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May 31, 2011 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-05-31

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
(The Art c41-ant aili

American Dream

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@umich.edu

BETHANY BIRON
EDITOR IN CHIEF

MARK BURNS
MANAGING EDITOR

TEDDY PAPES
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR

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.
Budgetary blunder
Shortsighted state budget may hinder Michigan's future
Just as the controversy of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's
tax overhaul was settling down, the Michigan Legislature
passed a disastrous budget that will have negative impli-
cations for years to come. Michigan's government may be mov-
ing things along, but it is becoming clear that lawmakers aren't
headed in the right direction. The tax overhaul was a risky step
that increased taxes on the poor and pensions in favor of busi-
nesses, and the new budget will create even deeper and longer-
lasting problems in Michigan. If Snyder is trying to improve the
future of Michigan, he must not pass this budget.

The idea of the "American
Dream" is perhaps the most cited
and valued ethos that this coun-
try subscribes
to. First used
by author
James Truslow
Adams in 1931,
he defined it as
"that dream of
a land in which
life should be MAX
better and richer LEVENSTEIN
and fuller for
everyone, with
opportunity for each according to
ability or achievement."
The American Dream is what
originally separated the United
States fromthe restof theworld. No
longer did feudal or caste systems
dictate the future of an individual's
life. Equal apportunity pave each
individualthe ability ta chase their
dreams. Even for myself, a critic of
most ideologies, this seems pretty
appealing. The truth is, Americans
still cherish the notion that all peo-
ple deserve a fair shot atlifenomat-
ter what economic situation they
are born into.
But how realistic is this dream?
In the past few years, the nation has
seen an increasing sentiment that
theeraofstrivingtoownahome and
have a successful career are over. I
am somewhat skeptical of this view,
but what if it were true? Perhaps
home ownership will decline and all
of our jobs will be outsourced over-
seas. Does this mean the end of the
American Dream? Absolutely not.
Although it may be great to have
these things, the dream is not about
the things we can get, but about the
opportunity to acquire them. As
long as this opportunity exists and
thrives, the dream is still very much
alive. There is one problem: does
the opportunity for individual suc-
cess still exist?
Equal opportunity cannot simply
mean free markets and limited gov-
ernment. In our realistic economic
environment, with a demographic
mixture of poor and wealthy citi-
zens, there is no reason to believe
that laissez-faire policy sustains
this equality. We can't assume that
the poor children of America have
the same chance of success as their
rich peers. Among other resources,
better education is an opportunity
given to the wealthy that the poor
rarely have access to. Without these
equal opportunities, the poor will
usually stay poor, and continue to
have limited abilities and resources
to improve their future lives.

In order to keep this American
Dream alive, we have to equalize
the opportunities of all Ameri-
sans, or at the very least, reach
some minimum point where even
the poorest individuals have some
chance to better their future. Pro-
fessors Bruce Ackerman and Anne
Alstott's book "The Stakeholder's
Society" offers one such possibility
to reach this point. They propose
that all Americans should receive
$80,000 upon reaching the age
of 21 if they graduate from high
school, no strings attached.
Does equal
opportunity
exist?
Imagine what impact $80,000
would have on an individual just
beginning adult life. They could
buy property, start a business or
pay off college debts. Each citizen
could decide how he will spend
his funds, allowing for personal
freedom and a viable opportunity
for future success. Of course there
will be those who fail and lose their
moneyjust as many people do now,
but this shouldn't detract from the
importance of creating chances for
all individuals. After all, the Amer-
ican Dream does not guarantee
success, but merely a fair opportu-
nity for its achievement.
As the $80,000 is meant to create
opportunity, each citizen must pay
it back to society (if possible) when
he dies, thus creating opportunity
for the next generation. It is there-
fore not charity or a welfare hand-
out, but a way of guaranteeing each
citizen a chance for success. There
is the worry of how to fund this
program, but Ackerman and Alstott
have figured out how to properly
and reasonably do so through a
2-percent wealth tax.
Is the American Dream dead?
Not yet, but it definitely needs to be
nursed back to health. I'm not say-
ing this $80,000 plan is the only
or even the best way to do so, but
it's just one example of something
drastic that needs to occur to keep
the opportunity for individual suc-
cess and the American Dream alive
in the future.
Max Levenstein can be
reached at medl@umich.edu.

'

4

The budget's education cuts
are the most devastating altera-
tions that the Legislature
approved. K-12 funding will
be cut by 2.2 percent, though
this number can be reduced
if schools implement various
Republican-favored initiatives.
If, for example, schools require
teachers to pay into insurance
policies and pensions, they will
get extra state funding. These
demands will be hard to meet,
especially in the immediate
future. As schools adjust to the
cuts, many students and teachers
will be caught in the evolution of
the system, and the students cur-
rently enrolled will have to bear
the brunt of these consequences.
In a world that is placing
increased emphasis on educa-
tion, universities are essential to
Michigan's progress. The brain
drain is already bad enough in
the state, but with less fund-
ing for colleges, there will be
less attending them, making

Michigan far less competitive. A
15-percent cut is hardly a small
reduction, and universities are
going to have a difficult time
making up this gap. Many stu-
dents will be unable to attend a
college or university because of
the inevitable increase in tuition
or the reduction in financial aid.
It is crucial that people from all
means receive access to higher
education, but the proposed
budget does nothing to facilitate
this necessity.
Welfare will also see its funds
diminished, so poor families will
have to find other ways to make
ends meet. According to a May
27 Detroit Free Press article,
under the state's current sys-
tem, a family without a paycheck
receives $492 per month. 15 per-
cent of families will lose these
meager benefits and will have to
figure out how to sustain them-
selves on whatever they have
left. Considering the state of the
economy, it's hard to imagine

how these people will be able to
enter the job market.
The new budget also cuts the
funding of Michigan correction-
al facilities by 3.5 percent. In a
state that spends more on pris-
ons than education, this policy
seems like a no-brainer. Yet even
this initiative is tainted by poor
alternatives. One cost-cutting
measure is the outsourcing of
incarceration to private prisons,
which will only spur the growth
of prison populations and the
costs associated with it.
Many Republicans are patting
each other on the back for the
speed with which the budget was
passed, but it seems they opted
for immediacy instead of quality.
The Legislature may be taking
policy measures to reduce the
deficit, but each step falls short
of real progress. Certain efforts
may help Michigan in the short-
term, but the long-term impli-
cations do not bode well for the
future success of the state.

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