The following are a collection of letters to the editor that I have written. The majority of these letters appeared in the Cadillac News. The Cadillac News has a 300 word limit and it is a challenge to write a persuasive argument in that few of words..
Do you believe we should do a little better for our kids and their generation than what was done for us? I do. I guess Representative Potvin and his Republican brethren hold very different beliefs. In 1994 I graduated with Phil Potvin’s son. He was able to take advantage of new extra-curricular offerings at Cadillac High School while I took advantage of some of the traditional offerings. Both of us sat in un-crowded classrooms with caring teachers who were appreciated. Those teachers were able to focus on teaching kids to think critically and creatively rather than trying to prepare them for standardized tests. Our classmates became doctors, police officers, business managers, and scientists. Some excelled more with their hands than with the pen so they have been successful in manufacturing and construction. Those were the good old days. Schools today are being forced into a sort of self-cannibalization. They are being forced to increase class sizes, cut extra-curricular activities, and even cut essential programs like art, music, and physical education. These cuts are occurring because the school aid fund continues to be raided by shortsighted politicians like Potvin and Governor Snyder. They are forcing schools to cut their employee’s benefits, pay, and retirement. They want schools to privatize as many services as possible. Basically, they want to pay people less to do the same jobs, the typical shortsighted CEO mentality. Paying workers less means less money spent in the local economy. Privatization means sending local money to CEO’s in Grand Rapids or Chicago. For all we know our own representatives could be invested in some of these companies because Republicans seem content with having some the lowest ethical standards in the country. To top it off, unemployment was up last month. We appear to be “devolving” instead of “reinventing.”
The Cadillac News was especially entertaining Tuesday. Senator Booher was once again trying to justify the systematic dismantling of our public education system. Booher speaks of unsustainable pension costs “due to a variety of reasons.” Senator Booher is one of those reasons. Like Social Security, the public school’s retirement System has been underfunded by politicians and now they want to fix it at the expense of workers who have been paying their fair share. Meanwhile, Mr. Booher has found a way to use your tax money to pay his dues to the extreme right wing organization the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC pairs corporations and lawmakers together to write “model legislation” including laws that have recently been implemented in Michigan. Speaking of political ineptitude, we now have local proof that the Governor’s tax policy won’t bear much fruit. A local company is going to move their headquarters to Florida and hire 190 Floridians instead of Michiganders. Our across the board tax give-a-ways are not as lucrative as Florida’s targeted tax cuts. Snyder eliminated the targeted cuts to avoid “picking winners and losers.” That change could prevent the much needed diversification of our economy. I guess Florida also has a better educated workforce, at least when you consider all the laid off NASA workers. It will be interesting to see how Snyder’s cuts to K-16 education bolster the education of our workforce. The real lesson to be learned in all this is that you cannot cater your entire governmental system to the whims of the business sector. Businesses that believe in Michigan and its people will stay and invest here. Meanwhile, some businesses will continue to look for a place where they can operate tax free and where all workers are rocket scientists who will work for 1.50 an hour.
It was nice of Senator Booher to inform us of the facts as he would like you to understand them. Senator Booher said he took a 10% pay cut. True. Our lawmakers now make 71K, 4th highest in the nation. They receive lifetime health benefits after only six years of service. Just to be fair, Michigan teachers’ pay is 21st highest in the nation. Booher says that the Michigan constitution allows for the school aid fund to pay for higher education. True. However, Republican Glenn Oxender co-chaired the House Appropriations Subcommittee on K-12 education when proposal-A was instituted and he said “it was understood without question that all of the School Aid Fund was reserved for K-12 purposes.” Booher says the bulk of the extra funds that just came in have gone to schools. True. However, these funds are in the school aid fund and ALL of these funds should go to schools without strings attached. If strings are to be attached, they should be attached by people with a background in education rather than career politicians or bankers like Senator Booher. Senator Booher said change is needed to “create jobs and brighten Michigan’s future.” False, at least if the change is more job killing bills or the defunding of public schools. Finally, if Governor Snyder’s own kids go to a private school that spends over $17,000 a year on each student, then how can Mr. Booher, Mr. Potvin, and Mr. Rendon look public school children in the eyes and tell them they are no longer worth $7,000 a year? The only way we can stop this backward policy is if local business people speak out. Our lawmakers’ actions and words have shown that they don’t respect educators and don’t care to hear their opinion on educational matters.
I love Northern Michigan. I love the people, the towns, the schools, and the businesses. I think some of our homegrown businesses are the best. My wife and I enjoy eating an occasional lunch at the Shay Station or dinner at Lakeside Charlies. Half of my lifetime calorie intake may have come from G&D pizza. I enjoy shopping at the new Willow Mercantile because it features many products made in Michigan. I can’t wait to get out to Caberfae Peaks to golf should we get warm weather this year. The Cadillac News is another fine example of a locally owned business that benefits the community a great deal. Even though I am an educator, I have no problem with these businesses and many more getting a tax reduction, if they in fact need it. I do not agree with Governor Snyder’s plan to break the promise of Proposal A by paying for community colleges from the school aid fund. This plan would strip over 6 million dollars from schools in the Cadillac area. Since schools are a service industry, many of those cuts will come in the way of lost jobs and reduced wages. I worry my favorite businesses will feel the pain of 6 million dollars being sucked out of the local economy more than they will feel the pleasure of the reduced taxes. Will a plan that begins by putting people out of work really create more jobs? Will the new jobs this plan creates offer a living wage like the ones the plan eliminates? I hope the business owners we just elected (Snyder, Potvin, Booher, Rendon, etc.) are listening to the people they represent rather than the misinformation that is being put out by political think tanks funded by America’s wealthiest companies and individuals.
Wake up Michiganders! Instead of proposing a modest and targeted tax cut for businesses, Governor Snyder’s budget proposal will cut business taxes by 86%! He will pay for this tax cut with tax increases for the poor and the retired, as well as cuts to public schools. Our local elected officials, Booher, Potvin, and Rendon have all held prominent business positions like Snyder. I expect them to vote for any bill that gives advantages to business owners, even if they don’t want them, while hurting the working class. The richest 400 Americans now have more money than the bottom 100 million Americans! For the first time since the great depression, 25% of kids will be raised in poverty. Snyder’s “trickle down” economic policies will just accelerate such trends. Of course, the Republicans are trying to make scapegoats of unions and public employees, who by the way pay taxes too. What you should know is that since 1967 the union rates have declined (from 27% to 12%) and so has the middle classes’ share of the national income (53% to 46%). While Michigan Republicans have an extremist view of capitalism, they are not as protective of democracy. The Republicans unilaterally passed the “Emergency Financial Manager” bill. This plan will allow the government to take advantage of the financial cuts that they are making to schools and local governments. When your town or school fails, and they get to define failing, the government can declare a financial emergency. They will then put a “manager” in charge instead of the people YOU elected. This person or business (yes Wal-Mart could be in charge) could do anything they want to balance the budget. The Republicans even defeated an amendment to limit these dictators, I mean managers, salaries to what the Governor makes ($177,000).
I write this letter with much hesitation. I hope it has not got to the point that people will see me as an all too familiar contributor and therefore pass over my submissions without reading them. I have to admit, some writers have worn out my interest. Anyhow, I found it too hard to resist responding to John Wright’s recent letter regarding the estate tax, or what Sara Palin would like us to call the “death tax.” An individual will have to leave an estate worth 3.5 or 5 million dollars, depending on what congress passes, in order to qualify for the tax. Now that is a problem I’d like to have! Mr. Wright’s argument against taxing this “hard earned” money made me wonder what percentage of the people subject to this tax “earned” their money, as opposed to inheriting most of it in the first place? For the sake of argument though, lets say their money was “hard earned.” Why shouldn’t the heirs of these millionaires and billionaires, the Paris Hiltons of the world, also have to earn their riches? Why isn’t a large inheritance considered a handout, in essence welfare for the well-to-do? Kudos to Ben Cohen (Ben & Jerry’s) who has been organizing rich people to speak out against tax cuts for the wealthy. I’d also like to recognize Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who have started an initiative called the “giving pledge” to encourage rich people to donate the majority of their money to charity, preferably before they die. I’m sure the heirs of the people who sign the “giving pledge” will do fine with whatever inheritance is left after these donations and the paying of the estate tax. If they aren’t happy, they can always go out and earn some money themselves, like the other 99.7% of us.
Election day is almost here and thankfully almost gone. On both sides we are seeing the usually amount of hypocrisy. Republicans are against government interference yet they want to legislate reproduction and marriage. They were against the stimulus yet they have asked for and received a great deal of money from it. The Democrats are for allowing gays to serve openly in the military, yet the Obama administration is appealing a judge’s ruling that could end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. They are typically anti-war, yet we still have troops in almost every country in which we have ever fought a war. Both sides say they want to balance the budget, but one side is against raising taxes and the other is against cutting entitlements. Both must be done for the budget to be balanced. Trumping all of these issues though is the state of the economy. The person in charge of fixing our economy in Michigan will either be the “career politician” Virg Benero or the “aloof millionaire” Rick Snyder. Whoever wins will have the joy of working with a bunch of highly partisan rookie legislators. No wonder voters seem to vote more against a party than for one. What seems to be painfully missing in all this mess is individual responsibility, especially in the case of the economy. Take a look in your refrigerator and garage. How many products do you own that are made in America, and better yet made in Michigan? The choices that we make everyday are more important than the choices that we will make on November 2nd. When we buy locally made products we put factory workers, engineers, secretaries, and salesman to work. The main problem we face is that we put our energy into supporting politicians instead of our fellow workers.
It is hard to believe that anything could be more dysfunctional than the Michigan State Legislature. Despite being one of just 10 states with a full-time legislature, and earning a salary 10 times that of legislators in Texas, they are unable to accomplish anything of real relevance. Term limits, like Proposal-A and John Engler’s 32 tax cuts, seemed like a good idea in the 1990’s. However, none of these measures have proven successful over the long haul. We are now left without enough money to pay for basic services, and a legislature that is more partisan than ever. The Republicans are against any new taxes, which means no new revenue. However, they have proposed what could amount to a 14% reduction in pay for teachers like myself, as well as other state workers. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind chipping in a little. I’d pay an extra dime for a bottle of soda, an extra dollar for a hair cut, or an extra couple bucks for a round of golf. I think it is worth the sacrifice in order to have quality schools, plowed roads, violent offenders in prison, and other essential services like well-staffed police and fire departments. But what is being offered up is another solution where one group is being asked to help disproportionately. I guess they are getting bored with targeting smokers and gamblers. So now they are going to target one of the few groups left in Michigan making a decent wage. It is time for Michigan to repeal the term limit laws and institute a part-time legislature. Let the good folks down in Lansing return to their districts so they too can try to find a decent paying job as well as get a little dose of reality.
Mrs. Powell’s accusation in Wednesday’s paper that Barack Obama is a racist has lead me to two beliefs. First, this country still has a long way to go towards ending racism. Second, many people don’t research candidates or their policies before making sometimes very naive assumptions. For starters, not talking about one side of your family enough to satisfy someone else doesn’t constitute racist behavior. By definition, racism is believing one’s race is superior to another, or showing hatred or intolerance to another race. Mr. Obama recently gave a speech on racism called “A More Perfect Union” that even Dick Cheney called “important”. In it, Mr. Obama acknowledged that both blacks and whites have a long way to go when it comes to the issue of racism. For instance, he notes the need for white people to acknowledge the problem of racism, both its continued existence and the lingering effects from years past. He also points out that “black anger” is often counter-productive. Mrs. Powell also inquired about Barack’s mother and father’s views on his behavior. A quick check of the facts would tell you that Barack’s father died in 1982 and his mother died in 1995. Perhaps that is why I haven’t heard him talk a great deal about either one. Another possibility is that their views aren’t critical to this presidential race. It is his views that we should be considering when we go the voting booth, not his pastors, his wife’s, his dead parents, or anyone else. To dispute another point, Barack has in fact talked in very positive tones about his white grandfather who fought in WWII and his white grandmother who worked on a Bomber assembly line, both who helped raise him. Vote for whom you want come November, but please be informed.