The Circular Firing Squad

The State of Minnesota has come to a grinding halt, with Democratic Governor Mark Dayton unable to reach agreement with the newly elected Republican majorities in both the Minnesota House and Senate. The recriminations are flying, with Republicans attempting to insert social items into the fiscal negotiations (abortion restrictions, stem cell research restrictions) as well as expanding them to include collective bargaining restrictions. The Governor, surprised by the late addition of social items to the Republican negotiating agenda, pulled the plug on negotiations by re-inserting his demand for an additional 3% tax on those making over $1 million per year. That demand had been dropped in earlier talks where progress has been made. From the StarTribune:

The unwinding began Wednesday night, when Republican negotiators brought back a list of proposed policy changes that Dayton and Democrats had spent months opposing — including new abortion restrictions, curtailed collective bargaining rights, photo ID voting requirements, a 15 percent reduction in the state workforce, and a ban on embryonic stem cell research.

“It set up some major barriers to reaching an agreement,” Dayton said in an interview Friday. The governor added that he was taken by surprise since the two sides had been focusing on financial details. “These policy issues are pushing us farther apart,” he said.

The next day, it was the Republicans who found themselves caught off-guard.

Overnight, Dayton had cooled to their proposal to fill the budget gap by borrowing money and paying it back with tobacco settlement revenue. Thursday, he countered by bringing back his idea of raising income taxes on the rich — specifically, on the state’s 7,700 millionaires.

Republicans quickly rejected that idea, saying they could never find the votes for an income tax increase.

Presidential politics has been introduced as well, with Democrats blaming Tim Pawlenty, the former Governor, for some of the fiscal woes now facing Minnesota. From Politico:

And Minnesota Democratic party chairman Ken Martin took to MSNBC to affix the blame for the shutdown on the state’s previous governor, Tim Pawlenty, who is seeking the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

“The last eight years of reckless policies of Tim Pawlenty are what got us into this mess in the first place,” Martin said.

Pawlenty fired back, blaming the Democrats and an increase in spending for the current problems. In looking at what actually happened it is safe to say that Pawlenty kicked the fiscal can down the road. He utilized one time revenues and budget gimmicks to achieve balance, and some of those chickens are now coming home to roost. The Democratic Legislature during Pawlenty’s tenure also deserves some blame as well. Pawlenty’s suggestion that this shutdown is a good thing is simply reflective of the mindset of Republicans, which is that negotiations on fiscal matters must be settled with no compromise.

The former Minnesota governor argued that the current government shutdown, which began at midnight, could end up being a good thing in the long term.

“There’s going to be a variety of near-term impacts, but the longer-term goal is what is most important here,” which is keeping the size of government under control, Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty praised GOP state lawmakers for “doing the right thing by saying they’re going to live with the money that is coming in the door.”

The Minnesota situation bodes poorly for the potential for settlement of the “debt ceiling” negotiations in Washington, and the President’s hitting back at Republicans during his last press conference may indicate that he thinks so as well.

Chris Cillizza over at “The Fix” wrote a posting that talked about the hardening of positions generally, with compromise in all areas of life appearing to be harder to come by. Interesting observations, including the idea that those with differing viewpoints are “bad”, as well as the point that we all tend to go to media content that reinforces our existing belief systems, meaning that we don’t get ANY alternative viewpoints. Cillizza points to the lockouts in the NFL and now the NBA as further indications that compromise is now a dirty word. Chuck Todd made the same point on his MSNBC show on Friday. The adults in the room better start asserting themselves, or they are going to do some real damage to the economy of this country. Maybe I am naive, but this does not have to be as hard as the juveniles in the room are making it. Leaders must act like leaders, and if that means telling the “base” that they will have to live with less than their ideal, then lets get on with it. That is what leadership is. But we are not seeing much of that, either in Washington or Minnesota.

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2 Responses to The Circular Firing Squad

  1. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,
    Republican Governors got their “reforms” through without shut downs. How come a Democratic Governor, plugged into Obama’s thought control can’t?

    I presume after you guys get through blaming Pawlenty, you’ll blame it on George bush.

    TAX and Spend–Tax and Spend all the time.



  2. Bill Manzi says:


    Republican Governors, with Republican Legislatures, have a bit of an easier time than Democrats with Republican legislatures. Chris Christie is the obvious model, and he has succeeded because he is a good negotiator and a hard worker. He has compromised with his Democratic legislature. Compromise, in divided government, is required to govern effectively.



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