Take note, Minnesota. The reward for expanding failed conservative public policy is more failure.
Yesterday, Minnesota’s conservative state legislative policy leaders rolled out yet another version of “Reform 2.0”. This conservative policy initiative is dysfunction disguised as small government ideology. It’s a public policy distraction designed to suggest a legitimate activity when the reverse is true. It will accelerate the concentration of public investment’s benefits into fewer, richer hands.
Reform 2.0 isn’t reform but is simply more of the same. What we have is failing Minnesota. More of the same means more failure.
I confess. I’m giving Reform 2.0 more attention than it deserves. I am, reluctantly but candidly, facilitating the conservative policy communications strategy. Confronting a fallacy requires identifying and naming it, thus perpetuating the fallacy, creating a paradox. How do I expose a lie without advancing the lie?
Right off the top, conservatives are deliberately misusing the term, reform. They’re not interested in reforming government to better serve Minnesotans. Instead, they’re traveling a well-worn path.They’ve established a policy course of action that rewards a select few while asking the great majority to pay for benefits accruing to the few. A hundred years ago, that policy was called cronyism. It’s a common form of rule, reaching back across millennia.
Minnesota’s conservative policymakers haven’t proposed anything new.
Understand that Minnesota’s conservative policymakers aren’t small government visionaries. They’re actually very comfortable with large, far-reaching government. They want to extend state government’s control, disregarding the state-local balance of power that undergirds Minnesota. Conservatives object, however, to implemented policies that differ from their own.
It’s not government; it’s government’s activity. When state policymakers ask Minnesota’s highest income earners to pay a lower effective tax rate than that paid by Minnesota’s majority middle and low-income earners, they’re implementing policy affirming the authority of Minnesota’s state government. It’s only when communities try to increase their own property taxes, compensating for conservative state policy-driven funding cuts that conservative policymakers roll out their big government objections.
Reform 2.0 isn’t reform. It’s game-playing and verbal jousting with the potential to create real, enduring harm.
Minnesota invests fewer real, per-pupil state funds in schools than we were spending ten years ago. Minnesota has dramatically and unilaterally slashed efficient state revenue sharing with cities and counties, compelling local service cuts and property tax increases. Minnesota’s road repair backlog has been growing over the past decade. Minnesota’s affordable healthcare tradition is slipping out of our hands.
None of these things happened by accident. They are choices; clear, purposeful and deliberate choices to do less for the greater Minnesota in order to do more for a select few. Conservative public policy is enriching Minnesota’s highest income earners by doing much, much less for middle and low-income families.
Reversing this trend requires an equally affirmative choice. It starts with confronting conservative policy disinformation. Reform 2.0 isn’t reform; it’s more of the same. So unless we want to continue cutting funding for Minnesota’s schools, Minnesota’s roads and bridges, Minnesota’s affordable healthcare commitment, and Minnesota’s real job growth support, we have to change direction.
We have to stop pretending that conservative policy plans like Reform 2.0 are thoughtful additions to Minnesota’s public policy discourse. Conservative communication strategists deliberately use worlds like reform to mislead the public. Obfuscation, in a democracy, is never a good thing. When facts and rhetoric don’t meet, proceed cautiously.
Minnesota does best when we invest in ourselves, working to improve schools, deliver on affordable healthcare’s promise, create robust transportation infrastructure and grow good jobs. We excel when we work together. An honest, vigorous debate about resource allocation and investment only occurs when the debate is honestly engaged.
Conservative public policy does one thing while conservative advocacy rhetoric suggests something quite different. It’s a distraction. If we focus on what really matters –jobs, schools, families, growth and prosperity- the conservative paradox disappears. We suddenly see clearly that conservative policy rewards the few at the expense of the many. Staying on this path will only deliver more of the same. Minnesota doesn’t need more failure. Minnesota needs a path forward, toward prosperity.