Archive - April 2012

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Monday Morning Quarterback – 4/30/2012

Posted by: Andrew Schmitt | Posted on: April 30th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Monday Morning Quarterback

Brought to you by The Rouen Group, a public affairs firm, specializing in grassroots advocacy, coalition building, political engagement and communications strategy. Ryan's Rise From Follower to GOP Trailblazer: Via The New York Times: "Representative Paul Ryan strolls the halls of Capitol Hill with the anarchist band Rage Against the Machine pounding through his earbuds. At 6:30 every morning, he leads an adoring cast of young, conservative members of Congress through exercise sessions in front of a televised trainer barking out orders. For fun, Mr. Ryan noodles catfish, catching them barehanded with a fist down their throats. Outside of Mitt Romney, the likely Republican presidential nominee, Mr. Ryan may be the party’s most important figure, said William Bennett, the conservative luminary and a mentor of Mr. Ryan’s going back to the congressman’s early 20s. Grover Norquist, the Republican strategist who heads Americans for Tax Reform, said in an interview that he did not expect Mr. Romney to lead as president. He just wants him to sign the bills that put Mr. Ryan’s vision into practice. That is not bad for a man who was once just another minion on Capitol Hill, working for a research group, then for a member of Congress, and moonlighting as a waiter at the Hill hangout Tortilla Coast and as a personal trainer at a gym. Co-workers at the conservative policy group Empower America admonished him for hanging his workout clothes out to dry at work rather than laundering them." Five Myths About Conservative Voters: Via Frank Lutz in The Washington Post: "1.) Conservatives Care Most About the Size of Government - Conservatives don’t want a reduced government so much as one that works better and wastes less. 2.) Conservatives Want to Depot All Illegal Immigrants - Seven in 10 conservatives agree with the following statement: “America’s immigration policy should consist of tall fences and wide gates. We need to aggressively prevent illegal immigration, but let those stay that have worked hard and demonstrated a real, measurable commitment to this country through military or public service.” 3.) They Worship Wall Street - I asked conservatives whom they most trusted to get our country on the right economic track. By nearly two to one, they chose small-business owners over corporate America (only “political leaders” did worse). 4.) Conservatives Want to Slash Social Security and Medicare - Conservatives believe in such simple principles as personal choice and greater competition, and they are more confident than liberals in people’s ability to make the right decisions. For example, 78 percent agree with the statement: “Increasing patient choice in Medicare will help save Medicare from bankruptcy. When patients can shop for better care . . . it will force insurance companies to compete against each other, which lowers costs and increases care.” 5.) Conservatives Don't Care About Inequality - Fully 66 percent of conservatives consider the growing gap between the rich and the poor a “problem,” according to a poll I conducted in January, while 21 percent call it a “crisis.” Conservatives want to increase opportunity, giving everyone the freedom and tools to prosper, so that the poor may someday become rich. Liberals want to redistribute income, making the rich — quite simply — less rich." Shrinking Problem - Illegal Immigration From Mexico: Via RealClearPolitics (Michael Barone): "The illegal immigration problem is going away. That's the conclusion I draw from the latest report of the Pew Hispanic Center on Mexican immigration to the United States. They conclude that from 2005 to 2010 some 1.39 million people came from Mexico to the United States and 1.37 million went from the U.S. to Mexico. "The largest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States," they write, "has come to a standstill." Mitt Romney has been ridiculed for saying that illegal immigrants should "self-deport." But that seems to be exactly what many of them have been doing. The U.S. government has been sending back more illegals lately, but most of the flow to Mexico has been voluntary. The key immigration issue for the future is whether America, like our Anglosphere cousins Canada and Australia, will let in more high-skill immigrants." Little Support for Stadium Among Minneapolis Lawmakers: Via Minnesota Public Radio (Tim Pugmire): "Republican leaders in the Minnesota House and Senate say it will take strong, bipartisan support to pass a Vikings stadium bill this session — but they won't be seeing many "yes" votes from Minneapolis Democrats. Democrats likely to vote against the bill include state Rep. Susan Allen, the newest member of the Minnesota House. She won a special election in District 61B in January and was sworn in just a few days before the start of the 2012 session. "People in our district are adamant about that — there should no public funds to build a Vikings stadium, any sports stadium," Allen said. "Our district has been more vocal on this issue for a long time. So, it's never been a question for me. I will vote no regardless of what the bill looks like, as long as it has public funding." Most of the public funding in the stadium bill, or 27 percent, would come from the state. But the city of Minneapolis is also picking up a 23 percent share of the total tab. State Rep. Joe Mullery, an eight-term veteran of the Legislature, said he hasn't decided which way he'll vote. He's been asking his constituents this week for advice. But Mullery said he already knows that there are a lot of concerns in the district about what he views as a bad deal for Minnesota and for Minneapolis. "I personally believe that the Vikings are really taking us on this, that it wasn't a very good negotiation on behalf of government," Mullery said." Vikings Stadium Financing Plan - Its Complicated: Via the Associated Press (Brian Bakst): "A selling point for the Minnesota Vikings stadium plan, advocates say, is that it doesn't depend on general tax dollars. That would mean it doesn't put pro football in direct competition with money for public schools, nursing homes or other valued programs. Here are some question and answers about the stadium financing mechanism: Q: What is an appropriation bond? The state would go through investors to get a lump sum of money to help pay builders of a stadium. The bonds are an obligation to repay debt with interest. The repayment comes in the form of a direct, regular appropriation by the Legislature. Nothing would guarantee the money would come through each year nor is a specific revenue stream formally pledged. But failure to make the appropriation would hurt the state's credit rating. Q: How would the public debt be paid off? Architects of the proposal insist a new form of pull-tab gambling will bring in far more money than needed to repay debt and give charities that sponsor the games a tax break. There are plenty of skeptics who say the estimates are too rosy and could fluctuate on interest in the games and the economy. Another portion would come from diverting a slice of sales tax money collected in the city of Minneapolis. Q: Could the state treasury be exposed to risk? If the gambling projections don't pan out, differing versions of the bill contain extra funding sources. The House plan includes "blink-on funding" such as taxes on luxury boxes, sports-themed lottery games, admission taxes and use of a Hennepin County tax. If the figures are way off, there is a chance future lawmakers would have to find money from other places in the budget to pledge the state's taxing authority — its "full faith and credit" — as collateral against default. But the bonds require a three-fifths majority to pass, which is a tall order for a bill that might only scrape by the way it is." All Quiet at the Capitol as Tough Decision Day Looms?: Via the Pioneer Press (Bill Salisbury): "This could be the day when Minnesota lawmakers decide the fate of a new Vikings stadium. It also could be decision time for fixing the crumbling Capitol and dozens of other public facilities across the state. In addition, millions of dollars of job-creating tax incentives are on the line. But as crunch time approached on Saturday, House Speaker Kurt Zellers said he was willing to let the session drag on an "extra day" if that's what it takes to resolve the remaining big issues. Late last week, Dayton and DFL legislative leaders were pushing Republicans for a quick up-or-down vote on the stadium. The governor said it should rise or fall on its own merits. But Zellers said the tax-cut and infrastructure bills were higher priorities for Republicans, suggesting that he might not bring the stadium measure up for a vote until the other issues were resolved. Dayton has said he's willing to accept some tax cuts if Republicans agree to fund more of the state construction projects he wants. But he also said he won't sign a tax bill that would increase the state's projected $1.1 billion deficit in the next two-year budget cycle. So if the GOP majority passes their package, as expected, he's likely to veto it. Dayton wants to borrow $775 million by selling bonds for public works projects. Republicans prefer to hold the construction price tag to just under $500 million. Their plan would make a down payment on the estimated $200 million-plus cost of restoring the Capitol." THE WEEK IN REVIEW: THREE ARTICLES WORTH THE READ: The Weekly Standard's John McCormack: The Battle for Wisconsin Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by Bjorn Lomborg: An Economic Approach to the Environment The Economist: France's Election - The Rather Dangerous Monsieur Hollande HIGHLIGHTS: SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT: NFL Draft: Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was taken as the top pick in the draft by the Indianapolis Colts. Rounding out the top five were: Robert Griffin III (QB-Baylor) Washington Redskins, Trent Richardson (RB-Alabama) Cleveland Browns, Matt Kalil (OL-USC) Minnesota Vikings and Justin Blackmon (WR-Oklahoma State) Jacksonville Jaguars. Minnesota Vikings Draft Picks: Matt Kalil - OL, USC - 1st Round Harrison Smith - S, Notre Dame - 1st Round Josh Robinson - CB, UCF - 3rd Round Jarius Wright - WR, Arkansas - 4th Round Rhett Ellison - FB, USC - 4th Round Greg Childs - WR, Arkansas - 4th Round Robert Blanton - S, Notre Dame - 5th Round Blair Walsh - K, Georgia - 6th Round Audie Cole, OLB, North Carolina State, 7th Round Trevor Guyton, DE, California, 7th Round  

Monday Morning Quarterback 4/23/2012

Posted by: Andrew Schmitt | Posted on: April 23rd, 2012 | 0 Comments

Monday Morning Quarterback

Brought to you by The Rouen Group, a public affairs firm, specializing in grassroots advocacy, coalition building, political engagement and communications strategy. Let the Nanotargeting Begin: Via The New York Times - Campaign Stops (Thomas Edsall): "The top-ten Republican-tilted shows are “The Office,” “Rules of Engagement,” “The Mentalist,” “New Yankee Workshop,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Castle,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Dancing With The Stars,” “The Biggest Loser,” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” The top ten most Democratic-leaning shows are “Washington Week,” “Tavis Smiley,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” “The View,” “PBS NewsHour,” “NOW” on PBS, “House of Payne,” “ABC World News Now,” “60 Minutes” and “Insider Weekend.” In the case of restaurants, some chains are well to the right or left, but most, including the largest ones like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s, are at the political center. Those chains with high-turnout clientele are overwhelmingly Republican-leaning, including Cracker Barrel, Macaroni Grill, Outback Steakhouse, Arby’s and Chick-fil-A, while Church’s Chicken and Chuck E. Cheese’s are low-turnout Democratic. Who would have guessed that the most Democratic drink by a long shot is Cognac, or that such lite beers as Amstel Lite, Michelob Ultra, Miller Lite and Sam Adams Light tilt so far to the political right, while Bud, Miller High Life, and Natural Lite are Democratic? Cargill Lobbyist's Quest is Open Markets: A good read in the Star Tribune about Cargill's Devry Boughner, a friend of The Rouen Group and one of the most effective pro-trade advocates on Capitol Hill. "Devry Boughner sits under a portrait of Ho Chi Minh in the home of Vietnam's ambassador to the United States and pitches the virtues of open markets to a communist diplomat. Boughner helps make those kinds of deals happen, says Clayton Yeutter, a former U.S. secretary of agriculture and ex-U.S. trade representative. "Cargill has been a very positive force in all trade negotiations in the last 25 years," Yeutter explains. "Devry carries that load. She does not take a high profile. That's not a Cargill [method of operation]." In 2011, Cargill played a role in the passage of stalled trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. Boughner has testified before Congress. She has lived in Asia for months at a time. She offers a hands-on perspective to the Trans Pacific Partnership that few others can. "People think it's secret handshakes and winks that run this town. It's not. It's information," says Cal Cohen, president of the Emergency Committee for American Trade, where Boughner serves as a vice chair. "Devry brings information." She also brings a "very Midwestern approach -- honest and upfront," says Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn." The Third Industrial Revolution: Via The Economist: "The first industrial revolution began in Britain in the late 18th century, with the mechanisation of the textile industry. The second industrial revolution came in the early 20th century, when Henry Ford mastered the moving assembly line and ushered in the age of mass production. The first two industrial revolutions made people richer and more urban. Now a third revolution is under way. Manufacturing is going digital. The old way of making things involved taking lots of parts and screwing or welding them together. Now a product can be designed on a computer and “printed” on a 3D printer, which creates a solid object by building up successive layers of material. The digital design can be tweaked with a few mouseclicks. The 3D printer can run unattended, and can make many things which are too complex for a traditional factory to handle. In time, these amazing machines may be able to make almost anything, anywhere—from your garage to an African village. The revolution will affect not only how things are made, but where. Offshore production is increasingly moving back to rich countries not because Chinese wages are rising, but because companies now want to be closer to their customers so that they can respond more quickly to changes in demand. The Boston Consulting Group reckons that in areas such as transport, computers, fabricated metals and machinery, 10-30% of the goods that America now imports from China could be made at home by 2020, boosting American output by $20 billion-55 billion a year." Ron Paul an Unlikely Force in Minnesota Senate Race: Via the Associated Press (Patrick Condon): "Ron Paul might be striking out in his pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination, but the activist energy his campaign unleashed in Minnesota is positioning one of his followers as the party's unlikely favorite to take on U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar in November. Kurt Bills is a rookie state representative from Rosemount and a high school economics teacher. Until he made a late and unexpected entry into the race in March, Bills was never mentioned as a Republican prospect to challenge Democratic incumbent Klobuchar. But in recent weeks, an increasing number of Republicans have pegged him as the frontrunner to get the pivotal party endorsement at the GOP state convention in May. "I think we're seeing Kurt Bills picking up some real steam in the last few weeks," said Noah Rouen, a Republican political consultant who hasn't endorsed a Senate candidate. Bills recently unveiled endorsements from more than 30 Republican colleagues in the Legislature, far outpacing the backing touted so far by the other two serious GOP Senate candidates." Session-Ending Deal Could Still Be in the Cards: Via the Star Tribune: "Fresh life for a Minnesota Vikings stadium proposal and a raft of new GOP-led building projects have reignited hopes of a session-ending deal at the Capitol. House action late Friday to boost its bonding bill by $220 million is being seen by top administration officials as a hopeful sign that a larger deal can be struck between the GOP-led Legislature and the DFL governor. Legislative insiders long expected Republicans to use Dayton's desire for a robust bonding bill and a Vikings stadium as a key bargaining chip for big GOP initiatives, like ending teacher tenure and tapping budget reserves for corporate tax relief. But Dayton and his administration say the stadium has never been part of negotiations on a final deal. The stadium proposal is a complex political project that lacks the clear partisan alliances conducive to political wheeling and dealing. In this rare instance, fiery DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler finds himself on the side of Tea Party Republicans who oppose a taxpayer-funded stadium. With legislators edging toward the final days of the session, the fight is rapidly coming down to Dayton's demand for a larger bonding package and Republicans' desire for deeper business tax reductions." With Many Unfinished Bonding Projects, Is a New Bill Needed?: Via Minnesota Public Radio: "Public works bonding bills are typically the main order of business during even-year legislative sessions. Usually, it's a time when members can show bipartisanship and get behind a bill that focuses on the state's infrastructure. It also allows members to approve projects in their own districts that could help them with re-election. "Unemployed Minnesotans need jobs now, not next year," Dayton said. "It's our responsibility here are the Capitol to work on the people's timetable, not our own. The time to act is now." There's just one problem. The state has already authorized hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects where construction hasn't yet started. Republican Rep. Larry Howes of Walker said he'd like to see that money get spent. "Everyone knows what we have sitting on the shelf," Howes said. "It's almost $2 billion worth of projects that supposedly create jobs, but the only job created is the janitor's to dust off the bills that are sitting there." Officials with Minnesota Management and Budget quibble with the $2 billion number but could not produce a figure in time for this story. They do not quibble with the notion that there are authorized projects where construction has not started." THE WEEK IN REVIEW: THREE ARTICLES WORTH THE READ: The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol: President Romney The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan: America's Crisis of Character The New York Times's Thomas Friedman: Down With Everything HIGHLIGHTS: SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT: Fenway Park Celebrates 100 Years: A great article by columnist Scott Miller: In 100 Years of Fenway Moments, Ted Williams Still Steals the Show The City Pages releases its Best of the Twin Cities: Some of the highlights (all of course within a block of The Rouen Group's office): Best Jukebox: The Herkimer Best Karaoke: James Ballentine VFW Post 246 Best Takeout: Szechuan Spice Best Beer List: Muddy Waters Bar & Eatery Best Dive Bar: Country Bar and Grill Best Street: Lake Street Best Salon: Hairpolice Best Shoe Repair: Lee's Shoe & Leather Repair

Monday Morning Quarterback 4/16/2012

Posted by: Andrew Schmitt | Posted on: April 20th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Monday Morning Quarterback

Brought to you by The Rouen Group, a public affairs firm, specializing in grassroots advocacy, coalition building, political engagement and communications strategy. Random Fact of the Week: Apples, not caffeine, are more efficient at waking you up in the morning. (via Real Life Facts: @RealLifeFacts5): Tax Day 2012: How the IRS Outdoes Shakespeare: Via the International Business Times (Oliver Tree): "As a British expatriate new to the country, I find the U.S. tax code to be a bit of a puzzlement. So, while I knew it was more complex to pay taxes in the U.S. than in the U.K., I wasn’t prepared for what I encountered upon printing out the documents I needed to duly file my return with the Internal Revenue Service. And that's before I even heard about the mysterious world of deductions. According to National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson, Americans waste a stunning 6.1 billion man-hours a year sorting, calculating, and filing the forms and receipts, so they can claw back every penny owed them by Uncle Sam. The code runs to a staggering 3.8 million words, according to Brett Arends at That is longer than the complete works of William Shakespeare. "To put that in context, William Shakespeare only needed 900,000 words to say everything he had to say," Arends said. "Hamlet. Othello. The history plays. The sonnets. The whole shebang. But the IRS needs four times as many words?" Estimates put the cost of maintaining tax records, filing taxes, and hiring accountants for individuals and companies at $430 billion a year. That's roughly the size of the entire economy of Saudi Arabia. Paying taxes is painful enough – but the time and additional money spent to tell the government what you owe it seems like, well, cruel and unusual punishment." The Tax Man Cometh! But For Whom? Via National Public Radio: "While it is true that about half of American households pay no federal income tax, the odds that half of Americans are paying no taxes at all are relatively low. Sales taxes, payroll taxes and state taxes make it difficult to avoid paying all taxes completely. But is it possible? Weekends on All Things Considered wanted to find out, so the first step was narrowing the search to a state with no sales tax: Alaska, Oregon, New Hampshire, Delaware and Montana... People like Jim and Janet Borcheller, who live in Fairfax, Va., are in the top 10 percent of income earners in America. Jim Borcheller, a defense contractor, is now the family's sole breadwinner. He earns about $110,000 a year. Once your household income exceeds $110,000, you are considered rich by the U.S. government and are in the top 10 percent. Being "rich," paying your taxes should be easy, but in each of the past two years, the Borchellers have had to dip into their IRA account or savings just to pay their tax bill. "If we're having trouble making it, I wonder how many other people are," Janet Borchellar told NPR producer Brent Baughman." Why Your Highway Has Potholes: Via The Wall Street Journal: "In a typical year only about 65 cents of every gas tax dollar is spent on roads and highways. Transit is the biggest drain. Only in New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. does public transit account for more than 5% of commuter trips. Since 1982 government mass-transit subsidies have totaled $750 billion (in today's dollars), yet the share of travelers using transit has fallen by nearly one-third, according to Heritage Foundation transportation expert Wendell Cox. Federal data indicate that in 2010 in most major cities more people walked to work or telecommuted than used public transit. Brookings Institution economist Cliff Winston finds that "the cost of building rail systems is notorious for exceeding expectations, while ridership levels tend to be much lower than anticipated." He calculates that the only major U.S. rail system in which the benefits outweigh the government subsidies is San Francisco's BART, and no others are close to break-even. The best solution would be to return all the gas tax money to the states, roughly in proportion to the money each pays in. This would allow states and localities to determine which roads and transit projects they really need—and are willing to pay for. Less federal control would also allow states to lure billions of dollars of private financing for new roads, which experts like Mr. Winston believe is the next big thing in transportation financing but is now generally prohibited." New Study Finds That Health-Care Law Will Add $340 Billion to the Deficit: Via The Washington Post: "President Obama’s landmark health-care initiative, long touted as a means to control costs, will actually add more than $340 billion to the nation’s budget woes over the next decade, according to a new study by a Republican member of the board that oversees Medicare financing. The study (was done) by Charles Blahous, a conservative policy analyst whom Obama approved in 2010 as the GOP trustee for Medicare and Social Security. “Does the health-care act worsen the deficit? The answer, I think, is clearly that it does,” Blahous, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, said in an interview. “If one asserts that this law extends the solvency of Medicare, then one is affirming that this law adds to the deficit. Because the expansion of the Medicare trust fund and the creation of the new subsidies together create more spending than existed under prior law.” Minnesota Management and Budget - February and March Tax Collections $106 Million Higher Than Projected: Via Minnesota Public Radio: "Minnesota Management and Budget announced today that Minnesota's net general fund revenues in February and March are $106 million more that finance officials projected. The state agency reports that individual income tax receipts were $60 million more than forecasted in February. Minnesota's employment has recovered more rapidly than the national average. The state's unemployment rate of 5.7 percent in February is tied with Utah and Virginia for 7th lowest rate in the nation. State budget officials announced in February that the state had a surplus of $323 million. That surplus comes on top of an $876 million surplus released in December." Minnesota Lawmakers Returning to Hefty To-Do List: Via the St. Cloud Times: "Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers sees the Legislature getting its work done and going home for good by April 30. On the Vikings stadium, the Maple Grove Republican said the major questions that would have delayed the bill's progress through committees - Will Minneapolis support the plan? What happens with charitable groups? What's the backup funding? - have been resolved, which has increased the chances for a floor vote this session. Zellers is optimistic that Republican legislators and the governor can negotiate an agreement on a package of smaller tax breaks. The two houses are poised to pass a plan that would end the practice of laying off teachers based on seniority instead of performance. Dayton has indicated he would veto it, but Zellers said legislative leaders are holding off a final vote to give the bill's proponents more time to lobby the governor and possibly make changes that would ease his concerns. Dayton vetoed a Republican bill that would have dipped into the state's budget reserves to pay back $430 million of the $2.4 billion the state owes to public schools. But Zellers said House Republicans haven't given up on "paying back the shift a little early. It probably would have to be part of a global, end-of-session deal (with Dayton)," he said. Zellers predicted the final (bonding) bill will be "pretty vanilla." He said he expected it to focus on repairing and maintaining existing state facilities and not funding glitzy new projects such as civic centers in Rochester, Mankato or St. Cloud or a new light-rail line to Minneapolis' southwest suburbs. His philosophy is "fix up what you have before you add on." Iron Range Racing Complex Hoping For a Piece of Racino Action: Via KARE 11 (video included): "If the state legislature passes a racino plan, there is a group of investors on the Iron Range who want a piece of the action. Investors and civic leaders introduced a plan that would put a 620 acre racing and gaming complex just north of Hibbing, near Chisholm. One of the big benefits, according to developers, is job creation. "It would supply about 450 permanent jobs and about 45 million dollars worth of new investment, all private investment," Fedo said, also noting the complex would make the range a tourist destination. Officials also touted the construction jobs the plan would create. In recent years, both Hibbing and Virginia have had unemployment rates approaching 20 percent. Tomossoni said those figures have dropped since many of the mines have fired up again. "The unemployment rates are down, probably down around the 11 or 12 percent, but they're still higher than the rest of the state, so we have room for improvement and we also have room for diversification," Tomossoni explained." Disclaimer: The Iron Range Racing Complex is a client of The Rouen Group. THE WEEK IN REVIEW: THREE ARTICLES WORTH THE READ: Star Tribune Editorial: A Final To-Do List For The Legislature Star Tribune Editorial: A Polarization Fix? Try a June Primary The New York Times - Op-Ed by Greg Mankiw:Competition is Healthy for Governments, Too HIGHLIGHTS: SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT: First Ave - The stage dive... Props to Mayors R.T. Rybak and Dan Ness for providing a little entertainment at last week's Trampled by Turtles concert. The Rouen Group was there to witness it first hand, but if you weren't take a second to watch the videoHERE. Becomes, well, sometimes it just snows in April (at least in Minnesota): Speaking of First Ave and the potential for a little snow tomorrow, take a moment out of your day and listen to Prince's "Sometimes It Snows In April"

Monday Morning Quarterback 4/9/2012

Posted by: Andrew Schmitt | Posted on: April 9th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Monday Morning Quarterback

Brought to you by The Rouen Group, a public affairs firm, specializing in grassroots advocacy, coalition building, political engagement and communications strategy. Random Fact of the Week: 16 billion jelly beans are made specifically for Easter which is enough to fill a plastic egg the size of a 9-story building. (via Real Life Facts: @RealLifeFacts5): The Big March Jobs Miss - and why the real unemployment rate sure ain't 8.2 percent: Via James Pethokoukis - American Enterprise Institute: U.S. employers added just 120,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. That’s the smallest increase since October. Economists polled by Reuters had expected nonfarm employment to increase by 203,000. Then there’s the unemployment rate, which dipped to 8.2% from 8.3% the month before. That extends the longest streak of 8%-plus unemployment since the Great Depression. The U.S. economy hasn’t been below 8% unemployment since Obama took office in January 2009. And back in May 2007, unemployment was just 4.4%. (And keep in mind that average hourly wages are up just 2.1% over past year. But inflation is up 2.9% (2.2% core). American workers are losing ground.) If the size of the U.S. labor force as a share of the total population was the same as it was when Barack Obama took office—65.7% then vs. 63.8% today down from last month—the U-3 unemployment rate would be 10.9%." It's "Game On" In Chicago: Via BuzzFeed: "On the evening of April 4, campaign manager Jim Messina gathered more than 300 staffers into a large room on the sixth floor of One Prudential Plaza in Chicago, the nerve center for the President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. The occasion: the one-year anniversary of opening the headquarters in the president’s hometown. There are now close to 700 hundred full time employees, an entire floor of office space, thousands of volunteers in well over 100 field offices across all 50 states, and the most impressive digital team a presidential campaign has ever assembled. There’s been experimentation—the tech team figured out a way to make the Obama website display perfectly on any device, a feat that wouldn’t have been possible even a year ago—and the entire office was designed to resemble a Silicon Valley start-up." U.S. - Brazil: Time for Bolder Partnership: Op-Ed in Politico by Greg Page (CEO, Cargill) and Tom Donohue (President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce): "Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who is visiting Washington Monday is the first woman to lead her country. She represents the world’s 6th largest economy and an emerging global power – one that is using the soft power generated by its vibrant society and creative private sector to strengthen its relationships around the world. The cornerstone should be deeper economic integration between our nations. This is a powerful strategy for creating jobs, promoting growth and building a stronger strategic relationship. Trade and investment between Brazil and the U.S. now supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in each country, and our leaders hope for more. The time has come for both governments to begin a substantive dialogue with the goal of reaching a Bilateral Economic Partnership Agreement between our countries." Dayton Vetoes Bill to Reimburse Public Schools: Via the Pioneer Press: "As expected, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a Republican-backed plan to dip into reserves to start paying back the billions of dollars owed to Minnesota's public schools, calling the plan a ploy and fiscally irresponsible. The GOP-led Senate and House approved a bill Monday that would shift $430 million from state rainy-day funds to make a dent in the $2.4 billion owed schools. Republicans argued it's important to continue whittling away the debt to schools. House Speaker Kurt Zellers said it was disappointing to get Dayton's veto letter, especially since the governor said how important it was to start paying schools back when state reserves got healthier." White Earth Ups The Stakes on Its Casino Offer: Via the Star Tribune: "Minnesota’s largest and poorest Indian tribe (The White Earth Nation) is offering to cut the state a $400 million check to cover the state’s share of construction costs for a new Vikings stadium. Tribal chairwoman Erma J. Vizenor made the offer at a Thursday press conference, flanked by House and Senate sponsors willing to try to push a White Earth casino proposal through the end-of-session gridlock of racino bills, pull tab proposals and other gridlocked stadium deals. Casino boosters say the proposal would generate between $726 million and almost $1 billion in gaming revenue for the state during its first five years. Vizenor said the tribe has the backing of Credit Suisse and Rock Gaming on its casino plans." Opinions Differ on Legislative Accomplishments: Via Tom Scheck - MPR: "The governor's official website has a clock on it counting the number of days that have gone by in the session without the legislature passing a jobs bill. Dayton's jobs plan includes a public works bonding bill, a new Vikings stadium and a tax break for businesses that hire veterans and recent college graduates. He complained that lawmakers have not passed any of those proposals. Republicans object to Dayton's characterization. While Dayton's push for a Vikings stadium and a bonding bill may be making the headlines, Republicans argue that their plans are tailored for small and medium-sized businesses. (House Majority Leader Matt) Dean, R-Dellwood, said the Legislature's focus has been on streamlining state approval of business permits, cutting the statewide business property tax and a variety of changes to how teachers are hired and fired." THE WEEK IN REVIEW: THREE ARTICLES WORTH THE READ: Pioneer Press Editorial: LIFO Reform Should Pass Wall Street Journal Editorial: Paul Ryan's Hunger Games Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer: Obama vs. the Constitution HIGHLIGHTS: SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT: Golf - The Masters: Bubba Watson claims his first-ever major championship by defeating Louis Oosthuizen in a thrilling playoff. Take a look, again or for the first time, at Bubba's magical hook shot on the 10th hole in sudden death that set him up for victory: Baseball: After being swept by the Orioles, the Twins play their first home game of the season against the Angles today at 3:10 pm. Music Scene: Duluth-based band Trampled by Turtles is set to perform at First Ave on Wednesday. Consider yourself lucky if you already have tickets as the concert sold out in less than a day.  

Monday Morning Quarterback 4/2/2012

Posted by: Andrew Schmitt | Posted on: April 2nd, 2012 | 0 Comments

Monday Morning Quarterback

Brought to you by The Rouen Group, a public affairs firm, specializing in grassroots advocacy, coalition building, political engagement and communications strategy. THE ROUEN GROUP'S NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT POOL: Standings after Saturday's semifinals (top three): 1.) Joseph Blum - 93 points 1.) David Asp - 93 points 3.) Mark Giga - 80 points Random Fact of the Week: The farthest away you can be from a McDonald’s in the U.S. is 107 miles. (via Real Life Facts - a must follow if you are on Twitter: @RealLifeFacts5): Romney Supporters Yearning for the Personal Side: Via The New York Times political reporter Ashley Parker: "“He’s got some good stories to tell, and I don’t think he tells them very well,” Mrs. Lester said, wondering aloud why Mr. Romney rarely talks about how he supported his wife during her struggles with multiple sclerosis and breast cancer. At a University of Chicago appearance before the Illinois primary, a professor introducing Mr. Romney mentioned that the candidate was named after his father’s first cousin, Milton Romney, who was a quarterback for the Chicago Bears in the 1920s. Mr. Romney took the story and ran with it, joking, “I think by naming me Mitt Romney they assumed I would inherit some of his athletic talent — I did not.” The crowd clearly loved the line, and yet Mr. Romney never mentions it without prompting. At an event this month, a man asked if Mr. Romney would share the story of when he had closed down his Bain office and traveled to Manhattan with his staff to look for a partner’s daughter who had disappeared after a party. “And so there we were, a bunch of folks in suits walking around in the parks of New York and in the streets and showing pictures and saying when we saw teenagers, ‘Have you seen this girl?’ ” Mr. Romney said. The crowd sat mesmerized. When he reached the happy ending — the girl was found safe in a New Jersey home — the audience erupted in applause, clearly eager to hear more." Obama's Healthcare Mandate: Lose-Lose or Lose-Win? Two takes on the political ramifications from the Supreme Court's potential decision: Lose-Lose Case: Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard: "If Obamacare falls, it will be a devastating rebuke to the president. The crown jewel of his presidency will have been repudiated as unconstitutional. His pretensions of uniquely knowing how to get things done in Washington will be shattered. Obama will be a diminished political figure. He will become a lesser president, far from the top ranks where he has envisioned himself. And with Obamacare gone, a threat to individual liberty will have been turned away. Never in more than two centuries of democratic government in America had individuals been told they must buy something or else. Without Obamacare, the vast majority of Americans will still buy health insurance or get it through their employers, Medicare, or Medicaid. But they won’t be forced to." Lose-Win Case: Mark Penn in the Washington Post: "If they (Supreme Court) rule against health-care reform, the justices might be doing Obama a favor. He never really won the public battle on the issue. So he could take the high ground — disagreeing with the decision but showing respect for the court and for the American people, and vowing to continue the fight for health care for more Americans. In his reelection campaign, Obama could propose that states be incentivized to sign on to a plan like the one in Massachusetts, where most voters favor the plan. He could deal with the issue in the same way states are incentivized to require seat belts. Such a strategy would preserve some state choice and leave much of the financing to them as well. Effectively, Obama could still be for universal health care and yet neutralize the issue for the election." France's Presidential Race - A Country in Denial: Via The Economist: "Yet what is most striking about the French election is how little anybody is saying about the country’s dire economic straits. The candidates dish out at least as many promises to spend more as to spend less. Nobody has a serious agenda for reducing France’s eye-watering taxes. Mr Sarkozy now offers voters protectionism, attacks on French tax exiles and talks of the evils of immigration. Mr Hollande promises to expand the state, creating 60,000 teaching posts, partially roll back Mr Sarkozy’s rise in the pension age from 60 to 62, and squeeze the rich (whom he once cheerfully said he did not like), with a 75% top income-tax rate. France has not balanced its books since 1974. Public debt stands at 90% of GDP and rising. Public spending, at 56% of GDP, gobbles up a bigger chunk of output than in any other euro-zone country—more even than in Sweden. The banks are undercapitalised. Unemployment is higher than at any time since the late 1990s and has not fallen below 7% in nearly 30 years. It is not unusual for politicians to avoid some ugly truths during elections; but it is unusual, in recent times in Europe, to ignore them as completely as French politicians are doing. In Britain, Ireland, Portugal and Spain voters have plumped for parties that promised painful realism. Part of the problem is that French voters are notorious for their belief in the state’s benevolence and the market’s heartless cruelty. Almost uniquely among developed countries, French voters tend to see globalisation as a blind threat rather than a source of prosperity. With the far left and the far right preaching protectionism, any candidate will feel he must shore up his base." Vikings Stadium: Charitable Gambling Deal Near Agreement: Via the Pioneer Press: "Negotiators for the House of Representatives and charitable gaming interests struck a deal this weekend to provide more tax relief for charities, potentially removing one of the remaining obstacles blocking progress on a Vikings stadium bill at the Capitol. Under the new deal, the state would get $52 million per year to devote to stadium bonds, and the charities would get $20 million in tax relief plus the opportunity to get another $16 million in new revenue from tipboard games. The new stadium bill also specifies four backup sources of funding that would kick in if revenue from electronic pulltabs and bingo games should not be enough to finance the state's share of the stadium project. The following revenue sources would kick in if needed, in the following order: a tax on luxury boxes; a sports-themed lottery game; excess revenue from Hennepin County taxes; an admissions tax." Minnesota Senate Passes GOP Tax Relief Measures: Via MPR: "The Minnesota Senate voted Friday to reduce and eventually eliminate the state's property tax on businesses and to give an income tax break to married couples. It directs about $30 million to begin reducing the state's general levy on commercial and industrial property, paid by every business property owner in the state. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Julianne Ortman, said leaving that money in the hands of the business owners would allow them to not just hire new employees but also put money into their properties and keep money in their communities. The Senate tax bill directs another $70 million to altering the state's income tax to remove a penalty that hits married couples who jointly file. Together the tax relief would cost the state about $100 million in lost tax revenue. Ortman would cover that by cutting state administrative costs and dipping into budget reserves. The House passed a tax bill earlier this month that also begins to reduce the business property tax, though the lost revenue is covered by a different approach. Ortman said she and the House Taxes Committee chairman have already started discussing ways to bring their bills into alignment, and that they would welcome members of Dayton's administration to engage as well." Dean, Benson, Marty and Byberg Among Those Winning Contested Endorsements on Saturday: Via MPR: "In House District 38B incumbent Republicans Matt Dean of Dellwood and Carol McFarlane of White Bear Lake were paired by redistricting. Dean, the House Majority Leader won the GOP endorsement on the first ballot. Delegates in Senate District 31 also had to choose between two GOP colleagues: first-term Sen. Michelle Benson of Ham Lake and third-term Sen. Michael Jungbauer of East Bethel. Delegates voted five times before Benson had the 60 percent to win. Jungbauer stepped aside and said he was happy to support her. In Senate District 54, DFL Sens. John Marty of Roseville and Mary Jo McGuire of Falcon Heights were pitted against each other. Marty won on the first ballot and McGuire said she'll retire. And in the 7th Congressional District, the Republican party endorsed Lee Byberg to challenge longtime DFL Congressman Collin Peterson. Byberg won the endorsement on the first ballot over state Sen. Gretchen Hoffman." THE WEEK IN REVIEW: THREE ARTICLES WORTH THE READ: Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel: The GOP's Health Care Eeyores Washington Post's Michael Gerson: Paul Ryan's Irreplaceable Contribution Washington Post's Philip Rucker: Mitt Romney's Veepstakes Begin HIGHLIGHTS: SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT: NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: Final Four: Kentucky defeats Louisville 69-61 and Kansas comes from behind to beat Ohio State 64-62. Kentucky will play Kansas tonight for the National Championship on CBS, tip-off is at 8:23 pm.  
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