May 2, 2010

‘Liberal media’ continues to bash Democrats with false attacks

One thing you can count on is rain in April and that the rightwing Livingston County Daily Press & Argus will go out of its way to bash Democrats; the editorial in Friday’s edition called "Throwing gas on the fire in Lansing” is just one more example.

It’s not surprising Democrats don’t get a fair shake when you consider the make up of the editorial board, and the war on journalism waged by Republicans that began in 1971 with the publication of "News Twisters" by Edith Efron and was turned into a political strategy by the Nixon Administration. What is surprising is that even though the paper’s editorial board knows how the legislative process works, they ignore it just to bash Democrats.

At issue is Senate Bill 1227 that addresses early retirement for public school teachers. The Governor introduced a reform plan back in January to induce more experienced teachers to retire and save $87 million the first year and $1.8 billion over the next 10 years. The plan had both carrots to entice them to take the early retirement and some sticks that kicked in if they did not.

Those who take the early retirement would see a small income boost. Their pension would be based on 1.6 percent of earnings rather than 1.5 percent. If they did not take the generous offer, the sticks would kick in that include taking away their dental and vision coverage and included capping years of credit at 30 years.

On April 14 the Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill almost along party lines. However, the carrot and the stick were both stripped out, so there was absolutely no reason for anyone to take it, meaning no money would be saved at all. The only thing left was a small stick that included requiring teachers and state employees who don't retire before October 1 to pay an additional 3 percent of their salary into their respective pension systems.

The newspaper ignored that.

The House passed version provides an "80 and out" threshold for retirement, which would require a person to have a combined age and years of service of 80 to be eligible. It would increase the retirement multiplier to 1.7 for people retiring between June 15 and July 1. Provide a 1.6 multiplier to people retiring between July 1 and October 1.

Because the House and Senate passed different versions, it goes into a conference committee consisting of three members from each body to work out a compromise to present to their respective bodies for an up or down vote.

The House Democrats are going to the negotiating table with something to bargain with, and early reports are that a deal may be reached with a 1.55 multiplier. Sounds like a smart move by the Democrats, but the paper does not see it that way. The final version the Governor will sign will not look like the version either the House or Senate passed.

“The people who write our state laws may work in Lansing. But they live in the same neighborhood as "Alice in Wonderland.” How else to explain the madness coming from House Democrats whose idea of economic reform is to increase taxpayers' obligations by $1 billion."

I would say the people who wrote this editorial must also live in "Alice in Wonderland." The fact is there are no savings if no one takes the early retirement, and under the Senate plan, no one will.

The paper takes its normal chap shots at public employees that are simply not true. Like Senate Republicans, the paper believes reform means cutting wages and benefits of public employees.
“Apparently, in their mind, the financial crisis in the state is a problem for the private sector, but it is an opportunity for greater financial gain for public employees.”

That’s plain old BS. Last August, respected Michigan State University professor of economics Charles Ballard issued a report that said state employees earn less than their private-sector counterparts with comparable educational attainment. The report also confirmed what we already know: state government is smaller now than it was in 1973.

Just last week, a study by the National Institute on Retirement Security confirmed that Michigan public employees are paid, on average, less than private-sector employees with comparable skills and educational levels. Public employees nationwide are paid about 12 percent less than their private-sector counterparts. That has been a trend for 20 years, according to the study.

Then this cheap shot at Democrats:
“The hard truth is that legislative Democrats concern themselves with only one constituency, that being the marching orders from public employee unions, particularly the Michigan Education Association which represents the majority of Michigan public school employees.”

I was under the impression that teachers were citizens. Not only that, but public education has always been a priority for Democrats.

But they end with the most ridiculous claim:
“Remember that this fall when state Democrats again ramp up the need for higher taxes. They will say that the state needs the money to take care of basic needs. What they won't say is that the "basic needs" is code word for even cushier benefits for state employees.”

If you want co condemn House Democrats for one single vote that is just part of the negotiating process no one can stop you. What you really need to remember when police officers and firefighters are being laid off, schools are closing and roads are in bad shape, is that Republicans refused to consider any new taxes or even reforming the tax system. The fact is we are moving toward a serving economy and away from a manufacturing economy, but Michigan’s tax system has not changed in years.

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