4B - Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
4B - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
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The road to recovery
A t this point, the auto industry's cries for help are nothing new. Chrysler,
Ford and General Motors are struggling and in desperate need of govern-
ment assistance. A few months ago, the federal-government promised to
help these companies if they meet certain conditions for revamping their business-
es. While the companies struggle to accommodate the government's demands, the
government continues to disparage the industry's progress, going so far as to force
out GM CEO Rick Wagoner. If the government is going to take such an active role
in the industry's management, then it must outline a clear vision to resuscitate the
industry while assuming the responsibility for seeing the crisis to its end.
Our American contradiction
As I think about the results
of last week's election, I've
found myself in a sort of
haze trying to
where we stand
as a society.
It's not that
that the politi-
swung to the
right last Tues- MATTHEW
day. Anyone GREEN
who's picked up
a newspaper in
the past few months could've seen
that coming. But what's troubling
is that this post-election political
atmosphere has left us with fewer
answers - and more confusion -
about our identity asa nation.
There's an African American in
the White House, but come Janu-
ary there won't be a single person
of color in the U.S. Senate. Women
will constitute roughly the same
proportion in Congress as they do
now - slightly fewer than twenty
percent. But with more Repub-
lican women than before, the
already tenuous legislative sup-
port for reproductive rights will
probably wane. And with the elec-
tion of David Cicilline (D-R.I.) to
the U.S. House of Representatives,
there will be more openly gay con-
gresspeople next January than
ever before. Nevertheless, our next
Congress will be even less likely
than our current one to support the
rights of the LGBTQ community.
Contradictions have certainly
been part of American politics ever
since our slaveholding forefathers
tried to ingrain freedom and equality
as part of our political discourse. But
as we enter into another chapter of
democracy, the contradictions before
us are particularly confounding.
And it's not just in terms of
civil rights. The New York Times
reported last week that while the
wealthiest 1 percent of Americans
controlled 9 percent of all income
in 1976, that same 1 percent con-
trols 24 percent of income today.
Times columnist Nicholas Kristof
went on to say that, "From 1980 to
2005, more than four-fifths of the
total increase in American incomes
went to the richest 1 percent." Yet,
in spite of this backdrop, our cur-
rent lame-duck Congress seems
poised to extend the Bush-era tax
cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
And a more conservative Congress
will probably continue to neglect
this extraordinary income inequal-
ity, focusing instead on creating
new tax breaks for the upper crust.
It doesn't matter that the motives
of these politicians are perfectly
plain to see. The point is that as a
nation, we're constantly pulled right
and left and the divisions between
us are wide and confusing. It's
increasingly difficult to say who's
right and what actions our politi-
cians ought totake. If there was any
question before the election, Presi-
dent Barack Obama now officially
has the hardest job in the country,
as the head of a democracy thatcan't
figure out who or what it is.
As I ponder today's 92nd anni-
versary of the end of World War
One, I have to wonder how far
we've come since that time. It was
during that era - another period of
confusion and gross contradiction
- that President Woodrow Wilson
enunciated his dream "to make the
world safe for democracy." And
ever since, Wilson's words have
hung like a self-awarded medal on'
the breast of American foreign pol-
icy. But let's not forget that when
Wilson uttered those words, no
women and only some black men
could actually participate in the
democracy that the president had
hoped to bring to the world.
In the past century, we've fought
wars - which continue today - for
the stated purpose of defending free-
dom and popular rule. And for this
column at least, I'll give our govern-
ment the benefit of the doubt that
their campaign for democracy was
well intentioned. Yet, it seems rather
obvious by now that at least part of
the reason why we've failed at pro-
moting democracy abroad is that our
own democratic ethos at home is so
ambiguous. We act on preferences
rather than principles. The result is a
culture of contradiction.
In the face of such inconsistency,
exemplified by this most recent
election, it would be easy to grow
disillusioned about politics or about
our ability to bring about social
change. Indeed, our politicians
have largely failed us. And even if
you're happy about this past elec-
tion, you're probably not optimistic
about political progress following
As students at the University,
we're presented with the inspiring
and daunting reality that in a couple
decades or sooner, we - or at least
our contemporaries - will replace
the current ineffectual generation
of politicians. Rather than getting
turned off from politics, we need to
pay more attention than ever. It will
be up to us to answer the complex
questions that our parents' genera-
tion have created or ignored. And as
we form our opinions and consider
different careers, more than ever, we
have a responsibility to do just that.
-Matthew Green is graduating
with the class of 2012.
Last Wednesday, GM's Wagoner resigned
at the urging of President Barack Obama after
a presidential task force claimed that GM had
not made significant progress in its attempts
to restructure. Wagoner was replaced by Chief
Operating Officer Fritz Henderson, granting
GM 60 more days of federal funding. At the
conclusion of this period, GM is expected to
have put forth significant plans to restructure.
The federal governmentwill cut off aid if these
demands are not met. The government also
told Chrysler it has only 30 days to complete a
merger with Fiat SpA before federal aid will be
While the possible side effects of the auto
industry's collapse have been widely discussed
for the state and the nation, students may not
realize just how much is at stake for the Uni-
versity as well. Automakers like Ford and GM
contribute to the many programs and schol-
arships at the University.In addition, many
parents of in-state students work for the auto
industry - or for businesses dependent upon
the auto industry - impacting their ability to
afford tuition. And University graduates often
go on to work for the auto industry, meaning
these car companies' troubles directly impact
students' ability to find jobs after college.
In light of the auto industry's importance
to the University - as well as the rest of the
country - it's important that the federal gov-
ernment make a concerted effort to rescue the
industry. And while the government did agree
to support these failing automakers, it needs
to do more than simply make demands and
threaten to cut off aid if the companies don't
restructure quickly enough. Having involved
itself in the problem, the Obama administra-
tion now has a responsibility to the auto indus-
try and to the people dependent upon the jobs
the industry sustains. Forcing out Wagoner
was onlyan acceptable move ifthegovernment
is prepared to offer better leadership for GM
and the industry.
But the government doesn't seem to have a
clear plan to fix the problem, instead placing
mandate after mandate on the companies that
won't necessarily create positive outcomes.
The auto industry needs a long-term solution
to its problems, and the federal government
has yet to produce such a solution.
The government knows what the stakes are
- it understands the dire repercussions for
leaving these companies for dead. It's evident
that millions of Michigan residents, including
University students are dependent on these
But just understanding the stakes isn't
enough. It's time forthe federal government to
offer a coherent plan. Having fired Wagoner,
Obama has implicitly agreed to do a better job
than he did.
OWS is socialist, so what?
some greedy low-
life punks inhabit
and caused CHEN
cial crisis. Those people are
honest hardworking folks.
It's the Occupy Wall Street
protesters. According to
many in Republican circles,
these people are lazy social-
ists looking for government
handouts. Fox News pun-
dit and conservative media
ratings giant Sean Hannity
said this to an OWS pro-
tester: "You don't believe in
liberty, you don't believe in
freedom." He also threw in a
"Marxist" charge in there for
good measure and probably
said something about fas-
cism and socialism since he
and his Fox cohorts use all of
those terms interchangeably.
The funny thing is, Hanni-
ty and other conservatives
don't seem to realize that
OWS is actually similar to his
beloved Tea Party. Both are
angry about the various bail-
outs over the past few years -
albeit for somewhat different
reasons - and want to have
their voices heard in the polit-
ical process (the Tea Party
has since gotten off econom-
ics and decided to focus on
God, guns and gays, but stick
with me here). I know Tea
Party supporters are read-
ing this and thinking: "You
liberals slammed us for our
protests, so if our movements
are so similar, the OWS move-
ment should be slammed too!"
However, no one is criticiz-
ing the Tea Party movement
for the fact that the party's
supporters wanted to express
their opinions - the main
gripe people have is with its
policies and actions. TeaParty
folks are the ones that brought
guns to see President Barack
Obama and shouted racial and
gay slurs at Democratic law-
makers during the health care
reform debate. More recently,
they cheered Republican
Gov. Rick Perry's executions,
applauded the idea of letting
an uninsured sick man die
and jeered a soldier for being
So what does the OWS
movement want, anyway?
The message from OWS pro-
testers has not been stream-
lined into a few cliche talking
points because no leader has
emerged yet. Nevertheless,
the general complaints are
that corporate influence in
politics is too pervasive, the
financial system is rigged for
the rich and Wall Street is
not being held accountable
for its actions in destroying
the economy. Sounds popu-
list (or socialist, depending
on perspective) enough, but
top Republican presidential
hopefuls are already taking
GOP presidential candidate
Herman Cain said this to OWS
protesters in an interview
with The Wall Street Journal:
"If you don't have a job and
you're not rich, blame your-
self." Hmmm ... maybe he's
right - people need to assume
more personal responsibility.
Wait, what if you're a public
school teacher in Wisconsin
who earns a starting salary of
barely more than $25,000 to
do the important work of edu-
cating the next generation?
Or how about a private who
has served in the Army for six
years and still receives annual
basic pay of less than $20,000
to defend our nation? Are they
at fault for choosing a profes-
sion that pays so poorly? Next
time I see a teacher or a sol-
dier, I will be sure to tell them
GOP frontrunner Mitt
Romney has also demonized
the protesters, saying they
are inciting "class warfare."
He is trying to say that the
lower and middle classes are
waging "class warfare" on the
upper class, butI got confused
because I thought the state-
ment makes more sense the
other way around. Check out
these statistics: The United
States has the 39th-most
unequal income distribution
in the world, behind almost all
Western countries - incomes
are actually more equal in
Iran. And it's no surprise
because the wealthiest 1 per-
cent in the U.S. earns almost
one-quarter of all income.
Remember, if you don't like
these numbers, you're fascist.
And socialist. And whatever
that last one is.
from Wall St.
The main point I want
to make is OWS is a move-
ment that almost everyone
should be able to appreci-
ate and that even some of the
richest (like Warren Buffet
and Dallas Mavericks owner
Mark Cuban) are supporting.
Conservatives will deride it
as socialist, but if you think
about it, who isn't a socialist?
Unless you are against every
form of government wealth
redistribution (like taxes
going toward roads, highways,
schools, police, firefight-
ing, military, environmen-
tal protection, health care,
food inspection, etc.), you are
socialist at some level. It's just
a label. The people at OWS
want the government and
Wall Street to be accountable
to the vast majority of people
in this country, not a ruling
elite class. If that idea makes
me socialist, sign me up.
- Dar-Wei Chen
is graduating with the
class of 2012.
Change will not come if we wait for
some other person or.some other time.
We are the ones we've been waiting for.
We are the change that we seek."
- Senator Barack Obama on Feb. 6th, 2008, as reported by The New York
Times.The day before, on Super Tuesday, Obama won 13 primaries.
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E. ROYSTER HARPER AND LAURA BLAKE JONES I
'U' supports Chris Armstrong
Activity over the last few months has brought into
sharp focus the unwavering commitment of the Univer-
sity community to social justice and human rights for
all. Students, staff and faculty have rallied to supportthe
elected president of the University student body, who
has been viciously targeted by an individual because of
his sexual orientation.
The reaction by the University community has been
exactly what we would expect from the "leaders-and
best": overwhelmingly supportive of Chris Armstrong,
president of the Michigan Student Assembly.
Likewise, Armstrong and his fellow MSA members
have reacted to this unwanted attention by holdingtheir
heads high, ignoring the blogger's taunts and carrying
on with their ambitious MSA agenda for the comingyear.
We commend them for their responsible approach. An
important value of this campus is the free flow of ideas
and opinions. As a community of scholars we simultane-
ously preserve and create knowledge.
We ask difficult questions, challenge each others' best
thinking, sometimes change our minds and other times
agree to respectfully disagree. While living and working
together we also strive to create a campus environment
where civility, respect and inclusivity are of paramount
importance. This is a place where individuals' rights to
have their personal identities respected and understood
is as sacred as other constitutionally protected ideals.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted in 1963, "Injus-
tice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are
caught in an inescapable network of mutuality... What-
ever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
Freedom of speech and expression do not include
behaviors that target, harass, threaten or defame oth-
ers. As a campus community we must continue to "Stand
Up, Step In and Speak Out" against the repeated vitri-
olic attacks on any one of us. Hateful speech can only be
effectively countered by different speech.
We applaud those individuals and student organi-
zations - on our campus and elsewhere - that have
taken the opportunity to counter hateful speech with
different speech and express support for Chris. A uni-
fied show of support demonstrating that acts of bigotry
cannot take root here is an important part of our com-
We stand united to support all members of the Uni-
versity community, in many different ways, seen and
unseen. As the University's elected Board of Regents
said so clearly at its Sept. 16 meeting, "When one mem-
ber of our community is targeted, we are all attacked."
E. Royster Harper is the vice president for
student affairs. Laura Blake Jones is the associate
vice president and dean of students.