Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More to Schuette-Snyder differences?

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette seems to be carving out an identity  that is distinct from that of Gov. Rick Snyder. Is politics behind diverse policy stances taken by Michigan's leading Republicans? The latest difference occurred over the weekend as Schuette announced  he is joining the City of Detroit federal bankruptcy case on behalf of Southeast Michigan pensioners. While this makes him look like he is siding with the so-called little guy, there actually is a legitimate legal reason for what he is doing. Schuette cites the Michigan constitution, which says in Article 9, Section 24 that "The accrued financial benefits of each pension plan and retirement system of the state and its political subdivisions shall be a contractual obligation thereof which shall not be diminished or impaired thereby.  Financial benefits arising on account of service rendered in each fiscal year shall be funded during that year and such funding shall not be used for financing unfunded accrued liabilities." No doubt, however, Schuette has heard of the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says in Article 6 Clause 2 that "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding." That is the whole purpose of trying to settle Detroit's mess under federal law instead of state law. Oh well, someone needs to defend the Michigan constitution. Schuette also has differed with the governor on the proposed expansion of Medicaid — Snyder favors it and Schuette opposes it — and the recent legislation allowing Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to transition to a mutual insurance company. Again, the governor favored it while Schuette objected.

Public wants competence

Why might supposedly morally flawed politicians like Anthony Weiner, Elliot Spitzer and Mark Sanford be given second chances by the public? The answer may be that all have displayed competence and even excellence in the offices to which they were elected. Sanford was an imaginative governor who championed pioneering policy ideas. Spitzer won deserved acclaim as a prosecutor fighting organized crime and a champion of consumer causes as a state attorney general before becoming governor. Weiner was probably the most effective spokesman in Congress for liberal causes. Who instead? Nancy Pelosi? Charles Schumer?  Peccadilloes aside, isn't this supposed to be what it's all about?