Friday, June 24, 2011

Drink That Kool-Aid, Follow Their Lead

Contributed by Katie Foley

Please forgive me my absence. Much of what I describe below was gleaned from this article:  

I have been listening to a lot of MPR lately and between talks of mummies and tapping into the Strategic Oil Reserve is a lot of talk about the impending government shut-down.

The shut-down will go into effect on July 1, 2011.  The parties involved went to court today and a judge stated that if the parties cannot agree, she will decide which provision in Minnesota's Constitution is more important: that the government cannot spend money unless the legislature has appropriated it?  Or that Minnesotans should not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law?

One friend asked me, "Doesn't this happen every few years?"  The answer is yes and no.  Past shutdowns have been partial shutdowns.  Many agency budgets had been passed and money that was appropriated for another purpose could be diverted somewhere else.  This appropriation shifting was directed at what have come to be known as "essential" services.

For example, the State Patrol and court system are among the services thought to be essential.  Towards the bottom is the Minnesota State Lottery and Canterbury Park.  Actually, people who plan to go to State Parks for the 4th of July will have to cancel their plans. It'd be a shame to drive all that way to see the Parks' entrances barricaded.

The problem this year is that even if everyone could agree on what should be deemed essential, the legislature hasn't appropriated any money.  For anyone. That means no appropriation shifting as there will have been no appropriations. Hence the judge's dilemma about the Constitutional issues "at the core of government." My lawyerly brain is intrigued by the prospect of new jurisprudence, but my Minnesotan brain is outraged at the complete inability to compromise when anybody who has accomplished anything can tell you that compromise is the name of life's game.

Back to MPR.  One afternoon this week a newscaster asked who should take the political heat for this, the Republican legislature or the Democratic governor. Since I'm a flaming liberal, my response was pretty typical.

"The Republicans, of course!" I yelled at my radio, "They were elected to solve a budget crisis and instead they focused on making sure gays can't have the same legal rights as straights!"

But a couple days later a thought has struck me.  My opinion has been based on the underlying assumption that these men and women were elected to balance the budget - to solve the budget crisis.  This has been a mistaken assumption.  The Republicans were elected to cut spending and make sure that (non-property) tax rates did not go up.

Maybe someday I'll have the money to be concerned about the capital gains tax, or taxes on estates over $5 million.  Maybe someday I'll be in a tax bracket that doesn't result in a full refund every year, like the government feels sorry for how broke I am. Maybe someday I'll appreciate that I can speak with money, not just watch it all go towards keeping a roof over my head, food in my stomach and the luxury of a cell phone with an unlimited data plan.  For now I'm too busy being concerned about how to pay for health insurance coverage on the off chance that Blue Cross overlooks my pre-existing conditions and actually decides to insure me.

So to MPR, when you ask who should take the political fall for the budget impasse, I'm going to have to change my answer.  Who should take the political fallout?  The Democrats.  Because we keep thinking that if we play nice, the Republicans won't kick us in the shins and steal our ball.  Maybe we need to resort to playground politics because the Republicans elected because some people believe we are "Taxed Enough Already" are doing exactly what they were elected to do - to steal the ball and run home. Unfortunately, this isn't a playground where the one with the ball decides who gets to play. This is life. This is liberty. This is people's livelihoods and property.  Aren't those the rights that these supposed Patriots have proclaimed they stand to uphold? Or was that just another flavor of Kool-Aid that too many people have decided to drink without realizing what is really in the cup?