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December 02, 2009 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-12-02

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4A - Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily com

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Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views ofttheir authors.
The road to regulation
High insurance rates a problem for low-income drivers
ichigan Democrats want to alleviate some of the pain
low-income drivers experience when they pay their
car insurance premiums. On Monday, they announced
a plan to create more governmental protections for low-income
drivers by increasing regulations on auto insurance companies,
including which criteria could be used to calculate a driver's pre-
mium. While there can be little doubt that low-income people are
suffering in today's economy, not all aspects of the Democrats'
plan are advisable. The government should empower regulatory.
agencies that can force insurance companies to offer fair rates,
rather than pass a bill completely revising, perhaps unwisely, the

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Don't ditch term limits

way rates are calculated.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the
plan proposed by state Democrats would
mandate that insurance companies offer
cheaper auto insurance to low-income
drivers with good driving records. The bill
would also include regulations that prevent
insurance companies from raising rates
on drivers with good records and prohibit
using education level, occupation and credit
rating to determine drivers' rates. And the
state insurance commissioner would be
given more freedom to check rate increases.
While reminders that Michigan's econ-
omy is in trouble may be getting tiresome,
they are still true. And low-income resi-
dents are the ones least able to weather the
storm. With the auto industry in turmoil
and a quick rebound unlikely, jobs will be
scarce for the foreseeable future. Low-
income people could be greatly benefitted
by lower auto insurance premiums.
And some of the practices of insurance
companies could be discriminatory. Look-
ing at a driver's level of education, profes-
sion and incomearen't necessarilyair wsys
of determining an individual's likelihood of
being involved in an accident.
But while low-income drivers can't afford
to pay more than everyone else, insurance
companies shouldn't necessarily be barred
from making determinations about wheth-

nly Michigan legislators could
be stupid enough to actually
suggest that the state's bud-
get crisis is any-
one's fault but their
own. Astoundingly,
an op-ed in last
Tuesday's Detroit
Free Press writ-F
ten by Tim Bled-
soe (D-Grosse
Pointe) and LarryJ
Deshazor (R-Por-
tage) reveals a seri- ROBERT
ous streak of denial SOAVE
in the state House
of Representatives.
The op-ed claims
the implementation of term limits is
to blame for the inability of lawmak-
ers to produce workable budgets over
the past few years. By extension, since
term limits were approved by voters
viaballot referendum in 1992, the bud-
get crisis is the fault of the taxpayers.
The Detroit Free Press followed up
with an editorial a few days later that
blamed voters more directly, writing,
"Michigan voters have themselves to
blame, at least in part, for the budget
bedlam in Lansing." The argument
is this: Michigan's term limit laws
(three two-year terms in the state
House and two four-year terms in
the state Senate) result in heavy turn-
over in the legislature. With so many
freshmen each year, it's difficult for
legislators to establish the long-term
working relationships critical to the
legislative process. In short, because
of term limits, "everyone in Lansing
is a short-timer."
Yeah, right. Being able to spend
up to 14 years in the statelegislature
doesn't make anybody a short-timer.
If you can't do your job right in that
amount of time, you really shouldn't
be asking for another term. It is the
job of legislators to implementa work-
able budget for the upcoming fiscal

year each year. To say that they can't
accomplish this task because they
haven't learned how to do their jobs
yet is incredibly naive.
Think about it: In what private sec-
tor job are you guaranteed to keep
your job for at least two years?.Inwhat
private sector job are you expected
to take multiple years to be qualified
enough to fulfill the position's basic
We certainly wouldn't apply this
logic to other unpopular politicians.
I don't think anyone would have
explained President George W. Bush's
failures by saying, "Well, this is real-
ly the fault of term limits that hold
the president to eight years in office.
He'll get it right in years nine through
twelve. By then, his administration
will finally have that long-term work-
ing relationship thing going for it." '
The most fervent of Bush-haters
might grimace at such a comparison,
and consider it wrong - offensive,
even - to compare the disastrous
Bush presidency to the Michigan leg-
islature. But Gov. Jennifer Granholm
and state legislators have consider-
ably damaged Michigan, probably to
a greater extent than Bush ever did to
the nation as a whole.
Michigan's oppressive tax struc-
ture - namely, the Michigan Busi-
ness Tax - drives more businesses
away from the state each year. This, in
turn, has contributed to a steady rise
in unemployment, and the state cur-
rently has the worst unemployment
rate in the country (15.1 percent as of
October, according to the U.S. Bureau
of Labor Statistics). With businesses
leaving the state in droves and jobs
disappearing, it should come as no
surprise that the state's tax revenue
streams are plummeting, resulting in
a multi-billion dollar budger deficit.
Without an economic plan that makes
Michigan attractive to businesses
again, the state will face even bigger

deficits in subsequent years.
My point is that the state govern-
ment has consistentlyfailed to address
these problems.' Diminishing term
limits will only allow the legislators
who are responsible for such failures
to extend their stays in office.
14 years is plenty
of time to learn
how to do a job.
It's common knowledge that
incumbency comes with a multitude
of built-in advantages in elections.
Incumbents almost always have more
available funds and better name rec-
ognition. In recent years, they have
been re-elected 90 percent of the time
nationwide. Term limits are one of
the most effective political tools the
challenger has at his or her disposaL
In some cases, it is the only method of
assuring that voters will eventually be
rid of an ineffective lawmaker.
I'll grant that Bledsoe and
Deshazor's proposal for changing
termlimits is mild - theyonlywantto
change the law so that a legislator can
serve all 14 years in either the House
or the Senate, rather than six in one
and eight in the other. But how about
this: We'll think about shifting term
limits after legislators have cut the
budget deficit in half or fixed the tax
Until then, Michigan's financial
problems will remain the fault of law-
makers, not the citizens who voted to
put a check on their power.
- Robert Soave is the Daily's
edilorial page editor. He 'cS be
reached at rsoavePumich.edu.


er drivers will be able to pay if they are
involved in an accident. The line between
blatant discrimination and sound pricing
policy may not be as clear-cut as the Demo-
crats' plan would have you believe. Indeed,
it seems that the Democrats are trying
to score easy political points and haven't
thought through all the ramifications of
passing a law that micromanages the way
insurance companies calculate premiums.
Instead, legislators should expand the
ability of regulatory agencies to make those
determinations. Regulators should be given
a strong mandate to make sure that insur-
ance premiums are being calculated fairly
and that low-income drivers aren't getting
the short end of the stick. Such a mandate
would be able to protect the less fortunate
while making sure that insurance compa-
nies don't pass the costs on to middle-class
The state government has a responsibil-
ity to protect lower-income groups during
tough economic times. Keeping a closer eye
Qp how much they pay in auto insurance is
one way of doing that. But the Democrats'
plan should be carefully examined if it's
introduced to the legislature. Regulators
may be able to do more to balance auto
insurance rates than a complete reform

Nina Amilineni, Emily Barton, Jamie Block, William Butler, Ben Caleca, Nicholas Clift,
Michelle DeWitt, Brian Flaherty, Emma Jeszke, Sutha K Kanagasingam,
Erika Mayer, Edward McPhee, Harsha Panduranga, Alex Schiff, Asa Smith,
Brittany Smith, Radhika Upadhyaya, Rachel Van Gilder, Laura Veith

The Daily is looking for a diverse group of strong, informed, passionate
writers to be columnists for the winter semester. Columnists write a
700-800 word column every other week on a topic of their choosing.
If you are an opinionated and talented writer, consider applying.
Compromising on abortion


IASA overstepped bounds by
using spraypaint on campus
To the Daily:
After the sun goes down and the traffic has
subsidedthe time is right. Equipped with a buck-
et of chalk and a catchy phrase, most all student
organizations have done it.
Chalking the Diag to promote an event, donut
sale or just to tell passersby to have a great day
can be a very quick and effective way to get your
message out. And most students don't mind it. It
gives us something to look at on the cold, dismal
trek to class at 8:15 a.m. on a Mondays. It's a con-
stantly changing news feed that updates every
two to three days depending on the placement
and the rainfall - unless it's spray paint.
I have nothing against the Indian American
Student Association and I loved the cultural
show they put on, but over three weeks after their
advertisements first appeared across campus,
they are all still as prominent as ever. Everyone
who walks by still reads that they can buy tickets
11/13/09!" The fact that "TICKETS ARE AVAIL-
ABLE AT MUTO"has been ingrained in my mind
in orange spray paint graffiti. I understand that it
maybe frustrating if you have to re-chalk your ad
two or three times to keep it standing out if you
want to start advertising a week in advance, but
it is just disrespectful to use spray paint on such a
Michigan staple and tradition as the Diag.
The deed is done, and there is no use crying
over spilled milk, but I at least think IASA should
take responsibility for its action and clean it up.
It is one thing to want to promote your event, but
seriously? This is Michigan. Expect Respect.
Justin Blaty
LSA sophomore
Minaret ban in Switzerland
is unjust toward Muslims
To the Daily:
On Sunday, to my horror, I discovered that
Swiss voters had decided to ban all future con-
struction of Minarets. Minarets are towers tradi-
tionally used to call Muslims to prayer five times
a day. The initial referendum passed by over 57
percent. Given the Swiss system, due to the mar-
gin by which it passed, the ban is now part of the
Swiss Constitution. The Swiss Federal Council
opposed the ban at first, but jt has now accepted

the will of the people.
To put this issue into perspective, imagine if
the United States banned all crucifixes in church-
es. Neither Minarets nor crucifixes are strictly
necessary for religious practice, but they are
representative of the religion and hold a special
significance for the faithful. This vote represents
a violation of religious civil liberties and human
rights as setout by the United Nations's Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
This referendum was portrayed as complying
with strict new laws regulating construction,
but it's much more than that. It unfairly singles
out Minarets even though the calls to prayer
don't use speakers, and the Minarets thus cause
little disturbance. There are no bans on church
bell towers or even mounted speaker systems in
Swiss cities - just Minarets.
Advocates of the ban argue that Minarets
are political, not religious. According to sup-
porters, the structures represent a growing
trend of attempts by Muslims to use politics
for religious gains. The main target is the sup-
posedly nonintegrated, unassimilated and
backward Muslims falsely accused of trying to
create a parallel society.
The Swiss people took away the rights of
hundreds of thousands of their legal, taxpaying
citizens. Prior to the election, the United Nations
Human Rights Committee condemned the cam-
paign against Minarets, stating that the ban
would violate international law. Inthis case, since
these edifices don't fall under the stipulations of
Article 30 of the Declaration of Human Rights,
i.e. violating or destroying the rights of others,
the ban violates Articles 19 and 27. It denies Mus-
lims the right to express themselves 'through
any media" and to fully participate in their com-
munity - in this case, the national community of
Switzerland. Therefore, it unequivocally violates
international law.
I join with my Muslim brothers and sisters in
solidarity to ask for international intervention
against this travesty of democracy. This isn't an
issue about whether you like Minarets or even
Muslims - it's an issue about whether you feel
that the right to free thought and expression are
Even living across the ocean, I can't enjoy my
religious and intellectual freedoms when I know
that other people have lost theirs. It is our duty
as members of the international community to
try to right this wrong.
Speak out and be heard for those who are now
without a call.

By some miracle, the United States managed to get
through both a presidential election and Supreme Court
justice nomination without reigniting the fight over
abortion. But of course, that couldn't last forever. The
great health care debate of 2009 has finally awakened
the sleeping giant of the American Culture War, and the
clash between pro- and anti-reproductive rights groups
has resumed as fervently as ever.
For those in the pro-life camp, abortion is taking a life.
It doesn't matter if the child hasn't been born yet or even
if it's so early in the pregnancy it doesn't have brain waves
or a heartbeat. If life begins at conception, then taking
that life away before birth is the moral equivalent of pre-
natal homicide. A doctor that performs abortions is mor-
ally analogous to a serial killer. In short, if you follow the
logical progression of this line of thinking, then society is
allowing a full-blown genocide of babies to occur legally.
It is a simple - but compelling.- argument.
Advocates of reproductive rights have a much more
diverse set of arguments. Some contend that life begins
at birth. Others believe life starts at the point where the
fetus is sentient or that life does begin at conception, but
it is not the place of the government to prohibit abortion.
Starting with this view, abortion is in no way, shape or
form murder because a fetus is not the same as a human
being like you or me. A fetus cannot survive outside the
womb as a separate entity until very late in the pregnan-
cy, and thus is wholly different from a fully developed,
birthed human being. Additionally, women must retain
sovereignty over their own bodies and pregnancies. The
state has no right to intrude into the private lives of indi-
viduals, least of all someone's uterus.
Abortions generally stem from accidental pregnancies.
To keep that fetus is to bring an unwanted baby into the
world with possibly devastating, psychological impacts
for both parent and child. Often, these accidental preg-
nancies are the result of teenagers and young adults hav-
ing unprotected sex. It is abominable to force someone to
choose between going through a pregnancy only to give
away the baby for adoption, or to penalize her indefinite-
ly for one mistake. Banning abortion and, by extension,
restricting its practice, transforms having children from
a blessing to a burden.

Abortion is a zero-sum game - either human life
begins at conception, in which case abortion is killing a
human, or it begins after conception and it is not murder.
In a debate as emotionally and often religiously charged
as this one, no amount of discussion and argument will
ever objectively answer the question of where life (or
personhood) begins. For that reason, the focus should be
on reducing the number of unintended pregnancies that
lead to abortions. That means comprehensive sexual edu-
cation needs to be implemented nationwide to empower
teenagers and young adults with knowledge, which will
to diminish the number of people engaging in unprotect-
ed sex.
This is the best way to reduce unwanted pregnancies
and the abortions they engender. The only thing absti-
nence-only education accomplishes is sending unpre-
pared young adults into the real world, where sex isn't
quite so taboo. A 2007 study conducted by Mathematica
Policy Research Inc. on behalf of the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services illuminates the utter
uselessness of such programs. Following 2,000 children
randomly assigned to receive either abstinence-only
counseling or no counseling at all over four to six years,
the two groups were shown to have no statistically sig-
nificant differences in sexual abstinence rates, the age
of first sexual encounter and the number of sexual part-
ners. It's about as effective as telling kids that babies
come from the stork. It may be difficult for parents tolet.
their kids learn about things like sex and contraception,
but ignoring that conversation only ends up being a mis-
take as children grow older and the situation inevitably
I may be a fervent advocate of abortion rights, but I
understand the rationale of the other side and recognize
the endlessness of the debate. If we are consistent with
our principles, whether we are pro-life or pro-choice we
can agree that reducing the number of unintended preg-
nancies is the only way to move beyond this battle of
the American Culture War and heal the divisions in our
society. Maybe then we can have a rational debate about
health care policy.
Alex Schiff is an LSA freshman.

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