A Wee Suggestion for Debate Moderators

Some years ago, TV networks scaled way back on their live coverage of party conventions because, well, nothing much was happening at them beyond scripted and slickly produced promotional stuff. Having watched the past few presidential debates of both parties, I’m starting to wonder if the same thing might make sense for debates.

The Democratic debate in Nevada the other night was a case in point. Was it the least substantive debate of this campaign? Or maybe ever? The moderators, especially NBC’s Tim Russert, were asking some fairly direct and even hard-hitting questions, and time after time the candidates found ways sidestep them and parrot back the dozen or so words on their Coolest Words Ever Lists (TM) : health care, education, huge corporations, etc. And even they seemed bored by it.

Of course, it’s no wonder, really. It’s the easiest path, they get high-fives from their PR people backstage and they’re largely allowed to get away with it. So, moderators, here’s a respectful and handy four-word phrase to add to your note sheets.

“Please answer the question.”

– Hornseth

I-35W Bridge Fallout and a Taste of Crow

The National Transportation Safety Board issues a report that the I-35W bridge collapse was most likely caused by a design flaw, and — surprise surprise — there’s a flap over politics.

And one of our readers suggests a diet of crow to me and the people like me (dreaded liberals) who wondered if the bridge collapse was a symptom of politicians and the people who vote for them not being willing to pay taxes to support a state that works.

Here’s what a TSRC reader posted:

How do you guys like your crow prepared … medium, well done?

I’m talking about the post you will never write about Pawlenty & Molnau’s COMPLETE EXONERATION on the I-35 bridge collapse. The NTSB report concluded it was a DESIGN FLAW that happened long before Pawlenty took office, and not insufficient maintenance due to an “under resourced” MnDOT, as you clowns have asserted from the very moment the bridge collapsed.

You knee-jerk gas taxers look like big idiots.

You did then, and you most certainly do now.I’d invite you all and Nick Coleman out to a crow dinner if I could find a restaurant that welcomes whiney DFL hacks.

I love that someone is, number one, still reading this blog, and, number two, beating on us (me mostly) in a rowdy fashion.

Crow? Pass the hot sauce. I’ll eat some. I’ve eaten plenty in my time.

Let’s skip the political flap and stipulate, for argument’s sake, that the NTSB’s final findings also say the main problem was a design flaw. And let’s stipulate that the NTSB is correct.

Where does that leave us “knee-jerk gas taxers”?

A little chastened, me. I never said the bridge collapse was because of bad maintenance because of low taxes — I said the collapse could turn out to be a case of that, and if so we should learn from it. But I have a strong streak of “I’m so right” in me, and I could stand to curb that.

Overall, and this will come as no surprise to the reader whose post is above, I haven’t changed my view. As a society, we are not paying as we go — for nuclear power, for infrastructure maintenance, for the war in Iraq — because too many politicians know the simplistic “no new taxes” line will get the votes of too many citizens who are, understandably, tired of paying taxes and believe there is a free lunch out there somewhere.

My bigger point, and one that neither I nor most liberals make clearly enough, is that the tax burden is not fairly shouldered. It’s not about No New Taxes or Lower Taxes or Knee-Jerk Throw Money At The Problem Higher Taxes. It’s about fair taxes.

Those with a lot of resources pay a smaller percentage in taxes than those with fewer resources. And too many at the top pay almost nothing. And I just don’t believe that’s fair. If the very wealthy and the corporations who keep the tax-dodge lawyers busy were paying their share, I’d feel better about paying mine. And we’d have more money to maintain Minnesota and build a future for our kids.

The presidential election will tell us a lot about who’s selling what and who’s buying what. It’s easy to say the Democrats are for higher taxes and the Republicans are for lower taxes. But who’s going to make taxes fair, and then tell us straight when we have to pony up for something? That’s the person who deserves to be president.

The NTSB flap? It’s not surprising that some are saying the report is politically slanted. George Bush has put so many unqualified political hacks in government it’s reasonable to question this one. But the whole board concurred in the decision, so it is likely accurate. 

No matter what happened to the bridge over the Mississippi, the issue remains. We’re not being fair with taxes, and we’re not being honest about taxes and what we spend them on. We elect the people who tell us we can have something for nothing. It’s our own doing. If the bridge isn’t a symbol of fooling ourselves, then the debt we’re piling up on our children is, and the closed libraries and packed schoolrooms and metastasizing jails are.

Let’s be fair and honest about taxes. I’m naive enough to believe that someone can do that and be elected.  And if I’m wrong about that, send in the crows.

— Bruce Benidt small business bookkeeping kind