If you were alive and in Michigan in 2010, you know what despair feels like.
The state was just creeping out of a hellish 10-year recession. For most of that Lost Decade, it was the only state to lose jobs, population and economic vitality.
Michigan ranked near the bottom of every economic measure. It’s Byzantine business tax code drove job creators away. It’s credit rating stunk. A hostile bureaucracy treated developers and investors as unwelcome parasites. Two of every three college graduates left the state for opportunities elsewhere.
Detroit was lurching toward financial ruin, and dozens of other communities and school districts were at risk of collapse.
Then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm had no clue how to manage a crisis. Everything she attempted made things worse.
So it was no wonder both Democratic and Republican voters thronged to Rick Snyder that fall. The Ann Arbor businessman attempting his first run for political office offered competence, confidence and a common-sense approach to restoring Michigan’s economic health.
And that’s what he delivered. In his first term, Snyder pushed through an ambitious pro-growth agenda that included rationalizing business taxes, crafting a plan for wiping away the state’s long-term debt, putting in place honest, responsible budgeting and opening the doors to investors.
In the seven years since, Snyder placed Michigan back among the nation’s leaders in job growth. The state’s tax climate is no longer an impediment to investment. The credit rating is solid. Population is starting to grow. Home sales are trending double the rest of the nation. Detroit is out of a Snyder-directed bankruptcy and in its best fiscal shape in decades. And there are no local entities under emergency management.
That’s the reality. The perception is markedly different.
A Detroit News/WDIV-TV Ch. 4 poll this week revealed nearly 60 percent of Michigan voters believe the state is in no better shape, or in worse condition, than when Snyder took office. Just one-third recognize the remarkable progress Michigan has made during that period.
In Detroit, the city Snyder saved, three-quarters think he’s done a terrible job. How could that be? 2010 isn’t so long ago that we should have forgotten how hopeless our fortunes seemed then. That nightmare should be seared in our memories.
Snyder, in an interview last week, said he doesn’t entirely understand the disconnect, but suggested the slow rise of household incomes may be responsible, an opinion shared by pollster Richard Czuba of the Glengariff Group. Others say Snyder is still paying the price for the Flint water crisis.
But even before Flint, Snyder struggled to win a second term, beating a weak opponent by just 4 points despite the surging economy. If a robust economic turnaround doesn’t impress Michigan voters, what will?
The worrisome piece of this poll is what it bodes for the future, and the ability of the state to sustain the current growth trajectory.
If Michiganians can’t tell good times from bad, they are less likely to defend the policies and practices that enabled the legacy Snyder is leaving them.
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