This week, we in Minnesota will be commemorating the most memorable life of former Congressman James Oberstar, who unexpectedly departed from this world the first week in May. He was known as Jim to the many who were fortunate enough to enjoy repeated communication. He remains with us as we look around the 8th District.
If everyone voted, we would have a better nation. When approximately half of our eligible voting population exercises its right to vote, even assuming straight two-party division, it means our government is determined by about one-fourth of its people. That is sad, particularly at this time of the year when we focus our memory and appreciation toward those who served and who have given so much to protect our country and its rights of free expression.
It is not a plus for our state government to now be spending much time on whether “charitable” gambling ought to be expanded in Minnesota. There are far more issues of pressing and real importance remaining to be dealt with in the closing days and hours of the 2014 legislative session. To this observer, we have a very mixed bag of gambling laws, rules and regulations, as created and motivated by the personal profit potential made possible under legalized gambling.
What a shameful way we finance health care in America! United Health Group (UHG) lost financial ground a little bit in the first quarter of 2014. Isn’t that a shame? The company alleges that this was due to the continuing application of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This is the UHG that has mushroomed to enormous size and profit, generated by government dollars. Wasn’t UHG one of the favored 20 or so companies approved to jump into the newly created and ultimately lucrative senior drug coverage industry in 2004? Hasn’t it grown by leaps and bounds ever since?
Good government is all around us. Just look for it. You don’t have to look very far. We are among the most fortunate inhabitants on Earth, just because of the level and type of government we have in this country. Certainly it has innumerable examples of fault and omission, but overall we have a government to be thankful for.
Let us not fall in with those creating a hullabaloo over rebates this year. We are in the recently rare status of state government taking in more dollars than are budgeted for payment this year. Most of us consider that a delightful and welcome dilemma to be in. Some of us would leave it at that. Others, however — legislators fom both sides, but particularly Republican — are clamoring for rebates to us taxpayers. This writer votes “no” to rebates.
For the past nearly two weeks, and for a few days to come, the Winter Olympics are unfolding before our eyes and ears. Overall, it is more than a giant spectacle. It is a welcome diversion from much of the mundane and negative drivel that dominates our TV screens these days. TV, a great medium and potential for the betterment of America has, in many aspects, deteriorated into a vast wasteland. Far too much of our entertainment (and programs labeled as news) are negative, often scarily so, and little is positive or joyful entertainment, and even less is informative.
Right now, three-fourths of state governments in this great nation of ours are controlled by a single political party. Almost half are Republican controlled, and a quarter are Democratic. While I like our present situation in Minnesota, this is still a disturbing trend. It is another prime example of the pervasive, excessive influence of money on our politics.
A week from next Tuesday, Feb. 4, do something most people don’t bother to do. Go to your local precinct caucus – Republican or Democrat/DFL. Take a little time that Tuesday night to seek out and spend an hour or two with your like-minded neighbors. In that small and easy way you will become a valuable part of our political process. Remember our government is us, or what we allow it to be if we don’t participate.
In a recent column I expressed hope for the 2014 election campaigns, made up of fair and open exchanges and presentation of contrasting candidates and contentions. That didn’t get off to a very good start. The self-entitled entity Americans for Prosperity gave our country, and particularly our area, a Christmas present by launching an end-of-year and early 2014 misleading negative attack on two targeted U.S. representatives — one from New Hampshire, and the other one our own Rick Nolan. Both are first-termers, facing stiff re-election challenges.