Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reagan Democrats ... or union Republicans ?

I would like to expose a myth that exists here in Macomb County regarding the county's voters, especially union members, and their voting habits.

Since the early '80s, Macomb County has famously been referred to as the "Home of the Reagan Democrats." The Democrat party would like you to believe that this means most Macomb County voters are, "at heart," Democrats who just liked Ronald Reagan personally and crossed party lines to support him. I would submit to you that this is false, and something quite different is actually true.

I think the reality is that there are many voters in Macomb County who are basically conservatives, but for decades had been convinced to vote Democrat by unions, in spite of their overall beliefs. For years some workers have been told by unions that even though they agree with the Republican Party's conservative positions on issues like traditional marriage, gun rights, abortion, and taxes, that they should vote for liberal Democrat candidates who they disagree with on all of these fundamental issues because, Democrats and unions claim, "Democrats support workers." This is false.

Well, as we have recently witnessed here in Michigan after the disastrous eight years of job losses under Gov. Granholm, and now after three years of President Obama's record deficit spending, Democratic leadership does not necessarily benefit workers or create jobs. Liberal Democratic positions on these labor issues clearly discourage job creation, drive existing jobs overseas, and diminish workers job security. The statistics bear this out; The Federal Bureau of Labor reports that "in 2000 the number of private sector jobs in Michigan was 3,996,000; this number had dropped to 3,213,000 by August 2009 -- a drop of 783,000 jobs (19.6 percent)." That means 24 percent of all private sector job losses nationwide occurred in Michigan during this time period ! Michigan's Democrat governor infamously promised in her January 2006 State of the State address; "In five years you're gonna be blown away !" I think it's safe to say we were "blown away," but not the way we were led to believe. Macomb County voters, especially conservatives, now understand in a very personal way that government and unions do not create jobs. I personally believe that the less power unions and government have over our lives the better off we'll be. Our personal liberty is limited when we allow ourselves to be controlled by either. Jobs are created by entrepreneurs and successful businesses, not government and labor unions.

This does not mean to say that I don't think there is a role for unions to play; there is. But remember the famous John Emerich quote; "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Giving workers a choice will limit the power of unions, and their tendency not to consider all points of view. I'll give one example. I have suggested that the UAW put its prized "30 year-and-out" defined-benefit pension plan on the negotiating table, and use it to negotiate for a company paid "match" for employees' contributions to their 401k retirement plans. (Defined-Contribution). This would be a win-win for the company and the employees, allowing workers to participate in their retirement planning and build wealth, while allowing the companies to eliminate "legacy costs," making them more cost-competitive. But with the top-down power structure in the UAW, few have the courage to take a suggestion that challenges the existing power structure seriously. The thinking is: Why offer to negotiate away something that makes workers dependent on the union ? But, if the state gives workers more of a voice by passing right-to-work legislation, workers may be able to force some constructive, mutually beneficial change in the auto industry.

Macomb County's so called "Reagan Democrats" are, in most cases, just conservative-leaning independent voters who have in the past been led to believe that their interests were best served by Democrats and their union allies. Want real hope and change in Michigan? We can start by supporting giving workers a choice and supporting "Freedom to Work" laws.