Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Mayor in Panic Mode

Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell held a rally in the Creston neighborhood on Monday to continue his so-called "rebellion" against cuts in Community Development Block Grants.

The mayor, along with all the big-government spenders are panicking lately because of reduced revenues to local and state government.

But the real kicker is the mayor's quote regarding these cuts and his mission to extract more money from taxpayers, saying he won't stop, "until God's reign of justice permeates our world."

We didn't realize that Community Development Block Grants were part of God's master plan. In fact, we have yet to see a section of the Bible that commands those in government to use the force and effect of government to extract money from people, at gunpoint if necessary, to redistribute to the poor. We always thought that the most virtue in giving was when one is giving from the heart, not when one is forced to do so under the threat of jail.

Folks like the mayor, and other Great Society apologists, are going batty because they see their welfare state being dismantled. Nevermind they have nothing to show for it.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Time for Amtrak to Die

President Bush proposed cutting 100% of the Amtrak subsidy. This is sending the public transit people into a tizzy. Though we all think trains are cool and it's fun to ride one, let's take a look at the numbers.

Michigan subsidizes Amtrak operations to the tune of about $7.1 million per year. The experts estimate that the state would have to kick in an additional $25-$30 million to make up for the lack of a federal subsidy to keep things going.

Michigan's three Amtrak routes carried 600,000 people last year.

Let's do some math. A subsidy means that the government is making up for the difference between what Amtrak receives in revenue from tickets and what it actually costs to run the system.

Let's combine the two subsidies and conservatively say that the total is about $32 million. 32 million divided by 600,000 passengers means that Amtrak is losing about $53 per passenger.

That's right, they're losing $53 per passenger. How can anyone justify that?

It's a wasteful system that eats up tax dollars that could be better spent... as a tax refund!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Michigan Unemployment Rises (Again)

Today we see that Michigan's unemployment rate again increased. February's rate is 7.5%, up from 7.1% in January.

Meanwhile, the legislature and governor wrestle with a $400 million budget deficit for next year.

The news just isn't getting any better for Michigan. What is to be done to help this state? It seems we're heading toward returning to the days of double-digit unemployment. That's not the Michigan I want to live in.

And the news over the horizon is even worse. Ford and GM, two of the state's largest employers, are steadily losing market share. GM just announced that their 2005 results will be far lower than previously expected.

Our state is reaping the results of heavy unionization. GM and Ford have such enormous unfunded pension and health care liabilities that there is a lot of doubt that they'll be able to pay the bills in the next few years. This article quotes the former CEO of American Airlines saying that if GM doesn't fix its pension and health care problem fast, "it cannot continue." What would happen to Michigan if there is a GM or Ford bankruptcy?

Radical changes are needed for this state to begin to prosper again. Here are our radical recommendations:

  • Make Michigan a right to work state - end mandatory union membership in union shops. Free workers to negotiate their own wages and benefits. The UAWs of the world are so out of touch with reality that they are actually harming their members in the long term.
  • Cut taxes and state government dramatically. Don't just make Michigan even with other states in tax and regulation levels, make Michigan irresistible to businesses by slashing the red tape and cutting taxes deeply.
  • Lift the cap on charter schools. Let the private sector compete to improve education. Don't prop up dying monopoly school systems that are badly failing.

    Then, just maybe, we'll begin to see a turnaround in Michigan. Unfortunately, there is no easy, short-term fix. Just long term solutions to a structural problem in Michigan are what will work.
  • Wednesday, March 23, 2005

    Grand Rapids Schools’ Panic

    The last few weeks have seen a flurry of activity around the Grand Rapids Schools. Superintendent Bert Bleke, as well as members of the school board, have been screaming about funding. They claim that they need to cut another $18 million from next year's budget.

    But, lo and behold, they are actually pursuing some cost cutting measures!

    Apparently the school district is finally pursuing outsourcing non-educational services. They're looking at outsourcing 400 jobs, according to the Grand Rapids Press. They're even vowing to keep cuts away from the classroom (a novel idea).

    The board members are blabbering on and on, as though this is such a tough and horrible decision - one they've been forced into against their will. Do any of them realize that they are running a school district, not a jobs program? They should have been doing this stuff years ago.

    But, along came the Teachers' Union Cavalry. They showed up en masse on Monday evening at the school board's meeting. Even the executive director of the Michigan Education Association spoke. They're bringing out the big guns. One can smell the fear in the air.

    We'll see if this school board and superintendent have a spine and stick by their plans.