Our continuing and increasingly dubious experiment with starving the public sector in Minnesota is producing almost daily reports of questionable budget cuts. A Star Tribune front-page story on disappearing lifeguards at public beaches is the latest manifestation of our increasingly penurious fiscal policy. Anti-government conservatives like to claim that much or most of government investment is unnecesssary or superfluous, and that all we really need are military forces, courts and police to protect property. But it turns out that a relentless ratcheting down of public investment affects public safety in myriad ways: crumbling bridges, less attention to mesothelioma incidence in northern Minnesota miners, Local Government Aid cuts that force police and emergency service layoffs, hospital reimbursement cuts that hamper emergency rooms in the midst of an ongoing swine flu pandemic, and on and on. Public safety is a primary responsibility of our entirely legitimate and mostly effective state-and-local government systems. Most of the things those governments do eventually have something to do with public safety and providing for the "General Welfare," an often overlooked primary goal that is spelled out in the United States Constitution. And these systems can't be funded without fair and ample tax revenues.
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