Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Whole New Me

Grand Rapids Pundit has changed blog software once again. With this new package, we're allowed much more in terms of customization and flexibility. Do you like the new look?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Producers vs. Plunderers

This past weekend there was an article in the Grand Rapids Press about the benefits that Grand Rapids City Commissioners receive. We weren't even aware that Commissioners got both health care and pension benefits for their one day a week job.

It seems as though five Commissioners participate in the City's health care plan, though four of them make a voluntary contribution (James Jendrasiak pays nothing). The health care plan costs the city (consequently, us) $11,000 a year.

In addition, Commissioners receive pension benefits. Again, for a one day a week job.

One is reminded of the work of the great 19th century French economist, Frederic Bastiat. In his short treatise, entitled The Law, he separates people into two classes, those who produce something valuable and those who use the law to plunder the producers:

Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.

But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.

Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain — and since labor is pain in itself — it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly.

Remember this the next time the City Commission complains more about how they need to raise taxes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bigotry at Cornerstone University

On Monday and Tuesday in Grand Rapids we will see the difference between those who call themselves Christian and those who act like Christians.

A bussload of young Christian gay men and women, called Soulforce, will be coming to Grand Rapids to protest bigoted anti-gay policies at two local colleges - Cornerstone University and Calvin College.

Each of the two schools has a policy that discriminates against gays. For instance, Cornerstone's student handbook has the following guideline:


Students are to exercise discernment in television viewing based on the above guidelines. Beyond considerations regarding the content of a program, the discerning believer must also consider the point of view or judgments that are made regarding certain issues. Subjects like racism or homosexuality may be portrayed in a program, but consideration should be given as to whether the subject is ultimately celebrated or condemned. "

So, basically, Cornerstone students are prohibited from watching anything on TV which casts a positive light on gays.

However, the most telling part of this saga is the reaction to the visit by both Conerstone and Calvin. To get any sort of in-depth coverage, one has to turn to the Detroit News:

As two Grand Rapids colleges they'll visit in late April illustrate, sometimes they're welcome, other times they're not.

Rex Rogers, the president of Cornerstone University who claims in his blog that gays are in the "grip of sin," warns Riders won't be allowed on campus because, in his view, their "purpose is to undermine and attack the very basic biblical values that we say we believe in."

Down the road, Calvin College also teaches that gay sex is wrong but is inviting Riders to a worship service, meals and to tell "what it's like to have been on a bus ride for two months on a cause you believed in," says Shirley Hoogstra, vice president for student life. The Riders offer her students a chance "to welcome well the stranger at your gate," she adds.

It sounds like Cornerstone is simply afraid to let students even talk to the Soulforce riders. They might actually make sense! Well, we can't have hearts and minds changed, now can we?

Of course, we believe that any private institution has the right to make its own rules and those who enter those institutions should understand and abide by those rules. However, the Soulforce people are simply attempting to change hearts and minds by showing people that gays are just regular people who want to live their lives in peace.

Cornerstone could take some lessons from Calvin on how to act like true Christians toward their fellow human beings.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Tax Ourselves into Prosperity?

State government is having a tough time these days. The Governor and Legislature are arguing over how to close a supposed $940 million deficit for this fiscal year (which ends in September). But wait. As GR Pundit readers already understand, the way government budgets its money is different from how normal people and companies budget. Let's take a closer look at the numbers.

Is this "deficit" due to a reduction in revenue? According to the Michigan House Fiscal Agency, fiscal year 2005-6's General Fund revenue was $8.266 billion. Fiscal year 2006-07's General Fund revenue is expected to be $8.230 billion. That's a slight increase in reveues. So what's the problem? Well, spending, of course. According to the same agency, appropriations (spending) for 2006-07 are set at $9.2 billion. Houston, we have a problem.

So, as usual, Governor Granholm and the Democrats in the state House are proposing all sorts of tax increases, including a 2% sales tax on services, an increase in the death tax, higher taxes on cigarettes, higher taxes on insurance, and higher liquor taxes.

The problem here is that residents of Michigan already enjoy the 16th highest tax burden in the United States. The average tax burden is 10.6%, when combining all state and local taxes.

Any company or individual would cut back on spending to balance the budget. But, since government has a monopoly on the police and will put you in jail if you don't pay taxes, it's a heck of a lot easier, for politicians and bureaucrats, so simply force us to pay more tribute.

This is one of those times where having a split government is better for all of us. The Republicans and Democrats in the state have to fight it out to get an agreement. No rubber-stamping, as our Federal government was for the past six years.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Tax Attack 2007 - May 8th!

Grand Rapids residents need to be aware of tax attack 2007! There are three tax increase proposals on the ballot May 8th - did you know that? This is the problem with May elections - who pays attention?

Tax issues include the following:
  • Grand Rapids Public Schools - GRPS is asking for a renewal of their 18 mill non-homestead operating millage. Basically what this means is that GRPS depends on an 18 mill tax on properties that are not claimed as primary residences. The 18 mill amount has actually decreased to 17.8258 mills due to Headlee amendment reductions. This is generally a non-controversial issue since homeowners do not pay it, only businesses and rental property owners (thus renters).
  • Grand Rapids Community College - This one is a true tax increase. GRCC is asking for a an additional .56 mills, in addition to the current 1.7856 mills they already tax us for. That's a whopping 31% increase. The increase will bring an additional $11 million to the college each year in revenues. It will cost the average homeowner an additional $28 a year, or about $140 over the next five years.
  • Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid) - We're no friends of the Rapid, as our readers should know. They are asking for a .17 mill increase to the .95 mills they already get in tax revenue. That's an 18% increase. The new tax will raise about $2 million a year for the Rapid. This will cost the average GR homeowner about $8 a year or $40 over five years.

All told, the two homestead tax increases will cost the average homeowner about $37 a year extra, for a total annual cost of $173 a year for both GRCC and The Rapid.

Oh, and Grand Rapids Public Schools board elections are on the ballot too - but does anyone even care any more?