Editor’s note: Welcome back to Capitol Retort, our weekly review of issues in state and national news, with input from a rotating cast of local characters.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity, but not unity. Any instances of agreement are accidental. Our respondents are comfortable sounding-off in any way, and about anything, and this is no place for them to stop.
Question 1: In 10 years time, how will people remember the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, and the state’s version, MNsure?
Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston: That it was unaffordable. It will be a distant memory, because MNsure will be gone. It’s been the most abysmal failure in state history. We’ve spent $250 million, and it’s gone down a black hole, and we have nothing for it.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis: We’ll hardly remember all this debate, and it will be just standard practice. All of this hoo-hah right now will be forgotten about, much the same way that the hoo-hah around Medicare and Social Security, those basic things we’ve done to level the playing field … have been forgotten.
Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington: It’s highly unlikely MNsure will exist in a decade. Politicians only have certain tolerance for embarrassment, and MNsure’s already exceeded that. Regarding Obamacare, I think the framework will be in place, but it will be changed significantly, based on technological advances and current events.
Ryan Winkler, former DFL legislator: In 10 years time, people will remember the Affordable Care Act as a good place to start for affordable universal health care. And MNsure will be … how will people remember MNsure? I’m tempted to say they won’t remember it. I think in 10 years time, people will be wondering what ever happened to the Paul Bunyan and Babe [the Blue Ox] insurance plans.
Question 2: Both House Speaker John Boehner and, locally, Sen. Branden Petersen are leaving their seats early. What do you think of early retirements by these obviously frustrated legislators?
Dibble: I am completely sympathetic. They’re retiring for different reasons. Branden, I think, to support his young family. Speaker Boehner, it’s yet more evidence of the extremism and dysfunctionality the Republican Party, and how it’s just throwing sand in the wheels. These are intensely personal, human jobs. It takes a tremendous toll, even in the best of circumstances. If we’re not able to get and do what we need, and bring our best selves, sometimes people take that opportunity to re-evaluate their decision about being in public life.
Garofalo: I have no problem with it. Especially when elected officials have extremely bad tans, such as Sen. Petersen or Speaker Boehner. (Laughs.)
Davids: One was in a leadership position, one really not. I can understand stepping away from a leadership position, committee chairmanship. But I do think it’s different to not serve out your term. I can’t imagine leaving during your term, unless there’s some unmitigated thing that’s out of your control. We all get frustrated, but I think you’ve made a commitment, and you need to honor that.
Winkler: As the only politician in American history who resigned from office to actually spend more time with his family, I’m sympathetic to where they’re coming from. I think in Petersen’s case, he probably had family reasons for needing to earn a better income. I’m not sure it was frustration so much as just practical choices. And Speaker Boehner? I see that more as limping away from a job he was never cut out for. I’m not sure frustration with the difficulties of the legislative bodies really summarizes why people leave. I think they just realize it’s not tenable anymore.
Question 3: More than a quarter of American recruits to ISIS overseas have come from Minnesota. What should we should be doing to address that trend?
Davids: We need to secure our borders, for one thing, because there are people getting in here who shouldn’t get in here. The other thing, I think you need to look at the banking system, and see where the funds are coming from. It’s a frightening, frightening deal, what ISIS is doing. ISIS could’ve been taken care of in two weeks if our military had been allowed to engage and take care of the problem. This is something the Obama administration has failed on.
Dibble: I think, really, breaking down the isolation the immigrant community finds itself in is important, especially these young men. That’s most key: Giving folks a sense of purpose and belonging, and connection, and hope. Certainly, some of the practical concerns around security issues … how these folks get recruited is important, and that needs to remain vigorous.
Garofalo: We need to tell these young men that in America, you don’t have to blow yourself up to get 72 virgins. [Laughs.] But in all seriousness, outreach and education to the communities affected is very important, and it’s something we need to do a better job of.
Winkler: That is something we need to learn about from people all around the world. Here in Belgium, and in Europe, we face the same challenges we face in Minnesota, with disaffected youth looking for some meaning in some other country far away, in something that’s almost like a fantasy fight. We need to be creative and understanding … and be very, very careful that there’s no sign of any planned action in Minnesota, or the U.S.
Question 4: The weather’s starting to cool off. What’s your favorite combination of food and drink to keep warm as the season changes?
Winkler: Is beer a food? I don’t think it’s changed much. It’s pretty tough to beat a combination of a cold beer and chili.
Garofalo: I like pizza and wine. Spaghetti and wine. Steak and wine. Come to think of it really anything with wine is my best fall meal.
Dibble: Most definitely, hot chocolate is fantastic, but I also really, really like warm apple juice or apple cider. Food? People will laugh, because it’s become popular to sneer at everything pumpkin-flavored. It’s the coming of some sort of cultural abomination, and a sure road to hell. But I love everything pumpkin flavored. You name it, throw pumpkin, pumpkin spice in it, I’m good to go.
Davids: Food, if it’s A, B, C, D, or “all of the above,” I always take all of the above. And for a drink, it’s tough to be a hot apple cider.