Saturday, April 07, 2007

Michigan House Democrats Finally Certifiable

I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. The constant brain-freezing cold (what global warming??) has finally reduced Michigan Democratic legislators to tax-and-spend-spewing zombies, rising up out of whatever ancient peat bogs formed Michigan a million years ago to terrorize their state's already over-burdened budget.

In a scathing editorial published yesterday, The Detroit News ( had this to say:
An iPod for every kid? Are they !#$!ing idiots? (Note: their use of upper-case, not mine)

We have come to the conclusion that the crisis Michigan faces is not a shortage of revenue, but an excess of idiocy. Facing a budget deficit that has passed the $1 billion mark, House Democrats Thursday offered a spending plan that would buy a MP3 player or iPod for every school child in Michigan.
Wow. An iPod for every kid. What a deal.

I did some quick and dirty research and came up with the following numbers:

Total K-12 Public School Enrollment (1999-2000): 1,685,952
Current Price of Apple's iPod Shuffle® (1 GB): $79

So let's see. Even with a price break (hey, stranger things have come from Apple), let's say 10% for a government customer, that's still 1.69 million kids times $71, which works out to a budget allocation of $119,702,592.00, more or less.

Now, taken as a number in and of itself, $120 million is not generally a big hairy deal. Not in California, anyway. The Governator regularly goes through that much in Bowflex® machines for the mansion. However, if Michigan's budget deficit has only just passed the $1 billion mark, $120 million is, what, 12% of that total? And that makes the proposed iPod purchase all the more significant for its blatant stupidity. Which, I suppose, is Detroit News' point:
No cost estimate was attached to their hare-brained idea to "invest" in education. Details, we are promised, will follow.

The Democrats, led by their increasingly erratic speaker Andy Dillon of Redford Township, also pledge $100 million to make better downtowns.

Their plan goes beyond cluelessness. Democrats are either entirely indifferent to the idea that extreme hard times demand extreme belt tightening, or they are bone stupid. We lean toward the latter.

We say that because the House plan also keeps alive, again without specifics, the promise of tax hikes.
My goodness. These same legislators probably would have excoriated Reagan a couple of decades ago for practicing "voodoo economics." If this iPod plan wasn't created by some shaman in the bayous of Louisiana, I'd sure like to know where it came from.

Of course, I can almost hear the rationalizations now. "But if we don't, then Michigan kids will be the only kids in the nation who don't have iPods! What will they listen to instead of listening to their teachers?" Based on the critical thinking skills of the Michigan House of Representatives, I'd say this makes perfect sense. What were they listening to back then, one wonders?

It also cracks me up to realize that the total iPod budget (my numbers, remember; I'm absolutely certain that Michigan legislators will slash that amount considerably when they spin the budget numbers in session) could end up being equal to or greater than their proposed downtown improvements. If that isn't proactive politics, then I don't know what would qualify. Opines the Detroit News: "We wonder how financially strained Michigan residents will feel about paying higher taxes to buy someone else's kid an iPod." Or, I imagine, how they might feel about paying more for iPods than for renovated downtowns.

Finally, the editorial (author unknown) concludes:
Stop the stupidity. Michigan can't tax or spend its way out of this economic catastrophe.

The only responsible option is to bring spending in line with current revenues. The mission must be to expand the tax base, rather than to expand taxes, by crafting a budget that encourages growth.

We won't get there by wasting money on early Christmas presents for Michigan kids.
This is the crux of the argument. It is a wonderful indictment of the Entitlement Movement as irresponsible politics at best, and criminal misconduct at worst. Desperate for cash? Go ask Alan Mullaly for a loan. That iPod money, whether it's the $120 million I calculated, or even only $50 million (the actual numbers have yet to be revealed) needs to go elsewhere.

It does not need to be plugged into the ears of youngsters with already severe attention-span deficits.

DISCLAIMER: Woody readily acknowledges that he has not seen the actual proposed legislation, and that he is not now nor has ever claimed to be an expert in such matters. He also does not live in Michigan, although his beloved grandfather was born and raised there. However, Woody reserves the right to make fun of Michigan (or California, or any other doggoned state) merely because he feels like it. This is why Woody blogs, for heaven's sake.

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