Last month, Detroit hosted a gathering of so-called progressives in an event advertised as a proving ground for election and governing strategy.
Unfortunately, it appears attendees overlooked the most progressive idea in the history of man – freedom.
History tells us when there is a man, woman or group of individuals who have a dream and a plan to get there, there’s usually a government department, a bureaucracy, or a politician who thinks they can do it better.
But real progress, throughout the annals of history, has run in the opposite direction – away from central control at the hands of privileged elites and towards freedom, liberty and the individual.
With that in mind, here are just six ideas for a better, freer, more progressive Michigan.
Free the hops and the grapes: End the 3-tiered system for alcohol sales
When prohibition ended in 1933, Michigan established a “3-tier” system to ostensibly restrict alcohol sales across the state, and the system is still in place today, driving up prices, driving out competition, and making it tougher for small business owners to create profit.
The system requires beer, wine and liquor producers (tier 1) sell their products to a middleman or wholesaler (tier 2), who are then permitted to sell the beverages to retailers (tier 3). What’s worse, the government decides who can be the middlemen and restricts the job of wholesaling alcoholic beverages to a few powerful and politically connected families. This is pure cronyism.
The real kicker? State government has set itself up as the one-and-only middleman for liquor sales. Anyone hoping to sell liquor in Michigan must only sell it to the state’s unelected, unaccountable Liquor Control Commission, where the state tacks a 65 percent surcharge on every bottle, raking in massive profits to fund itself and adding little value to Michigan’s economy.
The system is bad for taxpayers, consumers, and job makers. But it’s good for bureaucrats, lobbyists, and the politically connected.
It’s time to end this wasteful system and to enhance Michigan’s burgeoning reputation as a destination for craft beer, spirits and wine.
Free the volts: End state-mandated electricity monopoly
In 2008, then-Governor Jennifer Granholm eliminated competition from the electric marketplace, establishing an arbitrary 10 percent cap on electricity competition to give DTE and Consumers Energy an energy monopoly.
It was a change economists claim costs the state 21,000 jobs each year and resulted in energy costs for consumers that were $3 billion higher than the Midwest average faced by other families and job makers in 2013 alone.
Since 2008, rates for families have skyrocketed by over 26 percent. That’s an increase of nearly one thousand percent more than the national average.
Legislation is before the state House of Representatives to undo this $3 billion-a-year mistake. Lawmakers should stand up for families and end the Granholm-era energy monopoly.
Free the courts: End age discrimination in Michigan’s judiciary
For over 100 years, Michigan’s Constitution has forbidden any citizen age 70 or older from being elected or appointed as a judge in the Great Lakes state.
This entrenched ageism isn’t only offensive and demeaning to Michigan seniors, it robs voters of their right to select the people they think best to fill open positions, and robs the entire state of the wisdom, knowledge and experience of many jurists and litigators who understand the law best.
It’s time for Michigan to amend the Constitution to protect the rights of older residents and end age discrimination in Michigan’s judiciary.
Free the roads: End wasteful, unaccountable road commissions
Nearly 80 of Michigan’s 83 counties have a road commission, often with hundreds of employees and tens of millions of dollars in their annual budgets. In most of those counties, the commissions are unelected and unaccountable to voters and taxpayers.
The system was created over 120 years ago as a way to connect distant villages and cities.
It exists now to connect unaccountable bureaucrats to billions of tax dollars with little to no oversight. The result in many counties has been chronic waste, abuse, misspending, misplaced priorities and budget deficits, while voters are left with zero recourse.
County commissions should exercise their right under state law to absorb the responsibilities of road commissions, in order to offer their residents the oversight and accountability they deserve while dramatically cutting costs.
Free the schools: Eliminate ISDs to pump millions more into classrooms, not bureaucracies
Michigan has 56 intermediate school districts, a level of bureaucracy that stands between the Department of Education and local school districts responsible for educating Michigan kids.
ISDs are not bound by Proposal A, are unaccountable to voters, and the services they provide to local districts – like busing – could often be accomplished by other providers at incredible cost savings to local schools.
Worse, ISDs will soak up more than $64 million from the state’s K-12 education budget next year alone to pay the freight for thousands of bureaucrats (many pulling down six-figure salaries) who have no daily interaction with Michigan students.
Eliminating ISDs would return control of education to local communities, and empower local districts to find cheaper, more efficient services and partnerships. What’s more, it would pump more than $64 million back into the classroom instead of wasting it on palatial ISD compounds, and salaries for bureaucrats who have absolutely zero daily contact with students.
Free union workers: End lifetime appointments for unions as bargaining representatives
Every two years, voters head to the polls to determine who will represent them from their local town halls all the way to Lansing and the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C.
We hold elections regularly in this state and this nation to ensure that our elected officials represent the interests of voters – we do it to keep them honest and focused on delivering results.
Michigan men and women in workplaces represented by labor unions don’t enjoy that same protection, and labor unions don’t face that same level of accountability. But they should.
Today, once workers are organized and select a union, they are typically stuck with that union for life. While unions hold officer elections from time to time, voters almost never get another say on whether or not they want the union itself representing them at the bargaining table.
Legislation requiring every union in every Michigan workplace to seek and win “re-election” every four years would change that. It would end what are essentially lifetime appointments for unions and force them to focus on delivering results for the workers they represent – or face an eviction notice.
Regular elections to decide whether or not a union can continue representing workers at each workplace would also dramatically increase the voice of Michigan workers, giving them a direct say on the job.
Too often, so-called progressives choose the most complex, regressive path. These are just six simple, truly progressive solutions to a better, freer, more prosperous and efficient Michigan.