As You Remember

On this Memorial Day, in this dismal low-point in what may well be remembered as one of the worst periods in recent American history, it’s good to remember a time when things were much, much more tangibly horrible.

Seventy years ago today, the evacuation at Dunkirk was reaching its peak – after  a fitful start that had some wondering if Britain mightn’t be better off making a deal with Hitler.  And with it, the future of Western Civilization was…

…well, not “saved”; wars, as Churchill said, are not won by evacuations.  But the events seventy years ago this week sent World War II into a second act.

Troops waiting on the beach

It had been three weeks since Germany had launched its invasion of Belgium and the Netherlands.   The feint into Holland with Germany’s second line troops accomplished its mission – drawing the best of the French Army, and the ten divisions of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), into northern Belgium.

German scouts with motorcycles and armored cars probe for British and French resistance, 1940
German scouts with motorcycles and armored cars probe for British and French resistance, 1940

The Germans’ next step – pouring their best Panzer divisions thorugh the Ardennes Forest and driving straight for the English Channel – cut off the BEF and most of the best French troops – the regulars, the North Africans, the twentysomething soldiers – in Belgium.

The troops, cut off from supplies and communications, had to make their way to the Channel, under intense German pressure and constant bombardment from the German Luftwaffe.   By the end of May, the British, along thousands of French troops, were trapped in a pocket by the French port city of Dunkirk, right at the Belgian border.

It’s hard to describe how desperate, and fraught, this situation was.  The BEF was over 200,000 soldiers and airmen, including the bulk of Britain’s combat power at the time.   Losing them would cripple Britain’s war effort.  And it seemed very likely that they would lose the BEF.  King George VI ordered an unprecedented national week of prayer.

And it was then, starting on May 27, that Churchill – acting through Admiral Bertram Ramsay – ordered one of the most desperate gambles of all time.

Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey
Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay

He ordered Admiral Ramsay to attempt to evacuate the BEF, under fire, from Dunkirk.  To facilitate this, Ramsay put out another call – for Britains’ small boat owners, private and commercial, to volunteer their small craft and, if possible, themselves.

A tug delivers small boats to a Royal Navy base for use in the evacuation.  While boat owners operated many of their own craft, many were crewed  by Royal Navy sailors rounded up from training and other duties.
A tug delivers small boats to a Royal Navy base for use in the evacuation. While boat owners operated many of their own craft, many were crewed by Royal Navy sailors rounded up from training and other duties.

The outlook seemed grim.  Ramsey’s initial orders were to take two days to try to evacuate 45,000 men.  And on the first day, May 27, that looked improbable, with 7,000 men being picked up from the harbor the first day, and maybe 10,000 more the next.

British troops clamber across boats to get to a larger boat
British troops clamber across boats to get to a larger boat

But by May 30, Ramsey’s plan began to fall into place – aided by the Germans’ acceptance of Hermann Goering’s promise that the Luftwaffe could subdue the Brits alone, freeing up the German tanks to drive south.  He used larger ships – especially Britain’s fleet of destroyers, very fast ships that could carry hundreds of men back to safety at nearly 40 miles per hour, but needed the 15-20 feet of underwater room- to go into Dunkirk’s harbor and pick men up off the docks and especially “the Mole”, the harbor’s long breakwater.

British antiaircraft gunners watch as troops queue up on The Mole - the long breakwater outside Dunkirk Harbor.  Destroyers and larger ships could tie up alongside and load 600 troops in minutes - as opposed to hours spent pulling troops off the beach.
British antiaircraft gunners watch as troops queue up on The Mole – the long breakwater outside Dunkirk Harbor. Destroyers and larger ships could tie up alongside and load 600 troops in minutes – as opposed to hours spent pulling troops off the beach.

In the meantime his call for “little ships” brought hundreds of smaller boats of all kinds, mostly shallow-draft boats capable of getting to or close to the beaches to pick up the thousands of men waiting there.

British troops wading off the beach to rescue.  While this is one of the iconic images of the war, the beach accounted for about 1/3 of the rescues at Dunkirk; most were picked up from the docks and the harbor mole.
British troops wading off the beach to rescue. While this is one of the iconic images of the war, the beach accounted for about 1/3 of the rescues at Dunkirk; most were picked up from the docks and the harbor breakwater.

There were all manner of these boats – lifeboats from ocean liners, pleasure boats, trawlers and fishing smacks, dozens of Dutch canal boats that had fled the Netherlands (and carried thousands to safety), much of the UK’s rescue boat fleet, even a Thames river dredge.

London fireboat Massey Shaw, which rescued hundreds from the Dunkirk beaches
London fireboat “Massey Shaw”, which rescued hundreds from the Dunkirk beaches

Some of the soldiers on the beach in turn built makeshift docks out of the hundreds of army trucks that were going to be abandoned anyway, allowing men to clamber their way out into deeper water to be picked up more easily by the boats.

Troops of the Royal Ulster Rifles waiting on a Lorry Jetty - a dock made out of abandoned trucks.
Troops of the Royal Ulster Rifles waiting on a “Lorry Jetty” – a dock made out of abandoned trucks.

Between the two – small boats picking men off the beaches, larger ships carrying bulk lots from the harbor- it was seventy years ago today that the evacuation had its biggest day, with 22,000 picked up from the beaches and 45,000 more from the harbor.

The Germans tried to choke off the evacuation; air raids at one point forced the Royal Navy’s destroyers to restrict their entry into the harbor to night-time sorties.

Two days later – days after the supposed deadline, as Hitler finally overruled Goering and sent ground troops in to finish Dunkirk off – the last organized units of the BEF left the continent.  The Navy and the little ships were battered by losses – six of the vital destroyers and hundreds of the little ships had been sunk, with many more damaged.

HMS Grenade, a Royal Navy G-class destroyer.  Hit by three Luftwaffe bombs as she picked up troops at the Mole, she was towed out to deeper water where she sank, seventy years ago last Saturday.  The wreck is still there, in 80 feet of water.
HMS Grenade, a Royal Navy “G”-class destroyer. She’d rescued a load or two of troops already when she was hit by three Luftwaffe bombs as she picked up troops at the Mole.  Towed out to deeper water, she sank seventy years ago last Saturday. The wreck is still there, in 80 feet of water.

The French government was putting immense political pressure on Churchill to evacuate French soldiers and send them, along with as many evacuated French troops as possible, back to France to help defend against the inevitable German offensive into France.  So Churchill and Ramsey ordered the evacuation to continue for another day, and then another, taking off mostly French troops as the French rear guard held off the Germans.  On June 4, it finally ended with 26,000 final rescues, the last boats leaving as the Germans entered the city, capturing the last of the French defenders.

French soldiers captured at the approaches to The Mole, June 5
French soldiers captured at the approaches to The Mole, June 5.  Most of them faced a forced march to Germany to spend the next five years working in German factories and farms.  German liberals would have attacked the unconstitutionality of it all, but they were all in concentration camps, and Germany had no constitution.

In total, 338,000 men were rescued from the continent – 88% of the men who’d been trapped in the Dunkirk pocket nine days earlier.

That still left 30,000-odd who were captured – two divisions of the French rear guard, troops that fought until all hope was gone against insurmountable odds, and then only surrendered when ordered – and many British stragglers.

British POWs at Dunkirk
British POWs at Dunkirk

Still, compared to a week earlier, when it looked as if barely a third of the 45,000 man initial estimate might be saved, it was a miracle.

The French demanded that the rescued British and French troops be sent back to the south of France – but it was a ludicrous request. The troops had left all their artillery, trucks, tanks, and everything heavier than rifles lying in the sand.  They were exhausted – as was the Royal Navy.  As the last evacuation ships tied up in the UK, the next German offensive – “Plan Red” – that would lead to the capitulation of France, was about to start.  More on that on Saturday.

German troops sort through abandoned British equipment.  Some of these rifles would be used five years later, as the German defenders of Berlin frantically tried to beat back the Soviets.
German troops sort through abandoned British equipment. Some of these rifles would be used five years later, as the German defenders of Berlin frantically tried to beat back the Soviets.

But the evacuation was vital to the war.  Britain’s 300,000 best troops went on to fight another day, and serve as the nucleus for the British war effort in North Africa, Italy and, finally, the return to France four years later.

Dunkirk after the evacuation
Dunkirk after the evacuation

Many of the French soldiers returned to France, mostly to become prisoners of war in a few short weeks.  But those that remained – the survivors of the best of the French military, the ones that had been sent into Belgium three weeks earlier – formed the nucleus of the Free French Army under Charles DeGaulle.  More on them later this week as well.

French evacuees celebrate in the UK
French evacuees celebrate in the UK

Re-equipping all those British troops accelerated Churchill’s negotiations with the US for “Lend-Lease” equipment – which, in turn, drew the US closer to war with Germany (although in 18 months Pearl Harbor would make that a moot point).

All in all, the evacuation allowed Churchill, on June 4, to make his “Dunkirk Speech” in the House of Commons a rousing, defiant one.  Not that Churchill was going to give a defeatist speech in any case – although the British war cabinet did in fact take a vote on seeking terms with Hitler; the evacuation helped make the vote a landside “no”.   More on that on Friday, as well.

Troops return to Britain aboard a RN destroyer
Troops return to Britain aboard a RN destroyer

And so while Memorial Day is an American holiday commemorating American troops, it’s worth paying some mind today for the many other people who’ve fought for freedom alongside American troops over the years; the Australians, Danes and Poles who joined us in Iraq; the Lithuanians and New Zealanders who are with us in Afghanistan; the Koreans who have not only defended their own homeland against their psychotic neighbor but joined us in Vietnam 45 years ago (suffering thousands of casualties but beating the Viet Cong on their own turf)…

…and, seventy years ago today, thousands of British soldiers and sailors and  weekend fishermen and boat hobbyists who kept Western Civilization alive until help could arrive.

(Worth a read)

I Shall Call Them “Fort-Baggers”

Because they claim they want to bag any reconstruction at Fort Snelling.

Oh, yeah – there’s going to be a leftist romp and play fest at Fort Snelling tomorrow, as the usual plethora of lefty shrieking groups protest dog’s breakfast of issues, from the money spent on restoring the ageing Fort to the Arizona Illegal Immigration law.

Just remember, the next time some lefty gets the victorian vapours about Tea Party rhetoric, to ask your lefty friends what they think of this:

I’m trying to think of the whinging that would ensue if any Tea Partier showed an armed party storming, say, the Department of Health and Human Services.

And I’m pondering the irony of lefties and pro-illegal-immigration ninnies protesting in league with the Dakota, who would know the dangers of allowing illegal immigration more than most.

Chanting Points Memo: “LGA Cuts Are Destroying Minnesota!” (Part IV)

In the first three parts of this series, I showed that the example of government fiscal starvation Jeff Rosenberg used in his plaintive plea for more Local Government Aid (LGA) - Brainerd shutting off some of its streetlights – was not borne out by the numbers.  I also showed that the DFL’s claim that cities are raising property taxes to make up for LGA cuts isn’t even half the truth – indeed, it’s more like 1/7th the truth, as property tax levy increases have outstripped LGA cuts by a factor of 7.5 to 1  – and that’s after Governor Pawlenty’s “unallotment”, without which the disparity would have been more like 16 to 1.

On Tuesday, we’ll be looking at LGA in Greater Minnesota – on the many, many cities that get no LGA, and on one city that receives it, but has run its fiscal shop much more responsibly than the DFL-clogged Big Three cities.

That’s next week.

For today, though, I just want to answer some questions.

A couple of people, on blogs and in the comment sections, sniffed “but you’re not controlling for inflation”, with one suggesting if I didn’t use constant dollars the whole exercise was moot. 

Inflation is a factor, and as I noted people need to take it into account when considering the numbers. 

But as I noted the other day, property tax levies have risen 59% in the past eight years.   Even with the cuts to LGA, the total amount of LGA plus levies has risen 34%. 

Inflation during the same period was 21.94%.

“But the government inflation rate is higher!” 

Well, that’s part of the problem, isn’t it?  Government is more expensive than most things – mostly due to labor.  The median government job pays much better than the median private sector job; add in benefits, and the fact that government is the most-unionized sector of the economy (thus immune to the salary contraction that we in the private sector have dealt with in recent years. and “government inflation is higher” is a key reason to cut, not raise, the amount we spend on them.

And it brings up a key question that ties into liberals and conservatives’ views on what government really is: should government be immune to hard times in the private sector?  More to the point – should the taxpayer be required to keep government immune at all costs, when they themselves are suffering in a way that government employees are not?

This will be an especially important question next year, when the current “recovery” grinds to a halt under the avalanche of new Obama administration taxes; indeed, stagnancy or a double-dip recession will likely be tied directly to the growth and voracity of government.

So not only is the complaint about inflation numbers wrong, but it completely avoids the real point; government should not be immune to hard times in the rest of the economy.  Government is not a family member that we are obligated to support; it is at best an employee.  Not much different than the millions that are getting laid off, although the worst government can expect is that they’ll get a pay cut, and it’ll be temporary, and that when things do turn around (when the grownups are in control again), they’ll bounce back just fine.

More next week.

Freedom Is Slavery So Quaint Yet Confusing

I looked at the headline for this piece at Minnesota “Progressive” Project – “Reflections on the upside of the “The Nanny State”” – and thought “oh, goodie – Grace Kelly is at it again”.

The first graf did nothing to shake the first impression:

Who’s afraid of nannies?Not me. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t help but love Julie Andrews in both of her nanny roles, as the high-flying Mary Poppins and the exuberant governess of the wealthy Von Trapp family in “The Sound of Music.”
Or maybe it’s because my youngest daughter actually is working this year as a nanny for an affluent New York City family.

I flipped, pro forma, to the bottom to confirm – and was just a little bit stunned to see it was actually the always-intelligent Dane Smith, former “Dean of Minnesota Political Reporters (although on any given day Pat Kessler and Bill Salisbury also qualify), who now runs “Growth and Justice”, a liberal think tank.

And I gotta confess – he usually does better than this:

Whatever the reason, I am not exactly fear-stricken when government bashers raise the specter of – hide under your beds now – “The Nanny State.”

That’s more fodder for my “Chanting Points Memo” series – the liberal meme that anyone who opposes big government and big taxes does it out of “fear”.  You hear it everywhere – I saw a mainstream media commentator call the passage of Obamacare a “victory over fear”.  Of all the left’s memes, it’s among the most cynical – a mass attempt to frame all dissent as irrational.  It may make good political rhetoric; it’s a lousy way to run a civil society.

Smith goes on to list some of the blessings government brings – food and drug regulation, makign sure oil companies clean up their messes, public education…

…er, we’ll get back to that one.

And Smith – a self-described “former Republican”, although one of the Arne Carlson variety – isn’t completely blinkered:

Let’s concede that our democratic governments’  instinct to protect and serve, and to respond to every problem and highly publicized accident or failure, can be a bit much.

My own favorite example of overreach is from several years ago, when the Minnesota Legislature, worried about salmonella poisoning, tried to crack down on potluck dinners by prohibiting people from bringing certain kinds of homemade casseroles to the church brunch.  Public outrage nipped that one in the bud, and personally, I’d risk my life for grandma’s hot dish.

The quibble, of course, is that government does do things that people need, want or, in some cases, get foisted on them, sometimes “for their own or society’s good”.   Some of those things, most of agree on; a court system, a military to defend at the very least the nation’s borders (!), police and fire departments. 

There are also regulations that everyone agrees on: don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t do material harm to other people or their property.

But you don’t have to go too far before you start getting to “optional” territory, the stuff not eveyrone agrees on.

But we also need to seriously consider the alternatives to laws and regulations that protect the safety, health and welfare of real people. safeguard public health and safety,  and reflect on the good that nannies do.

First, we need to remember that the nannying responses arise from repetitive, often outrageous, and sometimes lethal failures by individuals and the private sector to protect the common good.

And as a limited government advocate (Smith uses the term “Government Basher”, which is a tad pejorative), even I might agree that “repetitive, outrageous and lethal” might be good yardsticks for finding things that need regulating – especially things where I, a private citizen, would have to resort to outrageous and lethal means to get redress.

But we all know that the vast majority of government programs and regulations cover things that are dubiously outrageous, and are lethal only if the paperwork falls on someone.    We are awash in regulations that cost vastly more, financially and morally, than they could possibly be worth.  And some that are just plain insulting.

The 55mph speed limit jumps to mind; the interstate system was designed to be travelled safely at 80mph; drivers who are not comfortable at 80 (like me, who is just fine at 65) can feel free to stay in the right lane and keep it over 40.  There were safety improvements – but mainly from the reduction in disparity in speeds, not the speed drop itself.  And very little gas was directly saved by the cut in top speed – gas prices that promoted prudent conservati0n did.

And yet for most of us there is regulation that we can justify; the question is not “whether”, but “can we get the programs and regulation that society objectively needs, without having also to pay for every pet project and, worse, crusade that government and the special interests that pay for it want?

A majority  of Americans and Minnesotans are thankful or at least understand the need for  our governments’ nannying roles.  Most reasonable people would not argue against governmental nannying that:   makes us and our teenagers wear seat belts

Do I argue against it?  No, but mainly due to pointlessness.  A former Jeep driver, I put on my seatbelts as a matter of habit, and I make sure my kids do, and I resent government presuming I don’t.

and makes car manufacturers provide airbags

Perhaps, but I’d pay for them anyway.

tries to prevent oil companies and corporate polluters from destroying the oceans and other environments

Uh oh.  Bad timing, Dane.  Y’see, the bigger the “regulation”, the more temptation for government to tinker with it on behalf of the special interests to whom they report.

The current disaster in the Gulf is a great example of this; pressure from California environmentalists and Malibu property owners like Martin Sheen pressured government into “regulating” drilling out of existence along the California cost, despite huge reserves and shallow water in which disasters like Deepwater Horizon’s could be repaired easily and quickly.  But no – the “regulation” (and similaar ones barring exploration and drilling in other easier-to-reach places) forced oil companies to look for oil in much, much deeper water, with its two-tons-per-square-inch water pressure and the staggering engineering problems that come with it under ideal circumstances, to say nothing of when trying to repair a disaster.

In other words, the root cause of the environmental disaster unfolding in Louisiana is…regulation!  

teaches our children how to read

Regulations and nannying did that?  I thought parents did that. 

My bad!

The principle behind our mostly good and effective governments is that while individual freedoms must be protected, the group is important too.   The collective and democratic wisdom that prohibits littering – and collects taxes to clean up after those who do litter – overrules the wonderful feeling of freedom that comes from throwing your beer can out the window.

Right.  We regulate bad behavior.

It’s just that the more fine-grained the behavior you try to regulate, the higher teh costs get while the less benefit you get for the money.

Great example: Drunk driving.  Preventing people from driving at over .12 or .1 percent blood alcohol level (BAC) brought a huge wave of arrests (revenue!), and a distinct drop in drunk driving fatalities.  Expanding the regulation – dropping the BAC limit to .08 – added to the costs (and, for government, revenues), without actually touching fatalities – because almost no fatalities and very very few accidents of any kind are caused by people with .08 BAC.

So, Dane Smith, let’s go back to your yardstick; if something is outrageous and lethal, there’s a case to be made for regulating it “for society’s good”; people driving with a .14 BAC are clearly a real danger, for example.  

But when you start dropping BACs to .08, you’re not regulating the outrageous and lethal; you’re regulating the borderline-imprudent and generally-innocuous.  At this point all you’re doing is raising revenues via your court system. 

Government should not be a nanny – government should be a cop who prevents the “outrageous and lethal”, but sticks within the rules otherwise. 

Someone whose main purpose is to extort money and serve the interests of her powerful friends isn’t a nanny; it’s a mobster.

By the way, Dane Smith – why are you writing for MPP?  Did someone tell you “squander your credibility”, or what?

Slime Job

The leftyblog community is turning cartwheels because James O’Keefe pled guilty to his phone shenanigans in Mary Landrieu’s office.

But as with pretty  much everything you read on leftyblogs, the facts are wrong:

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana has filed a court document admitting that James O’Keefe did not intend to tamper with the phones at Mary Landrieu’s office, or commit any other felony.

Oh — and the good folks at the Department of Justice don’t particularly want you to know that. This post reveals that, at O’Keefe’s hearing, the Assistant U.S. Attorney tried not to read that part of the document in court. What’s more, the U.S. Attorney pointedly omitted this critical information from their press release.

And the part that the press carries is, of course, the only reality the lefty smear machine cares about.

his Twitter feed.

Chanting Points Memo: “LGA Cuts Are Destroying Minnesota!” (Part III)

There are a little over five million Minnesotans. 

About 4.3 million of them live in “cities” of widely-varying sizes and government types, from plucky Montevideo up to metropolitan Minneapolis, from conservative Mound to neo-Wobbly Duluth.

These cities have a few things in common.  They levy property taxes to pay part of their municipal bills – and many of them spent much of the past forty years laundering their spending through the state via “Local Government Aid”. 

In their approach to the next election and the run-up to this November (which, for the DFL, will almost surely be as  much a matter of running against Pawlenty as anything), the DFL is banging on the ideas that…:

  • cuts to Local Government Aid shredded budgets and gutted infrastructure throughout Minnesota, and
  • Minnesota cities need to “pay their way”.

So let’s look at how Minnesota “pays its way”, according to data from the League of Minnesota Cities.

From 2002 to 2009,. Local Government Aid to all Minnesota cities fell 15%. 

  2002 2009  Initial 2009 after Unallotment $ change % Change
Total City LGA $564,990,952 $526,141,547 $481,521,933 ($83,469,019) -15%
Total City Levy $1,060,248,330 $1,689,917,723 $1,689,917,723 $629,669,393 59%
Total LGA+Levy $1,625,239,282 $2,216,059,270 $2,171,439,656 $546,200,374 34%

 You might ask “what about the changes between 2002 and 2009?”  It’d be a fair question; while I am focusing on the big picture here – the gross movement during the Pawlenty Administrion, the fact is that LGA started at $564 million in 2002, dropped to $464 million in 2003, dipped into the $430-million range through ’05, and held in the $480-millions until 2009, when the original amount ballooned back up to $526 million, before Governor Pawlenty’s unallotment shaved it back into teh $481 million range, roughly where it’d been throughout his second term.

But check out the second line – the total property tax levies from all cities.  In every year of the Pawlenty Administration, they rose by at least $100 million. 

As a result, while total LGA was off 15%, or about $83 million, for the period (and maybe $3 since the start of Pawlenty’s second term, even with unallotment and the removal of the “Minnesota Value Homestead Credit” (in which the state stopped paying cities and counties back for a credit on taxes for high-value homes – which affected suburbs with high property values vastly more than the Big Three cities of Minneaoplis, St. Paul and Duluth – of which more in a bit.

Those numbers are for all cities.   And throughout Minnesota, hikes outstripped cuts by a factor of 7.5 to 1 (683 milion to 85 million), even after unallotment.

Now, let’s look at the Big Three – Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth.

Minneapolis’ population grew by 2% during the Pawlenty years – while property tax levies rose 93% to cover a post-allotment drop of 28% in LGA payments; the city’s total revenue zoomed up 35% during the Pawlenty years.  Hikes outstripped LGA cuts by almost 4 to 1.

  2002 2009 2009 with unallotment $ change % Change
Mpls LGA $111,567,143 $88,786,411 $80,249,971 ($31,317,172) -28%
Mpls Levy $121,910,797 $235,717,416 $235,717,416 $113,806,619 93%
Total LGA+Levy $233,477,940 $324,503,827 $315,967,387 $82,489,447 35%
Mpls Population 382,446 390,131 390,131 7,685 2%

 Saint Paul didn’t fare quite as well; nearly doubling the property tax levy to its stagnant population  only compensated the 22% drop in LGA with an overall quarter hike in LGA/property tax revenue.  Hikes outstripped cuts by almost 3 to 1.

  2002 2009 2009 with unallotment $ change % Change
StP LGA $73,554,056 $62,600,018 $57,569,445 ($15,984,611) -22%
StP Levy $45,857,683 $89,254,277 $89,254,277 $43,396,594 95%
Total LGA+Levy $119,411,739 $151,854,295 $146,823,722 $27,411,983 23%
StP Population 287,260 288,055 288,055 795 0%

 Duluth’s LGA, with unallotment, dropped by one percent over the Pawlenty Administration, and supplies more of the city’s budget than the property tax levies – which rose 70% – do.  Note that while Local Government Aid was virtually unchanged even with Pawlenty’s unallotment, and the loss of MVHC revnues had little effect given the city’s depressed housing values, property taxes went from about a third of the total LGA/tax venue mix to a little less than half; the overall take rose by 15%, even though Duluth’s population shrank.

  2002 2009 2009 with unallotment $ change % Change
Duluth LGA $29,635,152 $30,730,443 $29,200,998 ($434,154) -1%
Duluth Levy $9,062,723 $15,437,590 $15,437,590 $6,374,867 70%
Total LGA+Levy $38,697,875 $46,168,033 $44,638,588 $5,940,713 15%
Duluth Population 86,125 85,220 85,220 (905) -1%

So let’s compare the state’s Big Three cities with the rest of the state.

The population of Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth grew by about a percent during the Pawlenty years, while all the rest of Minnesota’s cities grew by 8% – greater than the population of Saint Paul.  The Big Three cities’ state of the state’s population shrank by 1.2%, to just under 18% – less than one in five Minnesotans:

Populat6ion 2002 2009   Gross change % Change
Big 3 Population 755,831 763,406   7,575 1%
Total city Pop 3,993,198 4,315,637   322,439 8%
Big 3 % of Pop 18.9% 17.7%      

 But how do the finances break out?

The big three, even with a 22% post-unallotment cut, get a third of the state’s Local Government Aid – double the population’s proportion of the revenues:

Big 3 LGA $214,756,351 $182,116,872 $167,020,414 ($47,735,937) -22%
All others LGA $350,234,601 $344,024,675 $314,501,519 ($35,733,082) -10%
Big 3 % of LGA 38.0% 34.6% 34.7%    

Divided up by resident, this means that residents of the Big Three get, even after the unallotment cuts, two and a half times as much Local Government Aid per-capita than the rest of the state’s cities.

  2002 2009 2009 ost unallotment Change %change
Big 3 per capita LGA $284.13 $238.56 $218.78 ($65) -23%
All others LGA per capita $10.19 $96.85 $88.54 ($20) -18%

And the Big Three’s property tax revenue hikes – 93%,  almost $164 million over the Pawlenty years – outstripped their net LGA cuts (almost $48 million) by 3.4 to 1. 

What does this mean?

The Hikes Beat The Cuts: While the DFL caterwauls endlessly about the damage the cuts in LGA did, the hikes in property taxes statewide outstripped the LGA cuts by 7.5 to 1.   Without unallotment, that would have been closer to 16 to 1.  Bear in mind that this is money that goes to government – not merely to maintain it but to grow it – as opposed to anything useful, like growing our private sector or putting your kids through college.

Pay Your Own Way?  While Local Government Aid was originally intended to subsidize smaller, poorer governments in outstate Minnesota, so that their schools and infrastructures could compete with those of the once-wealthy Twin Cities, that’s been totally stood on its head during the past generation.  Minneaopolis, Saint Paul and Duluth get 2.5 times as much Local Government Aid per capita than the state’s smaller cities.

Why?

Because the Big Three cities are basket cases after generations of unfettered DFL control.

The DFL would have you believe there’s no alternative.

We’ll look into that on Monday.

Robyne Mark To Pay Matt

Say what you will about Matt Entenza.  The current #3-runner in the DFL primary race knows what makes liberal voters (as opposed to DFL activists) swoon.   He ended a couple of days of speculation yesterday by picking Channel 9 anchorette Robyne Robinson as his running mate.

In a news release from the Entenza campaign, Robinson said: “Whether it’s his vision for the clean energy economy, his dedication to reinvesting in schools, or his commitment to civil rights, Matt has spent his career standing up for Minnesota families. I am humbled and honored that he asked me to join his campaign. I look forward to traveling the state over the next months on the campaign trail and then getting to work making Matt’s bold vision a reality.”

Entenza’s “bold vision”, of course, is the same as that of Margaret Anderson-Kelliher and Mark Dayton (and his “Independence” Party rival, crypto-liberal Tom Horner); more m0ney.  More money for PC boondoggles, more for the Minnesota Federation of Teachers (with fewer strings attached), more money for molding Minnesota to the DFL’s vision.

But Entenza has differentiated himself, and perhaps shrewdly, by picking Robinson.

Unlike Margaret Anderson Kelliher’s faux-bipartisan mock-reach-across-the-aisle to died-in-the-wool liberal John Gunyou (who is “bipartisan” because he was budget director for Arne Carlson, which is like saying Meier Lansky wasn’t a mobster because he wasn’t Italian), and Mark Dayton’s dreary shoring-up-with-the-activists choice of Yvonne Prettner-Solon, Entenza has shown that he understands the real lessons of the Obama victory; go shallow.  Play for surface effect. 

The mere possibility of an Entenza-Robinson ticket generated more heat for Entenza’s campaign than he’d been able to produce on his own, despite his year long campaign and his first-in-the-race television ad presence. While Fox 9 isn’t seen in every corner of the state, she has fans all over and adds star power to his campaign.

“This reinforces our message; we’ve got to do things a new way and we have to get refocused as a state. The old ways aren’t working,” Entenza said Thursday.

Robyne Robinson; bringing that vaunted TV Anchor rigor and knowledge to the Entenza ticket.

Paging Kanye West

President Obama has more important things to do than go to the oil spill site:

This morning, President Obama will meet with the NCAA men’s basketball champion Duke Blue Devils at the White House to honor their 2009-2010 championship season in the Rose Garden.

Keeping up the sports theme, the president and the vice president will take a photo with the U.S. World Cup soccer team and former President Bill Clinton, who is chairing the 2018 World Cup bid, on the North Portico. The White House has previously announced that Vice President Biden and Jill Biden will attend the World Cup in South Africa next month.

Afterward, the president will a private have lunch with President Clinton in the Private Dining Room.

The answer is obvious, if you’re a respected social theorist: Barack Obama hates bayou people.

In the afternoon, the President will deliver remarks on the BP oil spill and the conclusions of his ordered 30-day safety review and hold a press conference in the East Room.

“Thirty Day Safety review?”

I’m thinking it flunked.

Straw Patrician

John Kerry  is sympathetic with people who are suffering from the econony…:

“There’s a sense of some things unraveling” to them, said Kerry.

But don’t do business agains the family!:

But he said that the D.C.-directed attacks are hypocritical, since many of those attacking Washington spending presumably want to keep their Social Security and Medicare and want Washington to play a big role in the Gulf Oil cleanup. “There’s a huge contradiction on a daily basis,” he said.

The great liberal conceit; that if you want some government services, you have to accept all of them.

Chanting Points Memo: Emmer And The Yellow Quote

Over the years, we’ve become used to the Minnesota Independent’s sloppy, agenda-driven “reporting” on issues.

Yesterday, Andy Birkey at the Mindy topped himself in a piece about a “donation” from the Tom Emmer campaign to “You Can Run International” (YCR(, an Annandale-based ministry. 

YCR is a fundamentalist group that started as a metal-rap music ministry that started doing assemblies in schools, and have branched out into multimedia, including a weekly radio program, “Sons Of Liberty” on WWTC-AM, where my “Northern Alliance Radio Network” also broadcasts.  Disclosure:  I know Bradlee Dean via the station; we talk radio quite a bit; I disagree with him on not a few things, theologically and politically, and he and his ministry say a few things I don’t personally endorse.  But we’re on the same team (and I’m waiting to see which leftyblog is the first to copy and paste “we’re on the same team” while omitting the previous couple of sentences).

Birkey:

The Minnesota House campaign of Rep. Tom Emmer donated to the ministry of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Intl., Inc., according to the press secretary for Emmer’s gubernatorial campaign. Emmer is one of several Republican leaders involved with the ministry of Bradlee Dean, who leads a hard rock band that brings its message of Jesus Christ into public schools and recently affirmed the practice of Muslim countries executing gays and lesbians.

First, the “donation”. 

According to a source very close to the Emmer campaign, “the “contribution” was nothing more than buying seats at a dinner”, a teen outreach event.   It was not a direct cash donation to YCR, as Birkey’s article implies.

Tomayto Tomahto?  Not really – accuracy and context count. 

But Birkey goes farther into the weeds.

According to campaign finance reports, Emmer’s campaign gave You Can Run $250 in late 2008 (pdf).

In the last few months, Emmer has appeared on Bradlee Dean’s radio show — the same show on which Dean said, “Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America. This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination.”

Well, no.  Emmer did not appear on “the same show” where Dean gave the quote above.  He appeared on a completely separate episode of the program.   And they talked about politics.  Not Islam and Christianity’s views on gays.   Birkey’s wording is incredibly misleading; the subtext – that appearing on a radio show implies agreement rather than trying to engage an audience – is even worse.  

And if Birkey wants to believe appearance equals agreement, he might want to have a word with NARN guest R.T. Rybak.

And Dean was talking about traditional biblical and quranic theology, not advocating actions by a civil government.  Fundamentalist Christianity and Islam are both rather harsh on the subject of homosexuality, and Dean is nothing if not a fundamentalist.  But it’s crazy to take Dean’s quote – about an outrage on the part of Muslim governments – and spin it as sympathy for lynching gays (see “UPDATE”, below).

So to summarize, Andy Birkey wants you to believe that seats “donated” at an outreach dinner in November 2008 for a group whose radio program didn’t go on the air until August 2009  implies…what?  That Tom Emmer harbors some sympathy for putatively outrageous views on gays?

Seem a little stretchy to anyone?

Emmer also posed for a picture with leaders of You Can Run,

As he did with pretty much everyone who attended any Republican function in the past year or so, myself included.  Heck, if Andy Birkey had shown up, he’d probably have gotten a picture with Emmer too. 

Emmer, by the way, responds pretty definitively to the issue to MPR’s Tom Scheck.

UPDATE AND CORRECTION:  I talked with Bradlee Dean – that’s how I roll, reporting-wise. 

First the correction:  Dean interviewed Emmer on their old KKMS program, before he started on WWTC.  KKMS is Salem’s religious station, while WWTC covers politics.

Now, the update.  I asked Dean “Do you advocate or approve of the government executing homosexuals for being homosexual?”

He laughed a long, deep bellylaugh.  That’d be “no”.

“Would it be fair to say”, I continued, “that the context of the quote Andy Birkey ran was discussing biblical and quranic theology, rather than advocating or tolerating actions by a civil goverment, and that neither Bradkee Dean nor You Can Run International advocate the murder of gays?”

“Absolutely”, Dean replied.

I don’t know about you, but that was not the impression I got from Birkey’s quote.

Chanting Points Memo: “LGA Cuts Are Destroying Minnesota!” (Part II)

Question:  Has your disposable income gone up 44% in the past ten years?

 As I noted yesterday, Local Government Aid was originally set up to transfer wealth from the wealthy Twin Cities to smaller towns in then-poor outstate Minnesota.  To a great extent, it worked; outstate Minnesota came a long way very quickly, in what was called “The Minnesota Miracle”. 

One of the cities in outstate Minnesota that benefitted from Local Government Aid nearly forty years ago was Brainerd.  The capitol of Minnesota’s lake country tourist district, Brainerd was and is a sleepy town of about 18,000 year-round, whose area swells to six digits on a summer fishing weekend.

But the cuts in Local Government Aid have apparently hobbled plucky Brainerd; as Jeff Rosenberg of MNPublius plaintively pleaded earlier this week:

How bad have local government spending cuts become? The city of Brainerd has started turning off the lights:

Selected streetlights – in alleys, in mid blocks and duplicates at intersections – started being shut off by the utility in early May in response to the Brainerd City Council’s direction to reduce the street lighting budget by $91,000. Brainerd Public Utilities Superintendent Tom Phelps told the Personnel and Finance Committee that in addition to shutting off lights he’s been reducing wattage in downtown decorative lights and looking at switching to LED lights.

Now, if you’re a typical homeowner and provider for a family in these tough times, you might be forgiven for responding “Good!  Let them cut back!“  I mean, Rosenberg even notes that the street and alley lights that are the subject of this tragedy are duplicates, or ones found in the middle of the block, or in some of the alleys in sleepy, relatively crime-less Brainerd.  It’s a selective  cut, not a wholesale blackout.  There’s no indication that any of the lighting is essential to safety; they’re redudant and/or decorative!

Unless your point of view is that no government “service”, no matter now non-critical, shall ever want for even the most trivial nonessential funding, what is the fuss about these “cuts?”  Indeed, if we go through a year without any problems from the shut-off lights, could it be fairly asked if the lights were needed in the first place?

But no mind.  The “service” is being cut, we’re told by the left and media (pardon the redundancy) because Brainerd’s Local Government Aid has been gutted.  Jeff ask  – and, since MNPublius is as close to being an institutional voice of the DFL as exists in the Twin Cities blogosphere, we can assume this is part of the Party’s portfolio of chanting points – “How bad have local government spending cuts become?”

Good question.

I checked League of Minnesota Cities   website, which includes tax and LGA data for much of recorded history.   In it we see that Brainerd’s allotment of Local Government Aid has gamboled around a bit:

  • 2002: $4,005,088
  • 2003: $3,488,947
  • 2004: $3,488,947
  • 2005: $9,739,034
  • 2006: $4,019,438
  • 2007: $3,904,428
  • 2008: $3.958.462
  • 2009: $4.186.234

In other words, Brainerd’s share of Local Government Aid took a quick dip in 2002, when Pawlenty started the cuts, and returned quickly to…

…almost a $200,000 increase.

In the meantime, property taxes for the same period looked like this:

  • 2002: $1,,620,757
  • 2003: $,2937,920
  • 2004: $2,500,872
  • 2005: $2,804,037
  • 2006: $3,198,474,
  • 2007: $3,510,360
  • 2008: $3,816,641
  • 2009: $3,962,752
  • Brainerd’s property tax levy increased by 235%!

    This table shows the bookends of the Pawlenty years – 2002 versus 2009 LGA and property tax levies:

    Funding Source 2002 2009 Change ($) Change (%)
    Brainerd LGA “$4,005,088″ “$4,186,234″ “$181,146 “ 101.18%
    Brainerd Levy “$1,620,757″ “$3,962,752″ “$2,341,995 “ 235.48%
    Brainerd Population “13,421″ “13,954″    
    Brainer LGA/Capita $298 $300    

    The amount of Local Government Aid per resident has risen by $2; LGA has risen by a percent and change since Pawlenty took office, while Brainerd more than doubled their taxes to “make up for the LGA shortfall”.   

    So - for the entire period of “dislocation” “cause” by Pawlenty’d “cuts”, the total Brainerd City take between property taxes and LGA only dropped once – by $75,000 (1.5%), in 2003.  Between the steady LGA payments and the skyrocketing property taxes, Brainerd’s take from these two sources has zoomed from $5.62 million to over $8.14 million during Pawlenty’s administration.  That’s a 44% increase in overall savings. 

    It’s ahead of inflation, overall.  It’s well ahead of wage increases for the private sector, overall. 

    So what’s with all the whinging about huge cutbacks?  Forget about asking why they’re complaining about shutting off some non-essential lights; why are they shutting them off at all?

    What are they spending money on so that they (and the DFL) can spin a steady LGA payment and a 44% overall increase in LGA and Property Tax combined revenue as a poverty case with a straight face?

    ———-

    So that’s Brainerd – one of the cities LGA was originally supposed to help.

    So how does this play out around the state? 

    If you believe the DFL and Media (pardon the redundancy)’s conventional wisdom, the cities have had their local aid gutted, leading to their budgets falling apart.

    Could that be true?

    More tomorrow.

    Social Engineering

    For a variety of reasons, I was not able to bike to work the other day.  I took the bus.

    Now, my bus route, which basically gives me door to door service, isn’t by any means the dodgiest route in town.  But every once in a while, let’s just say I wish parking were cheaper.

    I was sitting on the bus.  One other person was on the bus, sitting probably six rows behind me.  The bus has a capacity of about 40, if every seat is full.  I was sitting across the seat – because at 6’5, sitting fore-and-aft leaves my knees jammed against the seat in front of me.

    A woman – sixtysomething, gray hair, with that frantic manner and the thousand-yard glare of the emotionally-challenged, got on the bus and clumped down the aisle.

    And sat down next to me, as I scrambled to pull my knees out of the way.

    “Some people are so rude”, she said, loudly enough for the whole bus to hear, not that they cared, as I wedged my knees into place.   She bustled herself into place, muttering, again, about how rude I was.

    I turned toward the window, and coughed a long, dry, hacking cough that sounded like it threatened to bring up breakfast.  And then another.  And then another.

    She stopped muttering.

    I dialed a number on my cell phone (my home number), and started conversing with the voicemail; “Hey.  Yeah, I’m on the bus.  Oh, I think my fever might get down to 101, but I gotta work.  Yeah, I’m short already this week.”

    The lady was listening.

    “  Oh, I was up puking all night.  Coulda swore I saw blood…”

    She moved.

    Count Our Blessings

    Last year, Minneapolis switched to “Instant Runoff” voting.   Under “IRV”, voters list their choices for an office in ranked order.

    In exchange for getting slower elections decided by an arcane method that required the last mayoral election to be resolved by a slow, error-prone hand count, the cash-strapped city also got a huge bill. Minneapolis’ first IRV election cost almost $400,000:

    A report prepared by Ginny Gelms (PDF), interim assistant city clerk/director of elections, estimates that about one-third of those costs are one-time start-up costs that won’t affect future elections…

    …Said the report:

    The greatest expenditure was in the area of voter education and outreach, making up 30% of the total amount spent on RCV. A portion of the City’s voter education and outreach program was funded through a grant from the Minneapolis Foundation in the amount of $35,000.

    In other words, a third of the costs went to teaching people how to vote.

    Teaching people how to vote.

    In theory, they won’t need to spend that money again, in theory.  How much do you want to bet?

    Hand count expenditures were the next largest, with staffing the hand count at 19% and the costs associated with the hand count facility at 17% of the total RCV cost.

    Commenting on the report, Fairvote MN — which led the effort to get IRV in the city — notes that Minneapolis officials are working to acquire IRV-capable voting machines:\

    And there’s good news!

    The report also indicated that if RCV-capable voting equipment was available in the next election to tally the ballots, costs would be reduced by more than half.

    So of the almost $400,000 hike, a third is hypothetically temporary; half the remainder will be saved with new machines; that means elections are going to be $100K-plus more expensive no matter what.

    And that’s the good news!

    The bad news?

    Gelms has said that such equipment may be available within the next three years; the city is working closely with Hennepin County to have RCV-ready voting machines in place by the 2013 election.Such machines are currently used in San Francisco; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and will be used in upcoming November elections in Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro, California.

    And for all of you who worried that Diebold voting machines were going to be jiggered to take control of good ol’ traditional one-person, one-vote elections, you gotta love machines designed to count votes using a system that needs as much explaining as IRV does.

    Slower, more expensive, less transparent elections.

    Oh, and we get the same thing in “cash-strapped” Saint Paul, now, too!

    Chanting Points Memo: LGA Cuts Are Killing Minnesota! (Part 1)

    I wrote about it yesterday:  the regional left wants to make Governor Pawlenty’s cuts to the “Local Government Aid” program a major issue in the campaign.

    If there is any justice – and if Minnesotans can read numbers – it should backfire badly on the DFL.

    I wrote yesterday about a piece in Twin Cities leftyblog MNPublius written by Jeff Rosenberg, which led:

    As Tim Pawlenty tries to walk into the sunset, he’s got one small problem: He’s left Minnesotans a complete mess.

    He went on to quote heavily from a WCCO TV report that showed how grievously cities around Minnesota are suffering because of Governor Pawlenty’s cuts to LGA.

    We’ll address the “cuts” later in this series. 

    ———-

    But for today, let’s just talk history. 

    “Local Government Aid” was a scheme hatched in the late sixties and early seventies.  There are really two ways to look at it:

    “Political Welfare” – Just as “welfare” in its purest, most generally-accepted form seeks to put a safety net over the abyss of poverty, and “corporate welfare” tries to help businesses create jobs in communities that might not otherwise exist (often for good reason), LGA started out as welfare for cities; the state’s taxpayers would subsidize the less well-off parts of the state by redistributing wealth from the parts of the state that were prospering.  At that time, of course, it was the wealthy metro area  subsidizing relatively poor outstate Minnesota.  

    But forty years of DFL mismanagement have turned the major cities – Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth into fiscal basket cases; outstate Minnesota is holding its own; the suburbs, especially the Twin Cities’ booming southern and western ‘burbs, are absolutely booming.

    And like the original intentions of the personal and corporate welfare systems, Minnesota’s political welfare system, Local Government Aid, has been perverted far outside its original scope.

    Which means LGA really more closely resembles…

    Money Laundering: Originally intended to give small, poor outstate governments and schools a hand, it now subsidizes DFL-dominated city governments to a vastly disproportionate degree.  And it allows those city governments to diffuse the accountability for their own wasteful, featherbedded spending.

    Look at it this way:  A city spends 10 million dollars.  They want to spend fifteen million dollars.  What do you suppose is going to be an easier pill to shove down the city’s taxpayers’ throats?

    • A 50% hike in property taxes?
    • No change in property taxes, and a five million dollar subsidy gotten from the state’s three million taxpayers?

    Because when you’re a politician, the best kind of accountability is the kind you fob off on someione else.

    And while the DFL caterwauls about the losses that LGA cuts have supposedly inflicted on the cities, the numbers show a very, very different story;  LGA cuts have been far outstripped by property tax hikes.

    More, including numbers – lots and lots of numbers – tomorrow.

    Project For The Day

    I’ve been doing some checking – and talking with some sources.  And I’m boggled by how very very disingenuous the DFL’s “LGA cuts are destroying Minnesota’s Cities!” meme is.

    How disingenuous?

    One of my multi-part series starts around noon today.

    Robinson?

    The number three candidate in the DFL primary race is apparently courting the anchorette from the number three TV newscast. Robyne Robinson is apparently mulling joining the Matt Entenza campaign:

    Robyne Robinson, who will leave her longtime post at FOX 9 this week, said Monday that she is considering signing on to be DFLer Matt Entenza’s running mate in the race for Minnesota governor.

    But that makes it far from a done deal.

    “I’m not saying yes or no to anything yet,” she said, confirming that she has been invited to be on the ticket. “When you’re approached with an offer like this, something very serious, very humbling, you can’t just give a frivolous answer.”

    It’d be a good move for Entenza, who’d get access to Channel Nine’s Investigative unit.

    Remember When…

    …dissent was the highest form of patriotism?

    Either does Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who compares the opposition he receives as head of a lobotomized blue state with what happens in Washington:

    “It seems like child’s play compared to what is going on in Washington, where it is almost at the level of sedition, it feels to like me,” Patrick said.

    Merriam-Webster.com, the dictionary site, defines sedition as “incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority.”

    But for goodness’ sake, don’t question his patriotism!

    After the forum, Patrick explained his remarks.

    “I think that the number of people in the Grand Old Party who seem to be absolutely committed to saying ‘no,’ whenever he says ‘yes,’ no matter what it is, even if it’s an idea that they came up with, is just extraordinary,” the governor told reporters after the forum.

    If everything he says and does wrong (and everything he takes from us is used to soften things up for something equally loathsome), then why should we say “yes”?  For the sake of Deval Patrick?

    But did the opposition really border on sedition?

    “That was a rhetorical flourish,” Patrick said.

    Deval Patrick’s mother swims after troop ships.

    That’s a rhetorical flourish.

    More Hope For Change

    Almost 2/3 Americans want an Obamacaretectomy:

    Support for repeal of the new national health care plan has jumped to its highest level ever. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 63% of U.S. voters now favor repeal of the plan passed by congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Obama in March.

    Prior to today, weekly polling had shown support for repeal ranging from 54% to 58%.

    Currently, just 32% oppose repeal.

    The new findings include 46% who Strongly Favor repeal of the health care bill and 25% who Strongly Oppose it.

    “But Rasmussen is just like Fox News!”

    Well, to the extent that their results lead Gallup by about a week or two, perhaps.

    Dammit, There’s No Time!

    Phones will all be turned off during tonight’s sign-off of 24 – in an electric perimeter than I can guarantee will be a lot more effective than any the Los Angeles Police ever set up in six seasons.

    The first three Days of the Fox counterterror drams were as close to “Must-See” as any TV has ever been.  Four and Five were both decent.  Six was abysmal.  Seven was a worthy comeback, and eight has been almost back to early form.

    For me, it’d be hard to top the first two seasons for personal immediacy, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 (Day One was actually produced before the “man-caused disaster”); a guy fighting for his country on the one hand and his family – his aggrieved wife and his bratty teenager – on the other, and his comrades at CTU (implausibly mole-riven as they were) on the third; the demands frequently conflicted with each other.

    In other words, just like life for most of us, except with nerve gas and bullets instead of angry principals and tax bills.

    As the show got further and further from the immediacy 0f the three way network of loyalty and duty – to country, family and comrades – the flabbier and more West Wing-y it seemed.   In the earlier Days, Bauer’s loyalty to his nation (wrapped up in the logically-stretchy but dramatically brilliant relationship with Dennis Haysbert’s President Palmer, and then the even-better one with the reptilian mass of gray areas, President Logan - bounced off his troubled family, Teri and Kim, provided a constant tension that, by Day Six, had decayed into the sloppy, formulaic ones with Wayne Palmer and Audrey Raines, whose coma was the only interesting thing about her on The Longest Day.   On Day Six, Bauer had no personal skin in the game; the day’s biggest failing was that it was all about a scenario, not about Bauer’s personal conflict.

    In a way, one of the show’s most ridiculed moments – Tony Almeida’s resurrection from the dead on Day Seven – was one of its best.  For the first time, really, since Day Four, Bauer had an immediate, personal conflict – his longtime loyalty to Almeida – along with a judicious return of a personal life, loyalties and conflicts  in the form of Annie Wersching’s Renee “Agent Hotpants” Walker.  And implausible as it was (“What?  24 implausible?”), it worked, and the show pulled off the impossible – it actually re-jumped the shark, in the right direction this time.

    And so 24 actually is going out on top (barring a Newhart-like dream sequence ending of some kind).

    So leave me alone starting at seven tonight.  Dammit, I won’t have time.

    More Of The More Of The More Of The Same

    Two weeks after caterwauling that Tom Emmer had “stuck to his extreme right-wing agenda” by selecting Annette Meeks as his running mate, two of the three DFL gubernatorial candidates have…

    …stuck with their extreme left-wing agendas in their choices of running mates.

    Last week Margaret Anderson-Kelliher selected John Gunyou:

    Gunyou served as state finance commissioner during the first term of Republican Gov. Arne Carlson. He’s also worked as finance director for the City of Minneapolis and most recently as city manager of Minnetonka.

    In other words, he ran the budget for a governor whose answer for everything was to raise taxes, then for a city that is falling apart, and finally as a manager for a third-tier suburb with a huge corporate and business tax base that can keep even the most megalomaniacal budget afloat…for a while.

    And today came word that Mark Dayton has picked Yvonne Prettner Solon.  Prettner Solon is a legislator from Duluth who has a lifetime 14 out of 100 rating from the Taxpayers’ League – and only a 7 in this past session.

    The lesson for average Minnesotans is clear; elect Tom Emmer, or just attach your wallets to a shop-vac and save everyone the trouble.

    Alternate Reality

    As the United States becomes more socialistic, the grandaddy of socialist nations, Sweden, owes its ongoing success to a gradual rejection of socialism:

    In The Capitalist Welfare State, Lund University economist Andreas Bergh explains how Sweden has managed to increase economic productivity despite its large public sector.

    Bergh says that despite popular mythology, Sweden is not a socialist success story but instead owes its economic growth to the lowered tax rates and deregulation of the early 1990s, which allowed innovation and investment to flourish. Bergh also discusses how Sweden’s national voucher program revitalized the country’s educational system and warns that Americans who are hoping to emulate Swedish success by growing the public sector are learning the wrong lessons from Sweden.

    It’s not a capitalist haven, yet, but there’s a reason Sweden didn’t fail before Greece.

    MNPublius: “More Money Laundering!”

    I want to take a vacation this summer.  I want to go to Norway to run down some of the geneology on both my parents’ sides.

    Of course, a key part of making that happen, budget-wise, is going to be getting other people to buy my groceries and pay my utility bills for the next few months.  Or better yet, in perpetuity.

    Lots of vegetables, everyone, please?

    ———-

    Absurd?

    Well, no.  That’s how cities and counties have been ratcheting up their lifestyles for decades in Minnesota – through “Local Government Aid”, which allows local governments to spend money that they don’t have to raise by taxing their own residents directly,  because the state passes it on to all Minnesota taxpayers.

    It’s a perverted vestige of a holdover from the 1970′s “Minnesota Miracle”, originally designed to give poorer outstate town and school districts a little more even financial playing field with the once-wealthy Twin Cities.

    In other words, “political welfare”.

    And like any kind of public welfare, there is a legitimate reason for it – and like our public welfare system for people, it’s been perverted far from its original intent.

    Of course, “original intent” to the left means “just the beginning’:  to the left, welfare isn’t intended to forestall starvation; it’s about controlling people and society.

    Jeff Rosenberg at MNPublius  does what the entire Minnesota left has been doing for eight years, and what theyll be doing for the next six months; he tries to tell the reader that a money-laundering program for local spending is really the capstone of civic virtue.

    And he does it to the tune of every single chanting point the DFL has already worn out:

    As Tim Pawlenty tries to walk into the sunset, he’s got one small problem: He’s left Minnesotans a complete mess.

    Well, no.  He’s caused our governing class to go into spasms of discomfiture at having to react to a tax gravy train coming to an end.  The governing class is perturbed.

    The state itself, with decent unemployment numbers and a generally better private sector performance – the sector that actually matters to most of us?  Not quite so bad, and thanks to Pawlenty, set up to recover better than many other states if we ever get Obama out of office and see genuine prosperity again.

    Here’s what you NEED TO KNOW.

    You are paying billions of dollars more in fees on a long list of items, including cigarettes, parking tickets, marriage licenses, building permits, court cases, college tuition and hundreds of other higher fees on Pawlenty’s watch.

    Well, no.

    We’re not paying “billions more” for them; we pay the same.  It’s just that the taxes sucked out of each of these are being extracted at the local, rather than state, level.  Because local governments are now more accountable for their own spending.

    Here’s more REALITY.

    Since 2003, state budget cuts mean Minnesotans pay significantly more in property taxes.

    And why is that?

    Because we are squeezed between local governments (especially in the larger cities) that are run by the DFL and the public employees unions and for whom spending is their main grip on power, and

    Yes, Tim Pawlenty has kept the income tax — which is a progressive tax that asks the rich to pay their fair share — steady since he took office.

    Let’s be clear on this – since neither Jeff nor WCCO will:    the “progressive” income tax soaks the “working rich”, the doctors and lawyers and engineers and mid-to-upper management and especialy entrepreneurs that make in low six figures.  The “Rich” – the Bill McGuires and Lois Quams and Mark Daytons of Minnesota – mostly don’t pay income tax; their “income” is mostly capitol gains and dividends.

    In its place, he has forced massive increases in our property tax — which is a regressive tax that forces the poor and middle class to pay more. Since Pawlenty took office, local property taxes have increased by more than fifty percent. And that’s on top of the massive cuts local governments are making.

    Rosenberg says this like it’s a bad thing.

    The biggest problem is that forty years of state money-laundering have perverted local spending.  In Saint Paul, the city budget spends LGA money – money the city doesn’t directly control – on essentials like the police and fire departments, while its property taxes, which it does control, go to nonessential dross like the city Human Rights department and B-list expenditures like the city’s dozens of Rec Centers, and Neighborhood Councils.

    How bad have local government spending cuts become? The city of Brainerd has started turning off the lights:

    Selected streetlights – in alleys, in mid blocks and duplicates at intersections – started being shut off by the utility in early May in response to the Brainerd City Council’s direction to reduce the street lighting budget by $91,000. Brainerd Public Utilities Superintendent Tom Phelps told the Personnel and Finance Committee that in addition to shutting off lights he’s been reducing wattage in downtown decorative lights and looking at switching to LED lights.

    Govenrment having to live within its means, and get more efficient?

    Gosh, what will we do?

    Our local governments have done everything up to and including reducing the wattage of their lights, but they’ve still been forced to raise your property taxes by over half under Pawlenty’s fiscal malfeasance. And if you don’t like that, it will just be worst under Extremist Emmer.

    No, Jeff, I have a hunch it’s not the light bill that’s raising the property taxes.

    Think featherbedded union labor, bottomless defined-benefit public pensions, redundant services, salaries that are outstripping those of the private sector mopes who have to float it all.

    Stereotypes Gone Wild

    Katie Kieffer on Obama’s feminist face in bringing Wall Street to heel:

    There are three women on Wall Street who have literally gone wild. No, they didn’t strip off their matronly suits on a GGW spring break tour bus. Rather, they are on a mission to strip Congress, small businesses and individual Americans of proper authority, rights and freedoms and replace these with their own rules and regulations for how to play the financial game on both Wall Street and Main Street.

    These three women, who graced the May 24 cover of TIME Magazine and were touted as the “Sheriffs of Wall Street,” are an embarrassment to my sex. Rather than advancing equality between the sexes, their self-centered political agendas do the following:

    1. Send the message that women do not understand finance or business, and this makes them insecure. So, they use their authority to control and regulate finance and business.
    2. Reinforce the notion that the only way men will take women seriously is if they exert “control” over men.
    3. Teach young women to prioritize power over finding solutions.
    4. Dismiss equality entirely and send the message that women should referee men and dole out red cards – not play the soccer game with them.

    Let me introduce you to these women, one by one. You can decide if they are on a mission to “protect consumers” or if they are on a quest to disprove an imagined bureaucracy of male chauvinists on Wall Street. If the latter is their goal, then the bigger question is whether cracking down on business and the financial industry is a good way to achieve this goal.

    Read the whole thing.