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A funny thing happened…

…on the way to the apocalypse — a/k/a government shutdown — here in Minnesota. We are in day 8 of Minnesota Held Hostage. Governor Dayton has precipitated the shutdown by refusing to sign any budget bill — even those he agrees on — without a resolution of all outstanding issues. He refuses to call the legislature back into session to pass a lights on bill that would keep the government running while budget issues are ironed out.

Governor Dayton counts on his friends in the media to propagate the message that Republicans are responsible for the shutdown. We’ve driven the point about the Star Tribune’s ongoing work on behalf of Dayton into the ground. Tom Blumer, who finds the AP’s Patrick Condon applying the concept of Minnesota Nice to Dayton’s proposal to increase taxes.

Assigning two business reporters (Dee DePass and David Phelps) to the case, the Star Tribune has actually published a story that sheds some light on the issues here. DePass and Phelps have found a prominent Demoratic gazillionaire — Vance Opperman — who recommends increasing “the sales tax and instituting structural tax reforms to reduce annual revenue volatility.” However, even Opperman finds Dayton’s proposed increase in the top tier of the income tax “obnoxious.” DePass and Phelps find a few high earners who aptly condemn the proposed income tax increase as well as one or two who are okay with it.

DePass and Phelps quote Polaris Industries CEO Scott Wine. Wine described the destructive effects of a top tier income tax increase, saying it would discourage hiring and expansions here. “It will have an impact on where we continue to invest. In sports, you play to win and I think the states that are reducing taxes and reducing spending are playing to win the economic growth game.”

DePass and Phelps also note this salient fact: “Currently, only seven states have a higher top income tax bracket than Minnesota, according to the Tax Policy Center. Adding the governor’s proposed 2 percent increase on the 7.85 percent top rate would rank Minnesota third, behind Hawaii and Oregon, both at 11 percent.” The Star Tribune story is headlined “Top earners cool to paying more.” It cuts against the grain of the Star Tribune’s coverage of the shutdown, undercutting one of its continuing themes. Unlike so much of the Star Tribune’s coverage, it actually contributes to a deeper understanding the issues.

This week also brought us the committee of wise men. Adapting the device of deus ex machina from Greek tragedy, Democratic former Vice President Walter Mondale and former Republican Governor (emphasis on former Republican) Arne Carlson have been dropped onto the stage to resolve the crisis. In a mere 72 hours their committee of wise men has instructed the mere mortals holding election certificates how to solve the crisis. But this time around it’s not tragedy. Democrats ex machina have given us farce. Guys, don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

Another funny thing happened on the way to the apocalypse. Many of us not dependent on the government have found the shutdown a minor inconvenience at worst. We understand that the problem is a spending problem raising the issue of the size and scope of the state government.

Republican legislators were mostly heartened by their meeting with constituents over the July 4 weekend. While they were willing to go far toward meeting Governor Dayton’s fiscal demands to prevent the shutdown, now that it is upon us their attitudes are hardening — despite the best efforts of the Star Tribune. Their morale isn’t weakening. It’s hardening. Or so it seems to me.

And Governor Dayton is proving himself a poor fit for the office he holds. Running only his own office as a United States Senator he embarrassed himself. Even he graded his performance an F. He does not have the personality, the temperament, or the native gifts of an effective executive. When House Speaker Kurt Zellers describe events as moving in the wrong direction, he knows wherefore and why.

UPDATE: I have corrected this post to reflect an accurate reading of the Star Tribune headline, which I originally wrote about before the caffeine had kicked in this morning.

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