Gov. Whitmer Signs $37 Million Bill Funding 76 Projects Statewide

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed House Bill 4469 which appropriates $37.8 million in Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants for 76 recreation projects and land purchases throughout Michigan.

“The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund supports quality outdoor recreation, giving Michiganders the ability to safely enjoy the outdoors and boosting local economies,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This funding is crucial to helping communities utilize their natural resources and make Michigan’s public spaces more accessible and attractive to residents and visitors. I am proud to sign this piece of bipartisan legislation into law and support Michigan’s recreational resources and economy.” 

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is a restricted fund established in 1976 to provide funding for public acquisition of lands for resource conservation and outdoor recreation.

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Commentary: Joe Biden, Economy Killer

President Joe Biden

Along with a working vaccine, Joe Biden inherited a V-shaped economic recovery, but he is now planting the seeds of its destruction. Inflation, federal deficits, high taxes, incentives for workers to stay home, and incentives to avoid investment – they’re all coming back. Together, these elements create the perfect brew for a Lyndon Johnson-style stagflation. If Biden and the Democrats so quickly wreck the good economic path they were given, it will be one of the worst examples of government malpractice in U.S. economic history. 

In the first, dark days of the COVID-19 national economic shutdown last spring, there was a clear need for major stimulus. Both parties united to pass an effective and much-needed response. 

The U.S. gross domestic product saw a 33.4% surge in the July-September third quarter of 2020, after plunging 31.4% in the April-June second quarter. The economy continued to grow at a 4% rate in the fourth quarter, and the stock market (despite COVID) ended 2020 with the S&P 500 index up 16% for the year as a whole. 

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Biden Promotes 'Free' Community College for Americans, 'Dreamers'

President Joe Biden touted a key part of his education initiative Monday, pushing for two years of free community college nationwide, but some critics question the long-term efficacy of his plan.
Biden spoke at Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia, to promote his proposal, which would provide, among other things, $109 billion for two years of tuition-free community college.
“Do we want to give the wealthiest people in America another tax cut, or do you want to give every high school graduate the ability to earn a community college degree?” Biden asked during his speech, arguing that 12 years of schooling is not long enough in the modern economy. “That’s why the American Families Plan guarantees four additional years of public education for every person in America – two years of universal, high-quality pre-school and two years of free community college.”

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Hawley Cites ‘Culture War’ in Proposal for Monthly Payments to Families with Children

Josh Hawley

Rising Republican star U.S. Rep. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is sponsoring a new measure that would give unprecedented tax cuts to parents with children, and now he is saying his bill is on the front line of the nation’s “culture war.”

The plan in question would give a fully refundable tax credit of $12,000 for married parents and $6,000 for single parents who have children under the age of 13.

“Starting a family and raising children should not be a privilege only reserved for the wealthy,” Hawley said. “Millions of working people want to start a family and would like to care for their children at home, but current policies do not respect these preferences. American families should be supported, no matter how they choose to care for their kids.”

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Secretary of State Benson Calls on Lawmakers to Revamp SOS Services, Give Unspecified Amount of Money

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Thursday asked for an unspecified amount of money to completely revamp the Michigan Department of State (MDOS).

The money would be used to provide “pop-up” offices, provide virtual interactions instead of in-person, and pass other laws that would result in less interaction with the department.

“Michiganders can now complete most of their transactions online, by mail or at one of our new self-service stations located at their local grocery store,” Benson said. “And the remaining in-person transactions are carried out by appointment, ensuring the vast majority of customers have little to no wait time.”

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Chinese Coca-Cola Scientist Stole Trade Secrets, Committed ‘Economic Espionage’

Coca-Cola

A Chinese-born chemist who worked for Coca-Cola was found guilty Thursday of multiple spying-related charges including economic espionage and stealing trade secrets.

Xiaorong You, a Chinese-born American citizen, stole trade secrets related to the development of the bisphenol-A-free (BPA-free) coating found within soda cans and used it to start a new company in China, which subsequently received millions of dollars from the Chinese government in grants, the Department of Justice announced Thursday. The BPA-free technology trade secrets that You stole was worth almost $120 million.

Documents and evidence presented during You’s 12-day trial showed that she intended to benefit the Chinese Communist Party, the DOJ said. Dow Chemical, PPG Industries, Sherwin Williams and other major U.S. chemical corporations had developed the BPA-free technology that You stole.

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Biden Lays Out Aggressive Climate Agenda at World Summit

Sign that says "Climate Justice Now!"

President Joe Biden hosted a virtual climate summit with dozens of world leaders Thursday, the same day the White House released a set of aggressive climate goals. Critics say the plan could jeopardize the economy at a time it is recovering from record-breaking unemployment because of the pandemic and governments’ response to it.

First among those priorities is a pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by the year 2030.

“The United States is not waiting, the costs of delay are too great, and our nation is resolved to act now,” the White House said in a statement. “Climate change poses an existential threat, but responding to this threat offers an opportunity to support good-paying, union jobs, strengthen America’s working communities, protect public health, and advance environmental justice.”

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Senate GOP Counters Biden with $568 Billion Infrastructure Plan

Joe Biden

A group of Republican U.S. senators have unveiled a $568 billion plan that would look to rebuild and expand infrastructure nationwide and counter a more expensive proposal by President Joe Biden.

The GOP plan includes $299 billion for roads and bridges, $61 billion for public transit systems and $65 billion for broadband infrastructure. Also included in the plan is $20 billion for rail, $35 billion for drinking water and wastewater, $13 billion for safety, $17 billion in ports and inland waterways, $44 billion for airports and $14 billion for water storage.

Emphasized in the bill is the expediting of projects through regulatory processes and several measures to minimize new spending. The plan calls for repurposing federal COVID-19 relief funds that have remained unused, along with ensuring the federal debt is not increased.

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Report: Three-Fourths of All 2019 Property Insurance Suits in U.S. Were Filed in Florida

In 2019, Florida homeowners accounted for 8.16 percent of the nation’s property insurance claims, but more than 76 percent of property insurance lawsuits lodged against insurers.

Pointing to this “disparity,” Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier in a five-page April 2 letter to House Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, outlined four proposals to reduce property insurance litigation.

Insurers cite rampant litigation, ballooning reinsurance costs, “loss creep” from 2017-18 hurricanes and coastal flooding as a “perform storm” of coalescing factors leading to double-digit property insurance rate hikes that Florida businesses and 6.2 million homeowners are seeing or will see when renewing policies.

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Michigan’s Bar and Restaurant Job Losses During Pandemic Lockdowns Greater Than Neighboring Great Lakes States

Empty bar in restaurant

A new study published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy concludes states in the Great Lakes region with the strictest lockdown measures also suffered the greatest increases in job losses.

“The Costs of Michigan’s Second Lockdown” was authored by Chris Douglas, the department chair of the UM-Flint Economics department.

All told, Douglas concluded the costs associated with the state’s second lockdown, which began in mid-November, outweigh the benefits it provided. He also said there was no correlation between the lockdown and a reduction in COVID-19 related fatalities.

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Pandemic Resurgence in Michigan Prompts Whitmer to Ask for Two-Week Shutdown of Indoor Dining, School Sports, in-Person Learning

Closed storefront

 A surge in COVID-19 cases in Michigan has prompted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to promote a two-week, voluntary lockdown of indoor dining, suspension of school sports and a full return to remote education.

Although she noted more than five million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, the governor added the pandemic continued to wreak havoc in the state.

For example, Michigan hospitals reported 3,508 COVID-19 patients on Thursday. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released data on Thursday that revealed the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate was 492.1 cases per 100,000 people, the highest positivity case rate in the nation.

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Surveys: 46 Million People Can’t Afford Health Care, Majority of Hospitals Not Providing Pricing Transparency

Assorted color syringes.

An estimated 46 million people — or 18% of the country — would be unable to pay for health care if they needed it today, a recent poll conducted by Gallup and West Health found.

In another survey by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the majority of hospitals in the U.S. have yet to comply with a transparency ruling implemented this year that would help patients shop around for the most affordable prices.

Gallup’s findings are based on a poll conducted between February 15 and 21 among 3,753 adults with a margin of error of 2%.

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Jobless Claims Increase to 719,000 as Recovery Continues

Unemployment sign

The number of Americans filing new unemployment claims increased to 719,000 last week, even as the economy continues to slowly recover from the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Department of Labor.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics figure released Thursday represented an increase in the number of new jobless claims compared to the week ending March 20, when 658,000 new jobless claims were reported. That number was revised down from the 684,000 jobless claims initially reported last week.

Roughly 18.2 million Americans continue to collect unemployment benefits, according to the report.

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Commerce Department Report: Red States Leading U.S. Economic Growth

Inside a business with several customers.

Red states are leading economic growth in the U.S., a new report by the U. S. Commerce Department shows, with South Dakota, Texas and Utah reporting the highest growth.

The report is based on 2020 fourth quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data and February 2021 unemployment rates.

Real GDP increased in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the fourth quarter of 2020. Real GDP for the U.S. as a whole increased at an annual rate of 4.3%. The percent change in real GDP in the fourth quarter ranged from 9.9% in South Dakota to 1.2% in the District of Columbia.

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Gov. Whitmer Announces 21 Road Rebuilding Projects

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced 21 state highway projects for the 2021 construction season.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) projects are funded through its budget and the $3.5 billion Rebuilding Michigan bonding program.

Whitmer announced the projects on Tuesday. 

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Biden to Direct States to Make All U.S. Adults Eligible for COVID Vaccine by May 1

President Joe Biden said Thursday night that he is directing U.S. states to open COVID-19 vaccinations to all American adults by May 1 in an effort to more quickly reopen the country and prop up the staggering U.S. economy.

“To do this we’re going to go from a million shots a day … to 2 million shots a day,” he said.

In most U.S. states currently, only older Americans, front-line workers and those with pre-existing conditions are eligible, though getting scheduled for a first dose has been problematic in many states even for the most at-risk.

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Michigan’s New Unemployment Director Faces Questions from House Oversight Committee

Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency Director Liza Estlund Olson was grilled Thursday morning by the state House Oversight Committee.

Committee members asked pointed questions about recent revelations relating to the departure of Olson’s predecessor, Steve Gray, in November. Gray received a $76,626 payout and another $9,246 in attorney fees and signed a confidentiality agreement with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer Administration Gave Former MEDC CEO Jeff Mason a $128,500 Severance Payout

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration paid former CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) Jeff Mason $128,500 –26 weeks of pay – to “retire” last year.

The Detroit News reported Mason’s deal was among eight other employees separated from MEDC, bringing the total cost of payouts to $308,623 over the last four years. Those agreements included non-disparagement clauses limiting ex-employees from diminishing the MEDC’s reputation.

However, agency employees said the deals weren’t funded by taxpayer money.

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Commentary: PolitiFact Says 90 Percent of Biden Stimulus Spending Not Directly Related to COVID-19

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” could soon become law.

The budget-busting legislation, sold as emergency COVID response and “stimulus,” passed the Senate over the weekend. But even the liberal-leaning fact-checking website PolitiFact is pointing out that almost all of the bill’s spending is unrelated to the health effects of COVID-19.

“Total spending directly on COVID-19’s health impacts ranges from $100 billion to $160 billion,” fact-checker Jon Greenberg writes. “At the high end, direct COVID-19 spending represents about 8.5% of the bill’s $1.9 trillion cost.”

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Ohio Prosecutors Support Bill to Force Convicted Rioters to Pay for Damages

Last summer, millions of dollars in taxpayer money were spent in response to protests that turned violent throughout Ohio. A bill proposed in the Ohio Senate looks to make sure those responsible will pay for it.

Senate Bill 41, currently being discussed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, calls for restitution from those who are convicted of property damage during riots, including vandalism. The restitution would pay the expenses of police and emergency crews who have to respond to riots. The bill also allows the government to take possession of any property left behind by those who end up convicted.

State Senator Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, is sponsoring the bill. Lou Tobin, the Executive Director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, offered his support before the committee recently.

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2021 Index Finds Rise in Global Economic Freedom, but U.S. Score Falls

America’s economic freedom ranking has fallen to an all-time low, according to The Heritage Foundation’s 2021 Index of Economic Freedom.

The United States fell three places since last year and now ranks 20th in the world among countries evaluated, with an economic freedom score of 74.8 out of 100.

The 27th annual Index of Economic Freedom was released Thursday during a Heritage virtual event featuring Charles Payne, host of Fox Business’ “Making Money With Charles Payne.”

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‘My Income Has Dropped to Zero’: About 45 Percent of Small Businesses Risk Closure Within Months

At least 13.9 million of the nation’s small businesses are at serious risk of shuttering their doors by April 1, a recent industry report found.

Forty-four percent of the country’s 31.7 million small businesses are at risk of closing by the end of the first quarter, according to small business group Alignable. Small businesses on the brink of closure expect to earn less revenue than their owners estimate is needed to stay afloat.

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Commentary: A Memorial from a Student on Walter E. Williams

In another devastating blow from 2020, we sadly suffered the loss of Professor Walter E. Williams, a distinguished scholar of economics at George Mason University. While his nationally syndicated Townhall columns and stints on the Rush Limbaugh Show made him a household name, I knew him personally as my graduate microeconomics professor.  

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Forgotten Founder Pelatiah Webster: America’s First Economist

by Lawrence Reed   Everybody knows who America’s first president was, but can you identify the country’s first economist? If any man or woman deserves that description, it is surely the one who wrote this and so much more: I propose . . . to take off every restraint and…

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