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Minnesota GOP in turmoil

MORNING EDITION

“The Chairman” is no more! Long live “The Interim Chairwoman!” The departure of one of the state’s most consistently entertaining political characters, Tony Sutton, as chair of the GOP meant the party had some appointin’ to do over the weekend. Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Strib reports: “Party chair Tony Sutton quit Friday and the party is $581,000 in debt. In 2012, it must defend its legislative majorities, work to unseat U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and put Minnesota in the red column in the presidential race. Most party leaders said the troubles were cause to reflect but that, in the words of U.S. Rep. John Kline, ‘there's no panic here.’ ... Those gathered delayed approval of the 2012 budget Sutton constructed, but did elect a deputy chair for the next month. Woodbury activist Kelly Fenton won a five-way race. ‘We need to remember that our main targets are the liberals and their failed policies, not one another,’ she said.” Whatever you do, don’t allow a feckless liberal anywhere near your books.


Last Friday’s MPR story on Sutton’s departure, reported by Tom Scheck, said: “[C]ritics were openly questioning why Sutton was taking a $90,000 a year salary when the party was more than $500,000 in debt. They also said Sutton was ineffective as a party leader because Republicans don't control any statewide offices for the first time since the late 1970s. Republican activist Sue Jeffers has been one of Sutton's biggest critics. She described Sutton's resignation as ‘a wonderful opportunity for the party.' "

The number of families taking advantage of the free school-lunch program has jumped dramatically. Kelly Smith of the Strib reports: “Reflecting a surge seen nationally, nearly 33,000 Minnesota kids have joined the program in the past two years. Nationwide, student poverty rose from 59.3 percent in 2007 to 65.3 percent in 2010. ‘Middle-class families who never thought they'd be dealing with this kind of hardship and poverty are now having to face it,’ said University of Minnesota economics Prof. Ben Senauer, who's researched several metro-area school districts' school lunch data. ‘This is the new face of poverty.’ Low-income students now make up 37 percent of Minnesota's student population, according to state data — 306,294 public school students in all.”

Steve Karnowski of the AP turned in a solid story on Minnesota farmers feeling the impact of the MF Global bankruptcy: “Federal regulators are investigating whether MF Global, as its financial condition worsened, tapped client funds that were supposed to be kept safe in strictly segregated accounts. They're also trying to determine what became of the money; it's not clear if the cash is parked somewhere or if it's gone. Violating the rules for segregated accounts can lead to civil and criminal penalties. The chairmen of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission said Thursday that all those affected should get back at least two-thirds of their money. Dean Tofteland, who raises corn, soybeans and pigs near Luverne in southwestern Minnesota, has about $200,000 tied up with MF Global, said Sen. Amy Klobuchar at an Senate Agriculture Committee hearing. She said his situation shows how the firm's $6.3 billion bad bet on European bonds is being felt in small towns across America.”

The “talker” editorial of the weekend was U of M professor Roger Feldman’s Strib commentary on taxing obesity-/diabetes-inducing soft drinks: “Obesity is also associated with a 36 percent increase in medical care costs. So the consequences of excess pop consumption show up in higher health insurance premiums and additional Medicaid and Medicare spending. How would a pop tax work? First, the government would decide what to tax. I assume the tax would apply only to pop, but some evidence points to a link between diet soda and health problems, so a tax on all carbonated beverages should be considered. Second, the tax rate would be set. Most pop-tax proposals call for a small tax, such as two cents per 12-ounce can, which would raise the cost of a 12-pack (now $4.80, on average) by 5 percent.”

The comments were pretty good. A sample:
From “Gordon013”: “I am 100% opposed to this idea. This would open Pandora's box to all sorts of government taxation of products that should be chosen and consumed by personal choice. The ‘lets tax Pop’ advocates will not stop there if this passes. The tax is also unfair. It taxes the thin person who likes to drink soft drinks, but does nothing to the obese person who feels the need to order a triple patty, layered with cheese and topped with bacon mega-calorie burger. Does the person who makes bad choices in diet cost society as a whole in higher health care costs. Perhaps, but if we want any shred of personal choice left, we as a society need to absorb that cost.”

And, “unicorn4711” says, “It's a great idea. We tax cigarettes and alcohol higher than other products on the grounds that people don't need them and they inflict social costs. Pop is a logical extension. Obesity is a huge problem; pop is a part of that problem. Too many of us drink too much of it. That revenue could be used to promote access to healthy groceries. Those of us who want to avoid the tax can drink less pop. Those of us [who] want a pop can have it. I'd like to see fast food, cigarettes, junk food, and pop taxed higher and the money used to help ensure access to fruits and vegetables and easy exercise like walking and biking paths.”

Here’s a stunner: Air fares are lower when Delta has to compete against ... low-fare airlines. Pat Doyle of the Strib reports: “Routes with competition between Delta, the airport's dominant carrier, and any of four low-cost airlines resulted in passengers saving an average of $59 one way, the study found. A less dramatic discount occurred when Delta faced competition from other major airlines. The analysis, done by MAC staff and a consultant, showed that domestic routes served only by Delta had an average one-way price of $218. Fares for routes with competition between Delta and one or more major carriers — but not any low-cost carriers — averaged $200. Fares that involved Delta and a low-cost carrier — and sometimes also another major carrier — cost $159.”

There would appear to be a lot of twists to this story. The AP says: “Thirty-eight-year-old Angelina Mae O'Mara is charged with second-degree murder. She's accused of fatally shooting James Kelly O'Mara of Sauk Rapids. County Attorney Robert Raupp says prosecutors in Wisconsin have told him they're also planning to charge her in the death of her boyfriend. The body of Michael Pies was found in a Wisconsin hotel room about that same time. O'Mara said little during a court hearing Friday. Her attorney, Adam Brainerd, told the judge O'Mara has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and ‘has little time left.' "

Today in Bachmannia: Our Favorite Congresswoman will take part in the Donald Trump-moderated GOP presidential debate. Maybe that’s why the Donald — who has (another) book out — was so complimentary of her. Philip Rucker in the Washington Post writes: “Trump describes Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) as ‘a real worker bee.’ He notes that she visited his office ‘more than once’ and that ‘no matter what happens with her run for the White House she’s got a great political future ahead of her.’ ” ... On TV, I believe she’s hoping.

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Comments (11)

Note to the clearly dysfonic members of the GOP Central Committee: replacing Tony Sutton no matter how temporarily, with a female chair who does nothing but spout the same false "talking points,"...

i.e. "failed liberal policies," when the vast majority of the citizens of the State of Minnesota, including the ENTIRE moderate wing of your own party have come to the conclusion that it is the policies demanded by YOU, the leaders of what used to be their own party, which have FAILED,...

is not going to get your wealthy-but-level-headed-and-socially-moderate, almost-former Republicans to kick in the funding to solve your budget problems.

It's likely to drive a few more of them OUT of the GOP.

But go ahead! Keep on believing that the only reason your policies, which have brought nothing but destruction to average Americans since the days of Ronnie Raygun, haven't produced the results you thought they would,...

is that it hasn't been long enough since you started trying to solve the problems of America by making far richer the already-wealthy while diligently seeking to the destroy the lives of everyone else (even many of your own).

Indeed, if insanity is defined doing the same thing over and over and over again, each time expecting a different result from the one you've always gotten before,...

Then the Minnesota (and national) GOP have clearly lost their collective minds (and what's worse is that they're too far gone to recognize the reality of that fact).

I meeant to comment on that pop tax piece at the Strib but didn't have any place to set my Diet Coke.

Feldman is short-sighted. While we're at it, let's tax red meat, white meat, fish, cakes, cookies, ice cream, candy bars, breakfast cereals, whole milk, white rice, frozen foods . . . anything and everything but beans and brown rice, it seems.

There's nothing new about sin taxes. What's new is our idea of sin. Taxes go better with Coke. Or staying too long in the sun is bound to cost the rest of us if you can't afford care for the resulting skin cancer.
Wait, I see the issue clearly now, it's poverty that causes people to lean on the rest of us for help with their self inflicted ailments. A simple tax on poverty should cover any such ailments.
And while we're at it lets tax stupidity. We can all agree that ours. but mostly others stupidity costs us all a bundle.

This is just another machination by Sutton to sabotage MinnPost readership. But we're not going to let him win, are we folks? You hear me Tony!? We will survive this!

Hey, James (#2) ... we should tax the beans, too!

To combat global warming, doncha know...

"A real worker bee" sounds like the kind of compliment one gives a child who helps put the toys away. That sums up the current GOP field nicely, I think.

Around 2003 I stopped drinking pop but changed none of my other habits. By 2007 I had lost 50 pounds, and I've kept it off despite still eating plenty of meat, butter and cream and drinking all the beer I want (within reason). I exercise regularly but moderately, and nothing more than biking and walking.
I'm not saying I'm a genius, but there's gotta be something to the taxing soda argument. It's not good for us, yet so many people drink it mindlessly.

I don't agree with the slippery slope argument that if we institute a tax on one thing, it automatically follows that we will institute a tax on all things.
In the case of pop there is a direct societal cost to consumption and I think that this cost should be assigned to it. The tax limits consumption and funds the associated costs.
If other products have similar direct costs then they should be taxed too.

Concerning the fact that the Republicans can't even balance their own party books let alone the state or nation, it all comes down to unfunded wars. The national budget would look a lot better if we hadn't been fighting an unfunded was in Iraq for the last 8 years or so, a war started by the Republicans. Over the weekend I saw a quote, I think from Sutton, saying that the Minnesota party debt was due to the unfunded was against Minnesota liberals and the costs of conducting the futile recount.

Brian, please don't quote from the online posts at the Star Tribune. One of MinnPost's finest attributes is that posters are identified. I hate to see you fishing in those polluted waters, even if you do pull up the occasional keeper.

Bill #9, I agree about the perils of unfunded wars. However, while it's very tempting to lay all the blame for the Cowboy Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan solely on the GOP, the vast majority of members of Congress from both parties wrote a blank check to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Rice for the wars, both for the funding and for the power to use any and all military action. Sigh.

I was very proud that then-Senator Dayton was one of the few who had the courage to vote against the war authorization.

The Bush Administration conducted the wars with the power given to it by our elected representatives, nearly all of whom were enfeebled by fears that they might be seen as soft on terrorism. The Bushies conducted the wars incompetently, but alas, not single-handedly. And Americans reelected them.