Forced charity hits a nerve

Just so you know, you may soon start seeing a $1 per month surcharge on your electricity bill.
Jul 12, 2013


Your dollar will be funneled into a fund that subsidizes heating bills for those in the state who can’t afford to pay their own tabs. It will raise up to $50 million per year from electric customers statewide.

The bill that allows for this new surcharge was approved 86-21 in the House and 34-4 in the Senate. It was signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Rick Snyder.

When Snyder signed the measure, he told news reporters that it would “provide a long-term solution to help Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens with their home energy and heating needs.”

That sure sounds like a nice sentiment, but since when is it OK to force charitable giving on utility customers who might or might not struggle in their own right to pay for the electricity they personally use?

Commenters on the Michigan Votes website had this to say about the measure:

• “Redistributing the wealth! Total socialism. I wish to choose what charities I contribute to and how much. Not have a mandate from the government.”
• “I already donate to needy causes. All the surcharges that the state wants are BS. I make just over $20,000 a year and am being bled dry by the people in Lansing after insurance, gas tax and other surcharges.”
• “I don’t know about anyone else, but you guys have already drained me dry. I am not rich, but I am not considered to be low income, either. I am disabled and have already had so much taken from me.”
• “I’m trying to raise my kids and the State of Michigan is just making me want to move!”

We find it hard to disagree with these sentiments.

Instead of zapping people with yet another fee or surcharge, why not ask customers if they’d like to have their bills rounded up to the next dollar? Why not ask customers if they would like to donate?

Surely this would generate support from those who choose to help charitable causes, and allow an opt-out option for those who might not have extra money available to give.

As this bill sped through the Legislature, it may be that many people didn’t know about it. But we do now.

Call your local legislator and make your opinion known. It is never too late to question authority.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.



Doug Zylstra

The GH Tribune Ed Board cannot be serious here? We cross-subsidize all the time. Sports page readers subsidize editorial page readers, for example, and that's no problem. Downtown pedestrians subsidize car drivers through free parking. Is it simply because the recipients are elderly or low-income that this is a problem here?

Doug Zylstra

And the 'Forced Charity' title is great; especially when groups like the Michigan Catholic Conference pushed heavily for its passage.


Why is this even a story? In the Brave New World of socialism that we now inhabit, taxpayers are already paying other people's mortgages, food and entertainment, transportation, casinos, strip clubs, liquor, medical bills, college bills, and of course, Obamaphones. Before my liberal friends get their panties in a twist, although free cell phones have hugely expanded, the program has been around for a long time - look on your phone bill and you will find a fee for USF (Universal Service Fund) originally providing landlines for those in rural areas that need phones for safety, but now seen differently

Under this vibrant Obama economy, the number of people receiving food stamps is greater than the number of people in America working full time. (I know, Lanivan, let's say it together: It's not Obama's fault - this is really the Bush economy). The only fault I have with the heating oil program is it is contributing to global warming - couldn't we donate some wind, sunlight or algae instead?


Your expression, "panties in a twist", has now taken on a new meaning since I just recently learned that my all-time favorite brand of undergarments are a division of Koch Industries. The bitter irony of it all.

Now that the SCOTUS has declared corporations living, breathing people, the subsidization of corporate America in the form of corporate welfare has now nearly eclipsed the social safety net. Witness the Farm Bill that just passed the House. Kept all the Big Agribusiness and Big Farm subsidies and corporate welfare handouts in place, but made enormous cuts to the SNAP program. We mustn't let our little children grow up thinking their food comes from the government! They might grow up and vote democrat, you know.

Yes, I will join in the chorus - "It's really the Bush economy". 47 million on food stamps - more collateral damage from the severe Bush Recession. And also fall-out from the 2002 Bush Farm Bill, signed by - BUSH - which allowed, for the first time, legal immigrants to qualify for food stamps immediately upon entering the country.

Some might be really steamed over subsidizing free cell phones with limited monthly minutes for poor folk, but the subsidization of this maleficent individual's antics with my taxes has my Koch Industry undergarments in a twist....http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes...


This should really knot up those panties: But... But... But... CITIZENS UNITED!*!?!?#!!!***~@!~!~!!!

If the Obama administration hadn't vaulted itself past the Nixon Administration in dirty dealings, lying, cover-ups, and lawlessness, Issa would just be another California Congressman. This should help those Koch Brothers product of yours


Maybe you and others would be more comfortable with a home heating program that was modeled after the Michigan Lottery. Think of the millions that would pour in, way more than the measly buck a month!

As for your, yes, it did indeed tie 'em in a knot, but they are made so da#n good, fit so perfectly, and hold up so well to repeated washings and twistings, I'm covered. I still don't like those dudes.

If that's the best you can do in defense of the Maleficent One, he's in big trouble. Popcorn and beer will be consumed seeing if his national media sycophants can do a better job than the local ones.

You far-right wingers are all alike, driven by the.."haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy". H.L. Mencken


Rome is beginning to burn and we can't decide who should turn on the water!


About as harsh as this guy....

I'm committed to turning on the water, but Vlad keeps poking holes in the hose. You're not much of a lifeguard either, for that matter...


The facts about about Democrat groups taking advantage of Citizens United far more than Republicans, and the unfairly maligned Koch brothers should teach everyone about relying on activists and the media for their information. Of course, the latter truly believe that they are far smarter and better informed than the yokels who consume their information . . . . their superior intelligence is demonstrable


The three of you should go to your favorite watering holes for a nice dinner with your spouses, and there during the evening, offer a silent toast to each of you, but raise your glasses high so all can see something special occurred. Here's to Lani, Vlad, Wing, she/he is a good ........... should do it.


What a lovely idea! Wing could crack us up with his insufferable jokes, Vlad could wax lyrical with a synopsis of the recent rulings of the activist Roberts Court, and I could play melancholy Dave Brubeck on the piano in the would be invited too, WW!

Yes - we are approaching our first year anniversary at (in)glorious debating, and it's been fun except when the boys don't get their way and have a snit. And speaking of Anniversary Gift Ideas, Vlad and Wing, one that would be most appreciated would be if just once you agreed with me on something of a significant political nature. No rush, surprise me!


Maybe we could agree that it is unlikely this article really represents the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board; since there has been a dearth of comments for a while, they decided to throw out some "comment bait."

Perhaps hoping Mystic Michael would leave the Moscow Airport to opine on the metaphysical aspects of the new subsidy.


Agreed. Lord knows I tried to rev things up a bit...even the NYT's Maureen has resorted to fluff in a similar vein.

MM would most assuredly bring a discussion of mind-body dualism to the table that would draw out commenters from their mid-summer Michigan stupors. Maybe you could lead the thread to a confabulation of Thomas Merton and his approach to the controversial issue of heating subsidies.

While you, MM, and Wing eventually, inevitably, come to blows, I could seek refuge in my ongoing studies of primordial deities.

Mystic Michael

I could take 'em both - with my prefrontal cortex tied behind my back.



No doubt in my mind....

The opposite of talking is not listening. The opposite of talking is waiting. Fran Lebowitz


....Oh waiter, check please!


...And you have just proven every one of my points!


Would hate wasting my evening trying to follow dead end talking points. Then once the light of truth is turned on causing uncomfortable garment wear, we would then have to listen and watch to see if the mystic could walk across rice paper without leaving a trace while you use Tibetian moutain spring water to sprinkle on his brow keeping his frontal grey matter from melting down!


Are you fricken' kidding me? What could be more fun than that!!??

And you probably spend good money on 'Grown Ups 2'.....


If you are suggesting an additional $1.00 subsidy per garment as a way to make up for the [unfair] malignization of the Koch Brothers, I'm afraid you will get zero support from me.

However, I'm happy to report that you have successfully refuted your mentor, Mencken, by providing a link that made me laugh so hard I about split a gut.

Mystic Michael

Here we go again...

The "vibrant Obama economy" (he stated sarcastically)? You sure you really want to go there?

The Republicans in Congress force an artificial debt ceiling crisis - resulting in a downgrading of the federal government's AAA credit rating for the first time in history - yet somehow the lukewarm economic recovery is Obama's fault? The House Republicans prefer to play politics with 39 consecutive failed votes to overturn the Affordable Care Act (the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has shown that the ACA will reduce public health care expenditures by many billions of dollars - a very positive economic effect), instead of passing a jobs bill that could help stimulate badly-needed consumer demand - yet somehow the lukewarm economic recovery is Obama's fault? Republicans in Congress continue to enable the draining of the US Treasury via larcenous corporate welfare programs, while systematically sabotaging funding for vital public investment projects that function as the backbone for American business - yet somehow the lukewarm economic recovery is Obama's fault?

(If anything, I fault Obama for keeping up the bumbling, Jimmy Stewart-style "nice guy" schtick while the Rethuglican hoodlums virtually burn the place down all around him - instead of kicking @$$ and taking names, as he should be doing!)

Rail against reality all you want, Vlad, from the security of your fact-free little cocoon. But please don't ask the rest of us to join you there in Wingnut World.


Uh, ah the name calling! Apparently the grey matter between your temples is hardening.

The audacity of no hope, calling the choosen one bumbling...what is the world coming to.

I recommemd ten hours straight of MSNBC for reprogramming.

Now we are five years into our decline and because Bush nashing and bashing is not in vogue, you blame Repubs for O's lack of leadership. Remember, he had Dem majorities in his first two years!

The bumbling you speak of is a clear indication of his inexperience as he has no training. Think about it really, we have a complete novice running the country because we have sunken into feel good politics. At least we have a leader that can take anyone on in a one on one game of basketball!

Say, does anyone know what happened in Libya yet?


Ah, the popup virus reappears! This is a particularly virulent form of malware that makes mileading and false pronunciamentos as though from on high. The danger, of course, is that some may willingly suspend disbelief and listen to it.

In this case, the virus thinks it can make everyone forget :

That Obamacare was passed using reconciliation - a process reserved for budget bills and could only get enough Democrat votes by offering bribes and kickbacks to key Democrat Senators.

Obamacare was only passed by tailoring some provisions to get the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to certify its 10 year cost at $940 billion dollars, even though HHS was aware that the Actuaries for Medicare and Medicaid had a study showing it would be far more expensive. The latest CBO estimate is $2.6 TRILLION!

Obama handed out over 1,200 "waivers" to companies and unions from having to implement Obamacare.

Obama is spending money to set up federal exchanges in states that refused to set one up, contrary to the provisions of his own law.

Just last month, Obama unconstitutionally determined he would not enforce the employer mandate in his own law, relieving big business of paying the higher taxes but continuing the tax on individuals. This is estimated to add $10 billion to the government's cost.

The CBO report cited by the virus actually projects reduced spending on Medicare and Medicaid, but says most of it is eaten up by additional spending under Obamacare, and is contingent on continuing the $716 billion Obama took from Medicare to put into Obamacare (goodbye Medicare Advantage Plans).

In States implementing Obamacare, the costs of insurance have skyrocketed.

The May 2013 CBO report projects that regardless of the increased taxes, subsidies, penalties and mandates, the number of Americans who will remain uninsured never falls below 30 MILLION!

Obamacare is causing an explosion in part time workers, as the law provides the employer tax does not have to be paid for workers employed under 30 hours per week.

Detroit and Chicago will dump all of their early retiree health care costs on Obamacare, and you and I will be paying for the health insurance of big city public sector union retirees - WHEEE!

That is the reality of Obamacare, not to mention that it forces your personal doctor to give all of your personal medical information to the IRS - what could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, viruses tend to be difficult to remove, so don't be surprised if more misleading information from this virus appears on your screen shortly.


He, he...anti virus Vladware! Only available while freedom last. Supply is running short patriots, act quickly. Time tested protection developed over years of study;-)


Not wishing to dive head-first into the winding river of Vlad/MM discussion, but your comment regarding Medicare stood out amongst your seamless fact manipulations:

"The CBO report cited by the virus actually projects reduced spending on Medicare and Medicaid, but says most of it is eaten up by additional spending under Obamacare, and is contingent on continuing the $716 billion Obama took from Medicare to put into Obamacare (goodbye Medicare Advantage Plans)."

Am I to assume by this pronouncement that you disapprove of the Ryan budget, the one that just passed the House, again for the 3rd time, and will be shot down again for the 3rd time by both democrat and republican Senators?

You know the one - the policy reform budget that hides behind "deficit control", but is in fact a blatant attempt at conservative, "right-wing social engineering" (your mentor, Newt's words) that offers deeply unpopular, radical ideas, such as turning Medicare into a voucher system.

Good-bye Medicare Advantage Plans, and all Medicare Plans while we're at it - and all of you Baby Boomer retired folks who have paid into Medicare your entire working lives, disabled folks, folks living at poverty levels, in fact, let's just say all of you who are not in the 1% or a living, breathing corporation - don't let the door hit you on the derriere on your way out.

Would love to read your list on this.


Don't understand the last question.


Really. And what "last question" are you referring to, given that there is only one question within the entire content of my comment?

Either you are stalling, don't want to answer, don't have an answer, pulling pigtails, didn't actually read the comment, or I have been deleted off your list.

C'mon Vladdy.....


I took this as a question: "Would love to read your list on this"

Regarding your first question, of course I support the House budget plan - the Senate, which deigned to pass a budget for the first time in 4 years, continued their ruinous tax and spend agenda.

FYI - the House Medicare proposal mirrors the FEHB (Federal Employees Health Benefits Program) which is pretty good - not as good as the union Cadillac plans, but superior to what Medicare is now.

Mystic Michael

Typical Impish disingenuity. Once again. It follows an all too familiar pattern:

1) Make specious claim, ignoring all evidence to the contrary
2) Open oneself to a fact-based refutation of same
3) Attempt desperately to distract attention by changing the topic, while simultaneously generating a fevered whirlwind of half-truths, smear, slanted interpretations - and taunts

Can anyone - other than the most weak-willed & simple-minded - really be taken in by this guy's rhetorical gimmickry? Any reasonable, thinking person has by now learned to consider the source, and simply will not be conned anymore by all his extreme, bloviating nonsense.


Perhaps he was distracted by the notion your prefrontal cortex was tied behind your back....



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