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Fear and loathing at the state GOP convention

Fear and loathing at the state GOP convention

ST. CLOUD — The mood inside the state Republican convention was grumpy at the outset.

Only a half hour in, delegates were wrangling over their own voter ID issue: Who should be counted for a vote — only those seated or everybody milling around and schmoozing? After a voice vote, which seemed inconclusive, delegates, citing arcane clauses of Republican rules of order, yelled “division,” meaning they wanted an actual head count. Maybe they were used to watching programs like “Dancing with the Stars” where audience members vote instantaneously by pressing a button. Taking a count the low-tech way — by actually counting — lasted a more than 20 minutes, and the atmosphere turned grouchier.

“If I were paid a dollar for every minute we argued over the rules, I’d be in Obama’s 1 percent,” one long-time convention-goer complained.  (Why it was Obama’s 1 percent rather than, say, Romney’s, George Soros’ or some other zillionaire’s, I don’t know.)

Republicans could be forgiven for being a little out-of-sorts on the first morning of their two-day convention. The site of their biennial meeting was the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center, a recently expanded facility with a lovely view of the Mississippi. But in constructing the place, city fathers had apparently not bothered to consider where 2,200 delegates, plus hangers-on would park their cars. All the nearby ramps and lots were full, and conventioneers frantically trolled for spots blocks away from the convention and then had to wait in long lines at pay stations to avoid getting towed. After all that, delegates arrived to find that St. Cloud had given little thought to sustenance either. Coffee and munchies were available at only one outpost staffed by two frazzled servers.

But there were other reasons for the atmosphere to be fraught. The party was getting together at a kind of nadir in its history. Back in December, a financial probe found that the Minnesota GOP was $2 million in debt. A sex scandal — an affair between former state Senate majority leader Amy Koch and employee Michael Brodkorb —  erupted around the same time, giving Republicans a black eye and threatening the Senate with a possible lawsuit. As if all that were not enough, the party narrowly escaped eviction from its St. Paul headquarters last month.

And although Republicans are united in their fear and loathing of all things Obama, there are contentious divisions. With a devastating persistence and organization, acolytes of Ron Paul, the maverick Texas congressman and perpetual presidential candidate, had pulled off a coup and pretty much taken over the party. Not only were they noisily dominating the gathering but they had already in congressional elections garnered 20 of the 24 delegates to attend the national convention, unseating regulars who had been party stalwarts for years. And they had lined up a slate of 13 more at-large delegates to be voted on by the convention as a whole — in opposition to a slate backing Mitt Romney, the party’s presumptive nominee.

“The Paulites are the new establishment,” said Kenneth Powaga, a delegate from Eden Prairie who had become an activist with the rise of the Tea Party in 2010.

The Paulites bring their strict libertarian beliefs (abolishing government departments and functions not authorized by the Constitution, staying out of foreign wars, and keeping hands off private matters like marriage) to a party that has for years been dominated by religious conservatives and old-line Republicans who warm to low taxes and balanced budgets.

Bring them all together, and you have a powerful s**tlist of items that make them flaming mad: President Obama, Obamacare, the Federal Reserve, bank bailouts, Keynesian economics, taxes, kowtowing to foreign leaders, the federal deficit, the state deficit, Amy Klobuchar, Gov. Mark Dayton (“governor goofy eyes,” one speaker called him), Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, voter fraud, environmental regulation, financial regulation, food and drug regulation, wars, same-sex marriage, abortion, cap and trade, the federal bureaucracy ( particularly the Department of Education), government welfare and the possibility that the United States is just another country and not “exceptional.”

To hear them tell it — and we did, many, many times — the United States of America is on the brink of one or all of the following: bankruptcy, Socialism, Communism and Fascism — oh, and rampant inflation. Minnesota too is on the brink — of becoming California or Illinois. And we are all are losing our liberty.

Their fury is hard to fathom. The delegates and their families seemed like ordinary, reasonably successful middle-class people. There was a broad age range — yes, Democrats, young people were there in force and there were plenty of women, too, no matter the vaunted war against them. Some people wore suits; others came in jeans and flip-flops. Dads and moms rocked strollers in the back of the hall. They could have been an audience at a summer band concert. Oh wait, except there were no blacks. Well, almost none. I spotted two: a lady in the restroom and Chris Fields, candidate for the Fifth District against U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. Be that as it may, nobody looked as though he had been tortured, jailed, flayed or deprived of his liberty in any way.  

Picking a Senate candidate

But more about that burning anger later. Chief on the convention’s agenda was the task of choosing its candidate for the U.S. Senate. The nominating committee had cleared four candidates. A fifth, Bob Carney, was not approved because he had in the past mounted campaigns against the GOP’s nominee. Nonetheless, he was allowed to speak for five minutes. A short guy in mutton-chop whiskers, he offered no particular reason why anybody should vote for him and illogically pledged to drop out after the first ballot.

Another minor candidate Harold Shudlick, a former pastor and avowed Tea Party member, gave an address full of pungent quips like: “Send me to Washington, D.C., to remove Obama from his public housing,” and: “We will fight until hell freezes over, and then we will fight on ice.” He added, “I want to kill the beast instead of wanting it to make it work harder.” By “beast,” I gather he meant the federal government.

The three major candidates all took similar stances, that the current administration, with its emphasis on spending and being big, was responsible for  the bad economy and pretty much everything else. But each had a unique selling proposition.

Kurt Bills, 42, a Rosemount High School economics teacher and state legislator endorsed by Ron Paul — and therefore a shoo-in for the nomination — declared: “I’ll bring Econ 101 to Washington.” The implication: the country needs simple (some would say simple-minded) solutions.

His opponent Pete Hegseth, 31, a handsome veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a Princeton grad, claimed that he could raise the most dough, which Republicans would need to beat Klobuchar. (Her war chest is now about $5.5 million.)

The only one who had significant legislative experience — as state rep for four terms — was Dan “Doc” Severson, 58. His claim to fame: he had spearheaded the battles for voter ID and a ban on gay marriage. He vowed to bring in votes from minority communities in the cities; without them, you won’t win the Senate seat, he warned delegates. To drill home his point, he delivered his pitch backed by about 20 Hmong supporters. Accompanying these pitches were touchy-feely campaign videos featuring testimonials from former coaches, army buddies, wives and kids. They all embraced small town life and “Christian values” which made me feel left out, what with being Jewish and all.

In the end, however — and way after a lot of legalistic party business about the platform that would make your head hurt — Bills took the nomination, easily raking in the necessary 60 percent of votes on the second ballot. “You’ve sent a comedian and an actor to Washington,” he exulted in his acceptance speech. “Finally, you’re sending an economics teacher.”

Only a few rooms away sat a big bus he and his family planned to board to “fight for this country. We are going to take our government back…We believe in liberty, protecting the unborn, and we believe that Washington needs a good dose of Econ 101.”

Enough with Econ 101, I thought. Doesn’t he realize that every president of whatever party has a whole flock of learned economists at his beck and call who sit on something called the Council of Economic Advisers?


By this time — about 4 or so — I was starving; so I made my way to the concession stand. Behind me stood a woman in her 70s with an expression sour enough to produce a good vinaigrette.

“How’s the convention going for you?” I asked.

“Harrumph,” she replied.

“So are you excited about hearing Ron Paul speak?” He was the convention headliner and up next on the agenda.

“I suppose if he speaks right away, I’ll listen,” she said.”Otherwise I’m leaving.”

So what’s her beef?

“Foreign policy,” she said.

High on her gripe list was his attitude toward Israel. Paul wants to cut aid, though he puts a positive spin on it: “Foreign aid does not help Israel. It is a net disadvantage. I say to them that ‘the borrower is servant to the lender’ and America should never be the master of Israel…we should stop interfering with them.” She wasn’t buying it.

On my way back to the hall, hotdog in hand, something dawned on me. Signs were everywhere, for Hegseth, Bills, Severson and a batch of congressional candidates. I stopped in my tracks. “Where are the Romney signs?” I asked out loud before I could stop myself. “I don’t see any Romney signs.”

“You won’t find many supporters here,” a man told me with a smirk. His friend added, “Nope. No buttons either.”

Well, never mind. Paul was about to make his appearance. “President Paul! President Paul! President Paul,” screamed the crowd as he took the podium. That seemed beside the point since he had suspended his campaign only a few days earlier.

“There are a lot of friends of liberty in this town,” he announced before launching into a rambling speech. His biggest applause line came when he proposed abolishing the Federal Reserve. The crowd leapt to its collective feet, shouting: “End the Fed! End the Fed! End the Fed!”

His main message was that the country’s founders intended for the government to protect liberties and nothing else, “not to go to foreign wars and not to manage an entitlement system.”  

It was late in the day and nerves were starting to fray. A discussion of the platform, 71 provisions long, quickly got into the weeds. By that time, many delegates had bailed for dinner. Just before the close of business came a report from Janet Beihoffer, head of the Election Integrity Committee, that should make every Democrat reach for a bottle of Advil. The party, she announced, had assembled 9,000 volunteers to be election judges. Those who didn’t train as judges would learn to be poll challengers, presumably to root out fraudulent votes. “This is the only way we are going to win,” she announced.

Back to work

When I arrived the next morning at a dilatory 9:30, the delegates had long been at work. Already some 600 had turned out for a breakfast fundraiser with Ron Paul that reeled in $12,000 or so for the party. The Romney supporters had opened a hospitality room and replaced all the Severson and Hegseth signs with Romney signs. But the Romneyites, coffee and Danish had disappeared like elves.

Two major actions — adoption of the platform and a vote on delegates to go to the national nominating get-together in August — were on the agenda. The platform was long and complicated.

Harry Niska, chairman of the platform committee, who looked like an earnest 14-year-old but is, I was told, in his late 20s, announced that conventioneers would vote on each and every issue at once. If a plank received a 70 percent approval, it would be adopted; less than 50 percent, it would be tossed aside; and if it received between 50 and 70 percent, there would be a discussion.

After seemingly endless calls for clarification and information, delegates sat down to cast their ballots. Some of the juicier proposals: repeal Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment and the state’s Next Generation Energy Act of 2007; phase out Social Security; get rid of the Federal Reserve; reject the Keynesian model of economics as the basis for federal policy (which, let me tell you as a long-time financial reporter, is a lot like rejecting gravity); repeal the Affordable Care Act; establish statewide testing of students’ academic skills but keep local control over core curricula; restore states’ rights under the Constitution and so on. Interestingly, the committee had recommended striking a provision that would discourage the expansion of gambling in Minnesota. That made sense since the passage of the Vikings stadium bill, which many Republicans had backed, did just that. 

While the delegates pored over the platform, I talked to two Log Cabin Republicans who manned a table in the foyer. “So you are against same-sex marriage?” I asked.

“No! Not at all,” they said almost in unison.

Well, then what were they doing here? The platform had explicitly advocated “traditional marriage,” and I hadn’t heard any candidate say anything to the contrary.

Their tactic: “We are trying to change the party from within,” said Alan Shilepsky of Minneapolis. “We are trying to make them realize that the best social welfare program is a strong family.”

And presumably gay couples can produce them. I wished them luck with that.

Across the hall was another table for a group in favor of the amendment pushing bumper stickers that read “One Man, One Woman.”  It would sound more appealing in French. Un Homme, Une Femme.

Limiting government

I next met with Paula Kneeland, a delegate from Marshall. A handsome woman with long gray hair, she was a member of the local executive committee. We talked almost surreptitiously — her delegate leader didn’t want her leaving the hall — in a vacant hospitality room. She was happy with the selection of Bills as Senate candidate because he was an economics teacher. “That was a major factor in why people voted for him,” she said, echoing what five other people had told me.

I raised the Council of Economic Advisers thing, and she laughed. “Well, that’s true. But it doesn’t hurt to add somebody familiar with the economic realm.”

One of the key issues for her and people in her area was limiting government, getting it out of their lives. Any government interference made them furious.

Just how had the government impinged on their lives? I asked. She paused, unable to give me an example. So I raised the issue of the sale of raw milk. I mentioned the cases of two farmers in the state were going on trial for allegedly selling raw milk that caused people to fall ill. Ron Paul in his speech the previous day had told delegates people should have the right to sell raw milk and raise hemp.

“Well, I suppose with that we would want the government to step in,” Paula said. When people got sick, they’d have to step in.”

And what about this big encroaching government thing? “We have few specifics,” she admitted. “It’s just a general feeling. The Republican theme is that the more you expand government, the more you take away rights. You have to constantly keep a watch on it.”

Back in the hall, would-be delegates to the national convention were delivering one-minute pitches about their suitability. They were all asked whether they would support the nominee of the party. The subtextual clause would have been, if uttered, “even if it’s the hateful Romney.” Most said yes, but some laid on caveats, such as “if he abides by the laws in Exodus” or “if he follows the Constitution.”

Typical of the statements was one from Colleen Smith-Savage, a self-declared devout Christian and homeschooling mom: “I want to erase the federal government from the ground up,” she shouted.

Meanwhile a green flyer called “The Chaos Slate” circulated the room urging delegates not to vote for the people it listed. They would not support Romney, it claimed, thus leading to chaos at the national convention and an eventual win for Obama.

Missing delegation

While votes were tallied, Chip Cravaack, the Tea Party candidate who had swept DFLer James Oberstar from his long-held congressional seat in 2010, came to the podium. His appearance brought up a burning question, burning to me, anyway: Where were the members of Minnesota’s Republican congressional delegation?

Michele Bachmann nor John Kline nor Erik Paulsen had turned up to meet, greet or speechify. I asked Gary Gross, a conservative blogger who sat next to me in the press trenches. “I’m sure they had something else on the schedule,” he said. Unh-hunh.

My take: If their grass roots were possibly going to diss the nominee of the party by voting for Ron Paul in August, maybe they’d be smart to keep their distance. In the meantime, Cravaack urged unity: “We’re like a big family; sometimes we have our squabbles but when we walk out the door, nobody better mess with us.”

In the end, the Ron Paulistas took all the delegate spots. Michele Bachmann made it onto the delegation only because one man, “out of respect,” gallantly gave her his spot. Tallies from the platform vote then came in. By my count, 34 issues were up for discussion. I groaned. Debating just one plank could conceivably take 2,200 people several hours.

Pat Shortridge quickly came to the platform.”We have to be out of here by 5,” he said. It was 4:15. He proposed adopting any plank receiving more than 60 percent of the vote. That left only seven for debate, and delegates quickly approved the idea.

Immediately, the group voted down number 21, which proposed inspecting and licensing abortion facilities. Even though one delegate asserted that such legislation would reduce the number of procedures, it was voted down. Two forces united to defeat it: those who believe abortion should be eliminated altogether and those who believe that the government shouldn’t interfere.

Similarly, another plank advocating “traditional marriage” was voted down by a combination those who thought the government shouldn’t mess with marriage and those who thought the plank should more explicitly bar same-sex marriage. Were the more hippie-like Ron Paul elements combining in an odd way with the faith-and-values voters to create a kind of wash? Dare we think, a more moderate platform. Nah, delegates were still planning to ditch Social Security.

By this time, most of my fellow journos had left and so had a good chunk of the delegates. I packed up and as I left St. Cloud I trailed a Prius that was covered in Republican bumper stickers, including one that proclaimed: “Abortion is not medical care.”

Later, when I was telling my daughter-in-law about the convention, she remarked: “A Prius? Isn’t that a liberal car?”

“It’s a new day,” I replied.

Comments (51)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 05/21/2012 - 10:32 am.

    Republican Fear and Anger

    The republican guru Rush Limbaugh a couple of months ago said the republicans have to keep the fear and anger going. Apparently now the republicans are even starting to believe their own hype. They can’t figure out who they are and even they don’t like their republican options. Republican fiscal mismanagement has to be what you think when you hear the word republican. George W. Bush mismanaged the country into the red. Pawlenty mismanged Minnesota trying to look presidential, he also mismanged his own campaign and ran it into the red. Bachmann ran her campaign into the red, Gingrich isn’t finished running his campaign into the red. Voters what is there to like in the republican party. Actions have consequences and November will be a good time to give those fiscally conservatives what they deserve. Speak loudly voters.

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/21/2012 - 10:51 am.


    I think this report seems to have gotten a lot of names wrong, not the level of journalism we should expect to see from

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/21/2012 - 10:54 am.

    What an interesting experience–a collision of delusions.

    It’s a party that is bankrupt in virtually every way.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 05/21/2012 - 11:55 am.

    And the companion piece?

    Delusional people appear to have been in St. Cloud at the GOP convention in large numbers. I look forward to a companion piece – there IS one coming, isn’t there? – about the DFL convention that I’m told was held in Minneapolis last weekend, as well. Not having been in attendance, I’ll have to rely on someone else’s report to reach a conclusion about the delusional state of Minnesota’s Democrats.

    I taught high school economics, too, and I’d say Mr. Bills’ understanding of “Economics 101” leaves – I’ll try to be diplomatic here – much to be desired. Marlys’ point about presidential economic advisors is certainly well-taken. It’s been decades, and perhaps centuries, since a sitting president actually made economic policy on his own, and even if we go back to George Washington, I have a feeling that there were other Founding Fathers (a certain Mr. Hamilton comes readily to mind) who might have had a suggestion or two – and it wasn’t about “limiting government.”

    More to the point, it seems unlikely that a single freshman Senator – assuming that Mr. Bills wins in November, something I’ll try to prevent in my own small way – is somehow going to dramatically change federal economic policy. As Marlys suggests, gravity is a fairly powerful force, and even a right-wing sycophant can only do so much as a beginner.

    More and more, the GOP gives off the appearance, at least, of the inmates finally taking over the asylum. Somehow, I don’t think that bodes well for the GOP, Minnesota, or the nation.

    • Submitted by Tom Miller on 05/21/2012 - 05:24 pm.

      DFL Convention

      From the DFL website:
      “The 2012 State Convention will be held on June 2-3 at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.”

    • Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 05/21/2012 - 05:28 pm.

      Next week

      The democratic convention is after Memorial Day. Republican party probably went so early to get a deal on a room. Bet hey paid in cash.

  5. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 05/21/2012 - 12:24 pm.

    Republicans insulated against cognitive dissonance

    Very entertaining column, keep ‘em coming.

    The funniest part of this story is how impressed the delegates were with the economics background of that high school teacher, enough to nominate him.

    During the recent stadium debate, when Rep. King Banian, a real economist with specific expertise in the economics of sports stadiums, spoke rationally and in opposition to the House, the proponents completely ignored his advice as irrelevant. You might say it was to their credit that they tolerated listening to him, but I think a lot of those Republican proponents were busy texting during his address.

    The economics of this sports stadium didn’t matter to them, didn’t bear on their decision – not at all – at least not the part of the economics that was ABOVE board.

    So now we have Republicans who think it’s a great idea for someone with knowledge of economics to represent them and speak on their behalf. Oy vey !!

    • Submitted by Joe Rico on 05/23/2012 - 04:57 pm.

      All Republicans are not Created Equal

      Kurt Bills voted yea with Banian to amend the stadium bill and in the end voted nay with Banian to reject the bill. We need to send people to Washington who are motivated by something other than narcissism.

  6. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/21/2012 - 12:29 pm.

    Maybe it’s too much to ask

    that the press send someone to cover republican conventions who at least has a passing understanding of conservatism or who at least isn’t predisposed to gloss over what she doesn’t understand in favor of the tired old stereotypes that she’s apparently quite comfortable with.

    Featuring condescending little anecdotes intended to make attendees look bad or uninformed may be cute and amusing to your liberal friends but it detracts from what could have been a serious piece about what went on there for readers who were unable to attend, which I assumed is the general purpose of having the press cover such an event in the first place.

  7. Submitted by Ric Studer on 05/21/2012 - 12:38 pm.

    Parking at River’s Edge

    One major reason there is not adequate parking at the River’s Edge Convention Center is government related. The original design for the renovation included a parking ramp where the small parking lot directly to the west of the center now exists. The City of St. Cloud had hoped to use a combination of city and state funds to finance the renovation and applied for state bonding for approximately half of the necessary funds. These funds were alternately included or excluded from various versions of the bonding bill and were, to the best of my knowledge, ultimately excluded in the final conference committee version of the bill. The City of St. Cloud determined that the renovation was vital to the economic health of the community and decided to go forward with the renovation without the state funds. This required the city to provide several millions more than they had budgeted, requiring some fancy budgeting tricks, one of which was removing the parking ramp from the project. The city still hopes to receive state funds so that they can complete the project as originally conceived. One factor in the rejection of bonding money for the project was Republican insistence on a cheaper bonding bill than recommended by the DFL. They justified the exclusion of the project by arguing that helping individual communities with economic development was not a good use of state funds. I find it ironic that they chose to hold their convention at the very “inadequate” facility for which they denied the funding which would have addressed the inadequate and inconvenient situation.

    • Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 05/21/2012 - 05:25 pm.


      Then St. Cloud should have made them walk from Clearwater.

    • Submitted by Pete Barrett on 05/21/2012 - 07:21 pm.

      Stay True To The Cause

      Now that Paulitites have assumed control of the party, surely the next convention will be held a a privately financed, owned, and operated convention facility. Oh yeah, and no driving on public roads to get there.

  8. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 05/21/2012 - 01:16 pm.

    How bizarre

    Sounds like the GOP convention was like cross-breeding the Alex Jones audience with the people who though the problem with the Scopes Monkey Trial was the fine was too small.

  9. Submitted by Geo. Greene on 05/21/2012 - 02:26 pm.

    No surprise

    The only surprise is that it wasn’t the Tea Party that took over. Otherwise the GOP created their own Frankenstein monster by encouraging rabid extremism in their party and throwing out rational Republicans like Arne Carlson (who was way more adult about things, just sayin’).

  10. Submitted by Stephen Dent on 05/21/2012 - 02:28 pm.

    More than bankrupt it’s scary…

    OK, I read every word of this article twice. It’s more than bankrupt – as our Republican friends in previous administrations have left us – it is scary to think that 1). People actually think that way and 2). They vote.

    As a gay man, the comments on the Log Cabin Republicans was especially delicious. As a former Roman Catholic, I use to think I could help change the church internally, if only I persevered. Ultimately, I decided, that in reality, so much is out of the control of the individual – even groups of individuals – that it was best to figure out my own values and beliefs and then align myself with those organizations that support them and not try to change the world. The Log Cabin Republicans are like gays in the Catholic Church. With all their might, they want to help be a catalyst for change and will end up being tokens take out and put on show when convenient for the Republicans to show their “big tent.” They’re marionettes, dancing to the tune of their masters.

    I believe the Republicans Party is mostly dominated by rural and southern white folks, who are afraid and angry of a future they think they will not fit into and will do whatever to turn back the clock. Sadly for them, time marches forward.

  11. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/21/2012 - 02:43 pm.

    Economics Teacher? What TYPE of Economics?

    The REAL question is just exactly what brand of “economics” does Mr. Bills support.

    Surely our science-phobic Republican friends must realize that economics, although it tries to portray itself as a mathematically-based hard science, is actually based on underlying assumptions which arise from the social sciences.

    The socialized governments of Western Europe base their version of economics on a particular set of assumptions regarding the nature of humans and human societies, and


    The centrally-planned and government-controlled economic system of the old USSR in which the government owned all the means of production may seem anachronistic to us all now, but


    The deregulated investment houses and banking system which cost average Americans billions, both in the devaluation of their own retirement savings and in the massive financial rescue it required after the crash of 2008, e.i. the economic system as it was re-created in the US by Alan Greenspan, George W. Bush, et al, based on the “free market” economic theories of Milton Friedman (which were a complete bastardization of the theories of Adam Smith), which, even after the international crisis they caused are STILL favored by Republicans, Paulitites, and “conservatives” are likely exactly the type of “econonomics” Mr. Bills supports (and taught), but

    FREE MARKET is ONLY one type of ECONOMICS!

    The theories of John Maynard Keynes that were put to such excellent use by FDR, pulling the US out of the great depression, are also a TYPE of economics!


    Of course far too many high school and college “economics 101” classes teach ONLY ONE of these perspectives, as if were the sum total of economic theory. If they were to be responsible to their students and the field of economics, they would teach the basics of ALL of these theories, compare and contrast them, explain the history of how each has been used and help their students to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each, what type of society each approach tends to create, and how and under what circumstances it would make sense to bring each of these approaches to economics into play.

    I remain completely convinced, of course, that Mr. Bills lacks the intelligence to comprehend such an approach, let alone teach it effectively. Thus he, together with most of the delegates to the State Republican Convention, are left to approach economics as if the ONLY form of economics in existence is the one which matches their own particular set of personality dysfunctions – as Ms. Kneeland from Marshall was clearly doing, without being able to site any evidence, basing her positions on what she, without knowing why (or even that there might be a reason why) believes MUST CERTAINLY be true.

    Such people are easy prey for the each and every snake oil salesman that comes along, speaking their language, claiming to agree with them, robbing them blind, then skipping off to somewhere else while our “conservative” friends blame the “worthless, lazy poor,” “liberals,” and all the rest of us for the mess those snake oil salesman constantly leave behind themselves as the result of all the change they’ve successfully demanded from our “conservative” friends in order that the flim-flammers can better pad their own pockets before they skip town or skip the country.

  12. Submitted by Tim Milner on 05/21/2012 - 02:50 pm.

    A question

    for Steve.

    What were the 30+ DFL house members who voted YES to the stadium doing during Rep. King Banian’s speech?

    Or don’t you remember that the bill passed with bipartisan support?

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 05/21/2012 - 03:38 pm.

      Oh yes, the DFL was also deaf to Rep. Banian…

      …and his well-reasoned argument about the financing of the stadium. It mattered as little to them as to the Republicans.

      The Democrats have the primary responsibility for this monument to corporate welfare.

      I actually tuned in to much of the floor debate, House and Senate. Not that these floor debates were anything more than theatrics. When somebody made a well-reasoned and thoughtful point against the bill, such as King Banian did, Rep. Lanning – and later Sen. Rosen in the Senate – would have to stand up and remind all those proponents how they were supposed to vote, according to the script. Otherwise they might have been confused or swayed to vote the wrong way, confused to the point of thinking for themselves. If these legislators had thought for themselves, without the threats, promises and coercion brought to bear on them, the bill wouldn’t have passed.

      Your point is well taken. The comment above was just about the foundation for selecting Mr. Bills.

  13. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 05/21/2012 - 03:50 pm.

    Hunter S. Thompson

    Would have been the person to cover this Republican convention.

  14. Submitted by rolf westgard on 05/21/2012 - 05:28 pm.

    Great article; many side splitting laughs

    It is amazing that Minnesota could produce so many apparently educated people who are so far out in left field. Their delusion should be big help to candidates like Tim Walz and Rick Nolan who are in tight races.

  15. Submitted by Tim Droogsma on 05/21/2012 - 07:04 pm.


    In Marlys’ cloistered liberal world, seeing a group of Republicans must be sort of like an illiterate person observing people who can read and write. It must all seem so magical and mysterious and beyond comprehension.

    But setting aside the political axe she brought to grind, is it really possible that MinnPost sent someone to cover a convention who knows nothing about debates, voting and parliamentary procedure?

    In the second paragraph of the story, she says that a call for “division” – meaning a counted vote, rather than a voice vote – involved citing “arcane clauses of Republican rules.”

    The right to call “division” on a vote is covered in Robert’s Rules of Order, which have been around since about 1876. Pretty much anyone who ever chaired a PTA meeting or a church congregational meeting knows what “division” is. And if you don’t know what it is, you probably shouldn’t be writing snarky paragraphs about it unless you want to demolish what little credibility you have.

  16. Submitted by rolf westgard on 05/22/2012 - 08:18 am.

    Tim and paragraphs

    Tim’s first paragraph suggests that illiterate liberals look upon erudite Republicans with obvious envy. Most Republicans complain that overeducated liberal professors mislead their naive students with all that book learning. But we do learn here about Tim’s political viewpoint.
    As to voting motions, I doubt that most PTA leaders know the subtle difference between calls for division(no second required, just calls for a different voting method) and calls for an actual recount.
    I give Marlys an ‘A’ for an excellent comprehensive and entertaining article on the Republican convention, and a ‘C-‘ for her knowledge of parliamentary procedure. The C- should give a little hope to Tim and his Tea Party chums who are facing a tough November.

    REW(parliamentarian for a few Senate District conventions in Duluth and St Paul)

  17. Submitted by Dale Hoogeveen on 05/22/2012 - 09:18 am.

    One thing that will bear watching is how carefully other GOP state organizations will guard against this very sort of fiasco replacing their own established control, that and how the national GOP structure assures that the Minnesota example does not spread. The Minnesota GOP, already in disarray, got caught flatfooted here. It was a special case in Minnesota and that should assure that it is not allowed elsewhere in the hierarchially heavy GOP across the country.

    That is the follow up story on this year’s Minnesota GOP state convention, especially should the GOP nationwide response be heavy handed enough to discourage the Paulines to any great extent resulting in any significant amount of their defection from the national GOP campaign.

    Like was said above Hunter Thompson would have been an appropriate reporter. Gonzo attention to a gonzo display. I don’t expect to see the Minnesota GOP example having much legs. I expect it to fizzle out elsewhere as establishment Republicans work pretty desperately to disarm it. It has already pretty much doomed Romney and should the established GOP fail to counter it, it may very well also break up the solid Republican voting block in Congress, which is showing recent cracks when it could not maintain the filibuster over judicial nominees in the past couple of days.

  18. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/22/2012 - 09:25 am.

    It’s always funny….

    …when so called conservatives complain about writers bias in a nation where free speech is our first constitutional right. It’s funny when acolytes of Limbaugh, Kerstin, and Savage demand unbiased reporting from everyone but their own sources of information. Minnpost also has had a series from Ms. Bruccato, what’s her bias? It’s also funny with the biggest champions of irrationality in America today claim intellectual superiority of some kind.

    Somehow these intellectual giants, despite whatever degrees they’ve obtained, have never learned two elementary facts about bias. First, we all have a right to be biased, the right to be bias isn’t reserved for Republicans exclusively. The only thing dishonest about bias is if it’s deliberately hidden. Second, bias cannot be eliminated, it can only be compensated for, and that’s not a matter of style, it’s a matter of intellectual integrity. The degree to which any writer successfully compensates for bias is a matter of judgement, but mere presence of bias does not undermine credibility. From what I’ve seen thus far, neither Jason Lewis or Katherine Kirsten even hold a candle to Marlys on the integrity front.

    There’s nothing dishonest about Marlys’s article, she identifies her bias, she doesn’t attempt to hide it. Although her style is more entertaining for a liberal to read, she’s saying the exact same thing everyone else is saying. I won’t defend sloppiness but this is clearly a piece about the over-all gist of the convention and Marlys’s reaction to it, not a procedural piece about the mechanics and make up of the party. I personally don’t care who these people are, how old they are, or what their names are, but if you’re going to name someone you should try to spell their name correctly. Nevertheless, if the biggest complaint you can muster about this article is that the author was biased, and some names got spelled wrong, it’s still a decent article.

  19. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/22/2012 - 09:35 am.

    Economy 101

    Just to follow up on Greg Kapphahn’s comment; truth be told, if Bill’s actually understood economics he wouldn’t support a Republican platform. Republican economics are base on magical thinking, not evidence. The truth is that libertarians don’t care what the unemployment rate is, nor do they care about the nations economic health in general. All they care about is whether or not the nation conforms to their ideology. They’d be perfectly happy with an unemployment rate of 40% and poverty level of 60% as long as the government is “small” and people were “free”.

    It doesn’t much matter, because Bills is gonna lose, but you’ll note that he’s talking a lot about bein an economics teacher, but he’s not talking about any economic principles.

  20. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/22/2012 - 10:02 am.

    Just a note on the new platform

    It’s interesting to see that the MNGOP platform explicitly claims to support the right to privacy. In particular it claims that all medical records are private. Conservatives should note the the primary legal argument for overturning Roe v. Wade is that there is NO constitutional guarantee of privacy, and that fertilized are people protected by the Bill of Rights. In fact, the pro-fetus argument is that “privacy” is a legal fiction created by activist judges. Elsewhere in the MNGOP platform the rights of the fertilized egg and the life of the innocent are declared. This is a irresolvable contradiction. You can’t claim to believe in the right to privacy and declare that no such right actually exists. And you claim that medical records are private yet promote a legal doctrine that requires government intrusion in order to protect the rights of the unborn. Well, you can make these claims, but they’re incoherent.

  21. Submitted by . . on 05/22/2012 - 03:41 pm.

    I don’t like bumper stickers. none of them!

    • Submitted by rolf westgard on 05/22/2012 - 04:53 pm.

      Bumper stickers

      I like the ones that say, “This catholic is voting no.”. They suggest that there is hope for us.

  22. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/23/2012 - 07:30 am.

    Bumber stickers

    One time I changed the world with a bumper sticker of a Jesus fish that said: “Chips” inside.

  23. Submitted by Joe Rico on 05/23/2012 - 05:34 pm.

    Some Specifics

    “And what about this big encroaching government thing? ‘We have few specifics,’ she admitted.”

    How about:
    The practice of “Civilian Forfeiture”
    Charging a family $90,000 for raising rabbits:
    Fining a family for having a Bible Study:

    This should be a good start. Then there is the federal war on drugs, the whole housing crisis brought in part to you by a federally sponsored moral hazard, and the Iraq war.

    I’m sorry you couldn’t find people who could answer your questions, please look harder next time.

  24. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/24/2012 - 10:22 am.

    Encroaching government?

    Again with this anti-historical notion that the country is descending into some kind of liberal totalitarian state. The fact that we have laws restricting certain practices and behaviors doesn’t make you a victim of oppression, it makes you a member of a community. The fact that your government isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean we’re drifting into communism.

    I remind you, totalitarian regimes always emerge from the conservative, not the liberal side of the political spectrum. And before you cry about communism let me point out that although communism can be place on the left end of the spectrum, there’s nothing liberal about it all. Communists hate liberals almost as much as they hate capitalists. Communism is an incredibly conservative doctrine, it’s not organized around a capitalist economy.

    The problem with this encroaching government theory is that it mistakes the democratic process for a police state, and turns history on it’s head. We’re asked to believe that a century of rapidly expanded civil liberties and civic participation is actually a plunge into despotism. The last 40 years have been an era of deregulation in everything from airlines to banks, yet we’re told encroaching government is the cause of all of our problems.

    You’re freedom ends where someone elses begins. Our laws aren’t perfect, but that’s why we have the ability to change them. Our government isn’t perfect, but that’s why we have elections. Our elections aren’t perfect, but that’s why we have time. The fact you can’t dump whatever you want into our water, air, or food, doesn’t make an oppressed minority, nor does the fact that you can’t do whatever you want on or with your property regardless of it’s effects on your neighbors. The fact you don’t agree with all the restrictions doesn’t make you an ant being crushed by the heavy hand of the state, that’s why we have courts and due process. All this makes you a citizen of a nation, and a member of a community.

  25. Submitted by Joe Rico on 05/25/2012 - 04:39 pm.

    A few points

    Paul, first off I think you confused me with a social right winger. I spent plenty of my time at the State convention telling people why the anti-gay marriage amendment is wrong and threatens their own rights. I strongly believe in limiting the governments power to enforcing negative rights. The government needs to guarantee that “You’re freedom ends where someone else’s begins” absolutely. The civil liberties established over the last 150 years are paramount to the continued health of our nation.

    Let’s leave behind the “liberal / conservative / right / left” dogma. I don’t believe that the government is descending into a “liberal totalitarian state” I believe that it is overstepping it’s bounds and needs to be be reminded that it is a servant of the people. I gave articles that were all examples of a government that in it’s quest to “protect us” was in fact hurting us, and that is what I’m trying to correct.

    “Totalitarian regimes always emerge from the conservative, not the liberal side of the political spectrum” Leaving out communism is like leaving out Jupiter when discussing the planets. Communism came about (in many, many places across the globe) because people put faith in a single central authority to improve the quality of their lives. I believe the largest threat to freedom is imbalance of powers. We need a federal government split into judicial, executive, and legislative branches. We need strong states to protect citizens from overreaches of the federal government. We need wealthy citizens to counterweight the power of the government and we need an educated middle class to ensure continuing voting for a balanced system.

    I know I’m not an oppressed minority, I’ve been to third world countries and certainly appreciate the need for bureaucracy and rule of law. But I’ve seen people who reject responsibility for themselves and are surprised and angry that the government does not do enough to protect them. I’ve seen too many people who live on government subsidies and cannot fathom that they are living off of other peoples labor. And I’m watching a government that has increased spending from 3% of GDP to 40% of GDP and I think that it’s time to reign some of these policies in.

  26. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/27/2012 - 10:17 am.

    A few responses to a few points


    Again, government can overstep it’s authority on occasion, that’s why we have due process and elections. The fact that you can point to a few examples of such excess does not mean we are drifting into a totalitarian state, exceptions don’t establish the rule. We remain a democracy at the end of the day. And don’t forget, your example of a excess may be someone elses example of necessary, you don’t get to “declare” such things, we have to work it out. You have to remember, all these “excesses” you point to had constituencies behind them, they aren’t just the product of an existentially “excessive” government. The problem is that occasional example of government excess in and of themselves do not establish that we have an excessive government, or that we are in an era of encroaching government. To build an entire party around a theory of “encroaching” government is to build a party around a lie.

    I didn’t say we should “leave out” Communism, I simply point out that Communism is NOT a liberal phenomena, it’s a conservative phenomena. People get very confused about this because they conflate political and ideological spectrum’s. Again, there’s simply nothing liberal about a Communist state, Stalin, Mao, and Lenin were no liberals, they hated liberalism.

    I’m glad you don’t see yourself as victim of oppression, but you seem to be saying you want to use the government to modify people’s personalities and enforce some sense of “responsibility”. Aren’t such things supposed to left up to parents? Frankly this is exactly the kind of totalitarian thinking that leads to emergence of fascist and communist states. One thing it is to complain about the way other people live their lives, but it’s quite another to build a political ideology around an effort to make the government force people to live their lives the way you would like them to. Such efforts by the way would seem to directly contradict the Libertarian mission. Look, the fact that other people are different, and may not share your ethics, values, or sense of responsibility, doesn’t mean you have an encroaching government, it simply means you live with other humans beings, again, you are a member of a community. Other people are not failed attempts at being you. A free country accommodates differences, it doesn’t try to legislate them out of existence.

    Furthermore I have to point out that Republicans simply have no credibility when it comes to this personal responsibility stuff. Everywhere we turn we Republican commentators and politicians denying responsibility at every occasion, and people such as yourself endorse their behavior. Integrity is simply absent amongst the “responsibility” acolytes, anyone with a salary above $200K, a job with Fox News, or small government ideology is simply exempt from the whole “personal responsibility” thing. If you really want to change the country, start as they say at home. Start requiring a little integrity amongst your own people before you complain about the lack of it elsewhere. Not a single member of the Bush cabinet resigned after the worse intelligence failure in US history? Where was the responsibility there?

  27. Submitted by Joe Rico on 05/28/2012 - 05:45 pm.

    This keeps going and going.

    I didn’t say we were drifting into a totalitarian state. I said I believe that the government is overstepping its bounds. I understand that some may not view these as excesses, but I do. Look at the first story above. The federal government is using the process of Civilian forfeiture to allow police depts to confiscate property that was involved in drug use. While this sounds reasonable on the surface, when you look at Will’s article the US government is suing a motel that had 30 police related drug arrests in an 18 year period, less than 2 per year. None of these involved any charges against the motel owner. The government believes it has the right to take the property and sell it because the property was used to facilitate a crime. The government is imposing an excessive fine, and also overriding Massachusetts law, which would protect the hotel owner from such actions (both unconstitutional). Sure this is just a single case, and could be an extreme example, but I fear it quickly is not becoming uncommon. A far larger issue of the war on drugs is the sheer number of people in prison solely for non-violent drug use. Encroachment is in the eye of the beholder. You may not believe the government is encroaching. Based off of the large number of examples I have seen, I do. Free and fair elections allow us both to state our cases and allow the electorate to decide. I’ll say it again, I don’t think we’re becoming a totalitarian state. But I don’t want to see us become England. I have no desire to live in a society where the State is your sole protector.

    The communists weren’t liberal? True, they certainly did not appreciate individual self expression that goes with out saying. But they certainly did sell people on redistribution of wealth. To say that communism was a solely conservative phenomenon is unfair.

    I’m fully aware of the danger of Nazi ideals of eliminating people who can’t work from society. There is a very wide ideological gap between saying we shouldn’t provide for people who can’t work, and questioning how much we spend on people who are irresponsible. A single mom who needs help getting an education is a reasonable use of money for the state, but when I see a family with two new SUV’s who are getting more money in food aid than my family’s grocery budget I start to question what we’re doing. To imply the two are the same thing is dishonest. Responsibility is not a personality trait that someone may or may not have. If I drove drunk or forgot to pay my taxes no judge or jury would look kindly on a “Responsibility is not in my personality” defense. Responsibility is not a dedication to working 80 hours week to maximize profits. It’s deciding how you’re going to live and then dealing with the consequences of that choice. If you like SUV’s and don’t have money get an appreciation for the taste of potatoes. But I’ll let go of this point. I don’t think that the Welfare state is as big a threat as the Warfare state. I’ll even give one better, I think the rich should pay more taxes.

    That being said stuffing every single person in a group into a single small box seems to contradict you liberal ideals. I’m well aware of the problems within my own party, and I will fix them in any way I can.

  28. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/29/2012 - 09:04 am.

    Yeah but it’s going well

    I think Joe and I have had a constructive discussion. Joe, you seem to be considering my comments rather than talking past them and I appreciate that, unfortunately it’s a rarity when that happens.

    I understand you don’t think we’re drifting into totalitarianism, I hope you mention that to Ms. Bachmannn the next time you see her. Unfortunately your still left with the problem of explaining why your party wants to drown the whole Government in a tub instead of simply fixing specific instances of excessive government. I don’t like the hotel thing either, but since budget cuts haven’t prevented those excesses maybe it’s time to address specific issues rather than assume such excess will be magically eliminated by low taxes. In fact low taxes may be the cause of this particular problem since the city complaint seems to be the cost of police action at the hotel. It may be an example of how your $100 tax cut cost you your livelihood.

    Communism is a conservative ideology organized around a different economic model, that’s as fair as it gets. Next time one of your comrades refers to Obama as a communist or socialist maybe you can think about how fair THAT is.

    All economies redistribute wealth, the only difference is who they redistribute it to, and to what degree. Republicans want to redistribute wealth in such a way as to concentrate it in the very few hands, liberals want a more equitable distribution. Here’s the thing, and you can explain this to Bachmann as well: no American liberals endorse a flat distribution of wealth. American liberals are NOT socialists or communist. Liberals believe in private property, they believe in meritocracy, and they don’t have a problem with having wealthy people in an economy, THAT’s why Marx hated liberals. Liberals seek to eliminate poverty and raise the standard of living for everyone, but no liberal anywhere want’s a flat distribution of wealth. And don’t whine about social engineering because your program is just as much of an engineering project as anything liberals would do, it’s just organized around different priorities.

    As for food stamps, the problem here is your dealing with stereotypes instead of reality. Are you telling us that YOU personally know people with two new SUVs who are collecting more food aid than your budget? I know this is a story that Republicans like to tell, but the fact is that the average food aid amounts to $275 dollars per month for a family of 4, and the average family income is below $22,000 a year. Now it is possible that family with new SUVS could collect food stamps, because vehicles are exempt from the asset evaluation used to determine aid. However such examples- if they actually exist, are nowhere near the norm. Look, you want to live the high life on welfare, go for it. Get yourself fired and live it up, come back and tell us how great it is rake in the cash and sit around all day doin nuthin. The problem is that Republicans have built an entire agenda around stereotypes, misnomers, and generalizations. When you cut $50 from the food stamp benefits you don’t “discipline” people with SUVs, you hurt families that need food. Anyways, it depends on the situation, families with SUVs can run into hard times as well and need a little help, it depends on the circumstances.

  29. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/29/2012 - 09:48 am.

    The wealthy protect us

    In one of the previous comments Joe Rico says:

    “We need wealthy citizens to counterweight the power of the government and we need an educated middle class to ensure continuing voting for a balanced system.”

    See, this is another dirty little libertarian secret, they don’t really believe in Democracy when push comes to shove. It’s not a our constitutional check and balances that have provided a counterweight to excessive government, it’s the wealthy. This is pure social Darwinism ala Ayn Rand. Of course it’s absurd since the wealthy have frequently been as responsible for government excess as anyone else, they started a civil war in order to preserve slavery for instance, that was kind of excessive. This is something that would-be Paulites better keep in mind, their hero doesn’t believe our constitution and it’s enforcement is what guarantees our liberties, it’s resistance of of the wealthy that’s kept us free. Remember, how hard the wealthy fought for labor rights, women’s suffrage, and civil rights in the 50s and 60s?

  30. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/29/2012 - 09:58 am.

    Drug wars, wars, and civil forclosures are conservative animals

    By the way, the drug war and the civil foreclosure due to criminal activity laws are a product of the Republican law and order campaign that started with Nixon, not liberal encroachment. I agree that the warfare state is more troubling than the welfare state, but again, it’s the Republicans that lead us into wars more often than not, and it’s the Republicans who don’t want to cut a dime of military spending, so I don’t know how you blame that on liberals. Again, this is how conservatives rather than liberals drift into police states.

  31. Submitted by Joe Rico on 05/29/2012 - 11:48 am.

    Again with “Liberal / Conservative” Dogma

    Paul I’m working to understand and respond to your points, I would appreciate the same. You seem to be claiming that anything good in this world is liberal and anything bad is conservative. I’m sorry not every person on the left is as level headed as you claim, and I have certainly heard “liberals” champion very destructive and dangerous ways to help people. Furthermore, I try hard to not propagate stories. Any one can prove anything with a story; both the left and right are guilty of it. The left will hold up a guy who died of a simple infection because he couldn’t afford the hospital. The right will hold up the guy who died of dehydration in a hospital because Britian’s healthcare system is so overloaded. My comments about welfare are from my personal interactions with people, it’s hard to step outside of one’s own experiences. I certainly don’t “hate” the poor, I’ve let homeless people live in my house as they try to get on their feet. I think we as humans have an obligation to help each other. I just think that the federal government is not the appropriate avenue. My discussion on food stamps were from interactions with close family friends, who in fact are very good people, just in my opinion financially irresponsible. I’ve had many interactions with people on welfare. Some of my thoughts: “Feed your kids before buying an iPad”, “Should you really have spent $600 on new clothes rather than a months rent”, “We aren’t kicking you out, we’re just saying if you want to live here you need to smoke outside.” A quick some up of my experience are the ones who are responsible for themselves generally get back on their feet pretty quickly, and are thankful for the help.

    My comments on the wealthy are not because I believe they are my savior. I had quite a list of what helps with checks and balances and to say that because I listed the wealthy as one of them makes me “not really believe in Democracy” is quite a stretch. Take for example Elon Musk, he used his wealth to create a space company that has now successfully reached the ISS at 1/10th the cost of the space shuttle. To acknowledge that this is a benefit to society is not to be in servitude to the rich. It’s merely an acknowledgement that wealthy people can often succeed where the government does not. Another question is would SpaceX have happened if the tax rate on the supper wealthy was still 90%?

    Now to try to state this again more clearly. Saying the government is too big is not the same as saying we are descending into a “liberal totalitarian state”. You are very correct Republicans have spurned their principles in a lot of it’s actions. My greatest fear of the rich is when the get in bed with the government to form sanctioned monopolies and “to-big-to-fail” corporations. I don’t have a personal vendetta against liberals, I certainly don’t blame them for all of societies problems. I just think that the War on Drugs, Nation building, Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac, a fractional reserve system held up by the Federal Reserve, and on and on are symptoms of an overly large government and are threats to the ongoing stability of a free nation.

  32. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/29/2012 - 10:27 pm.


    There’s no dogma behind my comments, I’m simply clarifying a number of misconceptions that Republicans have about liberals. Joe, you began this discussion with an assertion that we have an encroaching government, that implies movement, not a static condition. Your argument is a slippery slope argument, towards totalitarianism, you can deny it, but the logic is obvious. It’s not just about a government that’s big, it’s about government that’s getting bigger.

    Agendas organized around “big” government complaints inevitably become incoherent because size cannot be the issue. Republicans have yet to define what “size” is right, they just always say “smaller”. In fact, government cannot be defined by size but by function. What? You want a government that’s bigger than your garage but smaller than the moon? How my employees should the government have? How much space should it occupy? What share of the GDP should government spending account for? Obviously the problem isn’t the appropriate size of the government, it’s whether or not the government is doing what we want it to do. “Big government” is simply an unworkable generalization, whenever you get into the specifics it degenerates into magical thinking, and it’s never small enough.

    I have to point out that the government and the wealthy do not share the same mission or responsibilities. The wealthy don’t “do” what the government does. The salvation that was supposed to flo out of the NGOs and private sector has failed to materialize, private sector efficiency is a matter of faith, not evidence. Furthermore, NASA has been putting rockets into space for decades, and it was German government during WWII that pioneered that technology. Rockets have always been cheaper than the shuttle was, the shuttle was built for completely different missions.

    Finally, I have no vendetta against conservatives, the conservative intellectual tradition is an honorable and productive one. My problem is that very little about the current US Republican party, the Tea Party, or Libertarians, is actually conservative. A true conservative for instance would never rely on the fabricated histories that Republicans, Tea Partyers, and Libertarians so frequently produce. I wish we had real conservative voices participating in the discourse.

  33. Submitted by Joe Rico on 05/30/2012 - 09:06 pm.

    Yes, Dogma…

    Paul, to explain my “dogma” comment. Die hard “liberals” and “conservatives” never have any true conversations. This is solely because they will not move beyond their perceptions of the other.

    Look back on our conversations. I stongly disagreed with the authors insinuation that everyone at the convention was stupid and had no evidence. I gave what I thought was good evidence of an encroaching state, you replied saying I believed the governement was decending into a “liberal totalitarian state”, while I never said such a thing. You also accused me of not understanding the concept that my freedom cannot infringe on someone elses. This to me is a core tenet of libertarianism. I never said that I believe we have the right to pollute but you accused me of it.

    I then related my opinion on failures of the welfare state, which were formed solely off of my personal interactions with people. People that I’m friends with and greatly appreciate in my life but see them as being hurt by their lack of responsibility for themselves. Sure I could have stated this more clearly but you then accused me of “believing stories” and “totalitarian thinking that would leads to emergence of fascist and communist states.” You then said that I have no credibility because other Republicans are bad people.

    I can go on, but I’ll stop here. Let me ask you, how have you delineated yourself from the “Conservatives” you hate so much? What clear and concise arguement have you provided me other than claiming that conservatives=nazis? What have you told me that is more than merely your interpetation of reality?

    My point is that I attended the convention. I sat around very reasonable people who were open to discussion and debate about the issues. I met plenty of right wing fanatics, but dismissed them because they aren’t going to fix the issues this country currently faces. I’ll always be open to conversation about the issues, and respectful of people who disagree with me. This is for the simple fact that I know I’m probably right about less than 50% of what I believe, and truly want to fix the issues in this country.

    Sorry, but last point. Accusation of “Slippery slope” is actually a logical fallacy in that you ignore the existence of any middle ground.

  34. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/31/2012 - 08:35 am.

    It’s not dogma, it’s your position


    I understand that Paulite’s are trying to position themselves as moderates of some kind, but there’s nothing moderate about eliminating the department of education and the federal reserve, or repealing the Civil Rights Act and dismantling Social Security. If you don’t share those objectives, why do you support Paul’s agenda? Libertarianism is not a “moderate” ideology, it is a conservative ideology. If you claim to be non-ideological you’re simply being dishonest.

    I understand that your trying to position yourself above and apart from the Democrat/Republican debate but all your really offering is more “small” government dogma, minus the social agenda. You’re just recycling the idea that if we hire a bunch of people who don’t believe in government to run the government all will end well. Been there done that.

    OK, so maybe you want our country to look more like Somalia than Nazi Germany, either way, it’s not a moderate ideology.

    You may have friends, but you’re still promoting stereotypes and generalizations. You refer to the “welfare state”, you don’t live in a welfare state, you live in a state that has welfare programs, there’s a difference. You want small government yet you want the government to modify your friends personalities and teach them responsibility. The government didn’t create your friends personalities, and our government is in no position to reshape personalities. Personalities are not the function of democratic governments. The only governments in history that actually shaped personalities have been totalitarian regimes.

    Now you’ll say I’m exaggerating your position, but if you don’t want the government to do something about your friends personalities, or if you don’t blame the government for your friends personalities, why are we talking about your friends personalities? What you have here is a bunch of complaints about stuff, and your answer to all of them is: “smaller government”. THAT’s dogmatic, and that’s not a moderate position. We have food assistance programs, those programs have minimum asset and income requirements, we don’t base participation on personality inventories. You may not like some personalities, but if they qualify they qualify. So what do you want to do? You want to add personalities inventories to the qualification process? You want to only give food aid to “responsible” people?

    Look, you don’t like the drug laws, change them. You don’t like forfeiture laws, change them. In a liberal democracy legislators exist to make and change laws. Dismantling the government because you know irresponsible people who collect food stamps is like fixing a leaky roof by mowing the lawn.

    Listen, it’s really very simple, why don’t you just tell us exactly how “small” you think the government should be. What exactly SHOULD the budget be? How much square space should government occupy? How may people should be working for the government? What share of GDP should government expenditures account for?

  35. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/31/2012 - 09:11 am.

    Libertarians are very confused about the notion of freedom and government, and they’re agenda is based on a distorted history that ignores the increased freedoms and participation of the 20th century. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it, in the end Libertarians don’t believe in Democracy. Democracy requires that individuals will sometimes submit to the will of the majority, and make occasional sacrifices. This is anathema to Libertarians. Democracy also requires a government that acts a primary guarantor of civil liberties rather than brute force or social oppression.

    Libertarians simply don’t understand the role of a Democratic government because they don’t distinguish the difference to between different forms of government, government is government and all governments are oppressive. Government is irrelevant because Social Darwinism, i.e. the markets, meritocracy, and self interest are self regulating, the only thing you need government for is to lock up criminals, and preferably that would by done by a private company. This is an ideology, and it’s not a moderate one.

    Their failure to appreciate the nature of Democracy leads to some weird and contradictory positions like Paul’s position on the Civil Rights act. The problem is that Libertarians fail to acknowledge a Democratic government’s role as guarantor of civil liberties. This puts them in a position of claiming to be champions of civil liberties, yet constantly trying to dismantle the mechanism of civil liberties. Our constitution makes the government the primary protector, if you have a problem you’re supposed to call the police, your representative, or file a lawsuit, not grab a shotgun or a baseball bat and take care of it yourself. It isn’t perfect but by and large it works, and access to government redress has been steadily expanding for over 200 years. What’s weird is that that expanded access to government redress is what Libertarians frequently define as government encroachment. My ability to stop you from dumping crap into my food, lungs, and water, or build a helipad next to my house, is a violation of property rights. Libertarians don’t see the 82nd airborne pushing pushing George Wallace out of the way so a black girl can go to school in Alabama, they only see a myriad of government “excesses” that interfere with one’s ability to get wealthy.

    Yet another irresolvable contradiction of Libertarian thought is the nature of humanity. Ayn Randian Social Darwinism presents a very dark view of human nature, yet the libertarian agenda is to unleash that dark nature rather contain it. It’s a weird utopian view that seeks to eliminate constraints in order to establish an inequitable society. Such a program doesn’t really solve the problems most people identify as problems, it actually cements them into the fabric of our society.

    Ultimately Libertarianism is an incoherent ideology. The Libertarian utopia looks very much like Somalia.

    • Submitted by Joe Rico on 06/01/2012 - 08:50 am.


      Another logical fallacy is Straw Man. This is when you mis-represent what something is and then tear it apart. I’m not talking about Ayn Rand, I truly think she was more anarchist than anything. For anyone else reading this take a look at Milton Friedman and tell me where exactly he supports America’s Somali-zation.

  36. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/31/2012 - 09:12 am.

    Slippery slopes

    Yes, Joe, slippery slope arguments are logical fallacies, that’s why I point our that your argument is a slippery slope argument.

  37. Submitted by Joe Rico on 05/31/2012 - 01:45 pm.

    Now we’re getting somewhere

    Thanks for that I’m continuing to enjoy this conversation!

    So let’s discuss the term Moderate. You may disagree, but to me “extremism” is not taking an unorthodox position. It’s an inability to compromise on the position you have. I’m very regretful of the GOPs no tax pledge, because it tied their hands to compromise. As far as personal positions…

    Dept of Education: I’ve heard No Child Left Behind has wreaked havoc on schools, so probably we should rethink this policy (don’t remind me “Bush” I know). On the other hand idealistically I support free education through college, because I do believe in equality of opportunity. Federal Reserve: Eliminating this would be suicidal within a fractional reserve banking structure. I know this. I’m pretty sure Ron Paul knows that as well, but I’m not here to defend him. My issue is 95% of people don’t understand fractional reserve banking, and don’t understand that it is inherently unstable no matter what the currency is. Things like this are not changing because people won’t educate themselves or push the issue and the system propagates itself because of fear of change. Civil Rights Act: In the interests of time I won’t touch this one. Health Care: providing free health care in a broken system is the definition of arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. All we’re accomplishing is changing who gets neglected by the system. Health care systems are already losing so much money on Medicare that they are trying to avoid Medicare patients altogether. Why do we think another government system that increases pressure on hospitals is going to fix the problem? What we need are positive steps that help lower costs through improving market efficiency. Things like this have been accomplished in other sectors by requiring open pricing information. How about requiring health care professionals to list prices in all non-emergent situations, so people are aware of the costs they are incurring. Now this may not be “Ron Paul” or “Ayn Rand” libertarianism, but it is in line with what Milton Friedman argued for. I agree with the latter much more than either former. Ayn Rand was past libertarian and border line anarchist.

    Good point on the “Welfare State” criticism. I have to admit, I’m sorry, I’ve let this conversation get away from me. I know there’s a lot wrong with this nation, and taking $50 dollars away from a poor family isn’t the place to start fixing issues. But let me try to explain where I’m coming from. I truly think that the answer to poverty is to minimize it through proper regulation of a free market. I believe in free markets, and I believe without government regulations market’s stop being free (Friedman believed this too). Spending time filing paperwork, paying tax accountants, building “bridges to nowhere”, policing the world: these are all inefficiencies on the market. All inefficiencies that drive costs up, and prevent us from providing low cost resources, and competing globally for labor. I’ve seen Obama make statements enough times to the effect “sure this is more busy work, but it will create jobs”. This is utter nonsense, no one will pay me to dig a random hole in my backyard, and anyone who does is a fool. Milton Friedman argued that we should eliminate all social programs and replace them all with a “Guaranteed Minimum Income”. His only caveat was structure it in such a way that it rewards rather than penalizes people for getting work. Through one single move we can replace many different federal programs with a single more efficient system that will still help people. How about the FAIR tax. This replaces income and payroll taxes with a single national sales tax. Everyone is given a rebate for necessities so it is in the end progressive, and if not could be made more so with a mark to market capital gains tax on the very wealthy. This system also encourages frugality for the poor. They have the ability to avoid income tax altogether, and would only be penalized for frivolities.

    As far as the “optimal size” of government. Here is my answer, as small as possible while still accomplishing the objectives we set out for it. Regulations, subsidies, etc all have a profound detrimental affect on the country through inefficiency losses and creation of market bubbles. Therefore whenever they are implemented we should consider this impact and seek to minimize it.

    One other item is freedom. I strongly believe that we need to be free to make bad decisions. I’ll site raw milk because it is an easy target. Why is selling/drinking raw milk illegal? Giving it to children maybe should be illegal. Should farmers be required to properly inform people of the dangers before providing it, absolutely. Would I ever drink it, no. These concepts are in line with Libertarian principles, but the audacity to tell someone “that might hurt you, so you can’t do it” seems to me completely disrespectful of people and counterintuitive to liberty. Now tell me why I’m wrong about this.

    Is everything I said my ideal vision for the country, no, but it is a reasonable approach to compromise on issues that I feel we face. I’m not going to compromise on what I believe to be right, but I will compromise on issues to move us in the right direction. Does that make me an extremist?

    Lastly “Paulites”… are you still trying to pick a fight? I support Ron Paul yes, I agree with maybe 50% of his positions, which is a much higher percentage than many Republicans and Democrats. I wouldn’t say I support his Agenda, but I like his anti-war policy, approve of his criticism of the War on Drugs, and find myself more in line with his take on Liberty.

  38. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/01/2012 - 09:57 am.

    Thank You!

    I’m not sure anyone but us reading this, but I think it’s been interesting. Just a few follow up points.

    First, why do you hate America? Just kidding.

    About extremism, I see your point and I agree with it to some extent, but it has some problems. Someone who advocates and extreme policy, but is willing to compromise, is not necessarily a moderate. A person who supports a policy of racial cleansing for instance, but is willing to compromise for now, is not a moderate, but rather a practical extremist. The willingness to compromise doesn’t necessarily modify extremism. Note, I’m not calling you an extremist, I’m just discussing your concept.

    There can be a difference between being unorthodox and being extreme, the problem is there’s nothing unorthodox about your position, if fact it’s the very definition of small government, free market orthodoxy. You’re not offering anything new here, it’s just free mark fetishism pretending to be economics.

    We have a public and private sector in our economy, they are not different economies, but two necessary components of a successful capitalist economy in a Democratic state. The notion that private sector is inherently more efficient is a fallacy. The difference isn’t efficiency, in fact in some cases the government does far more with fewer resources than the private sector does. We’ve seen the vaunted efficiency of the private sector for what it really is with recent financial collapse and mortgage crises, as well as the Deep Water Horizon explosion, and a myriad of other examples. Hell, it took Qwest over a year to connect my deliver my DSL.

    The difference between the private and the public sector is mission and profit. The private sector is designed to deliver benefits to select participants, the public is designed to deliver services to everyone. The private sector works for profit, the public sector does not.

    History has taught us that some things are better left to the public sector. Fire departments in New York started out as private companies. That system was disaster leading to the first public fire departments in the country. There are some things that a civilized society needs to do regardless of profit. I would say education is an example.

    Since the public and private sectors don’t do the same thing, it’s nonsensical to claim that the private sector is better at doing what the public sector does or vice versa.

    Markets are about making money, so if that’s the objective they can do that very well. Our health markets are generating enormous wealth, but they fail to provide affordable health care to everyone who needs it. You are mistaken about the whole medicare deal. I used to work in health care and I can tell you that medicare reimbursements are not the big problem. The problem some providers are facing is that private plans have been steadily increasing co-pays and deductibles, and more and more patients have been unable to pay those increased fees. The insurance companies make more money because they pay less for health care, but the providers are getting stuck with bad debt. This scenario has recently been in the news here at Fairview University with it’s Accretive deal. This whole scenario which leads to providers increasing charges, is the product of market competition, not government interference, attempts to give away free health care, or irresponsible consumers.

    Markets have resulted in one of if not THE most inefficient health system in the world. We pay twice as much in administrative costs than any other system. Furthermore, health care cannot be a consumer driven enterprise like auto sales, or hair products. There is a huge difference between a patient and a customer. The nature of medicine and health care is such that you would need to be a doctor yourself in order to make your own diagnosis and treatment. And the consumer information required is impossible to provide in any realistic format. Health care metrics are simply too complex. For instance simply looking at a given hospitals mortality rate tells you nothing. You can’t assume for instance that a hospital with a high mortality rate is a bad hospital, you have look what the hospital does. A hospital like Mao for instance can have a statistically high patient mortality rate, not because it’s a bad hospital, but because it’s such a good hospital that it attracts the worse of worse patients with bad prognosis to begin with. Furthermore, consumer decisions are cost driven, but do you want cheap health care or good health care? Markets will give us a system that delivers the best health care a patient can afford, but that ranges from zero health care to millions of dollar health care. Is that what we want? In other words we need to decide if want health care to be a public or private sector enterprise. You think it should be a private sector enterprise and you think have a way to make that work. I say we’ve been trying to make it work for 60 years and it’s failed.

    You haven’t defined the size of government you want in any meaningful way, nor can you. As small as possible but large enough to do what you want is simply not a definition of size, it simply doesn’t tell us anything. How do you know that our government isn’t already as small as it can be in order to do what we want it to do? Look, no one want’s a government that’s bigger than needs to be. The problem, as I’ve pointed out, is that these “size” arguments are simply incoherent. If I were you I’d stop talking about large or small government and just talking about what you want and don’t want the government to do. You have a whole list of complaints, and the answer to all them cannot simply be “smaller” government. Sometimes a solution means more government, sometimes less, but it’s the function not the size that drives policy. By the way, we all want our government to be efficient, that’s not a Republican or Libertarian epiphany. However the way to make something more efficient is to make it more efficient, not discipline it with small budgets. Fiscal discipline is little more than magical thinking.

    One note on the slippery slope, I’m sorry but your simply misreading the Wiki, it’s the argument itself, not the accusation that is the fallacy: “In debate or rhetoric, a slippery slope (also known as thin end of the wedge – or sometimes “edge” in US English – or the camel’s nose) is a classic form of argument, arguably an informal fallacy. A slippery slope argument states that a relatively small first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant effect, much like an object given a small push over the edge of a slope sliding all the way to the bottom.[1] ”

    Now you can deny that your making a slippery slope argument, but you can’t argue that your slippery slope argument is not a logical fallacy. You’re talking to an old logician here.

    • Submitted by Joe Rico on 06/01/2012 - 12:53 pm.

      Good Points

      Paul, I’m maybe spending too much time on this according to my wife 🙂 So I’ll leave you with some parting thoughts:

      First, Medicare was better in the past, but currently Mayo is experimenting with phasing it out. They are losing a lot of money due to changes, maybe clinics are better but in the hospital Medicare has stopped paying for care of “preventable” conditions. For example Medicare has said that since bed sores are preventable, they will not pay for care related with them. Now my wife (ICU nurse) is taking care of obese, diabetic patients. They WILL get bedsores no matter what you do, the bed sores introduce infection vectors and end in sepsis and result in the hospital covering a lot of care without compensation. Now I do agree with you on certain sectors not being for profit. I think there is a fundamental conflict of interest in health care being for profit. But at the same time Mayo clinic and others have accomplished wonderful things for healthcare as NGOs.

      Now when you mention the mortgage crisis and cable providers. These to me aren’t instances of an ideal market. The mortgage crisis was spawned due in a large part to moral hazards. Fannie Mae was a quasi-government agency with implied “to big to fail” support from the federal government. This was done because the best way to keep mortgage rates low (dubbed affordable) was to make sure that implied risk stayed low. With Fannie saying they supported loans of a certain breed it instilled a false sense of security, and allowed lenders to make very risk loans that were then dubbed AAA. I had friends going into real estate in college because with FHA loans it was very easy to turn a quick profit on rental properties (buying quad plexes). Again this was neither a Republican nor Democratic artifact, both complained about it when out of power and did nothing to fix it (and in some cases exasperated it) when in power. Now this is where we start to disagree possibly. I think that if we would have stayed out of housing, never had HUD or FHA we would be better off than today. Maybe we could have encouraged savings to reach 20% for down payments but limited it to that. By securing low interest, low down payment loans we in fact encouraged irresponsible investment and put the disadvantaged at risk. They are the ones who are now without a home, and with massive amounts of their savings gone through all of this.

      As far as cable providers, these were government mandated monopolies. Currently I have Charter, a horrible cable provider that I wish only the worse things on. In Milwaukee I had great cable service. The only difference I saw between the two was Milwaukee has competing cable providers. In the meantime tech companies are trying to transform the broadband industry, but I feel that cable lobbyist at the FCC are the major hindrance to these advancements.

      Last point, sorry going long. I’m still going to disagree about Slippery Slope. Read your quote again. “A slippery slope argument states that a relatively small first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant effect.” In effect when person one makes an argument for say gay marriage, and then person two says if we do that we’re going to end up marrying people to turtles. Person two is making an accusation of “Slippery Slope” to argument one. This accusation is the fallacy. I was pointing out that when you take my argument (say for eliminating HUD or FHA) and say the logical conclusion is totalitarianism you’re denying the existence of middle ground, and thus committing the fallacy.

  39. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/01/2012 - 04:00 pm.

    Thanks Joe,

    a few quick points,

    First, I also worked in a hospital, and you can’t believe everything management tells you, or everything you hear. For decades Hospitals have been telling employees that they’re losing money when in fact they’re not. Typically they say things like:”We’re only collecting 52 cents for every dollar we bill for” or something like that. While true, what they’re not telling you is that they charging 500% more for everything. Mao’s not hurtin for money.

    About mortgages, I just have to point out that every major bank in the country was involved in the financial collapse and the mortgage crises, it wasn’t just Fanny Mae et all. It’s almost always the private sector, not the government that drags an economy into a recession.

    With the cable companies you seem to acknowledging that markets are not inherently efficient, I appreciate that. Frankly we blew it in this country by allowing a market approach instead of a public utility approach to the roll out of the internet. Consequently we have the worse coverage, slowest speeds, and most expensive internet and high speed internet in the developed world. If we’d done high speed internet the way we did rural electrification or the original phone service we’d have been much better off. Likewise with cable tv.

    Just to clarify slippery slopes. If you say gay marriage will lead to people marrying turtles- THAT is a slippery slope argument. That claim denies that there could be intermediate degrees of change or conditions. My claim that you are making a slippery slope argument may be true or false, but if I’m mistakenly accusing you of making a slippery slope argument, I’m simply mistaken, I’m not making a slippery slope argument myself. So you can deny that your encroaching government argument is a slippery slope argument, and I may be wrong by accusing you of making a slippery slope argument, and to be wrong is form of fallacy, but I’m not one proffering the slippery slope fallacy, I would in that instance be mischaracterizing your argument. Here’s a link that discusses it a little bit better than the wikilink:

    What I see happening here is your denying that making a slippery slope argument, which is fine. Sometimes a slippery slope is in the eye of the beholder.

    Have a great week and thanks for the conversation.

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