Tag Archives: economic crisis

Feeling the cold

Shivering your way toward the end of the year? You’re not alone. The Star Tribune reports increasing numbers of MInnesotans appyling for heating assistance, up eight percent statewide over 2008 and 19.5 percent over 2009. Increases in the metro area are even higher: Continue reading

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The president and the fat cats

Okay – we all enjoyed hearing Obama criticize the fat cat financiers on 60 Minutes last night, but what will happen when he meets with them at the White House today? Continue reading

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Getting hungry, getting help

More Minnesotans are using food shelves and food stamps, according to a series of reports this weekend. The Twin Cities Daily Planet reports that food shelf use is up across Minnesota, and particularly in the Twin Cities: Continue reading

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Minnesota forecast: $1.2 BILLION in red ink

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State economist Tom Stinson released the November 2009 budget forecast yesterday, and the numbers are grim: a looming $1.2 billion shortfall in the 2010-2011 biennium and a staggering $5.4 billion deficit in 2012-2013. This is by far the biggest news in Minnesota today – yes, much bigger than the headlined Petters conviction, the rally at the capitol for a new Vikings stadium, or the MOA apology to Sarah Palin. The shortfall is due to declining employment and income for Minnesotans, which results in lower tax collections. The governor’s initial response was to talk about delaying local government aid (LGA) due to be paid to local governments in December, and to slash LGA for next year. Of course, he won’t consider raising tax rates, even on the wealthiest Minnesotans, even though LGA cuts will mean less police and fire protection, less road and highway maintenance, and less money for medical care and schools.

Stinson said that the recession is over, but that recovery will be extremely slow.

Minnesota’s October unemployment rate was well below the national average, but that does not mean the state’s economy has avoided the worst of this recession. … Employment in Minnesota is now expected to fall by more than 150,000 jobs between the first quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2010, 30,000 more than projected last February. If this forecast holds true, more than a decade of job creation will be lost. The combination of substantial current and expected  job losses and what is expected to be a slow recovery, leaves Minnesota employment below its pre-recession level through 2013.

Here are links to the report itself, and to insightful commentary:

Summary of the report (pdf, 9 pages)
Full text of the report (pdf, 77 pages)
Press conference handouts (pdf, 9 pages, mostly tables and graphs)
MPR report:

After seeing the forecast, Gov. Pawlenty repeated his long-standing opposition to tax increases of any kind. He said the budget should be balanced by spending cuts alone. Pawlenty also said he may be forced to unilaterally cut state aid payments to cities and counties known as LGA.

“For the most part, we are going to wait and invite the Legislature to join us in trying to find a collaborative solution to this challenge, but we may not be able to do that entirely as it relates to some payment schedules,” Pawlenty said. “One of them could be the LGA payment schedule at the end of December.”

Minnesota Budget Bites calls for “long-term solutions to long-term problems,” and insists that tax increases are one part of the solution:

We need to raise revenues to help us resolve the current deficit – and future deficits. We can’t solve the whole problem by raising revenues, but it is unsustainable to continue to address budget deficits almost entirely by relying on one-time resources, spending cuts and budget gimmicks. Not only are those decisions hurting Minnesotans who need help the most during the current economic downturn, but they are also reducing the investments Minnesota needs to position our state to take advantage of an economic upswing. We wouldn’t be alone in raising taxes. Nationwide, 35 other states are currently facing budget deficits. And during the last year, at least 30 states have enacted tax increases to help close budget holes. It’s our turn.

• The Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) noted in a press release that “Last May, MAPE outlined millions of dollars in waste that included out-of-state travel, uncollected revenue and the Pawlenty Administration’s bloated management. The result of MAPE shining the light on certain administration practices was $10 million trimmed from out-of-state travel and the Department of Revenue stepping up collection efforts on money owed to our state. These are positive steps, but more action is needed to cut waste to preserve vital services for Minnesotans.” The May MAPE press release identified $350 million in proposed savings.

• Politics in Minnesota offers Steve Parry’s analysis of the amount of money being spent, month by month, and the implications for unallotment and budget cuts.

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NEWS DAY | Leaning on mortgage companies to do the right thing

With record (and rising) number of foreclosures in Minnesota and across the nation, the Obama administration wants mortgage providers to work harder at keeping people in their homes. Prime complaint – mortgage holders aren’t using the federal programs put in place to help homeowners. NPR reports on the $75 billion Making Homes Affordable program: Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | Stuffing and starving

Minnesota is the top turkey state, according to National Geographic. Together with North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia, and California, we produced two out of three of the 46 million turkeys that landed on Thanksgiving tables across the country last week. The great national pig-out (bird-out?) segued naturally into Black Friday’s over-consumption, with some stores opening on Thanksgiving Day and others in the wee hours of the morning on Friday. Online sales started on Thanksgiving Day, too, with Reuters reporting big increases over last year. In-store sales rose about 0.5% on Black Friday. Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | Homes at risk in Minnesota / Dragons, dinosaurs and Quist / Students vs. superintendent candidate

Minnesotans losing homes A record 92,500 Minnesota homes are either in foreclosure or in danger of foreclosure, reports the Star Tribune. Altogether, that’s just over ten percent of the 900,000 home loan mortages in the state.  Some 62,000 mortgage holders were behind don their mortgages during the third quarter. Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | UnitedHealth vs. health care reform / Tale of two “students” / Joking judge crosses line / Selling cheap, making money / Pakistan bombing

a no healthcare symbol

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UnitedHealth vs. health care reform Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth is trying to turn employees into lobbyists, urging them to write to senators and newspapers to stop the health care reform bill, reports the Star Tribune.

In an aggressive new effort to influence the congressional health care debate, UnitedHealth Group this week e-mailed its 75,000 U.S. employees, urging them to contact their senators and providing two form letters attacking specific legislative proposals.

In addition, the Minnetonka-based insurer urged employees to write letters to local newspapers and then share those letters with the company’s lobbying arm.

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NEWS DAY | Unemployment: 10.2% in October / Finding Fort Hood news / MN college funds gone / Don’t ask, don’t tell on MN tax refunds / Pawlenty’s bad idea / Bachmann Tea Party

“]Dorothea Lange unemployment lineUnemployment: 10.2% in October U.S. unemployment numbers for October rose more than expected, from 9.8% in September to 10.2% in October. Some 35.6% of the unemployed had been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.  The total number of officially unemployed, plus discouraged workers, people working part time because they cannot find full time jobs, and those “marginally attached” to the work force – 17.5% in October.

President Obama is expected to sign an extension of unemployment benefits today. Yesterday’s report of the number of new unemployment compensation claims filed showed 512,000 new claims, down slightly from the previous week.

Minnesota’s unemployment rate fell to 7.3% in September, but is expected to rise in October. October figures will be released on November 19.


Finding Fort Hood news Yesterday’s shooting at Fort Hood, which left at least 13 dead, is all over the news today. Over at the Poynter Institute, Al Tompkins has a round-up of news sources, from the U.S. Army Twitter page to the New York Times Twitter list, and a comprehensive summary of what is known about the shooter. As hate groups lined up to denounce this as a Muslim crime, joined by Fox News, the Council on American Islamic Relations condemned the shooting, saying in part, “No religious or political ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence.”


MN college funds gone Minnesota college scholarship funds for the year ran out, and officials dipped into next year’s budgeted funds to keep their promises to this year’s students, reports the Star Tribune. The main reason is greatly increased college enrollment, as displaced workers return to school to upgrade their skills and more high school grads head to college because there are no jobs available. In one dramatic example, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities projected a 1.6% enrollment increase last year, but enrollment actually grew by 8%.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education has $145.5 million allotted for MN scholarship grants, but will actually spend $158.4 million. Taking the money from next year’s allotment means meeting this year’s commitment, but falling even farther behind next year. Governor Pawlenty’s spokesperson said the governor will not recommend increasing next year’s funding.

Don’t ask, don’t tell on MN tax refunds Minnesota businesses that are owed corporate income tax and sales tax refunds by the state will have to wait a little longer, reports the Star Tribune. The reason: lower-than-predicted tax revenues, due to the recession. The state’s approach: don’t ask, don’t tell:

The state is currently delaying $128 million in corporate tax refunds to 461 companies and $11.9 million in sales tax refunds to about 350 to 400 businesses until late December. However, the Revenue Department is not notifying the firms unless companies specifically request a status update on their tax refunds. (emphasis added)

T-Paw’s not-so-new, not-so-good idea Governor Tim Pawlenty proposed a constitutional amendment Thursday, but critics immediately pointed out major flaws. The Minnesota Independent has a succinct read on it:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty unveiled a proposal on Tuesday to amend the state’s constitution in order to keep a lid on government spending. His plan would cap the size of the state’s general fund budget at the amount of revenue received in the previous two year cycle. But according to figures compiled by the Senate Majority Research office, Pawlenty has never submitted a budget proposal that would have met the fiscal strictures of his proposed amendment.

Not only is the amendment a bad idea in MN, and completely unlikely to pass in the legislature or in a voter referendum, but it is a bad idea that has recently been rejected in other states, according to Minnesota Budget Bites:

Tax and spending limit ballot initiatives were just rejected on Tuesday in both Maine (60 percent opposed it) and Washington (55 percent opposed it). So far, serious efforts to pass similar initiatives have failed in 20 states. …
And it’s unlikely to be popular with Minnesotans. In fact, Minnesota voters have recently demonstrated that they support tax increases when they are needed – note the recent successes just this week of school referenda.

The Minnesota Budget Bites post gives a detailed analysis of what the governor has proposed, what’s wrong with that proposal, and why it doesn’t matter all that much, because the governor “actually plays no role in amending the state’s constitution.”

Bachmann Tea Party vs MN true stories As MN’s Michele Bachmann rallied about 10,000 health care reform opponents in Washington, the AARP announced its support for the House health care bill.

Josh Marshall noted that the mainstream GOP leaders showed up and spoke at the Bachmann-orchestrated event, even though obviously uncomfortable with her tone:

Early this morning The Politico got hold of a Republican Study Committee email asking staffers to send their members to the event but also to avoid words like “rally” and “protest” in favor of “press conference” or “press event”. Clearly, there was an effort to sanitize the event and get away from Bachmann’s high-strung rhetoric about a “last stand” against health care reform. So on the one hand the House Republicans wanted to take over the event. But they also felt the need to get out in front of it, to be in front of the crowd. It was a perfect, real-time illustration of the current struggle within the GOP, with the party establishment trying to harness but also control and not be overrun by the grassroots mobilization on the right.

Among the more outrageous statements: a sign carried by protesters with an enlarged photo of dead bodies at Dachau, comparing health care reform to “National Socialist Health Care.”

For Minnesota stories of the actual impact of lack of health care coverage as the House begins debate on health care reform, see stories of GAMC recipients on the TC Daily Planet and twenty-four stories of people who suffered from lack of coverage collected by Take Action Minnesota.

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NEWS DAY | Recession over! So is your job! / Police, property and punishment / Challenging Pawlenty’s cuts / Astroturfing in DC / Agreement in Honduras

jobs on a white background with a magnifierRecession is over! So is your job! I was wrong yesterday in questioning the accuracy of conflicting journalistic verdicts on the economy. Today everyone is on the same page. The GDP is growing! The recession is over! And even though Target announced that it will cut 85 jobs from its 1100-person marketing department in Bloomington, its spokesperson told MPR, ” “This is not a reflection on the current or anticipated economy.” I bet that makes the 85 people feel a whole lot better. Continue reading

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