Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thursday in the InterLinks

The Curmudgeon is warming up for a legislative hearing today on a package of bills that would liberate peer-to-peer ride-sharing through Uber and Lyft throughout Michigan. The Curmudgeon is a part-time Uber driver and has joined with the Mackinac Center in espousing the free-market principles ... at least, in this case. To be continued...

Halfway Half-Hearted Civil Rights

Legislation introduced for the lame duck session says it's OK to be gay in Michigan, just as long as you aren't too gay.
Rep. Frank Foster learned the
hard way that opposing bigotry
can cost you an election.
The latest Republican effort at inclusion also says it's OK to be a gay-basher if God tells you it is OK. Religious freedom, after all, includes the freedom to be a bigot. So sayeth Jase Bolger, lame duck Speaker of the House, who worries that a baker might be forced to sell a cake against his/her will for a gay marriage. Really. 
The revised "civil rights" bill also does not cover sexual identity, so it would perpetuate and perhaps codify discrimination against transgender (second-class) citizens of Pure Michigan. Republicans are spooked by the fact that Rep. Frank Foster, who introduced a no-exceptions LGBTQ Civil Rights bill, lost his primary to a tea party zealot who's afraid The Gay will rub off on our kids or something. So Foster has scaled back his commitment to individual freedoms, something that will probably kill the bill completely as most Democrats say "no thanks" to half-hearted half-baked civil liberties.
And so Michigan will likely remain one of those states where you can lose your job or lose your home because you are gay.
Meanwhile, Kellogg's of Battle Creek is drawing heat from conservatives
for its open support of diversity. As far as The Curmudgeon is concerned,
They're Grrrrrreat!

New Senate Majority Leader: Hardcore Conservative

Thanks to gerrymandering, the new Michigan State Senate will be even more right-wing than ever. Despite barely winning half the votes in the election, Republicans will control the chamber 27-11 making Democrats virtually irrelevant to the process.
The new majority leader is the guy who pushed through right-to-work-for-less legislation, and will do everything he can to circumvent women's constitutional rights regarding health care. And that's because the Bible, not the Constitution, is his guide.
New Senate GOP Leader Arlan Meekhof,
in a rare pose, looks to the left.
The new wingnut-in-charge is Arlan Meekhof. He's going to make Randy Richardville, the term-limited GOP leader right now, look like a flaming liberal.
While he is a fervent right-to-life zealot, Meekhof's appreciation of life apparently doesn't include sick people. He was one of the leading opponents of expanding Medicaid in Michigan, something that has made healthcare accessible to around 500,000 low-income working people. (The expansion covered people whose income was too high under previous Medicaid standards, but made too little to be able to buy health insurance. People on welfare already had coverage.)
He also is willing to march to the tune whistled by corporate Michigan. Given his west Michigan roots, that likely means clearing everything with the Dick DeVos, the primary financial backer of the Michigan Republican Party.

Be Wary of a Sales Tax Increase

As the debate begins on transportation funding, be suspicious of any GOP talk related to raising the sales tax to pay for road repairs.
The sales tax is preferred by the GOP for two reasons:
It polls well, perhaps because of the appearance that "poor people" and "out-of-staters" will be picking up the tab for the rest of us
It falls hardest on lower income people, barely hitting the wealthy at all
Yes, the sales tax is what's called a regressive tax: the more you earn, the less you pay. That's because high income families spend a much smaller percentage of their incomes on taxable stuff. And a lot of their spending isn't subject to the sales tax: services such as massages, recreational pursuits such as golfing greens fees and ski-lift tickets, theatre tickets or Lions/Tigers/Pistons/Red Wings/Spartans/Wolverine tickets. Low-income people don't buy that tax-free stuff because it's expensive.
According to the non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, families in the bottom 20% pay 6.7% of their incomes in Michigan's sales and excise taxes. Families in the top 1% pay just 0.9%. In contrast, the income tax is somewhat progressive: the bottom 20% pay 0.9% of household income, the top 1% pay 3.5%. So any changes to the income tax rate will probably be a reduction, because that's what is best for the wealthy.
Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy

The Bloated Calf

Yesterday we learned the new Chancellor of the failed Education Achievement Authority, currently responsible for the education of 7,200 students in the state-hijacked Detroit school system, will be paid $325,000 plus an $8,000 car allowance.
Valerie Conforme gets $325,000 as the
Snyder administration's hand-picked
boss for Detroit Schools
A reader was kind enough to point out that this salary for Ms. Conforme is roughly 75% higher than the salary paid for the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mike Flanagan. Of course Flanagan was hired by the State Board of Education which is not controlled by the Governor's office, but by Democrats. Once again it pays to be a Snyder appointee.
Mike Flanagan is responsible for all K-12 schools in
Michigan, gets paid $186,000

A Win for Organized Labor

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Volkswagen will recognize the UAW as bargaining agent for its assembly workers in Tennessee. This will come as a huge blow to Republicans in that state, led by Sen. Bob Corker, who used lies and coercion to beat a union organizing drive earlier this year. The agreement was made in Germany, where VW has had longstanding union representation of its workers and enjoys a positive relationship with the UAW (similar to the UAW partnerships with GM and Ford in Michigan).

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