Category Archives: Minnesota Politics

Oh say can Mark Sing?

Last night’s Nightline had a segment asking whether US Congressmen who are trying to pass a law making it illegal to sing the national anthem in any language other than English even know the song. Most muffed the lyrics including Mark Kennedy who is trying to become Minnesota’s next Senator. He put the “dawn’s early light” in the wrong spot. Maybe they should make it a punishable offense not to have it memorized. This is one Republican wedge issue that proves that Mark Kennedy is not fit to serve in the Congress.

Pension Schmension

This story pricked up my ears yesterday. It was reported that several of Minnesota’s public employee retirement funds were underfunded by almost 10 billion dollars.

I’m always nervous when benefits are mandated by law as they are in Social Security and Medicare, without regard to future availability of funds to pay for them.

When I was elected to the Duluth School Board I made it a point to ask the Director of the Duluth Teachers Retirement fund about how it guaranteed its member’s pensions. As a fellow who sold annuities briefly in the private sector (I was a lousy salesman) I was aware that there are a few fairly simple methods of disbursing money to people from the lump sums that they have built up during their work years by the time of retirement.

Retirees can take a fixed amount of money for a specific time, say twenty years. This monthly amount paid out will not change whether inflation does or not. The payments are calculated in advance to last until the fund peters out and they are guaranteed. Because the payments are time limited they can be larger.

Retirees who do not want to gamble on the length of their life can set up an annuity which will last until the end of their life. Of course, the retirement fund managing such a pension has to presume a long life for people choosing this payment option. (I recall the story from a few years ago about the death of a French woman who fifty years before had agreed to sell her house to another buyer for a fixed price. She would be allowed to continue living in her home, however, until her death. Unfortunately for the buyers the woman lived to be 112 years old. She outlived them and they were never able to take possessioin of the house that they had paid for. Pension Funds can’t allow themselves to get caught short that way) Pension funds granted for the remainder of a recipient’s life are considerably smaller than time limited annuities.

The problem I’ve seen with the T (teachers) RA, PE (public employees) RA, and the Duluth, Minneapolis, and St. Paul Teacher RA’s (retirement funds) is that they often pay their recipeints more when their stock earnings are good but do not reduce payment levels when their earnings diminish leaving a shortfall with regard to their future obligations. The results for over-generous funds can be disasterous. The Duluth and St. Paul Teachers Retirement Funds have both strongly resisted being combined by the State legislature with the Minneapolis teacher’s fund for just this reason.

The state is not required to shore up profligate and overgenerous retirement funds. Nonetheless, it might be strongly tempted to shore up a weak fund with state taxes in order to tempt resistant retirement funds to merge with and thus bolster the mismanaged funds with their own better managed assets. 

I was so shocked by the implication in the second to the last paragraph of the story that I called its author and asked him if he could confirm what I thought it said:

“The Public Employees Retirement Association fund agreed to raise contributions by cities, counties and workers to reduce its deficit. The government contributions are expected to cost $380 million over the next five years. Increased contributions are also under consideration for the pension plan for state workers.

This makes it sound like the PERA can force municipalities to give them more money to make up for their poor investment decisions. What? Funds can be demanded without resorting to contract negotiations! This is much like the bind that the City of Duluth is in with regard to the post retirement benefits of its workers.

Duluth may have the option of declaring bankruptcy if it can’t cope any other way. Could PERA put other municipalities in the same position? Would bankruptcy be available to the state of Minnesota in a worst case scenario? Full faith and credit to the person answering these questions.

Lesson in the Sub Caucus System

Like the Republicans the Democrats that met at Woodland Junior High managed to put the platform on the backburner. In the case of the Republicans the platform is kept like the Ark of the Covenant and trotted out for modest amendments during convention years.

There were a hundred or so resolutions handed out to the delegates to vote on but not debated. When the convention neared its end they were collected. There was a line for us to indicate whether we wanted to debate them but we never got any debate. A 50% vote would be required to be passed on. I have no idea what passed.

I told Craig Grau that the convention seemed to confirm Will Roger’s comments from the thirties. It was not exactly disorderly but it was only loosely stage managed. The sub caucus system was the most mystical part.

About 20 of the 172 delegates lined up to announce the category of their sub caucuses. Some were for one candidate, some for a couple candidates, some were for issues some for candidates and issues. To elect a delegate to the next level of convention each subcaucus to gather 8 participants.

I jumped from one to another mostly interested in finding other centrists. The biggest group of the eventual six or so was led by AFSCME. The whole process was like a party mixer.

I was content to watch and didn’t try to get elected to the next level so this is the end of the convention system for me this year. Maybe I’ll get farther in 2008.

Nyah Nyah Nyah

The State DFL is hopping mad that the conservative Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage has doctored the photographs of several DFL legislators in ads. This is what the marriage defenders did to Senator Satveer Chaudhary.

I have mixed feelings about this. It is disrepectful but I have seen George Bush compared to a chimpanzee on so many websites that its hard for me to get too worked up about it. I suspect most voters would realize that this is a photoshop product especially since several legislators are shown in the same mocking pose. On the other hand one shouldn’t really dismiss the naievte of some people. Some Internet users may really think that President Bush is more simian than Sampson. I know I do.

Becky Lourey vs. Cheney’s Governor

One of my perks as a new Democrat who has yet to be discovered as such by the Republic Party is that I get email from both parties. I’ve gotten my second e-mail from Becky Lourey’s campaign for Governor. I haven’t figured out how to link to an email without posting it as a new page but you can check out her webpage here.

The key paragraph in her email is this:

In order to win against a charming incumbent, Democrats must do more than simply offer a candidate who will match Republicans blow-for-blow. We must offer a leader that not only motivates, inspires and captures the imagination of Minnesota voters but one who is committed to fighting for the values and priorities that support and empower our families and businesses. As a mother of 12, a grandmother, a farmer, a business owner and a champion on the issues of health care, education, the environment, and peace, my vision and leadership will turn this state around. I will restore Minnesota to its place as a great progressive leader once again. My energy, enthusiasm, commitment and unique personal story are the ingredients that give me the edge over Tim Pawlenty–ingredients that will allow me to connect with and earn the support of voters from every city, county, and corner of Minnesota.

Becky does have a varied background and boundless enthusiasm. What she may not have is guile and cunning. Karl Rove has it. Lincoln had it. Even Senator Feingold has it. If you think these terms sound too sneaky then think of this quality as “street smarts.”

Lourey is not naive. Certainly she has more understanding for people who are in pain than any Republicans I know. Nonetheless empathy alone  will not get her elected.

Doran’s Demise, Weber’s Analysis, and the Ultras

After posting the email from the Dreckless folks I reread Vin Weber’s analysis of Doran’s departure from the race for Governor. I agree with Vin. When I went to the DFL caucus I voted for Doran myself. His measley 6% of the straw vote is probably what drove him from the race even though it looked as though he would challenge in the primary.

Weber is probably right that Doran would have been the most successful candidate but the ultra’s in the Democratic party are as enamored of people on their end like Howard Dean as ultra Republicans are enamored of their Santorums and Brownbacks. What’s a centrist to do?

My sense is that while the Republican powerbrokers lost their party to their extremists the Democratic power brokers have a little more influence. I could be wrong.

Thank God for primary elections. They are the one place that party averse voters can go to punish candidates that pander too much to the ultras.

Minnesota’s newest blog

No Corey,
I’m afraid I have a newer Minnesota political blog than you have. www.lincolndemocrat.com
I took a look at yours. Good writing, huh? Well, the powerful graphics with Dean Johnson’s head superimposed on another person’s body shaking Bill Clinton’s hand or with a poster of Lenin in the background….woo hoo…this  is quality stuff.  And Vin Weber is associated with you? In flagrante delecto indeed!
“Dreckless?” Is that meant to be an oxymoron?
Best Regards,
Harry Welty 

 

—– Original Message —–
Sent: Sunday, March 26, 2006 9:04 PM
Subject: dreckless – Minnesota’s newest political blog
Greetings from dreckless, the state’s newest blog discussing political people and events here in Minnesota. Since we began publishing in mid-January, we’ve been delighted and humbled by the interest our readers have shown. To be honest, we’ve been surprised at the number of visits we receive each day!
 
“What?” you say. “Yet another blog?” 
 
In our first posting, back in January 17, we layed out our reasons for starting yet another blog. As the fomer Executive Director of the Republican Party of Minnesota, I believe that we have a unique perspective on political people and events here in Minnesota.
 
“Who is we?” you ask.
 
Dreckless is fortunate to have as a contributing editor, former Republican Congressman Vin Weber who now serves as managing director of Clark & Weinstock, one of Washington, D.C.’s premier strategic consulting firms. Take a minute to check out his latest analysis on a bright spot for Republicans.
 
We’re delighted to also be joined by my former colleague at the Republican Party of Minnesota Jonathan Blake. Jonathan and I have worked together for a number of years and it will take only a minute of reviewing some of his postings to see that he has an impressive writing style all his own.

So, take a moment and check us out. We welcome your active participation in the coming months and look forward to hearing from you.
Corey Miltimore
Editor
 

 

Dean Dean Dean and we don’t mean Howard

The Minnesota GOP has a new Dean to bean. Its Dean Johnson the ex-Republican now Majority leader of the Senate DFL caucus. Senator Johnson claimed to have gotten assurances from judges on how they were likely to rule. He did not realize that he was being recorded and is now rightly apologizing profusely. As a Democrat he is now free to apologize for his mistakes unlike, say, President Bush who still hasn’t been able to admit to any mistakes. Senator Johnson should have realized that as a state legislator he had no right to speak for the State Supreme Court. If he had been a private religious leader like, say, James Dobson, he could have waved around the thank yous sent him by Supreme Court appointees and made all sorts of claims about how his friends on the Supreme Court would rule.

This is the email Minn GOP sent me. No one has alerted them yet about my party switch. Oh, and check out the GOP’s new website on DOMA. (The Defense of Marriage Act)

(by the by, I’m a little embarassed by this post. It is so blatently partisan. Its just the sort of piffle I’d expect the State DFL chair to spout. Still, its not bad for piffle is it? I’ll try to put a “piffle disclaimer” on similar posts in the future. For me piffle is like the “gotcha” smart alecky ripostes which have little substance but are fun nonetheless. An example would be FDR’s teasing Republicans about about his scottish terrier Fala.)