Cynical Synapse

Thu, 04 Oct 2007

More Than Mere Ineptitude in Michigan’s Recent Budget Fiasco

Filed under: Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 8:20 pm

The brief shutdown of Michigan’s government was due to more than mere ineptness on the part of Gov. Granholm and the state legislature. Something else was at play: the fundamental philosophical differences between the two parties on the nature of government. Both sides deliberately engaged in brinkmanship. That’s Everett’s viewpoint on Disagreement Without Being Disagreeable.

This dispute was born of irreconcilable differences between the two parties on the role of government in society, and the economy in particular. Is government the engined driving economic growth, or are the economic needs of the people more dependent upon and better secured by an effectively functioning market only minimally constrained by government regulation and interference? All of the stonewalling, politicking, maneuvering, demagoguery, procrastination, inflexibility, and general b.s. surrounding the budget fight were an attempt by each party to craft the budget in a manner consistent with its view of the role of government.

I admit I’m not much interested in politics so my viewpoint just might be amateurish, but I suspect it’s not too far off what a lot of people think. It’s easy to say the Democrats want big government and entitlement programs and that means higher taxes. It’s just as easy to say Republicans are in favor of less government and lower taxes. To a lot of folks that translates into programs for people versus tax cuts for big business and the rich. Almost certainly, there’s an element of truth in all of that. I used to claim an affinity for one of these parties, but I’ve come to the conclusion they’re both self-serving organizations out for all they can get and the people be damned. Some would say that’s the nature of politics and I won’t argue that. But old-fashioned politics at least took citizens’ issue into consideration. Used to be you voted for something or someone; nowadays it’s a matter of the lesser of two evils.

The question was over who going to come out ahead politically, and both sides deliberately engaged in brinkmanship to either get all of what they wanted (not likely) or to make the other side look bad, and both sides succeeded at that.

Fundamentally, that’s the real issue in this whole debacle and Everett is right on target. Unfortunately, Michigan and its citizens were caught in the debris field resulting from the infantile tantrum of the politicos we all call the Temporary Shutdown. Some, including Gov. Granholm, place at least some blame on term-limits. Some, including Gov. Granholm, think the threat of recalls for anyone voting in favor of a tax hike made the legislators afraid to take a stand. Balderdash! In my mind, term limits saves us from being stuck with worthless representatives forever; the good ones move on to national office anyway. And, if anyone was too timid to vote their conscience or in accordance with their constituents, well, they don’t deserve to be in office anyway.

What we ended up with was token cuts (the details of which have yet to be worked out), significant tax hikes (some of which just seem like fluff: does anybody know anyone in the baby shoe bronzing business?), and a nod toward unspecified government reforms (unless you count busting MESSA’s monopoly on teacher health insurance). So, while most rational people would agree the budget deal needed to include a mix of cuts, taxes, and reforms, I don’t think anyone’s really satisfied with what’s being touted as a “comprehensive” agreement. What is obvious, however, is the legislators and governor failed to do their jobs.

I wish someone would start a petition to recall every last one of them for violating their sacred trust with the citizens of Michigan. That’s a petition I’d sign in a heartbeat; I’ll bet I’m not alone on that one.

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Tue, 02 Oct 2007

“Pat Them on the Back…” Not!

Filed under: Michigan, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 7:23 pm

Michigan’s Gov. Granholm held a press conference October 1st about the early morning agreement that averted a state budget disaster with only a four-hour shutdown, thankfully while most of us slept. She told us this was “not a time for celebration” in one breath, then saying the agreement was fundamental to Michigan’s future growth and prosperity in another. No mixed message there!

There has been a lot of talk about recalling any state legislator who voted for increased taxes. Most of us will agree $440 million is a substantial cut even while it’s obvious the tax increase covers the bulk of the $1.75 billion deficit just averted. But, Granholm’s defense of those lawmakers who supported the tax increase goes over the top.

People need to pat them on the back and say ‘thank you’ for moving us forward.

What? Those goof balls in the Michigan legislature—second highest paid in the country, by the way—had 7 to 9 months to move the state forward! Granholm presented her balanced budget proposal back on February 8th! Getting “around to it” after the budget expires and state services are turned off is just too freaking late!

Regardless of the spin the Governor puts on the so-called budget deal, actions—or rather, lack of them—speak louder. Investors don’t see Michigan as moving forward. Businesses will think twice about locating in the state. Case in point: I recently read a blog entry concerned that New Jersey might be the next Michigan because most of their eggs are in the pharmaceutical basket like Michigan’s auto industry. Now you know Michigan’s a laughing stock.

So, Michigan’s lawmakers didn’t do anything for the citizens except make matters worse. The fact they finally did something when there was no other choice does not earn them a “pat on the back.” Instead, they deserve a swift kick in the ass and someone to show them the door. Not because of how they voted on tax increases but because they just didn’t do their damn jobs!

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