Tough Jobs

No one likes to hear about how tough someone else’s job is because everyone thinks his or hers is the toughest. It could be a coal miner telling a beer taster about his job. The beer taster will undoubtedly say, “You think you have it rough, why the other day I had to taste some beer that was only so-so!” We have a natural inclination to inflate the importance and difficulty of our own jobs while lacking appreciation of what others experience; so we stop listening when people start to grouse about their jobs. Despite your resistance, Dear Reader, the plight of employees of the State of Michigan must be brought to your attention.

I handle Medicaid applications through Michigan Department of Human Services where several years of layoffs and attrition has decimated the workforce. Applications that are required to be acted on within 45 days are lying dormant for two or three times that long before being considered. If the Department fails to act on an application in a timely manner, that is grounds for a hearing request. The hearing request is covered by a 90-day standard of promptness, from date of request to issuance of a decision by an administrative law judge. It is typically taking upwards of six months for a hearing to be scheduled. The fault does not lie with the workers and administrative law judges.

DHS is trying to make its employees crank out 100 hours of work in 40. Working harder and faster may get you to 45 hours of production in a week, but no way can the workers double or triple the number of Medicaid applications they can handle. The applications I file for my clients are crucial. My clients are in nursing homes and without Medicaid their bills are not being paid. The nursing homes are being put into a financial crunch and they naturally look to the families for payment. This causes tremendous stress and is not entirely cured when the applications are approved retroactively.

This is a problem throughout the state employment system. Vital services are neglected. Licensing agencies are not investigating problems with licensees. Courts and prosecutors are unable to keep up with caseloads, so they are cutting corners and justice is being denied. Teachers are being laid off, so our children do not get the high-quality education they need to make Michigan competitive.

Michigan is a billion and a half in the red. That is a lot of money–$150 for each man, woman and child living in the state–but it doesn’t even address the budget constrictions already made. Something needs to be done about this problem.

Unfortunately, “something” means a tax increase. Our Michigan and federal taxes are not too high. The TEA Partiers and tax protesters are simply wrong. There are too many neo-cons who think that any tax is too high and they have an undue influence on the gullible. I was in a state representative’s town-hall meeting recently and a woman, clearly over 65 and not at all well-dressed, was whining about her taxes. She was either clueless or much more well-off than she appeared.

The over-65 are the darlings of the federal and state tax codes. They get tax breaks all over the place and have no business complaining. Younger Michiganders also have it better than they think. I practice law in Pennsylvania as well as Michigan and they have taxes there that we cannot imagine, plus toll roads that add over a nickel a mile to the cost of getting many places.

According to the U.S. Census, Michigan is below average in amount of tax collected per capita and average for tax revenue as a percentage of personal income. Furthermore, since Michigan is fairly heavily industrialized, individuals pay a lesser share of the taxes than those in many other states. The Michigan legislature needs to find some courage and raise taxes. There is no other way for the state to meet its obligations. Anti-tax conservatives are either uninformed or they are pandering to their constituencies when they rail against a reasonable tax increase. Let us start practicing responsible government. It would be possible to trim government spending to some degree, but we cannot cut $1.5 billion. Paying one’s fair share of the cost of government is not a hardship. It is a privilege.

I would be happy to pay another $300 in taxes for my wife and myself if Michigan would fix the damned roads. It costs me more than that for an annual front-end alignment, not to mention the cost of replacing at least one wheel and tire a year due to gigantic potholes.

 

John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
law-business.com
 
©2010 John B. Payne, Attorney
 
 
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