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


  1. Jane McWilliams said:

    Beginning Friday, Northfield.org will have local candidates’ profiles and and answers to questions assembled from citizens. This is being organized by the Norhfield League of Women Voters and Northfield.org. Not interactive, of course, but a place to learn more about the candidates for School Board, City Council, and Rice County Commissioner and Sheriff.

    October 12, 2010
  2. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I know Patrick Ganey from his work with Cannon River Watershed Partnership and I think he would be a great addition to the City Council. Being a lover of ducks, the title of his radio show, “Duck Fat and Politics,” appeals to me.

    October 12, 2010
  3. Paul Zorn said:

    I’ve met Shelley Madore at a couple of events, and look forward to voting for her, against John Kline, as 2nd House district representative to Congress.

    We could discuss Ms Madore’s views and other attributes, and similarly for Rep. Kline. What really strikes me about this race is the near-total absence of Rep. Kline from the fray. If he’s done any debates or other joint appearances with his opponent around here I haven’t heard about them. What gives?

    Here’s my real question. Presumably, Rep. Kline sees more to lose than to gain in encountering his opponent in a debate or other level playing field. As a purely political calculation, this one is probably correct, and his strategy certainly seems legal. And of course anyone who doesn’t like this behavior can just vote against the guy.

    But do candidates have any ethical or moral obligation to show up at some reasonable minimum of public events related to a campaign? Or is it OK to fly, drone-like, above the radar?

    October 12, 2010
  4. For Council person at large I feel that with Norm Butlers business experience it will a great need to help the new council help make Northfield a friendlier business place to locate and hire people our biggest issue is Jobs and re-gaining a strong economy not only locally but statewide. We need Jobs. With a vibrant local business atomsphere that will go a long way and I think that with Norm Butlers help this will occur. Thanks and be sure to VOTE . It is a Honor to Vote

    October 12, 2010
  5. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi LGN! What a beautiful site you have here, Griff, Tracy, and Ross! It’s loverly.

    It all comes down to responsibility, and John Kline’s approach may not be responsible. The Republican Pledge to America could even be more damaging than evasive and “Drone-like” behavior might be… it could put our nation at risk.

    We’ve been at war without paying for it (yet), letting the rich get by without paying their fair share of tax, and running on a dime but promising a dollar.

    No more waving magic wands. It’s time for responsible budgeting, fair taxation, and long lasting jobs incentives which encourage employers to keep employees. (An example of a long lasting incentive would be subsidies for health care, for example). Let’s find what works, and strengthen our Minnesota and our nation. I believe Shelley Madore is the right person to lead us in the right direction.

    And… I feel Obama is Gulliver and our US Congress is the little people holding him back w strings. On a positive note, I’m glad to hear Obama talk about government being held accountable. That’s what it is all about in our USA. That and ensuring opportunity for our middle class.

    PS, I’m working as an organizer for a local politician, but not for Shelley Madore.

    October 13, 2010
  6. Holly Cairns said:

    Oh, and I’m not against our war in Afghanistan. I’m glad we call it “war” (that’s an honest label)… and I don’t think we should forget what happened to our trade towers. There has to be proper action on our part, or people think they can get away with things like that.

    That said, I’m glad we seem to have a 5 year exit strategy, and I still am waiting for a good reason we were recently in Iraq.

    October 13, 2010
  7. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I agree with Dave Roberts. Norm Butler would be my choice for the at-large Council seat. I thought his comments on development of the northern industrial park (Saturday NNews?) so as not to further disadvantage the downtown made good sense.

    I, too, am frustrated that Congressman Kline is not agreeing to candidate forums yet. And, I am frustrated that Tom Horner seems to be getting some traction in his run for governor. I know him from his consulting work for big ag and other corporate interests. Horner is well connected, not someone who will look out for the little guy. Just ask the nurses.

    October 13, 2010
  8. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Here is the link to a 2008 Star Trib report on Himle Horner public relations work to shore up MNDOT image after bridge collapse. According to this, the firm got a total of $650,000 in taxpayer money for this.


    October 13, 2010
  9. kiffi summa said:

    Must agree with Holly on all… except don’t feel quite as good about WAR in Afghanistan.. and I am so agreeable today 🙂 ! … because I also agree with Dave and Steph on Norman for the at-large seat.

    Norman is a true entrepreneur, and it is the SPIRIT of that which is so desperately needed at this time. We need not a go-along council, but one that will raise the questions that need to be asked. Councilors can work hard, very hard, at their tasks, but if they always accept what is in the staff reports , and do not ever question the conclusions reached, then they are not accepting the policy development load that is to be borne by the councilor, not the staff member.

    October 13, 2010
  10. john george said:

    Holly- Obama may very well be Gulliver (I always thought his claims had strings attached), but with a a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress, it seems the only thing that has been accomplished in the last couple years is a few more trillion dollars of debt. Much of that was used to buy out a bunch of financial executives who got into their fix via their own greed. I hear a lot of blame for our woes placed upon a president who hasn’t been around for two years and the minority party. If the Republican minority can have this much adverse effect on the function of government, then maybe it would be prudent to put them into the majority. At least the blame would have some credibility. The thing I am frustrated with is that even when there is a one party in both the executive and legislative branches, it seems that the government cannot make any progress in really addressing the needs of the populace, namely jobs and health care and providing for senior citizens. My fear is that we are setting ourselves up for a dictatorship. Getting out to vote is the best defense against that, no matter what your political convictions.

    October 13, 2010
  11. David Ludescher said:


    Did we invade Afghanistan because it attacked us? Weren’t all 19 attackers Saudi Arabians?

    October 13, 2010
  12. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi John,

    Obama and strings… ha ha.

    Obama seems to agree with me that accountability is a huge priority.

    You think nothing has been done in the last two years? That great depression was a close call… remember? Now we just need to bail out the people, so it’s not just wall street… even though you and I benefit from a strong wall street.

    What’s your opinion on taxation: Should we keep those tax cuts for the wealthy?

    I don’t feel our government is too strong. Instead, I worry about irresponsible “no tax” politicians getting in office and tanking our entire country. No money for defense, no money to ensure the middle class has opportunity, etc. there’s all this talk about spending as if Democrats keep the money. Really, Democrats want “fair.” At least I do. I also want sustainability.

    October 13, 2010
  13. Holly Cairns said:

    Oooh, no war in Saudia Arabia, please, but I bet you weren’t suggesting that. Seems to me Bin Laden and et. al train others and hide out there (and in Pakistanian outlying areas? Uh oh.)

    I wonder how we could help the Afghanistani people… seems like a good idea to help them prosper somehow. What about those precious metals? Hopefully a middle class arises…

    October 13, 2010
  14. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi Kiffi. 🙂

    October 13, 2010
  15. john george said:

    Holly- I think the whole tax system needs revamping. Right now, I believe there are too many loopholes for people to avoid their responsibility. I think we are going to see a national sales tax coming in the near future. I noticed that our computer system at work has been upgraded to include a line item for national sales tax. The ground work has been laid, it is just the legislation that needs to pass. Is this an answer? I don’t know. Although this would be a consistent tax across the board on whatever items are designated to be taxed, the reality is that this tax will be a larger percentage of take-home pay for low income people compared to higher income people. Another idea out there is a flat tax, say 10% of your gross income with no deductions. This would be fair, but, again, the lower wage earner spends a greater percentage of his income on necessities than a higher wage earner, given that they both consume about the same amount of food and energy.
    As far as cutting taxes, it always sounds good to pass the bill onto those who make more than we do. In reality, if I remember my figures correctly, the top 5% of the wealthiest people in the country still contribute 40% of all the taxes collected. If you think this is fair, that’s fine. It really doesn’t affect me one way or the other.
    As far as the government being strong, if you equate size with strength, then we should have a very powerful governemt. I don’t think anyone is pushing for a weak government. I do think that the size of our government could be cut without compromising its strength. As people live longer, the retirement packages for elected oifficials, including health care and security, is beginning to get expensive. Is it any wonder that the Congress has rejected legislative initiatives to limit their retirement compensation to that of the average citizen?

    October 13, 2010
  16. Phil Poyner said:

    Personally, I think we should have left Afghanistan at the end of 2003-beginning of 2004. By that time Al Qaeda and much of the Taliban had been pushed out of the country and the people of Afghanistan had held the Loya jirga of 2003 to consider a constitution. It would have been a great time to say “good luck with that” and head on out.

    October 14, 2010
  17. Jane Moline said:

    John George: Should the people with 40% of the wealth conttibute 40% of the taxes? I think so. It does affect me–we have transferred wealth to the wealthy and impovershed our middle class. This leads to less economic opportunity for everyone, including the wealthy. If the wealthy quit buying their congressmen and senators with the stupid-selfish motivation, they would realize that a vibrant economy is in their best interest–including a progressive tax rate system.

    Unfortunately we continue to promulgate the idea that the tax system is being unfairly administered and some are cheating their way out of their fair share when in reality we have written it into the law that Wall-Street hedge fund managers should only pay a miniscule capital gains tax rate on their BILLION dollar earnings while the rest of us have to pony up Self-employment tax plus income taxes at a higher rate. This is what Obama wants to take out of the system.

    Meanwhile, for some reason, the incresingly impovershed middle-class claims that we are going to “kill jobs” if we increase taxes on the wealthy. Give me a break. They didn’t create any jobs when they got the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, (and we lost 8 million jobs from then until Obama took office) and none of the 26 guys who each got paid 1 BILLLION dollars EACH in 2009 didn’t create a single job. Oh, maybe they hired another gardener. Or maybe not.

    A national sales tax is not on the table but a VAT is always brought up by people who understand it. Unfortunately, people who don’t call it a national sales tax. They are not at all the same. A VAT is similar to some European governments way of taxing businesses.

    The Republicans have prevented tax relief bills from coming to a vote in order to claim that Obama isn’t doing anything–unfortunately the Republicans only believe their own talking points. I wish back to the time when reasonable people (not wing-nuts) ran for office and worked for what was best for the country–not what was best for their political party.

    Vote Shelly Madore and boot that carpet-bagger John Kline back to Texas where he belongs.

    October 14, 2010
  18. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Good thoughts, Jane. I called the Kline office listed in an alert today, asking him to support a constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC that gives corporations the same speech rights as people, resulting in the wild spending that is going on in this election.

    Kline’s Minnesota campaign office referred me to his policy office which referred me to his DC office. A young woman called me back saying she would take the message but would not see Kline for a few weeks…

    I just got a particularly nasty flyer against Bly from a group called Coalition of Minnesota Business PAC with a St. Paul address. Anyone know anything about this group? Googling it came up with nothing.

    October 14, 2010
  19. William Siemers said:

    I’m trying to figure out why Dayton figures two people who are married and make $85,000 each are considered “wealthy”, while one person who makes $129,000 is not. The couple would pay $200 more in state income tax under Dayton’s proposal, the individual would not pay a dime more. Why the high threshold for singles?

    October 14, 2010
  20. David Ludescher said:


    We had no business in there in the first place. Afghanistan was not involved in the trade center bombings.

    October 14, 2010
  21. David Ludescher said:


    A constitutional amendment to limit free speech?

    October 14, 2010
  22. Phil Poyner said:

    But the people that planned and financed it WERE in Afghanistan, and for the majority of our countrymen that was enough justification to go. My point is that after those people had removed themselves from Afghanistan and the government that had allowed them to plan and train there had been removed, they was no justification to stay.

    But it does beg the question…do you think we should have gone to war with Saudi Arabia?

    October 14, 2010
  23. Ray Cox said:

    William, when you figure that out please let us all know. Frankly, I get sick of Dayton trying to run successful people out of Minnesota. I’m sure readers saw the article in the Strib the other day about the guy who was chatting with is well-off friends…and discovered none of them live in Minnesota. If we keep that game going we will get more visitors and fewer taxpayers. Good luck with that plan.

    And one has to remember, contrary to what just about every Minnesota media source prints, Minnesota has a progressive income tax system where the ‘wealth’ pay far more than everyone else. They continue to trot out the standard statement that the ‘wealthy pay a lower percent of taxes than the lesser wage earners’. As my friend Paul Zorn would quicky point out, numbers can be made to ‘say’ just about anything. Once people make estimates on what wealthy people pay in sales tax, liquor tax, tobacco tax, real estat tax and on and on, they can then make statements like that. But it is important to remember the vast majority of taxes other than income taxes as discrtionary taxes. You pay them if you use the product. If you don’t use it, you don’t pay it.

    The bottom line is Minnesota has a rather sensible income tax system. Our main problem is that we rely in income taxes a bit too much. Income tax revenue is very volitile. When it drops, like it has done the past couple of years, it creates big holes in our state budget if the state fails to adjust their budget to fit the anticipated revenue. If you want the spending side to continue on ‘business as ususal’ and protect the status quo, then you have to do like Dayton is doing….try and figure out a way to get more revenue out of essentially the same number of taxpayers.

    October 14, 2010
  24. Paul Zorn said:


    For the record, here are Dayton’s numbers: the top rate he proposes kicks in at $130K for singles and at $150K for married couples.

    I don’t know why Dayton chose these particular numbers as opposed to, say, $133K and $157K. But the general principle that higher tax rates kick in for marrieds somewhere below twice the rate for singles is hardly novel. The highest federal marginal income tax rate (35%), for instance, kicks in at $374K both for single and for married taxpayers. Anyone worried about “marriage penalties” should look east, not north.

    I have no opinion on who deserves to be called “wealthy”. I’d rather discuss policy than argue the semantics of such a loaded word.

    October 14, 2010
  25. William Siemers said:


    I used ‘wealthy’ because that is the word Dayton has used. Personally, I am all for wealth and don’t consider the term loaded. My point was, and remains, that a ‘policy’ of raising income tax should attempt to be equitable in how it treats those from which it expects to pay the tax: The ‘very affluent’.

    I don’t think a proposal that expects a couple, filing jointly, to pay more if together they earn $150,000 is fair. Particularly when another couple, filing separately can earn $260,000 and not pay a penny more.

    I don’t object to increased income taxes in order to help balance the budget. But that increase should be part of a program that expects every citizen to make a sacrifice to that end, not just the wealthy. Whether by income tax increases, cuts in favored programs or an extension of the sales tax, everyone should be a part of the solution.

    October 15, 2010
  26. And Tom Emmer would be successful : I do not know where he would be a shining light for Minnesota Leadership. Not favoring a Anti-Bullying laws that would and should be enforced. We are all in this together we need to focus on understaning each other after all WWJD Thanks David

    October 15, 2010
  27. Paul Zorn said:


    Thanks for the call-out … good to hear from you in this thread.

    I’d tweak your friendly paraphrase of my view just a bit. Yes, some numbers can be found that seem to support almost any point of view. The hard parts are finding the right numbers and making the case that your numbers, uh, make your case.

    Are Minnesota state taxes progressive? It depends on whether you look *only* at income tax — which is indisputably progressive, simply by definition: a tax is “progressive” (not “flat” or “regressive”) if higher earners pay a higher percentage. One could argue about *how* progressive the system should be, but not credibly about whether it’s progressive or not. I don’t know of any credible “Minnesota media sources” who would argue otherwise.

    Questions about progressivity become live when other-than-income taxes and fees come into the picture — as they must in any serious discussion. As you suggest, hard numbers are trickier to come by here, and matters of choice as well as obligation arise.

    But it hardly follows that we should just ignore these harder numerical questions, as you seem to recommend. Better we should acknowledge complexity while trying to deal with it.

    Any thoughts, while on such subjects, on Emmer’s financial plans?

    October 15, 2010
  28. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi Jane! Good points, as usual.

    I’m for the wealthy paying their fair share. The widow’s coin is too much, but at least we can close the loopholes, like John George said earlier.

    What’s your thoughts on “fair”? I’d like to understand that, more.

    October 15, 2010
  29. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi William,

    These thoughts of yours are taken by me as “anti-Dayton.” So, are you for Emmer? Are you for sales tax, or tax on food?

    I think we should call our candidates if we have suggestions, and support our candidates with “what we like” in public.

    We might get farther rallying behind what we like instead of pointing out what’s wrong all the time.

    October 15, 2010
  30. Shelley Brady said:

    I have a question that whenever I ask it, no one seems to be able to give me a good answer.

    We keep talking about the “rich” need to pay more taxes. Sounds like a good and reasonable solution. However, the rich didn’t get there by being stupid. If we raise their taxes, don’t you think that we the consumers/users are going to be paying more for their produts and or services? They aren’t going to just take that on their own without passing it along. Isn’t that how it works?

    Shelley Brady

    October 15, 2010
  31. William Siemers said:

    Holly…I am for expanding the sales tax to clothing and food with some kind of credit to protect those with the lowest incomes. I am for a one time income tax surcharge on all taxpayers. I am for reducing the pay of the highest paid state employees and increasing efficiency in state government by consolidating some departments. I think every state department could find a way to get by on 1% less funding if given that mandate until the budget was in balance. I am not pro-Dayton, and a lot Anti-Emmer. I am leaning toward Horner at the present time. So…how about you?

    October 15, 2010
  32. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi William,

    I’m leaning Dayton at the present time.

    October 15, 2010
  33. Paul Zorn said:


    I don’t mean to assume anything about your views, pro or con, of the “wealthy.” IMO the word is loaded (ambiguous might be a more neutral descriptor) because it invites so many defensible but different definitions — as your use of quotes around it in #14 suggests.

    In any case, I think we agree that Dayton’s actual proposals matter more than the words used to describe them. I don’t feel strongly either way about the (arguable) marriage penalty implicit in Dayton’s proposal, but respect your view.

    We agree, too, that income taxes should be part of addressing budget problems. Dayton — alone among the 3 major candidates — has offered one defensible approach to doing this. True, his strategy doesn’t solve all problems at one stroke, and IMO it’s sometimes been clumsily presented by Dayton. But I find the general goal of raising about $2B from additional income tax not unreasonable in context, and I like Dayton’s willingness to be out front on a difficult matter.

    I also respect Horner’s idea of extending the sales tax, and his guts for being willing, like Dayton, to make a hard call. Probably not as hard a call as Dayton’s, however — I’m guessing a sales tax extension would raise less than Dayton proposes, and much less than what’s needed, even if substantial spending cuts were made.

    If I were tax emperor I’d try to spread the pain broadly but thinly, in ways more or less like those you suggest. I’d be open, too, to *decreasing* some taxes and increasing others. At least some business-incident taxes, for instance, do appear to have gotten out of line, and perhaps a better balance should be achieved.

    Some state spending cuts may also be called for, and seem inevitable in any case. Those you describe (in the 1% range, if I read correctly) should certainly be possible. My worry (yet again, I’d guess we agree) is that draconian spending cuts, like those Emmer seems to favour, will effectively dis-invest in our own capacity to thrive.

    October 15, 2010
  34. Jane Moline said:

    I want to just address some of the tax whining.

    1. If you have a job paying $85,000 you have a good job. That is decent pay. You are way better off than those making $23,000 or $35,000 a year. WAY better off.

    2. If both you and your spouse have jobs paying $85,000, you both have really good jobs and if you are not comfortable financially it is due to other circumstances–like poor health or bad choices.

    3. If Dayton wins and raises taxes on joint filers making more than 150,000, it is only the income OVER 150,000–and with itemized deductions and personal exemptions, a couple making 170,000 would probably come UNDER the 150,000 taxable income–so no additional taxes.

    4. IF you have taxable income of, say $160,000 as a joint return–you then pay the “extra” tax on 10,000–if it were 3% that would be 300 dollars. So all the whiners are saying it is not fair that Minnesota would expect taxpayers making $160,000 kick in an extra $300. Cause it will be a job killer. Please. Stick with the facts.

    5. WIlliam, complaining that single taxpayers pay at a lower rate than those subject to a “marriage penalty” is the same old song–don’t dump that one on practical candidates that expect Minnesota to pay for the services we demand.

    6. Remember when Pawlenty took office and tried to cut costs on snow plowing? Remember how everybody complained so much we went back to the old way of actually plowing instead of trying to cut costs and leave people stranded? Then they cut other costs at MN DOT and the bridge collapsed. Oops–I am not suppose to tell anyone that just maybe paying less for maintenance could cause problems.

    7. This whining that all the people making money are going to leave the state is ridiculous. For some years Minnesota had an excise rate–a little additional rate on higher income people–until the deficit was reduced and a reserve built up–and it did not kill jobs or cause everybody to leave. There is a lot more to life than taxes. Believe me, I know.

    8. We had higher taxes and during that time Minnesota and the business community prospered. We were able to fund our schools and our needed services. It is only lately that the very wealthy have convinced lots of people that raising taxes will hurt the economy. Although it is counter intuitive, our economic environment has thrived during higher taxes–including the wealthy, who saw an unprecedented increase in their wealth.

    9. Unfortunately we have all become victims of the sound bite–call it “job killer” or whatever–and everybody takes up the call.

    10. Back to the couple that each make $85,000. I think if you have to pay $300 or $600 more because of higher taxes, so be it. I don’t understand why you think that is such a terrible price to pay to live in this state and know that then children will be able to go to school, that homeless people will get a little health care coverage and students will have a good college system where they can get training for future careers.

    11. Cutting taxes on the wealthy did not create jobs, and raising them a modest amount is not going to kill any jobs. This argument is beyond ridiculous. If businesses have business, they hire. If they can get by with fewer employees they will save their money. If we want to help businesses, we need to have an economy where, instead of transferring wealth to Wall Street loan cheats we amke a better environment for the middle claass–then their will be demand for small businesses–it is the last decades shift of wealth from the middle class to the very wealthy that destroyed our economy.

    12. Emmers plan to just not spend money is unrealistic and unsustainable. He is committed to not funding our schools and that is his plan. Funding schools is required under the constitution and we should quit trying to duck this responsibility and figure out how to make it work. Just not paying is not a choice. Emmer will keep us on the Pawlenty road to being a cold Mississippi.

    13. Horner has not fleshed out his budget and his assumptions are unrealistic.

    14. Dayton is the closest and still has a gap–but has plans on how to close it and is telling the truth–we have to pay for our government–there is no free lunch. I don’t like his idea on the Racino, but he still has my vote because he is willing to speak truth to power–that taxes have to be increased in order to increase revenue–and unlike his opponents he makes no false claim about cutting waste–as auditor he was an excellent bird dog on wasteful government spending and he will be a great leader on it as governor.

    October 15, 2010
  35. Holly Cairns said:

    TY, you rock, Jane! Looking forward to seeing you around town. 🙂 You are so sensible.

    October 15, 2010
  36. Phil Poyner said:

    Jane, you and I have a disagreed on a few things lately, but I agree with you on most of this.

    October 15, 2010
  37. David Ludescher said:


    No, we shouldn’t have attacked Saudi Arabia, nor Iraq, nor Afghanistan. Also, I wouldn’t call what we did a “war”. It was a massacre in an attempt to locate bin Laden – massacre that had little chance of success, and remains unsuccessful 9 years later.

    October 15, 2010
  38. Phil Poyner said:

    David, no…it’s a war. You can tell by the people dying. Regarding the idea that there was little chance of success in finding Bin Laden, he was found in December 2001. He was surrounded during the Battle of Tora Bora, but due to our own incompetence/miscalculations he got away. See http://foreign.senate.gov/reports/download/?id=30753123-b747-4b7c-83fb-d350cc0aacef for the Senate report. Intelligence agencies didn’t pick up on the fact that he was still alive until early 2002. And to my mind that’s when planning for disengagement from Afghanistan should have begun.

    October 15, 2010
  39. William Siemers said:


    Let me whine a couple responses:

    Everyone needs to help balance the budget. If a couple making $170,000 can pay easily pay $200 more in taxes, then it is not a ‘terrible price to pay’ for a couple making $70,000 to pay $40 more. If one can say it is not a sacrifice for the first couple, then it is just as easy to say it about the second couple. (It is even easier to sing a song about a single person making $130,000 paying a bit more, but I guess that inequity is not worthy of a real response).

    I am not ‘dumping’ on Dayton because he “…expects Minnesota to pay for the services we demand.” I’m dumping on him for NOT expecting Minnesota to pay for the services we demand.

    October 16, 2010
  40. Jane Moline said:

    William: I disagree regarding your analysis of proportional fairness. For someone making 70,000 to pay more when the are living paycheck to paycheck while someone making 130,000 has many more extra dollars–200 or 300 to the latter is a much smaller portion of their “discretionary” spending then for someone with NO discretionary spending.

    (Someone making 70,000 probably does have some discretionary spending–but not much. I am just using the example William gave.)

    William’s analysis treats all dollars as equal–our tax system says that the first portion of your earnings goes to Social Security tax, the next portion for housing you, feeding you, clothing you and providing for your health–and that is what the personal exemptions and itemized or standard deductions are for. Those dollars are “tax free.” After that, the dollars are taxed in the federal system at the lowest rate until that bracket is full, and then progressively higher.

    So, William, you are probably right about the $40 for the 70,000 earner–but I think that already is going on with the increase in property taxes due to the failed policies of our current running-for-president governor–all of us have seen an increase in cost because of governments refusal to address our current problems.

    Note that Dayton has proposed at least 3 brackets for singles with TAXABLE INCOME OVER 130,000 and joint filers with TAXABLE INCOME OVER 150,000–with a progressive bracket taxing those with higher incomes at a higher rate and those with more than a million dollars in taxable income at the highest rate.

    Dayton is also proposing to close the snow-bird tax rules so those MInnesotans who claim residency in another state end up paying a proportionate share of Minnesota tax based on their Minnesota residency even if it is less than 183 days.

    October 16, 2010
  41. Jane Moline said:

    P. S. WIlliam I like your whining because you bring up many good points. I am just tired of the Chicken Little Sky is Falling approach of Republicans who claim the world will end if taxes are raised. We have years of taxes going up and down and it didn’t end yet.

    I think the refusal to particiapate in paying for government services is treason. Republicans love their message that taxes are bad bad bad and we don’t really need to pay for things it is all waste waste waste–it is a popular lie.

    October 16, 2010
  42. Jane Moline said:

    Thanks, Kathie. I just added them to my favorites (I don’t really get around that much on the web, so I appreciate the heads up!)

    October 17, 2010
  43. Paul Zorn said:


    Today’s Strib endorses Horner for governor … I guess you persuaded them. Seriously, I don’t think the Strib needed much persuading; they’ve been fawning over Horner for weeks. Horner, they say, is a serious, realistic, pragmatic, willing-to-make-hard-choices guy, who can transcend or sidestep partisan politics and get things done.

    I don’t buy it.

    Horner may indeed be a fine fellow, and I like him for proposing an unpopular but reasonable—perhaps essential—sales tax extension. But …

    1. I think Dayton proposes a better mix of “revenue enhancement” (ouch!) and spending cuts than either Horner or Emmer.

    2. For better or worse (which it is is another discussion) political parties are the vehicle through which we do government around here. As governor Horner would have a bully pulpit, but without serious party allegiance he’ll have trouble getting legislation passed.

    3. We tried the transcend-party-politics route in 1998, with Gov Ventura. Didn’t work.

    4. Horner’s long, long history in Republican politics (he was a staffer for Sen. Durenberger, for instance) raises fair questions about his recent conversion to non-partisanism.

    Politics means choosing among the available choices. I’ll vote for Dayton.

    October 17, 2010
  44. kiffi summa said:

    I’ll vote for Dayton, also.
    Horner’s numbers continue to fall, and as much as I hate to be forced into a pragmatic based, rather than principle based vote, that is the reality of our system now.

    OK, call me crazy, but I believe Dayton’s ‘heart’ is in the right place. I am tired of politicians who are afraid to show themselves as human beings rather than vote calculators. If you think that goes against my previous statement, I don’t think so. The campaign mangers can strategize all they want; that’s their job.
    But I want the candidate to be in control of how much of his personal heart and mind he allows the public to see, before the election.

    I like candidates who allow us to see them as human beings, with the failings we all have; we can be the judge of what ‘failings’ we will accept.
    Yep… I’ll vote for Dayton.

    October 17, 2010
  45. Bruce Wiskus said:

    So just finished reading all the comments from top to bottom. There are some interesting “facts” being thrown around. If I may I would like to address a few that caught my eye.

    Holly in post 8 you throw out two of those facts. One is the 5 year plan to exit Afghanistan. The other is your assertion that we were “recently” in Iraq. Well lets take the Afghanistan 5 year plan. I am willing to bet you that we are still in Afghanistan well after 5 years. I too have no facts only history to come to that conclusion. Vietnam is the only place we have been in a “conflict/war” that we do not have troops. For example we still have troops in the Balken’s.

    As for the recently in Iraq statement. Perhaps you chose your words poorly or you believe that because combat troops have left we are no longer in Iraq. I am not sure of the number but I believe we are still close to 100,000 troops in country with many others in the region.

    David, I find it offensive to all the members of the military that you would call it a massacre instead of a war. It may not technically be a war, not congressional declaration, but is certainly not a massacre.

    Jane, you call the VAT tax a tax on business. I would disagree with you. Having visited Europe a number of times I have paid the VAT tax as a consumer. Like most taxes on businesses it is passed on to the consumer.

    However I do agree with you and others that the current tax system is not working. I am in favor of a flat tax with little or no deductions or a VAT/national sales tax. However it must be balance with cuts in spending across the board.

    October 17, 2010
  46. Jane Moline said:

    Bruce; You are not agreeing with me. I did not say that the current tax system is not working. I do think it has become less progressive and I do think the AMT needs fixing.

    The VAT is collected at the business level. All business taxes are passed on in the form of price increases to consumers. This is obvious and nothing new.

    A flat tax belongs somewhere with a flat earth belief. It sounds good but is actually a way to tax the poor to enrich the wealthy.

    October 17, 2010
  47. Ray Cox said:

    Jane, I second William in 19.2.1. If additional revenue is needed, and you make the leap that it is only needed for a short time until the economy improves, then why not just implement a surtax? Minnesota has done that in the past and it was quite effective. It allows everyone that pays any income tax to participate in resolving the budget problem.

    But, that plan does not work if you truly believe that number one, Minnesota simply needs more permanent revenue regardless of good times or bad times, and, number two, when you run out of ‘rich’ to tax with a special tax you will need a fall back position to try for even more revenue….therefore you hold back in reserve the surtax plan, and hold back on expanding sales tax. Then, if you are Dayton and happen to win in November, you can tax the ‘rich’ right now. Then the next biennium when the government gobbles up all that added revenue, you can implement one of these other plans held in reserve. Who knows, with a little bit of tweaking here and there I’m sure Minnesota could easily move into #1 in every single tax position.

    October 18, 2010
  48. Bruce Wiskus said:


    My apology I inferred that you thought the current system was not working. If I understand you it merely needs some fixes. So you are right I do not agree with you. I definitely think the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

    As for flat tax it is one alternative. I am not sure it equates to the flat earth theory but to each their own. As I said I would also be willing to look at national sales tax. Both of these have pros and cons and you can make adjustments to the tax threshold to not “punish” the poor.

    As for the VAT you and I agree it is a tax that is passed on to the consumer. I believe it is collected at the consumer level like a sales tax, in the end it does not matter the consumer not the business pays it.

    Discussion is good


    October 18, 2010
  49. Paul Zorn said:


    I’m guessing you’re not a big fan of Dayton’s economics. Any thoughts on Emmer’s?

    October 18, 2010
  50. Paul Zorn said:

    On another election-related theme …

    The Strib’s editorial endorsing Horner for governor acknowledges that many voters may perceive voting for a third party candidate as throwing one’s vote away. Here’s their rejoinder:

    Our advice: Talk to your fellow Minnesotans in the next two weeks. Think about the obligation citizens bear to vote their consciences. And don’t let fear cause you to vote for a candidate you consider to be the second-best choice.

    As with the endorsement itself, I don’t buy it.

    The condescending tone is irritating, and the logic is worse. For better or worse (worse, actually, but that’s another discussion) we have a plurality voting system, in which we only get one chance to influence an outcome. There’s nothing “obligation”-shirking, blameworthy, or fearful in putting one’s vote where one expects it to do the most good — or avoid the most harm.

    Politics really is the art of the possible.

    October 18, 2010
  51. Jane Moline said:

    Ray: I don’t believe the surtax would be fair because of the lack of progressivity. I really think rich people have more money than less-rich people. No–I KNOW that people with more money have more money and it is fair to tax the wealthy at a higher level in order to achieve tax parity–those less well off have more of their income taken in property taxes, sales taxes and income taxes than those with more income. A progressive income tax is just and fair. I don’t think government just “gobbles” up the money–I really think we do have to fix roads and fund schools. And you know we have to. I don’t know why anyone buys into the “poor little rich people” arguments the republicans keep making. They are not creating jobs with their income. They are buying up real estate and taking vacations. If they were “creating jobs” they would be getting deductions for those wages and they would not be paying as much in taxes.

    October 19, 2010
  52. kiffi summa said:

    Paul’s right on here; if the Strib wants to ‘shame’ people in to voting for only their first choice…regardless of that candidate having any chance of prevailing… then they ought to be spending a lot of ink/paper advocating for some sort of proportional voting, IRV (instant runoffvoting).

    As it is, voters are often put into the position of voting against a candidate as much as for a candidate. And the situation only becomes worse as xxxmillions of dollars are spent on campaigns.

    October 19, 2010
  53. William Siemers said:


    How do I know that I am wasting my vote at this time? Maybe people will talk to their fellow Minnesotans and the tide will turn. Seems to me if the logic demands we act according to polling data then you two can plan on not having to vote at all since the outcome is assured.

    And what’s wrong with ‘voting your conscience’? Better that I should vote for a person with whom I disagree more than agree? None of these guys will have a majority mandate, I think voting for Horner sends a valuable message even if loses: Get to the middle! 60 to 65% of the electorate doesn’t want your extreme solutions.

    October 19, 2010
  54. Paul Zorn said:


    I don’t believe, and didn’t mean to suggest, that there’s anything wrong with voting your conscience. On the contrary, everybody *should* vote his or her conscience — keeping in mind that one’s conscience might plausibly argue for a “strategic” vote.

    Does “logic demand that we act according to polling data”? No, if
    “act according to” means “vote with the majority”. Yes, if “act according to” means “keep the polls in mind.”

    Yes, the future is unknowable and we’re never fully certain, in the sense of mathematical proof, that a given vote would be wasted. We can only make our best-informed guess. Mine is that Horner has no realistic chance. (Take that for what it’s worth: I didn’t expect a boa-clad governor in 1998.)

    Voting for B in hopes of sending a message to A and C, even if B loses, seems to me a perfectly defensible strategy. My concern about it stems not from any high-flown, Strib-style moral posturing, but from the possibility that it could, intended or not, help elect A.

    October 19, 2010
  55. kiffi summa said:

    Wm: very sorry for the miscommunication… I am 100% in favor of voting one’s conscience BUT I don’t think our voting system,and campaign financing process , allow us to do that except in this rationalized way: I am voting for the Democrat because the Republican is , IMO, scarily oppressive , and I can’t even consider voting independent or green, or anything else, because the percentages two weeks before the election tell me I could end up with a Republican Governor, a candidate that in my estimation MUST not win.

    Therefor, we are often put in the position of rationalizing a ‘conscientous’ vote, rather than truly voting our conscience.

    October 19, 2010
  56. Kathie Galotti said:

    or TE

    October 19, 2010
  57. Paul Zorn said:


    Why do you assume, as #32 suggests, that a surtax couldn’t be progressive?

    Seems to me a surtax could be just as progressive as the income tax itself, or more so, depending on how a surtax would be levied. Say, for simplicity, that the state decided to raise an extra 10% in income tax. One easy way to do this would be to charge all taxpayers 10% more income tax than they’d pay otherwise. (Calculate your tax and add 10%.) People who formerly paid 10% would now pay 11%, people who pay 5% would now pay 5.5%, 2% would go to 2.2%, and so on. These new rates are arguably *more*, not less, progressive than the old ones.

    Other surtax schemes are mathematically possible, though in my view less likely and less wise. In a “flat” scheme, for instance, people formerly in the fictional 2%, 5%, and 10% brackets could be kicked up to, say, 3%, 6%, and 11%. Or new money could be raised by billing everyone a fixed amount, say $1000. That would be regressive, but it seems unlikely.

    October 19, 2010
  58. Ray Cox said:

    Paul, you are completely correct in your analysis of how a surtax has worked. It is just as progressive as our income tax is. And just like our income tax, about 40 percent of the population is not involved in paying it. That is fine with me as they are at an earning level where it doesn’t make much sense to take taxes away from them. As I have said many, many times in this venue, I am not one to cut our taxes. I think Minnesota has a system that works pretty well. Like Horner, I might tweak things somewhat. And like Horner, I have no problem increasing fees for serivces or goods that is of a personal nature.

    It sounds more like Jane is just mad at ‘rich’ people. Jane, if I’m earning well in a business and I pay $200,000 in taxes, if my tax bill goes up to $300,000 that is $100,000 less money that is disposable to me. Now maybe all the ‘rich’ people you know simply use their disposable income and “are buying up real estate and taking vacations.” But here is a different view. If I retain that $100,000 for 5 years instead of the state taking it from me, I have half a million dollars to:
    * invest in a start up company as an angel investor
    * invest in a new product and set up a manufacturing business
    * establish a foundation to support a worthwhile cause that is important to me.
    * and on and on

    These funds generate jobs….period, end of story. I know the mantra on a lot of the people you hang out with is that rich people only buy gold plated faucets, and other trinkets. That may indeed be true for some wealthy people. But without venture money, we don’t percolate ideas. Without investing in machinery and equipment, we don’t produce new things.
    Without the investments of philanthropists we have a lot of people hurting a lot more.

    You can talk all you want about people being able to deduct wages, health insurance, equipment expenses, and everything else an accountant talks about. But the bottom line is if you want to grow our economy it works well to let capital flow to where it does good things.

    October 19, 2010
  59. William Siemers said:

    A candidate who is ON MESSAGE:

    October 20, 2010
  60. Phil Poyner said:

    I love the last line: “In the Rent Is Too Damn High Party if you want to marry a shoe, I’ll marry you…” This guy only sounds nuts until you find out how much New Yorkers pay in rent!

    October 20, 2010
  61. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    William, the “Rent is too damn high” candidate is a stitch. Thanks for sending.

    If I could vote in Northfield (we do own a house in town), I’d vote for Norm Butler for the at-large seat. I finally got my thoughts together on this after viewing the KYMN tape of the LWV candidate forum last night, too late for a letter to editor.

    The five candidates for City Council were asked if they favor proceeding with plans to develop an industrial park west of the hospital. All but one, incumbent Rhonda Pownell, expressed their opposition and/or deep reservations about it.

    Rhonda’s challenger for the at-large seat, downtown businessman Norm Butler, was the most outspoken. He questioned whether it would ever become an industrial park, given that Phase I includes hundreds of housing units and motel rooms, plus retail and office space that put it in competition with the downtown.

    The other three candidates, Suzi Nakasian in District 1 and Patrick Ganey and Dale Gehring running in District 4, echoed those sentiments. Gehring, whose business is insurance, said he did not believe the old adage, “build it and they will come.” He said the design should be to scale to the community. “Scale is key,” he said.

    I have high hopes that the makeup of the Council after the election will be an improvement. And that Northfield’s communications with the townships may change for the better in the New Year. We are, after all, one community.

    October 20, 2010
  62. Jane Moline said:

    Paul: Ray referred to the past surtax which was not progressive-it was an additional amount upon your calculated tax. (So it applied to all taxpayers without regard to level of income.)

    October 20, 2010
  63. Jane Moline said:

    Ray: LIke many Republicans you want to reduce the discussion to class warfare. I don’t hate rich people. I LOVE rich people. I just think it is an empty argument that raising taxes “kills jobs.”

    Our tax system has become less and less progreessive over the last 20 years rather than staying the same or becoming more progressive. Of course the argument is that the tax system is ALREADY progressive enough if you are wealthy–you are trying to protect your money–you don’t want the public to see that you are accumulating tons of wealth while they are becoming poorer and losing health insurance and there are 36 kids in the high school biology class.

    The proof is in the pudding. When tax cuts were enacted in 2001 and 2003 we did not see a flurry of job creation. Instead, over the ensuing Bush presidential term the economy lost 8 MILLION jobs and we saw our savings become worthless along with our homes.

    Business people should be able to see that the failed policies of the Republicans are NOT GOOD FOR BUSINESS. It is amazing that they continue to claim that Republicans are pro business when they have been part and parcel of the biggest economic meltdown in our countries history. I wish that Republicans were willing to admit they were wrong. Without that, you can’t trust them in office because they will continue to repeat their mistakes and drain this country of what makes it great–ability for entrepreneurs to make money.

    I agree that capital has to flow–I just know that it didn’t flow under the Republican policies and that we have seen what Pawlenty has done to our state–we need to change directions, and that means trying something different. (And we know what has worked in the past in Minnesota, and it wasn’t dismantling the government.)

    October 20, 2010
  64. Paul Zorn said:

    Jane (or Ray),

    In which year did the “past surtax” under discussion here occur? Better yet, does either of you know how, numerically) it was actually levied? As a flat percentage add-on? Or what?

    October 20, 2010
  65. Barry Cipra said:

    Jane, I join Paul in asking you (or Ray) to be more specific about the “past surtax” you’ve both referred to.

    The one thing I was able to find with a quick Google search is a bill introduced in 2009 as a “progressive surtax on individuals, estates, and trusts.” An analysis by the Minnesota Department of Revenus, available at


    offers this synopsis:

    “For taxpayers with adjusted gross income under
    $30,000, the surtax rate is 6%. For taxpayers with adjusted gross income of at least $30,000 but
    less than $80,000, the surtax rate is 8%. For taxpayers with adjusted gross income of at least
    $80,000 but less than $250,000, the surtax rate is 10%. For taxpayers with adjusted gross income
    of $250,000 or more, the surtax rate is 12%.”

    October 20, 2010
  66. Jane Moline said:

    Barry: You asked about tax rates. I do not like to nest replies because it is difficult to find the discussion and follow it–luckily I went back and I saw that you had put in your question.

    I have been intimately familiar with taxation in the the state of Minnesota for 30 years. Unfortunately, I discarded my old Minnesota “package X” (had all of the forms each year so you could easily look up forms and instructions) and have gone to electronic forms since–so I don’t remember which years were the surtax years, but I think it may have started (or ended?) in 1987. The surtax was passed to make up for budget shortfall and expired when the shortfall was covered. It was a set rate times your tax after you had completed Minnesota taxable income and looked up your tax on the rate tables–then you multilied the result times the surtax.

    Again, my criticism of the surtax is it does not contribute to any progressive structure in the tax rates and what you have stated in your comment above (32.2.2) the surtax applies to taxable income of ONE DOLLAR and increases at taxable income of $30,000. This is not very progressive–it is definitely a “tax the poor” idea.

    I support a progressive tax structure because I think it is more fair.

    I am upset that the discussion continues to be that some meany is going to tax the rich or that Democrats hate rich people or that Democrats are job killers. These are all code words so Republicans do not have to discuss real policies and real problems.

    Unfortunately, too many of the electorate are real happy to embrace the empty words of the Republicans who claim that they have the key to not raising taxes–and it is all the fault of a spendthrift government and wasteful state agencies. That is what everyone wants to hear–they do not want to hear the truth. That if we do not invest in our infrastructure and schools our bridges will fall down, our roads will crumble, and our children will have a crappy education. And our business environment will continue to deteriorate as it has done under the national Bush administration and the state Pawlenty administration.

    We should be discussing the important issues of how we are going to pay for the infrastructure and education we NEED and whether that should be collected in property taxes or income taxes or sales taxes. It is certainly valid to discuss the rates and how it should be paid.

    And I happen to think one of the best ways to tax is on income and that it is fair to tax people with lots of income lots more than people with a little bit of income. If you want to understand my reasonaing, I can explain it again.

    I think sales tax is regressive because IT IS. Poor people spend 100% of their income on housing and food and clothing and gas and insurance. So if you tax everything you are raising the tax on 100% of their income. Rich people, on the other hand, spend only a portion of their income, so they only pay sales tax on a portion of their income. I don’t think that is a fair way to tax.

    The state of Minnesota decided that the sales tax is fair if they exclude necessities like food and clothing. There is a lot of discusison as to whether that is good policy. I think it is an interesting discussion. Minnesota gets most of its tax revenue from income and property taxes, and then sales tax. Florida gets most of its revenue from sales tax and does not have an income tax. If we want to discuss what is better policy, great. Have at it.

    I am sick of hearing politicians promissing not to tax–like Pawlenty and now Emmer–that is like a promise to ruin our state and destroy our economy–and that is exactly what has happened and what is continuing to happen.

    We can not get out of this economic disaster without a great deal of effort and it is going to be a lot of hard work and real money. None of this will be cheap. We need to quit looking for the easy answer–and start facing the reality of how we are going to pay for this.

    October 20, 2010
  67. Ray Cox said:

    Jane, I’m not following you. When you say:
    “Poor people spend 100% of their income on housing and food and clothing and gas and insurance.”
    None of these things have sales tax applied in Minnesota.

    And I don’t get your problems with a surtax. The way we have used the surtax it is progressive….as you actually explained. If you figure your Minnesota tax and don’t owe any, then you don’t owe a surtax. If you figure your tax and owe $1,000 then you multiply that by the surtax rate. If you figure your tax and owe $10,000 then you multiply that by the surtax rate. It seems to me, as Paul Zorn pointed out, the surtax is just as progressive as our income tax rates which are totally progressive.

    October 20, 2010
  68. William Siemers said:


    If anyone is guilty of class warfare it is Dayton. His revenue proposal is based on a tax that effects 10% of taxpayers. I think the Strib got it right…Everyone in Minnesota needs to be part of the solution. Ray and Paul are correct, a surtax would be progressive and it is fair.

    No one in this discussion is suggesting that the budget should be balanced without revenue increases. I think most people also believe that spending can be cut as well. But Dayton’s proposed cuts are miniscule. Great Britain just announced that their budget would be reduced by 19% and 500,000 government jobs eliminated. We need to make realistic adjustments now to avoid such severe measures in the future.

    October 21, 2010
  69. Bruce W. Morlan said:

    Well, this is in response to all of you who are fighting over how progressive or regressive Minnesota (or Federal, for that matter) taxes are. The fact that this is even a subject of disagreement points out the biggest flaw in our tax system, which is that it is a byzantine labyrinth of codes (33K pages in the federal version) that is chock full of special gifts (aka earmarks by another name) to powerful lobbies (like unions, businesses etc.). The people who cry out for tax reform, especially the “flat taxers” are really much more about reducing the complexity down to transparency. I suspect that a 15 page code that included a nicely progressive rate would meet their approval nicely. If we are lucky in this next election we will find ourselves where Americans seem to enjoy being, with the executive branch in one party’s hands and the legislature in the other’s.

    As for purely local elections. Next post.

    October 21, 2010
  70. Phil Poyner said:

    William, I’ve heard Dayton talk about this, and it looks like he’s been studying State and Local Effective Tax Rates (ETR). Currently the ETR for the upper decile income level is about 10%. The ETR for the next 8 deciles is about 12%. (All this information is in the incidence report, by the way) To Dayton a raise in the income tax rate of the upper decile would actually help to bring them in line with the ETR of the majority of Minnesotans. He would argue that isn’t class warfare, but whether you agree with the argument or not is up to the individual.

    Regarding comparisons to the UK, at the state level the requirement to pass a balanced budget should keep changes from ever appearing that draconian. Making adjustments every couple of years rather than, say, every 10 or 20 years minimizes the likelihood of the adjustments becoming major. But at the federal level…well, to be honest I don’t think anyone, from any part of the political spectrum, is serious about either increasing revenues or cutting spending. What makes me think that way? Well, since 2000 nearly all the growth in the federal government has been in the areas of national defense or related fields (DoD, DHS, VA, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc, etc, ad nauseum). And yet, when the president, the congress, or any other political yahoo with a microphone and a room temperature IQ start talking about cutting spending they IMMEDIATELY excempt all the agencies and departments I just listed! At least the British had the intestinal fortitude to put everything on the table. Until we do the same, budget cutting at the federal level will be more eyewash than substance.

    By the way, most of those dollars from the expansion of the federal government in the last decade went to contractors (for example, the number of civil servants was up 54,000 since 2002 to 1.9 million workers, while the number of contractors swelled by 2.5 million). You know who has good lobbyists? Defense contractors. You know who donates a lot of money to political campaigns? Yeap, defense contractors. I’m betting they’ll continue to pull out all the stops to make sure the federal trough stays full.

    October 21, 2010
  71. Bruce W. Morlan said:

    I have long compared the “build it and they will come” mentality of small town government to pyramid schemes. Like in the Music Man (or the great Simpson’s parody, “Marge vs. the Monorail”), the glitz and glitter catches the eye, but the cold numbers often reveal the scheme for what it is … a way for speculators to make money while the local taxpayers get left paying the bills. There is little evidence that small towns have the resilience to grow their way out of trouble, and as we face a future with less and less support from up north or out east, we should be very cautious indeed about bonding for infrastructure extensions. If crafty business people with their access to power are not willing to build here because it is too expensive, why should we expect the city’s taxpayers to want to make that investment?

    The old models of growth based on cheap energy (oil) and expansive building are about to come face to face with the need for small communities to be more resilient in the face of uncertainty. While we hear over and over about successes in the past, past performance (of the economic models) is no guarantee of future returns. The city of Dundas came close to being in trouble with their bet on Bridgewater Heights (if not actually in trouble). Northfield has its 500+ acres in the “Northwest Territories” with no way to fund infrastructure. Conservative thinking suggests that the cities should proceed with caution. The risk-takers amongst us are willing to place bets at the tables using tax payer money (other people’s money) but a full accounting (total cost of development) analysis might show us to be better off not bonding with taxpayer backing to pay for the infrastructure to make these sites “shovel ready”.

    The candidates for local offices (Northfield and Dundas) who are most conservative about not placing bets with the public’s tax money are the ones I would recommend the voters support.

    October 21, 2010
  72. William Siemers said:

    I’m not sure I totally agree with the ETR argument. For example, it makes assumptions about how much sales tax is paid by households in any particular ‘quintile’. How does the department of revenue know what any individual pays in sales tax? If they can’t tell me what I have bought how can they tell me what I have paid in sales tax? A middle quintile household (incomes between 58k and 74k) supposedly pay 2.6% of income in sales tax, while the top quintile (households with over 137k of income) supposedly pay 1.5%. So someone making 137k paid $2000 in sales tax while the person making 74k paid $1860? I guess the rich are just like you and me…they don’t even buy more stuff or more expensive stuff.

    The department of revenue ETR also says that residential property taxes cost households in that middle quintile 3.5% of income while those in the top quintile pay only 1.6% of income in property tax. So the guy making 74k pays $2600 property tax while the guy making 137k pays $2190??? I thought the point of being rich was to live in a nicer house, not one that is worth less.

    Ok…I have used extreme examples from the top income range of one quintile and the bottom of another. Not quite a fair comparison…still the figures are what they are. I question the value of the ETR when it is this easy to show valid examples that seem to make no sense.

    October 21, 2010
  73. Jane Moline said:

    Yes, the Minnesota surtax if applied to current tax is as progressive as the Minnesota income tax, which isn’t really progressive, and the proposed surtax cited by Barry is not progressive at all.

    If the sales tax base is brodened to include clothing and food, (Horner proposal) then the sales tax is NOT progressive. Regardless, if poor people buy batteries and toilet paper and cleaning supplies they are paying tax on a higher percentage of their income then rich people.

    I actually like the surtax I just think it should be 1. temporary and 2. progressive.

    October 21, 2010
  74. Paul Zorn said:


    Our discussion of progressivity or lack thereof in taxation seems to have gotten a bit snagged on the word “progressive”, which some of us seem to use differently from others.

    A tax is “progressive” if people with higher incomes pay in at higher rates . In this mathematical sense the Minnesota income tax, the US federal income tax, the income surtax formerly levied in Minnesota, the surtax proposed in the document pointed to by Barry, and virtually every other income-sensitive tax are progressive.

    Less formally, “progressive” might be used to describe any plan or policy that advances a goal desired by the speaker. If one’s goal is that earners under $30K should pay no surtax at all, then any plan without this property could perhaps be called not progressive — but at the risk of confusion over the usual meaning of words.

    Whether a given tax structure is (by any definition) too progressive, not progressive enough, or just right is another good — but different — question. Whether a given structure is “fair” is still another question. Conflating these different things just muddies the water.

    October 21, 2010
  75. Jane Moline said:

    Exactly, Paul. Dayton is proposing a plan that he believes is more progressive as it raises taxes from current levels by adding three income tiers at PROGRESSIVELY higher rates–so currently the married joint rate is 5.35% on the first $33,280 plus 7.05% on from 33281 to $132,220 and 7.85% on everything over $132,220.

    Dayton would add another 3 tiers for over $150,000 and maxing the percentage on anything over one million dollars. This makes the tax rates MORE progressive than just adding a surtax on the current 3 tiers–right now someone making 900,000 is paying at the same rate as the guy making 132221 on each incremental dollar.

    October 21, 2010
  76. BruceWMorlan said:

    As an aside on progressive taxes, can anyone comment on the original intent of the Federal tax system (pre-income taxes)? Specifically, there is a fascinating quote that roughly states that democracies can only flourish as long as people cannot vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. I see the underlying logic in the quote, though there is pretty good evidence that it is either an unsubstantiated aphorism at best, or a deliberate lie at worst. In either case, I have read that the original intent of the Constitution was to tax wealth (not income). The logic is that for democracy to succeed we need a system to prevent the pooling of wealth in dynastic families (the Bushes and the Kennedy’s come to mind as good examples of why you don’t want that accumulation to occur).

    Taxing wealth (net value) rather than income would seem to be a reasonable way to accomplish this. But we have lost that battle (11th amendment).

    October 22, 2010
  77. BruceWMorlan said:

    Actually, make that “for the republic to succeed”.

    October 22, 2010
  78. Phil Poyner said:

    Taxing wealth as opposed to income would REALLY get you accused of engaging in class warfare! My understanding in that wealth is even more concentrated than income in America. By some estimates in 2007 the top 1% held 34.6% of America’s wealth while in 2006 the top 1% earned 21.3% of America’s income! (see http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html)

    October 22, 2010
  79. William Siemers said:

    Phil…If wealth was taxed Dayton would be paying a whole lot more in taxes than the 30k he paid in state and federal income tax in 2009. This on income of $173,000, for which he did not work, but collected interest, dividends and capital gains distributions. I think it’s safe to say that this income is less than 1% of the value of his trust fund (maybe 1/10 of one percent)…I mean we’re talking about TARGET. But he pays nothing on that money stashed away and obviously growing every year. But yet he suggests that it is ‘fair’ to increase taxes on ‘wealthy’ households making more than $150,000 a year.

    I am tired of silver spoon liberals who’ve got theirs, but are so quick to propose taxes on people who are just starting to get some for themselves. If he wants ‘fair’, why not propose a cut in everyone’s income tax and a tax on wealth to compensate.

    October 22, 2010
  80. Paul Zorn said:


    Concerning this:

    … I have read that the original intent of the Constitution was to tax wealth (not income).

    I’m no historian, but if Wikipedia’s right, the Feds’ main source of income until WWI was tariffs. The Constitution’s original language required that any “direct” tax, like an income tax, be apportioned among the states according to their population.

    This appears to have so unworkable a requirement, especially as regards property taxes, that the 16th amendment, ratified in 1913, was passed to address the problem, and in particular to make it possible to tax property (= wealth, more or less…) as well as income. So, while it’s unclear to me what the Original Intenders had in mind about wealth vs. income, they seem to have made it harder than necessary to tax property.

    October 22, 2010
  81. Phil Poyner said:

    William, you’re not going to get an argument from me on the idea of taxing wealth versus income! I’m afraid that the people you would get arguments from are predominately those on the other side of the political spectrum…except for perhaps folks like Dayton. There is one tax that I can think of on wealth: the estate tax. And we all know what a political football that tax is. It just helps support my opinion that talking about taxing wealth will be you called a class warrior.

    Of course taxing wealth as opposed to income is also in my self-interest. I’m sure being underwater on my mortgage (as are most people that bought a home in the last 5 years) will work to my advantage. That may have some affect on my opinion…let me win the lottery and I might have to change my mind!

    October 22, 2010
  82. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Can we get back to discussing candidates? Election is just a few days away! Anybody else on this blog favor Norm Butler over Rhonda Pownell for Council at-large? How about school board? I go for incumbents Berthelsen and Kari Nelson and Fossum (we get three out of five).

    There’s a forum tomorrow morning Saturday for Minnesota House and Senate seats plus county commissioner, maybe. We need to keep Galen Malecha.

    October 22, 2010
  83. Kathie Galotti said:


    Re: School board–it seems to me that no matter whom you vote for, you are going to end up with a board that simply rubber stamps the recommendations of Dr. Richardson. And while some of his ideas are good ones, his interests are in budget rather than curriculum, and he refuses to hold his staff (principals or teachers) accountable for anything.

    In tight budget times, we have to ensure that each school district employee is giving, well, 90%. And we need to have procedures in place when they don’t to correct it.

    We don’t, and with this school board, we won’t.

    It’s pretty depressing, but I’m thinking of not voting in that race at all. It’ll come down to who is perceived as being the most genial candidate, it seems like.

    October 23, 2010
  84. Paul Zorn said:


    In 38.1.1 you question the logic of Estimated Tax Rate (ETR) calculations, citing (i) the fact that ETR numbers are based on groups (income quintiles, in this case) rather than individuals, and (ii) some sample sales tax incidence calculations based on quintile averages.

    With respect, I’m unconvinced.

    Concerning (i): Sure, individuals within a group behave differently from each other — that’s why it makes good mathematical and practical sense to average (in various ways) over groups. Refusing to do so would doom a lot of useful fields, like epidemiology, demography, insurance, the RBI in baseball, actuarial science, and risk analysis.

    Concerning (ii): You describe your own calculation as extreme, and so it is. A more fundamental glitch is in expecting group statistics to apply to (not randomly selected) individuals. They don’t.

    If you think that the ETR numbers are somehow statistically in error, so be it, but please defend such an assertion. As it stands, your beef seems to be with probability and statistics themselves—fields that have stood up pretty well over the last few centuries.

    October 23, 2010
  85. William Siemers said:

    Paul…I take exception with ETR data based on their assumptions about spending patterns, pricing patterns, and property ownership. I also question the fact that tax benefits from means tested programs do not seem to be included. Statistics have errors, assumptions based on statistics have greater errors. But I am not against the use of statistics.

    I don’t object to the department of revenue compiling such statistics and showing trends based on year over year comparisons of these statistics consistently applied. So, perhaps i shouldn’t have based an objection on the detail (although details would seem important when we are talking about ETR differences of 1 to 1 1/2 percent), but on the way they are used to ‘prove’ taxation inequality. Specifically that the poor and middle class are paying a higher percentage of income in taxes than the ‘rich’.

    How can an ETR prove tax inequality when federal taxes are not included? We don’t pay MN tax in a vacuum. The federal ETR for the middle quintile is 14.2% (including payroll taxes). The federal ETR for the top quintile is 24%, and for the top 1% of earners it is 31%. Add those numbers to the MN ETR and the ‘proof’ that the poor and middle class pay a higher ETR is not so clear.

    Maybe Mn taxes are trending toward greater inequality. On the other hand, maybe they are helping to compensate for a federal system that collects the vast majority of funds from upper income levels while reducing the tax burden on the middle class.

    October 24, 2010
  86. Paul Zorn said:


    If I read you right, your main beef with ETR calculations is that they don’t tell the whole story about the big tax picture, which includes federal income tax and other things.

    Granted — statistics abuse is always a bad thing. But IMO the tax incidence study (here’s a link to an article about it, and on to the study itself)


    is really quite interesting, and certainly relevant to any discussion (like ours) about Minnesota’s tax structure. (The executive summary starts around the 15th page.)

    Yes, the study involves aggregation and estimates, and so doesn’t (and doesn’t pretend to) apply perfectly to individuals. And — as one would expect of a study on Minnesota taxes, this one doesn’t address federal tax incidence.

    There’s a lot here for any numbers geek to enjoy, and IMO the conclusion that state and local tax incidence is now at least mildly regressive in Minnesota is compelling. The study asserts, too, that regressivity increased significantly from 2004 to 2006.

    There’s something here for every persuasion. The numbers suggest, if I read them right, that current Minnesota business taxes find their way back to individual taxpayers (e.g., through higher prices) and end up contributing to regressivity . Surprised, anybody?

    October 24, 2010
  87. William Siemers said:

    Paul…here’s my question. Is it unfair for the MN ETR to be skewed by 1% in one direction, when the federal ETR is skewed by 10 to 15% in the other direction? I don’t think MN Revenue is abusing statistics by pointing out trends in the state and local ETR. I think arguments that neglect to consider total ETR abuse statistics.

    October 25, 2010
  88. Paul Zorn said:


    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.

    October 25, 2010
  89. William Siemers said:

    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.

    October 26, 2010
  90. john george said:

    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.

    October 26, 2010
  91. Paul Zorn said:


    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.

    October 26, 2010
  92. William Siemers said:

    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.

    October 27, 2010
  93. Griff Wigley said:

    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.

    October 27, 2010
  94. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    October 28, 2010
  95. Ross Currier said:

    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

    October 28, 2010
  96. Ross Currier said:

    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.

    October 29, 2010
  97. kiffi summa said:

    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!”

    October 29, 2010
  98. john george said:

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

    October 29, 2010
  99. norman butler said:

    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.

    October 30, 2010
  100. Bruce W. Morlan said:

    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?

    November 1, 2010
  101. Bruce W. Morlan said:

    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.

    November 1, 2010
  102. Paul Zorn said:

    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.

    November 1, 2010
  103. Ray Cox said:

    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.

    November 3, 2010
  104. BruceWMorlan said:

    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.

    November 3, 2010
  105. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 3, 2010
  106. BruceWMorlan said:

    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.

    November 3, 2010
  107. Paul Zorn said:

    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

    November 3, 2010
  108. john george said:

    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.

    November 3, 2010
  109. john george said:

    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.

    November 3, 2010
  110. Patrick Enders said:

    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?

    November 3, 2010
  111. BruceWMorlan said:


    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).

    November 3, 2010
  112. Global warming or not, I think the push to invent new technology to base economic growth upon and to promote energy efficiency was a good one, no matter who came up with the idea first.

    November 3, 2010
  113. Patrick Enders said:

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

    November 3, 2010
  114. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 3, 2010
  115. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    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.

    November 3, 2010
  116. john george said:

    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.

    November 3, 2010
  117. 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

    November 3, 2010
  118. Paul Zorn said:

    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.

    November 3, 2010
  119. Ray Cox said:

    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?

    November 3, 2010
  120. Paul Zorn said:


    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.

    November 3, 2010
  121. William Siemers said:

    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.

    November 4, 2010
  122. Phil Poyner said:

    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.

    November 4, 2010
  123. Bruce W. Morlan said:

    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.

    November 4, 2010
  124. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 4, 2010
  125. john george said:

    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?

    November 4, 2010
  126. Phil Poyner said:

    Well John, they may say you’re dreamer, but you’re not the only one! LOL

    November 4, 2010
  127. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 4, 2010
  128. Kathie Galotti said:

    I’d be a strong advocate of instant runoff voting, too.

    November 4, 2010
  129. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    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.

    November 4, 2010
  130. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 4, 2010
  131. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    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!

    November 4, 2010
  132. Paul Zorn said:


    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).

    November 4, 2010
  133. john george said:

    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.

    November 4, 2010
  134. john george said:

    Why should she worry about that?

    November 4, 2010
  135. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 4, 2010
  136. Bruce Wiskus said:

    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.

    November 4, 2010
  137. Paul Zorn said:


    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.

    November 4, 2010
  138. john george said:

    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.

    November 4, 2010
  139. john george said:

    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.

    November 4, 2010
  140. William Siemers said:

    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’?

    November 5, 2010
  141. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 5, 2010
  142. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 5, 2010
  143. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under Law, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

    November 5, 2010
  144. Gets me through the start of a lot of public meetings.

    November 5, 2010
  145. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 5, 2010
  146. Phil Poyner said:

    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.

    November 5, 2010
  147. David Ludescher said:


    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.

    November 5, 2010
  148. 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

    November 5, 2010
  149. 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.

    November 5, 2010
  150. Phil Poyner said:

    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.

    November 5, 2010
  151. William Siemers said:

    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.

    November 5, 2010
  152. 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.

    November 5, 2010
  153. john george said:

    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.

    November 5, 2010
  154. David Ludescher said:


    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.

    November 5, 2010
  155. Paul Zorn said:


    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.

    November 5, 2010
  156. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 5, 2010
  157. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 6, 2010
  158. john george said:

    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.

    November 6, 2010
  159. Phil Poyner said:

    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.

    November 6, 2010
  160. john george said:

    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.

    November 6, 2010
  161. john george said:

    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.

    November 6, 2010
  162. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 7, 2010
  163. john george said:

    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.

    November 7, 2010
  164. Paul Zorn said:


    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.

    November 7, 2010
  165. john george said:

    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?

    November 7, 2010
  166. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    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.

    November 8, 2010
  167. Paul Zorn said:

    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.

    November 8, 2010
  168. Bruce Wiskus said:


    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

    November 8, 2010
  169. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 8, 2010
  170. john george said:

    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.

    November 8, 2010
  171. Paul Zorn said:

    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.

    November 8, 2010
  172. Griff Wigley said:

    John, are you saying the unification at that time include all the local Christian denominations? I thought it was a subset, eg, the evangelical churches.

    November 9, 2010
  173. David Ludescher said:


    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.

    November 9, 2010
  174. kiffi summa said:

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

    November 9, 2010
  175. john george said:

    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.

    November 9, 2010
  176. kiffi summa said:

    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!

    November 9, 2010
  177. kiffi summa said:

    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?

    November 9, 2010
  178. Paul Zorn said:


    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?

    November 9, 2010
  179. john george said:

    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.

    November 9, 2010
  180. john george said:

    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,

    November 9, 2010
  181. john george said:

    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.

    November 9, 2010
  182. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 10, 2010
  183. kiffi summa said:

    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” ?

    November 10, 2010
  184. BruceWMorlan said:

    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.

    November 10, 2010
  185. BruceWMorlan said:

    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?

    November 10, 2010
  186. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 10, 2010
  187. kiffi summa said:

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

    November 10, 2010
  188. Paul Zorn said:


    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.

    November 10, 2010
  189. BruceWMorlan said:

    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.

    November 10, 2010
  190. David Ludescher said:


    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.

    November 10, 2010
  191. Ray Cox said:

    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.

    November 10, 2010
  192. Paul Zorn said:

    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.

    November 10, 2010
  193. BruceWMorlan said:

    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.

    November 10, 2010
  194. Paul Zorn said:


    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.

    November 10, 2010
  195. john george said:

    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.

    November 10, 2010
  196. john george said:

    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.

    November 10, 2010
  197. Ross Currier said:

    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” –

    November 11, 2010
  198. 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.

    November 11, 2010
  199. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    November 11, 2010
  200. David Ludescher said:


    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.

    November 11, 2010
  201. 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.

    November 11, 2010
  202. William Siemers said:

    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.

    November 11, 2010
  203. kiffi summa said:

    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…

    November 11, 2010
  204. john george said:

    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.”

    November 11, 2010
  205. john george said:

    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.

    November 11, 2010
  206. Paul Zorn said:


    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.

    November 11, 2010
  207. David Beimers said:

    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.

    November 11, 2010
  208. Phil Poyner said:

    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.

    November 11, 2010
  209. john george said:

    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.

    November 11, 2010
  210. Phil Poyner said:

    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.

    November 11, 2010
  211. Paul Zorn said:


    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?

    November 11, 2010
  212. john george said:

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

    November 11, 2010
  213. William Siemers said:

    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.

    November 12, 2010
  214. William Siemers said:

    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?

    November 12, 2010
  215. 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.

    November 12, 2010
  216. 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.

    November 12, 2010
  217. 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).

    November 12, 2010
  218. Paul Zorn said:


    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.

    November 12, 2010

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