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March 09, 2010 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-03-09

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4 - Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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 oftthe Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views ofttheir authors.
A fai grade for funding
Mich. needs Race to the Top aid for education
E ducation will be the cornerstone upon which Michigan
can build a new economy. And while it's understandable
that the state must reduce expenditures considering its
current budget crisis, education shouldn't be on the chopping
block. On Friday, Gov. Jennifer Granholm told legislators to stop
cutting education funding. And she's right. To supplement edu-
cation funding, the state should improve its application for the
federal Race to the Top program, which could provide as much
as $400 million dollars for education. To take advantage of the
federal money, the state must be prepared to reapply for the
funds in June - and the federal government should recognize

The percentage difference in
6 /4 median weekly earnings between
those with bachelor's degrees and
those with high school diplomas.
-A ccording to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2008, the most recent data.
* *
'' .F Vet CO .
C ika Selsyk wae,%# Av?2cBX'tiwa s a am d . ti'ab\e beavexs., yu o
Every m/Il'lion dollars counts


that Michigan needs the aid.
Michigan was not one of the 16 finalists
for the federal Race to the Top program,
which was created by the Obama adminis-
tration. Final winners will be chosen later
this spring. The program provides a one-
time payment of $400 million for states
that lack proper funding for education. In
October 2009, the state legislature cut K-12
funding by $165 per pupil for the current
academic year. Inan effort to avoid making
another round of similar cuts in the future,
the state sought federal aid. Granholm has
said that she intends to reapply for Race to
the Top aid when given this opportunity
in June. She plans to review the applica-
tions of the states that became finalists to
improve Michigan's application.
Cuts to education are detrimental to
Michigan's efforts to salvage its economy.
A new kind of .knowledge-based econo-
my will depend upon the production of a
highly educated workforce. But increased
college enrollment depends upon a strong
K-12 public education system. And though
money doesn't solve every problem in edu-
cation, it certainly helps to create a strong
base for the education system.
Recently, Granholm has criticized
legislators for failing to approve school
reforms that would help struggling schools
become more efficient, according to a Mar.
5 Detroit Free Press article. She also pro-

posed a services sales tax intended to raise
$554 million for public schools. But until
other efforts to find funds for education
come to fruition, federal funding is the
state's best hope.
To supplement decreasing state funding,
Michigan's public schools could benefit
greatly from federal aid. The state should
do everything it can to ensure that it's cho-
sen to receive funding when it reapplies
in June. It's Granholm's responsibility to
rework Michigan's application to make the
state a more attractive candidate for the
federal funds.
It's unfathomable that the federal gov-
ernment ignored Michigan's economic
need when it chose finalists for this round
of the Race to the Top program. Michi-
gan's economy - the worst in the coun-
try - is more than enough of a reason to
include the state among those receiving
federal funds. The federal government
should award Michigan the funds it needs
to improve the public education system
in one of the country's most economically
downtrodden states.
Michigan's public education has already
taken too many cuts from the state. The
federal government should encourage a
strong education system to revive Michi-
gan's economy, starting with providing

he harsh reality is we can't
afford the government we
. have," said state Senate Major-
ity Leader Mike
Bishop (R-Roches-
ter) in the Detroit
News last week.
He was express- ;
ing disappointment
with the Michigan
Senate's vote on
Wednesday to keep A
a scheduled 3-per-
cent state employee ROBERT
salary boost on the SOAVE
books. Cancelling
the pay raise would
have saved the state
$48 million.
Supporters of the increase were
quick to point out that $48 million is
hardly a drop in the bucket in the face
of Michigan's multi-billion dollar defi-
cit. What they don't understand is that
such a mentality is what puts a state in
this position in the first place. Bishop
is absolutely right: Michigan can't
afford its government. Everything
the government spends with revenue
it doesn't have - revenue that comes
from the pockets of suffering taxpay-
ers and businesses - pushes Michigan
toward insolvency.
But while it's easy to make such an
obvious point about the state's fiscal
crisis, it's harder to say exactly what
should face cuts. Seldom do recipi-
ents of government funding believe
that they should have their revenue
reduced - it's always that other agen-
cy or program that could use a reduc-
tion. The Michigan Daily's editorials
are often guilty of this, preaching the
need for compromises and necessary
cuts to state government - but abso-
lutely not for the University or stu-
dent financial aid programs!
Senate Minority Leader Mike Prusi
(D-Marquette), who supported the
pay increase along with most Senate
Democrats, argued in a similar vein.
He commended the vote, explaining

that cancelling the salary increase
would be "like saying to state workers
we don't value your work enough to
give you the raise you bargained for in
good faith."
Unfortunately, the problem is not
that state employees are underval-
ued but the exact opposite - they
are grossly overvalued. According
to the conservative Mackinac Cen-
ter for Public Policy, state employee
salary has increased by 26 percent
since 2001, whereas private sector
compensation has only increased by
15 percent. An even greater dispar-
ity exists when employee benefits are
factored in as part of a worker's total
compensation package. And just as
with salary, this disparity is growing.
Between 2002 and 2007, the differ-
ence between private sector benefits
and public sector benefits grew by $2
But compensation is just one area
where state employees beat the private
sector. Another is joblessness. While
the private sector has lost 12.1 per-
cent of its jobs since 2000, the num-
ber of state employee jobs has actually
increased in the same amount of time.
Of course, when the only growing
industry in a state is the one that's rev-
enue base is compulsory, something
has to be wrong.
Reducing the pay of over-com-
pensated state employees, then, is
not only an economic necessity for a
desperately broke state government
but also a matter of fairness. In such
harsh economic times, why should
state employees be given raises when
private employees - who are no doubt
working as hard as ever to make ends
meet - earn lower salaries, have dras-
tically inferior benefits and face great-
er joblessness?
Now, I know I'm likely to receive a
dozen comments on this article say-
ing something like, "My dad is a state
trooper! He puts his life on the line
every day to protectYOU. Why do you
want my familyto starve?" Let me stop

you right there, hypothetical com-
menter, because I'm actually looking
out for your dad's job, too.
That's because your dad's job is in
trouble. The state is broke, remem-
ber? But only the legislature has the
power to reduce employee compensa-
tion and benefits. This means that if
compensation stays the same or con-
tinues to increase, there are only two
ways to afford it - the government
must either take in more revenue by
raising taxes (an unappealing option
for the people of Michigan) or fire
public employees.
Pay increases are
not an option with
the state's deficit.
Indeed, this scenario transpired
last summer, when Gov. Jennifer Gra-
nholm asked state troopers to take 37
hours of unpaid leave to make up for
insufficient funding. But the police
union rejected this compromise,
leaving Granholm with no choice but
to lay off 100 state troopers. Wouldn't
it be better for public employees to
compromise their exorbitant com-
pensation packages rather than lose
their jobs entirely?
The legislature was not willing to
make the right choice last week. But
the gap between the privileged class
of public employees and the rest of
the work force is widening. How
much further into debt must Michi-
gan descend before the government
wakes up to the reality of the unjust
wages it pays its own employees at
taxpayers' expenses?
- Robert Soave was the Daily's
editorial page editor in 2009. He can
be reached at rsoave@umich.edu.

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

The big problems with 'Big
government, big debt'facts
I will leave it to my economist colleagues to
refute the finer points in Alexander Franz and
Anthony Cerrato's recent viewpoint (Big gov-
ernment, big debt, 02/26/2010). But two errors
are so glaring that they are obvious even to a
The authors say, "The Reagan administration
oversaw annualized nominal GDP growth of 9.4
percent despite two recessions." According to

World Bank data, during Reagan's eightyears in
office, the U.S. annual growth rate averaged 3.41
percent, reaching above five percent only once
(7.2 percent in 1984). Of course Franz and Cer-
rato use the term "nominal GDP," which does
not account for inflation, and therefore does not
reflect real growth.
Secondly, in discussing the theory that
increasing taxes lowers revenue, they refer to
"Nobel Prize-winning economist Arthur Laf-
fer." It's interestingthat the Nobel Prize website
seems to have omitted his name from the list of
economics laureates. Now there's a real laugher!
David Winter, Ph.D.

Jim Bunning's 'finest hour?'

' '
. tMC 3oc Sr tQ

Objecting to the lack of adherence to the Senate's pay-
as-you-go rules, U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) recently
succeeded in delayinglegislationthatwould extend unem-
ployment benefits and Congressional Omnibus Reconcili-
ation Act health care coverage, more commonly known as
COBRA, for 1.2 million Americans. His nearly week-long,
one-man filibuster had the added benefit of furloughing
2,000 federal transportation workers. Congratulations,
Mr. Bunning, no Republican has ever reduced the size of
government and hurt more working class people in such a
short amount of time. This must get Bunning some sort of
conservative speed record - like winning the Republican
Party Olympic gold medal. Despite the fact that the bill was
eventually passed, and Bunning was forced to end his pro-
cedural objections, this type of overzealous fiscal conser-
vatism is exactly what endangers working Americans and
furthers their disconnect with Washington.
While a completely legitimate debate could be had over
the economics of deficit spending and its validity today,
what concerns me more are the contradictions of Bun-
ning's actions. While stating that his "objections" - a Sen-
ate procedural tactic he abused relentlessly - were fueled
by a lack of revenue to pay for the unemployment aid, Bun-
ning actually caused more money to be spent. According to
Judy Conti, an advocate for the National Employment Law
Project, Bunning just passed extra administrative costs to
state governments, which will have to shut down and then
resume their benefit programs. "Once the program is ret-
roactively reauthorized, the federal government is going to
send the same amount of money, but his own state govern-
ment is going to have to spend even more money," she said in
a Feb. 26 Huffington Post article.
On an ethical level, Bunning politicized a conversation on
deficit reduction on the backs of the unemployed. Kentuck-
ians should be even more angeredby all of this, as the unem-
ployment rate in the state is 10.7 percent, according to the
Kentucky Office of Employment and Training. Their sena-
tor, who should be working for them, passed on more costs
to his own state government all the while ignoring the needs

and desperation of Kentucky's out-of-work citizens.
But an even larger problem .is that Bunning's actions
embody a dangerous type of conservatism that exists today
- one that is out of touch and doesn't care about the Ameri-
can people. While American people were drowning and in
need of government assistance, Bunning complained about
missing a basketball game during the debate. "I have missed
the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9:00, and
it's the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina
since they're the only team that has beat Kentucky this year,"
he said, according to the Huffington Post article. Although
the Wall Street Journal knew all this information, it had the
egregious audacity to declare in a Mar. 3 editorial that this
was Bunning's "finest hour," as if denying assistance and aid
to those in need is a part of the moral high ground.
What Bunning has made me realize is that if you are
unemployed and struggling financially, this extreme Tea
Party-esque conservatism does not care about you. If you
are unable to afford decent, adequate health care, this
conservatism does not care about you. If you are a recently
laid off federal transportation worker, this conservatism
does not care about you. Bunning and the type of conser-
vatism he represents would rather grind federal and state
government operations to a standstill than have a sensible
debate about deficit reduction. This comes at the expense
of not Bunning and his precious little basketball game but
those who depend on government assistance to put food
on the table.
I do believe that a reasonable conversation must be held
about the deficit and that the pay-as-you-go rules should
not just be a facade of fiscal policy. But Bunning's actions
represent one of the most appallingly blatant examples of
politics over people. While some may tout this ideological
crusade as Bunning's "finest hour," it needs to be realized
that fanatical fiscal demagoguery like this only harms the
American working class that he claims to represent - not
to mention the country as a whole.
Will Butler is an LSA freshman.

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