Tag Archives: Economy

Minnesota and Wisconsin, Apples to Apples in business, apparently not to The Chamber

Here is an interesting little fact for you to chew on.  The US Chamber of Commerce ranked the business climate in Minnesota a 40, while they ranked the business climate in Wisconsin a 39.  So Wisconsin scored one point better than Minnesota, but what’s interesting is that in every single category, except for one, Minnesota earned significantly higher scores than Wisconsin.

For example, although Minnesota ranked 40th in the US for “Business Climate” according to the Chamber of Commerce, Minnesota’s overall performance rating was 15th, while Wisconsin’s was 44th.  And we are not talking golf scoring here.  So how does Minnesota’s overall business ranking that is 29 spots higher than Wisconsin create a push when it comes to business climate?

Here are other statistics: The Chamber ranked Minnesota 6th in the nation on established infrastructure.  Wisconsin ranked 17th.  In the rating of a pipeline for educated young adults, Minnesota also ranked 6th, and had the second ranking of educated young adults, and the 4th ranking of young adult productivity.  Wisconsin ranked 14th.  In innovation and entrepreneurial ratings, Minnesota ranked 27 and Wisconsin ranked 41.  In every category they ranked, Minnesota outshined Wisconsin except for exports, which ranked Wisconsin 9 places ahead of Minnesota, must be the cows…

So why is it that Republican politicians use business climate to compare say, Minnesota and South Dakota?  Just so you know, South Dakota ranks first in Business Climate, even though most of their rankings are in the 30s and 40s, and North Dakota ranks 1st in performance, but in the upper-mid and mid-levels in everything else.

How is it possible?  What the heck is business climate?  I looked at the Forbes annual business rankings from December 2012.  Minnesota outscored Wisconsin in every category except Environmental Regulation, and personally, I like environmental regulations.  I like seeing bald eagles every day, drinking clean water, and fishing in lakes that seem to get clearer every year.

Is business climate even a real thing?  Do they use business climate, but in reality, they mean temperature?  Because Wisconsin and Minnesota are pretty close there, but it isn’t even close economically right now.

A couple final statistics to ponder, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists Minnesota as growing .1%-.5% and Wisconsin shrinking (-.1%)-(-.5%).  The Federal Reserve Economic Outlook from May 2013 ranks Wisconsin 42nd and Minnesota 19th.  The funniest thing to me is that Oregon, a bluer state than Minnesota is now ranked ahead of Utah, and Massachusetts has moved back into the top ten.  The consolation for Wisconsinites is that Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana, which have been “right-to-work” states for decades, I’m just sayin’, are still ranked lower than Wisconsin.

So tell us all you Sconies and Minnesota’s Republicans who cheered and danced at Gov. Scott Walker’s plans and actions, and cried and worried at Mark Dayton’s plans, how’s all that there working for ya?

Wisconsin with a Republican Governor, Republican House, Republican Senate, and let’s be honest, a Republican State Supreme Court, is dropping like a rock economically.  While Minnesota, with a DFL Governor, a DFL House and a DFL Senate (and a nonpartisan Supreme Court,) is rising up the rankings.  I just hope that Minnesotans don’t forget in 2014 what happened under Gov. Pawlenty, and what it was like with a Republican controlled legislature, and I hope we don’t ignore the lessons we are learning from Wisconsin.  You can’t compare the Dakota’s and Minnesota, it is apples and oranges.  But, you can certainly compare Wisconsin and Minnesota, it’s apples to apples in terms of almost everything, except for maybe alcohol consumption.

Elect Democrats in 2014!  Promises Made + Promises Kept = Progress.  Let’s keep moving forward!

Biggest lie in politics right now: Millionaires and billionaires are job creators.

Biggest lie in politics right now:  Millionaires and billionaires are job creators.

The Truth: You and I making less than $100K are the job creators because we create jobs by spending almost all (if not all) the money we take home.  There is no job creation unless there is a demand for product.

A $5000 tax cut to a millionaire does not create more product demand.  Millionaires already have more than enough money to spend.  But if I get $300 extra in cash, every cent of it leaves my possession.  Some of it will go to the Kowalski family, some of it will go to Target, some of it will go to my church, some of it might go to Best Buy, maybe a movie theater and local restaurant.  All of it is profit to the location I deliver it.

$5000 in tax cuts to a millionaire or billionaire is nothing more than additional profit and investment cash.  A tax cut for the wealthy does not create more demand.  You and I having cash in our pockets to spend creates product demand.  You and I having cash in our pockets to spend creates jobs.  You and I are the job creators.

The Richest Americans vs. The American Dream for the Rest of Us

It was about a year ago that Michelle Bachmann said we’re running out of Rich people in America.  I remember the quote, but I don’t remember the context.  It had something to do with President Obama, but I refuse to spend my time looking up why Michelle Bachmann said anything. 

Is it true?  Are we really running out of “rich” people, or is there just less opportunity in this country to get rich.  For the past 30 years, we have been told that the rich make the country successful, “they create jobs!”  So we’ve cut taxes, we’ve allowed tax loopholes to stay, eliminated tariffs, bent over backwards to make concessions to the rich and corporations, and what have we gotten in return? A poverty rate that has only increased since the 1970s.  Shouldn’t there be more rich people by now?  Bill Maher and Michael Moore have thrown out the statistic that the Forbes 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 50% of the United States population.  In pure numbers, that means 400 people have more than 155 MILLION Americans. 

Do you think that is sustainable?  I would not be shocked at the possibility of a revolution during my lifetime if we continue to move toward a society of financial extremes in wealth and poverty.  It might not be called a socialist or communist revolution, but it would fit into that category.  It would be a class war.  Historically, revolutions occur when the basic needs of people are not being met, or when basic rights are being trampled by the government.  I’m not sure we don’t have both of those right now in some cases.  

But when a statement like that is made, you can hear right-wing talking heads bring up that the left is trying to foment class-war.  Maybe a little class awareness at least would be a good thing.  The median income in America is $48,000.  Of those 155 million Americans who make less than $48,000, I have a feeling that they have felt the biggest brunt of the negative economic and political decisions that have been made to benefit the richest Americans.  A vast majority of people making under $48,000 didn’t gain because of the mortgage bubble, the energy bubble, the hi-tech bubble or whatever bubble.  No, more often they were hurt by the outcomes of the decisions and policies made to benefit the richest Americans.  How many Minnesotans have lost their jobs or are at risk of losing their house because of the greed of the richest Americans. 

These richest Americans are responsible for many of our problems.  I’m not discounting the fact that many people work because of these Americans, but without them, the services, items or whatever would still be needed and provided by many others making a great living.  Anyway, who thinks most of the richest of the rich didn’t gain their wealth without taking advantage of somebody else?  Even with all the good things Bill Gates has done or intends to do with his fortune, his fortune was built to its prestigious level with collusion and ruthless anticompetitive practices.  And while the richest may not always break laws to get rich like Madoff, Hecker, Lay, Skilling, Petters, or whoever, it is hard to justify paying less than a living wage, either in America or overseas, when the owner, CEO or shareholders earn billions.  In my mind it is criminal that companies like 3M, Exxon, Apple, Massey, Cargill and even the company that supported my family, Ford, take shortcuts to save money risking the health and future of workers, consumers and communities. 

So what do we do?  Give up hope?  Retreat to our television or following Charlie Sheen instead of turning this around before it is too late?  There are those of us that still want the American Dream, an ideal that we are all richer when everyone has the opportunity to be successful.  Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Great words, and isn’t that the American Dream?  Everybody should have the same opportunity to be successful.  But I’m not sure that is the case.  I’m not sure that a government that continues to stress that the freedoms of those 400 richest Americans are more important than the interests of 155 million Americans or more is truly moving us toward the American dream.  I’m not sure a government that eliminates rights and freedoms is even American, in the true sense of what it means to be American. 

Political outcomes during the rest of this decade could be the watershed for our future.  Franklin Roosevelt prevented revolution during a crisis eight decades ago by compromising despite his personally held economic beliefs.  Based on what is going on across the country in Republican politics, I’m concerned that the only way today’s Republicans  would compromise is by giving in to the desires of the richest Americans even if that means deception and violence.  What’s next after that, but full blown revolution? 

“We have this fantasy that our interest and the interest of the super rich are the same. Like somehow the rich will eventually get so full that they’ll explode and the candy will rain down on the rest of us like they are some kind of piñata of benevolence. But here is the thing about a piñata, it doesn’t open on its own, you have to beat it with a stick.”  — Bill Maher

Churches Cannot Bear the Brunt of the Government Budget Gap

There are gaping holes opening up in our social safety net as government budgets are being cut.  Right now, there are people working everyday and doing what they are supposed to do, but tomorrow an unexpected event like a layoff, a car accident, or even a major car repair, can force uncertainty in their ability to care for and keep their family safe.

And while politicians discuss where to cut and who deserves or doesn’t deserve what, there are some politicians calling for churches and charities to fill in the gaps they intend to create.  There are even illogical politicians who feel government safety nets should be cut altogether and that churches should replace the government providing these services. 

But churches are not in a position to do that.  True, there are churches stepping up to do it, and there are volunteers eager to help.  Our aunt’s church, Gloria Dei in St. Paul, was one of the churches featured in a recent Dan Olson story on MPR.  Gloria Dei is one of 34 churches and synagogues helping to house homeless people that cannot get into the county shelters that fill up every night.

Many churches, like Gloria Dei are already filling in the gap.  They already do what they can.  The tiny congregation of River of Joy Lutheran Church in the Spring Lake/Prior Lake area feeds 100+ people a homemade community meal once a month in Shakopee, and this month is upping the giving by handing out small gifts to as many of the attendees as they can.

A warm and safe place to sleep, a healthy hot meal and a gift of groceries can have a tremendous impact for a family fighting poverty, but churches cannot bear the brunt of the government budget gap.  The percentage of personal income given to churches has declined to a lower point than the first years of the Great Depression.  There are fewer attending church, and fewer seeing churches as the primary place for giving.  In the not too distant past, most, if not all charitable donations were given to the church, now there are thousands of charities competing for donations.

While churches like Gloria Dei, River of Joy and hundreds of others are working everyday to fill in the gaps, churches have not solved the problem.  The problem isn’t that churches aren’t doing everything they can, because they are.  The problem is that we still have a huge number of people in poverty.  We have a huge number of people who live paycheck to paycheck.  We have a huge number of people who are unemployed.  And it isn’t a matter of choice.  It is the nature of our society. 

In the name of capitalism we say a business can only pay a minimal salary, and at the same time we say an individual working in a job that keeps them below the poverty line doesn’t need to work that job if they don’t want to.  It is misrepresented as individual responsibility, but somebody needs to work that job.  At the same time we say people don’t need to work a job that pays too little, we also say that business needs somebody to be paid too little.  How do we resolve that issue?

We can’t resolve that without changing our way of thinking and living.  Until we begin investing in education, healthcare and infrastructure, and begin discounting the importance of being wealthy by taking advantage of others fortune, there will always be a place for church aid, government aid and individual aid.  When we all join these churches and start living by Jesus’ Golden Rule, we won’t need government aid, but until then we will destroy the fabric of our society if we eliminate it.

Why do the poor and middle-class have to tighten their belts when the rich caused this financial mess?

Republicans won in 2010 because they talked about fiscal issues.  After decades of hearing the Republican mantra of cut taxes and cut spending, voters bought it again.  It was fiscal this, tighten belts that, budget this, control spending that. 
I just don’t understand how people bought it.  Who is controlling the Republican Party?  Corporate special interests, the Chamber of Commerce, and CEOs.  The same people who wiped out our economy because of their own greed.  Voters are so brainwashed by the corporate media that they don’t pay attention that Republicans in the 80s pushed our debt over a trillion dollars, and Republicans in the 2000s eliminated our budget surplus and pushed the debt over 10 trillion dollars.
So when a Republican says government needs to tighten its belt, voters say yeah, and ignore the history and hypocrisy in that statement.  When a Republican candidate says we need to cut spending, without saying how, voters say yeah and ignore the fact that we cannot cut our way to greatness.
And while Republican politicians are demanding we tighten our belts and eliminate the deficit with spending cuts and tax cuts, corporate executives are licking their chops at the profits they can make now that their Chamber of Commerce funded politicians can fight for their “well-deserved” profits.   While the middle class pays, loses services, and struggles to get by, Republican political funders can plan for how to invest the tax giveaways the Republican politicians want to give them. 

Why do the poor and middle-class have to absorb the largest cuts to their schools, cities and counties, when the economic failures of our society and the causes of this budget deficit reside almost entirely in the actions of the richest and greediest Minnesotans and Americans who took advantage of our society to earn money they did not deserve.  Shouldn’t the group that caused the problem pay more to solve it? 
Why do Republican politicians think that a family making $50,000 and a family making $250,000 have the same challenges when it comes to what is cut?  How will a cut in education lead to anything other than less quality?  How will a cut in funding for road construction lead to anything other than more potholes and more costly repairs because of those potholes.  How will another cut in funding of social services lead to anything other than more failure, more crime, more abuse, and more deaths.  How will eliminating a chance at life do anything other than perpetuate generational poverty?
When FDR was elected in 1932, he was a hard core capitalist, but he saw the likelihood of class warfare on the horizon and made changes in his plans to work toward solving the causes of the nation’s problems.  FDR is the reason we are not a quasi-socialist state like most European countries.  So what will the Republicans do, push us to sharper class differences and to eventual class conflicts, or head the lessons of history and realize a slogan like “cut taxes-cut spending” can get you elected, but in the end it won’t create results the majority of voters are comfortable with.  Keep in mind that half the families in the state make under $57,000.  They will get almost no benefit from the Republican’s “cut taxes-cut spending” tax giveaway to the rich scheme, but they will feel those cuts much more.