Friday, February 27, 2009


Imagine for a moment that you are an entrepreneur, and a successful one at that. Let’s pretend that you own a chain of coffee shops that you have built up over time so you have $10 million invested in them. Before this economy, your business was very profitable and your taxes were minimal (under Bush). Now, in this economy, your sales have decreased drastically, but you are still doing relatively well. Let’s say you are going to make $400,000 this year in profit for yourself.

Under Obama’s tax policy, let’s guess that your taxes will be an additional 10% (so 40% rather than 30% just to make the numbers easy), so your after tax income will be $240,000 rather than $280,000. Not what you’re used to, but still a comfortable amount. Now Obama is going to take that extra $40,000 (or the entire $160,000 if you want to think of it that way) and use it to pay people to do a public work. For this hypothetical, we’ll say that the money goes to fund road construction in your area.

Now those people who then get hired to build that road will have an income they otherwise wouldn’t. And now that they have expendable money, they begin to purchase things they used to before the recession, like coffee. So your sales go back up, and your profit slowly returns.

Let’s see what would happen under the policy of low taxes. Let’s even take it to the extreme and say no taxes. So you make $400,000 this year and don’t pay any taxes. The conservatives argue that you will then use that extra $160,000 towards new investment and creating new jobs, but I am going to assume you’re a rational businessman. In this economy, any investment in expanding a business is risky-- more risky than investing in gold at least. Even if you aren’t risk adverse, you would require a sizable potential return on investment to take on that risk. Currently though, you’re return on investment is 4% (ROI = profit/investment = $400k/$10mil). To invest and expect more than a 4% return is illogical.

Now normally, you’d be able to take out a loan to leverage your investment money to get a better ROI. You would go to a bank and get a $640,000 loan, so you could invest $800,000 and expect to increase profits by $32,000 (for an ROI of $32k/$160k = 20%). But remember, we’re in the scenario where the conservatives get their way. And if that’s the case, the banks aren’t getting their bailout, so they aren’t lending money. Good luck finding one who would give you $640,000 for what is still a relatively risky investment. So no new investment, no new jobs, but at least you get to keep that extra $160,000. Until next year of course, when even less people have jobs and your sales drop further.

And remember, you aren’t paying any taxes in that scenario. So no one else is either. Imagine for a moment what that would do.

Jordan Genso

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Granholm Trumps Rogers on Stimulus Spending

So when one of the cities in your district receives $4.8 million for new streets, sewers, and water lines from a bill that you voted against, how should you react?

If you're Republican Mike Rogers, you say, "Streets, sewers, water lines? That's not what you need. You need tax cuts!"

That's more or less what Michigan's 8th District congressman did earlier this week when Gov. Jennifer Granholm came to Howell to tell its city officials that they were one of the first cities in Michigan to qualify for money from President Barack Obama's stimulus package.

In her appearance Tuesday, as covered by the Livingston Press and Argus, Granholm said funds were being distributed through existing channels to make sure the money goes to projects that local communities have identified as their priorities and to de-politicize the process. Remember, this is Livingston County, that bastion of red surrounded by a sea of blue, getting money that not one single Michigan Republican lawmaker voted for. That's pretty non-political.

Rogers, in his statement after the president's budget message, paid lip service to wanting to put people back to work, but then called for doing it by spending less to help cities like Howell, saying, "We can do that if we stop spending like it doesn't matter how far we run up the national debt and if we reward rather than punish small businesses for creating the jobs that are so crucial to our future economic health."

"Rewarding" small businesses is GOP code for tax cuts.

But Rogers doesn't explain how cutting taxes for small businesses will help the city of Howell fix its streets, install sewers and replace old water lines. Tax cuts don't do those things.

But as city officials know, the $4.8 million in stimulus money means that the city of Howell will have to borrow that much less money to carry out its $24 million improvement plan. So instead of having to increase property taxes 2 mills to get the job done, it may have to levy only an additional mill.

That's tax relief, but Mike Rogers can't take one iota of credit for it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bill Rogers -- A Man of Few Ideas

When Bill Rogers was running for state rep from Michigan's 66th District during the 2008 campaign, he was a man of few words. In a debate sponsored by the Livingston Press and Argus, for example, he answered one question by saying, "Taxes, deregulation. Fix it and they will come."

Turns out, Rogers is also a man of few ideas. When WHMI radio station asked him about his bill to make sure winners of Republican Party primaries don't have any extra competition in the general election, he responded that he had a chance to introduce only 10 bills and he introduced nine others and that one was the 10th.

So he had nine ideas to improve Michigan and this was the best he could do for the 10th -- a power-grab by local Republicans that Rogers now says was intended to help Democrats, too.

For the record, Democrats didn't ask for this bill and want nothing to do with it. Livingston County Democrats adopted a resolution against it at their Feb. 7 county convention and the resolution was unanimously adopted by the state party at its convention Saturday (Feb. 21, 2009) in Detroit.

So if Bill Rogers can't think of another idea for the state, I guess we'd better help him out by suggesting things he could have introduced.

How about a bill to ban smoking in bars and restaurants? It will save millions in health care costs by eliminating second-hand smoke from work places.

How about a measure restoring the right of Michigan citizens to sue to protect the environment, a right taken away by the Michigan Supreme Court and former Supreme Court Justice Cliff Taylor and the rest of the Gang of Four?

How about a measure supporting WALLY, the commuter train between Howell and Ann Arbor, to cut down on congestion on U.S. 23?

Or maybe a bill to tighten restrictions on using public property for political advertising?

Expanding Michigan's bottle bill to cover non-carbonated beverages such as water, juice, and energy drinks would reduce trash and encourage recycling.

Rogers could have proposed a measure to impose a moratorium on home foreclosures to keep people in their homes and try to stabilize home prices and neighborhoods. States did this during the Great Depression with farm foreclosures.

He could have suggested a ban on new coal-fired power plants. Electrical power demand is flat in the state right now so there is no need to be building more fossil-burning plants.

Rogers might have banned utility shutoffs in the winter time to keep elderly people from freezing to death in their homes.

He could have suggested a bill requiring lawmakers to make personal financial disclosures while in office.

Why not a measure cracking down on steroid abuse, or one giving Michigan workers preference on state-funded projects?

None of these made the grade with Rogers. Only the bill that says Republicans get to veto anybody running as an independent.

Hamburg Township -- Now It's the Treasurer's Office Turn

Hamburg Township Clerk Matt Skiba has been hogging the limelight in the ongoing soap opera that passes for township governance in Hamburg Township.

But Treasurer Pat Evon is now demanding his turn in the spotlight by firing his deputy, Julie Hardesty, just the week before taxes are due. Retaliation for being the daughter-in-law of ousted Clerk JoAnna Hardesty, it appears.

It's hard to remember that this all-Republican team was elected last fall on a promise to restore dignity to Hamburg Township.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rogers Chickens Out of Gubernatorial Primary

Don't be fooled by that stuff about not wanting to put his two young children through a statewide race. And don't swallow that baloney about how he's too busy looking out for your jobs to worry about his own.

Mike Rogers was thinking about nobody's welfare but his own when he decided not to enter the Republican gubernatorial primary for 2010.

The fact is, the 8th District Republican looked at the potential competition and decided his name and being from a Republican County like Livingston (with signs put up on public property by his friends) weren't going to be enough to guarantee him the nomination.

And with two other Republican members of Congress in the running, how was he going to stand out? By arguing he voted "No" more times than they did?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pragmatic Projects Dominate Livingston List

Whittling the hundreds of millions of dollars of projects submitted for Michigan's share of stimulus funds down to the money available looks like it is going to be a tall order.

The Livingston Press and Argus came up with an estimate of $231,697,739 for Livingston County projects. By my count, it is more like $321,735,065 because I counted projects by state agencies that are intended to benefit Livingston County -- Michigan Department of Corrections, Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, as well as some by private agencies such as hospitals and wireless internet providers. Even that higher tally leaves out the multiple projects of South Lyon Community Schools, which covers part of Livingston County but is also in Oakland County.

Livingston County policymakers stuck mostly to the pragmatic, which means pothole fixing and energy conservation work. We can use plenty of both. Our roads are in terrible shape, as we all know. And energy conservation projects have a big payback for local units of government such as schools.

But it would be a shame if all the stimulus money went to just those two sectors of the economy. After all, the New Deal wasn't just the Civilian Conservation Corps, as valuable as that was. It also included the arts -- beautiful murals painted in post offices, incredibly haunting photos of people suffering through the Great Depression, some of the music of Woody Guthrie, and the WPA interviews with former slaves that are one of the most valuable archives in existence for understanding slavery. People in lines of work other than construction need jobs in this economic downturn, too.

And taxpayers need to get lasting value from the projects -- like those CCC parks projects and WPA sidewalks that are still in use. The projects also should benefit all segments of society -- children and the elderly, not just downtown businesses. They should not duplicate efforts or facilities, and they should help move the nation forward into the 21st century.

That said, there isn't much to pick from among Livingston County's proposals that go beyond the literal shovel-ready type projects.

The Livingston County Road Commission listed 15 projects, all small-potatoes type resurfacing. The list does not seem to be particularly well balanced -- six of the 15are in Cohoctah Township.

Municipalities listed a number of street and road projects, too, as did the Michigan Department of Transportation. Rep. Cindy Denby even had the nerve to ask for $5.1 million for work on the intersection of Interstate 96 and M-59, even though her party opposes this bill because it's only "spending."

Short-sighted as usual, the Livingston County Commission failed to request funds for the Ann Arbor-Howell commuter rail line known as WALLY, but others did. The city of Howell seeks funds for building five stations for the project (listed at $3.75 million under Washtenaw County's request) and MDOT seeks $7.1 million for other aspects of the project.

Schools put energy conservation projects -- more efficient boilers, better windows, etc. -- on their lists, but other types of "green" projects were lacking. Putnam Township is seeking $20,800 for a recycling project, but Recycle Livingston, which is in dire financial shape, requested nothing.

Recreation-oriented projects were few and far between. Some tennis courts in Howell and some work on the Lakelands Trail are a few examples. The Department of Natural Resources picked up the slack for the local lack of initiative with campground, playground, and other improvements in area recreation areas. Unfortunately, this also included funds for improvements around the controversial Island Lake shooting range.

A few other projects fall into the recreation/arts category -- the Howell Historic Society seeks an unspecified amount for renovaton of the old depot downtown, the Livingston Arts Council asks for $10.8 million to finish restoration of the Howell Opera House, and Michigan Information Exchange wants an unspecified amount for a museum-type expo near I-96 and U.S. 23.

Some projects seem unnecessary. Cheryl Stockwell Academy wants $20 million to build a new high school, when Howell has one going unused. We don't need to duplicate facilities. And as far as drainage for a new shopping center which was on the list -- do we really need more retail facilities right now when existing businesses lack customers? The millions for the Howell airport benefits too few people to justify the $3.45 million requested. And surveillance cameras for downtown Brighton conflict with democratic values of a free society.

Not a lot of original thought went into these projects. They appear to be things that were already in the planning stages rather than dreamed up merely to get federal money. They reflect communities that are having trouble maintaining what they have and that reduces the likelihood of wasteful projects.

But that tendency to color only inside the lines results in some big gaps. I didn't find any projects aimed at a project for the elderly, even though services for them have been cut locally. Libraries must have everything they need because projects for them are lacking, too.

Some of these projects may already have been selected for funding. Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced Thursday (Feb. 19, 2009) that some $853 million in road projects have been selected. And the regional planning agency of which Livingston County is a part, SEMCOG, will set priorities for some of the funding.

Most of these projects won't be funded, at least by the stimulus package. Their completion will come only after years spent on the priority list of entities with budgets that can't keep up.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Big Wish List in Livingston County for Stimulus Package

I haven't seen such a Christmas wish list since my daughter was 5.

Check out the list of requests for Michigan's share of the Obama stimulus package (via the link first put up by Michigan Liberal.)

Livingston County, which of course is solely represented by Republicans in the state Legislature and by Mike Rogers in the U.S. House, has requests for hundreds of projects even though its Republican representatives wouldn't stoop to voting for the measure because it was just "spending."

So now the Republicans on our township boards, county commission, and county road commission will get busy spending the money that they didn't want.

Start with the $1.5 million request for a new "broadband network" from the Livingston County Commission. Sounds suspiciously like that new dispatching system they've been trying to find the money for.

And the airport has got its eyes on some pretty big prizes, too -- three projects totaling $3.45 million for runway expansion, sewers and a new terminal building. Seems like an awful lot of money for the small number of people who use that facility compared to the thousands who use our roads.

While the county commission seems to be looking at this as their own personal pot of money to spend on their priorities, other agencies in the county are more down-to-earth.

The road commission has some 50 projects, mostly crushing asphalt on roads and putting down a new overlay. Local schools have dozens of energy-efficiency upgrade projects, the kinds of things that need to be done and will save taxpayers money but schools don't have the up-front money to invest in saving money.

What's eye-opening is how many times these projects are described as "deferred maintenance."

The city of Brighton has some strange priorities -- surveillance cameras for downtown. Big Brother is watching you shop?

One intriguing project is a center proposed by The MIX (Michigan Information Exchange) in an old industrial building at I-96 and U.S. 23 that would highlight Michigan resources.

It'll be spring before these projects can start, but when you drive down a newly re-surfaced road, remember one thing -- Mike Rogers didn't want you to have this.

Opening Personal Mail? What Next in Hamburg?

The situation in Hamburg Township is getting weirder and weirder.

First, there's the deputy clerk who's working but not being paid. Except that the deputy clerk, Michael Zeglevski, is now getting money for health benefit payments. This is the guy with the holes in his resume, and the tendency to make strange gestures in public.

This is also the same guy who with his boss, Matt Skiba, has been opening mail for the Hamburg Township police department and even personal mail of an employee that was mailed to the Township Hall. On top of that, Skiba and his deputy called the sender of the mail and discussed personal financial matters.

On township time, they did this.

Plus, Skiba and Zeglevski are spending three hours a day opening the mail. Three hours?

Now Michigan State Police are investigating whether the township board violating the state open meetings act with a closed session. Skiba has complained that he was threatened during the closed meeting, which included a discussion of his job performance.

Did I mention that these guys are Republicans? Did I mention that the township board was seriously screwed up before these guys were elected? And that those board members also were Republicans?

Do you see a trend here?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How Candice Miller Looked Foolish on Stimulus Bill

Michigan Rep. Candice Miller was one of those Republican obstructionists who got up on the floor of the U.S. House to rail against what a bad deal the stimulus package is for Michigan.

But because she didn't have her facts straight -- really, because she didn't have a clue what she was talking about -- she is ending up as the butt of a big joke pulled off by the Obama administration.

As tells the story, negotiators for Obama inserted money into the bill for a massive upgrade to high-speed rail systems. Republicans, desperate to trivialize the stimulus package, seized on the item and decided it was intended to pay for a railroad between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Without a shred of factual information on which to base their conclusion, Republicans began accusing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of including the money for his home state's project.

Miller was one who not only bit on that story, but fell for it hook, line, and sinker. From

"Here is Rep. Candice S. Miller (R-Mich.) explaining her vote against the bill Friday despite the benefits to her home state: 'Michigan is a state of about 10 million people, and we are the hardest hit, as I said, by this economy. And yet we are expected to get approximately $7 billion from this bill. And apparently the Senate majority leader has earmarked $8 billion for a rail system from Las Vegas to Los Angeles? You have got to be kidding. You have got to be kidding.'"

No Candy, Republicans weren't kidding. They were just plain wrong.

Turns out it wasn't Reid at all, but Rahm Emmanuel who wanted the money for Obama's signature issue -- creating high speed rail links between American cities.

And that says a lot about the quality of Republican arguments against the stimulus bill.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Michigan's 8th District Job Haul from Stimulus Bill Tops the State

Michigan's 8th Congressional District, which includes Livingston County, will see more jobs created by the Obama stimulus measure than any other of the state's 15 congressional districts.

That's the conclusion of an analysis of the stimulus measure released Tuesday (February 17, 2009) by the Obama White House.

No other congressional district in Michigan has more projected jobs than the 8th District, although the 15th Congressional District also is listed as potentially seeing 8,000 jobs created. The other districts have job projections ranging from 6,900 to 7,900.

Now, given that Rep. Mike Rogers joined all the other Republicans in opposing the bill from the git-go and thus had no influence on it at all, it's kind of hard to complain that the measure is full of pork barrel spending for members of Congress. I mean, if Democrats were going to jam the bill full of pork, why would they put so much of it in the 8th District, rather than, say, the 7th District (just 7,400 jobs) or the 9th District (7,300 jobs) where there are new Democratic members of Congress?

Sort of pulls the rug out from under that Republican argument, doesn't it?

Eyewitness Observations on Congress Passage of H.R. 1

This was the best Friday the 13th in memory. Someone once said that it’s all in the timing. When we planned a trip to Washington, D.C. months ago, there was no way to foretell that we would be sitting in the galleries of the House and Senate watching as H.R. 1 passed Congress.

Before the actual vote, most of the time was taken up by Republicans in both houses preaching against the bill in a last effort to defeat it.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK laid it on about how the Stimulus Bill would give us socialism and a health system like Great Britain’s. Quite a stretch, even for Coburn. He also carried on about how treatment for seniors would be denied since it wouldn’t be worth the expense to give some treatments to old people. Another stretch. There is a component in the bill referring to “comparative effectiveness research” to determine what treatments actually work and what the costs are. Washington Post Prescription drug and medical device companies are against this because many of their products won’t stand up to the research. For example, drug companies may change a prescription drug (let’s use lowering blood pressure as an example) just enough to get a new patent once a drug goes generic. They then tout it’s effectiveness so the drug will be prescribed at the higher price. Are the generic drugs at 5-10% of the brand price just as effective? Yes, of course, but the drug companies won’t make as much profit. Does Sen. Coburn know this? He should as a medical doctor, but he prefers to take the Rush Limbaugh line.

We didn’t hear Mike Rogers say anything. We did, however, get to watch him swagger (yes, he does swagger) onto the House floor, to vote against the bill. Mike didn’t hang around for long. He left during the moment of silence called by the Representative from New York for the 50 people who lost their lives in a plane crash that morning. The other Representatives stood respectfully as did the visitors in the House gallery.

Then there was an unidentified congressman (these guys don’t wear name tags so if you haven’t seen them on the news or C-Span, it’s hard to identify them) who carried on about “Pelosi’s Mouse” with a cute poster of the mouse. Sometime during his harangue about the mouse and $20 million he caressed the photo around the mouse’s ear to show the mouse’s earmark. The congressman seemed as pleased about his little joke as a cat in cream. The fact that it’s all bogus, the mouse is not mentioned in H.R. 1 and funds are not “earmarked” for the little rodent didn’t bother the Republicans because they were having such fun. More of them joined in on the joke. Dan Lundgren, R-CA stood up and identified the mouse as the ‘salt marsh mouse’ and grinned happily as his cohorts complimented him on his knowledge of mice.

We watched the rant from Senator John McCain. McCain claimed that HR 1 was “generational theft”, a term made up by Michele Malkin, right-wing columnist. He never mentioned the great theft of taxpayers while the Iraq War has been waged. Or the theft from the middle class while we cut taxes for the rich. When parents don’t have jobs, their homes are foreclosed and the educational system collapses, the children suffer without a place to live, enough to eat and poor educational opportunities. Now that’s real generational theft. We can’t expect John McCain to know this, however, since he can’t even keep track of how many houses he lives in.

When the House vote results were announced and the conference bill had passed, the Democratic members applauded, joined by the Gallery. We weren’t able to see the final resolution in the Senate since the vote was kept open for Senator Sherrod Brown D-OH to fly in from his mother’s funeral to cast vote number 60. Too bad that Minnesota hasn’t settled its court case on the election. Al Franken would have been there and it wouldn’t have been necessary to fly in a grieving son.

Friday, February 13, 2009, a great day for the United States of America.

Monday, February 16, 2009

With Rogers, 8th District Had Zip Influence on Stimulus

Livingston County roads are in dire shape. The county can't hide that any more by pretending everything is hunky-dory under one-party Republican rule. We know that Livingston County ranks 16th among Michigan's 83 counties in terms of percentage of roads in poor shape, according to an analysis by Drive Michigan. And we know we are falling farther and farther behind each year in terms of maintenance.

The stimulus package that President Obama will sign into law includes funds for infrstructure improvements, but not as much as some people had hoped.

Knowing the needs of his home county, wouldn't it have been nice if the representative of Michigan's 8th congressional district had been in there pitching for more infrastructure funding?

Imagine what might have happened had Mike Rogers stepped forward and said, "Mr. President, I'll vote for this package if you will add more spending for infrastructure because that's what my constituents need and because it will put people to work."

But by lining up in unanimous opposition, Republicans (including Mike Rogers) made sure they would have zero input on what went into that bill.

Way to look out for the needs of the people back home, Mike.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lies, Lies, and Damned Lies -- Mike Rogers' Stimulus E-Mail

There's an old joke that there are three kinds of lies -- lies, damned lies, and statistics.

In Livingston County, the joke's punch line might be modified to "lies, damned lies, and a Mike Rogers' email."

Our congressional representative's email explaining his No vote on the just-passed stimulus bill, received Friday (February 13, 2009), starts off with the whopper that the stimulus package includes "$30 million to save a mouse habitat in San Francisco." "San Francisco" is code for "Nancy Pelosi," which is intended to stir up the women-hating innards of the conservative GOP-base.

Unfortunately, as this piece on Daily Kos shows, there is no San Francisco mouse habitat money. It's just one of the lies that Republicans have been peddling across the country to try to stir up outrage against the stimulus.

But the really big whopper is Rogers' claim that he backs a plan that will deliver more jobs. And that plan would be -- tax cuts! In his email Rogers insists that "the alternative stimulus bill I voted for will create 6.2 million jobs nationally."

Except he offers absolutely no data to back that up, not the name of even one economist who believes tax cuts outperform government spending when it comes to creating jobs.

It is simply not true. Government spending delivers more immediate economic activity than does a cut in taxes -- as much as $1.73 compared to about $1.03 for tax cuts.

Furthermore, Rogers' email shows that he fundamentally misunderstands the type of economic crisis we are in right now. He says his plan will help Michigan families "save money."

Right now, we don't really want people to save money, as contradictory as that may sound. We need people to spend money, to buy things, so that businesses will feel motivated to hire back some of the people they have laid off. In a recession, falling demand is the problem, not a low savings rate.

But in times like these, people who have jobs generally are worried about the future so they save money instead of spending it. That's why a stimulus plan of mostly tax cuts would fail. There is no guarantee people would spend the money. Much of it would be saved or used to pay down credit card or other debt.

And there is no guarantee that those who did spend it would spend it in the U.S. They might take a trip outside the country, for example, which is why all that money spent in Iraq did nothing to stimulate our economy (save for a few companies like Blackwater.)

Government has to be the spender of last resort in this climate.

And tax cuts would be of little benefit to people who don't have jobs.

Rogers, who thinks he should be the next governor of Michigan, doesn't undestand this. Or he does and is lying about it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sequel to the 'Sleeping Judge'?

The "sleeping judge" -- former Supreme Court Chief Justice Cliff Taylor -- must have been absolutely the worst justice to ever serve on the Michigan Supreme court, right?

I mean, falling asleep during the arguments in a case in which little kids burned to death in a fire. That positively has to mark you as the least competent person to ever put on a black robe for our state.

Am I right?

Turns out, I'm not.

According to a poll of Michigan lawyers, there's another judge who was just as bad as the recently-departed-from the bench Taylor.

The 2008 Michigawn Lawyers Weekly survey says that Taylor's bench-mate, Robert Young Jr., is just as bad as Taylor, virtually tied for dead last in overall performance.

Young's seat is up in 2010.

Need I say more?

As I Was Saying Yesterday about Forbes' Lists

It seems like just yesterday that I wrote a column about how had a list of "most miserable cities" and that Detroit was high on the list, in part for the nonsensical reason that a football team at a university not even in the city had had a poor record.

In fact, it was just yesterday that I wrote that column so it was fresh in my mind when I read the latest story on lists published Friday (February 13, 2009).

And this list, "Top College Sports Towns," has Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the top of the list.

That would be the same Ann Arbor whose University of Michigan football team did so poorly that it contributed to Detroit's ranking as one of the most miserable cities in the country.

Amazingly, the geniuses at apparently thought no one would notice.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

List of 'Most Miserable Cities' Not Perfect Itself

People like lists, and not just David Letterman's nightly top 10 list. They like best dressed lists, worst dressed lists, the world's 10 best beaches, the nation's best places to retire.

The problem with all such lists is that while they promise the clarity of mathematics (10th, 9th, 8th) and the excitement of anticipating the No. 1 spot, they really are highly subjective compilations, based on somebody's idea of what should be counted as important -- somebody whose values are far different from yours or mine.

That's the case with's "10 most miserable cities" list released Tuesday (February 10, 2009).

Michigan has two cities -- Flint at No. 6 and Detroit at No. 7.

So what are the criteria for arriving at the worst cities in the country? Nine factors: Commute times, corruption, pro sports teams, Superfund sites, taxes (both income and sales), unemployment, violent crime and weather.

In its explanations, Forbes says high unemployment and crime doomed Flint, while Detroit suffered because of the conviction of its former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the 16 losses of the Detroit Lions, and the losing season of the University of Michigan football team. The last one didn't make much sense. U of M isn't even in Detroit, and if you want to count all state schools, Michigan State's football team did pretty well. And the Pistons and Red Wings usually pull through for their fans.

Detroit got one high mark -- for its 6 percent sales tax rate, much lower than the 9 to 10 percent levies of other cities on the list.

So why fixate on those nine criteria? What about opportunities for the arts, which abound in Detroit in the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Fischer Theater and elsewhere? How about outdoor recreation? That's pretty important to a lot of people who like lakes for swimming, boating, and fishing, and forests for hunting, camping, and hiking. And is Detroit's weather any worse than Minneapolis, which is much colder in the winter? And why should hot, humid, hurricane-creating weather be considered so much better than a Michigan winter? never explained its rationale for picking the criteria. Makes me wonder if they drew up the list of "miserable" cities first, and then came up with the criteria.

More spending beats more tax cuts

Livingston County Democratic Party Chair Judy Daubenmier has a great letter to the editor in today's Press & Argus.
Clearly, tax cuts help the economy much less than government spending. When Republicans insist on cutting spending from the stimulus package, what they are really cutting is the number of jobs resulting from the measure.
In just a few paragraphs, Judy makes an excellent case for the stimulus package.  Too bad Representative Mike Rogers has opted to ignore the facts -- again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Other people's money

No official word on whether the GOP will follow Speaker Pelosi's lead and forego the 2009 congressional cost-of-living pay raise. 

Cartoon from

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In GOP Eyes, These Jobs Don't Count

Are you a police officer, a firefighter, or a public school teacher?

Did you know you don't have a "real job"?

Are you a librarian, a park ranger, a counselor for a public mental health agency?

Your job isn't "real," either.

A researcher seeking the cure for cancer or heart disease at the University of Michigan Hospitals and Clinics? A surgical nurse or a doctor who deliveries babies at the same facility?

Also not "real."

Do you take care of our wounded warriors at one of our Veterans' Administration hospitals? Deliver mail, plow roads in even the worst blizzard, drive a school bus with our precious children on board?

Still unreal.

A judge, parole officer, prison guard?

Not a job.

President of the University of Michigan? Get a real job.

An astronaut? A soldier? Just government work.

According to the new head of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, none of these occupations is a real job. They are just "work" because they are government jobs.

In an interview on Sunday (Feb. 8, 2009) arguing against President Obama's stimulus package, Steele proclaimed that only private sector jobs are "real jobs" and that government jobs are not "real" because they come to an end. Like jobs in the private sector don't come to an end -- at the rate of 600,000 a month in January, thanks to eight years of Republican policies.

You can read about the full interview and watch it here.

All of which brings up the question, why did Steele run for Maryland lieutenant governor a few years ago if government work is so unworthy?

Monday, February 9, 2009

NOW He Wants to Cut Lawmakers' Health Care

When Bill Rogers presided as chair of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners, he happily allowed the commissioners to soak taxpayers for the cost of generous health insurance benefits for their part-time jobs.

Despite tightening budgets a year ago, the commissioners never cut their own health insurance benefits even as they expected county departments to get by with fewer employees. Rogers and his fellow Republicans, who held every seat on the board, could easily have done away with these benefits for themselves had they so chosen.

But now that Rogers is in the state House, where he is not a chairman of anything, Rogers has seen the light. He has decided that public servants do not need health insurance and has introduced a measure to end health care benefits for retired lawmakers.

Fine. But the problem is, Rogers is in the minority party. Nothing he introduces is likely to go anywhere. It's not even a new idea.

My problem is, if Rogers thought doing away with health insurance is such a good idea, why didn't he do it when he had the chance, when he was chair of the county commission, when all it would have taken was a simple vote of the commission he chaired?

Could it be that Rogers only wants to look like he wants to cut his future health care (when he wouldn't cut his existing health care when he actually had the power to do so)? It's the best of both worlds -- he looks like he's against waste but still gets the benefit of receiving the waste he ostensibly wants to cut.

Repeating a Fairy Tale Won't Make It True


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Michigan's Green Jobs Push Getting Notice

Michigan Republicans turn their noses up at everything Gov. Jennifer Granholm does to lure new industries to the state.

But people outside Michigan are taking notice.

Check out the Huffington Post article on the state's growing alternative energy sector.

In a nutshell:

"Manufacturing strongholds hardest hit by job losses years ago began laying the groundwork to land green jobs and may now be poised for the biggest gains, depending on federal economic stimulus funding."

It's the future.

Friday, February 6, 2009

In Case You Didn't Know Whose Side They Were On...

Just in case you haven't been paying attention and weren't really sure which political party is on the side of the averaging working person, consider this.

When America's automakers needed a loan to stay out of bankruptcy, Republicans insisted that any measure loaning them money include a provision mandating pay cuts for union workers. The provision would have cut workers' pay to the same rate as the foreign auto companies pay their non-union workers.

That never happened, of course, because George Bush finally came out of his coma and decided to make the loan from the $350 billion set aside for aiding the nation's banks.

The banks, of course, did not have to agree to do anything in exchange for their federal money, not even agree to actually make loans with the money, let alone cut anybody's pay.

So of course, they took the completely logical step of giving themselves big bonuses. Demonstrating yet another way in which he is smarter than George Bush, President Obama said that's not happening on my watch and is set to impose a $500,000salary cap for workers at companies that take funds from the federal government in future bank bailouts.

So how did the Republicans react -- the same Republicans who wanted to cut autoworkers' pay to $14 an hour?

Well, they said it was un-American for government to tell business how much to pay their workers.

Yeah, I know. But here's part of the piece from Huffington Post:

"Because of their excesses, very bad things begin to happen, like the United States government telling a company what it can pay its employees. That's not a good thing in America," Kyl told the Huffington Post.

"What executives have done is troubling, but it's equally troubling to have government telling shareholders how much they can pay the executives," said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL).

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said that he is "one of the chief defenders of Obama on the Republican side" for the president's efforts to reach across the aisle. But, said Inhofe, "as I was listening to him make those statements I thought, is this still America? Do we really tell people how to run [a business], and who to pay and how much to pay?"

That makes it pretty clear. Republicans want one standard for working people and another for their buddies the bankers.

Local Dems Convention This Saturday

If you are an official member of the Livingston County Democratic Party, make time on Saturday (February 7. 2009) to attend our county convention.

The event begins at 9:30 a.m. with registration, with business beginning at 10 a.m.

The agenda includes electing delegates to committees for the state convention, as well as considering resolutions to be recommended for the full state convention.

The convention is at party headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 of the Fonda Place Office Park, Brighton.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hey, He's Got Job Security!

Rep. Mike Rogers has a guaranteed job for the next two years, a great pension, gold-plated health insurance and a recent pay raise.  Apparently, he thinks that everyone else only needs a tax cut.  

Stop by Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood for a discussion of why chanting "tax cuts, tax cuts!" won't get our country out of this economic mess.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

So Now Loving Your Children Is 'Wicked'?

In what kind of a world is showing love and compassion to your own children "playing with fire" or "inviting them into wickedness"?

In the world of Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church, that's where.

The pastor of the church, Richard Alberta, got to spew his hateful nonsense to the broader public on Wednesday (February 4, 2009), courtesy of the Livingston Press and Argus.

The newspaper ran a piece about the plans of Beth and Bob Duman of Oceola Township to start a chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. The article quotes Beth Duman as saying the couple needed to take the step because "Livingston County is not a safe place for people who are different in lots of different ways."

As if to prove that point, the newspaper then let Alberta preach to the whole county.

A couple highlights:

"It is abominable, according to the word of God. They're literally playing with fire."

"They're actually inviting people into wickedness, and on Judgment Day, they will see such terrible error."

Alberta tells his flock they should try to make their kids change their "sexual orientation." Exactly how that is to be done, I'm not sure. Sort of like making their eyes un-blue, I guess.

Nothing like showing unconditional love for your children, is there?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Granholm's Focus Is Spot-on for These Times

It was the right speech for the times.

Rather than a "something for everybody" kind of speech, Gov. Jennifer Granholm's State of the State message on Tuesday (Feb. 3, 2009) was focused on what the state needs most -- initiatives to create more jobs, improve education and job training, and protect Michigan families.

Just meat and potatoes, no dessert.

The governor's tone was perfect, promising government will take care of essential business only, sacrifice the few non-essential services that are left, and still try to move the state forward by continuing to diversify its economy. And continuing to defend the state's core industry -- auto manufacturing.

Many of the details already had been leaked, including one of the film studio projects, ending state funding for the state fairs, a freeze on college tuition, and consolidating state departments.

Still, some things surprised me -- the total of 55,000 jobs created since August.

Why haven't I read that in the mainstream media anywhere?

GOP and Michigan Movies -- One Industry They Love to Hate

Gov. Jennifer Granholm's movie industry initiative has got Michigan Republicans in a pickle.

They want to stomp all over the idea and its benefits, but when they do they end up looking like hypocrites.

Take the Livingston County board of commissioners.

A film company has asked for permission to use the Livingston County historic courthouse grounds for up to eight hours to film a portion of a movie. According to a piece in the Livingston Press and Argus, the movie is titled "Betty Anne Waters" and features Hilary Swank.

Commissioner Donald Parker complained that the county should have been paid for the use of the grounds, as Howell public schools were when the film "High School" was shot on their high school campus.

Gee, I thought Republicans wanted to bring business to the state, to diversify the state's economy away from automobile production. I thought Republicans wanted to keep costs down for business, not add unnecessary barriers or obstacles.

Now here's a business that wants to produce something in Michigan and all Republicans can think of is driving up their costs, yanking back the welcome mat the Granholm has put out.

Conclusion: If it's a Democratic idea, they're automatically against it.