Small-Government Conservatism and the Golden Turkey

At the federal level, traditional small-government conservatism is on life support. Even before the “Biden administration’s” $1.9 trillion money-printing spree, the forces of limited government hadn’t been heard from in Washington for quite a while. Things are different at the state level, however. State governments can’t print borrow money from the Fed, and most have constitutional balanced budget requirements. So if you want to control state taxes, you also have to control state spending.

Minnesota is one state where spending has long been out of control, and taxes are high. Therefore, my organization has taken aim at wasteful spending through our Golden Turkey Award. It was Bill Proxmire who realized that most people can’t process sums involving billions of dollars, so it is necessary to highlight waste of a magnitude that people can absorb. The $400 hammer lives on in memory.

We presented our first Golden Turkey just before last Thanksgiving. The winner was a $6.9 million refrigerated fruit warehouse that Governor Tim Walz bought as an overflow morgue to house all the dead bodies that wouldn’t fit in the state’s mortuaries. Needless to say, it has never been used.

Yesterday we held a press conference to announce our second Turkey which, like the first, was decided by a vote of thousands of Minnesotans among four nominees. The winner was a $7.2 million public bathroom at a rest area on Highway 35 between the Twin Cities and Duluth. The video immediately below is the press conference, which we held on site at the rest area. The second video is a tour of the facility itself. In keeping with the spirit of the award, the videos have, I think, some entertainment value:

To advertise the Golden Turkey competition, we erected two billboards on northbound Highway 35. One was 14 miles ahead of the rest area, the other five miles ahead, sort of like Burma Shave or Wall Drug signs. This is one of the billboards:

Notwithstanding the current tsunami of government spending at all levels, I do not believe there is a viable form of conservatism that does not include smaller, more limited government as a core principle.

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