It’s A Wonderful Life for the CEO crowd…


Especially if you look at some recent Minneapolis Star-Tribune headlines. On Sunday, billionaire Carl Pohlad got himself a brand-new, publicly financed $522 million stadium, courtesy of the good citizens of Hennepin County who will be paying extra sales tax so that Carl can maximize his profits.

Then on Monday, the Strib’s front page announced that the “Median pay for the state’s top 100 CE0s rose 59 percent.” The story told how the top 100 CEOs in Minnesota brought home an average pay of $1.79 million in 2005 year. Here’s the lead: “Minnesota CEOS still make less than their peers nationwide. But they’re catching up—fast.”

Now, call me a socialist, but I can think of about 11 other ways to begin that story, none of which would start off with how our poor local CEOs are underpaid, compared to their peers. In fact, I might have started off comparing Minnesota’s CEO salaries with a new “American Research Poll”:, which reported that 61 percent of Americans surveyed said their personal financial situation was getting worse. And 54 percent said they expected to be worse off a year from now. You know, the old compare and contrast thing, CEOs vs. serfs.

But, of course, bringing that up would be such a downer and spoil the whole celebratory mood in last Tuesday’s editorial which was so manic I almost wanted to put lithium in their water cooler.

“Not even in the World Series have the Twins scored a victory as important as last weekend’s triumph at the State Capitol…Future generations should be especially grateful to [Hennepin County] commissioners Mike Opat, Peter McLaughlin, Mark Stenglein and Chairman Randy Johnson. They supplied the true courage and foresight. They cast the tough votes.”

To be honest, the Strib may have a point about future generations being grateful because the paper’s own polling shows that the present generation was overwhelmingly against building a new stadium with tax dollars. Which was precisely why the Four Boy Commissioners along with their pals in the Lege had the courage (not to mention foresight) to make sure ordinary citizens didn’t get a chance to vote on this in a referendum. (The Three Girl Commissioners all voted against the stadium.)

How should voters honor their heroism? Alas, there’s no more room on Mt. Rushmore. And Lord knows, after the big giveaway to Mr. Pohlad, we don’t have tax dollars to spend on artsy-fartsy stuff like bronze statutes anymore. So here’s my simple suggestion.

Vote. Them. Out.

Opat, Stenglein and McLaughlin are all up for election in November. I don’t know if Opat or Stenglein are facing any good opponents. But Farheen Hakeem, the Green Party candidate for mayor in 2005, just announced that she’ll run against Peter McLaughlin, who also ran for mayor in 2005. Having watched both Hakeem and McLaughlin in mayoral debates a few times last year, I have no problem urging people to vote for Hakeem. McLaughlin is the hack’s hack—don’t even get me started. Hakeem, on the other hand, is sharp, engaging and articulate. She’s an experienced community organizer and she’d make a great commissioner.

If enough people get out there and show how grateful they are about being taxed for Carl Pohlad’s new stadium, Hakeem just might win. Because as McLaughlin himself said, just last December, “We need to listen to people. One of the reasons Democrats lose elections [is because] we don’t listen to people enough.”

Whoops. Sorry. McLaughlin wasn’t talking about the stadium back then. He was talking about why he had just voted to relax the Hennepin County smoking ban.

I also hope voters show their “gratitude” to their statewide representatives, especially Governor Timmy Pawlenty, who can’t wait to sign the stadium legislation despite his “No New Taxes” pledge, which actually turns out to be a “New Taxes for Thee but not for Me” kind of promise.

Tim lives over in Ramsey County, so it’s one heckuva deal for him. Plus, his corporate cronies will invite him to their cool corporate skyboxes in the new stadium.

As for the rest of us, well, as Leona Helmsley once so famously put it, “Taxes are for little people.”

Let’s hope the little people remember in November.