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24 February 2007

Conservative politician holds Q&A session on radio

Conservative Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm does Q&A on Michigan Public Radio, 16 February, 2007.

The war against public libraries

A respondent wanted to know whether a 50% cut in state aid to libraries was consistent with the governor's commitment to the knowledge economy. Governor Granholm pointed out that it's a lesser evil than more criminals on the street. Libraries are the textbook example of a low-priority public institution. Typically implemented in this country at the municipal level, they are basically expendable in any local community straining to pay for the two sacred cows of local government, police and fire. As the caller pointed out, libraries are America's last line of defense against the digital divide. America is pretty much the only first-world country that doesn't subsidize residential internet access in some way, and it shows. Just compare the content at with that at, for example. Better, we suppose, to sacrifice our last line of defense against the digital divide, than our last line of defense against putative Hobbesian Reality. By the way, all of the content at the present blog is posted from a public library. Given the austerity plan the public sector is under, don't be surprised if I go cyberspace silent sometime soon. It doesn't appear I've attracted an audience, anyway. I probably wouldn't even be missed. L

Education as means to economic ends

I have been aware for some time of the state's (proposed?) program to provide displaced workers with scholarships to learn a new trade or perhaps profession, (specifically?) at community colleges. What I learned from today's radio broadcast is that it's a one-time (and time-limited) program. The governor sees no economic value in tenyear track students, it seems. Neither does anyone else, of course. But what of the one-time nature of the program? Definitely reading from the conservative Clinton-welfare-reform playbook, it seems. In post-risk-shift America, two careers per lifetime is almost as unrealistic as one. For more of my thoughts on the hard push toward community college education (for those needing financial aid) see my ascendancy of the illiberal arts

The two-penny tax

I should give the governor some credit for bravery, since any tax increase takes a great deal of chutzpah in today's knee-jerk public opinion climate. 'Two penny' in this context means, of course, two cents on the dollar. On haircuts. This is what Granholm offers as a partial revenue replacement for the so-called single business tax (21% of state budget). Obviously, no reasonable person would be against abolishing the single business tax. The purpose of the 'two penny tax,' according to Governor Granholm, is to make the state more competitive. Here's a hint: If I thought competitiveness was uniquely qualified to be the savior of Michigan, I would have voted Republican.

Michigan's item pricing law

The normally conservative Granholm also took the nominally liberal side of this issue. She's been an item-pricing hawk since her first elected office, that of state attorney general. Her continuation of item pricing enforcement was in the tradition of her predecessor Frank Kelly, who put the item pricing issue, and for that matter the office of state attorney general, on the map. The caller, self-identified with the retail community, had asked (in so many words) how the item pricing law (being essentially a 'regulation,' I suppose) is conducive to competitiveness. She answered a slightly different question by pointing out that year after year, violations continue to be detected. Then pressed by the caller for an explanation of how the item pricing law helps Michigan's economy (worded in terms of 'economic value,' as I recall). She pointed out that consumers, particularly seniors, gain value from accurate pricing. Singling out seniors as especially deserving or needing certain kinds of protection from the state, I think, plays into the hand of the war against entitlement, by positing (however indirectly) the 18-64 age group as an 'unentitled class.' With this question more than any other I wished it was me rather than her fielding the questions. I would have stated matter-of-factly that economic theory has clearly established that market transparency is a prerequisite for market competitiveness, and that market transparency requires no resistance to the process of getting price quotes. I would have gone on to 'admit' that the item pricing law was perhaps not the best policy instrument for promoting a competitive (i.e. transparent) consumer market, suggesting that a better alternative might be an online database representing ongoing and exhaustive surveying of item pricing. (See pubwan scratchpad and one small step for market transparency)

Diversity of immutable characteristics

Happily, Granholm has always taken the liberal side of the queer rights issue. Again, though, she soft-pedals the issue. I am agnostic over whether queer identity is a matter of choice. I am committed to the political idea that demonstrable harm to others must be the only criterion of impermissibility of anything. Often people, in apparent protest against so-called political correctness, will ridicule those of us on the left for constantly inventing new forms of discrimination, and adding them to a long laundry list...weight discrimination, looks discrimination, vertically-challenged discrimination, etc. I must concede that they have a point. That is why I advocate abandoning the notion of anti-discrimination law as long lists of things that can't be used in humyn resources decisions, and replacing it with a short list of things that can!

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