Caryn Sullivan: Friday Food for Thought

With our economic situation much worse than pre-COVID, we need to ensure our tax dollars are being well spent.

Friday Food for Thought
Caryn Sullivan

With traditional values under siege, it often feels like we’re living in an inside out, upside down world, where right is wrong, and left is right, and those who speak up are shut down.

For the past few months, Friday Food for Thought has offered readers news to digest as you decide who to vote for next Tuesday. We’ll wrap it up today with a look at Mr. Green. I don’t mean the character in the game of Clue. I mean the almighty dollar.

Show me the money

Democrats keep saying the economy is just fine. And yet, seniors are postponing retirement or returning to the workforce. More than 50 percent of American workers have cut back on contributions to retirement or savings accounts — or stopped them altogether. Nearly half dipped into retirement to deal with the escalating cost of living, be it housing and utilities, food, insurance, or gas. A third of workers earning less than $60,000 have taken on a second or even a third job.

That’s a troubling trend because when people can’t support themselves, they often turn to the government or nonprofit organizations. As inflation remains high, every funding source will feel the strain, which is why it’s so infuriating to hear about funds being stolen or wasted.

Under the Walz administration, hundreds of millions of dollars have disappeared, like water into a storm drain.


In 2019, the legislative auditor (who audits state government agencies and the office of the state auditor) found evidence of millions of dollars in fraudulent charges by daycare providers. Gov. Walz’s Department of Human Services was criticized for failing to properly oversee the program.


In September, the legislative auditor again criticized Walz’s Department of Human Services, this time for failing to oversee tens of millions of dollars allocated for housing grants during COVID. What happened to renters who were supposed to benefit from the program? A record number face eviction from rental units.


And then there’s Feeding Our Future. Intended to feed children who should have been (but weren’t) attending school during COVID, at least $250 million instead financed mansions and sports cars. That money could have been spent in a million different ways to help people in need. Who should answer for the lack of oversight? Food for thought.

Why care about the auditor?

Someone needs to be the watchman to ensure the state is a good steward of our funds. The state auditor is responsible for financial oversight of more than 4,000 local units of government and a $60 billion budget.

Ryan Wilson, GOP candidate for state auditor, wants to find out where billions of dollars of COVID relief went and who benefited from the grants. If elected, Wilson also wants to dig into how education dollars are being spent.

What does fully funded mean?

Speaking of which, Gov. Walz and Education Minnesota continue to press for “full funding” for public education, though we’re not sure how much more they could want. At $52 billion, education currently accounts for 40 percent of the state budget.

I’ve spoken with veteran teachers about rampant behavior issues in the classroom, as well as lowered academic expectations. Asked for a solution, no one cited more funding. But they did wonder what happened to all the COVID money.

Teachers often dig into their own pockets to pay for supplies. But they shouldn’t have to spend their money to properly outfit their classrooms. Nor should parents have to spend hundreds of dollars on school supplies each year.

Minnesota needs fresh eyes on our educational system. With our economic situation much worse than pre-COVID, we need to ensure our tax dollars are being well spent. Politicians always talk about transparency and accountability. Are we getting it with the current administration? Food for thought.

Just four more days until the election. You have one vote. Will you vote for the status quo or for fresh ideas and new leadership?

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not represent an official position of Alpha News. 


Caryn Sullivan

A retired attorney and author of the award-winning memoir, "Bitter or Better: Grappling With Life on the Op-Ed Page," Caryn Sullivan has inspired readers with her thoughtful commentary for the past two decades. To learn more about Caryn’s work or to connect, visit