Governor Rick Snyder’s “winners and losers” budget proposes raising taxes on low-income workers and senior citizens to give an 86 percent tax break to corporations and other businesses.  

Governor Snyder calls that Value for Michigan and this week TV ads using kids as political props to attack teachers were launched defending his budget.  We don’t know who is paying for the Snyder ads, but a good bet is that corporate money is fueling the ad buy.

What the ad campaign should be called is Value for Michigan CEOs, reflecting a proposed state budget that is more like a Monopoly game where the privileged get Boardwalk , Park Place and the Utilities while workers and retirees pay the Luxury Tax.

While there’s no proof that cutting taxes for big corporations produces jobs or economic benefits for average Michigan families, it does have value for Michigan’s CEOs, who enjoy generous pay and perks. 

It is extraordinarily wealthy CEOs who arguably benefit the most from the Snyder tax cuts and who are now in charge of the new administration’s economic policies. 

Governor Snyder appointed Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM) CEO Doug Rothwell to chair the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) Board of Directors.  Another BLM member, Whirlpool Corporation, occupies the #2 Vice Chair position at MEDC and Snyder appointed four other BLM corporate members to the MEDC board.

This gives BLM—a private organization—virtual control over an agency that makes decisions regarding tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and sets economic policy for the state. 

So who is Business Leaders for Michigan? 

They are an 81-member politically connected group of top corporate executives, all of whom have deep pockets.  They include more than 21 CEOs who make $1 million or more in compensation a year—often way more.  Fifteen members of BLM’s executive committee have given more than $2.3 million in political contributions, the vast majority going to the Republican Party and its candidates. 

BLM’s political action committee spent $184,000 on the 2010 elections, virtually all of it going to Republican candidates or committee.  There was at least one exception:  BLM gave Andy Dillon’s campaign $34,000. Dillon, who ran a losing campaign for governor as a Democrat, is now Snyder’s State Treasurer. 

These wealthy BLM CEOs—21 of whom collectively make more than $107.5 million a year—have championed the notion that the state’s budget problems are caused by overcompensated public employees. 

Leading the BLM charge is board Chair David Joos, who reportedly claimed $26.9 million in salary, compensation and other benefits this past year.   Up until 2010, Joos was CEO of Consumers Energy and its parent corporation, CMS Energy.  After voluntarily stepping down as CEO to become Chair of the CMS Energy board, Joos qualified for a $25 million “golden parachute” then negotiated an additional stock gift valued at up to $1.978 million for providing advice through 2012 to his successor as CEO.

Joos isn’t the only gold-plated BLM executive complaining about workers’ salaries.
 Jeff M. Fettig, Whirlpool Corporation’s CEO, received $14.4 million in compensation, according to Securities and Exchange Commission records.   Andrew Liviers, Dow Chemical’s CEO, rakes in $18 million annually. Timothy Wadhams, Masco Corporation CEO, makes $10.5 million a year.  The list goes on, and on, and on.

Being rich is fine.  Being rich and complaining about the salaries of hourly workers, not so fine.  Being rich and driving economic policy that raises taxes on people making $17,000 a year and middle-class retirees to boost your company’s profits? 

That’s a play worthy of Mr. Monopoly.

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