AP Coverage Of Minn. Shutdown Frets Over Govt. Employee 'Brain Drain,' Doesn't Mention Taxes

In their Sunday evening coverage of the Minnesota government shutdown, Associated Press reporters Steve Karnowski and Amy Forliti failed to mention any form of the word "tax," failed to mention "spending" in the context of government outlays, and fretted that a prolonged shutdown might cause a "brain drain" from state government.

The failure to bring up taxes is clearly the item's most egregious oversight, since the shutdown is all about taxes, specifically Democratic Governor Mark Dayton's refusal to sign a state budget that doesn't contain tax increases on high income-earners.

On the plus side, though it took an one of the people interviewed to say it and the disclosure didn't appear until the end, the wire service has acknowledged that "Dayton vetoed all major state agency funding bills Republicans passed at the end of the session." In other words, it is inarguably the case that Dayton chose to shut down the government when he could have kept it running.

Here are several paragraphs from the AP pair's report, concentrating on the ones very late in the story which contain workers' varying opinions of the situation:

Idled Minn. public employees holding on -- for now

(Paragraph 4)

Many of the 22,000 public employees out of work in Minnesota's budget impasse say they will get through the extended layoff by tapping into personal savings, relying on a spouse's income or unemployment checks, and making household spending cuts. But others are looking for new jobs, creating the potential for a brain drain that would be one more negative from the nation's longest state government shutdown in a decade.

(Paragraphs 13 through 21)

... Jim Ullmer, of Crystal, a commercial vehicle inspector for the Department of Public Safety, has been babysitting his 18-month-old granddaughter, who he took to an anti-shutdown union rally at the Capitol last week.

... Ullmer also has been spending time on the phone. He's the chief steward statewide for members in his agency who belong to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. He tells members curious about how long the shutdown will last to call their legislators.

"Ask them. They're the ones who are keeping us out here," Ullmer said.

The workers' money woes contrast sharply with the position of state lawmakers, who are still eligible for their salaries during the shutdown - although some have chosen not to take them. And while their unions are a traditional power base for Democrats and support for Dayton remains strong, it's not universal.

Brian Lindholt, of Minneapolis, says Republicans could end the shutdown simply by meeting the Democratic governor halfway.

... But Pakieser, who belongs to the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, criticized the unions for their close alliance with the governor.

"I feel like Dayton has gone out of the way to mislead people about his compromise attitude," Pakieser said. He said a video is circulating on YouTube of Dayton imploring lawmakers in February to join him in pledging not to shut down the government, yet Dayton vetoed all major state agency funding bills Republicans passed at the end of the session.

"It just looks to me like he wanted to force a shutdown. ... He chose to spread maximum pain throughout the state government," Pakieser said.

The final paragraphs cite and quote a gentlemen who believes both parties are equally to blame.

As to the "brain drain" argument, c'mon. It's hard to believe that as well-paid as public-sector employees are that finding others to fill in the breach wouldn't be all that difficult.

As noted earlier, there's no discussion of Dayton's obsessive desire to raise taxes, and how he'd rather shut down the government and idle 22,000 state employees than keep the government running and work on justifying the increase he wants. The wire service reporters' defense may be that it was supposed to be a human interest story about how public-sector employees are faring, but shouldn't readers know why it's happening to have meaningful context for understanding the the woe-is-us factor?

The first half of the previous paragraph sounds like someone we know in Washington, doesn't it? It would not be a surprise if that person is also looking to shut down the government to make a tax-raising point. The success or failure of Dayton's effort would appear to have significance beyond the Gopher State.

Cross-posted at Bizzyblog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.