Thursday, January 27, 2011

Letter to the Editor

I sent this letter to the Star Tribune regarding action by the GOP controlled Minnesota House of Representatives. Feel free to use any and all of the language in writing own LTE.

To The Editor:
The front page story, GOP Seeks Gun Law Repeal (1/27/2010) was such a surprise given Speaker Zellers and Leader Koch's promise, promise, promise to focus on jobs, jobs, jobs. The old bait and switch is standard "political" fare, but the state of our budget and the economy beg a focus on governing. 

The only way this is about governing, and not politics, is if the GOP meant jobs for arms/gun dealers, casket makers, morticians, and police-oh I forgot they are cutting funds municipalities use for police and fire. The only business that gets better with this kind of legislation is the violence business. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This and That

The Word Investment

All the hoopla today around the use of the word investment by the President in the SOTU is so interesting.  I get it that using this word in relation to taxation and government spending has become suspect.  However, it might just be helpful to refresh our collective knowledge about the definition of the word invest.  According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the word, invest means:1-To commit (money or capital) in order to gain profit or interest...; 2-To spend or utilize (time, money or effort) for future advantage or benefit, often used with in”.  Underling added for emphasis.   

President Obama's call to shift oil subsidies to funding invention, development and production of the machinery, technology and substances of alternative and renewable energy sources is indeed investment. Make no mistake; the successful development of coal, natural gas and oil industries owes no small measure to the "investment" made by previous Presidents and previous Congresses dating back to their beginnings in this country.  Go ahead, look it all up, but don't let the voices trying to cast the President's use of the word investment as a thin ruse to simply increase government spending win the day. 

We have what we have today because our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents invested mightily in the development of all manner and sort of infrastructure and industry.  From the continental railway to the national highway system, from TVA to REA, from oil and gas pipelines to the production of steel, and many more, the way was made most possible by the commitment of tax revenue, spent for future gain and profit. 

I remember watching the landing on the moon in 1969 with my Swedish grandmother who was in her late 80's-old enough to remember Lindbergh's first flight.  I asked her if she found it amazing that we had sent men to the moon.  After a few moments she said, "No, what is amazing is that we can see it on the television."  Well we did it and could see it because the government raised and spent a goodly amount of tax revenue to make it happen. I think we can agree that the benefits of the future we live in now, were worth all that expenditure then. So I stand with the President and all in Congress who understand that spending now for the future is exactly what we need to do today-come on people now join in and let’s get ahead of China in development of solar technology. The sun shines as bright here as there.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What "The People" Voted For in 2010

Statements about the meaning, signals and import of the 2010 elections are everywhere in the press, media, blogosphere, and in public statements by elected officials.  No matter the source, there are always a few, and often many, sentences that contain the phrase, "The People". There are a variety of claims about the meaning of the elections, but none irks me more than the claim by any elected official that their position is, based on the last election; 1- The will of "The People,” 2-The voice of “The People,” 3-What “The People” said, 4-What “The People” voted for, and of course by “The People” they mean a majority, if not all “The People.

Obviously it is the, “The People” part that irritates me the most. It irks me because only 40.8% of the eligible voting population nationwide voted and this is not a majority. The only thing about “The People” that any elected official should claim is that "The People", as in a majority, said nothing. To claim to speak for a majority of “We The People” is hubris. The majority of voters, literally the majority, did not vote in 2010.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who represents the 6th Congressional District of Minnesota, shows particular hubris in her claims to speak for “The People”.  The number of votes Ms. Bachmann stands on to claim to speak for a majority is 159,476 votes- a majority only of those who voted in that election. 159,476 votes is only 36.15% of registered voters, and only 25.9% of the population of the district the Congresswoman is, by oath, bound to represent. 

Before anyone goes off saying this is just one district in one state, Minnesota had the highest turnout of any state with 55.5% of registered voters voting. Only 5 other states, Alaska, Maine, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington reached turnout above 50%.  Most states had somewhere between 31 and 47% turnout. Rep. Bachmann is not alone, the folks in Majority Leader Cantor’s district only turned out at a 47.29% rate. Although Democrats are in the same position with respect to turnout, hold the White House and held the Senate, their level of hubris in claiming a mandate is far less.

As so aptly put by Minnesota’s new Governor, Mark Dayton, “we were all elected by a fraction of a fraction, but our job is to represent every Minnesotan.” The GOP is in the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, but come on people now, don’t let them get away with suggesting that their position is anything more than the position of a fraction of “The People”. For sure don’t buy it without scrutiny. If we let any elected official get away with claiming a mandate based on the will of  one-fourth of the people  we will not have accountable and responsive government, no matter the character of the elected official.

If you are in the majority, meaning you did not vote, please don’t do that again. I promise when a majority of the voters vote in every election, we will have better government and elected officials who can, based on real majorities claim to speak for, “The People”.

Data Sources: George Mason University, United States Election Project: US Census; MN Secretary of State, Election Results; State of Virginia Elections Board  (68.85% of registered voters, or 303,691 of 441,122 registered voters turned out to vote in the 6th district of Minnesota)