Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday Before Retail-Palooza Weekend

Tis the season for giving thanks for our blessings, so today's roundup of interesting items from the internet begins with the giving of thanks to some special people.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom

President Obama presented the nation's highest civilian award to 18 people yesterday. Of that amazing group, three are Michiganders. Here's what the President had to say about them, from the official White House transcript of the presentation ceremonies:

Stevlund Judkins a.k.a. Stevie Wonder (born in Saginaw)

Don't get Michelle talking about Stevie Wonder now. (Laughter.) Early copies of Stevie Wonder’s classic album Talking Book had a simple message, written in Braille: “Here is my music. It is all I have to tell you how I feel. Know that your love keeps my love strong.” This is, by the way, the first album I ever bought with my own money. I was 10 years old, maybe 11, with my own cash. I didn't have a lot of it. And I listened to that -- that thing got so worn out, had all scratches. Young people, you won’t remember this, but you’d have albums. (Laughter.) And they’d get scratched. 
For more than 50 years, Stevie has channeled his “Innervisions” into messages of hope and healing, in becoming one of the most influential musicians in American history.
A musical prodigy with an electrifying voice, Stevie’s blend of R&B, and jazz, and funk, and blues, and soul, and whatever else you've got, speaks of love and loss, justice and equality, war and peace. But what really defines Stevie’s music is the warmth and humanity that resonate in every note. Some of his songs helped us to fall in love. Others mended our hearts. Some motivated us on the campaign trail. (Laughter.) And thanks to Stevie, all of us have been moved to higher ground.

Marlo Thomas (born in Dearborn)

To some, Marlo Thomas will always be “That Girl,” who followed her dreams to New York City and kind of was running around Manhattan, having fun, on her own terms. To others, she’s the creative mind behind “Free to Be … You and Me,” whose songs taught a generation of kids that they were strong and beautiful, just the way they were.
 As a founder of the “Ms. Foundation,” Marlo helped turn women’s hopes and aspirations into concrete social and economic progress. And she’s helped build the hospital her father founded, St. Jude’s, into one of the premier pediatric hospitals in the world. She recalls her dad saying, “There are two types of people in the world: the givers and the takers. The takers sometimes eat better, but the givers always sleep better.” I love that saying. Marlo Thomas sleeps very well because she’s given so much.

John Dingell (born in Colorado, represented Michigan in Congress for 59 years)

When John Dingell’s father, a New Deal Democrat, passed away in 1955, John stepped up. And over the course of six decades -– a congressional career longer than any in history -– John built a peerless record of his own. He gaveled in the vote for Medicare, helped lead the fight for the Civil Rights Act. For more than half a century, in every single Congress, John introduced a bill for comprehensive health care. That is, until he didn’t have to do it anymore. (Laughter and applause.)
 I could not have been prouder to have John by my side when I signed the Affordable Care Act into law. John will retire at the end of this session, but at 88, he’s still going strong. And his life reminds us that change takes time; it takes courage and persistence. But if we push hard enough and long enough, change is possible.




The Blue Wall ... of Doom ... for the National GOP

Michigan Republicans, along with their counterparts in several other states, want to change the Electoral College so the losing presidential candidate (presumably a Republican) would still get some of the states' electoral votes. The motivation, according to a Republican columnist in the Houston Chronicle, is that without a change it is becoming virtually impossible for a Republican to be elected President.
Columnist Chris Ladd posits that any mainstream Democrat goes into the campaign with a virtual lock on 253 of the 270 electoral votes needed to become President. The map tells the story:
"Republicans," Ladd writes, "are disappearing from the competitive landscape at the national level across the most heavily populated sections of the country while intensifying their hold on a declining electoral bloc of aging, white, rural voters. The 2014 election not only continued that doomed pattern, it doubled down on it."
The "Blue Wall" of Democratic dominance does not include Virginia, a state that has moved further towards Democrats in the last several elections. Throw in that state's 13 electoral votes and you have 270 in the Blue column, meaning Democratic victory for the White House.
"This means that the next Presidential election, and all subsequent ones until a future party realignment, will be decided in the Democratic primary. Only by sweeping all nine of the states that remain in contention AND also flipping one impossibly Democratic state can a Republican candidate win the White House. What are the odds that a Republican candidate capable of passing muster with 2016 GOP primary voters can accomplish that feat? You do the math."

Voodoo Economics for Roads

House Speaker Jase Bolger is floating a plan to raise $1-billion for roads without raising taxes. His solution: convert the 6% sales tax on fuel into a fuel tax, and count on economic growth to make up the difference. In other words, continue to underfund things like K-12 and higher education and say we've solved the problem.
"You'd have a billion dollars more for roads and you'd have a billion dollars more for schools and you wouldn't raise taxes," Bolger told The Detroit News, thanks to projected growth in sales tax receipts.
It's thinking like this, during the Engler administration, that put Michigan in a deep hole. Engler passed politically popular tax cuts during his administration to shore up GOP strength at the polls (the tax cuts didn't become effective until he left office), then headed to Washington D.C. while the Granholm administration had to deal with both declining state tax collections AND the implosion of the domestic auto industry.
Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) sums up the problem concisely: "I can't imagine there's many people who think that just funding schools based on faith-based economics is a good idea. Any proposal that doesn't actually raise new revenue is not a serious proposal for road funding."
Mike Thompson - Detroit Free Press

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