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Jack Lessenberry: One plus one equals eleventeen

by: Eric B.

Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 14:00:39 PM EDT

Jack Lessenberry criticizes Jennifer Granholm for mirroring his position on Andy Dillon's proposal for public employee insurance, and then doing what he advocated by considering it.

Governor Granholm did issue a statement about the Dillon plan that was incomprehensible gobbledy gook, probably deliberately so. Most unions were noncommittal, apart from the teachers‘ union, who basically indicated they weren’t even willing to think about it.


It deserves full, fair, and complete consideration.

Perhaps, I'm better at processing incomprehensible gobbledy gook, because I understand the governor's position clearly.  She would like to see more concrete numbers (which is the same thing that everyone else affected -- from other unions to municipal government organizations to L. Brooks Patterson to even the interim president of CMU -- has said), while also acknowledging a) that there is currently work in Congress to reform health care on the national level and b) that Andy Dillon's proposal would produce no savings next budget year.  Not only does this appear to me fairly clear, but it also strikes me as a rather reasonable position.

I am usually a fan of Lessenberry's, because he is usually much better than this.  For instance, he just wrote a few weeks ago about how awful it is that the state had to cut benefits to people with Medicaid.  He entitled his essay "Questionable priorities."

He is not a stupid person, and is very much aware of the bigger picture to this, that there is serious work being done on health care right now at the federal level. That work could, if it was nudged strongly enough by a unified voice of industry, state government, and regular people might produce something that addresses Michigan's problems affording employee benefits by creating a universal health care system practically everyone with a brain realizes is necessary.

He could have lumped a lot of things that he's said in the past together and drawn a logical conclusion -- our inability to extend basic dental care to Medicaid recipients, combined with the drag of health care costs on state and local governments, are more reasons to reform health care at the national level. Instead, he uses the occasion to bash the governor, something that he has taken to so fervently of late that half the time he just comes across as unhinged (in his earlier column, he bashed her for signing the letter cutting Medicaid benefits). 


Eric B. :: Jack Lessenberry: One plus one equals eleventeen

The sum of the thing is to not examine the actual proposal and whether there isn't a better way to go -- Lessenberry punts on this entirely (at one point, he comes very close to saying, "Well, he's a lawyer, so he must know what he's talking about") -- and to instead turn it into a story on the internal politics. This angle does exist and is important to understand, but we have other people who do that better.

Missing in this is also the important context of time.  Dillon's proposal -- one every agrees would substantially change how government is conducted in Michigan -- was brought up last week, which is about two and a half short months before the end of the fiscal year.  It's worth noting that traditionally, the state already had its budget finished by now so that school districts, local goverments and the state's public higher education institutions could budget with reliable numbers.  Dillon's proposal -- a Serious One by a Very Serious Person -- is worthy of full consideration even as the state Legislature works the budget on the high school equivalent of cramming for exams.

It may be seriously and fully considered; it may also be turned into a hash that achieves little in the way of real savings.  The individual can predict which outcome is most likely based on the recent past.  Regardless, what this promises is real political reward for Dillon and the other Very Serious People of Lansing.  They will get it, not because they actually broached a real solution to a real problem, but because of the way they played the game of politics. This will happen, because when the matter is addressed through the media, it will lean almost exclusively on how the game was played rather than the outcome.

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