Thursday, December 6, 2012


Back when he was a Senator, Barack Obama charged that the periodic need to raise the federal debt limit was evidence of a lack of leadership.

Lots of folks, myself included, saw that speech as a contradiction.

Seemed like a President who favored multi billion dollar bailouts and stimuluses wasn’t too worried about going over the debt ceiling.

Yesterday, we got a peek at the President’s thinking.

He quoted an old friend of mine, former Michigan Governor John Engler who is currently the head of the Business Roundtable.

John is – always was – an arch conservative, and incidentally, a graduate of the Thomas Cooley Law School.

The President quoted John as saying that the only function of the debt ceiling is to ruin the nation’s credit rating when we ignore it or raise it.

Lo and behold, the President wants the Congress to get out of the debt ceiling business.

He wants them to give him a blank check. No ceiling. No limit.

He wants them to say, “Mr. President, you won the election, the people want you to run the country. Spend whatever you need to satisfy your mandate.”

Gotta say, that takes a lot of chutzpah.

Which is not to say that most people don’t agree with him. The President, taking a leaf from Franklin Roosevelt’s book, is out on the stump, campaigning for his side of the debate.

No sense talking to Boehner on the telephone when you can make speeches in Virginia or Detroit. Boehner can read them in the newspaper, or hear them on the radio or the TV.

The fact is that there is nothing in the federal Constitution which establishes a debt ceiling.

Article 1, Section 8 says this:

The Congress shall have power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defence and general Welfare of the United States.

Article 1 also says that the Congress has the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States and to coin money and regulate its value.

But there is nothing that says how much Congress can borrow or how much it can coin.

So what is the limit?

Seems pretty obvious that Congress can spend as much as it wants, borrow as much as people are willing to lend, and coin as much as people are interested in having.

That may seem like a lot of power, but remember, the United States of America is a Republic. The Congress represents the people. And the people can do whatever they choose to do.

The real issue in America today is not the national debt or the annual deficit.

The real issue is who decides how much the nation spends and how much it borrows.

Unhappily, the Congress has, for almost a hundred years, been passing its spending and borrowing power down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.

A bloated Executive Department with open ended appropriations from a Congress unwilling or unable to decide how to spend the people’s money, simply runs in the red year after year, expecting that next year there will be even more money on the table.

The President wants to raise the taxes on the rich. I wonder how much the taxes would have to be raised to balance the budget. Not ten years from now, but next year, 2013.

Might just start a revolution.


  1. hi, judge: you and i have not spoken in years, despite our very close association from the u.s. senate race in 1976 until my election as jackson county prosecuting attorney in 1992, at which swearing in ceremony you were the honored speaker who administered the oath of office which initiated my term as prosecuting attorney. at that ceremony, the chief circuit judge was beside you, one james fleming, former state senator. the jackson citizen patriot announced this evening that he had passed away apparently at his home in naples, florida at age 83 after a battle with a brain tumor. i wanted you to know about this, especially after i noticed in his obituary that he was chairman of the special senate committee on crime and riots, during his service in the michigan senate after being elected in 1966. as i was aware of your role in the detroit riots after your election as chief justice, i thought you might want to be aware that he had passed away, as it appears the two of you had worked together long before you were together at my swearing-in ceremony in jackson 20 years ago in december, 1992. much water has flowed over the dam since that day, but you will be pleased to know that i have since that day employed and promoted many cooley law school graduates to successful careers in the law, and enjoyed every minute of doing so. thank you for the opportunities you provided to me! dennis hurst

  2. While I respect you position Judge, our country's economic crisis has been caused by greed (Wall Street, bankers, lawyers, insurance execs.) - many of whom got very rich while making the rest of us poor.

    I agree govt. spending should not be overblown - as we do with the war machine (tho I originally supported the war after 9/11 believing what was being said about Iraq).
    Just repairing America's infrastructure (crumbling bridges/bad roads/more) would create many jobs.

    We need real jobs - good paying union jobs - not bloated executive pay and corporations "right to work" employees for low pay, no benefits and long hours doing the jobs of what two people used to do - and many are part-time jobs to avoid laws that protect employees.

    Instead - here in the Upper Peninsula they brag about 200 jobs at a short-term sulfide "acid" mine (first of many) that will destroy Michigan's jewel - the Upper Peninsula. I would be in favor of the new mines if they were in the tradition of our iron ore mines - thousands of long-term well-paying jobs. Rather - they willrape the U.P. today - be gone tomorrow.

    Northern Michigan union bosses have learned the hard way that the handful of temporary construction and technical jobs promised have mostly gone to outsiders the company has shipped in.

    Kennecott will make more than a billion and share little with the state.
    Meanwhile - they destroy wilderness and leave in 7 years (as will others). Rio Tinto/Kennecott has one of the worst environmental records in the world - and committed war crimes in foreign countries, bribery and other vile acts.

    Your honor - many jobs can be created - and help America get back on its feet - thus balancing the budget (Like Clinton left Bush).

    However, when we do make cuts - get rid of the pork barrel projects and make the very wealthy pay their fair share - and keep the socials safety nets that are needed more than ever because of the aforementioned greed (much right wing, sir) that destroyed our economy.

    Through many means, homes that were in families for decades are being bought up by already rich land speculators - who are waiting for the housing market to return (as it always does).

    You honor, the Fiscal Cliff is imaginary - the money (or ability to create it) is there - however the ultra-rich do not want to lose the power that this perfect evil storm of financial greed created - because in the long run the wealthy did not lose due to the downturn -the losers were the middle class and low-income Americans.

    Sadly, this is not the same country as it was when my father was an up-and-coming executive where hard work was rewarded by good pay - and employees were treated as valued instead of slaves. He became CEO of several big food companies, respected his employees and others.

    As even the staunchest right wingers are learning, climate change is real - and greed and disregard for places like the U.P. (selling out for short-term greed) is sending us down (as lawyers/the law call it) down a very "slippery slope."

    In fact, right-wing governors now surround the great lakes - heaven help us as our great resource of fresh water is being handed to industry on a platter - as they are given permission to essentially ignore environmental laws.

    If these out-of-state executives/boards of directors would only drink the water (breathe the air) they pollute - or have to answer to future kids in their lineage about the way they are polluting and destroying.

    Greg Peterson
    Negaunee, MI

  3. The Kennecott mine project has been studied and reviewed by state and federal agencies for five years. The bureaucrats charged with approving or disapproving it have been from both sides of the aisle.

    At some point the regulatory system is so slow and expensive that investment is not prudent.

    If the mine is ever opened, the folks in the UP will decide if it is a good neighbor or not.

  4. The Kennicott mine has been studied for five years by state and federal government. If it gets the go ahead, it will be a government decision. Those who don't like it, should complain to the government.

  5. Your honor, I do appreciate you allowing me to bring up issues that may not square with your judgment/opinions but are views held by many other Michigan residents.
    Judge, many groups have fought the mine – through courts, protests and other activism
    My next reply is an example of my stories reporting on just a few of the conflicts of interest issues between state regulators - and the mine owners (There are many, many other issues - like the mine dynamiting of a hundreds of years old sacred Anishinaabe religious and ceremonial site named sacred Eagle Rock to build mine tunnel – and its being built on lands ceded to the Anishinaabe).
    My next reply one part of many stories about issues surrounding the mine.
    Other issues include sliding by federal Clean Water Act law by redesigning and building some pipes above ground even though its on a Lake Superior tributary)
    (Judge please remove the post by Rev. Dicks as it actually my writing – now duplicated - and resulted from a logging-in issue connected to posting on your blog site)

  6. By Greg Peterson

    (LANSING, Mich.) - A series of incidents show a questionable relationship and a possible conflict of interest between the state of Michigan and Kennecott Eagle Minerals that plans to further desecrated sacred Eagle Rock as it builds a nickle and copper mine under an important trout stream that feeds Lake Superior.
    The state of Michigan has leased a portion of the Yellow Dog Plains – that the Ojibwa have long revered – to Kennecott Eagle Minerals, a subsidiary of international mining giant Rio Tinto. The mine is being located on state-owned ceded lands covered by federal treaties with the Ojibwa
    Ojibwa tribal members and other critics are suspect about a series of incidents involving the state and Kennecott Eagle Minerals.
    Michigan lawmakers fast-tracked special legislation that allows sulfide mining including proposals to dig for uranium.
    State officials admit they received a large amount of testimony and information from American Indians concerning the religious significance of sacred Eagle Rock and the entire Yellow Dog Plains.
    Critics point to state employees organizing a nonprofit with mine owners and the state shifting the power to grant the Kennecott Eagle Minerals mine permit between employees during a tumultuous time involving the state's environmental agencies.
    As the state's two environmental protection agencies were being revamped, then Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) senior policy advisor Frank Ruswick approved the mine permit ignoring religious concerns about sacred Eagle Rock.
    The permit was approved three days before the MDEQ and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) were folded back into one agency and one week after the MDEQ Director Steven Chester resigned allowing MDEQ Deputy Director Jim Sygo to give the mine permit decision-making power to Ruswick.
    The MDEQ and MDNR became the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE).
    Environment groups say there is no way Ruswick has time to read the huge Kennecott file. State officials said the permit decision was legal and denied it was timed as the state's two environmental agencies were in turmoil.
    In recommendations to Chester before his MDEQ directorship was eliminated, MDEQ Administrative Law Judge Richard A. Patterson had concerns about the future desecration of sacred Eagle Rock.
    The mine permits should “be allowed with the exception that provision be made to avoid direct impacts to Eagle Rock that may interfere with the religious practices there on,” Patterson wrote.
    “Kennecott and, as a consequence, (the MDEQ) did not properly address that impact on the sacred rock outcrop known as Eagle Rock,” Patterson wrote.
    “The excavation and drilling in the immediate area of Eagle Rock and fencing it off will materially affect its use as a place of worship,“ Patterson wrote. “This should in some manner be accommodated, and would best be done so by relocating the adit and access to the mine to a location that would not interfere with that function.”
    Based on a state-redacted draft opinion by Judge Patterson, “it appears as though he was going to order that Eagle Rock and the tribal uses of it be protected,” said National Wildlife Federation (NWF) attorney Michelle Haley. “When the final decision was delegated to Frank Ruswick, he short-circuited that process and (Judge Patterson) was never allowed to release his opinion.”
    “By all appearances, the MDEQ fact-tracked the decision to avoid the publication of Patterson’s apparent legal conclusion that Eagle Rock and its uses should be protected,” Halley said.
    American Indian rights advocates say the state of Michigan failed its obligation to protect sacred Eagle Rock and the surrounding area.
    (Continued in next reply)

  7. “That is treaty land and the native religious rights were not given up at that sacred religious place” said Suzan Shown Harjo, founder of The Morning Star Institute
    MDEQ employee Joe Maki admitted during testimony before Judge Patterson that the state's mining review team did not apply a critical standard of state mining law that states the company must prove it will not “pollute, impair, or destroy natural resources,” Halley said. The mining review team later recommend approval of the mine permit.
    First using state resources, two state environmental protection employees became founding board members of the private nonprofit (501c3) Northern Michigan Geologic Repository Association (NMGRA) with several mining companies.
    The nonprofit was created in 2008 by Hal Fitch, Director of the then MDEQ Office of Geological Survey.
    Fitch was listed as president and named NMGRA secretary was Milton Gere, a geologist with the then MDNR Forest, Mineral and Fire Management division.
    At first both Fitch and Gere listed their MDEQ and MDNR agency addresses on nonprofit paperwork, but later listed their home addresses when the Articles of Incorporation were filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
    Fitch invited Kennecott engineer and geologist Andrew Ware to serve on the board.
    Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), environment groups obtained documents that show some of the meetings to create the nonprofit were setup by a MDEQ secretary and MDEQ stationary was used in planning.
    Critics point out they would not have been able to obtain the files using FOIA if they were not part of official government actions.
    Records of planning meetings list an “executive committee” for the proposed nonprofit as executives with five mining companies including Kennecott.
    “A cash gift of $10,000 to $1 million or more entitles you to official Lifetime Giving Recognition.,” the nonprofit planning documents stated.
    Critics say the nonprofit is an example of state regulators going into business with those they regulate.
    Its believed to be the first time that agents of Michigan environment protection agencies have set up a nonprofit with mining companies - that were also asked to donate.
    Mine opponents are suspicious of NMGRA activities.
    “Its suspicious at best, and I hate to think what the worst case might be,” said Halley, who has filed several lawsuits over the project, two of which are still active.
    “It is improper at best for MDEQ employees to be forming organizations with the companies whom they are charged with regulating,” Halley said. “I believe this arrangement constitutes a conflict of interest for the so-called regulators.”
    Mine opponent Cynthia Pryor said said it was a “conflict of interest” for Fitch because he is the “final decision maker of all Part 632 mining applications” while “being linked financially with a non-profit with Kennecott and other mining interests on the board of directors.”
    Records show NMGRA planned to seek grants and donations from mining companies to fund the collection of mining history and to create a new location to store the hundreds of thousands of elongated soil drillings. Known as core samples, the soil cylinders are used to determine the mineral richness of section of earth targeted for mining.
    (Story contines next reply)

  8. (Final part of story)
    In addition to developing core storage facilities, Halley believes the NMGRA “was also intended to be a mechanism for channeling money to the state and perhaps, decision-makers, from the industry board of directors members.”
    The “nonprofit that was setup to find a new location for the state's core sample repository,” said MDNRE spokesman Robert McCann.
    “That nonprofit still exists however Hal Fitch has not been involved with it for some time,” McCann said.
    “They (NMGRA members) are still working with Western Michigan University in hopes of housing the samples there” and are “looking for other possible locations” because the Marquette, Mich. building is on poor condition, McCann said. “If a new location isn't found soon the building may very well collapse.”
    This reporter has requested that the NMGRA open its IRS filings for inspection.
    Other questionable incidents include a claim by the MDEQ that a department employees accidentally lost a report critical of the way Kennecott assessed whether the Salmon Trout River will collapse into the mine.
    The state initially ignored NWF Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the report questioning the mine's stability, then released partial information before finally releasing the report that the MDEQ commissioned with David Sainsbury of Itasca Consulting Group, Inc.
    This reporter sent numerous questions to Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox including asking if the incidents involving the state were evidence of a conspiracy, however he declined comment through a spokesperson.
    Because “the issues raised are the subject of pending litigation, our office is unable to comment,” said AG spokesperson Joy Yearout. “The DNRE is our client, and it is our practice to defer to state clients to provide on-the-record responses involving pending litigation.”
    This reporter has requested the MDNRE provide additional information including whether any disciplinary action was taken.
    Halley said the NWF has spent thousands of dollars on inspections of state records FOIA requests for state documents, some of which had portions blacked out.
    Meanwhile, Kennecott, as it has done worldwide, has ingratiated itself with lawmakers and decision-makers from campaign contributions and meals, to undisclosed donations to Michigan political nonprofits to subtle things like throwing a lunch for the dozens of law enforcement officers who raided the American Indian encampment at Eagle Rock and arrested two Ojibwa campers.
    Kennecott officials have not returned numerous phone calls from this reporter.