Peter Lute of Booth Newspapers critiques the current solutions being built for Michigan’s budget-balancing woes and blames everyone [link deleted; page is no longer available]. Fine piece.
I agree wholeheartedly with his main point, which is that the system is broken. Part of the fascination of this year’s budget negotiations in Michigan has been that it’s clear that the legislative leadership disagrees with the governor about key issues, but that both sides have been working to find workable compromises and mutually acceptable solutions. That’s how government is supposed to work, and it’s worth cheering when things work out. But sometimes more is needed, and it’s becoming clear that now is one of those times. The next step is to get beyond the legislative duct tape and the temporary administrative measures to build something we can live with for another generation. Perhaps this is the opportunity.
American government is designed to accomodate disagreement, though the tension often makes folks uncomfortable. What we need, sometime soon, is a civil discussion about what Michigan’s government is for, how we get to that point, and what tax structure we need to support that effort. The (less-than-complete) success of the Michigan budget efforts demonstrates that it’s not necessary to continue talking past each other just because we’ve been doing so in the past. Discussion isn’t helped when each side caricatures the other’s positions. The habit many have of simplifying and dismissing the other party’s position is really poisonous to the civil culture. It’s time we stopped, and started finding solutions.