July 7, 2011

AP Acts As If Misunderstood ‘Minnesota Nice’ Is at Stake in State Govt. Shutdown Battle

APabsolutelyPathetic0109I had to do a double take when I looked over this afternoon’s dispatch out of St. Paul, Minnesota from Patrick Condon of the Associated Press.

Readers unfamiliar with the Gopher State budget impasse to this point would fail to learn from the AP report that the dispute is all about raising taxes. Democratic Governor Mark Dayton wants tax increases on “the wealthy” (which really means high income-earners, whether or not they happen to be wealthy). The state’s top marginal tax rate a very high 7.85%.

Dayton has chosen to shut down the government because the Republican-controlled legislature won’t pass a budget containing his desired. tax increases. It really is that simple. Minnesota’s government is closed (actually, partially closed) because Mark Dayton chose to close it. Period.

Having premised his story on spending cuts instead of tax increases, Condon cynically invoked something known as “Minnesota Nice” — as if imposing tax increases on roughly 7,700 taxpayers to pay for increased spending fits that definition. What’s really amazing is that if one digs into what “Minnesota Nice” really means, it’s not at all complimentary.

Here are several paragraphs from Condon’s concoction:

Minn. shutdown a battle over big-spending legacy

Facing Republican demands to limit enrollment in assistance programs and trim historically generous state benefits, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has a frequent response: “That is not Minnesota.”

The remark sums up one side of the wildly diverging views between Dayton and Republicans about whether Minnesota should preserve its reputation as a progressive state where taxes are high but the vulnerable are protected. That dispute underlies a government shutdown that hit its seventh day Thursday.

What Democrats see as the popular local saying “Minnesota Nice,” Republicans see as unchecked and irresponsible government growth fueled by taxes they say are crippling to businesses that create jobs.

“I don’t think that Minnesota Nice is going to go away,” said state Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, the lead budget writer for House Republicans. “But I certainly would like to see our business climate get out of the bottom 10.”

Ms. Holberg should never have accepted the premise of whatever question she was asked about preserving “Minnesota Nice.” From all appearances, its use is an artificial contrivance which had nothing to do with politics until the Democrats and the establishment press decided to make it so.

Here, from an audio transcript at Minnesota Public Radio, a place Mr. Condon would be likely to consider unimpeachable, is Syl Jones in December 2009, explaining what “Minnesota Nice” is:

Tracing the origin of “Minnesota Nice”

Minnesotans know it’s not nice to call someone “Minnesota nice.” It’s a synonym for phoniness and passive aggression. And Minnesota playwright Syl Jones says he’s uncovered the roots of Minnesota nice. He traces it all back to the Scandinavian immigrants who settled here more than a century ago. Jones argues in this essay that his discovery goes a long way toward explaining all kinds of strange Minnesota phenomena.

Syl Jones: In the 1930s, a Danish-Norwegian novelist, Aksel Sandemose, described the unwritten laws that governed his fictional town of Jante. He listed 11 so-called Janteloven, or Jante laws, but three are enough to give you an idea:

Don’t think that you are special.

Don’t think that you are good at anything.

Don’t think that you can teach us anything.

Sound familiar? It should. Jante Law explains a lot of what goes on in Minnesota. Former Gov. Wendell Anderson met his downfall because people thought he’d forgotten to act like he wasn’t anything special. Former Gov. Jesse Ventura enjoyed initial success because he appealed to people who thought the political establishment had nothing to teach them. Unfortunately, he also forgot to act like he wasn’t anything special. These principles, which may have been intended to maintain a measure of egalitarianism back in the old country, find their cultural expression in what we call Minnesota Nice. People who have grown up with it know that Minnesota Nice doesn’t have all that much to do with being nice. It’s more about keeping up appearances, about keeping the social order, about keeping people in their place.

Those who are curious about all 11 Jante laws will find them here.

Dang. It would be reasonable to conclude based on Jones’s riff that Mark Dayton and Gopher State Democrats are more interested in keeping up “progressive” appearances than they are in competently running state government. It takes a special degree of hubris to take something clearly considered uncomplimentary and try to turn it into a supposed desirable feature. Nice try, Mr. Condon and Minnesota Democrats. No sale.

Someone ought to ask Mark Dayton what would happen if he gets his way and a just a few hundred of the 7,700 income tax increase burden-carriers decide that the state isn’t being nice enough to them any more and move to another state. People, especially excessively taxed people, have been known to vote with their feet.

Though one never knows how things are going to turn out, it’s hard not to think that when the establishment press and Democrats (but I repeat myself) have to resort to arguments normally reserved for spending cuts which in essence try to say, “You’re not a nice person if you don’t want to increase taxes,” it’s not looking good for Minnesota’s Democratic Farm Labor partisans.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Kasich Gets Props From Rush, The WSJ, and … The New York Times?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:11 pm

RushLimbaugh0711Yesterday, in a figurative beatdown of Barbara Boxer, who is laughably claiming that it was Bill Clinton’s 1993 tax increases which led to a balanced federal budget later in the decade, Rush Limbaugh (link will be available for a week) cited John Kasich’s critical role in doing the dirty work involved in achieving that balanced budget (paragraph breaks and minor punctuation changes are mine):

And here’s Boxer, this is psychologically pathologically insane, it is so wrong.

(Boxer says) “I hate to break it to my Republican friends, but the Democrat Party was the only party, the only people to balance the budget in 40 years.”

They did no such thing. It was John Kasich, current governor of Ohio, and Newt, Dick Armey, Tom DeLay, those are the guys that did it and all the others that were part of the Republican majority starting in 1994 all the way through the 2000s.

More specifically, as the Associated Press noted in May 2009, in a rare display of journalistic accuracy which was never repeated in the 18 months leading up to the November 2010 election:

Kasich, a 9-term Congressman from Ohio, was the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Budget Committee in 1997 that balanced the nation’s budget for the first time in more than 30 years. He said that budget paid down the largest amount of debt in American history.

No one else in America can claim that they accomplished what Kasich (obviously, with help) accomplished.

Bill Clinton’s role was primarily to sign the related legislation — and then to take all the credit from the history-rewriting establishment press.

At the time, Kasich also told the AP that:

“Ohio faces the same kind of situation I faced when I was in Washington,” Kasich said. “I was able to assemble a team that dealt with the situation. The late 1990s were a great time economically and the philosophy that led to the balanced budget gave us great success. We can do it again.”

WSJreviewAndOutlookIn an editorial this morning, the Wall Street Journal notes that Kasich has indeed “done it again”:

The Buckeye Budget Lesson
Ohio cuts spending and taxes—and still balances the books.

… Mr. Kasich took office this year facing the largest deficit in Ohio history, close to $7.7 billion. His predecessor, Democrat Ted Strickland, had avoided any serious reform in advance of the 2010 election, despite a shrinking economy and tax base, and had concealed fiscal holes with federal stimulus dollars that have now run out. To close the gap with revenue alone, the Ohio tax department estimated that income rates for the average family would need to rise 56%.

Mr. Kasich’s budget is bringing Ohio’s finances into balance by cutting spending while also cutting taxes, which ought to be a lesson for Washington. The $55.8 billion two-year budget pares from nearly every state program and agency, and it privatizes some of them, including some prisons and maybe even the Ohio Turnpike, if the legislature approves. It restores a scheduled cut in the top income tax rate to 5.9% from 6.2%—part of a larger across-the-board cut over five years that Mr. Strickland deferred. And it eliminates Ohio’s estate tax and cuts property taxes by $1.7 billion.

A particular achievement is reforming Medicaid, which covers one of seven Ohioans and makes up nearly a third of state spending. The stimulus and ObamaCare imposed severe “maintenance of effort” mandates on states that make the program far less flexible, but Mr. Kasich’s plan will slow the program’s projected 8% spending growth to 4%, well below the national average. Major savings come from redirecting subsidies to community-based care from the nursing home industry, which is politically powerful in Columbus.

… Mr. Kasich’s approval ratings have fallen sharply as he’s pursued budget and labor change, though challenging the status quo is always disruptive. On the other hand, voters didn’t reward Mr. Strickland for making the problem worse by doing nothing.

The obvious question anyone defending Kasich should be asking critics is: “Do you really want to go back to where we were?”

“Where we were,” which includes at least a dozen years of rule by RINOs going back to the mid-1990s, brought us the following in the previous decade:

Who in their right mind wants to go back to that?

NYT logoGiven Kasich’s weak approval ratings at the moment, an item appearing in the New York Times by reporter Sabrina Tavernise must be driving lefties crazy. Though poorly titled (“In Ohio, a New Governor Is Off to a Smooth Start” — you obviously missed something, Sabrina, if you think it was all “smooth”), it acknowledges the impact of Kasich’s successful budget passage will have on the political realities on the ground as long as Ohio’s economy continues to improve (bolded by me):

In Washington, Congress may still be fighting over the national budget, but in Ohio, where Republicans control the House, the Senate and the governor’s office, the budget passage has been about as smooth as a knife through butter.

That is partly because Republicans kept tight party unity, voting together on bills that Democrats say are some of the most conservative the state has ever seen. But the driving force was Ohio’s governor, John R. Kasich (pronounced KAY-sik), who has pressed his legislative agenda with remarkable success since his election in November.

… “We faced our problems and took them on,” Mr. Kasich said. “We have now stabilized the state. It is a new way, and it is a new day and, we are delivering.”

(Kasich’s) stewardship of the state budget could have outsize political implications, influencing the mood of voters and their economic circumstances, which will help set the backdrop for next year’s presidential election.

In his five months in office, Mr. Kasich, a former congressman and Lehman Brothers executive, has established himself as a get-things-done governor who has expansive powers and is not afraid to use them.

“Inning after inning, the guy scored every round,” said Gene Beaupre, a political science professor at Xavier University in Cincinnati. “I don’t see where he lost anything in the budget game.”

Mr. Kasich said at the news conference that the budget restored fiscal responsibility to Ohio by closing an $8 billion budget gap. But his opponents argue that it accomplished that through deep cuts in spending on schools and local governments, which will be hard pressed to make up the difference. It also repeals the estate tax in 2013, which applies to the most affluent Ohioans and is another important revenue source for local governments.

What Ms. Tavernise missed about the estate tax is that it primarily benefits the community in which the person with a big enough estate to be taxable lived (and died). In other words, it is mostly — and soon will no longer be — a slush fund for well-off places like Indian Hill, Oakwood, New Albany, and Shaker Heights. In other words, to use establishment press jargon: “Wealthy communities hardest hit.”

As would be expected, there’s no shortage of criticism of Kasich and the budget in later paragraphs of the Times article (including some dished out by Southwestern Ohio’s candidate for RINO of the Year, Bill Seitz), but it’s the same tired, evidence-free garbage we’re used to seeing (“Wealthy families and businesses benefit. School kids and communities don’t,” according to “a liberal economic research group in Columbus”). As just noted, estate tax repeal will take away rich communities’ slush funds, directly contradicting the libs’ claim. Tavernise also missed the fact that Kasich and the legislature beefed up school funding when tax collection projections improved.

Overall, I’d say that those who believe that they’ll be able to flog Kasich on the way to an easy repeal of SB5 in the fall have just been administered a rude awakening.

Mis-Tweetment: Reuters Falsely Tweets That GOP Is OK With $150-200B in Tax Increases

ReutersMinipic0711Wednesday afternoon, BigJournalism.com editor-in-chief Dana Loesch reported that Arizona Senator John Kyl had been on the receiving end of what I would call “mis-tweetment” at the hands of someone at irresponsibly chirping away at Reuters.

The Reuters tweet stated that “Republicans have agreed to $150 billion to $200 billion in increased tax revenues as part of budget talks,” and claimed Senator Kyl as its source.

A video at Andrew Breitbart’s Breitbat.tv site shows that this is completely false.

(more…)

Initial Unemployment Claims: 418K SA, 417K NSA (Update: ADP Shows +157K Private Sector Job Adds)

Filed under: Economy,General,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:13 am

A slight improvment, from the Department of Labor:

In the week ending July 2, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 418,000, a decrease of 14,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 432,000. The 4-week moving average was 424,750, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 427,750.

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 416,798 in the week ending July 2, an increase of 10,165 from the previous week. There were 470,366 initial claims in the comparable week in 2010.

DOL mentioned as a “special factor” about 2,500 claims out of Minnesota “as a result of state employees filing due to the state government shutdown.”

Here are the past 18 weeks:

UnempClaims070211

In a switch according to CNBC, the result was “more than an expected 3,000 drop.”

NSA claims came in about 13% lower than last year’s equivalent week.

_________________________________________

UPDATE: ADP’s Employment Situation Report also came out today

Employment in the U.S. nonfarm private business sector rose 157,000 from May to June on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the latest ADP National Employment Report® released today. The estimated advance in employment from April to May was revised down, but only slightly, to 36,000 from the initially reported 38,000. Today’s ADP National Employment Report estimates employment in the service-providing sector rose by 130,000 in June, nearly three times faster than in May, marking 18 consecutive months of employment gains. Employment in the goods-producing sector rose 27,000 in June, more than reversing the decline of 10,000 in May. Manufacturing employment rose 24,000 in June, which has seen growth in seven of the past eight months.

It was another expectations beat, this time from 95,000or 68,000.

I would expect a bit of an uptick in the job-add predictions, but according to the Fox link, “Economists predict the unemployment rate will remain steady at 9.1% as the economy adds 94,000 jobs.”

Positivity: Fr. Emil Kapaun beatification cause heads to Rome

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

From Wichita, Kansas:

Jul 6, 2011 / 05:51 am

U.S. Army chaplain Fr. Emil Kapaun’s cause for beatification is headed to Rome, an event the Diocese of Wichita celebrated with a July 1 Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Fr. John Hotze, episcopal delegate for the office of Fr. Kapaun’s beatification and canonization, said the event marks the culmination of years of work and also celebrates the “gift” of Fr. Kapaun.

“The fact that we, unlike any other diocese in the United States, in the world, have been blessed by the example of this saintly man, Father Emil Kapaun, boggles my mind,” he said in a June 30 statement. “How can we do anything less than give praise to God for this gift and strive to follow the example of Father Kapaun’s selfless giving.”

Fr. Kapaun, a native of Pilsen, Kansas, served in the Korean War. He courageously rescued wounded soldiers from the battlefield, risking his own life to prevent their execution at the hands of the Chinese.

He was captured by North Korean and Communist Chinese forces after he volunteered to stay behind on a battlefield with the injured.

The priest’s service to his fellow prisoners has become legendary among those who knew of him. Scores of men attributed their survival to his work tending the starving and the sick.

Fr. Kapaun died in a prison camp hospital on May 23, 1951. The Diocese of Wichita has investigated his life since 2001 and officially opened the cause for his beatification on June 29, 2008.

Andrea Ambrosi, a lawyer investigating the case for the Vatican, told the Wichita Eagle he thinks Fr. Kapaun has a good chance to be raised to the altars.

“He showed that there was not just a devil working on the battlefields of the war, but something else.”

The investigator said Kapaun’s candidacy is unique compared with the hundreds of other cases he has investigated because it is so full of action and detailed. While most cases involve “very holy” priests and nuns who have miracles attributed to them, Fr. Kapaun’s story involves far more deeds of heroism, sacrifice and action. …

Go here for the rest of the story.