Blame the voters for government shutdown

The poorly informed “common sense” talk radio and music dj’s are in full “throw the bums out” mode when it comes to the state government shutdown here in Minnesota. It’s all about blaming the politicians instead of those who put them there. And nobody’s even mentioning the root of the problem: the “no new taxes” pledge.

Both DFL Governor Mark Dayton and the Republicans are doing what they were elected to do. Dayton was elected to raise taxes on the rich (by fewer than 50 percent of Minnesotans). Republicans were given control of both houses of the Legislature because voters fell for the “no new taxes” pledge. Thanks, Tea Party (and your Big Oil and Republican enablers).

“No new taxes” is a nationwide movement, and it’s hamstrung dozens of state governments. It’s been pushed by national organizations like Americans for Tax Reform, led by Republican lobbyist Grover Norquist, and state organizations like the Taxpayers’ League of Minnesota, formerly led by David Strom and currently by Phil Krinkie.

Put simply: “No new tax” is a ruse.

It sounds good to “common sense” voters: Limit politicians from taxing, which will force them to cut spending.

To understand the reality apparently requires uncommon sense, which we need a lot more of in the U.S.A.

In Minnesota, “no new taxes” has actually meant increased fees (licenses, user fees, park permits, etc.), increased property taxes, a shift of the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class, and a redistribution of wealth from lower earners to higher earners. The Department of Revenue — even under Republican Gov. Pawlenty — said the rich in Minnesota pay less on the dollar than the middle class when you figure in the entire tax burden.

“No new taxes” means higher taxes for the middle class because neither party has the courage to cut spending enough to make a dent in the state’s total tax bill — just like at the federal level, where the spending cuts amount to a fraction of a percent of the federal budget. In D.C., no one will touch defense or Medicare. It St. Paul, no one will touch education, roads, or public safety (cops and courts). In both cases, the poor (health and human services) bear the brunt of spending cuts because politicians exaggerate their share of the budget.

Politicians are supposed to do two things: tax and spend. The very idea of a pledge not to perform one of government’s core duties means compromise is off the table. The equivalent would be the Democrats saying “no cuts in spending.” If you sign a pledge that you won’t increase/decrease taxes or spending, any “compromise” you make is not worthy of the name.

For Democrats, taxing and spending are both on the table, as they should be. For Republicans, only one.

“No new taxes” means we can’t even change the revenue formula to raise taxes in one area and cut them in another, keeping the total bill the same. To the pledge signers, that would be a “new tax.”

That means we can’t increase taxes on those who can afford it while cutting them on the majority, even if the total budget does not increase. “No new taxes” is not in the interest of the middle class or the poor. Why can’t Democrats make that case?

It’s beyond me why the middle class doesn’t vote their economic interests. I get why the Republican establishment has a love affair with the rich. It’s who they are. What I don’t get is why the poor and middle class base goes along with it.

Actually, I do:

1.) Because they lack the “uncommon sense” to realize they’ve been taken for a ride.

2.) Because the Republican Party has convinced poor and middle class “values voters” (Evangelical Christian, Catholic and otherwise) that the party that’s “right” on abortion, homosexuality, etc., must also be right on economic policy, foreign policy, environment, taxing and spending, etc.

Uncommon sense demonstrates how laughable the connection is between “Christian values” and right-wing capitalist values. Those who have actually read the Bible (as opposed to most Christians, who haven’t) know that it does not provide justification for laissez-faire capitalism, free market fundamentalism, uncontrolled resource destruction, or an interventionist foreign policy.

But the “common sense” of the Republican base tells them that the party that’s right about so-called “family values” must be right about everything else.

“Uncommon sense” also tells us that the Republican establishment doesn’t want to make abortion illegal, because that would destroy the primary political motivation of a huge segment of their base.

So what’s the solution to the gridlock, given the realities of “the pledge”? Assuming few or no Republicans break the pledge, I think Dayton should give in and tell the voters “That’s what you get for falling for the ruse.” He and the Democrats should make the simple case against the pledge, say “See, we’re the ones who ended up comproming (capitulating)” and see what happens in the next election.

Here’s the key, though: Force the Republicans to cut more than Democrats’ pet projects. Make them cut eduction, highways, parks, hunting and fishing programs, and public safety. Then we’ll see how the average Minnesotan like the newer smaller government.

Tim Pawlenty: The manufactured candidate – War Room – Salon.com

Interesting article on T-Paw in Salon today (see excerpt below). I’m a self-professed bad judge of character, and now also a self-professed bad political prognosticator. I was saying for several months that Pawlenty would be the Republican candidate for president. I thought he had played his cards well to win the nomination and had the personality and false humility to win people over.

Turns out the national media was having none of it. You could sense their dismissal of him from the start, and when he failed to attack Romney in the debate, it was pretty much over.

You can’t look like a wimp and expect to be president. To me, his chickening out wasn’t as big a deal as the media made it out to be, but it’s the media reality that matters.

Following is an excerpt from the Salon article that I think is pretty telling, not just about Pawlenty but about a lot of Republicans. I think it’s pretty clear that the Republican leadership is playing the base but saying all the right things about faith and values, abortion, homosexuality, etc.

Basically the Republican party is all about increasing rich people’s share of the wealth, but in order to do that, they need voters, and the way they get them is by appealing to the Christian right/social conservatives. It’s never made any sense that evangelical Christians would sign onto laissez faire capitalism across the board, just because the party that preaches it also happens to be “pro-life.” There’s nothing Biblical about it, and there’s a long history of evangelical involvement in social justice issues that today are seen as “liberal.”

To me, the cynical Republican establishment has found the perfect mark in the gullible, ignorant masses of the Xian right. It’s been working for decades.

I suppose that’s why they’re afraid of Bachmann: She’s a true believer. She may figure out eventually that Republicanism is anti-Christian.

Anyway, here’s the excerpt, from the article by an old acquaintance of T-Paw (As Bill Maher said, that’s what Minnesota’s black person calls him):

“Pawlenty is a very talented guy, and I respected his opinion. His first question was, ‘What’s your position on choice?’ I hadn’t ever been asked the question quite so pointedly. ‘You’ve got to take a stand on that first,’ he said. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘OK. I don’t like abortion; I think it’s a really tough personal decision, but not something the government should be getting into one way or the other, so I guess I’m pro-choice.’

“He looked at me over his lunch and said, ‘Well personally, so am I, but here’s the thing. You’ve got to find a way to get your mind around the language of saying ‘pro-life.’ It’s in how you phrase it.'”

I’ve since learned I’m not the only one Pawlenty has said this to.”

via Tim Pawlenty: The manufactured candidate – War Room – Salon.com.

Suspended Agitation – James Howard Kunstler

Not as many zingers this week, but I like this one: “I just hope Michele Bachmann and her probable running mate, Jesus, don’t steal the next election. They’ll rip out the Obamas’ vegetable garden and put a Nascar track there so that all of Ms. Bachmann’s 27 children can have jobs selling miniature bibles in the parking lot. (‘Prayed over by qualified preachers twenty-four hours a day!’)”

via Suspended Agitation.

Roundup: Birth Defects Caused By World’s Top-Selling Weedkiller, Scientists Say

WASHINGTON — The chemical at the heart of the planet’s most widely used herbicide — Roundup weedkiller, used in farms and gardens across the U.S. — is coming under more intense scrutiny following the release of a new report calling for a heightened regulatory response around its use.

via Roundup: Birth Defects Caused By World’s Top-Selling Weedkiller, Scientists Say.