Archive for Editorial Cartoon

Playing “Simon Says” with the State of Michigan

Michigan UIA Simon Says

We’ve all been caught in the grinder — whether it’s government (the IRS saying you owe money for a property you never owned), business (the cable company charging you for a box you returned in 1997), or even a well meaning non-profit (you accidentally getting signed up with Pups That Poop — a canine rescue for large dogs with bowel control issues — who now contact you every day to insist a Great Dane named Balthazar would be perfect for you and your studio apartment). Through no obvious fault of your own, you managed to get slightly outside of the lines, and now you are in database hell. It is really one of the few common experiences these days that cuts across our political and socio-economic divides.

So it shouldn’t be difficult to sympathize with the plight of an absurdly large number Michiganders and their experience with unemployment benefits. If you are unaware of this issue, here’s a link to a Michigan Radio story from last week: http://michiganradio.org/post/harsh-result-state-says-some-wrongful-unemployment-fraud-claims-waited-too-long-appeal

I’ll summarize if you prefer to stay here:

In 2013, after Michigan began using an automated system to identify cases of unemployment insurance fraud, more than 20,000 people were wrongfully accused, with an error rate of 93%. Not only did these people not get their benefits, they were charged penalties in interest and fees and aggressively pursued for collections. Many of those without the time and financial resources to fight back got pulled into the grinder and spit out bankrupt. Some of those falsely accused filed a class action lawsuit in 2015 against the state. The lawsuit is currently in Michigan Court of Claims and the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Which brings us to last week Friday at a hearing for the case. Deputy Attorney General Debbie Taylor, in arguing for the state, asked the case be dismissed because, well, basically because the victims had not followed the proper protocol to correct the situation. In other words, she seems to be treating this like a high stakes game of Simon Says (although she did allow that their destroyed finances were “unfortunate” — a super big help for paying bills).

Comments

Summer Rerun: Tragedy — Some Perspective…

Summer Rerun: Tragedy — Some PerspectiveI took this holiday week off (from cartooning, anyway). So here’s a summertime favorite from five years ago. Enjoy!

Comments

A Bad Situation for Far Too Long

A Bad Situation for Far Too Long

For those of you who despair over the coarsening of political discussion and wring your hands over what social media hath wrought, I offer you … no disagreement. But maybe a little perspective. All that nasty, angry, divisive public hyperventilating has actually existed for a very long time. It’s called: Sports Talk Radio. And as far as I can tell, it has not brought with it the end of times.

If you are not familiar, go ahead and sample a call-in show sometime. Although with the same warning that comes with Googling, say, mating rituals: Be careful — you may experience things that you will not be able to un-experience.

If you’d rather not take the chance, I can tell you that it features many of the same characters you’d find on any comments page:

  • The Self-Proclaimed World’s Most Renowned Authority: “If the Tigers had only accepted my advice on altering space and time, they’d have the best bullpen in the Majors!”
  • The Fairness Expert: “I cannot believe that you keep accepting caller after caller to talk about relief pitching when you completely censor other important topics. Give hitting, fielding, and the effects of fluoridated water equal time!”
  • The Axe Grinder: “If you ask me, the problem with the Tigers’ relief pitching can all be traced back to the designated hitter rule. Get rid of the designated hitter, and everything gets better. I will now list the 573 reasons I have for hating the designated hitter rule. One,…”

I exaggerate to make a point: In truth, I find nothing fundamentally wrong with Sport Talk Radio. Sure, it can get weird sometimes and definitely over-amped. But it’s a decent venue for people to be passionate about a subject they care about.

I see much more harm in a lack of passion — specifically, for really important things like educating our children. It’s more than a little unsettling to see Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority come to such an ignoble end, especially when it was rolled out with such promise and fanfare just a few short years ago. You know, the same sort of promise and fanfare we see now in those proposals to unleash charter schools.

If the citizens and leaders of our state do not have the passion to develop and stick with real solutions, they will fail when the going gets tough. (And with education, the going always gets tough.)

Comments

How (Not) to Develop Public Health Policy

How (not) to Develop Public Health Policy

Ideas for cartoons can come from the oddest places.

This past Sunday, I was working on setting up our hammock in the backyard for the summer season and went down to the basement to collect the pieces.

Of course, instead of doing the sensible thing and taking multiple trips, I gathered as much as I could hold and made my way up the steps.

As I emerged by banging through the basement door — burdened by metal weight and clanging chains — my startled wife turned to look at me. All I could say was, “I feel like Jacob Marley.” (I know. A semi-obscure literary reference to A Christmas Carol on Father’s Day weekend — is there no end to the uproarious mirth at the Auchter household?)

But that triggered the idea. As I trudged out to the yard, I was literally thinking, “If Ebenezer Scrooge is the poster boy for a life (almost) lost to miserly greed, Mitch McConnell is surely the poster boy for a life lost to partisan politics. What could save him?”

I didn’t think a Christmas-themed cartoon in June would work, so I substituted the citizens of Flint for the “Ghost of Christmas” role — past, present, and (unfortunately) future.

By the time you read this, McConnell is scheduled to have rolled out his Senate health care plan (Trumpcare 2.0, the Son of ACHA, the “Tax Cut for My Wealthiest Friends” Plan — whatever they are calling it). And the focus will of course turn to its contents.

But let’s not forget about how it was created: with limited input and almost no visibility. Clearly, when this method was used for managing the water supply (and the lead poisoning and Legionnaire disease crises that followed), it ended in disaster for the citizens of Flint.

What are the chances of McConnell coming to his senses and repenting before it’s too late?

God bless us, every one.

Comments

Lansing Puppet Show

Lansing Gun Legislation Puppetry

Last week the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill to allow most gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit or training. The legislation is being pitched by proponents as an efficiency effort to align with constitutional rights. But it is widely opposed by law enforcement as a potential danger to communities.

I will leave it to the discretion of readers to jump into the viper pit of that debate. The very specific point I wanted to highlight is this: Gun manufacturers and NRA leadership have a disproportionate influence over our state legislators and the consequence of their brilliant but incredibly dangerous marketing effort is weapon sales to many Americans who are either not willing or not capable of being responsible gun owners.

It is, of course, in their best interest to do so.The decline in outdoors activities means falling sales of traditional hunting equipment. And the unfortunate durability of their product doesn’t help either. Unlike, say, modern household appliances, guns don’t have a planned obsolescence. With even rudimentary care, they last a long time. To sell more, they need new markets. To open new markets, they need to streamline the process. But is that necessarily a good idea for our state and nation as a whole?

I am asking the question, not trying to provide the answer. Obviously the topic is divisive. I actually got the idea last week when the House passed the bill — well before the awful incidents in Alexandria and San Francisco — and decided it would be needlessly contentious. (Ironically, I chose instead to draw a cartoon that touched on abortion issues.)

So, anticipating reactions, I don’t think my timing here is either “spot on and proves the point” or “a disgusting display of opportunism.” I’m hoping it’s more “seriously now, how can we reduce gun violence?”

Comments (1)

Choose Life …on Michigan Roads

Choose Life ...on Michigan Roads

The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan is an organization that serves as a go-to resource for mental health awareness and education. A special area of focus is teen suicide prevention, which it addresses through an anti-bullying initiative called “be nice.”

For a number of years, my wife and I have played on a volleyball team that uses “be nice” apparel as our uniform. Endorsing such a wonderful cause has been a satisfying experience. Mostly. Only mostly, because there are times when my competitive nature kicks in, when our team may not be playing well, when a call goes against us, when the other team celebrates one of my unforced errors just a little too enthusiastically. And then I think, “Why the heck am I wearing a freakin’ shirt that says ‘be nice’?!”

The answer, of course, is: That’s exactly the reason to wear the freakin’ shirt. At a time when my inclination is not to be so nice, the shirt and its messaging is a nudge in the right direction — a positive reminder (remember, this is how we become a better person) and a negative reminder (you don’t want to be a total hypocrite, do you?). Both are pretty effective.

In a similar way, I thought that if Governor Snyder ends up signing the bill on his desk that allows Choose Life Michigan to be a state license plate option, it could certainly be a helpful reminder on the roads. June 7th marked the one year anniversary of the Kalamazoo County biking tragedy in which five riders were killed and four were seriously injured. And as Michigan Radio has noted in its recent Sharing the Road series, a total of 38 bicyclists died in Michigan in 2016, a ten year high.

At the deadline for this cartoon, it was still in question whether Snyder was going to sign the bill. I have some misgivings, mostly with the consequences of reducing divisive, complex issues to slogans on state license plates. But I can certainly relate to the passion for the cause.

So if this opens the door for me being able to eventually get an official Michigan “be nice” license plate with proceeds going to the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, well, I guess I could be fine with it. The extra reminder to be nice would also help the cause for safer roads.

Comments

GOP Go To: Slashing Budgets

GOP Go To: Slashing Budgets

My wife and I have a Japanese maple we planted several years ago as part of our house landscaping. It’s been a nice little tree — generally healthy, somewhat sturdy (our cats like to climb to the top and pretend they’re vultures), but it’s never really grown. It’s in good soil, it gets plenty of water, we even treat it to some Miracle-Gro on a semi-regular basis. We considered transplanting it, but from what we knew, it’s current sun/shade location was well suited for the breed.

So last fall, my wife decided to prune it back some and hope for the best. This spring, holy cow!, the tree is thriving. New shoots, new leaves, new branches. We plan to continue the care and feeding and hopefully it will grow taller and stronger to help it withstand our cat vultures.

All that to say, I do understand that sometimes pruning is the best solution. I just don’t think it is the only solution. (Indeed, we have killed other plants by cutting them back too much.)

But pruning seems to be Plans A, B, C, D, and so on for the GOP these days. Brian Calley announced a “high-tech” ballot initiative to cut the Michigan legislature back to part-time status. Michigan’s Betsy DeVos defended before Congress her plan to slash funding for public education. Arlan Meekhof continued with his crusade to eliminate benefits for the working class of Michigan. And then there is President Trump’s proposed budget, which seems not so much to trim as to exterminate (the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, for example).

Somewhere under a thick layer of ideology I imagine there to be the more sensible solutions — a mixture of caring, feeding, watering, and pruning.

Comments

Memorial Day Visit

Memorial Day Visit

Freedom is essential for a happy life and true success. I don’t think most would argue with that. But like most good things, freedom can be appropriated for self-serving purposes.

Fifty years ago, this sort of appropriation was something that tended to be associated with the left. Freedom to have sex without any responsibility, freedom to take drugs without personal or social consequence, freedom to market and sell to youth without ever providing anything of real value. Creates a certain picture, right? Dirty, filthy, commie, godless, hippie, scumbag. (The specific character that pops to my mind is Wesley, Jenny’s abusive boyfriend in Forrest Gump.)

Today, however, the appropriation of freedom for self-serving purposes seems much more associated with the right. Freedom to remove environmental safeguards without any real thought to the consequences. Freedom to finance tax breaks for the very rich by denying healthcare access to the working poor. Freedom to propagate unapologetic lies as long as they create a political advantage. (A whole host of non-fictional characters pop to mind for this.)

In both cases, the selfish march under the banner of “freedom” — and freedom becomes merely a means to an end.

Is that a reasonable parallel to make? I hope so. Because on Memorial Day weekend I not only appreciate the freedom to express my opinions, I also try to be mindful of the responsibilities that come with it.

Comments

Good Jobs for Michigan

Good Jobs for Michigan

My inner dialogue for this week’s cartoon —

Rational Me (RE): Let’s please do something without Donald Trump in it. There’s just so much going on with him right now, our cartoon might just get lost in the news swirl.

Emotional Me (EM): Absolutely. I’m on overload with that and besides drawing him kinda make us queasy.

RM: Right. So what’s been going on in Michigan this week?

EM: THE ROADS! FIX THE ROADS! I HATE DRIVING ON OUR BROKEN, LOUSY, POTHOLE-RIDDLED ROADS!!!

RM: That’s all you ever want to talk about. How about cars, though? It looks like vehicle sales are leveling off in North America. The automakers are looking to cut back.

EM: Which means some dedicated Michiganders are going to lose their jobs to protect profit margins and stock prices.

RM: Well, yeah, but the companies need to protect themselves. Competition is fierce. Pruning some workers now might just just save more jobs later.

EM: Sure, sure. Absolutely. At least there will be plenty of good paying jobs with incredible benefits once the coal mines open.

RM: Um… there aren’t any coal mines in Michigan. There isn’t even any coal.

EM: Exactly.

RM: Oh, I see where you’re going with this. Not bad. But I thought we agreed to avoid Trump this week.

EM: Yeah… you’re right. Let’s check the news and see what else we got.

RM: Right. Okay, this just popped up: “No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.” Guess who?

EM: Are you kidding me? That’s what he has to say to future leaders at a commencement address?!

RM: I mean, I understand that he talks in hyperbole, but I think he honestly means it! Does he have no real understanding of history? Geez louise, how thin-skinned can you get?!

EM: So, what do you want to draw?

RM: Oh, it’s on.

EM: Yep, let’s do this.

Comments

Benefits Race to the Bottom

Benefits Race to the Bottom

Ugh! This again! So earlier this week the story broke that Senate Majority Leader, Arlan Meekhof, and Speaker of the House, Tom Leonard, were making cuts to teacher retirement benefits a top priority in the state budget. Specifically, they want to transfer what is now a state-backed pension into a 401k plan.

The underlying reason is pragmatic enough — the state would pay much less money for public school employee retirement costs.There might be some token matching funds thrown in and a happy, shiny roll-out gleefully touting the empowering opportunities of personal investment. (Oh, boy! I know I love it!) But the real aim is to save the state money through cuts (and not investment).

This, of course, has been the unrelenting game plan for 21st century Michigan — cut our way to prosperity. Now within the context of the recessions we’ve been through (including that Great one), many cuts made sense. Because of revenue drops, they were necessary to meet the requirement of balancing the budget. And in some cases, they were a means to realigning our priorities as we went from a manufacturing state to …whatever it is that we’re becoming.

But now? Really? At some point it would seem reasonable to try to attract talent to professional positions. Instead, the Republican leadership in particular appears to be in a race to the benefits bottom for the average citizen.

Full disclosure: The cartoon is actually a variation on a similar theme I did several years ago — that one was specifically about medical benefits: “We can only be truly happy when we all have lousy medical benefits.” *Sigh*. I just want to let you guys know that my intention has always been to be a satirist, not a prophet.

Comments

« Previous Page« Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries »Next Page »