Monday, June 13, 2011

Who is really holding Minnesota hostage: Republicans, Dayton, or left-wing media scare tactics?

The front-page article in today's StarTribune, "Shutdown would be a leap into unkown," is typical in many ways.  First, it showcases the Strib's well-known penchant for uni-partisanship by deliberately slanting the article to make Republicans look like the bad guys.  Second, it uses the handy dandy scare tactics the left likes to pull out when things get rough.

(Click this link for mood music to read the article's excerpts by.  Right click on this link to open it in another tab or window so you can play it while you read.)

The article begins:
Minnesota's state parks: Closed.
The state lottery? Frozen.
Minnesota's most violent prisoners? Held back by a skeleton crew.
Taxes? Not so fast. Minnesotans would still be paying those.
In 19 days, Minnesotans could endure the most wide-reaching government shutdown in state history, with little sense of when it might end.
The music is appropriate here, don't you think?  The smell of fear, the bait dangled for dangers lying ahead--you get the drift.

The last paragraph on the front page before the jump to page A16 reads:
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's administration has rushed to piece together a shutdown plan largely in secret, even as he slogs through inch-by-inch budget negotiations with Republicans to avert closure. Dayton's...
Poor Governor Dayton, slogging his way through inch-by-inch budget negotiations with Republicans.  It gives one mental pictures of Dayton struggling through quicksand toward those stubborn Republicans, standing with arms folded, refusing to move at all, while his administration rushes to piece together a plan in secret. (More about that important word later.)

Then comes the jump, which most editors hope readers won't bother to turn to to continue reading the article. Many won't. They just read what's on the front page and don't bother to continue.  That's why liberal journalists are masters at setting up headlines and front-page teaser articles that blame the right while waiting until after the jump to the inside page to add a point of view from the opposition.  You know, to give a balanced news story, not an opinion piece, to help preserve their journalistic integrity.  Did I just write, "journalistic integrity?"  You may all pause for a short belly laugh at my naive use of those words when referring to the StarTribune.  For just one of many examples, even after this article's second jump, it doesn't give the Republican viewpoint at all.

But it does begin to describe what's going on with the budget negotiations and what Dayton is doing about it. It seems Dayton's top staffers are "cobbling together" information to determine which government workers would be deemed essential in the event of a government shut down.   (Non-essential workers would be temporarily laid off and wouldn't be paid during the shut-down period.) Then there is what I consider to be the most important piece of the article:

Dayton's administration has refused to release many details, in part because final decisions will be made not by them but by a court.

So Dayton is "piecing together" the shutdown plan in secret and refuses to release many details.  They say the reason is because decisions will ultimately be made in court, but I think there is another, simpler reason.

It's much, much scarier to leave things dangling in the unknown, isn't it?  Much of the rest of the article speculates which jobs or services could be cut (but might not be because no one knows what the plans are), such as schools, nursing homes (which may have to kick residents out), home health care aides, etc.  They even trotted out the possibility of a dangerous epidemic and pointed out the "deadly E.coli outbreak in Germany as a ghoulish example of the need to be prepared."

When presented with the scenario of the possible shut down lasting into September, Charlie Kyte, the executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators was quoted as saying, "It could be hugely problematic."  Hugely?  Okay, it's a word, but it's not a good one.

Anyway, the article points out that Dayton faces pressure from state workers living paycheck to paycheck (who are a large part of his voting base) and his desire to get what he wants politically, which the Strib simply boils down to raising taxes on high earners with no mention of Dayton's proposed 15 percent spending increase.  It also points out that much of the outcome is in his hands:

An expansive shutdown would apply maximum public pressure on Republicans to agree on a budget deal. Or Dayton could argue that most services are essential, which would minimize disruptions, but also give Republicans less incentive to cut a deal.
So far, Dayton has been silent on strategy. "We are still in the process of developing what we believe the law requires," he said.

So Dayton could give in and balance the budget with the Republican's version, which proposes a 6 percent increase in spending without increasing taxes, or he could lay off thousands of people who really need those paychecks to keep coming in for their very survival.

Given Dayton's past as a trust-fund baby turned aimless adult, I wonder which he'll choose?  Surely he hasn't stood in the shoes of those whose fate he holds in the palm of his hands.  If he has, I'd love to hear the story (a true one, of course).

The second-to-last paragraph in the article reads:

Meanwhile, the state's 40,000 workers watch the days tick away while they worry about lost paychecks and whether they'll be able to maintain their health insurance, which could run roughly $1,500 a month.
To answer the question posed in my headline, "Who is really holding Minnesota hostage: Republicans, Dayton, or left-wing media scare tactics?" my answer is: the latter two.  The Republicans found a way to balance the budget without raising taxes in a recession.  By not giving up on his ill advised, silly economic ideals, Dayton has the power to throw Minnesota into a much deeper hole by putting government workers out of work.

The media are contributing to the problem by printing articles like this to try to scare people into putting pressure on Republicans to back down or on Democrats to hold fast.  What I propose is that Republicans begin calling and e-mailing their legislators, both Republican and Democrat, and let them know you want them to accept the Republican budget and keep the government running.

The potential for government shutdown is in Dayton's hands.  Let's hope he drops it like a hot potato and moves on, instead of making a politicized move to shut down the government and spending the upcoming years blaming Republicans for what is truly his decision.

1 comment:

Yendeg said...

I do beleive that Toccata and Fugue in D minor would be more eerie. I don't even bother readng the Trib anymore, I just use it to the bird cages,