Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Proposal 2: Mayor Heartwell and the U of M

The fallout from Proposal 2 continues. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell has apparently decided that he wants the taxpayers of the city to pay for a federal lawsuit to stop the implementation of Proposal 2. Heartwell uses the same logical contortions of groups like BAMN to try and make an argument that banning racism and sexism somehow is discriminatory. The article linked above actually says that Prop 2 is a "civil rights violation." It's not clear if that's a Heartwell quote or summary of his position, but it's typical of the utter hypocrisy of the pro-racism lobby that Heartwell apparently belongs to.

But an even more interesting issue arises here. Mayor Heartwell, along with all the public officials in the state of Michigan, are required to take an oath of office. That oath reads as follows:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the
United States, and the Constitution of this State, and that I will faithfully perform the duties of the office of __________________ in and for the City of _________________, County of ____________ and the State of Michigan, according to the best of my ability, so help me God.

Mayor Heartwell has taken a similar oath to "support... the Constitution of this State..." Proposal 2 is an amendment to the state's constitution. The mayor is therefore looking at violating his oath and defying the state's constitution. Filing a lawsuit to try and stop a state constitutional amendment certainly cannot be defined as supporting the constitution.

Perhaps the University of Michigan's president, Mary Sue Coleman, has seen the legal light on this issue. She has decided to back off her earlier statements that she would fight Proposal 2 in court. When she addressed the university's Board of Regents this week, she didn't mention any lawsuit. In fact, she committed to working within the law:
"With last week's passage of Proposal 2, I want to again assure the campus community that we remain fully dedicated to a diverse university and that we will obey the laws of our state,'' said Coleman. "What will be essential is that all of us - students, faculty and staff and administrators - pursue all possible creative solutions to achieve diversity at the university within the boundaries of the law.''
We tried to find some statistics relating to minority enrollment at the U of M to compare with minority graduation, but we were unable to find that information. However, we did find some information on how California's Proposition 209, similar to Michigan's Proposal 2, affected universities in California.

The interesting outcome in California appears to be an increase in the number of minorities graduating from universities. That's right, an increase. Why? Because enrolling students who would not otherwise qualify for admission to a top-tier university actually does the student a disservice. Think about it this way: if you were a B-average student and a top university admitted you based on something other than your grades, chances are you wouldn't do so well, surrounded by A-average students in a very rigorous academic environment. Students not qualified to attend a top-tier university tend to drop out in higher rates. Therefore, it does them a disservice.

By admitting students to universities largely based on academic ability, students tend to apply for and attend the university that is closer to the academic rigor level they will succeed in. Therefore, the effect of Proposition 209 is that minority students tend to apply for admission at universities at the level of rigor they are more comfortable in. Therefore, instead of dropping out due to an inability to keep up, they tend to graduate at higher levels.

The reality of minority graduation rates bear this out. Rates stayed the same both before and after the passage of Proposition 209. That is, regardless of admissions levels of minority students, graduations rates were flat.

But of course, special interests to hate to see special favors melt away will do anything they can to preserve the status quo, as our mayor is demonstrating. Never mind the fact that the city is constantly complaining about a lack of funding and funds for critical services - apparently it's more important to use our taxpayer dollars to try and overturn the vote of a majority of Michiganders.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

State Budget Gnashing

The stage is already being set for a possible state (and probably local) tax increase. Today's Detroit News reports that state revenues for the just-completed fiscal year 2005-2006 are down by $170 million. That's about 0.85% less than they anticipated, yet we are already hearing that the world is going to end for schools and no more police will be on the streets.

But, before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take a quick look at the budget. We compiled the graph at left from data published by the Senate Fiscal Agency. It is a summary of the total state revenue and expenditures since the 1990-1991 fiscal year. The only year when the expenditures actually went down was 2002-2003, when they declined by 0.28%, or about $118 million. However, every single year, revenue has increased.

A couple of quotes will show you how bureaucrats and politicians are so good at making situations sound much worse than they are in order to scare us into being more accepting of tax increases. From the article above:

The governor and lawmakers have erased more than $3 billion in cumulative deficits over the past four years by making budget cuts, increasing cigarette taxes and fees, and shifting money from other accounts.

You'll see, that even though one reduction in the budget from 2002 to 2003 occurred, a grand total of $118 million, bureaucrats seem to be able to conjure up at least $3 billion in "cuts" over the last several years. How do they do this? Here's how:

If a government budget is $100 million this year and it is budgeted to increase to $110 million next year, but the actual increase is to $102 million, it is called an $8 million cut, even though more real money is being spent. Our Grand Rapids city politicians are very good at making this sort of obfuscationary budget argument. You see, the "cut" isn't a real reduction in spending, it's a reduction in the anticipated increase in spending.

Now, of course, the bureaucrats' special interest groups are crying foul. Justin King, executive director of the Michigan Association of Schools Boards, the lobbyist organization for school districts, claims that any cut in school funding this year would be "devastating." He says that 50 school districts are approaching bankruptcy, even though schools have received a 35% increase in funding, after adjusting for inflation, over the last ten years. One presumes that he is including our own Grand Rapids Public Schools when he says that districts are on the verge of bankruptcy, even though GRPS spends $10,770 per student. You see, a reduction in the state budget of 0.85% is billed as devastating to schools.

But the sky doesn't stop falling there. Dan Gilmartin, executive director of the Michigan Municipal League (the lobbyist organization for Michigan cities), says, "Any additional cuts would be suicidal for communities," and, We're laying off cops, not paving roads and not attracting new jobs."

This is all attributed to a state payment to cities called revenue sharing. Basically it's a redistribution of state-collected taxes to city governments. Our city bureaucrats and politicians are fond of stating that the city government has "lost" $30 million in revenue sharing. However, we again look at the real numbers. Annual city revenue from revenue sharing has declined from a high of about $27 million a year to about $23 million this year. Yes, that's a real reduction of $4 million, but instead of saying that they have had to cut $4 million out of the budget (that doesn't sound too sexy), they add up what they would have gotten each year if the state continued to boost revenue sharing. Presto - they've "cut" $30 million out of the city budget!

The cry from cities is now that they will have to cut police and fire to make up the difference of any additional "cuts."

Never underestimate a bureaucrat whose job is on the line. They will obfuscate the budget numbers as much as possible to scare us. Instead of cities and schools engaging in simple and small (0.85%) wage cuts to preserve jobs, they will lay off teachers, policemen, and firemen, all the while still maintaining extremely generous benefits packages for those who remain.

While the rest of us have had to tighten our belts and deal with the still-stagnant and even declining economy in Michigan, government will continue to expand. Government never will have "enough" - don't forget that.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Contortionist Logic and Proposal 2

An article from the Daily Californian today has some more detail on the lawsuit(s) filed to try and stop the adoption of the anti-racism Proposal 2, which was passed by a 58% to 42% margin last week. We don't even know what to call the lack of logic detailed in the article, but here are a couple of telling quotes:

“For minority students on these campuses without affirmative action, it’s a degrading experience and that cannot be a reality for any more students,”

What? In other words, minority students who do not receive preferential treatment just because of the color of their skin are somehow feeling degraded? Do they understand the contortion of logic it requires for that to make sense? The person who is quoted is an alum of the University of Berkeley and someone who has joined the lawsuit. She is implicitly stating that minorities are incapable of succeeding without preferential treatment, and that by not receiving that preferential treatment, they are humiliated. That is racism!

What we're seeing here is the true color of those who have been supporting affirmative action. They are the latent racists because it is clear that they do not think minorities can succeed without preferential treatment. They want people treated differently, based solely on their skin color - a little bit of DNA.

Another gem of lunacy:
“Prohibiting affirmative action in Michigan means that people all over this country are subjected to discrimination that comes into play.”

That's according to Luke Massey, a co-chair of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), the violent and racist organization which is trying to block the implementation of Proposal 2. So ending affirmative action, which is in itself a form of racism and discrimination, results in discrimination? Proposal 2 makes it illegal to engage in race discrimination! What planet do these people come from? Do they have a grasp of the meaning of words in the English language?

Nevertheless, these lawsuits will fail because they always have in other states. They are just trying to save their old ways of set-asides and preferential treatment. We know that whenever the status-quo is threatened, we'll be subjected to threats of doom and a falling sky by those who benefited from such a system. But, it's no more. We finally have a color blind government in Michigan.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Who Paid for Proposal 5? You Did!

We did some reseach on who backed Proposal 5 and, to our complete and utter lack of surprise, the far majority of the money came from the National Education Association, aka, the teachers union. How much? $3.4 million. If you're a teacher, I hope you rest well knowing that so much of your dues money was wasted.

The Michigan Education Association contributed $496,000. All told, the teachers union funded Proposal 5 to the tune of about $4 million. That's out of about $4.1 million total that was raised. There is no question as to who wanted this proposal to pass and who it would benefit.

But another interesting side note is how two publically-funded organizations, the Michigan Association of School Boards and the Middle Cities Education Association also contributed money. Both these organizations charge dues to school boards across the state. In other words, the taxpayer dollars we contribute to pay for schools are then paid to these two organizations as "dues," and then those dollars were spent to back a proposal to extract even more dollars from us. Our own tax money was used against us. This should be criminal.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

GR Pundit Election Wrap-Up

GR Pundit would like to express contentment with the outcome of the elections in Michigan this year. We have been in favor in a split government, that's why we weren't very big fans of a DeVos election. The re-election of Jennifer Granholm will ensure that continued split, with the addition of a Democrat-controlled State House. We just hope that the legislature and governor can get together and see the light about really turning Michigan around. Pet economic development plans won't work - and when government picks economic winners and losers, we all lose. It's time to make Michigan friendly to all businesses, not just a few that the governor likes.

As for the proposals, we are very pleased about how they turned out.

Proposal 1 - Ensuring that state park funds are actually spent on state parks - Passed

Proposal 2 - Banning racist hiring, admissions, and contracting practices by any unit of government in Michigan - Passed

Proposal 3 - Allowing morning doves to be hunted - Failed

Proposal 4 - Banning eminiment domain for economic development purposes - Passed

Proposal 5 - Setting up mandatory funding levels for K-16 education - Failed

We were most worried about Proposal 5 passing because it would have caused the most economic damage and would have done nothing but protect the bloated public education bureacuracy and continue the lack of accountability of education in Michigan. Now it's time to lift the cap on charter schools - which cost less than traditional public schools and do a better job. Parents desperately want and need the choice.

Proposal 2, which we were also hopeful would pass, did so handily. Michigan, and any unit of government in Michgian, will no longer be able to engage in racist hiring, admissions, and contracting practices. We now have true equality in Michigan. Of course, groups such as By Any Mean Necessay (BAMN) have filed lawsuits trying to overturn the passage of Proposal 2. This just shows their complete contempt for the will of the people. In addition, their lawsuit invokes the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment in trying to argue that creating a color-blind government somehow creates unequal treatment.

Let the gnashing of teeth begin.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

End State-Sponsored Racism - Vote YES on Michigan’s Proposal 2

Proposal 2 (the Michigan Civil Rights Iniative), which will be on the ballot next week, will end racist hiring, contracting, and admissions practices in Michigan if it passes. In short, it will end all state-sponsored racism and sexism. Equal means equal, so we're voting YES on 2!

Don’t Bankrupt Michigan - Vote NO on Proposal 5

Proposal five, which will be on Michigan's ballot on Tuesday, is a union-sponsored and funded campaign to dramatically boost funding for teacher pensions. The proposal basically creates a madatory annual increase for school funding, based on the rate of inflation. However, what the proposal's backers don't tell you is that the majority of this money ($700 million in the first year alone) will go to teacher pensions, not the classroom. That money will either have to come from cutting other government services or raising taxes, because there certainly isn't that much extra money in the state's general fund. Voting yes on five does nothing more than line the pockets of the teacher's union - none of the money is mandated to go to the calssroom. That's why at GR Pundit, we're voting NO on Proposal 5.