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Lawmakers have lost their minds, and it's time to call them out

Oct 14, 2015

There is such a thing as public service journalism. They award a Pulitzer Prize for it every year. And so, in the interest of public service, and without the usual niceties, I would like you to permit me to draw your attention to a problem Michigan faces today.

Namely our legislative leaders seem to have lost their minds, any sense of the public good, and it is time to stop treating their raving lunacy as if it deserved respect. 

Consider this: Yesterday, negotiations to try to find a way to fix our dreadfully crumbling roads again broke down. We need to spend way over $1 billion a year to do this. The longer we wait the greater the cost, the more our cars are damaged, the more business and opportunities the state loses. Everybody knows this. 

The governor has been trying to do something about this for years. Polls show it is voters’ top priority. Yet the ideologues running the legislature don’t care.

They say the only way they will agree to new money for the roads is to cut taxes at the same time. Well, we don’t need to cut taxes, we need to raise them. We need to pay more taxes, for the same reason young mothers need to buy diapers instead of dancing shoes. 

We have a statewide emergency here, and our infrastructure is falling apart. We are paying for this in terms of broken axles, polluted water and lead-poisoned babies, without getting anything but misery in return. Our leaders need to stop playing games, mumbling about curves on napkins and pretending to be in Ayn Rand novels.

They need to raise our taxes for our own good and fix the roads.

If this wasn’t bad enough, here’s what our lawmakers’ real priorities are. Yesterday all attention was on a Senate committee debating changing state law to allow people to openly carry loaded weapons into churches and day care centers. Oh, they are determined to do this – the only disagreement was whether the weapons should be concealed.

By the way, in case you’ve been out at Walden Pond with Henry David Thoreau the last few years, we’ve had an epidemic of psychopaths shooting up schools, including one in Connecticut where a gunman shredded 20 first-graders.

We’ve also had a mass shooting in a movie theater and a church. Right now it is illegal to take guns into any of those places.

The headlines I just listed show why. Yet those who worship guns want them everywhere. State Senator Mike Green, the main sponsor of the bill, said:

“We as gun owners have every right in the world to carry in gun-free zones.” 

Their rationale seems to derive from too many Clint Eastwood movies, and a fantasy that some young kindergarten teacher will pull her Beretta out of her purse and coolly take out the maniac with an assault weapon without harming her students.

Fortunately, the governor seems likely to veto this insanity when it reaches his desk. But even if he does, I’d suggest we all step back and think about what our priorities should be, and what they are of those we’ve elected to run our government.

After that, we need to figure out how we can fix this. While we still can. 

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.