The year was 2010. The economy of the North, like everywhere else, was reeling from the self-inflicted trident wounds of deregulation, ineptitude and avarice.
Wisconsin voters chose to double-down, electing Gov. Scott Walker and embracing a louder form of conservatism. He enacted the tenets of Republican theology for a brighter economy: tax cuts for business and the wealthy, coupled with deregulation, union-busting, and a wholesale slashing of anything that even smelled of entitlement, be it education or public aid.
Across the border, Minnesota marched a polar-opposite trail. We elected Mark Dayton, who invoked an old-time northern liberalism that had largely fallen from fashion.
His plan was outright heresy to Chamber of Commerce types: raising the minimum wage and taxes on the wealthy, expanding sick leave, and hiking aid for education and health care. These were ideas thought to ensure that skies fell and commerce would take flight.
Seven years later, the results are in. If this had been a baseball game between Wisconsin and Minnesota, Dayton would have won 12-0. And thrown a no-hitter.
That’s the finding of the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan D.C. think tank that specializes in examining the economy’s impact on working people.
“On a multitude of key measures, Minnesota’s economic performance over the past seven years has been markedly better than that of its neighbor to the east,” writes researcher David Cooper. “On virtually every metric, workers and families in Minnesota are better off than their counterparts in Wisconsin.”
Consider this understatement.
Over the past eight years, Minnesota has done better in job and wage growth, particularly among low-income workers. It’s also done more to improve the wage discrepancy between male and female employees.
Minnesota’s jumped higher in median household income and shown superior improvement in poverty rates and health insurance coverage. It’s more than doubled Wisconsin in population growth.
Finally, Minnesota also had stronger overall economic growth by more than 2 points.
Despite all this, some in the Minnesota Legislature sinsist on seeing darkness where there is light. “Our tax system is going to kill us,” announced Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) last week.
To which we reply: Please read the box score before you speak, dear senator.