Letters

Letters 10-20-2014

Doctor Dan? After several email conversations with Rep. Benishek, he has confirmed that he doesn’t have a clue of what he does. Here’s why...

In Favor Of Our Parks [Traverse] City Proposal 1 is a creative way to improve our city parks without using our tax dollars. By using a small portion of our oil and gas royalties from the Brown Bridge Trust Fund, our parks can be improved for our children and grandchildren.

From January 1970 Popular Mechanics: “Drastic climate changes will occur within the next 50 years if the use of fossil fuels keeps rising at current rates.” That warning comes from Eugene K. Peterson of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

Newcomers Might Leave: Recently we had guests from India who came over as students with the plan to stay in America. He has a master’s degree in engineering and she is doing her residency in Chicago and plans to specialize in oncology. They talked very candidly about American politics and said that after observing...

Someone Is You: On Sept 21, I joined the 400,000 who took to the streets of New York in the People’s Climate March, followed by a UN Climate Summit and many speeches. On October 13, the Pentagon issued a report calling climate change a significant threat to national security requiring immediate action. How do we move from marches, speeches and reports to meaningful work on this problem? In NYC I read a sign with a simple answer...

Necessary To Pay: Last fall, Grand Traverse voters authorized a new tax to fix roads. It is good, it is necessary.

The Real Reasons for Wolf Hunt: I have really been surprised that no one has been commenting on the true reason for the wolf hunt. All this effort has not been expended so 23 wolves can be killed each year. Instead this manufactured controversy about the wolf hunt has been very carefully crafted to get Proposal 14-2 passed.

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · Tough times... what to...
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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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