Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

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Tough times... what to do?

Robert Downes - May 17th, 2007
There‘s a lot of pain in Northern Michigan these days as local agencies feel the lash of cutbacks in state funding.
The arts, foster care, libraries, mental health... People are hurting in our state due to Michigan‘s “structural deficit.” Meaning, the 25% of manufacturing jobs we’ve lost over the past seven years have taken their tax dollars with them, and chances are those jobs won’t be back anytime soon. We’ve lost some 330,000 manufacturing jobs here since 2000, according to the University of Michigan.
Even if those jobs come back, chances are it will be with the proviso of huge tax breaks, or less fruitful jobs in America’s new “service economy,” such as it is.
We hear brave voices, speaking on behalf of orphaned children, the mentally ill, the elderly and the poor. We understand the need for art, education, a pure environment, good roads, strong hospitals and all of the benefits of life here in Michigan.
But the stories in the press and on TV are often too little and too late, like putting a Band-Aid on a gushing artery. And you can’t help but wonder if Michigan’s residents have tuned-out the state’s doom-and-gloom budget crisis story. What people are looking for is a new direction, or as the Detroit Free Press noted in a front page editorial in its Sunday edition -- some leadership.
Needless to say, we need to start thinking out of the box. We need to reinvent ourselves as a leaner, more efficient outfit. That‘s what Ford Motor Company has been doing with its massive cutbacks, and the company has started to turn itself around.
For instance, perhaps a pay-as-you-go approach would serve us better in the long run than Gov. Granholm’s proposed two percent tax hike. Unless the Chinese decide to swoop in here and buy up the Big Three automakers, we need to face the proposition that Michigan‘s problems aren‘t going to be solved with a tax hike.
Some other ideas:
• Garnish wages instead of prison time: This is an age-old idea from societies that can’t afford costly prison systems. In many countries, if you kill Ahmed’s cow, you pay out of pocket instead of going to jail. Why not use the same principle in prison-strapped Michigan?
We’re chained to a $2 billion corrections budget and this corpse is sliding off the deck of a sinking ship. With more than 51,000 prisoners, we jail more people than Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio, even though those states have more residents than Michigan. Even so, the governor’s office reports that Michigan has a violent crime index that is 34% higher than surrounding states.
We can’t move forward until we correct a problem that consumes one-fifth of Michigan’s budget. Wouldn’t it make more sense to release prisoners convicted of nonviolent crimes and simply garnish their wages for 5-20 years as punishment, instead of spending $24,000 per year to feed and house each one of them? That way, they’d be paying back their victims, or into the corrections system to better enable the rehabilitation of violent prisoners, rather than bleeding us of services we desperately need.
• Downsize the Legislature: As conservatives are quick to note, a legislature is a virtual factory for costly new bills and money-wasting ideas.
We citizens pay our lawmakers a base salary of around $80,000 per year, plus solid gold benefits and retirement plans, for what has turned out to be a dubious return. Not to mention an office allowance of some $95,000 per year in the House and $58,000 in the Senate, plus mailing perks, conferences, transportation and other goodies. Let’s take a tip from the conservative handbook for a change, and go to either a part-time legislature (a la Texas) or a unicameral (single house) operation.
• Legalize it. Okay, this is an iffy, last resort measure, but we‘re there, dude. If you want an extra $1 billion in tourist revenues, decriminalize marijuana and allow patrons to smoke the stuff in state-licensed coffeehouses, just like they do in Amsterdam. Put a 50% tax on marijuana -- grown in our state as a cash crop to avoid federal laws on interstate commerce -- and make it cheap enough to put organized crime out of business. Bonus: fewer pot prisoners to pay for.
Dumb ideas? Maybe. But they’re ideas that produce dollar signs and savings instead of taxes. Go figure...


 
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