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September 07, 2005 - Image 28

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6B - The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2005

COMMENTARY
Gay activists misinterpret civil rights history
JASON Z. PESICK ONE SMALL VOICE MARCH 9, 2005
ay rights segregationists, combined with what O'Hara as saying, "This savage action because of the asymmetries between
became was generally portrayed and perceived in stormtrooper style ... must have what was at stake for blacks and what
a promi- as the movement's generally nonvio- shocked and shamed Americans." And is now at stake for gays, gay rights is
nent issue in the lent nature and its highly legitimate it did. But wild events such as this are not as noble a cause as racial equality
November elec- goals, had the effect both of making more rare in the gay rights movement was. On the same day that gay couples
tion because lib- the movement appear 'extremely vir- than they were in the '60s. in Massachusetts could begin to have
erals sensed an tuous' in comparison to its opponents There is no history of enslaving gays, their marriages legally recognized, a
opportunity to and of depicting racial segregation as sending them to separate schools or number of well-known black clergy-
expand gay rights far more brutal than the majority of allowing them to live in economic squa- men went to Washington to show their
and some conser- white Americans realized. Needless lor. Thankfully, gay Americans are not opposition to gay unions.
vatives salivated over the potential to to say, a very major role in creating relegated to the slums of society. The San Francisco Chronicle quoted
use the issue for political advantage. those all-important perceptions and And leaders in the gay rights move- California Bishop Frank Stewart as
Many advocates of expanding gay reactions among both the society at ment understand this difference. The saying, "Gays have never gone through
rights, including this editorial page, large and political actors in Washing- New York Times's John Broder wrote slavery nor been put down and abused
compared the struggle to achieve ton was played by the media... " that Steven Fisher, the communica- like blacks." Seven black pastors,
equality for gays to the civil rights It was the stark images of "white tions director for the largest U.S. known as the San Francisco Taberna-
movement of the 1960s. But these only" signs in front of bathrooms and gay and lesbian advocacy group, the cle Clergy said in a joint statement that
same advocates have failed to realize drinking fountains, the scene of Ala- Human Rights Campaign, "said the comparisons between the movement
that there are a number of differences bama Gov. George Wallace stand- group's emphasis in coming months for gay marriage and for civil rights
between the two movements. ing in front of a schoolhouse door to would be on communicating the strug- "are offensive and belittle the cause of
The problem with equating them is keep blacks from entering, the bomb- gles of gays in their families, work- freedom and racial justice."
not that equality for black Americans ing of Birmingham's 16th Street Bap- places, churches and synagogues." Maybe partly because the black
should be put on a higher plane than tist Church in which 21 children were This strategy could be more effective, community tends to be socially con-
equality for gay Americans, but ironi- injured and four girls were killed, the but discrimination against gay Ameri- servative and therefore opposed to gay
cally, that the lack of startling images incarcerations of civil rights leaders, cans, while abhorrent, rarely carries rights, these clergy mistakenly advo-
of discrimination and a dark history the assassinations, the firefighters aim- the shock value that the frightening cate the position that because gays have
of slavery has made garnering support ing their hoses at demonstrators, the violence against black Americans did. not endured the same hardships blacks
among the American people for gay dogs attacking the demonstrators and So the American people's response have, they are not entitled to equal
rights much more difficult. the police beating them that finally will be less decisive now than it was rights. It's a dangerous rhetorical path
During the '60s, Americans decid- made Americans cry "Enough" - not 40 years ago. Cruelly beating people to tread - a sick competition of whose
ed the time had come for the country altruism or an intense wave of racial demonstrating for their most basic grievances are more compelling.
to break with the past on issues of race understanding. civil rights violates core American In this country, a community's histo-
relations, but it wasn't because moder- On March 7, 1965, "Bloody Sunday," principles. As Jimmy Carter might ry does not disqualify those people who
ate Americans suddenly experienced a civil rights march in Selma, Ala, say, our nation's soul was at stake. compose it from receiving equal rights.
an ideological transformation. David turned to chaos as police used tear gas Unfortunately, however, many lead-
Garrow, a law professor at Emory and clubs on demonstrators. The Asso- ers of the civil rights movement now Pesick can be reached at
University, has written, "Violence by ciated Press quoted U.S. Rep. James G. operate under the assumption that jzpesick@umich.edu
All the benefits, none of the costs
Christopher Zbrozek Born in the U.S.A MARCH 9,200
halk the failure of tax over two decades. surer Douglas Roberts said that the '90s tax cuts cost
February's jail millage Tax cuts in good times might have been meant the state $6 billion in FY 2003 alone - far more
up to one of the great to return excess revenue to taxpayers, but once the than the deficit.
constants of American politi- economy soured, they were perceived as essential to One obvious solution is to rescind some of the
cal life - the public's reflexive renewed growth. Though the state was hemorrhaging tax cuts. Roberts argues the state would be in even
aversion to taxes. money, slowdowns of the incremental tax cuts - let worse fiscal shape if it hadn't made itself more favor-
Some liberal opponents of alone tax increases - were not on the table. The able to businesses and individuals through tax cuts.
the plan to expand the Washt- income tax cut proceeded as planned, and, though Cutting taxes too far, however, results in an equally
enaw County Jail, like the No the bill enacting the SBT cut had included a provision unfavorably low level of government services. No
Giant Jail Committee, argued halting further cuts if the state's "rainy day fund" ran one wants to live in a state with high taxes - or one
that our country already has low, Engler signed a bill to speed up the SBT's elimi- with lousy schools and roads. Though some conser-
some of the highest incarceration rates in the world nation to 2010. Responsibly enough, this legislation vatives deplore public spending on principle, most
and needs legal reform, not more prisons. If voters included no plan whatsoever to replace the revenue people like receiving government services. They
had treated the millage as a referendum on prison derived from the SBT after 2009. just don't want to pay for them.
policy, it should have been more popular with strict Why should we care? Well, the SBT goes direct- Despite the logical need for the public to balance its
law-and-order conservative voters than with liber- ly into the state's general fund - the same portion appetite for services against its lust for low taxes, there
als worried about flaws in the judicial system and of the budget that includes the University's yearly is rarely the political will - in Washtenaw County,
the rise of the prison-industrial complex. A look at appropriation. Historically, about a quarter of the in Michigan or in the nation as a whole - for any tax
the votes cast, however, hints that what drove voters general fund has come from the SBT. Given Lan- increases, for any reason. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley,
was the simple desire to avoid a tax increase. sing's repeatedly demonstrated willingness to cut a Republican and a Southern Baptist, couldn't garner
The millage failed, county-wide, by a solid mar- higher education funding, public universities could support for a 2003 referendum that would raise taxes
gin. It had a fighting chance, with 42 percent sup- take a considerable hit if the law is left unchanged. to avert a fiscal crisis so bad the state was contemplat-
port, in precincts that voted for Sen. John Kerry The current SBT is fairly controversial, and ing releasing prisoners - not even by telling citizens
(D-Mass.) last November. It even came close to Democrats introduced legislation in March to over- a "yes" vote was their "Christian duty."
passing in Ann Arbor. But in Washtenaw County haul the SBT's structure. The bill would increase Death and taxes are equally inevitable, and about
precincts that voted for President Bush (yes, they taxes for some, but it is designed to be revenue-neu- equally unpopular. Right-wingers have used this fact
exist), it went down three to one. These are the same tral and would result in a tax cut for three-fourths of in a scheme to shrink government known as "starve
people who agreed with the simple argument on a Michigan businesses. Granholm spokeswoman Liz the beast," where excessive tax cuts in good times
billboard along I-94 during the presidential cam- Boyd is hopeful that the Republican-controlled leg- lead to shortfalls and, presumably, program cuts
paign: "It's your money. Bush/Cheney '04." islature will pass the bill, saying the administration in bad times. This might be what's happening in
The motivation to avoid taxes also drives politics was "taking the legislature at its word that it will Michigan, but the Bush administration's expansion
at the state level. Former Michigan Gov. John Engler give the Governor's proposal a fair hearing." With of the federal government while running huge defi-
stayed in office for 12 years in part by delivering state Republican leadership favoring a decreased cits argue against the theory's viability on the federal
tax cuts. (Such formidable Democratic opponents business tax, however, I'm less optimistic. level. Most voters want both low taxes and lots of
as Geoffrey Fieger, best known as Jack Kevorkian's There are no quick fixes left to deal with Michi- government services, and to hell with the math.
attorney, also made Engler's life easier). In 1999, gan's structural budget deficit, and the rainy day fund
Engler signed laws cutting the state's income tax is gone. Certainly, previous tax cuts have contributed Zbrozek can be reached at
over five years and phasing out the single business to the chronic lack of revenue. Former State Trea- zbro@umich.edu.
The myth of the Detroit renaissance
DANIEL ADAMS HORSESH)OES AND HANDRENADES JANUARY 31, 2005

n 1977, The then, as soon as the day is done, the ing on the importance of a larger Cobo $214 million shortfall, the city would
Renaissance people go home, most doing their dam- in order to accommodate its signature be cutting roughly 900 jobs and lower-
Center, a nest to avoid spending one second Ion- event, the North American Internation- ing wages for nonunion employees. He
modern, $420 ger in Detroit then they have to. al Auto Show. The logic goes like this: said in his Jan. 12 speech, "We have
million struc- It turns out that, even if you do In order to attract and retain big-name failed for decades to make tough deci-
ture went up on build it, there is no guarantee that conventions (and the dollars they bring sions by spending millions as our tax
Jefferson Street they will come, and, more important- in) Detroit needs a more modern, spa- base was shrinking, by making gov-
in downtown ly, come to stay. cious convention center. ernment bigger, and tens of thousands
Detroit. From its Admittedly, I'm not saying anything We've heard this before. of people were leaving the city."
name to its warm new here. It doesn't take a particularly Doesn't he get it? But he wants to sink hundreds of
reception by local and national observ- astute observer to notice how the mass- It doesn't matter if you have the great- millions into Cobo, when the city still
ers, the building triumphantly heralded es filed in for last week's North Ameri- est convention center in the world if, ear- hasn't finished paying for its last reno-
the dawn of a new era for the city - the can International Auto Show, and, after lier this year, you had to close schools vation in 1989?
start of a Detroit Renaissance. seeing what there was to be seen, pre- and lay off teachers. He doesn't get it.
The building opened; the Renais- dictably filed out to places outside the It doesn't matter if you have a multi- Cobo Hall expansion is just anoth-
-sance it was supposed to spark fizzled. city to dinner and to home. million dollar monorail if, only this er in a long line of glitzy, hyped-up
Today it sits, a glassy monstrosity Everyone knows that these proj- month, you announced plans to cut bus- development projects - projects that
pressed up against the banks of the ects have in many ways fallen short of ing that serve the city's poorest citizens. have historically fallen far short of
Detroit River by miles and miles of expectations. On some level, most can It doesn't matter if you have thousands expectations and failed to revitalize a
crushing poverty. Sadly, the RenCen admit that Detroit is a failing city. of square feet of high-end office space if failing city. While the auto show is a
suffers from the same problem that has Despite that, city and state leaders your neighborhoods are struggling, your tremendously important event for the
predictably and systematically stricken have begun pushing plans to expand roads are crumbling and, after a wave city, so too are any number of its most
other such revitalization projects: Cobo Center - at a cost of anywhere of violent crime last April, your police pressing human, infrastructural and
It's in Detroit. from $650 million to a whopping department responds not by hitting the technological needs.
The RenCen. Cobo Center. The $1 billion - as the next step in this streets, but with a department-wide, A Detroit Renaissance? I hear about
People Mover. Ford Field. Comerica mythical Detroit Renaissance. Monday-afternoon prayer session. it. I just don't see it.
Park. All great ideas, choked by their Their point man? Detroit Mayor The cops just put down their weapons So, to anyone still talking about it:
proximity to the poverty and ruin they Kwame Kilpatrick, who, in between the and turned to Jesus for help, and we're Please stop.
were created to mitigate. accusations of adultery, thuggery and talking about a new convention center?
It's like clockwork - these places lying to the press about his wife's tax- Money is tight: Earlier this month, Adams can be reached at
draw the people in for the afternoon; payer-leased Escalade, has been stump- Kilpatrick announced that, facing a dnadams@umich.edu.
without a college education are on the decline, tuition is versity Investment Commission, made up of a group
on the rise." The logical response to that statement is that of state leaders, released a report that said that in
Continued from page 1B politicians therefore need to work to increase the propor- order to close the gap between what Michigan and
from comoelling. The national media were not tion of Americans going to college, and one way to do the more affordable states spend on higher educa-

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