Skimming along the political world

Thirty or 40 years ago there were three very colorful individuals in the Michigan Legislature. They were in powerful positions in the House and Senate and, really, you never could be sure just what they would say or do.

The first was Rusty Hellman, D-Dollar Bay, who I remember as once chastising the Michigan Public Service Commission saying: “You have passed more law by rule-making than we have ever passed in the legislature as elected representatives of the people.”

Then there was the long-time chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Joe Mack, D-Negaunee, who always claimed that he had built Northern Michigan University singlehandedly in spite of the fact that Rusty claimed the same accomplishment was his alone. So, I just felt that it was a sort of Lansing-based miracle and believed them both. After all, they were in charge.

Barney Hasper, D-Muskegon, was no slouch either. Barney was the chair of the then House Public Utilities Committee. Barney was a certifiable character who wore a Santa Claus suit in the House chambers at Christmas time and passed out gifts to his fellow representatives. That holiday event was the last time the House saw Barney until spring as he went to Orlando for the winter irrespective of the fact there were legislative sessions all winter. One time he borrowed the governor’s airplane to go to a hearing in Marquette and charged it to the Michigan Public Service Commission’s budget to the consternation of the then commission chairman.

Political life was exciting in those days with the controversy and animosity between the political parties. I said to U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek recently that Congress really isn’t much more divided today than it was in the 1830s except for the fact there aren’t as many duels.

We were told in the 1970s to “think globally, act locally.” This was good advice from the environmental movement because it also is true of making economic decisions. If we have to balance our house budget, why shouldn’t we expect the same from Detroit, Argentina or Greece?

Today everything is global. A sneeze in Moscow creates a stir in Paris. Here in the U.S. the Obama administration has held up the Keystone Pipeline to carry Canadian oil to Houston for export for so long that now the Canadians have announced they will now build a pipeline to the Pacific Ocean to sell to the Asian market. I would have preferred to have seen Americans employed.

There is a new Russian pipeline being built to service the energy needs of Southern Europe that instead, could have been met by us. I would prefer to have seen fracking expanded for more natural gas production so our international balance of payments would come to a neutral equilibrium, our exports increase, and American jobs expand.

I believe in the EPA. I think this heavy-handed agency is more than capable of keeping the environment safe. I know there have been Hollywood films about fracking but I believe the scientists at EPA are smarter even than Hollywood directors.

Thinking globally, I would like to see energy stability for our European friends. We can offer that assurance by acting locally.

One reads a lot about illegal immigration along our southern border with tens of thousands of young people sneaking into the country after politicians have been speaking internationally about “amnesty.” We all are in a sweat about how to deal with the issue. My answer is school buses. Let’s put them on a bus and return them to the last country from which they came. It’s really just a short ride across the Rio Grande and we could give them the proper papers to fill out as potential immigrants as we return them back to Mexico.

Finally, there is great angst in Washington about our two-party system. It turns out that the Democrats and the Republicans disagree on issues. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. If you get a good idea, then you can reach across the aisle and get enough bi-partisan votes to pass your program. This is the way legislation has worked for over 200 years. The passage of legislation requires compromise.

It’s been long said that you should never watch the making of laws nor sausage too closely. The tone for today’s discourse was set, to a great degree, when the Affordable Health Care Act was passed without a single minority party vote early in the president’s first term.

As ye sow, so too shall ye reap.