Sunday, February 20, 2011

Got to keep fighting for rights

I heard Muammar Qaddafi's son say today that the reports of violence in Libya have been grossly exaggerated, and got the feeling that might be a sign that things are about to get much worse. I rooted for the protesters in both Tunsia and in Egypt, and thought that this might be an indication of a wave of democracy sweeping through the Middle East. At minimum, it appears that human rights fighters are back in vogue.

Of course, you have to believe that every dictator worth his weight in illegally amassed gold will make it more difficult for similar uprisings to be successful going forward. Qaddafi won't be the last to use any means necessary to maintain a power hold. Their cause is helped by conservative talking heads like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh who reportedly spoke out against the protesters in Egypt and suggested President Barack Obama should have helped Mubarak squash the uprising. The situation in Libya could be the tipping point.

It's hard not to consider what would happen if Americans got similarly fed up with what's going on here. For instance, Wisconsin's governor is leading a union-busting movement. And in Michigan, the House passed legislation that would give emergency financial managers (EFMs) the power to do away with collectively bargained contracts, among other expanded powers, essentially given them the juice to rule the communities or school districts they are selected to oversee.

Gov. Rick Snyder has said we won't see what happened in Wisconsin happen here.

He said the "cooperative approach is the way that it works in Michigan and I respect that." But it seems like support for expanding the deployment of of
EFMs -- with greater power -- could accomplish the same thing.

The governor does want to do away with the earned income tax credit, and to tax pensions. I do believe people should pay taxes, but we have to be careful how much we take away from seniors given the fact that doing so could shift some of the burden to their children or other family members, and impact children supported by grandparents.

Lrcast week, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) told the Michigan Information & Reseah Service, known as MIRS, that when it comes to Republican lawmakers, Snyder, and the EITC, "I don't think they get it.” She said that cutting the $340 million tax credit will result in 14,000 more children living in poverty.

"This isn't handouts to people that aren't working," Whitmer said. "This is a tool to help people that are working to make ends meet. . . . E is for earned, for people that are working. We have so much corporate welfare on the books, no one is scrutinizing that."

We've seen some protests in Lansing, but it will be interesting to see whether more people get similarly outraged and do something about it. The actions in the Middle East offer a lesson worth following.

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