by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL It’s been 40 years since Steve Martin made his first appearance in Grand Rapids as a stand-up comic. Sunday evening, at the fastest ever sold-out performance of the Meijer Gardens Summer Concert Series, Martin returned to perform live before his adoring fans. This time around he appeared as a masterful banjo player performing with the Steep Canyon Rangers in an evening of “Bluegrass and Banjo.” Martin’s album “The Crow” won him a Grammy award two years ago for Best Bluegrass Album along with banjo player of the year. This past March, the Steep Canyon Rangers, in a first ever collaboration with Steve Martin, released “Rare Bird Alert,” which debuted at number one on Billboard’s Bluegrass Chart. Sunday evening’s performance rewarded the wildly appreciative crowd with smooth vocals, smart songwriting, and ferocious instrumentals with jaw-dropping harmony during the hour and 45-minute concert. Between each song Martin, ever the comic, had the audience doubled over in laughter with his edgy comedic repartee. We don’t think we’ve ever seen a bluegrass performance where the all the musicians were attired in suits. Martin was resplendent, as he fronted the band in shocking blue. You had to be there to appreciate what was probably, in our humble opinion, one of the finest evenings of music in the history of the Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Outdoor Summer Concert Series.
June 30 2011
Lawmaker proud to support another commonsense reform in Lansing State Rep. Peter MacGregor recently voted in favor of House Bill 4087, ending retiree healthcare benefits for lawmakers. Currently, Michigan lawmakers who serve at least six years are eligible for health insurance funded by taxpayers beginning at age 55. The change would affect all legislators who took office as of Jan. 1, 2007, along with all future lawmakers. “Health care benefits end upon leaving most jobs, and serving in the legislature should be no different,” said MacGregor, R-Rockford. “Most workers have taken significant reductions in benefits, and I’m proud that we’re leading by example and ending a benefit our state cannot afford.” HB 4087 now goes to the senate for consideration.
Dealing with the federal deficit I listened to a very interesting presentation last week about the history of federal tax rates from the beginning of our income tax system, 1913, through 2011. The tax rates were a maximum of 6% in 1913. They stayed at that rate until the World War I had to be paid for, when they rose to a maximum of 73%. The rates went up and down incrementally until World War II had to be paid for, when they went all the way up to a maximum of 94%. After World War II, we fought the Korean War and the Vietnam War, so those maximum rates stayed high. The politicians in charge at the time had no trouble increasing the rates to pay for wars. They did not want a deficit to continue. They wanted it gone. The rates did go down to 70% under Presidents Nixon and Carter. Then along came Ronald Reagan. He cut the rates to a maximum of 28%. We have lived with his basic system since that day. It has been a wonderful system—complicated, but wonderful. The maximum rate has now climbed up to 35%, but that is nothing compared to 94%. Apparently, there was no tea party when the rates were increased to 94%. Or perhaps the politicians back then understood that the deficit had to be paid for and couldn’t just increase infinitely without repercussions. Since the beginning of our country, the federal government from time to time has run deficits and accumulated debt, but that debt has been paid off as soon as practically possible. Now our federal deficit is over 14 trillion dollars. It won’t be paid off any time soon, perhaps never. How has it gotten so large? There are a number of reasons. First, we fought the Persian War and numerous small wars, such as the one in Serbia. Second, we continue to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and numerous small wars, such as the one in Libya. Third, various federal stimulus programs have occurred in the last few years. Fourth, upwards of 20% of our total revenue is now spent on Social Security benefits. The politicians of generations prior to 1940 did not have to deal with […]
2nd Kerri TenBrink, Mike Zagummy 3rd Maggie Chipman, Kristine Stotz, Henry VandenHeuvel 4th Louise Danielski 5th Bob Boyer, Florence Butts, David Klinger, Pattie Lachniet 6th Larry Cunningham, Doug Havemeier 7th Joan Burgess, Karen Kalemba, Mariah Main, JoAnne Martin, Ben Peterson, Barb Stein 8th Bernie Cavner, R. Graham Greenland, Olive Lawton, Judy Peters
Her granddaughter, if still living, would be 15 by BETH ALTENA Kim VerHage is a woman with practice at patience, or at least waiting out the unknown. On the day her granddaughter would turn 15 years of age, VerHage was called back to work after leaving around 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, to find vandals had broken eight windows in her bookstore. “It was the day Shannon would have turned 15, if she was allowed to live,” she lamented. She believes 15 is likely around the age of those responsible for the damage. “These kids got the chance to live, and this is what they are doing.” VerHage said periodically, over the 26 years she has owned the shop, a group of youngsters will spend their summers causing trouble for her and fellow business owners downtown before they eventually get a driver’s license and take their energy elsewhere. She wishes they would do a little more soul searching and a little less building bashing. “Look what you are doing with your life. You are doing nothing,” VerHage said when asked what she’d like to say to the culprits who have broken doors and windows, thrown around books and otherwise damaged her property over the decades. VerHage is the grandmother of Shannon Timmerman, who has never been seen or found since her mother was brutally murdered in a Newaygo County lake on federal land. The convicted killer is Marvin Gabrion, who has been on death row for years and is likely to remain there, according to VerHage, for decades more filing endless appeals. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s case seeking the younger Timmerman remains open and, according to VerHage, still active. She said she has been contacted as recently as last month by the agency, asking for pictures of the child’s father, who is her son, for creating age-progression images of what Timmerman might look like today. Shannon was less than a year old when she disappeared. VerHage said she thinks of her granddaughter often as she goes about her daily life—running the shop, caring for abandoned dogs and looking after kittens dumped near her business. VerHage’s shop is two structures, a building and a retired train car brought to Rockford in 1974 as a train […]