Friday, April 08, 2011


The wisdom of Prof. Kimber

I spent the years 1940 - 1944 as an undergraduate student at Michigan State College in East Lansing, Michigan.  Years after I left the name was changed to Michigan State University.  I guess a university is classier than a college.  At least now I can brag that my undergraduate BS degree came from a university, not a mere college.

But I wander from the subject.  What concerns me is the deep and continuing split between Republicans and Democrats, both in Washington and in Sacramento.  In both cases there is an impasse over the budget.  The budget is important, not because it provides money to pay for vital services, such as medicare and highway repair, but because the budget is the way public policy is set.  It was so in the days of King Henry VIII as much as today.  The king or the president is constrained from carrying out certain policies because there is no money allocated in the budget for them.

At Michgan State I had courses in history from Professor H. H. Kimber.  One of the things he taught me is that representative government won't work unless there is a general agreement on fundamentals, such as what kind of government do we want.  This lack of agreement between the two major parties is leading to paralysis in Washington and in Sacramento.  Let me cite a few examples:
  1. Last year Democratic majorities in Congress were able to enact a reform in our way of delivering medical services.  The objective was to provide universal medical care.  The law didn't go that far but it did provide medical care for several million Americans who can't now afford it.  The Republicans opposed the reform and none of them voted for it.  Unlike the Democrats, Republicans don't believe the government should do anything to provide universal medical care.  Their leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, often points out that our present system is the best in the world and shouldn't be messed with.  Of course Senator McConnell enjoys the best medical care in the world.  This excellent care is provided to all members of Congress.  In addition Senator McConnell is a millionaire and is quite able to pay for any medical services he needs.  Republicans now want to repeal the health care law.  If they can't repeal it, they can delay its implementation by simply not appropriating any money in the budget to fund it.
  2. Another sticking point in Washington is the funding of Planned Parenthood.  Democrats view this program as a useful service for poor and middle class women in helping them plan for how many children to have and how to take care of them.  Republicans hate the program because it includes providing information about abortion as well as birth control, even though planned parenthood clinics do not actually perform the medical services.
  3. A basic difference in the future of American government services exists in both Sacramento and Washington.  Republicans believe that government does too many things.  They would like to see an end to costly environmental restrictions on business as well as an end to all taxes on businesses.  They argue that business taxes are simply passed on to customers anyway.  In addition they make California businesses less competitive than businesses elsewhere who pay less tax.  Democrats are not concerned about the size of government.  Like everyone else they simply want government to provide the services that the public expects in an effective and economical manner.  They believe that government should protect the public from harmful pollutants emitted by factories into the surrounding air and water.  They believe that the State should provide a first class education to the children of today so that they will be good citizens and trained workers in the future.  Like Ronald Reagan, Democrats believe that taxes should hurt and that the hurt should be felt by the very rich as well as the rest of us.  They believe that the revenue from taxes should be sufficient to pay for all the services that the public needs.
There is no basic agreement on these issues.  In Washington each side will let the government shut down its operations rather than yield to the position of its opponents.  In Sacramento also neither side is willing to agree to the demands of the other.  Republicans seem to be extremely stubborn.  They are unwilling to compromise on partial funding for Planned Parenting unless the term "abortion" is completely expunged from its vocabulary.  Republicans refuse to agree even to put the question of a tax increase to a vote of the public here in California.

I had the advantage of learning an important lesson about representative government from Professor Kimber.  The public has the same lesson presented to it in the day's news.  Is the public paying attention?

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