Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Experience and Education Don’t Count For Teachers?

It is beyond remarkable what the Republicans in Lansing are doing and I am almost never surprised by how counter-intuitive or irrational the legislation they are offering is. But House Bill 4265 really took me on a mental trip down the rabbit hole. I have no idea what color of pill I should be taking.

The Wizard of Oz wasn't a Republican.
This bill offered by Rep. Pete Lund (R-Shelby Township) and cosponsored by TWELVE other Republicans would amend criteria for establishment of compensation levels or adjustments in school districts including charter schools and intermediate schools. It would actually prohibit schools from using “length of service” or “achievement of advanced degrees” as a factor in compensation.

Rushing into Committee to testify in favor of this bill were the usual cast of Public Education hate groups: Students First, The Great Lakes Education Project, and the Chamber of Commerce. No less than fifteen well-regarded groups testified in opposition to this bill. So naturally, it came out of Committee today with a positive recommendation.

Let’s see if Rep. Dale Zorn (R-Ida) has the courage to break with the Party on this bill. I’m imagining that he will find some redeeming quality in the bill that will make it worth supporting. I will be calling his office tomorrow to find out. Also, it might be worth contacting Nancy Jenkins (R-Clinton) to find out where she is on this bill.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Revisiting Godwin’s Rule

Godwin’s Rule states, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” I would like to revise this rule and I want it to have my name on it instead of Mike Godwin’s.

Whiteside’s Rule states, “As any discussion with a Republican grows longer, the probability of the subject expanding to include Benghazi approaches 1.”

It really doesn’t matter that you were disputing the merits of outsourcing public services or shifting the tax burden from highly profitable to corporations or high income house to low and middle income households, eventually the conversation will take a surprise detour to Benghazi.

U.S. Consulate, Benghazi, Libya
(September 11, 2012)
You see it doesn’t matter that we now know more about the September 11, 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya than we did on September 12, 2012 or September 13, 2012 when the “fog of war” was still thick and Obama administration officials were choosing their words carefully to avoid mischaracterization of the attack. In the minds of Republicans there is no excuse for any misstatement, misunderstanding or withholding of information while the facts were still being assessed.

And exactly what does the Benghazi attack have to do with expanding Medicaid, outsourcing school transportation services, or maintaining roads at the expense of school budgets so that corporate taxes can be reduced? Absolutely nothing!

For Republicans, just saying “Benghazi” out loud seems to bring them a kind self-affirming reassurance that every problem can ultimately be traced to “that man” … you know, the brown guy who is a secret Muslim from Kenya who wants to destroy everything that is good about America, like mom, apple pie and little white babies.

And before you can say, “But that has nothing to do with Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law and our right to elect our local officers,” they are saying, “And, I’m not a racist!”

Bringing up Benghazi is like crack cocaine for Republicans, it stimulates an endorphin surge that would kill a donkey but just makes an elephant smile … you know, that smug expression that screams, “Gotcha!”

Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI)
Maybe that is why Representative Tim Walberg (R-Tipton, Michigan) just had to get a few words in at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held May 8, 2013 to investigate the U.S. Consulate Attack in Benghazi, Libya? You can watch the entire hearing on C-Span but I don’t recommend it.

Walberg’s opening statement says it all, "It was shocking to just hear a statement that this is rehashing same old stories. These aren't 'old stories’; these aren't 'same old stories'. This is a situation that is atrocious in that it happened and it's about time that we heard the stories for the first time that we are hearing today.”

This will probably shock Tim Walberg, but this committee is doing nothing more than “rehashing same old stories” and yes, they are “same old stories”. This is what Republicans do to distract themselves from the fact that they have no idea how to govern; they hold hearings and shout, “Gotcha!”

If you are a Republican and you are reading this, you are probably spitting nails and kicking the wall. Every now and then you are shouting “Benghazi!” for no reason at all except that you are hoping for a little endorphin surge.

But I’m not writing this for wild-eyed, right-wing, Republicans; I am writing it for progressive and moderately progressive Democrats as well as moderates who are largely non-partisan even if they tend to vote Republican or Democrat. What are you doing right now?

I hate to say this, but you really aren’t doing much of anything. You might have grinned a bit remembering the last conversation you had that unexpectedly took a turn toward Benghazi, but you aren’t getting mad … and you should.

At a time when we desperately need for our representatives in Washington and Lansing to govern, they aren’t governing and we are suffering the consequences locally. I learned something from Michigan State Representative Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline) while working on her campaign, “It’s always about the quality of life where you live.” It really doesn’t matter where you live, you expect the schools to be funded, the roads to be maintained, the business district to offer you the goods and services that you want and need and the jobs to pay you well enough to live a dignified life.

From now on, every time you try to talk about what is important and someone says “Benghazi”, I want you to get mad, say “Whiteside’s Rule” and walk away from them. I promise you this, they will have no idea what you are talking about and they will be robbed of the little endorphin surge that they were expecting.

After you walk away from them, I want you to commit yourself to doing something to make sure that nobody gets elected to office in 2014 that is more interested in saying “Gotcha!” than in governing. That means making sure that Tim Walberg and others like him go even if their replacement isn’t the perfect candidate.

(Watch the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the U.S. Consulate Attack in Benghazi, Libya Hearing, Part 1, held May 8, 2013 on C-SPAN at 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Party of Small Local Government?

I just visited the Michigan GOP website. Republicans say that they “believe the most effective, responsible and responsive government is government closest to the people.”

So why is it that Republicans in the Michigan State Senate and House of Representatives are putting forward a bill that would prohibit “a county, township, city or village” from adopting “an ordinance or policy requiring an employer to provide an employee with paid or unpaid leave from employment that is not required under federal law or the law of this state”?

You would think that any Party that believed “the most effective, responsible and responsive government is government closest to the people” would oppose intrusions upon “a county, township, city or village” government that would move the decision-making process farther from “the people”.

I spoke with Rep. Dale Zorn (R-Ida) about this bill and was told that small business owners like himself could not afford to provide ill or injured employees with paid or unpaid time off and that they could not afford to take any chance that  a county, township, city or village might pass such an ordinance. However, he pointed out that the bill does not prohibit employees from negotiating for time off, it only prohibits local government from compelling employers to provide time off.

Let’s put this in perspective. One of the legitimate costs of business is the cost of labor. Laborers should not be expected to work when they are ill or injured. Under the current law, an employer may terminate an employee who fails to work even if their failure was due to illness or injury.

Another part of the legitimate cost of labor is making sure that your employee can afford to live on the income you pay them. Employers who expect their employees to be supported by others, whether they expect friends and/or family members to provide additional support or they expect the government to provide additional assistance are like farmers who expect someone else to feed and care for their horse.

Many low income earners work three to four days to pay for most of a month’s supply of food. The common cold or the flu might leave almost any employee unable to work for a period of three to four days. Should an ill or injured employee go hungry so that their employer can avoid the legitimate costs associated with doing business and earn a bigger profit? Should an employee go to work ill or injured to avoid income loss or even termination?

Ironically, the same employers who find themselves unable to provide employees with time off due to illness or injury are somehow able to provide themselves with time off. Worse yet, they often oppose any program of government that would provide benefits to the low income earners to offset the cost of illness or injury whether it be the payment of medical expenses or food assistance.

But I digress … this is NOT about whether employers should or should not provide ill or injured employees with time off, it is about whether or not people should be empowered to work through the level of government that is closest to them to enact ordinances or policies and whether the Republic Party seems to be suffering from some kind of schizophrenia demonstrated by the inconsistency of their published position on their belief that “the most effective, responsible and responsive government is government closest to the people” and their demonstrated actions which impose prohibitions on local government and move political power farther from the people and closer to Lansing and Washington.

Click here for House Bill 4229 or click here for Senate Bill 173. Click here to contact Rep. Dale Zorn and let him know that you are disappointing with his decision to cosponsor this legislation.