Archive for December, 2008

In 2006, one of the Democrats’ main campaign themes was the “Republican culture of corruption.” Upon winning back the House, Speaker Pelosi said that she’d run the “most honest, most ethical Congress in history.” They’re well on their way of totally obliterating that claim, thanks in no small part to Charlie Rangel’s ethical lapses:

The House ethics committee is expanding an investigation of Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. The ethics panel issued a statement Tuesday saying it had voted to expand an already far-ranging probe into the New York Democrat to examine whether he protected an oil drilling company from a big tax bill when the head of that company pledged a $1 million donation to a college center named after the congressman.

The move means the Rangel inquiry will likely stretch well past early January, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had previously said she expected the matter to be resolved.

Republicans have called for Rangel to step down from his chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means panel during the investigation. The expanding investigation means the ethics cloud hanging over Rangel is likely to follow him and Democratic leaders into the next Congress as they seek to pass major stimulus legislation and buoy the sinking economy.

The committee will now investigate contributions or pledges of money made to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York, particularly one made by Eugene M. Isenberg, CEO of Nabors Industries, Ltd.

It isn’t hyperbole to say that corruption is rampant within the Democratic Party. I’ve said in the past that John Murtha’s office should be officially converted into the Corporate Welfare HQ when he retires because that’s what it unofficially is under his ‘leadership’.

The news this week that Gov. Blagojevich tried selling President-Elect Obama’s Senate seat is only surprising in that someone actually got arrested for that type of Illinois corruption.

John Fund’s WSJ column outlines the tip of the iceberg of Chicago politics. It’s also a fine indictment of the media’s disinterest in anything that might tarnight their latest Golden Boy’s image:

What remains to be seen is whether this episode will put an end to what Chicago Tribune political columnist John Kass calls the national media’s “almost willful” fantasy that Mr. Obama and Chicago’s political culture have little to do with each other. Mr. Kass notes that the media devoted a lot more time and energy to investigating the inner workings of Sarah Palin’s Wasilla, Alaska, than it has looking at Mr. Obama’s Chicago connections.

It’s too late to prevent Obama from becoming the 44th President but it’d be nice to see reporters doing their job. Unfortunately, I’m not certain it isn’t too late for modern journalism. If traditional journalism wasn’t dead this year, then it was in a deep coma this year. Mr. Kass is right. They spent more infinitely more time investigating Gov. Palin than they spent investigating then-Sen. Obama. That’s because traditional journalists didn’t investigate then-Sen. Obama.

The only journalists who investigated then-Sen. Obama. were David Freddoso and Stanley Kurtz. Their reporting was found on the NY Post’s website and on NRO.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention William Jefferson’s defeat in LA-2, in which the people of LA-2 removed him from the U.S. House of Representatives. That’s before I mention Paul Kanjorski’s ethical dilemma.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Based on Rep. Dan Severson’s editorial in this morning’s SC Times, I’d say that there’s reason for a glimmer of hope. Still, the pessimist in me still insists that things might not work out smoothly. Here’s the heart of Rep. Severson’s resason for optimism:

I was very pleasantly surprised with what I and some others believe we heard from Sen. Tarryl Clark, the assistant Democrat Senate leader, and Rep. Larry Hosch, House Democrat assistant leader. They indicated raising taxes in these tough economic times would not be good.

The discussion that raising taxes kills job growth gave me hope that there may be a workable solution for this legislative session. In these challenging times of economic recession, raising taxes to support bigger government is not only irresponsible, it is dangerous.

I’m still skeptical anytime the DFL says they won’t raise taxes. It’ll be interesting to see if they keep their commitment this time. I’ll just say that if the DFL keeps that commitment, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Major reforms must happen over the next couple years if Minnesota doesn’t want to fall behind other states in the major quality of life categories. If the DFL doesn’t heed Rep. Severson’s and the GOP’s warnings, this is what’s in store for us:

Local large employers were very emphatic that increasing taxes would mean less money for business operation and likely result in downsizing, killing local jobs.

In other words, it’s likely to create a longlasting, deep recession. That certainly isn’t in Minnesota’s or St. Cloud’s best interests. This is why it’s time for us to start adopting sensible reforms that keep our revenues stable and our state prosperous.

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The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been arrested. Here’s what they’re reporting:

A three-year federal corruption investigation of pay-to-play politics in Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration has expanded to include his impending selection of a new U.S. senator to succeed President-elect Barack Obama, the Tribune has learned.

Federal authorities got approval from a judge before the November general election to secretly record the governor, sources told the Tribune, and among their concerns was whether the selection process might be tainted. That possibility has become a focus in an intensifying investigation that has included recordings of the governor and the cooperation of one of his closest friends.

Rod Blagojevich is innocent until proven guilty but the FBI doesn’t get involved without a reason. Here’s an update:

Updated at 8:48 a.m.: Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested today by FBI agents on federal corruption charges. Blagojevich and Harris were accused of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy that included Blagojevich conspiring to sell or trade the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for financial benefits for the governor and his wife. The governor was also accused of obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for other official actions.

Blagojevich was taken into federal custody at his North Side home this morning. A Blagojevich spokesman said he was unaware of the development. “Haven’t heard anything; you are first to call,” Lucio Guerrero said in an e-mail.

The stunning, early morning visit by authorities to the governor’s North Side home came amid revelations that federal investigators had recorded the governor with the cooperation of a longtime confidant and had begun to focus on the possibility that the process of choosing a Senate successor to President-elect Barack Obama could be tainted by pay-to-play politics.

Play-for-pay politics isn’t something new in politics. It’s status quo Chicago politics. It’s what’s expected. It’s as surprising as finding out that presidential candidates give Philadelphia residents walking around money. Let’s remember that this is where Dan Rostenkowski practiced politics.

Updated at 8:57 a.m.: “The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering,” U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement. “They allege that Blagojevich put a ‘for sale’ sign on the naming of a United States senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism.”

If Fitzgerald is as enthusiastic in his prosecution of Blagojevich as he was with Scooter Libby, then Blagojevich has alot to be worried about.

It’s time for this corruption machine to be put in prison. He’s the epitome of corruption.

UPDATE: Here’s the pdf outlining the charges filed against Gov. Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

In today’s politics, qualifications don’t matter if you’re a Democrat. That’s the only conclusion thinking people can make after seeing Al Franken come so close to defeating Sen. Norm Coleman. It’s the only conclusion people can make after seeing Rob Jacobs make a run at Dan Severson.

Rep. Dan Severson defeated Mr. Jacobs by a 55-45% margin. Had qualifications mattered, it would’ve been 65-35% or 70-30%.

This fall, I covered a bunch of candidate forums. The first candidate forum I saw Mr. Jacobs attend was the CMTA Forum. That’s where he said he wasn’t “a transportation expert so I won’t pretend to be.” Following the event, I talked with the event organizer about Mr. Jacobs’ statement. Here’s the organizer’s reaction:

“There’s no reason why a person can’t be a self-taught expert on any subject with the internet.”

It was obvious that the organizer wasn’t happy with Jacobs’ performance.

The next day, Jacobs participated in the Health Care Forum hosted by the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce. Everyone in the room was stunned when Mr. Jacobs said that he wasn’t a health care expert so he wouldn’t pretend to be one. The look on several candidates’ faces, both DFL & GOP, said everything.

I talked with one media person after the event. This person said that they’d never seen a candidate give such a lame answer at a debate. Twice. I couldn’t disagree.

The final debate I covered was the GMHCC forum. The first question of the night was whether the candidates would support Sen. John Marty’s singlepayer health care bill. Rep. Severson said he wouldn’t, stating that we need more competition and more accountability in the system. Rep. Severson said that private markets provided the best option.

Here’s Mr. Jacobs’ response to that:

One thing I don’t agree with Dan on is letting the free market dictate. Government must play a substantial role.

It was a paranoid, bizarre reply considering the fact that Rep. Severson never said or implied that free markets should dictate. Repeatedly through the night, Jacobs gave the most radical liberal answers of anyone there. By comparison, Larry Hosch looked positively conservative.

The case for Al Franken coming this close to defeating Sen. Coleman is even more perplexing. His main qualification was name recognition. His next biggest qualification was that he hated President Bush. Mr. Franken doesn’t have a grasp of the issues. He’s utterly unqualified. Yet he stands within a couple hundred votes of defeating Sen. Coleman.

By comparison, Sen. Coleman headed an investigation that exposed the Oil-For-Food (OFF) scandal, the most massive corruption scandal in history. Sen. Coleman worked on a vast array of issues, including health care reform and energy independence.

The point I’m trying to make to conservatives is that we shouldn’t dismiss inept candidates like Franken and Jacobs just because they’re inept. The DFL has painted a big bullseye on every elected Republican. They’ll work tirelessly to defeat those Republicans because it’s all about acquiring political power.

It isn’t about voting for the most qualified person. It isn’t about doing what’s best for America.

It’s about acquiring power.

It’s time we remembered that the next time we’re called to volunteer for GOP candidates. It’s time we understood that the next time we’re asked to do voter ID. It’s time we understod that when we’re asked to contribute to solid candidates.

If we don’t recognize that and if we don’t respond enthusiastically, we’ll be politically irrelevant.

The good news is that we’re noticing the radical nature of the DFL. We’re seeing the disastrous policies of the DFL, too. The anti-capitalist policies are what’s driving Minnesota’s economy into the ground. Now’s the time to adopt an evangelist’s mindset in telling people why conservative policies will make people more prosperous and more safe. Now’s the time that we explain why our health care reform proposals will lower costs and give people more quality options. Now’s the time that we explain why accountability, transparency and competition will improve Minnesota’s education system.

If we take our responsibilities seriously, we’ll outwork our DFL opponents. Most importantly, Minnesota will be a better, more prosperous place to live. That won’t happen with the DFL in charge.

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According to this Strib article, the T’Wolves have fired Randy Wittman as their head coach. Kevin McHale is replacing him. Here’s what the Strib’s Jerry Zgoda is reporting:

The Timberwolves fired head coach Randy Wittman this morning and replaced him with Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale, but the big news out of Target Center is that McHale will relinquish his front-office duties to concentrate on coaching. Owner Glen Taylor and McHale will announce the changes at a 2 p.m. Target Center press conference today.

It is not yet known if assistant general manager Fred Hoiberg, who was being groomed as McHale’s successor, will take over the team’s basketball operations on a permanent basis.

I’d doubt if this is the end of the shakeup. Since the T’Wolves made the Western Conference Finals, they’ve been a team without a clue. They’ve missed the playoffs every year since then. They’ve made God-awful trades that drained them of talent. They’ve made poor use of their draft picks. in fact, they’ve shown an indifference to improving through the draft.

They’ve given outrageous contracts to such players as Troy Hudson, Marko Jaric & Trenton Hassell. In fact, they traded Sam Cassell & a first round pick to the LA Clippers for Jaric. When I first heard about the trade, I thought for sure the T’Wolves were getting the pick. When I read the details of the trade, I was furious.

In short, they’re the opposite of the Twins, who’ve remained highly competitive by drafting well & by making smart trades.

I suspect that McHale’s career with the T’Wolves will end when the regular season ends. He’s a HoF player but he’s been terrible as the T’Wolves’ GM. It’s time for the T’Wolves to right their ship. I’m convinced that that can’t happen with the current front office.

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This past Saturday, House GOP leader Marty Seifert coined the phrase misery parade at the State Central meeting. Here’s what Marty is referring to:

Marty’s description of these groups that will approach the legislature for more and more of our money to address their tales of woe is quite apt: they are the “MISERY PARADE.”

These groups are characterized by their explaining that their program is only seeking a tiny increase, often described in hundredths of a percent, compared to the size of the state’s budget. This tactic is used to make big dollar amounts sound miniscule. It’s a tactic that the DFL usually accepts without hesitation or question.

One of the ‘victims’ that we’ll hear from are cities in need of additional LGA. When these cities cry about ‘needing’ more LGA, we should point them to this information:

In Eagan, Mayor Mike Maguire noted last week that residents are anxious about the economy and taxes. “That’s why we’ve made budget cuts this year and Eagan spending remains the lowest per capita of any Minnesota city with more than 50,000 residents,” Maguire said in a news release.

In Burnsville, city staff members are recommending a 3.7 percent increase in the tax levy, along with budget reductions such as postponing park projects, having employees drive police cars and other city vehicles longer before trading them in, and eliminating two positions, said city spokesman Jim Skelly.

Imagine that. Cities have the authority to make spending decisions that save taxpayers money. Who would’ve thunk it? That’s the question that you’ll never hear a DFL legislator ask. I applaud these cities for making reasonable spending adjustments.

Here’s what happens when cities don’t make reasonable spending adjustments:

Lakeville resident Karen Wentworth was pleased to see her proposed residential tax bill go down by about $40 for 2009.

But the proposed property tax for her husband’s business in the city’s industrial park set off alarm bells. She said the value of the three-acre location of HOBO Inc., a chemical manufacturing company on Hamburg Avenue, rose 15 percent and the accompanying tax bill is up 17 percent for 2009.

It doesn’t take much for a commercial property in the Twin Cities to be worth $1 million. I don’t know if that’s close to what HOBO, Inc.’s property is worth but let’s just use that hypothetically. Using those figures means that HOBO, Inc’s propert taxes increased by almost $350,000 in 2 years.

How many employees’ salaries does that cost? It isn’t likely that HOBO, Inc. will eat the entire cost of those tax increases. It’s quite likely, though, that they’ll lay people off or raise prices or a combination of both.

The problem, which I’ve been harping about seemingly forever, is that we’ve got a broken economic model, one which the DFL refuses to change. The problem is that we don’t have an entrepreneur-oriented economic model. If we had that type of economic model, we’d have more stable revenues. We’d also eliminate the ‘misery parade’, which means we’d have fewer surplus-to-deficit swings.

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Mike Pence, the newly elected chairman of the House Republican Conference, has written today’s must reading for conservatives. While it must be examined in its entirety, this paragraph really jumped out at me:

Republicans must propose new solutions to today’s challenges based upon timeless principles. Republicans will succeed when we present the American people a positive, conservative vision in vivid contrast to the big-government liberalism of the new, one-party government. Republicans must return to defending our nation, our treasury and our values with everything we’ve got. We must be the party of open and honest government, reaffirming our commitment to public integrity and demanding the highest ethical standards in the service of the American people. We must again embrace the notion that Republicans seek the majority not simply to govern but to change government for the better. We are the true agents of change.

If there’s anything that’s changed more in the last 5 years than the perception that the national GOP is a corrupt party, it’s that we’re the spendaholic party. President Bush isn’t helping erase that image. While it’s important that we started highlighting the people in state legislatures and state houses who are taking fiscal restraint seriously, it’s vitally important that Republicans serving in Washington started acting with fiscal restraint.

With billions of dollars being spent on an endless parade of bailouts, it won’t take long before people will be fed up with Washington’s fiscal irresponsibility. If we start a steady stream of fiscally responsible spending proposals, people will start taking us seriously again. That’s what John Kasich did in the late 1980s. His balanced budget plans eventually led to the first set of balanced budgets in decades.

As important as starting a steady stream of fiscally responsible spending proposals is, it’s also important that we offer an appealing set of reforms that offer a vivid contrast with the Democrats’ status quo governing approach. Rep. Pence offers a list of things that fit into that agenda:

We must detail our alternatives to Democratic plans to raise taxes and expand the federal government in education, health care and entitlements. Ideas like a balanced budget amendment, school-choice vouchers, health savings accounts and welfare reform should take center stage in the Republican agenda.

There isn’t a single thing on there that doesn’t have majority support with Americans. In fact, I’d bet that HSA’s and vouchers would have substantial appeal with voters Republicans should go after.

Finally, I want to thank Rep. Pence for making this statement:

Republicans need to take our vision and agenda to every American regardless of race, creed or past political affiliations. Our party was forged in a war over the principle of equality of opportunity and we need to return to its vigorous defense. The Democrats offer a vision of hope based on increased dependency and welfare-state politics. Republicans must go to every community and offer a better hope built on equality of opportunity, personal responsibility and the desire of every citizen to live the American dream unfettered by high taxes and government red tape.

I’ve been saying this for years. In fact, I’ve made the case to policy wonks, politicians and anyone who’ll listen that minority business owners hate overtaxation and overregulation just as much as any other businessmann. In the end, all entrepreneurs prefer systems that increase their profitability.

Not only is this wise politically, it’s the morally right thing to do.

I’d like to take the time to thank Rep. Pence for thinking things through and writing such an intelligent op-ed. If we had more people like Mike Pence, the GOP would be a strong political party.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

This morning, I found an email in my inbox from a good friend. He was extending me seasons greetings. Here’s the text of the email:

TO DEMOCRATS

“Please accept (with no obligation, implied or implicit) best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday,practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great (This is not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country, nor that America is the only country in the Western Hemisphere), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes. By accepting these greetings, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for himself, herself, or others. This greeting is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.”

There’s another greeting for Republicans:

For My Republican Friends:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I replied to my friend’s message with a question and an admonishment:

How could you say this?

We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar
year 2009.

This is sure to upset some socialists somewhere.

How insensitive of you.

Moral of the Story I: No matter how hard you try to be inclusive or sensitive, you’ll offend someone.

Moral of the Story II: Someone’s undies will always be in a bunch so just be yourself.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Yesterday, the SC Times published Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden’s LTE in which Mayor Wolden claimed that revenues, not spending, had caused the current deficit. This morning, I submitted a Write Now editorial arguing against Mayor Wolden’s editorial. Here’s what Mayor Wolden said that got me fired up:

Tanking housing and credit markets and rising fuel costs have pulled at all of our budget strings, local and state governments’ and the public’s alike. But it is the state’s poor fiscal practices that have caused its budget to completely unravel.

Shrinking revenues and drained reserves have destabilized Minnesota’s economy and have failed to safeguard the state from financial crises, such as the one we are facing now.

Even so, the governor and many at the Legislature will argue that the state has a spending problem, which is nothing more than a clever side-step around the real problem: our state’s broken revenue system.

This Saturday, the Lady Logician wrote a prebuttal to the coming onslaught of LTE’s stating that we have a “broken revenue system.” The centerpiece of the Lady Logician’s post is supplied by Rep. Mark Buesgens. Here’s what Rep. Buesgens said:

Our government is in a deep, deep financial hole, and the first step to climbing out of it is to stop digging it even deeper. Spending went up almost 10 percent in the last two years, and 12 percent in the two years before that. In just the last four years, state spending has increased by a whopping $ 6.5 billion dollars. If the Legislature and the Governor could simply agree to go back to the 2005 spending level, we would be looking at a $1.3 billion dollar surplus.
Government’s role in helping our state achieve more prosperous times is to focus on taking actions that preserve liberty, ensure public safety and develop the necessary infrastructure for a vibrant economy.

The state’s budget deficit is $5.2 billion, of which $426 million is for this biennium, the other $4.8 BILLION is for the next biennium. Why would any politician think that they could increase spending by double digit percentages in back-to-back bienniums, especially when we’re heading into a slowing economy? In fact, we’re now officially in a full blown recession.

If this information upsets you, then you’ll be livid when you read this from Rep. Steve Gottwalt’s latest E-Letter:

I also support Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s call to reorganize state government for greater efficiencies, and rein in government spending that has grown by 140 percent since 1992.

That’s appalling, especially considering we’ve had 8 budget sessions since 1992. That’s an average of 18 percent growth per biennium.

How many people, outside of Mayor Wolden, think that we don’t have a spendaholic legislature? During six of those budget sessions, we had liberals like Arne Carlson and Jesse Ventura signing the budget bills. Is it any wonder?

How can Mayor Wolden seriously say that we’ve got a revenue problem? I suspect that mayors got addicted to the huge LGA payments they got during those supposedly golden years of budgeting. I suspect that they spent like the gravy train wouldn’t stop. They thought wrong.

Mayor Wolden also insults us with this statement:

Facing a $4.5 billion budget deficit in 2003, the state chose to cut critical aid programs, such as Local Government Aid, a program that helps cities with lower tax bases provide basic services, to close the budget gap.

If LGA is “a program that helps cities with lower tax bases provide basic services”, then why do St. Paul and Minneapolis get big LGA payments? LGA wasn’t intended to be used for not making difficult spending decisions. Unfortunately, it’s apparent that that’s what cities did with the LGA.

I’d point out that LGA’s original intent was to help small towns like Rockville, St. Augusta and Delano pay for big ticket items like fire halls, police department buildings and fire trucks. The logic behind it was that a fire truck cost just as much in Rockville as in St. Paul, the difference being that St. Paul had a huge tax base to pay for it with. The cost per capita of a fire truck is alot higher in Rockville or St. Augusta than it is in St. Paul.

Nonetheless, Mayor Wolden insists that the broken revenue system be ‘fixed’:

Today, property taxpayers are being stretched to their limits, and cities are struggling to provide needed services to residents, such as transportation infrastructure, public safety and the everyday services often taken for granted, such as clean drinking water, solid waste disposal and clean streets.

Even in tough economic times, these are the basic services that simply can’t be cut.

City officials have tightened budgets, eliminated jobs and cut what they can to lighten the tax burden on their residents, but ultimately this won’t be enough, just as narrowing the state’s $4.8 billion deficit down to a “spending problem” won’t be enough to prevent a repeat budget crisis like this in the future.

I know that reprioritize is a 4-letter word with the DFL but it’s the right perscription for the budget deficit. Despite huge LGA payments, Minneapolis is still drowning in red ink:

In the face of a hurting economy and a projected $38 million in new costs for employee pensions over the next five years, the City Council proposed to increase Mayor R.T. Rybak’s suggested 6.86 percent property tax levy for 2009 to 8 percent, the ceiling amount set in 2007.

Rybak, who was at the Friday meeting, said he hoped to keep property taxes below 8 percent in his 2009 budget. However, recent months have made it clear that the city has issues with its pension funds, he said. “I can’t tell you how disappointed I am,” Rybak said. “But I do think the most responsible thing to do is to apply this immediately.”

At the time, didn’t it dawn on Rybak that pensions might become his city’s ruination? Why didn’t he think that far ahead? Just like a liberal, though, his first instinct is to raise taxes. I don’t see proof that Rybak did any oversight into the things Minneapolis was already spending money on. I don’t see proof that he questioned any expenditures. I don’t see proof that he was interested in exercising fiscal restraint at a time when it was clearly needed.

Though I don’t have proof of this, I suspect Mayor Rybak simply expected the government to bail him out. It’s time we stopped paying for additional LGA. In fact, it’s time to re-examine which cities get LGA. It’s time we reformed our LGA system. In fact, it’s time we reformed state government. That’s what Rep. Laura Brod and State Sen. Geoff Michel have in mind:

With Minnesota officials poised to announce a multibillion-dollar budget deficit today, two legislators on Wednesday proposed leasing the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Minnesota State Lottery to private operators to generate additional money for the state.

Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, and Rep. Laura Brod, R-New Prague, said at a Capitol news conference that with the national recession and a growing state budget shortfall, it’s time to consider bold, innovative ways to run government.

“The deficit will be a big challenge,” Michel said, “but it’s also an opportunity for us as policymakers to get out of the same old, same old and talk about brand-new ways of delivering government services.”

The traditional ways of balancing the budget, increasing taxes and cutting spending, “won’t get the job done,” he said. “We have to think of a third way.”

Brod said Minnesota has fallen behind other states and cities in developing public-private partnerships that can deliver better services while relieving taxpayer burdens.

While lease revenue could be used to reduce the deficit, she and Michel said they would prefer to invest that money in an education endowment that would be used to fund college scholarships and other education initiatives.

Thinking outside the box is precisely what’s needed here and Rep. Brod is one of the best in the political business at that. Unfortunately, the DFL is afraid of thinking outside the box. Their thinking is summed up by Sen. Steve Murphy:

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, warned that privatizing the airport would jeopardize the security of travelers. He said in a statement that he fears a private corporation would try to operate the airport as cheaply as possible instead of focusing on security.

Murphy asked why the state should disrupt one of the best-run and most profitable airports in the country. “Selling off the state’s infrastructure to make a few bucks in a garage sale is not the responsible way to approach a budget deficit,” he said.

Sen. Michel must’ve anticipated the DFL’s answer because he’s got a great answer:

Michel said a state lease would carefully regulate and provide oversight for operating the airport to ensure public safety. He said a private operator would make a profit on concessions and parking ramps.

Sen. Michel should’ve known better than think that the DFL is interested in things like oversight hearings. They’re as interested in conducting oversight as a vampire is interested in wooden stakes.

UPDATE: My Write Now is posted here.

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Barack Obama campaigned on the claim that he’d be a post-partisan politician. With Senate Democrats talking about seating Al Franken against the will of the people of Minnesota, it’s time for President-Elect Obama to step forward and put an end to Sen. Reid’s hyperpartisan way and say that whoever wins the recount should be the next senator. (At this point, it’s looking virtually impossible for Franken to win.)

Finally, someone in the Beltway media started thinking that Franken’s Senate Option wasn’t such a viable option:

Speculation that the Senate might determine the contest between GOP Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken peaked after an attorney for Franken suggested in late November that the outcome could be decided by the Senate, and after Majority Leader Harry Reid for the first time publicly raised his concerns that some absentee ballots might not be included in the final count.

But that was before Tuesday’s Georgia Senate runoff victory by Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a development that dramatically altered the Democratic risk-to-return ratio. While the Constitution allows the Senate to be the ultimate arbiter of who serves in the chamber, there is far less political incentive to intervene now that a filibuster-resistant majority is no longer at stake.

“Saxby’s reelection ends the 2008 election for all intents and purposes. With Norm Coleman having won the Minnesota recount, the enthusiasm for overturning the results of an election will deflate rapidly,” said lobbyist Vin Weber, a former GOP congressman from Minnesota.

“The Franken campaign’s hopes that Minnesota would be the 60th seat are no longer relevant, and I suspect that moderate Democratic voices in the Senate will begin pouring cold water on the Franken-Reid effort to drag this matter onto the floor of the United States Senate,” he said.

Boy, don’t go too far out on that limb. I’ve just been saying that since Tuesday night. Congratulations on catching up with me.

The only time the Senate Option was a viable option was when the political gain was substantial. Right now, the political gain is practically nonexistent. Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier sums it up perfectly:

“If they do that, it would be like detonating a bomb on the Senate floor. I shudder to think what the partisan consequences would be if they refused to seat Coleman, if he was leading.” “This would be very unpopular in Minnesota if the Senate began playing partisan games. Minnesotans don’t want this continuing to go on, and don’t want the Senate to get involved,” he added.

When everything settles out, Norm Coleman will be returning to Washington for another term. The last thing Democrats want to deal with is having to justify their voting to seat Al Franken when Minnesota’s voters picked Sen. Coleman.

I’d further suggest that they couldn’t seat Al Franken because I think that’d require a vote. Anyone thinking that the Senate GOP wouldn’t filibuster that to death is kidding themselves.

This can all be avoided if President-Elect Obama showed some leadership on this and told his party that they should simply seat the man that wins the recount. I’m not holding my breath while waiting for that to happen, though.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative