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Michigan considering suspension of democracy

Thanks to Kirk Anderson for putting me on to what is happening in Michigan, which is considering passing a bill that would allow the Governor’s office to replace elected local officials.

Kirk explains:  “There’s a bill working its way through the Michigan legislature that would give the governor authority to place “emergency managers” in financially troubled localities to help get their governments back on the fiscal track.  The thing is, these managers have the power to remove elected officials like country administrators and school board members, fire employees, cut benefits, slash services, merge districts, etc etc.  I think it might be an interesting discussion since it pits financial responsibility vs. local governance, both conservative principles.”  From the linked article:

A day after facing hundreds of rowdy, pro-union protesters that filled the state Capitol, the Senate voted on Wednesday to grant broad new powers to emergency managers who oversee financially struggling cities and schools, including the authority to void union contracts and remove elected officials.

The controversial bills are expected to head to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk for signature shortly, after the House and Senate, both controlled by Republicans, work out some language differences.

The Senate passed the main bill in the package by a 26-12 party-line vote, drawing an immediate rebuke from union leaders across the state, who called it an assault on collective bargaining rights. In the Macomb County delegation, Republican Sens. Jack Brandenburg of Harrison Township and Tory Rocca of Sterling Heights supported the measure, while Democratic Sen. Steve Bieda of Warren was opposed.

Brandenburg said several urban areas of the state, especially Detroit, are in “bad shape” and will need a state-appointed emergency financial manager, or EMF, who can impose strong medicine.

“He has to have the backbone, he has to have the power, to null and void a contract,” Brandenburg said.

The senator also rejected claims by Democrats that the bill will destroy Michigan’s long history of local control by allowing the EMF to remove top administrators and elected officials, put millage increases on the ballot, lay off employees, slash services, and merge the city or school district with a neighboring government entity. Brandenburg said the EMFs will be deployed in communities that need “financial martial law.”

“Local control? I’ll tell you what, I think that in a lot of these places there is no control,” he said.

via Michigan Senate passes emergency manager bills – dailytribune.com.

The unions are worried about losing collective bargaining rights?  What about citizens being worried about losing their voting rights?

I read this on the Ides of March, the day the Roman Republic–a free, constitutional, representative government that lasted 500 years–made its last futile effort to stay alive, slipping instead into an authoritarian absolutist  Empire.

The thing is, the jettisoning of the republic was for good reason. It had become corrupt, incompetent, and ineffective in dealing with the problems of Rome, including its financial problems.  Julius Caesar made himself into a dictator to address those problems.  He was very effective.  The people loved him for it.  And so were willing to give up all of their political freedoms.

Is this where we are headed?  Does political freedom just not work anymore, being unwilling to make hard and painful decisions?

Am I missing something?  Can anyone–preferably including people from Michigan–justify this on other than purely pragmatic grounds?

I am completely sympathetic to the comment on local control that in these cases of runaway spending “there is no local control.”  Can’t citizens be motivated to govern themselves, or is representative democracy hopeless and we had better find ourselves a Caesar who can get things done?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Joe

    It is interesting and I am not sure what I think about it, but it should be considered against the back drop that a municipality is a political subdivision of a state. American jurisprudence generally does not recognize any inherit powers of self-governance for a city, county, etc. They are creators of the state and exist at the will of the state. Some states have given their municipalities limited home rule powers, but these are generally very narrow and usually conferred by statute (i.e. can be taken away at will).

  • Joe

    It is interesting and I am not sure what I think about it, but it should be considered against the back drop that a municipality is a political subdivision of a state. American jurisprudence generally does not recognize any inherit powers of self-governance for a city, county, etc. They are creators of the state and exist at the will of the state. Some states have given their municipalities limited home rule powers, but these are generally very narrow and usually conferred by statute (i.e. can be taken away at will).

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    I read most of the then-current bill last week. For the most part, it seems like a mechanism for municipalities to declare a form of bankruptcy and take on similar protections (such as the nullification of certain outstanding obligations). The biggest problem is in the circumstances in which the powerful emergency manager can be appointed. Most of the criteria are some variation on “the local government asked for one” or “the municipality has defaulted on significant financial obligations.” However, there are a couple that (practically speaking) seem to amount to “if the State treasurer thinks its for their own good.” That’s a wide open hole for abuse.

    As for whether representative democracy is inadequate for governing the nation… the population’s proclivity for continuing to elect Democrats and Republicans in the face of their constant greed and incompetence is not a good sign. A republic is functional for a virtuous people. I think we’d have a hard time making that case for Americans today.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    I read most of the then-current bill last week. For the most part, it seems like a mechanism for municipalities to declare a form of bankruptcy and take on similar protections (such as the nullification of certain outstanding obligations). The biggest problem is in the circumstances in which the powerful emergency manager can be appointed. Most of the criteria are some variation on “the local government asked for one” or “the municipality has defaulted on significant financial obligations.” However, there are a couple that (practically speaking) seem to amount to “if the State treasurer thinks its for their own good.” That’s a wide open hole for abuse.

    As for whether representative democracy is inadequate for governing the nation… the population’s proclivity for continuing to elect Democrats and Republicans in the face of their constant greed and incompetence is not a good sign. A republic is functional for a virtuous people. I think we’d have a hard time making that case for Americans today.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Dr Veith,

    I think you are right that a republic will turn into a democracy and then chaos will reign and then we will welcome and love a dictator.

    I think everyone longs for a king or national savior who can come in and fix all our social ills. We assign that role to a president often not realizing and wanting his powers to be so limited.

    I am with Joe here on this. The part I think you miss is that democracy or rather, suffrage or the right to vote is not an end good to preserve and protect. It is an ends to a means. To illustrate this point: our country limited sufferage to white males who were property owners for years after all!

    The important thing that we should focus on, and that Obama should have been focussing on in the middle east “revolutions” is the “rule of law”. People interested, truly , in preserving freedom, will want the political vocation to pay meticulous attention to the means of wielding power.

    We want them to scrupulously follow a constitution or whatever governing law they can find. That is really what is important. And if that governing law is not practical, then we would want them to change it by scrupulously following the rules that are to be followed to change those laws.

    So if joe is right, maybe this is a very very smart move. And it isn´t like the republicans are going to try to centrally plan the state either. They are going to send into the problem areas something like a bankruptcy trustee who is empowered to dispose of assets, satisfy creditors, and try to make the local government solvent.

    It could better allow for state government to be confident that if they allocate bailout money to those local governments that the money will be strategically well spent.

    It might be a great and creative idea. who knows?

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Dr Veith,

    I think you are right that a republic will turn into a democracy and then chaos will reign and then we will welcome and love a dictator.

    I think everyone longs for a king or national savior who can come in and fix all our social ills. We assign that role to a president often not realizing and wanting his powers to be so limited.

    I am with Joe here on this. The part I think you miss is that democracy or rather, suffrage or the right to vote is not an end good to preserve and protect. It is an ends to a means. To illustrate this point: our country limited sufferage to white males who were property owners for years after all!

    The important thing that we should focus on, and that Obama should have been focussing on in the middle east “revolutions” is the “rule of law”. People interested, truly , in preserving freedom, will want the political vocation to pay meticulous attention to the means of wielding power.

    We want them to scrupulously follow a constitution or whatever governing law they can find. That is really what is important. And if that governing law is not practical, then we would want them to change it by scrupulously following the rules that are to be followed to change those laws.

    So if joe is right, maybe this is a very very smart move. And it isn´t like the republicans are going to try to centrally plan the state either. They are going to send into the problem areas something like a bankruptcy trustee who is empowered to dispose of assets, satisfy creditors, and try to make the local government solvent.

    It could better allow for state government to be confident that if they allocate bailout money to those local governments that the money will be strategically well spent.

    It might be a great and creative idea. who knows?

  • helen

    It might be that the country will be run puppets of the 1%, too. As in Wisconsin.

    Democracy requires a free and educated people.
    Is that why Republicans are intent on slashing education?

  • helen

    It might be that the country will be run puppets of the 1%, too. As in Wisconsin.

    Democracy requires a free and educated people.
    Is that why Republicans are intent on slashing education?

  • Dan Kempin

    “The thing is, the jettisoning of the republic was for good reason. It had become corrupt, incompetent, and ineffective in dealing with the problems . . .”

    I must admit that it does sound a bit like Detroit. The corrupt leaders that have become entrenched there have reduced the city to an impoverished wasteland, elected though they may be.

  • Dan Kempin

    “The thing is, the jettisoning of the republic was for good reason. It had become corrupt, incompetent, and ineffective in dealing with the problems . . .”

    I must admit that it does sound a bit like Detroit. The corrupt leaders that have become entrenched there have reduced the city to an impoverished wasteland, elected though they may be.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    As I understand it, this bill was shot down.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    As I understand it, this bill was shot down.

  • Tom Hering

    “The corrupt leaders that have become entrenched there have reduced the city to an impoverished wasteland …”

    Whew! Thank goodness it wasn’t the Great Recession, or automakers who couldn’t/wouldn’t compete with imports until it was too late, or Southern states offering foreign automakers a new form of – ahem – obedient labor.

  • Tom Hering

    “The corrupt leaders that have become entrenched there have reduced the city to an impoverished wasteland …”

    Whew! Thank goodness it wasn’t the Great Recession, or automakers who couldn’t/wouldn’t compete with imports until it was too late, or Southern states offering foreign automakers a new form of – ahem – obedient labor.

  • Dan Kempin

    helen, #4,

    “Democracy requires a free and educated people.
    Is that why Republicans are intent on slashing education?”

    I’ll bite, helen. Since it wasn’t until 1918 that all states required children to complete grade school, and as of 1920 only 32% of eligible students were enrolled in high school, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_education_in_the_United_States, how do you figure that trimming the current educational behemoth imperils the good of a free republic?

  • Dan Kempin

    helen, #4,

    “Democracy requires a free and educated people.
    Is that why Republicans are intent on slashing education?”

    I’ll bite, helen. Since it wasn’t until 1918 that all states required children to complete grade school, and as of 1920 only 32% of eligible students were enrolled in high school, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_education_in_the_United_States, how do you figure that trimming the current educational behemoth imperils the good of a free republic?

  • Dan Kempin

    Tom,

    I have only lived in the shadow of Detroit, and I am not a true Detroiter, (though I know many.) I don’t claim to be an expert–just sharing my observation–but just to clarify, I am talking about the city, not the auto industry. The city of Detroit has been dysfunctional for years.

  • Dan Kempin

    Tom,

    I have only lived in the shadow of Detroit, and I am not a true Detroiter, (though I know many.) I don’t claim to be an expert–just sharing my observation–but just to clarify, I am talking about the city, not the auto industry. The city of Detroit has been dysfunctional for years.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Dunno whether it’s going to happen or not, but my take is that when a city or county more or less goes bankrupt and asks the state for help, they’ve effectively just gone to bankruptcy court. As such, they are still represented as in a republic–it’s just that the course they have chosen has led them into the care of someone else who, because he’s paying the piper, calls the tune.

    It’s kinda like stockholders of GM. They failed to exercise discipline in choosing directors who would create an effective corporate culture, and hence they got run by bankruptcy court–they’re still represented by the people they chose, and now they’ve reaped the consequences.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Dunno whether it’s going to happen or not, but my take is that when a city or county more or less goes bankrupt and asks the state for help, they’ve effectively just gone to bankruptcy court. As such, they are still represented as in a republic–it’s just that the course they have chosen has led them into the care of someone else who, because he’s paying the piper, calls the tune.

    It’s kinda like stockholders of GM. They failed to exercise discipline in choosing directors who would create an effective corporate culture, and hence they got run by bankruptcy court–they’re still represented by the people they chose, and now they’ve reaped the consequences.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I do agree with FWS on the centrality of the rule of law. This tactic seems to violate that also. This measure would seem to be unconstitutional on its face (depending on the Michigan constitution).

    But is it true that local governments exist only at the suffrance of the state governments, as Joe says? It may very well be, legally. An important strain of conservative political theory holds that the closer the government is to the people, the more primary it is. In other words, people in a small town are closer to their mayor and city council, who are directly answerable to them. That level of government is especially important in self-government. The higher levels of government–state, national–get more and more abstract and distant from the people being governed.

    It’s interesting to see even on this blog how willing people are to jettison democracy. Maybe it should be jettisoned, though I’m not sure how putting power in the hands of fewer sinful people can be an improvement over having lots of sinful people check and balance each other. If this bill has been killed (and could someone confirm that?), it still raises issues that we’re going to have to grapple with. Unless someone just takes over, freeing us ordinary citizens from the necessity of grappling with political issues.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I do agree with FWS on the centrality of the rule of law. This tactic seems to violate that also. This measure would seem to be unconstitutional on its face (depending on the Michigan constitution).

    But is it true that local governments exist only at the suffrance of the state governments, as Joe says? It may very well be, legally. An important strain of conservative political theory holds that the closer the government is to the people, the more primary it is. In other words, people in a small town are closer to their mayor and city council, who are directly answerable to them. That level of government is especially important in self-government. The higher levels of government–state, national–get more and more abstract and distant from the people being governed.

    It’s interesting to see even on this blog how willing people are to jettison democracy. Maybe it should be jettisoned, though I’m not sure how putting power in the hands of fewer sinful people can be an improvement over having lots of sinful people check and balance each other. If this bill has been killed (and could someone confirm that?), it still raises issues that we’re going to have to grapple with. Unless someone just takes over, freeing us ordinary citizens from the necessity of grappling with political issues.

  • Lily

    FWIW, this situation is not new. The previous governor and legislature had already begun implementing emergency measures to deal with these troubles.

    See this article:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/09/us-michigan-unions-idUSTRE7286XA20110309

    Excerpt:

    The state’s biggest school district, the Detroit Public Schools, was put under the emergency financial management of by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm two years ago. It is the only district in the state now under emergency management.

    However, some 40 school districts last year were projected to be in deficit spending last year, a number that could more than triple this year, according to state lawmakers.

    Several Michigan cities have been under emergency financial managers at some point including Pontiac, Highland Park, Hamtramck and Benton Harbor.

    “Nobody wants to be in this position,” said Republican Sen. John Proos, whose district includes Benton Harbor.

    The changes would perhaps provide a “greater early warning system” to communities and school districts, he said.

  • Lily

    FWIW, this situation is not new. The previous governor and legislature had already begun implementing emergency measures to deal with these troubles.

    See this article:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/09/us-michigan-unions-idUSTRE7286XA20110309

    Excerpt:

    The state’s biggest school district, the Detroit Public Schools, was put under the emergency financial management of by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm two years ago. It is the only district in the state now under emergency management.

    However, some 40 school districts last year were projected to be in deficit spending last year, a number that could more than triple this year, according to state lawmakers.

    Several Michigan cities have been under emergency financial managers at some point including Pontiac, Highland Park, Hamtramck and Benton Harbor.

    “Nobody wants to be in this position,” said Republican Sen. John Proos, whose district includes Benton Harbor.

    The changes would perhaps provide a “greater early warning system” to communities and school districts, he said.

  • Dan Kempin

    Dr. Veith, #11,

    For the record, my comment was not intended to support this measure, but to illustrate that there are genuine problems. What is the recourse when a municipality goes bankrupt?

  • Dan Kempin

    Dr. Veith, #11,

    For the record, my comment was not intended to support this measure, but to illustrate that there are genuine problems. What is the recourse when a municipality goes bankrupt?

  • Cincinnatus

    As you mention, there are indeed problematic aspects of such a policy for the committed localist.

    But, as Joe points out @1, the local government is considered, in the United States and for better or worse, a legal fiction at the complete mercy of the state government. It can be given and it can be taken away. Only state governments, by the way, are guaranteed a Republican form of government by the Constitution. And I would expect that these “emergency managers” will not be empowered to do something that violates the state constitution. That doesn’t mean they won’t do something that violates the state constitution, but they’re no more likely to do that than any other government officer, no?

    Also, regardless of my circumspection regarding this policy, Detroit really does have a fabulously corrupt government–and has had one since at least the 1970s. Do some Googling: I’ve made it a minor hobby of mine digging through photos of urban decay in Detroit, and along the way, one can’t help but encounter tales of Detroit’s governmental corruption. It’s truly shocking.

  • Cincinnatus

    As you mention, there are indeed problematic aspects of such a policy for the committed localist.

    But, as Joe points out @1, the local government is considered, in the United States and for better or worse, a legal fiction at the complete mercy of the state government. It can be given and it can be taken away. Only state governments, by the way, are guaranteed a Republican form of government by the Constitution. And I would expect that these “emergency managers” will not be empowered to do something that violates the state constitution. That doesn’t mean they won’t do something that violates the state constitution, but they’re no more likely to do that than any other government officer, no?

    Also, regardless of my circumspection regarding this policy, Detroit really does have a fabulously corrupt government–and has had one since at least the 1970s. Do some Googling: I’ve made it a minor hobby of mine digging through photos of urban decay in Detroit, and along the way, one can’t help but encounter tales of Detroit’s governmental corruption. It’s truly shocking.

  • Porcell

    While some Americans have soured on democracy, most still understand with Churchill that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. As long as fallen men are involved, governance will be far less than perfect.

    In Massachusetts the state has power to take over failed school systems and even whole cities and towns, though most towns still favor a democratic town meeting form of government that works well for most towns.

    On balance democracy in America is alive and well, a terrific proof of this being the Tea Party movement that defeated the proto-autocracy of Pelosi, Reid, and Obama in 2010 and will likely do so again in 2012.

  • Porcell

    While some Americans have soured on democracy, most still understand with Churchill that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. As long as fallen men are involved, governance will be far less than perfect.

    In Massachusetts the state has power to take over failed school systems and even whole cities and towns, though most towns still favor a democratic town meeting form of government that works well for most towns.

    On balance democracy in America is alive and well, a terrific proof of this being the Tea Party movement that defeated the proto-autocracy of Pelosi, Reid, and Obama in 2010 and will likely do so again in 2012.

  • collie

    From today’s Oakland Press:

    Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, said the new law takes away uncertainties of the authority of emergency managers.

    “We’re making things more black and white and more clear so EFMs aren’t spending their time battling in court over what they can and cannot do,” McMillin said.

    “If a city has refused to deal with its financial problems, the state has to step in and right the ship,” he said. “Ultimately, all Michigan taxpayers are on the hook for the debt municipalities create.

    “There’s no reason why municipalities or school districts should fall into the situation,” McMillin said. “If they stand up and make tough decisions, they won’t have to worry.”

    House passage was expected despite criticisms from unions that the legislation is an assault on collective bargaining rights because it gives emergency managers the right to set aside union contracts. Critics also say emergency managers have too much authority and too little accountability under the legislation.

    http://theoaklandpress.com/articles/2011/03/16/news/doc4d7fc933641e0805438252.txt

    We are transplants to the Detroit area, and I can confirm what Cincinnatus says about the city. A few years ago, The Detroit News ran a series on the city that outlined all the misbehavior that led to the horrendous state the city is now in. Not only by government, which pitted races against each other but by realtors who played on white fear, accelerating the flight to the suburbs, so that they could pocket their real estate commissions. Talk to people who have lived here all their lives and have seen the dramatic turnaround for the worse this city has taken. It’s unbelievable.

  • collie

    From today’s Oakland Press:

    Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, said the new law takes away uncertainties of the authority of emergency managers.

    “We’re making things more black and white and more clear so EFMs aren’t spending their time battling in court over what they can and cannot do,” McMillin said.

    “If a city has refused to deal with its financial problems, the state has to step in and right the ship,” he said. “Ultimately, all Michigan taxpayers are on the hook for the debt municipalities create.

    “There’s no reason why municipalities or school districts should fall into the situation,” McMillin said. “If they stand up and make tough decisions, they won’t have to worry.”

    House passage was expected despite criticisms from unions that the legislation is an assault on collective bargaining rights because it gives emergency managers the right to set aside union contracts. Critics also say emergency managers have too much authority and too little accountability under the legislation.

    http://theoaklandpress.com/articles/2011/03/16/news/doc4d7fc933641e0805438252.txt

    We are transplants to the Detroit area, and I can confirm what Cincinnatus says about the city. A few years ago, The Detroit News ran a series on the city that outlined all the misbehavior that led to the horrendous state the city is now in. Not only by government, which pitted races against each other but by realtors who played on white fear, accelerating the flight to the suburbs, so that they could pocket their real estate commissions. Talk to people who have lived here all their lives and have seen the dramatic turnaround for the worse this city has taken. It’s unbelievable.

  • Lily

    This news article reports:

    The main bill in the package was approved Tuesday by a 62-48 vote in the Republican-led chamber. The Senate has passed the bill, which now goes to Gov. Rick Snyder for signature.

    http://www.clickondetroit.com/politics/27197543/detail.html

  • Lily

    This news article reports:

    The main bill in the package was approved Tuesday by a 62-48 vote in the Republican-led chamber. The Senate has passed the bill, which now goes to Gov. Rick Snyder for signature.

    http://www.clickondetroit.com/politics/27197543/detail.html

  • helen

    Hering @ 7
    “…or Southern states offering foreign automakers a new form of – ahem – obedient labor.”

    Or plants being located just over the border in Mexico, where all sorts of laws could be evaded with a little ["mordida", is it?] and the peons back to being paid $5 a day.
    (Which, contrary to “USA” was a very good wage <b in Henry Ford's day.)

    Our country has been systematically stripped of middle class jobs, but it’s the fault of the middle class that they don’t prosper!

  • helen

    Hering @ 7
    “…or Southern states offering foreign automakers a new form of – ahem – obedient labor.”

    Or plants being located just over the border in Mexico, where all sorts of laws could be evaded with a little ["mordida", is it?] and the peons back to being paid $5 a day.
    (Which, contrary to “USA” was a very good wage <b in Henry Ford's day.)

    Our country has been systematically stripped of middle class jobs, but it’s the fault of the middle class that they don’t prosper!

  • kerner

    Dr Veith:

    I confirm what Joe and Cincinnatus have said. The basis for it is in the concept of sovereighty. Under our Constitution our states are sovereign. They cannot be changed by anoyone else but themselves. Livewise, the Federal government is a co-equal sovereign. Its authority cannot be changed by anyone either (see War, Civil, 1861-1865).

    But counties, municipalities, school districts, special parks or sewer districts, etc. are the creation of the sovereign states and can be modified or dissolved by the sovereign states that created them in the first place.

    While it may sound draconian in the new Michigan law, it isn’t as unheard of as you might think. If two school districts lost a lot of population such that it no longer made sense to maintain two costly administrations, would it seem so tyrannical for the state to merge them, or combine each of them with different contiguous districts? Sure, the respective elected school boards would be out of their jobs, but they’d get over it.

    If a village, town or city is so mismanaged, depopulated or under financial stress that it is not serving its function as a governmental unit, why should not the state government, which is not only sovereign but also elected by the people to exercise its sovereign authority, use that sovereign authority to modify or dissolve the malfunctioning local government.

    I agree with Cincinnatus that this would be a drastic step and should be exercised only with great care and prudence. But there is nothing Unconstitutional about it.

  • kerner

    Dr Veith:

    I confirm what Joe and Cincinnatus have said. The basis for it is in the concept of sovereighty. Under our Constitution our states are sovereign. They cannot be changed by anoyone else but themselves. Livewise, the Federal government is a co-equal sovereign. Its authority cannot be changed by anyone either (see War, Civil, 1861-1865).

    But counties, municipalities, school districts, special parks or sewer districts, etc. are the creation of the sovereign states and can be modified or dissolved by the sovereign states that created them in the first place.

    While it may sound draconian in the new Michigan law, it isn’t as unheard of as you might think. If two school districts lost a lot of population such that it no longer made sense to maintain two costly administrations, would it seem so tyrannical for the state to merge them, or combine each of them with different contiguous districts? Sure, the respective elected school boards would be out of their jobs, but they’d get over it.

    If a village, town or city is so mismanaged, depopulated or under financial stress that it is not serving its function as a governmental unit, why should not the state government, which is not only sovereign but also elected by the people to exercise its sovereign authority, use that sovereign authority to modify or dissolve the malfunctioning local government.

    I agree with Cincinnatus that this would be a drastic step and should be exercised only with great care and prudence. But there is nothing Unconstitutional about it.

  • Joe

    Again, we don’t have, were never intended to have and should not want a “democracy.” What we have and should fight like heck to keep, is a constitutional republic that employees some democratic means to elect the representatives who then take on the task of governing. Also, with in this framework we have the Bill of Rights and the fracturing o f Governmental power – all anti-democratic mechanisms designed to ensure liberty will not be trampled by 50%+1. Read Federalist No. 10 to understand why the Founders rejected democracy as the form of gov’t for this nation.

  • Joe

    Again, we don’t have, were never intended to have and should not want a “democracy.” What we have and should fight like heck to keep, is a constitutional republic that employees some democratic means to elect the representatives who then take on the task of governing. Also, with in this framework we have the Bill of Rights and the fracturing o f Governmental power – all anti-democratic mechanisms designed to ensure liberty will not be trampled by 50%+1. Read Federalist No. 10 to understand why the Founders rejected democracy as the form of gov’t for this nation.

  • Kirk

    @6 It’s still exists. Apparently, the Senate offered a provision that would allow municipalities to avoid take over, but they have to enter into a budgetary agreement with the state government and suspend collective bargaining rights for 5 years. http://michiganmessenger.com/47385/snyder-to-get-emergency-manager-powers-this-week

    @15

    Interestingly enough, the legislation in question has been supported by Tea Party members in the Michigan legislature and will likely be signed by a Tea Party supported governor.

  • Kirk

    @6 It’s still exists. Apparently, the Senate offered a provision that would allow municipalities to avoid take over, but they have to enter into a budgetary agreement with the state government and suspend collective bargaining rights for 5 years. http://michiganmessenger.com/47385/snyder-to-get-emergency-manager-powers-this-week

    @15

    Interestingly enough, the legislation in question has been supported by Tea Party members in the Michigan legislature and will likely be signed by a Tea Party supported governor.

  • kerner

    Joe @20:

    Right.

  • kerner

    Joe @20:

    Right.

  • E. Asbenson

    Interestingly, Snyder was elected governor last fall as the most “centrist” of the candidates–the median between the far-left mayor of Lansing and the four competing conservatives who basically cancelled each other out (there was a relatively conservative, pro-life Democrat candidate but he was torpedoed out of the race by the unions). I read an Ann Arbor article before MI’s open primaries tauting Snyder as the sort of Republican candidate that left-leaning Ann Arbor could support.

  • E. Asbenson

    Interestingly, Snyder was elected governor last fall as the most “centrist” of the candidates–the median between the far-left mayor of Lansing and the four competing conservatives who basically cancelled each other out (there was a relatively conservative, pro-life Democrat candidate but he was torpedoed out of the race by the unions). I read an Ann Arbor article before MI’s open primaries tauting Snyder as the sort of Republican candidate that left-leaning Ann Arbor could support.

  • E. Asbenson

    Here’s the Senate’s analysis of the bill on mi.gov as of yesterday: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2011-2012/billanalysis/Senate/htm/2011-SFA-4214-U.htm

  • E. Asbenson

    Here’s the Senate’s analysis of the bill on mi.gov as of yesterday: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2011-2012/billanalysis/Senate/htm/2011-SFA-4214-U.htm

  • Porcell

    Joe, except for New England direct town meeting democracy, America does have republican government democracy based on democratically elected representatives. When I use the term democratic government , this is what I have in mind.

  • Porcell

    Joe, except for New England direct town meeting democracy, America does have republican government democracy based on democratically elected representatives. When I use the term democratic government , this is what I have in mind.

  • DonS

    I agree with Joe and Kerner above. I am not opining about this particular law, but there is nothing new about states moving governing power from local elected bodies to appointed individuals or commissions. The difference is that this is a Republican effort, so it is being singled out by Democratic-leaning media. Take California, for instance. We are chock-full of appointed boards and commissions which oversee large swaths of governmental authority, without any direct accountability to voters. The most notable of these is the California Coastal Commission. Any city or county having land within a certain distance of the coast (and we are talking miles, not feet — it doesn’t just apply to beaches) does not have land use authority over land within its borders. Once the local government has approved a land use change, it must go to the Coastal Commission which has ABSOLUTE veto authority. There is no appeal from this body, except through the courts. See this article for a review of this ridiculously undemocratic form of government, foisted on us by the Democratic government of California: http://igs.berkeley.edu/library/research/quickhelp/policy/government/boards_commissions.html

  • DonS

    I agree with Joe and Kerner above. I am not opining about this particular law, but there is nothing new about states moving governing power from local elected bodies to appointed individuals or commissions. The difference is that this is a Republican effort, so it is being singled out by Democratic-leaning media. Take California, for instance. We are chock-full of appointed boards and commissions which oversee large swaths of governmental authority, without any direct accountability to voters. The most notable of these is the California Coastal Commission. Any city or county having land within a certain distance of the coast (and we are talking miles, not feet — it doesn’t just apply to beaches) does not have land use authority over land within its borders. Once the local government has approved a land use change, it must go to the Coastal Commission which has ABSOLUTE veto authority. There is no appeal from this body, except through the courts. See this article for a review of this ridiculously undemocratic form of government, foisted on us by the Democratic government of California: http://igs.berkeley.edu/library/research/quickhelp/policy/government/boards_commissions.html

  • Ryan

    At what point did school districts become state controlled. That is, when did the transition from a town setting up a school and hiring a teacher (like Little House on the Praire) switch to state control?

  • Ryan

    At what point did school districts become state controlled. That is, when did the transition from a town setting up a school and hiring a teacher (like Little House on the Praire) switch to state control?

  • DonS

    Another example I can think of, right off the top of my head, is the move, especially during the 70′s, by states to confiscate local property tax dollars from local school districts, and then dole those moneys out “more equitably” statewide. As a part of that process, at least here in California, the state determined that a number of local school districts were incompetent to continue to operate on their own, and appointed “receivers” to run them. This is ongoing today. Again, this has been done by the Democratic government of California, so is not subject to the same kind of scrutiny.

  • DonS

    Another example I can think of, right off the top of my head, is the move, especially during the 70′s, by states to confiscate local property tax dollars from local school districts, and then dole those moneys out “more equitably” statewide. As a part of that process, at least here in California, the state determined that a number of local school districts were incompetent to continue to operate on their own, and appointed “receivers” to run them. This is ongoing today. Again, this has been done by the Democratic government of California, so is not subject to the same kind of scrutiny.

  • Cincinnatus

    Don, your comments highlight the “tyrannical” possibilities of state seizure of local government–a justified position. But would you deny that there is ever a time when the state ought to intervene in local crises? For instance, Milwaukee’s school district, in my own state of Wisconsin, is in atrocious condition, and the local school board (not to mention the teacher’s union, etc.) shows no inclination or ability to avert the crisis of public education in the city. The state is considering seizing control of the MPS to ameliorate the situation. Similar measures have been implemented by Pennsylvania in regards to Philadelphia public schools.

  • Cincinnatus

    Don, your comments highlight the “tyrannical” possibilities of state seizure of local government–a justified position. But would you deny that there is ever a time when the state ought to intervene in local crises? For instance, Milwaukee’s school district, in my own state of Wisconsin, is in atrocious condition, and the local school board (not to mention the teacher’s union, etc.) shows no inclination or ability to avert the crisis of public education in the city. The state is considering seizing control of the MPS to ameliorate the situation. Similar measures have been implemented by Pennsylvania in regards to Philadelphia public schools.

  • kerner

    My wife works for MPS, and she would be the first to admit that it is in atrocious condition. I have pointed out among my local friends that there is no Constitutional reason why there has to be one unified Milwaukee public school system. If it could be split up into smaller districts or parts of it spun off into surrounding districts that would suit me just fine. And I say this knowing I might be talking my wife out of a job.

    As it turns out, we do have so-called “school choice” in the city of Milwaukee, which means that students from families of low income can get vouchers into qualifying private schools. We also have open enrollment, which means that any student can go to school in any district that will accept them.

    Governor Walker’s budget proposes to open up the choice program to the entire county and allow any student to participate, regardless of income. It is expected that this will drain a lot of students from MPS. Not quite the same as abolishing the district, but the power of its administration will be substantially reduced.

  • kerner

    My wife works for MPS, and she would be the first to admit that it is in atrocious condition. I have pointed out among my local friends that there is no Constitutional reason why there has to be one unified Milwaukee public school system. If it could be split up into smaller districts or parts of it spun off into surrounding districts that would suit me just fine. And I say this knowing I might be talking my wife out of a job.

    As it turns out, we do have so-called “school choice” in the city of Milwaukee, which means that students from families of low income can get vouchers into qualifying private schools. We also have open enrollment, which means that any student can go to school in any district that will accept them.

    Governor Walker’s budget proposes to open up the choice program to the entire county and allow any student to participate, regardless of income. It is expected that this will drain a lot of students from MPS. Not quite the same as abolishing the district, but the power of its administration will be substantially reduced.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 29: I don’t think I used the word “tyrannical”, although it certainly applies to the California Coastal Commission. The primary point I was making was that now the Democrats are whining about the “undemocratic” Republicans, ignoring their history of moving governmental decision making from elected to unelected officials, whether they be appointed “commission” or “board” members, or, for that matter, judges.

    If a local government has failed to responsibly manage its finances, so that it cannot meet its obligations, then oversight is required, just as trustees or receivers are appointed by bankruptcy courts when a company files for reorganization. I don’t have a problem with that. There is plenty of historical precedent for this, initiated by governments run by both parties. That’s what makes the whining we are hearing now so hypocritical.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 29: I don’t think I used the word “tyrannical”, although it certainly applies to the California Coastal Commission. The primary point I was making was that now the Democrats are whining about the “undemocratic” Republicans, ignoring their history of moving governmental decision making from elected to unelected officials, whether they be appointed “commission” or “board” members, or, for that matter, judges.

    If a local government has failed to responsibly manage its finances, so that it cannot meet its obligations, then oversight is required, just as trustees or receivers are appointed by bankruptcy courts when a company files for reorganization. I don’t have a problem with that. There is plenty of historical precedent for this, initiated by governments run by both parties. That’s what makes the whining we are hearing now so hypocritical.

  • Pingback: Links to edify and educate | Sarah Fowler

  • Pingback: Links to edify and educate | Sarah Fowler

  • Tom Hering
  • Tom Hering
  • G

    democracy:liberty::means:end

  • G

    democracy:liberty::means:end

  • Porcell

    Actually, the American democratic system requires the president to uphold his oath to defend the Constitution. Pres. Lincoln saw it as his duty to defend the Union to the extent of fighting a bloody civil war to hold the union together that had the salutary secondary effect of abolishing slavery.

    States that take over smaller units of government have a perfect right to exert their power to take over weak and corrupt cities and towns that have been taken over by public employee unions. Gov. Calvin Coolidge took over the city of Boston in 1919 when the police went on strike. His resolute action at the time eventually won him the presidency. Reagan had no problem firing the rebellious air-traffic controllers.

    Governments have plenty of power to act decisively, though few politicians have the cojones to do so.

  • Porcell

    Actually, the American democratic system requires the president to uphold his oath to defend the Constitution. Pres. Lincoln saw it as his duty to defend the Union to the extent of fighting a bloody civil war to hold the union together that had the salutary secondary effect of abolishing slavery.

    States that take over smaller units of government have a perfect right to exert their power to take over weak and corrupt cities and towns that have been taken over by public employee unions. Gov. Calvin Coolidge took over the city of Boston in 1919 when the police went on strike. His resolute action at the time eventually won him the presidency. Reagan had no problem firing the rebellious air-traffic controllers.

    Governments have plenty of power to act decisively, though few politicians have the cojones to do so.

  • Jimmy Veith

    There is a procedure where municipalities may adjust their debts and alter contracts under federal law. It is called a Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

    Under the United States Constitution, the federal government was granted the exclusive right to pass bankruptcy laws. The States may have the right to take over city governments as explained in the earlier comments. However, I am not aware of any constitutional authority that would give the States the right to adjust debts and alter pre-existing contracts.

    Under 11 U.S.C. 903, the bankruptcy code provides:
    “This chapter does not limit or impair the power of a State to control, by legislation or otherwise, a municipality of or in such State in the exercise of the political or governmental powers of such municipality, including expenditures for such exercise, but –
    (1) A State law prescribing a method of composition of indebtedness of such municipality may not bind any creditor that does not consent to such composition; and
    (2) a judgment entered under such a law may not bind a creditor that does not consent to such composition.”

    It is clear that a State could “take over” a city, but the state appointed receiver would have to use federal bankruptcy law to alter pre-existing contracts without the consent of the creditors.

  • Jimmy Veith

    There is a procedure where municipalities may adjust their debts and alter contracts under federal law. It is called a Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

    Under the United States Constitution, the federal government was granted the exclusive right to pass bankruptcy laws. The States may have the right to take over city governments as explained in the earlier comments. However, I am not aware of any constitutional authority that would give the States the right to adjust debts and alter pre-existing contracts.

    Under 11 U.S.C. 903, the bankruptcy code provides:
    “This chapter does not limit or impair the power of a State to control, by legislation or otherwise, a municipality of or in such State in the exercise of the political or governmental powers of such municipality, including expenditures for such exercise, but –
    (1) A State law prescribing a method of composition of indebtedness of such municipality may not bind any creditor that does not consent to such composition; and
    (2) a judgment entered under such a law may not bind a creditor that does not consent to such composition.”

    It is clear that a State could “take over” a city, but the state appointed receiver would have to use federal bankruptcy law to alter pre-existing contracts without the consent of the creditors.

  • boaz

    States are sovereigns, local governments are not. States can set up any or no local government. The constitution guarantees states will be republics, but says nothing about municipalities.

    Anybody who has lived near a city like Gary, or Flint, or Detroit, has to see that they are completely dysfunctional, and hurt the whole state. For the common good, the state should disband corrupted completely inneffective governments.

  • boaz

    States are sovereigns, local governments are not. States can set up any or no local government. The constitution guarantees states will be republics, but says nothing about municipalities.

    Anybody who has lived near a city like Gary, or Flint, or Detroit, has to see that they are completely dysfunctional, and hurt the whole state. For the common good, the state should disband corrupted completely inneffective governments.

  • kerner

    Jimmy:

    One thing the stae can do is disolve the municipality. What recourse do surviving parties to a contract have when the other party ceases to exist?

  • kerner

    Jimmy:

    One thing the stae can do is disolve the municipality. What recourse do surviving parties to a contract have when the other party ceases to exist?

  • Jimmy Veith

    Generally speaking, the secured creditors can repossess their collateral, and the remaining assets, if any, and sold to first pay off priority claims like taxes. Then, if anything is left over, the rest of the assets are divided between general unsecured creditors on a pro-rata basis. In cases where the entity is totally insolvent, then the creditors don’t get paid anything. (In the case of corporation, the stockholders don’t get paid anything until the unsecured creditors get paid 100%, which is very rare.)

    As a result, the creditor can not pay its debts, and may then have to file bankruptcy itself and the cycle is repeated.

    This is at one of the justifications why it was necessary to bail out the General Motors.

  • Jimmy Veith

    Generally speaking, the secured creditors can repossess their collateral, and the remaining assets, if any, and sold to first pay off priority claims like taxes. Then, if anything is left over, the rest of the assets are divided between general unsecured creditors on a pro-rata basis. In cases where the entity is totally insolvent, then the creditors don’t get paid anything. (In the case of corporation, the stockholders don’t get paid anything until the unsecured creditors get paid 100%, which is very rare.)

    As a result, the creditor can not pay its debts, and may then have to file bankruptcy itself and the cycle is repeated.

    This is at one of the justifications why it was necessary to bail out the General Motors.

  • helen

    Dan Kempin @ 8
    “I’ll bite, helen. Since it wasn’t until 1918 that all states required children to complete grade school, and as of 1920 only 32% of eligible students were enrolled in high school, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_education_in_the_United_States, how do you figure that trimming the current educational behemoth imperils the good of a free republic?”

    In 1920 a much larger prop0rtion of the population was rural.
    You have to be intelligent to run a farm successfully but you didn’t have to have education past 8th grade till the government got into it with mountains of forms to fill out. [Also an 8th grade education in 1920 was worth at least as much as high school in 2011, possibly more in the area of history, geography and government. "Social studies" hadn't been invented.]
    An individual with an 8th grade education could get a job and support a family. (My father did.) With my mother’s considerable contribution: a big garden w/canning vegetables & fruit for winter; chickens for eggs and meat, etc., if we were poor, we didn’t know it.

    Now, employers won’t look at you w/o a high school diploma, and college graduates are flipping burgers for lack of better work.

    You provide the assembly line jobs, and others, Dan, which require intelligence but not necessarily “book learning” and you can cut the educational establishment. It may need cutting at the top, but as is always the case, it is getting cut at the bottom where students will be deprived of “non essentials” like art, music, physical education and library hours, [all, plus languages, under the axe in Austin, Texas].
    I remember when kids didn’t think it necessary to go to high school and I remember when the world changed. My cousin dropped out and was later a rifleman in a foxhole on the DMZ through one cold Korean winter. When he got back, a job he was qualified for and did for an interim, was taken from him and given to a high school graduate, who knew a good deal less about the job, but had the diploma.

    Of course, I also remember when downtown Detroit was safe enough to put a 17 yr old country kid on a bus alone, to go down to a really grand old movie theatre (velvet curtains and crystal chandeliers) and watch “Gone with the Wind”. Now that Detroit is gone.

    Sorry to be so long, but it seemed necessary! [I could be longer!]

  • helen

    Dan Kempin @ 8
    “I’ll bite, helen. Since it wasn’t until 1918 that all states required children to complete grade school, and as of 1920 only 32% of eligible students were enrolled in high school, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_education_in_the_United_States, how do you figure that trimming the current educational behemoth imperils the good of a free republic?”

    In 1920 a much larger prop0rtion of the population was rural.
    You have to be intelligent to run a farm successfully but you didn’t have to have education past 8th grade till the government got into it with mountains of forms to fill out. [Also an 8th grade education in 1920 was worth at least as much as high school in 2011, possibly more in the area of history, geography and government. "Social studies" hadn't been invented.]
    An individual with an 8th grade education could get a job and support a family. (My father did.) With my mother’s considerable contribution: a big garden w/canning vegetables & fruit for winter; chickens for eggs and meat, etc., if we were poor, we didn’t know it.

    Now, employers won’t look at you w/o a high school diploma, and college graduates are flipping burgers for lack of better work.

    You provide the assembly line jobs, and others, Dan, which require intelligence but not necessarily “book learning” and you can cut the educational establishment. It may need cutting at the top, but as is always the case, it is getting cut at the bottom where students will be deprived of “non essentials” like art, music, physical education and library hours, [all, plus languages, under the axe in Austin, Texas].
    I remember when kids didn’t think it necessary to go to high school and I remember when the world changed. My cousin dropped out and was later a rifleman in a foxhole on the DMZ through one cold Korean winter. When he got back, a job he was qualified for and did for an interim, was taken from him and given to a high school graduate, who knew a good deal less about the job, but had the diploma.

    Of course, I also remember when downtown Detroit was safe enough to put a 17 yr old country kid on a bus alone, to go down to a really grand old movie theatre (velvet curtains and crystal chandeliers) and watch “Gone with the Wind”. Now that Detroit is gone.

    Sorry to be so long, but it seemed necessary! [I could be longer!]

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    helen @ 39

    Wow Helen. That was excellent!

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    helen @ 39

    Wow Helen. That was excellent!

  • http://lambert-blog.com Dave Lambert

    Another principle that should guide this discussion is that of subsidiarity. “Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority.” On a more practical level, as one of the commenters said above, this is not a new law. The legislation that is creating the controversy involves amendments to legislation that was signed into law by former MI Democratic Governor Blanchard.

    James M. Hohman of Michigan’s Mackinac Center had this to say…

    “Overall, this is an improved way to make sure that local municipalities and school districts continue to pay their bills and to deal with financial emergencies. But governments should also have the tools to control their finances before emergencies arise. Michigan residents will have to wait until April to hear the governor’s emergency prevention recommendations.”

    The Mackinac Center is a Right-of-Center think tank. You can read the rest of Hohman’s article at http://www.mackinac.org/14756.

  • http://lambert-blog.com Dave Lambert

    Another principle that should guide this discussion is that of subsidiarity. “Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority.” On a more practical level, as one of the commenters said above, this is not a new law. The legislation that is creating the controversy involves amendments to legislation that was signed into law by former MI Democratic Governor Blanchard.

    James M. Hohman of Michigan’s Mackinac Center had this to say…

    “Overall, this is an improved way to make sure that local municipalities and school districts continue to pay their bills and to deal with financial emergencies. But governments should also have the tools to control their finances before emergencies arise. Michigan residents will have to wait until April to hear the governor’s emergency prevention recommendations.”

    The Mackinac Center is a Right-of-Center think tank. You can read the rest of Hohman’s article at http://www.mackinac.org/14756.

  • Cincinnatus

    Dave@41, it’s good that you broached subsidiarity (a nice gift from our Catholic economists), but the key word for the purposes of this discussion is “competent.” If the local component authority–for instance, Detroit’s municipal government–has not demonstrated that it is competent to manage its own affairs, then its “matters ought to be handled” by the next federal level removed, namely the state government. And as we have discussed, Detroit has demonstrated such competence in nearly 40 years.

  • Cincinnatus

    Dave@41, it’s good that you broached subsidiarity (a nice gift from our Catholic economists), but the key word for the purposes of this discussion is “competent.” If the local component authority–for instance, Detroit’s municipal government–has not demonstrated that it is competent to manage its own affairs, then its “matters ought to be handled” by the next federal level removed, namely the state government. And as we have discussed, Detroit has demonstrated such competence in nearly 40 years.

  • Cincinnatus

    Detroit has NOT* demonstrated such competence…

  • Cincinnatus

    Detroit has NOT* demonstrated such competence…

  • helen

    fws @ 40

    Thank you, kind sir! :)

  • helen

    fws @ 40

    Thank you, kind sir! :)

  • http://lambert-blog.com/ Dave Lambert

    Cincinnatus@42, I don’t believe that Dr. Veith has limited this discussion to competence. However, you are correct that the City of Detroit is an example of incompetence. Of course, it hasn’t helped matters that the State of Michigan has enabled this behavior for too many years.

  • http://lambert-blog.com/ Dave Lambert

    Cincinnatus@42, I don’t believe that Dr. Veith has limited this discussion to competence. However, you are correct that the City of Detroit is an example of incompetence. Of course, it hasn’t helped matters that the State of Michigan has enabled this behavior for too many years.

  • Dan Kempin

    helen, #39,

    I am glad I checked back–I almost missed your reply. Upon your further explanation, it doesn’t seem like we are that far apart. You acknowledge that there are problems in education and that cuts are necessary, yet you say that the current proposals are cutting the wrong things. I would not invest myself in arguing against that point.

    I think the bigger point to be grappled is the overall change for the worse in recent generations. On the one hand, the educational system is less effective (in many ways) than it was when it only went to 8th grade. Sometimes profoundly so. On the other hand, the expectation for degrees and dipomas has risen. Something is wrong with that.

    High school used to be a higher education. Once everyone went to high school, the bachelors program became the higher education. Since government aid and state universities have made a bachelor’s degree available to, practically, anyone who wants one, the masters program has become the distinction. In Michigan, public school teacher s are required to get a masters degree. Required. If Johnny’s second grade teacher doesn’t have a masters degree, then she may not be “qualified” to teach second graders. It has gotten to the point that many are now going “straight through” the educational process and entering the work force with a Ph.D. (Dr. Veith, are you seeing this in your vocation? My evidence is anecdotal.) They have been in the educational system for literally 20+ years, they have never worked, and they finall enter the work force as top tier “experts.”

    Is that really what a Ph. D. is supposed to be? (Reminds me of Syndrome’s comment that “When everyone’s super, no one will be.”)

    Anyway, I pray for those on all sides who struggle with this, especially those who are trying to address it now, ham handed or ill advised as their attempts might be. I certainly do not have the answers.

  • Dan Kempin

    helen, #39,

    I am glad I checked back–I almost missed your reply. Upon your further explanation, it doesn’t seem like we are that far apart. You acknowledge that there are problems in education and that cuts are necessary, yet you say that the current proposals are cutting the wrong things. I would not invest myself in arguing against that point.

    I think the bigger point to be grappled is the overall change for the worse in recent generations. On the one hand, the educational system is less effective (in many ways) than it was when it only went to 8th grade. Sometimes profoundly so. On the other hand, the expectation for degrees and dipomas has risen. Something is wrong with that.

    High school used to be a higher education. Once everyone went to high school, the bachelors program became the higher education. Since government aid and state universities have made a bachelor’s degree available to, practically, anyone who wants one, the masters program has become the distinction. In Michigan, public school teacher s are required to get a masters degree. Required. If Johnny’s second grade teacher doesn’t have a masters degree, then she may not be “qualified” to teach second graders. It has gotten to the point that many are now going “straight through” the educational process and entering the work force with a Ph.D. (Dr. Veith, are you seeing this in your vocation? My evidence is anecdotal.) They have been in the educational system for literally 20+ years, they have never worked, and they finall enter the work force as top tier “experts.”

    Is that really what a Ph. D. is supposed to be? (Reminds me of Syndrome’s comment that “When everyone’s super, no one will be.”)

    Anyway, I pray for those on all sides who struggle with this, especially those who are trying to address it now, ham handed or ill advised as their attempts might be. I certainly do not have the answers.


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