False Idol

The DFL and media (pardon the redundancy) have got a new buzz phrase, “quality negotiation”.  It’s what they supposedly want out of the current impasse in Saint Paul.

Let me just say for the record that if the DFL aren’t whinging like a bunch spoiled ten year olds, it’s not a “quality negotiation”.

Speaking of which, the Strib adds to the “quality” of the negotiation – my definition of it, at least- with via Min this piece by one Brian Rusche, the “executive director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition”, a group that is to religious group what the association of chiefs of police or Alliance for a Better Minnesota are to cops and Minnesotans – a DFL pressure group.

Rusche apparently thinks his churches own the trademark on “princple”:

Minnesota’s legislative leaders are locked in a protracted dispute with the governor, not about the quantity or quality of government output, but out of devotion to a single number: $34 billion.

Legislative leaders insist that all other policy considerations must take a back seat to the singular goal of keeping general-fund revenues and expenses at that amount for the next biennium.

Bla bla bla.

This next bit is the irritating part, the part that needs to be refudiated with prejudice; the part where Rusche abuses his cachet as a “religious ” leader:

This is numerology without principle. It treats one general-fund number like an idol, a number to be prized above the concerns and needs of our citizenry.

This is a mind-numbingly, corrosively stupid statement.

The GOP is operating from set of principles. To be fair, these are fairly new to Minnesota government; government is our servant, not our master.  Government needs to live within its means; it needs to prioritize, just like we taxpayers need to.  If “citizenry” “needs” some parts of government, we need to cut back on the parts the “citizenry” doesn’t need.

Rusche illustrates – no doubt unintentionally –

Finding a worthy general-fund baseline number with which to base all policy decisions is very, very tricky. Minnesota has relied on one-time strategies to prop up general-fund revenues, especially during recessions.

We’ve drained reserves, cashed out the tobacco endowment and spent federal stimulus dollars in efforts to address a structural deficit that has haunted us for a decade. Add accounting shifts and gimmicks, and we’ve been able to disguise revenue shortfalls and delay a true reckoning, until now.

That’s because government has been run by people – Republicans as well as Democrats – who regarded government as a big  fun machine with lots of levers and knobs to play with.   A big huge benefit machine where, if you hit just the right combination of those buttons and levers, you’d get all sorts of good and wonderful things for the people.

And after a generation or two of that, we’re broke.

And the principle has changed. It has to.  Government the way Arne Carlson practiced it – spending money like a crack whore with a stolen gold card during the cha-cha times, turning surpluses into permanent spending, and making up for it with taxes when things turn ugly – is utterly unsustainable.

And – are you listeniong, Mr. Rusche? – it’s immoral and stupid to carry stupid, thick-necked profligacy on the backs of the taxpayer.

14 thoughts on “False Idol

  1. I once sat in Concilliation Court waiting for my case to be called, listening to a 40-ish Mother and 20-something Daughter argue why they should have gotten their entire security deposit refund from the wedding hall. The hall owner claimed the place was left filthy and even had tracks on the dance floor that looked like somebody rode a motorcycle in it. His story was so over-the-top that nobody was buying it . . . until Daughter spoke up saying “Yeah, and that motorcycle was barely even going, my Grandma rode on it after I did.”

    Talk about proving the other side’s case!!

    In a similar (albeit less dramatic way), Mr. Rusche proves the GOP’s point – that state government has been spending more than it can afford for years. The $34 billion number itself isn’t important, it’s picking a number and refusing to go above it that’s important. This isn’t numerology – worshiping a number for its magical powers – but rather prudence – keeping outgo below income.

    Of course, as a religous leader, he may have no idea how finance works. His money comes to him the same way as the City’s – somebody else hands it over in response to verbal pleading. So it may not be Mr. Rusche’s fault that he sounds less like a minister of God and more like a cheap politician.


  2. Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC) =

    1. Minnesota Catholic Conference
    2. Islamic Center of Minnesota
    3. Jewish Community Relations Council
    4. Minnesota Council of Churches

    The JCRC is *supposed* to be non-political.


    Let’s see – Brian A. Rusche is an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Alison Killeen has a deep commitment to social justice, Rachel Herzfeldt-Kamprath, prior to JRLC she worked as the Communications and Marketing Fellow at the Women’s Funding Network in San Francisco.

    “Separation of church and state” except when they say so.

  3. One would think that a state government that works as the progressives want it to work and believe it can work is much more of an idol than a budget number.

  4. A few years ago the bishops of the Northern ELCA sent Tim Pawlenty a letter telling him he had a moral obligation to raise taxes. That was my second to last straw.
    These so-called religious leaders are incredibly dishonest. They call for “economic justice”, which is code for wealth redistribution.

  5. Strikes me that Rusche’s approach to managing a budget is as follows: make a series of wish lists for funding pet projects, add up the lists, whine, cajole or bully your way into getting somebody else to pay for it all.
    In contrast, the way I budget is to look at my funding source (my paycheck) and then divide it up by paying for essentials first and extras second, if at all.
    Put another way, his view epitomizes the “progressive’s” way of looking at citizens and their money: everything belongs to the government, and you should thank us for returning any of it to you.

  6. “devotion to a single number: $34 billion”

    Jeez, why would anyone be devoted to that number?

    Oh, wait, that number is how much money we have.

    Why be devoted to that number? Because times are tough, financially, and asking people for more money, even the Scape Goat %2, is a really stupid idea if we’d like things to get better rather than worse.

  7. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

  8. The Church is not a museum for saints, it’s a hospital for sinners.
    “It’s the sick that need a physician, not the healthy.”

  9. It occurs to me that we might want to start our own astroturf organization to counter this tactic.

    I’m an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church, credentials on file with Ramsey County. Cost me $5 over the internet but hey, who’s to say one religion is better than another when it comes to lobbying for tax policy?
    Why can’t we crank out press releases of our own pointing out that Dayton’s plan is counter to religious teaching and therefore immoral?

    All we need is a catchy name.

  10. nate: ARM – Alliance for a more Righteous/Religious Minnesota.

    Bonus: includes catchy acronym.

  11. Sounds good to me, nate!

    Are you going to charge dues or eschew the union model and pass the collection basket? 😉

  12. Kermit, there is an essay over at First Things that reminds us that Aristotle defined virtue as something that is expressed by individuals but is experienced socially. It has always bothered me that state action, like, say, handing out money to the unemployed, is supposed to be an act of collective virtue. I can see why for purely political reasons the state might decide it was in its interests to send checks to the unemployed, but I can’t see how it can be considered an act of Christian charity.
    And if it were, wouldn’t it be unconstitutional?

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