The Budget Impasse continues here in Michigan. It’s been two weeks since Governor Granholm presented her solutions to fix the deficit (a mix of program cuts, tax cuts and, by far the most controversial, a 2% tax added to services) which were then were soundly rejected by the Senate Republicans, led by Mike Bishop.
This wasn’t much of a surprise. Senator Bishop is a big follower of the Tax-Cutting Guru Grover Norquist, who believes using taxes to help those in need is a form of theft. Seriously. If you don’t believe me, here’s an exchange between Alain de Botton and His Non-Benevolence:
“Why shouldn’t the state help the needy?” asked de Botton.
“Because to do that,” said Norquist, “you would have to steal money from people who earned it and give it to people who didn’t. And then you make the state into a thief.”
“You’re suggesting that taxation is theft?“
“Taxation beyond the legitimate requirements of providing for justice is theft, sure.”
Bishop even signed Norquist’s famous Taxpayer Protection Pledge (TPP). It reads as follows:
I, ____________, pledge to the taxpayers of the _____ district of the State of _________ and to all the people of this state, that I will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.
It’s pretty simple and straight-forwarded. President Bush has signed it. So have lots of other Michigan Republicans, including Congressmen Mr. Grin Mike Rogers, the Club for Growth’s Tim Walberg, and Non-Smoking Seminar Advocate Joe Knollenberg. You can see how it’s done wonders for cutting the Federal Deficit. The pledge is not yet as famous as the Communist Denial: I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party. But it does have a devoted following.
I must confess, that just like Norquist and his followers, I hate paying taxes. I also hate paying revenue enhancements, fees, service charges, and even for parking, too. Who doesn’t? Like the New York Yankees, taxes are an easy thing to hate. But they pay for many things I like and many things I don’t. That’s the bargain I’ve made with my fellow citizens.
Unfortunately for Senator Bishop and TPP signatories, balancing budgets that pay for services many people want is not simple. Hence all the silence and secrecy surrounding the details of the Senate Majority Leader’s plan to plug the fiscal hole in the budget. Not to mention the diversionary tactics of setting up a subcommittee to investigate the state’s prisons and the Corrections department (announced after the Governor said she would close a prison in Jackson to save money) and holding hearings to find out what the Michigan Economic Development Corporation is doing (apparently, Senate Republicans had no idea that the state of Michigan has a public/private partnership that has been successful in luring businesses here).
Yet another day went by and yet another story quoting Republicans appeared in a local paper in which they claimed they can fix the shortfall with cuts alone (but none to education) and no tax increases. But not even so much as an outline for a non-tax-increase plan was revealed.
Then yesterday Senator Bishop sent an open letter to the Governor asking to meet with her to resolve the budget crisis.
While there were clearly areas of common ground in your initial Executive Order, we have stated publicly on several occasions, that raising taxes without an exhaustive review of all other options is not a path we are interested in pursuing.
Again with the no tax increase. You see, if Senator Bishop votes for any kind of tax increase (no matter how small), he will be put in Norquist’s Hall of Shame.
Which might not be such a bad thing. Norquist and his people believe that government is inherently evil, and that it should never try to do anything more than keep a standing army and lock up people who break laws. The fact that a government program like Social Security has worked and continues to work drives them crazy because it points to a big gaping hole in their narrow ideology. (Note: it is scientifically impossible for any person who supported or voted for Amway Guy last year to make the criticism that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme.)
It might help Senator Bishop if he remembers what he said when he took the oath of office. Here’s what the Michigan Constitution requires you to pledge, from Article 18:
Sec. 1. Members of the legislature, and all officers, executive and judicial, except such officers as may by law be exempted, shall, before they enter on the duties of their respective office, take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation: “I do solemnly swear (of affirm) that I will support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of this state, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of ________ according to the best of my ability.” And no other oath, declaration or test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust.
That’s pretty simple, too. Plus, last time I checked, taxes and tax increases were constitutional. Seeing as how it’s the taxpayers of Michigan who pay Senator Bishop’s salary, it would be reasonable to expect him to uphold his pledge to us before following the intellectually and morally bankrupt path being slashed by Norquist and his followers.
So the question is: Where do you stand, Senator?