Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wisconsin Gov. Says He Wants Rick Snyder to Join the Fun

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is having so much fun busting unions and destroying the American middle class that he'd like to have more Republican governors join in. And he mentions Michigan's Rick Snyder by name.

Walker revealed that, and a whole lot more about his strategy in the union-busting fight going on in Wisconsin, during a 20-minute phone conversation with oil billionaire David Koch, one of the big money bags behind the Tea Party movement. The whole thing was recorded and is on youtube. You can listen to it here.

Why would Walker expose his entire strategy? Turns out, Walker only thought he was talking to his buddy Koch. He actually was talking to a blogger impersonating Koch, so he spilled his guts. Completely.

Walker has lots of plans to force the 14 Democratic senators back into the state so his union-busting bill can go forward -- withholding their pay, charging them with ethics violations, encouraging them to come back to "talk" but not "negotiate" so that there can be a quorum and then passing the bill even if they leave again.

Throughout the conversation, the Koch impersonator says some really outrageous things but they don't even seem to phase Walker. Bring in trouble-makers? We considered that, Walker said. Or, "Once you crush these bastards, I'll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time." Walker's response, "All right. That would be outstanding."

But in the meantime, Walker would like more company. He says other Republican governors should follow his lead and names John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Scott in Florida. Then he brings up Snyder.

"I think Snyder if he got a little more support probably could do that in Michigan," Walker says.

Right now, Snyder appears to be busy driving jobs out of the state by eliminating the film industry tax credit while heaping taxes onto poor people and senior citizens to end taxes on business. There's only so much you can do at one time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Big Loophole in Snyder's Plan to End Taxes for Business

Rick Snyder's plan to load down poor people and senior citizens with higher income taxes so businesses won't pay any at all is supposed to create all kinds of jobs. Exactly how, is unclear, since jobs are created when there is a demand for what is being produced and sold. And if poor people and senior citizens have less money in their pockets, they will be able to demand and buy less.

But one thing it will create is a big giant loophole for business owners. And here's the reason. Profits in the business they own will be untaxed. Salary that they pay themselves will be taxed. So it will be even more to their advantage to claim as many business expenses as they possibly can, and reduce their salary and personal income taxes.

The car that most people pay for out of their salary? That's a business expense, along with the license plate fee, insurance, gas, and maintenance. Cell phones? Gotta have one for the business. Home computer? The business just needed a new one so the "old" one can come home. Country club membership and monthly dues? That's essential for networking so it's paid by the business rather than with salary. If the business is a restaurant, the owner can bring home a couple steaks bought wholesale instead of running to the grocery store. There will be all sorts of additional creative accounting to keep money inside the business and not paid out in salary to the owner.

That income will never be taxed, no matter how many demands the business makes on public services -- university graduates educated at public expense, clean water, law enforcement, and so on. Senior citizens receiving pensions, though, have paid income taxes their entire lives. They're getting a break at the end, not a permanent free ride with a big loophole.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yi-ha Turd Blossom!

So Karl Rove is coming to Livingston County to talk to Republicans. Welcome, Karl!

I'm glad to hear you are coming to remind Michigan of all the good times under George Bush. You know, how he read the memo about Al Qaeda planning to attack the U.S. and ignored it a month before 9/11. Yeah, those were the days. Then there was the U.S. Attorney scandal, when federal prosecutors were fired because they didn't prosecute Democrats with significant zeal. What a great moment in American democracy! Oh yes, then there was the Valerie Plame scandal. Who could forget that triumph over tyranny? Leaking the name of a CIA agent to the media so that her mission was destroyed and the lives of all her contacts put in jeopardy. Boy, we haven't seen leadership like that lately.

That's just the domestic side. My gosh, I hope Americans never forget The Bush-Rove administration's accomplishments in foreign affairs. Those phony claims about Iraq's WMD's were absolutely essential to starting an unnecessary, unfunded war in Iraq that we're still paying the price (read that "borrowing the money") for. And the way you guys turned Gen. Colin Powell into a pimp for the big lie, what great TV that is for future generations.

And saving the best for last, how about that September 2008 financial scandal? Absolutely fantastic! Not very many presidents can claim to have presided over the near collapse of the world's financial system. I'll bet you have some great "fly-on-the-wall" memories from those heady days that I hope you'll share with the audience. Be sure to remind everybody that the multi-billion-dollar Wall Street bailout that everybody is so upset about happened under Bush. Those tea-baggers have such short memories, don't they?

Wow, I almost forgot. One other thing I really hope you'll do, Karl, is remind everybody about how the deficit really exploded under George. A lot of people forget how he inherited a budget surplus from Democratic President Bill Clinton and then proceded to turn it into
a $5 trillion dollar deficit. Let's not give all the credit to that Kenyan in the White House.

With so much to talk about and so many great memories to re-live, I really think Michigan residents are going to need more than just a little after dinner speech. So I think it's great that they'll get a free copy of your book just for showing up. That way, you can claim phony book sale figures that are lots higher than if people had to actually shell out money for it.

I do hope you'll come back real soon! Like in October 2012, just so people won't forget how great things were in the Golden Age of George.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Did Snyder Mislead on Film Credits?

One of the disturbing things about Rick Snyder's budget for Michigan is his decision to gut the incentives for the film industry, allowing just $25 million this year.

Chasing thousands of jobs out of the state and ending hundreds of millions of dollars worth of economic activity would be bad enough, but now it appears Snyder wasn't honest about it.

That would be bad enough but two separate individuals have now said publicly that Snyder told them in advance of the budget's release that he was not planning to drastically cut the program.

Jeff Daniels, the Chelsea-based actor, was the first to go public. The Detroit Free Press on Thursday (Feb.17, 2011) reported:

"'It's really disheartening,' Daniels said of Snyder's budget plan. 'It's not what he told me privately, so to be honest, I guess he's a politician after all. Say one thing, do another.'"

Then on Sunday, Free Press columnist Mitch Albom reported a similar conversation with Snyder. Albom wrote:

"As a person who helped create the film credits program, I asked for months to meet with Snyder to show they could be tightened but kept going. I finally was granted that meeting two weeks ago. Snyder told me, to my face, he planned to honor the commitments already made and allocate $100 million annually to the program -- a drop in the bucket of a $47-billion state budget. While this new cap represented a slowdown, I thought, in desperate times, it was almost enough to keep the new studios and work force going.

"Then, on Thursday, he announced his actual allocation to the film program: $25 million."

Albom also reported hearing from several others who were also told by Snyder that he did not intend to kill the program.

Albom and Daniels probably aren't lying. Two people who have separate conversations with Snyder and come away with the same impression amounts to pretty reliable evidence.

So we are left wondering what happened. Did Snyder intend to do what he told Daniels and Albom and then get talked out of by his recruits from the Gov. John Engler administration? If so, who's really in charge? Did he just make a mistake and have his figures wrong when he talked to Albom and Daniels? If so, he's not as great with numbers as he wants us to believe. Or did he hide the truth because he didn't want to have the uncomfortable task of admitting he was killing thousands of jobs? If so, he lacks the ourage of his convictions.

None of these scenarios -- and there probably are more -- is very comforting. Snyder needs to explain what happened if people are going to ever trust his word again.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mr. Numbers Guy Needs to Re-check His Figures

A lot has been made about Rick Snyder being a CPA and how great that was to have a CPA in charge of Michigan's budget. But it seems like this CPA doesn't understand either basic arithmetic or human behavior.

One of his great ideas for shifting the tax burden in this state from business to working people was to really sock it to the poorest working people he could find by ending the Earned Income Tax Credit. The credit supplements a federal Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor designed to keep them working and off welfare. It was such a good idea that even Ronald Reagan supported it. And it packs a strong economic punch. For every $1 the state spends on it, it generates $1.67 in economic activity. Nearly every cent is spent right in the state of Michigan. And it keeps about 25,000 people off welfare.

But in an interview with the Detroit Free Press, multi-millionaire Rick Snyder says that money doesn't matter to the working poor.

"It is really a federal program. You get $1 from the federal program and you got 20 cents more from the state. You stop and ask from a policy perspective, was anyone joining the EITC program to get those extra 20 cents? No. They were making the decision to get the dollar."

That extra 20 cents doesn't help people, doesn't motivate people? Maybe to help multi-millionaire Rick understand how the little people think, we should put it into business terms. Let's say some company, maybe one selling computers, say a 20 percent decline in sales of one of its products, like computer keyboards, would
the company CEO react? Wouldn't he or she want to know why? Or what if someone came to this CEO and said, I know how to increase our revenue on this particular piece of our business by 20 percent, wouldn't the smart CEO want to know how that could be done? Especially if the market was really, really tight and extra sales were hard to come by and the company needed every dime it could scrounge up?

But when it comes to working poor people, Snyder wants us to believe they don't need that extra 20 percent on one piece of their income. Why, they won't even notice it. Balderdash.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

In Wisconsin, It's Not About the Money

Some of the media is missing the point about what's going on in our neighboring state of Wisconsin. They're still referring to Republican Governor Scott Walker's bid to bust every public employee union in the state as part of a plan to balance the state budget. But that's not true. Not even close.

That should be clear to everybody since employee unions said they would agree to wage and salary concessions needed to balance the budget. But Walker rejected their offer. What he wants to do is dismantle the unions entirely.

On top of that is the matter that Walker himself created the budget deficit in order to make the concessions necessary in the first place. The state's budget was balanced until Walker took office and immediately put through three tax cuts, throwing the budget out of balance and requiring the concessions.

The bottom line, then, it not about money. It's about treating people like indentured servants instead of human beings with dignity. The Republican philosophy is that workers should take what they're offered and shut up, and the fact that they haven't had to do that is the cause of all our economic problems in this country.

Workers didn't cause this recession. Greedy bankers did. But bankers rarely go to prison in this country so somebody else has to be blamed and public employees are always handy targets.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Where Is Business' Share of the Sacrifice?

Zero taxes. That's what all but a handful of Michigan businesses will pay under Rick Snyder's revised Michigan Business Tax. They'll get the benefit of $1.8 billion in tax cuts, paid for by increases on senior citizens and the poorest working people in the state. And they'll sacrifice nothing.

That's because they're the "job providers." Except we don't know that they actually will provide any more jobs. Nationally, corporations have had record profits and yet aren't hiring people, preferring to sit on piles of cash.

So what are we really getting for our higher taxes? Not better schools that will help our future workers compete in the global marketplace. They are taking millions of dollars in cuts, even though the special fund set up for schools has hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus. Not better universities. Their budgets are being cut 15 percent, not counting the private donations that will be lost because the tax credits for donating to universities is being taken away. Better roads? Nope. Improved public safety? Not with cuts to local government. A wonderful natural environment? No, we're cutting those programs, too.

Jobs? Well, not if the behavior of companies nationally is any indication. What business would want to come to a state that is racing to the bottom in quality of life? We will pay more for fewer services, as local governments slash away.

Which is not exactly what Snyder's lieutenant governor promised. Brian Calley told a group in Holland that Snyder was going to balance the budget and cut taxes on business with an "all cuts" solution.

Didn't work out that way, did it?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Snyder's Budget Redistributes Wealth

Reading the Republican comments about anything President Obama ever says or does, I somehow got the impression that Republicans hated the idea of "redistribution of wealth." Remember Joe the Plumber and the firestorm that ensued?

So I was a little surprised at all the "redistribution of wealth" proposed in Rick Snyder's budget for the state of Michigan being released Thursday (Feb. 17, 2011).

The way I read the Free Press article, there's about $1.7 billion in redistribution of wealth going on in that budget as taxes are raised on individuals and eliminated on all except publicly traded corporations.

Nearly $1 billion of that comes from taxing people who live on fixed incomes -- people living on pensions that they earned over a lifetime of work.

Somehow, I think Republicans will decide this kind of redistribution of wealth is just fine with them.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Snyder's Tax on Grandma Shows How Moderate He Is

After winning the Republican nomination for governor and then the Michigan governorship without having to utter a peep about what he stands for, Rick Snyder finally has had to show his true colors with his state budget.

In a nutshell, Snyder thinks Michigan should raise taxes on senior citizens in order to give tax breaks to businesses. Snyder wants to tax Grandma.

The Detroit Free Press says Snyder will propose ending the state income tax break on retiree pensions and IRA withdrawals.

Snyder's administration says the $1 billion tax increase on senior citizens would offset the $1.5 billion hole in the budget left by eliminating the Michigan Business Tax. So Grandma and Grandpa will be paying the taxes that used to be paid by Walmart.

Apparently, Snyder thinks the way to attract business is to drive away people. Some of those senior citizens also have residences in Florida, which has no state income tax. Michigan's tax break for senior citizens leveled the playing field and encouraged many to keep a residence in Michigan. This could put some of them over the edge, encouraging them to give up their Michigan residency.

The news media has consistently referred to Snyder as a "moderate." Wonder if they'll keep it up now that "moderate" means taxing Grandma.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cleaning Up Cindy Denby's Mess

Livingston County taxpayers have just made a $100,000 installment on a multi-million-dollar problem.

Their elected representatives -- the all-Republican Livingston County Commission -- has decided to give $100,000 to Handy Township for legal fees over an uncompleted sewer line. The line was part of an expansion the township was constructing for a private developer. The bonds were backed by the county, which puts all county taxpayers on the hook for paying them off. The first construction company failed to complete the sewer line and walked away in 2008. The second one hired to finish the job also gave up on it and its owner says the county failed to inform it of numerous difficulties with the project when the company bid on it. Now the matter is in the courts, and Handy Township needed money for legal fees.

Whose idea was this mess anyway?

Why, none other than Livingston County's own Rep. Cindy Denby. The so-called conservative Republican lawmaker was township supervisor when the project was initiated. She was in charge when the township, with a population of roughly 7,000, decided it needed not one, not two, but three more subdivisions in the township, (on top of another one in the village of Fowlerville.) Combined, they would have added thousands more households to the 2,500 in the townships. Even as the auto industry shed thousands of jobs in Michigan that decade, Denby listened to the snake oil sales pitch private developers were giving and decided to build sewer lines for the developers' pipe dreams without getting any financial guarantees from them. Denby's "conservative" Republican buddies on the Livingston County Commission aided and abetted the plan, giving county backing to the bonds. Now the township can't make its payments to the county for the bonds because the projects failed.

Now that the chickens have come home to roost, Denby has moved on. Voters rewarded her by electing her state representative in 2008 and then re-elected her in 2010.

Because she is "conservative."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bonuses Not Just Good for Auto Workers

The recent news that workers for Chrysler and General Motors will receive bonuses is good news for everybody.

Who knows exactly what the hourly workers will do with their bonuses. Since GM workers aren't getting raises, some might feel compelled to just sock the extra money away. But I'll bet at least a few of them spend a few dollars celebrating -- a nice dinner out, new clothes for the kids, or whatever. And of course they'll pay more state income taxes than they would have otherwise, helping the state's bottom line.

A lot of the money will find its way into the coffers of conservative business owners who are mad that the companies are still in business and that the workers still have jobs. So will they have the courage of their convictions and tell the autoworkers to keep their money and take their business elsewhere?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why are Laptops for Students a Bad Idea NOW?

Livingston County residents are having a cow over the decision of Pinckney Community School officials to give students a 21st century learning tool -- a laptop.

Commentators on the local newspaper's site have a variety of "arguments" against buying laptops -- the students don't need laptops to take home because they can just use desktop computers in the schools; they don't need computers at all unless their parents can afford to buy them one, and one of my favorites, Einstein was really smart and he didn't have a laptop.

I wonder how these commentators would feel if they knew that this was Newt Gingrich's idea? Back in 1995, Gingrich proposed giving laptops to the poor, at a time when internet access in the U.S. and technological competence among teachers and parents was far less widespread than it is now. By 2001, he was saying every student should have a laptop.

So now that it is an idea that came from a "conservative," does that make it all better?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Where Were 'Second Amendment Remedies' in Egypt's Revolt?

The right wing is really confused right now. They love to demand "freedom" for themselves, but as they watch Egyptians celebrate after overthrowing their dictator, they are really stumped.

Freedom is good, but since this happened under President Obama, they have to find a way to criticize it to keep their followers convinced that the entire world is going to hell in a hand basket under Obama.

Freedom is good, but lots of the Egyptians are Muslims and of course the right wing has to keep everyone afraid of Muslims constantly or pretty soon they'll be able to build mosques anywhere and worship as they please in this country. Of course, the right wing can't have that because fear of other people is one thing that keeps the right wing together.

Freedom is good, but you have to have your own personal AK-47 to protect it from the big, bad government. But these Muslims, whom the right-wing tells us are inherently violent and evil and out to destroy freedom, didn't use any AK-47s to bring off their revolt. They just peaceably assembled.

And that is really confusing for the right wing. How do they argue that they need "Second Amendment Remedies" here in the United States when Egyptians were able to topple an entrenched dictator without firing a shot? How do they argue there can be absolutely no restrictions on gun ownership (while there are plenty of restrictions on our other freedoms under the Bill or Rights), when it is possible to change the government with just free speech and free assembly?

Confusion reigns.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Do Conservatives Know 'First Responders' Are Really Public Employees?

These days, there is no one that conservatives love to hate more than public employees. Overpaid, underworked, sucking money out of the economy, blah, blah, blah. Michigan's Rick Snyder stoked the flames of this hatred with his recent phony report on how public sector pay is out of whack with private sector workers.

And, no, I don't think "hatred" is too strong a word. Just read the comments on the Livingston Press and Argus website and you'll see what I mean. Commentators are gleeful over the possibility of inflicting misery in the form of massive layoffs on public employees.

So why then is the local community holding an elegant affair honoring "first responders" who handled the Oct. 10 car accident on U.S. 23 that took 5 lives. It's a $35 per person event at Crystal Gardens no less, one of the county's most elegant venues. I certainly think it's well deserved and entirely appropriate.

But I hope all those conservatives who are so anxious to slash the pay of public employees know who these "first responders" are: members of the Green Oak Township Police, the Green Oak Township Fire Department, Livingston County Central Dispatch and Livingston County EMS. All public employees.

Of course, part of the reason conservative attacks on public workers are so effective is that conservatives demonize and dehumanize public employees to the point that they are not recognizable as people we know and rely on for services that we appreciate. It's always easier to attack nasty, made-up abstractions, and Republicans are good at setting them up and selling them to the public -- a public who thinks their house is never going to catch on fire, they will never be in a car accident, they will never need an ambulance ride to the hospital for chest pains. Until they do.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mike Rogers Shares Embarassment for Failure of Patriot Act Renewal

Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers has been crowing about being head of the House Intelligence Committee, which sort of makes him partly responsible for preventing terrorist attacks against the U.S.

So why is it we haven't heard a peep out of Rogers after the House failed to approve extending the Patriot Act this week? Especially since he was a co-sponsor of the measure that went down to defeat?

Can you imagine the attacks impugning the patriotism of Democrats had they been in charge when the Patriot Act came up for renewal and was defeated?

It's not as if Rogers has been too busy to talk to anybody. He had time to send out an email Wednesday (February 9, 2011) touting a hearing he is going to have on terrorism. Not a word about the Patriot Act going down to defeat, though. Isn't he outraged? If not, why not?

Has the local media asked Rogers for his reaction to the defeat, asked him to explain why it lost and whether it means that House Republicans are soft on terror? What did Mike Rogers do to round up votes for the measure? Isn't it sort of important to his committee? Did Rogers even lift a finger to help this bill pass? If not, why not? As he likes to remind us so much, Rogers is the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

On his website, Rogers makes it sound like he wrote the Patriot Act originally. His biography says:

"In Congress, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mike’s expertise was sought out during development of the USA PATRIOT Act, which gives law enforcement the tools necessary for tracking terrorists with today’s technology. Mike’s expertise proved invaluable in understanding how wiretaps are obtained and used, the complex checks and balances that prevent abuse of wire taps, and why the rules based on 1970s technology were no longer applicable in the day of cell phones and the Internet."

So Rogers obviously thinks the Patriot Act is important. Yet when members of his own party reject the renewal of the act, Rogers says nothing. He's not worried about the nation having "the tools necessary for tracking terrorists with today's technology"?

There are legitimate concerns about the provisions of the act and its impact on Americans' freedom. (Yes, freedom means more than just not paying taxes.)

But Rogers and his leadership brought the bill he co-sponsored to the floor without having the votes lined up and that's a reflection on his competence. If he and the rest of the House leadership can't count votes, how can he keep us safe?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Another Film Tax Credit Success Endangered by GOP

Can Michigan afford to shed another 50 jobs? Michigan Republicans think so. As they prepare to kill off the Michigan film tax credit, the Detroit Free Press reports that a Livonia film studio, Maxsar, has already hired 50 people and plans to have 100 employees by the end of the year.

That's Michigan talent, not California talent. Fifty Michigan people who didn't have to move away from their families to get work, whose pay checks are being spent at Michigan businesses and to pay Michigan taxes.

But the supposedly business-friendly Republicans are preparing to drive those jobs away.

According to the Free Press:

"Like others in the industry, Martinez is waiting to see whether changes will be made to the film incentives. Rumors about the demise of the tax breaks have already caused headaches for his business, generating fear among employees and investors.

"'We cannot make the investment to buy (the buildings) until we know the tax credit is stable,' the Northville resident said. 'If they are going to change the law, tell us now. We need some stability.'

"If the tax breaks are eliminated or scaled back significantly, Martinez said, at least half the studio's 50 employees would leave Michigan."

So that's what happens when Republican rhetoric meets reality. Michigan jobs go elsewhere.

A Reagan Memory People Like to Forget

There's been plenty of happy-talk remembering of Ronald Reagan this month, the 100th anniversary of his birth.

But people seem to be suffering from selective memories, especially when it comes to the tax cuts, which were supposed to have ignited the economy without ballooning the deficit.

But after Reagan's tax cuts passed, Michigan's unemployment rate didn't go down -- it hit 17.5 percent. Some boom.

Haven't seen that in any of the celebratory coverage.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Michigan Looking Good in Super Bowl Ads

Michigan companies took advantage of the Super Bowl to put themselves on a big stage, and none more so than Chrysler.

Chrysler's spot featuring Eminem and the new Chrysler 200 Sedan was spectacular. The visuals built to a nice climax, the "Imported from Detroit" tag. And what a contrast to that wimpy, generic ad for BMW, bragging about making cars in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Nice that a foreign country has hired some locals to put their cars together. Chrysler's message was we design them here from the ground up. And we have for a long time.

Chevrolet's ads also were impressive. The pickup ad was clever, the ones for the Chevrolet Cruze, especially the one featuring the Facebook status update app, marks the car as appealing to young people. The ads definitely show that General Motors finally has moved away from its stodgy advertising of the past.

Ford's ad on the Focus race is one I'm not sure about. I didn't learn a lot about the product, but if it succeeds in drawing people to the website to follow the race, it could pay big dividends down the road.

Overall, I was a little overwhelmed at all the ads for movies about being invaded by aliens that seem to be on the verge of being released. I got tired of all the Fox promos for the network's shows. The Doritos commercials were a little creepy. Bud Light's commercial featuring the dogs at the party was cute.

And the game, yeah, that was really good, too.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Won the Lottery!

I won the lottery and I didn’t even know it. I realize that happens all the time – people buy a ticket, forget about it, and then discover days, weeks, or months later, that their numbers came up and they go cash in. But this is different. I won the lottery and I’ve been reaping the benefits day in, day out for decades now and never realized it.

I won the lottery. Not the Mega-Millions that only has drawings a couple times a week and then pays you for just 20 years.

No, I won the lottery the day I was born so many years ago today. I won the birth lottery, the one in this country that says, if you’re born white, you automatically win, you are at the top of the heap in terms of privilege in our society. And I was born white, purely by chance, through no effort of my own. That’s why it’s a lottery, a game of chance and not skill.

The black intellectual and leader W.E.B. DuBois had a name for this idea that being born white, or considered white by other whites, had value. He called it "the wages of whiteness." Books have been written about how "the wages of whiteness" were defined and paid out in everyday life throughout our nation’s history. Southern states were particularly good at keeping the masses of whites dirt poor but making it clear that although they were poor, they were still white and therefore better than others. Elsewhere, immigrant groups, such as the Irish, had to prove they deserved the wages of whiteness because whiteness isn’t just about skin color, but about being labeled white by those who matter – people who are already white.

The wages of whiteness aren’t quite as high as they were even 50 years ago due to slowly changing racial attitudes, but they remain real. Since I was born white, I was born into a neighborhood that had far less crime and better schools, giving me a head start in staying out of trouble, finishing school, and going on to college. Since I don’t look Latino, no one has ever questioned whether I’m in this country legally. If Michigan passes the Arizona-style immigration law that the far-right fringe demands, I won’t have to worry about carrying my passport around to prove I’m a citizen because I "look American." Since I have white skin, shopkeepers won’t keep a little closer eye on me in their store than they would otherwise fearing I will steal something. Since I’m white, nobody gives me a second glance when I walk down the sidewalks of our community.

Yes, I know we have a president who is African American. But Barack Obama helps prove the wages of whiteness theory. Would anyone have questioned his citizenship had both his parents been white instead of only one? Would millions of Americans have bought into that nonsense?

I won the lottery, for sure. Everyday, I try to remember that I didn’t do anything to deserve it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where Were the Biggest Job Losses in 2010?

A lot of conservatives are hyperventilating right now about that intellectually dishonest comparison of private sector and public sector jobs that Rick Snyder put out earlier this week.

So they probably would be surprised to find out where the single largest loss of jobs occurred last year.

In government. Yeah, in government.

According to final employment statistics for 2010, Michigan lost 15,000 jobs in government last year, more than any other sector, including manufacturing. Here's what the AP said:

"Over the course of 2010, the biggest employment loss was in government, which saw 15,000 jobs disappear. Michigan also lost 5,000 jobs in financial activities, 3,000 in information, 2,000 in construction and 1,000 in trade, transportation and utilities during the year. Professional and business services also lost 1,000 jobs.

"During that period, Michigan gained 11,000 manufacturing jobs. Natural resources and mining, education and health services and other services each gained 1,000 jobs."

Didn't see that in Snyder's report. Guess it wouldn't help his cause any.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How Many McDonald's Does the State Operate?

Rick Snyder's comparison of public sector and private sector pay is music to the ears of those who hate public employees -- the people who plow our roads, keep us safe, teach us children, staff our prisons and so on.

But while it sounds good, it's not an honest comparison.

By looking at the entire private sector, the report includes all the minimum-wage workers at fast-food restaurants and other low-skilled operations. The last time I checked, state and local governments didn't operate many of those establishments. I've never been in a state-owned McDonald's, for example.

Public employment is far more likely to require a college education or other post-high school education than many of the jobs in the private sector. Yet that wasn't taken into account.

That would have ruined the results, of course. A great example of deciding on the conclusion you want and working backwards from there. That sort of intellectual dishonesty isn't worthy of a governor.