News Story

Blown Opportunities

Four years ago, Gov. Jennifer Granholm predicted Michigan residents would be "blown away" in 2011 by the strength and diversity of Michigan's transformed economy.

At the time, the state's unemployment rate was 7.2 percent.

As the Michigan governor gave her final State of the State speech on Feb. 3 and spoke of how government programs have created jobs, about 750 protesters showed up on the steps of the state Capitol as part of a "State of the Citizens" rally to remind Gov. Granholm how far off her infamous prediction has turned out to be as she reaches the end of her eight-year tenure.

"What would I tell her?" asked Steve Newman of Homer, one of the hundreds who showed up to protest the policies that they feel have paved the way for a statewide unemployment rate of 14.3 percent in December 2009. "Thanks for nothing. We didn't get blown away."

The crowd chanted "Blown away, blown away" as speakers talked of tax cuts and less government intervention as the cure to Michigan's ailing economy.

The protest became animated when a group of about 70 student-age protesters tried to shout down the Tea Party event. The group was trying to stop cuts to education. They tried to drown out the Tea Party speakers and chanted "We're students united, we'll never be divided" while the Tea Party protesters were saying the Pledge of Allegiance. While a Tea Party activist was speaking on the Capitol steps, one student grabbed a megaphone and shouted a profanity.

Sara Vitale, a student at Michigan State University, was one of the leaders of the student protesters.

"I'm completely sick of what is going on," Vitale said. "Education is the first scapegoat. Granholm is just the face of the problem. The whole system is screwed up."

Vitale defended the disruptive tactics of the student-age protesters, including the chanting during the Pledge of Allegiance.

"We're not on the same page," Vitale said of the Tea Party protesters. "They are fascists. ... They have a problem ... with our tactics? [Expletive deleted] that."

At one point, when Vitale shouted, "Tax the rich," Gary Saylor of Marshall, Mich., shouted back, "Get a job!"

"They are a bunch of spoiled, nasty kids," Saylor said.

Eventually, a row of about a dozen police officers slowly walked the student protesters back about 30 feet away from the Capitol steps.

As Gov. Granholm gave her speech, Saylor listened to the Tea Party speakers.

He was asked what he would say to Gov. Granholm if allowed inside.

"Oh, geez. 'Goodbye.' That is the best I can say about her," Saylor said.

Jim Chiodo of Holland, Mich., came to protest because, he said, the state politicians were "chasing the business out of the state."

"Maybe it's not just her, but it's her agenda," Chiodo said. "There is only one way you are going to create jobs and it ain't by spending government money. I wish I could hear her speak. I'd ask, 'Have you ever run a business and signed the front side of a payroll check?' "

About two hours before Gov. Granholm's speech, conservative political consultant Joe Munem sat in a Lansing coffee shop and said it would be a short night if he were the governor's speechwriter.

"She should just say, 'I'm sorry' and leave," said Munem.

An earlier version of this story and a Michigan Capitol Confidential video of the event are available at:

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.