A hometown newspaper with a local office, local owners & lots of local news

Harry's Gang: Single-issue politicians don't serve voters well

Business people often think that any government regulation is an intrusion into their business and should not be allowed. In fact, that theme has become a plank in the Republican platform, as evidenced by the likes of Grover Norquist — who had some success in the earlier part of this century with his “no new taxes” pledge — and with recent politicians who have campaigned on a promise of eliminating government regulations.

Sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are wrong. For example, Duluth used to be a very frustrating place for construction projects. Builders complained about the myriad levels of bureaucracy necessary to get anything done, and it was true — just when you thought you had done everything, another department would chime in that some obscure approval was needed, which, of course, took forever. Something had to change.

So, a few years ago, a new mayor streamlined the process, to make it more friendly to contractors, while preserving the regulations that the city required to make buildings safe and sturdy. In that case, the complainers were right: while I believe most building codes are necessary, regulations also need to be clear and easy to follow.

But often the complainers are wrong. Take unleaded gasoline, for example, or seatbelts. Both changes were met with ferocious opposition by the gas and automobile industries. And both spent a lot of money convincing people that if such regulations were passed, it would doom their businesses and cause huge problems for consumers. And their marketing campaigns worked — both issues were divisive and sparked heated debates between those who opposed government regulations and those who felt such regulations were good for consumers.

We all know how those issues worked out: seatbelts are universally used now, and unleaded gasoline is the norm, and neither the oil companies nor auto manufacturers went out of business. In that case, the complainers were wrong. And the consumers won — with lower death rates from car accidents, and fewer cases of lead poisoning.

As for Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which was signed by 95 percent of Republicans running for national offices as recently as 2012, it turned out to be a leading cause of our nation’s huge national debt and enormous budget deficits. Such a pledge is good for the country only if it’s accompanied by a “I won’t spend a bunch of money we don’t have, just to benefit my district” pledge. That never happened, of course, and the politicians who praised themselves for not raising taxes took no responsibility for the massive deficits.

So, it’s apparent that single-issue views in government are counterproductive. Sure, taxes didn’t go up, but now our bond ratings are low and the dollar has been devalued. Is that success? Yes, if you’re a single-issue politician. No, if you’re an average American.

It’s a similar situation with mask mandates. We know that Covid-19 is transmitted by airborne particles and droplets. We know that wearing masks reduces the chance of breathing in other people’s water vapor from their breath. And nobody I know likes to wear a mask all day. But you’ve successfully eliminated mask mandates? Great for political theater; lousy for the crowded hospitals and those getting sick. People oppose mask mandates not because they infringe on our personal freedoms, but simply because it’s the other party who has been proposing them.

Our representative in Congress, Pete Stauber, has moved into this category. He opposes everything if it’s been suggested by a Democrat. I saw his post about Gov. Walz starting the legislative session by passing out cookies and lemon bars to legislators from both sides of the aisle. Apparently, this neighborly act was offensive to Pete Stauber. Why? I don’t know. But I do know plenty of his followers will scoff at Walz no matter what he does — even if it’s a simple act of comradery. I’m not expecting Republicans to suddenly pass Walz’s legislative agenda just because he passed out treats. But I also wasn’t expecting harsh criticism for it either.

Stauber opposes mask mandates, too. But I wonder if he’s thinking things through? I don’t know anybody who wants to get sick. And I don’t know anyone who is willing to get Covid just to prove a point, especially with the threat of long-term Covid. And some mask mandates may go too far. But too often, complaints about wearing masks are just whining. I wish Covid hadn’t happened, and I’m willing to wear a mask if there’s any reasonable chance that it will help it go away.

Pete Radosevich is the publisher of the Pine Knot News community newspaper and an attorney in Esko who hosts the cable access talk show Harry’s Gang on CAT-7. His opinions are his own. Contact him at [email protected].

Rendered 07/11/2024 18:48