Thoughts on the Snyder-Schauer debate

An argumentum ad passiones ad nauseam (an “appeal to emotion to the point of nausea”) was the debate between Gov. Rick Snyder and former Rep. Mark Schauer. In it, every question was a great question, every issue was a critical issue, and everyone was an inspiration to everyone else. I was reminded of why I became an independent in the first place.

I found Snyder’s clichés about his belief in education almost as annoying as Schauer’s cliché about the importance of educators in society. It was not that their clichés were untrue; it was that they are so obviously true that they insulted the intelligence more than they increased it. On a superficial level, if you watched the debate muted, Schauer won hands down, looking the more impressive, but if you watched and heard the debate, Snyder won. One would be hard-pressed to decide which debate would have been the drier.

First on the program was Schauer’s oft made accusation against Snyder that he had cut a billion dollars from education, Snyder insisting that his K-12 budget was in fact a billion dollars more than what it had been before he took office. The Michigan Department of Technology Management agrees with Snyder, and only partially with Schauer. But despite the halfheartedly contentious debate over a billion dollars, both candidates managed to agree that children are our future, because as Eminem once said, “We need a little controversy.”

Hopeless that one side would cede to the other, the moderators moved the debate on to education. Schauer criticized “these unregulated schools with sweetheart real estate deals,” promising further regulation of charter schools, and, in essence, for better education for more students for less. It was when Schauer said that “education should not be a profit-making venture” that I was awoken from my semi catatonic state.

Here, the term “for-profit” is a misnomer. It is fallacious to suppose that public schools are any less concerned with making profits than are private schools. Employees of both expect their paychecks. The only purely not-for-profit work I can think of is volunteer work. The term “for-profit” tells me more about the person using the term than the thing being described. When Schauer says that “education should not be a for profit venture” or when former Representative Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat, decries “for-profit” medical care, the distinction being made is not between “not-for-profit” and “for-profit” but between public and private. The logic is simple: government is “not-for-profit,” not-government is “for-profit.” And yes, Republicans do it too.

Whenever a politician says X shouldn’t be “for-profit,” no one should own X, everyone should have access to X, or that X ought to be a “public service,” remember that it is only a matter of time before the solution proposed is the creation of a government monopoly. As Anglo-French historian Hilaire Belloc wrote in his 1913 work “The Servile State,” “to puts property into the hands of 'none' means to vest it…in the hands of political officers,” regardless of “whether these public officers themselves are themselves controlled by the community.” As for political officers being controlled by their communities, voters may vote but politicians redistrict.

Three things that annoyed me most in the debate: First, the faux authenticity on both sides. Second, the false opposites, Rick Snyder and Mark Schauer being a microcosm of the different but not opposite Republicans and Democrats. And third, the use the same words to describe completely different things, exemplified by both candidates referring to their tax policies as the policy of “tax fairness.”

While some might say that it's better to vote for the lesser of two evils, the candidates often (almost always in my opinion) are not so evil, just incompetent. But in the land of the blind, the one-eye is king. This November, I'll be voting for one-eye.

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