4A - Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
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EDITOR IN CHIEF
RACHEL VAN GILDER
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
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Michigan must clarify laws to make marijuana sales viable
Thanks to a ballot initiative passed by Michigan voters,
medical marijuana has been legal in the state for over a
year. Unfortunately, the law's spotty legal framework fails
to clearly lay out how the drug can be grown, obtained and used,
which has led to confusion and battles about law enforcement. But
there have been recent efforts to clarify the law. Legislation now
before the state Senate could make the marijuana industry govern-
ment-owned. But the state's economy could benefit from a private
medical marijuana industry. A more appropriate way to manage
medical marijuana would be to clarify current laws so that a pri-
vate medicinal marijuana industry can thrive in Michigan.
In November 2008, Michigan's voters
passed a ballot initiative called the Michi-
gan Medical Marihuana Act. The act legal-
ized the growth, sale and use of marijuana
for medicinal purposes in the state. The act
permits patients with diseases such as glau-
coma and cancer to request a prescription
for marijuana as a painkiller. But the act's
loose guidelines have resulted in groundless
arrests and battles to limit growing around
the state. To clarify the law, Michigan Sena-
tors Gerald Van Woerkom and Wayne Kui-
pers, both Republicans from Holland, have
proposed a bill that would make marijuana
distribution a government-run business. If
the bill passes, the state of Michigan will
allow for a limited number of facilities where
medical marijuana can be grown and regu-
late where the drug can be sold.
Michigan voters made progress by legal-
izing medical marijuana, but as is the case
with ballot initiatives, which are too short
to include specific language, the complexi-
ties of this policy weren't appropriately
outlined. Patients seeking to use marijua-
na shouldn't have to face obstacles while
acquiring a legalized medicine. The state
should create legislation that specifies'
how to legally grow and purchase medical
marijuana and clear any stumbling block to
acquiring a prescription.
The Senate legislation isn't the worst
attempt to make medical marijuana use
practical. Arguably, the existence of a
public option for marijuana could help
some patients. Many patients may feel
more comfortable purchasing marijuana
from a government-sponsored warehouse
because much of this legal drug's market is
But a government msnopoly over medi-
cal marijuana isn't the best solution to the
problems caused by the vague ballot initia-
tive. Michigan has the opportunity to ben-
efit from new private industries in this area.
California has already embraced the priva-
tized industry of medicinal marijuana. And
although it grew more rapidly than expect-
ed, it has allowed patients to successfully
acquire the drugfrom one ofthe state's ample
dispensaries. California's poor economic sit-
uation is similar to that of Michigan and the
significant returns seen from this industry's
taxation could be a useful stimulus here.
Opponents of the law fear that putting
marijuana in the hands of more caregivers
and dispensaries would result in more mari-
juana on the market and increase recreation-
al use of marijuana. But this consequence
isn't nearly as important as facilitating medi-
cal marijuana distribution for patients who
need the drug. And, if it were legalized, rec-
reational marijuana could generate impres-
sive tax revenue beyond medical marijuana.
In a state where revenue is scarce, it is
important for Michigan to adjust its policies
to establish a private marijuana industry to
help both patients and distributors.
've reached my tipping point.
The distortions and inaccura-
cies regarding the economic
from the mouths
of many influential
people - including,
our very own Uni-
- on a daily basis
is egregious and
must be addressed.
Rather than exam-
ining the cause of ALEX
the current eco-
nomic debacle, BILES
teachers dwell on
symptoms of the
crisis, presenting an inaccurate view
to students and indoctrinating them
with nonsense in the process.
The explanation most commonly
attributed to the recession espouses
the notion that free market capital-
ism, deregulation and Wall Street
greed resulted in the disaster. At best,
this account is littered with half-
truths, ignoring history that illus-
trates an alternative narrative.
By no means am I defending Wall
Street. Beginning in the 1970s, Wall
Street firms developed a series of
financial instruments in the form of
asset-backed securities like subprime
mortgages. Believing these innova-
tions to be foolproof, they had no idea
their creations would implode, con-
tributing to the housing bubble that
allowed the current crisis to occur.
But ignoring policies that promot-
ed this behavior represents a gross
misunderstanding of the true cause
of the crisis. As Harvard economist
Jeffrey Miron pointed out in 2009,
"private forces jumped willingly on
a runaway train, but it was govern-
ment that built the train and drove it
off a cliff."
The chief catalyst for the melt-
down was the federal government,
whose economic regulations and
over-promotion of risk created the
opportunity and incentives that man-
ifested themselves in the shape of the
Loose lending practices involving
the expansion of the subprime mort-
gage market at the hands of free-
wheeling financial institutions are
often condemned as a failure of the
free market. Yet, the bankingsector is
arguably the most regulated industry
in the country. And the government
incentivized these firms by pursuing
policies of moral hazard.
Moral hazard is the promise of
government bailouts to lenders in
exchange for excessive risk-taking.
Clear-cut examples can be observed
in the subprime mortgage market,
where banks abandoned reasonable
lending practices and allowed indi-
viduals with poor credit histories to
take out loans they were notequipped
These irrational loaning prac-
tices occurred partially a result of
the government's move to charter
the nation's largest mortgage lend-
ers - Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
in 1938 and 1970, respectively. The
willingness of creditors to issue sub-
prime loans was further exacerbated
by the Community Reinvestment Act
of 1977, which pressured the indus-
try to loan to risky borrowers. This
phenomenon exemplified yet another
failed remnant of the Great Society
programs that Lyndon Johnson pro-
posed during the 1960s.
With the implicit guarantee of a
bailout by the federal government,
Fannie and Freddie gladly obliged,
taking on tremendous risk in the pro-
cess. The issuance of subprime loans
burgeoned and the housing bubble
was created. These lending practices
continued well into the mid-2000s
with a financial industry hell-bent on
maintaining the housing boom.
Faulty estimates of default risk by
rating agencies also contributed to
the crisis, as these entities respon-
sible for providing judgment con-
cerning the safety of securities badly
misjudged risks. The rating agencies
- Standard & Poor's, Moody's Cor-
poration and Fitch Ratings - which
the government contracted, were
motivated to provide positive ratings,
as it was most conducive to stimulat-
ing housing construction as well as
establishing favorable connections
with federal regulators.
Perhaps the most dominant force
behind the economic downturn is the
Federal Reserve and its monopolistic
powers over the nation's monetary
policy. A highly politicized quasi-
independent entity, the Fed shoulders
much of the blame for creating the
housing bubble by setting artificially
low interest rates. This was evident
in 2001 when former chairman of the
Fed Alan Greenspan lowered a key
interest rate to a historic low of less
than 1 percent. By settinglow interest
rates, the Fed pumps billions of dol-
lars into the economy, encouraging
creditors to engage in risky behavior
like subprime lending.
Wall Street isn't
solely at fault
for the recession.
The expansion of currency coor-
dinated by the Fed, known as infla-
tion, drives up costs by reducing the
purchasing power of the dollar. The
rise in housing prices, sustained until
2007, was not merely a product of
supply and demand. It was a result
of a Fed monetary policy that arti-
ficially created demand by making
it simple to obtain cheap credit and
consequently spend recklessly.
There's no doubt that self-inter-
ested Wall Street firms played an
integral role in fostering subprime
lending and the aggressive-market-
ing of housing-backed securities. But
a simple look into the roots of the
crisis reveals that subprime lending
and other actions of creditors were a
symptom of the housing bubble - not
Some may find it difficult to stop
using a free market that never existed
as a scapegoat for the recession, but
the fact is the government played
a fundamental role in the crisis
through economic intervention that
provided incentives for reckless loan-
ing practices in the first place - not
the anti-capitalist rhetoric students
are currently being spoon-fed inside
University lecture halls..
- Alex Biles can be reached
SEND LETTERS TO: TOTHEDAILY@UMICH.EDU
Obama's speech won't make Grad school and PE exam
commencement too political aren't right for all engineers
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
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less than 300 words and must include the writer's full name and University affiliation.
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ELSON LIV I
Increasing grad student involvement
TO THE DAILY:
The headline of Madeline O'Campo's recent
viewpoint doesn't properly designate who is
being honored at this spring's commencement
ceremony (It's my graduation, not Obama's,
2/16/2010). The headline should read, "It's
our graduation, not Obama's." Not that the
headline doesn't appropriately summarize
O'Campo's view - she seems to think her feel-
ings trump those of her graduating classmates.
In truth, we, the graduating seniors, are over-
whelmingly in favor of Obama being the com-
mencement speaker. Does it matter what half
of the country thinks when the vast majority of
us are in favor?
O'Campo's viewpoint is filled with logical
fallacies not befitting a Michigan graduate.
Referring to Obama as a "polarizing figure"
implies an act of polarization on Obama's
part. The truth of the matter is that Obama is
a political figure in a highly polarized society,
nothing more, nothing less. In today's politi-
cal climate, any politician or policy is seen as
polarizing. Consider the debate over health
insurance. Despite the fact that the majority
of Americans are in favor of reform, a fervent
minority is blocking such measures. The same
can be said of any number of political debates.
There is no consensus on any single political
Moreover, O'Campo supposes that Obama's
commencement speech will be, in fact, a stan-
dard political speech. I find absolutely no
reason for her supposition in O'Campo's view-
point, so I find absolutely no reason to share
this fears. From what I can gather (factual
information rather than speculation), Obama
will make a commencement speech. Many
others have done so without venturing into
the political. O'Campo suggests Obama will
talk about, "jobs, manufacturing or Michi-
gan's economy." Why would one assume such
things? Obama is a politician, but he is also, by
all accounts, a brilliant man. Are we to believe
he is so stupid as to confuse a commencement
speech with a stump speech?
Finally, O'Campo says, "(Obama's) presence
will turn the graduation ceremony into a politi-
cal event." O'Campo has beaten Obama to the
punch. Obama has accepted an invitation to be
the commencement speaker. at our graduation,
not make a State of the Union address. Why
would O'Campo assume otherwise? Perhaps
she is allowing her distaste for Obama to cloud
her thinking. I don't believe Obama is at fault
here, but O'Campo certainly is.
TO THE DAILY:
I feel I should point out two very important
things that Joe Sugiyama may have overlooked
in his recent viewpoint (Mastering Engineer-
First, he suggests that "Maybe we could fol-
low the example of our friends across the pond
and institute a five-year program resulting in a
master's degree." Such a program already exists
at the University. It's called the Simultaneous
Graduate/Undergraduate Study program. All
engineering majors offer it. Though Sugiyama
recommends it for all engineering students, the
program requires a minimum cumulative 3.2
GPA, or even higher in certain departments,
which not all engineering students have.
I got my BSE and MSE through the program,
and based on my experience I recommend it.
Still, graduate school isn't for everyone, and stu-
dents who plan on stopping at a master's degree
will likely have difficulty receiving funding for
the extra year the five-year program requires.
Loans for four years of tuition are bad enough.
Second, not alltypesofengineers can or should
obtain Professional Engineeringlicenses.When I
looked up Sugiyama's directory entry I was not
surprised to discover thathe is a civil engineer. It
is much more difficult to obtain employment as a
civil engineer without the PE qualification. The
requirement is therefore advertised in civil engi-
neering classes at the sophomore level.
However, in nuclear engineering, the PE
qualification is not particularly common, and
since the exam tests heavily on nuclear power
reactor knowledge, any other type of nuclear
engineer - those specializing in radiation mea-
surements, medical imaging, radiation beam
therapy or radiation protection, for example -
would waste their time by taking the exam. This
holds true for some engineers in other special-
ties as well. Additionally, if an engineer plans
on working for a firm or corporation, only one
person in the organization needs to have a PE
qualification in order for the entire organization
to be able to offer engineering services for gov-
ernment contracts or the public.
Many engineers learn just as well or better,
through experience as opposed to more time in
academia, and many engineers cannot or should
not seek the Professional Engineer Certification.
I want to ensure that engineers just starting their
careers are not misled by Sugiyama's viewpoint.
Though it was well-written and well-intentioned,
it does not apply to all engineers and should not
scare off anyone who does notwish to go to grad-
uate school or take the PE exam.
Rackham EngineeringPh.D. candidate
Recently, The Michigan Daily has reported the on
efforts of Students for Progressive Governance (S4PG)
to amend the Michigan Student Assembly All-Campus
Constitution, which establishes a central student govern-
ment for all students at the University. (Students move
forward on changes to MSA constitution, 2/2/2010.) While
the reforms being proposed by S4PG will benefit all stu-
dents, they will produce particularly strong incentives for
One of the most powerful changes proposed by S4PG is
a new legislative body called the University Council. The
body would consist of a representative from each school
or college government. Graduate representatives could
fill more than half the seats of this body, which will facili-
tate communication and collaboration among the school
and college governments and propose legislation that
must be considered by the central student legislature.
The University Council will fix a longstanding prob-
lem with graduate representation. Currently, MSA
representatives are supposed to maintain contact with
their constituents. But after three years as a Rackham
representative for MSA, I can count on one hand the
number of Rackham reps who have regularly attended
Rackham Student Government meetings (fewer than
half of the Rackham representatives on MSA who served
in that time).
Not only are graduate student representatives discon-
nected from their constituents, but their constituents
are divorced from each other. Medical students rarely
interact with Law students and Rackham students rarely
interact with MBA candidates.
Through the University- Council and increased par-
ticipation in the assembly and commissions, graduate
students would meaningfully collaborate in student gov-
ernment for the first time. We will have access to Univer-
sity-wide resources and be able to bring the best practices
back to the students we serve.
Some graduate students may believe that S4PG's pro-
posals are insufficient. In particular, some have expressed
a desire for two "separate but equal" governments - one
for undergraduates and one for graduate and profession-
al students. They claim more graduate and professional
students would participate in a student government com-
posed of graduate and professional students.
My personal experience indicates otherwise. In a past
election, I was elected separately to MSA and to the Rack-
ham Student Government by fewer than 10 votes. In that
election, more voters elected me to MSA. The new consti-
tution encourages graduate students to create a common
government and participate in University-wide govern-
ment. Graduate students will have their donuts and cider,
and eat them, too.
Some "separate but equal" advocates may claim that
their ideas were not properly considered by S4PG. I dis-
agree. Graduate and professional students participated
in all S4PG general body meetings and committee meet-
ings. A graduate student served as an S4PG executive
officer and others chaired and I, a Rackham student, vice-
chaired the S4PG Governance Committee, which formu-
lated the proposed reforms. The idea of a separate central
undergraduate student government and central graduate
and professional student government was deliberated at
length at several S4PG Governance Committee meetings.
When the issue was finally put to a vote at the Dec. 16
S4PG Governance Committee meeting, as many gradu-
ate students voted for one central student government as
voted for "separate but equal."
Over the past week, members of S4PG have been cir-
culating a petition to place a question on the ballot of the
upcoming MSA election to adopt S4PG's proposed con-
stitution. They collected well over the 1,000 signatures
required, so pending the certification of the petition by
the Central Student Judiciary, it is likely that S4PG's
proposed constitution will be put to a vote of the entire.
student body in the upcoming MSA elections in March.
I encourage all students to read about S4PG's proposals
(available on the S4PG website: http://s4pg.info) and to
vote for the adoption of S4PG's proposed constitution so
we can create a better student government for the leaders
and the best.
Elson Liu is an Electrical Engineering Ph.D candidate.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Nina Amilineni, Jordan Birnholtz, William Butler, Nicholas Clift,
Michelle DeWitt, Brian Flaherty, Jeremy Levy, Erika Mayer, Edward McPhee,
Emily Orley, Harsha Panduranga, Alex Schiff, Asa Smith, Brittany Smith,
Robert Soave, Radhika Upadhyaya, Laura Veith