Final Word

Bigger government = smaller citizens. Just look at Minnesota.

I like to say that Dennis Prager is my Rabbi. When I am eating lunch, I often listen to his radio show.

One of Prager’s best lines is “The Bigger the Government, the Smaller the Citizen.” I liked it so much that I put a bumper sticker with the phrase on my car. Why? Because I want to encourage people who get it—and make others think.

Our nation and state are terribly divided, making it hard for people to talk to one another about important things—let alone work together to solve big political and cultural problems. Our inability to solve big problems will undermine our confidence in the democratic process itself, leading to the conclusion that we are not capable of self-governance. That this American Experiment was doomed to fail. It is only doomed if we give up our duties as citizens, which means identifying the problem and then working for a solution.

The growth of the state and the breakdown of our cultural institutions are directly related. The more we grow the state, the less Americans seem able to handle every day matters like getting a job, getting and staying married, raising a family, saving for retirement, growing old with grace and dying well. The growth of entitlements allows us to socialize the cost of failure—making it someone else’s problem. We have shifted dollars away from private charity and the church, from private sector investments that grow the economy and good jobs.

If you look at spending in Minnesota, and how entitlement and education spending has ballooned since 1960, you would expect a drop in poverty and a big increase in educational achievement. But the results are devastating, particularly for black Americans, though all Americans are experiencing increasingly high rates of family fragmentation, and all the attendant social problems documented by Mitch Pearlstein in Broken Bonds: What Family Fragmentation Means for America’s Future.

Since 1960, after adjusting for inflation, spending increased from $8 billion to $62 billion in 2012, a 667 percent increase. And these figures do not include the spending increases under the Dayton-Smith administration.

The bulk of our tax dollars now go to welfare and education with a small percentage devoted to core functions like roads, public safety and the courts. The state, local and federal government are by far the largest employers in Minnesota, dwarfing the private sector.

How did this happen? One of the primary reasons is public unions.

The public union agenda has grown to dominate budget and policy decisions. Education Minnesota, AFSCME and SEIU have bargained for pay and benefits that are tough to match in the private sector. The kicker is that the state deducts mandatory dues for the unions. This gives union leaders and their allies an outsized influence, leading to warped results that most Minnesotans reject, even many union members.

Case in point: Gov. Dayton’s push to force the unionization of private sector in-home daycare owners and in-home health care aides (often a family member of the disabled person). The goal is to take over the daycare and home health care sectors.

This also explains why Dayton is demanding that we send all four year-olds to public school: it creates jobs for Education Minnesota and other public sector unions. This grab for our children will put private nursery schools out of business, and pressure parents to send children to “school” before they are ready.

Is this the Minnesota we want?

I did not write this to discourage you. On the contrary, I wrote in hopes that this information would fire you up, and lead you to ask, “How can I help?” Please pass this newsletter on to a friend, tell people about the Center and our good work. We can restore our confidence in the American Experiment if we can start to solve big problems.

And if you see an old Volvo headed toward St. Paul, please honk if you like my bumper sticker.