In a New Low for Government Service, Michigan Threatens to Let the People Rot

April 20, 2007

The same state that two weeks ago was planning to spend $38 million on iPods for schoolchildren now says it can’t afford to bury the dead.

From today’s Lansing Journal:

DHS Director Marianne Udow said the state must make a difficult decision: cut money for food banks and homeless shelters for the living or cut money for burials for the dead.

“It’s a terrible choice to have to make,” Udow said.

This budget-cut-avoidance stunt is unquestionably one of the greatest “Washington Monument” ploys in history. The National Park Service gave the tactic its name. Whenever Congress threatens to cut the Park Service’s budget, plans are immediately leaked to the newspapers that the Park Service will have to close the most popular tourist attraction under its control, generally the Washington Monument. Fearing bad publicity, Congress quickly caves in and gives the Park Service whatever budget it wants.

The idea is that during hard times, when tax revenue is shrinking because of an economic slump, government agencies can use this tactic to resist any suggestion that they share in the economic pain. Rarely, however, would an agency sink so low as to threaten the closure of Potter’s field.

The iPod-in-every-backpack idea surfaced April 6 as Democrats touted high-tech solutions to educational woes (Detroit Free Press). The idea was later scrapped, not because it was too expensive, not because it was just a terrible idea, but because three officials who were hatching the idea had flown to Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, CA, on Apple’s dime. Now they’re reimbursing Apple for the trip and withdrawing the idea of spending millions on iPods.

These dumb-and-dumber ideas that Michigan officials are airing give us a good hint of why Michigan’s economy and revenue are slumping in the first place, while almost every other state is swimming in tax revenue.


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