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Stories from the fragile economy

Tim Pawlenty is no Arnold Schwarzenegger. After all, the California governor’s line-item cuts to his state’s budget slashed health care to children, gutted domestic violence programs and stripped away aid to the elderly — and then, apparently since there were no puppies around to kick, he trimmed the state park budget so dramatically that more than a third of California state parks may close. But to say Pawlenty is no Schwarzenegger isn’t much comfort to Minnesota’s homeless, who, as WCCO’s Liz Collin’s reports, are taking to YouTube to protest Pawlenty’s elimination of the General Assistance Medical Care program, which covers their health care needs.

Pawlenty has protested that other programs will now cover the homeless, but Pawlenty has a talent for public displays of trimming government expenses that, instead, merely shift the burden of the expense, and may cost more in the long run. In this instance, according to critics cited in Collins’ story, “different programs have higher costs and those programs need more money if they’re going to cover new patients.” Collins offers a brief but powerful series of anecdotes of homeless people trying to wean themselves off anti-psychotic medication and wondering how they will get insulin for diabetes. “They’re scared,” the story quotes Josh Lange, the Human Rights Program director at St. Stephen’s in Minneapolis.

According to a story by Warren Wolfe of the Star Tribune, it’s already possible to see one of the results of Pawlenty’s past budget cutting: a sharp increase in child poverty. The story opens with this startling statistic: “Child poverty in Minnesota rose 33 percent between 2000 and 2007, six times the national average,” and while it wouldn’t be fair to lay all that at the feet of the governor, the story blames him for some of it. Chuck Johnson, assistant commissioner of children and family services at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, and Kara Arzamendia, research director for the Children’s Defense Fund Minnesota, are credited with saying that “child poverty almost certainly is increasing because of the weak economy and state cuts in programs such as child care assistance for low-income families.”

Minnesota Public Radio’s Madeleine Baran tells another tale from our fragile economy, that of Rosemary Williams, who is stubbornly refusing to leave her south Minneapolis home of 26 years after it was foreclosed. She was formally evicted by sheriff’s deputies Aug. 7, and locksmiths changed the lock, but supporters of Williams broke into the house and let her back in; as many as 20 fellow protesters are staying in the house with her. The story quotes Williams as saying the following: “My mother lived through segregation, and she told me to never give up.”

The Associated Press reports that State Sen. Mike Jungbauer is throwing his hat in the ring to replace Pawlenty as governor, using Anoka County Game Fair as the site of his announcement.

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann continues his love affair with Rep. Michele Bachmann, in this instance putting together a “greatest hits” sort of compilation of her memorable quotes with Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” playing in the background; the video can be found here on MinnPost. “What on earth would we do without Michele Bachmann?” Olbermann asks, and, while it’s not especially difficult to put together a highlight reel in order to make a politician look ridiculous, one suspects some of the smug glee Olbermann expresses is because Bachmann makes such a task so easy.

It’s looking increasingly likely that we will soon be able to take a train from downtown Minneapolis to St. Cloud, and then, once we realize that, although they were set there, neither “Juno” nor “One More Saturday Night” were actually filmed there, turn around and take the train right back. The AP is reporting that the federal Department of Transportation has OK’d $70 million for the project.

In order to encourage states to take advantage of federal stimulus money for environmental projects, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar toured the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington, according to MPR’s Jessica Mador. “We only have about four of these urban wildlife refuges around our country,” Salazar said; one imagines California Gov. Schwarzenegger writing the name of the refuge into the California budget and then crossing it out again in a futile attempt to defund it.

There are stories that move from terrifying to ridiculous the more details you add, such as the crime report from FOX9 that begins, menacingly enough, with a woman waking to find an intruder in her bedroom. Worse still, he was almost completely naked. Fortunately, he was wearing a thong, and, fortunately, when he saw she had awakened, he fled. With a water bottle. When police were investigating, he then walked by them, and, when identified, admitted to snooping in her room. A WCCO report adds one more detail: “Reportedly, police found a large number of thongs in his apartment after a search warrant was executed.”

“Minnesotans have had a rough sports year,” the Star Tribune’s Jim Souhan tells us before waxing eloquent about the PGA tour in Hazeltine: “We may never see Rubio or Favre in Minnesota, but for a week we get to watch Tiger, the most iconic athlete of his generation, dissect one of our most difficult courses.”

The Pioneer Press’ Tad Reeve seems equally excited about the prospect, as he was on hand to watch Woods practice on the course this morning. If you’re curious, Reeve has the salient details: “He hit about 25 balls, mostly wedges and 8-irons.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Jarrett Smith on 08/10/2009 - 02:26 pm.

    Minneapolis to St. Cloud?

    If the $70 million you’re talking about is for the Northstar Commuter Rail line, it’s only for the first leg which is to Big Lake. St. Cloud is 94 miles away and is still under study.

  2. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 08/10/2009 - 08:42 pm.

    Won’t any persons that don’t qualify for any Minnesota health care programs be covered by the federal program that will be implemented as soon as the President signs it this fall?

  3. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/11/2009 - 02:56 am.

    Tom A: If any meaningful public option remains in the final health care, excuse me — health insurance — reform bill, what “consumers” will get is monetary assistance to help pay for insurance premiums. There seems to be a rush to compromise so as to pass a bill, any bill, as long as it somehow advances a solution that does not make the insurance and other medical industry folks unhappy.

    As in Massachusetts, whose plan is the model for all the plans on offer (except HR-676, “Medicare for All,” and S-703, states as laboratories for ways to achieve universal care), people who are now so poor as to receive free care may end up having to pay co-pays and deductibles and, pehaps, some share of the cost of premiums.

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