We’ll return to the regular diary this evening, but editorials in the East demand our immediate attention…
Here in flyoverland we tend to stand a little taller when coastal elites and their opinionwriters take notice of us, so I suppose we’ll be glad that both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal (subscription required) have weighed in on the issue. The Times, as can be expected, defends Governor Dayton and excoriates GOP legislators for including social issues in budget negotiations. What goes unsaid is that this narrative has been pushed entirely by ONE newspaper in the Gopher State, namely the StarTribune. The shoddiness of their reporting has been covered in depth by Scott Johnson at Powerline. See this and this.
The truth is that social issues were not in the GOP’s final offer to the governor, and that the school funding shift was proposed by Gov. Dayton after he made an offer to take tax increases off the table. He switched positions between morning and afternoon of the 30th. Any newspaper worth its salt could have reported it, it’s been available from last Friday. Why remains to be seen — I’ll have more to speculate as we resume the diary later today.
But every inaccuracy reported in the StarTribune — which has uncritically reported talking points from liberal interest groups — reappears in the New York Times. It is a remarkably lazy piece that seems to hope Governor Dayton provides the spine they wish President Obama would have as the debt ceiling talks crescendo. If you find that last sentence amusing, you know more about Governor Dayton than does the New York Times.
The Wall Street Journal of course decries the millionaire tax increase as being harmful to Minnesota’s economy. They should know: They provided coverage of the effects of the same tax in Maryland, and Democratic New York Governor David Patterson saw the same thing happen in the Empire State. In both cases millionaires fled the state, delayed or hid income, and otherwise denied Caesar his bounty.
But the Journal makes a point to my colleagues and me in the final paragraph that I hope we all take to heart:
Republicans have done a poor job explaining these economic realities. It isn’t enough to say “no new taxes.” They haven’t educated voters that the greatest unfairness in state finances is an over-generous public pension system that is some $15 billion underfunded, or how Medicaid costs are gobbling up an ever larger share of the state budget, or how education reforms in the GOP budget, such as pay for performance, can lower school costs.
I could say “it’s more complicated than that” but this does not deny that the issue that matters to voters isn’t taxes but spending. One of the things I learned this year as a first-year legislator is that some promises you make as an end in itself and some you make as a means to an end. When I promise “no new taxes” do I mean “leave the tax system as it is” or do I mean “we have to get spending under control, so we can’t have government consuming more of our earnings”? I don’t have to be a speechwriter like Peter Robinson to know the longer proposition is harder to sell. But if you asked those who voted for me what they meant, they’d say “stop the spending” before they’d say “don’t touch taxes.”
This is the basic challenge though. Dayton, the StarTribune and the New York Times make this to be about tax fairness, and when fairness means taxing someone other than you, you tend to look the other way. The budget showdown in Minnesota is not about fairness. It is about what it takes to make Minnesota grow faster than it does now. It’s about how a state that prided itself on well-educated folks with good work ethics who worked in factories and mining and eventually in medical devices transforms itself for a 21st Century in which competition will make those firms leaner and less important and new industries more important, all the while managing with an aging population. One newspaper in Minnesota already gets it. That’s our message. Tempus fugit.