The St. Cloud Times’ Editorial Board wrote an editorial bemoaning the lack of politicians working for the common good. While such generalities sound nice, something that’s left unresolved is defining what the common good is. I’ll attempt to do that in this post. First, let’s look at the editorial:

Statewide

At the legislative level, we hold little hope for common sense. Why? In recent sessions, it usually gets lost in the ideological chasm between Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the DFL-led House and Senate.

True, the 2008 session was fairly successful in that a bonding bill did pass. However, we attribute that more to it having been an election year, especially one with Pawlenty in the national spotlight.

The 2009 session features a $4.8 billion projected state shortfall along with several overarching structural budget challenges (think education funding, human service costs, etc.) and no pressing electoral incentives for legislators or the governor. When such a scenario last arose, it spurred a bicker-fest that some might say just won’t go away.

The Times Editorial Board talks about the common good but it won’t define what things contribute to the common good. Perhaps that’s because they don’t want to be specific.

To define the common good, we must ask whether each line item helps people be more safe, more prosperous or more free. If those line items can’t be justified that way, then it isn’t likely that it’s contributing to the common good.

Here’s a great example of defining what the common good isn’t: The original set of omnibus spending bills passed by the DFL in 2007 would’ve increased spending by 17+ percent during this biennium. Fortunately, Gov. Pawlenty’s veto was sustained by the House GOP. When the session ended, spending increased by 9 percent. The difference in spending between 9 percent and 17 percent is approximately $2.5 billion.

Adding an additional $2.5 billion to the existing $5.2 billion deficit is a 50 percent increase. That isn’t helping anyone except the special interests. It isn’t making Minnesota more prosperous. Adding $2.5 billion to the existing deficit isn’t making market-based health care reform possible. It isn’t helping fund additional police officers or additional firemen. Therefore it isn’t making Minnesotans safer.

The only thing that additional $2.5 billion deficit is doing is placing a higher burden on Minnesota’s families. That’s the opposite of making people more free.

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