Just last week, the Minnesota State Legislature voted to commit $975 million dollars to build a new Vikings Stadium. Half of that amount was funded by the people of Minnesota (to be clear, our share is about half a billion dollars – $350 million from electronic pull tabs and $150 million from the City of Minneapolis).
During the debate that preceded our legislators encumbering half a billion dollars, Vikings fans occupied the capitol. Clad in purple zumbas, their faces covered in paint, adults dressed as superheroes, Vikings, and some other figures that defy description, they charged the stands cheering on their public subsidy. They sent emails in support of their cause (we presume they put down their shields and swords long enough to type).
There were other fans in the stands as well, however. These fans, opposed more to the half billion dollar commitment than to the stadium itself, booed as their “team” didn’t prevail in votes. They too wrote scathing emails to their local leaders. Their faces were not painted. They work jeans or slacks instead of zumbas. Their uniform was that of the common, hard-working taxpayer.
Given the clash between these teams, one half expected to see scantily clad cheerleaders doing high kicks on the capitol steps, or Wally the beer man walking the halls of the capital.
What happened these last few months was an amazing feat to behold. Significant policy issues could not break through the defensive line of football politics. What didn’t we hear about while the crowds were roaring? Five state union contracts have not been renegotiated and this will cost the Minnesota another $140 million dollars in July due to automatic pay increases. Our schools still have money outstanding to them through “school funding shifts”, a.k.a. money held back from our kids. State and local pension fund reform and regulation reform has not been achieved. Our infrastructure still needs repair and we still have a spending problem that has not been adequately addressed. Various other needed governmental reforms have not be debated because it appears there isn’t a mascot that can be found to represent their cause.
This week the fans on both sides will be back. The Governor will take out a gold pen with purple ink and spend $975 million dollars on behalf of the Minnesota taxpayers. The man in the purple spandex will be back cheering with his sidekick Ragnar the Viking cheering on their team. Opponents will decry the spending and loss of the free market.
Just like every game, when this is over, the stands will be left with the remnants of the contest. As the horns fall silent and the lights are dimmed, the guys with no uniforms or facepaint will begin the work of cleaning up the mess and putting things back in order.
Minnesota will still have five union contracts on autopilot, crumbling bridges and roads, school books to buy, governmental reform to achieve, pensions to reform and a state budget and regulations that still must be right sized for the new economy.
When the cleaning crew looks around for their fans in face paint to help cheer them on silence will be heard. There will be no costumed figures in cheering on their work and achievements. We will have to rely on the much-undervalued and, now, seldom seen virtue of doing hard work for no reason other than the work needs to be done.
Developing political policy by face paint is a dangerous prospect. Priorities become over-weighted and decisions are made without considering the full economic consequences. Political figures weigh every decision by the amount of outcry they hear (or the amount of facepaint applied) in a finite amount of time, not the long term implications for other more important priorities.
Our state has a lot of hard work to do. The game has ended.
This time, let’s all join in cheering the cleaning crew and encourage them to finish the work that still needs to be done on behalf of the state. And, there’s nothing to say you can’t join them and push a broom with face paint on too.
Jennifer DeJournett is the President and co-founder of VOICES of Conservative Women and Executive Director of VOICESPAC.