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‘Wisemen’ to convene to offer state shutdown advice

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Wide-ranging local, national, international views on shutdown; no signs of progress; the “cone of silence” analyzed; and more.
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If ever a situation/mess needed a council of “wisemen,” it’s this one. Our Doug Grow is reporting that a trio of Minnesota’s elder statesmen, a group that includes Walter Mondale and two GOP apostates, Arne Carlson and Dave Durenberger, are forming a kind of task force to offer suggestions of how to get out of the bind Gov. Mark Dayton and the GOP zealots find themselves. Says Grow: “Former Gov. Arne Carlson, former Vice President Walter Mondale and former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger are the movers and shakers behind the committee, which clearly is being formed with the blessing of Gov. Mark Dayton. The committee will be announced at a Capitol news conference Tuesday morning. Members of the committee include a combination of business leaders, former legislators, former government finance officials, as well as current Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter, who was an assistant commissioner under Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Co-chairs of the committee will be former DFL state legislator Wayne Simoneau, who served as commissioner of Employee Relations and later Finance under Gov. Arne Carlson, and former state Sen. Steve Dille of Dassel, a Republican who retired after the 2010 session. I’m all for anyone talking sensibly. But I fear the key phrase here is: “… clearly is being formed with the blessing of Gov. Mark Dayton.”

Martin Moylan of MPR serves up one of those “pulse of the population” pieces that probably does a better job of filling airtime and space than offering a clue to who the public is blaming for the shutdown: “Thomas Radke of Minneapolis believes DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, not the Republicans, will be punished for the shutdown. In fact, Radke expects Republicans could be rewarded for accepting a shutdown as the price to pay for holding the line on spending and taxes. ‘Especially if they come out ahead on this particular impasse,’ he said. ‘It’ll look more favorable on the right than the left.’ Radke thinks Republicans will be seen as following the will of the majority of Minnesotans. ‘They’re simply tired of this tax-and-spending way that we’ve been dealing with our government,’ he said. ‘They elected these guys to make this change. Now, they’re making this change and it’s come to a loggerhead. And so they’re going to have to ride it out and go tough against the governor.’ “

In Britain’s New Statesman, Felicity Spector tells her readers: “This was the state which was once home to high-minded liberals like Eugene McCarthy, Walter Mondale, and Paul Wellstone. Now politicians on both sides have grown ever more radical. On the left, Al Franken’s bitterly fought campaign for the Senate in 2008 won him the seat with the slimmest of majorities — just 312 votes. Minnesota’s representatives in the House include Democrat Keith Ellison, who co-chairs the progressive caucus, and on the right, the darling of the Tea Party, Michelle Bachmann. Polarised parties — where the zone of possible agreement is growing ever more thin.”

Rex Smith in The Albany Times-Union in New York looks on us and says: “It’s easy to complain about politicians, but government works best when it’s in the hands of professionals. Andrew Cuomo knows how government works, and as governor his obvious competence is winning out over his notorious intemperance. He is deftly negotiating political channels that swamped his predecessors. In the process, he is — so far, anyway — guiding New York through fiscal straits just as perilous as those confronting Minnesota. Out there the governor is an experienced hand, too, a guy named Mark Dayton, but it’s clear that he’s no Cuomo. During his one term in the U.S. Senate, Dayton earned Time magazine’s designation as one of America’s “Five Worst Senators.” Through three decades in politics, he has sometimes come across as, well, a bit of a flake. Yet you would think Dayton might have the upper hand in an argument with Republican legislators who want to close a state budget gap by delaying $1.7 billion in school aid and borrowing against future revenues from a tobacco court settlement. Dayton’s alternative is to hike taxes on the 7,700 Minnesotans who earn more than $1 million a year (0.3 percent of that state’s taxpayers). But like GOP leaders in Washington, the top Minnesota legislators insist on no tax hike — no how, no way. Except, maybe, they’re saying in Minnesota, if the governor will accept new restrictions on abortions and a requirement for photo IDs at polling places. Ah! Then the tax hikes presumably wouldn’t be so bad for the state.”

An editorial in the Fergus Falls Journal says: “It’s clear that Dayton believes that, no matter where the cuts come from, increasing taxes is a more palatable option than cutting additional spending. It’s also clear that, for Dayton, who left the U.S. Senate after only one term, re-election is not a priority. The Republicans, it seem, have no choice. But if and when they do approve a tax increase, they will have options. If evidence is found that the tax increase caused business owners to cut back on employees or move their businesses elsewhere, their gubernatorial candidate can make a great case to Minnesota voters in 2014. And if the Republicans win the governorship and both majorities in 2014, they can eliminate the tax increase.” By then, of course, all our “jobs providers” will be living in Devils Lake … for tax reasons, not the fishing.

Scott Johnson of Power Line’s bombardment of Strib government reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger continues pretty much unabated. The latest is this: “Stassen-Berger purports to summarize the impasse that has produced Minnesota’s government shutdown. According to Stassen-Berger, Minnesota’s highly medicated governor faces a stark choice: “Dayton must decide whether to stick to his principles against determined opponents, or seek a fresh, if painful, compromise.” As usual with Stassen-Berger’s reportage on the budget battle, critical facts go missing in the interest of her service in the public relations arm of Dayton’s office. … Stassen-Berger also fails to note that during the campaign last fall Dayton promised not to hold out for income taxes in the face of a government shutdown. Thus the painful choice Stassen-Berger portrays Dayton facing is false. On October 24, 2010, in a gubernatorial debate on 5 Eyewitness News Dayton vowed not to allow a government shutdown in order to ram through his proposed tax increases. So far as I am aware, only 5 Eyewitness News reporter Tom Hauser has recalled this prescient exchange.” Unfortunately, as Hauser recalls it, Dayton was also committed to a tax increase on the wealthy.

The Strib’s Eric Roper is reporting … big surprise … no progress … anywhere: “After budget talks collapsed last week, Republican leaders said that they had offered new revenue and were ‘close’ to an agreement with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton on the budget. But away from the cameras, many of their own members said they still could not support a budget larger than the $34 billion one Dayton vetoed. ‘As long as he’s not going over 34, I’m open to suggestions,’ said Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, one of many freshmen who have taken a hard line against more spending.”

Oh, and thank you to Phil Quanbeck II from Rochester for getting around to saying something about that “cone of silence stuff” that has baffled me since it was first mentioned … apparently without irony. in  a letter to the Strib he writes, “[T]here have been numerous references to the “cone of silence.” As I recall, that phrase comes from the 1960s television spy-spoof “Get Smart.” That joke, in the show at least, was that within the ‘cone of silence’ nobody could understand what anyone else was saying. That may still be the case, but the irony seems to be lost on those who use the phrase. Maybe our legislators could find another phrase, such as ‘cone of authentic listening and integrity,’ but that might be too much to ask.”  And with some of the fresh-faced zealots a guy might as well be talking to his shoe.

James Hohmann of Politico checks out Fourth of July responses to Minnesota legislators: “Asked whether he worries that allowing the government to shut down instead of raising taxes could cost him the election, [GOP freshman Rep. Doug] Wardlow said he thinks Republicans will come out better in their showdown with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. ‘It’s a winner for us because Gov. Dayton’s core constituency — state employees, rank-and-file union members — I don’t think they can afford a shutdown as well as Gov. Dayton can,’ he said as he walked the parade route. ‘And it’s unfortunate that he sacrificed them for what he thinks is politically expedient … We’re very well positioned now.’ The 33-year-old litigation attorney crisscrossed the street shaking hundreds of hands. One volunteer behind Wardlow handed out copies of the Constitution.” What? No Bibles? Or free ammo?