Jay Reding.com

Hands In The Cookie Jar

Not surprisingly, the DFL managed to get enough wobbly Republicans to override Gov. Pawlenty’s veto of their pork-stuffed transportation bill. Contrary to the typically childish arguments of some, the choice at stake here was not between fixing the problems with Minnesota’s transportation system, but not spending additional money for boondoggles we don’t need.

Every day, families across this state have to make decisions because they are feeling more and more financially squeezed. They have to make choice like whether they can afford to send their kids to camp or get the car fixed, whether they can afford a family vacation or health care. The fundamental arrogance of the DFL and the Democratic Party in general is that they want to demand that we make sacrifices, but when it comes to their pet projects they can always demand more and more of us. Minnesota’s families don’t have the choice to take money for their kids to buy that new plasma TV. Minnesota’s government shouldn’t be shaking down working families with a 5 cent/gallon gas tax increase so that they can spend another $1.1 billion on metro-area transit projects that only give a marginal benefit for the few.

We have to make sacrifices in order to live within our fiscal means. Government should have to do the same. The Democrats tried to paint this as a choice between fixing transportation or doing nothing—this was really a choice about setting priorities and ensuring that our taxpayer dollars went to responsible tasks rather than wasteful spending. The DFL, as always, chose poorly.

For all the talk about how it’s the Republicans that are supposedly “the party of the rich” the Democrats act as though they’ve never had to balance a budget or even think of making sacrifices in order to make ends meet. That’s part of being a responsible adult in today’s society—and once again we have a state government that is acting like spoiled children with their hands in the cookie jar.

8 responses to “Hands In The Cookie Jar”

  1. Mark says:

    “For all the talk about how it’s the Republicans that are supposedly “the party of the rich” the Democrats act as though they’ve never had to balance a budget or even think of making sacrifices in order to make ends meet.”

    I don’t see the parallel between Democrats favoring transportation funding and Republicans not being the party of the rich. How do you connect those dots?

    “That’s part of being a responsible adult in today’s society—and once again we have a state government that is acting like spoiled children with their hands in the cookie jar.”

    Funny you would invoke “children” in your analogy when the transportation policy of Pawlenty and the microscopic Republican caucus left in St. Paul involved forcing children to finance present-day transportation projects vis a vis long-term bonding mechanisms. Ironic that the same Chicken Littles screeching about the pending bankruptcy of retirement entitlements are only too willing to pile on to that debt load by deferring as much spending as possible to future generations rather than pay for the cost of government today.

  2. Jay Reding says:

    I don’t see the parallel between Democrats favoring transportation funding and Republicans not being the party of the rich. How do you connect those dots?

    Because it seems like the DFL has no concept of what balancing a budget is. Real people have to make sacrifices to keep their budgets in line. Government should not be exempt from that principle.

    Funny you would invoke “children” in your analogy when the transportation policy of Pawlenty and the microscopic Republican caucus left in St. Paul involved forcing children to finance present-day transportation projects vis a vis long-term bonding mechanisms. Ironic that the same Chicken Littles screeching about the pending bankruptcy of retirement entitlements are only too willing to pile on to that debt load by deferring as much spending as possible to future generations rather than pay for the cost of government today.

    And here I thought the Democrats were saying that transportation improvements were sure pathways to economic growth? If that’s true, then there should be no problem with bonding mechanisms. Of course, when you fund through bonding, you can’t divert funds to pet projects like light rail corridors—you have to actually spend the money where it’s supposed to be spent, which is a concept that apparently scares the hell of the DFL.

    Infrastructure repairs are long-term projects. There’s nothing wrong with funding them over the long term. Businesses don’t generally have a pool of capital sitting around that they can spend on a whim, and neither should government demand more from citizens while diverting public money to projects that benefit the few. Taking more money from Eveleth to fund a shuttle for Target workers in Bloomington to ride a taxpayer-subsidized rail system to work is not a sound use of public money.

    But, like children, once the hand is in the cookie jar, the DFL will just keep taking more and more and more. Their hunger for taxpayer dollars is insatiable. They’ll tax and spend the state just like the Democrats did in Michigan—and produce the same results.

  3. Mark says:

    “Because it seems like the DFL has no concept of what balancing a budget is. Real people have to make sacrifices to keep their budgets in line. Government should not be exempt from that principle.”

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re correct that the DFL has “no concept of how to balance a budget”, how does that make the Republicans any less the party of the rich?

    “And here I thought the Democrats were saying that transportation improvements were sure pathways to economic growth? If that’s true, then there should be no problem with bonding mechanisms.”

    One of your more clever retorts, but still antithetical to the overarching yet apparently artificial “we MUST balance the budget” theme permeating throughout your post.

    “Of course, when you fund through bonding, you can’t divert funds to pet projects like light rail corridors—you have to actually spend the money where it’s supposed to be spent, which is a concept that apparently scares the hell of the DFL.”

    I have no strong feelings either way on light rail, but would warn against a roads-only transportation policy tantamount to the disaster that is Atlanta, a policy you seem to be endorsing. From what I’ve heard, the light rail trains have been an unchallenged success in terms of customer usage. Any better ideas?

    “Taking more money from Eveleth to fund a shuttle for Target workers in Bloomington to ride a taxpayer-subsidized rail system to work is not a sound use of public money.”

    I’m deeply touched by your concern for an Iron Range town that votes more than 85% DFL every election cycle.

    “They’ll tax and spend the state just like the Democrats did in Michigan—and produce the same results.”

    What era are you referencing here? The Republicans controlled Michigan government throughout the 1990’s…and I’m pretty sure they control both Houses of the Michigan Legislature still today.

  4. Jay Reding says:

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re correct that the DFL has “no concept of how to balance a budget”, how does that make the Republicans any less the party of the rich?

    Because people who have to live on a budget learn to do so—those who don’t rarely ever do. The Democrats don’t know how to live on a budget, and the Republicans do.

    One of your more clever retorts, but still antithetical to the overarching yet apparently artificial “we MUST balance the budget” theme permeating throughout your post.

    Bonding mechanisms amortize the costs of infrastructure projects over time so that the fiscal consequences end up being less. They aren’t perfect, but they’re a better solution than having a fund that legislators can raid for their pet projects.

    I have no strong feelings either way on light rail, but would warn against a roads-only transportation policy tantamount to the disaster that is Atlanta, a policy you seem to be endorsing. From what I’ve heard, the light rail trains have been an unchallenged success in terms of customer usage. Any better ideas?

    They’re a solution looking for a problem. They’re great if you live in Bloomington and work downtown or want free parking for the Twins game, but they don’t fix congestion problems. In order to get a real effect from mass transit, you have to have a full network, but building that kind of network is prohibitively expensive. You can’t take the approach that we have to change everyone’s behavior. You need cars to get around in this region, and you can’t plan that away.

    I’m not opposed to light rail, but there has to be a sense of priorities. Fix the roads and the bridges first. When that’s done, then light rail funding should stand or fall on its own merits. Packing metro transit into this bill was the wrong thing to do.

    I’m deeply touched by your concern for an Iron Range town that votes more than 85% DFL every election cycle.

    Unlike some people, I don’t enact public policies designed to punish people who don’t vote my way. Outstate voters should not be subsidizing the cities, either by raising their taxes to pay for light rail or using state money to subsidize the fiscal irresponsibility of the cities through LGA. If Minneapolis and St. Paul want to spend like crazy, they should spend their own money, not money coming from Winona to Detroit Lakes.

    What era are you referencing here? The Republicans controlled Michigan government throughout the 1990’s…and I’m pretty sure they control both Houses of the Michigan Legislature still today.

    The House is controlled by the Democrats, as is the Governor’s office. Gov. Granholm, along with the Democrats (and a few wobbly Republicans) have taxed and spend Michigan into a one-state recession. Instead of cutting back on spending, they kept spending more and more and failed to significantly reform Michigan’s regressive tax system.

    Michigan did everything that a liberal Democrat thinks is good policy. They were highly unionized, highly regulated, high tax and high spending. And unsurprisingly, when liberals actually get their policies enacted, the result is economic stagnation—Michigan was the only state not hit by Katrina to lose jobs in 2005.

  5. Mark says:

    “Because people who have to live on a budget learn to do so—those who don’t rarely ever do. The Democrats don’t know how to live on a budget, and the Republicans do.”

    First of all, the premise contradicts history. The only President of the last 20 years to balance a budget (three times, mind you) was a guy named Bill Clinton, who was a Democrat. Secondly, even if we assume, with every shred of evidence pointing to the contrary, that Republicans are better at balancing budgets, there remains no tangible parallel that would discredit the GOP’s reputation as the party that favors the rich.

    “They’re great if you live in Bloomington and work downtown or want free parking for the Twins game, but they don’t fix congestion problems.”

    I’m officially agnostic on the issue as I said, but if ridership on light rail is flourishing and removing cars from the highways, is that not at least a partial fix to congestion problems?

    “using state money to subsidize the fiscal irresponsibility of the cities through LGA.”

    Perhaps you never left Sioux Falls when you lived in South Dakota, but seeing the third-world quality infrastructure that that state’s crumbling small towns face has been enough to convince every Minnesota Republican I’ve ever known of the merits of LGA. Living in Apple Valley, flush with property tax booty that doesn’t exist in Winona, Eveleth, or Detroit Lakes, it’s easy for you to stand in judgment while commuting on your freshly plowed streets. And contrary to your claim of “not punishing people who vote against you”, railing against LGA for hardscrabble rural communities is doing just that….and the unlivability of Greater Minnesota assures even further centrallization of population on the very congested metro highways that you don’t believe are in sufficient need of repair.

    “Gov. Granholm, along with the Democrats (and a few wobbly Republicans) have taxed and spend Michigan into a one-state recession.”

    Riiiight. The mass layoffs of the auto industry had nothing to do with it. Overspending in Lansing by Granholm single-handedly doomed the state.

    “Michigan did everything that a liberal Democrat thinks is good policy. They were highly unionized, highly regulated, high tax and high spending. And unsurprisingly, when liberals actually get their policies enacted, the result is economic stagnation—Michigan was the only state not hit by Katrina to lose jobs in 2005.”

    Good thing you don’t like to penalize people who don’t support your politics. Back in 1992, I could have pointed out any number of military towns forced to downsize in the aftermath of the Cold War and suggested that its misfortune was the inevitable consequence of the area’s conservative political bent.

  6. Jay Reding says:

    First of all, the premise contradicts history. The only President of the last 20 years to balance a budget (three times, mind you) was a guy named Bill Clinton, who was a Democrat.

    Who was forced into it by a Republican Congress, back in the days when Republicans took fiscal conservatism seriously.

    Secondly, even if we assume, with every shred of evidence pointing to the contrary, that Republicans are better at balancing budgets, there remains no tangible parallel that would discredit the GOP’s reputation as the party that favors the rich.

    People who have to make budgetary priorities tend to have to do so because they’re not rich (think most American struggling to pay their bills.) People who are rich and irresponsible never have to think about balancing their checkbooks (see Paris Hilton). The DFL is a lot more like Paris Hilton then they are the average American. It never seems to occur to them that the government should balance its checkbook just like the rest of us. The results of that are already making themselves clear.

    I’m officially agnostic on the issue as I said, but if ridership on light rail is flourishing and removing cars from the highways, is that not at least a partial fix to congestion problems?

    The problem is that the costs are very high, and the benefits are very low. Government policy that benefits only a few is not as good as government policy that creates a general benefit. Like you, I’m agnostic on light rail, but it’s not a priority in terms of fixing transportation in this state. When the roads are fixed and we’re not facing a fiscal crisis, then it’s fine to bring up the issue of light rail. To do so now when we have more pressing concerns is simply irresponsible.

    Perhaps you never left Sioux Falls when you lived in South Dakota, but seeing the third-world quality infrastructure that that state’s crumbling small towns face has been enough to convince every Minnesota Republican I’ve ever known of the merits of LGA.

    The problem is that LGA ends up going predominantly to the metro and communities that don’t need it. The cities want to shaft the suburbs and out-state towns. The suburbs think they’re getting shafted by the cities and by rural areas. Rural areas think they’re getting shafted by MSP and the suburbs… and all of them are right. LGA doesn’t work because it ends up being a transfer payment system that transfers money everywhere but where it’s actually needed.

    The LGA system as it stands just doesn’t work. It’s better to scrap it and replace it with direct assistance where it’s needed. There was a study out of the University of Chicago a while back that studied the idea that LGA reduces property taxes–and they found that it just wasn’t true. (No surprise there.)

    State assistance isn’t necessarily all bad, but the LGA system ends up subsidizing urban mansions while giving no benefit to half the state.

    ….and the unlivability of Greater Minnesota assures even further centrallization of population on the very congested metro highways that you don’t believe are in sufficient need of repair.

    Greater Minnesota is unlivable? When you have to resort to such crude hyperbole, that’s always a sign that you don’t have a real argument…

    Riiiight. The mass layoffs of the auto industry had nothing to do with it. Overspending in Lansing by Granholm single-handedly doomed the state.

    What you’re missing is that there’s a connection between the two. The mass layoffs hurt, and then bad policy prevented the state from moving forward by attracting new jobs.

    Which is exactly why Minnesota must not follow the same path. With VeraSun and other employers relocating to more economically hospitable places like Sioux Falls, Minnesota could easily fall further and further behind if policies don’t change. The DFL is strangling the golden goose, and the budget deficit is a direct result of those high-tax high-spending policies.

    Good thing you don’t like to penalize people who don’t support your politics. Back in 1992, I could have pointed out any number of military towns forced to downsize in the aftermath of the Cold War and suggested that its misfortune was the inevitable consequence of the area’s conservative political bent.

    Which would be a silly argument since it wasn’t local policy that caused the downfall. And many of those communities, especially the eastern part of Virginia, are swinging back thanks to policies that have encouraged job growth through low taxes and easier investment potential.

    It’s really quite simple: like electricity, economic development follows the path of least resistance. Increase taxes and regulation, and jobs leave. Make your state conducive to economic growth, and you reap the benefits, which is why places like Sioux Falls are expanding like crazy while parts of Minnesota are stagnating. Which is why the auto industry is shifting away from the Big Three unionized plants in the Great Lakes region and moving to the South and the Sunbelt.

    All the rhetoric in the world doesn’t change the facts, and the big picture reveals just why liberal economic and social policies just don’t work.

  7. adb67 says:

    The fact is the current leadership at both the state and federal level is basically incompetent. In my own state of Connecticut, we cant get property tax relief, or tax relief of any kind, but we have money to dole out to my town for example in the amount of $500k for artificial turf for our high school football field….now figure out how many more towns are getting such projects…and figure out how much money is being wasted just on that garbage. These politicians on both sides cant control themselves. They figure if they dont get the money they wont bring projects home and wont get relected. They are in it for personal good and not the common good. Until we the voters start holding them accountable this wont change.

  8. Mark says:

    “There was a study out of the University of Chicago a while back that studied the idea that LGA reduces property taxes–and they found that it just wasn’t true. (No surprise there.)”

    Whatever the “University of Chicago study” may suggest, property taxes in Minnesota have soared far above the historic average ever since Pawlenty started getting thrifty with LGA. I’ll accept the hard figures relating to LGA cuts as experienced at the local level long before I’ll buy into a study conducted by the free-market ideologues of the University of Chicago.

    “the LGA system ends up subsidizing urban mansions while giving no benefit to half the state.”

    Blue-collar towns with zero-population growth (and thus zero property tax growth) are the ones most recipient on LGA. Minneapolis and St. Paul get their far share, but their survival is less dependent on it than a place like hometown of Albert Lea.

    “Greater Minnesota is unlivable? When you have to resort to such crude hyperbole, that’s always a sign that you don’t have a real argument…”

    It’s hardly hyperbole. Republicans living outstate say the same things. With aging populations and limited opportunities for young people to stick around, the majority of outstate Minnesota is in serious trouble. That may be hard for you to tell in your Apple Valley (or Sioux Falls) enclave of prosperity, but the worse of things are in Eveleth and Detroit Lakes, the more congested your roads are gonna get. The displaced young people who for all intents and purposes are forced to leave their hometowns have to go somewhere.

    “With VeraSun and other employers relocating to more economically hospitable places like Sioux Falls, Minnesota could easily fall further and further behind if policies don’t change.”

    The “prosperity” of South Dakota is limited to about four counties. The rest of the state is infinitely worse off than the most depressed regions of Minnesota. And Sioux Falls’ success is primarily the product of Bill Janklow’s willingness to let Citibank get away with predatory lending practices that are basically illegal in 49 other states. There’s undoubtedly alot to be gained by following the John D. Rockefeller playbook of business ethics, but not all of us could sleep at night if we lived in a state whose upward mobility was driven by monstrous lending practices in the way that South Dakota’s was.

    “The DFL is strangling the golden goose, and the budget deficit is a direct result of those high-tax high-spending policies.”

    It’s more the result of a sagging national economy generating deficits throughout the country, but nice try anyway.

    “which is why places like Sioux Falls are expanding like crazy while parts of Minnesota are stagnating.”

    Idiotic apples-and-orange comparison. Why don’t we look at Aberdeen vs. Mankato for a more practical parallel…..or Murdo vs. Ely….or Pierre vs. Marshall. You don’t get to compare the single rich part of South Dakota to the poorest parts of Minnesota and get away with it. Compare Sioux Falls to its demographically closest Minnesota parallel, the city of Rochester, and the “South Dakota advantage” is a wash.

    “Which is why the auto industry is shifting away from the Big Three unionized plants in the Great Lakes region and moving to the South and the Sunbelt.”

    And the fact that “shift” is financed almost exclusively at taxpayer expense has nothing to do with it, I’m sure.