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Why politicians overreach


Fri, Mar 18th, 2011
Posted in Commentary

Having dodged a government shutdown for the moment, Congress is now embroiled in a burning debate over cutting the federal budget. The House has passed a bill imposing far-reaching cuts of $61 billion - dramatically slashing everything from education and housing to environmental regulations and public broadcasting. This is "the will of the people," House Speaker John Boehner argues, citing last November's elections.

Yet national polls suggest otherwise. Pew, Gallup, Harris: all portray an American public that seems uninterested in lopping off federal programs. A solid majority actually wants to increase education spending, only a quarter of those polled want to see cuts to environmental programs, and an outsized majority of people would prefer to see Social Security benefits either remain the same or increase. Indeed, if exit polls from last year are to be believed, voters were far more concerned about righting the economy than about cutting the federal deficit.

It is hard to escape the feeling that the Republican majority in the House may have misread its mandate. But if so, it's only following in the footsteps of the Democrats who misunderstood Americans' appetite for expanding the federal government's ambitions after the 2008 elections, the GOP's overreach following its takeover of Congress in 1994, the Democrats' overestimation of their popularity after the 1992 elections.... You get the idea.

Why does this happen? Why do good politicians frequently misread the voters' intent and get rebuked at the next election? How could it be that politicians - whose job, after all, involves trying to stay in tune with the mood of their constituents - so regularly find themselves out of touch?

My guess is that it is rooted in the nature of campaigning today. For a variety of reasons, ranging from the way congressional districts are drawn, to the changing nature of primary electorates, candidates running for Congress - incumbents and newcomers alike - spend a lot of time talking to people who already are inclined to agree with them. They draw their supporters to campaign events, they hobnob with party activists, they work the phones with like-minded donors, and they give stump speeches to sympathetic audiences that get honed over time so that the themes that resonate are the ones that they keep repeating.

By the end of a campaign, having had their concerns echoed back to them by their audiences, politicians are convinced they' .....
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Don't squander a buildable foundation

Mon, Mar 14th, 2011
Posted in Commentary

Just about a year ago on March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) after months and months of political wrangling. It is not perfect, may not be complete and it certainly is complicated, b ..... 
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One moment, please... What was I thinking?

Mon, Mar 7th, 2011
Posted in Commentary

Last week's newspaper contained a letter to the editor from Bob Boyum of Peterson, Minn., which has been a point of contention for a few of our readers.

What's interesting to me is the wide range of perspectives on Mr. Boyum's letter and que ..... 
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How is wealth created?

Fri, Mar 4th, 2011
Posted in Commentary



There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth:

The first by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbors -- this robbery;

The second by commerce, which is generally cheating;

The thi ..... 
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Guest Commentary: Teachers, unions and collective bargaining

Fri, Mar 4th, 2011
Posted in Commentary



As a retired Minnesota teacher and a former union member, I can sympathize with the teachers in Wisconsin and other states where Republican governors are attempting to weaken or destroy collective bargaining and public unions.

First ..... 
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Government cannot create wealth

Fri, Feb 25th, 2011
Posted in Commentary

Based on millions of instructions millions of Americans give the marketplace every day, the market is super genius in allocating resources. Government however, is a comparative dunce given that the spending decisions it makes is based on politics. I ..... 
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Flights of consciousness before sleep

Fri, Feb 18th, 2011
Posted in Commentary

I don't seem to be able to control my thoughts before I fall asleep. At the risk of being labeled a misogynist, I must admit I have been thinking about Michele Bachmann's historical error of claiming the "founders" worked tirelessly to end slavery, ..... 
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Green Acres Property tax law gets pruned

Fri, Feb 18th, 2011
Posted in Commentary

By Jeremy Miller, State Senator for Minnesota District 31

In addition to the primary tasks of balancing the budget and putting more Minnesotans back to work, there are a number of other initiatives that we are occupied with in St. Paul. Withi ..... 
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A new way of being

Mon, Feb 14th, 2011
Posted in Commentary

Deer appear in our yard in Preston at dusk and dawn and sometimes during the day. They eat the bark of our trees, nibble the needles of our evergreens, eat the sunflower seeds we put out for the birds and, in the summer, help themselves to our garde ..... 
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