How do you measure success in a politician?
If you’re a liberal, it’s likely in terms of sheer volume of legislation created and money moved about. Because to a liberal, government is about creating reams of paper, rules, laws, stuff for government to do.
If you’re a conservative, it’s probably more a matter of princple; of getting government out of the way, of taking pointless laws and needless regulations off the books.
We’ll come back to that.
Mike McFeely is a talk show host in Fargo. He’s the current house liberal at KFGO, which was at one time the WCCO of the Fargo area, and like WCCO has shrunk greatly since its heyday (and since I left North Dakota). He fills the role Fast Eddie Schultz used to play on the station, the token lefty. Like Schultz, he’s apparently a former small-market sportscaster; like Schultz, he sounds like it.
And like a lot of liberal D-list pundits and pseudo-celebs, he’s got a jones for Mary Franson, GOP incumbent in District 8B and, like most uppity female and minority conservatives, the same sort of catnip for lefties that Michele Bachmann has been for the past decade and a half. It started a few weeks ago, with McFeely’s Schultz-like chanting of rumors that even some of the smarter regional leftyblogs long ago debunked. McFeely came across in that case as a small-town crone abusing the “power” of his radio bully pulpit (and as much as KFGO has atrophied, it’s still not chicken feed)
I’ll give the guy kudos for at least trying to go legit in this letter to the editor in the East Otter Tail County Focus last week.
Rep. Mary Franson does not represent Greater Minnesota values and, by her own admission, will not have a strong voice for her constituents in House District 8B if she is re-elected.
Now, whenever a critic says their target has said something “by their own admission”, you can usually be pretty sure someone’s trying to play a rhetorical card trick; they admitted nothing of the sort.
While Rep. Franson has made embarrassing headlines nationally and statewide for, among other things, comparing her constituents who receive food assistance to wild animals (a claim she repeated even after “apologizing” for it on social media)
Now, when you’re a sportscaster, you can pretty much babble any kind of crap you want – because it’s just sports. McFeely – like Schultz before him – seems to think politics is about the same.
But no – the smart people dispensed with that meme, too, and months ago; Franson pointed out, correctly, that long-term dependence dehumanizes people, and casts government in the role of the benevolent, responsible pet owner. The remarks were taken out of context during a fractious session by a DFL noise machine that exists only to provide grist for their campaign mill.
And like a lot of D-list talk show hosts – and yes, my NARN pals and I are better than this – McFeely and “context” are never really on good terms:
At the event during which she repeated her comparison of assistance recipients to wild animals, Rep. Franson admitted that members of her own party did not support her and distanced themselves from her.
Yep. During the “Animals” fracas, the House leadership shamefully backed away from Franson – one of several “ready fire aim” moments in a trying session for GOPers.
But teapot-tempests come and go; at the end of the day, always, “it’s the economy, stupid”. McFeely takes a brisk dip into actual fact:
Despite low unemployment in Douglas and Todd counties
Wait – back up. This Republican corner of the state is doing pretty well, you say?
So let’s take a quick breather and set up some actual, factual history: Representative Franson was…:
- …elected in the Tea Party wave in 2010 on a conservative ticket…
- …to represent a traditionally conservative Republican part of the state…
- …that’s doing relatively well, and apparently – by dint of having sent a conservative freshman legislator to the legislature in the middle of a grueling recession – wants to keep it that way.
Just so we’ve got that straight.
Instead of spending time in St. Paul fighting for issues specific to her constituents – such as lowering property taxes for farms and small businesses in rural Minnesota – Rep. Franson spent her two years in the Legislature authoring bills that accomplished nothing.
Perhaps McFeely would favor us by showing us the bill where Franson raised – or declined to lower – property taxes.
Go ahead, Mike, We’ll wait. Cough up that bill.
[Mr. McFeely - don't look at this next statement. Scout's honor? OK - all the rest of you know that property taxes are the role of county commissions and city councils. The legislature doesn't set property taxes. Now, the Democrats have spent the last two years babbling about how lowering Local Government Aid inevitably raises property taxes. McFeely would have you believe that on Franson's watch, taxes rose as a direct, cause-and-effect consequence of lowered LGA. It's one of those chanting points the left throws out there to gull the ill-informed. But, again, that's the job of the counties and cities. Assuming LGA was cut. Was it? We'll come back to that - but I'll give you a little spoiler; McFeely makes Ed Schultz look smart and ethical].
Got that bill, Mike? Hint: It’s between the snipes and the half-round squares.
Next, McFeely botches history – and by “botch”, let’s be charitable and assume he just doesn’t know the actual facts involved; if he does, then he’s just lying:
In her two years in St. Paul, Rep. Franson authored 36 bills. None became law. Very few were even discussed or forwarded. Even her own party wasn’t interested in the agenda Rep. Franson was trying to push. That is the definition of an ineffective legislator.
Wait – authoring laws that don’t get passed “defines” “ineffective?”
Let’s go back to the beginning of the post; conservatives don’t believe generating new laws defines success.
But let’s go by the left’s – and McFeely’s – definition of “effectiveness”. None of Franson’s 36 bills passed into law.
Which is exactly the same record as House Minority Leader Paul Thissen; none of the two bills he authored passed into law, either!
Or how about a more rank-and-file member? Ryan “The Intellectual Id Of The DFL Caucus” Winkler chief-authored 22 bills. None passed; none even came close.
And do you know what? Neither Thissen’s 0/2, Winkler’s 0/22 or Fransen’s 0/36 are even below average – because in a typical session (for example, 2008, the latest one with statistics) over 4,000 bills are introduced, and around 100 get signed. That’s about 1 out of 40.
In other words, McFeely tossed out a number that is in itself meaningless without context. Just like the “Animals” comment and his “property taxes” comment; either he doesn’t know what he’s taking about and doesn’t care, or he does and he’s hoping nobody checks his facts. Like all Democrat campaigns, he – and by extension, the Cunniff campaign that McFeely is supporting – is hoping people aren’t curious enough to poke at those numbers.
Oh, we’re not done.
McFeely turns next from misleading context to just-plain-ignorance:
At the same time, Rep. Franson consistently voted to raise taxes on residents of Greater Minnesota. She supported elimination of the Market Value Homestead Credit, raising property taxes on all Minnesotans and particularly those in rural Minnesota.
MVHC was a subsidy of metro-area housing; it kept metro-area property taxes artificially low, and subsidized spending by the wastrel DFL governments in Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth. Like LGA itself, it transferred money from the parts of the state that support themselves to our basket-case metro areas.
But at least that was a chanting point with a coherent argument. Next, McFeely wafts away into fantasy-land:
Rep. Franson sided with metropolitan legislators by failing to fight for an increase in Local Government Aid, a tool that provides property tax relief primarily for Greater Minnesota cities and towns.
Local Government Aid, as we’ve discussed in the past, was originally a way to transfer money to poor, outstate towns from the wealthy Metro, to allow them to buy some of the amenities of modern life; modern schools, roads, water treatment plants and the like. It’s turned into a subsidy of Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth (although Iron Range towns get the most aid per capita).
(And while McFeely doesn’t name, and I suspect doesn’t know, the “metropolital legislators” with whom he claims Franson sided, it’s worth noting that the Metro is divided between cities that are constantly begging for more aid, and suburbs that largely receive none).
The GOP ran in 2010 on a platform of returning LGA to its original purpose – supporting smaller towns that don’t have the tax base to buy the necessities of modern government. And how’d that work?
State funding for LGA has been cut 25 percent over the last 10 years and has remained flat since 2010. Eliminating or reducing LGA will seriously weaken regional centers like Alexandria and small cities like New York Mills.
McFeely gives a statewide number – but since McFeely’s writing about Franson’s performance in re her district, 8B, let’s ask what are the district’s specifics?
Let’s track LGA payments in 2008 and 2011 – payments, not pledges – for the three counties in Rep. Franson’s district, as well as the state averages and the metro areas (measured in per-capita dollars actually paid to the various jurisdictions). All figures come from that noted conservative tool, the State of Minnesota:
|City or County
||2008 Payment ($/capita)
||2011 Payment ($/capita)
|Otter Tail County
Ah. So that’s why McFeely gave a statewide number! Because since 2008 – the only period Rep. Franson had any control over as a legislator – LGA actually rose in Otter Tail and Todd counties; it shrank by an insignificant amount in Douglas County, where Alexandria is. and where as McFeely himself admitted, the economy is doing better than the state average.
So if you’re a liberal? District 8B’s LGA was steady to slightly up. More money! Franson was effective!
And if you’re a conservative? LGA spending in the district was in line with the GOP’s platform, raising payments to smaller out-of-state jurisdictions that actually need it, and were the original intended target of this spending. Franson was still effective!
And if you have a functioning BS detector? Mike McFeely is out of his depth writing about anything that doesn’t involve throwing a ball, and is serving as a trained chimp reciting DFL chanting points he may not understand, and certainly hopes you, the voter in District 8B, won’t.
Like the following:
Under her watch, property taxes have risen sharply…
Although, as the state’s figures show, not because of anything the legislature did, least of all in District 8B.
…while she has embarrassed her constituents with controversial national headlines.
Which were cowardly manglings of context by people who are getting more and more desperate at their prospects in two weeks, and for whom female conservatives are like red capes in front of bulls.
Franson did get an 86 from the Taxpayers League, among many other spiffs from conservative groups. She was one of the freshmen “Tea Party” class that held the line on things like spending, tax hikes, and giving money to Zygi Wilf, while erasing the deficit, reforming regulations, keeping Minnesota’s unemployment rate way below the national average, and working to reform our state’s business climate.
In short, she did what the majority of (pre-redistricting) District 11B’s voters - mostly Republican, mostly conservative – sent her to do.
And if this is how desperate her opponent, Bob Cunniff, and his campaign are getting, it looks like she’ll do the same for new district 8B.
And if you live in the area, feel free to let the East Otter Tail Focus – and Mike McFeely – know I said so.
So we started the article by asking how you measure a politician. The answer – whether you’re left or right – most likely involves doing what one is sent to the Capitol to do. Has Mary Franson done this? That’s for the people in her district – not talking heads from Fargo or the Twin Cities – to decide.
So how about a media figure, an uninvited pundit?
Getting one’s facts straight, or at least being honest, would be a great start.