Politics with J. Patrick Coolican

Life expectancy and diseases of despair

Good morning.

Life expectancy in the United States declined last year, according to a new report, blamed on middle aged deaths from heart disease, which could be the effect of increasing obesity, as well as drug overdoses, alcohol related deaths and suicide -- the so called diseases of despair. Washington Post.

Check out this chart of health care spending v. life expectancy since 1980. What happened?

Rep. Keith Ellison will indeed resign his seat if he’s elected chair of the DNC, Allison Sherry reports. The DNC election is Feb. 23 in Atlanta. 

Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar says via social media that she was harassed by a D.C. cab driver while at a conference there, subjected to anti-Muslim taunts and a threat to remove her hijab. She says she’ll file a report (to whom?) when she gets back to Minnesota from the D.C. conference and declined to answer questions from the Star Tribune. Hmmm. 

A DFL source of mine wrote me, expressing skepticism about the incident.

DFL enviro caucus decided last night to recommend DFL table a resolution that was viewed as anti-mining by Rangers and is supposed to be taken up at state party meeting in Lakeville Saturday. So DFLers breathe a sigh of relief that they have avoided major conflict, but the enviro caucus still wants want a robust debate on copper nickel mining between now and 2018. More in Friday’s Star Tribune.

Friendly profile of the Center of the American Experiment, whose new leader Power Line’s John Hinderaker has sought to expand the think tank’s profile beyond a wonkish conservative few to a wider audience via new and legacy media and public events. (They host Michelle Mac Donald -- “War on Cops” -- today at the Minneapolis Hilton. Tickets.) Interesting: Minnesota liberals don’t really have an equivalent with this kind of reach.

I know you’re waiting in suspense: Historical Society will decide the Capitol art dispute today.

Over the past few days, in three conversations with politicos, it’s increasingly clear the DFL is desperate for Sen. Amy Klobuchar to run for governor. The obvious problem: If she wants to run for president, she’d have to move to Iowa almost immediately after getting elected governor, with a likely GOP Legislature nipping at her. She probably thinks she can survive on three hours sleep instead of her usual four.

Meanwhile, Mayor Chris Coleman, who is not running for re-election, is hitting up St. Paul developers for campaign money for a presumptive run for governor, a source tells me.

All the while, the city has to start getting ready to cut $32 million from its budget in the event it continues losing litigation over business tax levies. Story doesn’t tell me what percentage of the budget $32M is. Anyone?

Minneapolis budget includes levy increase of 5.5 percent, Belz and Roper report.

Just a thought: Since cities are now the Democrats’ geographic base, they should probably make sure they are well run and affordable places to live. Just a thought.

A DFL legislator made a good point to me about the highly touted MCHA (which is the now defunct high risk insurance pool that helped Minnesota have one of the lowest rates of uninsured residents, pre-Obamacare): It cost the state a lot of money when it was up and running, even aside from the two major bailouts. The annual budget was $236M (funded through a tax on insurance premiums), according to this 2011 NIH report. There’s no free lunch, especially when it comes to insuring high risk patients.

Once (and future?) GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson had an op-ed in yesterday’s paper comparing Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” to what he calls the swamp of St. Paul. Regarding the commissioner raises: There’s nothing inherently “corrupt,” if that’s what Johnson’s claiming, in Dayton giving his commissioners raises. It was a public policy decision to give raises to people who manage billions of dollars and thousands of employees and were making less than Amway salespeople with a decent downline. (By the way, the administrator of Hennepin County, where Johnson is a commissioner, easily makes more than all of Dayton’s cabinet.) You can argue the raises were poor public policy -- and it was most assuredly stupid politics -- but Dept. of Human Services commissioner is a thankless, horrible job. If that’s a gift to a political ally, I’d hate to think what you’d give an enemy. Anyway, read the whole thing and judge for yourself.

The 2018 Senate map. Not since 1970 has one party (the Dems) entered a year on defense in so many states.

Hedge funder, billboard lawyer and hotel heir for governor of three big states. This is the new Democratic bench? Sheesh.

From yesterday’s Shorenstein report, I left out the obvious: Yes, Trump got extremely negative coverage.

Smart piece by retired Air Force General now Duke law prof: If you’re concerned about Trump putting military guys in his White House and cabinet, bear this in mind: It’s not the generals who get us into wars. It’s usually the civilians who have never seen combat.

Not normal: President-elect badmouths a union leader on Twitter, then the guy starts getting threatening phone calls.

Nice tribute from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to Uncle Joe.

Correspond: (Commissioner Johnson already has my email, but for the rest of you) patrick.coolican@startribune.com and @jpcoolican.

Have a nice day everyone.

-- J. Patrick Coolican