“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.