There’s a voice coming from the political closet: Michigan’s moderate Republicans. To hear what it’s saying (and understand the problems of Michigan’s GOP) look no further than a recent ad from Donnijo DeJonge.
She’s pissed (or at least trying to be — this is the election season, after all). Winnie Brinks is a liar, or at least her allies are lying about who and what Ms DeJonge stands for:
Winnie claims I support the tax on pensions. This is a lie. I have never said I supported the pension tax. In fact, I support a reduction in the income tax and with that the repeal of the pension tax. I support fair and efficient tax policy. I support reducing the tax burden for hardworking Michigan families.
One can understand the confusion here. DeJonge’s web page is silent on issues of any kind. Nor was the pension tax mentioned in the candidate profile. Then again, others would point to the interview with the MLive editorial board. Let’s just say that on pensions, it was awkward:
“You can call it a hike in tax. What I call it is making tax policy fair (by taxing pension and 401(k) income the same).”
So what’s going on here?
Brutally, some part may simply be lying. The pension tax attack has got traction and so Republicans of all sorts have to adjust, no matter what the paper trail says. It’s the old story of “I was for it before I was against it.”
DeJonge, however, is rather smarter than that, and certainly more principled. Her core positioning has been that of taking the high ground, and in that light, her words are something of a gaffe. Of course, the fiscal conservative (now) knows, the program of Gov. Rick Snyder to shift the tax burden to the individual tax payer was wrong. It was wrong, but she (and other moderate Republicans) can’t put the policy at the Governor’s feet. It was wrong, but they are unwilling to place it at the feet of their corporate benefactors.
And it may be personally wrong: an idea held once in good faith, but now exposed. Repentance can be a good thing.
There’s more. It’s not just the repeal of the pension tax, it is also the reduction of the income tax. Whether the Democratic “middle class taxpayer” or the Republican “hardworking Michigan family” the point is the same; Michigan citizens need their taxes reduced. DeJonge’s problems (and those of the moderate GOP) compound: to reduce the burden on the taxpayer means raising taxes somewhere else, or cutting programs somewhere else. And what are those trade-offs?
For a professor of public finance, the silence is hardly golden. She certainly knows the trade-offs. Then why the silence? What keeps her in the closet? Is it fear of the political powers? Is it a sort of magical thinking where some unforeseen event rescues? Is it perhaps simply the dissonance between their economic shibboleths and the impact on people’s lives?
Painful as it is, this dissonance brings some good news to the moderate faction: they still have a heart. What they lack is a voice. They know the truth; it is time to come out.