Several weeks ago I wrote about the often vast chasm between what politicians say and what they do. At the time it was explained to me that "messaging" (what they say) and "policy" (what they do) don't often line up, and that as long as the messaging was effective, it didn't really matter what the policy is.
While this remains a huge insult to the citizenry, it is hard to deny that politics in Michigan looks like a battle we are all losing because messaging and policy so rarely line up. I received a couple of letters in response to that column that told me I was being very naive. The gist of their arguments was "People are stupid.
Perhaps because I'm a teacher I have a very hard time accepting the "people are stupid" conclusion. I realize being politically aware takes work ... sometimes hard work ... and it all starts with having the tools to analyze what is being said and what is being done. That's why I so passionately argue for the benefits for all of us when public education is properly funded and the curriculum is left to the experts.
But I digress. I have always been told that the Republican Party is the party that wants government out of our lives. The Tea Party is relentless in its demands for less government, sometimes to absurd lengths. So imagine my surprise when I read this statement being argued in court by our Attorney General, Bill Schuette.
Remember that Schuette is a Tea Party darling whose battles he fights, often to the detriment of the vast majority of the people of our state. Schuette argued that "One of the paramount purposes of marriage in Michigan is, and always has been, to regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society." (APRIL DEBOER, et al v RICHARD SNYDER, et al Civil Action No. 12-cv-10285)
Whatever your position on allowing people to legally love each other, you ought to be taken aback (perhaps very far aback) by the idea that one of the most important functions of our state government is to regulate relationships between men and women such that marriage must exist only to take advantage of our ability as humans to procreate. By using our tax dollars to make this absurd argument and to continue pushing to deny people of the same gender their right to marry, Schuette is pushing policy that is very different from what we're supposed to believe the radical right advocates for.
Schuette's logic suggests that if people can't procreate, they can't be married. I'm certainly glad I was able to get married before cancer likely took away my ability to procreate. Does Schuette aim to prevent men with vasectomies from being married? Does surviving prostate or ovarian cancer disqualify a person from taking a spouse? Why do we allow people in their 70s and 80s to stay married as they are very unlikely to be able to procreate?
Remember this is the same political party and the same radical fringe of that party that promote those hideous ads which unfairly attack the Affordable Care Act because they wrongfully claim it will be putting the government into our hospital examination rooms. (If you have yet to see these ads, you will be rightfully appalled at the image of Uncle Sam popping up during a woman's gynecological exam.) The idea of keeping the government out of the exam room is a great idea; but remember that many members of the GOP are also advocating legislation that would mandate intra-vaginal ultrasounds for pregnant women. The hypocrisy is mind-numbing.
Whatever side of the political spectrum you find yourself sitting, it is very hard to believe that you agree that the state of Michigan should be regulating our sexual relationships or forcing unwanted, unnecessary, and intrusive examinations of pregnant women. When the message so absurdly clashes with the policy, it seems to be our obligation to loudly point out the hypocrisy being spouted. Schuette's action in preventing people who love each other from being legally married, regardless of their ability to procreate, is just such a hypocrisy. So is claiming that the Affordable Care Act will force government into the exam room while at the same time legislating for just such activities.
I will continue to argue that there is a place in Michigan for a wide variety of political positions to be argued and compromised upon for the betterment of us all. If the starting point, however, is that one of the functions of state government is to regulate our sexual relationships, perhaps I am being too naive.
Questioning the Mackinac Center's policy
Two weeks ago I called into the question the credibility of the research done by the Mackinac Center. One week later a letter to the editor written by the Mackinac Center came down hard on my conclusions. They invited everyone to go on their site and look at the acknowledgements section to prove how unbiased they are. Well, apparently they figured no one would take them up on that offer. Here are the "peers" that reviewed their 2013 publication on Right-to-Work (for less):
-- James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy, Mackinac Center for Public Policy
-- Todd Nesbit, senior lecturer in economics, The Ohio State University
-- Bill Wilson, economic consultant and adjunct scholar, Mackinac Center
-- Richard Vedder, distinguished professor in economics, Ohio University
Two of the four reviewers are Mackinac Center employees. Vedder is a conservative who has worked for the American Enterprise Institute, a well-known radical right wing organization. Nesbit is a lecturer and an author of other Mackinac Center publications.
Peer reviewed journals actually submit research to people who might not automatically agree with the researchers. All four of the reviewers have strong connections to the Mackinac Center. This is not peer review. In short, my claims stand and the Mackinac Center's accusations about me are about as valid as the rest of their work.
Mark Pontoni lives in Petoskey and is a former business owner and currently works as a high school teacher. Contact him at email@example.com.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily of the Petoskey News-Review or its employees.