Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Fiscal Responsiblity in Minnesota's First District ... FINALLY !

As a fiscal conservative, there was a time when I thought Dick Day would be the next Congressman representing the First District. As his term limit pledge was approaching, Gil Gutknecht was talking of running against Mark Dayton. Gutknecht was a poster child for what fiscal conservatives want … a government that lives within its means. For me, that does not necessarily mean a small government. Government needs to serve the people and taxes are a definite necessity … but taxes should be equitable and fair. Day had the legislative experience, leadership experience, name recognition and strong support from the business community … this seemed to be a natural stepping stone and I told many Republicans that Day would easily win. But Gutknecht ceded his party’s nomination to Mark Kennedy and reneged on his term limit pledge.

During Gutknecht’s tenure, the Republican Party achieved total management of legislative-side of government – House, Senate and the White House. Alas, their opportunity was wasted as the Republicans seemed to more interested on controlling dissidents within their ranks, refusing to compromise, obfuscating their true agenda, focusing more on talking points than on policy. Gutknecht’s poster child status became as thin as a piece of poster board. The budget surplus became a budget deficit … not short term, but expanding. All the while, Gutknecht and his Republican associates talked fiscal discipline while avoiding addressing real issues … for example the Alternative Minimum Tax.

For years, the problem has been known … and for years, the Republicans have issued one year patches … moving the problem out for someone else to resolve. In fact, when confronted with the choice of addressing AMT or extending tax cuts on dividends and capital gains, Gutknecht rejected prioritizing AMT as the issue (HR 4927 February 8, 2006.) Further, on May 18, 2006 Gutknecht voted against a budget resolution which included requirements for a balanced budget by 2012 and "pay-as-you-go" rules.

Fiscal discipline was all talk.

The AMT, as an issue, has been effectively abused by the Republicans to maintain fiscal irresponsibility. Fear mongering that AMT will impact the middle class is very effective. It is true that the AMT, as construed today, will impact the average middle class family BUT it would have more of an impact on the wealthy. It’s the classic “share the pie” soft-shoe that the Republicans have been singing for awhile … the average middle class gets a piece of the pie, but those making in excess of $85,000 get an even bigger piece. Each year the ATM is not addressed, the borrowing continues forcing the next generations to pay. Equally troubling is that to finance this debt, we borrow from foreigners (individuals and sovereign nations) and at what time will those foreigners stop becoming our lenders ? After years of increased purchasing of US debt, China has now reversed course and has become a net seller of Treasury securities.

This shortsighted and irresponsible fiscal management must stop.

While Gutknecht was disappointing, as an independent voter, I was intrigued by Tim Walz’s campaign pledge of fiscal discipline.

I have not always agreed with all to Congressman Walz’s votes, but his vote on ATM (HR 3996 – the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2007) was a vote FOR RESPONSIBLE FISCAL MANAGEMENT.
I couldn’t be happier with Mr. Walz.

As the 2008 election season approaches, the Republican Party’s attack machine has Mr. Walz in its crosshairs. When I read the IR press release , I saw a political sleaze campaign starting. But then when I read Ron Carey's other press release , I saw exaggeration bordering outright falsehoods. The headline “Washington Walz Denies Tax Relief To 20 Million Americans” fails to mention that the legislation passed over the objection of Congressman Walz, so NO ONE was denied tax relief. Carey does not state that the original bill that Walz voted FOR would have actually benefited 466,700 Minnesotans (according to the Citizens for Tax Justice .) Nor does Carey state the $50 billion impact to the national debt.

Carey is a partisan, through and through. This is the mentality that has been advocated by the Tom Delay Republicans believing that political gain comes from sticking with your base, attacking your enemies, and destroying their positions. Party first, country and the future generations be damned.

Reading today’s Star Tribune Dick Day is quoted : "Out of all the people who have represented the district in recent decades, Walz is by far the most liberal."
Hogwash !
Walz’s vote exhibits true fiscal discipline that the First District hasn’t seen since the days when Penny/Weber represented the reconfigured district.

To attract independent voters, the district deserves a viable alternative.
A strong candidate would focuses less on the attacking the opposition and more on the strengths of his own positions, feeling confident that a majority of the district supports that honest position.
Thus far with Day’s obsession with immigration and strong partisan rancor, he has sadly disappointed.
Conversely, a strong independent leader is more focused on governance … that fits Tim Walz.

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