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Dan Burns

What next for the Farm Bill?

by Dan Burns on May 22, 2018 · 0 comments

Manure_spreader_Record_2Much as I loathe linking the Washington Examiner, it’s the only source that came up right away just now that had anything directly addressing that question.
 

Democrats voted in unison against the bill because they opposed increased work requirements for food stamps that were included in the measure. A group of conservatives also voted no, but their opposition had nothing to do with the legislation. They want the House to bring a passable immigration reform bill to the House floor, which is something that has eluded the House GOP for years.
 
Without support from Democrats and the faction of conservatives, the farm bill is stuck in limbo, at least for now and perhaps until the fall, if the floor schedule gets jammed with spending bills in the coming weeks, as it typically does this time of year.
 
The current farm bill does not expire until Sept. 30, which gives lawmakers months to find a path to pass the bill.
 
“What we can do now is take the next days, weeks, month, and really work with moderates to find a solution we can pass,” an aide to a GOP conservative negotiating on immigration told the Washington Examiner.
(Washington Examiner)

A couple of points:
 
– A big reason that right-wingers are pushing “work requirements” (for non-whites, anyway) for support programs like SNAP is to try to flood the job market with desperate low-wage workers, and therefore undercut any kind of upward pressure on wages overall. This point is rarely made in corporate media.
 
Here is an interesting piece on the political history of farm bills. It misses, though, that rural, mostly white, heavily right-wing areas are now most dependent on SNAP and other benefits.
 

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enbridgeHere’s some wonderful, uplifting corporate citizenship.
 

The state of Minnesota has repeatedly overvalued Enbridge Energy’s oil pipeline system, a state Tax Court judge ruled Tuesday, possibly leaving several counties on the hook to pay tens of millions of dollars in tax refunds…
 
Enbridge’s pipelines traverse 13 northern Minnesota counties, and some of them count on Enbridge for a large portion of their tax base. At least two counties — Clearwater and Red Lake — could end up refunding more money than they raise annually from all of their taxpayers.
(Star Tribune)

Enbridge reported a 2017 pre-tax profit of $10,317 million.
 
My suggestion, and I’m sure I’m not the only one making it, is that we do all we can to turn this into a PR nightmare for Enbridge. They deserve it.
 

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319484_10150274658633247_1013005_nPlease, please stick to your guns on this.
 

Gov. Mark Dayton issued an ultimatum Monday as the Legislature’s session entered its final week: Without emergency funding for schools he won’t cut a tax deal. Republicans said they wouldn’t meet his demand…
 
“My position is that I will not engage in any negotiations on a tax bill or sign any tax bill until we have an agreement to provide emergency school aid,” Dayton said, stressing that his proposal is needed to stop schools from shedding staff or ditching programs.
(MPR)

Update: As of Thursday morning, Governor Dayton is indeed sticking to his guns. Which is a great thing, for all Minnesotans, even if too many haven’t the sense to realize that.
 
A reality check on Minnesota school funding, and other remarks, below the fold.
 
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lawmakerI’m noting this here because it’s yet another example of what will happen in Minnesota if Republicans win in November, and it’s our turn to race to the bottom.
 

Michigan isn’t the only state where Republicans are pushing a Medicaid work requirement that’s blatantly racist. Ohio and Kentucky are running the same play, passing a work requirement for Medicaid but exempting mostly white, rural counties. The claim is that the exemptions are for places with high unemployment rates where people simply can’t find work—but cities with high unemployment rates often don’t get the same treatment, because they’re surrounded by (and within county lines of) wealthy suburbs that pull the county’s overall unemployment down. The end effect is that, in what a health law scholar described to TPM as “a version of racial redlining,” work requirements apply to poor black people but not poor white people.
(Daily Kos)

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10153099_10201944684358785_8210271862682794906_nThis is an absolute textbook case of how even mildly progressive governance is far, far better than putting right-wingers in charge. Unfortunately, too many people still don’t base their voting habits on fact and reason, at all. They’re called “conservatives.”
 

Since the 2010 election of Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Governor Mark Dayton in Minnesota, lawmakers in these two neighboring states have enacted vastly different policy agendas. Governor Walker and the Wisconsin state legislature have pursued a highly conservative agenda centered on cutting taxes, shrinking government, and weakening unions. In contrast, Minnesota under Governor Dayton has enacted a slate of progressive priorities: raising the minimum wage, strengthening safety net programs and labor standards, and boosting public investments in infrastructure and education, financed through higher taxes (largely on the wealthy).
 
Because of the proximity and many similarities of these two states, comparing economic performance in the Badger State (WI) versus the Gopher State (MN) provides a compelling case study for assessing which agenda leads to better outcomes for working people and their families. Now, seven years removed from when each governor took office, there is ample data to assess which state’s economy—and by extension, which set of policies—delivered more for the welfare of its residents. The results could not be more clear: by virtually every available measure, Minnesota’s recovery has outperformed Wisconsin’s.
(Economic Policy Institute)

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Manure_spreader_Record_2Three posts down is something titled “A very bad Farm Bill will presumably pass the U.S. House.” Wrong again, maybe, because for the mega-corporations and their propaganda mill buffoons it still ain’t bad enough.
 

Some of the Republican hardliners in the House are warming up to the farm bill because of the massive cuts it makes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps. Not so fast, say some conservative groups, for whom making people go hungry just isn’t good enough.
 

“There’s not a whole lot of excitement around this bill,” among GOP conservatives, Dan Holler, vice president of Heritage Action, said last week at a briefing for reporters.
 
The pile-on began on Tuesday at the briefing by the Heritage Foundation, where the group’s political arm, Heritage Action, formally came out against the bill. On Wednesday the group joined about a dozen other right-leaning, free-market organizations in writing to Congress to denounce the legislation. And on Thursday, two conservative groups linked to the influential Koch brothers — Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners — penned a letter to Congress that said the bill moves the system farther away from free-market principles.
 
The groups took aim at some of the bill’s SNAP provisions, but their opposition is rooted in the farm policy side of the bill and, specifically, its lack of cutbacks to subsidy programs.

(Daily Kos)

Most people with any sense at all have long known that when right-wingnuts start pontificating about “free-market principles,” they really mean the fatuous, pitiful submission to the rich man and his corporations that they practice themselves. The majority of the populace (though, sadly, not always enough of a majority, yet) has more pride, and sense, than that, once they realize what’s going on.
 

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MN lege: GOP gun bills are a feeble ploy

by Dan Burns on May 8, 2018 · 0 comments

minnesota_state_capitolSome Republicans in Minnesota are trying to cover their electoral behinds. Indications so far are that suburban GOPers will be at particular risk, nationwide, in November.
 

Two Republican lawmakers from Minneapolis suburbs proposed bills Wednesday that encourage private gun sales to go through background checks and would tighten gun access for people convicted of domestic assault.
 
Rep. Sarah Anderson of Plymouth and Rep. Jenifer Loon of Eden Prairie are co-sponsoring the bills, which they say are an effort to keep guns out of the hands of ineligible and potentially dangerous people. One bill would shield private sellers from criminal liabilities if they sell a gun later used in a crime.
 
The other involves several small tweaks to how guns can be taken from people after a court order, including requirements for sheriff’s offices to follow up with the court. Courts would also be required to hold hearings for people who have their guns taken and also are guaranteed a hearing within three days under the proposal…
 
Rep. Dave Pinto, a Democrat from St. Paul, said the recent proposals were “mildly encouraging.” But he said they fall short in addressing gun violence compared to requiring background checks and creating legal paths to temporarily remove guns from dangerous or mentally unstable people that he and other lawmakers have pushed for.
(Pioneer Press)

Also note:
 

A work requirement for many people receiving Minnesota’s version of Medicaid: To the surprise of some, Republicans left their proposal out of the budget bills that passed off the House and Senate floors.
(MPR)

 
There are plenty of assertions out there that Minnesota will somehow be the big exception to the blue wave. Many seem to be based on a poll back in January showing Trump job approval barely underwater in the state. Anyone at all familiar with the history of Mason-Dixon polling for the Star Tribune knows about how seriously to take that.
 
That being said, Trump in the White House is a vile, obscene indicator of just how degraded and corrupt our politics (and the corporate media that “cover” them) have become, and I won’t be truly confident of a blue wave until I see it. But based on the above, Minnesota Republican legislators don’t seem to share that view.
 

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An idea for business schools

by Dan Burns on May 5, 2018 · 0 comments

greedSomething to perhaps peruse while lounging on the deck this weekend. Best thing I’ve read online in months. It’s called “Why we should bulldoze the business school.”
 

Having taught in business schools for 20 years, I have come to believe that the best solution to these problems is to shut down business schools altogether. This is not a typical view among my colleagues. Even so, it is remarkable just how much criticism of business schools over the past decade has come from inside the schools themselves. Many business school professors, particularly in north America, have argued that their institutions have gone horribly astray. B-schools have been corrupted, they say, by deans following the money, teachers giving the punters what they want, researchers pumping out paint-by-numbers papers for journals that no one reads and students expecting a qualification in return for their cash (or, more likely, their parents’ cash). At the end of it all, most business-school graduates won’t become high-level managers anyway, just precarious cubicle drones in anonymous office blocks.
 
These are not complaints from professors of sociology, state policymakers or even outraged anti-capitalist activists. These are views in books written by insiders, by employees of business schools who themselves feel some sense of disquiet or even disgust at what they are getting up to. Of course, these dissenting views are still those of a minority. Most work within business schools is blithely unconcerned with any expression of doubt, participants being too busy oiling the wheels to worry about where the engine is going. Still, this internal criticism is loud and significant.
(The Guardian)

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cornChances are that it will be voted on in a couple of weeks, give or take. I’m just blockquoting two of the strikes, of the six listed in the article.
 

1. The Rich Get Richer – The House farm bill creates new loopholes that further tilt farm subsidies toward the largest, most successful farm businesses and away from small family farmers. The bill would allow cousins, nieces and nephews of farmers to receive subsidies even if they don’t live or work on the farm. A recent report by the Department of Agriculture found that the share of subsidies claimed by the biggest farms has tripled since 1991, and H.R. 2 would make this problem worse.
 
2. The Poor Get Poorer – The same bill that enriches the largest and most successful farmers will also cause more than 1 million low-income households – more than 2 million people, including working families with children – to lose their food-assistance benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or have them reduced. The bill includes unworkable job training requirements that will place new burdens on states and leave many poor Americans without food assistance.
(AgMag)

Sixty votes are required in the Senate, so some of the really atrocious stuff about, for example, food stamps and work requirements probably will have to be dropped to get it through, there. Probably.
 
Related material:
 

Dairy farmers in the United States are paid by the hundredweight—that’s 100 pounds of milk, about 12 gallons. Milk prices, after peaking in 2014, have plummeted to roughly $15 per hundredweight, forcing many dairy farmers to operate in the red. Tina Carlin, executive director of Farm Women United and a Pennsylvania farmer herself, says the cost of production ranges from $22 to $25 per hundredweight. “We wouldn’t need the suicide hotline, we wouldn’t need the mental health services, if dairy farmers were getting paid what they deserve to be paid,” Carlin says. She and her husband quit dairy farming in 2012, switching to beef and vegetable crops.
 
As president of Farm Women United, Cochran is lobbying Congress alongside Carlin to institute a $20 emergency floor price on every hundredweight of milk. The women have also advocated public hearings, but with little progress so far.
(Mother Jones)

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The fine mess that Enbridge Line 3 has become

by Dan Burns on April 30, 2018 · 1 comment

enbridge2The saga of the highly controversial Enbridge Line 3 replacement/rerouting proposal took another turn last week.
 

Administrative law judge Ann O’Reilly issued a non-binding recommendation on (April 23) that Minnesota regulators should approve the pipeline, but only if it runs along the current route and not Enbridge Energy’s preferred new path.
(MPR)

 
– Also from that article, Gov. Mark Dayton says that is not feasible. (Dayton is not opposed to the project. Though he has, bless his heart, said he’ll veto a bill from the GOP-controlled Minnesota legislature that would allow Enbridge to basically bypass the rest of the review process and start whenever they want to.)
 

– The ruling would likely strengthen the positions of affected Native Americans.

 
– Enbridge very much wants to stick with its plan.

 
So we’ll see.
 
Comment below fold.
 
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