A dishonest narrative has started to spread in the last 24 hours – in some instances by people who should know better – about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer defunding the Michigan State Police and Michigan Department of Corrections. No such defunding occurred.
Legislators have sought to explain yesterday’s budget balancing actions by the governor – which were also approved by the Michigan Legislature – in technical and mathematical terms. Those explanations are correct and necessary but require a level of procedural knowledge well beyond that held by most Michiganders. I’m going to try to explain it using an analogy that is hopefully more relatable.
In this scenario, you’re employed by selling products. In most months, your commissions are at least enough to cover your household budget. However, due to a global pandemic, the last few months you haven’t been able to make as many sales calls and your regular customers aren’t buying their typical amounts. So you’re coming up on the end of the month and your checking account doesn’t have enough money to pay your next month’s bills.
Your rich uncle (let’s call him Sam) hears about your problems and takes pity on you. Fortunately, he has an uncanny ability to find money in places you can’t access. So he mails you a Meijer gift card in an amount that’s almost enough to cover the projected deficit in your bank account. The catch is that you can only use it on things you can buy at Meijer.
So how are you going to approach the next month? Are you going to leave the gift card in your sock drawer and shop with your debit card until your cable or electric bill bounces? Of course not! You’re going to buy your food, medications, and maybe a t-shirt or two with the Meijer card, use the money in your bank account to cover the rest of your expenses, and hope that your sales return to normal by the time the Meijer card runs out.
Meanwhile, the “GRETCHEN DEFUNDED THE POLICE!” promoters are looking at your bank statement for that next month, seeing you spent none of your usual amount on groceries, and calling Child Protective Services to seize your kids because you’re trying to starve them to death.
There is no shortage of valid criticisms to raise about the governor's mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Michiganders can expect her to supply armories worth of additional fodder over the coming months and years.
But the extent of slicing and dicing of selectively edited information to morph yesterday’s actions into a “police defunding” narrative is well out of bounds. Critics of her policies and actions diminish their ability to hold her accountable when they are not measured and don’t confine themselves to verifiable facts.
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