During July 4th, our national day of celebration, it was good to remember what principles guided the nation over the years. Plus, with Minnesota government shut down, it’s also salutary to consider human limitations and what we need most from our joint efforts.
With that lofty opening, here are some down and dirty suggestions to our governor and legislators:
1. The two most elementary principles that government serves are sustaining joint needs. In other words, keeping the government operating in modest and meaningful ways. And two, using our resources to our best advantage. According to the state economist, shutting down the government costs Minnesota in lost revenues millions of dollars every day. Without fees from state parts, racetracks, pay lanes on highways, we lose state revenue; with state workers on furlough, we pay unemployment benefits for work not being done. With highway projects on hold, the summertime clock still keeps ticking. This is not California. Winter will come, my friends, and we will have to drive on highways still torn up. Imagine that mess when you calculate the costs of a stopped state government.
2. PINK SLIP TIME: My friend who is disabled and relies on aides to help her get up in the morning, cook, clean, shop, plus do the life-sustaining exercises which keep her mobile and relatively pain free lay awake nights as the lack of compromise ticked to a stalemate. In her anguish, of course, she talked to friends. Some who work for a care agency, helping those at the low end of the economic scale, saw PINK. They concocted pink slips with the following message on the front:
Dear Legislative Leaders:
Due to the lack of performance we hereby inform you that your services are no longer
needed. In other words, “You’re Fired!” This is your official Pink Slip.
Signed, Minnesota Voters.
On the flip side of each slip was a story of someone in dire straits because of the government shut down. Here is one such story:
To Whom It May Concern:
We are a two-parent family with three children. My husband lost his employment money. I take a bus to work at my part-time job. With our lack of income we are facing eviction. My lack of bus fare is also causing problems with my job as I miss work. We use our local food shelf whenever we can, but they are also getting low on food. What will happen to my family if the state programs shut down? Please help us!
No one who’s been paying attention to local and national budgetary problems argues against the need to bring government expenditures in line with income. But if reductions are too steep and income not advanced to plug holes, those like this family above will suffer the most. They live on that razor sharp divide between staving off hunger and homelessness and falling into the pit.
This is a time for compassionate austerity, and compromise. I note that compromise includes the word “promise.” We elect officials who promise to work together. A functioning government is the first promise they must fulfill. At this point, they have broken that promise. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, they can shake off partisan wrangling and join hands to embrace us all.