Will the last one out please turn off the lights?

The State of Minnesota is closed. Er, shutdown. The government, that is. The state government, or a good chunk of it, except the important stuff, like feeding zoo animals, or keeping the robbers and murders locked up and fed, or the courts and state patrol. But the rest of it, like rest areas, the lottery, horse racing, licensing, state parks and worthless stuff like that is closed for a while.

It’s interesting that the media isn’t asking an important question of everyone involved here and then holding them accountable for a real answer, instead of focusing on pieces about how this is impacting people or how a divided state population led to a divided state government.

The thing is that every single last person in the state house and senate, and the governor need to be asked this question repeatedly until they get a real, solid answer that doesn’t point fingers: “Why are you willing to let the state government shut down just so that you can stand on your own ideals?”

If you ask that question in almost any other fashion (i.e. “how could you let this happen,” or “why didn’t you reach an agreement in time”), the easy answer is the one you’ll get: “because the other side wouldn’t compromise with me/us.” It’s easy for both sides to sit down and say they’ve gone halfway and they’re waiting for the other side to come to them. Because neither side really outlined where their compromise line was. All we knew was that they were about $3 billion apart, and the governor wouldn’t reduce his tax increase and lower spending and the legislature wouldn’t raise spending and increase taxes on the rich.

But the question the way I’ve framed it here gives no one any easy out. And it gets to the heart of the matter. We’ve seen this impasse coming since the Republicans challenged the outcome of the governor’s race the day after the election, when they said that they couldn’t understand how they could take control of the house and senate and not the governor’s office. They didn’t understand how divided the state has become. By the same token, that’s been reinforced by the governor from the day he took office when he called for bipartisanship but also reminded everyone that a campaign promise was to balance the budget through a tax increase on the wealthy.

I’ve said it before here that I’m almost positive now that the national party leadership is pulling the strings and dictating policy for all party members all the way down to dog catcher. The Republicans are going to stick to an anti-tax, smaller government pledge and ride that until they’re thrown out of office. And the Democrats are going to keep emphasizing that government can’t be downsized that much in this economy, and that the rich need to feel the pain as much as the rest of us.

So in the meantime, the ideals of individuals and parties, and not the real wishes of Minnesota voters and taxpayers (because I certainly don’t remember being asked what I wanted) have shut down state government, leaving 20,000+ people unemployed, closing parks on a popular family camping weekend, and certainly inconveniencing much of the state. And everyone in the state is to blame: those of us who voted, those who didn’t, those who were elected and those who weren’t, all because we’ve allowed political discourse to get to this point.

The solution to this problem is this: lock all negotiators (the governor, house and senate leadership, minority leadership, etc.) in a small room with no air conditioning with enough cans of lukewarm diet pop so that each of them can have one can. In the corner of the room will be a collection of toddlers and their teenage babysitters, all of whom have about two hours before they will start screaming, crying and complaining as a result of the heat and lack of snacks and pop.

I guarantee we’ll have an agreement that everyone will find workable within 1 hour and 45 minutes.

The rest of the problems…Well, I don’t have an easy fix for those.

See you tomorrow.