The state of Minnesota has shut down.
Just another nail in America’s financial meltdown coffin, along with the debt ceiling, unemployment reported at 9.2 percent, the cost of fuel , and NBA and NFL lockouts.
Locally, the question is, “Can this happen in Missouri?” The short answer is “Yes.”
Missouri tackles the budget as one of its final acts each session, after voting on bills that have a fiscal impact, after bills funding public education and public safety and other required funding.
Usually budgets are presented by the Missouri General Assembly and by the governor. Neither may be a result of or reflect the bills being herded toward the governor’s desk for a signature. In some cases, the promised monies for a passed bill may not materialize.
Missouri’s Gray Dome is a Republican and conservative stronghold. Dominating the House and Senate, the right-wing right-wingers ride roughshod, pushing any Democratic or liberal-proposed legislation aside quickly and easily.
They rule without fear of a veto or repercussions from their own. Our Democratic governor has not completely kowtowed to the conservative forces, but it appears his conservative five o’clock shadow is appearing.
Missouri is somewhat lucky that 2010 tax revenues were a bit higher than expected, so some underfunded programs received at least part of the monies promised pre-budget. But with fewer jobs being created by private industry, not even Harry Potter and a magic potion can say what will happen tomorrow.
Minnesota’s problems began because the Republican-led House and Senate remained at odds with the Democratic governor. Both chambers are also close to parity, and the two sides of the aisle are standing like two bull elks waiting to smash each other’s heads in over spending and taxes.
As a direct result of this failure to cross the political barbed wire, Fitch Ratings, one of the three top credit rating corporations, has downgraded Minnesota’s bond rating.
The same battle now exists on the federal level.
Speeches by Republican House and Senate leaders seem to be holding strong to their standard, screaming “No new taxes.”
Democrats are whispering, “Tax the rich, readjust the current tax structure to give middle- and lower-economic classes some breathing room and cut stuff out of the budget.” How far apart can they be?
For now, I cannot foresee an immediate close-down of the Show-Me State under the current political makeup. However, it appears conservative and liberal movements have lost their copies of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
If government, as John Locke proposed, requires equitable communication, cooperation and high ethics, then Missouri may be in trouble in 2013. Why?
Without a strong 2012 Republican presidential candidate to lean on in the next major general election, and with moderate voters thinking they are not being heard, the number of Democrats and liberals under the Gray Dome will increase — may even increase dramatically.
As the two political parties come closer to member parity, prospects for the session in January 2013 may accelerate Missouri’s winter of discontent, if all stay on their current course of demonizing the other.
Unless the Missouri GOP and tea-party movement learn how to play nicely with the Democrats and liberals, they are going to be seen as “bullies” and any groundswell of support they had in 2010 will be lost.
The GOP, statewide and nationally, seems to continue the course suggested by Abraham Lincoln, the greatest of all Republicans, in an 1864 speech. He said, “It was not best to swap horses when crossing streams.”
Does that remain true when the horse has lost its rider or become lame?
Missouri’s budget is a fragile creature, coming after the fact of promises the state cannot keep. The conservative information machine continues its attempts to convince Missourians that they are right, and world-renown economics are wrong, about increasing revenue.
The state is always on the verge of shutting down July 1. When political parity is reached, that likelihood will be greater if neither party is willing to negotiate in good faith.
Maybe if both sides act more like adults than greedy little children.
David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of his commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.