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Health Care Disconnects

Tried to attend a town hall forum in Saint Paul today with my Rep, Betty McCollum at Macalester's chapel. It holds 400 people. I was about 15 people back in one of the three lines for residents when they ran out of tickets. Stuck around to listen to it for a bit anyone (on loudspeaker). Ran into Sarah Humpage, a friend from Mac and HHH, so it was extra worth going.

Some fun observations:

  • Ironic to see wildly obese man booing health care reform. Seriously short sighted...
  • Small business owner dude goes on and on about how there is too much government and we need less government... oh and there should be health care portability, so when you leave your job, you can take health care with you. Ironically, this would require.... government regulation! Anyone for a LESS GOVERNMENT - MORE REGULATION cheer?
  • Conservatives want to achieve universal health care with tax breaks for poor people. Poor people can't USE tax breaks because they don't have enough income!!! Perhaps we should solve the problem of quadriplegic mobility by buying them standard transmission cars.
  • People railing against the public option idea because the government probably wouldn't cover 'x' ... it's an OPTION! Don't freaking use it if you don't think it will cover your shit. Look up "option" in the dictionary.

Minnesota Government Spending Explained

Pawlenty seems to have a lot of support throughout Minnesota by his supposed stand against new taxes (though, as I have noted previously, he has raised taxes by branding them "fees"). However, I think a lot of this support is predicated on an ignorance of where taxes go.

This ignorance can hardly be blamed on the public at large - civics classes in high school are poor and even those who worked for government for years can barely explain what the government spends money on. The simple truth is that government is really frickin complicated while being extremely vulnerable to bumpersticker-type attacks. I doubt most people can even separate local government functions from state or federal at this point.

For those who are interested in trying to understand where state tax money goes, I suggest a couple of recent articles from Matt Entenza's MN 2020 think tank, located in Saint Paul. Both are by Jeff Van Wychen. The first is "Minnesota's Government Growth in Context" - which responds to a right wing blogger making faulty assertions about the ways the current state budget has changed from a number of decades ago.

If you are trying to figure out one of the reasons government spends so much more now than it did in the 60's, start there. Some of the reasons include higher education spending (things like special-needs classes, ESL, etc), and environmental programs (the all high and mighty market produces things like dead waterways and air pollution if it is not closely regulated by the government). He does not note the costs to all levels of government of our busted legal system (which cannot handle the millions of people we seem to need to lock up). Maybe I assume it is a larger drag on the economy than it really is, but I find that hard to believe.

The second article is "Minnesota Communities: The Biggest Budget Cutters" and notes that the decreases in government spending are overwhelmingly coming from local governments, not state governments. Pawlenty has found the political courage to veto tax increases but has done little to curb spending - preferring instead to rely on budget gimmicks and one-time money that make our problems worse (but what does he care, he won't be governor when his deferred shit hits the fan).

Pawenty may make a great national politician - he seems adept at doing little while taking credit for much. Minnesota communities have had to cut their budgets because Pawlenty has not cut back spending in Minnesota, he has just limited the money going back to local governments (who are forced to both cut services and raise property taxes - something Pawlenty ironically attacks as he has proven incapable of lowering MN spending).

Pawlenty cuts aid to the cities because he has not decreased the MN budget. Then he blames them for raising property taxes - something akin to an observation my friend James made about national Republicans bitched about the deficit - it amounts to little more than arsonists complaining about the fire department wasting water.

Plenty of Pawlenty

Minnesota's Governor has announced he is not running for reelection. No real surprise there - political observers announced as much when Pawlenty announced his budget plan 6 months ago. They noted he was deferring and enlarging the problem, and would probably explode in a few years.

Here we have a governor who pledged not to raise taxes. A few years ago, he did raise taxes on cigarettes but he labeled it "a fee," so it didn't count. Nevermind that the gas tax is literally a fee that we pay to maintain the roads, he decided that could not be raised (fortunately, the Legislature overrode him - generating desperately needed revenue for our infrastructure).

Pawlenty even had my support a few short years ago. I don't know that I would have voted for him in most circumstances, but I praised him for not being a standard Republi-ostrich on global climate change. The times have changed - he has swung massively to the right on energy. Turns out he was all rhetoric and no action ... after groups he put together recommended actions to deal with climate change, he refused to implement nearly all of them.

He is the darling of the right-wing and entirely too many centrists because of his stand against raising taxes. Nevermind that we are talking about going back to the tax level from a few short years ago - when we apparently lived in a socialist country if you listen to the pundits. In a stronger economy, we cut taxes too far (particularly for the wealthiest). Now we have too little revenue for the government services passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.

This is the dirty little secret of Pawlenty - while he refuses to raise taxes, he also does not veto spending bills (unless there is a provision that would do something horrific like allow gay people equal rights or allow dying people to smoke a joint out of medical necessity). Like so many other Republicans, he cannot identify the wasteful or unnecessary government spending programs that we should eliminate to live within our means. As the Republicans have done since Reagan, he chooses to borrow and spend rather than ask the richest amongst us to give some more back to the society that allowed them to succeed.

I have a pretty good life - something that would not have been possible without all the great infrastructure that surrounds us and allows our markets to produce so many great goods. I have a good education because generations before me paid their taxes. I have no problem paying my share to ensure that future generations will have similar opportunities. Heck, I don't even mind that the urban area in which I live pays taxes that go out and build roads throughout the rural areas of the state (that could not afford to build their own because the tax base is too small).

But people like Pawlenty thrive by convincing millions that taxes are unfair and no one should have to pay anything to the government because big city liberals want to give your money to lesbians so they can get married and have abortions together.

I now find Pawlenty revolting. Not so much because of who he is, but because of the people who love him. Just as so many (even in the end!) could not see through the fraud of Bush, many of my fellow Minnesotans will love Pawlenty and never understand how his irresponsible brand of let-the-grandkids-pay-for-it-because-I-have-greater-ambitions-than-Minnesota has hurt our great state.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that I half want to see him do well in the Republican party because I am more afraid of the "Christian" fundamentalists that have been dominating that party even as the rest of American increasingly becomes rightfully skeptical of turning our republic into a theocracy. But I also want to see him fail because I'm afraid of what his brand of fiscal irresponsibility would do to our country -- as with Clinton, we need a few more years of healing the economy before we let Republicans in charge of it again.

Steve Perry published a "http://www.politicsinminnesota.com/2009/jun04/3275/pawlenty-he-got-out-while-getting-was-still-good">good roundup of Pawlenty's record on Politics in Minnesota. He finishes with a sad prediction:

Pawlenty saw it coming and knew it was his last chance to get out with high approval marks. There are still 19 difficult months to go, but he'll enhance his margin of error by backloading his unallotment cuts to year two of the upcoming biennium, which means the worst of them won't start hitting the fan until he's got only 6-8 months left in office. That's a riskier fiscal approach than frontloading the cuts, because it would only exacerbate the impact of any additional revenue shortfalls in year two of the biennium. But there's no question it's what's best for Tim Pawlenty.

Climbing on KARE

This is where Kimmi, Michelle, and I climb.

Op-ed in Pioneer Press

After a commentary in the local paper by some so-called free market types (so-called because they are against government, not for functioning markets), I called the paper to ask for some balanced coverage. This was Wednesday. I wrote this column that afternoon.

Riverview is for the dogs

Our favorite local theatre, Riverview, had a showing of Marley and Me last night - for dogs!

Gopher Soccer - NCAA Tournament on Friday

What are you doing on Friday night?

Watching GOPHER SOCCER!!! The NCAA tournament has come to Minnesota - and Minnesota is playing its best season in over a decade. Friday night, 6:00 PM, the place to be is the soccer stadium - Elizabeth Lyle Robbie - north of the St. Paul Campus (ask me for directions). Gophers are hosting the first round of the national playoffs.

Gophers fell in the Big Ten Title match to Penn State on Sunday - and I want to blog about it, but I'm swamped with work of all varieties.

You should definitely plan to attend this game. Dress warm. Have fun. Support great soccer in Minnesota!

Voting the Morning in MN

Thanks to Moldy Blue Cheese Curds blog, I can tell you that MN law encourages you to vote early on Tuesday. No excuses - get out there.

An employee has a right to be absent from work for the purpose of voting "during the morning of" election day. This time off is paid. (Minn. Stat. Section 204C.04)

Woe for the Southern Suburbs

If you missed it - a woman at McCain's Lakeville rally is insanely stupid.

Fortunately, SNL didn't pick on MN when featuring this crazy lady (who apparently lives in Shakopee?). Stick with the SNL skit - it gets lame toward the middle but really finishes funny.

Minneapolis Biking

People regularly biking in Minneapolis may find a recent City Pages feature on the most dangerous biking intersections in Minneapolis. The good news for me - I only really ride across two of them with any regularity.

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