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Feb. 25, 2022

Podcast: State of the State talks war, bread and votes

The Institute for Public Policy and Social Research hosts its monthly State of the State podcast.

This month’s podcast features Arnold Weinfeld, IPPSR associate director; Matt Grossmann, IPPSR director; and Charles Ballard, MSU economist.

All eyes are staying on Russia, Ukraine, inflation and November’s mid-term elections, with new State of the State results showing that Michigan has soured on the economy and President Joe Biden.

Uncertainty sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has already pushed up the price of gasoline. Russia and Ukraine are major wheat and corn growers, and their conflict will raise prices at the grocery stores, said Ballard.

“There’s already been an effect,” he said during the podcast recording. “I don’t think that will be enormous. With war-strangled supply disruptions and shortages, along with rising demand powered by economic stimulus checks, extra unemployment benefits, consumers are likely to find goods and services in short supply or delayed."

Other highlights from the monthly show included: 

  • Inflation, up 5.2% in January and the biggest annual gain since 1983, is likely to make a “negative dent” in President Biden’s approval, Grossmann said. How large a dent depends on inflation’s duration, how long inflation stays in the news and how strong public perceptions are in the wake of rising prices.
  • Retirees’ effect on the economy looks under the public radar, Ballard observed. In the past 20 years, Baby Boomers, the generation of people born from 1946 to 1964, have hit retirement years. In the past months, workers wrung out by the pandemic have left jobs. “That contributes to the supply disruptions,” he said. “It contributes to higher prices.”
  • IPPSR’s latest State of the State Survey shows an especially sour Michigan view of inflation and politicians. The latest survey, in December 2021, found that 70 percent of those responding to the survey expect the rate of inflation to rise; only 11 percent expect decline. In the 2020 survey, some 48 percent of SOSS respondents expected inflation’s uptick, 12 percent foresaw downturn. “As we know, perception is everything,” Weinfeld commented.
  • Rising gasoline prices is a particular distaste, Grossmann said. “Voters notice those gas prices. “Voters take note and react negatively. Voters don’t like it.” Historically, rising gasoline prices are related to declining voter favor not only for the president, but also for election losses for the president’s political party.
  • Even Biden’s Build Back Better initiative, addressing infrastructure and now before the U.S. Congress, came in for doubt in the State of the State Survey. When interviewers asked about Biden’s Build Back Better plan, it was opposed 47 percent-30 percent, Grossmann said. When the plan’s components were explained, it gained majority support from SOSS respondents.
  • In statewide politics, Michigan still favors Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the state’s 2022 gubernatorial race and Democrats in congressional voting, Grossmann said. However, races should narrow as November draws nearer, he cautioned.
  • Tax cuts are on the table in Michigan’s Legislature with budget surpluses, due primarily to federal economic stimulus, giving rise to proposals to cut taxes for individuals, corporations, retirees with pensions and certain 401(k) investments. 
  • Resources are available now to pay down long-term debt, cut taxes and increase benefits, Grossmann said. During times of strong resources, decisionmakers can make changes “we then regret a few years later,” he added. Strong resources now don’t mean “good times are here for good.”

The Institute for Public Policy and Social Research is a part of the College of Social Science at Michigan State University. It specializes in policy education, leadership training and survey research. 

IPPSR is the home of the Michigan Political Leadership Program, the Office for Survey Research, State of the State Survey, Legislative Leadership Program, Rosenthal Legislative Internship Program, more than 60 affiliate faculty members, student policy fellows and major research databases on topics of interest to academic researchers, legislators, policy makers, elected leaders and journalists around the world. 

IPPSR’s monthly State of the State Podcast is broadcast with the assistance of WKAR Radio along with radio stations on the air and over the internet, on 
SoundCloud and ITunes. Find IPPSR on social media @IPPSR on Twitter and Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR) on Facebook.

MSU Today airs Sunday mornings at 9:00 on WKAR News/Talk and Sunday nights at 8:00 on 760 WJR. Find, rate, and subscribe to "MSU Today with Russ White" on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your shows.

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