Monday, March 30, 2015

Proposal 1: A Line In The Sand

On May 16, 1972, voters approved a constitutional amendment by a 2-to-1 margin, enabling the establishment of a state lottery. Smart people knew that instituting a lottery would NOT result in better funding for education.

Here is how the con game works, if the lottery adds one dollar of new money to the School Aid Fund, then the legislature can reduce contributions from the general fund by one dollar. The result is not more money for education, but the same amount of money for education.

Why would anyone want to do that?

Instituting a state lottery shifted the tax burden from those in the best position to pay taxes to those in the worst position to do so. Lower income Michiganders are far more likely to buy lottery tickets than higher income Michiganders. The purchase of lottery tickets by low income Michiganders makes up a larger portion of their disposable income than the purchase of lottery tickets by high income Michiganders does.

Funding education from a state lottery is a regressive tax scheme! Democrats have historically opposed regressive tax schemes but they enthusiastically rushed to the polls and voted yes on this one because it was for education.

But it didn’t help education. In fact, education funding has lost ground over the years even as lottery sales have grown.

On May 5, 2016, voters will decide whether or not to approve a constitutional amendment that will increase the sales tax by 1%. Democrats know that this is another regressive tax scheme. They know that sales tax makes up a much larger percentage of disposable in income for low income Michiganders than for high income Michiganders.

Proposal 1 is tie-barred to another regressive tax increase at the pump resulting from the replacement of retail fuel tax and sales tax with a larger wholesale fuel tax. Low and middle income Michiganders pay more for gasoline was a percentage of disposable income than high income Michiganders.

Voters should also know that the added revenue from these taxes will NOT result in better funding for roads, education or local government.

Proposal 1, the ballot initiative to increase sales tax by 1% was made necessary by reductions in corporate income tax rates and corporate property tax. Some of that money was used to fund roads, education and/or local government. Now it has to come from somewhere else.

Some legislatures are already talking about reducing the state income tax rate if this scheme to increase the sales tax succeeds. Reducing income tax rates will save low income Michiganders tens of dollars and high income Michiganders thousands of dollars.

Many Democrats are calling on us to hold our nose and vote “yes” on Proposal 1. They have capitulated. The Republicans have won. Democrats just want funding for roads, education or local government and they are willing to pay more for it even if it is socially unjust.

Republicans created the problem of underfunded roads, education or local government by giving their corporations a great big tax break. Now the same Republicans are telling us that if we want roads, education or local government to be properly funded, low and middle income Michiganders will just have to pay more taxes.

If only it were true? But it isn’t!

As soon as they have the fresh money from increasing the sales tax, they will give themselves another tax break and we will be right back to at the negotiating table looking for another solution that shifts the tax burden farther from the top and closer to the bottom.

I never thought I would write this, but maybe it will be the Tea Party Republicans that will rescue the day by voting “no” on Proposal 1 just because it is a tax and they oppose all taxes on principle without any thought for how fiscally necessary it is to collect taxes and pay for good governance.

Some Democrats have abandoned the principle of opposing regressive tax schemes and have turned on the other Democrats for sticking to their principled and socially just position.

I wonder if there is a line in the sand that Democrats will not back away from. One thing is for certain, if we back away from this one and draw a new line, the Republicans will not wait one minute before they cross it. We might as well start drawing the next line now.

I don’t support regressive tax schemes that shift the tax burden from those who benefit the most from government, the wealthy, to those who benefit the least, the poor. I will be voting “no” on Proposal 1 even if whole Democratic Party rises up in one accord and sings sweat Hosannas crying out in support of a “yes” vote.

The line is drawn! What does a line in the sand mean if you are not willing to take a beating rather than back away? Perhaps the roads will crumble and school doors will close?  I don’t know, but I am very certain that backing off and drawing a fresh line in the sand will not fix the problem.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Black Friday in Monroe

A few of us got together outside of the WalMart in Monroe to draw attention to the low wages, anemic job benefits and servile work conditions at WalMart and many other large retail and food service chains. We spread out across the parking lot, distributing some literature and eventually made our way to the store entrances. It wasn’t long before we were greeted by the store manager, “Are any of you WalMart associates?”

Low wage workers are afraid. They are afraid of what happens if the car they need to get to work breaks down and they can’t afford to fix it. They are afraid of what happens if a child gets a cold and they need a day off. They are afraid of what happens if they are unable to pay bills like rent, utilities and/or healthcare. They are afraid of what happens if they get cut off from government food, medical or other assistance.

But there is one thing they are more afraid of … they are afraid of what happens if they get fired. I smiled when the store manager asked if any of us were WalMart associates because none of us were afraid.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

How the Republicans plan to take over Michigan … everywhere and forever!

The public is too busy watching sports events and reality TV shows to pay any attention to how the government of the majority is being taken over by a minority of the people.

In the most recent election, roughly 20% of the registered voters selected the representatives of the people. The vast majority of voters just didn’t bother to vote in spite of the most incredible effort ever to encourage, motivate, badger, cajole, harass and even shame them into action.

The State Senate has been dominated by Republicans for many years because ALL of our state senators are elected in Gubernatorial Election years when voter turnout is even lower than in Presidential Election years.

Republicans count on the low voter turnout to swing the election in their favor because their supporters respond well to the messages of fear and distrust that they broadcast. Democratic supporters just aren’t motivated to vote without a charismatic national candidate.

But enough of that … how is it that the Republicans plan to cement their hold on government?

Several bills have been introduced that would do the following:

  1. Move the election of county officials (the clerk, treasurer, register of deeds, prosecuting attorney, sheriff, drain commissioner and surveyor) to Gubernatorial Election years. [See HB 5941 (2014) and HB 5953 (2014)]
  1. End primary elections for state officials (the governor, state representative and state senator) and call for their nomination at state conventions. [See HB 5955 (2014)]
  1. Close primaries and require voters to declare their party affiliation as a condition of participation. [See HB 5956 (2014)]
  1. Allocate Electoral College votes for president by congressional district. [See HB 5974 (2014)]

If these bills pass in the upcoming Lame Duck session, Michigan’s apathetic and nonvoting majority who generally prefer Democrats when they do vote will be governed by Republicans forever.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Conservative Republicans Celebrate Labor Day

Support American Workers - Vote Republican!
MONROE, MI (August 30, 2014) - Most people have forgotten what it means to be conservative. The true meaning of the word is long lost in history. French rulers defended the social class division whereby some where the owners and the rest where their servants. The Latin compound word “conservative” literally means having servants and that is how the word came to be used politically.

Conservatives are quick to point out how hard owners work and how their success in life comes from their own hard work, but they are not so quick to notice how much of their success is the derived from the hard work of their servants and how little their servants benefit from the same hard work

I have been told that we are all very lucky that they let us work for them. They call themselves job creators and tell us that we are not so much their servants as their employees. But I can’t really tell the deference between an employee and a servant.

We are told that we should all be competing for the opportunity to be their servants and they call this “getting a job”. If we are unsuccessful in our search for jobs it isn’t their fault for failing to create jobs for us, it is our fault for failing to be more attractive candidates for servitude.

I guess it makes sense that conservative Republicans showed up and participated in the Labor Day Parade. After all, Republican owners generally benefit far more from the hard work done by servants than the servants themselves do. That seems like a good reason to celebrate!

Maybe if we are nice to them and vote Republican, they will create more jobs and let more of us be there servants?

But wait, Republicans already control all branches of government in Lansing and all they have done is reduce the taxes on owners and increase the taxes on servants. They have outsourced public services to the companies they own. And they have reduced government services for low income servants, unemployed servants and retired servants. They don’t even want to help pay for the education of their future servants!

Maybe the owners just need more time in office so they can accumulate enough wealth to where they will feel inclined to share some of it with the people who do the work that makes them wealthy?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Next Shift for Tony Trupiano

When I first met Tony, he was the host “First Shift with Tony Trupiano” on 1310 AM. When the radio station was sold, Tony moved to 1130 AM WDFN where he hosted “Night Shift with Tony Trupiano” until he announced his candidacy for State House of Representatives District 13.

I’m calling this the “Next Shift for Tony Trupiano”.

As I have traveled around the state, I have continuously found Tony there speaking for progressive causes in labor, education, the environment and social justice. Tony has been behind the microphone (or megaphone) on the steps of the capital building in Lansing many times. He was there with Occupy, he was there to oppose so-called Right-to-Work and he was there for the big rally to Save Michigan’s Public Schools.

Now I think it’s time that Tony had a voice inside the capitol building … on the floor of the State House of Representatives.

I don’t normally concern myself with districts outside of Monroe County or the 7th Congressional District but I’m making an exception for Tony because I think if elected he will be more than a voice for District 13, he will be a voice for all of us in the progressive movement.

I made my donation to support Tony Trupiano at an ActBlue™ fundraising page that I created for this campaign. Click here to make you secure, online donation to the Committee to Elect Tony Trupiano. Please help me achieve my personal goal of raising $500 for Tony.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Allegory of the Giant by Richard Gingrich (1889)

Now it chanced, once upon a time, that I walked in the “Land of Visions;” and he that will know, may know, how, at certain times in the life of man the veil of “Uncertainty” which divides that country from the “Land of bare Reality” is but a thin, cloudy mist, which the Sun of Truth shall one day dissipate. Now there are certain sons of men called fools by their fellows. The same have closed their eyes and stopped their ears; for thus only could they pierce through the mist and enter the “Land of Vision.”

Beautiful things have been seen in the country, and he that can bring back any of its fruits and flowers into the Land of bare Reality is straightway enrolled among the Genii.

And as I looked toward the land of bare reality I saw that the mist had parted, so I opened my eyes and saw clearly.

Now what I saw was this: A great giant walked about, with his face bent eagerly to the ground, and this man was hideous to look upon; his eyes were well nigh closed, and his countenance was ferocious, while his clothing was a garment of tattered rags. And although I feared the man yet I knew he had once been a child, and I asked him kindly what he sought.

And he said, in a dull, hopeless voice, “I seek the grave.”

And I said sorrowfully, “And why seek the grave?” He answered me: “Because I am helpless. I till the soil that others may have food in abundance; I weave costly clothing that others may array themselves in it. Then they starve me and give me their cast-off garments, and they beat me, and imprison me, because I am low and ignorant and degraded.”

And I knew that these things were true and I could question him no more about the matter. And I said: “Hast thou no father to provide for thy wants?”

He answered me: “God is my father, and him shall I see when I die; therefore do I seek the grave, that I may find the God of Love.”

And I said: “Did not thy mother instruct thee?”

But he answered: “Her name is Justice. Some say that she died when I was born, and that I shall see her at my Father’s side, beyond the grave.”

And I was very sorry for him, because he spake truth.

“And what,” said I, “do men call thee?”

He answered me with a voice like distant thunder for loudness, yet withal soft and sad as the moaning of the sea, “My name is Lower Class, and we are many.”

And I answered him eagerly, “Let me help thee. I know thy brothers and sisters, I will tell them and they shall aid thee.” But he laughed a bitter, mocking laugh. And he said:

“I have three brothers whom I see every day. My elder brother is Respectability; he looks at me sternly, and asks why I do not become like himself. My second brother is Morality; he chides me often because of my tattered garments, but I have noticed that he wears a huge cloak, called ‘Religious Belief,’ with which he keeps his own garments concealed. My younger brother, “Temperance-in-all-things,’ is a fool. When I eat a handful of corn which stills my hunger today, he tells me that by eating only half of it I might have some of it left for tomorrow.”

“But thy three sisters, Faith, Hope and Charity,” said I, “Can they not assist thee?” Then his eyes kindled with enthusiasm, but only for a moment; for he answered sadly:

“Faith and Hope go arm in arm, and walk far beyond the barren places where my weary feet may tread, for I am lame. I have heard their voices at times, when they call back to me, but their forms I may never more see with open eyes.”

Then I asked about his younger sister, Charity. But he answered me that he himself must give her all that she has, and when she gave him alms she only gave him part of his own. And I looked upon the giant, and I saw his strength was great; and I wondered that he should be so helpless.

And as I mused upon this thing, lo, I had returned through the vale of “Uncertainty” and the “Land of bare Reality” was around me.

Click here to listen to audio (MP3 5m 50s).
Click here to download and print (PDF).

NOTE: Originally titled "An Allegory". Published in the magazine "Looking Forward" on September 24, 1889. Written by Richard Gingrich.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Allegory of the Carriage by Edward Bellamy (1888)

But how could anyone live without service to the world, you ask? Why should the world support in utter idleness anyone who is able to render service? The answer is that their great-grandfathers accumulated a sum of money on which their descendants now live. The sum, you will naturally infer, must have been very large not to have been exhausted in supporting three generations in idleness. This, however, was not the fact. The sum had been originally by no means large. It is, in fact, much larger now that three generations have been supported upon it in idleness, than it was at first. This mystery of use without consumption, of warmth without combustion, seems like magic, but is merely an ingenious application of the art of shifting the burden of one's support on the shoulders of others. The man who has accomplished this, and it is the end all seek, is said to live on the income of his investments. To explain at this point how the methods of industry make this possible would delay us too much. I shall only stop now to say that interest on investments is a species of tax in perpetuity upon the product of those engaged in industry which a person possessing or inheriting money is able to levy. It must not be supposed that an arrangement which seems so unnatural and preposterous is never criticized. It has been the effort of lawgivers and prophets from the earliest ages to abolish interest, or at least to limit it to the smallest possible rate. All these efforts have, however, failed, as they necessarily must so long as the social organizations prevail. At this time, the latter part of the nineteenth century, governments have generally given up trying to regulate the subject at all.
By way of attempting to give some general impression of the relations of the rich and poor to one another, perhaps I cannot do better than to compare society to a prodigious coach which the masses of humanity are harnessed to and is dragged toilsomely along a very hilly and sandy road. The driver is hunger, and no lagging is permitted, though the pace is necessarily very slow. Despite the difficulty of drawing the coach at all along so hard a road, the top is covered with passengers who never get down, even at the steepest ascents. These seats on top are very breezy and comfortable. Well up out of the dust, their occupants enjoy the scenery at their leisure, or critically discuss the merits of the straining team. Naturally such places are in great demand and the competition for them is keen, every one seeking as the first end in life to secure a seat on the coach for himself and to leave it to his child after him. By the rule of the coach a man can leave his seat to whom he wishes, but on the other hand there are many accidents by which it might at any time be wholly lost. For all that they are so easy, the seats are very insecure, and at every sudden jolt of the coach persons slip out of them and fall to the ground, where they are instantly compelled to take hold of the rope and help to drag the coach on which they had before ridden so pleasantly. It is naturally regarded as a terrible misfortune to lose one's seat, and the apprehension that this might happen to them or their friends is a constant cloud upon the happiness of those who ride.
But do they think only of themselves, you ask? Is not their very luxury rendered intolerable to them by comparison with the lot of their brothers and sisters in the harness, and the knowledge that their own weight adds to their toil? Have they no compassion for fellow beings from whom fortune only distinguished them? Oh, yes; commiseration is frequently expressed by those who ride for those who have to pull the coach, especially when the vehicle comes to a bad place in the road, as it is constantly doing, or to a particularly steep hill. At such times, the desperate straining of the team, their agonized leaping and plunging under the pitiless lashing of hunger, the many who faint at the rope and are trampled in the mire, make a very distressing spectacle, which often calls forth highly creditable displays of feeling on the top of the coach. At such times the passengers call down encouragingly to the toilers of the rope, exhorting them to patience, and holding out hopes of possible compensation in another world for the hardness of their lot, while others contribute to buy salves and liniments for the crippled and injured. It is agreed that it is a great pity that the coach is so hard to pull, and there is a sense of general relief when the specially bad piece of road is gotten over. This relief is not, indeed, wholly on account of the team, for there is always some danger at these bad places of a general overturn in which all will lose their seats.
It must in truth be admitted that the main effect of the spectacle of the misery of the toilers at the rope is to enhance the passengers' sense of the value of their seats upon the coach, and to cause them to hold on to them more desperately than before. If the passengers can only feel assured that neither they nor their friends will ever fall from the top, it is probable that, beyond contributing to the funds for liniments and bandages, they will trouble themselves extremely little about those who drag the coach.
I am well aware that this appears to be incredibly inhumane, but there are two facts, both very curious, which partly explain it. In the first place, it is firmly and sincerely believed that there is no other way in which Society can get along, except the many pull at the rope and the few ride, and not only this, but that no very radical improvement is even possible, either in the harness, the coach, the roadway, or the distribution of the toil. It has always been as it is, and it always will be so. It is a pity, but it can not be helped, and philosophy forbids wasting compassion on what is beyond remedy.
The other fact is yet more curious, consisting in a singular hallucination which those on the top of the coach generally share, that they are not exactly like their brothers and sisters who pull at the rope, but of finer clay, in some way belonging to a higher order of beings who might justly expect to be drawn. This seems unaccountable, but, those who ride on this coach share this hallucination. The strangest thing about the hallucination is that those who have but just climbed up from the ground, before they have outgrown the marks of the rope upon their hands, begin to fall under its influence. As for those whose parents and grand-parents before them have been so fortunate as to keep their seats on the top, the conviction they cherish of the essential difference between their sort of humanity and the common article is absolute. The effect of such a delusion in moderating fellow feeling for the sufferings of the mass of men into a distant and philosophical compassion is obvious. To it I refer as the only extenuation I can offer for the indifference which, at this period of time, marks their attitude toward the misery of their brothers.

Click here to listen to audio (MP3 9m31s).

NOTE: “Allegory of the Carriage” is extracted from “Looking Backward: 2000-1887” written by Edward Bellamy and published in 1888. The text has been edited to be read in the present tense and to be read outside the context of the book.