James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, President, The Lukaszewski Group Division of Risdall McKinney Public Relations

I’m sitting here at 7:45 a.m. moving very slowly in what is the first of four daily rush hours in this lane of eastbound I-494 in South Minneapolis. One has to wonder what all the media excitement is about. I’ve just listened to Lori Sturdevant, an opinion writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, talk on CNN about how upset, angry, and distraught Minnesotans are over the government shut down.

I may be missing something, but it seems to me that from the traffic in this part of town, there are an awful lot of people struggling to get to work, as they do every day, and probably not giving too much of a hoot about the state being shut down.

Seems to me the only people upset, angry, and distraught are reporters who are trying to make something out of this, and those who have temporarily lost their jobs, while the public goes about their business, raising their eyebrows at the media coverage with that increasingly common expression, “There they go again.”

In fact, my guess is sooner or later we’re going to begin wondering the reverse: Why do we have so much government? Why all the time, and what does it really accomplish?

Things are working. Nine out of ten people who want to work are working. Most of us seem more worried about our personal future than what a bunch of politicians are busily not doing wherever they happen to be during the shut down.

In the good old days before air conditioning, the legislature would meet once every two years for about three months and take care of the State’s business. Now the State has 24,000 employees, each of whom is presumably doing something important every day. But Minnesota’s shut down graphically illustrates perhaps how dramatically the government could be streamlined and operate far less frequently, on a much smaller number of levels.

The only thing that truly changes the direction of a democracy is catastrophe. What we’re learning from the current government shut down is that far from being a catastrophe, it’s an object lesson in how poor leadership can accidentally reveal some powerful and important insights about how the State should actually be run, or not run, depending on your perspective.

What Governor Dayton should be doing at this moment is proposing an entirely new government structure for Minnesota involving a radically reduced, far more efficient and effective State organization. He can start doing this by only inviting certain departments, agencies, and offices back into operation when government function resumes. Clearly, one of the major ways to resolve a deficit in the family budget, as well as the government budget, is by reducing expenditures and simplifying how things are done. The question should really be “How much government do we really need?”, rather than “How do we resolve the deficit issue?” The longer the State remains shut down the better the illustration of how badly basic change is needed.

Let’s be clear, I believe in government. I served in the Wendell Anderson and Rudy Perpich administrations. I believe that government is not a “business” subject to business rules. Government is an entity designed by the people to serve the peoples’ interests and needs. Those needs should be provided directly at the level closest to the populations being served.

This is an opportunity to develop a much better government rather than simply start up the old big one, all over again. Think what an inspiration this would be if something like this came from the mouth of the political leader.

One thing we know for sure, the media’s purpose is to irritate, agitate, and aggravate, and foster contention, confusion, and consternation.

It is an example of the “Murdoch Effect”. If the news isn’t juicy enough, spice it up. If things aren’t happening, make something happen. If something irrational is happening, blame it on those who are acting responsibly and make them explain those who aren’t.