MLPP Blog: Factually Speaking

Why we are making the change to “Latinx”

Added February 28th, 2018 by Victoria Crouse | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Victoria Crouse

The first time I heard the term “Latinx” (pronounced “La-teen-ex”) I was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina sitting among a group of fellow Latino students at the School of Social Work trying to put a schedule together for our student group. My friend and fellow group leader offered that we begin our annual planning with a consideration of a name change to our group. My friend pointed out that our current name “Latino Student Caucus” excluded those who identified outside of gender binaries—individuals who are transgender, gender nonconforming or gender fluid.

She was right. As student leaders, our goal was to offer an inclusive space where all students could feel validated and supported. In order to live up to our stated purposed, we needed to make that linguistic change.

Perhaps you’re wondering why one word could be so exclusive. The thing is, in the Spanish language words have a gender. Words that end with “o” are usually masculine, while those that end with “a” are usually feminine. Masculinized versions of words are traditionally considered gender-neutral. But to many, this designation has never really been gender-neutral because it excludes other identities and can reinforce gender stereotypes.

“Latinx,” therefore offers a truly gender-neutral alternative to Latino and Latina. Writers for the Huffington Post define Latinx as “…the gender-neutral alternative to Latino and Latina, that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants. The term has been in use for several years by academics, activists and journalists, among others. Today, more organizations and individuals are adopting the term in an effort to be inclusive in their spaces and in language. The League has become one of them.

Last fall, I began this conversation with my colleagues at the League. A few of us were familiar with the term and we wanted to be purposeful in our work, so we decided to come together and discuss. As staff members at the League, we continually strive to live up to our organization’s values of equity, diversity and inclusion. In order to do so, we have to continually listen, reflect and learn.

Our conversations were fruitful, and we decided that it was time for the League to make this change. Beginning this year, the League will replace the term “Latino” and “Latina” with “Latinx” when referring to individuals of Latin American descent, except for when we are referring to data sources in our charts and graphs.

Our work depends on our commitment to create spaces where all Michiganders’ voices can be heard and valued. This change takes us one more step closer, and we look forward to continuing to break down barriers in all other aspects of our work.

–Victoria Crouse

What to watch for in 2019 state budget

Added February 23rd, 2018 by Alex Rossman | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alex Rossman

The state budget is a big focus of the League’s work each year, and often our most viable opportunity for victories for the people and kids of Michigan. And while we were disappointed that lawmakers passed a personal exemption increase, it should not affect this year’s budget as much as earlier proposals (the bigger cuts will be left to future legislators instead).

budgetandmagnifier175-by-116Here are the main things good and bad in—or absent from—Governor Rick Snyder’s 2019 budget that the League is keeping an eye on as the legislative process gets underway. You can learn more about these issues in our “First Look” at the governor’s budget and we will continue to provide updates on our budget page.

thumbs up The Good
  • Continues funding for the “heat and eat” policy that provides increased food assistance to families with low incomes, people with disabilities and seniors.
  • Supports the Healthy Michigan Plan that has provided health insurance for over 675,000 Michigan residents.
  • Provides $5 million for Michigan’s Early On program that identifies and serves infants and toddlers with developmental delays—the first investment of state funds in Michigan’s grossly underfunded early intervention program.
  • Provides a small increase in monthly Family Independence Program income support provided to children in deep poverty after decades of flat funding that pushed families to less than 30% of the federal poverty line.
  • Provides increases of between $120 and $240 per-pupil for the state’s public schools—with additional funding for students in high school or career and technical education.
  • Expands funding for partnerships with school districts that are needing academic supports from $6 million to $8 million.
thumbs down The Bad
  • Continues funding for Michigan’s successful preschool program for at-risk four-year-olds, but does not expand services to three-year-olds from families with low incomes.
  • Fails to expand funding for At-Risk School Aid and the school-based literacy programs needed to prevent the retention of children in third grade, including a disproportionate number of children of color.
  • Does not increase funding for adult education after deep cuts over the last two decades.
  • Leaves in place Michigan’s child care assistance eligibility cutoff, which is one of the lowest in the nation.
  • Diverts School Aid money intended for K-12 public schools to fund the state’s community colleges—rather than securing adequate General Fund revenues for post-secondary education.
  • Does not restore financial aid for an increasing number of college students who are older and supporting families.
  • Reduces cities, villages and townships (CVT) and county revenue sharing payments, neither of which have received full statutory funding in nearly two decades, so that many communities would either receive decreased CVT and county revenue sharing payments or no payment at all.
question mark The Absent

The League will keep pushing for these and other budget priorities in the coming months, and advocate for racial, ethnic and social justice in all state budget decisions this year and every year. We also encourage you to use our advocacy tips and budget timeline to get involved and speak up for the priorities you believe in.

— Alex Rossman

Teen years are for growth and education, not incarceration

Added February 20th, 2018 by MLPP | Email This Entry Email This Entry
MLPP
Hakim C.

Hakim C.

The views in this story reveal the storyteller’s experience and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of the Michigan League for Public Policy. If you have a story, please share it here.

Michigan remains one of only FIVE states that automatically prosecute all 17-year-olds as adults. This policy is at odds with state laws and national and international policies that declare adulthood to begin at age 18, and is detrimental to the development and rehabilitation of our kids.

As part of the campaign to Raise the Age of juvenile jurisdiction, we’re sitting down with people whose lives have been impacted by the system. Hakim C., now an adult, shared his story with us.

Why do you connect with the Raise the Age campaign?

When I was 17, I was convicted as an adult. At that stage in my life, I was already living on the streets on my own. I had grown up in the mid-80s, the crack era of Detroit. Prison was a part of my community’s culture. It wasn’t like a great tragedy. It was just another neighborhood, another ghetto. I pretty much thought I was an adult because I was living out an adult life. I was a different kid at the time. In my mind, I did not care if I lived or died. I was not emotionally connected.

 

PrisonPhoto 550x309

 

After spending four months in the Ingham County Jail, I moved to Milwaukee to get away from it all while I was on probation. In Milwaukee, I was wrongfully convicted for another crime, and because of my past adult offense in Michigan, I received an enhanced sentence.

There is no waiver process for 17-year-olds charged as adults in Michigan, so my adult charge in Michigan made me a repeat offender. I was charged much more harshly in Wisconsin, all for a crime I did not commit.

I spent 15 years in prison, and in that time I woke up. I had to rethink my decisions, and I realized I was completely lost emotionally and mentally. I was about to go to prison for the rest of my life, and I had not even begun my life. The first thing I started to do was change who I was.

How do you think 17-year-olds are affected by adult convictions?

I was locked up with multiple 17-year-olds in Ingham. They were not like me. Mentally, they were not able to process being away from their families. I have seen a lot of psychological break downs. These teens start to get into it with the officers because they cannot relate and communicate. They ultimately find themselves in conflict and being assaulted because they cannot channel their emotional energy.

Most kids going to prison with adults have their lives put in physical danger. But I had already lived a violent life. I was not scared. There were older men in the jail who quickly flocked to me to show me the ropes. There were plenty of people who were looking to take advantage of me. I got in multiple fights. I fought several grown adults in jail after they attempted to take advantage of my youth.

How are you working with teens now?

I work for a nonprofit organization that operates in schools. I am actually the only felon who has been approved to work in a school. In November, I will be teaching an elective class four times a week on the school-to-prison pipeline.

I work with kids who live in tough environments. I work with kids who get shot at school. In order to provide a platform to escape that, we have to change that environment. I was missing true, genuine mentors when I was young. I did not have anyone to look up to. I am trying to fill that gap for other young people.

Why do you believe the law needs to stop treating 17-year-olds as adults?

We should never be treating children as adults, period. We now understand brain development, so we know that students do not develop their full brain capacities until their mid-20s. Young people need their teen years filled with opportunity. They need time to grow into adulthood.

For more information about the Raise the Age campaign, visit www.raisetheagemi.org.

— Hakim C.

An ode to the policies we love

Added February 14th, 2018 by MLPP | Email This Entry Email This Entry
MLPP

Yes, we’re into data. Yes, we love watching live feeds from the Michigan House and Senate. Yes, we actually enjoy talking about tax policy and reading spreadsheets.

But just because we’re nerds doesn’t mean we don’t have heart. Even though what we work on might seem a little wonkish, the entire reason we do what we do is that we have big hearts and love the people of Michigan and the policies they depend on. And we can even get a little poetic (when we’re forced by the communications director to do so…).  Today, we give you our love letters to policies.

Victoria Crouse

Victoria Crouse

Victoria Crouse, Policy Fellow

Dear DACA,

Thank you for opening this country’s arms to young immigrants, keeping families intact and giving everyone a shot at the American dream

 

 

Alicia Guevara Warren

Alicia Guevara Warren

Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count Director

Dear Home Visiting Programs,

How I love the support and coaching that your home visitors give to kids and families every day. I admire the dedication of home visitors and the diverse models with varying focuses and evidence-based results. I am loving that Congress reauthorized funding for five years for MIECHV (Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting).

 

Gilda Z. Jacobs, President & CEO

Gilda Z. Jacobs

Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO

Dear Supporters of the League,

My heart belongs to you, our dear helpful friends.
You make our work count…on you it depends!

Through fight after fight, through thick and through thin
You give us the strength to help Michigan win.

Renell Weathers

Renell Weathers

Renell Weathers, Community Engagement Director

Heat and Eat, you are so sweet!

Helping seniors and kids stay strong all year long…
with you fully funded, Michigan can’t go wrong!

Thanks, legislators, for keeping Heat and Eat in the budget!

Jenny Kinne

Jenny Kinne

Jenny Kinne, Community Engagement Specialist

I love you, advocates
Please don’t protest my affections!

 

 

Alex Rossman

Alex Rossman

Alex Rossman, Communications Director

Healthy Michigan Plan, How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways…

$235,000,000 in state budget savings, 673,000 people you care for, 30,000 new jobs each year…

ONE devoted admirer.

Karen Holcomb-Merrill

Karen Holcomb-Merrill

Karen Holcomb-Merrill, Vice President

Thank you, racial equity,
Barriers exposed
So we can tear them all down

 

 

Rachel Richards

Rachel Richards

Rachel Richards, Legislative Coordinator

Taxes pay for roads…

Taxes pay for schools…

I love paying taxes…

And so should you!

Peter Ruark

Peter Ruark

Peter Ruark, Senior Policy Analyst

 UI is “U” and “I”.

Cutting Unemployment Insurance is a broken promise that breaks my heart.

 

 

Emily Schwarzkopf

Emily Schwarzkopf

Emily Schwarzkopf, Policy Analyst

Four failed attempts to repeal you…

Sorry, ACA

Congress just can’t quit you!

 

Once we finished our love letters, we felt that we still had more affection to express, so we put together some videos to share far and wide!

I need you like working families need the EITC. 

You warm my heart like LIHEAP warms homes.

You feed my soul like SNAP feeds families.

UR my paid sick leave during flu season.

Policies We Love…

 

 

 

#FightingForFamilies with League’s new census fact sheets

Added February 8th, 2018 by Peter Ruark | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

Every year in December, the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau publishes a wealth of economic, housing, race and educational attainment information. This information is useful for policymakers, public administrators, advocates and direct service providers as they work to meet the needs of their communities. But the data is also helpful for all residents to better understand the issues facing their area and our state as a whole

The Michigan League for Public Policy has made it a tradition to publish fact sheets with some of this census information on the state, county, municipal, legislative and congressional district, and American Indian reservation levels. The new fact sheets are now up on our website in printable form for you to use for communicating with lawmakers, writing stories for the media, and planning or assessing service projects and programs. We would love to hear how you use the fact sheets!

Here at the League, the annual census data helps us analyze and inform our policy work, to see what’s working, what isn’t, and what still needs to be addressed. In particular, this data continues to underscore the fact that Michigan’s comeback story is not reaching everyone in the state and too many people are still struggling. Statewide, the poverty rate was 16.3% for 2017. The child poverty rate was 22.8%—nearly 1 in 4 Michigan kids were living in poverty last year. These residents aren’t feeling any “recovery.”

MI_TeleTownFinal 400 x 266As our economy evolves, a college degree or training is becoming more essential to getting a good job and a reasonable wage. But more than 50% of Michigan residents 25 and older do not have a college degree. The gender wage gap also remains a significant problem. Last year, the median wage for women was $38,518 compared to $50,760 for men. That means women are making around 76 cents on the dollar compared to men, which is below the national average (80 cents). And you can see the adverse impact that is having right on the same fact sheet, which shows 44.3% of female single-parent families were in poverty last year.

These are some of the issues we’re working to draw attention to this week as part of the Fighting for Families Week of Action sponsored by our friends at the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), a strategy center and support network for state legislators from around the country who seek to strengthen our democracy, advocate for working families, defend civil rights and liberties, and protect the environment. Among the activities this week will be a telephone town hall discussion TONIGHT in which you can ask state legislators and advocates (including yours truly) about such topics as good jobs, earned sick and family leave, overtime rules, predictable scheduling and wage theft.

The census data information and the League’s fact sheets will be useful for our discussion tonight, and I hope you can join us. But also keep these fact sheets in mind to inform your own work and advocacy on behalf of better policies to serve all Michigan residents.

— Peter Ruark

We’re in it for the people, not politics

Added February 7th, 2018 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

Guess who’s not running for election in 2018? Me. That’s not news, really, but it does provide some insight into the stance that we’ve taken against the Legislature’s push for tax cuts through an increase in the state personal exemption. Though the cuts were supported by leaders on both sides of the aisle, we at the League looked beyond the aisle at the people in our state. The real people.

When the state Legislature came up with its tax plans, which were at odds with Governor Rick Snyder’s more responsible plan, I sat with our staff to take a look. They’re experts in this. When they examined the data they saw a nominal tax cut that would barely create enough annual savings for families to get an oil change or an afternoon of child care.

But “We cut your taxes” sounds pretty good in a campaign ad.

Copy of Final tax graphic 600x240What does “We cut your taxes” look like in a practical sense, though? Well, I’ve already addressed the paltry savings it would bring to Michigan families. But what about how it would impact our state as a whole?

For starters, the tax plans could create up to a $200 million hole in the state budget. Where will that money come from? If history is any indication, we suppose it will come from programs that support things like roads, bridges, police, our kids’ education and our families’ basic needs.

And this isn’t an ordinary tax cut. It comes at a most tumultuous and uncertain time, as the federal tax plan leaves so many unanswered questions. Federal funding makes up 40% of our state budget, and cuts in Washington mean cuts to services and programs that help millions of Michiganders thrive. To make reckless cuts like this during such turbulent times is myopic at best.

When companies like Amazon take a look at our state’s landscape and decide to pass, Michigan should probably start listening to them. When the governor calls for fiscal responsibility to maintain the state’s positive trajectory, Michigan should listen. When the state treasurer, arguably the sharpest financial mind in the state, urges caution, Michigan should listen. When the conservative-leaning Detroit News editorial board writes that investments are better than tax cuts right now, Michigan should listen. When economic experts continue pushing for careful budgeting, Michigan should listen. When the people of our state place tax cuts low on their list of priorities, Michigan should listen.

More importantly, when young, talented people are leaving our state, we all must start listening to them. They aren’t in search of tax cuts. They’re in search of the things we should be investing in: strong infrastructure, mass transit, safe housing, great educational systems and a quality standard of living.

If the best plan legislators can come up with for Michiganders is a tax cut, then the Legislature needs to start listening.

Now is a time for fiscal responsibility. We know that doesn’t sound like something that will make Michigan a more vibrant and attractive state, but it is. Carefully budgeting our money allows the state to invest in the things we need to gain and retain a talented workforce.

Lawmakers must use restraint when looking at the budget. It may seem counter-intuitive for an organization like ours to oppose credits for child care or for senior populations, but we can’t examine issues in silos. Tax cuts and the budget go hand-in-hand, and we cannot risk losing funding for programs that help those who are most in need. These credits and tax cuts look might look good on campaign materials, but we know our state doesn’t have the revenue to implement them properly.

I’m not running for election and neither is the League. Instead, we’re hoping to be the voice of reason in this already-hectic election year. Right now, the people of Michigan deserve investment in the things that matter, not symbolic tax cuts designed for a political campaign.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

The state budget: Another chance to work toward racial equity for children and families

Added February 1st, 2018 by Pat Sorenson | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Pat Sorenson

Over 35 years ago when I launched a career in advocacy, I was a little dismayed to learn that one of my tasks was to monitor and analyze the state budget. For a young social worker intent on creating change, it seemed a dry and “wonky” pursuit.

I soon learned that control over the state’s purse strings is one of the greatest powers lawmakers have, and that a high level of civic and community engagement is necessary for real change to occur. And, I found a home in the Michigan League for Public Policy—an organization that is focused like a laser on racial and economic justice and understands that the state budget is a potent tool for achieving it.

Next week Governor Rick Snyder will release his budget for 2019, and the Michigan Legislature will begin to craft its own. The League will be in the Capitol during every step of the process, and will be sharing that information with you. We will be advocating for our prioritiessteps we believe the state must take to achieve racial equity and ensure that all children and families thrive in Michigan. More importantly, we want to be a resource to you as you communicate with your elected officials about what you, your family and your community need.

Budget priorities_Address Racial Ethnic Social JusticeTogether, we have a long way to go. The data are clear and well-documented in the League’s Kids Count reports. Families and children of color are being held back from many of the traditional pathways to economic opportunity and security. Michigan, like the rest of the country, is growing in diversity and its economy rests on the ability to make sure that all children have what it takes to move the state forward.

At the heart of racial and ethnic disparities is a long history of systemic barriers including the historical impact of redlining on homeownership, segregation in public schools, differences in educational quality and opportunity, racial discrimination in the workplace, and inequities in the ability to accumulate assets and build wealth.

Those inequities persist today in part because of state budgets and other public policies that do not recognize the extra resources required to overcome the cumulative effects of racism and discrimination. State budgets are not “colorblind”—even if their disproportionate impact is unintended. For example, despite the reality that children of color are two to three times more likely to live in poverty, state funding for programs to ensure that children’s basic needs are met has plummeted—largely because of state policies that restrict eligibility.

As a first step, the League is calling on state lawmakers to incorporate an analysis of the racial, ethnic and social justice impact of budget decisions they are making. We believe that a concerted effort to face racial and ethnic inequities head-on is required or they will continue to be perpetuated.

Please join us in advocating for a state budget that creates better equity for children and families. Check out our resources including tips for influencing the state budget, fact sheets on our budget priorities for 2019, and an analysis of the current state budget’s impact on children and families of color. By joining forces we can make change.

— Pat Sorenson

Kids are the future, so let’s teach them to count

Added January 30th, 2018 by MLPP | Email This Entry Email This Entry
MLPP
Alexa Krout

Alexa Krout

My name is Alexa and I am one of the newest interns at the Michigan League for Public Policy. I look forward to this exciting opportunity to work with the amazing staff here and gain experience in state policy as well as advocate for the people—and kids—of Michigan.

I am currently an undergraduate student in my final semester at James Madison College of Michigan State University, where I am studying International Relations and Spanish. I have a strong interest in the international community and how the world is changing how different cultures interact with one another; in the U.S, this is rooted in individual states. Not only the state, but how the state government interacts with the community, especially children. Children are our future and if we don’t put more resources into them, there will be no growth for the overall community in the seemingly near future.

I am excited for the opportunity to help advocate for children that are too young to have their voices heard, particularly in education and education reforms, which are essential parts of life. The education I have received throughout my life has shaped me into the person I am today, in and out of the classroom. But, unfortunately, not everyone is given the same opportunity. Educational opportunities for youth of color in underdeveloped areas is extremely lacking and if all students don’t get that essential knowledge and experience, then Michigan is sending a clear message about its values and the state will not thrive.

AECF Kids Count

AECF Kids Count

My educational experience hasn’t always been the easiest, but it is one that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I am very grateful for the opportunities that have arisen from it. I’ve learned how to make my voice heard even though I am often soft-spoken, and I have gained the ability to analyze detailed text, think critically and formulate an unbiased argument. All of this is not only beneficial for education, but is essential to succeeding in everyday life. What I have learned throughout my education is that not only do I have a say, but I have the ability to advocate for those without equal opportunity.

Additionally, throughout my professional experience I have been focused on youth and youth development in education, a topic that I am passionate about. During an internship that I had last summer, I had the chance to work with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that advocated and supplied resources to youth in underdeveloped nations, providing the backing they needed to succeed. With my background in Spanish, I hope to be able to advocate for a community that not only struggles with a lack of educational opportunity, but also the inability to communicate effectively with people around them.

My prior experience, along with everything I’ve learned throughout my education and life, will help me excel in my work here with the Kids Count in Michigan project. I hope to bring a different perspective to the table and not only offer valuable insight on how the state and individual communities can help raise awareness, but help develop and promote policy solutions on how to get kids learning in and out of the classroom. Without youth, there is no future; the change of our world starts with the kids who will grow to be the leaders of tomorrow. After all, the best gift someone can give is the ability to receive an education—which every kid should be able to benefit from.

— Alexa Krout

 

The EITC: The good, the great and the unfortunate

Added January 26th, 2018 by Rachel Richards | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Rachel Richards

It’s no surprise that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of my favorite topics to talk about (I’ve talked about it here, and here, and here, and pretty much to anyone who will listen). I didn’t have a chance to write about it much in the past year, mostly due to other on-going state and federal tax issues, so I’m glad to be back promoting this great credit at tax time.

Too many taxpayers with low to moderate incomes don’t claim all of the credits they are eligible for at tax time, and today is dedicated to raising awareness about all of the awesome things that the EITC can do! The EITC is a sensible tool for helping Michigan’s families keep working and make ends meet.

During 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reported that 766,000 Michigan taxpayers claimed the EITC, and received about $2,489 on average. This put $1.9 billion back into our local economies, as recipients used their credits to pay for things that helped them keep working, such as child care and transportation, as well as groceries, utility bills and paying down debt.

eitc webMichigan also provides an added boost to these residents through a state EITC equal to 6% of the federal credit. In the 2015 tax year (filed in 2016), about 757,000 households raising over 1 million children benefitted from the Michigan EITC. The state credit averaged $145, with families raising at least two children receiving a bigger benefit, and put $109.5 million back into Michigan’s economy. The Michigan credit itself helped pull more than 6,500 households above the poverty line.

That’s the good news, but we could make it much better.

To maximize its benefit, the Michigan EITC should be restored to 20% of the federal credit, where it was before being cut to 6% in 2011. The dollars from an increased state credit would flow right back into local economies and give Michigan businesses a boost. The EITC also has a long-lasting positive impact on the lives of children, whose parents are better able to meet their needs. Research shows that children in working families getting the EITC are more likely to perform better and go further in school and to work and earn more as adults. If the credit had been 20% in 2015, recipients would have seen an average of $337 more.

Unfortunately, the federal tax bill that was signed into law will have a small impact on federal, and therefore state, claimants. While the bill did not make any direct changes to the EITC, the change in the inflation adjustment will erode the federal and state EITC over time. According to modeling by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, in 2019 about 1,400 fewer filers (about 0.4%) will qualify for the credit, resulting in $7 million in fewer federal credits being distributed to the state. By 2027 about 14,500 fewer filers (about 2%) will qualify for the credit, resulting in a loss of $96 million of federal credit value. The same filers who lose their federal EITC will also lose their ability to claim their state EITC, resulting in a loss of additional local economic support.

Also, currently about 1 in 5 Michigan residents who are eligible for the credit do not claim it. A married couple filing jointly with three kids can make up to $59,930 and still qualify for a credit. A single parent raising one child can earn up to $39,617 and receive a credit. Families with children receive a greater credit than those without.

To see if you’re eligible, and to get some free tax preparation help, go to: http://michiganfreetaxhelp.org/. Do not pay for a rapid-refund product that will cost you more in the long run than if you wait for your tax return to be processed and refund to be paid. And please help spread the word about all the good the EITC does in Michigan and what we can do to improve it.

— Rachel Richards

Political theory meets practical public policy

Added January 24th, 2018 by MLPP | Email This Entry Email This Entry
MLPP
Spike Dearing

Spike Dearing

First off, I know what you’re probably thinking: “there’s no way Spike is his actual name.” While I cannot fault you for thinking that (it is a rather odd, if not interesting name) it does in fact appear on my legal birth certificate (as a middle name, Jack is my first, but how can I not go by Spike, right?).

While my family now lives in East Lansing, I spent the majority of my childhood growing up in Denver, Colorado. What that means of course is that I spent most of my free time in the mountains hiking about, and enjoying the fantastic Tex-Mex food of the Southwest. Interestingly enough, I prefer the warmth of an indoor batting cage to the cold of a snow-covered slope, so I actually didn’t spend much time at all skiing or snowboarding. Hopefully that doesn’t discredit me as a Coloradan.

Upon moving to East Lansing and shortly thereafter graduating from East Lansing High, I enrolled in Michigan State University and chose to major within James Madison College. Currently, I am a junior, and my particular field of study is Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy. I am highly fascinated by the Constitution, the founding of our country, and the age-old debates of State vs. Federal authority, the role of civic participation in a democratic republic, the constant issues of class, and others, all pertinent at the conception of our nation and even now, as I write this blog.

Beyond my historicalMI Capitol and MI Flag and philosophical interests (which are numerous, and I love to discuss and debate these with anyone who is at all intrigued), I realize the importance and practicality of understanding policy, and the current political landscape. My knowledge of policy had been somewhat limited until debates really ramped up in early 2017 as the GOP set off on their first attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The press coverage surrounding the event caught my attention, as I’m sure it did for many, but what I got from CNN, the New York Times or the Washington Post wasn’t enough for me; I wanted to critically comprehend the elements regarding healthcare, and why it was such a divisive issue.

While the argument as to whether or not the government should have a role in determining the healthcare of individuals is extremely important from an ideological standpoint, I knew that I needed to know more about why costs were so high, the quality of the care, who was going to be adversely affected should the Individual Mandate be repealed, the state of the healthcare market, and why, in the wealthiest and most technologically advanced country in the world, there was an uninsured rate higher than any other developed nation.

My drive to learn and create a strong foundation rooted in a mixture of philosophy, ideology and strong policy knowledge, plus a little nudging from my friend and fellow Madison student Lorenzo, has led me here, to the League. I am incredibly excited to be a part of this team, to learn from everyone, and to contribute to the fantastic body of work of this organization.

With that longwinded introduction out of the way (thanks, James Madison), I’m ready and eager to get to work with the rest of the League and its partners and supporters, and am thankful for the warm welcome and exciting opportunity.

— Spike Dearing

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