Equal Opportunities

June 5, 2002
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Would-have-been Labor Secretary Linda Chavez was the featured speaker last week at the annual Seidman School of Business scholarship fundraiser, which also is a focus for Women’s History Month.

Chavez recounted personal experiences to underscore how much has changed for working women. At one point in her career, Chavez said a bank refused to consider her earnings along with her husband’s to secure a mortgage (and she was, at the time, earning more than her husband). What she did not include in the too familiar tales of gender tribulations was her treatment during confirmation hearings ultimately leading to her withdrawal as George W. Bush’s nominee.

Accounting agency owner and champion defender of small business and free enterprise Paul Hense was the first to jump with a question. He wondered when the public might see unification on issues between parties, and whether a balance could be maintained. To which Chavez replied, “We all pray, very hard, every night for Sen. (Strom) Thurmond and Sen. (Jesse) Helms.”

  • Hense may have needed to know: He’s been “invited” three times to testify (again) before a House/Senate joint committee hearing on taxation. The accountant hardly needs to reiterate his point that government does not, and will not ever “get it.” The hearings are set for April 3, and he said he has indicated at every invitation that he’s busy winding up tax season. “Then I found out I was going,” And so he will leave at 5:45 a.m. April 3 to testify. We are told “they” remember Hense from his previous appearances and long leadership in the Small Business Association of Michigan. 
  • Vern Ehlers is a soft-spoken guy, but we thought we’d provoke at least a mild note of indignation when we asked his view about a physicist’s recently announced condemnations of American middle school science texts.

Ehlers didn’t raise his voice when he said he’d only read news reports about the scientist’s opinion.

Pause.

But he did read the results of a seminar conducted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science concerning middle school texts.

“Their conclusion, after reviewing those science programs,” he said in his measured way, “was that all of them — every one of them — did not meet requirements, except for one developed by MSU, and that was only a partial.

“All the others failed.”

And he explained the reasons for this situation.

“Very few scientifically oriented people have any concern about middle school,” he said, “so the people writing them tend to be teachers or textbook authors. They’re people who are good at writing textbooks but they have no solid knowledge of the subject matter.”

The other factor?

All textbook publishers produce books for only three school boards.

“They’re trying to publish books that will sell in California, Texas and Florida,” Ehlers said. “They happen to be very large states, and all of them have one unified textbook for the entire state.

“So it’s a huge market. If you can produce a textbook that sells in California, you’ll make money. If it sells in Texas and Florida as well, you’ve gotten rich.”

Like most others states, he added, “Michigan is all individual school choice.” But because of the command of the California-Texas-Florida markets, Michigan selections are limited to materials produced to satisfy the three boards of education somewhere else.

  • Sen. Joe Lieberman’s proposal to give every taxpayer an immediate $300 tax rebate sounded vaguely like Jimmy Carter’s 1978 proposal to write a federal check for $50 to every impoverished and middle-income home.

We crunched the numbers and found that, thanks in part to Carter-era inflation, $50 then would buy about as much as $130 today. Thus the Lieberman proposal is an actual increase over the old Carter proposal.

What isn’t clear at this point is whether the money would be taxable in 2002 by local, state and federal authorities (Carter’s $50 would have been). If it is taxable at current marginal rates, the actual “take home” from $300 would work out to between $170 and $200.

That's $63 to $67 in Carter-era terms.

  • To all of those who are taking potshots at Al Rietberg: Knock it off!

Rietberg took a poke in this space last week when Metropolitan Hospital President Michael Faas said, “Somebody was looking out for us.” Faas probably was referring to a higher power, and not Rietberg, when he uttered the statement. That was obvious to most people, including Rietberg.

As the real estate agent who brokered the deal on Metro’s new site on Gezon Parkway in Wyoming, Rietberg said he is willing to take some credit for the transaction, but not the kind his “friends” are apparently giving him.

“I put a ton of work into that deal,” he said. “Heck, I even got a letter of commendation from the hospital.”

What he didn’t get, apparently, was much help from his friends and business associates.

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