Friday, January 13, 2012

Maybe Now Bridge Owner Will Pay Attention

Matty Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, has had things his way for a long time. His money, distributed in the form of campaign contributions to Michigan lawmakers, helped him block attempts to build a publicly-owned bridge across the Detroit River to Canada earlier this year. His personal greed stood in the way of a project that many businesses see as vital to continuing trade between Canada and the U.S.

But his money didn't keep him out of jail. A judge Thursday ordered Moroun to jail for contempt of court because he hasn't complied with an agreement with the state of Michigan regarding construction of approaches to his existing bridge.

There may still be further delays, and his money may get him out of jail sooner than someone else. But still, it's nice to know that the court system is still just a little bit blind to money, that not every lever of power in our society is controlled by those with the most money.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Republicans' 11th Commandment Is Dead and Here's the Proof

Ronald Reagan used to lecture other Republicans to follow the 11th Commandment -- Speak no ill of another Republican.

Well, for all the love Republicans say they have for Reagan, they're not paying any attention to that anymore. The nastiness of the Republican presidential nominating process is proof of that, especially as the also-rans begin to take aim at front-runner Mitt Romney.

The harshest critism lately is coming from Newt Gingrich and his supporters. A political action committee named Winning the Future has placed a half-hour film about Romney and his years as a "vulture capitalist" (Rick Perry's word) with Bain Capital.

Called, "King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town," the film lays out the devastating consequences of Romney-led takeovers of firms employing thousands of workers.

Watch it here. And spread the word.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Low Standards for Grading Snyder

Rick Snyder drew an easy grader when the Detroit Free Press recently decided to editorialize about his first year in office.

The newspaper graded Snyder in several categories regarding his performance, including "Jobs," "Kids," and "Leadership."

For some reason, the editorial writer thought Snyder deserved a "B" for his policies regarding the health and welfare of Michigan's children. That is hard to fathom when you look at the record.

The editorial has a vague reference to "strict new four-year limits on cash welfare." Translated, that means some 12,000 children in families who will lose cash assistance if a court challenge fails. That's a heartless decision that will have devastating consequences on the "health and welfare" of those children whose families suddenly will have no money for rent, few prospects for employment in a slowly-recovering economy, and few resources to fall back on.

For children in working families, Snyder slashed the Earned Income Tax Credit from 20 percent of the federal amount to 6 percent. Those dollars helped families get by when paychecks just won't stretch to cover everything and Snyder's action raised taxes by $330 million on nearly 800,000 working families, including many with children. The tax credit meant an average of $432 for working families who were on the edge of poverty even with a job. Without the tax credit, some 14,000 children may cross the line into poverty, despite having parents who are working. And businesses will lose customers, since ever $1 spent on the Earned Income Tax Credit generated $1.67 of economic activity in Michigan.

Snyder also tried to make it harder for people to qualify for food stamps by trying to force families to sell their cars. That counterproductive policy would have made it harder for people to get to work, look for work, or go to school so they can find a better job and not need food stamps.

And for this Snyder gets a "B." What does a guy have to do to earn a failing grade?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Why Iowa Matters and Why It Doesn't

Here's something you might now know about the Iowa Republican caucuses, even though the event has consumed political reporters and bloggers for the last eight days.

No matter who comes in first tonight, none of the candidates will have a lead in the number of delegates needed to win the Republican nomination for the presidency. That's because tonight's "balloting" has no connection whatsoever with the actual awarding of delegates for the nomination. Zero. Zip. Nada.

The Republican caucuses are merely a straw poll of the presidential preferences of those who attend the party meetings held in every voting precinct in Iowa. They don't count in the awarding of the state party's delegates to the Republican National Convention. Not at all.

That's different from the Democratic caucuses that Iowa also holds every four years. Democrats in Iowa use the caucuses to start the process of awarding delegates to candidates. Republicans don't.

Either way, the caucuses still matter because they demonstrate whether a candidate has put together an organization to carry him or her the distance. The caucuses give candidates a chance to test drive that organization, their message, their appeal to voters, and so on. And since Iowans traditionally responded more to retail, face-to-face politics than to big, expensive advertising buys, candidates who had few resources could campaign in Iowa and hope that lightning would strike.

That's changed somewhat this year, as most candidates made little attempt to woo voters in person or build a grssroots organization to get supporters to the caucus sites and chose to spend big on advertising. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum were the exceptions and late polling shows it is paying off for them.

While Democrats don't have a contested caucus this time around, they are still having party meetings in every precinct in the state in order to begin electing the delegates who will officially nominate President Obama next September. This is a chance for them to build their organization for identifying supporters and getting them out, a dry-run for next November.

The Obama campaign reminded its supporters of that with an email Tuesday (Jan. 3, 2012) that included a video done by the New York Times highlighting the work of Obama volunteers in the state. You'll have your chance to turn out for Obama in Michigan on May 5, when the Michigan Democratic Party holds its caucuses so mark your calendars.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Time to Pull the Plug on Johnson's Free Air Time

When Richard Austin was Michigan's secretary of state, Republicans like Candice Miller lambasted him for having his name on the outside of offices where Michigan residents went to renew their driver's licenses and conduct other business. Campaigning on the taxpayer's dime, they insisted.

The current Republican holding the office, however, has found a way to campaign on the taxpayers' dime that goes far beyond putting the name of the Secretary of State on the Secretary of State buildings.

Ruth Johnson has put herself on television, for free, inside the buildings where Michigan residents are forced to watch her over and over while they wait to renew their licenses.

Johnson cut commercials urging people to sign up to become organ donors. The commercialsl play on television monitors arranged in front of the seating areas in Secretary of State offices.

Increasing organ donor sign-ups is an admirable goal, but Johnson's commercials are not particularly effective. Johnson is in no position to appeal to a person's altruisim. A far better appeal could have been made by someone who received an organ as a result of someone signing up to be a donor, someone living a
better life than they otherwise would be without the gift of an organ.

That leads me to suspect that the goal of these commercials is not so much to increase organ donation sign-ups, as it is to put Johnson's mug in front of voters over and over so that they remember her name come election time.

Johnson should pull the plug on her taxpayer-paid commercials. Let the facts of organ donation speak for themselves without the subliminal political message.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 New Year's Resolution -- Resolve to Run for Office

New Year's Day is the traditional day of turning over a new leaf, getting a new start, taking a first step toward a better you, the day for test-driving your New Year's Resolutions.

Losing weight, giving up cigarettes, exercising more. Those are the things that show up on many lists of resolutions. But this year, why not aim bigger?

Instead of making yourself better in 2012, why not focus on making your community healthier, stronger, more attractive?

Why not resolve to run for office? We all know President Obama will be on the ballot in November, but so will dozens of local offices, from township trustee to county commissioner to state representative. We don't want President Obama to be lonely on the Democratic side of the ballot in Livingston County so Livingston County Democrats will be encouraging people to run for many of these seats. And you can help us, either by committing to run yourself or by enouraging someone else to run.

You can do that by thinking about the people you know, from your workplace, clubs, churches, neighborhood, and so on. Surely someone has impressed you with their common sense and concern for their community. Suggest they think about running and see what their reaction is. Bring it up again later. People often find it flattering to be considered candidate material.

Livingston County Democrats will be holding candidate recruitment meetings in late winter to talk more about what's involved in running for office and what office might be a good fit for you or someone you know. We'll update you on the date and time as it gets closer.

In the meantime, resolve to give it some thought.