Number Soup

The new GOP majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives is going to try to capitalize on the red/blue, rural/urban divide down which the votes broke last month.

This is a mixed bag of good and bad – more about that later today – but we had a little blast from the past in the reporting on the subject.

One of the left favorite mediums in discussing America’s culture war is one floated most famously by the loathsome Paul Krugman in the middle of the last decade – The idea that Blue America pays more taxes, and Red America is a net consumer of government, taxpayer paid aid.

Krugman’s thesis ignores a lot of inconvenience details; the effect that massive amounts of federal land and military bases in sparsely populated states has on calculating net government “aid” (as if the wing of B1 bombers in North Dakota are as good as cash in the pocket for the locals), to say nothing of the distorting affected the sheer numbers in the various farm bills. Not to mention the fact that blue America has higher per capita income (not to mention cost-of-living); suddenly, Paul Krugman opposes progressive taxation?

In reporting on the Minnesota GOP’s new tack, Minnesota public radio Tim Pugmire notes:

The latest numbers from the nonpartisan Minnesota House Research Department show the seven-county metro area pays 64 percent of the state’s taxes and gets back 53 percent of the major tax aids, credits and refunds. By comparison, the 80 non-metro counties pay 36 percent and get back 47 percent.

seems like a pretty cut and dried number, right?

So how much of that disparity was a result of road and farm spending in sparsely populated counties?

How much stems from the state’s decades of spending truckloads of money on the iron Range, where the standard of living and per capita income is relatively low, but state spending is extremely high?

Or from the significant disparity in income and cost-of-living between the Twin Cities and the rest of the state?

What might be a more useful comparison; compare different types of spending per capita between the Metro and greater Minnesota: The metro might be getting pretty seriously shorted on agriculture spending – but I’m going to guess the per capita transportation spending has shifted greatly towards the metro in recent years.

The point? Like Paul Krugman’s misleading black and white comparison of two numbers, the real story is a lot more complicated than the media is showing you.

How Can You Tell “Moms Want Action” Is Lying?

Oh, please.  Like I even need to finish the punch line.

But some of you have been under rocks for a while (vide Governor Messinger’s Flint Smith’s Dayton’s re-election).  So for your benefit:

“Their lips are moving, and/or their fingers are typing something”. 

To wit:  Moms Want Action sent out a post-election thank-you to their supporters (and quite a few Real Americans who get their updates as well):

Many thanks to those of you who made hundreds of phone calls in support of Sen Al Franken. His re-election means that both of our US senators are lawmakers who support gun-sense legislation. Gun violence prevention was not a major campaign theme for any federal candidate, [And why do you suppose that is? - Ed.] although a few did mention it. Notably, US. Rep. Betty McCollum’s campaign materials called it out, and state attorney general candidate Andy Dawkins of the Green Party did, too (McCollum won re-election; Dawkins failed to unseat Lori Swanson)

Side note:  Betty McCollum runs in a district that would elect a wheelbarrow full of manure to Congress, if the DFL endorsed it. 

And what Moms Want Action failed to tell you is that while Lori Swanson may be an interventionist, activist who’s continued her predecessor and mentor Mike Hatch’s policies on nattering away at private business, she is one of the better state AGs in the country on gun rights.  So the Moms would be more honest to say that the pro-gun candidate utterly destroyed the only AG candidate who explicitly mentioned support for gun control and the Bloomberg Oompa-Loompas. 

But here’s the big one.  I’m bolding it for emphasis:

All of Everytown’s endorsed candidates in Minnesota won re-election. Yay!

Oh, did they? 

Follow the link to Everytown’s extraordinarily badly-designed site.  Look for “Filter by State”, and select “Minnesota”. 

Scroll down. 

Do you see Will Morgan?   “Moms Want Action”/”Everytown” offered him endorsement; the then-incumbent was arrogant enough to figure he didn’t need the votes of pro-2nd-Amendment Real Americans to win in District 56B. 

And Roz Peterson absolutely brutalized him with an eight point upset win.

So what is it we say, again?

“If a gun-grabber group says it, it’s probably a lie”. 

Pass the word.

An Idea Whose Time Is Long Overdue

This is from a piece of constituent mail, reprinted on a Minnesota legislator’s facebook page:

What do you think about replacing the word “free” to read “Taxpayer Funded” in all goverment paper and documents?  Like instead of schools “Free” lunch program, it would read “Schools Taxpayer Funded Lunch Program”.  It would be more truthful. 

I say submit the bill and run with it, hard.

Giving Them Ideas

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Modern cars have computers that act like a Black Box data recorder and the data can be used as evidence against you in court. The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently upheld the conviction of a woman charged with Reckless Driving, based on data the State Patrol downloaded from the computer inside her wrecked car after the accident.

I’m seeing a market for a Black Box Eraser device. Involved in an accident? Afraid it might be your fault? Push a button and ZAP, the Black Box memory is wiped and can’t be used against you. Order before midnight tonight. Don’t leave home without it.

Joe Doakes

I bet Alice Hausman reads this and submits a bill regulating such devices in the Transportation Committee before the next session.

Creative Dissension

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

It’s be wonderful if Minnesota would strengthen its Constitutional protection of gun owners, as other states have. I’ve pointed out for years that the level of scrutiny is the key to winning court cases.

As was noted in the comments, adding “and we really mean it” to the Constitution does nothing when the judges are routinely ignoring the law, and the legislature won’t pull their funding to bring them into line. That’s what we need in this state and this nation: a good old-fashioned constitutional crisis. The Congress and the Minnesota legislature need to shut things down. Stop funding the court and the Executive Branch until they come into line with the powers enumerated in the state and federal Constitutions. Yes, we’ll get ripped in the media, but we’re going to get that anyway so we might as well get something for it.

Won’t happen with compromisers like Mitch McConnell in charge, of course; but if we can keep sending Tea Partiers, maybe someday . . . .

Joe Doakes

The hope is what keeps me in the GOP.

The “Governor” Dayton Pool

UPDATE: The contest now has a prize.

The winner of this contest gets a $150 gift certificate at the St. Paul Grill. So you can eat – for a night, anyway – like the DFL plutocrats who rule you!

Gift certificate courtesy the sponsorship of…

… Well, I can’t actually say. They want to remain anonymous. I can neither confirm nor deny that it’s the Koch brothers. I can also neither confirm nor deny that is Grover Norquist.

RULES UPDATE: When the prize was nothing but bragging rights, I wasn’t going to fuss too much about duplicate entries.

However, now that there’s an actual prize, I will allow people with duplicate entries to make one change to their submission.

——-

Now, if you’ve followed Minnesota politics this past four years, you know that Mark Dayton has been “Governor” is the same sense that Danny Bonaduce was the “bassist” for the Partridge Family.  He’s been a marionette, a flapping jaw revealing the will of the special interests who installed him in office.

And his health is not at all good.

And once he cut the crap and made it official by bringing Tina Flint Smith on as his running mate (putting Yvonne something or other out to pasture), the plan’s been pretty much common knowledge:  ”Governor” Dayton is going to resign and turn the office over to Tina “The Butcher” Flint Smith.

The only real question is when.

And that calls for a pool.

The Pool:  Pick the date that Mark Dayton resigns from office.  Whoever is closest wins, and earns – I dunno, a drink from me when we have another get-together.

Closest – before or after the actual retirement, counted in calendar days – wins.

Leave your predictions in the comment section, in the form of a date and year.

Example:  July 1, 2015 (that’s my prediction, BTW).  I’ll make sure this thread gets saved for the long haul – not that I (obviously) think we’ll need to save it for that long…

The deadline will be the beginning of the next session.

UPDATE:  See current selections and standings here. 

 

The Sweetest Win

One of the brighter spots in Tuesday’s proceedings was the crushing victory of Peggy Bennett over Shannon Savick in Albert Lea. 

It was an old-fashioned whooping – 53-40.  Not even close.  And that was with an Indyparty candidate who took 6% out of the race, likely mostly from Bennett. 

I’m still doing the end-zone happy dance in my head. 

Shannon Savick was one of the DFLers from Greater Minnesota who supported Michael Paymar and Alice “The Phantom” Hausman’s gun grab bills in the 2013 legislature. 

And she was one of the DFLers who joined Hausman and Paymar in getting up and theatrically walking out of the hearing room when the Real Americans of the Second Amendment movement started their testimony against their proposals.  Indeed, the DFL made a shameful spetacle of ignoring their opponents’ testimony.

Watching their bills – and all of their support from Michael Bloomberg – go down to whining, piddling defeat – was sweet.  And it was what mattered most.

But seeing Shannon Savick tossed out of office with all the ceremony of a day old egg salad sandwich is right up there.

OK, Ms. Savick.  NOW you may get up and leave the room.

UPDATE:  It wasn’t just Savick – and it wasn’t just in Minnesota.  Gun grabbers were crushed nationwide.  It was lopsided in the Senate, of course – but the most astounding progress was among governors.

To sum it all up?  The NRA-endorsed candidate won in Maryland

Perhaps bigger, but definitely more subtle?  The flip of the Senate will at least slow down President Obama’s ongoing campaign to pack the Federal Appelate courts with gun-grabbing activists. 

It was a good Tuesday for Pro-Second-Amendment Real Americans from coast to coast.

Democracia Ahora!

¡Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

When I went outside this morning to put up my American flag, a pickup full of illegal immigrants stopped to ask if this is where they vote Democrat For Immigration Amnesty. No dude, that’s the Rec Center down the street. And they don’t open til 8. Yes, ocho. Yeah you have a good day, too.

In Saint Paul, the line between satire and truth is so gray and blurry, it hardly exists.

Profile In Courage

The DFL Legislature raises business taxes.  Governor Dayton scuttled away from his party.

The DFL legislature’s idea for plundering taxpayers to pay for Zygi Wilf’s real estate improvements – “E-pulltabs” – raised roughly 1/1000% as much money as it was supposed to.  Governor Dayton huffed and puffed and blamed it all on other people. 

The DFL raised the minimum wage, without adding a tip credit for restaurant workers who frequently make many times more than a “living wage” from tips.  Governor Dayton quietly tossed the idea partly under the bus when his sons pointed out it was hurting their restaurant. 

When people started talking about legalizing marijuana, Governor Dayton was for it before against it before he was for it before he was whatever he is today. 

Dayton favored releasing sex offenders, before he opposed it, before…oh, hell, I don’t know.

And Dayton took great pride in MNSure before he washed his hands of it.

Oh yeah – and although the administration he largely appointed and which reports to him was busted trying to jockey MNSure’s premium rates, Governor Dayton apparently pleads complete ignorance

It’d be great if someone in the Minnesota media would press the Governor on this – but of course, he isn’t talking with the press this week.  Not that anyone in the press would ask him if he were talking to the press. 

The GOP has been railing – correctly – on Dayton’s competence. 

The competence of MInnesota’s press may be the bigger issue.

Mills: Didn’t See That Coming

The Strib endorses…

Stewart Mills in CD8.

I must confess, I didn’t see it coming – and reading the Strib ‘s piece, I’m going to guess they didn’t either:

Among the district’s immediate challenges is a choice between two imperfect candidates for Congress. On balance, we conclude that this changing district would be best served by a fresh voice, and we give the endorsement edge to retail executive Stewart Mills.

One wonders how often the Star Tribune specifically notes candidates are “imperfect”. I imagine it’s less of a surprise to most readers than the Star Tribune may believe.

One charge relentlessly leveled at Mills is that he is the beneficiary of inherited wealth through his family’s Fleet Farm empire. But we doubt that many Minnesotans really consider such a background a disqualification from public office.

While it would be a bit much to expect the Star Tribune to attack the DFL for making Mills’s wealth – for which he worked – an issue while endorsing a trust fund baby for governor, one could always hope.

Still, the endorsement does go on to tell Mills’ story fairly:

Having begun his Fleet Farm career scrubbing toilets and emptying trash, Mills today is vice president in charge of the chain’s health care plan, covering 6,000 employees and their dependents. He has developed a hands-on understanding of the intricacies of the health care marketplace, coming to see wellness and prevention as keys to controlling costs.

Mills says his objections to the Affordable Care Act are central to inspiring his run for Congress. His candidacy follows what he calls the “Hunting Camp Rule”: If you complain about something, you get the job of fixing it. His condemnation of the ACA is too sweeping, given that he backs the law’s key goals. But the market-based approaches he prefers — including more price transparency and tort reform — could contribute to needed improvements in the law.

I know, I know – I shouldn’t complain too hard; the Star Tribune just endorsed a relatively free-market conservative.

But would a little honesty, or at least economic literacy, kill the “newspaper of record”? (Emphasis added):

Mills is challenging Rep. Rick Nolan, who returned to Congress in 2012 after a 32-year hiatus. Nolan lists several accomplishments, including working with Minnesota Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar in securing $10 million in federal funds for improvements for the Port of Duluth-Superior.

Nolan has been a leader in efforts to clamp down on foreign-made steel dumping in this country. He has also worked to expand invasive species protection in the Great Lakes. And he says he’s committed to campaign finance reform and efforts to improve the legislative process.

Nolan’s “accomplishments”, in other words, involve coughing up taxpayer. goodies for the special interests in his district.

Speaking of special interests:

We differ with Mills on a number of issues — not least on his unyielding stance against firearm regulation.

Running in the Eighth Congressional District? That’s a feature, not a bug.  So, by the way, is supporting the Constitution.

But here’s how we know it’s really, really a Star Tribune endorsement (emphasis added):

But we’re also persuaded that Mills has the intelligence and pragmatic instincts to learn, grow and adapt in office.

Mr. Mills – I hope you get elected. And that you then resist “growing in office” with every fiber of your being.

If elected, Mills will face a learning curve in Washington. But he has the energy, the zest for ideas and the deep commitment to northern Minnesota to make a success of it.

Yeah, it’ll take a lot of learning to get up to the level of a Nancy Pelosi or a Sheila Jackson Lee.

But those are the marginalia. It’s an endorsement. It’s only a newspaper endorsement, but it’s the last thing I ever expected.

Joe Persell: Context Goes Both Ways

The big DFL strategy in this election, so far, seems to be to scare to death the voters who they haven’t bored to death.

There was a debate on Wednesday in Bemidji.  Since a couple of districts – 2A and 5A – are in play in the Bemidji area, candidate from both were apparently in the ring.

The topic turned to gun control:

In response to a question on gun control, [HD2A GOP challenger Dave] Hancock said shooting incidents usually occur in places where guns are banned.

“If we look we look at the areas where tragedy has occurred with guns, they are usually in gun-free zone(s),” he said. “Where you have people armed and carrying concealed weaponry, the criminal in use of a gun thinks twice.”

That’s pretty much the fact.  Hancock got it right.  No surprise there.

Here’s where it gets interesting – and when I say “interesting”, I mean “A DFLer starts saying things that misinform the uninformed”.  The DFL’s Joe Persell responded to the question; I’m going to add emphasis:

Persell disagreed, saying carrying weapons can exacerbate tense situations.

“Folks that are out there carrying, playing cop … I don’t think we want them to be doing that,” he said. “There’s more instances of people being killed because they are carrying, and they think somebody said something nasty, and they felt threatened, and so they shot them.”

Really, Rep. Persell?

I wanted to ask Rep. Persell to name one example of either of a Minnesotan…:

  • being killed because they were “playing cop”
  • killing someone who “said something nasty” to them.

Conversation:  I sent Rep. Persell an email asking for clarification.  He contacted me, saying he’d been taken out of context in the Bemidji Pioneer.  We wound up having a conversation last night.   I pointed out that there has never been such a case involving a legal post 2003 carry permit holder in the state of Minnesota (although there were a few incidents with pre-2003 permits – the ones issued by sheriffs).

Rep. Persell told me that the conversation referred to the Second Amendment as a general, nationwide issue, and that he was referring to cases like those of Michael Dunn, the Florida man who shot a teenager over, the court case said, “loud music”.

Those cases certainly grab the headlines – the media, being left-of-center and largely anti-gun, makes sure they do.

But even those lavishly-publicized incidents are exceedingly rare.  I ran the numbers, nationwide, a few years ago; in a typical year, a carry permittee is two orders of magnitude less likely to commit any kind of crime than the general public.

So while Persell wasn’t “lying”, per se, he was focusing attention on a type of incident that is exceedingly rare in real life.   While his original quote in the Bemidji Pioneer may have been out of context, the context of his remark is misleading and inflammatory.

The problem with guns, statistically, nationwide, isn’t a guy with a carry permit killing someone unjustifiably.  It’s the thousands of criminals without permits who kill people without regard to the law at all.

Hope that word gets out…

Continue reading

“It’d Be A Shame If Your Insurance Company Were To..Break, Or Something”

The reason Preferred One – provider with all of the least-expensive plans in the MNSure exchange – left the exchange last month, giving most of its subscribers a 60+% increase in rates to keep a MNSure plan, was that they were basically strong-armed into providing the unsustainable low rates to begin with:

Sometime after the insurer PreferredOne submitted its proposed rates for the first year of the MNsure exchange, state regulators asked the company to consider lowering the numbers.

Ultimately, the insurer responded with “a total rate decrease of 37 percent”, according to a July 2013 letter from an outside actuary to the company.  Those final rates were the lowest in the Twin Cities – and across the country, in many cases – and helped PreferredOne to grab nearly 60 percent of the MNsure business.

 

Now, those subscribers face an average premium increase of 63 percent if they stay with PreferredOne — a yo-yo scenario that health policy experts say points to the challenge in setting prices under the federal health law. The big swing also suggests that the low prices were out of step with the reality of the business.

 

“This was the first year of a new market, so no one knew what they were bidding on,” , said Gary Claxton, a vice president with the California-based Kaiser Family Foundation. “That means it was hard to create the rates, and it was hard to review them.”

 Here’s the deal:  as Representative Zerwas pointed out on a morning radio show today, Preferred One is keenly aware that the MNSure board – a political board, composed (per statute) of absolutely no people from the  healthcare or health insurance industries – can decide who does and doesn’t get to participate in the exchange. 

Which gives them a lot of power when, for example, they tell a company like Preferred One  to kick the tires on an unsustainable rate structure. 

 

 

Calibrated

Back in 2006, they told us that electronic voting machines were going to be an easy, non-transparent way to hijack elections. 

And they were right:

Republican state representative candidate Jim Moynihan went to vote Monday at the Schaumburg Public Library.

“I tried to cast a vote for myself and instead it cast the vote for my opponent,” Moynihan said. “You could imagine my surprise as the same thing happened with a number of races when I tried to vote for a Republican and the machine registered a vote for a Democrat.”

The conservative website Illinois Review reported that “While using a touch screen voting machine in Schaumburg, Moynihan voted for several races on the ballot, only to find that whenever he voted for a Republican candidate, the machine registered the vote for a Democrat in the same race. He notified the election judge at his polling place and demonstrated that it continued to cast a vote for the opposing candidate’s party. Moynihan was eventually allowed to vote for Republican candidates, including his own race.

There’s a simple answer, of course:

 “This was a calibration error of the touch-screen on the machine,” Scalzitti said. “When Mr. Moynihan used the touch-screen, it improperly assigned his votes due to improper calibration.”

“I’m not robbing this bank, officer; I’m just doing a bad job of calibrating the safe”.

“That’s not a crack pipe under my seat, officer; its a poorly-calibrated CPAP mask”. 

“Those weren’t dead people voting; just poorly-calibrated living people”. 

I’m not going to say the Democrats are a criminal syndicate.  I’m just wondering how they’d have to behave any differently to be one…

Despicable Steve

It hasn’t been a good campaign for DFL Secretary of State candidate Steve Simon. 

For starters, he barely got over 40% in the primary - against a perennial candidate and a nobody.  Which might not have been a showstopper for the DFL machine to overcome, except that they were up against Dan Severson, who has statewide name recognition from a 2010 SOS run and a Senate bid (that came up short in the convention in 2012). 

Then, last week, the polls showed that Severson was ahead of Simon; he was the only GOP statewide candidate to lead in the polls at that time.  

At the very least – given the polling that, we are told, shows Mark Dayton supposedly cruising to victory – it’s a sign that the DFL/Big Money Democrat onslaught has a chink in the armor. 

At the most?  It shows that the DFL’s “We’re Inevitable!” vibe may not be entirely factual. 

Severson’s press conference last week - in which he showed smoking guns tying the SOS office to a policy of tossing veterans’ votes, and Rep. Simon’s signature on legislation that exempted the military from absentee voter reforms – went badly for Simon, and worse for the DFL’s Ken Martin, who tried and failed to take a chunk out of Severson in a comical morning of duelling press conferences. 

Simon is apparently desperate; he’s now telling his base that Severson proposes “forcing rape victims to pay for rape kits”. 

It’s BS, of course.  Not just the usual, comical, inept BS the DFL tosses around at this point in campaigns, all juvenile photoshopped heads and racist japes

No.  This is a sleazy, toxic, intentional, cowardly lie.  Severson responds (and I’ll add emphasis):

I moved it forward with the understanding that the bill would propose sharing the cost of all expenses associated with sexual assault between the counties of the victim and the perpetrator.

I specifically killed the bill before it EVER got a hearing because of the language specific to victims having to pay for anything.

In a just world, whatever DFL messaging genius that came up with this attack would get some sense groin-kicked into him.

As it stands?  Since a lie will make it around the world before the truth has finished checking Facebook in the morning, it’s back to the long, slow slog of telling people the one central truth of Minnesota politics.

If a DFLer says it, it’s a lie. 

If a DFLer who’s losing says it, it’s probably defamation.

Meet The New Huckster, Same As The Old Huckster

During last week’s gubernatorial debate in Duluth, Governor Dayton referred to the Iron Range has having been victimized by “hucksters” with hare-brained economic development schemes to try to compensate for the crash of the mining industry.

Yesterday on their show blog, Jack and Ben (who, notwithstanding working for the lesser talk station, have been on fire this past week or so) discovered something important; exactly who one of the key “hucksters” was:

The smoking gun is a January 1986 document titled “Housing and Community Development Briefs” authored by the Minnesota Department of Energy and Economic Development and several other organizations. According to the document: “The Department of Energy and Economic Development recently approved [a direct, fixed-interest rate, fixed asset new/expanding business loan].” The publication then lists several businesses that were recipients of the loans, including Lakewood Industries [the company that built the chopstick factory]. It states, “Lakewood Industries, a startup company expected to create 76 jobs in the next two years, received final approval for a $250,000 loan.”

Now, Dayton was Minnesota Department of Energy and Economic Development commissioner from 1978-79, and again from 1983-86.  In other words, his fingerprints are all over the infamous Chopstick Factory. 

Now, $250,000 might not seem like all that much compared to the $5 million in total financing, including $3 million from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRB).

But the story doesn’t end there (emphasis added):

So let’s look at the IRRRB. The Director of Economic Development of the IRRRB during the chopstick factory fiasco was Mark Phillips. Mark Phillips was intimately involved in the details of the chopstick project, according to a statement he provided in a Chicago Tribune article from June 5, 1998: “They [the Japanese] wanted real white wood with no stain to it. We have a good species here, real white wood that veneers well.” And a December 8, 1986 Associate Press article shows that Mark Phillips was keenly aware of the financing the IRRRB had provided to the project.

So what happened to Mark Phillips? In 2011, Mark Dayton appointed him Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Once a boondoggler, always a boondoggler; Phillips was a prominent supporter of public funding for both the Vikings stadium and the Saint Paul Saints ballpark in Saint Paul. 

As to Governor Messinger Dayton?

Our Incoherent Newspaper Of Record

On “Up and At ‘Em”, on the lesser talk station this morning, Ben Kruse said (I’ll paraphrase) if you left out the parts about Governor Dayton, this past weekend’s endorsement of the incumbent governor actually reads a little like an endorsement of Jeff Johnson. 

And Ben had a point:

Johnson, 47, is gubernatorial material…Voters who want a state government that’s leaner and more trusting of the marketplace to solve public problems can opt for Johnson without concern that he is unprepared, excessively doctrinaire or temperamentally ill-suited to the office….Unlike Dayton, Johnson is unfettered to Education Minnesota, the teachers’ union.

[Remember the emphasized bit.  I'll be making a return appearance]

 He’s eager to pursue changes in teacher licensure and tenure rules that might strengthen the state’s teaching corps — versions of which Dayton vetoed…Johnson is also more open to changing the state’s tax code in ways that would better align Minnesota competitively with other states, by broadening the sales tax to more consumer purchases while reducing its rate.

All of that’s true.  

But they went with Governor Messinger Mark Dayton anyway. 

Minnesota is back where it belongs. It has resumed its strong position among Midwestern states in employment, incomes, educational attainment and quality of life. Gov. Mark Dayton can’t take sole credit for the rebound from recession — nor does this modest leader make that claim. But the DFLer’s stewardship since 2011 has made a positive contribution to recovery, and his aims for a second term would continue that course.

That is, of course, the narrative that the Alliance for a Better Minnesota has spent millions to establish in this state.

The truth, of course, is that most of the “positive contributions” happened in the first two years of Messinger’s Dayton’s term.  Since the DFL took unfettered control of state government, unemployment has dropped mostly due to people taking crummy jobs or leaving the workforce. 

But we digress.

Like An Ink-Stained Nadia Comaneci:  I originally entitled this piece “Our Senile Newspaper of Record” – but I changed my mind; it takes some mental chops to do the logical gymnastics the Strib goes through to get to painting Dayton’s term as a positive and Dayton as a capable leader:

State government stability is itself a competitive asset, one Minnesotans should not want to jeopardize again.

What the hell does that even mean?

The answer:  whatever the narrator wants it to mean.  

For example, the Strib would have you believe that before Mark Dayton, Minnesota was a cold Bolivia, apparently:

Dayton deserves credit for the fiscal stability that has returned on his watch. His push to correct the oversized income tax cuts enacted in 1999 and 2000 was important to that change, as was the discipline to enlarge the state’s reserves and repay more than $2 billion owed to school districts.

Dayton “paid back” the shift entirely because he delayed the GOP’s attempt to “pay it back” until the DFL could claim credit

The Special Interest Drinking Game:  Now – with a reminder from Jack and Ben’s show this morning – let’s read this next graf and go back to the Strib’s muted praise for Johnson:

The state’s stronger balance sheet leads a long list of first-term accomplishments justifying Dayton’s re-election. Also there: All-day kindergarten. Beefed-up funding for preschool for needy families. Same-sex marriage. Human services funding reform, saving Minnesota taxpayers an estimated $1 billion a year. A higher minimum wage. An end to a decade of disinvestment in higher education. Support for the Rochester infrastructure that’s crucial to Mayo Clinic expansion. A renewed partnership with local governments, slowing the increase in property taxes. Alternative teacher licensure and teacher performance evaluation.

If this were a drinking game – “Special Interest Shots”, where you took a drink every time the paper mentioned a bit of DFL special interest pork – you’d be dead of alcohol poisoning now. 

Making History Out Of Nothing At All:  Now – Minnesota’s Obamacare exchange is a disaster.  Perhaps you’ve heard.  It was in all the papers – for a while, anyway. 

Heeeere’s whitewash!

Dayton’s credits also include extending the benefits of health insurance to more than 250,000 previously uninsured Minnesotans, by embracing the federal Affordable Care Act.

This is simply false.

92% of Minnesotans were insured before MNSure - and every single Minnesotan that was involuntarily uninsured before 2012 could have been covered through one existing program or another. 

The “250,000 previously uninsured” are insured today – at exquisite cost to the taxpayer – are there mostly because the law says they have to be. 

Not because Mark Dayton did such a helluvva job.   

I’ll give the Strib points for consistency.  While their praise for his first term was a checklist of special interest sops, their outlook for the second term is…:

The second-term agenda Dayton outlines befits him. It’s substantial but not slick, and focused on jobs. He wants state government to be an ally of Minnesota’s high-tech industries by better meeting their need for highly skilled workers, and of the health care and medical technology industries by shoring up the University of Minnesota Medical School. He wants a literacy push to boost chances that children read proficiently by grade three, and he seeks more funding for early ed.

He also wants clean energy and robust infrastructure investments, including expansion of light-rail transit, to continue.

…more of the same. 

Alliance?  What Alliance?:  Finally?  The Strib editorial team apparently did their internships writing for Fidel Castro (emphasis added):

Dayton, 67, is making his sixth and what he says will be his last bid for statewide office. After a lifetime of public service, he’s a well-known quantity who is offering Minnesota something rare — a governorship unbound by calculations about how to win the next election.

Dayton’s governorship has never been bound by anything but the fact that he is controlled, no less than a marionette, puppet or organ-grinder monkey – by the special interests that floated his candidacy and call, via the “Alliance for a Better MN”, all the shots in his office. 

 We expect that will look a lot like what Minnesotans saw in Dayton’s first term. If it does, this state will be well served.

If Dayton is re-elected, Minnesota will deserve what it gets.

UPDATE:  Fixed the link to the Strib piece.

Hamline Debate Highlights

I watched and live-tweeted yesterday’s gubernatorial debate from Hamline University, which was telecast on Fox9.

For starters, it wasn’t the worst debate format I’ve ever seen.  Fox 9′s crew of hairdos (I have long since stopped paying attention to Twin Cities anchor teams) largely stayed out of the way of the three reporters – Rachel Stassen-Berger, Tom Scheck and Bill Salisbury – who did most of the questioning.  And most of the questions – the ones that didn’t get into personal lifestyle issues (do we really care if either candidate ever smoked pot?), anyway – were pretty good. 

Oh, yeah – Johnson shredded Dayton.   I know, I’m partisan – but I’m pretty clinical about public speaking.  Johnson is cool, calm, collected, an on top of his facts.  Dayton – as Johnson quipped, at one point – pretty much ran through his ex-wife’s chanting points. 

The three highlights, in my book?

Number 3: The Aisle:  When asked if they were capable of working across the aisle, Dayton’s response amounted to “I could – if it weren’t for that stupid opposition!”.  It’s the GOP’s fault he can’t work across party lines!

Number 2: Pot Calling The Kettle A Pot:  At one point, in one of his few spontaneous moments of the debate, Dayton scolded Johnson about a perceived (and false) inconsistency in his record, ending it by telling Johnson to “pick a side and stick with it”.  I laughed so hard, I nearly soiled myself. 

That’s Governor Dayton; the guy who’se argued both sides of medical marijuana, the minimum wage hike and tip credits, the Vikings stadium subdidy, Gift, B2B, gas and Warehouse taxes, cigarette taxes, fixing MNSure, sex-offender releases, expanded notification of mental health issues to the NICS database (the list of people who can’t legally buy guns), and even on the availability of his daily calendar.  

Number 1: That Definition Of Insanity:  Questioned by the panel and Johnson about the MNSure debacle, Dayton let slip that he thought the real solution was single-payer healthcare.

That’s right – when the government makes a collossal botch of centralizing most of healthcare, let’s let them centralize it all!

The one thing the DFL was able to salvage from the debate was an “oops” from Johnson; asked to define “middle class” in terms of a dollar threshold, after Dayton waffled and proved he didn’t have a clue, Johnson said “I haven’t a clue”. 

Of course, there is no hard-and-fast dollar figure as to where the “middle class” begins and ends; it’s more a matter of circumstances; the middle class are those who don’t live off of investments and spare Renoirs,oroff of charity and subsidies.

The Unthinkable

It was about this time four years ago that a small group of bloggers and activists got a call from the Chip Cravaack campaign; the challenger was within the margin of error against 200-term congressman Jim Oberstar.

It was unthinkable.

And was one of the headiest days in my life as a political activist; the Tea Party wave was flipping the unflippable. 

I didn’t think I’d see another day like it. 

I’m going to lead with all the usual disclaimers; it’s an internal poll, which can make it both more and less trustworthy. 

But an internal poll shows Torrey Westrom leading 12-term DFL Rep. Colin Peterson, 44-43, as the race turns into the home stretch:

A new survey released today by the Westrom for Congress campaign reports Republican challenger Torrey Westrom pulling ahead of 12-term incumbent Democrat Congressman Collin Peterson. Westrom now enjoys a lead among likely voters in Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District (44%-43%), while thirteen percent (13%) are undecided

Of course, that’s a lot of undecideds – but then, that’s the point of releasing the polling news; to create the “bandwagon effect” that drives campaigns over the finish line in style.  Fact is, even if it’s close, Peterson has got to be sweating bricks right now;  rarely do challengers get within a three-digit margin of northwestern Minnesota’s ag pork king.

If this poll is even within 3-4 points of accurate, it’s bad news for the DFL.

My November 5 dream:  Torrey Westrom, Stewart Mills and Tom Emmer not only start measuring their drapes in Washington, but flip Minnesota’s congressional delegation not only red, but solidly right-of-center.

What Conservatism Needs In Minnesota

In the middle of a year that promises to be a good, if not great, year for Republicans nationwide, Minnesota Republicans are hoping to flip the House, so as to at least contest control for the state, and praying for an upset in the Senate and a come-from-behind miracle for Governor.

It was ten years ago that the conventional wisdom was that Minnesota was purple, flirting with red.

Today, it’s a bluish-purple state – some bright-red points, some dingy blue swamps. 

In 2002, after the death of Paul Wellstone, the DFL was in disarray;  they lost the state House, the Governor’s office and Wellstone’s Senate seat.   The grownups controlled all of the state offices except the Attorney General; the DFL held the State Senate by a hair, and was well behind in the House. 

Inside six years, they turned that into nearly-complete domination of Minnesota.  They held Mark Dayton’s old and barely-used Senate seat, they took Coleman’s they took both chambers of the Legislature in 2008, lost them in 2010, and took them back in 2012, and have controlled all of the state Constitutional offices – Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Auditor – for eight years now. 

How did they do this?

The 24 Month Campaign:  Ben Kruse got it mostly right Monday morning on the morning show on the lesser talk station; Republicans need to learn something from the Democrats.  For them, their 2016 campaign will start in earnest on November 5.  The Republicans, in the meantime, will meander about until State Fair time, 2016. 

I know – to be fair, Jeff Johnson and Dave Thompson started their governor’s races back in 2012 in all but name; Mike McFadden was aggressively moving his Senate candidacy at the State Fair in 2013. 

In contrast, the DFL’s attack PR firm “Alliance for a “Better” Minnesota” never stopped campaigning.  The group – financed by unions and liberal plutocrats with deep pockets, including Mark Dayton’s ex-wife Alita Messinger – does something that goes beyond campaigning. 

It bombards Minnesotans with Democrat propaganda, 24 months every campaign cycle.

The Communications Gap:  The Minnesota GOP has plenty of strikes against it; while it’s made up a lot of financial ground since its nadir two years ago, it’s still in debt, and still scrambling to get back to even.

But even when it’s in the black, it only does so much communicating – and then, it only does it in the run-ups to elections and, maybe occasionally, during legislative sessions (and that’s mostly the jobs of the GOP legislative caucuses). 

In the meantime, the Democrats (with the connivance of regional media whose reporters may not overtly carry the water for the DFL, but whose management largely most definitely does) shower the Minnesota voter with a constant drizzle of the Democrat version of “the truth”. 

Which means the low-information voter – the one that might start thinking about next month’s election any day now – is kept on a constant drip, drip, drip of the DFL’s point of view.  It means the baseline of thought for those who don’t have any strong political affiliation of their own leans left of center; they assume that raising taxes helps schools, that Republicans are rich tax evaders who hide their wealth out of state, that there is a “war on women”, and on and on.

There’s No-one To Fly The Flag – Nobody Seems to Know It Ever Went Down: So how was the situation different when the GOP was contending to take MInnesota away from the left? 

Other than the DFL having an endless parade of checks from plutocrats to cash? 

For starters, back then Minnesota had a number of overt conservative voices on the media, statewide, day in, day out.  It was when Jason Lewis was at his rabble-rousing peak; I call him the Father of Modern Minnesota Conservatism, and I’ll stand by it.  With Lewis on the air, a lot of people who didn’t know they were conservatives, figured it out – and a lot of conservatives who figured they were alone in the big blue swamp realized there were others out there. 

And Joe Soucheray was on the air three hours a day talking, not so much directly about politics, but about the absurdities that the left was inflicting on the culture.  It may have been a decade before Andrew Breitbart noted that Politics springs from Culture, but Soucheray knew it, and made it a constant topic for a long, long time. 

Lewis and Soucheray had record audiences – not just in the Metro, but outstate, where both had syndication in Greater Minnesota. 

And between the two, the media’s left-leaning chinese water torture had competition.

And for a few years, MInnesota had a couple of voices that did for conservatism in the state what Rush Limbaugh helped do nationwide; dragged it out of the basement, aired it out, made it relevant to the challenges Minnesotans faced then and today, and made being conservative, unapologetic and smart a thing to be proud of. 

And this happened at a time when Minnesota conservatism…came out of the basement, aired out, and started grabbing Minnesota mindshare. 

Coincidence?

Feed The Cat:  Of course, this doesn’t happen on its own.  While conservative talk radio is still, along with sports, the only radio format that’s paying its bills, the format has atrophied – largely because it’s become, for money reasons, a national rather than regional format.  Syndicated network programming – Limbaugh, Hannity, Prager, Hewitt, Michael Savage, what-have-you – delivers ratings on the relative cheap.  And they deliver political engagement, nationwide.  

But they don’t have a local political effect like a solid, firebrand local lineup does. 

But radio stations pay for very little in the way of “local lineup” anymore; KSTP has turned Soucheray into just another sports talking head; AM1280 has the NARN; AM1130 has Jack and Ben and, temporarily, Dave Thompson. 

Minnesota business – at least, the part of it that realizes that a conservative outcome benefits everyone, themselves included – needs to pony up and sponsor the next generation of rabble-rousing Conservative media with a cause; the fact that it’s actually a good ad investment is a collateral benefit, compared to flushing money down ABM’s drain. 

And yes, I’m focusing on radio – but this rabble-rousing presence would need to cover all of the social and alternative media, not just the traditional AM band.  Still – there is no (affordable) medium that reaches, or can reach, more Minnesotans.

And through that, maybe, we start turning the intellectual tide in this state. 

It’s happened once.  It can happen again.

Needs to happen again, really.

Thanks, But No Thanks

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun grab group issued a long series of endorsements in congressional races, including over 50 Democrat incumbents.

Conspicuous by his absence? Rick Nolan, in the 8th Congressional District..

And after all he’s done for them…:

Some incumbents didn’t make the Everytown list. The group didn’t endorse Rep. Rick Nolan (D., Minn.), who co-sponsored the House bill to expand background checks. Mr. Nolan, who has an F score from the NRA, is trying to fend off a challenge from Republican Stewart Mills, whom the NRA gave an A rating.

The endorsements were extremely heavy on incumbents, and almost never involved contested races.

Why, it’s almost like gun control is political poison or something…

Nail-Biter?

According to Rasmussen, Franken leads McFadden by eight points – but only by three points (48 to 46) among people who are “certain” to vote:

Yesterday, Roll Call included Franken on their top-ten list of the most vulnerable U.S. Senators facing re-election in 2014. McFadden had a “fiery” performance in his debate with Franken yesterday in Duluth and he followed-up today with a press conference today about rate increases for MNsure consumers.

 If the poll is accurate (and since Scott Rasmussen retired, it’s been less so – but it’s also swung a bit toward favoring the left), this could be very good news for the GOP in MInnesota…

(Via PoliMN)

Waves

Watching last night’s gubernatorial debate in Rochester, it’s easy to see why Governor Messinger’s Dayton’s handlers didn’t want to have too many televised debates, and wanted to make sure they were only televised on outlets like C-Span and Farmington Cable Access.  He was awful.

At one point, I could have sworn I heard him mumble that he lowered taxes by $2 Billion.  What the flaming hootie-hoo?  Someone sic Catherine Richert on that claim!

Jeff Johnson wiped the floor with Dayton.  If the Johnson campaign doesn’t have comparison shots of Dayton and Johnson answers on TV and Youtube in the next week, they’re insane.   

And today comes news that the Duluth News Tribune (and perhaps the entire Forum chain of papers) has endorsed Johnson.

Among Johnson’s priorities are to reduce taxes and shrink government. While that sounds like Republican boilerplate, the reality is that if Minnesota is to compete in a competitive national economy, it has to improve its tax climate and streamline its ossified regulatory systems. Johnson can’t do it alone, but as governor he can force lawmakers to talk about it.

Johnson is young, educated, experienced in public service and the private sector, and focused on issues vital to his state’s future. Minnesotans would do well to make him their next governor.

And if voters in Greater Minnesota return the MNGOP to control in Saint Paul with Jeff Johnson as Governor, we can make some progress. 

(And, naturally, if the GOP keeps itself focused.  Which may be the biggest battle of all.

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More Of That “Blowing Sunshine Up Minnesota’s Skirt” Thing…

I read yesterday’s headlines about the new, Preferred-One-Free MNSure rates, and got ready to write.

Then, I got an email from a friend who works in the Healthcare industry, which explains it much better:

The headlines on MNSure saying premiums rose only 4.5%.  This reminds me of an old story.

A friend of mine was flying a helicopter in the fog in downtown St. Paul and his radio and navigation equipment failed suddenly.  He knew he was in the midst of the downtown and going any direction could mean an immediate crash.  He stayed put hovering for a few minutes, inching lower.  When the fog lifted he was right outside the MN Dept. of Commerce.  Not recognizing the building he grabbed a piece of paper and a big sharpie.  He wrote in big block letters “Where am I?” and put it put it on the outside of his windshield.  A commerce employee saw the helicopter’s predictament and wrote a note back and placed it in the building window.  “You’re in a helicopter.”

Technically correct and absolutely meaningless.

That’s my take of this headline.  The real problem is that the low cost insurer, Preferred One, dropped out.  Maybe the remaining plans only increased by 4.5% but to the 60% who were on Preferred One, the real story is that their premiums are rising about 20%.  Minnesotans will understand that if they take time to read the full story.

Which the DFL is counting on people not doing, naturally, as they relentlessly pound away with that “4.5%” number on ads around the state.

Recent history shows it’s not hard to fool Minnesotans.

For Those Tired Of That “Smoke Up Their Skirt” Feeling.

Daytonomics - a noun, referring to economic conditions that look rosy on the surface, but worse and worse the more one examines them.  See also: “Potemkin”.  

The DFL is running the bulk of their state campaigns – the Legislature, the Constitutional Officers and Governor – on the notion that two years of Daytonomics have left Minnesota an economic powerhouse.

Like squatters who move into an “Architectural Digest” house, there’s still some zing in the state’s economic elevator pitch – leftovers from ten years of at least partial GOP stewardship.

But under the surface?

There are three signs that the various editorial boards are doing their level best to avoid, or at the most downplay:

  • State revenue keeps falling short of projections.  It’s lagging because personal income tax withholding is slowing down.  They’re slowing down because personal income in Minnesota is not keeping pace with expectations as of the last budget session.  The fact that it means we’re heading for another deficit is the least of the issues; the economy isn’t that damn good.
  • Along those same lines?  The Minnesota Zoo is laying people off. Costs are up – thanks, Barack Obama! – but attendance is also down.  4.5%.  The Zoo – especially the Minnesota Zoo, which is a pretty spendy day out for a family – is something people do when they’re feeling flush, and feel like showing the kids a good time.  You’ll note that attendance at the Como Zoo – which is free, unless you’re a Saint Paul taxpayer – isn’t hurting.
  • Oh, yeah – after a year or so of bragging about Minnesota in comparison to Scott Walker’s Wisconsin that Minnesota is dead last in new job creation in the Midwest.

Wanna see the interesting part of this last story?  Look in the graph comparing the states in the Midwest.  Check out the historical job numbers:

  • 10 years ago, when Tim Pawlenty and a GOP House ran the show?   Booming economic growth.
  • Five years ago, when Tim Pawlenty at least held the line on DFL spending?   At the depths of the Great Recession, no less?  We were among the region’s leaders!
  • Two years ago, at the end of the GOP’s control of the Legislature?   Still good.

Today?

Dead last.

Dead.  Last.

Last.  Dead.

This is Mark Dayton’s economy.