Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Two Viewpoints: This isn't what the voters asked for in November

Two Viewpoints: This isn't what the voters asked for in November

View One:

By State Rep. Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston
Published: Thursday, May 17, 2007 1:19 PM CDT
Crookston Times; Crookston Minnesota

When session started back in January, the focus was on the three issues that dominated last fall's campaign - education, health care and rising property taxes. As the 2007 session grinds into its final week, the focus remains on those three issues.

Everyone involved in the budget debate in St. Paul agrees providing great schools for our kids and affordable health care for working families should be a priority of the state. There's also widespread agreement that something needs to be done about rising property taxes across the state.

What's left to decide, however, is how we pay for these things. Since the February forecast, the Governor and members of his party have been saying we need to live within our means and pass a budget using existing revenues.

This is essentially the same argument we've been hearing for the past five years. We've been making due with the revenue available since the Governor took over and look where it's gotten us - our kids' schools have struggled financially, thousands of Minnesotans have lost their health care coverage and college tuition soared. We also neglected important investments in things like our roads and bridges.

On top of that, property taxes have risen by close to $2 billion as the more and more of the responsibility for paying things like good schools, affordable health care and adequate roads and bridges has been shifted onto local property taxes.

Unless a different approach to the budget is taken this year, we can all expect more the same. Earlier this year, non-partisan House Research issued a report that said that if the Governor's budget proposal would pass, property taxes would increase by approximately $500 million across the state.

The majorities in the House and Senate have change course by passing a bill that addresses rising property taxes across the state and restores some fairness in our tax system. The bill creates a new Homestead Credit State Refund that provides over $223 million in direct property relief to Minnesotans. It pays for it by creating a new fourth tier in state income tax on income over $400,000 (after deductions.) Every dollar of the new income tax will go to property tax relief.

The Governor has vowed to veto the bill because it raises taxes, but he still hasn't offered an alternative to the rise in property taxes if his budget becomes law.

Hopefully, a compromise can be worked out over the next few days that doesn't sacrifice the priorities we all share. However, that's going to mean that the Governor has to be willing to compromise, something he hasn't done yet.

I've said this frequently over the past few years that when it comes to state government, we get what we pay for. If we want things like great schools, a health system that works or adequate roads and bridges, we need to pay for them. The lesson of the past five years is that if we don't make the investment at the state level - where I would argue the investment should made - we end up either paying for them with our property taxes.

Voters asked for a different approach this year. Let's hope the Governor listened.

The Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party has refused to allow a discussion on these issues--- in fact, my views have been censored with-in the MN DFL; choosing instead to allow the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party “Business Caucus” and the wealthy elites of the “Summit Hill Club” to “frame” issues around “progressive sounding policy directives” which excludes any discussion of specific solutions aimed at resolving specific problems confronting working people as “bi-partisan unity” is sought with Republicans to give working people the shaft.
The corrupt leadership of the Minnesota AFL-CIO continues to “go along to get along” with the leadership of the Minnesota DFL which has defined its reactionary international, national, and state policies as “progressive” when in fact the policies are very reactionary.

View Two:

My response to Representative Lieder:

Representative Lieder rightly states that voters have not received what they voted for. However, as one of the Democrats that boasts of his own conservative convictions that rival the reactionary views of even the most die-hard, right-wing Republicans, Lieder is part of the problem in St. Paul and the nation.

Representative Lieder is right: the Republican Governor has not listened to voters; but, neither have Representative Bernie Lieder nor his conservative colleagues who comprise the majority of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party Caucus of the State Legislature listened to voters.

In fact, Representative Lieder has pushed for a gas tax increase rather than take action to stop the robbery taking place at the pumps.

Voters were very clear last November: they want a change in priorities. Minnesotans support a progressive alternative to the conservative agenda being advanced by both conservative DFL’ers and Republicans.

While most Minnesotans are clearly articulating support for a comprehensive, no-fee, single-payer, universal health care system, Representative Lieder continues to mouth the falsehoods and slanders of the American Medical Association, the Hospitals and HMO CEO's, and insurance industry profiteers who choose to speak in ambiguities about some kind of “affordable” health care when in fact health care will never be “affordable” as long as the profiteers have their fingers in the till and a penchant for feeding at the public trough by taking advantage of the sick and the elderly.

Not once has Representative Lieder broached the subject that every bomb that drops in Iraq and every bullet fired--- murdering and maiming innocent Iraqi civilians including many small children and pregnant women, the billions being squandered in this imperialist boon-doggle for control of the Middle East oil fields and regional domination would be better spent financing our own public schools; creating a world-class single-payer, universal health care system; and maintaining our roads and infrastructure rather than leaving Iraq riddled with craters resulting from bombing raids.

The time has come to begin framing issues based upon reality. That reality is one of misery, pain, and suffering for the majority of Minnesotans and the victims of U.S. imperialism around the world. Representative Lieder has attempted to frame these issues in a very demagogic manner completely ignoring his own role in creating the problems he pretends to be concerned about.

It is interesting that Representative Lieder is among the Democrats who rushed to scuttle all talk of single-payer, universal health care while refusing to articulate what he means by “affordable” health care; and then rushed to voice his support for the war in Iraq. What is “affordable” for Representative Lieder probably is not “affordable” to most Minnesotans; and this is where the real problem begins because it is this kind of thinking that muddies all honest dialogue and debate on the many issues and problems people are experiencing whether it is health care, property taxes, infrastructure and roads, or the war in Iraq which Representative Lieder has not had the moral or political courage to oppose, let alone put forward real solutions.

Representative Lieder and his conservative and reactionary DFL colleagues continue to ignore the plight of more than 20,000 Minnesotans who go to work in smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages without any rights under state, federal, or tribal labor laws as they hypocritically enact a “state-wide” ban on smoking that leaves not only casino workers, but, casino patrons vulnerable to the ill affects of second-hand smoke.

Representative Lieder and his conservative and reactionary colleagues have refused any assistance in trying to save the St. Paul Ford Assembly Plant while pushing increases in the gas tax aimed at maintaining the status quo instead of creating a cheap mass transit system comparable to what they have in Toronto, Ontario, but on a larger state-wide basis that connects all communities in our entire state… this would create thousands of jobs; and if the work is done through a public works project can be done fairly inexpensively utilizing the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant.

Representative Lieder and his conservative counterparts take the side of the bankers, the casino managements, the insurance companies, the mining and forestry industry, the HMO’s, and the contractors profiting off road construction at each and every opportunity.

Representative Lieder and his conservative DFL colleagues in the legislature have spent millions of dollars building an elaborate roadway into the Pine Island State Forest’s Big Bog so that a Canadian multi-national corporation can come in and truck off the profits as it mines peat in the Big Bog for horticultural and bio-mass electric generation while destroying our primary freshwater aquifer in the process.

This same bunch, again with Representative Lieder in the lead, shoved ethanol production down the throats of Minnesotans with huge subsidies to this most wasteful industry that grows corn to fuel gas guzzling vehicles instead of feeding hungry people while evading the need for clean, green, mass transit.

I will be looking to support candidates inside, and outside, of the Democratic Party who have the conviction and the courage to stand up for working people and their needs. The time has come to establish a real progressive alternative to the likes of Bernie Lieder and those who front for big-business while pretending to be progressive.

It is interesting to note that Representative Lieder refuses to focus on reordering the priorities in our state and the nation. Representative Lieder has refused to craft real tax relief for working people; in fact, the proposed tax package that Representative Lieder supports will plunge our economy towards recession. Real progressive tax reform needs to be coupled with establishing a state bank to fund higher education and low and moderate income home owners.

Representative Lieder has refused to consider legislation that would criminalize predatory lending just as he refuses to consider legislation that would criminalize the profit gouging orgy taking place at the gas pumps.

Tax the hell out of the bankers. Substantially increase the taconite tax as suggested by Rudy Perpich, and increase stumpage fees on the forestry industry.

As for our roads... end profiteering by construction firms and contractors who are getting a free lunch courtesy of Minnesota tax-payers... why should the gas tax be increased just so these money grubbing parasites can be in league with the health insurance, mining, casino, and banking industries by raising their fees.

Because so many Minnesotans can no longer distinguish any differences between Democrats and Republicans lots of people no longer even show up at the polls on Election Day.

Alan L. Maki
Member State Central Committee, Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party