Well, the Minnesota Legislature is entering its last week, with a great deal of mischief in the pipeline and not much to feel good about. Most Minnesotans seem to have little real idea what’s going on and how their interests are threatened. How would they know? Who would tell them? I’m subscribed to the email newsletters of maybe six Senators and Representatives. Not one tells constituents what’s really going on.
Even a casual visit to the Capital makes painfully clear that most legislators’ primary relationships are with each other, regardless of party, and with lobbyists, not with citizens.
Let’s envision a discussion in a House Committee. Rep. Jean Wagenius points out that climate change is a serious threat to Minnesota and further steps need to be taken to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. She and her colleagues say the Republican plan to roll back energy efficiency and “green” energy quotas is irresponsible.
Committee Chair Pat Garofolo, also Minnesota co-chair of ALEC, the Koch Machine, in Minnesota, responds: “Reputable scientists have established that the earth is really flat and the moon is largely made of green cheese.” One of his fellow Republicans responds “Definitely cheese, but possibly not *green* cheese; the flatness question needs further investigation.” A DFL member says: “This is silly, American astronauts collected rocks on the moon and brought them home. The moon is made of rock.” Garofolo interjects: “I wish my liberal friends would use a little common sense. You would not deny that both cheese and rocks are found on the surface of the earth, and the moon is an offshoot of the earth, so it follows that both cheese and rocks are also on the moon.”
A long discussion ensues, a hearing is scheduled, and the next day the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports “Legislators differ on how to protect Minnesota cheese makers from unfair competition.”
At the hearing, a lobbyist from the Farmers Union expresses concern about unfair competition from Mooncheese. He admits that none has yet been seen in Minnesota, but claims local producers need protection against such a serious threat.
A lobbyist for the Farm Bureau says the highest authority on Earth, Monsanto, says Mooncheese is safe and healthy because any harmful organisms would be zapped by intergalactic radiation. And, each container of cheese can be dipped in Roundup [glyphosate] to ensure that no lunar superweeds sneak in. Committee members nod approvingly.
A lobbyist for the tax-supported Minnesota Cheese Council says protective legislation is urgently needed and should be enacted under suspension of the rules. The very lives of his members hang in the balance.
The lobbyist for the United, Consolidated, and Amalgamated Cheese-Wagon Loaders and Unloaders says the need for protective legislation is urgent and his members have long memories, are politically active, and have ever-more-empty pockets. He also indicates an urgent need to exempt cheese and frac sand trucks from trunk highway weight limits. One Republican member interjects that ALL truck weight limits should be removed, even if Federal road funds are jeopardized.
Committee members sit at rigid attention while the Senior Lobbyist for Xcel Energy says Xcel is willing to authorize a bill provided it includes deregulation of residential electric rates. He points out that Minnesota taxpayers could benefit, because when the present intolerable burdens on Xcel are removed, many Company senior managers may ultimately lose their eligibility for Medical Assistance and Food Stamps. A lobbyist for Fresh Energy is seen to nod enthusiastically.
The President of the University of Minnesota, Highvolume Hornblower, Doctor of Fundraising (PhBeg.), sends his top lobbyist to explain the urgent need for a $138,000,000 Special Cheese Investigational Grant, to include an Extraplanetary Green Cheese Isolation Lab, preliminary design of an Enhanced Mooncheese Shuttle, and the launching of 37 corporate-sponsored academic careers under forced draft. He points out that the spinoff from this grant would benefit many sectors of Minnesota’s economy.
Several members wanted to know if a lab designed for green cheese could also be used to study white, yellow, and brown cheese. “Yes,” they are told, but they are warned of the possible need for a supplemental appropriation if the cheese turns out not to be green.
Another member asks how the amount of $138,000,000 was arrived at. The University lobbyist says:
“Mr. Chair and members, the University of Minnesota is at heart a scientific institution. Science is a search for truth, and a key tool of science is hypothesis-testing. Here, we are testing the hypothesis that the gullibility of the Minnesota Legislature has no measurable upper bound.”
The committee members seem content, if slightly puzzled, with the response.
Questioned by an uppity reporter about the size of the requested grant, Hornblower points out that it amounts to less than $30 per living Minnesotan. “Poor people have a stake in this,” notes Hornblower, “Don’t they get free Velveeta, a form of semi-cheese, from our generous government?”
Hornblower also notes the “nation-leading” success of the Humphey Institute, the U’s well-known storage facility for retired politicians. “If we can keep so many of your former colleagues happily inactivated, surely our experts can handle Mooncheese, whatever it turns out to be like. Quality never comes cheap.”
The Governor of Minnesota wrinkles his eyebrows and issues a statement of deep concern about the suddenly-revealed Cheese Crisis but can not decide what to do until his political staff has finished evaluating the competing offers.
The Minnesota Environmental Partnership, spurred by new member Responsible Cheese Alliance, issues an action alert urging its members to support an Emergency Cheese Bill and the Investigational Grant to the U.
At least 37 other Minnesota NGOs send special fundraising appeals to all known addresses, asking for special contributions to fund their Mooncheese crisis task forces. “If we don’t do it, who will do it?” ask each of the 37. One says: “Our experts suspect that the Milky Way Galaxy, the only home our solar system has, is held together by the gravitational attraction of Dark Mooncheese Matter. Proper stewardship of this vital if invisible substance is essential to the future of humankind. Scroll down and hit the button to contribute, or YOU MAY BE SORRY.”
Many members of the Minnesota House and Senate very much appreciate the diversion of attention from Health Care, Economic Justice, Environmental Protection, and Energy Policy.
The editors of the STrib, in a headlined Sunday editorial, say:
“Once again Minnesotans can be proud of our long tradition of coming together, reaching across the aisle, reaching into lobbyists’ pockets … to find collaborative solutions to our state’s imaginary problems, while ignoring the real ones. This makes good sense all around, because if the solutions to imaginary problems turn out to be wrong, nobody really suffers, except in the wallet, and our newspaper represents those with fat wallets but low taxes.”
Between adds for biotechnology and nuclear energy, Minnesota Public Radio airs an interview with a senior Xcel Energy shill:
“We don’t abuse our position. Our corporate experience is that all it take to be a successful, long-term legislator is the ability to follow instructions. And, of course, the wisdom to know whose instructions to follow…. We don’t require Sen. Marty and out other distinguished legislators to grin and shuffle in public, as long as they follow OUR instructions in a timely manner. We understand the game. After all, who is better at bullshitting customers than us?”
said the shill.
Rep. Garofolo and his handlers were well-pleased.
Upcoming: Some bills and issues you really should speak out on.