“The groundhog is like most other prophets; it delivers its prediction and then disappears.” — Bill Vaughan
Flight 2013 is taxiing down the runway and like it or not, we’re all on board. Whether we have enough fuel to remain airborne for 52 weeks is anybody’s guess.
But your friendly columnist, the same one who said Bill Bradley would be elected president in 2000, is no groundhog. He keeps coming back with more views from his cracked-and-duct-taped crystal ball. Then, come December, he confesses how far off the mark he was.
We’ll begin this year’s tour with a quick crop dusting of Morrison County. As we fly over the government center, we will see a steady parade of perp walks, as various murderers or wanna-bes are loaded into vans for trips to St. Cloud, Oak Park Heights and Shakopee. They won’t be returning any time soon.
The bigger question is whether they will be joined by others during the coming year. It’s hard to see why the trend won’t continue as long as some people think addling their brains on illegal drugs is a good way to live their lives.
Still, your optimistic pilot thinks the storm clouds of 2012 will be replaced by partial clearing in the days ahead.
As we fly on to St. Paul, we find our rudder is stuck, and we keep turning left.
The DFL offers a program to fix all our machinery, but it will be costly. Look for the DFL majority to increase state spending from $34 billion to $38 billion, an 11.8 percent increase.
This is Gov. Dayton’s and the Legislature’s idea of not overreaching. Tax “reform” will be the mantra, and many “special interest loopholes” (as if any of us does not have a special interest) will be closed.
As part of the reform, state income taxes will go up on the “wealthy,” meaning high incomes, but will have little effect on the already rich, like Gov. Dayton, whose futures remain secure.
The rich who don’t move elsewhere to shelter their income will like this because the increased taxes on incomes over $250,000 will help keep others from joining the already wealthy class.
Many of the DFL’s favorite constituent groups will be less than impressed, and labor strife will continue to grow. Businesses hard-pressed to cover the costs of Obamacare and other tax increases just won’t be able to hire fast enough to keep up with the labor supply.
Meanwhile, the Polymet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota will remain dormant. It lost a champion in Chip Cravaack in Washington, and Twin Cities environmentalists will continue to keep the project from moving forward.
The Legislature will also enact regulations to stymie sand fracking, under the theory that anything taken from the ground, except for agricultural crops, is unsustainable and thus bad for us.
North Dakota will continue to thrive, since fracking will remain legal there.
Minnesota legislators will continue to pay lip service to creating “middle class jobs,” but, unfortunately, most of them will be created west of Bismarck.
At year end, that will result in plenty of Minnesotans still looking for work. The state employment rate, currently 2.0 percent less than the national average, will be closer to the federal level in December.
While many DFL lawmakers want to enact same-sex marriage, more of them are hoping the courts will bail them out. The Legislature won’t take a final vote on the measure, but will wait for some judge to rule that maintaining a ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
If a judge so rules, that will result in Republicans offering bills to reform judiciary elections, but they will not get a hearing.
The Republicans also won’t get a hearing on proposals to allow school teachers to conceal and carry. An effort to put limits on the size of ammunition clips will get a vote, but fail because of a coalition of Republicans and outstate DFLers.
Since the governor has said any election reform measures need bipartisan support, don’t expect any changes on that front. Efforts to base the state’s Electoral College votes on the national will, instead of Minnesota’s, will go nowhere.
As we fly on to Washington, our control issues will be more vertical, meaning the wing flaps will tend to jam, causing the economy to crash short of any smooth runway.
Bickering and brinksmanship over extending the debt ceiling will continue in the cockpit. However, because not one congressman in 10 has the courage to do what has to be done — reform entitlements and bring spending into line with taxation — needed course corrections will fail to occur. The federal debt will continue forming a mushroom cloud. This will continue to work well for the incumbents until the fallout reaches treasury bond holders, who finally realize we have no way of paying it back.
No progress will be made on immigration reform since Republicans will continue to insist on deporting illegal aliens, and Democrats will continue courting the Hispanic vote.
Federal gun control legislation won’t go anywhere — unless we have another year like 2012, with numerous mass shootings. Even then, the likelihood of disarming the law-abiding remains remote.
So with that, all of us here at Flight of Fancy Airlines encourage you to buckle your seat belts and chin straps and put on a parachute. Making it to December will take every bit of your courage and ingenuity.
Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Record. He may be reached at (320) 632-2345 or by e-mail at [email protected].