4A - Monday, February 1, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
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the University of Michigan since 1890.
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EDITOR IN CHIEF
RACHEL VAN GILDER
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position oftthe Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views ofttheir authors.
Funding the wrong track
Federal stimulus funds should be routed to Mich. railroads
While Michigan is leading the way in research develop-
ments, it is falling far behind the pack when it comes
to combating unemployment. That position seems
unlikely to change after the state was snubbed in the latest round
of stimulus funding distribution. Last week, the Obama adminis-
tration announced plans to develop a high-speed rail across the
country. Michigan will receive only $40 million of an $8 billion
federal stimulus program to improve rail systems. And this allot-
ment pales in comparison to the billions that Florida and Califor-
nia will receive. Though any amount helps, Michigan deserves
a much bigger allotment of the stimulus money to help get on
board a development project that would create jobs and revamp
transportation in the state.
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The search for one senator
The $8 billion federal stimulus pro-
gram to develop high-speed rail lines was
announced by President Barack Obama last
week. According to a report on Thursday by
the Detroit Free Press, California received
$2.34 billion from the stimulus fund, and
Florida was allocated $1.25 billion. Michi-
gan's allotted portion of the program was
$40 million. The state originally applied for
$800 million in federal funds to build a high-
speed rail line between Chicago, Detroit and
Pontiac. The program was awarded $244
million, with $204 million going toward
development in Indiana and Illinois and $40
million granted to Michigan. The amount of
money received means that the state would
build or renovate existing passenger stations
in Battle Creek, Troy and Dearborn. The
other $204 million awarded to Illinois and
Indiana would be spent on the high-speed
rail line to Chicago.
New or improved rail service is a positive
improvement that could give the economy
a much-need boost and help the environ-
ment. A most expansive system of high-
speed trains would decrease the need for
car travel and decrease carbon emissions.
Trains will also greatly aid the mobility
of those without access to cars, like low-
income workers and students. And the
increased travel that would stimulate the
economy by making trips to metropolitan
areas more viable.
But though this development is important
for the country as a whole, the economical-
ly-ravaged state of Michigan won't get the
opportunity to cash in on the benefits of the
construction. The full amount of federal
fundingthat the state originally asked for to
build the rail line between Detroit and Chi-
cago would have created hundreds of jobs
that Michigan desperately needs. It would
have also opened a route to Detroit that
could have increased tourism and business
in the struggling city.
The federal government ignored Michi-
gan's need when it allocated significantly
larger portions of the $8 billion fund to
Indiana, Illinois, California and Florida.
Though these states have also been high
hard by the recession, Michigan's needs
haven't been proportionally addressed. The
federal government should have allocated
more money to Michigan. With the high-
est unemployment rate in the country and
more companies and residents leaving the
state every day, Michigan needs all the fed-
eral assistance it can get.
Improved infrastructure should be locat-
ed in places like Michigan, where there the
largest number of individuals could benefit.
In the future, government spending should
be concentrated in areas like Michigan that
need it the most.
bout 15 years ago, I ran across a
particularly memorable politi-
in Cleveland's Plain
Dealer that ran
after Mark Hatfield
(R-Oregon) had _
bucked his leader-
ship and cast the
decisive vote on a
in the Senate. In the
cartoon, the artist PATRICK
depicted the SenateO
in three panels as 'MAHEN
"52 Republicans, 47
Democrats and one
Right now, I'm looking for one
Before Republican Scott Brown
narrowly defeated Democrat Martha
Coakley in a Massachusetts special
election to fill the late Ted Kennedy's
Senate seat, health care reform was
steadily moving through Congress.
Both the House and Senate had passed
bills that would drastically expand
insurance coverage and cut the fed-
eral budget deficit. Negotiations
between the two chambers had made
good progress toward hashing out a
compromise bill, but Brown's election
short-circuited the process.
So Senators, there are now 41 of
you who are blocking more than 30
million Americans from getting reli-
able health insurance. For the love of
God and country, won't just one of you
come back from the dark side?
A brief review shows the two bills
share the same basic components and
will drastically improve health cover-
age in America.
First, they both ban insurance com-
panies from refusing to insure individ-
uals, regardless of prior health history.
Second, they create either state-level
or national insurance exchanges. Fed-
eral regulations mandate that the plans
competing in these exchanges will
have to meet certain basic criteria in
their coverage, making the plans more
transparent for individuals.
Third, not allowing healthy peo-
ple to opt out of buying insurance
spreads risk among a greater pool
and lowers premiums for everyone.
Therefore both bills include a man-
date that individuals must buy some
sort of health insurance.
Since it isn't fair to make poor and
working-class people buy insurance
coverage they can't afford, both the
House and Senate plans provide sub-
sidies for individuals and families who
make up to 400 percent of the federal
A nice provision for current college
students is that both proposals man-
date that family insurance plans pro-
vide care for children up to 26 years of
age. I have students with autoimmune
diseases and heart defects. Without
this reform, they risk losing the care
they need.the second they graduate
Both bills pay for reforms in part
by streamlining the Medicare Advan-
tage program, a part of Medicare that
currently over-subsidizes private
insurers. To pay for the rest, nego-
tiators had nearly reached agreement
on a modified excise tax on generous
Finally, the Congressional Budget
Office has estimated that the two plans
will cut more than $100 billion from
the federal budget deficit over the next
decade. These estimates are probably
conservative, because the two bills
contain a host of experimental provi-
sions designed to cut costs, which the
CBO does not credit as saving much
money. Asa Dec. 14 article in The New
Yorker pointed out, however, dozens
of small-scale experimental programs
drastically improved the efficiency of
the American agricultural sector in the
first half of the 20th century. There's
no reason they won't do so for health
care over the long haul.
To sum up, the bills expand cover-
age to more than 30 million people,
eradicate the worst abuses of the
insurance companies, pay for them-
selves and may drastically slow the
growth of health care spending.
Republican senators, how could you
vote against that? Is there any one of
you who can find the courage to vote
for this bill, which does almost every
single thing you have said you want in
This reform does almost nothing
to undermine the basic place of pri-
vate insurers in the American health
care system that many of you seem
to think is so sacrosanct. There is no
government takeover of health care
- only the House bill contains a weak
public option that wouldn't have sur-
vivednegotiations anyway. Infact, the
reform provides private insurers with
millions ofnew customers and billions
of dollars in subsidies.
health care. *!
What about you, Olympia Snowe
(R-Maine)? You voted for the Sen-
ate Finance Committee's version of
health care reform. Why did you bail
out on something you know is right?
. What about you, George Voinovich
(R-Ohio)? Show us that something
good can come from the state of Ohio.
You've alwaysbeen a real deficithawk.
Why can't you vote for a program that
cuts the budget deficit and expands
insurance coverage? Besides, you're
retiring and won't have to face the
wrath of a primary challenge funded
by the Club for Growth.Why not enjoy
your retirement as the public states-
man who helped drastically improve
the American health care system?
Finally, what about you, Scott
Brown? You voted for almost this
exact same reform in Massachusetts
as a state senator several years ago.
Why not vote for it again?
All America needs is a single sena-
tor.Will one of you step up tothe plate?
- Patrick O'Mahen can be
reached at email@example.com.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Nina Amilineni, Emad Ansari, William Butler, Nicholas Clift, Michelle DeWitt, Brian Flaherty,
Jeremy Levy, Erika Mayer, Edward McPhee, Emily Orley, Harsha Panduranga, Alex Schiff,
Asa Smith, Brittany Smith, Radhika Upadhyaya, Laura Veith
SEND LETTERS TO: TOTHEDAILY@UMICH.EDU
College Democrats ignored
TO THE DAILY:
The College Democrats' recent viewpoint (A
look back at Obama's first year, 01/20/2010) is
an example of the Democratic Party's widening
disconnect that has cost them thousands of inde-
pendent voters in Massachusetts, New Jersey,
Virginia, and across the country. Here are a few
The stimulus plan was supposed to keep unem-
ployment below 8 percent. Today, aftergwarding
nearly $170 billion in grants and entitlements, the
national rate is a flat 10 percent. Thanks to this
so-called renewed investment, Michigan, with a
14-percent unemployment rate, is getting far less
money than Texas, which has a rate of 8 percent.
Despite the rapid repayment of Troubled
Assets Relief Program funds, President Barack
Obama wants to tax the financial industry as
punishment for their highly leveraged activities.
This comes as his party tries to raise the national
debt limit another $L9 trillion in order to avoid
its own default.
The health care bill, which has dragged on
past several artificial deadlines despite a Sen-
ate supermajority, is now opposed by 56 percent
of the public and 60 percent of independents,
according to a recent Rasmussen poll. The presi-
dent is now trying to scale back expectations, and
the wide-scale reform he once envisioned grows
less likely each day.
Like it or not, Obama's foreign policy piggy-
backs on basic President George W. Bush prin-
ciples - but with dangerous deviations. The
Status of Forces Agreement that the College
Democrats credit Obama for continuing was
negotiated and ratified entirely under former
President Bush (which led to the infamous shoe-
Obama delayed his Afghan strategy for
months, Guantanamo is still open and the civil-
ian terrorist trials in New York take place under
a "must-convict" mentality - a hardly renewed
respect for the Constitution. The near-cata-
strophic Christmas Day attempted terrorist
attack on Flight 253 should remind us that "revi-
talizing international respect" doesn't keep ter-
rorists from entering the United States.
To more and more American voters, these
"remarkable strides" sound like the political dis-
appointments we have endured for too long.
Campus sustainability will
spread to other universities
TO THE DAILY:
Although Thursday's Campus Sustainability
Integrated Assessment town hall meeting went
on mostly unnoticed to the majority of the stu-
dents, faculty and staff at the University, I am
confident that its effects will not share the same
fate (At town hall, 'U'officials talkcampus sustain-
The Integrated Assessment program, to
be completed in early 2011, consists of analy-
sis teams that produce comprehensive reports
detailing environmental sustainability efforts,
concerns and recommendations in various cate-
gories, including culture, energy, food and trans-
portation. The Integrated Assessment teams are
led by faculty, staffed by students and consider
input from across the disciplines and from mul-
After attending the town hall meeting, it is
clear that the involvement of dedicated students
and staff, the vision of world-class faculty and the
support provided by our sustainability-minded
University will provide the impetus to make the
program successful, not only in its implementa-
tion but also from a leadership standpoint.
The high level of involvement from both mem-
bers of higher education and stakeholders ofvari-
ous backgrounds, coupled with the program's
multidisciplinary nature, gives the University a
unique opportunity to serve as a leader to other
institutions of higher education. For me, this is
where the true value of the program lies.
The effects that the Integrated Assessment
program will have on our campus will without
a doubt be beneficial, but even more exciting is
the potential for this program to spread to other
campuses. The results of the Integrated Assess-
ment, reproduced manifold, have the potential
to promote buy-in to a culture of sustainability
on a large scale - resulting in more responsible
energy and resource usage across campuses. As a
Michigan student, I am excited that this particu-
lar University program has such potential and
such vision, and I encourage readers to share in
that feeling as fellow Wolverines.
Program in the Environment junior
See more letters about the Campus
RSustainability Integrated Assessmenttown
hall meeting at MsChiganD1lyom.
SEAN WALSE R |
MSA spending needs student input
As a newly-elected Representative for the College of
Engineering to the Michigan Student Assembly, I have
had the privilege of not only getting a firsthand look at
how our central student government operates, but influ-
encing it as well.
The current MSA budget for the winter 2010 semester
(as presented at last Tuesday's General Body Meeting)
totals $330,291.91. Of that, over $31,000 is allocated to
MSA's various committees and commissions, $200,000 is
set aside for allocation to student organizations on campus
and much of the remainder goes toward things like admin-
istrative costs, discretionary funds, a reserve fund, etc.
Students might wonder how MSA receives more than
$330,000. The answer: the students themselves. If stu-
dents take a look at their winter semester bill from the
University, they will notice a $7.19 charge titled "Michi-
gan Student Assembly." Students don't have the chance
to opt out of this charge. They can only hope that their
money is being spent effectively unless they take an
active role in student government.
As a representative, I would say that MSA does many
great things. The funding provided to various student
organizations on campus allows for everyone to get
involved. However, I am not sure that all of the money is
allocated in such a way that it has the greatest potential
for impacting the student body.
I make this statement in response to a resolution set to
be voted on by the assembly on Tuesday titled "A Reso-
lution to Disburse $300 From Committee Discretionary
for the Michigan Student Assembly Winter 2010 Retreat."
The Retreat took place on Jan. 30. "We'll all be driving
down to joyous Okemos, Mich. to spend some time with
the Mahantis, chillin, playing ping pong, eating, and talk-
ing about MSA" said MSA President Abhishek Mahanti
in an e-mail to the Assembly. The event was exclusive to
MSA representatives, executives, committee and com-
mission chairs and Central Student Judiciary justices.
Students at large were not invited.
According to the resolution, the $300 will act as a reim-
bursement for the funds spent on food as well as trans-
portation to and from Okemos. One could definitely argue
that some expense for a retreat could benefit the assembly
as a whole because it would facilitate discussions regard-
ing MSA which could lead to a positive influence.
Whether or not the spending is justifiable, there is
a clear issue with the way in which the funding of this
event was approached. An estimate of a $300 expense
was made without any idea as to how many people would W
participate. Given that 14 students participated, that
would mean that $21 was necessary for each participant
for a 24-hour event. This is a bit extreme, and seems high-
er than what should have been spent, proving that this
approach to funding isn't very effective.
Instead, I believe that those planning the event should
have had a clear indication of the funding that would be
necessary before writing such a proposal. Guesstimat-
ing and later correcting the error doesn't seem logical
or responsible. There was an assumption that this fund-
ing would be provided when the resolution was written.
Money has already been spent, which puts pressure on
the assembly to vote in favor of the resolution instead of
exploring the underlying issue as to whether or not this
funding is acceptable. There was no clear indication as to
what benefit would come from the event, which causes
me to question whether or not the associated costs are
MSA does many important things, and I am happy to
be a representative. But it is time for the students to take
a more active role in their student government. I encour-
age you to visit the MSA website and locate the e-mail list
for your college, and request that the assembly address
problems in a more logical manner to ensure the benefit
to the student body. And don't stop with this issue: Stay
involved. Attend a General Body meeting or view a broad-
cast on WOLV-TV. When over $330,000 is being allocated
and dozens of events are being held, it is important that
every voice is heard. And as a representative, I want to
hear your voice.
Sean Walser is an Engineering freshman.
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