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September 25, 2007

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Well, we're halfway there now.

Why do I suspect that the legislature's half will be more difficult and less well done?

Andy beat me to commenting on the elimination of one half of the presumed "perfect storm."

Andy is also correct to point out that the other half of the supposed "perfect storm" equation might be a lot harder to solve than the GM strike. (Arguably, many more billions were involved in the GM dispute, but of course both the workers and the management at GM operate under a sense of economic reality that is sorely lacking in the public sector.)

But a greater point is this -- the woeful claims of a "perfect storm" of twin economic disasters for Michigan appear to have been greatly exaggerated, at least as to the GM strike. Might it also be the case that the woeful claims that only large tax increases can save Michigan's public sector and the state's economy as a whole? Maybe what Michigan state government needs to recover is what GM is doing to recover; a leaner workforce, and more individual responsibility and ownwership of social costs like retirment and healthcare. And a stern eye on the bottom line.

I agree that the bottom line is where our eye needs to be.

The problem is that nobody has been willing to talk about SPECIFIC cuts, preferring instead to speak in unproductive generalities.

Now it appears that there will be a rush to settle a budget that should have been the subject of reasoned discussion.

That's bad policy and if we can't have elected officials who can discuss things with an eye on the clock, that begs the question in my mind of "What good are they?"

I don't think anyone is claiming that large tax increases are required - merely revenue that is sufficient to the duties we expect the state to perform.

Schools, public safety and providing a social safety net - that's what I would submit is required and desired by the overwhelming majority of Michigan's citizens.

To equate the settlement of a strike over a few tenths of a percentage point with the resolution of a massive structural deficit that has been building for a decade seems to me to be more than a little disingenuous.

Believe me, if this stalemate could be settled by a simple cut here or there or an economic parlor trick, this legislature and Governor would have jumped at it.

Now is the time for difficult choices and courage, something they have shown precious little of.

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