Mount Everest isn’t that big – if you’re looking from the top of K2.
Las Vegas is “back east” – if you’re in Los Angeles.
Mark Dayton’s budget is a reasonable set of compromises, and the GOP is being pigheaded and intransigent – if your entire frame of reference is the world according to the DFL and the mushy Minnesota left.
And while I don’t know that that can be entirely fairly said about Hamline University professor and contender for Larry Jacobs’ post as “the most quoted academic pundit in the Twin Cities”, Dave Schultz.
But reading his Schultz Take post on the budget squabble, it doesn’t seem all that terribly unfair, either. When you read the piece, you can’t help but notice that he’s built his case on the entire parade of current DFLer memes:
Meme 1: “Where’s The GOP’s Plan? Huh? Huh? Huh? Huh?”
Job killing and detached from reality. This is the core argument of the GOP against the Dayton budget. Yet behind the name calling one looks in desperation for the Republican alternative and it has yet to emerge.
It’s sort of like last summer, when the DFL spent three months chanting “where’s Tom Emmer’s budget?”. They knew as well as we did that it’d be stupid for Emmer to release his budget early, and play into the DFL’s hands.
The legislature has the same leeway today; they can, and, politically, should, bide their time. They gain nothing by giving the Governor, the DFL minority and their media enablers time and space to try to re-spin the GOP’s effort; the DFL knows this, too, but they’re counting on The People not knowing it.
Meme #2: “A “Budget Forecast” is just another word for “Budget”. Really. Honest.”
Just last week Dayton vetoed the $1 billion in cuts the GOP had already suggested. Yet that $1 billion was more than $5 billion short of what is needed, and the GOP has yet to propose how they plan to find the additional money.
And there’s #2; because there is no $6.2 billion deficit. There was the forecast wish list the DFL kicked down the road for what they assumed would be a DFL-dominated legislature this biennium.
Schultz’s entire piece operates on the assumption that the DFL wish list is a foundational document, and that the GOP is obligated to do the DFL’s political work for it.
Meme 3: “Spending is essential for a healthy economy!”
The truth is they do not have a solution. Yes they will rant and rave about tax hurting the state economy (little evidence that is true), that there is waste and fraud (little evidence that is true), and that the budget is a job killer (even less evidence that is true).
“Little evidence that this is true” – other than the examples of California, New York, Illinois, and for that matter Greece and Ireland – states that became addicted to spending first and assuming the revenues would be there to take care of it later.
Which, if you think about it, was precisely what has led to every huge economic crash, from the Tulip bubble to the Housing bubble to the coming Higher Ed bubble.
Other than that? Nope, no evidence at all.
However, they do not have a solution and are afraid to offer one.
Now, there, there’s no evidence, other than “we haven’t seen it yet”.
Meme #4: “Our only choices are taxes or cuts. Nothing else!”
Why? Two reasons.
First, education, health, and public safety constitute 70%+ of the state budget. Any solution that seeks to address the deficit without cutting these items will not work. As Willie Sutton said when asked why he robs banks: “That is where the money is.” These items include K-12 and other popular programs for health. Cuts to them will be unpopular and the GOP does not want to be the party proposing them.
Schultz presumes (as the DFL wants you all to presume) that there are only two choices; spend more, or cut.
It’s not true, even if we don’t change the current budgeting system; “keeping funding at its current levels” is a perfectly acceptable option. Not the one that the state’s HHS and education bureaucracies want, certainly, but acceptable in times like these.
Especially after the next revenue forecast comes out, and likely shows that revenues will grow by at least $2 billion – making the current budget completely tenable, while letting the state’s private sector try to start recovering, too…
Meme #5: “Failure to honor the DFL’s forecast will throw grandma into the street”.
This is among the most cynical, thud-witted memes there is – the idea that government is like a light switch; you can only have too much, or none. That any cuts, or even a sober reassessment of spending priorities, or re-engineering of the budgeting process, automatically must take things away from the mythical Grandma or the eternal Child.
You’d think a professor would hold out for a more sophisticated argument.
You’d be wrong:
They want to be a majority party beyond 2012 and if they get tagged as the ones who threw grandma out of the nursing home and took books away from Suzie, they are dead.
The GOP knows, of course, that there is a middle way – indeed, an infinite number of middle ways. Programs and spending aren’t a light switch; they’re a hose. You can control how much comes out of the hose. It can be a little, it can be a lot, depending on who controls the faucet, and who’s just getting hosed.
The DFL knows this too. Which is why they – the DFL, their stooges in the media, and their allies like Schultz – are working so hard to obfuscate it.
They are hoping Dayton and the DFL take the lead on these cuts and then the GOP can escape blame. Moreover, the $1 billion cuts they suggested so far? Simply trial balloons on programs such as LGA to see how Dayton would react. So far, none of their proposals inflict clear pain upon voters.
So what – the GOP is supposed to be stupid?
Meme #6: “The DFL owns sanity, reason and reality. The Tea Party and the GOP base is an insane mob”
The other reason they cannot swallow taxes? Their core constituency seems dead set against it. Tax opposition is the cornerstone of the GOP and the Tea party.
So far, so good.
To raise taxes is to violate a core belief no matter the reality. [I added the emphasis]
And there it is; the leftist conceit that they are the custodians of “reality” – and that reality is “spending must rise, and you must float it with taxes”.
We reject that “reality” – or as we call it, “conceit”.
To raise taxes means the GOP is no different than the Democrats. To raise taxes also risks alienating many fiscal conservatives who might go elsewhere or not vote if the GOP supports taxes.
The voters that flipped the GOP from a rump minority to a solid majority in one cycle.
Why would we want to offend them, after all?
Meme #7: “If the GOP doesn’t play the game the way our hallowed anscestors, from Hubert H. Humphrey through Arne Carlson, played it then they are screwed!”
Thus the rock and hard place for the MN GOP: Be responsible, compromise, and accept some tax increases on the wealthy along with some spending cuts and risk alienating their base. Oppose tax increases and cut spending to popular programs and lose your majority in 2012. All Dayton and the DFL need to do is figure out how make this GOP dilemma work to their advantage.
Schultz is acting as a part of the DFL’s most treasured response to a “GOP dilemma”; the use of the DFL, union, academic and media establishments (pardon the serial redundancy) t0 try to convince people that 2+2=”blue”; that the traditional, DFL/RINO way is the only way.
Which involves convincing people that a “budget forecaset” is a “budget”.
That the only way to raise revenue is via taxes.
That reassessing spending is the same as killing grandma.
That a freeze is a cut, and that a cut is a zeroing.
That budgets must grow on top of past budgets, rather than start from zero every year.
That King Banaian’s bill, HF2, requiring state agencies to justify their spending and existence, isn’t itself an answer to a huge part of the problem.
Meme #8: “History favors us!”
Some will argue the GOP can make all these cuts without tax increases, without hurting the state, while also making additional tax cuts, and in the process grow the economy. Sound familiar? About 30 years ago Reagan said he could cut taxes, increase defense spending, and grow the economy without hurting the poor.
And in every case, he did – hampered only by the O’Neill Congress’ unwillingness to touch social spending.
The basic GOP message on the economy, taxes, and the budget has been smoke and mirrors for 30 years. It has been about cost shifting, fund raiding, program bleeding, living on past spending approaches. It has been about blaming government waste, immigrants, and lazy welfare cheats as the cause of the financial problems we face. It has been about ignoring how the demand for tax cuts to benefit the wealthy have forced a hemorrhaging of the deficit at the national level. It has been about Pawlenty pushing through a law counting inflation for revenue purposes but not for the purposes of state expenditures.
And for all that, the GOP’s approach – left undiluted by statist fripperies – works.
The DFL’s approach, on the other hand, has for eighty years revolved around…
- Picking scapegoats – “the rich”
- Sending armies of strawmen – “immigrants”, “welfare cheats” and “Grandma” – to try to dilute the argument into meaninglessness
- Demand “compromise” from the GOP, while rejecting giving way on any but the most cosmetic changes to their own agenda, unless dragged to it by force.
We deserve better.
Schultz – and the DFL, the media, the academic establishment, the unions – don’t want you to know that.
Pardon the redundancy.