You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, May 5, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

As we learn what Snyder meant by 'reinvention,' where does that leave his early call for transparency in governing?

By Rick Haglund

What did Gov. Rick Snyder know and when did he know it?

I’ve been asking myself that question a lot lately as our new governor has issued one sweeping reform after another on taxes, education, local government and other issues.

Those of us who followed his campaign for governor — and I followed it pretty closely — heard nothing from Snyder about how he planned to hike taxes on pensioners, allow emergency financial managers to break labor contracts and cut education funding.

Only now do we know what Snyder meant when he spoke passionately, but vaguely, throughout the campaign about how he planned to “reinvent” Michigan.


Rick Snyder on the campaign trail in 2010.

Ryan J. Stanton |

My purpose here isn’t to judge the merits of Snyder’s various proposals. In general, I think he’s correct in saying that Michigan must overhaul its tax structure, improve its educational system, and get state and local government budgets in order.

But shouldn’t Snyder, who’s all about transparency in government, provided more of it on the issues during the election campaign?

If nothing else, he might have saved himself the aggravation of the recall campaign being waged against him.

Voters probably knew less about Snyder than any other governor-elect in memory when he defeated Democrat Virg Bernero in November.

Not that Bernero, the mayor of Lansing, was all that clear on important fiscal issues. Bernero repeatedly ducked questions about how he would solve a looming state budget deficit by saying he’d repeatedly balanced Lansing’s budget without raising taxes.

But Snyder was a virtual unknown outside of his Ann Arbor home when he ran his first campaign television ad during the Super Bowl in February declaring he was “one tough nerd.”

Unlike most gubernatorial candidates, Snyder had no political track record to judge. He’d never held elective office. He declared himself a Republican, but even many Republicans weren’t sure if he was one of them.

His most specific proposal during the election campaign was to dump the convoluted Michigan Business Tax and replace it with a 6 percent corporate income tax.

Snyder said the reform was needed to boost Michigan’s ailing business climate. He acknowledged the plan would blow a $1.8 billion hole in the state budget, but wouldn’t say how he would fill it.

Now we know that Snyder apparently was planning to balance the budget by raising taxes on pensions, eliminating tax credits for the poor and delaying a previously approved reduction in the personal income tax rate.

I say “apparently” because I’m pretty sure he’s been thinking for years about how he would reinvent Michigan.

When Snyder, a former Gateway computer executive, returned to his native Michigan in 1997 to become a venture capitalist, rumors soon started circulating that he wanted to be governor.

Few outside of his inner circle took those rumors seriously, but they proved to be true.

Rich Robinson, of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a watchdog group, said he doesn’t blame journalists for not holding Snyder accountable during the campaign. He said he thinks they did the best they could.

As one exasperated reporter said on television during the campaign, “What were we supposed to do — waterboard him until he answered our questions?”

Rather, Robinson said the slight majority of voters who have said in recent polls that they don’t like what Snyder is doing have only themselves to blame.

“Candidates won’t offer specifics unless voters demand it,” Robinson told me. “If a candidate can get away with platitudes and vague suggestions, and if that’s satisfactory to the voters on election day, so be it.”

Email Rick Haglund at



Fri, May 6, 2011 : 12:33 p.m.

When people are beat up and in pain, they want to feel good. If you can't help them feel good with food on the table, a roof over their heads, hope that their children's lives will be improved and the rest of the stuff the average middle-class citizen of America wants, you inspire them with rhetoric and vague generalities. Sometimes it is just easier to hold on to a fantasy of hope than confront reality. I am sure Rick Snyder feels he got to where he is because of his superior intelligence and hard work. With blinders he believes (sincerely) that these opportunities are available to everyone of his intelligence and willingness to work. It never occurs to him that he might not be all that intelligent and that the rules of the game might have favored his success over others who faced hard decisions about how to manage their lives. How do you go to college when you need to go to work to support your family? How do you find time to study when you have to work in order to support your parents and family? How do you pay for unexpected medical treatments for your children when your paycheck (if you have one) barely covers the rent? Rick wants others to be patient and wait in pain while he and his brilliant team of entrepreneurs solve everything by starting businesses..... what he and his friends love to do. (Isn't this kind of like the musician who says music can save the world?) Of course, he doesn't want to spend his own money on the experiment. He wants to take what little money is left to those in pain. And, while we are handing over all this money to support business, there is no assurance that the money will be used to restore the standard of living the middle class needs to get out of pain. Perhaps there will be jobs. But, will there be wages? Yes, Rick is very much out of touch. But, so were a lot of voters who preferred the fantasy of hope to the work of reality. At least, that's my take on it.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 7:26 p.m.

So alt, do you want to raise taxes some more? Choke off the businesses that are left and drive them away? Where will the jobs come from? We aren;t living in a vacuum, and businesses will move to less hostile climates.


Fri, May 6, 2011 : 12:14 p.m.

I was uncomfortable with Rick Synder from the beginning. His "campaign" was too cute and avoided almost all topics of substance. He refused to engage in debates with one small exception. His very well planned strategy was effective with far too many people including the media who just seemed to be swept along with his cuteness. His style of governance so far is so far removed from the basic tenets of democracy (CEO of a newly formed corporation named Michigan) that expectations of openess and transparency are only doomed to disappoint. When someone is so intent upon hiding agendas and methods to achieve, there is obviously discomfort with acceptance. This governor isn't going to engage but is going to mandate.


Fri, May 6, 2011 : 5:21 a.m.

Where were these articles when the Democrats were doing nothing for 8 years? I read all the complaints and calls for Snyder's recall, yet where were these people during Granhom's term? Where were the passionate articles and campaigns for jobs? If anything proves that Unions and the Left don't really care about anyone but themselves,it is this. For if these people TRULY cared they would have been doing whatever it took while they had power to stem the massive job losses that this state was hemorrhaging. I say we recall all Democrats for their gross ineptitude in public office. I say Union workers disban their incompetent unions and form unions on their own. It is time to reinvent liberalism.


Fri, May 6, 2011 : 2:15 a.m.

I think Gov. Snyder represented himself as fairly as any politician during the past election. The pendulum swung in one direction in the last election and it will eventually swing back the other way. The losing side will always put on their retrospectoscopes and claim a foul or some perceived injustice. The gnashing of teeth and the wails of "if only" reverberate in the thoughts and voices of the like-minded. Ultimately, all of this is unhelpful. Ideas are helpful. The democratically elected Governor of our state is working with the democratically elected legislature. You are welcome to make your voice heard.

David Briegel

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 2:46 a.m.

I believe that voice will be loud and very clear.


Fri, May 6, 2011 : 12:43 a.m.

After reading your article, I looked up the white paper on education that I downloaded last July from Gov. Snyder's election web site. The views he expressed in that white paper are nearly all consistent with what he recommended a week or two ago to the legislature. The views also are in keeping with what Bill Gates has been exhorting governors to do.

David Briegel

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 12:38 a.m.

Wow, the three posts at the top and the four most recent really sum up a pretty good summary of the fraud that has been perpetrated on the citizens of our fair state. The nonsense of the mythology of trickle down being posted by the Nerd supporters defies all logic. We have followed trickle down for 30 years with the lowest tax rates in 60 years, record profits and huge cash reserves. That is precisely what was predicted. Only thing missing is the promise of that good ole trickle down. Which way did it go? We have to be firm and stand up to that lie. They have no right to spout that garbage any longer. If we had bailed out real citizens they would have spent the money, generated the increased demand that would have resulted in an economic recovery. Everyone would have benefitted! Money would have gushed up in a more honest, free market fashion. The citizens would have picked the winners! Instead here we are listening to the same old lies. When will WE ever learn.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 7:23 p.m.

David- Where are those low tax rates? Michigan is one of the highest tax states. The lowest is Texas and they have low unemployment. US is the highest tax country. Those with low tax rates have high employment. Do you think you can tax your way out of a deficit? Do you know who was the first president to pursue massive tax cuts to fix economy? Kennedy. And it worked. Study some history and economics before you comment again.

peg dash fab

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 12:18 a.m.

I scoured the Snyder campaign web site and asked his staff directly to explain how he intended to make up the billion dollar business tax cut. The web site said nothing, and the most I ever got from the campaign was that the improved business climate would capture more tax revenues over time. That's as may be may be, but it is hardly relevant to balancing the budget in the first year; after all, the State is not allowed to run a deficit. I am guessing that the mysterious ALEC is spoon feeding legislation to Snyder just like they are in Wisconsin, Maine, etc. Our "genius nerd" is their useful idiot.


Fri, May 6, 2011 : 12:07 a.m.

"Do you think Gov. Rick Snyder gave enough information on the campaign trail about his planned policies for Michigan?" Sure. He said he was a Republican. That should have been enough for the majority in this state to vote against him. What more did we need to know? Republicans do not believe in democracy and want to starve the government. Republicans rob from the public to give to the wealthy. Republicans have enabled the largest consolidation of wealth in the top 2% of the population in nearly a century. Republicans have deluded many, many Americans into voting against their own best interests through the use of fear, bigotry, and lies.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 10:52 p.m.

Mr. Snyder has no integrity. If what he is doing now is the way he thought Michigan should go forward, he should have told the voters of his plans before the election. He knew then exactly what he would do if elected--so why did he not tell the voters? The simple answer is that he would not have been elected, because a majority of Michiganders do not agree with his approach. Instead of telling the voters the truth, he bobbed and weaved behind various vague slogans (remember the promise to be "data driven"?!). You can fault the voters for falling for Snyder's schtick, but that does not change that what he did was repulsive to democracy--and he did it very deliberately. What does one say about a man who was willing to spend $5 million of his own money to accomplish a massive bait and switch like this? Clearly, one does not say--this man has integrity. He is a deliberate, calculating liar, nothing more.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 9:14 p.m.

To him, "reinvention" seems to mean shift all the burdens to the educational system, the unions, the poor and the elderly and letting the people with the most assets off the hook. I can't see where "trickle down" has worked since it was promoted in the 80's. This is a failing view and, if it comes into full fruition, Michigan will go further into economic instability. He is lacking in candor and if a SNYDER RECALL petition were circulated, I'd sign it willingly.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

What did all these folks think? I guess Rick was supposed to solve all this with sunshine and lollypops, and no real sacrifice to anyone. And the demonization of business? Let's completely do away with those greedy old businesses, can't we all just work for the government? think of it we could all make $100k per year, retire at 50 yo, with free health care for the rest of our lives, where do I sign up?

David Briegel

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 2:09 a.m.

macabre, I agree. You might even agree that they should do it honestly.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 10 p.m.

Sacrifice is for individuals, not corporations. A corporation should try to make money. Ones that don't make money go the way of Borders. You can read all about it in a very long and complicated book - focusing, of course, on chapters 7 and 11.

David Briegel

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

I am appalled at the silly posts like this one. Nobody I know hates business. They just believe in shared sacrifice and paying their share. Silliness. And to your last question, that would be on the low side for a CEO/ruling class pension.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 8:39 p.m.

Jobs is what I thought this was about. Who creates jobs? The government can't. It takes money from the private sector and creates what they call a job. And then to top it off they pay them higher wages and better benefits on someone else's dime. Businesses don't pay taxes they collect them and give them to the government. He's not taxing poor old people he's taxing well to do old people. As Obama has stated those who can afford to pay a little more. Retire in your fifties, travel the world, with all expenses paid health care, and 80% of your pay in some cases. Schools need to do more with less. Private schools kick their butts even when you take the special needs kids out of the picture . All of us are having to do more with less. Give me a good reason that teachers can't take a big cut during these tough times. $70K for nine months plus a large number of paid holidays doesn't elicit much sympathy from those struggling. If changes aren't made now the next ones will be far more draconian.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 8 p.m.

As we have raised taxes on businesses, we have lost those businesses to other states. As those businesses left, and tax revenues fell, those on the political left raised taxes on businesses even more. More businesses went to other states, and tax revenue fell further. Then they raised tax rates even more, and tried to make it difficult for businesses to leave the state. More jobs and tax revenue went away. Michigan's business climate is rated among the bottom 10 states in the country. Our bond rating is 49th, only California is worse. We cannot tax the businesses and more and we cannot borrow any more money. This is the reality faced by Rick Snyder. He is attempting to overhaul the business environment. If he is successful, and jobs are created, tax revenue will rise. Then he can restore education spending. In the meantime, school administrators will have to get lean for a while, not such a bad thing. Retirees who have had a free ride will no longer get one. Why is pension income any different from my income? Should a retiree earning 100,000 a year on his pension pay nothing while a working man earning 50,000 pays more? That was never fair. The situation is tough, and there are no easy decisions. You can jump up and down and say "don't cut here!" but without alternatives (other than soaking business) you are irrelevant. We needed an adult to make adult decisions. We got it. Hang in there Rick.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 8:31 p.m.

Great post Bob. The libs here will never address the pension exempution equity issue except to cite platitudes about the State's books being balanced on the backs of impoverished pensioners on fixed incomes. No discussions on how to make the system fair for all low income elderly - those working jobs and those better off with large pensions which are now largely untaxes. If you are 65 with no pension and working two jobs they could care less about your, well-to-do retired libs with good pensions are all about there tax benefits.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 7:56 p.m.

Can't believe that we were all taken in by the self-proclaimed nerd.....but seems like we were. Such a disappointment he has been.......can't wait to sign the recall petition because Snyder really needs to go before he does any more damage.

Elaine F. Owsley

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

Those of us who did not believe him and did not vote for him can only hope for the best and say "We told you so!!"

Basic Bob

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 2:01 a.m.

No, it's more like the Lions. You can say "Maybe next year".


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 7:16 p.m.

I CAN'T BELIEVE that anyone is really surprised at the governor's actions. I didn't vote for him, but it was pretty clear what his philosophy was. Didn't anyone listen to his interviews or even make a cursory review of his time at Gateway? The man lives in a gated community and his children attend private school? You think he's dedicated to public education? We need to stop blaming the politicians and start looking at ourselves. We're getting the government we deserve.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 5:25 p.m.

Always entertaining to read the kvetching of those who wouldn't have voted for him if he had been family, even.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 8:18 a.m.

Shmendrick Briegel?

David Briegel

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 3:07 a.m.

And quit speaking yiddish!

Macabre Sunset

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 8:09 p.m.

I've never seen one post of yours that would indicate you would ever vote anything but Democrat. Like I said, it is funny to read columns written by Democrats expressing disappointment in someone they didn't want in the first place. Even funnier reading comments from posters who want to pretend they're in the middle for a minute.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

Speak for yourself. I didn't vote for him because he was proposing a $1.5 Billion tax cut for business on top of a $1.8 billion projected deficit. Throughout his campaign he refused to explain how he was going to close that $3.3 billion gap and nothing on his website ever (that I saw) explained his plans. I came to the conclusion that he purposely was being vague about his intentions. I therefore voted against him. I would have preferred the moderate that Snyder presented himself as being to the belligerent that Bernero clearly is. But I thought the latter was far more up front about what he was going to do than was the former. I thought Snyder was hiding much. I didn't trust him and I therefore did not vote for him. And it turns out that I was right--he fundamentally misrepresented his program to the people of Michigan. Despicable. Good Night and Good Luck

John Q

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

Snyder never mentioned his plans to tax pensions and cut funding for schools because he was smart enough to know he would never get elected if he said so. Anyone who believes otherwise is a fool.

Michael K.

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

I lost all respect for him the day he came out saying that teachers earn 40% more than the "average" private sector employee. The one thing a nerd - or CEO - should know is accurate data analysis that drives insightful decision making. 97% of teachers have a Masters degree. How do their salaries compare to others with a Masters degree, especially in the same field? It is the same on the tax cuts for business, etc. etc. PURE PARTISAN POLITICS. Based purely on core beliefs, with no data to back up any of it. I think we could all accept profound change driven by logic, facts, and numbers. Instead we get the same old In Group (business) and Out Group (the poor and disenfranchised) politics as usual. And I have an MBA, have started and helped run a 600 employee company, etc. He is all Marketing, no Operations.

peg dash fab

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 12:31 a.m.

So a teacher corps with no advanced training and low pay will improve the quality of education? I don't think it works that way. "Disappointment in Snyder" is not the issue. The issue is Snyder's deception.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 9 p.m.

Getting a teaching degree is not all that tough. Being a good teacher that students want is. The system rewards the people who aren't good teachers the same as those who are. Unionism and communism have a number of similarities. The only thing that sets them apart is capitalism.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 8:12 p.m.

First of all, 56% of Michigan's teachers have master's degrees, not 97%. Secondly, 90% of those master's degrees are in education. Studies have shown this costs our country billions in extra pay and compensation without any value for the students. An Education Master's is a lot like getting a certificate in fingerpainting for a second-grader.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

I guess we really should have paid a lot more attention to Rick's work background and not his campaign ads and speeches: Ran SPARK where the job numbers were fiction, no accountability and huge salaries at the top. Ran Gateway where he was supposed to turn the company around, but didn't. Just ran it into the ground, dumped the staff, sold the company to the Chinese and left with the golden parachute worth millions. We should have realized his political 'persona' was fake and what we were going to get was another incompetent, arrogant CEO type. It really shouldn't be a surprise now who he favors: business and the rich like himself and buddies. Middle class and poor - sell them out. They aren't worth anything to him.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 2:13 p.m.

Good job Rick, keep up the hard work. The have nots will like this better once they cross over from dependents to providers.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 1:11 p.m.

Since the discussion is supposed to be about Snyder, how about if we stick to that? Cutting taxes to the wealthy and expecting the money to "trickle down" doesn't work (wealthy people cannot employ enough gardeners, dry clean enough clothing, nor and purchase enough yachts to keep our economy going) or we would, right now, but up to our arm pits in jobs because the tax rates on the wealthy are the lowest they have EVER been. The problem is that once wealth hits the top, it generally sticks there. Not always, but most of the time. Our national and state economies are in transition. We're not number one any more and we need to figure out how to deal with that, not wring our hands and work on a blame game. It looks like Snyder will throw out proposals asking for *WAY* more than he expects to get, then let's the negotiation begin. The problem is that it appears Democrats are more interested in casting him as Snydley Whiplash, than they are at digging in and negotiating and trying to get the best result. The recall won't work and is a ridiculous distraction from the job which needs doing, but I'm sure the folks who want to spend more time blaming and name calling than figuring out what will work will feel much better.


Fri, May 6, 2011 : 8:53 p.m.

Did I advocate taking every cent from the wealthy and distributing it among the poor???? Nope. Did I say that they should carry more of their fair share rather than dumping most of the burden on the middle class??? Yup! Give the socialist/communist yap yap a rest, it's tiresome and exhibits a remarkable amount of, possibly willful, ignorance. A HUGE percentage of the wealth in this country is held by 2% of the population. These folks can afford to fund the tremendous PR snow job they have put out there somehow convincing people who will never even come close to knowing what that is like to keep shoveling for them. Keep on shoveling their manure Mike. I guess that is one job they have created. Not sure how well it pays, but quite sure there will be no health insurance associated with it. If you can't afford it, you really don't deserve it anyway. Free market and all that.

David Briegel

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 1:25 a.m.

I've never, ever heard anyone suggest we confiscate the wealth of the few. Keep barking at the wrong dog. Ad nauseum. OOoohh, Communist. Oooh, you left out leftist, evil leftist, socialist and mugger!

peg dash fab

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 12:33 a.m.

You tore it up on that straw man, Mike!


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 8:54 p.m.

If you took every cent from the wealthy there still wouldn't be enough money and then we'd all be unemployed because the job creators would be broke. How many poor people hire? In communist countries everyone is broke except the ruling elite. Is that your answer?

David Briegel

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 1:05 p.m.

Gee Don, I thought we were speaking of Michigan and your "nerd"? situational ethics?


Fri, May 6, 2011 : 1:52 a.m.

Not a all David, both sides point at the other for lack of transparency. both sides are guilty. I don't like the governor lacking transparency, nor the president. I don't even like the lack of transparency at the local level.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 12:58 p.m.

And President Obama was transparent with his message of "Change" and what it meant?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

Some things have changed (e.g., health care and banking regulation) and some things have not (e.g., GTMO). And, of course, where they have not, the Party of No has substantial responsibility for that lack of change (e.g., threatened filibusters of every bill appropriating money for the closure of GTMO). For someone whose tag line recently has been about the triumph of dogma over progress, DonBee sure seem dogmatic when it comes to explaining what has and has not happened, both in Lansing and in D.C., over the past few years. Talk about dogma trumping facts. Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

What does this have to do with the article? Deflecting blame is a logical fallacy.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

RIght on, Rick. Lack of transparency is one of this governor's WORST attributes. In addition to keeping us in the dark about his plans, his "Shared Sacrifice" is anything but. It takes from the elderly, those with low income, and the schools, and gives to business. The sacrifice is not shared at all.

David Briegel

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 1:26 a.m.

hey pal, nobody desires business to go away. NOBODY!


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

Without business you're unemployed pal.

Joel A. Levitt

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 10:58 a.m.

I, too, believe that we have to restructure our tax system, to improve our ability to fight fire and crime, to fix our public schools, to increase our university based research, to fix our roads and bridges, to stop the exodus of our talented young people and to provide relief for our desperately employment-seeking poor, all of which are needed to attract businesses and jobs. He was not candid with us during his campaign, but that's not the problem with Governor Snyder. The problem is that he doesn't know how to accomplish anything without subverting local democracy, nor does he know how to pay for rebuilding our state without driving more of our citizens into poverty and our already poor to revolt. Fortunately, democracy provides us with the opportunity to correct our mistakes -- recall. Let's replace Governor Snyder with someone who knows what he is doing.


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 8:48 p.m.

You want the change only you want things to stay the same?

Jim Nazium

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 10:27 a.m.

Anyone who employs the "Trickle Down Theory" is a just a tool for Big Business. It sounded good to some in principle when Reagan enacted it back in the 80's, and who knows, maybe it might have worked out in the long run but one factor they didn't count on was GREED. When that evil seven deadly sin heats up, look out, everyone suffers but the Corporate Pigs at the Trough. Greed is the killer of Capitalism, any many other things. Did our beloved nerd deceive the voters with his vagueness? Did he lie just to get elected? Uh, derrrrr!!! Don't they all?


Fri, May 6, 2011 : 5:16 a.m.

They do David Briegal? Like who? And what Jim Nazium and you fail to mention is the bad behavior of the masses. Why no mention of the 16,500 murders, the 13,000 deaths from drunk driving, and the 1.4 million acts of violent crime committed by "The People"? I read all this complaining about corporations from people who support more government and I laugh because a government is an even more powerful centralized entity than a corporation.

David Briegel

Fri, May 6, 2011 : 1:28 a.m.

Well Mike, some countries rein in the excess greed. You know, the civilized ones!


Thu, May 5, 2011 : 8:47 p.m.

Greed is a human fault just as envy is. At least in capitalism we get to choose how we live our lives. Name me one country where there is no greed and then do me a favor and move there with about 20 of your friends.