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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

MinnPost Adds Blois Olson -- Resident Blowhard

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 08/01/08 15:41, Edited: 08/01/08 15:43

by Dave Mindeman

OK, this post will probably be classified in the "I don't care" category, but it is still worth noting that Blois Olson is now writing for Minnpost on politics.

This is just personal opinion, so take it for what it is worth, but here is my 3 word description for Blois Olson:

Pompous, elitist, blowhard.

Guess you could say I don't have an ambiguous opinion.

Now, I don't know Olson personally but I have sort of watched his career over the past years. My first encounter with him was when he managed a Democratic Congressional campaign in Minnesota's First District, where I lived at the time. It was 1994 and Tim Penny had decided not to run again. It was an open seat. Rochester legislator Gil Gutknecht ran as the Republican and Mary Rieder, a local rural Rochester official, was the Democrat. Now, the Democratic party was extremely weak in Rochester in 1994 (not like it is now), and the demographics seemed more conservative -- Penny always ran as a center right Democrat. But Penny was still popular and he supported Rieder 100%. I thought Olson ran a terrible campaign -- advertising was weak, issues were inconsistent, and his candidate was off message often. She lost.

Then suddenly, Olson is popping up on the talking head circuit as though he is knowledgeable about all things Democrat. He is quoted in various political articles and becomes a semi-regular on Almanac's political panel....and then becomes co-editor of Politics In Minnesota with Republican Sara Janacek.

He operates a consulting business. But the next time he is in the media is in a lawsuit against Michael Brodkorb...or at least, at the time, the anonymous blogger of Minnesota Democrats Exposed. He lost that suit, too.

He pops up in other places. In 2006, he is apologizing to Michele Bachmann and vocally criticizing Coleen Rowley's campaign. And now he is with MinnPost -- his first entry? To criticize the Al Franken campaign.

You know, with Democrats like this, it is no wonder they have trouble winning.

I thought I'd put in a little background on Olson -- my next post will be to analyze Olson's column. It is in two parts -- you might want to read them first:

What Went Wrong for Al Franken?

How Franken Could Win

The Nation's Roads and Bridges: Forget the Talk -- Let's Act

Posted: 08/01/08 06:35, Edited: 08/01/08 06:48

by Dave Mindeman

One year ago today a bridge fell down.

It is still hard to think of that as a real event -- it was so unthinkable. Yet, for one year, on and off, it has been analyzed, scrutinized, and homogenized in every way possible, as a monument to infrastructure in need of repair.

Yet, where do we really stand.

That particular bridge was replaced....in record time. The funding of it was never in doubt; no one wanted that fallen bridge to symbolize any kind of futility about transportation solutions.

Yet, outside of that flurry of activity, the issue of how we replace and address the needs of our national highway system gets lots of Congressional talk, but little action.

One in four bridges is in need of repair in the US. Think about that. Think of the billions and billions, maybe trillions, of dollars that involves and yet year after year we push it aside like it will all go away like a bad dream.....or until another bridge falls down.

Does anybody have a solution?

We've got a lot of rhetoric about the problem, but we have really done very little to overhaul a transportation system that has been patched and essentially extended outward since 1950. That is nearly 60 years without major rennovation. It is a compliment to the builders that it has lasted that long.

We have had commissions. The latest, bipartisan, one said this:

A bipartisan federal commission, appointed by the president and members of Congress, has recommended that transportation spending from all sources -- federal, state and private -- more than double, to at least $225 billion annually for 50 years, more than $11 trillion in all.

Yet, here in Minnesota, it took a veto override and the symbolic effigy hanging of 6 legislators, to get a funding increase for Minnesota roads. An increase that isn't even going to cover 25% of the need.

Mention Federal highway taxes and the boo birds come out;

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., for one, argues that transportation funding must be reformed before taxpayers fork over more money. In 2006, Minnesota got back only 89 cents of every dollar contributed to the Highway Trust Fund, partly because of excessive earmarks in other states, Bachmann said.

Talk of reform is good for stalling tactics, but in the end someone has to pay more money to get this fixed. And you can blame earmarks as another diversion, but individual earmarks are such a small portion of overall transportation funding, that wasting the time talking about it merely adds more inflation and interest to the costs of when we actually do something -- money that could very well exceed the earmark funding being criticized.

Some people would just rather not talk about it. One month from now, the GOP will hold its convention in St. Paul, but the headline in Politico reads:

GOP Hopes to Skirt Minn. Bridge Issue

Does that sound like leadership to you?

Republicans say they would rather not dampen the convention by revisiting an old tragedy.

Yes, it's like the old family argument that goes on for years and gets buried with a, "Let's talk about that later, shall we?"

So, let's get specific...what do we really need? More commission talk:

The U.S. House passed legislation last week that would authorize an additional $1 billion next year for bridges across the country. However, a final report in January from a presidential commission concluded the country needs to spend at least $225 billion a year, every year, for the next 50 years to build a competitive transportation system.

Nobody is ready to put a realistic handle on that figure. Minnesota has made a ding in their portion of it, with the transportation bill, but everybody knows (at least if they are truthful), it will still take more. Yet, Marty Seifert, House minority leader continues his "issue avoidance" tactics;

That (the commission report) will keep the debate open on how to pay for it. But House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, says additional funding needs to come from sources other than new or higher taxes. "Any kind of shortfall in terms of transportation, I think, is going to have to come from reprioitization or bonding.," he said.

Let's see, the state bonding bill can't exceed $1 billion (at least that has been the agreement).....and we have been in slash and burn budget mode for all of Pawlenty's budget tenure. Exactly what does Marty Seifert foresee as these new "sources"? We cannot keep doing this.

So, again, what are the solutions?

Well, number 1 -- let's stop building bridges in Iraq and start building them here. The Iraq War has simply diverted way too many resources from needs at home. If you want reprioritization, well there you go.

Secondly, we have to have a comprehensive tax plan. Less demagoguery about taxes and more discussion of what we do to pay for the need. Have your earmark discussion, but have it in a context of a realistic tax bill. And, that discussion, has to talk about more than a gas tax. We want to shift our focus away from gas consumption and if we do it right, gas tax revenues are going to decrease drastically in the future -- we want that. We have to put everything on the table. Higher vehicle taxes, toll roads, federal business taxes...yes, even an oil windfall profits tax. It all has to be there.

Thirdly, we need to get tough on collecting revenue. Oil subsidies would seem to be unecessary. Offshore tax schemes should be locked up. Defense contractors should have air tight oversight. Waste and fraud shouldn't be merely pointed out but prosecuted and collected.

We have a critical need for fixing this problem. And we need to find leadership willing to get the job done -- not avoid the subject.

Sonia Pitt -- The By-Product of Government on the Cheap

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 07/31/08 05:31, Edited: 07/31/08 05:31

by Dave Mindeman

Sometimes you see a story that pretty much exemplifies how stupid things can get.

Remember Sonia Pitt -- the MnDOT employee who was fooling around in Washington when the I-35 Bridge went down? Well, she landed a new job.

Yes, she is now a "Transportation Security Specialist".

But let's not be too harsh with her. After all, she merely personifies how government gets administrated. It is not what you know, it is who you know. We prefer nepotism and cronyism to competence.

And you know, its our own fault...yes, "we, the people"...it's our fault. We want a government that works but we want it cheap. After all, why compensate people properly and pay them what they are worth, when we have all these career bureaucrats ready to work cheaply as long as they can exploit us for the rest.

Here are some examples:

Senators and Representatives are paid reasonably well but they could make far more in the private sector. Yet, they continue to seek re-election because they want the influence and they know at some point they can retire to a lucrative lobbyist job. A study was recently done that put the number at 43%. Want to do something about earmarks? Stop that revolving door.

Then there is Monica Goodling -- the Justice Dept administrator with the unique job interview style. Why is she not in jail? As well as all of her bosses including Alberto Gonzales? The reason they are not in jail is because they were IN CHARGE OF THE DEPT. OF JUSTICE! Who the heck is going to prosecute them? The Bush administration is certainly not going to pursue the issue because THAT'S WHAT THEY WANTED. Incompetence hired to hire more incompetence. It's a never ending circle.

And in Minnesota, justice has some equally notable flaws. The Pawlenty administration, in its never ending pursuit of budget cuts, slashed the budget of the court system. Then he appoints one of his buddies to be the Chief Justice of Minnesota. As we all are aware, the wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow -- but in Minnesota's case, they are not grinding at all. The backlog in court cases is weeks, months, and sometimes years long. Public defenders have been cut back so much that some counties will have to sue the state to get help -- and they have a strong argument that lack of counsel violates the Constitution. In this case, justice is blind is not an expression.

And one more thing -- Minnesota's restricted ceiling on government salaries.....it is costing us money. It truly, severely limits our pool of available personnel. Maybe we can't fully compete with the private sector in terms of salary, but let's get rid of this artificial cap. Top quality administrators will save the state budget huge amounts of money...well beyond the probably large increase in salaries that would be involved. With the current restrictions we are at the mercy of the Sonia Pitt's of the world. They are the only ones we can afford.

So, in reality, it is not surprising that Sonia Pitt was rewarded for her incompetence. All she needed to do was look to the Federal Homeland Security Dept -- where incompetence is becoming part of the job description.


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