The popular political and media rallying cry is “we need bold new ideas to move Michigan’s future forward.” Such visionary statements make for good politics and good press. Well, what about going back to the old ideas that worked. Work, provide, save, and be conscious of the needs of others.
Hey, the party is over. We don’t save much anymore. We spend what we earn, borrow some more from other governments, to buy all of the latest plasma electronics at low prices at Wal-mart. America’s largest retailer then ships the $10 billion we borrowed in merchandise payments back to China each year and we start the cycle all over again.
When the financial market’s balloon recently exploded, our government blows up another balloon by printing more money and distributing it out to banks to loan to us so we can keep spending and avoid the party-ending migraine hangover. This new infusion of money cheapens the value of the dollar so we have to borrow more to just maintain the same lifestyle. In some respects this spend-and-borrow lifestyle is our own Madoff ponzi scheme with our children and grandchildren being the eventual victims of our own actions.
To withdraw from this spend-and-borrow addiction, we in the private sector need to start making competitive American products for the global marketplace and saving a part of the profits. Those of us in the public sector need to shrink the size of government and make it more efficient.
Why do we need 1,242 townships in Michigan? Can’t the townships’ duties of assessing property, collecting taxes, conducting elections, and providing fire and police services be turned over to local counties (who also provide most of these services) in an effort to pull Michigan from its fiscal crisis? I could just as easily send my taxes to the county offices as to the township treasurer’s farm on Old U.S. 12 (who then remits the taxes back to the county). On second thought, why do I have to mail the payment anywhere? I should be able to pay the taxes over the Internet, just as I do many of the other household bills.
Why do we need 84 county road commissions in Michigan? Are the roads in Washtenaw County so different than the roads in Livingston that we need separate commissioners, lawyers, accountants, auditors, maintenance supervisors, etc.? Recently I was trying to get to Detroit Metropolitan Airport on a snowy afternoon. I had no problem on Washtenaw roads but when the snowplow got off at the county line, the Wayne section of the freeway had not been plowed and traffic was at a crawl. If the Washtenaw road supervisor had more regional responsibility, I likely would have made my flight on time.
These local entities were established before Michigan became a state and their size allowed people living on the perimeter to walk to the township hall and return the same day. The argument for the status quo is that the township people are friendlier and provide more personal service. Unfortunately, this form of localism is a luxury we can no longer afford.
Public and private sector consolidations will eventually happen. A weak dollar and a shrinking property tax base will require that hard choices be made. The party is over. Let’s not leave our hangover to our children.