Sunday, February 28, 2010

The United States fails to measure up

Spot has been harping for a long time [a discussion of Tom Horner on health care and the OECD at the link] on what the OECD could tell us about how U.S. healthcare measures up. The front page, above the fold, opinion piece in today’s Opinion Exchange section in the StarTribune is a graphic compiling a lot of information from the OECD’s health statistics. Here’s the subhed:

The United States spends far more on health care than any other advanced country, yet Americans’ health is mediocre.

The general conclusions? We pay about two and a half times a much per capita as the OECD average for middle of the pack results; the U.S. along with Mexico and Turkey are the only countries in the thirty-country OECD that do not have universal or near-universal coverage. We pay nearly twice the average per capita for drugs.

But we’re number one. Just sit in the lotus position and chant that to yourself, over and over. You’ll finally enter a trance which, while it won’t cure you, will stop your bellyaching over health care, at least for a while.

Otherwise known as

There is a story in the Strib this morning about the controversy surrounding the invitation extended by the Woodbury Prayer Break to a former Nazi who is now an evangelical Christian making the rounds of the Obama=Hitler lecture circuit, Maria Anne (Hansi) Hirschmann. The Strib article mentions Hirschmann's book by its recent incarnation, "the Girl Who Left the Swastika."

Unfortunately, the Strib failed to inform us of the book's original name and the one it was published under up until the 1980's: "The Girl Who Loved the Swastika."

You can purchase a copy of the book with the original title here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Stuck in comment purgatory

It seemed that things had gotten especially quiet around here. Apparently, Echo has stopped sending me emails of comments for moderation. There was a slew of them in the queue when I happened to check tonight. Sorry; I think everything is up to date now.

The Law of Comparative Shitholes II

Some of you may remember the post here about Pat Anderson’s original exposition of the rule:

It is an iron law of economics that given a choice between two shitholes, the wealthy will always flee to the larger one.

Now, Jason Lewis beats the same drum with a criticism of the Growth and Justice op-ed in the StarTribune last Sunday. His screed is full of contempt for the idea that any increase in the level of public spending in Minnesota may be necessary — not mere disagreement, but venom and bombast: Jason Lewis’ trademarks to be sure.

[caution: topical swerve ahead]

Jason Lewis is an interesting case; we may have to refer him to Sigmund Spot. What is the source of his alienation? Did he have cold and distant parents? Was he forced to share his favorite toy with a sibling?

Whatever the cause, he’s certainly got a bad case of alienation toward the society he lives in, and his adopted state, too. Lewis obviously feels no membership or filial duty to the society that raised him up; he is truly a legend in his own mind.

But when societal alienation reaches a critical mass, really bad things can happen. In searching around on the topic, I came across this:

We should have said that the most intelligent are the first to be alienated, when the society is one that is still viable—one that still has some hope of making itself over.  Alienation at the lower layers of the pyramid brings blind, inchoate rebellion and nihilistic violence, with possibly some reconstruction afterwards, but then only in the terms of some narrow, partisan emotion.

If you don’t see the potential for this in the modern Tea Party, the people who listen to Beck and Lewis every day, you just aren’t paying attention.

That’s a picture from the New York Times, accompanying an article with the hed Tea Party Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right. It is an interesting exercise to enlarge the photograph to read the signs carried; the one with the red circle and the line through it, for example: the words struck through are “income tax.” There’s another one thanking Glenn Beck.

We are well past the point where the Tea Partiers are just loveable rustics. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and our own Michele Bachmann and Jason Lewis have indeed tapped a vein of alienation and are exploiting it for their own personal self-aggrandizement, and certainly not because they think they’re going to improve the lives of the Tea Partiers or anybody else.

Beck, Palin, Bachmann, and Lewis: it would be hard to find a more cynical bunch.

But let’s return for a moment to the thrust of Lewis’s argument: people will leave the state because taxes, excuse me, “tat sez,”  are too high. But Lewis himself left two states, Colorado, where he is from originally, and North Carolina, where he moved a few years ago in a huff about the taxes in Minnesota, to move to or return to Minnesota. Perhaps he just forgot about the taxes in Minnesota.

Or maybe there are other factors at work, too. You know, that‘s probably it. It is really funny that carpet baggers like Jason Lewis, Annette Meeks, John Kline, Bill Cooper, Norm Coleman, Ron Carey and Katherine Kersten all moved here and want to change Minnesota so that it resembles whatever shithole they came from.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Matchmaker, Matchmaker! Make me a match!

Find me a find; catch me a catch!

[warning: mixed movie metaphor ahead]

Horace Vandergelder [Walter Matthau] hired Dolly Levi [Barbra Streisand] to help him find a mate.

Tom Emmer tapped Carol Molnau for the same task.

Vandergelder was too busy running his feed store in Younkers [“there’s a great big world out there, Barnaby,” one clerk in the store says to another] to find a soulmate. That’s apparently Emmer’s problem, too:

"I'm busy introducing myself to the state of Minnesota," said Emmer, explaining his decision.  "These people [a group of four people, headed by Molnau] are going to be busy vetting folks."   Emmer said the panel had no deadline, and may not make its choice by the time Republicans meet to endorse a candidate.

The other members of the matchmaker cadre are:

Emmer, a three-term legislator from Delano, also named two Republican legislators, Rep. Laura Brod, R-New Prague, and Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, to the committee as well as Bryan Reichal, the chief executive of PureChoice, a Burnsville manufacturing company.

You have to wonder, though, if at meetings with Emmer, Laura Brod will stand behind the others, jump up and down, and while pointing to herself, mouth “Pick me! Pick me!” at Emmer.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tom Horner, meet the Tea Partiers!

god bess america Dean Barkley says, “Come on in! No need to wipe your feet!

Not content with having hatched one insurgent political party (and foisting Jesse Ventura on Minnesota), former U.S. Sen. Dean Barkley is trying to woo folks currently attracted to the Tea Party movement.

Barkley recently posted a letter on the Minnesota Tea Party Patriots' website, asking them to migrate their movement to the Minnesota Independence Party.   . . .

Now, unaccountably, even Spot feels a little sorry for Tom.

‘Tis better to have bonded and lost

Than to not have bonded at all.

Both houses of the Minnesota Legislature passed a bonding bill but have now snatched it back from the jaws of a Gutshot veto. That’s a relief.

The governor wants a bonding bill of around $650 million; the bill passed by the Lege was in the neighborhood of a billion dollars. As many people have observed, the difference in debt service is negligible in its effect on the general fund budget. But it would provide some additional economic stimulus when, in case you hadn’t noticed, it could still do some good.

One complaint about the bonding bill, I believe it was by Tom Emmer, is that it only creates “temporary jobs.” If you want permanent construction jobs, Tom, you’ll have to propose a Big Dig or a new airport.

Paul Krugman’s image of Fifty Herbert Hoovers resonates when thinking about Pawlenty’s promise to veto the Legislature’s bill:

No modern American president would repeat the fiscal mistake of 1932, in which the federal government tried to balance its budget in the face of a severe recession. The Obama administration will put deficit concerns on hold while it fights the economic crisis.

But even as Washington tries to rescue the economy, the nation will be reeling from the actions of 50 Herbert Hoovers — state governors who are slashing spending in a time of recession, often at the expense both of their most vulnerable constituents and of the nation’s economic future.

Krugman goes on to say:

It’s true that the economy is currently shrinking. But that’s the result of a slump in private spending. It makes no sense to add to the problem by cutting public spending, too.

In fact, the true cost of government programs, especially public investment, is much lower now than in more prosperous times. When the economy is booming, public investment competes with the private sector for scarce resources — for skilled construction workers, for capital. But right now many of the workers employed on infrastructure projects would otherwise be unemployed, and the money borrowed to pay for these projects would otherwise sit idle.

As the Strib and Tom Bakk observe in article linked above:

In Pawlenty, DFLers are battling a lame-duck governor who has little or no skin in the game. With less than a year to go in his term, he is not encumbered by vast new initiatives or proposals that might more easily coax a governor to the bargaining table. Instead, they face a Republican governor who appears to be eyeing a run for the White House as he tries to polish a reputation as a blue-state fiscal conservative who has clamped down on government spending.

"The governor doesn't need another bonding bill; he's not running again," said state DFL Senate Tax Committee Chairman Tom Bakk, who is running to replace Pawlenty. "He knows the Legislature needs a bonding bill, so the power's really tipped his way."

In other words, he’s free to play Herbert Hoover for the Republican presidential primary crowd.

It is also interesting to note that the best that the governor can do to show leadership support in the Senate is his trusty squire Geoff MIchel, quoted in the Strib article. Why? Well, Dave Senjem, the Minority Leader, voted for the bill.

But, back to the Lege here. The governor won this one without a shot. It is disheartening to see how the Legislature is so unable to match the governor in rhetoric or in commitment to principle.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Margaret Anderson Kelliher slated to visit DL on Thursday

331-profile-front The Speaker of the Minnesota House and candidate for the DFL endorsement for governor, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, will be our guest at Drinking Liberally this week, on Thursday the 25th.

As always, we start the “meeting” at six P.M. at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis.

Anderson Kelliher will be there around seven to speak to themak house photo group, take some questions, and mingle with people afterwards.

Drinking Liberally is not a membership group; it’s a “whoever shows up” group. If you’ve never been there, but you’re curious, come on out this week. You’d be welcome.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Banned in Bloomington!

Spot was going to write about the guy with the bad tomato aim when Sarah Palin was at the Mall of America. As part of his sentence, he’s been banned from the MOA for a year.

But Spot’s got nothing. Sorry. Good night.

Julianne Ortman does not lack compassion

And Dick Nixon was not a crook.

Ortman had a scolding op-ed in the StarTribune this morning supporting the governor’s veto of GAMC and justifying her vote against the bill when it came up in the Senate last week. [Parenthetically, I have heard that Sen. Geoff Michel, along with three other senators, voted “yea” on the measure on the floor, but later changed their votes to “no” for the record. I am trying to run that to ground.]

According to Sen. Ortman, the problem with GAMC is that the homeless people and the chemically dependent people and the impoverished people have no incentive to keep themselves healthy. They really need the fiscal discipline of premiums and co-pays to do that. And they really need to be discouraged from going to the emergency room, too!

One can imagine the scene: a police officer finds a man, half-frozen in a snow bank. As the officer tries to lift him out of the snow, the man croaks, “Please officer, don’t take me to the ER. The co-pay will kill me. I’ll just rest here until morning, and then I’ll call my GP on my cell.”

Welcome to Julianne Ortman’s world. But that’s what she thinks will happen if GAMC is rolled up into Minnesota Care.

It is also pretty funny that Republicans are suddenly the champions of Minnesota Care. This is the very program that the governor has been trying to cut for years. He’s also used hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue collected  – the provider tax and premiums collected – that was intended for MInnesota Care which would have built substantial reserves by now, to plug holes in the general fund budget, as part of his no new taxes pledge.

A couple of other points are in order, too. First, the GAMC bill passed is just a stop gap bill. Ortman wails – as the govenor did – that it doesn’t have any “reform.” It wasn’t really intended to. But among the other absurdities of Ortman’s magic Minnesota Care solution is the fact that people can’t move seamlessly into the Minnesota Care program: there are applications, verifications, and a waiting period. All well and good, but beyond the capacity of some of the GAMC recipients, and certainly in the short term.

And finally, the cessation of the GAMC program really shifts costs from the state to Hennepin and Ramsey Counties. When HCMC starts waving off the medivac helicopters transporting trauma victims from Chanhassen, maybe Ortman will have an epiphany.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gimme somma that ol’ time religion!

Robert Costa, from the Corner at the National Review Online [even the dog goes slumming once in a while], reports this about Tim Pawlenty’s recent speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference:

Pawlenty also made a strong pitch for the support of the religious right. “God is in charge,” he said, criticizing the “naysayers who try to crowd out God.” If God is “good enough for the Founding Fathers, it should be good enough for us.”

Now, here is a guy who learned, too late, of course, that he needed to amp up the religious craziness to have a shot at national office on the Republican side.

Pawlenty’s words remind me of Leslie Uggmans singing Give Me Some of that Old Time Religion during the opening credits of the 1960 classic Stanley Kramer movie Inherit the Wind. Uggmans sings several verses of the song, the refrain of which is:

Give me some of that old time religion; it’s good enough for me.

The movie was about the 1926 Scopes trial in Tennessee where a young school teacher was convicted of the crime of raising the subject of evolution in the classroom. Although the names were fictionalized in the movie, Spencer Tracy played the Clarence Darrow character, and Frederic March played the William Jennings Bryan character.

Most of the courtroom dialogue in the movie is taken from the trial transcripts. At one point in the trial, Bryan calls himself as a witness to take the stand to prove the existence of God and the inerrant nature of the Bible. Darrow points out several inconsistencies in the Biblical narrative of creation on cross examination of the blustery Bryan.

It didn’t matter to the Tennessee jurors, of course. They, like Bryan, weren’t interested in the truth, but only in having their prejudices confirmed. It wouldn’t have mattered to the CPAC attendees, either.

This is the danger when you turn the law over to the “God is in charge,” “natural law” types. It really doesn’t matter which religion. You can get extremists from any of them: Osama bin Laden, Timothy McVeigh and Scott Roeder, and the assassins of Rabin and Gandhi.

You see, when you turn it over to God, you surrender the principle of democratic control over civil society. But it isn’t even rule by God; it is the rule of the priestly class: whoever can convince the most people that only they have the best interpretation of the moral code. That always holds the promise of tyranny by the most stiff-necked mullahs, preachers, and rabbis around.

Pawlenty libels the Founding Fathers when he says that “God was good enough for them.” Many of the founders were not even conventionally religious; they were creatures of the Enlightenment, a period in history influenced heavily by the invention of the scientific method and Europe’s bloody religious wars, including the Thirty Years War in the 17th century. They wanted none of it in their new secular government:

Two final points. The common conviction that bound together most of the Founders was the belief in the complete separation of church and state. As products of the Enlightenment, they shared Diderot's vision of a heavenly city on earth where the last priest would be strangled with the entrails of the last king. This was a radical doctrine at the time, and even now in Iraq we can see that it is an idea yet to be regarded as, shall we say, self-evident. Let me acknowledge that it was easier to implement in the United States than elsewhere, because the vast majority of the populace were practicing Christians of various denominations that shared core values, and also because there was a century-old tradition of religious toleration generated by the multiplicity of sects. That said, it seems to me that the central legacy of the Founding Fathers was a "hands off" policy towards any specific religious doctrine. No faith was to be favored.

Finally, Michael has argued, quite correctly, that the secularists in this debate have their own prejudices, just as do the evangelicals. At the theoretical level, I concur. But at the practical level, out there on the lecture trail and the call-in radio shows, the evangelicals are the dominating influence. They care more about this debate than the secular humanists, they have the most edgy agenda, they seem to have more at stake. As with the creationism debate, they bring the energy of believers in a lost cause. I respect them, want to put my arms around them, regard Michael as their ablest defender, but in the end believe that this is a nation of citizens rather than Christians.

That’s from a dialogue between James Ellis (writing here) and Michael Novak on the Encyclopedia Britannica blog. Ellis is a professor at Mount Holyoke College, and is the author of several books about the revolutionary period, including Founding Brothers, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.

We can see that Pawlenty is too misguided about democratic principles and too dangerously ahistorical to be the president. But he is a monumental hypocrite, too, a modern-day Pharisee of the first water. Because, you see, as Pawlenty was hob-nobbing with the CPACers, and professing his faith in a living God who is in charge of temporal affairs, he took time out from his busy schedule to veto a bill calling for the extension of General Assistance Medical Care that had been passed overwhelmingly by both houses of the Minnesota Legislature, and passed with bipartisan support.

GAMC provides at least some measure of health care to the sickest and poorest Minnesotans.

You might think that a man as religious as our governor — a professing “Christian” — would heed the words of the departing Jesus: If you love me, feed my sheep.

But you’d be wrong; in some cases dead wrong.

A thump of the tail to Hot Dish Politics for the link to the NRO post.

VAT did you say?

In his State of the State address, Governor Pawlenty moaned about high the Minnesota corporate income tax rate is. At 9.8 percent, it is higher than most states. But Pawlenty said, in effect, that we have just about the highest business taxes in the known world. But you should take that with a grain — no, a whole pinch — of salt.

In an earlier post, I said that comparing business income tax rates alone in the abstract and without context is misleading. It could be misleading for a variety of just accounting issues: credits (maybe like the JOBZ program) and other industry incentives, deductions, depreciation allowances, and the like.

But when you look at business taxation internationally, there is another big factor to consider: the value added tax, or the VAT. The United States does not have anything like a VAT. Here’s how the New York Times described the VAT as a graphic a few years ago; It is better than the description that I’ve been working on, so I’ll appropriate the whole thing:

Chart: A value-added tax is basically a sales tax on the difference between what a company pays for raw materials to create a product and the value of the finished product. In this simple example of the manufacturing of a table, a 5 percent value-added tax will be applied several times. Ultimately, this tax is often passed on to the consumer in the form of higher retail prices. 1a. A timber company sells harvested timber to a sawmill for $200 a truckload. 1b. A mining company sells ore to a nuts and bolts manufacturer for $4 a pound. 2a. The sawmill cuts the timber into lumber and sells it to a small table company for $400. 2b. The nuts and bolts manufacturer produces and then sells five pounds of nuts and bolts to the table company for $40 ($8 a pound). The manufacturer is taxed 5 percent on the added value of $20, for a tax of $1. The saw mill is taxed 5 percent on $200, the value added to the timber, for a tax of $10. 3. Using raw materials worth $440 (lumber bought for $400 and five pounds of nuts and bolts bought for $40), the table company will make five tables it will then sell for $1,500 ($300 each). The table company is taxed 5 percent of $1,060 (the value added), for a tax of $53. VALUE-ADDED TAX $10 (lumber) + $1 (nuts,bolts) + $53 (for five tables) = TOTAL TAX (five tables) $64 Total tax on each table $12.80.

Got it? The graphic was not at the link where this description was found; sorry.

Anyway, you can see that the VAT is a sales tax, at least after the sale to the final consumer. If the product is sold at a profit. But at every step in the process to a final sale at retail, it’s a tax on business activity. In the EU, VAT rates are around 20%. And these countries still have corporate income tax and personal income taxes, too.

Canada has a form of the VAT federally, known as the Goods and Services Tax. The rate is, the last time I checked 5%, like the example above. But in addition, some Canadian provinces – and more are joining – are collecting a VAT, too, piggy-backing on the federal system for administration and collections.

As I said before: simply picking one number or rate and highlighting it in splendid isolation is misleading.

And a little tangentially, but not entirely so, there was also a neat little graphic in the Star Tribune Opinion Exchange section today that accompanies an op-ed piece by Charlie Quimby and Dane Smith of Growth and Justice. It doesn’t seem to be available to web readers, so here it is:

moving toward the middle

The chart shows how the spread between the aggregate rates of taxation of the various states isn’t as great as you might think, based on all of the hot air and swamp gas emitted by conservatives on the subject of the business climate in MInnesota.

The hed for Charlie and Dane’s article is “The case for paying higher taxes, happily.” I doubt they picked that title, but one I like better is “The case for paying higher taxes soberly, and responsibly.” It’s a good piece, though; the centerpiece is that we should we should go back to the personal income tax rates of 1999. Spot agrees with that.

Oh, and just one other thing. The source of information in the chart is the Minnesota Taxpayers Association, not the MInnesota Taxpayers League. Entirely different animals.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Woods investigation aided by forensic science!

A former FBI agent was brought in to the case to determine whether Tiger Woods was sincere at his press conference yesterday:

While Tiger Woods seemed honest and genuine during his long-awaited public statement Friday, his body language detracted from it by making it seem staged and over-rehearsed.

That, according to former FBI body language expert Joe Navarro, author of "Louder Than Words."

Navarro was, of course, part of the same bunch that helped thwart the underwear bomber.

If this doesn’t remind you of Bill Frist diagnosing Terry Schiavo long distance, you just aren’t paying attention.

Work is underway on a new circle in hell for journalists — and Spot uses that term generously — and network executives who think that feeding this moralistic sickness is in any way useful, or that it is anything other than an abuse of the public’s airwaves.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods’ auto de fe

Spot wishes they’d just burn him at the stake and be done with it. But oh no, not where there is so much titillation to be had leading up to the event.

Spot was idling in a dreary anteroom this morning that had a television tuned to CNN. The network was covering Tiger’s press conference; the sound was off as it usually is in dreary anterooms everywhere. But the scene was complete; it was better as pure imagery without sound, anyway.

First, there’s Tiger: the penitent heretic. And then the camera pans to the Inquisitors, including three frowning women in the front row who looked as if they were there to audition for a role in a production of Wagner’s Die Walküre. [Okay, there’s a mixed metaphor in there; so shoot me.]

The video crawl announced that essentially the rest of the day would be All Tiger, All the Time. Tiger would be hung, drawn and quartered, and finally beheaded in a prime time special tonight. Then, the body would be burned after the late night news.

More satisfaction from television you cannot ask!

This is not healthy behavior, boys and girls, and Spot is not talking about Tiger Woods. But you’ll be betting on the long shot if you think Katherine Kersten isn’t going to write about it.

Don’t get Spot wrong; Tiger Woods has some explaining to all right, but it is mostly to his wife, and maybe one day to his kids, who might ask, “Daddy why did those people push and shove each other and follow me around and take pictures through the windows at my nursery school?”

Maybe to the CEOs of Accenture and Tag Heuer, too. But that’s about it.

It is hard to see, though, how our front row Brünnhilde, Waltraute, and Helmwige figure in this, except as pure moral scolds. Apparently with a lot of time on their hands. But there they sat, eyes narrowed and nostrils flaring, exulting in their sense of personal betrayal. Excuse me? Somehow, Spot doesn’t think so.

Don’t push it, Spot.

Got it, grasshopper.

Riding the moral high horse [metaphor number three] is fun, Spot supposes, but it comes at a high societal cost. You could see it in the language of George Bush when he talked about evildoers and engaging in Crusades, the latter being the greatest Freudian slip ever uttered by a president. It infected the way we thought and think about Muslims. Good and evil; us and them; demonize and dehumanize your adversary.

But you can also see it the steadfast opposition by scolds like Tom Pritchard and James Dobson to anti-bullying legislation because it might interfere with the right of a middle schooler to tell his classmate he was going to hell because he’s gay.

Or in the murder of a doctor who performed late-term abortions on women who needed them, often to save their lives, and a defendant who claims the murder — no assassination — was a moral necessity.

Really, Brünnhilde, Waltraute, and Helmwige are just the soul sisters of this entire miserable crew.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher agrees

Margaret_Anderson_Kelliher_Oct_30_2008 That the road to the governor’s mansion passes right through Drinking Liberally. I’ve just confirmed that she will be out guest at Drinking Liberally next Thursday, February 25th. There will be more details to follow.

This picture, incidentally, is one of my favorites of Anderson Kelliher, as she fires up a crowd shortly before the 2008 elections.

Update: While you’re here, PIM visitors, please have a look at a new post here at the Cucking Stool:

Gimme somma that ol’ time religion!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A stinging rebuke

Brian McClung, himself, today on the governor’s intended veto of the GAMC bill:

Governor Pawlenty is vetoing this bill because it irresponsibly spends $170 million, further exacerbating the state’s budget problems, and includes virtually no reform. The legislature has chosen to pass a massive spending bill without first crafting a comprehensive, balanced budget solution. They’ve got things backwards. Both DFLers and Republicans who voted for this bill should be held accountable for taking out the state’s checkbook when there’s not only no money, but a deficit.

But let’s compare some apples and oranges. According to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, the corporate income tax collections in Minnesota are a little north of a billion dollars year:

Fiscal year 2008 actual revenues were $1,020 million or about 6 percent of general fund revenues. Revenues from the corporate franchise tax are deposited in the general fund. The Department of Management and Budget estimated in February 2008 that corporate franchise tax collections will be $1,034 million in fiscal year 2009 and $1,085 million in fiscal year 2010.

The 2009 and 2010 figures are probably a little, um, optimistic. But let’s call it a billion dollars — that’s close enough for government work.

tarted up tpaw And in the State of the State address, Governor Hey, Sailor, c'mere; you want a free one? Pawlenty proposed reducing the corporate income tax by twenty percent. That’s about $200 million a year, more than the cost of the GAMC bill by $30 million.

Did the governor “craft a comprehensive, balanced budget solution” when he proposed lopping off $200 million of revenue a year? Don’t be silly. Just do it, says, the governor; we’ll figure out the details later. When Pawlenty comes up with an idea, it’s a bold initiative, when somebody else does, it’s just irresponsible.

The vote in the House today, especially — 125 to 9, Spot recalls — is a stinging rebuke of the governor. There were some pretty conservative people who voted to extend GAMC, but they apparently decided that trying to provide some health care to the oldest, sickest, and poorest people in the state was not irresponsible; quite the reverse.

When your kids need braces, most of us say, “Let’s get it done; we’ll figure a way to pay for it,” and then we do. This isn’t any different.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Emmer - or is it Seifert? - on the stump

This is a shameless rip-off of Mike Kaszuba who posted this video at Hot Dish Politics, but it just too funny not to. From the 1932 film Horse Feathers:

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You sir, are a liar

And a sniveling one, at that. At a United Negro College Fund Minnesota Leaders’ Luncheon today, Governor Gutshot, Tim Pawlenty, repeated the canard that there is a “negative correlation” between student achievement and the strength of teachers’ unions.

Here are some data on the subject, however, according to the linked post at Hot Dish Politics:

According to Education Minnesota, in no particular order, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Michigan and California have strong unions and Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama are known for lacking strong unions – or any union at all.

According to the ACT test results from 2009, strong unioned Massachusetts was the highest achieving and Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and California were in the 20 top in average composite test scores. Weak unioned Mississippi was last, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Texas were all in the bottom 20 as was Michigan, which has a strong union.

The outlier is Michigan, but that is probably explained more by the consequences of the destruction of the automotive industry as anything else.

As Dave Jennings, a school superintendent in the Chaska area, and former acting head of the Minneapolis schools, said recently on MPR (no link; sorry), there is a group of people whose goal it is to destroy public education, not improve it. Tim Pawlenty is one of those people. Jennings was also a Republican Speaker of the Minnesota House in the 80s.

“A few startled shepherds”

In doing some research for a book on neo-conservatism, conservative philanthropy, and Leo Strauss, Rob Levine came across a BBC documentary, The Power of Nightmares, that he posted in three parts on his blog, The Triumph of Conservative Philanthropy. The documentary is very good, and Spot commends it highly – all three parts of it. It will take you about three hours, but the time is well spent.

Many of you are familiar with the poem Tinker to Evers to Chance about the famous infield of the Chicago Cubs that was so good a turning a double play. The documentary demonstrates how it was neo-conservatism’s “Soviet Union to Bill Clinton to al Qaeda” in shifting from one good and evil morality play to another for consumption by the American public. The morality play is a necessity, according to neo-conservatism; it’s a version of Plato’s noble lie.

The last installment in the series, which is embedded below, describes how “al Qaeda” was really more imagined by the US government than existed, in order to be able to try the defendants in the two 1998 embassy bombing in Africa as conspirators in a menacing international organization. While in reality, there was just a small cadre of men around bin Laden, and certainly not a sophisticated network of “international terror.”

But al Qaeda became bigger in the imaging of it, especially after 9/11, which was, in fact, carried out by a handful of men, most of them Saudis.

But it became convenient as a new “Other” when the previous morality play, the destruction of Bill Clinton, had failed. We must always have an “Other, or “Evil One” in order to have the national purpose that neo-conservatism believes we must have to sustain our moral fiber.

Most of us recall the ascendance of neo-conservative thought in the Bush administration, as words like “evil doers” and “Crusade” crept into its rhetoric.

But as Afghanistan was invaded, and we joined forces with the North Alliance, we were unable to find al Qaeda at Tora Bora or anywhere else. First, we looked, and then the Brits looked, but virtually nothing was found in those famous caves or anywhere else.

If you’re a little pressed for time, fast forward to about 18:00 and watch how the Northern Alliance’s kidnap operation resulted in many of the “worst of the worst” that wound up an Guantanamo and who are now being released, one by one, by an increasingly annoyed and disgusted federal judiciary as it hears habeas corpus petitions.

Hear also about the military operations in Afghanistan that netted a “few startled shepherds” and not al Qaeda. The Q&A with the commanding officer of the British forces is priceless.

A thump of the tail to Rob Levine.

Paul Thissen comes to Drinking Liberally

paul thissen DFL gubernatorial candidate Paul Thissen is our guest tomorrow night (the 18th of February) at Drinking Liberally. The format will be our usual one for candidates: we expect Paul around seven for some remarks, followed by a question and answer session, and then a little time for Paul to mingle with the assembled.

We actually start gathering around six, and we’ll be at the regular haunt, the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis.

Paul currently serves in the Minnesota House.

Paul was second in the campaign voting and was fourth in the straw poll held on caucus night, so there is plenty of interest in his campaign. The candidate events have been popular and well attended; this one will be no exception.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Candidate Jim Meffert speaks at Drinking Liberally

DFL candidate for the endorsement to run for Congress in the Third District of Minnesota, Jim Meffert, came to Drinking Liberally at the 331 Club on February 4th. It was another slippery Thursday in a string of difficult Thursdays for driving, but Jim and staffer Kay made it – candidates always make it to DL. Jim spoke for a few minutes, then took questions on a variety of topics for nearly an hour.

Here’s just a small part (ten minutes is the limit that some of the video hosting sites will accept) of what he said that night:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hey, Sailor, c'mere; you want a free one? III

(I promised a post on the VAT, but it will have to wait a little longer.)

Overheard in the Mercedes showroom:

First customer: Isn’t it a crime that Mercedes and its dealer network, too, have to pay Minnesota income taxes on the profit they make selling these beautiful cars? BMW, and even [shudder] Acura, too.

Second customer: Well, the jewelry companies have to, too.

Third customer: With the brokerage commissions I’ve had to pay on stock and bonds this year, I’ll bet those rascal brokerages are going have to pony up as well!

Car salesman [shaking his head]: It’s so regressive. That’s what Todd Rapp says, anyway.

First customer: I think I heard that Growth and Justice thinks that, too!

Car salesman [still shaking his head]: Whatever was the state of Minnesota thinking?

The prospect that Mercedes USA and a Minnesota selling dealer will have to pay a little into the kitty here in Minnesota when they sell that Autobahn pleasure boat doesn’t really bother me at all.

But the canard that business taxes are all regressive has gained some currency; if you follow the link to the Growth and Justice website article on the subject, you will see that G&J has a graphic that purports to show that businesses “shift” their taxes to their consumers, and to their employees, and only as a last resort to investors.

But describing it this way borders on the moronic. It is more accurate to say that businesses strive to minimize their costs, to pass their costs along to their customers in the prices they charge, and they do that to maximize the return to their investors.

But Rapp and Tom Horner and G&J, too, want to wrap business tax policy up in some nefarious “tax shifting” mantra to make the reduction of business taxes more palatable.

But “progressive” and “regressive” aren’t really even useful words in this discussion, certainly not in any macro sense.

If Mercedes USA pays some income tax as a result of selling cars in Minnesota to affluent customers (who probably got that way because of the nurturing environment they grew up and were educated in, or maybe they just inherited it), and that tax is what puts the budget revenue up to where we can pay for some GAMC, how is that regressive? It is hard to feel too much sympathy for the car buyer who has to pay more because Mercedes “shifted” its income taxes onto the consumer.

There is a flip side, of course. The poor, elderly man or woman who pays a penny more for five cans of condensed soup because of the bullies at the Minnesota Department of Revenue collecting income taxes from soup manufacturers.

But Rapp, Horner, and G&J make no distinction between the two cases: they are both cases of the iniquitous thing called “tax shifting.” It beggars the imagination.

At least G&J proposes way to plug the gap created by the loss of business tax revenue. Among the solutions proposed, G&J says we should broaden the base of the sales tax to include most services.

That way, the poor old man in our example can take his penny savings on the soup and put it together with sixty or seventy more pennies to pay the sales tax on the haircut he gets.

Pure genius.

NB. This is the fifth post I’ve done this week on the subject of the Minnesota corporate income tax and the hare-brained initiatives to eliminate them. Rather than repeat links to the first four, please know that you can find them in the Blog Archive in the sidebar for February 2010, and they all have a title that starts with “Corporations should say, not pay,” or “Hey, Sailor, c'mere; you want a free one?”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hey, Sailor, c'mere; you want a free one? II

I’ve got an example of how the interstate taxation of business income, described in the last post, works.

Let’s say that you are a traveling comedian, and you have a professional corporation. For our hypothetical example, we’ll call it Al Franken, Inc., or AFI for short. AFI is domiciled in New York, but AFI travels around the country, making appearances at comedy clubs, corporate events, etc., for a fee.

When AFI appears in a state other than New York, let’s use California as an example, and earns a fee for being funny, that fee is California income. There may be no withholding (probably isn’t) taken from the fee. But AFI should file a California return and pay taxes on the income from the appearance.

When AFI prepares its New York state income tax return, the income that it reports will include the income from the appearance in California, but it will take as a credit against the tax owed to New York the tax that it paid to California.

If New York decided to unilaterally get rid of its state income tax, AFI would still owe the tax to California for the appearance there.

This is how entertainers, and highly-paid professional athletes, too, are taxed by states in which they appear or play. But it is a pretty good analogy for how corporations are taxed when they set foot in another state, too. Corporations have to pay taxes in a state on income than can be fairly said to be attributable to that state.

There really was a flap over Al Franken and interstate taxation of his income, as many of you undoubtedly recall. Al, I’m sorry to bring it up, but it is such a good pedagogical example, and perhaps regrettably, many people have it in mind.

What happened was that Al – or rather his accountant – reported all of Al’s income in New York; as Al maintained, he did pay New York taxes on all of his income. The problem was, of course, that other states, like California in our example, didn’t get their piece.

If Al had filed the other state returns, it is unlikely that his overall tax burden would have been much different because of the credits he could have taken against his New York return. When Al made the point there was no real financial incentive for him not to file in other states, this is what he meant.

Next in the series: on to the VAT!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hey, Sailor, c’mere; you want a free one?

tarted up tpaw Update: check out the new graphic by Tild inspired by Tim Pawlenty’s call to reduce the corporate income tax by twenty percent in the face of a projected 1.2 billion dollar deficit in the currrent biennium. (See a discussion of that further down in the post.) Sweet.

I’ve had a couple of posts this week about the corporate income tax, taking off initially on Todd Rapp’s op-ed advocating the elimination of the corporate income tax in Minnesota. The main point of the posts was, really, to offer the point of view that corporations consume state services just as individuals do, and that it is illogical and unfair to eliminate this tax, especially to just trade the revenue it produces for some ephemeral prospect of growth.

Eliminate the corporate income tax types like to argue that corporations just “shift” the taxes they pay to consumers. The real shift, however, would take place if individuals had to bear the cost of all the things that corporations benefit from: the court system (we must enforce those contracts!), roads, law enforcement, civil defense, the education of a workforce, and of course, the list goes on.

If a corporation has to pay for government services, that gets included in the price for its goods or services; I submit that that results in a more accurate price of the cost of those goods or services. That isn’t shifting so much as cost accounting.

In the last decade, the size of state government has decreased as a percentage of state income, and we have crumbling roads, underfunded schools, neglected cities, fallings bridges, and all of the other indicia of malign neglect to prove it. But in his State of the State address, Governor Pawlenty tells us he wants to cut taxes some more, including a 20% reduction in the corporate income tax.

The previous posts have been about the philosophy behind the fairness of a corporate income tax. But now, especially in view of the governor’s remarks, it is time to talk turkey about the state income tax and how it works.

The rap, so to speak, and as mentioned, on state income taxes, that they are just shifted to individual residents and taxpayers, rests on the premise that Minnesota is like a terrarium; that is, it is a closed system. But it never was, really, and our state economy is becoming increasingly open.

So a real question is whether we want not only corporations domiciled here, but corporations that have facilities here, and probably sales and employees, too (but the highly-paid executives and the shareholders are elsewhere), to help pay the cost of running the government that they also benefit from. Corporations that have a trade or business that is considered effectively connected to Minnesota have to pay income taxes on that part of the business, whether they are Minnesota companies or not.

The allocation of income for a corporation to a state where it isn’t domiciled is usually calculated using a three factor formula; that’s the way Minnesota does it, too. The three factors are sales, personnel, and factories or other facilities.

It should be dawning on you by now that a corporation domiciled in Minnesota, but with plants, and employees and sales around the country is likely to have to pay income tax in many states, and that is, in fact the case. Most of the time, and for most of the taxes, the income taxes paid to other states are taken as a credit against the taxes owed by a Minnesota-based company to the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

A Minnesota-based company is going to owe the income taxes to the other states, even if the Minnesota rate is slashed by 20%. There is no guarantee, therefore, that the Minnesota-based company will see a 20% decrease in overall state income taxation, not at all.

What is certain, however, is that we will collect 20% less income tax from non-Minnesota companies that have a substantial presence here and have part of their business that is subject to the Minnesota income tax. They will still be able to sue in Minnesota courts, get deliveries of raw materials, ship finished goods, hire educated Minnesota workers; they’ll just have to pay 20% less.

This is the real cost shifting.

People favoring the reduction or elimination of the state income tax might say this good; it will attract investment to Minnesota.

This is part of what Spot calls the Hey, Sailor, c’mere; you want a free one? approach to attracting investment. It may bring some, um, fast returns, but long term it will contribute to turning Minnesota into Mississippi. In fact, Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi is coming here; maybe he’s looking the place over, thinking to set up a colony. Or a casino, anyway. Maybe he and Dick Day will get together while Haley’s here.

One other thing that the guv mentioned in his address was that the Minnesota corporate income tax rate was, like, the highest on planet earth. Something like that anyway. But there is an important part of the taxation puzzle in many parts of the world that is unfamiliar to Minnesotans and indeed, Americans. In Canada, it’s called the goods and services tax, and in other countries it is often called the value added tax, or VAT.

The existence of the VAT makes the direct comparison of income tax rates of limited utility.

But that will have to wait for another time.

Minnesota stuntwoman decries health care summit as “stunt”

Michele Bachmann calls the upcoming health care summit a “PR stunt.”

false witness cover God that’s rich. Here’s the woman who championed the return of the un-American witch hunt, is afraid the the US. census, who wants the people to be armed and dangerous, waxes eloquent on the need for more carbon emissions, fanned the death panel flames malarkey in the health care reform debate, and constantly interrupts adversaries in the House and on the radio.

And these are just a few examples of the stuntwoman in action taken from posts here at the Cucking Stool.

Michele Bachmann’s entire political career is a monument to the political stunt.

A thump of the tail to Bruce.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Drinking Liberally tonight at the 331 Club

331-profile-front We’ll gather around six tonight at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis. There is no guest scheduled, so we’ll have a chance to enjoy each other’s company, have some beer or wine, and have a relaxing evening.

It looks like the best Thursday evening for driving in a month or more, so there’s no excuse not to join us.

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Himself and herself sure enjoyed it

From a Hot Dish Politics post at the StarTribune last night about Governor Gutshot’s State of the State address today:

"There’s some humor," said [deputy chief of staff and Pawlenty spokesman] McClung, fresh from a rehearsal with the state's highest-elected comedian. "Myself and the first lady laughed. We are not unbiased, but we enjoyed it."

Well, of course, Spot is just tickled that himself and herself enjoyed the governor’s humor.

Boys and girls, we have talked about reflexive pronouns here at the Cucking Stool before. But just to summarize: don’t ever use “myself” as the subject of a sentence. Unless the sentence is, “Myself” is used as the subject of a sentence by pretentious people who really come off as just pretentious boobs.

“Myself” as a subject is just an ungrammatical and corn pone version of the royal “we.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

“Corporations should say, not pay” II

Your reading assignment today is the first installment. It’s a prerequisite to this post.

Done? Good.

In his condemnation of Minnesota’s corporate income tax, one of Todd Rapp’s criticisms in his Sunday op-ed is that it is “volatile,” and he quotes some statistics to prove it. Yes, tax collections go down when times are bad, but that also means they go up when times are good! Why not, then, use a portion of the revenue when the times are good, to buy capital projects for cash, and maybe even call some bonds. The latter would actually help cash flow when times were leaner, because there would be less debt to service. Spot says that’s a two-fer.

There may be some bond market problems with a call approach, but you could accomplish essentially the same thing by setting up more-or-less untouchable sinking funds with surpluses to be used for future debt service: money in the bank. We used to call putting a little money aside “reserves,” or the “rainy day fund.”

These observations are true with respect to the individual income tax as well as the corporate income tax. We ran surpluses in the general fund budget for a while, and when Jesse Ventura was governor; it was the collective wisdom of the Legislature – Republicans and Democrats alike – that we should have a permanent tax cut, mostly for the top earners, of course. Nobody in the state senate, apparently save John Marty, thought that we’d ever have an economic downturn again. But it wasn’t that long before we were talking about a “structural budget deficit.” We wrung the neck of the chicken that laid the eggs and ate it.

Republicans like to talk about “kitchen table” economics; how families sit around the kitchen table and decide how to tighten their belts when times get tough. But here’s the Republican kitchen table:

Well kids, you know how we’ve been scraping by, avoiding trips to the doctor, not putting any money aside for your college educations, and that kind of thing? Well, I’ve got great news! I got a raise today. Now, I can cut back to four days a week, so long as we all still avoid the doctor, each of you thinks about post-high school job hunting and don’t get any big ideas about college.

That’s what we did when we made permanent cuts in the personal income tax. And the deep thinkers, like the Todd Rapp, want to make it worse by eliminating the corporate income tax.

More to come.

Not much time to write

There hasn’t been much time to write the past couple of days, but there are some thing cooking, so stay tuned.

And don’t forget Drinking LIberally tomorrow night. More about that later.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Rukavina may be the key, all right

Minnesota Brown posts about the importance of the Iron Range in both the DFL endorsement contest and the general election: The road to the DFL endorsement must pass through the Iron Range. Actually the road to he governor’s mansion passes right through Drinking Liberally!

Kidding. Sort of.

Who’s up and who’s down in a campaign horse race has never been Spot’s forte, or of much interest, frankly. But he does agree with Minnesota Brown that Tom Rukavina is going to be very important in the race, even if he doesn’t get the endorsement, probably either as a lieutenant governor candidate or as a campaigner for the ticket.

Given the gender balance fetish that exists in picking gubernatorial tickets, Tom is probably only LG material if Anderson-Kelliher gets the endorsement. In the entry in the encyclopedia for “Iron Range politician,” there is a picture of Tom Rukavina. One way or another, he’s a force to reckon with in this election.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, here is a video of Tom Rukavina’s appearance at Drinking Liberally on a wintry January night.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

“Corporations should say, not pay”

That’s Todd Rapp, a brother in arms to Tom Horner in that nest of well-oiled confidence men and shock troops who come and help when the CEO finds himself, alarmed and dizzy, in front of the cameras, Himle Horner. Rapp had a homily this morning in the StarTribune: Eliminate the corporate income tax, and nobody gets hurt.

Rapp is really responsible for the second part of the post title; the Supreme Court in Citizens United gets the nod for the first part. But it is curious, to me anyway, that on the one hand, by golly, corporations are just like people and have free speech, and on the other, that they shouldn’t bear one of the incidents of citizenship: paying taxes.

The centerpiece of Rapp’s argument in his op-ed piece is that corporations just shift the taxes to other people, like the people who buy their products, and we should therefore eliminate the Minnesota corporate income tax. If they’re going to be profitable, of course corporations shift their taxes. They have to shift the cost of all their inputs in the price they charge for their product or service: all of their raw materials, the cost of labor, and utilities, for example. But Rapp reports it breathlessly like some new revelation from his personal prophet; maybe his personal prophet is Tom Horner!

Tom Horner, the candidate for governor who may have put the field into triple digits, and for whom Rapp is doubtlessly a stalking horse, floated this hare-brained idea before, and Spot said this:

Even Tom Horner might admit in a private moment that businesses are consumers of, and beneficiaries of, government services. On a local level, fire and law enforcement, utilities, streets and roads: almost everything a municipal or county government does. It’s true on a state level, too. Law enforcement, maintenance of a court system, roads, protection of property in the event of natural disasters or civil unrest when the Guard is called out, and the list goes on.

But Spot, doesn’t business just include the taxes paid in the price charged?

Yes, grasshopper, it does. But when a business has to include the social costs of its operation in its price — taxes or pollution abatement or whatever — the price more accurately reflects what a good or service really costs to produce. If a polluter causes or exacerbates asthma, the public pays for part of the polluter’s cost of production. Likewise, if a business benefits from government services provided, but doesn’t pay for them, the public has to.

We can argue about the amount of taxes that should be allocated to business — and we do; it’s called the political process — but Horner’s argument is just for pikers, scrubs, and freeloaders.

The market actually works better if consumers make choices based on the true cost of production of the things they buy.

Rapp also repeats Horner’s argument that business taxes stifle growth.

But what if Rapp had made this argument: we should eliminate the taxes on plumbers because it would reduce the amount that plumbers had to charge people to come out and install the new dryer, unplug the drain, whatever. It would even encourage the recruitment of more plumbers. Or this one: the cost of tickets of to professional sporting events is through the roof! Let’s eliminate the taxes on professional athletes – give Brett Favre and Joe Maurer a complete tax holiday – so that they will work for less in Minnesota, so that Ziggy and the ghost of Carl can afford to take less of the hard-earned money of ticket buyers.

Rapp will sputter, this is entirely different! But not really that different. From Spot’s same post:

Horner says we have to get rid of business taxes because they “stifle growth and innovation.” Anything a business has to pay for stifles growth. Perhaps Tom thinks that a business should just be permitted to steal its raw materials? Using slave labor would also undoubtedly save millions of dollars. And environmental regulation? Think about how much money utilities could save if they could just belch that darn coal ash into the air for all of us to breathe? Or chemical companies were permitted to dump waste into rivers. What’s a river catching fire or two among friends?

The examples are not just silly. They are all examples of a business enterprise shifting the cost of its operation on to the public or to other individuals. An elimination of business taxes would be no different.

There is some clean up left to do on Todd Rapp’s little bit of Tom-foolery, but it will have to wait for tonight or tomorrow.

Update the First:

“Many of the Minnesota Legislature's most-respected tax wonks,” and “most tax experts” are introductory phrases that Rapp uses when making his points for the elimination of the corporate income tax. Who edits this guy? Katherine Kersten? Who are these deep thinkers? Rapp doesn’t say. But somebody at ought to call Himle Horner and ask. Their phone number has to be published, you’d think; after all they are in public relations.

To the best of Spot’s knowledge, the only legislator to have put a bill in the hopper to eliminate the corporate income tax – certainly in recent sessions – is Senator Geoff Michel, who by even the most generous description would not be called a tax “wonk.” He’s a guy who took the “pledge” and opposed the Omnibus Transportation Finance Bill of 2008. Geoff’s not a wonk; he’s an ideologue.

Come to think of it, Rapp’s buddy Tom Horner did support Michel for reelection.

Rapp admits that revenue from the corporate income tax would have to be replaced, and he says we should find a “fairer” and “less regressive” way to do it. Remember, Rapp says that the corporate income tax is “regressive” merely because it is shifted – a slender reed upon which to lean, indeed – but he doesn’t really propose a replacement. But gosh darn it, Rapp says, there must be one!

Here’s an idea, Todd, get back to us when you’ve got a specific plan to plug the budget hole you want to create.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Just a darn minute, Margaret

Spot tuned into Almanac on TPT last night (February 5th) to listen to a conversation between two of the front-running candidates for the DFL endorsement for governor, Mayor R.T. Rybak and Speaker Margaret Anderson-Kelliher. As she usually does in campaign appearances, the Speaker touts the Omnibus Transportation Finance Bill of 2008, and raising the gas tax, as a signature legislative achievement of hers.

But when the Speaker claims the transportation bill when counting coup, it’s a little like the automobile manufacturers when they call the side lights on a car an “electro-luminescent positioning system.” Strictly speaking accurate, but there’s a lot of gilt on that lily.

Spot did you write that last paragraph that way on purpose?

You will never know, grasshopper. But it’s a hat trick, no?

But Lori Sturdevant reminds us who really had skin in the game on the bill Anderson-Kelliher boasts about: the six Republican legislators who voted with the House majority to override Governor Gutshot’s veto:

Former State Rep. Ron Erhardt of Edina is angling for a comeback -- as a DFLer. The leader of the rump Republican group that helped DFLers override Gov. Tim Pawlenty's 2008 transportation bill veto was dumped by his GOP party in 2008. He ran as an independent and came in second in what may have been the year's most-watched legislative contest. It was won by Republican Rep. Keith Downey; DFLer Kevin Staunton placed third.

Erhardt, who served 18 years in the House and was once one of the state Republican Party's most prolific fundraisers, sent letters to DFL activists this week announcing his party change. He said he intends to challenge Staunton, who is also running again, for DFL endorsement. Erhardt is not yet saying whether he'll take his comeback bid to the primary voters if he doesn't prevail at the endorsing convention.

Erhardt's experience, and that of the other five GOP transportation bill overriders, illustrates the high cost today's political parties are exacting for cooperation with the opposition party. Only one of the Override Six was reelected in 2008 without an intra-party challenge; only two of them still serve in the state House.

In the case of Erhardt, in particular, he had been a tireless champion for better transportation funding and choices for many years, and was he was recognized by MAPE (Legislator of the Year in 2008) and the Sierra Club for his leadership on the override.

As Anderson-Kelliher says, she “held her caucus together” on the Omnibus Transportation Finance Bill in 2008, but she got more than a little help from her friends, and it is they who can claim the real credit for the bill.