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November 01, 2011 - Image 4

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4A - Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

y Md~ian 4at,6
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 of their authors.
Imran Syed is the public editor. He can be reached at publiceditor@michigandaily.com.
Less talk, more action
Cantor's speech offered few realistic solutions
alloween took on a more political angle this year at the Uni-
versity when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor spoke at
the Michigan League yesterday afternoon. Cantor's speech
drew a large crowd of University students and Ann Arbor community
members, including an array of protesters. While Cantor's message
lauding personal prosperity and small government is nice in princi-
ple, he should remember that actions speak louder than words. The
nation's unemployed, poor and disappearing middle class need tan-
gible help in the form of job creation and social welfare legislation
now - not in Cantor's idealized vision of the future.

More to the 'Occupy' story

couple of weeks ago, dur-
ing a weekend jaunt to New
York City, a friend and I
went downtown

to experience
firsthand the
Occupy Wall
Street protests.
We knew that a
march to Times
Square was
scheduled for
that afternoon,
and our curiosity
and our politics


beckoned us to
go. After finding the protesters, the
two of us stood with our cameras at
the ready, as if we were watching a
Thanksgiving Day parade. Suffi-
ciently neurotic from our mothers'
insistence that we'd get arrested if
we took part, we had planned only
to watch from the curb. But within
moments of arriving we were shout-
ing chants and marching alongside
two women carrying a United Auto
Workers banner. The vitality of the
protest had captivated us.
As we marched through lower
Manhattan that afternoon, I looked
at the protesters around me. The
diversity of the crowd was readily
apparent. I was expecting - from
what I'd seen in the media - a set of
undergraduate hipsters and burned
out, homeless hippies. And surely
those groups were present that day
in the streets. But just beside us, the
women carrying the union banner
were middle-aged and likely middle
class - as were so many of the oth-
ers in our midst. There were nuclear
families and cantankerous old ladies
and clergymen and kids. Though
many seemed "fringe," as I had sus-
pected, equally many did not. People
wore suits and scrubs and yarmul-
kes too. And I noticed in the throngs
of protesters a significant number
of African Americans, Latinos and
This was notthe image of OWS I'd
seen portrayed in the news. While

the media have pigeonholed the
protesters as radical beatniks clash-
ing with the American mainstream,
the picture on the ground seemed
a relatively representative array of
U.S. demographics: racial, cultural
and socioeconomic. When it comes
to the media's coverage of the occu-
py movement, we have to take each
account with more than a few grains
of salt. Not only is the media prone to
repeating classic cliches, but in many
cases, their commentary is evidently
guessing as much as anything else.
Particularly now, everyone's spec-
ulating about the potential political
and cultural effects (or lack thereof)
of OWS. At just a couple of months
in, no one can really say what these
effects will be. In the media, pundits
debate the movement's successes or
failures based on whatever is politi-
cally provocative or shrewd in that
moment. There's no single, obvious
barometer for measuring the success
of OWS, as much as the media would
like there to be.
Though I realize I'm entering
dangerous waters making the fol-
lowing historical comparison, I
think there's a worthwhile lesson in
the history of the American Com-
munist and Socialist parties. One
can surely make the case that these
two tiny parties were inconsequen-
tial in our grander political history,
never having won any major elec-
tions and leaving no real legacy for
our contemporary political dialogue.
(Although you may be surprised to
hear that the Socialists at one point
did elect two U.S. congressmen).
From an electoral standpoint,
these two parties were largely fail-
ures. But one could also contend that
after these two parties first orga-
nized in the U.S., the Democratic
Party became increasingly liberal
in an attempt to appeal to would-be
Socialists or Communists. And in so
doing,the Democrats built our social
safety net with the New Deal. In that
case, arguably, these two third par-
ties were great successes.

In much the same way, judg-
ing the legacy of the Occupy move-
ment will depend primarily on one's
choice of yardstick. For now it's still
too early to speculate what about the
movement will be successful, but its
sustained momentum suggests that
something lastingwill come from it.
Media should
depict OWS


What is beyond speculation, how-
ever, is the ever-widening chasm
between rich and poor in the U.S.
Factual evidence of deepening
inequality has been trickling in
over the past few years. Those who
accuse the OWS protesters of wag-
ing class warfare neglect to see the
ways in which deregulation and a
porous social safety net have already
damaged American society. Class
warfare? A rose by any other name,
be it neoliberal or trickle-down,
would smell as sweet.
I suspect that a great deal more
Americans would get behind the
Occupy movement if only the media .
did a fairer, more accurate job of
covering the protests. A recent Gal-
lup poll suggested that 63 percent of
Americans aren't aware that one of
OWS's primary objectives is to com-
bat income inequality.
My hope is that this movement
influences our political discourse
even if it's in ways that aren't so eas-
ily definable or obvious. But in order
to get there, we need to recognize
that the media only offer us part of
the story. Because another world is
only possible once people hear the
- Matthew Green can be
reached at greenmat@umich.edu.

Cantor spoke yesterday for about half an
hour and followed the speech with a ques-
tion-and-answer period. Focusing much
of his speech on what he defined as "core
American economic principles," Cantor
spoke of the importance of creating a level-
playing field and establishing a strong mid-
die class.
Cantor argued that Washington should
give Americans a "hand up" and not a "hand-
out." Though he repeatedly emphasized these
phrases, Cantor failed to explain what hand
ups actually entail or what types of benefits
they provide. Cantor tried to shed a positive
light on his conservative policies, but little of
what he discussed was tangible, realistic or
advantageous for students.
Though his goal of creating an environment
that encourages entrepreneurship is ideal,
now is not the time for the government to stop
assisting those who need help most. Cantor
spoke of the importance of giving lower-class
Americans the chance to "climb the ladder,"
yet he supports cutting Pell Grants, unem-
ployment benefits and health care assistance
to lower income Americans.
A student in attendance spoke about how
he had lost a Pell Grant and asked Cantor how
he could support the elimination of a financial
resource so beneficial to students. Cantor sim-
plyavoided answeringthe questionbyvaguely
arguing thathigher education is too expensive
and failed to give substantial ideas on how to
lower costs.
University seniors will most likely enter the
job market in six months with the national

unemployment rate near 9 percent. Yet Can-
tor has failed to get a job creation bill through
Congress. In many recent speeches, including
yesterday's, Cantor has discussed his version
of a jobs plan - the Steve Jobs plan. The basis
of the plan is to promote upward mobility of
all Americans and to not punish those who
have succeeded in making their way up the
"ladder," he said. The plan also has the goal
of encouraging entrepreneurship and innova-
tion. These are all positive goals, but the plan
fails to account for young people and unem-
ployed Americans who need immediate assis-
tance, not buzzwords.
Among attendees of Cantor's speech were
protesters wielding signs that read "RIP Mid-
dle Class" and students dressed as zombies.
Protesters were extremely vocal, and there
were times throughout Cantor's question-
and-answer period when they did not allow
him to respond to questions by interrupting
his answers or turned their backs to him.
The University prides itself on fostering an
environment that respects diversity, which
should include diversity of ideas. While stu-
dents should certainly voice their opinions
and speak out for causes they believe in, they
should remain respectful of visiting speakers
and use the event as an opportunity to engage
in meaningful discussions.
Cantor's speech, though controversial, fos-
tered important conversations on campus and
showed that students are passionate about the
future of the nation. Cantor needs to recognize
the importance of securing this future and take
meaningful action to do so.

Keep up with columnists, read Daily editorials, view cartoons and join in the debate.
Check out @michdailyoped
to get updates on Daily opinion content throughout the day.
Abortion doesn't empower women



Give employee benefits fairly

The University of Michigan chapter of the
American Association of University Profes-
sors strongly opposes Michigan HB 4770 and
HB 4771- the bills before the Michigan Leg-
islature seeking to prohibit state employers,
including Michigan's public colleges and uni-
versities, from offering employees benefits
for domestic partners and even eliminating
that as a possible topic of collective bargain-
ing for units in which state employees are
Faculty are widely in agreement that this
is fundamentally an issue of fairness for the
employees concerned and thatthe University
and the state, as employers, should not dis-
criminate against any class of their employ-
ees nor prevent employees from enjoying
the full fruits of their labors in equal mea-
sure to their contributions. We stand by all
our colleagues in the faculty and staff in
their rightful entitlement to the full respect
and compensation which is offered to their
peers. We deplore the continuing attempt
to roll back the rights of faculty and staff to
collective bargaining or to limit the scope of
bargaining by fiat. A free people should not
accept such disregard for their right to bar-
gain over the conditions of their employment.
In addition to this fundamental reason
for our opposition, we feel that the proposed
measures seriously compromise the con-
stitutional autonomy of Michigan's three
main universities and expect this to surface
in legal challenges, where the merits of this
autonomy will be weighed against those of
the ballot initiative Michigan State Proposal
04-2 of 2004, the legal basis for the chal-
lenges to domestic partner benefits. We feel
the wording of Prop 04-2 was disingenuous
and even misleading, and that the initiative's
proposers changed their stated interpreta-
tion very shortly after the measure passed
to cover denial of unmarried co-resident
benefits. We hope that this amendment, as
applied to employee compensation, will fail

in large measure under court challenges. We
are encouraged in this by legal challenges
already making headway against the state's
anti-affirmative action initiative of 2006.
Insofar as faculty compensation gets inter-
twined with federal research support, fed-
eral non-discrimination norms will have to
be squared away with Michigan practice, and
it seems unlikely that HB 4770 and HB 4771
will pass such review in that context.
We back the University in its claim that
national trends in employee benefit pack-
ages make unmarried co-resident benefits an
important component of compensation pack-
ages for faculty and staff recruitment. As
those responsible for the academic quality of
our future faculty colleagues, current faculty
stand firmly in support of keeping our insti-
tution competitive nationally. The state of
Michigan is not in any position of economic
strength whereby it can shrug off its need to
remain competitive in those areas, like high-
er education, which will prove essential for
its renaissance.
The fundamental reason we oppose HB
4770 and HB 4771 is basic fairness and
respect for all our faculty and staff col-
leagues. We call upon Michigan residents
to demand that of the Legislature. Forms
for writing to your representative and other
state officials are available on the web site
of the Michigan Conference of the AAUP:
Finally, we encourage all faculty read-
ers who are sympathetic with this cause, or
the others for which we stand, to join the
AAUP and strengthen our voice in this and
future debates: http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/
Let us unite in support of all our faculty,
staff and friends targeted by these legislative
Dan Burns is the interim president of the
University of Michigan AAUP chapter.

I participated in an abortion debate held by the
Michigan Political Union last Monday. Several times
throughout the event, students raised concern about
the impact of abortion bans on the poor. Legalizing
abortion, they argued, not only spares children from
suffering in dire poverty, but can also empower women
to break through the poverty cycle.
The impoverished conditions, under which the
majority of the world's population lives, are truly
appalling. However, I believe the suggestion that
legalizing abortion should play a part in reducing pov-
erty is gravely flawed for two reasons. First, it is inap-
propriate to solve societal problems by eliminating
the people affected. We don't fight malaria by killing
those with malarial infections. Similarly, we shouldn't
fight poverty by aborting the poor. Secondly, there is
no evidence that legalizing abortion helps women
break through poverty. True women's empowerment
requires education, material resources and personal
support - not abortion.
One reason given for legalizing abortion in under-
developed countries is that abortion spares children
from a life of poverty and suffering. Easing suffering is
a commendable goal, and one that I share, but when the
desire to prevent suffering leads us to eliminate those
who will suffer, we commit a grave error.
Last summer, I visited Kenya and Uganda. There I
saw village after village of malnourished children. I
mention this because I want to make it clear that in
no way do I wish to trivialize the suffering of billions
of people. On the contrary, the severity and extent
of the extreme poverty those children live in over-
whelmed me. However, the fact that those children
suffer does not make their lives valueless. The suf-
fering they endure does not take away their worth as
human beings. It is not up to us, the privileged, to say
that children, who will be born into desperately poor
circumstances, simply shouldn't be born at all. Rather,
we have an obligation as privileged residents of a privi-
leged country, to share our blessings with those who
have less.
Those on both sides of the abortion debate must
do more to improve material conditions for the poor,
both in the United States and abroad. How we choose
to provide that support - through government aid,
non-profit organizations or cultivating personal rela-
tionships - is another matter. The point is we can't,
in good conscience, fight poverty by killing those who
will experience it.
Secondly, abortion advocates are misguided when
they insist that legalizing abortion empowers women.

Susan B. Anthony, leader of 19th century campaigns
for women's suffrage, writes: "When a man steals
to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there
is something wrong in society - so when a woman
destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence
that either by education or circumstances she has been
greatly wronged."
Anthony recognized that women seeking abortion
do not do so because they feel empowered. On the
contrary, they are often motivated by a sense of des-
peration. There is tragic irony in the fact that while
abortion rights advocates offer slogans of "choice," it is
often the case that women seek abortions because they
feel they have no alternative. Furthermore, before we
advocate for legal abortion overseas, we should exam-
ine whether abortion has improved conditions for the
poor in our own country.
Nearly four decades after Roe v. Wade legalized
abortion in the U.S., inequality is higher, not lower,
than it was in 1973. Look at Detroit, which has 14 abor-
tion clinics. Correlation is certainly not causation, yet
it is safe to say that access to legal abortion has not kept
Detroit women out of poverty. Legalizing abortion in
Kenya will not make Kenyan women less poor. Abor-
tion will not educate them or provide better hospitals
or income. These are the areas where we should focus
our efforts to empower women - education, maternal 4
and child health care, financial opportunities such as
microfinance, etc. Misplaced emphasis on legal abor-
tion for impoverished women distracts from the lack
of educational and material resources that drives them
to seek abortion in the first place.
The reality is that women want to bring their chil-
dren into a world where they can adequately care and
provide for them. Efforts to empower women should
target the lack of educational opportunities, material
resources and personal support that lead women to
feel that they cannot bring that child into the world
- the reasons women seek abortion in the first place.
Let's work together in a genuine creative effort to find
real, workable solutions to poverty, but not by aborting
the children of the poor.
On Wednesday, Nov. 9 three women who chose
abortion will be speaking about this experience and
its effect on them to the campus community. It will be
in the Henderson Room of the Michigan League at 7
p.m. with a question-and-answer period to follow the
speakers. I would encourage anyone who is interested
to attend.
Elise Aikman is an LSA senior.

Aida Ali, Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer, Nirbhay Jain, Patrick Maillet,
Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Emily Orley, Teddy Papes, Timothy Rabb,
Vanessa Rychlinski, Caroline Sims, Seth Soderborg, Andrew Weiner


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