Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Representative Conyers Returns Mackinac Invite Over Gingrich

In a time where everyone complains that there is too much partisanship, one Democrat has the guts to stand up and say "no more". A tip of the hat to Representative John Conyers, who has returned his invite to the Mackinac Policy Conference over their choice to feature the master of the partisan attack strategy, Newt Gingrich.

"Although I had looked forward to attending this year's Mackinac Conference, I cannot support the (Detroit Regional) Chamber's decision to give former Speaker Gingrich another platform to engage in partisan rhetoric, without an equal counterweight," Conyers said.

"There is a time and a place for partisan politics, but surely a gathering dedicated to rebuilding Michigan's economy deserves more balanced and thoughtful debate. I hope that future Mackinac Conference speakers will be chosen for the seriousness of their scholarship instead of the volume of their message."

Might as well call it the Republican Fantasy Policy Conference, as opening day speakers Gingrich and John Rakolta Jr. pointed their fingers at union workers and called for more tax cuts. Even though the UAW has now achieved wage parity with foreign automakers by making huge concessions that may not allow autoworkers to afford to buy the products they make anymore, now Gingrich is calling for the American worker to compete with China.

Yes, you heard that right. China. Even though the Chinese government subsidizes some of their products below cost. Even though Chinese autoworkers recently went on strike for wage increases - and they got them. They make $280 a month now. American workers are supposed to accept less than $1 an hour. Or something. Gingrich proposes we bid against each other for government jobs in a perverse version of the race to the bottom...

Subject government job openings to a reverse auction, where people would bid against each other for who would do the job cheapest. In an era of 15 percent unemployment, he said, "people would be willing to do the job for half the current rate and be relatively happy to have the job."

He then went on to propose other fiscally insane ideas, such as making Detroit a tax-free zone. Who would pay for the police, the fire department, transit, other services? The Trickle Down Fairy, of course! Even Skubick nailed him on that. And, even though Engler threw everyone but the children off of what was called "welfare" a long time ago, Gingrich said that we have "spent a generation throwing away prosperity by cross-subsidizing people who aren't productive." Keep in mind, one in four people in Michigan receive some kind of government assistance at this point. Gingrich also suggests that unemployed people should be made to work at least three days a week (where? government jobs program?) or attend college, which would be provided for free. Sounds good, but who would pay for that?

"The union battles of the 1930s are over," Gingrich said. "The racial problems of Detroit in the past are over. Get over it. Their burdens linger, but deciding we're going to refight the past is not going to build a new Michigan. That requires a courageous conversation."

Gingrich is the one stuck in "the past", blaming unions and the poor. The unions have made huge concessions, and the new poor can be found in the suburbs. Newt obviously doesn't know what is happening in Michigan right now, and is simply repeating the stereotypes that act like a dog whistle to those on the right.

John Rakolta Jr., who if you recall from a diary a year ago this month has benefited greatly from both the film industry and renewable energy industry, also attacked the unions, and called to make Michigan a right-to-work state. He wants to cut $5 billion from the state budget. Remember, we only have around $9 billion (actually less now) to play around with. So, what do we cut? Close down all the prisons? Eliminate all the public safety? More cuts to education? Again, the fantasy is that more tax cuts and deregulation will solve all our problems.

Rakolta said Michigan must cut its regulatory and tax structure to both encourage existing companies to stay, and attract new ones. And in the modern era, innovation and technology is where all the job and economic growth is.

Mark Gaffney stood up to the nonsense, and made a very good point.

As for public employee wages and benefits, Gaffney pointed out that policymakers could take $10,000 a year away from every teacher and public employee in Michigan and it wouldn't come anywhere near fixing the state's $1.5 billion deficit, much less the $5 billion spending cut sought by Rakolta. Instead, Gaffney said, "this has to be shared sacrifice. What can doctors give? They can give on the services tax. What can beer drinkers give? We can raise beer tax, it hasn't been raised since 1965. Count me in.

It's pretty obvious who is fighting all the old battles and offering all the same old solutions here. Attacking the poor, attacking the working people, calling for more tax cuts, is straight out of the 1980s, and Michigan shouldn't turn to trickle down economics as a solution - it didn't work then, it won't work now, and it's a one-sided argument. So much for that "bipartisanship" that we all crave. So much for sharing solutions. Sacrifice is for someone, anyone else but the favored few in the eyes of those who profit from the race to the bottom mentality.

So, kudos for Rep. Conyers for walking away from this and taking a stand. Rumor has it that a lot of people see this as just a vacation anyway; one opinion column called it an "upscale fraternity/sorority party" where people are simply boozing it up and playing politics.

How that makes it different from any other day in Lansing, no one really knows.