An iPod for every kid? Are they !#$!ing idiots?
The Detroit News
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.
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.
The range of options, according to Rep. Steve Tobocman, D-Detroit, includes raising the income tax, levying a 6 percent tax on some services, and taxing junk food and soda.
We wonder how financially strained Michigan residents will feel about paying higher taxes to buy someone else's kid an iPod.
That they would include such frivolity in a crisis budget plan indicates how tough it will be to bring real spending reform to Michigan.
Senate Republicans issued a plan a week ago that eliminates the deficit with hard spending cuts. Now their leader, Mike Bishop of Rochester Hills, is sounding wobbly, suggesting he might compromise on a tax hike.
We hope Bishop is reading the polls that say three-quarters of Michigan residents oppose higher taxes.
There are few things in the House budget outline from which to forge a compromise.
For example, Dillon says he would shift the burden of business taxes to companies that operate in Michigan, but don't have a facility here. The certain outcome of that plan is to drive even more businesses out of Michigan.
About all we see of merit is a call for government consolidation and a demand that state employees contribute more to their retirement benefits -- which is no more than House Democrats suggested for future state lawmakers a few weeks ago.
We find it ironic that the Democrats are proposing floating $5 billion in revenue bonds to pay for retiree health care, when Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed a nearly identical plan by Oakland County because it would cost the state money.
Instead of advocating cost-saving changes in public school teacher pension and health plans, Dillon suggests more study. There have been plenty of studies of the issue, with the conclusion being that hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved through reforms. Michigan needs action, not more study committees.
Dillon also proposes that the state cover 50 percent of the cost of catastrophic health insurance for everyone in the place, but once again doesn't specify a funding source.
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.