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  #1  
Old 04-08-2012, 11:18 PM
Inner Stickler Inner Stickler is offline
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Democracy dying in Michigan?

I was on Reddit this morning and someone linked to this clip from Rachel Maddow. It's 15 minutes long, plus a second clip that's about a minute and a half long so I'll try to write a short summation for those without the time to watch it.

In the clip, Maddow talks about recent Republican legislative antics in Michigan. Their constitution requires that all bills take effect 90 days after the end of the session which passed the law. Since a session could conceivably go all year, there's a good chance that a bill passed in January of 2011 wouldn't take effect until just a month ago. Since, however, sometimes bills need to take effect immediately, a clause allows for them to bypass the wait with a 2/3rds majority vote.

With the 2010 elections, republicans took control of the legislature and the governorship and have passed something on the order of 566 laws, most of which have also been passed under the immediate effect clause. A number of these bills, according to Maddow and crew are like something out of 1984. An emergency leader bill allows the state to appoint a manager for a given Michigan city who is not answerable to the city council, the mayor or the populace of the city but rules, essentially by fiat. The, in Maddow' words, thuggish graduate student union put forth a proposal to relax strictures on membership in their union only to have the Michigan legislature pass and enact a law forbidding grad student unions an hour and a half before the appropriate committee was to hear the proposal, a proposal which, I understand they were expecting to allow.

The kicker appears to be that the republican party, while it controls the legislature, does not have a 2/3rds majority. They need at least 12 democrats to vote to pass their bills under the immediate effect clause. The democrats claim that they're not being allowed to exercise their right to vote and that the presiding congressperson simply pretends that a 2/3rds majority exists for these bills and are currently suing the state government to allow them to vote. A lower court placed an injunction against many of these laws such as the emergency manager law and the prohibition of grad student unions and the republican response was that the lower court was acting out of bounds.

Maddow says this is essentially a direct attack on our status as a democracy, that the Michigan republicans are creating an autocracy and no one seems to care. I certainly hadn't heard about this and after watching the clip, it seems pretty cut and dried that the republicans are up to some hijinks at the very least. My question, and the reason I put this in GD is, do you agree with Maddow? Is Michigan an early warning sign? Or is she stretching and there's a much more reasonable explanation for all this. They played a clip of a portion of a congressional session where they called for passing a bill under immediate effect and the presider's eyes flicked over the crowd for a moment and then he banged the gavel and announced they had the 2/3rds they needed. It didn't look much to me like a legitimate vote but I'm not all that up on civics. What say you all?

I apologize if this has been discussed earlier. I did not see another thread.
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  #2  
Old 04-08-2012, 11:47 PM
2sense 2sense is offline
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I was reading about this yesterday from Kevin Drum. There are some updates since and if they are accurate the issue seems to be that both parties have used voice votes to put laws into immediate effect. Thus Democratic lawmakers have been slow to object to the current situation. What has changed is that the GOP now has a 2/3 majority in Michigan State Senate (where questionable voice voting laws into immediate effect hasn't been allowed). Before there was a check on the process since Democrats could slow bills in the Senate. Now they can't and they can't get the Republican Speaker of the House to recognize them to request roll call votes on immediate effect.

If this information is accurate this is a pretty clear abuse of power by the Speaker and potentially extends far beyond the current controversy. If all points of order can be ignored simply by having the Speaker fail to recognize those who rise to them then the minority or even a majority can be effectively silenced. But at the same time the Republican Speaker has to maintain his position with the Republican Majority and they ARE a majority. If they feel that strongly they could pass the bills anyways. So it seems likely that for the time being the issue is limited to laws going into immediate effect.
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  #3  
Old 04-09-2012, 01:19 AM
ITR champion ITR champion is online now
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Regarding the state appointing financial managers for cities, this stems from the fact that finances in some of Michigan's cities are completely fubar. To make a long story short, cities and towns have given generous contracts to unionized employees and spent big on all kinds of stuff. Meanwhile the tax base has eroded as the state's economy slumped and productive workers moved to greener pastures. Now they're just plain running out of money and often on the edge of bankruptcy. Once a certain point is actually reached, the state may appoint a manager.

Is it true that the managers are not answerable to the city councils? Yes it is. That's by design, because it's the only way to defeat the public employee unions. The unions will not accept any deal that involves any cuts to their pay or benefits. This means that in practice, they will not accept any deal that avoids bankruptcy.

Are the managers a good solution? No, but given the hole that the cities put themselves in, there simply aren't any good solutions out there.

(Here's some reading on Detroit's financial crisis and the mayor's unwillingness to negotiate. There's been a deal of sorts in just the last couple days, but I don't know the details.)
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Old 04-09-2012, 01:37 AM
gatorslap gatorslap is offline
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Originally Posted by ITR champion View Post
Regarding the state appointing financial managers for cities, this stems from the fact that finances in some of Michigan's cities are completely fubar. To make a long story short, cities and towns have given generous contracts to unionized employees and spent big on all kinds of stuff. Meanwhile the tax base has eroded as the state's economy slumped and productive workers moved to greener pastures. Now they're just plain running out of money and often on the edge of bankruptcy. Once a certain point is actually reached, the state may appoint a manager.

Is it true that the managers are not answerable to the city councils? Yes it is. That's by design, because it's the only way to defeat the public employee unions. The unions will not accept any deal that involves any cuts to their pay or benefits. This means that in practice, they will not accept any deal that avoids bankruptcy.

Are the managers a good solution? No, but given the hole that the cities put themselves in, there simply aren't any good solutions out there.

(Here's some reading on Detroit's financial crisis and the mayor's unwillingness to negotiate. There's been a deal of sorts in just the last couple days, but I don't know the details.)
The point here is not the merits of Michigan's "emergency manager" law, it is that it was passed improperly, and should not have taken immediate effect.
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  #5  
Old 04-09-2012, 04:01 AM
ITR champion ITR champion is online now
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Inner Stickler seemed to be wondering about both the contents of the bill and the legitimacy of the vote that passed it as an emergency bill.
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  #6  
Old 04-09-2012, 09:33 AM
Steve MB Steve MB is online now
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Originally Posted by 2sense View Post
I was reading about this yesterday from Kevin Drum. There are some updates since and if they are accurate the issue seems to be that both parties have used voice votes to put laws into immediate effect.
My "phony equivalency" sense is tingling -- a legitimate voice vote (where there is no serious doubt raised, either at the time or afterwards, that there was in fact a 2/3 majority) is not comparable to the current situation.
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Old 04-09-2012, 09:55 AM
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ITR Champion, do you have any cites that show that the fubar-ness of Michigan cities is due to overly generous union contracts? From my reading, Michigan is screwed because the population and tax base as shrunk by something like 50 percent over the past 25 years and the government has not shrunk to keep pace. This is hardly the fault of the public service employee unions, so i am wondering if you have some information I don't or if you are just trotting out one of the conservative bogeyman.
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Old 04-09-2012, 11:12 AM
elucidator elucidator is online now
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Something not quite right here, in about a million ways. Why would the Pubbies turn aside a poll of votes to prove that the 2/3 majority was present and voting? Seems that would be something they would approach with gleeful nose-rubbing solidarity.

And if they didn't have that magic threshold, why would it take the divine Ms Maddow to point it out? What, Dems can't count? Its a bit like the Sherlock Homie case of the dog that didn't scream bloody murder in the night.

I remember when she first reported on this, way back, there was a side plot, the refusal of a small town to sell its park and recreation space to rich developers so they could build a golf club that the residents would most likely not be admitted to. And lo and behold, that gross civic irresponsibility has been overturned, now that sensible adults are in charge.

And again, why would it take her to bring it up, aren't the Dems screaming their heads off? And if not, why not? WTF?
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Old 04-09-2012, 11:45 AM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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Is Detroit the future for American cities? The city is almost insolvent-and the tax base continues to decline.
If the state stopped subsidizing Detroit, it wold fold in weeks.
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Old 04-09-2012, 12:16 PM
steronz steronz is offline
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Originally Posted by elucidator View Post
And if they didn't have that magic threshold, why would it take the divine Ms Maddow to point it out? What, Dems can't count? Its a bit like the Sherlock Homie case of the dog that didn't scream bloody murder in the night.
The blogger that 2sense linked to asked the same question, and has some insight in the updates to his post.

If I'm understanding it correctly, the house has a tradition of not taking the 2/3rds immediate effect rule very seriously. The speaker can call for it, make a show of surveying the results, and declare it to have passed. The minority party can ask for an official tally to be taken to verify if it really did pass, but the speaker can deny the request, leaving the minority party no recourse but to bend over and take it.

The Democrats, through a combination of professional courtesy, apathy, and perspective (all that's really happening is that a law that will take effect anyway takes effect a bit sooner), let this slide for a while, under the assumption that the same 2/3rds rule would have to be met in the Senate, where tallies are required by the state constitution.

However, the Republicans now have a legitimate 2/3rds majority in the Senate, so they can do their official tally over there, log a "fake" tally in the house, and get all of their laws to take effect immediately.

If I understand that correctly, this whole thing seems ridiculous and not really all that big of a deal. The real problem is that the House isn't required to tally all of their votes, which may have made sense when the constitution was written and vote tallying an unruly mob of lawmakers would have presented a technical challenge, but cripes, put buttons on everyone's desks and just log the votes peoples. Problem solved.
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Old 04-09-2012, 01:27 PM
Jenaroph Jenaroph is offline
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Originally Posted by elucidator View Post
Something not quite right here, in about a million ways. Why would the Pubbies turn aside a poll of votes to prove that the 2/3 majority was present and voting? Seems that would be something they would approach with gleeful nose-rubbing solidarity.
In the House, they DON'T have the 2/3 majority. That's why they're deliberately not counting.

Quote:
And if they didn't have that magic threshold, why would it take the divine Ms Maddow to point it out? What, Dems can't count? Its a bit like the Sherlock Homie case of the dog that didn't scream bloody murder in the night.
They have screamed, now. There's a lawsuit in court and the Court of Appeals granted an injunction against the practice (which the Republicans are now screaming about.) The question is why the Democrats took a whole year to file suit; apparently they tried reasoning with their Republican colleagues first.

To be frank, I live here, and Maddow's report was the first one I've seen that spelled out exactly what the hell is going on in Lansing. I'd seen a couple of vague articles about Democrats complaining that the Republicans weren't letting them vote, without going into detail about the significance of the 2/3rds majority and the immediate effect rule. There used to be good newspapers, there used to be good local news around here. Not any more, apparently.

Quote:
I remember when she first reported on this, way back, there was a side plot, the refusal of a small town to sell its park and recreation space to rich developers so they could build a golf club that the residents would most likely not be admitted to. And lo and behold, that gross civic irresponsibility has been overturned, now that sensible adults are in charge.

And again, why would it take her to bring it up, aren't the Dems screaming their heads off? And if not, why not? WTF?
The Benton Harbor issue of the recreation area is mostly an explicit example of the kind of threats Michigan's emergency manager law poses. An emergency manager under the new law (there was an old one that granted less autocratic power) has at his/her disposal the power to remove or ban any or all locally elected officials from accessing any government or organizational property or resources, control all aspects of the budget, sell off city assets, hire or fire anybody they want, and under certain conditions, modify or terminate any existing contract, or taken to its extreme, dissolve the municipality entirely. A beneficent EM may in fact do nothing with that kind of power except attempt to improve the city or district's lot with the least possible imposition on the citizens, but in truth the citizens are completely at the EM's mercy.

Then there's the fact that the ending of such a term of emergency manager-ship for a municipality or district is pretty much at the whim of the emergency manager.
Quote:
Sec. 24. A local government that is in receivership is considered to be in a condition of financial emergency until the emergency manager declares the financial emergency to be rectified in his or her quarterly report to the state treasurer required under section 15, and is subject to the written concurrence of the state treasurer, and the concurrence of the superintendent of public instruction if the local government is a school district. The declaration shall not be made until the financial conditions have been addressed and rectified.
You'll get your right to elect your leaders back when the person running the city decides and the state approves, and not before.

Last June a lawsuit was filed challenging the constitutionality of Public Act 4; AFAICT it is still pending. And the petitions to put a repeal of this law on the ballot in November are being reviewed right now. If enough signatures are ruled valid, the law will be suspended until the vote. People haven't been idle, but as Michigan residents our hands have been tied.
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Old 04-09-2012, 01:51 PM
elucidator elucidator is online now
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I thank you for the clarification, and only wish that clarification was more often encouraging. Sadly, no.
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  #13  
Old 04-09-2012, 02:28 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
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The allegation certainly seems to be violative of the Michigan constitution:

Quote:
§ 18 Journal of proceedings; record of votes, dissents.
Sec. 18. Each house shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and publish the same unless the public security otherwise requires. The record of the vote and name of the members of either house voting on any question shall be entered in the journal at the request of one-fifth of the members present. Any member of either house may dissent from and protest against any act, proceeding or resolution which he deems injurious to any person or the public, and have the reason for his dissent entered in the journal.
If the Speaker is simply ignoring this, the courts can and should put a stop to it, since it's a rule of constitutional dimension.
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Old 04-09-2012, 02:30 PM
Bosstone Bosstone is offline
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So in short, Michigan got Palpatined.
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Old 04-09-2012, 03:06 PM
Jenaroph Jenaroph is offline
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Truth be told, unlike some people I don't entirely hold that Gov. Snyder is trying to carve out an Evil Republican Dictatorship for himself. It's more complex than that. He's a businessman. He's approaching Michigan's financial problems from the perspective of a businessman trying to correct a floundering system as quickly and efficiently as possible; the problem is, while in business the equivalent of an EM can take over a department, fire people, cancel contracts, reorganize, and say "Tough titties, we're doing it this way," you can't do that in government without risking trampling on people's constitutional rights. A business is not a democracy and anybody who doesn't like what a company is doing has the option to quit their job and end their association with that business. You can't just quit being an American citizen, and that's a big part of why the process must be deliberately inefficient; to hear all sides and be fully considerate of citizens' rights.

So while I think Snyder may personally only have the state's best interests in mind, he's willingly signed bills granting unreasonable and possibly unconstitutional power to a buncha people who don't. The thing I find shocking is that there hasn't been a mass movement by the state's most conservative Republicans to pass all the anti-abortion and anti-contraceptive legislation they can, like in other states, while they still have this power. Though I admit I'm not fully familiar with all the bills in the pipeline right now.
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Old 04-09-2012, 04:23 PM
elucidator elucidator is online now
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Closer to Minnesota. Sane rays.
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Old 04-09-2012, 04:27 PM
2sense 2sense is offline
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Originally Posted by Steve MB View Post
My "phony equivalency" sense is tingling -- a legitimate voice vote (where there is no serious doubt raised, either at the time or afterwards, that there was in fact a 2/3 majority) is not comparable to the current situation.
It looks like both parties in Michigan's House have something of a tradition of claiming a 2/3 majority is present on a voice vote whether it existed or not. It hasn't mattered much before since immediate effect could always be dealt with in the Senate. The thing that has changed is that the GOP now has a 2/3 majority in that body.
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Originally Posted by steronz View Post
If I understand that correctly, this whole thing seems ridiculous and not really all that big of a deal. The real problem is that the House isn't required to tally all of their votes, which may have made sense when the constitution was written and vote tallying an unruly mob of lawmakers would have presented a technical challenge, but cripes, put buttons on everyone's desks and just log the votes peoples. Problem solved.
The House is required to tally votes if enough members request it. The problem is that the Speaker is ignoring points of order on the subject. Again, once you allow the Speaker to do this there is all sorts of mischief he can get into. Essentially he can do anything at all that doesn't cost him the support of the members of his party in the House. Though as I said the problem is mostly limited to putting laws into immediate effect there are certainly more rules requiring 2/3 supermajorities in both houses. Constitutional amendments, perhaps. Those too could be ramrodded through in this matter. It seems pretty clear the GOP is overstepping their constitutional authority. But "the End of Democracy" in the state? Hardly.
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Old 04-10-2012, 12:06 AM
Toxgoddess Toxgoddess is offline
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Oh, there's more. It involves those pesky state employees (both union and non-union) which everyone so loves to hate. Under the Michigan Constitution, the Civil Service Commission sets employee pay rates and schedules, negotiates with the unions, and so forth. Not the Legislature; that authority rests with the Civil Service Commission. Again, this is not just the law, but in the state Constitution. Well, about three years ago, the Legislature decided they wanted to cut employee pay, and imposed a 3% surtax on what they termed "possible future health care costs". (Not that the money WOULD go toward health care costs, mind you, but it COULD. Maybe. If they felt like it.) Civil Service sued on the grounds that the Legislature was not vested with this authority. The courts agreed.
Did the Legislature care? They did not. They kept withholding the tax from employee paychecks despite being told by a succession of courts that they had no authority to do so and should refund the money. Eventually, when the matter got to a high enough level, they did refund it...without the interest, of course, that they earned by withholding our money for almost two years.
Regardless of what you think about employee compensation, these actions show a complete disregard for the rule of law in Michigan and a willingness to ignore even the Constitution when it suits their purposes. Not to mention the blatant hypocrisy and dishonesty they used to justify their thievery.
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Old 04-10-2012, 12:13 AM
Toxgoddess Toxgoddess is offline
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Originally Posted by Bricker View Post
The allegation certainly seems to be violative of the Michigan constitution:



If the Speaker is simply ignoring this, the courts can and should put a stop to it, since it's a rule of constitutional dimension.

I couldn't agree more. But their actions show a callous disregard for constitutionality, which is absolutely unacceptable for a legislative body.
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Old 04-10-2012, 12:56 AM
Snowboarder Bo Snowboarder Bo is offline
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Originally Posted by ITR champion View Post
To make a long story short, cities and towns have given generous contracts to unionized employees and spent big on all kinds of stuff.
Absolutely false, in that unions aren't "given" anything. They negotiate to the best of their ability on behalf of their members. Contracts are not gifts. And the union members perform services for their pay, just like any other employee of any organization.

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Originally Posted by ITR champion View Post
Is it true that the managers are not answerable to the city councils? Yes it is. That's by design, because it's the only way to defeat the public employee unions.
Unions are not marauding hordes of barbarians or invading armies. They don't require defeating anymore than merchants do.

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Originally Posted by ITR champion View Post
The unions will not accept any deal that involves any cuts to their pay or benefits. This means that in practice, they will not accept any deal that avoids bankruptcy.
Demonstrably false.
Quote:
In a deal announced today, a coalition of unions representing thousands of Detroit city workers said their members approved 10 percent pay cuts and other changes.
That happened over 2 weeks ago, by the way (23 March 2012). How did it escape your notice? I mean, it was like the biggest story in the entire state for 2 days.

Here's one from January of this year:
Quote:
Secretaries at Niles Community Schools are taking a 2.5 percent pay cut as part of a new contract agreement with the district.

Supt. Richard Weigel estimates the new contract will save the district approximately $70,000 a year.

The secretaries’ union had been operating without a contract since June 2009.

“Not having a contract, our insurance went up, so we were paying more out of pocket for that during that time. That was probably one of the worst things,” said Tricia Bolin, president of the secretaries’ union. “Also, it was looming over our heads that this had to get done.”

The new contract was ratified by the secretaries’ union Jan. 18 and approved by the school board Monday.

Last year, firefighters in Muskegon agreed to cuts:
Quote:
Firefighters in Muskegon, Mich., ratified a three-year contract that allows the use of more part-time firefighters.

Firefighters in Allen Park also agreed to pay and benefit cuts in February of this year:
Quote:
The union did offer to make conditional concessions in a Feb. 28 letter to the city . The offer was for members to take a 10 percent pay cut and pay for 20 percent of their health care.

From 2011:
Quote:
In the same week Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proposed that teachers' starting salaries should be $60,000 a year, Michigan teachers accepted unprecedented pay cuts. Instead of engineer-equitable pay, it seems that waitress pay may be par.

Across the state, Michigan teachers got significantly less than they bargained for in this contract. The cuts came in wage freezes, two-tier wage scales, increased health care and benefit costs and increased payments to pension plans. Just how much is an "unprecedented" pay cut? Enough that some teachers may not be able to make mortgage payments. Families in which both parents are educators could lose about $30,000 next year.

Quote:
Paychecks will be smaller next week for City Hall employees in the Professional and Technical Association when a new contract full of concessions goes into effect.

In addition to the immediate 2.5 percent pay cut, the union agreed to six unpaid holidays, health care changes, increased contributions for health care premiums, and mirroring health care in retirement.

The members also will return to a 40-hour work week after a year of four, 36-hour weeks to help the city save money. The shorter work week cut payroll costs for the union, but at a price.

“The administration has to acknowledge that resulted in a reduced level of service to the community,” City Attorney David Gillam said.

This is the second time the union — which is made up of engineering and information systems employees, planners, an appraiser, administrative assistants, and the senior citizens’ activities coordinator and police records supervisor — has stepped up to the plate, Mayor Jim Ellison said.

“I know this is a big sacrifice for these employees at a time when their own costs are continuing to rise,” Ellison said.

Here's an article from 2007 detailing that public employees have been made the scapegoats and evildoers (by, IMO, unscrupulous selfish jackasses) since at least the early 1990s in Michigan: State employees: Under siege? Cut, cut and cut again, state workers feel stretched, anxious and uncertain.

For most of at least the last two decades, public service employees in Michigan have been trying to bend over backwards to help out their communities and the state, while others have just been trying to get them to bend over.

The notion that unions are thugs who simply declare what they will accept and then take it is laughably, ludicrously false.

The idea that union members aren't part of the community they live in, and don't care about it is demeaning, demonizing, and deceitful.

When you come back to this thread, bring more than bullshit talking points and unfounded, biased calumny.

Last edited by Snowboarder Bo; 04-10-2012 at 01:00 AM.. Reason: I just really like to edit.
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  #21  
Old 04-10-2012, 05:43 AM
What the .... ?!?! What the .... ?!?! is offline
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Perhaps they've learned the "by any means necessary" lesson. You gotta get tough to fight the (union) man.
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Old 04-10-2012, 08:07 AM
Toxgoddess Toxgoddess is offline
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"By any means necessary" includng ignoring the state constitution? So they can lie and cheat and disregard their sworn duties to rob the working people? Those types of actions are why we need unions in the first place. And the those who think they're no longer needed..think again. Look how these legislative thieves act when there still are unions to protest. What will they do when there aren't any? If you think "So who cares, my job is safe, I'm a good worker" you''re wrong. It's not about weeding out bad workers. It's about taking away rights and benefits from all workers, indeed all voters. Don't care about Detroit? Would you care if all the elected officals in your town got replaced with the Governor's crony because your town has financial difficulties? It starts with "fiscal responsibility" as the excuse. It won't end fhere.

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Old 04-10-2012, 09:52 AM
Happy Fun Ball Happy Fun Ball is online now
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I don't think ITR is going to come back and defend his talking point; he is just keeping to the right wing meme without having any data to back it up. There are lots of problems in Michagan, and unions may actually contribute to some of them, but they are not the root of the problem. Just like the unions were not the root of the demise of the steel industry. What is going on in Michigan is due to the invisible hand and the tide of history, not because teachers are trying to make a living wage and keep their jobs as the student base shrinks.
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Old 04-10-2012, 10:56 AM
Clothahump Clothahump is offline
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Originally Posted by ralph124c View Post
Is Detroit the future for American cities? The city is almost insolvent-and the tax base continues to decline.
If the state stopped subsidizing Detroit, it wold fold in weeks.
Hmmm.....looks like now would be a good time to incorporate a new business in Detroit.

I think Omni Consumer Products (OCP) has a nice ring, don't you?
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Old 04-10-2012, 11:06 AM
Czarcasm Czarcasm is online now
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Hmmm.....looks like now would be a good time to incorporate a new business in Detroit.

I think Omni Consumer Products (OCP) has a nice ring, don't you?
Too late-it's been done.
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Old 04-10-2012, 11:07 AM
Kimmy_Gibbler Kimmy_Gibbler is offline
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Originally Posted by Toxgoddess View Post
"By any means necessary" includng ignoring the state constitution? So they can lie and cheat and disregard their sworn duties to rob the working people? Those types of actions are why we need unions in the first place. And the those who think they're no longer needed..think again. Look how these legislative thieves act when there still are unions to protest. What will they do when there aren't any? If you think "So who cares, my job is safe, I'm a good worker" you''re wrong. It's not about weeding out bad workers. It's about taking away rights and benefits from all workers, indeed all voters. Don't care about Detroit? Would you care if all the elected officals in your town got replaced with the Governor's crony because your town has financial difficulties? It starts with "fiscal responsibility" as the excuse. It won't end fhere.
What a splendidly subtle argument! Democracy is dying in Michigan, as our OP breathlessly titled his thread, because ........ the popularly elected Legislature is not deferring to a committee of bureaucrats!

As for the emergency manager law, which does appear troubling on its face, municipalities have always been considered fully subordinate organs of the sovereign state (home rule, I should add, complicates this picture a touch). I'm not sure the emergency managers are a great program from a policy standpoint, since they will nevertheless stir up resentment by being perceived as being dictated from without (although, Michigan's state government is also answerable to the popularly elected legislature).

As for wanted to ensuring the vitality of the city of Detroit, I quite agree. Anyone who thinks the state of Michigan would be well-served by the city of Detroit "folding in a matter of weeks" is obviously a dope who doesn't have much to contribute to the discussion.

Last edited by Kimmy_Gibbler; 04-10-2012 at 11:12 AM..
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Old 04-10-2012, 11:13 AM
ITR champion ITR champion is online now
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ITR Champion, do you have any cites that show that the fubar-ness of Michigan cities is due to overly generous union contracts? From my reading, Michigan is screwed because the population and tax base as shrunk by something like 50 percent over the past 25 years and the government has not shrunk to keep pace. This is hardly the fault of the public service employee unions,
Fiscal crisis is not "due to" any one thing. A city has a budget, with a certain amount of money coming in and a certain amount flowing out. Any decision on taxes or spending affects the city's finances, so when a city like Detroit hits a financial disaster, it's partially due to every decision that's been made. But if we look at Detroit's situation, it's reasonable to assing a decent share of blame to the public unions.

First of all, Detroit's tax burden is close to the nation's highest, so one can hardly blame the city for grabbing too little money from its citizens.

Secondly, regarding spending, here's a quote from the article I lniked to above:
The main cause of Detroit’s fiscal crisis is simple: Its unions have fought tooth and nail to protect jobs and pay even as Detroiters, reeling from their demands, have rushed to the exit doors. Detroit has lost two-thirds of its population since its peak of 2 million in the 1960s, but the rolls of city employees had until recently shrunk by only about one-third. The city government is the largest employer—after Detroit’s schools. Employee benefits alone make up half of the city’s general fund costs.

What’s more, Detroit’s public-sector legacy costs are astronomical. They include $5 billion to cover health care and other promises for retirees in decades to come and a billion for the unfunded liabilities to pension funds. This is not surprising given that the city has twice as many retirees as employees. And retirees get deals virtually unheard of in the private sector. For example, firefighters can retire at the ripe age of 55 with 70 percent of their salaries and automatic cost-of-living adjustments along with nearly full health-care benefits.
So there's a ridiculously large number of current workers and a ridiculously large number of former workers, all sucking on the city's teat. The benefits they have are insanely generous by any standard, doubly so in a desperately poor city. And as for the notion that it's caused by the declining population and tax base, that begs the question, what caused the population to flee? Could it possibly be that some people left Detroit precisely because the taxes were so high? And if the taxes were high because that was the only way that the city could hand so much money to the public unions, doesn't that make the public unions partially responsible for the declining population?
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Old 04-10-2012, 11:51 AM
Shayna Shayna is offline
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Democracy is dying all over this country, but not necessarily for the same reasons mentioned in the OP.

10 Ways Our Democracy Is Crumbling Around Us

Michigan's just extra-super screwed.
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Old 04-10-2012, 11:54 AM
erislover erislover is offline
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So there's a ridiculously large number of current workers and a ridiculously large number of former workers, all sucking on the city's teat. The benefits they have are insanely generous by any standard, doubly so in a desperately poor city. And as for the notion that it's caused by the declining population and tax base, that begs the question, what caused the population to flee? Could it possibly be that some people left Detroit precisely because the taxes were so high? And if the taxes were high because that was the only way that the city could hand so much money to the public unions, doesn't that make the public unions partially responsible for the declining population?
At some point it stops being links in a chain and is just a few noodles tossed down that happen to overlap. Sure, it could be, and if it were, maybe the next step would follow, and if those happened, yeah, it's not unimaginable that someone would try to paint this picture...
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Old 04-10-2012, 12:05 PM
Vinyl Turnip Vinyl Turnip is offline
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Wow. It even has a futuristic mid-90's website design!
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Old 04-10-2012, 01:43 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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It's interesting to see Maddow asserting that a supermajority vote is a required element of democracy. She's been an opponent of supermajority requirements (i.e., filibustering) in the US Senate, calling routine filibustering "a really stupid way to run the country."
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Old 04-10-2012, 01:56 PM
Toxgoddess Toxgoddess is offline
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What a splendidly subtle argument! Democracy is dying in Michigan, as our OP breathlessly titled his thread, because ........ the popularly elected Legislature is not deferring to a committee of bureaucrats!

As for the emergency manager law, which does appear troubling on its face, municipalities have always been considered fully subordinate organs of the sovereign state (home rule, I should add, complicates this picture a touch). I'm not sure the emergency managers are a great program from a policy standpoint, since they will nevertheless stir up resentment by being perceived as being dictated from without (although, Michigan's state government is also answerable to the popularly elected legislature).

As for wanted to ensuring the vitality of the city of Detroit, I quite agree. Anyone who thinks the state of Michigan would be well-served by the city of Detroit "folding in a matter of weeks" is obviously a dope who doesn't have much to contribute to the discussion.
No. The Legislature is ignoring the state Constitution, overstepping their authority, and silencing dissent by illegal voting maneuvers. The Governor seeks to replace entire local governments whenever he feels justified. This is not democracy.
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Old 04-10-2012, 01:56 PM
TonySinclair TonySinclair is offline
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The notion that unions are thugs who simply declare what they will accept and then take it is laughably, ludicrously false.

The idea that union members aren't part of the community they live in, and don't care about it is demeaning, demonizing, and deceitful.

When you come back to this thread, bring more than bullshit talking points and unfounded, biased calumny.
Golf clap.
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Old 04-10-2012, 02:02 PM
TonySinclair TonySinclair is offline
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It's interesting to see Maddow asserting that a supermajority vote is a required element of democracy.
It is not her opinion; it is written into the Michigan state constitution that "immediate effect" requires a two-thirds majority.

For the life of me, I don't understand why Republicans aren't just as outraged over this as Dems. Do you really think you will never again be in the minority?

Last edited by TonySinclair; 04-10-2012 at 02:03 PM..
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Old 04-10-2012, 02:05 PM
TonySinclair TonySinclair is offline
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And again, why would it take her to bring it up, aren't the Dems screaming their heads off?
You might want to check out the "Liberal Media Bias" thread.
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Old 04-10-2012, 02:58 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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It is not her opinion; it is written into the Michigan state constitution that "immediate effect" requires a two-thirds majority.
Right, and I would have more readily expected her to take the position that the threat to democracy is the supermajority requirement written into the state constitution, not the non-compliance with it.
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Old 04-10-2012, 03:29 PM
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Good law, bad law, not the point. The point is suspending the law for the convenience of a political party. As a thing itself, the requirement isn't that bad, fairly sensible, actually. They built in a lag between enactment and enforcement so that all the procedures of dissent might be given space and time to play out. But they also recognized that there are situations of emergency, when things must be done at once. So a mechanism was built to accommodate that prospect.

In and of itself, perfectly reasonable. In this instance, however, one of the most crucial emergencies is the ghastly specter of voters of the wrong sort exercising their alleged "rights".
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Old 04-10-2012, 03:55 PM
Snowboarder Bo Snowboarder Bo is offline
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Golf clap.
Thanks for signifying your complete agreement. You can applaud wildly instead of being politely quiet next time.
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Old 04-10-2012, 04:36 PM
ITR champion ITR champion is online now
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At some point it stops being links in a chain and is just a few noodles tossed down that happen to overlap. Sure, it could be, and if it were, maybe the next step would follow, and if those happened, yeah, it's not unimaginable that someone would try to paint this picture...
Well, I've put forward my argument that the main cause of Detroit's financial woes is the enormously generous union contracts and the high taxes. I don't propose that we can entirely pin the high taxes on the high costs of the union contracts, but do you honestly dispute that they're part of the reason why the tax burden is so high? And I don't that every person who's fled Detroit did so to escape the taxes, but there must be some reason why Detroit's population has declined by more than any other city in American history.

For the purposes of this thread, though, the cause of the city's ills is really tangential. The point is this. Detroit was days away from bankruptcy until the moment when the state agreed to help solve the problem. It would be ridiculous to expect Michigan's state taxpayers to continue bailing out the city government if that government showed no signs of any willingness to cut pay and benefits to union employees. But the city didn't show any sign of wanting to do that by itself, so that's why it was necessary for the state to take the approach that it did.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snjowboarder Bo
Demonstrably false. ...
Yes, you give examples of public employee unions in Michigan agreeing to concessions after it was clear that the state government was willing to play hardball. Presumably we both know that cities across the country have been hitting financial icebergs, usually involving high public employee salaries and pension costs. In Caliornia, when folks have tried to reign in public employee benefits, the result has been union bullying, distortions by public officials, and attempts to block the voters' will by bureaucratic means. So in California, the unions know that the state government will always be on their side, working to block any reform. It's quite understandable that folks in Michigan would not want to end up like California. Hence the need for a policy that says to the unions: negotiate some cuts or else. That strategy seems to be working better than California's approach.
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Old 04-10-2012, 05:35 PM
erislover erislover is offline
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Well, I've put forward my argument that the main cause of Detroit's financial woes is the enormously generous union contracts and the high taxes. I don't propose that we can entirely pin the high taxes on the high costs of the union contracts, but do you honestly dispute that they're part of the reason why the tax burden is so high?
That's what you thought my problem was?
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Old 04-10-2012, 08:43 PM
Toxgoddess Toxgoddess is offline
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There are many causes for Detroit's financial woes. Some go back decades. The main one is the declining tax base due to the shrinking middle class, meaning higher taxes for those left. The shrinking middle class, hardly unique to Detroit, but certainly exacerbated there, is due in the turn to any number of things: the cyclical downturns of the auto industry, racial upheavals, crime, fiscal mismanagement, public perception, depressed national ecomony, poor schools and others. To blame it primarily on "overly generous union contracts" is simply nonsensical.
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Old 04-10-2012, 10:46 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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I suspect that a not insignificant factor in this was caused by white flight -- middle class whites fleeing the city in order to avoid racial integration of the public schools, among other things.
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Old 04-11-2012, 12:52 AM
Snowboarder Bo Snowboarder Bo is offline
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Yes, you give examples of public employee unions in Michigan agreeing to concessions after it was clear that the state government was willing to play hardball.
Why in the world would anyone compromise before it was clear that the people on the other side of the table were willing to "play hardball"? What the fuck kind of negotiating tactics did you learn and where?

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Originally Posted by ITR champion View Post
In Caliornia, when folks have tried to reign in public employee benefits, the result has been union bullying,
I'll agree that this is not exactly up-front and 100% on the level since the group seems to be using what may be a real issue (the way signatures are gathered by paid-per-sig registrars and what happens to the info people give) to also promote their own, un-expressed views.

I'll counter with Wisconsin's Republican governor manufacturing a financial crisis last year so he could subvert democracy directly with the aid of Republican elected officials. I'll add that he lied to the media in a deliberate attempt to slander Democrats and people opposed to his "reform measures" by saying that "professional activists" were being bussed into the state just to pad the number of protestors. I'll further add that he sought to siphon off his state's resources and property, primarily in the form of power plants that the citizens are dependent on, to his wealthy out-of-state backers.

I'll let readers decide which side's "dirty tricks" were worse.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ITR champion View Post
distortions by public officials, and attempts to block the voters' will by bureaucratic means. So in California, the unions know that the state government will always be on their side, working to block any reform. It's quite understandable that folks in Michigan would not want to end up like California. Hence the need for a policy that says to the unions: negotiate some cuts or else. That strategy seems to be working better than California's approach.
Following that link goes to a story by Steven Greenhut, who was a columnist for the Orange County Register (CA) for over 10 years. Orange County is one of the most rabidly Republican places in America. He is currently, according to the article, vice president of journalism for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

My research shows that he has also written a book blaming unions for many things: Plunder: How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation, numerous articles blaming President Obama for trampling states rights and is the contributing editor for calwatchdog.com, a supposedly non-partisan journalistic endeavor that apparently doesn't write stories critical of Republicans or Republican policies, although they do seem to write a lot about how bad unions and Democrats are. I particularly liked the piece about how California should auction off it's parks.

Quote:
The solution is simple: auction the parks. Sell them. Privatize them.

What about the precious artifacts and the rest? Won’t the new owners bulldoze that stuff and put up condos and Walmarts?

No. The new owners would have every reason to keep up the parks — and do so better than the government.



My research shows that the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, supposedly committed to journalistic excellence, was founded by Jason Stverak, former Executive Director of the North Dakota Republican Party and a longtime GOP operator.
Quote:
After graduating college in 1996, Stverak began working for United States Senator Larry Pressler's reelection campaign serving as a Regional Campaign Director.
He spent the next two years working as the Legislative Campaign Coordinator for the South Dakota GOP. He would eventually move on, becoming Executive Director of the Minnehaha County Republican Party[17] in Sioux Falls.

Stverak left South Dakota at the end of 1999 to become Finance Director for Nebraska Senate Candidate Don Stenberg. After Stenberg's defeat, Stverak became Political Director for the Nebraska GOP in 2001. He also worked for Omaha Mayor Hal Duab, serving as his Deputy Campaign Manager.

Six months after becoming the Political Director for the Nebraska GOP, Stverak would go back to North Dakota to serve as Executive Director for the state GOP, a position he held for six years.

In 2007 he made his way back into the campaign realm serving as Executive Director of North Dakota for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's Presidential Committee. After Giuliani's failed bid for the GOP nomination, Stverak joined the nonprofit world, becoming Regional Field Director for the government transparency and accountability group, the Sam Adams Alliance.
Further research shows that the Sam Adams Alliance was founded by Eric O'Keefe, who is a big proponent of taking away or at least limiting people's right to be represented by the person of their choice. What I mean is, he is a big proponent of term limits. He authored the book Who Rules America: The People Versus the Political Class which argues that institutionalizing that all legislators be new to the job would somehow improve government services. Also O'Keefe is a director of the Club For Growth Wisconsin, a group which has spent $1 million on TV ads to support Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's effort to make state workers “pay their fair share.”. So yeah, he helped spend more than $1 million dollars to further Gov. Walker's agenda to destroy collective bargaining rights last year.

None of these people (nor their related organizations) strike me as particularly non-partisan or without an axe to grind against unions in particular, so you'll pardon me if I don't accept the unsubstantiated declarations in the articles you linked to.

Last edited by Snowboarder Bo; 04-11-2012 at 12:53 AM.. Reason: changed a period to a comma
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Old 04-11-2012, 01:28 AM
Snowboarder Bo Snowboarder Bo is offline
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Whoops!

Forgot to mention instances of anti-union bullying, like how Indiana Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Cox suggested on Twitter that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker should have riot police use live ammunition against pro-union protesters last year.

Or how about Carlos Lam, a Deputy Prosecutor in Indiana's Johnson County, suggesting in an email that Governor Walker should mount a "false flag" operation which would make it appear as if the union was committing violence.

You feel free to let me know how many times unions have been able to call out police forces or state militias to shoot into crowds of people, massacring men, women and children.

You want to continue to play the "unions are terrible, evil entities" game? I'll show you what the the people they are up against are like.

You think unions strong-arm people? I'll show you how anti-union people kill and maim and cripple their opponents and their opponent's supporters.

Unions aren't perfect, but they aren't to blame for nearly as much violence, waste, fraud and deceit as anti-union people are.

Unions exist because of the abuses and disregard experienced by workers. And without unions, those abuses and the callous disregard exhibited in the past by employers will return.

In fact, if you want to blame unions for things, you should also blame the assholes who couldn't (and can't) bring themselves to treat other people as, ya know, people so that unions are necessary at all.
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  #45  
Old 04-11-2012, 02:19 AM
elucidator elucidator is online now
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Maybe he'll sing you that song about Joe Hill, the management trainee given a brutal wedgie by union thugs...

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Still walking with a limp
One nut the size of the Hindenburg
The other just another blimp....
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Old 04-11-2012, 05:52 AM
PrettyVacant PrettyVacant is offline
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If you think the choice of voting between one invidual nominated and entirely supported by the vested interests of the owners of capital, and another of the same, is 'democracy' in any meaningful sense good luck.

Democracy died in the USA a long time ago.
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Old 04-13-2012, 03:24 PM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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I have another, related question: when cities like Detroit have the ability to demand money from the state government, isn't that taxation without representation? This is happening in a lot of places-here in Massachusetts, we have an insolvent city called Lawrence. The state is now paying the Lawrence school teachers salaries, and is providing a $36 million subsidy to the city. This is not helping-Lawrence continues to decline (due to high unuionized labor costs and a totally corrupt mayor and city council). Is it democracy when taxpayers are made to subsidize a criminal orgaization?
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Old 04-13-2012, 03:28 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Have you stopped beating your wife?
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Old 04-13-2012, 04:26 PM
ITR champion ITR champion is online now
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Originally Posted by Snowboarder Bo View Post
Why in the world would anyone compromise before it was clear that the people on the other side of the table were willing to "play hardball"?
Perhaps there's something I'm missing here. Detroit and other Michigan cities are at or getting close to bankruptcy. The only way out is to renegoiate union contracts so that the public employees get less money. You agree, here, that the unions won't make the necessary compromises unless the state government "plays hardball", meaning threatens to take over the city's finances and make the necessary cuts. Does that mean you're in favor of the state government appointing managers? If not, then what are you saying?

Quote:
I'll counter with Wisconsin's Republican governor manufacturing a financial crisis last year so he could subvert democracy directly with the aid of Republican elected officials. I'll add that he lied to the media in a deliberate attempt to slander Democrats and people opposed to his "reform measures" by saying that "professional activists" were being bussed into the state just to pad the number of protestors. I'll further add that he sought to siphon off his state's resources and property, primarily in the form of power plants that the citizens are dependent on, to his wealthy out-of-state backers.
I don't quite see what this has to do with Michigan state appointing managers to take over the finances of Michigan cities when it's the only way to prevent those cities from going bankrupt.

Quote:
Following that link goes to a story by Steven Greenhut, who was a columnist for the Orange County Register (CA) for over 10 years. Orange County is one of the most rabidly Republican places in America. He is currently, according to the article, vice president of journalism for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

My research shows that he has also blah blah blah
"Research" wasn't really necessary here. The articles I linked to were all from Reason, a libertarian magazine. That alone ought to be sufficient to alert you that those who wrote the articles probably aren't Democrats. But if you find that going after the people who present the argument against public sector unions in Detroit is a better tactic then actually making an argument to defend those unions, that seems to me a likely indication that the unions are indefensible.
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Old 04-13-2012, 05:29 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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Originally Posted by ITR champion View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowboarder Bo
My research shows that he has also blah blah blah
ITR champion, we ask that posters not alter text inside the quote boxes like you've done here. Please don't do this again.
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