Anti-Schauer ad overplays his ‘rock star’ status

How we make the call

Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:

No factual inaccuracies in the statement and no important information is missing
Mostly accurate
While the statement is largely accurate, it omits or exaggerates facts, or needs some clarification
Half accurate
Truths are interspersed with mistruths, or the speaker left out significant facts that render his/her remarks misleading in important respects
Mostly inaccurate
The major point or points made are untrue or misleading, even while some aspects of the claim may be accurate
The statement is false, or based on false underlying facts

Who:Republican Governors Association
What:“Rock Star,” 30-second TV ad
The call:Regular Foul

Relevant text:

“Jennifer Granholm signed one of the largest tax increases in Michigan history, thanks to her Senate leader, Mark Schauer. The deciding vote for her painful services tax? Mark Schauer. A newspaper called Schauer her 'go-to guy' in the Senate. Granholm called Schauer 'a rock star.' Rock star? With 300,000 jobs lost and crippling debt? Granholm and Schauer’s tax-and-spend ways left Michigan drowning in debt.”

It’s a time-tested tactic of campaign strategy: Associate a candidate with a popular or unpopular politician of a bygone era. (Ronald Reagan has attracted more conservative hopefuls than a shark has pilot fish.) This is the second ad by the Republican Governors Association to associate Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer with former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who was in office during much of Michigan’s so-called “lost decade” and the near-collapse of the auto industry.

As Truth Squad has reported, the assertions about the tax package passed by the legislature in 2007 to help close a projected $1.75 billion deficit are true. In 2007, Schauer was among those who voted to raise the income tax from 3.9 to 4.35 percent and to expand the 6 percent sales tax to include a variety of services, a total tax increase of $1.35 billion – indeed, one of the largest in the state’s history. The fact it was passed to avoid a state government shutdown is not mentioned in this ad, nor is the fact that the Senate was led then, as now, by Republicans.

Calling Schauer the “deciding vote” on the package is inaccurate; the income-tax bill passed the state Senate on a 19-19 tie, with the lieutenant governor, not Schauer, breaking the deadlock. If one of that 19 was the decider, it could have been any of them.

The Citizens Research Council’s white paper on the state’s indebtedness does not mince words: By 2006, its combined general fund and school aid fund cash balances were $1.3 billion in the red. The lost-jobs numbers are also accurate. Again, Truth Squad’s earlier analysis of these figures stands: In January 2003, non-farm private sector employment in Michigan stood at 4,445,700. In December 2008, it stood at 4,054,600 – a drop of more than 390,000.

The problem lies with fixing blame: Was this due to “Granholm and Schauer’s tax-and-spend ways?” Or is it the result of a complex constellation of economic factors that moved so many of Michigan’s manufacturing jobs overseas or to other states? A W.E. Upjohn Institute analysis of the auto-industry job drain had this to say: “One could argue that Michigan’s problems are rooted in its past success. For years, GM, Ford, and Chrysler dominated the auto industry, and Michigan benefited from their ability to set prices and dictate trends for the auto industry. However, factors such as inflexibility in responding to changing consumer preferences, rising oil prices, the accumulation of large legacy costs from generous health care and pension benefits to retired auto workers, and the higher production costs associated with an increasingly older, higher-paid incumbent workforce eroded their competitive position.”

One could argue government might have played a role in mitigating this collapse, but there is no indication these tax packages were a direct or proximate cause. And, as a senator from a party that was not in power, Schauer’s influence on the state’s economy was minimal.

The call:Regular Foul

Schauer may bear scant resemblance to Bruce Springsteen, but his role in the legislature during a turbulent time for Michigan is a matter of record. If the ad lacks a 360-degree view of the conditions in Lansing at the time of the tax-package deal, well, it is an ad, not journalism. It does state outright that Schauer and Granholm’s “tax-and-spend ways” were responsible for Michigan’s troubles in the last decade, but that’s a glib assertion not borne out by serious analysis. In fact, spending under Granholm’s watch took some big hits, mainly because of the recession’s effects on revenue.

The most troubling aspect of this ad, and what cements Truth Squad’s call of a foul, is the silly and easily disproved claim that Schauer cast the deciding vote for the tax package. Why the RGA didn’t simply state, with accuracy, that Schauer “voted for” the package is baffling.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Wed, 09/17/2014 - 11:40am
This sentence from your article could very well apply to all Police, Firemen, Teachers and Administrators plus our own Legislature: "factors such as inflexibility in responding to changing consumer preferences, rising oil prices, the accumulation of large legacy costs from generous health care and pension benefits to retired auto workers"............made them non competitive and levid costs that caused companies to outsource to other States or out of the country. The same applies to the aformentioned State workers. They need to face up to reforms or look to be like Detroit at some time in the future. My point is that the Granholm administration and Legislature raised tax rates back in 2007 but then did little to rein in the costs tor the State then or into the future in the form of legacy costs. Governor Snyders rein dropped the tax rate but took away exemptions to balance the load. The recovery has been great and the future looks better. But the legacy costs of $28 billion for teachers alone without a plan for reform will be a huge problem in the future. I hope that he will address this in his next term of office. If not, I think we will see an even greater exodus to Charter Schools. Teachers will lose out in the long run.
Wed, 09/17/2014 - 6:55pm
Since the 'Truth Squad' does not describe what constitutes a 'deciding vote' it would seem that if legislation passes by one vote it would seem each vote for the legislation could be considered the deciding vote. In the case of the vote on taxes if anyone of those voting for the tax increase had abstained the legislation would have failed suggesting that each vote was deciding. The last vote for the legislation was the Lt. Gov. but without each of those voting for the tax increase then the Lt. Gov. doesn't get to vote and the legilation fails. I wonder if the 'Truth Squad' has an establised set of criteria when judging whether spin (the ad presenters view of the issue) is in or out of being 'overplayed.' When the 'Truth Squad' starts bring in other issues such as the rationale offered by those voting for the addtioinal taxes at the time (saving state government) then if they were interested in being accurate it would seem the 'Truth Squad' would also offer the rationale those voting against it made. It would that if the 'Truth Squad' were judging the credibility of the Schauer vote to raise taxes based on the debt logic then they should have also offered some explanation of how that debt was created whether Mr. Schauer had made any votes that could be considered to contribute to that debt. When the 'Truth Squad' is judging spin and only offering part of facts of the time they are using it could lead a person to feel they are creating their own spin to justify their judgement. As best I can tell the ad left me with the impression that without Mr. Schauer's vote the tax legislation mentioned would not have passed. From the vote count the 'Truth Squad' presented it seems that point in the ad is accurate. On a more personal note, I really don't care and tuned that ad out with so many others until I read this 'Truth Squad' article.
Fri, 09/19/2014 - 10:55am
Nonsense! The lieutenant governor broke the tie, his was the deciding vote. Plain and simple. Likewise the assertion that "spend and tax ways" left the state drowning in debt when it was used to prevent an unconstitutional deficit. And if you believed that The Truth Squad's analysis agreed that Schauer's vote with the deciding one, then you better take reading comprehension lessons.
Sat, 09/20/2014 - 12:16am
Edson, If Schauer would have simply abstained would the Lt. Gov. had the opportunity to vote? If not, then I would say that each and every vote for the legislation including Schauer's and the Lt. Gov. we deciding votes in the passage since it wouldn't have happened without each and every vote. Similarly if one of those who voted against had abtained then it would have been a deciding non-vote. Simply taking things linearly doesn't mean that only the last even was the deciding factor and that ignoring that each one of the early in the sequence did not decide what happened.
Thu, 09/18/2014 - 7:58am
Like Duane, I tend to tune out political ads.since I know that fear-mongering, hyperbole, and spin are standard tools in political ads, Particularly annoying are ads that link one elected official to another in order to make a point. Granholm is not on the ballot. Ads with calm voice, unambiguous facts, and a positive message are more likely to catch my attention. This Truth Squad analysis focuses on assertions connected to Schauer's vote to increase taxes and states that "If one of that 19 was the decider, it could have been any of them." Fair enough. Analysis of "...Schauer's tax and spend ways left Michigan drowning in debt." was appropriate. It added context about other possible factors contributing to the debt crisis that necessitated the tax increase. I would have like a little more discussion of " of the largest tax increases in Michigan history." How was that debt calculated? What time period was included? Was it inflation adjusted? How many "tax increases" were larger? "One of the largest" in what magnitude compared to other large tax increases? What were the (R) and (D) dynamics in play with the other large tax increases? Intelligent voters want facts not spin.
Fri, 09/26/2014 - 9:04am
Just turn these ads off and toss away their mailers, all of these messages are written at a third grade level as it is. I've been part of a spin machine and the whole idea going in is "how to we deceive people." By the way, I care about the future of our kids, so I'm qualified for office.
Mary Valentine
Tue, 09/30/2014 - 2:40pm
Michigan does not allow deficit spending, so there was no crippling debt -- flat out lie, condoned by the fact-checker.