Remember the days of exploratory surgery? Probably not if youre under the
age of 40, but in the days before the CT scan came into wide use back in
the 70s, and certainly long before MRIs, surgeons had little choice but
to open you up and peek around at your innards if something like a tumor,
hernia, or internal bleeding was suspected.
Of course, this was a dangerous and uncertain form of diagnosis, fraught
with the risk of infection and sure to leave you with a painful surgical
wound with no guarantee that the surgeon would even find anything.
Perhaps its a misplaced metaphor, but I cant help thinking that our new
Governor Rick Snyder is wearing those same bloody shoe covers in the
operating room of the state capital, trying to find out why his patient is
hemorrhaging and how to pump life back into Michigan before our state dies
on the table.
The difference of course, is that we dont need exploratory surgery to
tell us why Michigan is in trouble: we have unfunded mandates with no
money to pay for them; weve suffered the loss of much of our
manufacturing base, along with their tax revenues; weve got too many
prisoners in our corrections system to house and feed; and most recently,
weve got a declining census, to name a few.
So personally, Ive withheld judgement on some of the things Gov. Snyder
has proposed, because this is the point in the show where Drs. Kildare,
Grey and Ross are screaming for more crash carts, clamps and tourniquets
in what can only be a dangerous operation with an uncertain outcome.
If nothing else, our new governor has people talking. Between the flood of
letters to newspapers across the state and the protests in Lansing, were
discussing Michigans direction as weve never done before.
Some of what Gov. Snyder has proposed strikes me as ill-advised. Recently,
for instance, George Clooney was in Ann Arbor and Clawson filming his
latest, The Ides of March. The film employed 1,000 extras in Ann Arbor and
surely pumped some dollars into the state economy, as did the new release,
Cedar Rapids, which was also filmed in Michigan. So is it wise to cap the
tax credits on Michigans film industry just when its starting to show
promise? We need more glamour in our state, not less, and thats an
intangible benefit that should be considered.
Then theres his idea for licensing more coal plants in Michigan. Thats
not very forward-looking, and Snyder campaigned in part on his green
On the other hand, its hard to believe that ending the earned income tax
credit for the poor will actually make much of a difference to people in
that situation, as protesters claim. And taxing pensions at the much
reduced state rate (compared to the federal tax on pensions) sounds like a
sensible idea, considering that other states are doing the same. After
all, as guest opinion writer Michael Estes notes elsewhere in this issue,
the 401ks of those of us who dont have pensions are taxed.
As for Snyders idea of Emergency Financial Managers taking over
municipalities and school systems that are train wrecks, thats a
dictatorship plain and simple.
But how do you fix something like the Detroit Public Schools, which had a
budget deficit of $363 million last year and a dropout rate of 75% of its
students, despite all of the tax dollars we shovel in its direction?
What about Detroit and Flint, which have degenerated into third world
cities, notorious for their political stagnation? Will their suffering
residents protest if an Emergency Financial Manager steps in to improve
The funny thing about Gov. Snyder is that hes a Republican and claims to
be a conservative, yet some of his solutions would be blasted as being
radically liberal -- even Marxist -- if they had been proposed by a
Democrat. Can you imagine the grief that Republicans would have rained
down if Gov. Granholm had suggested taxing pensions as a way out of
Each election cycle, many of us promise that well vote for change. We
toss out the old, ineffectual governors and legislators and vote for the
person who convinces us that he or she has that change thing down in
But as with surgery, change can be a synonym for pain. Change doesnt
mean we get promised a rose garden -- it means we get promised the thorns.
Gov. Snyder is the change we voted for; right or wrong, hes shown us that
healing Michigan will be a painful process.