Sunday, February 20, 2011

Are our State Legislators Becoming Too Elitist?

by j wright

(NOTE: This is a re-print of a blog I wrote in February of 2009. It still applies today considering what is happening in Wisconsin, Ohio, Tennessee and a couple of other states.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Are our State Legislators Becoming Too Elitist?
by jwright
In an recent article published here from the Oakland Press, Pontiac, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, proposed that legislative term limits (implemented by the voters in 1992) should be rescinded because the state lawmakers don’t have time to do the people’s business. Their top priority, running for reelection, takes up too much of their time. Doing the people’s business came in a distant fourth.

It’s my understanding that their “top priority” was attending to the people’s business, that of representing and governing. For that they are paid a healthy $79,650.00 base salary (the second highest in the nation for state legislators) plus benefits and perquisites; all that for investing about 800 hours annually, or about 20 normal workweeks. They refer to that as “full-time,” and in doing so, Michigan is one of eleven states that have a full-time legislature. Additionally, if they serve for six years they are eligible to receive full pay at retirement.

Bishop also proposes that the legislature only serve “half-time.” It appears that’s the case already. Would his proposal also cut their salaries and benefits in half? The article didn’t say.

If our legislators haven’t the time to tackle and solve the steep learning curve in Lansing, and if running for reelection actually is their “top priority” upon taking office, then we as voters have been electing the wrong people.

As far as rescinding legislative term limits, it was reported a few weeks ago that 2/3 of the Michigan voters still approved of them, so why should we sit back and allow a few legislators in Lansing to overturn the voter’s will, especialy when it calls for amending the state constitution?
Perhaps an overhaul is needed, perhaps more drastic than Senator Bishop had in mind. Like others, I’m in favor of disbanding the State Senate altogether and forming a unicameral legislature limited to a six month annual session. That would be a start.

Today, in answer to some who think I'm anti uionized teachers, firefighters, and police, etc... my concern is that our public sector employees salaries and benefits exceed those on the average of our private sector employees doing the same job. It used to be that folks took jobs in the public sector or with utility companies because the job security was greater but at a lower income. Today it's upside down.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Do Liars Still Figure?

by j wright

A neighboring liberal minded individual recently submitted a "Letter to the Editor" with our local newspaper lauding the Clinton Budget Surplus and Balanced Budgets. I found his thinking clouded with errors so I responded as follows:

President Clinton’s “budget surplus” and his fiscal policies would not have mostly retired the National Debt as previously suggested here had President Bush followed Clinton’s economic lead.

The Clinton budget surplus Democrats often refer to was created primarily by overtaxation, a massive defense budget cut, plus other revenues collected in a given year, all weighed against federal expenses. Ergo, in the last year of Clinton’s tenure, the government spent fewer dollars than it collected. The National Debt never got close to being paid off, it actually increased about $1.3 trillion.

To the Clinton Administration's credit, and with the able assistance of Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and House Appropriations Chairman John Kasich, the National Debt did show a marginal increase of a mere $18 billion in Clinton's last year in office as opposed the the "normal" mega billion dollar increases. Based on past results, when sane Republican adults control the nation's purse strings, fiscal responsibility can happen, not always, but it's possible.

Clinton’s surplus was partly a result of the Republican’s austere Contract With America, the so-called Peace Dividend (huge defense department budgetary cuts) and the treasury being substantially fattened by incoming receipts from the previously bailed out Savings and Loan associations; funds Republican President Reagan had previously ordered returned to the taxpayers.

Figures obtained from the United States Treasury Department web site and show that Bush and Congress increased the National Debt about $4.97 trillion, contrary to $6 trillion increase previously suggested here, an average increase of about $621.3 billion annually from $5.73 trillion to $10.7 trillion. Part of that was a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the ensuing wars against terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. I don't have the figures available but it was once reported that the Obama "Stimulus" bill cost us more to date that the war in Iraq. Go figure.

Since President Obama took office two years ago, the National Debt has increased by $3.431 trillion, growing at a rate of about $1.715 trillion annually, more than twice the Bush average. Those numbers almost make Bush look good. For certain, those huge increases erode the argument that “budget deficits are a Republican strategy to bring America to its fiscal knees.”

Where does the responsibility lie for the growing deficits and massive indebtedness? Certainly there is enough irresponsibility to go around. Besides Obama's two years in the Oval Office, the Democrats had total control of both legislatures and of the government’s purse strings from January 2007 through early January 2011 but both parties have spent like fat drunken sailors in the past. Recently the National Debt reached $14.131 trillion. George Bush added his share but his successor is fast outpacing him.