15 thoughts on “It’s Not So Easy Being Pure — Budget Holier Than Thou

  1. John Gaterud says:

    After Gov. Pawlenty’s State of the State earlier this year, MPR invited former IR House Speaker (and current Chaska school superintendent) Dave Jennings to offer some observations on the speech. Following a lead-in about Jennings’ reputation as an “old-school” Republican (that is, a moderate interested in bipartisan accommodation in pursuit of some “greater good” implicit in a humane social contract), the interviewer (either Miller or Eichten—can’t recall whose program at moment) asked Jennings about “No New Taxes” as an operating principle of governance. He replied (to paraphrase) by conjuring Bush 41 and “The Vision Thing” (or, rather, lack thereof) in critiquing the governor and his tenure: NNT sloganeering might be politically appealing to a certain (Reagan/Jarvis) wing and descendants in the party, Jennings said, but it’s not much of a platform—let alone policy—if you’re interested in the future health, education, welfare and progress of a democratic society and its people in an increasingly complex, competitive, changing (and growing) world. Infrastructure decay is only the most visible part of such myopia…. Pretty thoughtful stuff, I thought.

  2. Newt says:

    Bruce, why is it that you hate local taxes but love state and federal taxes? Is it that accountability is too close to the voters?

  3. Among many other challenges, when candidates get locked into pledges like Emmer (who promises to fix the entire budget shortfall with spending cuts) and Seifert (no new taxes) is that it closes the door to reform. When no new taxes becomes an absolute, thoughtful proposals like those offered by last year’s 21st Century Tax Reform Commission are dead on arrival with the GOP. At a minimum, tax increases are needed to balance the reductions needed in the taxes that are inhibiting job growth. And on the spending side, MN cannot survive the increases in funding for older adult services. There are good solutions — but they take an investment NOW to preclude higher spending (and lower quality services) in the future.

    1. Newt says:

      Sorry Tom, but this makes utterly no sense. Let’s be honest – if the legislature can’t arrest its spending, then the beast needs to be starved of resources. And it’s far, far from being starved.

    2. PM says:

      I think that when Tom talks about reform, he is talking about how to make government better (more efficient, more effective, maybe more like private industry in some ways, etc.).

      I think that people who refer to government as …”the Beast” (some of whom might well intend a Biblical allusion to Satan, etc.–not necessarily Newt, who does not appear to me to a fundamentalist Christian, but then what do i know?) really do not want government to be made better, because then more people might like government–they are opposed to any government of any kind whatever, even if it was reformed in such a fashion as to be better than private industry.

      Newt, where do you fall? Are you opposed to government simply because it is government? If government could be shown to do things better than private industry, do you think that government should then do those things–even if those things were the traditional role of private industry?

  4. Newt says:

    Count me among those who are angry that government manages to fund everything but what it’s supposed to … roads, public safety, water & sewer. And of course government should fund education, but why should it cost $15K/student/year to do a lousy job?

    Many more of us (but not all) would be more successful, healthier and happier without the crushing burden of taxation and regulation. Charities, the kind that rely on voluntary contributions, would fill the void (as in 1940s-50s America).

    The politics of state dependency is fast-food for facile minds. It’s just too easy to propose solutions that require other people’s money.

  5. Newt, it’s not that the world you describe doesn’t exist anymore — it’s that it NEVER existed. When we relied on charity care in the 1950s, the country’s poverty rate was more than 22%. We had reduced that rate to about 11% by the 1970s and 80s, although the recession has sent it higher. A country in which more than one in five are living in poverty — apart from the immorality of that level — is not a country that can sustain a thriving economy. In addition, the cost per student you cite applies to Minneapolis and St. Paul; as a statewide average, your figure is about 35% higher than what actually is spent per student. And to say that the schools are doing a lousy job also ignores reality. Nationally, 2,000 high schools account for 51% of all dropouts — four of them are in Minneapolis. Certainly, education needs to improve and we need to reform how we spend public dollars; but we also need to make investments for the future. It’s no easier — or valid — to argue on the basis of myth and anecdote than it is to propose solutions that require other people’s money. MN faces a $7 billion shortfall next year — an amount roughly equal to about half of what the state spends for K-12 or about 75% of the entire Health and Human Services budget or more than ALL other state spending combined. Please tell me — without fast-food-for-facile-minds generalities — how Reps. Seifert and Emmer balance the budget through spending cuts alone AND reduce taxes as they both now have promised to do.

    1. PM says:

      Tom, I can answer you easily! Smoke and Mirrors. Works every time.

      And what is it about anecdote that is so appealing to people? (yes, that really is a rhetorical question, so i’m not expecting an answer…)

    2. Ellen Mrja says:

      Good for you, Tom. You are attempting to bring reason into the discussion. But, as you will see, reason has nothing to do with politics.

    3. Mike Kennedy says:


      I’m not sure it’s possible to reduce the budget and cut taxes to balance the budget. It may not be. I don’t think we are over taxed yet; however, if spending isn’t controlled at federal and state levels, that is the direction we are headed.

      You are incorrect about schools. By most measurement standards, they are declining and cost is increasing. Our graduation rate of less than 80 percent is less than most developed countries.

      In addition, test scores continue to trend downward. Productivity, measured as test points per dollar spent was 55 to 70 percent higher in the 1970s than now and the gap is widening.

      The fact is that many of the nations ahead of us in test scores in math, science and reading spend less per student on education than the United States.

      Spending more money clearly is not always the answer. Evaluating carefully the results against the dollars spent is something government fails to do at almost every level.

      I am not opposed to government. I believe it can do some things better than the private sector. I’m just not seeing a lot of that evidence. But I could be persuaded.

      1. Mike, I didn’t say that our schools are producing the outcomes we need and, in fact, I agree with your assessment. My point, though, was that we have different education challenges with different schools and different populations. We can’t paint every education challenge with the same broad brush. More money might be the answer to some challenges and more accountabily — including personal and family accountability — certainly must be part of the answer to other issues. Heard Obama’s point person on education innovation, James Shelton, speak the other night at St .Thomas. Was pleased that in his comments he continually stressed the absolute need for meaningful measurements to hold everyone accountable — teachers, students, unions, families and those of us who fund education.

  6. Mike Kennedy says:

    OK. I’m a little clearer on your position. Dropped by your website and looked around. You have some interesting ideas. I look forward to seeing more.

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