Friday, March 6, 2015

A Tale of Two States

Policy.Mic looks at Minnesota and Wisconsin — one with Democrats in charge, the other with Republicans running the place — and compares and contrasts.

Since 2011, Minnesota has been doing quite well for itself. The state has created more than 170,000 jobs, according to the Huffington Post. Its unemployment rate stands at 3.6% — the fifth-lowest in the country, and far below the nationwide rate of 5.7% — and the state government boasts a budget surplus of $1 billion. Forbesconsiders Minnesota one of the top 10 in the country for business.

[…]

How Minnesota did it: The progressive economic policies in the North Star State came into being after the election of Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. In 2010, Dayton surprised many political observers in Minnesota when he managed to win the governor’s mansion, as the first Democrat to seize the governor’s mansion in more than two decades. His political career up until that point was mainly defined by failure, despite the fact that he was a billionaire heir with countless resources.

Dayton’s margin of victory wasn’t impressive, but he was eventually able to make a dramatic mark on the direction of the state’s public policies. He instituted a wide variety of progressive policies that rendered him the “most liberal governor in the country in terms of his willingness to raise taxes and to spend,” University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs told Mother Jones.

Just across the Mississippi River is the state of Wisconsin.  The governor, Scott Walker, is the darling of the right wing of the GOP (sorry, that’s redundant), so he must be governing a paradise on earth:

By a number of measures, Wisconsin hasn’t fared as well as Minnesota. As the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal reports, Wisconsin’s job growth has been among the worst in the region, and income growth is one of the worst in the country. It has a higher unemployment rate than Minnesota. And the budget is in bad shape:

Our transportation budget has a $750 million hole in it, our health care budget is $760 million in the red, and that’s all on top of a $1.8 billion general budget deficit. Add it up and Walker has essentially taken a balanced budget and turned it into a deficit nearly as large as the one created by the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.

Now, no political leader can take full credit or blame for the economic health of the state they oversee — the economy is shaped by a number of structural factors and historic trends that any one politician has little control over. Consider, for example, that Minnesota’s economy was outperforming Wisconsin by a number of measures beginning earlier than the recession.

But here’s what we can say: Dayton’s progressive vision for Minnesota has not ruined the economy, and has likely helped it. Walker’s conservative vision has clearly not ushered in the free market paradise he envisioned. And it’s noteworthy that since the Great Recession and the implementation of their divergent philosophies, Minnesota’s economy has pulled further ahead of Wisconsin in several areas.

So why is Scott Walker even being considered as presidential material?

Oh, and speaking of self-destructing Republican governors:

Gov. Sam Brownback (R) and the Republican-controlled legislature in Kansas is inching ever so slowly toward expanding Medicaid under Obamacare. If Kansas did expand Medicaid, it would be the latest in a list of deep-red states—including Arkansas, Utah, and Indiana—to actually take federal dollars through Obamacare, despite having conservative legislatures and fire-breathing, anti-ACA Republican governors.

Heh.