Saturday, January 24, 2009

Take the Obama Test!

I scored 14. Take the test here and let us know how you scored.

Desperate Times Part VII

Other state and municipal reforms and privatizations:

63. Repeal the tax-exempt status of Blue Cross Blue Shield and the associated limitations on its ability to sell non-health insurance products.

64. Sell Cobo Hall.

65. Get government out of the golf business.

66. Privatize underused state parts.

67. Privatize state fairs and the associated lands.

68. Reform, restructure and sell portions of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

69. Privatize a variety of state human resources operations.

70. Sell the Department of Natural Resources' Mac Mullen Conference Center.

71. Privatize municipal parking garages.

72. Privatize state highway rest areas.

73. Privatize management of the Mackinac State Historic Parks.

74. Eliminate Department of Agriculture "market development" programs.

75. If gambling is expanded through "racinos" or other formats, auction the licenses.

76. Repeal protectionist auto dealership laws that prohibit car buyers from negotiating directly with manufacturers or auto brokers.

77. Level the state's regulatory playing field between banks and credit unions.

78. Don't allow municipal governments to increase public, education and government channel fees (PEG fees) on cable television companies.

79. End the Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps.

80. Strengthen the law providing an emergency financial manager for insolvent municipalities and school districts by expanding the manager's powers and legal protections.

81. End state revenue-sharing to local governments wherever the money is not constitutionally mandated.

82. Let Detroit save itself by fundamentally reforming the city's government and business climate rather than pursuing further rounds of flashy government-subsidized projects.

83. Let Detroit save itself and better serve its residents through a comprehensive program of privatizing city services.

84. Let Detroit save itself by repealing the city's income tax, downsizing the city's bureaucracy and rolling back the regulatory burden on city businesses to a level similar to cities of comparable size.

85. Amend the state constitution as needed to privatize the University of Michigan.

Someone Else's Thoughts

When someone else says it better than you can, sometimes it's best to just let them say it. I stumbled across this website early this morning.

Please read his "Inaugural Thoughts". I couldn't have said it better myself.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Do You Remember?

Take a few minutes and read the names on this website.

We should never forget the victims and the fact that we still have enemies.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Desperate Times Part VI

Education reform:

51. Adopt a constitutional amendment authorizing a universal tuition tax credit of up to half of the state's per-pupil spending allotment to support the education of a child attending the school of his or her family's choice.

52. Require school districts to contract school transportation, food and custodial services through open and competitive bidding.

53. Place new school employees under a defined-contribution, 401(k)-type pension plan, rather than a defined-benefit system.

54. Require districts to offer school employees health savings accounts along with conventional health insurance plans.

55. Remove obstacles to expanding charter schools and other school choice options for families in "first class school districts."

56. Other than those grants required by the courts or federal law, eliminate all "categorical grants" for state-specified school spending items, use that money to increase unencumbered per-pupil foundation allowances.

57. Eliminate intermediate school districts.

58. Expand public school choice programs to allow all students in all districts, not just those students within a certain proximity, to attend public schools outside their district.

59. Adopts a "Michigan Teachers' Bill of Rights" that frees individual teachers from standardized union contracts and gives them the choice to be judged and compensated based on their performance.

60. Repeal teacher certification requirements.

61. Revise the Michigan Teachers' Tenure Act to allow school districts to adopt a full-fledged teacher merit-pay system.

62. Eliminate the cap of 150 on the number of charters schools that can be authorized by state universities.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Desperate Times Part V

Labor law reform:

43. Adopt a "right-to-work" law that prohibits collective bargaining agreements from requiring employees to support or belong to a union as a condition of employment.

44. Pending adopt of a right-to-work law for all employers, enact one that applies to school and/or government employees.

45. Prohibit unions from taking money from an employee's paycheck without the worker's explicit consent whenever the withdrawal is not directly related to the costs of collective bargaining or the associated overhead.

46. Outlaw the use of "project labor agreements" on any construction using state funds.

47. Require annual financial disclosure reports and independent audits of government employee unions and affiliates.

48. Ensure that internal union grievance procedures don't discourage members from attempting union reform.

49. Repeal wage laws that prevent hourly workers from trading overtime earnings for comparable time off ("comp time").

50. Suspend the collective bargaining privileges of school union units that engage in illegal strikes.

Desperate Times Part IV

Other regulations:

36. Restore the governmental separation of powers by preventing the Legislature from delegating rule-making authority to regulatory agencies.

37. Eliminate most of the 200 occupational licensure mandates, which are primarily protectionist in nature.

38. Repeal a recent law that essentially restores the monopoly of old-line electric utilities and imposes "renewable energy" mandates on electric companies.

39. Disband a state agency "workgroup" that is drafting "ergonomics" regulations to be imposed on businesses, and prohibit state agencies from enforcing any such mandates.

40. End all permitting and licensing functions in individual departments - including the Department of Environmental Quality - and reconstitute them in a new and separate department whose only function is to issue permits.

41. Repeal the "minimum wage" law, which makes it unlawful to pay a person less than $7.40 per hour, regardless of voluntary agreements between an employer and employees.

42. Pre-empt local governments from adopting so-called "living wage" ordinances, which typically raise the minimum wage that must be paid by businesses holding substantial city contracts.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Coming Soon. . . . . a Liberal Meltdown

America has reached the point where there are more people trying to ride in the wagon than those who are struggling to pull it. Elections in America are becoming a race by Democrats to "buy" votes using the tax money of a decreasing number of productive people and businesses. In other words, America is quickly heading for unsustainability.

"The Tax Foundation estimates that under the Obama plan 73 million Americans, or 44% of all tax filers would have no income tax liability and of those would get a check from the IRS each year. The Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis estimates that by 2011, under the Obama plan, an additional ten million tax filers would pay zero taxes while cashing checks from the IRS." - Wall Street Journal (October 13, 2008)

Conservatives can either fold or take advantage of this opportunity. If conservatives consistently resist all attempts to further the liberal agenda they be in a position to regain power and get the ship of state back on course.

It is critical for conservatives to stand firm, wait patiently, articulate our core principles and reap our reward.

As citizens and voters, it is our job to find the best conservative candidates, make sure they get elected and hold their feet to the fire once they are in office.

Our opportunity is coming. Let's not miss it.

Desperate Times Part III

Environmental laws and regulations:

30. Adopt a constitutional amendment that requires state and local governments to compensate property owners for "regulatory takings," which lower a property's value by regulating the owner's use and enjoyment of the property.

31. Establish that "operational memorandums," guidelines and other guidance documents generated by any state agency do not bind a regulated entity unless they are promulgates as rules under the state Administrative Procedures Act.

32. Repeal the ban on directional drilling for oil and natural as under the Great Lakes.

33. Halt proposed state mercury-emission limits that are stricter than required under federal law.

34. Roll back a recently enacted regulatory regime that unnecessarily diminishes Michigan's comparative advantage in abundant, fresh water.

35. Prohibit the enforcement of state environmental regulations that are more stringent than those required by federal law unless the regulations are specifically adopted in legislation by the governor and the Michigan Legislature.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Desperate Times Part II

Moving on to: TAXES

26. Eliminate the Michigan Business Tax and replace it with. . . . . nothing.

27. Pending repeal of the Michigan Business Tax, immediately end the 22 percent MBT surcharge.

28. Do not increase, and consider decreasing, the state's cigarette tax.

29. Constitutionally cap state spending and revenue at the rate of inflation plus population growth by adopting a "taxpayer's bill of rights" similar to the core components of the 2006 "Stop Overspending" proposal.

More to come. . . . . .

Ergonomics? Common Sense?

Businesses in Michigan are struggling to stay open. I don't think anyone would argue with the me on that.

So, why is Michigan considering legislation that would add an additional regulatory burden on our already over-burdened businesses?

Last week two state commissions initiated formal rule-making to adopt regulations on ergonomics. In case you're wondering, ergonomics is the process of arranging workplace equipment to reduce back pain, frozen shoulders and carpal tunnel syndrome. California is the only state with their own layer of rules on top of those already laid out by OSHA.

Michigan will be even more costly and uncompetitive for businesses. Small business will be the hardest hit and small business is where most new jobs are created.

MIOSHA Inspectgor Doug Kalinowski says the state wants to have a "common sense" approach to ergonomics (rather than hard and fast rules). Where there is disagreement judges could wind up settling disputes. And therein lies the problem. Do we really need to burden our court system with this and do we really need another layer of regulations, uncertainty and costs for Michigan employers?

The other question that needs to be answered is: Do we even need this?

Workers' compensation claims for injuries requiring seven days or more of lost work time declined 49 percent from 2000 to 2007.

So, my question to Mr. Kalinowski is: Can you really justify this? Really?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Desperate Times. . . . . . Desperate Measures Part I

The following is from a brochure published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. They've broken it up into eight sections, which I'll post one section every few days.


Michigan is blessed with a wealth of the human and natural resources integral to building vibrant commerce and vigorous communities in the 21st century. At the moment, however, counter-productive public policies have made it harder for our industries to compete nationally and internationally and have reduced our state's attractiveness to investors and entrepreneurs.

In addition, Michigan is not immune to the gradual erosion of equity and basic human freedom that accompanies a steady growth in the power and scope of government. Our government's ability to properly perform many critical functions, including education, has been jeopardized by policymakers' attempts to do too many things. This lack of focus has even led to confusion among policymakers over whether government exists to serve the people or vice versa.

There is a lot of work to do to reverse this, but there's good news. Once growth - and freedom-friendly policies are in place, recovery is likely to occur much more quickly than most people imagine.

Government Spending and Operations:

  1. End mandatory collective bargaining for government employees who already enjoy civil service protections.
  2. Eliminate the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
  3. Privatize some state prisons.
  4. Lower government employees' compensation to the average rate for private sector workers performing comparable work.
  5. Eliminate state arts grants.
  6. End the Michigan Economic Growth Authority.
  7. Close down the 21st Century Jobs Fund, a business subsidy and government ownership program.
  8. Replace conventional health insurance plans for government employees with health savings accounts.
  9. Fund public universities primarily through a standard per-student grant or voucher, with a university's research financed in a separate line item.
  10. Devolve State Police road patrols to county sheriff departments.
  11. Eliminate state subsidies to the cooperative extension service to to Michigan State University's agriculture experiment station.
  12. Eliminate state film production subsidies.
  13. Stop paying Amtrak an annual state subsidy.
  14. Eliminate Medicaid spending not mandated by federal regulations.
  15. Pending the elimination of all nonmandated health-related spending, end Medicaid coverage for 19 and 20 year olds.
  16. Eliminate - or cut in half - "Merit Awards," "Promise Grants," or other non-need-based college scholarships financed by tobacco lawsuit proceeds.
  17. Require local bus systems subsidized by state road tax dollars to generate at least 20 percent of their operating expenses from fares paid by riders.
  18. Enact smarter sentencing for nonviolent offenders.
  19. Adopt a constitution amendment which would require setting aside 4 percent of projected revenue when adopting annual state budgets.
  20. Repeal laws that mandate binding arbitration in labor disputes between local government and police or firefighter unions.
  21. Require every state department and agency to post an expense register online that is at least equivalent to the one provided by the Michigan Department of State.
  22. Repeal the state's "prevailing wage" law, which prohibits awarding government construction contracts to the lowest bidder unless it pays above-market wages.
  23. Pending repeal of the state's prevailing wage law in total, repeal it for schools.
  24. Pending repeal of the state's prevailing wage law, revise it into a "median wage" law focusing on low-wage, rather than high-wage workers.
  25. Abolish special incentives to turn food or plants into fuel.

More to come. . . . . . .

Say It Ain't So Mr. O!

Often and repeatedly during his campaign Barack Obama emphatically promised, "The first thing I'd do is sign the Freedom of Choice Act." Will he keep his word? Let's hope not.

FOCA would abolish all pro-life regulations across the nation from parental notification laws to bans on federal funding on abortions. And make no mistake - FOCA eliminates all state laws regarding abortion.

All this despite a new nationwide survey that shows 4 in 5 adults would limit abortion in some way. Only 9 percent said abortion should be legal at any time and for any reason.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, "The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government."

If you're interested you can sign an online petition to fight FOCA. You can also contact your representatives and senators to tell them how you expect them to vote on this bill.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Panel-Packin' Pelosi

Pete Hoekstra has sharply criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plan to take one of the seats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence away from Republicans and give it to a Democrat.

The 9/11 Commission recommended the Committee never have more than a one vote majority for the ruling party. In spite of this, the Dems already hold a three seat majority (12 Democrats vs. 9 Republicans). And yet Pelosi wants to increase the influence of Democrats on the Committee.

Hoekstra, who is the top ranking Republican and former chair of the Committee commented "This is a brazen move by Democrats to pack the Intelligence Committee and drive intelligence into a partisan realm."

So much for bi-partisan cooperation.

Not-So-Secret Ballots Coming Our Way

It's payback time. Big Labor came through for the Democrats in November and now it's the Democrats turn to come through for the Dems.

Organized labor is going the way of typewriters and poodle skirts. Somewhat quaint, but no longer necessary or relevant. Sadly, the only growth in union membership has been in the government sector. (Side note: and we wonder why our taxes continue to rise?).

The trend in recent years has been workers nodding their heads in apparent agreement with union organizers, but voting against union membership in the privacy of the voting booth.

But wait! Union leadership has a new idea - just get rid of secret ballots. And so the outrageously misnamed "Employee Free Choice Act" was born.

Instead of workers casting secret ballots, the EFCA allows union organizers to find workers and encourage them to sign cards requesting union representation. I'm not saying the organizers would resort to baseball bats or brass knuckles, but there is nothing in this law that protects the worker from coercion.

While this is certainly "change", it don't think it's exactly the change we have been waiting for. What's next? No more secret ballots come election time?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On a Happier Note!

I guess I've spread enough doom and gloom for one day. Take a minute to read this article in the Holland Sentinel.

Happiness is within our control and in reach.

Be Afraid. Be Very Very Afraid

While I'm on the subject of the economy. . . . . . . . another thing I'm worried about is hyperinflation. You know, this is what's happening in Argentina and even more extremely in Zimbabwe. According to the Christian Science Monitor, inflation in Zimbabwe is at over 231 million percent and rising daily. Frightening isn't it?

Another example - Germany after World War One was crippled with by inflation. The reason? The newly formed German government kept pumping up the money supply. The process started relatively slowly, but it wasn't working so the pace accelerated until eventually all wealth in Germany was wiped out.

Could our government's panicked efforts to "stimulate" the economy and "save" financial institutions contribute to the same result? President-elect Obama's plans to spend more than an additional trillion dollars and probably even more in the next few years will soon cause inflation to grow. The simple truth is we cannot create money and borrow without limit.

I think many Americans instinctively know that what is going on is wrong. I'm more concerned about some of the ignorant politicians who simply don't get it. Or maybe they don't care.

Our Bipolar Economy

Disclaimer: I am not an economist. This is just an observation from someone who reads (and thinks) too much. It seems to me we've gone from unbridled euphoria to despair - economically that is.

During the years of "mania" we were witness to carefree economic standards, boorish behaviour, over-optimism and just plain reckless acts with no regard for the consequences.

No more. The economy and the American people are now facing the inevitable "depressive" stage of this illness. Bleakness, pessimism (sometimes unwarranted, but sometimes warranted), feelings of worthlessness, and a feeling that our best times are all behind us.

I'm not a psychiatrist either, but it seems to me the American people need to know that any decisions our new President and Congress make will be made with cohesiveness, fairness and stability. They need to restore public confidence in our government and particularly in our Treasury.

And it shouldn't take billions or even trillions of dollars to accomplish this.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I'm on a roll. . . . . .

A little more about Governor Paterson's plan to reduce the budget deficit - while, of course, never considering the radical idea that in most families we just reduce our spending to match our income.

The Governor has come up with 88 new taxes (or in some cases tax hikes). Although I haven't found a complete list anywhere on the 'net, here are a few: cigars, beer, wine, sports tickets, movies, books, cab fares, Kool-Aid, I tunes and other downloads, shoes, cable TV, gas, etc. etc. etc.

The nuttiest idea? A tax on any clothing that cost less than $110. That's right. So does that mean buying designer clothes is OK, but shopping for school clothes at Walmart will be penalized?

Maybe Michigan isn't so bad after all!

Cows and Soda Pop! What's next?

Taxing cows. Call this one of the more innovative ways our government has come up with to increase revenues.

Of course, this isn't being billed (what an ironic word) as a tax. It's called a levy for the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Still sounds like a tax to me.

How much is this tax? $175 per cow. But only $20 per hog. Sounds like "the other white meat" will be more attractive - expense wise at least.

And then there's New York's "Soda Pop" tax proposal. Weirdly, this is being heralded as a public health measure. That's right. Although this surcharge will increase revenues by over $500 million per year in New York alone, we shouldn't mistake this for a revenue enhancer. It's all about our government caring for our welfare. We'll just ignore the fact that New York, like most other states, are facing huge budget deficits. They're not concerned about that. . . . . . nope - it's all about keeping us healthy.