Archive for May, 2019

Neville Whitmer

Neville Whitmer

There is lots that is unfair about comparing Governor Whitmer and the recent auto insurance reform agreement to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and the Munich Agreement of 1938. So let’s start with what is fair.

It does feel a lot like appeasement. What the majority of Michiganders want and want now is lower auto insurance rates. In fact, we wanted to pay less yesterday (and several years of yesterdays before that). Which is why the legislature and governor felt increasing pressure to do something. So they did, and I will be delighted to pay less money. But I don’t have confidence that the reform properly addresses the systemic issues.

Also, it felt rushed. I know our government can be, by its nature, arcane and sometimes that is simply how the sausage is made. But that makes hearing “don’t worry, you’ll like” just that much more suspicious.

Okay, so what isn’t fair is that there is no singular Nazi Germany villain here. I don’t think the insurance companies, the medical providers, the trial lawyers (and the lawmakers they lobby) are inherently evil. They just all have vested interests that, in many cases, work against lower insurance costs. So to that end, we all need to be careful not to declare this reform package as any sort of final victory but part of the continuing battle to make auto insurance affordable.

Actually, I take back what I said about villains. I think the true inherent evil here is our healthcare system. We should neither be forced to pay for Personal Injury Protection as part of auto insurance or have to decide what level we may like. The care we get after a catastrophic accident shouldn’t have anything to do with being in a car. Doesn’t matter how it happened, we all deserve decent, quality care. And without bankrupting us or our family. That’s the level of insurance reform we need to aspire to.

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Country over Party

Justin Amash is the U.S. House Representative from Michigan’s 3rd district. When President Gerald Ford was a member of the U.S. House, he represented the 5th district. District boundaries evolve over time, but both the 5th then and the 3rd now have Grand Rapids as their population center, so it’s fair to say Amash is a Ford successor.

Last week Amash published a series of policy positions on social media regarding President Trump and the Mueller Report. First, he admonished fellow members of Congress who obviously have not taken the time to actually read the report. Then he went on to make several legal points, the most notable one being that Trump has indeed committed impeachable offenses. Summarizing does not do it justice. Go ahead and find Justin Amash on Twitter and read them yourself. (It won’t take anywhere near as long as the Mueller Report. And, bonus, nothing is redacted!)

What’s remarkable about this is not what Amash said (Mueller made his position on obstruction clear — it’s for Congress to decide). Nor that Amash would be the one to say it — his signature move is to thoroughly research decisions and explain them in detail.

What is remarkable is that it is remarkable. It was big news that a Republican supposedly broke ranks to say something perceived as negative about a member of his own political party. Good heavens! The audacity! (Or is it, the integrity?!)

As it happens, “acting with integrity” is a pretty good way to describe Gerald Ford’s signature move. The two men are very different in a lot of ways, but at least in this instance Amash definitely is Ford’s successor.


The One Thing That Brings Us Together

The One Thing That Brings Us Together

Sports is often the last refuge for civil conversation. Politics, race, religion are practically no-go zones these days. But even seemingly benign topics like health or even the weather are pocked with landmines:

“It’s a bit chilly today.”

“Yes, it is — so much for your dumb global warming theories!”

And now we have one less good thing to talk about. John Beilein announced this week that he’s leaving his position as coach of the University of Michigan Men’s Basketball team to become head coach of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

Beilein is universally recognized as a great coach and a standup person (a distressingly rare combination in Division 1 sports). So there’s a certain sadness to seeing him go — he’s the type of person that every Michigander could feel good about, not just Wolverines fans.

But I don’t begrudge Beilein for taking advantage of this new career opportunity. He has certainly earned it. It’s just that…Cleveland! Frickin’ Ohio! C’MON!!! The stupidest team in the stupidest state in the stupidest…sorry. Gotta try to keep it civil for Coach Beilein.


Public School Teacher Pep Talk

Public School Teacher Pep Talk

What goes on in Betsy DeVos’s head? Why would somebody who clearly disdains public servants want to be a public servant by leading an enormous agency of public servants? I don’t know, but let’s conjecture:

I don’t think her decision-making is directly related to being hyper-rich. There are plenty of hyper-rich people who have demonstrated human empathy and have made excellent public servants. Some point to her Calvinist Christianity roots (I have grace, you don’t — I’m going to heaven, you…are not.). But true Calvinists tend to be insular and generally avoid having to spend time with the riffraff.

No, if I had to guess I’d say it’s her zealous ideology, which may be the one thing that humanizes her. We all can get caught up in wanting our vision to be right so badly that we willingly ignore anything that proves it otherwise — facts, actual data, real-world consequences.

DeVos clearly believes that vouchers and charters and her vision of marketplace competition will bring education excellence to our United States. And I don’t disagree that some of these principles have merit. What scares me about DeVos is her unwillingness (or inability) to celebrate the successes of public education. Yes, there have been abject failures, but they have been vastly outnumbered by systems that work extremely well and are cornerstones of communities. We should build on that, not steal from it.


A Modest PFAS Foam Proposal

A big hat tip this week goes to my boy Jonathan Swift who in 1729 wrote and published an essay titled A Modest Proposal For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick (or A Modest Proposal for short). It was a brilliant piece of satire that at first appears to be a very sober assessment of the challenges presented by overpopulation, specifically too many poor people, more specifically too many Irish people. It then goes on in an equally academic way to suggest eating Irish babies may be the best solution. A quote:

“I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.”

Something to consider the next time when you think a modern-day episode of, say, BoJack Horseman seems to have stepped over the line of good taste.

Another acknowledgement must go to Upton Sinclair, muck-raking journalist from the early 1900s and his most famous quote:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”