2010 Election: discuss the candidates and the issues

Finally, a place to discuss all the candidates and any issues related!

Reminder: see our discussion guidelines.

Links: if you know of links to A) candidate websites/blogs; or B) candidate profiles/interviews in the media, please paste the URL’s/web addresses in your comment.


City Council – At Large – 4 year term
Norman Butler
Rhonda Pownell

City Council – Ward 4 – 4 year term
Patrick Ganey
Dale B. Gehring

Northfield School Board

Four-year seat
Mike Berthelsen
John Fossum
Kari Nelson
Julie Pritchard
Greg Schultz


Glenn Switzer
Myron Malecha

Council – two four-year seats
Ryan Carroll
Tresa Mazurek
Grant Modory
Wade Murray
John Zander

Rice County

County Sheriff – 4 year term
Troy Dunn
Mark Murphy

County Commissioner District 2 – 4 year term
Daniel Freeman
Galen Malecha

Minnesota Senate District 25
Kevin L. Dahle  – DFL
John A. Grimm – Independent
Al DeKruif – Republican

Minnesota House District 25B
David H. Bly – DFL
Kelby Woddard – Republican

United States Representative District 2
Shelley Madore – DFL
John P. Kline – Republican

Minnesota Constitutional Offices

Governor – 4 year ter
Mark B. Dayton – DFL
and Yvonne Prettner Solon

Ken Pentel – Ecology Democracy Party
and Erin Wallace

Chris Wright – Grassroots Party
and Edwin H. Engelmann

Farheen Hakeem – Green
and Dan Dittmann

Thomas Horner – Independence
and James A. (Jim) Mulder

Tom Emmer – Republican
and Annette T. Meeks

Linda S. Eno – The Resource Party
and Howard B. Hanson

Attorney General – 4 year term
Lori Swanson (incumbent) – DFL
Bill Dahn – Independence

Chris Barden – Republican
David J. Hoch – The Resource Party

State Auditor – 4 year term
Rebecca Otto – DFL
Kenny Kalligher – Grassroots Party
Annie Young – Green
Patricia (Pat) Anderson – Republican

Secretary of State – 4 year term
Mark Ritchie – DFL
Jual Carlson – Independence
Dan (Doc) Severson – Republican

230 thoughts on “2010 Election: discuss the candidates and the issues”

  1. William,

    Agreed, let’s not abuse statistics.

    The data we’ve discussed here suggest to me that Minnesota state and local taxes are regressive; federal taxes, on the other hand, are progressive. A nice, brief, graphical source on federal taxes, by the way is this:


    Agreed, too, that when local, state, and federal taxes are aggregated the big picture (what matters to individuals) is progressive, and it’s mathematically “unfair” to say otherwise. Has anyone done so?

    Whether the tax structure (Minnesota or federal) is “fair” in some moral or ethical sense is to me the most interesting and most “live” question. If one equates “fair” with “flat”, then there’s nothing to discuss — clearly, our system is un”fair”.

    A better question is *how* progressive a system *ought* to be. This question is more philosophical than statistical or mathematical, though data and statistics come into it. This question is also mainly independent of whether one believes government’s total take is too high or too low.

    My opinion: The tax system should be somewhat more progressive than it is now. And there’s room for change in that direction without inordinate fear of driving the rich into poverty, or away to other shores. On the contrary — and as the table on page 5 of the link above illustrates — growth in US *real after-tax* income in the last 30 years has been hugely “skewed” (to coin a phrase) to the richest income earners — pretty much irrespective of the rising and falling tax rates that have obtained over this period.

    Sure, it’s possible to overtax higher earners. If we’ve been doing so for the last 30 years, they’re holding up pretty well.

  2. Paul; Whether or not we need more progressiveness in income tax rates is debatable, as is the necessity for more income redistribution. I am of the opinion that what we need most, right now, is more private sector jobs and more money, in more peoples’ hands, to create those jobs. Raising the income tax rate on 10% of MN households will not do that, at least in the short term. Granted, it will help balance the budget, and the state has to move in that direction. Horner’s proposal on increasing sales tax revenue also takes money out of people’s pockets…and Horner, with a lack of money for air time, seems to be sinking fast. Emmer’s proposal to balance the budget now, by just cutting programs is unrealistic…and even if elected he would never get it through the legislature. If he wasn’t such a NO TAX, social conservative, wing nut he might be worth a look though, since, as Bruce Morlan pointed out, shared power between political parties is not always a bad thing. I guess as long as Dayton looks like he’ll win, I’ll still vote for Horner. If at all possible I don’t want to participate in a ‘mandate’ for Dayton.

    On the federal level, I kind of like the proposals floating around for an employee payroll tax holiday compensated for by a gas tax. For most workers payroll tax is the biggest federal tax they pay. Suspending it would put a lot of money on the street right now. A gas tax would be painful, but it would encourage less use which would be good, in many ways, for the vast majority of Americans.

    1. William- Just a thought on the gas tax- so much of our economy depends upon motor vehicles. This is especially true of small business people and the service industry. Not everyone can ride a bus or train into downtown St. Paul or Minneapolis and make a livimg pecking away on a computer terminal all day. Also, I noticed an article in the Strib about the Federal Government wanting to crack down on the innefficiency of truck tractors. Since the price of diesel fuel has been higher than regular gasoline for a few decades, it would seem that there would be a demand for more fuel efficient trucks from the operators. I don’t think any of them are so flush with cash that they don’t mind laying out $3-$4 for a gallon of fuel that will only get them 5 or 6 miles down the road. If someone could figure out how to move a vehicle with 85,000 pounds of freight down the road with 20 mpg efficiency, I think they would have accomplished it.

      I would agree that there are areas of economizing in the general populace that could be implemented. When a husband and wife show up at a soccer game in two vehicles to watch their child play in a game, this smacks of convenience more than necessity. I think we Americans are all about convenience rather than conservation. Perhaps an additional gas tax would force our hand in this area.

      1. John…No question, there would be some negative consequences for business and individuals. There would also be innovation and changes in behavior that bring long term positive consequences. I don’t know if the plan is the best idea, but at least it is an idea.

        Of course with all the harping about how bad things are, people might take their 7% raise and just save it against their own perceived inevitable downturn. I know there is pain out there, and we have to address it, but consumer confidence also needs to rise…I think we could use a few more stories on people who are doing just fine.

    2. William,

      I like your ideas for federal tax shifts, both for the good reasons you cite and because energy taxes (even if partly rebated elsewhere in the tax system) help discourage energy use, encourage alternative sources, and otherwise improve the natural and economic environments. (Even free marketeers should agree, IMO. Current US energy pricing in effect privatizes profits while socializing costs: environmental, military, etc. More realistic energy pricing would give truer market signals.)

      A federal payroll tax “holiday”, like all vacations, would be temporary. So we need longer-term policies, too, to cope with things like Medicare obligations and (less problematic actuarially, but still a concern) Social Security. I see no practical alternative to some long-term “revenue enhancement.”

      Are *state* taxes progressive enough? Yes, the question is debatable, and the debate is at least as much political as it is numerical. But the ETR numbers say to me that—even granting that state *income* tax is already somewhat progressive– there’s still some room for additional progressivity in income tax to counter the present mild regressivity in other-than-income taxes.

      I’m wary of the phrase “income redistribution” because it admits different political shadings. In one sense *every* tax redistributes wealth, as does every government program that benefits any group in any way. In another sense, “income redistribution” is sometimes used to mean taking money from the virtuous and industrious and turning it over to the undeserving and lazy. So I’m fer or agin’ depending on definitions.

  3. Mark Murphy, candidate for sheriff, is really unhappy with the Northfield News. He explains in his blog: Response to Northfield News’ Endorsement of Opponent

    The issue with their endorsement is they implied to the reader that I was not in support of the Rice County Drug Task Force, leading to an impression that I am not a proponent of ridding our drug issues. This could be further from the truth.

    For the Northfield News to take the word burden and assume it to mean I do not support the RCDTF is damaging, irresponsible and absolutely not true. The citizens of Rice County deserve to be told the truth about what is going on with issues that affect their safety and welfare.  It can be very difficult to get issues out and to speak openly about them. The way the Northfield News portrayed my view was very disappointing.

    The Nfld News endorsement of Troy Dunn for sheriff is here.

  4. Rhonda Pownell should also be upset , not with her endorsement by the News, but for one of the reasons given, which is reticence to move ahead on the business park.

    Indeed, Ms. Pownell has been a relentless supporter of the business park, both from her Council and EDA positions. She has not faltered in her commitment to that project’s development.

    At the last BizPk Master Plan Steering Committee meeting, Ms Pownell was advocating for beginning to market that acreage, feeling that the forward impetus should not be lost.

    So for those voters that favor the continued/ongoing investment in that 530 Acres, they have been told by the News that the candidate you would have thought they’d be happy with, is now feeling some last minute hesitation.
    IMO, they have not represented Ms. Pownell’s position correctly.

    1. Kiffi –

      When I first read your comment, I was somewhat confused. If the Northfield News believes in moving forward with a new police station and new fire station, making the investment in infrastructure for the so-called business park, and a “council directs the administrator and the administrator directs the staff” approach to municipal management, and the candidates they’ve endorsed agreed, what’s your issue?

      Based on what I’ve observed in the Council meetings and what I heard at the Chamber Forum, I know that none of the Council is more supportive of building a new police station and a new fire station than Rhonda Pownell. However, I didn’t get that same sense of Patrick Ganey at the Forum, so I decided to read the candidates answers to the News’ questions.

      That’s when it started getting a little confusing for me.

      The question actually posed was “Should the City scale back its plans to build new safety facilities and a library expansion at this time? Why or why not?”

      Dale Gehring gave a direct “Yes” answer. He suggests that all three projects should be redesigned to fit the scale of our community and that a referendum should include all three projects for that the library expansion won’t drop off.

      Patrick Ganey said with impending budget shortfalls “it seems necessary to find a less expensive way to meet the needs of our police, fire, and library facilities”. He goes on to say that the City “should seriously consider putting these important and necessary projects on hold until a less expensive solution is agreed upon”.

      Rhonda Pownell was clear than she doesn’t think we should spend money repairing the current Safety Center. She believes with the current economy, we’ll see a 25 percent savings in cost. She states “Now is a strategic time to build”. She says the library project needs to be fully vetted.

      Norman Butler gave a direct “Yes” answer. He says all three projects are important but that the plans for the Safety Center should be revisited and redesigned for the scale of our community. He says that all three projects should be delayed until the economy recovers.

      Suzie Nakasian supported all three projects but says “the current economy has reframed these projects in sobering ways”. She advocates focusing on the City’s budget first and that we need determine realistic solutions that the taxpayers can afford.

      Based on the Northfield News’ stated “rubric” (what would I do without David Ludescher?) and the candidates’ actual answers, I think the only candidate they could truly endorse based on the answer to this question would be Rhonda Pownell.

      The question actually posed was “What can Northfield do in an unstable economy to promote economic development and bring new businesses to the community?”

      Dale Gehring said that we should put spending on large annexation sites on hold until business interest emerge with fiscally practical and responsible plans. He adds that we should be designing business parks to the scale of the community.

      Patrick Ganey said that we should support and develop our young intellectual capital, assist entrepreneurs and small businesses, support existing businesses, and compete to attract larger businesses that could fill a future business or industrial park.

      Rhonda Pownell said that some businesses are looking for a place to locate and that Northfield and that we need a plan for future industrial development, build relationships/network, and market the community to our targeted industries.

      Norman Butler said we must retain existing businesses and encourage and enable new ones. He is hopeful that the new City Administrator will enable rather than discourage the entrepreneur.

      Suzie Nakasian said that we should retain and sustain local businesses and help them expand and flourish here, reduce the tax burden on commercial property owners, and promote Northfield as a regional center for health, education and environmental technologies.

      Based on the Northfield News’ stated rubric, and just the candidates’ answers, I’m not sure they could really endorse anyone. I have heard Rhonda Pownell speak, on several occasions, of her enthusiasm for the business park, but, look at the answers, Rhonda and Patrick barely mention it, rather indirectly, among a number of other items, but then so does Dale, although with a little skepticism.

      The question actually posed was “Elected officials have laid out a plan to cut roughly $500,000 a year for the next four years. What should the city cut?”

      Dale Gehring said that the budget cannot be affected significantly without cutting into large salaries, and that the library has already been cut enough.

      Patrick Ganey said that the cuts recommended for 2011 cut across all departments. He believes that the city is on course to reduce costs and maintain quality services.

      Rhonda Pownell said that for 2011, $500,000 was cut from the budget with an additional $200,000 savings from the reorganization.

      Norman Butler said senior staff positions, their salaries and budgets, and consultants.

      Suzie Nakasian said that the Council should engage in a more comprehensive budget review than seen to date and that we need sustainable solutions instead of temporary fixes.

      The Northfield News stated rubric seemed rather different from the actual question. However, I guess you could say that Patrick and Rhonda were supportive of staff’s recommendations, where as Dale and Norman proposed specifics that differed from staff’s proposals and that this, more hands-on, approach was based on a different philosophy than that which the News favors. Personally, I heard in Suzie’s comment a not-so-subtle rebuke of the Council’s performance in this area.

      I guess I didn’t see a strong tie between the Northfield News’ stated rubrics and the candidates’ statements. I applaud the paper’s willingness to endorse candidates, but I was not impressed by their justification for their endorsements.

      On the bright side, I was generally impressed with the candidates’ answers.

      1. My whole point Ross, was just what you said:” I was not impressed by their (NFNews) justification of their endorsements”.

        As a matter of fact, I could find very little connection between most of the candidates’ statements, either written or at forums, and the News’s endorsement statements. I guess they knew who they wanted to endorse all along; then why not just do that, instead of botching the ‘match-up’ of statements ?

        Then there’s this, Ross, maybe the News just hears things differently than others do… How many times have you read a report and said: “That wasn’t the meeting I was at!”

      2. Yep, that is just like my dad used to say, “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see!”

  5. LoGroNo got this e-mail a few days ago. I guess Griff and Tracy are too busy to post it. I figured if we wait much longer, it will be too late.

    Plus, I think this student has a cool name. In fact, if you can sing, maybe you’d like to sit in with the New Moon Trio sometime.

    My name is Nora Cassidy and I am a student at Carleton and a member of our chapter of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG). We, along with the Carleton Student Association and the ACT Center, are hosting a candidate forum on October 28th. It will feature candidates for the MN State House and Senate, the Northfield City Council (at-large and Ward 1), and the County Board of Commissioners (District 2). We were hoping that Locally Grown Northfield could run a pre-event announcement about it, as we would like to encourage the attendance of community members as well as students.

    To give you a bit more information, the forum will be at 7:30PM in Boliou Hall 104. Eight of the ten candidates are already confirmed to attend, including candidates from both major parties. There will be questions on subjects including the environment, economic growth, health care reform, and the state and local budget crunch. As I already mentioned, community members are very welcome.

    Please let me know if you would like any other information.

    Thank you,
    Nora Cassidy

  6. Ross: You have accurately captured my views on these three topics and, I believe, the difference between my views and those of my opponent, Rhonda Powenell.

    I think that we should not move forward with building new police and fire stations at this time and, in fact, that the designs should be reconsidered to something that is more appropriately and sustainably scaled for our town. My opponent disagrees.

    I think that we should stop spending money on the proposed business park northwest of the hospital at this time, and, in fact, should pursue a concept that will better utilize our existing infrastructure and our existing business districts, both downtown and uptown. My opponent disagrees.

    I think that our elected officials need to take on more responsibility for the income and expenses of the City of Northfield, to assure that the tax burden is appropriate and sustainable for a community of our size and that taxpayers’ money is going to the services that citizens most value. My opponent disagrees.

    Everyone: Will U Vote on Tuesday? If so, please consider voting for me, Norman Butler, for a more responsible and sustainable local government.

  7. Well, getting down to the wire and I have only some opinions.

    In my opinion, the UNPREFERRED parties (from worst to best) when it comes to believing in the kool-aid of Kensyian economics (“growth is great even if we cannot afford it”) would be: Democratics, Republicans, Independents, … , Greens, Eco-Democrats.

    The PREFERRED parties if I believe in freedom of choice and individual responsibility are (from best to worst): Independents, …, Republicans, …, Democrats, … , Greens. (Footnote: if you split this on drugs, babies or marriage, you get different orders, so I list them holistically based on their foundations).

    The PREFERRED parties (from best to worst) if I believe in collective guilt and redressing errors of our ancestors are: Democrats, Eco-Democrats, Greens, … , Republicans, Independents.

    The PREFERRED parties (from best to worst) if I believe in borrowing from the kids to buy those big screen TVs today are: Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Eco-Democrats, … , Independents.

    When it comes to re-distributing wealth by increasing the public sector and reducing the private sector (using taxed or borrowed money to pay public workers), the PREFERRED (from best to worst) are: Socialists, Eco-Democrats, Greens, … , Democrats, … , Republicans/Independents, … , Libertarians. (Don’t see much delta between Rs and Is here).

    If I am worried about the future and want to see sustainable societies then the PREFERRED (from best to worst): Green, Eco-Democrats, … , Republican, Independent, Democrat.

    Since I am not a single issue voter, I have to balance all these concerns. It would not be hard for me to throw away my vote on a Green, but since they have been invisible to the press (at least NPR, which is about the ONLY source I have), I am left thinking I might just go to a local pub and have a beer instead. How about a special Politics and a Pint Tuesday night?

  8. By the way, my previous post is mostly in the spirit of the most recent “Washington DC rally for fear and loathing” or whatever it was.

  9. I think the official name (if such a thing could possibly exist) for Saturday’s rally on the Mall was something like the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

    I was in DC Saturday, but on business and unable to attend the Rally myself. But my wife and some of her friends were there — though well out of seeing or hearing range of anything. It seems audio and video was set up for an expected crowd of 60K, but at least four times that number showed up, and according to news reports many others probably gave up, as the Metro and other transport modes were jammed. Hotels were supposedly fully booked 20 miles out of the district.

    Anyone who’s been incommunicado for the last 48 hours, say down a Chilean mine shaft, can read or see information about the Rally on YouTube and elsewhere. My quick impression is that it was mainly tongue in cheek (e.g., Father Guido Sarducci gave the “blessing”: thanks, God, for making the universe …) but that Jon Stewart stepped a bit out of character at the very end to diss … get ready for it … cable TV.

  10. Well, now it all seems to be over (or just about over) except for the crying. We may have witnessed some historic never before seen changes. I’m most taken by the switch of party in the Minnesota Senate. From what I know the Senate has never been in the hands of the Republicans. It was in the hands of Conservatives before Minnesota switched to party designation on the ballot, but has never been controlled by Republicans. Our state appears to have switched party control….the full legislature is now Republican and the Governor may end up being DFL, just the opposite of the past 4 years. We’ll see if this bunch can work together.

  11. John F. Kennedy’s 1960 inaugural speech asked voters to “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” The defeat of Rep. Oberstar, who is famous for being able to “bring home the bacon” to Minnesota and to his district is, in my mind, a clear victory of the “what you can do for your country” people over the “what can my country do for me” people. It may seem ironic that this results in a Republican victory and a Democratic defeat, but it is in fact exactly this issue (earmarks) that is re-energizing the Republican Party. I will push my Republican friends to use this breach in the ramparts to put the social conservatives in that party on notice that their issues are NOT the important issues as we (as a nation) try to build a sustainable future.

  12. 3 Iowa Supreme Court justices were voted out on retention elections (initially appointed and then facing retention elections) after being targeted by anti-gay activist organizations who objected to that court’s unanimous vote , last year, to legalize same-sex marriage.

    The organizations, National Org. for Marriage, American Family Assoc. , Family Research, and Citizens United, spent over $700,000 campaigning to oust these judges who were up for election. This is the first time in 40 years that incumbent Supreme Court Judges were voted out.

    Out of state money, a “judge bus” full of protesters, ; how many places did this same sort of influence prevail?

    National Org. for Marriage stated that their intention was to send a warning to judges nationally. Those who disagree with this, and like organizations intentions, must be more vigilant against in future elections in order to protect a local POV, rather than a national, highly financed persuasion.

    1. Kiffi- I’m not sure that money spent by a particular party has any effect on the outcome of an eletion. Just a couple weeks ago, there was an article in the Pioneer Press stating that the Democratic candidates had spent $1.50 for every $1.00 the Republican candidates spent. It doesn’t appear that this made any difference in this election. People usually vote more viscerally than intellectually. As much as marketing people would like to think that their promotional programs have an effect, I question how much it is worth the long run.

      Also, as far as out of state money being spent on instate candidates and issues, how a person feels about this depends on whether the money was spent on “their” candidate or issue. A couple years ago, there was a gay businessman from Colorado who was sending millions of dollars to other states to promnote gay rights issues. I don’t see any difference between that and the Nat. Org. for Marriage being involved across state lines.

  13. Kiffi – as long as we allow marriage to be a matter for government, we will see these sorts of money shifts to target “vulnerable” judges (and representatives, for that matter). The Liberty-based and principles based solution is to let defining marriage be a function of churches and leave the government out of it. Otherwise, we are at the whim of the money, which is in turn provided by the outer fringes (left and right) who think that government should control this aspect of our personal lives. I, for one, do not think marriage definition and enforcement is a proper function of government, but then perhaps I am in the minority.

    1. Bruce,
      The purpose of civil marriage is of course a very practical and non-religious one. We depend upon these laws to help us in situations of parental rights, inheritance, and other legal matters.

      Do you really think that non-believers would be better off without these legal protections?

      1. Patrick,

        I think that civil unions are essentially contracts and as such are enforceable through courts, but marriage is a contract involving entities (God) that cannot be brought into court to resolve conflict, so marriage should not be an issue for laws.

        As for non-believers, are you suggesting we should license people before they are allowed to have children? I think common-law civil unions to handle situations where people create families before they sign a property and care contract are about the best we can do (ex post facto the forming of the common law civil union).

      2. Bruce,
        It seems that the problem is simply that the civil contract and the religious sacrament were given the same name.

  14. The Union of Concerned Scientists points out that yesterday’s elections will bring to Congress a whole new class of freshman (“first-year”, in St Olaf parlance) climate change deniers. (No immediate word on the number of freshman evolution deniers.) Following are some quotes the UCS collected; might be time to buy Coppertone stock:

    “With the possible exception of Tiger Woods, nothing has had a worse year than global warming. We have discovered that a good portion of the science used to justify “climate change” was a hoax perpetrated by leftist ideologues with an agenda.”
    -Todd Young, new congressperson from Indiana

    “I absolutely do not believe that the science of man-caused climate change is proven. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I think it’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity or something just in the geologic eons of time where we have changes in the climate.”
    -Ron Johnson, new senator from Wisconsin

    “I think we ought to take a look at whatever the group is that measures all this, the IPCC, they don’t even believe the crap.”
    -Steve Pearce, new congressperson from New Mexico

    “It’s a bigger issue, we need to watch ’em. Not only because it may or may not be true, but they’re making up their facts to fit their conclusions. They’ve already caught ’em doing this.”
    -Rand Paul, new senator from Kentucky

    “There isn’t any real science to say we are altering the climate path of the earth.”
    -Roy Blunt, new senator from Missouri

    1. Paul- This is tongue in cheek, but probably the greatest US contribution to global warming is the hot air that comes out of Washington. Even though there may be a change in the political climate, whether the hot air blows from the left or right, it is still hot air.

      1. As long as the sort of comment you expressed above, John, is applied to the seriousness of the Washington debate, we will continue to swing wildly back and forth between partisan politics every two years.

        We have an electorate that wants to be satisfied with outcomes, but has no dedication to investing their own time in more than a superficial understanding of the issues. That goes for local as well as national politics, IMO.

        Anyone who watched President Barack Obama’s noon press conference, and heard the humility of his answer to the last question, his admitting of the “shellacking” he took, and his honestly expressed faith in the goodness of the American people, ought to be ashamed to include this President in any descriptions of “hot air” coming from Washington.

    2. Well, Kiffi, as long as we cannot laugh at ourselves, someone else will laugh at us. I prefaced my remark as tongue in cheek. I think we many times take ourselves too seriously in the whole scheme of things. If our ideals cannot be realized without causing national upheval, then I think we need to scale them back. I did read a column, I think it was in the PP, the other day describing we baby boomers as extremists, swinging from one side of the spectrum to the other, since our college days. I think he has something there. This election was no mandate at all. Obama did not take a shellacking. It was just an expressiion of disgust, and it happened to be focused at the current powers that be. I think it was based on unrealistic expectations. I dare say we will probably see the penduluum swing the other direction in 2 years, but I hope I am wrong. It would be great if we could see some cooperation amongst our representatives and get something accomplished. What that accomplishment may be is where the debate comes in.

  15. No one is commenting on the loss of our state legislators, Bly and Dahle? I had such peace of mind with these two in office. Now we’re back to base one.

    I, for one, did not expect the Tea Party mentality to hit us so hard in our home state.

  16. Thank-You Steph and Kiffi. Thank-You I do not know where to turn now to find advocates for Long-Term Care once again our seniors and Nursing Homes and Nursing Home workers will be the losers in this one. To me that is sad WWJD. We need to care for our most vulnerable even in tuff times or hard times. Well we can give em’2 years and if they do not perform we can kick them out. We do not need Term Limits we already have them they are called elections. Congratulations to the Victors and maybe next time it will be different. We now need to work across theaisle and quit snipping at one another Thanks That is all I have to say

  17. Stephanie and all,

    My take on the House 25B race is that it reflects — yet again — the knife-edge balance between R and DFL voters in 25B. The expected recount won’t be the first one in this district. Another striking feature is the difference between voting patterns in Rice County, where Bly polled almost 1500 more than Woodard, as opposed to Scott County, where Woodard polled just over 1500 more than Bly. In these two counties, the results weren’t really close.

    Re Senate 25: Again, in Rice County, Dahle (DFL) led by almost 2000 votes — well above the 1005 votes for Grimm (Independent). In other counties, obviously, Dahle did much less well. Rice seem to be, yet again, a relatively blue island.

    Re both Senate 25 and the governor’s race: Both of these races had, IMO, credible 3rd party candidates. It’s always hard to know, and probably pointless to guess, what would have happened without 3rd candidates. Still, my pointless, indefensible, wild guess is that at least one of these races, and quite possibly both, would have ended otherwise sans Messieurs Horner and Grimm.

  18. Paul, I think without 3rd party candiates we would be talking about Governor Emmer and a wider margin for Senator DeKruif. In the same manner, without Peter Hutchinson in 2006 I believe we would have seen Governor Hatch. 3rd party candidates offer a good choice but as we all see, they have a hard time winning races.

    Stephanie, I’m not sure who you mean was hit by a ‘tea party mentality’. I know both Kelby Woodard and Al DeKruif well. They are responsible, upstanding men—just like the two men they are replacing are. They have a vision of moving Minnesota forward in a progressive manner, not trying to drag us back into 1950’s and 60’s ideas. That vision is different from the direction the current legislators have worked on. Both Woodard and DeKruif care deeply about education and will bring a breath of fresh air to those discussions—-discussions that have not been taking place for the past few years.

    David, I absolutely know that Kelby and Al have a thorough understanding of long term care and related health care issues. Just as I battled hard for long term care in Minnesota, earning a ‘Legislative Hero Award’, I expect them to work hard to see that this area of state government is not neglected. You may know that Al DeKruif has a significantly handicapped adult son. Al knows first hand about the special issues facing this segment of our population.

    Finally, Paul is correct that district 25B is a sort of a ping-pong district. I won by 20 votes in 2002, by 586 in 2004 and lost by 55 in 2006. Now Kelby has won by 31 votes. The areas in Scott County and all the townships are generally very supportive of conservative candidates….Northfield just the opposite. Maybe a seat that changes every 4 years in such a district is a good thing. But it will be interesting to see how re-districting changes things.

    Paul, are you still advocating for IRV?

    1. Ray,

      Neither of us really knows, of course, how a race would have fared without a third candidate. For what little it’s worth—and since you’ve outed your own view—my best guesses/hunches/Tarot card readings/chicken entrail exam/ on Senate 25 is that (i) DeKruif would have lost without Grimm; and (ii) Dayton would have lost without Horner. Hunch (ii) gives me serious willies, but there you are.

      I know little yet about Al DeKruif and Kelby Woodard (to whom congratulations, by the way, and thanks in advance for their service) but have no reason to doubt your description of them as responsible and upstanding gents. I hope to learn more about their ideas and plans and opinions, not their character.

      In the meantime, I confess to some puzzlement at Mr DeKruif’s mention at a recent LWV forum of “socialism” — a good word in some settings, and not necessarily one to run from. But in our politics it often generates more heat than light. I’d like to know more about what Mr DeKruif means by socialism, and how he’ll work to head it off.

      Mr Woodard is probably a fine fellow, too. But I did notice that the R-word was nowhere to be found on his mailings. Why not? Is he ashamed of his party? And I wonder about his intention to “work to end the current disparity in state funding” of education in high-need metro districts as compared to others. Does “end” means “remove entirely”, as plain language suggests? I’m dubious.

      1. We need instant run-off voting so people can vote for their best choice without fear of having no choice in the outcome.

        What’s with the Republican party chairman saying “something stinks” about Dayton’s lead because the GOP won the house and senate, so Emmer must have really won as well? Obviously he doesn’t recognize Horner’s impact, or even just the fact that some folks vote for the man not the party. One might thing a party leader would have the ability to understand these simple explanations and refrain from casting aspersions on the entire election process.

      2. Yeah, my first reaction to the chairman’s statement was “I’m not political expert, but even I understand how this happened”. Horner’s campaign, as run, would have just tended to draw more votes from Emmer then Dayton. Then I remembered that the chairman was acting as a politician rather than the thoughtful person I’m sure he usually is…and it all suddenly made sense.

      3. Phil, your comment that the Chairman “chairman was acting as a politician rather than the thoughtful person I’m sure he usually is” is exactly correct. It is a sad statement about the quality of the voters that normally thoughtful people are driven to harsh rhetoric to placate those voters. It is one of the lessons I have to relearn each election cycle, which is that it is neither reason nor compassion that wins elections, but rather fear-mongering. Both sides fall back to the calculus of getting out the vote over all else, and nothing gets out the vote like pretending that if the other guy wins, it will be the final straw with the apocalypse to follow shortly.

      4. Absolutely MUST (I meant to ‘shout’ it ! ) have Instant Runoff Voting, or some well constructed version of it , if we are to deal with the increasingly partisan politics of two year swings.

        I can see no other way to correct the dichotomies of positioning , and the fear of voting for the character of a third candidate in order to preserve your vote from being ‘wasted’.
        It may also make the party endorsement less of an imperative.

        I’m not a middle of the roader; I guess that’s pretty obvious. I am thoroughly sick of all the upper echelon party positioning of just against the other party; I want a lot of very sincere talk about the principles of better government, and what are the highest needs of the people they are elected to work for…. national AND local.

      5. Kiffi- Very good points. I agree, but I would go one step beyond having “sincere talk.” I’ve heard enough talk. What I would like to see is some sincere action, like cooperation across the aisle. The whole idea of having two major parties should be to be able to bring out facets of all sides when enacting legislation. This gridlock pattern of disagreement has to stop somewhere. Perhaps this is too idealistic, but it would be refreshing to hear a candidate say, “This is where I am coming from, but I am willing to listen and consider where the other side is coming from.” What is so scary about that?

      6. Well, John, in response to your 71.1.5… That is exactly what president Obama did say in his post election press conference.
        Now it is incumbent upon all parties to adhere to that listening discussion… frankly, I am very dubious about some of these newer Republicans that have been elected, and how related they are to the Tea Party people; there are tooo many social issues that the TP’s object to, embedded in all their talk of economy, jobs, etc.

      7. Kiffi- Your statement, “…there are tooo many social issues that the TP’s object to, embedded in all their talk of economy, jobs, etc.” could be restated from the Tea Party’s perspective, “…there are tooo many social issues that the Democrats object to, embedded in all their talk of economy, jobs, etc.” It is this type of divide that must be bridged for this country to move forward. That is why I want actions rather than words. The promises laid out in the 2008 election campaigns were simply unattainable. People put their hopes in a mirage rather than realism. When the reality hit, then everyone abandoned ship. We need to have realistic attainable goals that both sides can agree upon and quit bickering over some of these issues that the general population is not ready to leap into.

  19. I, too, would like to hear DeKruif expand on his statement on socialism.

    (Re: comment #71)
    As far as Tea Party influence, Ray, do take a look at the four-page DeKruif insert in the Shopper of Sunday Oct. 31. There is a large graphic of a frowning baby saying, “Grandpa, what freedoms will be left for me?” Distinct Tea Party flavor. Your name is listed under endorsements on the inside spread.

    1. Is it a girl baby, Stephanie?
      If there is a “distinct Tea Party flavor” … that baby , if it’s a girl, better be worried about whether she can have the choice of having an abortion.
      Or if it is either a boy or girl baby, will she be disparaged for choosing to follow the Muslim faith, or pursuing a same-sex relationship?

      Will those that strictly follow the Tea party relationship allow choice, in all matters of human rights, to societal members that disagree with the Tea Party value system?

      Interestingly enough, a conversation in the coffee house this morning found older women who follow politics quite closely, expressing fears about the Tea Party’s emerging fascist views.

  20. Kiffi,
    The baby is wearing a playsuit of what looks to be an African safari theme (animal shapes with a Jeep). Just to the left, DeKruif’s memberships are listed: NRA, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), Minnesota Patriot Guard, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, A.B.A.T.E.*

    *American Bikers for Awareness, Training, & Education of Minnesota (A.B.A.T.E.) is an organization made up of motivated individuals who are dedicated to FREEDOM OF THE ROAD & FREEDOM OF CHOICE!

  21. Ray,

    Yes, I still strongly favor some method of ranked-choice voting. (As you well know, we’ve discussed this at length in the past!) But a couple of points:

    1. There are many voting schemes out there that depend on voters *ranking* several candidates, rather than choosing just one from a list. The method known as IRV is among these, but by no means the only possibility. Another method — which can lead to different outcomes from those IRV would produce — is the Borda method, in which voters award different numbers of “points” to their first, second, third … choice. And there’s something else called the Condorcet method. My point is not to outline all these methods, or even to argue for one over another, but rather to acknowledge that a lot of defensible alternatives exist.

    2. For anyone who *really* wants to read a bit more about such things, and can endure Zornian English … I wrote a brief article on voting methods a few years ago, more or less at the Scientific American level. E-mail me offline if you’d like a PDF (about 6 or 8 pages).

  22. For anyone who is concerned about how partisan politics will play out, and how much listening will occur, go to the Talking Points memo website and watch the very short video intercutting President Obama’s statements with those of Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s speech at the Heritage Foundation today.

    IMO, McConnell is frightening in his arrogance and lack of good will. This will not be a time of working together if McConnell’s style prevails.

  23. So Kiffi you are concerned about McConnell based on edited video clips on a left leaning web site.

    If I told you I was concerned about the path Pres. Obama had this country on based on a similar type video on Fox News what would you think?

    I am willing to take a wait and see attitude on this new break down. My hope is that with a split between Rep. and Dem. in congress and the white house it may force people to work together. I am never a big fan of one party being in power. As someone in the middle I like to see compromise.

    1. Then you should be very pleased with President Obama who has consistently spoken about working with all. You may think that doesn’t happen in reality, but at least he doesn’t start out stating a desire for failure.

    2. Bruce, I guess what I don’t appreciate is the difference in tone. After the 94 midterms it became very clear to Pres Clinton that parts of his agenda was out of step with the desires of the nation. His administration made adjustments and the legislative process continued to function. In the aftermath of Tuesday’s election it looks like Pres Obama is coming to similar conclusions as those Clinton came to, and I believe the tone of his recent comments have reflected that. I also believe that Rep Boehner has begun to grasp the seriousness of his new responsiblilities, and I think that we started to see that in his remarks the day after the election (which seemed much more pragmatic than those he made election night). MacConnell, on the other hand, appears to want to stick with “one term presidency for Obama” as his top priority. As minority leader it seems he doesn’t feel the responsibility to the American people that Boehner does as majority leader. Personally, I think these are serious times (short- and long-term economic issues, a couple of wars, etc.) and we need our politicians to be serious people, people that are up to the task. Any legislator that is willing to openly claim that playing politics is their number one issue is not, in my mind, a serious person.

      That having been said, I’m also taking a bit of a wait and see attitude. Maybe McConnell is just running off at the mouth; I certainly hope so. At both the national and state levels we need legislative and executive branches that can work together. I’d say that would be in everyone’s best interest, regardless of your political leanings.

      1. Phil

        I saw Boehner on an interview where he said “a one term presidency” goal. Immediately after that he said Obama’s goal was a two term presidency. His point was that, yes, Reps. want a Rep president in 2012.


        I was not a big fan of Bush, especially in managing the checkbook. I was open to Obama when he won. However I am still waiting for the coverage on C-Span of the debates on health care and the openess in his administration. How about closing Gitmo? Pulling us out of Iraq? How about any fiscal responsibility. What I am saying is promises to get elected are easy making it happen…not so much

  24. Stefanie,

    You wondered, as I did, about what more Al DeKruif might have to say about socialism and what we should fear from it here in southern Minnesota. Perhaps we’ll hear from Mr DeKruif directly soon, but in the meantime his campaign website


    turns out to offer some clues. Here’s a sample:

    Our country is also experiencing a rapid loss of rights and privileges that are being taken away by our government. We need to change legislative control from the DFL to allow our citizens to continue enjoying the freedoms and rights set forth by our Constitution. I do not want to see us go down the road of socialism where the DFL is taking us. The Republican Platform and my Platform call for the return of rights that are being taken away by the DFL Party.

    I will lead the fight to protect our 2nd Amendment Rights and expand the reciprocity rights for those who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

    I remember a day when as a child I said the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer in school. I’d like to see those privileges returned. Our countries’ Constitution was written with Trust in God as its core value.

    If this is any indication, Mr DeKruif’s fight against DFL-led socialism has something to do with (i) extending conceal and carry rights; and (ii) allowing school kids to pray and to say the pledge of allegiance. There’s some irony, by the way, in the fact that the pledge was authored around 1890 by a certain Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister and a Christian socialist. One might also question Mr DeKruif’s apparent embrace of the old canard that the DFL (or anybody else) has somehow withdrawn students’ privilege to say the pledge or, for that matter, to pray in school. Whether teachers can lead Christian prayer in public schools is another matter, but one long ago settled in law. Does Mr DeKruif really propose to bring this up in St Paul? Any chance he’d succeed, Ray?

    And there’s more in this dispiriting vein.

    Yes, politics isn’t beanbag, and a campaign website isn’t a scholarly monograph. But this site flirts with the name-calling, fear-mongering (“liberal college professors” take some licks, too …), and questionable history that have been associated with the Tea Party. If that association is unfair, Mr DeKruif hasn’t done much to to refute it.

    1. I thought the ‘core value’ of the constitution was that ‘government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed’ not from God. Didn’t they want to put to rest those old, oppressive ‘divine rights’?

      1. WM: thank you for the reminder of the ‘government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed’…not from God.
        Without endless argument that is what is to be remembered.

      2. William,

        Yes, but more importantly, we hold some truths to be self-evident, including that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, including the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (Declaration of Independence). And, these inalienable rights, which even the consent of the governed cannot destroy, include the freedom of speech, religion, to bear arms, be free from unreasonable searches, etc.

      3. David…I agree with regard to inalienable rights and there basis in natural law. At the time of the writing of the Declaration of Independence, the only explanation for life as it existed, was through the influence of a creator. I wonder if some of the founding fathers, given the absence of a reference to God in the constitution, might have had some ‘prescience’ with regard to other explanations for our existence here, and so, in the possibility of another basis for natural law. Far fetched perhaps, but these were some very progressive, science based guys.

      4. William,

        The Declaration of Independence was a proclamation by the founders to their own government (the king of England) that people are created with freedoms. To date, I don’t think any people has come up with a better explanation than that these freedoms would come from the Creator.

        It seems to me that Tea Partiers are rightly resisting the idea that government creates rights for people. The proper perspective is that people create powers for governments, and, at this time, the government has become a little too powerful and omnipotent.

  25. Paul- I am not an adherant to the Tea Party philosophy (it sounds like the same old rebellion to any authority), but I don’t think they have any monopoly on fear mongering. I hear it coming from the Liberal side, also.

    Kiffi- I think one of your comments above is a case in point. “… that baby , if it’s a girl, better be worried about whether she can have the choice of having an abortion.
    Or if it is either a boy or girl baby, will she be disparaged for choosing to follow the Muslim faith, or pursuing a same-sex relationship?” I am amazed that you would connect women’s freedom of choice and same sex relationships in the same sentence with choosing the Islamic faith. Do you really know what they think about women’s rights and same sex relationships? They don’t offer repentance as an option. Their offer is stoning or beating, at best. It has even been suggested in another thread here about gay students feeling safe in Northfield that there be restrictions on what is shared from church pulpits that could be construed as inciting bullying against gay people. I think it is time for the fear mongering to stop on both sides. Fear of known threats (running into a busy street, using metal ladders around overhead cables, teasing a pit bull) is a good thing and keeps us safe. Fear of unsubstantiated conjectures is irrational.

    1. Just a footnote on my comment. The characteristic that makes any relationship work is trust. I may not agree with everything any legistlator proposes, but I choose to trust the system to eventually work things out for the betterment of all citizens. If our country is going to be able to pull together, we must trust one another.

    2. It is not fear of an UN-known threat to want choice over my body… or the same choice for any woman, or man for that matter (but I believe we are speaking about abortion here). You cannot deny, after all the endless arguments you have made, that you would allow that choice to be a purely legal one.

      I also think you DO realize, regardless of the conflation here, that the Tea Party , and many of its adherents have made connections to the intolerance of Islam… just read the posters at the rallies.

      John, I do not want to be a muslim, because I fear the radical … what I consider the fanatical …portions of their faith… but I feel exactly the same apprehension about the radical… what I consider to be the fanatical… aspects of any Protestant faith.

      Both feel they have the direct line to A Divine Word. When the Mormon missionaries come to my door in the summer, as they always do, I tell them I fear the oppression of those who operate on Faith, but do not understand that Doubt is an integral part of Faith…. and therefor please keep their religion out of politics,i.e. their 22 million dollars out of California elections.

      Read the statements of the Tea Party, John… you can start with their rally posters… but you cannot deny their connections to oppressive religious ideas.
      YOU may not agree… but THEY agree.

    3. Well, Kiffi, it would seem that Islam is pretty intolerant of other religions, also, as are many religions based in the orient. Take for example the bombings of Christian churches in Baghdad over the last week or so. I spent 2 weeks in India this last summer. We were warned by the State Department to not have any kind of religious conversation with any Indian person who approached us as a stranger. The Hindus teach their adherants to engage western foreigners into these conversations, then accuse them of attempting to proselytize. This is illegal in India, so the government will step in and immediately expell the tourist. In Saudi Arabia, it is against the law to convert a native to Christianity, punishable by death. We really don’t have a good concept of what intolerance is in this nation, but I would suggest that there are many countries that would not grant either of us the freedom to express our sentiments. Take advantage of the freedom while you have it. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the world.

      1. John: Is it a deliberate obfuscation that you never answer a question , or reply to a comment except through a statement of something you think some other religion is doing wrong?

        If you cannot make a cogent argument against a criticism or comment of fundamentlist based ‘christians’, except with criticisms of multiple other religions’ ‘wrongs’ , then I guess you just make my case as to why atheism is a rational consideration.

      2. Kiffi- #1) I don’t know what question you are acusing me of not answering by obfuscation.
        #2) You are always complaing about posts not containing “facts.” I have posted facts here in my posts about these other religions and what effect they have upon the citizens of countries in which they have sway. They can be easily verified by just a litle research on the internet.
        If you don’t happen to believe these reports, then that is your choice, but don’t accuse me of obfuscation just because you do not believe them.

      3. John: re your #1 to me: When I ask a question which relates to the position of a particular religious group that I think is injurious to a society if that particular religious group tries to take their personal belief outside their church and apply it to the general public, you do not defend your position, but say well the Muslims do this. or that…

        I have repeatedly said that I do not believe all groups are ‘monolithic’, and indeed I think that is an observable fact. There are Muslims, and there are Muslims. Not all Muslims would participate in a stoning (your example ). Not all Lutherans would participate in a shunning.

        I am not saying you are obfuscating because I don’t believe you; I am saying you are obfuscating because you will not answer a direct question about the relationship of many of the posters at Tea Party rallies to similarly held positions by (what I consider to be) socially conservative, fundamentalist churches.

        (This all refers back to the comment around #73, Al deKruif’s campaign literature, and his membership in MCCL, and the subsequent dialogue)

        By the way … in 78.3 re your phrase “in the orient”… would not the cradle of christianity have been in what was loosely referred to in the 19th Century as ” the orient”… looking at an historical atlas would seem to place it there.

      4. Kiffi- This is my first sentence in post 78.3
        “Paul- I am not an adherant to the Tea Party philosophy (it sounds like the same old rebellion to any authority), but I don’t think they have any monopoly on fear mongering.”
        Sorry, but I just don’t understand your point. I was talking about fear mongering, not the merits of the Teaparty.

        As far as religions coming out of the Orient, this is what I said,
        “…as are many religions based in the orient…”
        Notice the word “many?” I didn’t say all. The Orient was refered to as the fertile crescent, and many archiologists look to this area as the beginning of all civilizations. If people originated there, then so would religions. Abraham came out of Ur of the Chaldeas, which some scholars believe would be located in Iraq. Again, I’m not sure I understand your point.

  26. Tom Emmer and Tony Sutton state that they want to reduce Government Spending : I reccomend this as their true measure of their ideas : The voters have spoken and Mark Dayton leads by some 8,000 to 9,000 votes why doesn’t Tom Emmer step aside to save taxpayers money for a long drawn out recount. It is time for Tom Emmer to be a statesman as he claims. Marty Seifert was a true statesman at the Republicna convention when he allowed his dreams for Governor fade in order to bring the Party together. Yes Marty Seifert has class. To me if Tom Emmer stepped aside it would show me that both parties can finally get down to business for the people of Minnesota : Minnesota likes Checks and Balances : The voters have spoken I encourage Tom Emmer to do the right thing and step aside for the better of all Minnesota Thanks

    1. It is my understanding that the first recount is mandated by state law so nothing Emmer can do will prevent that or save money there. Only once that recount is certified is it possible to go to court to fight the fringes, as happened in 2008 with Franken.

      As a statistician, I’d advise against step 2, unless you have lawyers able to distort the re-sampling process in your favor.

      1. I think the first step is that election results have to be certified. County canvassing boards will be meeting to certify county results Nov. 5 through Nov. 12. The State Canvassing Board will convene Nov. 23 at 10 a.m. to certify the election results in the State Office Building.

        An automatic recount is then triggered by Minnesota Law (Minnesota Statutes M.S. 204C.35) when the margin between state, judicial and federal candidates is less than one-half of one percent. The legislative House District races that may trigger a recount include the race between King Banaian (R) and Carol Lewis (DFL) in district 15B; Kelby Woodard (R) and David Bly (DFL) in 25B and Rich Murray (R) and Robin Brown (DFL) in 27A. Should a recount in the governor’s race between Tom Emmer (R) and Mark Dayton (DFL) be triggered and the outcome not declared before the current term expires in January, the Minnesota Constitution provides in Article 5. Sec. 2 that, “The term of office for the governor and lieutenant governor is four years and until a successor is chosen and qualified.”

        My thoughts are that if the count continues to trend as it is now, in other words with Dayton approximately 8000-9000 votes ahead, through both certification and recount, THEN it would be time to consider bowing out. But not before then.

      2. Yup, and my point was that there was nothing Emmer can do to change the process. Even if he “bowed out” I don’t know if there is a formal statement he could sign that would stop the recounting process. And he would be a poor example of being a law-abiding citizen if he did try to stop the legal process from unfolding, at least through the process Phil summarized.

  27. John,

    Among your thoughts on religions “based in the Orient” is this:

    The Hindus teach their adherents to engage western foreigners into these conversations [about religion], then accuse them of attempting to proselytize. This is illegal in India, so the government will step in and immediately expel the tourist.

    As one born and raised [as a “western foreigner”] in India, and who has visited there recently, I reject any such broad characterization of “the Hindus” and “their adherents”. (And I wonder if you can cite any examples of tourists “immediately expelled” as victims of this practice.)

    There are hundreds of millions of Hindus in India and so presumably some “adherent” could be found who’s guilty of almost anything, from sharp business practices to hating puppies. But the idea that “the Hindus” broadly lure innocent Westerners into religious conversations, and thence to deportation, is just wrong.

    My own (pleasant) experience is that many Indians, Hindu or not, love to discuss religion, politics, philosophy, and anything else, with each other and with “Western foreigners.” Sure, religious disputes occur there as elsewhere, but India has diverse and thriving Muslim, Hindu, and Christian communities. I grew up with Indian cohorts called Peter, Paul, Matthew, Shivakumar, Krishnan, and Mohammed, and they were certainly not trying to get each other, or me, deported.

    Anyone really interested in Hinduism and Hindu practice, by the way, should visit the impressive and welcoming temple in Maple Grove, with shrines in styles that represent many areas of India. And stay for a tasty vegetarian meal.

    1. Paul- I’ll get that INS link to you this evening. When we were there, our host accompanied us everywhere for the reasons I stated. The world has changed.

      1. From the source of all knowledge, AKA wikipedia:

        “Laws against conversions

        The US State Department has claimed that the recent wave of anti-conversion laws in various Indian states is seen as gradual and continuous institutionalization of Hindutva. Christian missionaries are accused of using inducements such as schooling, money, and even motorcycles and bicycles to lure poor people to the faith.

        Most of the anti-conversion laws are brief and leave a lot of ambiguity, which can be misused for inflicting persecution. Legal experts believe that wilful trespass by missionaries upon the sacred spaces of other faiths can be prosecuted under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, and as such there is no need for anti-conversion laws by individual states and they should be repealed. A consolidation of various Anti-conversion or “Freedom of Religion” Laws has been done by the All India Christian Council.

        In the past, several Indian states passed Freedom of Religion Bills primarily to prevent people from converting to Christianity. Arunachal Pradesh passed a bill in 1978. In 2003, Gujarat State, after religious riots in 2002, passed an anti-conversion bill in 2003.

        In July, 2006, the Madhya Pradesh government passed legislation requiring people who desire to convert to a different religion to provide the government with one month’s notice, or face fines and penalties.

        In August, 2006, the Chhattisgarh State Assembly passed similar legislation requiring anyone who desires to convert to another religion to give 30 days’ notice to, and seek permission from, the district magistrate.

        In February, 2007, Himachal Pradesh became the first Congress Party-ruled state to adopt legislation banning illegal religious conversions.”

        John, it looks to me like we are talking about political parties in certain Indian states using fear of others to drum up populist support. India isn’t exactly the only country where that happpens. In fact, Oklahoma just passed State Question 755, which asked voters whether state courts should be forbidden “from considering or using Sharia Law.” Why this question would be necessary escapes me, but I’m sure someone got some political traction out of it. I think you go too far when you make statements such as “The Hindus teach their adherants…” when the reality is that some Hindu nationalists (extremists) do that, but not Hindus as a whole. It would be like me saying that Christians teach their adherents to burn the Koran, just because some wack-job preacher in Florida thought it was a good idea.

        By the way, there doesn’t appear to be a national “anti-conversion” law, so the idea that “the government” (that generally implies a national government) will step in and expel a tourist for proselytizing seems a little far-fetched.

    2. Paul and Phil- Here is that link to the State Department memo I was talking about:
      Take a look at the second paragraph about special circumstances.

      Here is a copy of the information sent to us by our host in India:

      “Brother you should follow my instructions that is there are Hindu people, introducing you like pastors, they ask information of you like your name, your address, your e-mail address, your passport number, they also ask you what is the object of your trip and whose house you are visiting and what is the work of the man who is inviting you. They get all this information and try to cancel your visa and they will make things to send you back. The reason is they are Hindu religious people they work against Christianity.
      You are coming by tourist visa, if you apply for mission visa Indian embassy will not allow you to visit India, so please do not speak with any new people, as we are local people we know all these things during your mission tripe to India you should not speak with any strange people, if some body trying to get your information please take care, they speak like Christians. For Hindu religious people there is training, they speak about Bible better than Christians.”

      You two can say what you want, but having been there just three months ago, I think I know what I am talking about.

      The father of our friend there was a pastor of a Christian church. Just four years ago, one of his daughters married a Hindu man. After they were married, the man beat her unmercifully, even to the point of her loosing her child. She sought refuge back with her parents. Her husband came after her and beat her father to the point that he died 2 months after. She lives in fear of his return. Her brother, my son’s friend, was attacked by this man in the public square and has scars for the beating he received. This is not something that happened 50 years ago. It happened within the last four years. Everyone should visit a foreign country at some time in their lives and interract with the common people of that country, not just the tourism industry. It is an eye-opener.

    3. John,

      You say:

      You two [Paul and Phil, I think] can say what you want, but having been [in India] just three months ago, I think I know what I am talking about.

      The lamentable fact that religious-based bad behavior occurs in India, and that some states have passed IMO ill-conceived anti-conversion laws was not at issue in this discussion. (One minor thing that I did ask about explicitly, but you didn’t respond to, was whether you know of specific instances of tourists having been inveigled by devious “adherents” and subsequently “immediately expelled.”)

      Your account of what “the Hindus” supposedly teach “their adherents” is mistaken — not because it’s impossible that some Hindu, somewhere, might have done such a thing, but because your reference to “the Hindus” suggests you see this as a widespread, characteristic practice of Hindus. That’s simply false.

      Your larger point, recall, was about religious intolerance you ascribe to many faiths “based in the Orient”. I’m no fan of religious intolerance anywhere, and would never deny that it exists “in the Orient”, or even among some Hindus. But to diss “the Hindus” as religiously intolerant and keen to instruct their “adherents” in devious strategies for promoting intolerance, is unfair. It’s ahistorical, too — of the major faiths, Hinduism probably stands as one of the most receptive to outside ideas.

      1. Paul- As I was ruminating on this whole exchange, two things came to me. 1)Is intolerance of one religion toward another a “bad” thing? I wasn’t intending to cast this flavor on the subject, as I beleive that all religions exhibit an intolerance of different religions. It is just a charcteristic of religions in general. Now, when one sect begins killing off a different sect, then that is a different matter. But to simply say that a religion resists diluting its specific articles of faith, or turning its adherants away from it (proselityzing) then I think that is to be expected. I did not mean to paint all Hindus with this brush as their religion is hard to define in this way. The experience of my son’s friend there happens to be a practice in that area.

        2) What the Indian government has outlawed is foreigners coming into the country with the specific purpose of, what they perceive as, forcing a different belief system upon their people. They are a soverign nation and can do this if they want. The US, for better or worse, does not limit foreign nationals from doing exactly that. Take a look at Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa (my home town, by the way). The school was set up specifically to train and indoctrinate anyone who wants in the ways of Vedic Hunduism and Transcendental Meditation. In fact, they have incorporated their own little town just to the north of Fairfield and named it Vedic City. This was funded by millions of dollars funneled into the area by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. We in America embrace this type of influx because we have a constitution allowing religious freedom here. That same foundation is not in Indian law.

        As far as Hiduism and their response to other religions, they are, what I call, assimilators. Your comment, “…of the major faiths, Hinduism probably stands as one of the most receptive to outside ideas…” is a good discription. This trait makes it very hard to define them. They are a very broad religion with no real central theme or creed. Christianity, on the other hand, is a very narrow religion based upon the death and resurection of Jesus Christ. It is monotheistic, one God, one way to heaven. The Hindus just do not approach life in this way. This is where they have a problem with Christianity, and understandably so.

        It is interesting that one of the 12 original Apostles, Thomas, settled in the area of Chennai and established Christianity there, so Christianity has been part of the Indian landscape for a couple thousand years. I visited his supposed tomb and the area where he ministered. Everywhere the Gospel has been preached, there has been resistance, as it is a very narrow religion. Should there be any surprise or wonder that there is still resistance and persecution in this day and age?

  28. For anyone interested in accurate reporting of the numbers in the local election, please note these errors in the NFNews: on page 7A of today’s paper, under the chart titled “Final Election Results, precinct by precinct” the 4th Ward results are wrongly reported. The two candidates numbers are all mixed up; the paper has Gehring winning 779-620 over Ganey, and listed as being in the 1st Ward!

    One wonders what it is we CAN rely on with the reporting from that source if the numbers of an election, and the ward it is in, cannot be accurately presented.

  29. Re: #82

    I am sorry to hear about mistakes in NNews election results in the Nov. 6 paper, because I was actually very impressed with the detail provided in the initial Nov. 3 paper.

    In that Nov. 3 paper on page 10A over the yellow precinct map for the at-large Council race, there is a sentence in VERY small print:

    “Rhonda Pownell, a citizen who began attending council meetings to help pray for the council, and who ended up elected to service in 2008, won all nine of the city’s precincts this year.”

    I wonder why Northfield News waited until AFTER the election to make this information public (connection to Church group who sat in Roder’s office during Council meetings). Separation of church and state is an issue for some voters.

    1. Kiffi, Stefanie,

      Yeah, I noticed too that the News messed up their by-precinct election results. Maybe I just missed it, but I haven’t seen a correction on the News website.

      The completely authoritative place for these results (although less conveniently tabulated than in the Northfield News’s ill-fated effort) is presumably the Minnesota Secretary of State website:


      It takes a little digging, but all the results are there.

      Drilling down through the “For Precinct Results” menu will tell you, for instance, that Northfield Ward 4, Precinct 1 (my home precinct) voted nearly 75% for Dahle and Bly and pushing 70% for Dayton and Madore. By (sharp!) contrast, Belle Plaine went for Republicans in all of these races by significant margins.

      1. Thanks, Paul…. I had the tabulated results from the city so I didn’t need to go further. The info on the high Bly/Dahle percentage from our precinct, 4.1., is understandable ( pat on back for the progressive voters of 4.1) but it is really worrisome when the whole district has such huge philosophical swings as does ours.

        I remember from the redistricting case that the League of Women Voters prosecuted, and won, a few years ago, that the third of the three prerequisites for a district is “communities of interest”. That is hard to get at without displaying some bias, as it involves suppositions of like goals from like demographic groups… and I think that supposition is fraught with problems.

        Another little ‘bizarrity’ in the election reporting in the NFNews occurred on page 10A of the Nov. 3 issue. Right above the yellow precinct map showing the At-Large Council Race, this sentence appears in the tiniest type I’ve ever seen used in a newspaper: “Rhonda Pownell, a citizen who began attending council meetings to help pray for the council, etc…”
        A complete non-sequiter!
        and as a matter of fact Ms. Pownell has always said she was NOT one of the prayer ladies sequestered in Mr. Roder’s office, although I suppose the above sentence could mean she was ‘on task’ in the chambers, as the “prayer ladies” continue to be now.

        Oh well, in the matter of ‘prayer’ , I continue to wish for a more diverse news scene in our little community.

      2. Rhonda is correct. She was not one of the infamous three. In fact, it wasn’t until after that little revelation that members of a diverse number of churches became involved in the council chamber intercessions. That did more to unify the Christian community across denominations than anything I’ve seen in a while.

      3. John: please explain what you mean by “intercessions”…
        and also please answer Griff’s question in 84.1.3…

      4. Griff- No, I did not mean all Christian churches. It did involve people from more than just an “evangelical subset” of churches.

        Kiffi- Intercessions is another word for prayers. It normally involves a focused prayer. Intercession in the scriptures normally means “to stand in the gap” or “to mediate.” See I Samuel 2:25 and Isaiah 59:16.

      5. I guess I wasn’t specific enough , John. I know what the word “intercession” means; I was hoping you could enlighten me on what the subject matter of the”intercessions” was. I understand also that it has been stated “for the good of the city”; how would that be defined?

        I would also be interested in your recounting of the churches you say were brought together by the prayer activity in city hall; I don’t see anyone there from a broad crossection; could you elaborate on that also?

      6. Kiffi- I’m not sure how to explain these intecessory prayers to you other than they could be called extemporaneous. We do not have a book of pre-written prayers, like magical incantations.

        As far as who participates and from what churches, this is a free country. It really isn’t necessary to make it public knowledge.

      7. John… obviously from your lack of answer as to the goals of these prayers, you also consider their subject matter to be private, as you consider the churches that participate to be private information.
        Thanks for the reply.

      8. Kiffi- Ok, I think I understand, now, what you are asking for when you say “goals of these prayers.” In simple words, it would be peaceful discussions of topics, understanding amongst the councilors, wisdom in decision making, unity within the council, clarity of communication, openess to new ideas, etc. Did I get it?

        As far as the people involved, I don’t think any of them are “representing” their church with their involvement. It is a personal response. That is why I don’t think it is necessary to name churches or denominations. This is not a function of the ministerial group, nor would I call it eccuminical, as that would suggest its origin is in the people participating. It is a move of God.

      9. Thanks, John… All good goals.
        I am not intending to be rude or dismissive when I say it’s too bad it didn’t/doesn’t work…

        But what it has done, is brought in a few more citizens into observing the council meetings.

      10. Kiffi- Glad I finally understood your question. I wasn’t trying to be evasive.

        As far as this having any effect on the meetings, just because we pray for a certain outcome doesn’t mean it will always happen. This is not some magical or scientific exercise that produces labratory results. That being said, we believe it is still right to ask. Griff is touching on some of this over in the “Praying for a miracle in a crisis…” thread.

  30. Way back around #51 there was discussion of tax progressivity, pros and cons (and definitions) of “income redistribution”, and how this all might play out electorally.

    Today’s New York Times opinion piece by Nicholas Kristof


    offers perspective and data on income and wealth distribution in the United States.

    There is comfort here for anyone worried about interests of the wealthy,even in the event that the Bush-era tax cuts expire (as originally planned). The top 1%, according to these data, pocketed 80% of all new income in the period 1980-2005, and now take home 24% of national income. And the Strib and the Economist agree that high-end bling is booming again in the stores.

    We might argue over whether it’s wise or foolish or right or wrong or just or unjust or socialist or redistributionist — or just common sense — to ask these fortunate few to help out with our nation’s current money problems. But it’s hard to argue that they couldn’t afford it.

    1. Paul,

      I don’t think anyone is seriously arguing that the rich can’t afford more taxes. It is the wise versus foolish, right versus wrong, and capitalism versus socialism that concerns people.

      For example, it’s hard to argue that our local colleges can’t afford to pay property taxes, especially when we have struggling businesses all over town paying property taxes.

    2. David,

      Indeed, the proper relation between wealth and taxation is entirely and legitimately a matter for political debate, and not only a matter of who can afford what. But a prominent anti-tax narrative has been that taxing the wealthiest will discourage them from business investments and, hence, job creation. That argument makes sense to me only if the rich fear that taxes will impoverish them. The data on concentration of wealth at the top suggest the contrary: if the rich aren’t creating jobs, it isn’t for lack of money.

      The spectre of looming socialism seems to have gotten some traction in the recent election — Al DeKruif warned against it, for one, and he’s our new state senator. But this fear is overwrought: can socialism coexist with increasing concentration of wealth in our society?

      1. Paul- I guess the question to which I have yet to get an answer, even though I have asked it a couple times, is what percentage of the tax load should the “rich”( however you define that level) actually carry? I have an article by Burke A. Christensen from the PP a couple weeks or so ago that says the top 5% of wage earners, making more than $160,00 anually, pay 60.63% of all the taxes collected. The top 1%, making above $410,00, pay 40.42%. The top 1/10 of 1%, above $2.15 million, pay 20% of all income taxes. What is fair and just? Should the top 5% pay ALL the income taxes and the bottom 95% coast along? I don’t think this is a question of what they can afford.

        What I would really like to see is the cap lifted off what a person pays for social security. When there was more production stateside and an actual middle class to carry it, the SS taxes collected could carry those drawing upon them. Now, we have a concentration of wealth in a layer of society that only has to pay a maximum of around $90,000. The person making $2+ million could be carrying $300,000+ of the load, and so on. This one area I believe there is inequity,

    3. Paul,

      I wouldn’t call it an “anti-tax” narrative. It’s more like an anti-protax narrative.

      Sure, the wealthy can pay more. But, before we immediately raise “their” taxes, we need to examine the other aspects of taxation – including the fairness and wisdom of doing so. It is not a foregone conclusion that it is either fair or wise to give the government more money. If we didn’t tax the wealthy, but instead taxed the middle class would people still want the government services? If so, then let’s raise the taxes on the middle class as well as the wealthy.

  31. I am very seriously concerned on the linkages between the Tea Party… as expressed by many of their statements and their rally signs, and fundamentalist /evangelical religions. I know it’s a dangerous subject, but these extremist ideas that have no basis in any of the fact based science that guides are lives, are a revision of the Dark Ages, IMO. We must be able to deal with these philosophical differences as they enter the political arena, as we would deal with any that are NOT religiously based.

    In the news today, Bryan Fischer, who is the Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Assn, says he thinks it would be a good idea to shoot Yellowstone Grizzlies on sight!
    He says: “God makes it clear in scripture that deaths of people and livestock is a sign that the land is under a curse…”
    and further, that ignoring this is part of: “ongoing failure of the West to take counsel of practical matters from Scripture”.

    Where do they find these people? Have all the solid science based tenets of our lives gone out the window with these , again IMO, insane observations and positions that have no relevance to what we know of our observed world TODAY ?

    The cherry picking of Biblical texts, and the random application of those texts to whatever the issue at hand currently is, bears no more relevance to a known reality than a Ouija Board, or one of those black ball prophecy toys.
    And the assumption that they may not be challenged because they originate within a religious framework, is as wrongheaded as can be, IMO.

    “Director of Issues Analysis” indeed!

    1. Kiffi- What are you actually afraid of with these Tea Partiers? Take a close look at them. The only thing that really holds them together is their mistrust and angst against big government. Otherwise, they are pretty separatist, even from each other within their ranks. Cut back on Federal Government size and power and they will dissapate, IMO.

      1. I am not “afraid” of Tea Party adherents. But when you listen to many of their proclamations, and then see the rally signs, it would seem to bear out that there is a social agenda hidden behind the fear mongering of the oppression of big government.

        Taxes and jobs are a rallying cry that is quickly followed by a discriminatory social agenda, which conforms not to the Better Good of a collected body, but the acceptance of an approved… rather than disapproved of … group.

        Who said “if sleeping dogs lie together, some are liable to get up with fleas” ?

  32. Shhhhhh. It’s a secret. But I am hearing talk amongst Republicans that raising taxes is an option. But if they do, I suspect they will use the Tea Party mantra against big government to greatly simplify the tax codes so that it is completely clear that they are progressive in a fair way. John George summarized one tax code description, while Paul Zorn another. As long as the tax code is an elephant being inspected by blind men we will continue to talk past each other rather than to each other.

    IMO, the most critical thing about any tax structure is that everyone should pay taxes, even the poor and the rich. Otherwise we suffer a huge moral hazard when making choices subsidized by taxpayer funding, whether those choices involve health care, food production, energy production or home ownership. Whether we then give grants (rather than tax breaks) can, once separated from the tax code, be rationally discussed.

  33. Kiffi, the Tea Party represents an opportunity. If you read my post at MPR and the two comments that follow you can see the battle lines being drawn. These lines in the sand will isolate the social conservatives so they can feel free to join the big government minorities in other parties. Meanwhile, perhaps we can recapture the term “liberal” and bring it back to an earlier meaning of the word.

    Sometimes it is useful to re-orient one’s thinking to one’s own back yard to see better the tactics and strategies. What rift would split off the most extreme collectivists in the Democratic party? Imagining that rift helps one understand better the relationship between the Republicans and the Tea Party. Then ask how the press plays in that conflict? Are the press better served by a successful split or are they better served by blocking the split?

    1. The press… IF journalistically IRresponsible … see themselves as better served by having ‘news’ to report, and dissension is news.
      Try this example, Bruce: the NFNews constantly and predictably reports the words of Councilor Denison, although he does not usually represent a majority voice of the council. (Example: today’s article about possible vote on safety center)
      He spoke very strongly last night, noting that his, and the conclusion of the first SC Task Force, had essentially ignored, and had been superseded by subsequent Council discussions.

      Although his view on having one facility has been consistent since he served on the first SC Task Force, that view has not held precedence although at last night’s meeting it had two strongly expressed converts, Mayor Rossing and Councilor Pownell.

      However, the News does not report the opposing view, which still seems to be in the majority… so I think one must conclude that the dissension is the ‘news’ , not the well rounded view of opinions, at least in our local news media.
      Or… there is some other reason for the consistently one-sided reporting.

      1. OOps! … typo.
        it should read “noting that his, and the conclusion of the first SC Task Force, had essentially BEEN ignored, …”

  34. Bruce,

    Sorry, but I don’t follow several parts of the logic of your last paragraph.

    Your “most critical” requirement, that everyone should pay taxes, makes sense. But is the issue “live”? Does anyone advocate otherwise? Does any significant group now not pay tax?

    Your warning against moral hazard (MH) is also valid, but is anyone for MH? And is there some reason to worry more about MH at the bottom of the income pyramid than at the top? The Wall Street fiasco of the last few years is a textbook example of MH — risk was offloaded to the government as profits were privatized — among perpetrators who were (or should have been) at the very top of the tax tables.

    How, too, would government “grants” avoid the MH quicksand? In what would way would “grant” seeking be morally less hazardous than tax-break seeking?

    And yes, a simpler, clearer tax code has advantages — and to my knowledge no (confessed) opponents. But the virtues of simplicity and fairness, although all real, are by no means the same. Sometimes they can even work against each other.

  35. Paul, I believe that there are people who would argue that some people should not pay taxes even though those people have income to be taxed, yes. And I only mention MH because I think that it is an important consideration in all government decisions, whether that decision to bet an entire economy on cheap transportation and hide the true costs from the people or the decision to separate the costs of health care from the consumers of same, in each case bringing up MH is a way to make the discussion look at the total cost of those decisions.

    As for grants avoiding MH, no of course they do not do that, but a grant is usually a more transparent handout than is a tax break that can be buried in the tens of thousands of pages of tax code.

    Finally, the use of the term “confessed” hits exactly at the problem we all face when our own personal cash cow is at risk. You might have noted that I included the home mortgage deduction (a sacred cow, third rail, whatever) in my list of questionable tax deductions. The real estate bubble would have unfolded quite differently in the absence of tax codes that pushed home ownership, and that rewarded borrowing against equity because “the interest is tax deductible“. I myself fell victim to that one, so I have regrets, but that does not make me think that it is necessarily fair for that choice to be subsidized. But I do recognize that a transition away from that will require some time.

  36. John, in 85.2.1 you say…

    What I would really like to see is the cap lifted off what a person pays for social security. When there was more production stateside and an actual middle class to carry it, the SS taxes collected could carry those drawing upon them. Now, we have a concentration of wealth in a layer of society that only has to pay a maximum of around $90,000. The person making $2+ million could be carrying $300,000+ of the load, and so on. This one area I believe there is inequity,

    Lots of people talk about this, but there is a built in monkey wrench in it. If you take off the cap that SS has on salaries, then you also remove the cap on the upper limits of benefits. The actuaries that handle SS do a pretty good job figuring out what monthly check you can get based on the SS taxes you paid on your income. BUT, if you remove the cap the actuaries are exposed to trying to figure out what the checks would have to be on enormous amounts of income. In otherwords, if you have a $105,000 cap today and you get a $2,500 monthly check, if you remove the salary cap and someone pays on $1 million of income in the last year before they retire, they probably would get a check in the order of $20,000 per month. Since SS has not planned this type of huge increase in monthly payout checks it would really stress the SS system.

    The only other thing that would prevent this is to totally revamp the SS system as we know it and collect SS taxes on unlimited amounts of earned income…..but then not pay benefits out based on those taxes paid into the SS system. That would turn SS on its head and would never advance in Congress regardless of who is in control.

    Or, as some people suggest, we could scrap the entire SS system, return the taxes to the earners, and tell them to set aside what they need for old age, removing the government from the equation.

  37. Ray, John,

    Ray’s right that simply removing pay-in *and* pay-out caps for SS might do nothing for the public purse. I’d oppose such a move for many reasons, not all financial. But the chances of any such change—unpalatable to both left and right—being enacted seem slim to none. Nor do I see any realistic prospect of scrapping the entire SS system. Keep your big government hands off my SS, as a Tea Party-er might say.

    So much said, I’m all for raising the pay-in cap to SS, without insisting that pay-outs follow in lockstep. I suspect this is what you favor, too, John, and I’m delighted to welcome you to the fold of tax-and-spend, redistributionist liberals. Hail, comrade!

    Seriously, I think there’s plenty of room to adjust pay-ins (and perhaps pay-outs, too) without coming anywhere near “turning SS on its head”. Whether either party will muster the political courage to do any tinkering is uncertain, of course. The recent election doesn’t bode well for tax flexibility.

    1. Hail comrade! HAH! Paul, I consider myself a realist, or at least a pragmatist of what I understand. My perception of what we are struggling with is not taxes so much as the size of the government. When an overweight person cuts back on his food intake, he will lose weight. Cutting taxes sounds good, but I don’t think it will have the same effect on the government. One of the reasons Reagan’s tax cuts worked is because he suppressed the growth of the size of the government during his term. This is one place Bush was unsuccessful with his tax cuts. I don’t have a simplistic answer to this, and I don’t believe one exists. Somewhere, though, we need to figure out a way to pay for all these programs wihout passing the debt off onto our great grandchildren. And, I’m getting close enough to retirement that I would like the opportunity to be cared for as I have contributed to the care of my own elders.

      One aspect no one has mentioned here is the number of workers available to pay SS tax. In the last about 40 years, over 10 million babies have been killed off. If even half of these were have been allowed to live, become adults and worked at jobs producing taxable income, think of the billions of dollars we would be ahead. The baby boomer generation shot itself in the foot with this, IMO. The idea behind Social Security was that there would be a working cless to pay for the care of those exiting the workforce. Now, when we exit the workforce, there are not enough workers to contribute to our care. Think about it.

  38. Paul, I am curious if you have ever seen this site, IOUSATHEMOVIE which seems to suggest that rearranging the deck chairs here on the USS Titanic-Debt just is not going to fix our long term problems. Without a complete rethinking of the economic system, we seem to be headed toward a pretty serious situation. I am carrying this message (of serious change if we want to have hope) to any politician who will listen to me, and to some who won’t.

  39. David,

    You say:

    Sure, the wealthy can pay more. But, before we immediately raise “their” taxes, we need to examine the other aspects of taxation – including the fairness and wisdom of doing so.

    What sort of “examination” of tax fairness and wisdom do you propose? Will a bell ring when the exam is over? How will it be graded?

    Seriously, I think that reasonable people agree unanimously that taxes should be “fair” and “wise”, but will always disagree on what these things mean in practice. Waiting around for some nirvana of detailed agreement isn’t an option; all we can do is muddle through, at best with a some good-faith adherence to basic principles.

    And then:

    It is not a foregone conclusion that it is either fair or wise to give the government more money. If we didn’t tax the wealthy, but instead taxed the middle class would people still want the government services? If so, then let’s raise the taxes on the middle class as well as the wealthy.

    True, giving the government more money is not invariably fair or wise. (Does anyone disagree?) If what comes next means that people who want services should be willing to help pay for them, I agree.

    But the relative burdens that lower, middle, and upper income taxpayers should shoulder is a separate, quantitative question; it shouldn’t be conflated with the general, qualitative principle that everybody pays.

    It’s perfectly possible that (a) the government legitimately needs more money than it’s getting; (b) some government programs should spend less, or be ended; (c) other government programs should spend more, or be started; (d) I should pay more; and (e) you should pay less. (Or maybe (d) and (e) should be reversed.) A bit complicated, perhaps, but I think we can sort it out.

    1. Paul,

      I don’t think we can rationally sort it out. There are simply too many different interests competing for limited monies. In a representative democracy, political power trumps everything else, including fairness and wisdom.

      For example, the City of Northfield spent $250,000.00 of taxpayer money to build 600 feet of bike trail. This decision wasn’t based upon a rational, universally applicable rule of taxation and spending. The spending was the product of special interests having enough political power to accomplish their own agenda.

  40. Budget balancing on the Federal level:

    Star Tribune: “Deep cuts, more taxes” –

    Wall Street Journal: “Deficit Panel Pushes Cuts” –

    New York Times: “Panel Seeks Social Security Cuts and Tax Increases” –

    1. I think most people would be willing to see the social security retirement age go to 68 in 2035…not 2050 as this panel recommended. Would there be a wave of outrage among those 41 and younger if they were told that their SSI retirement date would be come up about a year and a half later? I doubt it. And why 70 in 2075? It could go to 70 in 2050 with virtually no outcry from the people it would effect. For the most part, younger people believe that they have to secure their retirement income apart from the SS benefit (if they will get it at all). They are not basing their retirement on SS. Getting it a few years later is not going to perceived as having a particularly adverse effect.

      Let me go farther. Let people under 40 elect to self direct (and own) half of their total SS tax in return for accepting 72 as their retirement date for the regular benefit.

      Or even farther. Tell folks that in order to secure the system and help reduce the deficit everyone will have to have a later retirement date. For those who are 65 it will be two weeks later than planned. For those who are 64 it will be 4 weeks later, 63…6 weeks. Right down to a year later for those who are now 41. Bingo: A 68 retirement age in 2035! Plus considerable savings in the mean time. This is not a huge sacrifice. Of course public employees should be expected to do the same.

      I’ll admit these ideas are not necessarily actuarily sound. But I am convinced that people are much more willing to do something about SS than politicians believe.

      1. William – I think their might be some outrage. I will turn 65 in 2035 and I know the proposal gets me pretty steamed. I find it pretty ironic that baby-boomers suggest moving the retirement age up to 2035, but refuse to even consider adjusting the the methodology for the COLA for current (or near future) recipients.

      2. David, one of the other commission suggestions was to change the COLA from one based on CPI-W to one based on chained CPI. The overall impact is expected to be a lower COLA.

      3. David…there has been no SS cola this year and there will be none next year. This boomer is not outraged by that fact. When I was 37 the ‘normal’ SS retirement date for someone my age was 65. When I was 38 it was 66. This was no big deal to me, or anyone I knew. The ‘normal’ date is already scheduled to begin increasing in 2017. In 2022 it will be 67. My point is that we should get to 68, and then to 70, much quicker than even the commission recommended.

        When I was 41 my life expectancy was 77. Today, at 41, your life expectancy is 80. It seems fair and reasonable to expect that your normal SS retirement date be increased to reflect changes in life expectancy. More importantly it is necessary to protect the system.

  41. John G, your suggestion that aborted babies could have save the economy is as unsound as the idea that if we just borrow enough money today to prime the economy (the Keynesian approach favored by the likes of Robert Reich), then we can all live in a utopia of infinite production driven by infinite consumption. While I often refer to the demographics of first world countries as a reason to NOT use Keynesian-based deficit spending, the need for a sustainable society suggests that the answer is NOT to simply have more children. I mean, look how well that model works for Haiti (a political disaster) or China (an environmental disaster). The correct answer is much more complex, and my biggest concern is how to get to a good place without having to give up important freedoms, the sorts of freedoms we celebrate today (Veterans Day) as we remember the price we pay for those freedoms.

    1. Bruce- I have some studies on this. I’ll try to dig them out this weekend. Of course, statistics are only as good as one applies them. It’s as Samuel Clemmons once said, ” There are lies, damn lies and statistics.”

      1. John,

        I’m not a statistician, but admire that exalted field, and so offer two tiny things about the amusing “lies, damned lies, and statistics” buzz-phrase: (i) it does sound Mark Twain-ish, but the (earlier) British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli is supposed to have proposed this 3-fold taxonomy of fibbing; (ii) according to Wikipedia, and to my surprise, the quote is apparently not legitimately attributed to Disraeli, either. Some things are just too good to be true.

        Whoever the real author might be, he or she was almost certainly not a statistician.

      2. Paul- I’ve only heard this attributed to Clemmons, but I don’t know the context in which he used it. Perhaps further examination might prove the origin with Disraeli. And, who knows, it may have come from a self-depricating statistician with a quirky sense of humor.

      3. One school of thought is that the phrase may have come from a judge, who felt that there were three types of witnesses: “liars, damned liars, and experts”. That may date back as far as 1885. The “Statistics” part made it to the printed page as early as 1891, when Thomas Mackay wrote a letter to the National Observer stating that “It has been wittily remarked that there are three kinds of falsehood: the first is a ‘fib,’ the second is a downright lie, and the third and most aggravated is statistics”, but he never claimed to have made up the phrase. Mark Twain didn’t write the quote down until 1904, but is undoubtedly largely responsible for the popularity of it in America.

      4. Phil & Paul- When it comes down to it, who really cares where it originated? It’s a pretty good quip.

  42. David L, you are exactly right. In a representative democracy political power trumps everything, just a power in a monarchy trumps reason. That is why we are (or were, see 17th amendment) a republic. A bit of wisdom often mis-attributed (so I will not attribute it at all) says:

    A pure democracy cannot long exist, for once the people find that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury they will vote themselves into a collapse of their currency.

    IMO, Social Security and Health Care are two bankrupting concepts because they are (1) entitlements not subject to easy modification and (2) defined benefit programs rather than defined contribution programs. The difference is crucial, with define benefits you cannot plan (well) for the eventual payout, while with defined contribution (think 401K) the society knows how much a program will cost (or can better estimate the cost). The move to privatize Social Security is at its heart a move to convert Social Security from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution program. Unfortunately, no one seems willing to make that argument, perhaps because that would require telling the voters the truth and teaching why that truth rules. A free people deserve to have defined contribution programs (or no programs) because only then are they free. Instead, our current system is creating a large class of economic serfs who will drive us to bankruptcy because their selfish self-interest, coupled with decades of enabling behavior by our governments, has conditioned them to do so. Few politicians can stand up against earmarks because they represent immediate gratification. Those who do so are often trapped by their principles and defeated by an opponent’s promise of “jobs”. I wrote a guest commentary at MPR that argues that Oberstar was defeated by voters smarter than he about the long term wisdom of bringing home the bacon.

    What would a defined benefit version of health care be? It might be to guarantee every citizen a fixed amount of money to use as they see fit to buy insurance or to directly buy health care. Of course, you have to be willing to turn people away at the point of care (usually the ER, in poorer neighborhoods) if they have no insurance and no money. Not likely that we will do that, so I suspect a sustainable (not IOUSA-level) health care plan is still a long way away.

  43. I must admit that I can make no sense of the vicious anonymous comments on the NF News site about the loss of Mike Berthelsen in the school board election , presumably from the comments because he would consider continuing conversations with the YMCA… and the objections which went all over the place, but some of which centered on the “C” in YMCA… and those comments then threatened Ellen Iverson with ousting for the same reasons in the next election.

    This is pure viciousness, and typical of the latitude in which anonymous comments feel free to operate.

    But then, Rhonda Pownell brings religion into the City Hall, with the praying for their churches’ desired outcomes for the city, and is acclaimed by every precinct in the city!

    Now… I wish to make perfectly clear that I think Ms. Pownell has worked very hard at being a councilor, she is thorough in her preparation for meetings, and thoughtful in the topics she raises for discussion. She is willing to take on extra work to solve problems, i.e. the issue of the Welcome Center and the elimination of that job. I have never seen her make a decision that I could say is influenced directly by a religious preference… but as the newspaper said , she is one of the persons who was praying , NOT in Mr. Roder’s office, but at city hall. In the public spaces there, that is certainly her right and her privilege, and I would defend that right forever, as long as it is in the public spaces and not secreted in the administrator’s office.

    But … how do the two situations of these two elected officials ‘synch up’?
    One is ousted for even saying he would continue discussion with the ymCa; the other voted in by a large margin, although not fearing to mix (philosophically, at least) church with state.
    It’s a conundrum…

  44. Bruce,

    In #96 you mention

    … the idea that if we just borrow enough money today to prime the economy (the Keynesian approach …), then we can all live in a utopia of infinite production driven by infinite consumption …

    If this is your idea of Keynesian economics then it’s no surprise you’re against it. But I’d guess you’re aware there’s a bit more to it than this caricature. No?

    Still, you’re right that wishful thinking is rife around taxes and the economy. We’re probably all guilty of it, but my favorite example is the won’t-stay-dead canard that tax cuts pay for themselves. The temptation to believe is almost irresistible. Actually, forget the “almost”.

    Here’s a snippet from


    … N. Gregory Mankiw, former chair of the current President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, calculated that the growth spurred by capital gains tax cuts pays for about half of lost revenue over a number of years and that payroll tax cuts generate enough growth to pay for about 17 percent of what is lost.

    Notice the quotee’s employer? Anyone have a stake to drive through this one’s heart?

    1. Actually, I am pretty sure that this caricature is an accurate interpretation of the model in the present circumstance. Just a Black-Scholes models failed in the 1980’s because one of the underlying assumptions (that no major currency would collapse) was violated.

      In the case of Keynesian economic models, I believe that the current and on-going shift in the demographic distribution (see Foreign Affairs article The Demographic Future) violates one or more of the assumptions that are needed to make Keynesian reasoning valid.

      It is this belief that makes me unhappy when politicians promise to restart the growth engine and produce new high-value jobs, funded by borrowing against future taxes.

      1. Bruce,

        Since neither of us is an economist our colloquy on this dimal subject should, perhaps, be taken with appropriate grains of salt, pepper, and other condiments …

        So much said, any caricature that uses words like “utopian” and “infinite” strikes me as mainly polemical. Fair enough — caricatures are simplistic by their nature.

        Sure, false underlying assumptions are a Bad Thing, and Black-Scholes-based modeling is a good example. There are certainly other culprits (like the bond rating agencies) in the mortgage-backed securities fiasco, but the B-S theory turned out to be, as you say, BS.

        So much said, could you specify “one or more” of the “assumptions” behind Keynesian economics that you see being violated by current demographics?

        Nobody doubts that demographic challenges exist — and pose problems for any economic policy. What puzzles me is your apparent view that demography uniquely or especially undercuts Keynesian (or “new Keynesian”) assumptions.

  45. Bruce. I agree that SS should evolve into a defined contribution plan. I think most people would be happy to have, ultimately, an additional 13% of salary to invest, and just as importantly, own. The question is how to insure retirement security, (the whole point), with such a system. SS return on investment is dismal, but, as the last few years have shown, the security of retirement accounts can be severely compromised by market events. Still, if one stays the course and doesn’t panic, the market will provide better returns. But how to prevent panic? And how can the government insure a prudent investment plans if accounts are completely self directed? And what, if anything, should government do to protect people from themselves?

    1. The question we have to ask is if it is fair to ask young taxpayers to support such early retirement (even at age 70). Coupled with the reality that many people can no longer afford to retire because they have lost all their equity, and we are probably looking at a real bottleneck in the path that the natural progression of workers from entry-level positions through senior positions would follow. Without a real re-organization of our economic thinking I fear we are looking at a French-style rebellion.

      1. Another comment. We are already living in a two-class system, those who are self-aware and consciously moving through life with appropriate attention to their economic realities (some at every level of wealth) and those who are drifting aimlessly (at least in the economic sense) in the mistaken belief that “retirement is what happens when you are at a magic age and after that all your concerns are someone else’s” (again, some at every level of wealth).

        The people in the former group are either already wealthy and correct, or not wealthy and planning to work till they are carried out of their job on a stretcher.

        The people in the latter group (a shrinking number, I hope) are in for a rude awakening.

        Changing to a defined contribution program, while it does reward the people in the first group, also assumes the people in the second group are competent. I am not so sure, and as a society we are probably unwilling to actually deny service to people who fail to provide for themselves, which means that we can posture for freedom for all but have to act for security for even the least competent amongst us (especially since global warming is making it hard to find ice floes to stick Aunt Bessie on).

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