Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Michigan PoliLinks

Today is "Repeal Day" in recognition of the ratification of the only U.S. Constitutional Amendment that repealed another amendment.
On December 5, 1933 Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st amendment which repealed the 18th amendment, thus ending Prohibition. For those who constantly justify heinous behavior based on the Constitution, we should remember that it has been amended 27 times, meaning we as a nation decided 27 times something wasn't right with the Constitution because things evolve.
So don't tell The Curmudgeon that we can't do anything about rampant gun deaths because a bunch of old, rich white men decided 230 years ago to put a comma in the middle of the 2nd amendment.

And in honor of "Repeal Day" The Curmudgeon will probably down a few stiff ones because of all the harm being done to our state and our democracy this week by the Michigan Legislature.


Magic Fairy Dust Transportation Plan Advances

Lame duck House Speaker Jase Bolger has decided that we can put nearly $1-billion into road repairs by simply siphoning sales tax money collected on gasoline sales away from schools and local governments. It's the "free lunch" plan for running government.
His rationale is that projections show significant increases in the school aid fund over the next few years (thanks to the Obama recovery, now in its fifth year). He forgets that schools and local governments were devastated by cuts over the last decade thanks to 1) the Bush Great Recession, and 2) Engler-imposed tax cuts that went into effect after King John left town. Rather than letting them begin to heal by benefitting from the improved economy, he prefers to let them wallow in mediocrity because roads are important, kids and cops not-so-much.
The state House has passed Bolger's plan to phase out the sales tax on gasoline over six years, raising the wholesale gas tax an equivalent amount, and earmarking all the money for road repairs. The bill passed with all Democrats and three Republicans voting no. It passed around 9 p.m. last night, almost the exact moment another type of transportation plan was being broadcast on NBC: Tinkerbell used her Magic Fairy Dust so that the Darling children could to fly to Never-Never Land with Peter Pan.
The bill goes to the Senate which, in a rare moment of fiscal reality, has voted to raise the wholesale gasoline tax to actually have the money to pay for the priorities of road repair AND K-12 education AND local police/fire/road repair.

This is bill is not a solution to our deteriorating transportation infrastructure. The bill robs Peter to pay Paul by diverting revenue that should be going to our already under-funded schools and cities,” said Nathan Triplett of Priorities Michigan (and also Mayor of East Lansing).
Legislators have already cut billions of dollars from revenue sharing to our communities in the last decade and millions more from education. Michiganders deserve better than a short-sighted gimmick that legislators are masquerading as a long-term fix to our crumbling infrastructure.”
One of the excuses used by Republicans in supporting the Fairy Dust Transportation Plan was "anger" that some transportation money goes to transportation in the form of mass transit, non-motorized pathways and airports. Apparently Republicans have forgotten that it's called a Department of TRANSPORTATION, not a Department of ROADS AND BRIDGES.
Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) summed up the reality of the legislation elegantly when he said "the bill should have been referred to the Committee on Hocus Pocus rather than discharged to the floor and dignified with a vote."
The three Republicans voting against the bill were Dave Pagel (R-Oronoko Twp.), Paul Muxlow (R-Brown City) and Bob Genetski (R-Saugatuck). 

Clean Energy from Polluting

The state House has decided that burning trash is a form of "renewable" energy, sending to the Senate a bill that counts fuel derived from burning garbage as a renewable energy source. Environmentalists call the concept "irresponsible." The Curmudgeon calls it "creatively insane."
Renewable energy resource?
Some forms of energy derived from trash, specifically methane produced in landfills, are classified as renewable energy. Landfill-produced gas has special status because it actually takes a pollutant and eliminates it in an environmentally responsible way (powering electric generators). The toxic byproducts in the landfill gas is filtered out.
HB 5205 takes the concept to a new extreme, allowing polluters to burn tires, construction debris or water bottles and call it 'renewable energy.' Lisa Wozniak of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters said the bill is "nothing more than a dangerous plan to pollute our air, land and water. It sets a dangerous precedent by changing the scientific definition of renewable energy."
The bill was supported by a the chemical industry, as well as Michigan State University.

That Obama Economic Failure

For five years Republicans have been telling us about the failure of the Obama economic program, and the "train wreck" that is Obamacare.
A lot of Americans buy their story, based on the President's approval ratings hovering in the mid 40s month after month. But the reality is so different.
Today the Department of Labor released the monthly employment figures showing 321,000 jobs were added to the economy in November, and the unemployment rate has dipped to 5.8%. It also reported hourly earnings up 0.4% during the month (an annualized rate of nearly 5%). It is the 57th consecutive month of job growth, the longest such streak in U.S. history. In that time, the U.S. economy has added 10.9-million jobs. (During the reign of W, a total of 1.2-million jobs were added to the economy and, of course, at the end of that nightmare the country was shedding jobs at a rate of nearly 800,000 per month.)
And as to that healthcare nonsense: an additional 10-million Americans now have healthcare coverage, and the rate of increase for premiums has slowed dramatically.
This is what the GOP calls "failure."


More Union Busting

This time, our solons are making sure college athletes are denied the right to unionize. The rationale is that the athletes are not employees, just fun-loving college students engaging in extracurricular activities. This ignores the reality that
  • Athletes are heavily recruited for their athletic, not academic, ability
  • They work a strict assigned schedule in their "recreational" activity and are penalized if they deviate from the schedule
  • They are compensated for their work
  • Their work generates revenue for the schools
  • They sign a contract to perform the work (called a "binding letter of intent")
  • Their contract includes a one-year non-compete clause should they desire to transfer to another employer university
  • They can be "fired" at anytime by their supervisor (aka Coach)
  • Their "supervisors" are often paid more money than any professors on campus, salaries that are contingent on the success of the athletes. Some of these "educators" are paid several MILLION dollars a year thanks to the success of their fun-loving students.
So how is that not an employer-employee relationship?
Of course, this legislature is bound-and-determined to destroy labor unions whenever possible. Heavens forbid that workers have any power in negotiations with their employers.

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