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4A - Thursday, March 31, 2011

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4A - Thursday, March 31, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

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A (non)benefitting bill
Snyder should reconsider unemployment cuts
Michigan has been one of the states most plagued by
unemployment. To make matters worse, Republican
Gov. Rick Snyder is now making the state less friendly
to the unemployed, who comprise 10.4 percent of the state's popu-
lation as of last month. On Monday, Snyder signed a bill into law
that reduced state unemployment benefits to 20 weeks - making
Michigan the only state in the nation to have an insurance period
fewer than 26 weeks. Snyder should reconsider this drastic mea-
sure, which has clear, negative repercussions for the unemployed.

According to a March 28 New York Times
article, the original bill was intended to reduce
unemployment fraud and allow the long-term
unemployed to continue receiving federal
unemployment benefits - up to 99 weeks -
after their state benefits ran out. This technical
change in the law was necessary and beneficial
to Michigan's unemployed. Without it, 35,000
Michigan residents would have become ineli-
gible for continued federal funds next week,
and an additional 150,000 residents would be
added to the list at the end of the year. How-
ever, the reduction of state benefits was slipped
quietly into the bill, which was sold as a mea-
sure to protect the unemployed.
With Michigan's high unemployment rate
- which has stayed above 10 percent since
the end of 2008, longer than any other state -
it's hard to justify this measure that affects a
large portion of the population. Snyder and the
Republican-led State Legislature have an obli-
gation to help the unemployed. This bill risks
driving the unemployed away from the state
before they have the opportunity to get back on
their feet. Thousands of families count onthese
benefits as a vital lifeline. Federal benefits are
helpful for now, since the current 99 weeks of
benefits reflects the difficulty of finding a job
during this time in our nation, but this number
is subject to change. Michigan's reduction to 20

weeks of benefits, however, is permanent.
What's also troubling about this bill is the
quiet way Snyder went about it. The temporary
federal benefits were publicized heavily. The
press release from Snyder's office about the
bill even has a misleading title: "Snyder signs
bill to protect unemployed." The drastic six-
week reduction of state benefits hardly seems
to "protect unemployed." The press release
praises Snyder as a savior to the unemployed,
but fails to mention the reduction of state ben-
efits in any capacity. Advertising only one ben-
eficial part of the bill is a move straight from
the politician's playbook. This is quite a politi-
cal move for Snyder, who campaigned on being
a businessman and not a politician.
Snyder did not need to make these cuts,
and his efforts to not publicize them show his
anticipation of their unpopularity. Spending
cuts in other parts of the budget - for example,
Michigan's inflated corrections spending -
should have been considered before targeting
the unemployed.
This bill sets a dangerous precedent for the
country. Currently, Florida lawmakers ;are
working on a similar bill to become the second
state with a 20-week unemployment insur-
ance period. Michigan needs to be a welcoming
place for all people to live and help the unem-
ployed ratherthan cut their benefits.

Two weeks ago, I tried to
write a column on the deba-
cle surrounding Republi-
can Gov. Rick
Snyder's selec-
tion as the Uni-
versity's Spring
speaker. Every-
one I talked ;
to agreed that
it was the hots
topic, and sub- JEREMY
sequently, my LEVY
best option. But
I found that I
had no strong opinion on the issue.
Both sides of the argument were
logical - honoring someone who
dramatically cut the University's
budget versus honoring the state
governor and three-time Univer-
sity grad - but even more so, I had a
nagging feeling that this was not an
issue that dramatically affected the
student body, aside from the seniors
who were actually graduating.
And here we are now - Snyder
has been approved by the Univer-
sity's Board of Regents, and the issue
is pretty much dead except to those
whose graduation is approaching. It
certainly wasn't a topic that I antici-
pated occupying the opening of this
week's column.
I suspect that many people will
disagree that the Snyder selection
was only a marginal issue, so if you
do, momentarily set that opinion
aside and hear out my larger point.
Our public discourse at all levels -
national, state, local - swarms to
hot button issues that don't neces-
sarily hold long-term significance.
Obviously the average person is more
interested in Charlie Sheen than,
say, state budgets. Yet, an often-
overlooked problem is that when we
do pay attention to public issues, we
tend to focus on the wrong issues, or
the wrong aspects of them.

For instance, many analysts are
arguing that the current budget
debate (President Barack Obama's
freeze on non-discretionary spend-
ing, Wisconsin, etc.) is much too
narrow and does not even touch
the largest budget sectors - Medi-
care, Social Security and military
spending. In this case, the entire
manner in which political discourse
is framed misses a large portion of
the issue. Another related problem
is when important issues receive
so much media coverage that the
extraneous aspects of the story
dwarf the substantial aspects. I'd
say the best recent example is the
WikiLeaks coverage, in which the
most popular articles were those
concerning diplomatic gossip.
There are multiple sources that
influence what the public tends to
discuss. Politicians influence dis-
course based on what issues they
choose to campaign on or speak
about publically, and they frequent-
ly have elections in mind when they
make such decisions. This is why
health care was always about death
panels or a government takeover
and why Obama could campaign
on vague slogans like "Hope" and
"Change" and win. Media sources
that are facing new problems fol-
lowing the economic crisis have
incentives to amplify these tenden-
cies, concentrating coverage on the
most attention-grabbing stories.
Although people technically have
access to unlimited information,
only a few groups such as Google,
CNN, Fox or NBC tend to make the
decisions that determine what peo-
ple actually consume in the end.
The trick, though, is that the
important information is out there.
And learning how to find it is a skill.
Even though cable shows and the
top of your Google news bar provide
everylast detail ofbreakingnews on
one issue, you can find nuanced arti-

cles on long-term issues in reputable
weekly magazines. And when news
outlets put the most inflammatory
stories in easily accessible places on
theirwebsite, the same outlets often
have other substantial pieces that
you have to dig for. Furthermore,
news can only get you so far. Lots of
essential analysis on public issues
comes from books and studies done
by scholars. Yet, in the book market,
the best-selling novels come from
politicians who are running in the
Our public
discourse tends
to be too narrow.
Back to Snyder. This column is
about the type of political discourse
and news we are often fed, and how
we can react to it. When Snyder was
first announced as speaker, there
was an unspoken student consensus
that he was the most potent issue of
the moment. Two weeks later, it's
even clearer to me than before that
he was not. In the long run, who is
selected as the graduation speaker
at the University is a shallow politi-
cal issue, and it's a problem if that's
the only story that peaks the inter-
est of the average student.
But even if you do think that the
graduation speaker is asalient issue,
it's only one example. It's necessary
for us to realize how politicians and
news outlets frame our public dis-
course in a broad sense, so we can
avoid narrow and misguided dis-
-Jeremy Levy can be reached
at jeremiev@umich.edu.


Aida Ali, Will Butler, Ellie Chessen, Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer,
Melanie Kruvelis, Patrick Maillet, Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Emily Orley,
Harsha Panduranga, Teddy Papes, Timothy Rabb, Asa Smith, Seth Soderborg, Andrew Weiner
Presidential potential

Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor. Letters should be fewer than 300
words and must include the writer's full name and University affiliation. We do not print anonymous
letters. Send letters to tothedaily@michigandaily.com
A monument to hubris

It's a safe bet that many college students are
tired of the standard left-versus-right political
battles that somehow never seem to lead to any
substantive change. Even more disappointing
is the sad reality that politicians we support,
whether Democrat or Republican, all too often
fail to live up to the principled promises made
on the campaign trail.
Though it's a sales pitch you've likely heard
before, former New Mexico governor and 2012
presidential candidate Gary Johnson really is a
different type of politician - and he just might
represent the new, bold face of the nation's
political discourse. The University's chapter
of College Libertarians and Students for a Sen-
sible Drug Policy are teaming up to bring John-
son to campus Thursday evening, and if you
haven't heard of him yet, you're going to like
what you learn.
Even a cursory glace at Johnson's life reveals
that, despite his successes in public office, he
simply isn't cut out for the role of suit-wearing
bureaucratic windbag. An independently suc-
cessful businessman, Johnson seems more
comfortable out of the office. His interests
include relaxing, soothing outdoor activities
like competing in Ironman Triathlons and
scaling Mount Everest (as he did successfully
in2003). Clearly, somethingsets Johnson apart
from your run-of-the mill politico.
Yet a compelling personal life is not enough
to mark an individual as a skilled and effective
leader. Fortunately, Johnson's record speaks
for itself. Elected governor of New Mexico
in 1994 as a Republican, Johnson led without
regard for party orthodoxy. His aggressive,
reform-oriented platform proved popular with
New Mexico residents, and Johnson left his
state with a large budget surplus after his term-
limited tenure as governor ended in 2003.
When in power, Johnson didn't simply
settle into his position as New Mexico's chief
executive and let the prominence of his office
scare him into a politically convenient silence.
Instead, he used the governor's office as a plat-
form to express his controversial views on
issues of national importance.
Take, for example, the issue of marijuana
legalization. Johnson hasn't taken the easy
path of avoiding the issue entirely or sheepish-

ly calling for a review of our current marijuana
policies "some time in the future," as all too
many politicians have done. Rather, he believes
that cannabis should be fully legalized for use
by responsible adults and has repeatedly stated
that the War on Drugs has been a costly failure.
To back up his convictions, Johnson serves as a
national board member for Students for a Sen-
sible Drug Policy.
The War on the Drugs isn't the only forceful
intervention Johnson has bravely challenged.
Johnson publicly opposed the Iraq War despite
his affiliation with the Republican Party and
has more recently spoken out against the Unit-
ed States's involvement in Libya, rightly recog-
nizingthat "we are once again just playing cop
to the world" when we have no right to militar-
ily intervene in affairsbeyond our borders.
And Johnson has plenty to offer both civil
libertarians and champions of the free market
as well. Johnson's libertarian view of a lim-
ited government recognizes that you and you
alone are best able to make your own decisions
and that responsible adults do not need the
government to assume the role of nanny. He
has spoken out against the privacy-invading
Patriot Act, defended a woman's right to seek
an abortion and combated the sentiment that
immigrants, legal or illegal, should be treated
as second-class members of our society. Fur-
ther, as a self-made man, Johnson understands
the need to allow entrepreneurs to flourish in a
truly free market that rewards innovation and
drive, not political influence.
It's no secret that the American political
process has a tendency to disappoint the ideal-
istic, but it doesn't have to be that way. Before
your cynicism gets the best of you and you slip
into a life of political apathy, listen to what
Gary Johnson has to say. His refreshing hon-
esty and willingness to tackle the controversial
issues that impact our generation are desper-
ately needed today.
Gary Johnson will be speaking at a free
event on Thursday, March 31 at 8 p.m. in the
Michigan League Ballroom.
Written by LSA senior Graham Kozak on behalf
of the University's chapter of College Libertarians
and Students for a Sensible Drug Policy.

On March 3 it was the 86th anniversary of Mount
Rushmore, and it's really 86 too many. It's a monument
that is iconic for the United States and negatively repre-
sents the nation we live in. On land that was stolen from
the Native Americans, a beautiful mountain was turned
into a superficial homage. In a misguided attempt to
instill pride in a nation full of both good and bad, the U.S.
ignored its faults and constructed this monument. It suc-
ceeds only in glorifying our leaders as if they were unerr-
ing gods and fails to constructively explore our past.
The land that Mount Rushmore occupies was origi-
nally belonged to the Lakota Native Americans. The
Treaty of Fort Laramie, which the U.S. signed in 1868,
granted the territory to the Lakota, but as with most of
our treaties between natives and the U.S., it didn't work
out too well for the natives. Less than a decade later, the
U.S. launched an offensive war to capture the territory
because the Lakota refused to hand it over - it's now a
part of South Dakota.
As if this crime wasn't enough, 50 years later the
U.S. commissioned a sculptor to deface a remarkable
mountain with the leaders who represent the nation
that stole the land from its rightful residents. The
Lakota called the mountain "Six Grandfathers," but
the U.S. decided to name it Rushmore after a New York
lawyer. Seems fitting enough?
True to this chauvinism, the sculptor who was com-
missioned for the monument, Gutzon Borglum, was
an active member of the Ku Klux Klan. It seems white
supremacy was the mentality flowing through the ter-
ritory around this time. Construction commenced,
and the four busts were finished, but Borglum died
during its construction. His son took over the project,
but funding was cut before it was finished. If you look
closely you can see that the monument is incomplete
as the chests of each president were supposed to be
included. It also seems that they didn't have enough
money to clean up the site as a massive pile of rubble
remains under the faces and has yet to be removed.
If the practical aspects of Mount Rushmore weren't
disreputable enough, the political message is equally

shameful. An inherent problem with this monument is
that politicians are divisive figures. Abraham Lincoln
violated many principles of our nation and constitution
to fight the Civil War, a conflict which many people are
still bitter about. Teddy Roosevelt was a volunteer in
the Spanish American war, one of our most embarrass-
ing foreign policy endeavors, and was president during
U.S. imperialism in the Philippines. Wherever people
stand on these issues is not the point, but it's impor-
tant to understand that these figures have complex and
even controversial histories. Mount Rushmore doesn't
ask any questions or recognize the potential faults of
these men. Instead, it asks you to worship them.
If an American were to see a sculpture of Democrat-
ic People's Republic of Korea leader Kim Jong-il's face
in the side of a mountain, it would be justly and imme-
diately decried. Such a monument does nothing to
highlight a complexity of issues and seeks only to rep-
resent leaders as all-powerful, mighty and infallible.
Deification of our forebears is already a fait-accompli,
but to extend this to Lincoln and Roosevelt does noth-
ing to help our country grow and learn from history.
There has even been buzz about Ronald Reagan's face
being put on Mount Rushmore, which hopefully won't
happen anytime soon. Fifty years from now though,
people may forget his scandals and his bust maybe tak-
ing its place with the others. Make no mistake, we will
be worse off for it.
Dynamiting Mount Rushmore may not be a bad idea,
but it could send the wrong message. I've thought about
it quite a bit, and I think it should stay. But instead of
a monument to supremacy, it should be a monument to
the past and our excessive pride. It shows how the U.S.
can forget that it makes mistakes and that it has made
a lot of them. This defaced mountain should be the
last homage of its kind, and what we should take away
from its permanence is that we must always be vigilant
of ourselves. Rather than facilitating idolatry, Mount
Rushmore should be a relic of our hubris.
Teddy Papes is an LSA junior.



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