Apparently Michigan's Governor Rick Snyder is doing his best not only to trash his state's economy, but also to inflict as much pain as humanly possible on the poor and unemployed there while he's at it.
With the official jobless rate still hovering around 9 percent and the real damage a good deal higher than that, states have been spending a lot of money—borrowed federal money to the tune of $45.9 billion—on unemployment compensation benefits. Having implied or stated outright that these government payments make laid-off workers lazy, several Republican governors and Republican-led legislatures want to avoid or at least reduce their obligations to pay such benefits. Michigan leads the pack. Governor Rick Snyder signed into law Monday a cut in future benefits from the nationwide standard of 26 weeks to 20 weeks beginning in January 2012. [...]
Representative Sander M. Levin (MI-12) called the law a reckless move that could harm hundreds of thousands of workers. “It turns the clock back 50 years at a time when unemployment is at historic highs since the Depression," he said. "I think that Michigan should not be to unemployment insurance what Wisconsin has become to collective bargaining.”
Snyder claims he wants to focus on jobs instead of joblessness. A clever bit of propaganda that will no doubt have a lot of tax-cutting involved. In fact, besides putting the screws to those alleged bon bon-eating, cable-watching layabouts, the key impetus behind the new law is that it would reduce in the future how much employers pay into the state's unemployment fund.
And as Rachel Maddow discussed with CEPR's Dean Baker, a conservative think tank, Mackinac Center For Public Policy has also targeted her with some of their over-the-top FOIA requests. Conservative Think Tank Seeks Michigan Profs' Emails About Wisconsin Union Battle ... And Maddow:
A free enterprise think tank in Michigan -- backed by some of the biggest names in national conservative donor circles -- has made a broad public records request to at least three in-state universities with departments that specialize in the study of labor relations, seeking all their emails regarding the union battle in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, TPM has learned. [...]
One professor subject to the FOIA described it as anti-union advocates "going after folks they don't agree with."
The Mackinac Center For Public Policy, based in Midland, Mich., submitted the FOIA requests last Friday and Monday to the Labor Studies Center at the University of Michigan and the Douglas A. Fraser Center for Workplace Issues at Wayne State University. A third FOIA was directed to Michigan State University, which has a School of Human Resources & Labor Relations.
The requests specifically seek emails from all labor studies faculty at each school.
The Mackinac Center For Public Policy describes itself as a "nonpartisan research and educational institute" focused on providing free market "solutions to state and local policy questions" in Michigan. The center does not disclose its donors but
according to recent reporting by Mother Jones, Mackinac "is part of a network of state-based groups associated with the Heritage Foundation." [...]
Marick Masters, director of the labor studies program at Wayne State and also subject to a Mackinac Center FOIA, says he's never seen anything like it.
"I've been an educator since early 1980s and I've never had a FOIA request," he said. Masters declined to speculate on the nature of the request, saying only that "everyone is entitled to file a FOIA request" and that he's forwarded the request to the university's general counsel, who'll decide if and how to comply with it.
Maddow's name in the list of requested emails came as a surprise.
"Some days my job is weirder than others," she told TPM.
Zullo said it sounds to him like labor studies professors are becoming the latest pawns in the fight between conservatives and labor that has heated up since January, when a slew of tea party-backed Republican governors were sworn in around the country.
"This is a way that they're going after folks they don't agree with, I suppose," Zullo said. "I see it just simply as part of the political environment we exist in right now."
Past major donors to Mackinac Center, according to Mother Jones, have included the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation (the Wal-Mart Waltons), and foundations tied to two of Michigan's best-known and wealthiest conservative political families: the DeVos family of Amway fame and the Prince family of Blackwater fame.