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Michigan Public School Teachers Launch a Non-Union Revolution

Public schools and their employees don't win many battles against the Michigan Education Association (MEA) union, the political and financial behemoth that dominates Michigan public education. But recent victories over compulsory unionism in two charter schools could signal a new dynamic in Michigan's public school system.

Free Trade a Sweeter Deal for Everyone

Economists have argued for more than two centuries that protective tariffs and quotas on imported goods make nations poorer. Despite this, the United States continues its policy of sugar protectionism, which costs U.S. consumers nearly $2 billion every year. It's time for Congress to end this costly and wasteful policy.

Gladstone, Michigan: A Little Town with a Big Name

The little town of Gladstone, located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, is named after William Gladstone, one of Britain's greatest statesmen. Over one hundred years after his death, the former prime minister is remembered for his commitment to individual freedom, which continues to provide important lessons for citizens and policy-makers of today.

Good News for the New Year: Americans Living Longer Than Ever

There's good news for the New Year: Americans are living longer than at any time in history-76.9 years, on average. This is testimony to both the vibrancy of nature and the ingenuity of man-and the industrial and technological progress fueled by free minds and free markets.

Government "Condemnation" Power Makes Property Rights Less Secure

Government abuse of its so-called condemnation power has unjustly deprived ordinary citizens of their private property for the benefit of big-league developers.

"Teach for America" Success Points the Way to Teacher Certification Reform

Much has been written on the failure of collegiate "schools of education" to properly prepare future teachers for the classroom. Now a new study highlights the good job that Teach for America, a private teacher program, is doing to place thousands of qualified and talented volunteer teachers in some of the nation's most troubled schools.

Graduation Rates an Imperfect Measure of School Excellence

Policy-makers at all levels of government are enacting policies that require districts to measure student and school performance. But one popular method of measurement, graduation rates, may not accurately reflect either student proficiency or school excellence. The only sure way to know whether schools are providing a quality education is to introduce more choice and competition into the system, so that schools have incentives to improve.

Consumer, Not Corporate, "Greed" Is Ultimately Behind Layoffs

A business writer at one of Michigan's largest daily newspapers recently denounced corporations, blasting layoffs by "heartless" businesspeople who apparently relish giving out pink slips. But corporations do not act in a vacuum: they are merely responding to the demands of consumers, who by buying or not buying certain products determine which corporations stay in business and which fail.

Should D-DOT Work Weekends?

Few people would deny that it's normal to want weekends off work. But generous union contracts that stipulate a strict Monday through Friday work schedule for Detroit Department of Transportation employees ensure the city's bus system is less reliable and more expensive. Poor city services in turn contribute to a poorer city, a smaller tax base, fewer jobs, and ultimately lower wages for city employees, including bus mechanics and drivers.

Proposed Legislation a License to Kill Competitors for Big Auto Dealers

In the name of "protecting the public," a recently proposed package of bills would require small-time "curbside" auto dealers to obtain a state license before they could sell cars. But instead of protecting the public, licensure laws are often used by larger businesses as a way to raise barriers to new competitors and restrict consumers' choices.

State Provision of Internet Access: A Bad Idea Whose Time Shouldn't Come

In November, Gov. Engler announced the state would work to wire all of Michigan, including sparsely populated rural areas, with high-speed Internet cable. But rapidly changing technology and differing demands from consumers make the state's plan redundant at best and harmful to the telecommunications market at worst.

"Preserving" History at Bayonet Point

Preserving historic homes and buildings is a noble and worthy endeavor. But it is best accomplished using voluntary means, not the coercion of government "historic district commissions," which infringe on private property rights and often have the effect of delaying or preventing renovations of important landmarks.

Church's Campaign Against Sprawl May Do More Harm Than Good

The Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit has declared that so-called urban sprawl is bad, and the full moral authority of the church will be used to influence the Michigan Legislature to stop it. But church representatives could better serve Michigan citizens by engaging in a substantive, balanced debate and focusing on the programs that earned the church a well-deserved reputation for helping to stem urban decline and foster revitalization.

Gas "Gouging" Brouhaha Ignores Lessons of Economics 101

Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm and other politicians are accusing gasoline stations that raised their prices following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks of "price gouging." But basic economics explains the disastrous effects that result when politicians get involved in deciding how much things "should" cost.

Michigan's Prevailing Wage Law Forces Schools to Waste Money

Research shows that Michigan's Prevailing Wage Act of 1965 is a costly piece of special-interest legislation that forces public schools to waste millions of dollars each year on inflated construction costs. Repealing the act-or at least exempting schools from its rules-would make school construction more affordable, save money for use in the classroom, and allow for other improvements to public education.

New Web Tool Enhances Accountability in Michigan State Government

Michigan has a reputation as a "good government" state, with a constitution that encourages transparency and openness in the legislative process. Now michiganvotes.org, a new web site that for the first time posts objective, concise, plain-English descriptions of every bill, amendment, and vote, is enhancing state government's already admirable record of accountability.

Is Michigan Public Education Improving?

Over the past decade, the state of Michigan has laid some important groundwork for improving public education, but the continued lackluster performance of many schools argues the need for more choice and competition in the system.

Let the Punishment Fit the Crime: Re-Thinking Mandatory Minimums

State legislators should reform harsh "mandatory minimum" sentencing laws that limit judges' discretionary powers and dramatically lengthen prison sentences for low-level, often first-time drug offenders-while doing almost nothing to punish the "kingpins" the laws were supposed to target.

Cash-Strapped Motor City Needs a Budgetary Tune-Up

In November, the citizens of Detroit will elect a new mayor to preside over a city steeped in debt, high taxes, and poor services. Regardless of who they choose for this honor, fed-up residents should insist that the new mayor consider privatization of assets and services as a way to give the Motor City the financial tune-up it needs.

How to Make Social Security Secure for More Americans

The president's commission on Social Security warns that benefit cuts, tax increases, or massive federal debt are necessary to keep the system solvent, unless fundamental reforms are enacted. By far the best option for younger workers, minorities, and low-wage earners shortchanged by Social Security is a system that allows them to reap more retirement income by privately investing all or part of their taxes in stocks and bonds.

"Streamlined Sales Tax" Just Another Government Grab for Cash

The National Governors' Association's "Streamlined Sales Tax Project" is being sold as a way to apply existing sales and use taxes to Internet, catalog, and 1-800 number purchases fairly and uniformly. But the project would not only be unfair to out-of-state vendors, it would also result in higher taxes, threaten consumers' privacy, and even open the door to a national sales tax.

Less Government, Not More, Is Key to Academic Achievement and Accountability

A comprehensive new study of Arizona charter schools suggests that proposals to increase government regulation of charter schools in Michigan could stifle, not encourage, student achievement and school accountability.

Private Prepaid Tuition Programs Can Help Make College Affordable

Rising tuition threatens to drive the cost of college beyond the reach of many lower- and middle-income families. But a little-known provision signed into law by President Bush as part of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Act of 2001 will make affording college a bit easier for many Michigan families.

State Land Use Planning: Less Is More

Elected officials in many states are gearing up to do something, almost anything, about so-called "urban sprawl." But before moving Michigan toward a more centrally planned land-use model, state policy-makers should consider why local governments and the free market are better equipped to deal with local land use issues.

School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?

Proposal A of 1994 dramatically altered the way Michigan public schools are funded, and now many districts are complaining about a lack of money to meet their budgetary needs. But school revenues are up from pre-Proposal A levels, raising the question, "Are there things that districts can do more efficiently in order to better use the resources they already have?"

Michigan Economy Needs to Join the Information Age

For much of American industrial history, Michigan entrepreneurs including Ford, Kellogg, and Dow figured prominently in the emerging U.S. economy. But if Michigan is to lead in the 21st century "information age," then our cities must rid themselves of high taxes, burdensome regulations, and wasteful bureaucracy and begin to think and act like the very entrepreneurial firms they need to attract.

Conserve Gas: Scrap the Ethanol Program

Since the energy crunch of the 1970s, Congress has spent billions of dollars to promote the use of ethanol, a fuel made from corn, as an alternative to gasoline. Almost 30 years later, it is clear that ethanol mandates and subsidies have instead increased the use of gasoline. It's time for legislators to pull the plug on the wasteful and counter-productive ethanol program.

Let's Have Full Disclosure of Union Finances

Under the law, union workers have the right to request a refund of any dues their unions spend on non-workplace-related activities. Unfortunately, lax financial reporting requirements and government enforcement make it difficult for workers to exercise this right. It's time for legislators to hold unions to the same kind of public disclosure standards as corporations, so that workers can know where their dues are going.

Michigan Settlers vs. Malaria, or How the Midwest Was Won

A wet and rainy spring has translated into another Michigan summer full of swarming mosquitoes. But current residents have it much better than their 19th-century forebears did. Early generations of Michiganians suffered terribly from widespread outbreaks of malaria, until thousands of square miles of wetlands were drained to drastically reduce the habitat of the disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Why Not Allow a Market in Vanity Plates?

Michigan, like many other states, allows motorists to purchase for their vehicles "vanity" license plates that carry unique combinations of letters and numbers, such as "GO BLUE." Rather than charging a flat fee for each unique vanity plate, the state should auction plates off to the highest bidder, giving motorists who want the same plate a chance to buy it and raising additional revenues to fund state transportation needs.

Fighting Urban Blight or Trashing Property Rights?

A proposal to fight "urban blight" by enhancing the government's power to confiscate private property is a bad idea.

Navigating the Maze of Michigan's Sales Tax

Michigan's sales tax, first enacted in 1933 during the Great Depression, now contains some rather interesting, if not hard-to-explain, features.

Economic Growth Is Key to Environmental Quality

One of America's most enduring popular legends is that the environment is deteriorating and that economic growth is largely responsible. The facts suggest just the opposite.

Myths of the 1980s Distort Debate over Tax Cuts

The success of President Reagan's tax cuts of 1981-83 must be acknowledged so that debate over future tax cuts is informed by the facts.

An Anniversary All Michigan Citizens Can Celebrate

By an overwhelming vote of citizens, the 1851 Michigan Constitution took the state out of economic development and gave wide berth to free markets and entrepreneurship.

Save a Life, Buy an SUV

Federal government safety data from other studies indicate a lower fatality rate for SUVs than for cars.

It's Time to Give Overtaxed Americans a Break

Taxpayers might make louder demands for relief if they understood that as a percentage of total national income, federal taxes are higher than at any other time in U.S. history.

Future Detroit Mayor Could Learn from Motor City's Past

The mayor made every effort to ensure that Detroit's taxes remained as low as possible.

Market Holds Little Risk for Privatized Social Security Accounts

Declines in the stock market present a challenge to advocates of Social Security privatization, who want to let workers invest their payroll taxes in personal accounts holding stocks and corporate bonds.

Homework Requires Teamwork--Between Teachers and Parents

The evidence is strong that homework improves student achievement, especially when it is coupled with strong parental support.

Canadian Health-Care System Is No Model for Prescription Drug Reform

Canada's nationalized health care system, with heavy costs of its own, is no answer to high prescription drug prices.

Mental Health Parity Could Decrease Access to Affordable Insurance

Government health-care mandates to help the uninsured too often drive up premiums and place insurance out of reach of more people.

A Reminder to Politicians: It's Not Your Money!

As the economy slows, many lawmakers and pundits want to scale back the size of President Bush's proposed tax cuts and "moderate" the cuts already enacted by Gov. Engler and the Michigan Legislature. But politicians happily engaged in budget surplus spending binges ought to remember that those tax dollars rightfully belong back with the people who earned them.

Have Michigan Legislators Learned from California's Mistakes?

As price controls come off this month, Michigan consumers will begin paying the higher, market-level rates for natural gas that the rest of the country has already been paying. State legislators have wisely resisted calls to re-impose economically harmful, California-style price controls, and instead are wisely proposing tax credits and other market-friendly solutions.

Campaign Finance Reform Must Recognize Workers' Rights

As Congress considers various "campaign finance reform" proposals, it should incorporate into any final legislative package the rights of workers not to be forced into paying for their unions' political agendas. "Paycheck protection," which requires unions to obtain up-front written permission before spending dues on political activities, is one way to safeguard workers' rights.

State-Run Internet Job Boards: Wasteful, Redundant, and Unfair

Two state-subsidized Internet job banks not only compete unfairly with taxpaying, private-sector job recruitment firms, but also with each other. The state agencies that run these wasteful and redundant sites should take them down, and leave the business of bringing together workers and employers to private entrepreneurs.

Does Charity Begin at Home-or with Government?

President Bush's funding for private religious charities initiative could undercut the effectiveness and compassionate missions of those charities.

"Urban Sprawl" for Dummies?

Public officials must address the problems that cause people to move from cities to suburbs in the first place: high taxes, burdensome regulations, and poor schools.

Electricity Deregulation

Michigan Policy More Enlightened Than California's

California officials remain in the dark about how to properly deregulate electricity, but Michigan's plan proceeds more smoothly.

Michigan Senator James Couzens's Wrongheaded Opposition to Tax Cuts

Michigan Sen. James Couzens opposed President Coolidge's growth-promoting tax cuts in the 1920s. Proven wrong, he lost the support of citizens and his party. Will Michigan's senators make the same mistake today?