Sunday, January 05, 2003

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly All In The Morning Paper

Today's Minneapolis Star Tribune was chock full of interesting nuggets.

First the good news. Despite the efforts of the Strib and most of the media in Minnesota (summed up nicely by Power Line) a Minnesota Poll in today's paper shows that an overwhelming majority (76%) of Minnesotans favor spending cuts to solve the state's 4.5 billion dollar budget deficit. And even more encouraging only 37% favor raising taxes. Of course when the Strib adds a personal touch to the story by inserting the comments of a couple of the respondents they include one who favors spending cuts and one who favors raising taxes despite the disproportionate results of the poll in regard to those two positions.

The bad was a plethora of editorials pining for the days when there was a "consensus" in Minnesota politics. This "consensus" as described by Jim Boyd (who probably had the most honest look at it by acknowledging that it ain't coming back) went something like this:

The late, lamented Minnesota consensus was quintessentially one of moderation, centered on moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats, influenced by a strong strain of community-minded Scandinavian Lutheranism. There was agreement to bear relatively heavy tax burdens to finance schools, highways, parks and the other amenities that made the community function well.

In other words it was a pretty much an unquestioning acceptance of the need for government in most areas of life and a belief that government could best solve the problems faced by the state.

Lori Sturdevant writes about the "fractured state" that Minnesota has become and includes this gem:

The election was portrayed not only as a victory of Republicans over DFLers, but also of the suburbs over the core cities, of rich over poor, of conservatives over liberals.

Portrayed by whom? The Star Tribune? Activists on the Left? It's interesting that while she's lamenting the division of the state she certainly doesn't help matters by giving credence to such imaginary divisions as "rich versus poor" or "suburbs versus urban core". Does a Republican victory necessarily mean that the poor and the inner cities will now suffer?

Only if you accept a sort of zero sum game view of politics which is exactly what Dave Hage's piece does (in fact it's called Zero-sum politics asks, 'What's in it for me?'). According to this view politics is all about getting your piece of the pie:

It says that the first question of government is "What do I get out of it?" and it asserts that one side wins only by making the other side lose.

He then makes a fairly typical liberal swipe against talk radio insinuating that most callers are just a bunch of cranks:

It's the familiar logic of talk radio, where every caller seems to have a grudge against the government.

And then lays out his personal views on how we ought to view government:

Consider the following thought experiment. I seldom drive on freeways, but I support freeway construction because a big city needs efficient roads. My kids want to go somewhere far-off and exotic for college, but I still support the "U" because a prosperous, educated state needs a fine public university. I rarely go to Twins games, but I'll help pay for a new ballpark because I think it would add to the Twin Cities' cultural mix. This isn't boasting -- it's the way most Minnesotans think about their state and its public assets. It's certainly the way our parents and grandparents thought.

What’s amazing in all three of these pieces that long for a day when “we” could all just agree to pay higher taxes and spend more on government is that none of them acknowledge the abject failures of the increased state spending in the last twenty years to solve the most critical problems that the state faces. Education, poverty, urban development, and crime are problems that the state has poured billions of dollars into with scant results to show for it. Meanwhile the personal and business taxes required to support such spending has limited people’s abilities to achieve their goals and created a most unfriendly business environment. If people are looking out for their own self interests more than in the 60’s or 70’s it’s because they are forced to by the fact that government has by in large failed them. And is that really such a bad thing?

Finally, the ugly. The Star Tribune has been publishing a continuing series of “Arguments Through the Ages” which they describe as “Samples of Great Rhetoric From the Past”. Today they featured an Arguments Through the Ages: John Reed who was described as:

John Reed (1887-1920), best known as the author of "Ten Days That Shook the World," his account of the Russian Revolution, was a Harvard-educated journalist and activist who worked for the Masses, a radical journal. His Marxist sympathies led him to work both as a propagandist and as a diplomat for the Soviet government, and after his death in Moscow he was buried in the Kremlin.

In the past this series has included such notables as Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and Lenin men responsible for the deaths of millions of people in the 20th century. I’m still waiting for a reprint of a speech by Mussolini or Hitler. And you know that Goebbels had a way with words too...

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