Archive for August, 2019

Voter/Legislator Dysfunction

Voter/Legislator Dysfunction

Several years ago I was working for a software company that got bought by a larger software company. They wanted me to relocate. My wife and I didn’t and so they bought me out of the rest of my contract — about half a year’s pay. It was a lot of money as a lump sum in a single check!

However, when it comes in one check, the tax system assumes you get paid that kind of crazy money all the time, so it withholds a bunch of it in a higher tax bracket. It’s kind of an emotional shocker, even if you do intellectually know a lot of it will come back after you file your tax return for that year. Still, staring there at a number that was nearly half of what was actually paid to me, I was crestfallen. I said to my wife, “I’ve never felt so Republican in all my life.”

For months now Governor Whitmer and the state legislature have been doing this awkward dance around setting the state budget for the next fiscal year. Promises have been made to improve our roads, our schools, our water, but now comes the hard part of how to pay for it. And I think we voters must accept part of the blame for why it is so hard. Because at some point taxes will come due and whether we are rich, working class, or poor, if the number on our paycheck is smaller than before, we’re gonna have an emotional reaction. And there is nothing a legislator is more fearful of than getting the blame for that reaction.

Not that I’m in any way letting politicians of any stripe off the hook. They ran for the job, they get paid for the job, they should do the job right. I’m just noting that the voter/legislator relationship is, well, often dysfunctional. What’s the old joke? Our form government has to be the worst form of government…except for all the other forms of government.


Reckless, Irresponsible, and Dangerous

Look, I understand the draw of the “slippery slope” argument. It is both sneaky and effective. Which is why as a parent I used it all the time when my kids were younger.

“Dad, can we have a snack?”

“No, you may not have a snack.”


“First it’s a few peanut butter crackers, next it’s cake, then it’s deep fried Snickers bars. Soon your only focus is your next snack, you drop out of school, your friends do too, and it all eventually leads right up to the decline and fall of Western civilization.”

See how it works? You blow right past the immediate request (which may in fact have some merit) and bury it with speculation and hyperbole, pointing the debate to the worst possible (and not very likely) outcome. You avoid having to mention any real reason, which in the case of snacks was generally that I wasn’t hungry, so why should they be hungry? (Similar logic to why your Mom would make you put on a jacket when she was cold.)

Recently Gov. Whitmer indicated her willingness to consider providing undocumented immigrants with special drivers licenses. The idea would be to would help Michigan’s economy by making it easier for them work and pay taxes. I don’t know. I’m certainly not sold on the idea. But then I was put off by some Republican legislators who went right to the slippery slope argument: “Provide special drivers licenses today and soon they will all be citizens and making us eat strange food and and it all eventually leads right up to the decline and fall of Western civilization.”

There are real reasons to oppose it. Let’s hear ’em. We all know how the slippery slope argument has been used time and time again to bypass sensible gun safety measures, and that’s worked out just super terrific.


What You Do Not Do for One of These Least…

What You Do Not Do for One of These Least...
Editorial Cartoon — Michigan Radio

I’m sure you are well aware of the terrible things happening in the world recently — mass shootings, violent protests, family separations, economic slowdowns — the list (unfortunately) goes on. It can be difficult to get through a day carrying all these around with you. I try to be aware of what’s going on, but keep some healthy distance so I’m not wrecked.

But the one story that did get to me was the deportation and subsequent death of Jimmy Al-Daoud. Michigan Radio and the Detroit Free Press have full stories, but to summarize briefly: 

In the 1970s Mr. Al-Daoud came to the United States as a baby with his Iraqi Chaldean family to escape religious persecution. He grew up in Michigan. Mr. Al-Daoud suffered from mental illness and eventually diabetes. He had a criminal record, mostly petty theft, but with some more serious charges, which involved disputes with his father. Because of these criminal convictions he was deported on June 2nd by ICE to Iraq. Mr. Al-Daoud was scared, alone, and sick. He received some help from other deportees but was soon found dead, likely a consequence of his diabetes but no one knows for sure. The Chaldean Community Foundation is covering the cost of returning his body to the United States for a proper burial next to his mother.

How can you know that happened and not be wrecked?


Patterson and Young Together Again…Forever?

It’s a classic editorial cartooning trope — drawing a recently deceased famous person at heaven’s gate. It’s been overdone and often mishandled. For instance, when Steve Jobs died a few years ago there were all sorts of cartoons of him at heaven’s gate making witty remarks to St. Peter about having an app for getting in. The thing is, Jobs was a Buddhist, which involves neither St. Peter nor heaven. And for those who knew Jobs personally, heaven was not his likely destination.

So my unique angle on this: L Brooks Patterson is not quite to heaven’s gate but in purgatory. For non-Catholics out there, purgatory is the concept that after death a soul not pure enough to enter heaven needs to be cleansed first. And this place or state of being is where that happens. Going further into description here only invites a theological debate I have no intentions of participating in. Suffice to say, the purpose of purgatory (if it in fact exists) is atonement.

This all seems like a plausible eventuality for Patterson. His obit was a laundry list of good and bad. The additional Twilight-Zone twist is him having to be there with his arch-nemesis in life, Coleman Young. Like Brooks, supporters and detractors have very specific feelings about Young. But I think it’s fair to say that their battles of Oakland County vs. Detroit may have served their specific interests well, but did more harm than good to the region as a whole.

Still, I’m not trying to be too judgmental here. Because another good Twilight-Zone twist would be for my soul to end up in purgatory with all the other cartoonists who relied too heavily on heaven’s gate cartoons. (Or maybe just straight to hell.)


It’s Not a Lie If You Believe It

It's Not a Lie If You Believe It

I hesitated to draw this one because not everybody may know the George Costanza character from the 1990s sitcom Seinfeld. But the odds against that are pretty good — Seinfeld was one of the last TV shows that everybody watched, it has been in constant reruns since, and of course its catch-phrases live on forever in memes (“No soup for you!”).

All you really need to know is that the Jerry Seinfeld character comes to his friend George — who has “the gift” of being able to lie without conscience — to find out how to beat a polygraph test. At first George demurs, “I can’t help you. It’s like saying to Pavaratti, ‘Teach me to sing like you.'” But as Jerry gets up to leave, George offers him the advice I drew in the cartoon.

I take no pleasure in equating the President of the United States with a congenital liar. There is no fun here at all. With George, his lies eventually unravel and in spectacular fashion, and that is funny. The same unraveling will eventually happen with Trump, but there is a whole country, a whole world, that will pay the consequences. That’s not funny.

Yes, all politicians lie, just as all people do (except for the very young and the very pure). But the difference with Trump is twofold:

A matter of scale: By April this year the Fact Checker at the Washington Post had tallied 10,000 false or misleading claims by Trump during his presidency. And the man had a well-established pattern before being elected.

And a matter of audacity: After his rally in North Carolina where his supporters chanted, “Send her back!” there were some negative reviews, what with the racism and all. So the next day Trump unabashedly claimed he was “not happy” with it and had tried to stop it by “starting speaking very quickly.” No. No he didn’t. He absolutely didn’t. He stood there for 13 seconds and basked. Millions saw it live. Many more saw the recording.

I can only imagine his excuse. “Should I have not done that? Was that wrong? Because if anybody had said anything to me when I first started…” Seinfeld fans know how that bit ended.

Comments (1)