Friday, September 28, 2007

Scorched Earth politics burn Michigan

Government needs to be run like a business, so we're always told.

Well, if that's the case, then haul Mike Bishop's butt into the soon-to-be closed unemployment office, thanks to a looming state government shutdown no one seems eager to stop.

The Republican Senate majority leader announced this week "there's no way" a budget can be finished by the Monday deadline and Gov. Jennifer Granholm better deal with it.

When conservative stalwarts like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Big John Engler beg you to compromise — even if it means raising taxes — by God, listen to reason, man. At least take their calls.

Mr. Bishop, in the business world, when you have 10 months to complete a project and countless experts at your disposal, failure equals firing.

Now aren't you glad you work for the big, bad government you're helping demolish?Slap the governor with a pink slip, too.

Granholm's earned it with her reckless disregard for the people about whom she claims to care — children, seniors, teachers, business owners, union members, the poor and the infirm.

During her '06 campaign, the Democratic guv proudly declared, "I'm the captain of this ship."Damn right. And while this ship plummets to new lows — along with the state's reputation and bond rating — she's done little other than blame the GOP.

Now the governor is content to turn away a lifeboat, the continuation budget passed by the Senate.Would it be a sign of political weakness? Who cares? We wouldn't have to destroy the state supposedly to save it.

Schools wouldn't have to close, seniors could still have in-home care and police and prison guards would still be paid to protect us from the bad guys.We wouldn't rack up $4 million a day in debt, adding to the already Herculean $1.8 billion we have today.

But the truth is, Granholm wants a showdown. The Capitol is abuzz this week that she reportedly told her staff, "I want this shutdown to be as painful as possible."

Which translates to: Screw you, Michigan, if I can gain partisan advantage off this. That's the one idea Bishop can agree with, egged on by desperate state GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis, who's salivating over the catastrophe to jump-start his ailing party.

As this crisis careens into a shutdown — which seems inevitable, given the players and their pettiness — it should be a career-killer for Mike 'n Jen.

Any Democratic presidential campaign scouting out talent for an '08 administration (that means you, Hillary) should promptly pass on the poison that is Jennifer Granholm.

Anyone who sticks a Mike Bishop for Governor pin on his lapel should be forced to take a Breathalyzer test.

The tragedy is that everyone knows a deal could have been hammered out back in February if Lansing wasn't the playground of the inept, illogical and idiotic.

Such is the sad state of affairs when lobbyists outnumber citizens and journalists in the House and Senate galleries.

It already is too late to undo some of the damage — at the very least, some state payments and paychecks will be delayed — but our leaders still can turn this ship around.Don't leave the bargaining table until you do.

It is worth noting that the reasonable voices in these scorched earth times are those of Republicans, like the 28 former lawmakers who eloquently called for statesmanship and speed in solving the budget.

Leading the way in the Legislature is a duo from Livingston County, the lily white Detroit exurbs nicknamed the deep South of the far North, where raising taxes is akin to treason. Rep. Chris Ward was the sole Republican to pull the lever for an income tax hike anyway. Ditto for Sen. Valde Garcia in nixing $600 million in cuts to what he called "essential" services.

Ladies and gentlemen, that's called leadership.It's a stark contrast to the Democrats, cowering in the corner from former Rep. Leon Drolet, a little man with a big foam pig threatening recall efforts.

Step up to the plate, make some common-sense cuts to prisons and employee benefits and vote for a modest tax increase.

Wake up. We are now the laughingstock of the country, as if having the highest unemployment and a collapsing auto industry weren't enough.This crisis has gone way too far. The next move isn't about who blinks first.

It's about who loves this state enough to save it.

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