April 23, 2014

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Politics & Prejudices

Photo: Wiki Commons, License: N/A

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Time to support Snyder

Yes, you read that headline correctly. That Gov. Rick Snyder, the one who rammed right-to-work through the Legislature in a single day, after telling the citizens it was not on his agenda.

The governor who cut education to give businesses big tax breaks. The governor who taxed pensions, and went along with a mean-spirited scheme to prevent schools from deducting teachers’ union dues.

Not to mention signing the law allowing motorcyclists to not wear helmets, something that means 30 more dead morons a year and vast amounts of money spent caring for the brain-injured survivors.

No, you don’t have to love him, or even vote for him. But right now he is on the side of the angels on an issue of great concern to all of us, and he’s going to have trouble getting past both the nut jobs and the misguided liberals in the Legislature.

We’re talking about Medicaid. In his annual budget last week, the governor, to his credit, signaled that he wants to expand Medicaid to poor people without children. This would mean that 320,000 people without any health insurance would be covered immediately. Within less than a decade, this would rise to nearly a half-million people, and cost Michigan very little.

The federal government would pick up all the added costs for the first three years, after which the state would pay a pittance, which would gradually rise to only 10 percent of costs.

This would be worth doing from a human perspective even if it cost much more. Gilda Jacobs, a former conscientious state senator who now runs the Michigan League for Public Policy, a nonpartisan outfit concerned primarily with the needs of the poor, put it best: “This is absolutely great news.”

Great for human beings, that is, hundreds of thousands of our fellow Michiganders. But even if you have the heart of a fossilized trilobite, this deal makes sense, because it will save us all money, including the rich. Why? What do you suppose those adult poor without health insurance do now?

They show up in hospital emergency rooms, and the cost gets passed on to those of us with insurance. Providing them with an alternative brings everybody’s costs down.

Plus, as Jacobs also noted, “There’s no question this will result in a healthier Michigan with a healthier workforce.”

However, common sense isn’t a very common thing. There are right-wing ideologues in the Legislature who are against any expansion of Medicaid, period.

They couldn’t care less if it makes sense or not, much less that it would help people. Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), who is still waiting to see if he will be indicted by a one-woman grand jury on election-rigging charges, said he was “cautious and concerned” about the governor’s plan.

Far more cautious than he was about attempting to rig an election in Grand Rapids last year, evidently. But that didn’t risk helping anyone who needed it.

Six months ago, Snyder might have gotten the Medicaid expansion through the Legislature with the support of a minority of members from his own party, and near-unanimous backing from the Democrats, for whom the issue is a no-brainer.

But after what lots of them perceive as sheer betrayal over the right-to-work issue, some Democrats aren’t inclined to vote for anything that the governor wants. That’s an attitude they used to call “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

In the long run, they need to remember that Rick Snyder doesn’t matter. What does matter is the ability to help hundreds of thousands of people without health insurance, especially when we can do so with very little expense to state taxpayers.

This is a matter of sheer common sense, self-interest and human decency and dignity. Regardless of your motives, everyone should pressure their legislators to get this done.

 

Whatever happened to the new bridge? You always are inclined to worry when a few weeks go by without Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun openly trying to do something to screw over humanity in the interests of greed. And he and his servants have been mostly — and ominously — silent since Michigan voters socked it to him three months ago.

That’s when they overwhelmingly defeated his attempt to enshrine his monopoly in the Michigan Constitution.

Last year, the governor bypassed the corrupt and Moroun-controlled Legislature, invoking a little-known clause in the Michigan Constitution to sign an “interlocal” agreement with Canada to build a new bridge downriver.

That bridge, by the way, won’t cost Michigan a cent. So what’s happening with it? Since it is an international border crossing, a presidential permit is needed from Washington, D.C.

President Obama has clearly signaled that he is in favor of a new bridge, so getting the permit is virtually certain, after a few months of the usual red tape. After that, the Canadian consul in Detroit has told me, there will be bulldozers on the prowl, shovels in the ground and jobs created by next year.

Matty, however, recently ventured out of Mordor enough to try one more fast one. Though his rickety 1929-era bridge is the only local way to get heavy freight across the Detroit River, he has never been able to transport hazardous materials.

Those have to be taken to Port Huron, and trucked over the modern Blue Water Bridge, or transported via a modest father-and-son operation, the Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry.

But now the Morouns want permission to start taking hazmat over the Ambassador Bridge — and bizarrely, MDOT, the Michigan Department of Transportation, agrees.

Gregg Ward, who owns the truck ferry with his father, told me “since this bridge is in private hands, the government does not inspect it and has no clue about its true condition.

“Additionally, the fire department has already said it would be unable to respond to a burning truck atop the bridge because of a lack of an emergency water system on the structure.” Not to mention that the state does no traffic enforcement on the bridge or the toll plaza leading to it.

Now, you may say that Ward has a vested interest in preventing the Ambassador Bridge from being certified for hazardous materials, and that would be correct.

But for many years, the Wards have been strong supporters of the New International Trade Crossing Bridge, which will almost certainly put them out of business.

Allowing the Ambassador Bridge to carry hazardous materials is just plain nuts, especially given the bridge owner’s track record of misleading the public. MDOT officials seemed shaken last week by the firestorm of opposition from the largely Hispanic community in southwest Detroit.

Windsor isn’t happy either. MDOT says it will schedule a meeting for public comment, but hasn’t said when.

I suggest you let them know how you feel, now.

By the way — a number of legislators, mostly Republicans, were upset in past years when I repeatedly suggested that they were voting against a new bridge and the people’s interests because they were bought and paid for by Matty Moroun.

One of these specimens was former state Rep. Paul Opsommer, chair of the House Transportation Committee, who fought hard and bellowed loudly against a new bridge. Term limits meant he had to leave the Legislature last month.

But today he has a spiffy new job — as lobbyist for CenTra, Inc., Matty Moroun’s many-tentacled trucking empire.

Well, you don’t have to be Ernie Hemingway to come up with his perfect eventual epitaph: The Scum Also Rises.

Jack Lessenberry pines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at letters@metrotimes.com.

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