mercredi, mai 18, 2005

Hard Times in the Land of Pawlenty

In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, we have this group called the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. So, in a state with its share of suffering, these folks band together and donate $1,000,000 a year toward the noble cause of preventing tax increases.

One of the things the TLM does is request that candidates running for office sign a pledge not to raise taxes. It is a litmus test for all Republicans who seek to hold statewide office. If you don't sign the pledge, you will not win the party nomination.

Our current "Governor," (elected with the unreal mandate of 45% of the vote) Tim Pawlenty, signed the pledge and has kept his word. He has to keep his word. Everyone over the age of 30 remembers what happened to King George I after his "read my lips no new taxes" promise kinda sorta maybe led to a little old tax, y'all.

I detest the pledge and here's why: it places the interests of the individual (the officeholder) in potential conflict with the interests of the state.

I have long seen our "Governor" as too ambitious for his own good. If the classic maxim: dress for the job you want, not the job you have, were rewritten for politics, it might read: govern for the job you want, not the job you have. And the "Governor" has been so by the book
Republican and so impressively substandard that he closely resembles another politician who has no problem putting his own interest ahead of the interests of those he governs. He is not leading Minnesota so much as he's preserving his chances to lead America. You can't serve two masters, and he's only serving one.

So, he signed the pledge, and here is what has happened since:

Stagflation (see this too)

In order to fund tax cuts for the wealthy, Bush has decreased federal aid to states.

In other words, the state has less money (tax revenue is down, and federal aid is down).

Our expenses have remained the same or increased (due to inflation).

Revenue is down and expenses are up.

What's a "Governor" to do?

He can't raise taxes, so he's:

1. Borrowing money. Don't pay it now without interest, pay it later with interest. When the mess arrives, you'll be Vice President of the United States! Brilliant! Borrowing money to pay for things that are needed but that you are unwilling to increase taxes to pay where have I heard that before?

2. Seeking revenue from the expansion of gambling! It's regressive; it's anti-family, but hey, it ain't raising taxes! Brilliant! Pledge kept; revenue burden born by the few, not the many; and the poor don't vote! Now, all he'll need is Sominex, and he'll be just fine.

3. Increasing fees (note, NOT taxes, feeeeeeeeeees).

4. In the last biennium, he solved by decreasing aid to counties and cities, which in turn caused them to seek alternative revenue streams in the form of property tax increases. If the result of my policies is a tax increase, have I increased your taxes? Asked differently, if I promise not to hit you, but I push a button causing my robot to hit you, I've still kept my promise, right?

Did you catch that? Bush decreases aid to states. "Governor's" like Pawlenty decrease aid to cities. Which direction does the poop roll again? It's enough to make you nostalgic for the days when politicians were proud to proclaim that the buck stopped here, ain't it?

So, as it turned out, the "Governor's" interest are in conflict with the interests of the State. He signed a pledge, so he can't raise revenue by increasing taxes. It's clear he needs to raise revenue, that's why he's borrowing money, looking to gambling, and increasing fees. So, two questions:

One, whose interests do you think will win out? Those of the "Governor" or those of the governed?

Two, is this good government or is this just the government we deserve?

For more on this subject, read this.