Saturday, July 9, 2011

Consistency and Small Minds

Michele Bachmann's run for president promises to be both an adventure in inconsistency and a chronicle of small minded America.

In March of this year, she introduced the Light Blub Freedom of Choice Act, saying that "[T]he American people want less government intrusion into their lives, not more[.]" On July 7, she signed “The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family”, promulgated by The Family Leader, an Iowa group dedicated to "Christian conservative social values." Among many other things, the pledge calls upon candidates seeking the Leader's endorsement to commit to the "humane protection of women and the innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy" from "all forms of pornography and prostitution, * * * abortion and other types of stolen innocence." It further calls for opposition to the recognition of marriage as anything other "faithful monogamy between one man and one woman" and the prohibition of "intrusively intimate commingling of attracteds" in military "restrooms, showers, barracks, tents, etc."

In Rep. Bachmann's view, apparently, Americans don't want government intrusion in their own lives but greatly desire it in the lives of others. Not this American, thank you. I'd as soon ban the sale and distribution of the Bible as I would adult pornography. Fortunately for us all, the First Amendment demands that government keep its hands off of both.

The American people quickly are coming to the realization that gay men and women are not demons but human beings, with the same hopes, dreams, desires and failings as the rest of us, and that they are entitled to the same legal protections and privileges afforded heterosexuals who choose to marry. Some day our legislative bodies and courts will recognize what most of us already know. The pledge taken by Michele Bachmann is simply a reaction to this inevitability, the result of a frantic desire to hold on to an image of America that has never reflected its reality.

You can (and should) read the pledge in its entirety here:

Friday, July 8, 2011

The world has gone mad today . . .

It would be nice to be able to blame Minnesota's current political disfunction on the heat, but we haven't had any to speak of recently, or at least none provided by Mother Nature.

The Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton are currently at odds over how much to spend in the next two years. A panel put together by former Governor Arne Carlson and former Vice President Walter Mondale has proposed a compromise plan to fund government for two years. The plan includes spending $3.6 billion less than called for by current projections and bringing in additional revenue through a 4% income surtax and additional cigarette and alcohol taxes. The panel's recommendations have brought Republicans and Democrats together. Alas, they've combined forces only in rejecting the proposal.

Wake up, folks. The problems we face are faced by all of us, not simply the rich, the poor or the middle class (whatever that may be). This means we all have to be part of the solution, whether by receiving slightly less or contributing slightly more. Unfortunately, my position is radical in today's environment.

We're told that the Legislature and Gov. Dayton are $1.4 billion apart. Sounds like a lot until you break it down. That's about $.40 a day per Minnesotan, over two years, or less than $.90 a day per employed Minnesotan. By saying that, I am not saying just raise taxes and be done with it. I'm simply pointing out the amount at stake per person, if we all share in the burden.

Given Minnesota's historical preference for progressive taxation and for public programs, it's not unreasonable to expect that the majority of the solution will be borne by those of us with resources. But it also is not unreasonable to also ask that those with fewer resources participate.

Part of the problem here in Minnesota (and nationally) is that we think there are immediate, consequence-free fixes for problems that have developed over decades. There aren't. We've built programs, roads, and dependencies over time, few of which can be abandoned on a moment's notice without significant harm to some or all of us. We've built state parks that require supervision and maintenance. We've created medical insurance programs upon which thousands now depend and for which there are no immediate alternatives. We've promised funds to local governments and school districts, with the implicit expectation that such funds would continue, to a greater or lesser degree.

We've done this on the basis of certain assumptions regarding revenue. With the near collapse of our economy in recent years, those revenues have declined. We don't have the money to do what we intended to do. Our choices are to get more and/or spend less. Getting more means taxes or fees. Spending less means not doing something, doing things differently, or doing things more slowly. It really is that simple.

What is not simple is deciding which of these things can and should be done. Declaring anything off-limits, particularly before providing or examining the details, is not only childish but plain stupid. As Barry Goldwater might have said, "Compromise in the name of the public good is no vice." It's time for the Legislature and the Governor to get to it.