A few years ago, my purse was stolen from my car, which was parked in my driveway. The young man who stole it didn’t find the $100 I had tucked away for an emergency before he threw my purse in a neighbor’s trash can in the alley. He did, however, take my check book and credit cards. It was a terrible feeling to think that my hard-earned money was being pilfered by a faceless crook while I had to race around trying to protect myself by canceling my credit cards and putting a hold on my checking account. Even when I thought everything was under control, the thief was wandering all over this area bouncing my checks. I felt helpless and vulnerable.
I am having that very feeling about the Minnesota Legislature this year. While smokers were stocking up on cigarettes prior to the big tax hike, the rest of us were unaware of the full deleterious effects of the 2013 tax bill on our lives.
The latest revelation is that included in the bill were provisions for a brand new Minnesota senate office building, the price tag for which — $90 million dollars — was not disclosed at the time. This is on top of the Capitol restoration, which is admittedly much needed, and will cost another couple hundred million.
Ninety million seems like an awful lot of money, especially in an economy that has not exactly righted itself, and on top of new taxes worth about $2 billion. When will they have enough of our money?
Ninety million also seems like a lot of money to spend on about half out of a total of 67 senators, the number who are now housed in the Capitol building itself, rather than in the present State Office Building. The thinking in the DFL majority is that those people will need a place to house their offices during the restoration of the Capitol, which is planned to take about four years.
The last time I was in downtown St. Paul, which was a month or so ago, I noticed that our capital city suffers from the same malady that most cities do — empty space. There seem to be many office buildings that are far from full, and could make good temporary office space for those senators who would be inconvenienced by the construction at the Capitol. Surely a shuttle service from a rented downtown office building to the Capitol over the span of four years would come with a price tag less than $90 million. Or, they could resurrect the old “crowded” school plans from the seventies, and house those senators in “temporary” offices — aka trailers!
Just as I handed my purse to the thief who only had to open my unlocked car door and lift it from the front seat, and allowed him to fund his every whim with my money, the citizens of Minnesota have handed over their entire bank accounts to a handful of people simply by electing them to the Minnesota Legislature and the Governor’s office. Now we are surprised to see that instead of simply funding the necessities, the DFLers in the Legislature and the Governor’s Mansion have gone on a spending spree that we will be digging ourselves out of for quite some time to come.
Unfortunately, unlike the safety mechanisms that were in place for me to protect my credit cards and checking account, Minnesota taxpayers have no immediate safety net that goes into place when their legislators decide to take their money — often even before their paychecks have a chance to get to the bank.
Our safety check comes along only every few years at the ballot box. In the meantime, be warned that you will have to tighten your belt, shop the newspaper coupons, and write yourself a note to vote more wisely next time.
Farther from home
I am genuinely puzzled at our foreign subsidies. As Americans still struggle with a rocky economy in some sectors, including employment and compensation, the federal government continues to send billions of dollars to foreign countries, including Egypt, which is currently reeling after a military coup overthrew its democratically elected leader.
Our president, while encountering bipartisan calls for discontinuing the $1.5 billion a year we send Egypt, is reluctant to stop the flow of dollars, claiming he doesn’t want to upset the apple cart. Those calling for a stop to the aid say they want to see if the Egyptians are allowed to again elect government leaders and if the country actually rewrites a constitution. They are afraid, as would be any sensible person, that the country will remain under military rule for the foreseeable future.
We give aid to many countries; the most goes to Israel, followed by Iraq, Pakistan, and then Egypt. Are we actually getting any benefit for our “generosity?”
As we watch the new military rulers put down riots in the streets of Egypt, we might want to notice whose military weapons they are using. According to the Washington Post on July 9, 2013, “On Egypt’s end, the assistance plays an out-sized role in the budget. By one count, ‘U.S. military aid covers as much as 80% of the Defense Ministry’s weapons procurement costs.’” So we effectively financed the military coup that upset the government duly elected by the Egyptian people. Aid meant for the poor people of Egypt is nearly always diverted to fund government instead.
The United States uses money to exert control over people. Unfortunately, it rarely works as well overseas as it does in our own country, where we use handouts to keep entire classes of people in their place at the bottom of the economic ladder, without the freedom to improve themselves.
Read the Washington Post article on our subsidy to Egypt here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/07/09/the-u-s-gives-egypt-1-5-billion-a-year-in-aid-heres-what-it-does/.
See an explanation of how government handouts preserve the poor underclass here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/06/18/black-louisiana-state-senator-explains-switch-to-gop/