The standard tactic of every mayor who wants to raise city taxes is to threaten to fire the most important city employees. The mayor asks—will you give me the extra money I want, or do I need to fire the police and firefighters?
Americans have usually been smarter than that. Every city has some fat in its budget. Every city spends money on things that may be important, but are not essential. It is the job of the mayor to make those hard choices. Keep the meat. Trim the fat. To govern is to choose.
Unfortunately, that's not the script.
At every level, from the federal government to the state of Minnesota, to the local school districts, every budget shortfall brings a cry for higher taxes. Cuts in spending will result in armageddon. The sky will fall. It will be the end of life as we know it.
At the federal level, a sequester is coming March 1st, which will trim $85 billion out of an anticipated $3,700 Billion of federal outlays this year. That's about 2 percent of yearly outlays. It's about 8 percent of the deficit for just this year.
Note that I don't use the word budget. The federal government has been operating without a budget for over 3 years. As a step toward a balanced budget, the sequester barely makes a dent, but at least it's a start.
Take a peek at just one list of federal waste (and here). Can anyone tell you with a straight face that it's not possible to trim 2 percent from federal spending? (We just spent $60 billion "extra" on hurricane Sandy relief!)
Hard-headed reporters might be expected to reveal the Chicken Little routine as a clever tactic, but this Patch article is more typical of the media's stance. It parrots the position of the president, and helps him play Chicken Little.
Governor Dayton is following a similar script, and doing well if the public opinion polls are any guide. After doing a $1 billion Vikings stadium deal, and starting this session with a nod toward the $500 million request from Mayo, he still has the guts to demand an "essential" tax increase of a net $2.2 billion. To me, the worst part of his plan is that after condemning the school shift in the 2011 session, he isn't even planning to use this extra tax money to pay it back!
President Obama and Governor Dayton need to lead. To govern is to choose. They should not reach for my wallet every time they want to grow government.
As I recall the story, Chicken Little was wrong. It's time to say no.