Conversation with Former Minnesota Republican Governor Arne Carlson

Jeff Ettinger: Governor Carlson, thanks for talking to me today about the Inflation Reduction Act. I was really gratified late last month that Congress passed the bill. I really appreciated the focus of the bill, particularly in one of the most egregious areas of inflation that we've all been facing for years in Southern Minnesota, which is healthcare costs.

We’re finally cutting Medicare loose to negotiate on prescription drug costs, setting caps on insulin cost for Seniors, setting caps on out-of-pocket costs, and keeping thousands of Southern Minnesotans on the program through Affordable Care Act subsidies which were about to run out. That could have been just yet another burden on folks. What was your take on the Inflation Reduction Act?

Gov. Arne Carlson: I was pleasantly surprised. A lot more thought and a lot more long-term planning went into it than I had originally thought. It is really one of the most solid pieces of legislation that I've seen in decades. I'm having a very difficult time understanding why anybody in the United States Congress voted against it. 

What I find interesting is now we have Republicans who voted against it running around their districts claiming that they were instrumental in passing it, but they didn't want to vote for it, which I find rather odd.

JE: To me the other key area of focus was on climate legislation. Every day on the news,we’re confronting unprecedented events on a global basis and we have to do something about it. 

This bill had common-sense support for the clean energy industry so that we can accelerate our change towards more green energy, and also incentives for consumers, whether they’re a homeowner or a car owner, as well as incentives for farmers for things like cover crops. It’s long overdue and really helpful legislation across a number of areas.

AC: I like that you stress this idea that it's a transition because the problem is that climate change is going more rapidly than anybody thought. This bill allows us to make some major changes by 2030, which is less than 8 years away. 

You mentioned the impacts on Southern Minnesota – one of those impacts is going to be on the ability of Southern Minnesota counties with all these windmills that generate tremendous amounts of electricity to be able to distribute that electricity into the central system. I think the bill would provide something like 2 billion dollars for the purpose of building more transmission. It’s going to be about a 60% increase in transmission availability between now and 2029.

JE: So, this vote took place three days after my opponent was elected to Congress to fill the special term and right out of the gate he calls this “an easy no.” Apparently, he's not in the same boat as people in the district that are struggling with health care costs or that are looking for solutions on the climate. The only way I can figure this is “an easy no” for him is that that's how the party bosses told him to vote, so he didn't really have to spend a lot of time thinking about it.

See, that’s one of the problems with our democracy these days. I was just curious, what’s your perspective as a former Republican governor of our great state – how do you see the polarization going on in Washington?

AC: I think we have to take the charge of governing much more seriously than we currently do. I come out of the system where Republicans had a given approach to a problem, Democrats had a different approach, and then you can negotiate the differences. The point was that you got something done! 

Now there is no compromise. More importantly, it takes so many people in the majority party off the hook. I don't think Finstad even read the bill, because I don't think it's possible to read the bill and then conclude that it's a big spending bill when in fact it’s a deficit reduction bill. 

Something like 727 billion dollars of income comes in as result of closing loopholes on the very wealthy and corporations that currently don't pay taxes. At the same time, it spends about 427 billion, leaving you with about three hundred billion dollars that goes towards reducing the deficit. How in the world can anybody say that's a big spending when in fact it's quite the opposite? I think the proof in the pudding is that so many Republicans running for re-election want to campaign on it when they clearly voted against it.

JE: I appreciate those observations, and I really appreciate the support you've shown for me in this campaign. We've clearly been out reaching out to moderates, reaching out to Republicans who want something beyond the Trump vision, and we're going to be continuing to provide that to voters here in Southern Minnesota all the way up until election day in November.

AC: There’s a reason I got involved in this. It’s no great joy to find that your party that you strongly believed in has gotten this radicalized. It was the party of Abraham Lincoln, it was the party of Theodore Roosevelt, it was the party of Dwight Eisenhower, and for the more conservative people, it was the party of Ronald Reagan. Not one of them right now could get nominated for anything. 

I think that kind of radicalization is extremely harmful to the country. What we need in Congress, frankly, are people like yourself. I say this because we don't have a single executive from Corporate America with international and national experience in the United States Congress. I think somebody with a tremendous business background like you, I suspect that when you get elected the White House is going to call and ask for advice frequently. You have got the understanding of what it is that the business community needs to grow jobs and expand markets to give us all a vibrant and healthy economy. 

I hope that the beginning to realize that we are capable of and people are willing to think independently and not simply become a robot of a single political party. Unfortunately, I think that’s happening here. 

If Finstad had bothered to read the bill he would have understood there were so many things that help Minnesota – I mean for Senior citizens to be able to benefit from negotiating lower drug costs, the  idea that you can cap insulin, that means so much to so many people that suffer and need help. All of the incentives towards clean energy. It’s a very purposeful bill, it’s a meaningful bill, and it should’ve gotten unanimous support. I hope that when you debate him, he’s called upon to explain why he voted against so many things that helped Minnesotans.

JE: I appreciate talking to you about this, and appreciate your support overall!

AC: Thank you, and I wish you the very best.