"All that is old and already formed can continue to live only if it allows within itself the conditions of a new beginning."
Thank You, Lawmakers.
You Are Hereby Excused
Posted 12:10 p.m., July 9, 2005
Guess congratulations are in order for the crackerjack team of lawmakers and negotiators at the State Capitol.
It's a bit hard to feel real laudatory. The entire state is left a bit in the position of a lit professor who receives a weak, mostly plagiarized final essay on the musical genius of Britney Spears from a mouthy problem student, seven weeks after the term has ended.
Sure the work is done. Gotta acknoweldge that. But what kind of credit do you expect to receive for it? The grade for that kind of effort, most sorry to say, is a flat "F."
Who's to blame? Who cares? In the language of baseball, it is time to designate the entire team for reassignment.
The Star Tribune notes that the real effect of the shutdown was relatively small, which probably is a prelude to phrases campaign handlers will be using in the warm-up to Election '06, when everyone's job comes up for reelection. But "small" is itself a relative term.
Stack this performance up alongside the do-nothing performance of last year's Legislature--a government so mired that it couldn't even pass the usually automatic state bonding bill. It did pass this session--wow!--but only after forcing taxpayers to wait a year and fork out significantly more money for the same slate of projects, because interest rates have risen and construction costs, naturally, are up. Nice work, that.
How does this government rate then?
Well, there's never been a shutdown before. So that's an easy enough marker to point to when saying that this government is the worst in Minnesota history.
There's been a lot of wringing of hands, folks defending these bush leaguers on the grounds that there are "real differences in ideas," and "real differences in the direction that politicians want to take the state."
So what? Have there never been differences before among previous governors and legislatures in this state? The real problem, seems to me, is this bogus Good vs. Evil mentality that now permeates both parties, this Roe v. Wade-fueled polarization that has people on both sides convinced that the enemy lies in wait on the other side of the aisle and the only thing to do is to keep firing until the musket gets too hot to hold.
This is supposed to be about what's best for the state of Minnesota. And when you can't agree on that, dear leaders, you compromise, for the good of the people that hired you to take responsibility for running their public affairs.
Special mention goes to the governor. Any Legislature, it has been said, operates like a kindergarten without supervision. The governor is supposed to be that supervisor.
But instead of operating like a governor corralling wayward kiddies on the floors of the House and Senate, he has functioned like a doddering old grandpa who just can't bear to discipline the children.
Put another way, he has acted not as a governor at all, but as a Prime Minister, representing not the broad citizenry as he is supposed to in a democracy, but as a parliamentary advocate representing only the interests of the Republican Party, negligently abandoning the wider interests of the state.
That is a plain failure, Governor, particularly considering that you owe your job largely to the state's independent voting contigent, who abandoned the Democrats and the Independence Party in 2002 in the wake of that ill-considered Wellstone memorial.
Is it true, what they've said? That you are using us as a stepping stone to the vice presidency? We're not interested in being your ladder, sir. We want to be the object of your complete focus. And, knowing you as we do, we'd probably discourage you from thinking you're vice presidential material in the first place.
Peter Hutchinson, the semi-declared candidate for governor under the Independence Party banner, rightly, I think, predicted in a conversation with me last week that the back-patting will begin now. The spin on this will be that the government has compromised, that they did get their work done, that they burned the midnight oil and worked an extra, extra long time to get the best deal for Minnesotans.
Don't buy it for an instant.
You're saying we had to wait seven extra weeks, send 9,000 state employees home on unwelcome furlough, just to get a deal that holds spending at the last year's levels? That all this was about keeping the lights on? That means we lose, people. Things bought this year on last year's budget aren't going to cost the same amount today that they did a year ago. It's an automatic loss.
And further, what about transportation, just to name one colossal issue? What do we have? We're heading toward more of the same gridlock on our roads that plagues the government, because nothing got done. Not even shifts and gimmicks. Just nothing.
No, this session wasn't about compromise. This was about positioning to please the respective bases of the two major parties. Gov. Pawlenty and many of his Republican lawmakers said no new taxes and stuck to his guns. A principled move. It just happens to be based on an asinine principle.
The Democrats, Dean Johnson in particular, promised to govern from the center. He said that when you play golf, the best place to hammer the ball is straight down the fairway, avoiding the trees to the left and the right. So it is, he said, in governing.
But his tax proposal was an old-line, straight out of central casting left-wing tax hike on the wealthy. Now, jacking marginal tax rates paid by the wealthy to bring them line with rates everyone else pays is fine, but it's not enough. Someone, somewhere, is going to have to call for shared sacrifice.
So the band-aid rollers will be out in force, trying to gauze over the ugly cankers.
My prediction? It won't work this time. You can try to hide the disease from our eyes, spinmeisters, but you've got a problem. These sores have been festering so long now, they stink to high heaven. And you can't make that aroma disappear.
So go ahead, get your piddling done next week and go home, ladies and gentleman of the state Capitol. And get real comfortable. Because no matter where you live, you're heading back to Throw The Bums Out Country.
Memo from the Sour Grapes Department: Does anyone honestly think any of this would have happened had Tim Penny been elected governor three years ago? Jes' sayin'.
-- Kevin Featherly