Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Decider is coming



It's very sad here in Minneapolis. It feels like a part of our great state has been ripped away from us, and innocent people are dead for no good reason. I haven't seen the devastation first-hand yet, but the frequent helicopters and military planes (?) flying overhead, along with news crews from all over the country, feels surreal.

King George is coming today to view the collapse. I'd like to be there when he tours the scene, but they are keeping a wide perimeter around it. I may try anyway, as I'm sure many others will.

The officials he'll speak with will be cordial, however this town is not Bush-friendly, and he should know it.

From StarTribune.com:
Only Pollyannas can't see politics is a part of everything

President Bush will visit the Twin Cities today. And he actually is going to get out of the plane.

By Nick Coleman, Star Tribune
Last update: August 03, 2007 – 10:11 PM


President Bush will visit the Twin Cities today. And he actually is going to get out of the plane.

But don't expect to hear him say, "Heck of a job, Pawlenty."


According to the pundits, the president's response to the disaster at our end of the Mississippi is an effort to be seen as more compassionate than he appeared in 2005, when he just looked out the window of Air Force One after the levees broke in New Orleans.

Minnesotans will welcome the president. We need presidents to be comforters, and leaders, at times such as this.

Lyndon Johnson came during the Mississippi River flooding of 1965. Bill Clinton paid a visit to Grand Forks during the Red River flood of 1997. So it is good that the president (whose wife, Laura, visited Friday) will make a personal appearance.

But let's not pretend his visit isn't all about politics, too.

Everything about this disaster -- except the heroic efforts to rescue and recover the victims -- has been steeped in politics. And the most calculated political effort has been the posturing and spinning by public officials trying to act commanding while making sure they don't get pinned with responsibility for the collapse.

Now, a president who doesn't believe that government can solve problems is coming because we have a big fat problem that is hard to ignore.

I'm sure he'll be received politely and thanked for his support. But after he leaves, we can get back to the work of finding out what happened and why.

Friday, the carillon atop City Hall was playing "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." Cringe-inducing, but apt. A bridge is down, and we are troubled.

If you think everyone should play nice about it, you are living in Pollyanna Land. We are in a bare-knuckled political brawl in this country, and the government is in the hands of government haters who want to starve it or, in the alleged belief of presidential ally Grover Norquist, want to "drown it."

You can't drown government. It is people who drown.

Friday, the Taxpayers League -- the heart of the No New Taxes beast -- called on us not to point fingers. They probably disconnected their phone and took down their sign, too.

No New Taxes is not a slogan that works anymore. Remember Michael Bilandic? He was the Democratic mayor of Chicago until he forgot to plow the streets.

Bye-bye, Bilandic.

Not point fingers?

That means don't blame the people in charge for letting 140,000 vehicles a day -- 1.7 every second --cross a bridge that wasn't fit for traffic.

No one knew it might fall? Give us a break. What do you need? They were talking about bolting plates on it to keep it up. Maybe duct tape was next.

Bottom line: It fell.

Is it political to be angry about that? So be it. Everything is politics. Politics is not a dirty word by itself. Politics builds bridges and schools and hospitals. And politics can make them fall down. Bad politics.

After Tim Pawlenty was elected governor in 2002, he made his running mate, Carol Molnau, commissioner of transportation. Tell me a better way to politicize transportation and control the spin on everything involving roads or bridges.

When Pawlenty vetoed the transportation bill in May, "Commissioner" Molnau was beside him, smiling. Dear, Minnesota. A transportation commissioner who grins while her department is being knifed is not a transportation commissioner.

Now, a bridge has fallen and people are dead. The buck has to stop somewhere. Molnau was in China when it happened. She probably kissed the Minnesota turf when she got back. Because a Chinese transportation commissioner whose bridge collapsed might lose her head.

We are lenient in Minnesota. Molnau can keep her head. She should lose her job.

So. Welcome, Mr. President. We are really hurting here. It's great you could come.

Nick Coleman • ncoleman@startribune.com

11 comments:

Keira said...

I think my biggest gripe is with local government. We spent years debating a new f-ing ball park one with out a roof for our 3 months of decent weather and 6 months of baseball (oh yeah they want to fund two ball parks one for baseball and one for football) All this to replace a 20 y/o dome that still works! But government has no problem declining a transportation bill to update our much outdated roadway system and increase public transportation and safty.

J. Marquis said...

Good article. I think the whole country needs to rethink our attitude about taxes and our spending priorities.

Snave said...

I think it's getting way past time that the No New Taxes crowd gets some of the blame for things that are decaying in America. They may have a point here or there, but I think they use those rare moments as "poster" moments for their movement.

Sadly, it may take another disaster or two of this nature to get the message across to people that if they aren't willing to pay for safe bridges, they will have unsafe bridges. If they aren't willing to pay for education, they will have less effective schools. If they aren't willing to pay state taxes, they are going to have fewer firefighters, fewer police, fewer public health workers, fewer teachers and larger class sizes, fewer school programs. I could go on and on...

Grover Norquist and his like need to have their feet held to the fire. They need to stand up and tell America exactly why they don't want it to be a stronger nation. Without the people contributing not just bodily but also financially, things will only get weaker. Why do they not promote a message of community, of working together, of contribution? Why do they hate America?

There is no free lunch. Too many of us have gotten the idea that there IS such a thing. After this goes on for long enough, people don't think they should have to pay for anything. Where is the money going to come from for repairing the nation's infrastructure? Would the No New Taxes crowd take it from "entitlement" programs? Sorry, let's try decreasing the military budget before we do any of that other stuff.

I think it's time we change the debate by changing the wording a bit. I don't like the word "entitlement programs". People need to begin referring to such things as "helping programs" or something else. "Entitlement" is used to make people think that the recipients of benefits are lazy-asses who don't need or deserve the help they get. While there may be some people like that, and those can be weeded out, the programs are necessary to many Americans.

Keira, I don't know about Minnesota's government, but I don't think the federal government wants to increase public transportation. As long as it would mean fewer people are driving their cars, I think the government will deny funds or try to discourage it. They are too tied up with the oil companies and the auto industry. Seeing the way they have tried to phase out AmTrak has pretty much convinced me of this. I guess states will have to increase public transportation on their own... here in Oregon, we don't have pro baseball or football yet, and funds get directed toward electric trains, bus lines, and even a gondola lift from near downtown to Oregon Health Sciences University, which is way up on a hill. As much as I love pro sports, they do indeed represent an obstacle to some more civic-minded ideas and projects, when it comes to issues of funding.

Lizzy said...

Keira, The ballpark issue gets to me, too. I have always said - if the teams & owners want a new park or dome, let them pay for it. They have the money.

J & Snave, Yep. This country was built and maintained by taxes. When you cut them, things go to shit. Unfortunately, it will take this tragedy, and others, to bring that message home.

I like your idea about changing the wording for "entitlement programs," Snave. It does have a negative connotation. How about American programs?

Tom Harper said...

The "no new taxes" people might have a point if they would only be consistent. There's never a sound out of them when we're spending billions in Iraq or designing a massive new spying program. But propose a library or a school or more police protection or repairing a bridge, and suddenly they're concerned about tax dollars. They're full of it.

Who Hijacked Our Country

Anonymous said...

Regarding the ballpark....
Having a major league sports franchise such as The Minnesota Twins is a huge asset for The Twin Cities. They have strong community funds which gives to many local charities, maintain state wide softball and little league fields, as well as draw approx. 20 to 30 thousand fans per game. Of course, there is so much more, but I am not going to write a novel here. Now, the baseball regular season is 162 games. That means there are 81 home games (Vikings have 16 regular season games/which means 8 home games) So, 81 home games drawing a minimun of 30k fans (with a new ballpark) makes a huge amount of sense to fund! The dome is fine for The Vikings. It was built for football as all the sight lines are to the 50 yard line. Watching a baseball game there is awful. Because the stadium was built for football, you cannot see the pitches even if you are in the "Box Seats" I have gone to many games over the years and wondered why such a great metropolitan city such as Minneapolis does not build a real baseball stadium. Without a major league ball team, we might as well become another Des Moines, IA.
Well, now we are FINALLY breaking ground! I'll pay my part, and can't wait for opening day!
Laura Itman

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

I agree that some things need to be cut. I would love to see a Defense Department that was focused on, well, actual defense than on wasteful and counterproductive forays into other countries. I would love to see some useless programs either gutted or eliminated entirely. The brutal fact of the matter is that we have a $9 trillion national debt, and that's BEFORE the first Baby Boomer qualifies for Social Security and other programs. While I agree that infrastructure must be maintained, too often, the funding the federal government has set aside for that has either been used for tantamount to blackmail (such as getting Louisiana to raise the minimum drinking age from 19 to 21), or for other purposes, such as Ted Stevens' "Bridge to Nowhere". As such, I advocate putting that responsibility closer to home. Trim the fat, and there's a hell of a lot of it, from the federal budget, then give the states their responsibilities in accordance with the United States Constitution. You mentioned a Chicago mayor who lost his job for something other than electoral fraud. If that starts happening to governors and mayors, I think the lot of them will pay attention to it, and we'll end up with far safer roads.

1138 said...

The first baby boomers have long since started getting Social Security.
MC you've got a stuck needle and it's playing a false record.

Do any of you know what the richt wing proposal for our infra structure problems is?
It's called corporate ownership.
They'll toll you to death with corporate profits rather than legitimate public ownership of public property.
You want to find the source of problems in this country turn your eyes to the board room, not the tax assessors office.
Social Security can and will work - but not with the attitude and lies I just saw written here.

Damien said...

Sorry our local net connection has been down for the past week, have been dying to check up on the only Minnosotian that I know, glad to know your okay and that everyone you know is okay.

Can't say that the sound bites that I saw of the 'great decider' were anything to give anyone hope, the idiot seemed to just shoot off cliche after cliche.

Truly horrific scenes can't beleive it happened in America.

Damien.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Yes, Paul, because Ponzi schemes turn out so well for everyone involved. There are three questions at issue here: Can it work, should it work, and if it works, should it be funded by the federal government? Let us deal with a few known facts: The health of individuals tends to decline as they get older. The average age of the population is rising. One hell of a lot of additional people are going to start qualifying for all of the aid programs available very soon, and the ratio of younger people putting money into the system to older people using the system is going to continue to get less favorable for the foreseeable future. There is something horribly broken, and unless you know something that the Comptroller General of the United States and scores of other experts from across the political spectrum don't, things will only continue to look far worse if this does not get corrected, and soon. But what do all of these people know?

If, as is generally accepted, the Baby Boom began in 1946, the first Baby Boomer will turn 62, the age for Social Security Early Retirement, on January 1, 2008. While you may be correct based on disability and other infirmity, the main wave will begin, probably with a trickle, then. Please, tell me where I'm wrong.

Kvatch said...

I think that Pawlenty is going to reap the sh*tstorm on this one. If there's anything that my 5 years in Minnesota taught me it's that Minnesotans are not forgiving when it comes to tax money that should have been spent to maintain infrastructure, especially roads!