State shutdown a matter of essentials

At the worst, this shutdown annoys eager teens and those with weak bladders.

If I were an incoming state legislator, I would try to reduce taxes, reduce spending and remove some of the more paternalistic aspects of Minnesota’s laws.

I would know that these things are impossible. Minnesotans have become addicted to a big provider government. You only need to measure the addiction of the average rugged Minnesotan. Minnesota has the largest temperature range of any state, getting well below zero in winter to more than 100 degrees in summer. Add to that a ridiculous amount of parasitic bugs, tornadoes and a healthy mix of climatic irregularity and you get a fairly inhospitable place.

Minnesotans are either tough or stupid, and after spending more than a decade in this state, I’ll tend to the former. That doesn’t mean your average Minnesotan is going to give up the niceties that one prefers from his or her local government. Over the years, the state has had budget spending increases in the double digits, well ahead of inflation.

That’s a lot of precedent to work against as a smaller government conservative. If you told me you could reduce the number of government workers by 18 percent, with a similar reduction of payroll and a complete eradication of “nonessential” government services, I would say, “Sign me up.”

Well, sign me up. This is exactly what has happened in Minnesota. It’s not really a government shutdown at all. Of the more than 50,000 state government workers, only approximately 9,000 of them are not on the job right now. That’s right, 82 percent of all government workers are still on the payroll.

Major operations like rest stops have ceased. Luckily, there are gas stations that normally give you access to a privy.

Also gone will be the message boards that did a wonderful job of telling motorists about the traffic they were already in. The government will be slower to issue some licenses as well (other than driver’s licenses, which got the ax).

Not a big deal to your average Minnesotan. At the worst, this inconveniences those with weak bladders and teenagers waiting to get their drivers licenses.

If you hear politicians talk, you’d think their world had gone asunder. In a USA Today article, House Speaker Rep. Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said, “Everyday we have more state employees who will be losing pay and losing their benefits. That is a very significant pressure upon us.”

Gov. Tim Pawlenty said, “When the services Minnesotans rely on to meet their needs and help them, … the Democrats turned and left tonight, when the people needed them the most.”

These are Republicans, the supposed party of financial responsibility. Pawlenty, Sviggum, relax. Minnesotans got this covered; we can do without the traffic-message-sign things. Pawlenty, you finally did the job we wanted from you as voters.

Finally, the government is being reduced to essential services.

I’m a big fan of this Will Rogers quote: “I still believe there is not a man in this country that can’t make a living for himself and his family. But he can’t make a living for them and his government, too. Not the way this government is living. What the government has got to do is live as cheaply as the people do.” Amen.

Marty Andrade welcomes comments at [email protected]