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government

A Very Serious Al Franken

OK, I'm briefly blogging another article from The New Republic, "Franken Sense: The Very Serious Senator from Minnesota."

I opposed Al Franken's run for the Senate because I thought it a poor use of his talents. I was very wrong and I'm glad he won. This article confirmed much of what I have observed and I greatly hope he will be reelected despite what will be undoubtedly very motivated opposition.

Good Question: How Should Government be Financed?

Once again, Jonathan Chait asks and answers a good question: Who whould finance government: Paris Hilton or her maid?

Voting for Anti-Government Candidates Produces Bad Government

Here is the hard political reality: You can't expect to support and finance political candidates who preach that government is menacing and wasteful, that public employees are incompetent and corrupt, that taxes are always too high and destroy jobs, and then turn around and expect that the government will respond to your demands to hold down the cost of health care, or fund basic research, or provide good schools, efficient courts and reliable transportation systems.

Amen, Steven Pearlstein

Markets, Competition Require Good Government

I just picked up "Free the Market: When Only Government Can Keep the Marketplace Competitive" by Gary L Reback. It starts with this quote by George Will (from this column):

It will remind everyone -- some conservatives, painfully -- that a mature capitalist economy is a government project. A properly functioning free market system does not spring spontaneously from society's soil as dandelions spring from suburban lawns. Rather, it is a complex creation of laws and mores...

Bingo.

Minnesota Government Spending Explained

Pawlenty seems to have a lot of support throughout Minnesota by his supposed stand against new taxes (though, as I have noted previously, he has raised taxes by branding them "fees"). However, I think a lot of this support is predicated on an ignorance of where taxes go.

This ignorance can hardly be blamed on the public at large - civics classes in high school are poor and even those who worked for government for years can barely explain what the government spends money on. The simple truth is that government is really frickin complicated while being extremely vulnerable to bumpersticker-type attacks. I doubt most people can even separate local government functions from state or federal at this point.

For those who are interested in trying to understand where state tax money goes, I suggest a couple of recent articles from Matt Entenza's MN 2020 think tank, located in Saint Paul. Both are by Jeff Van Wychen. The first is "Minnesota's Government Growth in Context" - which responds to a right wing blogger making faulty assertions about the ways the current state budget has changed from a number of decades ago.

If you are trying to figure out one of the reasons government spends so much more now than it did in the 60's, start there. Some of the reasons include higher education spending (things like special-needs classes, ESL, etc), and environmental programs (the all high and mighty market produces things like dead waterways and air pollution if it is not closely regulated by the government). He does not note the costs to all levels of government of our busted legal system (which cannot handle the millions of people we seem to need to lock up). Maybe I assume it is a larger drag on the economy than it really is, but I find that hard to believe.

The second article is "Minnesota Communities: The Biggest Budget Cutters" and notes that the decreases in government spending are overwhelmingly coming from local governments, not state governments. Pawlenty has found the political courage to veto tax increases but has done little to curb spending - preferring instead to rely on budget gimmicks and one-time money that make our problems worse (but what does he care, he won't be governor when his deferred shit hits the fan).

Pawenty may make a great national politician - he seems adept at doing little while taking credit for much. Minnesota communities have had to cut their budgets because Pawlenty has not cut back spending in Minnesota, he has just limited the money going back to local governments (who are forced to both cut services and raise property taxes - something Pawlenty ironically attacks as he has proven incapable of lowering MN spending).

Pawlenty cuts aid to the cities because he has not decreased the MN budget. Then he blames them for raising property taxes - something akin to an observation my friend James made about national Republicans bitched about the deficit - it amounts to little more than arsonists complaining about the fire department wasting water.

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