August 2, 2010

Pawlenty knows politics.

Posted in 2012 Elections, GOP, John McCain's campaign, media coverage, taxes tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:17 am by realitytax

Senator McCain suggests his wife enter a topless contest in Sturgis

Is America ready for a first lady who's recently entered a topless contest?

While it’s arguably inappropriate objectification of his wife to bolster his career when lame-duck MN Governor Pawlenty describes her as his “red-hot smoking wife,” I disagree w/ wonkette’s characterization that it’s “two years early.” If Obama hadn’t started early he probably wouldn’t be President, and remember Senator McCain tried to woo votes from Harley riders by suggesting his wife enter the topless Miss Buffalo Chip contest in Sturgis in 2008.

If voters made their choices rationally the political calculus of candidates and campaigns would be very different. Voters often rationalize when interviewed, but research proves the decisions are more often based on emotion than intellectual evaluation.

Campaigns get longer and more costly all the time because mainstream media producers see candidate spending as helping their own bottom lines. In other words, it’s also arguably a conflict of interest to base so much of the determination of a campaign’s viability on successful fund-raising. True, in many cases advertising is a crucial factor, and we all accept that one of the keys to advertising success is repetition across a wide range of media to generate the maximum number of impressions. Yet wouldn’t it be refreshing for a network or newspaper to cap the amount of political ads they’d take at some reasonable level?

Voters report they’re actually annoyed by the saturation of TV as elections approach; in some cases the result seems to be tuning out altogether. Meanwhile where are the balancing stories about what the candidates have actually accomplished, how a candidate runs an efficient and fiscally restrained campaign focused on issues instead of fund-raising, or which ads are to distract from facts or obscure their votes while echoing slogans and talking points in much the same way Budweiser hammers away with their “King of Beer” message.

Lame-duck MN Governor Pawlenty anxious to try a different job

MN Governor Pawlenty spending most of his time raising money and his visibility

Pawlenty knows “earned” media coverage is less costly than buying ads, and he’s got the recent examples of Palin and Bachmann proving the press loves provocative statements more than substantive discussion. Any “news” outlet is reliant on ad revenues, which are in turn driven by ratings. Look how quickly most mainstream media companies jumped on the Shirley Sherrod story – a hint of controversy and the race for viewers/readers was on without what we used to think of as journalistic integrity, all in pursuit of the mighty dollar. Pawlenty certainly doesn’t want the national press talking to disgruntled Minnesotans or economists about how his “no new taxes” mythology has driven down quality of life and scuttled the state budget.

Look for conflicts of interest in coverage, and follow the money if you want to understand Pawlenty — but don’t underestimate either his political savvy or the impact his “red-hot smoking wife” may have on voters and donors.

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July 2, 2010

Leadership and the budget conundrum

Posted in 2010 Elections, health care, media coverage, taxes, U.S. Economy tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:55 am by realitytax

Budgeting is always an exercise in prioritization; there’s never enough money to accomplish everything we’d choose to undertake perfectly. The vast majority agree we want government to exist, to manage highways and immigration and mutual defense and make sure our toys don’t have lead paint and our drugs aren’t snake oil and prevent monopolies and so on.

Accordingly, it’s the leaders we elect who have to run government well, although many lately seem to run on the premise that government can’t do anything cost-effectively, let alone well.

We’ve seen what happens when big business calls the shots, from Wall Street’s calamitous collapse (which hurt most of us considerably more than it did them) to the slip-shod operation of an oil rig that threatens to ruin the livelihoods of millions along the gulf coast and savage the oceans and shores for decades to come. The short-sighted profit motive aspect of capitalism is best balanced by governmental regulation on behalf of the greater good.

True leaders don’t sit back and watch as our jobs move overseas and huge corporations prey greedily on those outside their inner circles, they work on behalf of those who elected them despite the constant temptation posed by special influence money. I’m delighted there are, in fact, so many excellent elected officials working on behalf of Minnesotans, and I congratulate David Bly, U.S. Represenative Tim Walz, and their hard-working current and former peers such as Shelley Madore, John Marty, and the late, great U.S. Senator late Senator Paul WellstonePaul Wellstone pursuing solutions to everything from the MN Health Plan to our national budget priorities. Their tireless, selfless efforts are a model of how to step up and get work done despite naysayers who promote a “divided we fall” agenda exemplified by the smoke-and-mirrors approach to discussing the Minnesota budget that Governor Tim Pawlenty has relied on to further his Presidential ambitions at the expense of the citizens of Minnesota.

Hopefully this current election cycle will give us more people pursuing common sense approaches in the state and national legislatures instead of more political posturing and empty “anti-tax, anti-government” sound-bites, although from Fox to MSNBC the media lately seems inclined to let the latter dominate their “journalism” rather than observing that time-tested rule for investigative research and reporting: follow the money.

February 22, 2009

Economic Recovery: Facts for D.C. to factor in

Posted in foreclosure crisis, health care, mortgage reform, taxes, U.S. Economy tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 5:24 pm by realitytax

MinnesotaWhen Congress and the President are working on the budget, they have a perfect case study for the “no new taxes” approach right here in Minnesota: we elected a rising star of the Republican party to be our Governor in 2002 on that pledge, Timothy J. “Tim” Pawlenty. Tim PawlentyNow in his second term, Governor Pawlenty won the office promising to balance the state budget at a time when Minnesotans were tired of the way politics had played out in the state capitol while Jesse”The Body” Ventura as Governor, and according to Wikipedia, Pawlenty attacked a deficit of  roughly “$4.3 billion without raising taxes, primarily by reducing the rate of funding increases for state services, including funding for transportation, social services, and welfare.

“New fees aren’t taxes”

If not for the fact that the tourism industry in the state took a big hit in 2005 due to a government shutdown and closure of highway rest areas, state parks and so on, we might have been ok with the winking at that pledge and calling some things new “fees” instead of taxes (heck, it was only $300 million or so,)double digit tuition increases at MN colleges as Governor slashes education spending and major increases in tuition at the state colleges and universities, or cuts in areas such as school spending — until we realized there was no longer a band playing at the high school events.  And in places where they value music, such as Fergus Falls, the communities and booster clubs can find local funding to keep band directors such as Scott Kummrow employed, right?

We needed the revenue, clearly, and the Governor didn’t raise taxes – although local jurisdictions had to fill the gaps as the money from the state dried up, but that’s another story. By the way, adding toll lanes to busy commuter routes isn’t a new tax, either. I have some question about how to label the bond bill the governor signed last year, but he vetoed some line items so maybe we can say he somewhat limited tax increases in the future?

But lets not quibble about fees and bonding, let’s talk about the Minnesota economy and budget – that’s the point.  Sure, we might have put thousands of Minnesotans to work if the bond bill had included funding for light rail connections between Minneapolis and St. Paul, and that probably would have stimulated business and tourism in those areas, but it would have made the bonding bill even larger and somebody would have had to pay and the delay only adds maybe $40 million to the cost – later, when he’s no longer the Governor. And now our budget deficit in probably only $7-$8 billion.

No New Taxes

In Minnesota trying to generalize that taxes were problematic by definition glossed over that the government runs on money: funding for nursing homes, teachers, and education was slashed, for example, and the costs passed on to local communities to “balance the budget.” The state budget deficit is now conservatively projected at double what it was when Pawlenty took office, while sales tax revenues fall and companies slash payrolls driving people onto unemployment rolls (placing their health care coverage at risk and further reducing consumer spending.) At least LA Governor JindalPawlenty isn’t posturing for the pundits as Louisiana Governor Piyush “Bobby” Jindal and a few others are by suggesting we won’t take “stimulus” money from the federal government –  He’s saying Minnesota government needs cash.

We borrow to buy homes, cars, and even smaller items that fit on our credit cards. We continually pay interest to some of the same companies that needed bailing out on Wall Street, while one group of people benefits: the rich. They don’t worry about the price of cheese, cars, or college.

History doesn’t support trickle-down theory.

our economy has only grown when taxes are high - corporations always find ways to hide their revenue from the tax man.For the common good it’s time we admit that when you cut taxes for the rich they mostly they stash more money into their nest egg(s) so they can retire early, live comfortably, eat cake, and travel the world. Meanwhile the rest of us watch our food budget, some see the investment in their homes plummet, and if we have put money aside we watch what remains of it shrinking in our privatized retirement accounts.

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