Opinion

The Great Debate

One big reason for GOP optimism

By Grover G. Norquist and Patrick Gleason
December 5, 2012

There are 25 reasons for Republican optimism in the wake of a disappointing November. Twenty-five is the number of states next year where Republicans will have unified control of the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the legislature. Up from the current 24.

The significance of this is already clear in Michigan — where state lawmakers are seeking to make it the nation’s 24th right-to-work state.

Governor Rick Snyder announced Tuesday that right-to-work will be on the docket during the Michigan legislature’s lame duck session this month.

This underscores that the states are where the most significant policy reforms will likely take place over the next two years. Exhibit A is Michigan, which President Barack Obama won by 9 points — despite its being the home state of GOP nominee Mitt Romney. This state is now on the cusp of enacting a labor law reform that the White House and its allies vehemently oppose.

Right-to-work laws give workers freedom from being forced to join a union and pay dues. Prior to the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which permitted states to pass right-to-work laws, all American workers could be coerced into joining a union as a condition of obtaining and maintaining employment.

While the idea has been floated for years, until recently it seemed as though efforts to pass right-to-work in Michigan, traditionally home of the automobile industry and a bastion of organized labor, were futile. But recent developments have caused this important reform to finally gain traction.

Vincent Vernuccio, a Labor Department lawyer during the George W. Bush administration who is now director of labor policy at the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, explains that when Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels enacted right-to-work laws in February, it had a serious impact on Michigan.

“Michigan’s neighbor Indiana,” Vernuccio said, “became the 23rd state in the country to give workers the freedom to choose whether or not to pay a union and still keep their jobs. As a result, employers, job creators and businesses that once passed Indiana over now gave the state another look.”

Vernuccio cited  Caterpillar as one example. The heavy equipment manufacturer recently moved its plant from London, Ontario, to Muncie, Indiana.

“Indiana’s new right-to-work law,” said Vernuccio, “played a large role in Caterpillar’s decision to locate the plant in that state. Incidentally, if any equipment had to be moved, it probably traveled through Michigan to get to its new home.”

Vernuccio also points to Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that since January, Indiana has added 43,300 jobs, while Michigan has lost 7,300. One wonders: How many of Indiana’s new businesses had to travel though Michigan?, and how many would have stopped early if Michigan had a right-to-work law?

Facts and history demonstrate that right-to-work laws are just as important to a state’s economic competitiveness as a sound and hospitable business tax climate. From 2000 to 2008, approximately 4.7 million Americans moved from forced-union states to right-to-work states, according to a Cato Journal study by economist Richard Vedder.

Right-to-work states are indeed witnessing greater prosperity. Between 1977 and 2007, per capita income rose 23 percent faster in right-to-work states than in non-right-to-work-states.

The advantages don’t end there. Right-to-work states outperform non-right-to-work states in practically every metric of economic health, according to National Institute for Labor Relations Research data, from lower unemployment rates to greater after-tax purchasing power and beyond.

Passage of right-to-work in Michigan would be an economic game-changer for the state, which had the dubious distinction of being home to a single state recession even during boom years of the last decade — largely because of then-Governor Jennifer Granholm’s disastrous policies. At the beginning of the 2008 economic collapse, for example, the national unemployment rate was 5.8 percent, but Michigan’s unemployment rate was already at 8.3 percent. Snyder has slowly but surely begun to right the fiscal ship of state since being elected two years ago.

The tax relief for employers that Snyder signed into law last year was a good first step. But enacting right-to-work would provide a momentous shot in the arm for the economy by immediately making the state far more attractive to employers looking to move or expand their operations in the region.

The chattering classes in Washington and the Acela corridor crowd are fixated with the happenings on Capitol Hill. Yet, with one party having total control of government in more than three-quarters of the states, expect the most meaningful reforms to happen at the state level — starting with Michigan.

PHOTO: Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, here introducing presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention, wants to enact a right-to-work law in his state. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

 

 

Comments
16 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Grover Norquist is America’s biggest lobbyist and propagandist bent on primarily serving himself. He’s made himself a millionaire as an über-lobbyist, finding ways to subvert our democratic system, like blackmailing lawmakers into signing his pledge never to raise taxes, threatening to spend a lot of money opposing them in the next primary if they don’t or if they consider violating the Norquist pledge. Unfortunately for America, this tactic works. It’s disappointing that Reuters would stoop to letting someone of Norquist’s disrepute publish a propaganda piece on their website.

If it was up to me I’d consider it to be grounds for impeachment for any lawmaker to sign a pledge to anyone other than the American people, for the American people are paying their salaries, not Grover Norquist, or anyone else. If they want to resign their Congressional seats and go to work for Grover Norquist, they are free to do so, but they shouldn’t be free to do both, because here we obviously have a conflict of interest: Obama was elected by the people and ran promising to make the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes; Grover Norquist was not elected by anyone and shouldn’t have any more influence on our Congress than me or anyone else, but because of his pledges, he holds dangerous sway over lawmakers who now find it difficult to do their jobs and serve their constituents. So in this unfortunate standoff, Grover Norquist has have much say in the budget negotiations as the majority of the American electorate. That’s unacceptable.

This is exactly the kind of subverting of our Constitution that is causing so many Americans to lose confidence in America’s governing system. Grover Norquist has had enormous influence over Republicans in Congress, and it’s no coincidence that during this same time, this time of his domination over Republican lawmakers, the US Congress has earned its lowest approval ratings in our country’s entire history.

Consider Norquist’s use of the term “right to work”. The truth is that all states already have a right to work. This is an example of Norquist propaganda. He misleads and manipulates the public because venues like Reuters give him a platform to do so. What he’s really talking about is limiting the rights for workers to organize. It has nothing to do with whether or not people have a right to work. That right is already guaranteed, so don’t be misled by this anti-American. Why use the term “right to work” when it has nothing to do with an American’s right to work? It’s a pejorative term, which is exactly why he uses the term in this op-ed a total of seventeen times.

What we need to do is demand that our representatives pass a law outlawing pledges like Norquist’s, because they open our representatives up to being blackmailed, as Norquist’s actions have proven over and over again. This is an affront to our Republic, and serves to limit the voice of the people. Because of Grover Norquist, we’re faced with either the President, who was just reelected promising to raise taxes on the most affluent, being forced to break his promise to the American people, or the Republicans being forced to break their promise to Grover Norquist, who wasn’t elected by the people. This is a development that our country should never have to face, for it could actually manage to force us into another recession, all because of one man, Grover Norquist. That’s just plain wrong.

There’s only one pledge that should be allowed by an elected representative and that’s a pledge to serve the people of the United States of America to the best of their ability. It’s a shame that a ban on such pledges as Norquist’s is even necessary, but that’s an example of the threats from within that our Founders warned us about. It’s time to put a stop to it.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive
 

Hear … hear.

So tired of America’s race to the bottom. Right to work? Just like in India or China, right to work for nothing, with no benefits for slave wages, but hey, at least you’ve got the crummy job. Right?

Meanwhile, the Billionaires laugh as they whore us out; and this troll Grover-whatever does their bidding / shilling. Eventually, the whole facade will come crumbling down.

Meanwhile, the American government (controlled by the rich) fails to do the bidding of the people.

There is no Democracy no Democratic-Republic when the rich by an sell and buy the politicians like junkie-tricks.

The result eventual result will be revolution and then they’ll get to experience the life and times of Marie Antoinette.

Ironically, it’s the limited restraints on their capitalist orgy that has kept them in power and granted them legitimacy.

That time is coming to an end.

Posted by Foxdrake_360 | Report as abusive
 

@flashrooster: give him a chance! He’s shown us the courtesy of writing here, after all.

@Mr.Norquist: I’ve been criticizing your work on Reuters comment threads for a couple of years now, since researching and writing this article:
“Reaganomics and prudent taxation”
http://www.slyman.org/blog/2011/07/reaga nomics-and-prudent-taxation/

> Vernuccio cited Caterpillar as one example. The heavy equipment manufacturer recently moved its plant from London, Ontario, to Muncie, Indiana.
> “Indiana’s new right-to-work law,” said Vernuccio, “played a large role in Caterpillar’s decision to locate the plant in that state. Incidentally, if any equipment had to be moved, it probably traveled through Michigan to get to its new home.”

— I believe in Right to Work legislation. I think Norquist and his friends are totally right on this question (with a possible caveat that employers must not be able to abuse this “freedom” to strong-arm employees into NOT unionizing). There has to be a reciprocal right to unionize — there has to be an equal and opposite counterbalance to the power of board-room directors (who naturally hold an information access and analytical advantage), and company shareholders (who can sell off the family silver if given free run of the mansion). I totally support this necessary policy, in its proper context.

HOWEVER: Despite being supportive of this policy, I want evidence. The evidence I want to see backing it up (as per other policies Mr. Norquist espouses) is not a roll-call of the pilfering of companies across state lines by mere dint of relative differences in current taxation/regulation that arguably might be unsustainable in the long term if we all adopted these policies.

THE EVIDENCE I want to see is: a demonstration that for an isolated or complete (and self-sustaining) economic system, low-taxation or right-to-work legislation or whatever else is a relatively optimal position for the current economic era. I want to see governments working together to figure out how to optimally balance our economic systems, and either ring-fencing markets where leaders/ideologies think differently on these matters (so the various markets or systems can compete and prove their superiority); or, ideological and tax harmonization across state/national boundaries so that companies like Amazon, Google, Starbucks and a million others can’t evade paying their fair share of the windfall from that part of their good fortune that comes from luck, or, that part of their good fortune which represents a zero-sum game with the rest of us.

I’m sure Mr. Norquist is intelligent enough to parse that last rather long sentence, because it encapsulates my main general concerns with his approach and the approach of his colleagues in both main political parties (for too long now, America has suffered from self-defeating and misguided efforts to pilfer businesses across state lines). I’m looking forward to a reply from Mr. Norquist, in whatever form it might take…

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive
 

@Norquist: I was born in Kuwait and raised on stories of the place. So in terms of your connection with the place, there’s one other thing we have in common… My mother had a lot of respect for the Palestinian expatriate population of Kuwait, including our family doctor who was a human being of the very best sort. They were peace-loving, polite, deferential and considerate people.

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive
 

One more perspective (implicitly, part of my article) before I adjourn…

“Which way should we go?” — The answer depends on:
• Where you are,
• Where you want to go.
Surely, if the answer to this question is always the same, then we are doing something wrong?

Perhaps people have an incorrect and unsophisticated understanding of what Mr. Norquist represents. If so, I would really appreciate some clarification on this point as part of Mr. Norquist’s next article…

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive
 

“right-to-work state”. This is how The South is rising again, the slow, piecemeal repeal of the 13th Amendment.

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive
 

The only 2 things the current GOP really cares about are reducing taxes on the wealthy and increasing corporate advantages…..everything else is just a means to get those two things.

(Not to say the Democrats are any better with their lack of accountability and total inability to manage government within a reasonable budget )

Posted by Gen | Report as abusive
 

I should be able to work for my state government without haveing to pay tribute to anyone. It is un-American, and mroaly wrong to think otherwise. I fully support unions and consulting firms in the private sector. NOT in the government sectors.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

Mr. Norquist,

Since you value this country and the ideals it used to stand for so little, why don’t you do this country a favor and resign your citizenship?

Posted by Gordon2352 | Report as abusive
 

Norquist is the personification of self-interest.

Posted by merko | Report as abusive
 

Norquist is evil and he could work the entire rest of his life to burnish his image to no avail. His downfall is beginning now – his BFFs in Congress are throwing him under the bus. It is immensely satisfying for me to watch.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

Norquist is not evil. But he is a big part of why republicans keep losing. Their ideology is increasingly out of touch with reality. These are folks who pretend you can run a country like a business. But a business has the luxury of dropping loser sectors like Kentucky and Alabama, chronic underperformers.

Countries do not have that option. Well we do, but….. are we ready to hit delete on the hillbillies? I’m okay with it, but we should probably check with the locals. Bottom line is, Norquist couldn’t run a hick-town. Much less a country.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

Working in a state that does not have a “right-to-work” I agree with Norquist on the majority of this article. I DON’T CARE if he’s “evil” or a “troll.” If you can’t argue and only make personal attacks, it’s really evident what side of the aisle you sit. I detest the fact that my union supported the sitting president during the last election. I detest the fact that I had to join the union in the first place, however… I also paid my dues because united we stood stronger than alone.

BTW, I’m neither a republic or a democrat, I’m an American first, supported the US Constitution for 21 years, lost a lot of friends and am tired of everyone’s name calling and rhetoric. Fully agree that multi-nationals need to pay their full share of taxes but at a reasonable rate. If they don’t, don’t do business in the US. But it’s not the businesses that are the problems, our “politicians” have allowed the loopholes, sweetheart deals, etc. etc. etc. that has caused this problem and it will be up to us to fix it.

So, @Norquist and @Gleason, thank you for the article and a clearly articulated opinion. Don’t agree with all of it, but there’s some nuggets of truth. I read six or seven mainstream news sites on a daily basis and try to figure out things for myself. The rest of you… quit trying to brainwash the rest of us. And yes, I say it to the conservatives also. Think, discuss and vote. And if you didn’t vote, you don’t have the right to say anything.

Posted by NotJustALackey | Report as abusive
 

“One big reason for GOP optimism…”

…would be the fact that their horrendous showing in last month’s elections has caused at least some of them to recognize the degree to which a significant portion of the American populace is ‘ticked off’ regarding their unbudging stance in their allegiance to special interest groups (aka, corporations, those uber-rich who abuse taxation loopholes, and those of the ilk of their ‘messiah Grover’), and that, in future elections, they’ll continue to see their ranks diminish until they give at least a semblance of showing that their concerns lie instead with American citizens and America itself.

Posted by AtypicalMale | Report as abusive
 

There are many more reasons the GOP should not be so optimistic. As a former staunch Republican, I think I represent many people who have tired of the party’s utra-conservative stance. If the party wants to win elections again – including state elections – they need to listen to potential voters. These include minorities, gays and, yes, even women. Without these voters, the GOP should consider becoming a Severely Conservative Think Tank and not try to be a traditional political party.

Posted by ironiclad | Report as abusive
 

America asks Norquist: “Is this just math you do as a republican to make yourself feel better, or is this real?”

Hopefully, he’s more honest than Rove. Rove answered ‘real’ and they lost the election anyway. More and more, it looks like the GOP is opting for their own good news over the hard truth. Keep watching Fox News and believing that the GOP gas tank is full :)

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •