“When real Minnesotans have financial troubles, they sit down at the kitchen table to cut their household budget. So it’s time government does the same!”
If they gave Politicians’ Bromide of the Year Awards, this might beat out a crowded field. Ex-Governor Pawlenty particularly loved it. He always made himself the stern but fair daddy figure in the tale, scolding legislators to live within their means.
The anecdote is not only overused, it isn’t based in reality. Many real Minnesota families do more than just cut spending when under financial stress. They also pick up overtime hours, add additional jobs, seek higher paying jobs, have a stay-at-home parent return to work, and/or sell products and services from home.
They do those things on the income side of the ledger to mitigate the need for unacceptable spending cuts in food, shelter, education, training, transportation, health care, retirement, and keeping their kids off the streets. You know, the things that build long-term safety, stability and prosperity.
The truth is that not all Real Minnesotans at their kitchen tables embrace the “cut only” approach to budgeting that is being stubbornly promoted by Minnesota’s current legislative leadership as the only possible solution. We not only use a more balanced approach at our kitchen tables, most Minnesotans also vote for candidates promoting a balanced approach. Remember, 56% of Minnesotans voted in the most recent election for the two gubernatorial candidates who made no secret of their plans to increase taxes.
And then there is the Minnesota Legislature’s proposal to “cut” $750 million by declaring itself waived from federal health and human services requirements. How does that fit into this little kitchen table scenario?
If the State Legislature is all about emulating Real Minnesotans at their real kitchen tables balancing their real budgets, let’s get real. Real Minnesotans don’t say this:
“I know, honey, let’s stop caring for the most vulnerable people in our household jurisdiction, our kids. The bureacrats claim we have an obligation to obey child neglect laws. But I hereby declare their overly burdensome care and feeding requirements waived. Congratulations sweety, we balanced our budget. We certainly are courageous, innovative, and responsible financial managers!”
If Real Minnesotans sought such a waiver, the State obviously would tell them that their waiver is unobtainable. “Those are YOUR financial obligations,” the government would say. If government didn’t deny the waiver, the masses would demand that it do so, so the public didn’t have to pay to care for Mr. and Mrs. Deadbeat’s homeless kids.
The waiver game playing out at the State Capitol is almost as silly. The Minnesota Office of Management and Budget, the non-partisan fiscal referee in budget debates, has declared such a waiver “unobtainable.” “Unobtainable” is a diplomatic term of art for “delusional.” At any rate, how about we at least seek the waiver first, but not count on the savings in our spreadsheet until we learn whether the waiver is granted?
I would be overjoyed to forever retire the hackneyed kitchen table budget balancing anecdote. But if it is going to live on in political parlance, maybe legislative leaders could be a little more realistic about what actually happens at real kitchen tables.