Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Jim Hovland for Congress in Minnesota's Third District

Hovland is far and away the, er, pick of the litter for a DFLer to replace Jim Ramstad. Hovland stacks up the best against the likely Republican candidate, Erik Paulsen. Spot has watched Hovland in local government for a long time, and his commitment as a council member and as the mayor is commendable.

Spot has spent some time on the websites of the three candidates: Jim Hovland, Ashwin Madia, and Terri Bonhoff. Three issues that are of especial importance to Spot are Iraq, education, and health care. Jim Hovland hits it out of the park on all three.


As much as we are occupying Iraq, Iraq now is occupying us. Beyond building anti-American sentiment worldwide, the cost of this war has soared almost beyond comprehension. Pentagon prewar estimates stated that we could begin and end this war within months and with limited casualties for $50 billion. Nearly five years later the actual costs are still not predictably measurable.

. . .

As clear as it is that we no longer can use our military on an ill-fitting mission to police violent streets and prop up a paralyzed and dysfunctional government, it is equally clear that we must help repair what we can of damage done.

Since invading their country, we now have a moral obligation to the people of Iraq, a failed state of our creation, as Strobe Talbott of the Brookings Institution calls it. The question now is how to reverse course without leaving behind an unstable, devastated country and a people in economic and social ruin.

. . .

I’m not willing to commit any more Americans to George Bush’s war. With a new administration next year, I believe we will be able to start working with the international community to achieve a political situation. Before that, however, we must start to craft a plan allowing us to withdraw our troops to make way for security forces and humanitarian organizations whose expertise is rebuilding nations and begin the long process of creating stability and a functioning society in Iraq.

A moral obligation in Iraq. That's a theme that will echo in Spot's other endorsement.


We tell students that good education plays a central role in their futures—and with that belief, 60 percent of Minnesota’s college students make the investment and graduate with average debt topping $20,500, the sixth highest in the nation. At the same time, the greatest jobs growth is in low-wage sectors that not only fail to put expensive college education to use, but pay such low wages that debt repayment is unmanageable. Across the nation, only six of the 30 fastest-growing occupations require education beyond high school—the same is true for roughly two-thirds of job openings in our state right now. We need to encourage educational advancements that help retool our economy and create good-paying jobs for future generations, thus allowing graduates to manage their college debt and have a future where a first home or a family do not seem unattainable.

But we also must look at education beyond being a training ground for the job market and imagine it—as we once did—as a place where youngsters develop as individuals and become engaged citizens. Not all kids arrive at school in the same place: Here in Minnesota, just half of all kids entering kindergarten are considered “ready” for instruction. We need to assure funding for early childhood development programs like Head Start and continue the reduced- and free-meal program so kids are prepared to enter school and are given the best chance to learn every day. After-school programs and childcare benefits also should be studied for their beneficial value.

In other words, making college more affordable doesn't do much good unless the economy has places for the people we educate. Spot also likes Hovland's statement that one of the goals of education is to prepare citizens to properly operate a democracy.

Health care:

The need to overhaul our nation’s health system represents more than a moral issue. Out-of-control costs threaten our competitiveness as employers cut benefits, shift the cost burden to employees and cut jobs to reduce this expenditure. In the last five years, premiums have grown by 90 percent while benefits nonetheless were cut. According to a 2003 study by Harvard researchers, administrative costs accounted for 31 percent of U.S. healthcare expenditures—other studies since have located that number at between 20 and 25 percent. Compare that to Medicare, in which only 2 percent is lost to administration.

Research has shown that by reducing administrative costs and applying those savings we could fund a universal plan covering all the uninsured at no additional cost. However we get there, through whichever specific plan, providing universal access to quality affordable healthcare is a matter of national security and a priority that demands our action now.

Jim Hovland seems like the only DFL candidate who points the way toward single-payer universal coverage. And he does it on competitive and business grounds. This is also a theme that will reverberate in Spot's other endorsement.

Ol' Spot has crossed swords with Mayor Hovland a couple of times, but he always believed he got a fair hearing. Spot says that Jim Hovland would be a great Congressman, and he urges all of you delegates to support him.

Update: Not that anybody ever considered Spotty as a news source, he decided that he should disclose that he is a delegate and will caucus for Jim Hovland.

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