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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

All Options on the Table Means ALL OF THEM

Category: Tim Pawlenty
Posted: 01/06/09 22:58

by Dave Mindeman

The Legislative session begins....and Pawlenty looks for answers. The Governor called for a "Government Reform Summit" in which he called on a number of leaders to look for solutions to a massive budget problem.

But there is always one problem with a Governor Pawlenty looking for solutions....you cannot mention solutions that delve into his restricted areas.

During this "summit", working groups were arranged:

The gathering was anything but usual. As leaders from a wide array of professions, in health care, business, education and government, put their ideas at helping solve the budget crisis to paper. After an initial group gathering to hear from the governor and his budget director, the 40-member panel broke into four groups.

Now the four groups weren't labeled but I suspect that if one of the four had been labeled "raising tax revenue", they were probably banished to the basement and told to come back after closing time.
Governor Pawlenty simply doesn't understand the meaning of "all options on the table".....it's better described as "all of MY options on the table".

Pawlenty likes to use the analogy that government has to live within its budget, just like the average Minnesota family. But the family budget he envisions doesn't exist in the real world.

Here is the budget analogy our Governor sees:

The typical Pawlenty Minnesota family has lived since 2002 on a family income that has never seen a raise (no taxes); that has used up its family inheritance to pay the mortgage up to now (tobacco endowment and surplus); has siphoned off telephone, electricity, and water bills from the neighbors (LGA cuts forcing increased local taxes); got a handout from friends to pay for the family vehicles (transportation bill override by Legislature); and seems to assume that something miraculous will happen to pay for the kids college education (stagnant funding for K-12 and cuts coupled with higher tuition for post-secondary ed).

That is not typical family budgeting and it is not good management for state budgeting.

Let's take a hard look at the main budget problem. Pawlenty keeps looking at state revenue as a spending problem, even as he watches state revenue decline precipitously. Instead of looking to the budget as a chopping block, how about, for once, looking at the basics behind revenue collection. Here is the crux of the matter. We are living in a service economy -- our current tax structure is based on a consumption economy. Consumption economies tend to have reverse revenues in economic downturns because the consumer has to cut back. Services will also decline but not to the same extent and taxing services allows for a broader tax base.

Let's look a little deeper into this:

Back in 2004, Iowa did a sales tax study to make revenue collections more efficient. Here is one of their findings:

The part of the U.S. economy that is growing the fastest is the services sector, and the consumption of services is growing faster than the consumption of goods. As a result, the revenue from a state sales tax that fails to include a broad array of services in its definition of taxable sales does not keep up with economic growth and thus does not keep up with the normal rise in the cost of state and local government over time.

This is especially true during economic downturns:

Broadening the base of the sales tax to include most services can improve revenue stability in two ways. First, it lessens the chance that sales tax rates or the rates on other taxes will have to be raised frequently to compensate for the eroding base of the sales tax. Second, there is evidence that a broad sales tax is more stable than a sales tax with a narrower base over the course of business cycles; revenues from a broad-base sales tax fall less in economic downturns. This lower volatility lessens the chance that other types of taxes, including corporate income taxes or property taxes that businesses pay, will have to be raised during fiscal crises to make up for flagging revenues.

We have serious budget problems. Most certainly. But when we talk about putting all options on the table, let's be serious about that as well.

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Hey Norm, That RNC Chair Job Looks Mighty Good

Category: Norm Coleman
Posted: 01/05/09 16:16

by Dave Mindeman

The Republican National Committee will be holding an election for RNC Chair in a few weeks and things are not going smoothly. Politico has a description of all the goings on. This quote from an RNC consultant was particularly interesting:

"Some people are pissed off at [Americans for Tax Reform President] Grover [Norquist]. Some people are pissed off at the Conservative Steering Committee. Some people are pissed off at [current RNC chair] Mike Duncan. Some people are pissed off at social conservatives. The social conservatives are pissed at leaders in Congress,? said a Republican consultant who has worked with the RNC. ?Everyone is basically pissed.?

I realize that I am not the kind of person they would seek advice from or much less want advice from, but I do have a simple solution.

Elect Norm Coleman as RNC Chair.

He's been rumored in the past and he probably already has some supporters in the mix....plus he may be looking for a job soon.

Aside from the fact that it would simplify Minnesota's "one Senator short" problem, there are some good reasons for Norm taking the job.

1) Norm could, with a nice concession speech, look like a national GOP hero.... the man who had an election "stolen" from him; in the eyes of the faithful.

2) Norm gets his national forum. All expense paid travel all over the country via the RNC Committee -- no need for "friends with planes".

3) He can solidify his national credentials with the GOP base without the inconvenience of taking "responsibility" for Senate votes.

4) He gets automatic talk show invitations for all major networks.

5) He gets to schmooze with all the major Republican donors in the entire country and he gets on all the A-List invitations.

C'mon Norm-- how can you turn that down?

But, wait, there is a bonus round.

Tim Pawlenty, are you listening? What could be better for a 2012 Presidential candidate than to have a buddy from Minnesota as the chair of the party?

Think about guys....really.....think about it.

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Media Skewing the Facts on Recount

Category: Al Franken
Posted: 01/05/09 15:28

by Dave Mindeman

The media has been a little lax in its reporting on the recount... especially the national media. Just as some examples, I offer the following:

Let's start with a "breaking news story" from Roll Call:

Court Deals Coleman a Major Setback
January 5, 2009, 1:29 P.M.
In yet another setback for Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), the state Supreme Court on Monday denied his third lawsuit to include more than 600 previously improperly rejected absentee ballots in the recount in his race with comedian Al Franken (D).

Now what's wrong with that summation?

How about the description of the ballots? They are not simply "improperly rejected absentee ballots"..... no, a better description is this:

....the Supreme Court denied the inclusion of 600 rejected absentee ballots that the Coleman lawsuit contends were improperly rejected.

Then we have the Wall Street Journal editorial column. I especially love the headline:

Funny Business in Minnesota
In which every dubious ruling seems to help Al Franken.

The Journal has been regularly slamming our election system as if 2000 Florida were airtight in comparison. Here are just a few of their assertions:

Last month, Mr. Franken's campaign charged that one Hennepin County (Minneapolis) precinct had "lost" 133 votes, since the hand recount showed fewer ballots than machine votes recorded on Election Night. Though there is no proof to this missing vote charge -- officials may have accidentally run the ballots through the machine twice on Election Night -- the Canvassing Board chose to go with the Election Night total, rather than the actual number of ballots in the recount. That decision gave Mr. Franken a gain of 46 votes.

A few facts are slightly askew. Franken's campaign didn't make any charge that the Hennepin precinct had "lost" the votes....it was volunteered by the Hennepin election officials -- and the evidence is strong that there is an envelope missing. There has also been a kind of "latching on" to a misstatement made by Cynthia Reichert, a Hennepin county election official, that indicated that some ballots may have been run through a second time as an "explanation" for the numbers discrepancy. That statement never had any basis in fact. The main factual number is this:

Franken spokesman Andy Barr said 2,029 voters are listed as casting legal ballots on Election Day, with only 1,896 ballots counted in the recount.

Franken's campaign didn't make those numbers up...those are facts and Reichert recanted here double counting assertion when those numbers were made clear.

Here's another one:

Meanwhile, a Ramsey County precinct ended up with 177 more ballots than there were recorded votes on Election Night. In that case, the board decided to go with the extra ballots, rather than the Election Night total, even though the county is now showing more ballots than voters in the precinct. This gave Mr. Franken a net gain of 37 votes, which means he's benefited both ways from the board's inconsistency.

Unlike the 133 missing ballots, these are ballots that were found in a jammed machine. As the Star Tribune reported:

A machine jammed in Maplewood, resulting in 177 ballots going uncounted until the final day of the recount in Ramsey County.

Another point left out by the WSJ editorial was that the canvassing board made no ruling.... the Ramsey county officials found a mistake and added the votes to the recount....as you are supposed to do in a recount. And I cannot find any indication that this precinct shows more ballots than voters.

And then finally, we get to the absentee ballots:

Counties were supposed to review their absentees and create a list of those they believed were mistakenly rejected. Many Franken-leaning counties did so, submitting 1,350 ballots to include in the results. But many Coleman-leaning counties have yet to complete a re-examination. Despite this lack of uniformity, and though the state Supreme Court has yet to rule on a Coleman request to standardize this absentee review, Mr. Ritchie's office nonetheless plowed through the incomplete pile of 1,350 absentees this weekend, padding Mr. Franken's edge by a further 176 votes.

The editorial fails to put out that Coleman-leaning counties were asked by the Coleman campaign to re-examine ballots that they had already rejected under state statute rules. They did so and stayed with their original interpretation of the rejected ballots. All counties went through their rejected ballots....not just the "Franken leaning" counties. And the Coleman request to "standardize" the absentee review was unnecessary because state statute clearly indicates what is involved with any ballot rejection. Mr. Ritchie, also did not plow through the 1350 pile..... the Secretary of State personnel counted the 930+ ballots that were left after the campaigns vetoed ballots they considered suspect as per orders of the Supreme Court.

And yet one more incorrect assumption:

Both campaigns have also suggested that Mr. Ritchie's office made mistakes in tabulating votes that had been challenged by either of the campaigns.

Mr. Ritchie's "office" did not tabulate the challenge votes... it was the canvassing board, which included Ritchie and four sitting judges, that examined the ballots and rendered their interpretation of voter intent as required by state law.

The Wall Street Journal is trying very hard to make a case that this process was skewed in favor of Franken. And while a number of mistakes and discrepancies have fallen Franken's way, this is probably more of an indication of the need for election machinery upgrades in Democratic leaning areas that may have less resources than the suburban strongholds and lighter turnout areas that the GOP does well in.

Everything about this recount was done in the open with multiple witnesses and representatives of the campaigns.

Accusations of "stealing" an election here are simply wishful, made up thinking. And not so much by the Coleman campaign, as by a national GOP party that thinks 2000 Florida is the standard for contested elections.
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