MARSHALL, Minn. – Garrison Keillor concludes his fictional “News From Lake Wobegon” by reminding us that in Minnesota all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average. We know that this is not an accurate reflection of either Lake Wobegon or Minnesota, but it makes us feel good even as it causes us to reflect on our fantasies.
In the fictional world of the conservative politics, all the job creators are white, all the employers are straight, and their only concern is taxes. This make-believe scenario drives conservative policy. But we know the facts are to the contrary.
Since the cone of silence was broken regarding the negotiations over the budget we now know that the conservative majority opposed any tax increases in order to relieve the burdens of the almighty job creators.
Instead of agreeing to tax the wealthy, they proposed borrowing from future payments to the state from the tobacco settlement and adding another substantial shift in payments to our K-12 schools. In other words, they would borrow from the future to pay current obligations. But to accomplish even this, they demanded a package of social reforms including voter ID, restrictions on a woman’s right to choose, and cutting off funds for stem-cell research. We already knew their position on marriage equality.
Immigrants lead the way
Well, in the real world of job creation, informed people know that immigrants lead the way in small-business creation and that feminists, proponents of stem-cell research, GLBT folk, and even progressive Democrats are among the “job creators.”
Anti-immigrant measures like Voter ID, opposition to the Dream Act, and e-verify measures have a real chance of killing jobs by creating a climate that is hostile to job-creating immigrants. According to a 2010 study by Kathryn Fennelly and Anne Huart, “immigrants are almost twice as likely as native-born Americans to start a business.” In terms of the economic benefits of immigration, consider the following [PDF]:
• The U.S. Council of Economic Advisers estimates that the country’s net gain from immigration is $37 billion per year.
• Immigrant-owned businesses generated $331 million dollars in net income to Minnesota in 2000.
• Hispanic-owned firms in the state have grown 350 percent since 1990.
• In 2008 there were 253,608 immigrants employed in Minnesota, representing 8.5 percent of the state work force.
• Foreign-born workers account for the majority of growth in the labor force in Minnesota.
• Nationally immigrants represent 25 percent of physicians and 40 percent of engineers holding doctoral degrees.
The conservative majority tells us that if one job creator leaves the state because of a tax increase, it is reason enough to hold the line on taxes. Well, what if one immigrant job creator decides to pull up stakes and move to a state that welcomes him? Has the conservative majority considered that potential impact from their nativest agenda?
And what about GLBT job creators?
Conservatives wasted our time this session by passing a law that could change the state’s constitution to prohibit gay marriage. Well, what about GLBT job creators? Are they motivated solely by taxes – or might they move to a state that is friendlier to marriage equality and less hostile to the GLBT community? “There are some 1.2 million gay-owned businesses in the United States and about 29,000 of them belong to local gay chambers of commerce, according to Justin G. Nelson, president and a founder of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which was organized in 2002 in Washington.”
Where will gay entrepreneurs move should the conservative majority have their way? To marriage-friendly Iowa?
What about feminist job creators who value a woman’s right to choose? Will they take jobs out of the state because of proposed changes relating to abortion laws?
And what about progressive or liberal job creators? What about the thousands of job creators who vote for Democrats or for progressive causes? What about job creators who value stem-cell research and science? What if one of these individuals were to leave the state because of the Republican agenda and move to Vermont? Would the conservative majority change course to save those private sector jobs? Of course not, because this is not about jobs; it is about ideology.
Clarity on Dayton’s proposal
The conservative majority opposes any increase in taxes, even if restricted to about 7,700 people lucky enough to earn more than $1 million a year. It is important to note that Gov. Mark Dayton did not propose a millionaire’s tax. A millionaire is a person with liquid or financial assets totaling $1 million. Dayton proposed taxing only people who earn $1 million a year and then increasing the tax on only those dollars they earn above $1 million.
The conservative majority’s myopic focus on taxes and its dogmatic focus on social issues have blinded them to the rainbow of job creators that live in this state. While some greedy job creators may be moved to leave the state solely on the basis of an increase in the top marginal rate for those earning more than $1 million a year, others in that same category might leave because of a social agenda that is hurtful, anti-science and misogynist.
Let’s face it, in the real Minnesota all the job creators are not white, male, straight, Christian, greedy, or born in America. It is time for everyone to feel the pain of the fiscal mess, including those who earn more than $1 million a year; I think they can afford it.
Well, that’s the news from Lake Shutbedown, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and the legislative leadership protects the rich.
Jeff Kolnick is an associate professor of history at Southwest Minnesota State University.