Cynical Synapse

Wed, 16 Sep 2009

Metro Detroit Wins; Cobo Authority Becomes Reality

Filed under: Budget, Detroit, Economy, Government, Politics, Racism — cynicalsynapse @ 8:42 pm

A regional board took over Cobo Center Tuesday. This is a win for the aging convention center, the city of Detroit, and the metro region. This is a major step at dismantling decades of city-suburban mistrust and animosity.

Make no mistake, getting to this point was not without its challenges. And it was iffy until Detroit City Council chose not to torpedo the latest Cobo deal. Council President Kenneth Cockrel Jr. said:

I know this has been an emotional issue and a controversial issue. But it’s real simple: We don’t have the money to do this on our own. This thing is a go, and it’s something they should be happy about. It’s going to allow us to re-position Cobo to make it competitive, to secure the [North American International] Auto Show and attract other kinds of convention business.

But, the road ahead isn’t without its potholes. Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson doubts revenues will cover expansion costs. Still, the very fact there is a regional convention center board is major progress for metro Detroit.

It’s taken 42 years to get to this point. I hope metro Detroit continues to move forward.

Tue, 15 Sep 2009

Is Andy Dillon Melting Down?

Filed under: Budget, Economy, Government, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 9:47 pm

Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford) must have really enjoyed taking the summer off. Since returning to Lansing, he’s been quite the news item. Of note, he introduced legislation and released more detail on his public employee health insurance plan, a concept worth considering. On the other hand, he’s spent the last week out in left field.

On September 9th, Dillon spoke to a conference of the Foundation Institute in Detroit. In his remarks, Dillon called Michigan’s political system dysfunctional. This is Dillon’s third, and final, term in the Michigan House, so I guess he can say that now. He went on to whine, “Be prepared for a long, painful slide and the reality that you’ll lose nine out of 10 battles.” And then he had the gall to warn potential candidates they have to live within the $79,650 annual legislator’s salary. What he didn’t mention was the additional $12,000 per diem each legislator gets nor that they get paid whether they work or not, like the House not being in session the last couple months. Did I mention Michigan’s legislature is the second-highest paid state legislature, only behind California?

Just a day later, Democrat Dillon shat on the Democrat governor’s budget proposal:

The governor should know that showboating a proposal that has no chance of passing is not a way to solve the state’s fiscal crisis. All parties need to put theatrics and demands aside and get back to the hard work of negotiating a budget solution.

Now Dillon is ready to accept the Senate’s $1.2 billion in cuts. Only he hopes the Republicans will add funding for key Democratic concerns: Promise grants for post-secondary education, early childhood development, and local revenue sharing (which is painted as police and fire). Does Dillon realize Granholm won’t sign a budget without Promise grants? Hasn’t he ever heard that hope is not a method?

Better yet, does Andy Dillon realize how obviously he has, as Michigan’s House Speaker rolled over to the Senate Majority Leader? Mr. Dillon, maybe dysfunctional is an understatement!

Sun, 13 Sep 2009

Michigan Politicians Don’t Get Budget Crisis

Filed under: Bailout, Budget, Duh, Economy, Government, Michigan, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 4:14 pm

Playing partisan politics resulted in a brief Michigan state government shutdown in 2007. It sure as hell looks to me like House Democrats, Senate Republicans, and Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm are headed for another government shutdown in, oh, about 17 days. The Democrats did nothing all summer and Granholm spent the weekend in Japan.

Failing to understand the magnitude of the budget crisis, Michigan’s politicians plan to use Stimulus money to plug some of the gaps. The state has a structural operating budget deficit, however. Using federal recovery act money masks the magnitude of post-Stimulus deficits and defers the hard choices for two years. Just like deferred pay cuts, next term is when the real budget crisis will hit.

Michigan is in dire straits. Even a rebounding economy won’t fix budget issues. Especially in Michigan. And, especially after Stimulus money runs out. From the Wall Street Journal: “The Coming Reset in State Government“.

State government finances are a wreck. The drop in tax receipts is the worst in a half century. Fewer than 10 states ended the last fiscal year with significant reserves, and three-fourths have deficits exceeding 10% of their budgets. Only an emergency infusion of printed federal funny money is keeping most state boats afloat right now.

Most governors I’ve talked to are so busy bailing that they haven’t checked the long-range forecast. What the radar tells me is that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. What we are being hit by isn’t a tropical storm that will come and go, with sunshine soon to follow. It’s much more likely that we’re facing a near permanent reduction in state tax revenues that will require us to reduce the size and scope of our state governments. And the time to prepare for this new reality is already at hand.

The coming state government reset will be particularly wrenching after the happy binge that preceded this recession. During the last decade, states increased their spending by an average of 6% per year, gusting to 8% during 2007-08. Much of the government institutions built up in those years will now have to be dismantled.

For now, my state’s situation is far better than most, but it won’t stay that way if we fail to act in Indiana. At present, we are meeting our obligations, without raising taxes, and still have over $1 billion in reserve. But the dominant reality is that even assuming the official revenue projections are accurate (and they have been consistently too rosy for the past two years), the state of Indiana will have fewer dollars to work with in 2011 than it did in 2007. Most other states face similar or worse prospects.

And, unlike the aftermath of past recessions, odds are that revenues will take a long time to catch back up to their previous trend lines—if they ever do. Tax payments have fallen so far that it would require a rousing economic rally to restore them. This at a time when the Obama administration’s policies on taxes, spending and more seem designed to produce the opposite result. From 1930 to 2008, our national average annual real GDP growth rate was 3.49%. After crunching the numbers, my team has estimated that it would take GDP growth of at least twice the historical average to return state tax revenues to their previous long-term trend line by 2012.

I doubt even that would suffice to rescue most states…

So, Michigan’s politicians, who refuse to even work together on the state’s current shortfalls, would rather play whack-a-mole with each other’s preferred fixes. Republicans chop Promise Grants. The Gov. cuts local revenue sharing and State Police. House Dems twiddle their thumbs. And the next election season is the only reason they’re even thinking about the 2011 budget. Michigan politicians have no clue the state budget will suffer meltdown in 2012. Some simply don’t care because term limits will dump their sorry asses.

HT: theblogprof

Sat, 12 Sep 2009

Granholm Jets Off to Japan for the Weekend

Filed under: Budget, Economy, Government, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 8:14 am

Michigan doesn’t have a state budget yet, but that’s not stopping Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) jetting off to Japan for the weekend. Of course, from her point of view, it’s about jobs for the future. She’ll be saying Michigan is the Alternative Energy Center of North America.

Ok, so, whoop-de-doo! What about a state budget, Jenny? Don’t be looking for too many businesses to say “Yes! Michigan!” until they know what the ground rules are gonna be.

Oh, and just curious. How much is this trip to Japan costing Michigan taxpayers? And that benefits us how?

About that state budget? Well, like State House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford) says, maybe next week.

Fri, 11 Sep 2009

Remember the Fallen and Their Loved Ones

Filed under: Global War on Terror, Heroes, History, Life, Military, Patriotism, People, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 1:01 am

If you’re old enough to remember September 11, 2001, I hope you still remember exactly what you were doing when the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center twin towers and Pentagon. They failed an attempt on a fourth, unknown target. We believe their failure was due to the heroism of United Flight 93′s passengers and crew. In total, 2,993 people from over 90 countries were killed in these attacks on US soil.

Since then, 4,925 US military personnel have died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. An additional 267 contractors and 77 civilians of US citizenship were also killed. Six US citizens are still missing or captured. In total, the Global War on Terror casualties amount to 32,732 military personnel from 53 countries and more than 207,000 civilians representing nearly 90 nationalities.

Take a moment—or four—out of your day today to remember the fallen military heroes and innocent people, as well as their families and friends.

  • 8:46 AM (EDT)—American Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center’s (WTC) north tower
  • 9:03—United Flight 175 struck WTC’s south tower
  • 9:37—American Flight 77 collided into the Pentagon
  • 10:03—United Flight 93 crashed in a field near Shanksville, PA

While remembering watching an American airliner crash into his wife’s office in the north tower, Charles Wolf said:

I and many family members don’t want revisionist history, and we don’t want this sanitized. It is very important that people remember what happened that day: This was civilization, people merely at work, caught up in religious fanaticism.

Never forget: National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

Thu, 10 Sep 2009

Heckler “Joe” Wilson is the Real Liar

Filed under: Behavior, Congress, Government, Hypocrits, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 9:49 pm

Rep. Addison Graves “You can call me Joe” Wilson Sr. is the South Carolina Republican who shouted “You lie!” in the middle of the President’s speech last night. Pres. Obama was addressing a joint session of Congress. The topic: healthcare reform.

Members of Congress, I might point out, are part of the government and the joint session is an official function. The British consider themselves so civilized, yet heckling of executive branch officials in Parliament is commonplace. They probably don’t act like that with the Queen, though. What’s the difference? The Prime Minister is the head of government whereas the Queen is the head of state. In the US, President Obama is both head of state and head of government. Heckling the President by officials at an official function is, therefore, just plain and totally unacceptable! Whether you agree with him or not is not the point!

Ok, so Wilson apologized for his outburst. Then, why is he still trying to make money off it? Never mind Wilson lied himself! Illegal immigrants are specifically excluded by the only healthcare reform bill introduced in its entirety so far.

H.R. 3200: Sec 246 — NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS

Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.

Wilson, whose name isn’t really Joe, says he “let [his] emotions get the best of [him]” even though his claim is just plain wrong! In fact, Medicare and Medicaid prohibit illegals from participating. Also, the Congressional Research Service established healthcare reform wouldn’t permit government-funded coverage of illegals.

It’s pretty obvious, the real liar here is “Joe” Wilson. The House needs to censure Wilson for his outrageous behavior. In the meantime, his idiocy resulted in Wilson’s House webpage crashing and Wikipedia needing to lock his page.

I hope his constituents dump his ass out on the street in the next election.

Michigan Government Shutdown Redux?

Filed under: Budget, Government, Michigan, Politics, Rants, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 5:03 pm

After taking the summer off, Democrats seem to have suddenly realized they only have 21 days to avert a Michigan government shutdown. Where the hell have they been since last June? That’s when the Republican-controlled State Senate passed a balanced budget.

On Tuesday, Gov. Granholm (D) released her long-awaited counter proposal. Her plan slashes film industry credits and money from jobs and roads. Like Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said about cutting film credits: “We can’t keep promising significant rebates to lure business in and then changing the game book.” How would you feel if you were the consortium interested in the Ford Wixom property after witnessing this?

Here’s what Granholm’s plan includes for Michigan’s budget over the next 2 years: $2.2 billion in cuts, $1.09 billion in tax/revenue hikes, and using $2 billion of Federal stimulus money. It’s important to note this is on top of the $500 million in cuts Granholm proposed in February. To entice Republicans, she’s offering to phase out the Michigan Business Tax 22% surcharge over 3 years, beginning in 2011.

  • Reduce film industry tax credits from 42% to 37%
  • Reduce other business tax credits by 12%
  • Extend 6% sales tax to live entertainment tickets, vending machine sales, and service contracts
  • Impose a 1% sales tax on bottled water
  • Increase the cigarette tax by 25 cents per pack to $2.25
  • Double non-cigarette tobacco taxes
  • Increase liquor license fees
  • Cut school aid by $520 million
  • Reduce local revenue sharing by $74 million
  • Squeeze $34 million out of funds used to entice business—and jobs—to Michigan ($22 million from the 21st Century Jobs fund and $12 million from a road improvements fund)

As for the Democrat-controlled State House? Well, first of all Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford) shat on Granholm’s proposal.

The governor should know that showboating a proposal that has no chance of passing is not a way to solve the state’s fiscal crisis. All parties need to put theatrics and demands aside and get back to the hard work of negotiating a budget solution.

So, when’s that gonna happen Andy? Why’d y’all take the whole damn summer off? Dillon said the House could start passing budget bills by next week. Excuse me? House bills by next week? 15 days before the new fiscal year? And then House and Senate can try to compromise? Never mind if Granholm threatens a veto.

Can you spell S-H-U-T-D-O-W-N? Oh, but they’ve got a “continuation bill” up their sleeve so they can tap dance around and avoid a government shutdown like in 2007. I wonder if the second highest paid state legislature can even pull that off in time. Contact your state representative and senator; tell them do their damn jobs!

Guess He Can’t Read…

Filed under: Behavior, Driving, Duh, Humor, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 1:16 pm

or maybe English isn’t his first language. I’m talking about the guy in the white truck driving in the “No Trucks” lane.

With the bilingual nature of South Florida, you’d think Florida Department of Transportation would be a big believer in symbol signs. Perhaps this guy just needs a sign in braille instead.

Tue, 08 Sep 2009

Obama Propaganda: Much Ado About Nothing

Filed under: Behavior, Government, Life, Patriotism, People, Politics, Racism — cynicalsynapse @ 9:59 pm

President Obama’s message to school kids—set your goals, work hard, and don’t give up—hardly seem controversial. They are the bedrock of this country, and Obama made that point in his speech to school kids today.

You cannot drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to train for it, and work for it, and learn for it. And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life: what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home, none of that is an excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude in school.

You’ve got to do your part, too. So I expect all of you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down. Don’t let your family down, or your country down. Most of all, don’t let yourself down. Make us all proud. Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you, God bless America.

So, why the controversy? The biggest culprit has to be the US Department of Education’s so-called lesson plans. Anyone associated with education these days knows that’s the way schools operate these days. Problem is, the lesson plans focused on helping Obama achieve his goals rather than the President’s message of achieving the student’s goals. Score 1 for the Obama = Socialist crowd.

Next up: folks like Florida Republican chair Jim Greer called the speech a bid to indoctrinate children in Obama’s “socialist ideology”. After reading the speech, Greer changed his stance to Obama should never have given a speech to school children in the first place. Never mind that Pres. George H. W. Bush spoke to school kids, as did Pres. Reagan, whose message was certainly politicized.

Perhaps part of the problem is Obama’s speech to school children falls on the Tuesday after Labor Day, the first day of school for a majority of America’s kids. The timing problem here is Obama plans a speech to a joint session of Congress, an unsual event, for Wednesday, Sept. 9th, on the healthcare debate. The coincidence of timing may hardly be surprising, but the perception by the Obama = Socialism crowd shouldn’t be.

I suspect I’ve tipped my hand. It seems a majority of anti-Obamists claim he’s trying to turn the country into a Socialist state à la the old Soviet Union, or Cuba, or maybe even Venezuela. There’s certainly cause for some concern, what with the speed with which he wants to fix healthcare, the $700 billion Stimulus bill, and the $700 billion for Wall Street, with little to nothing for Main Street. Let’s not lose sight of the fact, however, Republicans generally oppose Federal involvement in education.

There seems to be a growing anti-Obama is racist crowd, though. Call me naive, but I don’t think this is rocket science. Conservatives tend to be white, relatively affluent, and generally opposed to concepts that threaten—or are perceived to threaten—their way of life. The less well off tend to be more liberal and socialist, regardless of ethnicity.

Some would call this the fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats. I just don’t see that big a difference between the major parties anymore. Maybe ethnicity (race, religion, or whatever) tends to be the deciding factor, except for those that go straight ticket no mater what. Nonetheless, socialism is the rallying cry of the anti-Obamists and it is no less strong today than it was during the McCarthy era. It’s just politics as usual. In my mind, that doesn’t now make it racist as well.

In any case, the controversy over Pres. Obama’s speech to school kids was much ado about nothing. Listen to the speech; see for yourself. Seems to me he talked about personal responsibility and being part of the larger community—patriotism. Sounds like mom, apple pie, and the American way to me.

Fri, 04 Sep 2009

Michigan Budget Still a Mirage; Granholm Lost in Space

Filed under: Behavior, Budget, Economy, Government, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 3:59 pm

Gov. Granholm at federal energy forum.

Thursday’s Michigan state budget talks ended with no deals. This despite House Speaker Andy Dillon saying a deal was close on Tuesday. The Democrat from Redford also promised marathon discussions for Thursday, but the negotiators decided they didn’t need that.

It’s not surprising there were no agreements on Thursday since Dillon spent part of the day testifying on his public employee health insurance bill. A faux-marathon session since Dillon scheduled other activities during the midst of it. Seems rather disingenuous to me.

Gov. Granholm (D) said cuts were probably not enough to balance the budget. She made those remarks Thursday in Saginaw after an energy forum with federal officials. So the governor didn’t devote all day Thursday to the budget, either. What’s up with that?

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) is still waiting for Democratic budget proposals of substance. Last month, Bishop pointed out the Senate passed a balanced budget. It contains cuts the Democrats say they strongly oppose. But even after taking a budget planning retreat Wednesday, Democratic leaders have no counter-proposal.

Bishop said Republicans “are looking forward to a budget process that is transparent and clear, not held behind closed doors with unaccountable and unelected mediators.” However, there are no meetings today, the last of this year’s mandatory state worker furlough days. None over the holiday weekend, either. Come next week, the countdown to state government shutdown will be 23 days or 22 if talks don’t pick up until the House returns on Wednesday.

The Democratic legislators and governor have whiled away the summer with their heads in the sand. And the Governor fiddles with her pipe dreams while Michigan burns. As the Freep’s Stephen Henderson said:

[I]f Granholm were half the leader she promised to be when she ran, she’d be publicly charting a course toward a balanced budget, and rallying both Democrats and Republicans behind her ideas…

So for now, I’ll take Bishop’s damnable budget to a mythical one the governor won’t even reveal at a time when she should be front and center in public, fighting for what she says she believes so strongly.

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