Americans continue hearing that the Republican path to prosperity for all is enacting harsh austerity and trickle-down economics that work fabulously for the uber-rich, but produce mammoth deficits, kill jobs, and increase poverty for the masses. It is not, by any means, an unintended consequence that Republican economics are tailored for their donors, slash revenue, and transfer wealth to the rich; it is by design. As Americans have witnessed over the past three decades, every time Republicans are in power and trash the economy whether in states or nationally, it takes electing a Democrat to clean up the GOP trickle-down mess, pay off their debts, create jobs, and put the economy back on track.
It is likely that one of the best recent examples (Barack Obama is not recent) of a Democrat cleaning up an economic disaster and outperforming a red state is Minnesota’s Democratic Governor Mark Dayton. Now, what is unique about Dayton is that besides being a politician, he is a certified member of the one-percent and a billionaire; albeit one with conviction to serve the people.
When he took office, Dayton inherited a $6.2 billion budget deficit from Republican Tim Pawlenty who claimed and prided himself as being the “first truly fiscally-conservative governor in modern history;” a title economic failure Sam Brownback of Kansas now proudly claims as his own. Pawlenty’s claim to fame, like Brownback et al, and greatest source of pride, was that he never ever raised state taxes; he also never created more than 6,300 jobs in eight years, or ever displayed his fiscal conservative bona fides (see $6.2 billion deficit) when dealing with the state budget.
Enter billionaire Mark Dayton who raised the state’s income tax on the rich by 1%, guaranteed equal pay for women, and raised the minimum wage. The results speak for themselves. In less than four years, Governor Dayton added 172,000 new jobs to Minnesota’s economy; 165,800 more his first term than Pawlenty added in two terms combined. Republicans claim higher income taxes kill jobs, and Minnesota’s tax rates are the 4th highest in America, but the state’s unemployment rate is 5th-lowest in the nation at 3.6%. The state’s median income is also $8,000 higher than the national average that is a major contributor to economic growth and perpetuates down-stream job creation; something Republicans reject out of hand and claim is impossible.
As of last year, higher state taxes and higher government spending has Minnesota’s private sector job growth higher than pre-Republican Great Recession levels, and the state economy is the 5th fastest growing in the nation. It is the kind of a statistic that inspired Forbes to rank Minnesota in the top ten best states for business. Gallup says economic confidence in Minnesota is the highest in the nation, and it is a result of doing exactly the opposite of what Republicans and the Koch brothers convinced states like Kansas, Illinois, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Wisconsin to do; cut taxes for the rich, cut education, and impose harsh austerity measures.
For a comparison with a neighboring state with Republican governor, Koch employee Scott Walker’s famous “Wisconsin Open for Business” agenda has Wisconsin sitting at a distant 32nd on the Forbes top states for business list, Wisconsin’s job creation is 38th in the nation, and Wisconsin is tied with Iowa for last place in the Midwest for creating private sector jobs. Where Dayton’s tax hikes on the wealthy have Minnesotan’s income $8,000 higher than the national average, Walker drove his state’s median income down to $900 below than the national average; a result of imposing ‘right to work’ laws and abolishing workers’ collective bargaining rights. Remember that Walker equated eliminating worker rights with crushing violent extremists and murdering terrorists; all he crushed was economic prosperity for Wisconsin residents.
It was not an easy ride for Governor Dayton’s economic agenda, and except for typical Republican opposition, Dayton did not have to resort to heavy-handed pressure for support. In typical GOP style, state representative Mark Uglem did precisely what Republicans at the state and national level always do when Democrats propose raising taxes on the rich; fear monger that businesses would flee the state en masse, kill jobs, and wipeout the economy. The same economy Republicans and Pawlenty spent eight years destroying.
Uglem issued a stern warning to Governor Dayton saying prior to the 1% tax hike on the wealthy and guaranteed that “the job creators, the big corporations, the small corporations, they will leave. It’s all dollars and sense to them.” It is a tired, worn-out warning that Republicans parrot by rote regardless they are always wrong and the opposite is always true.
Despite the Republicans’ claim that an agenda that includes raising taxes and the minimum wage would eviscerate the state’s businesses, kill jobs, wipe out revenue, and deny workers the wealth Republicans promised tax cuts for the rich would produce, the results speak for themselves. Dayton’s results, like any Democrat’s results, were that within one year of his tax hikes an additional 6,230 Minnesotans filed in the top income tax bracket, and that higher revenue provided the state with a $1 billion budget surplus that Dayton pledged to reinvest over a third back into the public schools.
Where Dayton accomplished enacting his agenda was through gaining electoral support from the people the right way; actually making it easier to register to vote by creating an online voter registration system. The reason Gov. Dayton was able to radically transform Minnesota’s economy into one of the best in the nation was also not unique and utilized a very simple accounting scheme and basic arithmetic California Governor Jerry Brown used; not some magic theory or voodoo economics to enrich the wealthy. Dayton increased revenue by raising taxes on the wealthy that always turns a deficit into a surplus just like raising the minimum wage will increase the median income every time. It is a typically Democratic practice and the polar opposite of Republican governors such as Scott Walker, Sam Brownback, Chris Christie, Piyush Jindal, or any GOP governor piling on debt and deficits and cutting services to preserve tax cuts for the rich.
Republicans claim businesses love and demand the conservative economic agenda, but according to states like California and Minnesota that is a blatant lie. In any state where education is a high budget priority coupled with economic growth leading the nation, no businesses wants to leave the state. What is curious indeed, is why voters continue electing Republicans to increase deficits, cut services, and kill jobs just to give the rich more wealth. What is even more curious, is why voters fail to see that every stinking time Republicans are in charge at the state or federal level, they squander surpluses, pile up crushing deficits, kill jobs, and retard economic growth; something a Democrat has to spend time repairing.
Perhaps with so many Republican failures at the state level, one would think red state voters can look to their blue state neighbors, come to their senses, reject stupidity, and get a clue. In the case of imbeciles in Wisconsin, they should be capable of seeing that yet another blue state, one on their Eastern border, is outperforming their typically Republican governor’s red state failure.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.