Monday, October 25, 2004

Michigan’s Proposal 2 - NO

Ballot proposal number two, which will appear on the Michigan ballot on November 2nd, amends the state constitution to insert a firm definition of what will be legally allowed to be recognized as a marriage. The proposed amendment reads as follows:

Article 1, Section 25: To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.

As contentious as this issue is, we at GR Pundit didn't have a hard time deciding on this one. There are two issues at stake here. First, what is the role of government in marriage and why? Second, what affect would this have on domestic partners (of the opposite sex) who receive employment benefits?

First, what role should the government play in marriage. Marriage is essentially a religious ceremony which then receives recognition from the state. Therefore, there are two components to marriage. First, the religious aspect. Second, the legal recognition of that marriage to confer certain rights on the married couple; namely, the right to child custody, legal co-ownership, and inheritance. However, as the law stands, one must get a license to get married, which essentially licenses a religious ceremony.

How many religious ceremonies are licensed by the state? We can only think of one - marriage. Should baptism be licensed? How about communion?

So we come to the conclusion that the government is in the business of deciding which religious practice of marriage is acceptable. Marriage between one man and one woman is ok, but between two men or two women is not. Following that line of logic, the state should then be able to determine who is eligible for baptism and who is not.

We understand that this issue brings up strong feelings but we implore our readers to apply reason and logic to the issue before making a decision.

We have a hard time finding a logical argument against gay marriage. The most-often used argument is that marriage is part of the fabric of society and that if marriage is "ruined" to allow gays to marry, society will somehow collapse. In fact, the proposed amendment's own wording says that the intention is to preserve the benefits of marriage "for the children." But, exactly how would gay marriage harm children or be any different than today's world of straight-only marriage?

Around 50% of marriages currently end in divorce. How, exactly, is that a benefit to society? The tremendous rate of failure of traditional marriage, many involving children, seems to be more of a threat to society than a very small minority who simply want to have the same rights as everyone else.

If two people, who love each other, repugnant as the behavior may be for some, want to dedicate their lives to each other, why not allow that?

What gay marriage proponents often try to use as another option is the concept of a civil union. A civil union essentially confers the legal rights of a marriage on a couple without calling it a marriage. This amendment would outlaw any such civil union legislation in Michigan.

Opponents of this proposed amendment say that it will outlaw domestic partner benefits for those who work for companies that offer such benefits. If a man and woman live together and have a child, but are not married, many companies will offer benefits to the whole family. This amendment appears to outlaw such benefits.

But an even more fundamental question comes to mind. Why should we mess with our constitution on an issue that has purely emotional effects? We can't determine one real, tangible, societal effect gay marriage would have. Who would be harmed by gay marriage?

Our constitution is designed to do two things - define the rights of citizens that government cannot infringe upon and define how government operates. It does not define social issues that should be handled solely by the legislature, nor should it.

For these reasons, we will be voting NO on Michigan's Proposal 2.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Michigan’s Proposal 1 - NO

This will be the first in a series of election-related posts. We will focus on local issues only.

Proposal 1 (officially 04-1), which will be on the Michigan ballot November 2nd, 2004, is titled: "A proposal to amend the state constitution to require voter approval of any state gambling authorized by law and certain state lottery games."

This proposal would amend the state constitution to require both a statewide vote and a vote in the locality where a proposed casino is to be built. This not only requires a vote on casinos, but any form of gambling which is authorized by law after Jan 1, 2004. However, Indian casinos and casinos which already exist are exempted from this proposal.

So, basically, what does this do? It makes it nearly impossible to set up any new casinos (non-Indian) in Michigan. If, for instance, Muskegon decides that they want to authorize a casino to boost their local economy, they get to vote on it. Sounds like a good plan, right? Well, then the entire state gets to vote on it separately.

Detroit already has its monopoly on non-Indian casinos. That is why they are heavily supporting this proposal. It essentially gives the Detroit area a veto on any new casinos. It's nearly impossible to get anything passed in this state without the support of SE Michigan. In fact, the proposed amendment specifically exempts the three casinos in Detroit.

But on top of that, this takes the power out of the hands of the legislature to approve casinos or any new form of gambling in the state. Is that something we really want to put in our constitution?

Gambling and casinos are like any other business - they provide a service that people obviously want to take part in. Why should one particular form of business be inserted into the constitution as a special case requiring a vote? Should the entire state vote on every new Starbucks? How about every new car dealership?

So while this sounds like a good plan when they say, "let the local people decide," it is much more than that. It nearly eliminates the possibility of any new casinos or gaming of any kind in Michigan.

Both Governor Granholm and House Speaker Rick Johnson have jointly come out in opposition to Proposal 1. Even though we here at GR Pundit don't put much stock in our politicians - from either side of the aisle - it makes us take notice when a joint opposition is announced.

For these reasons, we at GR Pundit have decided to vote NO on Michigan's Proposal 1.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Call to Misguided Renewal

Yesterday, Mayor Heartwell as well as other local politicians and clergy held a rally to overcome poverty. The rally was sponsored by an organization called West Michigan Call to Renewal, which is part of a larger nation-wide Call to Renewal organization.

Notwithstanding the fact that here at GR Pundit we're having a tough time remembering the last time a rally solved the world's problems, we wondered exactly what this organization's goals are.

We found on their website, as part of their mission statement, a typical explanation of what they look for:

We believe the American people are disgusted with politics as usual and hungry for political vision with spiritual values that transcends the old and failed categories that still imprison public discourse and stifle our creativity. The religious community should help lead that discussion and action toward new political and economic alternatives.

They are attempting to throw off the old political labels and look for a third way in using government to achieve their means. Which is exactly where they end up being like any other social favors organization. They pay lots of lip service to finding that "third way" to ending poverty, but they end up supporting the same partisan positions that end up bloating government, raising taxes, doling out money, and ultimately harming people more in the long run.

Their mistake is in thinking that government is the source of economic renewal and improvement - in thinking that government is the ultimate economic uplifter and equalizer. They err greatly on this front. Didn't the so-called war on poverty demonstrate to these people that this isn't the way to help people?

A few examples of the programs they want people to advocate for are listed on their web site:

  • "Reform" of estate tax - no repeal
  • Increased "No Child Left Behind" funding
  • Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (backdoor wealth redistribution)
  • Healthcare socialization
  • Living wage laws

    Hmm. Doesn't sound more than a thinly-veiled arm of the political left in America.

    More government won't solve the problem of poverty. The article from yesterday's Press points to some facts about the local economy:

  • Grand Rapids unemployment was 10.4% in 2003, way above the national average of 6%.
  • Food assistance programs are on the rise
  • 700-800 people were in emergency shelters each night in 2003

    But, as we've reported earlier, Grand Rapids also has the second-highest tax rate in the county.

    The economic interventionists, such as Mayor Heartwell, don't seem to grasp the direct relationship between high taxes and slow (or negative) economic growth. The only way to get people out of poverty, permanently, is to ensure a growing and health economy. High taxes are the kryptonite to a strong economy. Ultimately, as taxes increase, businesses hire fewer people, pay them less, and spend less on growth.

    In addition, a strong education is needed to overcome the dramatically shifting economic picture from manufacturing to a service economy. Yet, Call to Renewal acts like another arm of the National Education Association in advocating more simply more money for education - of course directly from the federal government. If someone can point out to us a (legitimate) study showing a direct relationship between education spending and outcomes, lunch is on us.

    GR Pundit has a few suggestions for really overcoming poverty:

  • Create universal education tax credits, so children stuck in miserable failing schools can benefit from those who wish to donate to education scholarship funds
  • Reduce tax rates for all Americans - growing the economy, creating jobs, and improving the economic opportunities for everyone
  • Reduce the bloat of government

    Pretty simple stuff, but not very exciting the for the busybody politicians out there.
  • Thursday, October 7, 2004

    Dancing Not Evil Any More?

    In a stunning reversal, Cornerstone University's governing board decided to change their rule which prohibited students from dancing, on and off campus.

    Dancing was banned by the University in 1941 because it could cause "personal spiritual harm." Indeed. Evil.

    We just had to comment on that one because it made us laugh.

    We're shocked. Shocked! Another example of declining morals - they can dance now! What is the world coming to?