MLPP Blog: Factually Speaking

The Michigan no one is talking about

Added December 5th, 2017 by Harriet McTigue | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Harriet McTigue

Data is everywhere. It informs our most basic practices, from what phone we use to what type of plastic makes our water bottles. When we are presented with numbers and minimal context it can feel overwhelming. But this is why we’re here at the League, to help capture the tangible implications of data to create a story.

When the national KIDS COUNT Data Book is released every year, we find out where Michigan stands among our peers. What is harder to see is how Michigan can improve. This is why we have compiled a new report, Enhancing Child Well-Being in Michigan: A Guide to Improving KIDS COUNT Outcomes and Rankings, that showcases not only where we need to improve, but more importantly how, and what that would look like. We delve deeper into the data, beyond rankings, to learn how many children need to be impacted in each Kids Count domain area for Michigan to improve, and what policies can help change that.

infographic - PublisherMichigan ranks in the bottom 10 states for the number of children living in high-poverty areas. Almost one-fifth of our children live in a census tract with at least 30% of its residents living in poverty. Too many Michigan kids are experiencing poverty in their households as well as their neighborhoods. More than 1 in 5 kids in Michigan lives in poverty, ranking the state 34th in the nation and worst in the Midwest.

Poverty has far-reaching effects and impacts outcomes in each of the KIDS COUNT indicators. It has been directly tied to education outcomes, hindering the very thing children need to have upward mobility. With 71% of Michigan’s fourth-grade children not proficient in reading and 71% of eighth-grade children not proficient in math, we cannot afford to ignore an important means towards economic security of our children and their families. When children live in high-poverty areas, the impacts of poverty are effectively doubled. Concentrated poverty puts a burden on families, and isolates them from necessary resources like employment, food stores and government services that could help to lift them from poverty. Independent of families experiencing poverty, neighborhood characteristics have been linked to diminished health and education outcomes, delinquency, extended time in poverty and psychological distress. These effects start once a neighborhood reaches 20% of its residents in poverty.

This factor is increased tenfold for Michigan’s African-American children. Children of color are more likely to attend schools with higher rates of poverty. Over half of African-American children in Michigan are living in concentrated areas of poverty compared to 7% of their White peers. More than 9 out of 10 African-American children are not proficient in fourth-grade reading, compared to only half of their White peers. And 95% of African-American children in eighth grade aren’t proficient in Math, compared to 66% of their White peers. Socioeconomic disparities in schools is the largest predictor of racial gaps in educational success. Schools in high-poverty areas are underfunded, and have fewer resources.

Michigan is 41st in the country for children living in high-poverty areas. To become the best in the nation, we would need to have 350,704 fewer children living in high-poverty neighborhoods, a 92% drop. Michigan would need to reduce children in high-poverty areas by 3% to move up just one place in national rankings.

To improve Michigan’s ranking and reduce high-poverty areas, policymakers and stakeholders must address poverty. We can advocate to improve the standard of living for families by promoting policies that ensure access to services and stronger communities through fully funding revenue sharing. Michigan can better support parents experiencing poverty with improvements to our child care subsidy programs, and by restoring the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to pre-2012 levels.

Small children at a preschool center.

Small children at a preschool center.

Child care costs are higher than the average rent, and this expense relates directly to a parent’s ability to join the workforce and maintain employment. By increasing eligibility and reforming the reimbursement structure, more families will have access to this vital service. This helps families remain in and reenter the workforce, and will increase the number of income tax payers. Beyond child care, the EITC is the best way to aid families in getting out of poverty. In Michigan, the EITC used to be 20% of the federal credit, but in recent years has been reduced to 6%. By restoring the EITC to 20%, we can reduce the number of families and children living in poverty while also improving children’s health and education outcomes.

Whole communities are impacted when we leave families in poverty. To improve our communities we need to help individual families thrive.

These are not just numbers. This is not just data. Poverty is the greatest danger to our children and policymakers must act now address it.

— Harriet McTigue

Update on UI false fraud accusations—Please contact your state senators soon!

Added December 1st, 2017 by Peter Ruark | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

As most of our readers know, many unemployed workers who filed Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims between 2013 and 2015 using Michigan’s online Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MiDAS) were later informed, wrongly, that the UI benefits they received were fraudulent and that they owed thousands of dollars in benefit repayment plus interest and large penalties. The notices did not provide information as to the reason for the fraud determination, and some workers did not realize they had been accused of fraud until their wages or tax returns were garnished.

An internal investigation by the agency revealed that more than 44,000 determinations of fraud since 2013 were false determinations, meaning there had been in fact no fraud committed in those cases and the claimants were wrongly accused. Of the fraud determinations done entirely by computer, 93% were false—a breathtaking error rate! Yet despite initial PR efforts to blame the problem on “computer glitches,” further investigation showed nearly half of determinations reached with some human involvement were false as well. The fact that the false determination scandal was a structural problem and not just a technical problem was further underscored by revelations of the “guilty until proven innocent” questionnaire through which claimants could respond to fraud determinations, which included questions that could be seen as self-incriminating.

Unemployment Benefits Claim Form 450x300Moreover, as if falsely accusing residents of fraud were not enough, Michigan was shown to have the highest penalties in the nation for UI fraud. Federal law requires that claimants who commit fraud must pay the amount overpaid to them plus a 15% penalty, but many states have enacted higher penalties. Michigan’s penalty is by far the highest at 400% of the amount overpaid; someone accused of having fraudulently received $1,000 in overpaid benefits would owe the state $5,000 in repayment and penalties. The victims of the structural dysfunction at Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency were charged much more than they would have if they were falsely determined to have committed fraud in another state.

For many workers accused of fraud who had done no wrong, the false determinations and the efforts by the state to collect the money resulted in a terrible avalanche of consequences: family stress, ruined credit, bankruptcy, foreclosure, homelessness, and even suicide.

Rep. Joseph Graves convened a task force made up of claimant advocates, organized labor, business groups and legislative staff to develop a package of bills to make sure the false fraud determination travesty never happens again. After many, many hours of work and deliberation, the task force produced a package that passed the House unanimously last month and was passed unanimously on November 30 by the Senate Oversight Committee. From there it will go to the full Senate as soon as next week, where we hope it will pass without amendments and go to Governor Snyder’s desk to be signed into law.

Please learn about what these bills will do here and here, and then call your state senator’s office and tell the staff person that you would like your senator to support the package of bills without amendments. We ask that the bills be passed without amendments because the task force was made up of many points of view and difficult compromises had to be made to reach agreement on a bill expected to be favorable to all parties. Amendments tacked onto the bills could tip the balance and poison the well, jeopardizing passage of the entire set of bills.

If you do not know who your Michigan senator is, you can find out here.

You can find your Michigan senator’s contact information here. (Calls to your senator’s office are more effective than emails.)

Readers who have been wrongly accused of fraud and need legal assistance can find help here.

— Peter Ruark

Reflections on the League

Added November 30th, 2017 by MLPP | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Lorenzo Santavicca

Lorenzo Santavicca

Reflecting on my time as an intern at the League this semester along with the spirit of thanksgiving, I’ve come to realize how fortunate I am to have my healthcare, a college degree that will hopefully afford me job opportunities and the services that I can rely on for safety in my community.

With a majority of my work centered on tax policy, I have realized how complex our systems to handle the state’s revenue are. I have especially been discouraged by the latest proposals in the U.S. House and Senate to grow the deficit by more than a trillion dollars that would negatively impact you and me. I’ve spent time looking at how our tax structure through personal and corporate income taxes in Michigan is unjust toward individuals and doesn’t do enough to ensure a fair share from those who pay. I’ve spent time looking at how sales taxes are critical to fund our basic services.

The work may seem daunting and discouraging. But without doubt, my time at the League has been enlightening, educational and empowering. I attended and supported the annual League Public Policy Forum this fall, which brought attention to how the decisions being made in Washington affect us locally. I was fortunate to partake in an evening session by the Citizen’s Research Council and their Public Policy dinner, where a panel of journalists discussed the trouble of the false “fake news” phenomenon.

Rachel Richards and Lorenzo Santavicca

Rachel Richards and Lorenzo Santavicca

In all, my classes at Michigan State University have only been supplemented by this first-hand experience in the field of public policy for the state, which makes me feel exponentially more equipped to tackle these big issues in my next endeavor. With a goal to attain a master’s degree in public policy and run for public office, I hope to come back to the roots I’ve grown at the League by utilizing good policy recommendations and hopefully implementing them through legislative action that will create a stronger Michigan for our residents.

I would urge anyone who is largely unaware of what the League does to consider your daily needs and resources around you: whether it’s your health, your job, education for your children, or the services in your community. It is because of the research and advocacy provided by the League that we are able to present a collective voice for those who may not have experience with government or who lack the time or resources to follow issues in general. We know that tactics politicians use to make some of the simplest decisions complex are tactics that prevent you and me from becoming engaged. We cannot continue to let these tactics hurt us in the long run.

With unending concern about stability for services and programs at the national level of our government, it is critical that we keep a steady pulse on our ability to engage with our elected representatives. I am thankful for the full-time work of this organization in Lansing, because without the League and its dedication to research, I can only imagine that our state wouldn’t be on the path to a stronger place than it is today. Consider supporting the League this holiday season through a donation, and keep involved with the work that the League does to stay informed.

I would especially like to thank Gilda Jacobs, Rachel Richards and Alicia Guevara Warren for bringing me on this semester as an intern for the League, and for the overwhelming support of everyone on the staff that helped make my work possible and worthwhile.

— Lorenzo Santavicca

Family-friendly policies, sweatpants and a space to ‘geek out’: What we’re thankful for this year

Added November 22nd, 2017 by MLPP | Email This Entry Email This Entry

Ask anyone at the League what they’re thankful for, and it won’t take us long to think. We work for an organization whose values match our own. We work with colleagues who have heart. And we work with numbers. We really like numbers.

Here’s just a snapshot of what we’re grateful for right now:


Julie Cassidy

Julie Cassidy

Julie Cassidy, Policy Analyst

As a new parent, I’m thankful to work for an employer that provides paid leave for both mothers AND fathers and is so supportive of my family’s needs as we adjust to our new normal. Having flexible hours and a private, clean place to pump breastmilk, as well as being able to work from home on occasion, allow me to be a good worker and a good mom.



Victoria Crouse

Victoria Crouse

Victoria Crouse, Policy Fellow

This year, I’m thankful that my grandmother became a U.S. citizen and celebrated her 88th birthday this month! I’m also thankful for the team of hardworking and passionate advocates both at the League and across the state who tirelessly fight for the rights of all Michiganians.



Alicia Guevara Warren

Alicia Guevara Warren

Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count Director

First, I am grateful for my family, friends, community and wonderful co-workers. I appreciate all of the amazing child advocates working tirelessly throughout the state every day and our funders who help support our work to improve the lives of kids and families in Michigan!




Karen Holcomb-Merrill

Karen Holcomb-Merrill

Karen Holcomb-Merrill, Vice President

The last year has been rough for those of us who advocate for public policies that lift up our state’s most vulnerable residents. I’m so grateful for my colleagues at the League; they continue to work hard and to support one another during these times.





Gilda Z. Jacobs, President & CEO

Gilda Z. Jacobs

Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO

I’m thankful for the resilience of our amazing staff who get up every day to fight the good fight!





Phyllis Killips

Phyllis Killips

Phyllis Killips, Assistant to the President

I am thankful I was able to work part time for 24 years while raising my family and was still receiving health benefits, sick time and vacation benefits. Most jobs would not allow that.




Jenny Kinne

Jenny Kinne

Jenny Kinne, Community Engagement Director

I am thankful all of the amazing activists and leaders in my community who are tirelessly fighting for equity and justice. I am thankful for the courage I have witnessed and gained in this terrifying year.





Tillie Kucharek

Tillie Kucharek

Tillie Kucharek, Graphic Designer

This probably sounds like a cliché but I am grateful to have great, fun people to work with and interesting projects to challenge me. I also have a wonderful support system with my family and friends.





Mary Logan

Mary Logan

Mary Logan, Administrative Support

I am grateful that I am in the habit of contemplating every day about what I am grateful for!





Harriet McTigue

Harriet McTigue

Harriet McTigue, Kids Count Research Associate

I’m grateful for sweatpants, family and friends, young people running for office, carbs, dry shampoo, and Amy Poehler.





Laura Ross

Laura Ross

Laura Ross, Communications Associate

As someone who has worked directly with kids for most of my professional life, I’m so thankful to work with people who truly care about making Michigan a better place for all families, regardless of race, place or income. Though we’re living in contentious times when vitriolic tweets fly all around us, the League is a warm, comforting space where truth and equity are valued over politics and egotism. I’m incredibly grateful that I get to be part of this organization.



Alex Rossman

Alex Rossman

Alex Rossman, Communications Director

I’m thankful for my wonderful wife, family and friends; my smart and dedicated coworkers; the League’s amazing supporters, especially the people that read our blogs and like and share our social media posts to spread the word on our work; and elastic waistbands, Adam Sandler’s “Thanksgiving Song,” turkey naps and the fact that the Lions always play (and usually win) on Thanksgiving.



Rachel Richards

Rachel Richards

Rachel Richards, Legislative Coordinator

As a parent, aunt, and (much) older sister, I am grateful to work for an organization that not only examines–and tries to fix–what is going on in our state today but takes a long-view approach of those problems and solutions so we know that our children, and our children’s children, will be better off. (Plus it gives me an appropriate outlet to geek out on tax policy without boring my friends and family too much.)



Peter Ruark

Peter Ruark

Peter Ruark, Senior Policy Analyst

I’m grateful that I can come in every day to a job that I am passionate about, and that I see our positive influence on state policy on behalf of vulnerable populations.




Emily Schwarzkopf

Emily Schwarzkopf

Emily Schwarzkopf, Policy Analyst

I’m thankful for our partners in the Protect MI Care coalition who have helped us fight off four attempts (so far) to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And perhaps this is cliché, but I’m also thankful for my friends, family, and co-workers – they are simply the best and I am nothing without their love and support.




Carolyn Wreggelsworth

Carolyn Wreggelsworth

Carol Wreggelsworth, Bookkeeper

I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude for the help and comfort from friends and colleagues this past year. For me the assistance was a warm and bright ray of light representing good and caring people who are attentive to the struggle of others. Your caring gives me strength. Thank you so much, with blessings and great feelings of gratitude.




This Thanksgiving, Republicans in Congress offer a recipe for disaster

Added November 20th, 2017 by Rachel Richards | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Rachel Richards

Regardless of how much you love your family, the holidays are always stressful. The turkey is either raw and salmonella-inducing or dry and burnt, someone always gets sick, at least one kid has a meltdown, and someone’s feelings inevitably get hurt. The holidays, as fun as they are, are always a little uncomfortable—even if it’s just from a tight-fitting waistline.

Politics often get brought up and tempers flare—and federal Republicans’ tax bill that is their “must-pass” bill of the year threatens to make it worse.

This tax bill is moving fast (it has already passed the U.S. House), and there’s a good reason for that. Congress wants you to focus on their lip-service rather than just how bad the bill is. Much like a relative’s Thanksgiving mystery dish, Republicans don’t want you to know what’s in it and are completely ignorant of how little it’ll actually be enjoyed by anyone.

This tax plan will not help most Michigan residents—and the people who need the most will get the least. The truth is that this deficit-increasing tax bill gives massive tax cuts to the wealthy and profitable corporations, provides little benefit to the rest of us, and puts important services we all rely on in jeopardy.

For example, in the first full year of implementation of the U.S. Senate’s bill, taxpayers in the top 1%—those making more than about $515,000 a year—would see an average tax cut of $46,100. On the other hand, taxpayers in the bottom 60% percent—those making less than about $70,000—would see an average tax cut of $390. In fact, some Michigan residents could even experience tax increases in order to pay for cuts to the wealthy and businesses. By 2027, taxes on low- and middle-income Michigan taxpayers would be raised while highest- income earners would still enjoy fairly sizable tax cuts. (For more information on how the tax plans will impact you, please head over to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy to check out their analyses of the U.S. House and Senate bills.)


What’s even more surprising is that the U.S. Senate bill fundamentally changes healthcare for our residents. The bill repeals the individual healthcare mandate to pay for huge corporate tax rate cuts. This “sneaky repeal” is just as bad as the “skinny repeal” that was defeated earlier this year. With this change, 398,000 Michigan residents will become uninsured by 2025, premiums on the marketplace would rise by $1,520 for a family of four, and Michigan could experience a cut to Medicare nearing $1 billion.

Finally, the tax plan would drastically increase the deficit to the tune of around $1.5 TRILLION. As the deficit grows, federal lawmakers will feel the pressure to “right-size” the budget, and, believe me, this would mean cuts felt by all of us. This would just mean fewer Michigan residents with healthcare, with access to high-quality educations, with safe roads and bridges, with food regularly on the table and in their cupboards, and with vibrant lives. So in the end, we all suffer to make the wealthiest more comfortable.

Over the past year, we’ve had to fight many uncomfortable fights. But I’m asking you to fight one more. We can do something about the uncomfortable situation we are all in.

Federal Republicans are hoping they can catch us sleeping from the tryptophan and sneak this bill through before we wake up to see what it really means for most of us. We need to call our federal lawmakers and ask them all to go back to the table and create a tax bill that works for everyone. We can support our lawmakers who continue to lift up the problems with this bill. We can show Congress just how uncomfortable this tax bill makes us all, and we can and must stop it.

— Rachel Richards, Legislative Coordinator

Michigan is letting African-American children fall through the cracks in our education system

Added November 16th, 2017 by MLPP | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Casey Paskus

Casey Paskus

All children deserve a quality education in order to reach their potential, but the 2017 Race for Results data shows that education equity is not a reality in Michigan. Children of historically underserved communities in Michigan, including African-American and Latino families, fared the worst in education indicators. Michigan’s children, especially our children of color, are being left behind on the national stage and we aren’t doing enough to help them.

According to the Race for Results Index for 2017, Michigan children of all racial and ethnic groups are falling behind their national peers in educational attainment, with Michigan’s African-American children coming in last in many educational indicator. Further, Michigan ranked 41st overall in educational outcomes in the national 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book.

Index scores mi and usWithin the state of Michigan, African-American children fared the worst overall on educational indicators. Only 4% of Michigan’s African-American children are reading at their grade level in fourth grade, and only 5% are performing grade-level math in eighth grade. These low scores for educational attainment are part of the reason for Michigan’s African-American children receiving the lowest child well-being score of all African-American children in the country.

Historical Legacies

The educational disparities between African-American children and other racial groups in Michigan stem from structural discrimination, including segregated housing practices that persist to this day. Throughout the 1960’s many historically white neighborhoods would refuse to allow African-American families to move in by writing neighborhood charters specifically excluding African-Americans. Historical legacies of segregation are still present today, and manifest in our school districts and school funding policies.

Predominantly African-American and immigrant areas have much lower property values, so schools in these areas receive less funds from property tax millages. Housing segregation and the resulting disparity in school funds persists today, as evidenced in the 2017 Race for Results data.

African-American children in Michigan are over 70% more likely to live in high-poverty areas where schools lack the resources to meet the needs of all students. These numbers are in stark contrast to the 82% of White Michigan children living in low-poverty areas and the 18% of White Michigan children living in high-poverty areas.

The 2017 Race for Results data can help us better understand the ways in which race and underfunded schools are inextricably linked because of legacies of segregated neighborhoods and the dependence of schools on property tax millages.

Education 9 percentSteps in the Right Direction

There is good news: Michigan has programs in place working to close the funding gap between schools in affluent areas and schools in struggling areas, and the legislature has approved increased funding for these programs for 2018.

Per-pupil funding will increase by $60-$120 per pupil, with more funding for districts with families of low income. The legislature also increased funding for the At-Risk School Aid program by $120 million. This program specifically assists school districts with a large number of children from families with low incomes who receive temporary cash or food assistance or who are homeless, who are disproportionately children of color.

More to Do

Despite these positive steps, there is much more work to do to ensure that children of color, especially African-American children, have equal access to quality education within Michigan. The state of Michigan must increase funding to schools that are struggling to make up for the disparity in property tax millages between affluent school districts and school districts with families of low income.

Many creative solutions to educational disparities and underfunding are coming from grassroots community organizing. Detroit-based group 482 Forward is a coalition of neighborhood organizations, parents, and youth working together to make sure that all children of Detroit have access to a quality education, regardless of socioeconomic status or race.

Lawmakers should look to local, community-led groups such as 482 Forward for a better understanding of bottom-up strategies to combat structural inequities and economic disparities to better support all children in Michigan, particularly children of color.

— Casey Paskus, Kids Count Intern

Nowhere to go but up on racial equity

Added November 9th, 2017 by Alicia Guevara Warren | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alicia Guevara Warren

I had the privilege recently of chaperoning my daughter’s fourth-grade class to our local children’s museum for two days in a row. Wow, they are amazing little people, who are also full of an enormous amount of energy (Thank you to all the teachers who care for these kiddos every day of the school year!).

"Kids Count Director Alicia Guevara Warren hopes to watch her daughter grow up in an equitable world."

“Kids Count Director Alicia Guevara Warren hopes to watch her daughter grow up in an equitable world.”

Our school district is one of the most diverse districts in the state—something we are very proud of! As a woman of color raising a child of color who has friends of many backgrounds (and as a data geek), I couldn’t help but think about all of the data on racial disparities as I observed this group of bright and curious elementary students. The experience magnified for me the importance of working to help implement strategies to start changing outcomes for all kids, but especially for kids of color who disproportionately face barriers to opportunity.

A report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and national KIDS COUNT project, Race for Results, revealed some very disturbing information: African-American kids in Michigan fare worse in child well-being than their peers in every other state in the country. That’s right, worse than Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alabama—states that all fall in the bottom rankings nationally for overall child well-being. Out of a child well-being index score of up to 1,000, African-American kids in Michigan score 260, while the national average—albeit troubling as well—was 369. That’s a difference of over a hundred.

When we look at how most kids of color in Michigan fare compared to their White peers, not only are their index scores significantly lower, but their well-being by key milestones in early childhood, education and early work experiences, family resources and neighborhood context are also worse. How did we get here and how do we change this?

A quick look at history shows how many disparities were created and perpetuated over time. And many of today’s policy decisions have led to the overrepresentation of people and kids of color in the child welfare and justice systems, disparate job and educational opportunities and unfair targeting in immigration policies. This has to change. Michigan’s future depends on how well we care for all children, and that includes eliminating current racial and ethnic disparities that appear in just about every indicator of child well-being.

UpdatedMI_RaceForResults_social-index-state_v4We need to urge our policymakers—at all levels of government—to use a racial and ethnic equity lens to review current and proposed policies. Some local governments in Michigan, like Grand Rapids and Washtenaw County, have started taking those steps by joining the Government Alliance on Racial Equity to use tools to address and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in their communities.

As child advocates we can also support efforts like “Raise the Age” to address racial disparities in the justice system. The most recent figures show that while kids of color make-up only 23% of the 17-year-old population in Michigan, they are 53% of the total number of 17-year-olds entering our state’s corrections system. By raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years old, we can ensure that kids are treated like kids and receive age-appropriate treatment and services and begin reducing the lifelong consequences that these youth of color endure with an adult criminal record. This is only one example of how we can start addressing disparities in outcomes for kids of color. There are many others.

My community is important to me—as yours is to you! I want to be sure that as I’m watching my daughter and her classmates grow up that we are doing our best to implement solutions that work to remove barriers for children and families of color, so that all of our kids have access to better opportunities to reach their potential, and so that Michigan is stronger and better for everyone.

— Alicia Guevara-Warren, Kids Count in Michigan Project Director 

A message of gratitude: We’re in this together

Added November 8th, 2017 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

From the First Tuesday newsletter
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Community. As we prepare to give thanks for all we have this month, I would like to take time to show gratitude for you, our League community. On a rainy October afternoon, hundreds of you gathered at our annual policy forum to share ideas, learn from experts and move forward with a common goal. The work we do each day at the League would not be possible without the strong community of support we have in you!

At the forum, keynote speaker Bob Greenstein from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warned of the dangers in assuming that tax cuts will fuel growth. We’ve seen time after time after time that this is not the case.

We are exceedingly grateful to the sponsor, panelists, speakers and attendees who helped make this year's policy forum a great success.

We are exceedingly grateful to the sponsors, panelists, speakers and attendees who helped make this year’s policy forum a great success.


When we received word of the new U.S. House tax plan last Thursday, we reflected on Bob’s warning, fearing that the passage of such a dangerous plan could come to fruition quite easily during these tumultuous political times. It would be tempting to succumb to these fears and turn them to defeat. But that’s not what we do. What we do is fight. Which brings me back to you. To our community.

After laying out the dangers of conservative tax policies, Bob closed his address with the following statement. And it’s this statement we choose to heed when faced with harmful policies:

“We need citizen engagement to fight these new tax plans, just as we had with fighting for the Affordable Care Act,” he said. And he’s 100 percent accurate.

It’s that high level of engagement that will save us from these disastrous policies, and l know that you, our community, will do all it takes to keep the people of Michigan at the forefront of your minds, just as we do each day in our work. Rather than become mired in negativity, we must unite and fight for what we know is best. Whether you support us by writing a check, talking to your legislator or following us on social media, you are helping to fight for Michiganians.

So this Thanksgiving, we thank you. We thank you for coming together with a common vision to support the work we do at the League. We thank you for keeping your sights on the future, which we know can be bright for all Michiganians. We thank you for being part of this very special community.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO

Personalizing politics: Putting narratives at the forefront

Added November 3rd, 2017 by MLPP | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Lorenzo Santavicca

Lorenzo Santavicca

At a time when we are more connected by online profiles and other technological means of communication, an unintended consequence is that we have become increasingly disconnected in listening and empathizing with one another in person. Many of our politics today—both in Lansing and Washington—are undercutting values that are a cornerstone to our democracy: listening to each other in the process of lawmaking.

By invitation, I recently participated in an inaugural summit called the “Intercollegiate Diversity Congress at the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation. I attended in my capacity as Student Body President at Michigan State University. Dedicated to indexing testimonies in our world history, the Foundation currently has stocked more than 55,000 video testimonies, a bulk of them that particularly expound on the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide. The Foundation’s work in compiling these stories serves as a powerful reminder that we all have a story to tell and a narrative that we live. Our stories cannot be taken away from us, nor invalidated by someone else’s poor policy proposals in a position of political power.

The summit hosted over 20 student leaders from around the country to brainstorm and strategize how we can foster a better culture of active listening with one another and the power of storytelling that follows. Most importantly, we discussed what it means to arrive at disagreement in dialogue in a civil manner, which is especially important in these polarizing times. I could not be more thankful to have been a part of this conference, considering our desperate societal need to reach out and listen to our peers, whether we agree with them or not.

League intern and MSU Student Body President Lorenzo Santavicca joins other members of the Intercollegiate Diversity Congress

League intern and MSU Student Body President Lorenzo Santavicca joins other members of the Intercollegiate Diversity Congress

Through my work at the Michigan League for Public Policy, I have already seen the power of storytelling influencing the ways in which policy faces scrutiny, feedback, and even an end without moving on through the legislative process. A notable example is the consistent measures taken by Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Our ability to push back on the efforts of repealing healthcare through Congress was largely surrounded by discourse by fellow Americans on how the changes would affect their personal health, or someone they loved.

Another challenge to our society, but seemingly less controversial than healthcare, is jobs. One of the participants of the conference was a student leader from West Virginia University. His sentiments during a session of the conference referenced the stereotypes about coal jobs in his home state. While he mentioned that West Virginia largely supported President Donald Trump because of his unwavering support of the coal industry, he indicated that many individuals have expressed interest to find other jobs outside of the coal industry. However, due to a lack of education and other employers for the state, many of these workers are limited to believe their working potential is strictly within the coal industry.

It seemed to be that individuals in his state were largely fooled by politicians to believe that the best route forward continues to be in the coal industry, even at a time when China and other world superpowers are pulling back from this age-old natural resource. Though Michigan’s industries are different from West Virginia’s, we, too, face challenges in job growth. Specifically with respect to Michigan’s economy, we continue to see a need for greater state support to fund our higher education programs that encourage more individuals to obtain higher diplomas and degrees.

As individuals, we must continue personalizing our politics, and understand that every decision taken by elected officials will affect someone else differently. If we’re able to better understand and listen to the needs of voices, like blue collar laborers who are led to believe their industry is going to survive beyond generations, or the ones that are living on food assistance and face threats from the state with little funding support going forward, we might be able to make a change to support the overall well-being for our state’s economy.

— Lorenzo Santavicca, Intern

“Sabotage.” “What are you saying? Did you say sandwich?”

Added November 1st, 2017 by Emily Schwarzkopf | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Emily Schwarzkopf

I started at the League right before the holidays in 2016. In those early days, when people asked me about the status of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I joked that I thought the ACA would be repealed before I figured out how to use the office microwave. (They even had some time because we had to replace the office microwave a few months ago.)

As we head into fall and I approach my one-year workaversary, the ACA is still here. But while it hasn’t been repealed, it is important that we not ignore the blatant sabotage being done to the ACA and our entire healthcare system.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the things that have been done:

  • On September 30, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired. CHIP provides health insurance to nearly 120,000 Michigan children, and without reauthorization states are forced to pick up the costs or cut off enrollment to the program. The U.S. Senate had agreed to a bipartisan deal before the last ditch effort to repeal and replace the ACA. The House is expected to vote on a bill this week that contains many of the important pieces of the Senate bipartisan deal to extend CHIP but has some concerning provisions intended to produce savings in Medicare and Medicaid. The bill also includes funding to support Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that falls significantly short of the support families need following Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
  • The Trump administration has announced that they will allow employers to opt out of covering contraception for women based on moral or religious objection. This could affect nearly 1.9 million Michigan women.
  • The administration also announced a decision to end health insurance subsidies, known as cost-sharing reductions, that help low-income and middle-income customers pay out-of-pocket healthcare costs. This will only serve to add to the federal deficit and result in increased premiums. States have already announced decisions to increase premiums as a direct result of these payments being cut off
  • President Trump issued an executive order that calls on federal agencies to consider actions to create a “noncompliant” market that could mean plans that are exempt from ACA rules including pre-existing condition protections and essential health benefits. We will not know the full impact of this order until agencies go through the rulemaking process.
  • The Trump administration significantly cut funding for organizations charged with enrolling people into the ACA along with cutting funding to advertise and promote the open enrollment period.
  • The administration also shortened the enrollment period for people to sign up for health insurance and announced that the website to do so will be down for “maintenance” for 12 hours on Sundays during open enrollment.
Doug Mills - The New York Times

Doug Mills – The New York Times

While the Trump administration continues to find ways to undermine the ACA, there is some good news. Recently, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Patty Murray (D-Washington) announced a bipartisan agreement to stabilize the insurance market. The plan includes continued funding of cost-sharing reductions, restoring portions of cuts to ACA outreach and enrollment, expanding eligibility for “catastrophic plans,” and making changes to waivers that allow states to modify certain provisions of the ACA.

This proposed plan is a starting point and absolutely not perfect; however, in order to ease some of the uneasiness around the ACA and insurance markets, it must be enacted. This is something that remains to be seen, and if the plan does receive action, what—if any—additional reforms or funding might also be included?

As we’ve seen for many years, and especially evident during the first 10 months of the Trump administration, is that healthcare is still highly political. It really is something lawmakers cannot seem to move past. Whether it is the showy legislative attempts to repeal the progress made with the ACA, the less publicized expiration of CHIP or the harmful attacks on the upcoming open enrollment—we promise to make sure you know about it.

BONUS: If you were wondering about the title of my blog, it’s from one of my favorite episodes of The Office—BEACH GAMES!

— Emily Schwarzkopf, Policy Analyst

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