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Time to Tame the Tax Beast in Michigan

Even after Gov. John Engler’s efforts to cut taxes, Michigan remains one of the most highly taxed states in the union, resulting in lost jobs and forgone economic opportunities. To get a handle on high taxes and runaway state spending, Michigan needs to follow the lead of 14 other states and adopt a constitutional amendment or law requiring a legislative supermajority before any tax can be raised.

Amtrak: The Federal Government’s Own Corporate Financial Scandal

With the fraud scandals of Enron, WorldCom, and other corporate giants roiling the stock market, along comes Amtrak to announce a shutdown unless it gets an emergency $200 million cash infusion. But the government should stop subsidizing the failed national rail service, which has wasted billions of tax dollars, and allow the market to punish mismanagement with bankruptcy—exactly as it is doing with the corporate malefactors.

Cigarette Smuggling: Financing Terrorism?

The tax differential is so great between low-cigarette-tax states like North Carolina and high-cigarette-tax states like Michigan, that the U.S. government is beginning to uncover a startling trend: Suspects linked to Middle East terrorist groups have been discovered making "cigarette runs," buying them in North Carolina and selling them at thousands-of-dollars profit in Michigan.

Evaluating New Drugs: Remember the Bigger Picture

Critics of high-priced pharmaceutical products are missing the bigger picture: Over the past several decades, better, more expensive drugs are making far more expensive treatments such as surgery no longer necessary, in many cases. Michigan lawmakers should stop being "penny-wise and pound-foolish," explain to their constituents why drug prices seem so high, and allow the health-care market to come up with the best treatments for the lowest prices.

The Crystal Gazer from Crystal Falls

Emil Hurja, a native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, was the pioneer of political polling, and was instrumental in the success of the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his political program, "The New Deal." Later, a disillusioned Hurja broke with Roosevelt over policy and lost a run for Congress. Known as "the Crystal Gazer from Crystal Falls," Hurja was a local boy with a national impact.

Law Prevents Electronic Pricing

Michigan is one of the few states where retailers are not allowed to use new electronic price labeling technology because of an obsolete law, the Item Pricing Act, passed in 1976. This law requires paper tags on most merchandise. Allowing stores to use the new technology-as called for in a bill currently before the Legislature-would result in savings that would be passed along to consumers in the form of lower prices.

Farmers Getting Angry over "Checkoff" Programs

"Got Milk?" and other agricultural ad campaigns are paid for by farmers through mandatory "checkoff programs," an offshoot of federal price supports run by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Small farmers are increasingly unhappy because checkoff programs cost them more as a percentage of their incomes than they cost large agribusinesses. The best solution to unfair assessments on small farmers is to end federal agricultural price supports.

The Great 9-1-1 Tax Pileup

In 1996, the Federal Communications Commission told states to create cell-locator 9-1-1 emergency phone service and pay for it themselves. Washington miscalculated both costs and capacity, and today only 21 of 83 Michigan counties have even partially implemented this "unfunded mandate." Meanwhile, the overpaid taxes are piling up. The federal government should scrap its plan and allow the private sector to come up with the most reliable, cost-effective 9-1-1 service.

A Good Time to Cut Taxes on Jobs

Washington is keeping most of the revenue collected from employers under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), a tax that is supposed to fund the administration of state unemployment insurance programs. Congress should abolish this tax-which constitutes a direct tax on employment-and hand states back the responsibility of running their own unemployment programs.

State Lotteries vs. Truth-in-Advertising

In 1972, voters approved the Michigan Lottery, hoping it would prove a funding windfall for education. Today it does little for schools. But its government sponsors do spend $18 million per year on advertising that denigrates hard work and initiative, while luring money from those who can least afford to throw money away. Michigan should be a trendsetter and get out of the lottery business.