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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Pawlenty's Plan for Vets Earns Salute

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 01/09/07 20:00

By Christopher Truscott

"The solider, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." ? Gen. Douglas MacArthur at U.S. Military Academy (1962)

There isn't really anything the state Legislature can do to fully repay soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines for their service, but a proposal unveiled Monday by Gov. Tim Pawlenty is a good start.

If the governor gets his way ? and judging by the reaction of leading DFLers, he will ? military pay and veterans' benefits will be exempt from state income taxes and veterans will also get $1,000 a semester for college tuition as a supplement to federal G.I. Bill benefits.

"The brave men and women in the military raise their hands and courageously serve all of us," Pawlenty said. "We owe them our appreciation and respect in our words and our deeds."

It's a modest proposal, part of a $74.8 million military and veterans' support package, but it's a positive step toward fulfilling the call to action issued by Theodore Roosevelt more than a century ago.

"A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards," the president made famous by his exploits in the Spanish-American war told an Illinois audience on July 4, 1903.

Members of the armed forces don't set policy ? they carry it out. Supporting them should always transcend politics.

In a free society, well-meaning citizens can disagree on a particular military action, but regardless of which side of the debate we find ourselves, we share an obligation to those tasked with saluting and carrying out orders under the most difficult circumstances.

Active-duty, full-time military personnel have made service a way of life ? 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, during peace and in times of conflict. They could've taken an easier path in life, but instead opted to answer the call to serve a cause greater than themselves.

They're not alone.

The thousands of National Guardsmen and reservists who have deployed from Minnesota to hotspots around the globe before and since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have literally put their everyday civilian lives on hold to defend us. They've walked away from school, jobs (that are often better paying), the comforts of home and their families and into a future they can't control.

Neither group of servicemen and women seek great reward for doing their duty, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve something from us. Tacking additional state benefits on to those already offered by the federal government is fair and reasonable.

Republicans and DFLers can be expected to square off on a number of fronts in the coming months. We'll see debate, compromise and probably our fair share of gridlock, but Pawlenty's proposal is a no-brainer that the Legislature should pass and send back to the governor for his signature before politics as usual returns to the halls of the Capitol.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at chris.truscott@gmail.com. He'll get back to calling Pawlenty "profoundly stupid" as soon as possible.
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Government Still Large Enough For Tim Wilkin

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 01/08/07 22:00

By Christopher Truscott

Gov. Tim Pawlenty must have thought when Grover Norquist said government should be shrunk to the point where "we can drown it in the bathtub" that the anti-tax crusader actually meant government should remain just big enough for out-of-work Republican lawmakers like ex-State Rep. Tim Wilkin.

After he was vanquished by DFLer Sandra Masin, Wilkin, who represented Burnsville and Eagan in the Legislature for eight years, was philosophical about his 55-vote defeat.

"The way I look at it, now I get a raise and a lot less work," said Wilkin, who in recent years was the brains of Eagan's formerly all-GOP legislative delegation.

One would think the "fiscal conservative" meant he'd make more money by being able to focus all of his energy on his insurance business. The governor, however, had another idea.

By making Wilkin the assistant human services commissioner, Pawlenty has given his former State House colleague a $70,629 increase over the $31,140 paid to members of the Legislature. That's a pretty good deal cooked up by two men who toss around pejorative terms like "welfare-health care" when discussing aid for the poorest Minnesotans.

In his re-election campaign last year, Wilkin claimed to be working hard "to keep down the cost of government." As a private citizen, however, he was quick to belly up to the public trough.

Where is the outrage from the Republicans who pounced on former Attorney General Mike Hatch, who turned down lucrative offers from big law firms to continue in the AG's Office despite a pay-cut?

As a member of the Legislature, Wilkin was distrustful of government bureaucracy. Now he's in charge of compliance, technology, building services and equal-rights programs in a major state office. Taking on such a position means Wilkin is either a hypocrite or he's trying to tear down from within what he couldn't completely destroy from his post on the House Health Policy and Finance Committee.

Pawlenty could've done much better than Wilkin. Surely he could've found an equally loyal Republican with a pulse who needs a job.

With issues like health care reform on the agenda this year, putting an anti-government insurance salesman in an important human services position is roughly akin to President George W. Bush naming anti-United Nations zealot John Bolton as America's ambassador to the world body.

To use Pawlenty's own language, Wilkin's new assignment is "profoundly stupid."

If the governor wants his call for a positive "Republican message that is empowering" to be taken seriously, he ought to find a new job for Wilkin. Surely there's another no-salary opening on the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at chris.truscott@gmail.com. He'll take a spot on the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission if Wilkin won't.
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Bachmann and Kline Don't Back Up Rhetoric

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 01/08/07 06:26

By Christopher Truscott

Michele Bachmann and John Kline must've been what Franklin P. Adams had in mind 63 years ago when he wrote:

"The trouble with this country is that there are too many politicians who believe, with a conviction based on experience, that you can fool all of the people all of the time."

At every opportunity, Bachmann and Kline claim to be looking out for the taxpayers, but in the first week of the 110th Congress the Republican U.S. representatives put defending the abysmal status quo above promises made to their Minnesota constituents.

By a 280-152 vote, with Kline and Bachmann opposed, the House of Representatives passed legislation to reinstate "pay as you go" budget rules and identify authors of earmark (aka: pork) amendments in appropriation bills.

The "PAYGO"-earmark legislation, part of new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's first 100 hours agenda, was designed to help get control of the runaway spending that has driven the federal debt to more than $8.5 trillion. PAYGO rules require lawmakers to demonstrate how they'll pay for all new spending or tax cuts and identifying earmark sponsors should help deter members of Congress from proposing frivolous and costly amendments to critical spending legislation.

Based on their campaign pledges, Bachmann and Kline should've been among the most vocal supporters of the bipartisan legislation.

Kline says he "understands how the federal deficit, created by years of over-spending, is a threat to the long-term health of our economy." Bachmann, a co-sponsor of the federal balanced budget constitutional amendment, brags that she'll work "tirelessly to put hard earned money back in taxpayers' pockets."

Their rhetoric sounds great, but the reality is Bachmann and Kline are hypocrites. If their anti-reform positions had carried the day the deficit would continue soaring into the stratosphere and Congress would keep on spending taxpayer money with the reckless abandon of a teenager armed with bourbon and car keys.

Rather than following through on their promises, Bachmann and Kline opted to blindly support their party's leaders. PAYGO rules, which helped produce balanced budgets and record surpluses during the 1990s, would make it harder to extend President George W. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy; earmark reform would make it more difficult to tack projects like bridges connecting nowhere to nothing onto transportation bills.

Once again, Bachmann and Kline have demonstrated they'll say one thing and do another without compunction. They count on voters listening to their campaign drivel rather than paying attention to their records. In the Karl Rove tradition, they think their constituents are stupid, easily manipulated by flashy commercials, slick direct mail pieces and clever sound bytes.

Ethics reform is a top priority for both houses of Congress this year. If leaders wanted to really help voters, they'd implement "TRUTH-GO" legislation requiring lawmakers to show how their promises mesh with reality.

If their record is any indication, Bachmann and Kline would probably support ethical behavior while here in Minnesota before heading back to Washington and voting against it.

.Christopher Truscott can be reached at chris.truscott@gmail.com. He got a great laugh out of the official biography on Bachmann's congressional Web site
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