. The New York Times reported as he campaigned for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. Mr. Trump frequently boasted about how he outwitted Wall Street lenders and road the value of his name to riches in Atlantic City, quote, the money I took out of there was incredible unquote. He once told an interviewer, in fact to use little of his own money in New York Times investigation found and he shifted personal debts to the casinos, leaving the burden of his failures on investors and others who had gambled on his success. People paid anywhere from $10 to $575. For a ticket just to watch the place demolished with 3006 of dynamite. It is What I would call a visual metaphor for the last four years.


Christine Barry  1:10:05

You know, to be fair, his legacy is a bit mixed because people remember him fondly for employing 1000s of people and bringing in tax dollars. But at the same time, that's just rose colored glasses, I think because a lot of contractors went out of business because he didn't pay. He could never draw in enough people to support the debt. You know, instead of investing in the companies or the projects that he had, he just went bankrupt. Let everyone else take the hit.


Walt Sorg  1:10:32

even Giuliani's finding that out now.


Christine Barry  1:10:34

In your face ace Giuliani. But that's it for this week's podcast. We have tons of information, links, videos, everything on today's topics on our website, you can find that at


Walt Sorg  1:10:50

As always, we welcome your comments you can email us at or comment via our Facebook page or on Twitter. The Michigan Policast is a production of Michigan citizens for a better tomorrow.



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