Back in college, when I was still a liberal, I was involved in the elections for the leadership of the Young Progressives.
I campaigned in favor of Rebekah Zildjian-Grothman. Her opponent, Joshua-Micah Belcher, got wind of this.
“Mitch – don’t drop out of college if I win!”, he said at a meeting.
“I had no plans to”. It seemed simple enough.
Oddly enough, all his posters had fine print at the bottom; I was standing by the bulletin board outside the cafeteria when Angie Schlegel pointed it out; “I disclaim responsibility if Mitch Berg drops out of college shoul I happen to win”.
Angie looked at me, concerned; I shrugged my shoulders. “I have no idea what he’s talking about”, I said, baffled.
The election happened. Joshua – excuse me, Joshua-Micah – won. As he gave his acceptance speech, he looked at me. “And now, we’re going to watch Mitch Berg kill himself!”. He reached into his pocket and handed me a “Withdraw From College” form.
“You were going to drop out of college if I won!”
I threw the form back at him. “That was a story you made up…” I started.
“Don’t change the subject!”, he bellowed.
The DFL’s current “tactic” (scare quotes fully intentional) is, if anything, dumber than my fictional story above.
Let’s walk through the facts:
- While setting up the 2010-2011 budget back in 2009, the DFL-dominated legislature, using the auto-pilot formula they use for these things, forecast a budget of almost $39 billion. The increase – 21%, overall – was predicated on inflation (relatively low) and putative increase in demand for services. The forecast was nothing more than the DFL’s wish list. it was focused entirely – 100% – on forecast increases in demand and price. Nothing more.
- The leadership of the then-DFL-controlled legislature subtracted the then-forecast revenues – around $32 billion – from the forecast, and declared that there would be a “$6.2 billion deficit”, primarily to put pressure on then-governor Tim Pawlenty.
- The GOP – first during the Emmer campaign, and then after the November elections – declared that they could do a budget that would live within what were forecast to be government’s means; as of 2009, that was $32 billion.
- During the 2010 Governor race, Mark Dayton made it clear that he was going to treat the $39 billion forecast as the gospel for the budget.
- In response, Tom Emmer made it clear he and the GOP would not raise taxes, but force government to live within its means (and reform the system to help that happen.
- Once it became clear that revenues were going to rise. Tom Emmer made it a key part of his campaign; “living within our means” meant $33 or $34 billion. Not $32 billion.
- Emmer lost – but the MNGOP swept to commanding majorities in both chambers of the legislature.
- The new GOP majorities made it clear that they were not going to raise taxes; that living within our means, and reforming our government and tax systems to make that possible were the orders of the day.
- Time marched on.
- Mark Dayton released his budget – which was greeted with all the enthusiasm of Vanilla Ice’s sophomore album. Last week, Dayton had make a grand show of telling the DFL not to vote for his budget when the GOP brought it to the floor – to cover the fact that nobody was going to anyway.
At this point, the DFL knew what was coming; that the revenue forecast was going to show exactly what Emmer predicted, that government’s “means” were going to grow to $34 billion, and the GOP was going to use that fact.
And so they started perhaps the most cynical, transparently-desperate political memes I can remember – worse than my ol’ buddy Joshua-Micah’s, from so many years back:
The GOP’s all-cuts budget is late! And if it’s not all cuts, then they’ve failed!
Put concisely, it was “the party that released all-tax-hike budgets in mid-April the past four years wants you get outraged that the GOP is releasing a balanced, no-tax-hike budget in March”.
The GOP released its budget last week – a budget that lives within government’s means – those means being $34 billion in revenue. And the DFL’s chant-bots have been trying to cash that meme in.
House Minority leader Paul Thissen launched a broadside on the House DFL caucus Facebook page:
Apparently, “living within our means” is not as easy as the Republicans made it seem to Minnesotans on the campaign trail. Republicans promised Minnesotans that $32 billion was more than enough to balance the budget and that it could be done holding school children, seniors, and the disabled harmless.
And Thissen is lying. The GOP never said “government’s means” was $32 billion, now and forever.
Today’s release of Republican budget targets proves that the magic act Republicans promised Minnesotans is running into hard reality. The $32 billion that was enough a week ago is now more than $34.
Thissen, and the DFL’s, plan is pretty transparent. With a weak governor, no legislative power, and a $39 billion wish list, they are trying to convince Tea Partiers – including the moderate DFLers that deserted the party last fall – that the GOP, the party of no tax hikes and the $34 billion budget, are the spendthrifts.
This is the hallmark of a party that is desperate for a win – and fully confident that the media will not seriously question them about such a transparent bit of spin.
As a result, middle-class Minnesota taxpayers should start guarding their wallets against a Republican pick-pocket budget characterized by hidden taxes.
That’s another oldie but goodie, a very cynical bit of carefully-waterboarded context; “if the government cuts LGA, it will hike property taxes”. That is, of course, the job of the local governments involved. It has nothing to do with the legislature.
And hard-working Minnesotans should also guard their jobs. We know that the Republican budget will do more harm to Minnesota’s fragile economic recovery than a balanced approach. Cutting nearly 50% of Jobs and Economic Development, raising property taxes – the largest tax businesses pay already, and slashing the workforce are a recipe for job killing, not job creation.
Another bit of cynical distortion; the “Jobs and Economic Development” spending creates very few jobs and very little economic development, for the money we’ve poured into it.
Republicans heralded $300 million in new tax cuts for middle and lower income earners.
And that is a lie. The “new taxes” will come from city councils, who can no longer camouflage their own spending by having state taxpayers subsidize it for the. And as we showed last year, those city councils are run by DFLers.
Playing poker with a pair of deuces, Thissen is passing on the most transparently cynical set of chanting points I can recall in all my years of watching Minnessota politcs. Thissen can get away with these statements – lies, grossly-waterboarded context – because he knows the mainstream media statewide won’t disturb his narrative.
Gary Gross at Let Freedom Ring responded as well; you should read the whole thing. Money quote:
I’ll just be blunt. Rep. Thissen isn’t an impressive leader. His credibility doesn’t exist because his constant sky-is-falling predictions aren’t believable. People might or might not agree with the Republicans’ plan. I suspect more do than don’t because that’s how they voted in November and because people understand that spending $34 billion is substantially more than spending $30.7 billion.
Worst case? That’s what the DFL is counting on; the idea that there are enough Tea Partiers who will see “Two Billion more in spending”, and ignore the “that’s what we have”.
Years ago, I heard a great cliche while I was playing poker. That cliche applies to this situation. Sometimes, the best way to throw a hand is away. The DFL’s hand is awful. Their plans aren’t that appealing. It’s time for the DFL to admit that it’s time to throw this hand away and return to the proverbial drawing board. They won’t win this hand with the hand they’re playing.
I wish I could be as sanguine as Gary. The DFL is counting on there being a majority of the population that pays no attention beyond the chanting points they and their compliant media present for them. The last election showed he’s a little over 43% right.
The message, if it comes up at the water cooler? The GOP budget lives within the state’s means, without needing to jack up taxes to do it. There are hikes, there are cuts – but it’s a sane, sensible budget for tough times.
Thissen, like my old pal Joshua-Micah Belcher, thinks if he can deny it often and loudly enough, people will believe it.
NOTE: I know, I know – neither my college friends Zildjian-Grothman nor Belcher actually existed.