On more than one occasion, Governor Tim Pawlenty has given a condescending scolding to DFL legislative leaders about the need to “ stay within our credit card limit.”
The use of the credit card symbolism seems to be Pawlenty trying to frame himself as the responsible father figure of Minnesota. Linguist George Lakoff has noted that Republicans are very disciplined about framing themselves as “strict fathers” of the state or national family. While Democrats are portrayed by Republicans as the overly permissive mommies, Republicans frame themselves as the stern but fair daddy. Daddy will stop the children from getting soft and dependent. Daddy will stop mommie from spending irresponsibly to spoil the children. Wait until your daddy comes home!
…and one of the things the stereotypical stern father figure says when he comes home is “stay within your credit card limit.” Thank goodness our fiscally responsible daddy is there to save us from ourselves, because running up the credit card can ruin our credit rating and leave us without a rainy day reserve!
But wait just a minute. Where is the news media when Pa TPaw, in the lead up to the national veepstakes, balances the state budget by spending nearly half of our state savings account? That is, instead of cutting and/or taxing more, the Governor and Legislature (who also should be held accountable) spent down the state’s general fund reserves well below the level recommended by Minnesota’s non-partisan Council of Economic Advisors.
That reserve is intended to smooth over cash flow fluctuations. Keeping the reserve at recommended levels keeps our bond rating high, and interest payments low.
Does father really know best?