Saturday, April 30, 2011

Snyder: Degrees Matter, Except When They Don't

Coverage of Rick Snyder's education plan has mainly consisted of a few quotes grabbed from the document followed by a laundry list of changes he called for in Michigan schools. The media usually coupled that with a sidebar with reaction from "educators" who usually were administrators and called it good.

That approach overlooks the internal inconsistencies within the "plan," its inconsistencies with other parts of the way Snyder wants to remake Michigan, and comparisons with some things Michigan already allows for that he merely repeats with a little window dressing.

For example, on p. 2, Snyder declares:

"Preparing children for optimal learning and quality achievement in school actually begins at conception. Brain development begins early in a pregnancy. Threats, such as alcohol or malnutrition, can have a negative or even irreversible effect on the developing brain. Premature birth and low birth weight also can have lasting effects on a child. Early childhood is a time of remarkable brain growth that affects a child’s development and readiness for school.

"According to Michigan kindergarten teachers, on average, only 65% of children entered kindergarten classrooms this year ready to learn the curriculum. This 'readiness gap' often begins at birth and continues until school entry. It can lead to an achievement gap that persists through each year of school."

If Snyder believes that, why then does he propose condemning more and more children to poor starts in life by getting rid of the Earned Income Tax Credit, a proven way of keeping working families out of poverty? Isn't he setting these children up for failure, based on his own criteria of what children need to have to succeed in school?

On p. 4, under "Performance-Based System of Schools," Snyder proposes basing a portion of a school district's state aid on school performance. Notice that he did not say a charter school. Charter schools, which have proven to be no better than the public school districts in which they are located, will have no such performance requirement since they are not a "district." How is that consistent?

On p. 5, Snyder also talks about "dashboards" that will report data on school districts. How a "dashboard" differs from the annual reports that school districts already must prepare for the public is not clear. It sounds like giving a new name to something we're already doing in order to look innovative.

On p. 6, Snyder complains that 23 school districts have deficits of more than $1 million and threatens to apply his new emergency dictator legislation to them. However, he fails to mention how much worse off these districts will be made by his own plan to cut state aid per pupil by $470. How many more school districts will be in deficit next year?

On p. 8, Snyder wisely says under the caption "Degrees Matter:"

"I am asking for the legislature to approve a seamless 'Degrees Matter' system that values and demands a post-secondary degree or skilled trades credential for all Michigan residents."

Well, apparently degrees don't matter all that much because on p.11 he says:

"The mere receipt of a master’s degree should not mean automatic increases in pay."

So degrees matter and people should get them but don't expect to be rewarded for doing so.

Furthermore, on p. 11, he says the state should allow more people without
teaching certificates into the classroom, such as all those business people who supposedly are dying to give up their high-paying jobs and spend the day in a classroom except they don't want to bother to get a teaching certificate. Michigan allows such alternative certification in fields such as math and chemistry. I'd like to know how many chemists have actually given up their jobs in order to move to a high school classroom in the 15 or so years this has been allowed in Michigan. A few years after the legislation was passed, hardly anyone had done so. I doubt many business people will want to do so either.

So degrees matter for people in the skilled trades, but when it comes to teaching our students, degrees don't matter so much after all.

Snyder's plan doesn't add up to much that is really going to affect student performance. It mainly is a call for "efficiency" and "innovation" without offering any ideas of what things are out there that schools aren't doing that would be more efficient or innovative.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Only Some People Expected to Produce

The Republican-led Michigan House has approved Rick Snyder's tax-the-poor-and-elderly-and-spare-business budget but there is one thing missing.

Snyder has never said how many jobs Michigan can expect to reap from the windfall that is being handed to business at the expense of their customers. Now that many Michigan retirees and working poor will have less money to spend at Michigan businesses, how many jobs will these businesses create?

Snyder says he doesn't have to give us a projection on that. It'll just happen. There's no goal, no benchmark, for what this tax change will produce in the way of jobs, compared to what is going to happen anyway.

In other words, no standard for it to be measured against.

Teachers, on the other hand, need such standards. according to Snyder. They need to guarantee that their students will do better each year, no matter how hungry they are when they come to school, no matter how deprived they are, no matter how little money the district has to support the teacher with newer textbooks and other resources. Or they are at risk of losing their jobs.

Maybe we should take away the tax breaks of any business that doesn't create a job within a year. Wouldn't that be fair?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Who Will Work in Low-Performing Districts?

It's not enough to slash school budgets statewide with a $470 per student cut in school aid.

Now Rick Snyder wants to really stick it to poor districts, taking away more of their students, draining their budgets, and discouraging good teachers from wanting to work there.


Snyder's plan will set up more charter schools to take more students and school aid dollars away from poorly performing districts. With less money, these districts will somehow magically get better.

Then, he will tell teachers in poor districts that 40 percent of their performance evaluation will be based on test scores. So you have a district where the students with the most financial means will be able to drive to another district which has to take them (if you can't afford to get to a neighboring district, you won't be able to transfer, let's face it), draining off the best students. Other students will leave for charter schools, whose test scores have proven no better than traditional public schools. The district will have fewer resources to educate the really poor students who are left behind. And the teachers will be faced with losing their jobs if they somehow don't create a miracle.

And oh, yeah, the students are going to be even poorer as a result of Snyder's proposal to shift more taxes to poor people by eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit and giving parents $25 instead.

Who will take a job in a district like that? Won't the best teachers avoid those districts?

Snyder's speech was supposed to be about education. Was there one idea in it about teaching? One technique that would help children learn more?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What if Glenn Beck Weighed in on Snyder's Emergency Managers?

Rick Snyder’s new law allowing emergency managers to abolish local governments that have financial troubles has already claimed its first victims – the residents of Benton Harbor, where the elected city officials have been stripped of their decision-making power.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has been covering this implementation of financial marshal law for a couple weeks, focusing on the likelihood that it will pave the way for real estate developers to grab the community’s beautiful Jean Klock Park on the shores of Lake Michigan and turn it into a private playground for the rich. The rest of the national media has mostly been silent about Snyder’s take-over of local government.

But can you imagine if this big government take-away of local government’s power had been carried out by a Democratic governor instead of a Republican one? I wonder how Fox News and Glenn Beck would be treating that development.

Maybe it would go something like this:

Glenn Beck, wearing a tri-cornered hat, begins his show, on the verge of tears.

“Michigan, you are under attack. Your constitution is hanging by a thread,” Beck says, barely able to hold back the tears.

“There is news tonight that fits together like a puzzle, and it all adds up to government control.”

Then Beck heads to the blackboard. He writes "Obama," "FEMA," "Benton Harbor," "concentration camps" and begins drawing arrows connecting them. "I can’t debunk this," Beck says, and then claims that President Obama is in league with the Democratic governor of Michigan to have a financial emergency declared so that the Federal Emergency Management Agency can come in and take over Benton Harbor and lock up all the residents in concentration camps.

"We are a country that is headed toward totalitarianism beyond your wildest imagination. I wanted to debunk these FEMA camps, but I can’t. I’ve done research for several days and I’ve found no evidence that they don’t exist," Beck says, by now openly weeping for the good citizens of Benton Harbor.

"If you trust our government, it’s fine. If you have any kind of fear that we might be heading towards a totalitarian state: Look out. Buckle up. There’s something going on in our country that is--it ain’t good."

The Michigan Militia and tea bagger crowd would be outraged at the plot against their rights that Beck had uncovered. There would be rallies and protests with posters of Obama dressed like a witch doctor or his face painted up to look like the sinister Joker.

Oh, but a Republican governor proposed this. So since Obama can't be involved, it must be OK.

(The above quotes are slightly modified from ones in Dana Milbank’s Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

This Works for Mike Rogers, Too

The Republican plan to end Medicare and replace it with vouchers that won't nearly cover the actual cost of insurance for senior citizens is not being forgotten. Republican Mike Rogers voted for the plan, of course, which was included in the Paul Ryan budget approved by the GOP-led House.

Now a progressive group called Americans United for Change is running ads reminding voters exactly what the Ryan-Rogers budget plan means for the future of Medicare. They're not running it in Mike Rogers' 8th Congressional District in Michigan, but it works for him, too. The ad gives Ryan's office phone number, but Rogers' is (517) 702-8000.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What Can A Parent Buy for Snyder's $25 Tax Credit?

Millionaire Rick Snyder has demonstrated once again how out of touch he is with the realities of working people in general, let alone working poor people.

His plan to eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit, which has helped keep people working instead of resorting to welfare, is foolish from an economic standpoint. It will take money out of the hands of people who are guaranteed to spend it at Michigan businesses such as gas stations and grocery stores, or use it to pay their rent or utility bills. From a human standpoint, it is mean.

So he has backed off that and decided, along with Republicans who lead the Legislature, to be magnanimous to the working poor. He will give them a $25 tax credit for each child.

So what can a working parent buy with $25 a year for a child?

Well, at Meijer's, you can buy a box of 96 Pampers diapers for $22.99. When you throw in the 6 percent sales tax, you have a a buck and change left over. Maybe you can get a bunch of bananas for a snack. Now, 96 Pampers will last a baby, at six a day, a little over two weeks.

But there's more. Republicans in the Legislature tried to require that even poorer parents shop only a thrift stores. The families only receive $80 a year for clothing and Sen. Bruce Caswell wanted to make sure they weren't spending it on, you know, designer hand-bags instead of shoes. So the state Senate decided to require parents to use their state allowance to first buy a gift card only usable for clothing before being able to spend their $80.

That's what passes for compassion in America these days. We used to be a nation that cared about families and nurtured them, especially when they were having hard times -- which can happen to anybody. Now, we give working families enough money for two weeks worth of diapers and tell them to sink or swim.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Numbers Don't Lie, But ...

Scott Menzel, superintendent of the Livingston Educational Services Agency, has done public education a great service in their struggle to avoid Rick Snyder's draonian budget cuts.

To do it, he used a calculator and put Rick Snyder's own math to the test.

Snyder has decided to raid the $540 million surplus in the school aid fund in order to help pay for tax cuts for Michigan businesses. Never mind that Michigan voters who backed Proposal A thought they were guaranteeing school funding when they voted for higher sales taxes in the 1990s.

Snyder has insisted that the $470 per pupil state aid cut he is proposing is no big deal for schools. All they have to do is make teachers pay 20 percent of their health insurance premiums and privatize some services (union-bust) and that will make up the difference, no sweat.

Menzel, in a guest column in Sunday's Livingston Press and Argus, put Snyder's numbers to the test of real math. (Thanks to the Press and Argus for this series of guest columns.)

Snyder's budget cut, and the increase in retirement payments mandated by the Legislature, will cost Livingston County schools $20 million a year. The districts already have privatized services so there is little savings there, but coupling that with the 20 percent health insurance co-pay, saves the districts only $5.55 million. Some districts already have co-pays so the savings is not as great as Snyder anticipates.

That $5.55 million covers just 43 percent of the school aid cut and 31 percent of the total budget impact of Snyder's proposals and the retirement increase.

Even if all teachers took a 5 percent pay cut, that would generate another $6.9 million -- still just over half of the $20 million that needs to be made up. And the districts would have to lay of 188 teachers to make up the difference.

In other words, Snyder has been wrong when he has told reporters over and over again that all schools have to do to make up the difference is impose co-pays and privatize services. He is not even close to being accurate.

How could this happen? There are several possibilities. Maybe Snyder didn't run the numbers before making the proposal. Well, he's an accountant, so that's hard to believe. Maybe his calculator was broken and gave him the wrong answer.

Let's see, what else? Could it be maybe Snyder just decided not to tell the truth and thought no one would notice?

Whichever way it happened, Snyder is only telling 43 percent of the truth.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Quran-Burning Pastor Shoots Off More than His Mouth

Florida Pastor Terry Jones really knows how to pour gasoline on a fire.

He's already overseen a stunt in which the Quran was set on fire, leading to riots in the Middle East, including one in Afghanistan that resulted in the deaths of two United Nations workers.

Now he is in Michigan with plans to hold a rally because he is under the delusion that the city of Dearborn is threatened by Sharia law, that this community with establishments selling liquor, pork processing plants, and a mayor with an Irish name is somehow under the total control of Muslims.

Jones is in the spotlight of a media storm as the city is in court trying to redirect his rally away from a spot in front of a mosque and into a free speech zone and to require him to post a bond for security.

So into this tinder=box of emotions, what does Pastor Jones do? He lets his gun go off. He told Southfield police that it was an accident and that it happened after he had been up since 4:30 a.m. In other words, he was tired.

Yeah, that's right. This guy was so irresponsible that he almost shot himself in the foot. Just the kind of thing that needs to happen in the middle of a tense situation, like say an anti-Muslim rally in front of a mosque.

Let's hope Jones is able to get a nap before tonight's rally. This guy is bad enough when he's wide awake.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It Takes More than $25 to Raise a Child

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once wrote a book called, It Takes a Village, expressing her belief that raising a child is a team effort.

Even the best parents need the help of supportive communities that provide good schools, a healthy environment, public amenities such as parks and libraries, and so on. The title of Clinton's book comes from the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child."

How far Rick Snyder is from that vision of raising a child. He thinks it can be done for $25.

That's what he has agreed to give Michigan families who work hard but are still poor to help them raise their children -- $25. Snyder wants to eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit that gives tax breaks to the working poor, a credit that helps people make ends meet when they are trying to live on low wages. Snyder thinks the money would be better spent by letting most businesses pay no taxes.

Even Republicans in the Legislature see the folly of Snyder's approach and have come up with a way to mitigate it. Give parents $25 a year for each child.

You can see what a pittance that amounts to by comparing its $100 million annual cost to the $374 million annual cost of the Earned Income Tax Credit Snyder wants to eliminate.

Michigan has a long history of caring for the neediest amongst us. Most Michigan residents recognize that bad things can happen to any of us, especially given the historically cyclical nature of Michigan's economy. And they recognize that real wages in the U.S. have been falling for decades.

Snyder's $25 is not an expression of that compassion. It is a slap in the face to families who try to contribute to the world by working hard to try to pay their bills and raise their families.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How to Talk About the Budget

Budgets are not just about numbers. They are a numerical reflection of a state or a nation's priorities, its choices about what is important, what is right and what is wrong. They are a moral statement. They show the world what a state or nation believes in.

That's why George Lakoff, a University of California linguist known for his work on the differences between liberals and conservatives, says President Obama's April 13, 2011, budget speech was such a landmark address.

Lakoff, in a post on Huffington Post, says Obama expertly laid out America's moral vision. Lakoff's post does an excellent job of explaining, in simple terms, how Obama supporters should start talking about budget issues.

"The basic idea is this: Democracy is based on empathy, that is, on citizens caring about each other and acting on that care, taking responsibility not just for themselves but for their families, communities, and their nation. The role of government is to carry out this principle in two ways: protection and empowerment."

Obama quoted Lincoln's belief that government was a way "to do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves." Everyone, Obama said, eventually needs some help, and a great country provides that help to each and every citizens through programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Lakoff also praised Obama for speaking in terms of "systems" and not simple direct cause and effect. "Under the Republican budget plan, the president would get a $200,000 a year tax break, which would be paid for by cutting programs for seniors, with the result that 33 seniors would be paying $6,000 more a year for health care to pay for his tax break. To see this, you have to look outside of the federal budget to the economic system at large, in which you can see what budget cuts will be balanced by increased in costs to others. A cut here in the budget is balanced by an increase outside the federal budget for real human beings."

Lakoff urged Democrats to start talking about the budget as Obama did, in terms of Democratic moral values and systems, how tax cuts for the wealthy affect real human beings.

The reason goes back to Lakoff's basic argument -- that independent voters have two sets of frames for looking at the world, one that is mostly progressive and one that is mostly conservative. Each of those frames can be actitvated with the correct language and the more it is activated, the less active the other one begins. Democrats' goal should be to activate the progressive frames in independents.

Lakoff, therefore, says progressives should talk about the progressive moral view whenever possible when talking about the budget rather than merely refuting conservative arguments point by point.

Lakoff's post is easy to read and understand, but it is crucial for progressives to start thinking and talking this way. Read his post and start practicing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rogers Lying About His Vote to End Medicare

Lying is second nature to Republican Mike Rogers, but even for him, his recent email to voters in Michigan's 8th Congressional Dsitrict regarding his vote to end Medicare stuns anyone who understands what he actually voted for.

Rogers, of course, voted for the Paul Ryan budget in the U.S. House which ends Medicare and gives senior citizens a voucher that will cover about a third of the cost of their insurance and forces them to try to find a private insurance company that is foolish enough to want to pay the health care costs of old, sick people with multiple pre-existing conditions.

But Rogers doesn't want anybody to know that he voted to end Medicare because that will upset vast numbers of his constituents. So instead of admitting what he has done, Rogers told them he had voted to "protect Medicare."

Then, he had the audacity to claim:

"The budget proposal would make all Medicare services operate more like Medicare Part D, the successful prescription drug program. This would provide retirees with a comprehensive health insurance plan, paid for by the federal government, where doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies are all forced to compete for your business. This is the same type of plan that members of Congress and all federal employees have today."

Actually, it is not the same type of plan that members of Congress and all federal employees have today. Not at all. The premiums paid by the federal government for Rogers' own health plan go up according to the average increase in health insurance premiums, which track increases in health care costs. Under the Medicare-ending bill Rogers voted for, what the federal government would pay for seniors' health care coverage would go up only as fast as the consumers' price index, which is much lower than health care inflation. So the federal government would be paying less and less for seniors' health care, and seniors would be paying more and more, if they can afford it. This is not at all the plan Rogers has for himself.

Then Rogers says:

"This proposal has the potential to inject competition into Medicare to reduce prices and improve the quality of care." Actually, no it won't. Congress already tried to get private companies to insure the elderly and it didn't work. In the Clinton administration, Republicans were so sure that private companies wanted into the market insuring the old and the sick that they insisted that Medicare be changed to allow people to buy policies from private companies instead of Medicare. But it didn't happen. Not until the Bush administration, when Congress gave private insures subsidies that amounted to 14 percent more than what the federal government pays per Medicare recipient. Even an insurance industry source says companies will compete for only the younger and healthier senior citizens. Even then, the costs will be higher because private insurance companies won't have the advantage of the lower, negotiated rates that Medicare limits providers to.

Rogers caps his lies about ending Medicare with an admission that part of the program is all about sparing him and fellow Republicans any immediate political pain for what they have done.

"It would be implemented beginning in 2022, saving Medicare for future retirees. Most importantly, it would not impact Medicare benefits for anyone over 55 years old today – period."

In other words, today's senior citizens are being told not to worry, don't vote against me for this, while Rogers and his fellow Republicans are counting on younger people not understanding what was stolen from them until it's too late.

Rogers also fails to point out that some senior citizens will be totally uncovered starting in 2022. Those who are between the ages of 65 and 67 will get absolutely nothing -- not even the reduced voucher and certainly not Medicare as we know it. Nothing. Although full Social Security benefits for younger Americans will not be available until age 67, they can still get reduced benefits, but for health care, under Ryan's plan, they get zilch. But of course they won't find this out until Ryan -- and Rogers -- are hopefully long gone from the political scene.

Rogers then has the audacity to claim: "You have spent your working life planning for retirement and the federal government must keep the promises it has made to you."

If he believes that, why did he vote for this plan?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Snyder's Pension Tax Deal Isn't About Fairness

Did Rick Snyder finally find some compassion for Michigan senior citizens and decide to modify his cruel tax on pensions?

No, he didn't. Somebody just explained the politics of it to him.

Originally, Snyder wanted to tax all pensions in Michigan in order to fund the $1.8 billion tax cut to Michigan businesses. Michigan senior citizens let him know what they think of that, (hint, in case you haven't been paying attention: they hated it) and they probably let their state senators and state representatives know that, too.

So Republican legislative leaders came up with a compromise. People age 67 and over won't have their pensions taxed. People 60 to 66 will get a $20,000 a year exemption ($40,000 for a couple), and people under 60 will still be screwed.

So why is it fair that people under 60 will pay the full tax and the others will get full or partial exemptions? There is no explanation for that. People under 60 are likely to have hefty bills after being forced into early retirement, years before they expected to have to retire. They may even still have children at home or in college, mortgages and car payments they were expecting to pay off in their last years of working while they added to their nest eggs. Instead, they got shoved out the door early by their employer, who calculated that their pensions would be tax free in telling them what they would have to live on. Now Snyder has pulled the rug out from under them.

So why stick it to some retirees and not others? Let's see, what age group comprises the most reliable voters? Wouldn't that be senior citizens? Of those between 65 and 75 registered to vote, 78.1 percent voted in 2008, according to the U.S. Census. And 76.6 percent of those 75 and over. Of those 55 to 64. it was still 76.6 percent.

So my exempting entirely those 67 and over, Snyder is mollifying a big chunk of those most likely to vote. The exemption for the middle group amounts to throwing them a bone and assuming they won't get too upset because in a year or two they will be 67 and home free.

And the younger retirees, well, the divide and conquer calculation was that there weren't that many of them to worry about at the ballot box.

In other words, fairness had nothing to do with it. It was all political calculation.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Denby and Rogers Getting Their Own Taxpayer-Funded Bailout

Livingston County taxpayers are about to bail out Republican Reps. Cindy Denby and Bill Rogers for decisions they made while holding local elected positions. Our tax dollars are going to go to cover up the multi-million-dollar mistakes made by this pair of "fiscal conservatives."

The taxpayer bailout amounts to $2 million, in the form of a special fund being set up by the all-Republican Livingston County Commission to loan money to townships that can't make the payments on sewer and water projects paid for by bonds backed by the county.

Handy Township is one of the townships in the most dire straits. It approved multiple new subdivisions, financed by bond issues backed by the county, when Denby was township supervisor. Rogers was chair of the commission when it decided to back the bonds for more subdivisions even though the Michigan economy was struggling, auto makers were losing money and laying off workers. Developers never finished the projects and walked away, leaving the townships and county holding the bag.

According to the Livingston Press and Argus, the county commission will take $1.6 million from money set aside for a new jail and $354,000 from the county's general fund to set up a fund to loan money to townships to make their bond payments. The same general fund that has had to be cut and cut, meaning fewer services for county residents paying the same amount of tax dollars.

So now, county taxpayers in townships like Hamburg and Putnam, which didn't participate in the risky overbuilding, are going to have their tax dollars going to bail out other parts of the county and paper over Denby and Rogers' mistakes.

Democrats running for county commission raised the issue of these toxic Special Assessment Districts during the 2010 county commission races but board Chair Maggie Jones insisted there was no problem at all. Everything was under control. Not to worry.

It worked until after the election, but Denby and Rogers' chickens are coming home to roost and pick the pockets of Livingston County taxpayers.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mother of All Death Panels

The mainstream media can't say enough about how courageous Republican Rep. Paul Ryan is for proposing killing Medicare.

Make no mistake, that's what his plan would do. It's not cutting Medicare. It's getting rid of it altogether. Senior citizens would get a voucher to go buy private insurance, except the voucher wouldn't cover the cost of the coverage they now get through Medicare and it wouldn't keep up with cost increases.

Seniors, who are in big need of medical care as they age, will have to either go without medical care or try to find the money to pay for it themselves -- even as the state of Michigan plans to heap more taxes onto them, by the way.

A few months ago, any tinkering with health care was seen as rationing care, creating government "death panels" that would decide who would live or die.

Ryan's plan is the mother of all death panels. There will not be dramatic decisions, like Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer cutting off coverage for transplants and leaving 100 people to die who had been promised life-saving treatment.

Instead, there will be millions of individual decisions made each day. People will go without needed procedures because they can't afford them. As a result, they will die one, two, or three years earlier than they would have otherwise. Nobody but their families will notice.

Rich people, of course, will do just fine. Which is kind of the whole point of Republican policies.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Yes, It Is Ideological

Rick Snyder is trying so hard to convince Michigan residents that he is planning to tax senior citizens and poor people in order to wipe out business taxes for almost all Michigan residents isn't "ideological."

According to the Detroit Free Press:

"He shows zero interest in picking ideological fights nor does he spend time pandering."


You mean, Snyder doesn't believe it's better to tax old people and poor people than tax business? Of course he does. That's why he proposed it. If he believes it, that is his ideology. And taxing lower income people while letting rich people and businesses get all the breaks is classic Republican Party ideology these days.

What about his measure that lets farmers regulate their own pollution? Isn't being anti-environmental clean-up classic Republican Party ideology these days?

What about getting rid of the law that says businesses have to tell consumers what they are being charged for the items they buy, which Snyder repealed? Isn't getting rid of government regulation classic Republican Party ideology these days?

What about squeezing teachers and public employees through cuts in school aid and revenue sharing to local governments, running around the state telling all the fawning media that will listen that they don't pay their fair share for health insurance, that if our communities go broke it's going to be the unions fault? Isn't that classic Republican Party ideology these days?

Snyder doesn't like being compared to Republican thugs like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. He hasn't called police "idiots" yet like Kasich did. Snyder has too much finesse for that. But he shares exactly the same ideology as they do -- despite the way the Free Press reporters portray him.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Come Hear Senator Stabenow in Livingston County!

Sen. Debbie Stabenow has been standing up for us in Washington, D.C., for years now -- fighting for children, women, and working people. Just recently, she demanded that members of Congress forfeit their pay if they failed to avoid a government shutdown. There has been no stronger voice against the Republican extremists than Debbie Stabenow.

So you won't want to miss a chance to hear Senator Stabenow right here in Livingston County. Senator Stabenow is the featured speaker at the Livingston County Dems' annual Winans Dinner on Friday, May 20, at Lakelands Golf and Country Club, 8760 Chilson Road, in Hamburg Township.

The event begins at 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50 at the early bird rate, good through May 9, and $60 after that and at the door. Student tickets are available at $20. The price includes snacks, cash bar, dinner, and a silent auction.

Come hear Senator Stabenow update us on the battles in Washington to preserve Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, programs to protect women's health, and other progressive priorities.

You can reserve your tickets by calling Livingston County Democrats' headquarters at (810) 229-4212 or emailing the party at You also can mail a check to Livingston County Democrats, 10321 Grand River Road, Suite 600, Brighton, MI 48116. Be sure to tell us how many tickets you would like and the names of the attendees.

Don't wait! Reserve now to hear Senator Stabenow right here in Livingston County!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Some People Find It Easier to be 'Positive'

Rick Snyder has some guts.

Since taking office, he has done nothing but beat up on teachers, police, firefighters, prison guards, and other people we hire to do the public's business.
In his spare time, he beats up on poor people and retired people who worked all their lives and now are drawing a pension. And then he squeezes in a little extra time to cut off unemployment benefits for people out of work more than 20 weeks. That will include the hundreds of people who will lose their jobs at retail stores due to his repeal of the item pricing law that lets people know the price of what it is they are buying.

And now he has the nerve to tell us that Michigan's problem is that we aren't "positive" enough.

Here's what he told the Lansing State Journal:

"Snyder said a key problem in the state has been a negative, self-defeating attitude that doesn't champion the state's strengths. As a result, he said, he's been spending much of his time pushing his 'relentlessly positive' message to overcome that."

Yeah, I guess if you've been out of work, had your house foreclosed on, and seen your unemployment benefits run out, you might have a little bit of a negative attitude.

But if you're a multi-millionaire living in a huge house in Ann Arbor, totally insulated from any economic problems and immune from any of the tax increases you are proposing for other people, you might find it a little bit easier to be "relentlessly positive."

Or you might just be out of touch.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Too Many Schools for Too Few Students

At a time when Rick Snyder is telling everybody except rich people and business owners that Michigan needs "shared sacrifice," one area of possible savings is consistently being overlooked.

Charter schools.

This experiment has drained 100,000 students from Michigan's traditional public schools, contributing to the deficits many of them face, which will get worse under Rick Snyder's cuts to school aid, even as the school aid fund has a $600 million surplus.

The idea was that charter schools would provide competition and improve achievement. They've provided competition for students, but have done nothing to improve achievement. Charter school students do no better than public school students and they take money away from traditional public schools, dragging down achievement levels there.

The available tax dollars are being spread over more and more school buildings, each with its own overhead. In fact, a recent report forecasting that 150 public schools face deficits included many charter schools.

Even as Snyder calls for more and more consolidation of local governments and services, he has said absolutely nothing about consolidating charter schools back into traditional public schools. Could it be because their teachers are mostly non-union and lower paid?

On top of that, the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools wants to turn dozens of traditional public schools into charter schools to help solve the district's financial problems. How does that solve anything? If there are too few students for the number of schools -- due to the creation of many charter schools -- why does creating more charter schools solve that problem?

We're not getting anything for the money taxpayers are dumping into the schools. It is time to begin reigning in this failed experiment and not expand it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Is Snyder Going to Let Business Have It Both Ways?

Everybody knows about Rick Snyder's plan to let most businesses get away with paying no taxes in Michigan while shoveling the burden onto poor people and retirees, with no guarantee that the state will get anything in return.

Snyder claims that businesses will automatically flock to the state and create thousands of jobs -- not that any of those jobs would help retirees, of course.

As part of that deal, Snyder was supposed to get rid of the incentives that required businesses to actually produce jobs in return for getting the credits.

Except now it looks like he's waffling on that. According to the Detroit Free Press, economic development groups are telling the Snyder administration that they can't compete with other states that offer incentives. So it looks like the Snyder administration will raise the $50 million limit it wants to put on incentives.

Which means businesses will get the benefit of low or no taxes, plus incentives. All paid for by somebody else.

Who said there's no such thing as a free lunch?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Come Help Livingston Dems Clean Up County Roadside!

Spring is on its way and that means spring cleaning -- especially on our roadsides.

Livingston County Democrats will participate in the Michigan Department of Transportation's roadside cleanup program again this year. The spring cleanup date is set for Sunday, April 10, with a rain date of Sunday, April 17.

Volunteers meet at 8 a.m. in the parking lot of the Ironwood Golf Course, 6900 East Highland Road, Howell, to pick up litter along a two-mile stretch of M-59. Bring work gloves and wear sturdy shoes. The party will furnish safety vests and pick up sticks.

The winter's accumulation of litter can be daunting, but a drive-by inspection shows this spring's pile is not too bad. A good turnout of volunteers will make the work go faster.

And the best part is having breakfast together afterward.

This is a long-standing tradition for Livingston County Democrats. In 2010, the party marked its 25th year of cleaning up this portion of the county.

Mike Rogers Knows Better Than This, Doesn't He?

Mike Rogers has been in Congress for a decade now, so we can assume that he knows how a bill becomes a law, even though he has succeeded in pushing through few major pieces of legislation himself.

But he should have figured out how the process works just by watching other people do it.

So it's disappointing that he voted for a measure that so blatantly violates the U.S. Constitution -- the preposterously named "Government Shutdown Prevention Act."

The bill claims that if the Senate fails to pass a bill to keep the government running, the version already passed by the House would automatically become law.

This, of course, is contrary to the Constitution, which Republicans like Mike Rogers told the tea baggers they love so much.

Surely Mike Rogers knows the House just can't pass a measure and declare it law without the Senate passing the identical bill and the president signing it. Does he think Michigan voters are so stupid that they don't know how a bill becomes a law? Does he think Michigan voters just wouldn't notice? Is he counting on the news media being so lazy that they won't bother to point out what he did? (Always a good bet, BTW.)

Mike Rogers' vote is an utter lie and a massive insult to Michigan voters.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

GOP, Snyder Misdirection Hides Who REALLY Is Overpaid in This Economy

Rick Snyder and his fellow Republicans have been so busy attacking public employees like police officers, firefighters, and teachers for making too much money and failing to make any sacrifices during the economic downtown that the public is missing the real scandal.

Let's look at some facts. The public sector -- that's government -- has been shedding jobs for months, even as the private sector has been adding them. Take a look at the most recent jobs report.

"Overall, the private sector added 230,000 jobs. But local governments continued to struggle, shedding 14,000 jobs in March. Still, that was a major improvement over the 46,000 government jobs lost in February."

So the Republicans are lying when they say government is growing and public employees are insulated from bad economic times. It's just not true.

Meanwhile, the state of Michigan is having to pay millions to a consulting firm because the salaries it pays computer specialists are too low -- $12,000 less than the jobs they can get in the private sector. The state doesn't even bother advertising for them anymore because the pay gap is so great.

This only makes sense in Rick Snyder's world, where Michigan wastes money by overpaying a private company rather than pay a competitive wage to state employees because state employees are "overpaid."

But by using false accusations to keep the focus on public employees, Snyder and Republicans divert attention from the people who are really being overpaid -- CEOs.

Just look at the 27 percent increase in CEO pay during 2010.

Those aren't the people being asked to share in any of the sacrifices Rick Snyder proposes.