Image by Steve Rhodes via Flickr
For out-of-work Michigan residents, news today from Washington, DC that Governor-elect Rick Snyder decided against lobbying fellow Republicans on their behalf couldn’t come at a worse time.
State officials have already stopped taking unemployment benefit applications from jobless workers and nearly 200,000 Michigan families face a grimmer holiday season. That’s because Senate Republicans in Congress are blocking any extension of unemployment benefits unless Democrats yield and balloon the deficit by $700 billion while giving the wealthiest Americans a tax break.
But Snyder, in first trip to DC since he was elected governor, chose this week not to spend any of his immense political capital on behalf of Michigan’s unemployed, probably more out of fear of offending his political party than any ideological issues.
So Snyder earns a big lump of coal in his first real test of political courage and misses an opportunity to earn some centrist political bonafides.
Yes, he would have made 43 Republican Senators mad at him for speaking out on behalf of struggling Michigan families. And, yes, political heat from Snyder might not have melted those frozen, stone-cold Republican hearts and minds. It’s also just coincidental that if the GOP has its way and the tax breaks for the rich get passed, multi-millionaire Snyder would financially benefit.
But Snyder had the opportunity in his first appearance on the national stage to use the media as a bully pulpit in support of his state’s workers and economy, an action that could have given courage to other Republican governors from states with high unemployment to do the same.
Instead Snyder shied away from the national press–probably a good PR move personally–and took on a less controversial issue among Republicans that benefits businesses: asking Washington to forgive interest payments owed on federal loans to cover past unemployment benefits.
Fighting to give Michigan businesses a break during hard times is not necessarily a bad thing. The interest payment costs on the loans run thousands of dollars for small businesses forced to cut back on workers, potentially leading to even more layoffs. So let’s give Snyder credit for being on top of an in issue that’s important to our local economy.
But that was an easy lift for a governor-elect who campaigned on a platform of giving businesses a break. When it came time for the heavier political lifting, the Nerd wasn’t so tough.