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Dick Palmer: Show people the numbers

Every election season is filled to the brim with drama, show biz and finger pointing. Generally missing is the truth. This fall one thing needs to be brought out and that is an honest appraisal of the issues that are facing our state, our individ...

Every election season is filled to the brim with drama, show biz and finger pointing. Generally missing is the truth. This fall one thing needs to be brought out and that is an honest appraisal of the issues that are facing our state, our individual communities and our personal bank accounts.

To set the stage, the U. S. Congress has been on a spending spree that is unequaled in recent history. Billions of dollars have been pledged for national defense and home security, Congress is planning a pay increase for itself that it can do without public support, and America's "wheel of fortune" may well be spinning out of control. What is so puzzling, few Americans really care and most of us are blindsided by the enthusiasm of those who would use isolated incidents to distract us from the truth.

I believe, at last count, 46 of the 50 states were projecting budget shortfalls. Most of this has nothing to do with Sept. 11, national defense or national security. This is a shortfall in school financing, highway construction, infrastructure and, generally speaking, every day costs associated with the management of our state including local governments. Again, the reality of all this seems to be ho hum to most taxpayers. In too many cases, states, including Minnesota, have used tobacco settlement funds to fill in the gaps in the budget shortfall which are, of course, short-term solutions. That money was dedicated to fight against tobacco addiction.

Looking at the reality of this, the question has to be asked of national and state political candidates, "are we going down the right road here or are we heading for a dead-end street that can only be opened up with additional taxation and ultimate sacrifice? That is really the major question of this campaign year.

Up here in northern Minnesota, we are receiving the same message -- only government can solve our problems. It is government with the deep pockets that will provide the financial nourishment for our current and future needs. The truth is, the only serious growth in our area is a government bureaucracy. We are losing our population base because of a diminishing growth in private investment and entrepreneurship. Too many politicians like that; it gives them more power and dependence.

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The solution to our financial woes is to attack government inefficiency, spend more time counting paper clips and not look to additional funding to keep government agencies fat and healthy. Without a doubt government in Minnesota could save millions of dollars annually without, in many cases, laying off a single employee. Just operating more efficiently could do it by cutting out waste, duplication and maybe by putting a freeze on new hiring for a period of time to help balance the books. The politician's solution is to create more government and make promises that can't be kept to get elected.

The honest solution is to show us the real numbers as a healthy beginning to a financial recovery without advocating tax hikes.

Dick Palmer is the former editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at

729-6470 or by e-mail at rpalmer@duluth.com .

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