Two plus two equals four. What Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry can't understand is why the state legislature just doesn't seem to get it.
I have some top-secret information to convey to the Michigan Legislature which could be of enormous help to them in figuring out how to balance the budget. They have to do that in the next six weeks, you know, or the government will shut down.
Okay, here goes. Two plus two makes four. Got that? What is so complex about that? Well, nothing, unless you happen to be in the legislature. The lawmakers have to pass a balanced budget by September 30.
If they don't, the state will stop working, except perhaps for a few emergency functions. What is clear is that you won't be able to get a driver's license renewed or your car's title transferred or any of the many other services we take for granted.
Normally, the lawmakers finish haggling and get the budget passed in July. This year, however, they are looking at a budget deficit of nearly three billion dollars.
There has never been a shortfall like that in Michigan history. You would think that, in the interests of us all, our lawmakers would be working full-time to figure out what to do.
You'd think our governor would come on television to alert us to the seriousness of the situation. You'd expect her to present a plan to us citizens, so we could debate and argue about it.
But sadly, you'd be wrong. The lawmakers have been meeting behind closed doors. Nobody knows what they are talking about, but indications are they haven't made much progress.
Nor have they reached out to tell their constituents, that is to say, us, what is at stake. In fact, they don't seem to have much of a grip on reality. Here is the message most of them are sending: "Whatever happens, we are against raising taxes.
"But whatever happens, they just better not cut my pet program." So, for example, Kate Segal, who represents Battle Creek in the House, is fighting to save the Youth Challenge Academy. Marie Donigan of Royal Oak is trying to protect public transportation funding. Others are rallying around the film industry credit.
But nobody is saying what they should be saying, which is this: "Hello, people, listen up:
"We don't have any money, largely because so many people are out of work. If you want to continue getting the benefits that the state has been providing, like parks and roads and good schools and prisons to lock up the bad guys, guess what:
"You are going to have to pay for it! You want this stuff, your taxes are going to go up, by this much, right now."
I would respect any lawmaker with the guts to say that. On the other hand, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop's priority is not raising taxes. Matter of fact, he would like to lower them.
Okay, fine, so tell us right now how you come up with three billion in cuts. If he did that, I would respect him, too.
But right now, we have a governor and 148 legislators who are united in resisting the news that two plus two is four. And as a result, they are doing their best to send us all over that cliff.