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Dismissing the cost of doing business in Minnesota will be at our peril

Beth Kadoun

A recent report by Michigan Future Inc. comparing Minnesota and Michigan claimed that high government spending and high taxes are the road to economic success. It’s true that Minnesota has done better than Michigan, but much of that is likely due to our more diverse economy.

The Michigan report uses a sample of two states, very limited data and questionable analysis to justify its conclusion. In addition, remember that the 2013-14 legislative sessions put Minnesota’s spending and taxes on steroids with double-digit increases and cost burdens among the highest in the nation. The economic impact of these decisions may not be factored into our economy for some time. But we do know that these tax and spending changes will make it more challenging for employers to grow and succeed in Minnesota.

Minnesota’s above-average taxes and higher services have been the go-to model for years. Why assume the policies of the past will be a winning combination for the future? The world has greatly changed from the 1970s, and Minnesota businesses must compete regionally and globally. We need to consider which successful economies we want to compare ourselves to that rely on forward-looking tax and investment policies that encourage greater business retention and growth.

Rather than significant tax increases to fuel long-term spending commitments, a more 21st-century-approach would have been to make significant reforms in the way public services are delivered. That way, Minnesotans – including businesses – would get the services we need, but at a competitive price. True to our heritage, our most capable public policy experts have been developing and circulating public service “redesign” proposals for years – only to be ignored, especially so in 2013 and 2014.

Business costs rank among highest

Dismissing the cost of doing business in Minnesota will be at our peril. The individuals who make investment, expansion or location decisions evaluate cost on a level with quality. Minnesota is at great risk of pricing itself out of the market unless we hand out special incentives to minimize the cost disadvantage. As a result of the 2013-14 sessions, our business costs now rank among the highest in the nation – 49th worst in the 2014 Small Business Tax Index (Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council), 47th worst in 2013 Entrepreneurial Index (April 2013, Kauffman Institute) and 47th worst in the 2014 State Business Tax Climate index (Tax Foundation). 

Minnesota has many reasons to brag. We are blessed with beautiful natural resources and a strong work force. We rank high on many indicators, including quality of life and educational attainment. A diverse economy has helped Minnesota outpace the national economy and rebound from the latest downturn more quickly than many other states.

However, troubling indicators do not bode well for Minnesota’s long-term economic future. Our 12-month job growth is lagging the national rate, Minnesota exports declined in 2013 compared with 2.8-percent national growth. Recent surveys of businesses have found the state’s regulations and business taxes are viewed as a limit to growth by a significantly higher percentage of Minnesota participants. (2014 Manufacturing & Distribution Monitor, McGladrey). We continually hear from businesses expanding outside of Minnesota because of increasing costs.

The big gamble

What we know for certain is that business costs in Minnesota rank among the highest in the nation and are increasing. The big gamble – the unknown – is whether the new spending will improve the quality of state services enough to offset the additional burden.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce advocated spending reforms and efficiencies to deliver quality services at a more competitive cost. Our approach would have provided a more prudent and less risky strategy – a blueprint that would benefit all businesses and put Minnesota in a stronger position to develop and grow our economy for the long term.

Beth Kadoun is director of tax and fiscal policy for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.


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Comments (96)

  1. Submitted by rolf westgard on 07/17/2014 - 05:17 am.

    A little short on specifics

    Other than the usual Chamber of Commerce “taxes are bad” message. this article doesn’t tell us how services are to be delivered with greater efficiency.
    I will admit I would like to see a higher gasoline tax with the proceeds invested in our transportation infrastructure. I can’t see that idea hurting MN businesses.

  2. Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/17/2014 - 05:59 am.

    It must really be hard

    To keep propagating this nonsense when any informed Minnesota citizen can simply take a gander to the east and watch as the policies folks like the Chamber of Commerce advocate result in the utter failure of a once prosperous economy. Ms. Kadoun, webare not Alabama, we are not Texas, and we are not Florida, we don’t want to be, and you’ll not get us to change our minds.

  3. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 07/17/2014 - 09:02 am.

    I agree – short on specifics

    I think when you use lines like “taxes on steroids”, you have surrendered any claim to objectivity. She cherry-picks the stats that back up her claim and ignores any contradictory evidence. I agree that smaller government and less taxation will help rich people get richer, but I don’t see that helping the rest of us.

    She says, “Why assume the policies of the past will be a winning combination for the future?” I say why not.

    She further says, “Minnesota has many reasons to brag. We are blessed with beautiful natural resources and a strong work force. We rank high on many indicators, including quality of life and educational attainment.” From what I have seen here in Minnesota, when Republicans start cutting taxes and services one of the first places they cut is in education. Not an aid to a strong workforce. We have nice lakes and parks but we aren’t a tourist mecca like the mountain or ocean states. Michigan certainly has more major water shoreline than we do. For most of us a lot of our quality of life comes from things we depend on our government for: roads, parks, social services. The rich chamber of commerce types can travel to there second homes and condos in Colorado, Arizona and Florida. For the rest of us, what you see is what you get.

    This weak editorial reminds me of the equally lame Republican ad now running. All they can complain about is the senate office building (which does seem unnecessary to me too). Our state is recovering well from the Republican-induced recession and these people don’t really have good cases for complaint.

    What I would like to see is a comparison between Minnesota and Wisconsin: two similar economies with two polar opposite state houses. From what little I’ve heard all that tax cutting and union destroying hasn’t done much for Wisconsin’s recovery.

  4. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 07/17/2014 - 09:12 am.

    “True to our heritage, our most capable public policy experts have been developing and circulating public service “redesign” proposals for years – only to be ignored, especially so in 2013 and 2014”

    Pretty broad statement, with no specifcs. Who is being ignored? What are their proposals? And if they are being ignored now, what were they doing during the Pawlenty years– back when we racked up deficits and cut investing in education and infrastructure?

    If the author wants to bemoan a state going in the wrong direction, head to Kansas. Those pro-business policies are real winners there…

  5. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 07/17/2014 - 09:32 am.

    Thank goodness this is electronic..

    so we didn’t waste a tree on this nonsense. As Rolf noted, there are zero specifics, which tells me there’s really not a “problem”, just the same whining that’s gone on for years. Maybe Ms. Kadoun can answer this question….if employers value “a strong work force” and “educational attainment”, does she realize that’s paid for by taxes, not a magic wand?

  6. Submitted by Curtis Loschy on 07/17/2014 - 09:41 am.

    Look at Kansas

    The Washington Post has an excellent article on what has happened to Kansas since the Republicans have passed their “pro-business” agenda. It provides a good look at what could happen here is the Chamber has it’s way.

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 07/17/2014 - 09:53 am.

    Racing to the bottom

    Directors of tax and fiscal policy for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce are paid to argue that it makes sense for Minnesota to race other states to the bottom. For the rest of us, not so much. But the reality is, we live in Minnesota which is inherently an expensive place to live and work. We don’t have the beaches of Florida, the oil of Texas. We aren’t an international tax scam like the Republic of Ireland. We are a real place where real people live and work who must be heated in the winter time by oil from places like Texas which somehow despite it’s enormous natural advantages over Minnesota, and which has a business climate that is nothing short of wondrous, has higher unemployment and lower wages than poor, wretched Minnesota.

    Sure we can do stuff better here. Sure we must be mindful that we compete with other states and other countries in a variety of ways. But paying attention to what’s wrong with Minnesota shouldn’t distract us from an understanding of what’s right both Minnesota, the reasons why despite our horrific weather and business climates, we are a wealthy and prosperous states. Businesses come here, stay here, and are created here, because we have great schools, great universities, resulting in a highly educated and motivated work force. We have a great arts community. We even have downtown stadiums that are really cute. All of those things which need to be paid for are what we need to talk about, what I daresay, Ms. Kadoun needs to talk about, as we compete in the global economy.

  8. Submitted by James Hamilton on 07/17/2014 - 10:20 am.

    Links, at least.

    As already noted, this piece is woefully short on specifics. Links to the sources cited should have been provided so that readers can assess their conclusions for themselves or, at the very least, learn what is meant by the “cost of doing business.”

  9. Submitted by Eric Snyder on 07/17/2014 - 12:37 pm.

    What is the Chamber’s tax and regulatory wish list?

    I’m open to any argument Ms. Kadoun might make—I certainly don’t have all the answers—but she avoids necessary details and analysis. The Chamber has an added burden of distrust among the public for its long record of ignoring the broader picture of human well-being in favor of its narrow interests.

    It must also be said that she does herself no favors by use of an unhelpful argument we hear too often from some in the business community—either do as we wish, or you will be punished with company relocations.

    Beyond all of that, the Chamber seems increasingly like an anachronism. This is reflected in a number of trends. One of which is a trend well underway in the US and elsewhere to make economics and business better reflect out values. This is seen in the growth of new forms of enterprise—social enterprise, triple bottom line organizations (people, profit, environment), worker-owned cooperatives, and more. Another trend seeks to find replacements to GDP to better measure what we value—human well-being and sustainability, for example. (For more information on these things see

    Ms. Kadoun rightly acknowledges indicators other than taxes and regulation that are feathers in Minnesota’s cap—quality of life and educational attainment are two. But the point needs to be made that it is precisely these elements of human well-being—how long we live, the level of violence in our communities and the availability of help, high school graduation rates, lifelong health, our carbon footprint, and many other indicators—that should be the state’s highest priorities, not whether business likes its tax rates or this or that regulation. The insistence by some in the business community that we not treat these indicators as our highest priority should signal to most people that the Chamber of Commerce has little to offer to public discussion unless it acknowledges that these things are also overriding priorities for it as well.

    Of course, achieving various measures of human well-being and the business climate are not unrelated. But what is the exact nature of this relationship? This is a complex question. But it is interesting to note that the states with some of the lowest corporate tax rates are in the south—America’s poverty belt, the region of the country that does worse on almost every indicator from obesity to teenage pregnancy, to high school dropout rates, low-wage pay, deaths due to firearms, corruption and on and on.

    Is the Christmas wish list of the MN Chamber of Commerce a tax and regulatory environment like that of the American south?

  10. Submitted by jason myron on 07/17/2014 - 01:16 pm.

    One of the great joys of

    a previous job was showing the local Chamber of Commerce rep to the door of my office after a minute or two.

  11. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 07/17/2014 - 01:26 pm.

    bad advice

    If I were the governor, I would hire this woman and do the extact opposite of everything she says.

  12. Submitted by Robert Ryan on 07/17/2014 - 02:47 pm.

    Ignored Fact

    An odd fact that has been overlooked is that Wisconsin has a higher total tax burden than Minnesota. On Apr. 2nd, the WSJ 24/7 site reported that Minnesota ranked #6 in total tax burden, and Wisconsin #5. Other sites I checked confirmed this.

    I tried to find some discussion of this fact. It may be that one difference between the two states is that more of Wisconsin’s tax burden falls on individuals due to high property taxes. Gas taxes are also higher in W.

    Minnesotans have the 14th highest per capita income and pay 10.7% of their income in taxes. Wisconsinites rank 25th in per capita income and pay 11% of their income in taxes.

    So perhaps what the Chamber of Commerce is arguing is that Minnesota needs to shift more of its tax burden from businesses to individuals in order to better compete with Wisconsin.

    Here is the WSJ link:

  13. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 07/17/2014 - 03:40 pm.

    The idea that the MN Chamber of Commerce

    Speaks for all businesses in the state is a complete joke; it speaks for big business and its desires to the detriment of the far more numerous small businesses. This Chamber employee should check out what Small Business MN thinks about the economic issues and the positions of the Chamber.

  14. Submitted by Richard Callahan on 07/17/2014 - 08:00 pm.

    Small Business MN

    It’s true that the Chamber of Commerce often takes positions at odds with small business interests. Small Business MN does a much better job but I suspect they would tend to agree with much of what Kadoun says in the article.

    Minnesota did raise the income tax rate for small business 25% last year and that has to have an impact. Had they also added the sales tax to business services it would have severely hurt small business. Although I would have continued to live in Minnesota I would have moved my small business across the river to avoid this tax which would have become my biggest expense after salaries.

    As much as I disagree with most of what the Chamber of Commerce stands for, there is a grain of truth to the points Kadoun is trying to make and she shouldn’t be so totally discounted.

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 07/17/2014 - 10:52 pm.

      When did your small business last

      Receive subsidies, tax breaks and other govt money? Or when were you paid millions of dollars after you were fired for a pathetic performance – see Target CEO?. It is your mindset that helps perpetuate the ridiculous advantages of big corporations, BTW sources as to the income tax rate increase you mention; just move your corp to Ireland.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 07/18/2014 - 10:01 am.


      Minnesota did not raise the tax rate on small businesses 25 percent. It raised the tax rate on individuals that earned over $150,000 per year and married couples that earned over $250,000 per year. To be affected by the tax increase, your non-incorporated small business would have to earn a profit (not gross revenues, but profit) in excess of $150,000 or $250,000, depending on marital status. Even then, the tax increase only applies to the part of the income that exceeds $150,000/$250,000. Most small businesses in Minnesota (including mine, unfortunately) are unaffected. So to call this a tax increase on small business is misleading.

      And hey, Minnesota’s unemployment rate just dropped to 4.5 percent, well ahead of the national numbers and our poorly-governed neighbors to the east.

      • Submitted by Richard Callahan on 07/18/2014 - 11:19 am.

        The effect on S-Corps and hostility in general

        Why is everyone so hostile? Why is every issue black or white? Why can’t there be some truth to both sides of a story?

        To answer some questions about my previous post:

        “Receive subsidies, tax breaks and other govt money?” Zero

        “when were you paid millions of dollars after you were fired for a pathetic performance”. The four of us were severed at the age of 50 after 30 years with a billion dollar company. We started this small business as a means of survival. We did receive a few months pay as severance.

        “just move your corp to Ireland” Actually, I’d love to move to Ireland.

        “Minnesota did not raise the tax rate on small businesses 25 percent.” Our corporation is a Chapter S so it pays taxes at the individual rate. Whatever income is earned at year end is added to our personal income and taxed at that rate. Personally, I don’t earn enough to be affected by the 25% increase in the highest individual rate, but when the income of our business is added that portion is high enough to be affected. Although it’s treated as such I don’t look at this as our personal money, it belongs to the business. Sure, we could take it and personally spend it, but that’s like eating your seed corn. It ruins the business. The business has been trying to save money to invest in a piece of equipment we’d like to hire a fifth person, but we won’t do this until we have enough cash reserves to do it safely and the higher tax rate slows this down.

        With regard to the onerous effect of a business tax on services, my small business, as do most other small businesses, relies heavily on outsourced accounting, legal, and other contractors, all of whom would have had to charge an additional 7% to pay the sales tax. In my business, this is not something that could be passed on to our clients, and it would have amounted to about 20% of our profit. This would easily justify the cost of a move to Wisconsin.

        Again, my point is that everyone’s knee-jerk hostile reaction on both sides of the political spectrum isn’t very helpful.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/18/2014 - 12:00 pm.

        Couple problems with Minnesota’s shiny new unemployment number:

        1. Lower unemployment often means more people just quit looking for work. It really irks me that the labor participation number is not reflected.

        2. Of the jobs that were created, how many are part time? How many are low wage? How many are temporary, or seasonal?

        • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/18/2014 - 02:36 pm.

          Minnesota’s shiny new unemployment number,

          despite quibbles from Mr. Swift, is a good place to start a discussion of which states are doing a good job in that important area and which are not.

          It is interesting that Minnesota ranks tenth at 4.5 percent unemployment while Wisconsin clocks in at 5.7 percent and twenty-fourth, while South Carolina – a so-called right to work state – is seventeenth at 5.3 percent.

          Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

          The labor participation number is a red herring flung by the Right as they see the economic recovery taking hold.

          A large part of the so-called labor participation problem is that: “Aging baby boomers, those Americans born between 1946 and 1964, account for approximately half of the drop in the labor force participation rate since 2007.”


          This fact has been known for some time, but is ignored by those of the GOP persuasion because such good news weakens their argument that things are going terribly badly and that if only they were in charge things would be much better.

          Two words: George Bush

        • Submitted by jason myron on 07/18/2014 - 03:29 pm.


          we would much rather be losing 750,000 jobs a month due to the antiquated economic polices of the Bush administration, but let’s quibble over the fact that more people are finding work and getting back on their feet. Your entire schtick is sooooo tired….you people really need a makeover, preferably something from the 21st century.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/18/2014 - 06:51 pm.

          Govt jobs

          Per another minnpost article, half the new jobs are govt jobs. I proposed there that we just keep creating more low value high paying govt jobs and MN’s unemployment number can go even lower..

          • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/21/2014 - 04:44 pm.

            So what if they are government jobs?

            Do government workers hide all their money under a mattress so that it is “lost to the economy,” as some right-wingers like to claim?

            Or do they spend their paychecks on groceries, home and garden supplies, clothes, car repairs, entertainment, and other private sector products and services, just like real people?

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/21/2014 - 05:36 pm.

              Value Add

              The nice thing about the private labor market is that people are only hired when someone is willing to pay for their efforts or services. (ie some value add)

              The government politicians and bureaucrats are spending someone elses money, so I am concerned they will hire some personnel who add little value, and possibly pay them too much.

              I understand that the salaries of Public employees do enter into our economy. The question is how much of our funds should be spent by the politicians and bureaucrats, and how much should be spent by us Private citizens.

              Please feel free to send them some extra checks if you think they can spend your money more wisely than yourself.

              • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 07/22/2014 - 09:07 am.

                “The government politicians and bureaucrats are spending someone elses money…”

                It’s not someone else’s money, it’s our bill for all sorts of things… and we need to pay our bills. Besides, by that rationale, your previous and current employers have been paying for your gas, mortgage, and clothing, not you. These faceless bureaucrats you are fond of demonizing are also citizens, and have rights and opinions too. I know a lot of people who work for the state, and they are hard-working, highly educated, dedicated Minnesotans who love their home.

                Either way, Minnesota continues to outperform our neighbors and most of the United States on pretty much every metric. An earlier commenter had made a great point about how Minnesota competes on ROI, not on being the cheapest option available.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/22/2014 - 09:10 pm.


                  I did not mean the salaries they earned personally. I meant the positions they create, the amount they pay for those personnel and the results they demand.

                  If you hire a teacher to tutor your child and you are paying for it personally, you will most likely be very careful selecting the best candidate and work to ensure you are getting good results for the money you invest/spend.

                  If you have little personal investment, let’s say you are setting up a school that costs you nothing personally. It is likely that less care will be taken and more money will be used poorly.

  15. Submitted by Brian Simon on 07/17/2014 - 11:04 pm.


    “But we do know that these tax and spending changes will make it more challenging for employers to grow and succeed in Minnesota.”

    We do not ‘know’ this. Some ideologues might believe this, but it is not established fact.

    The more relevant question is: do we get what we pay for? Put another way, what’s the return on investment? For example, it may cost more to do business in Minnesota, but many businesses benefit from having an educated work force. Arguing that cost is the only relevant variable is a fools errand. There will always be lower costs somewhere else. And for those businesses that can benefit from low costs, it makes sense to locate in Kentucky, or Alabama, or Mexico or China. But for others, it makes more sense to locate in Minnesota, and we’re better off for competing not on lower costs but on higher return on investment.

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/18/2014 - 09:07 am.


    The Chamber never has details because their agenda is based on magical thinking. Cut taxes and dismantle the government and wait for the magic to happen. The funny thing is these bidness people who spend their whole lives celebrating and promoting “growth based” business models seem to think you get better service out of an underfunded and dismantled… i.e. “shrinking” government. The less money you spend on roads and bridges and transit, the more and better roads, bridges and transit you have! Magic is all you have when logic is impossible.

    And yes, it is unfortunate that reasonable discussions with sensible business people are so difficult; the various chambers with their magical thinking drown out other voices. But who’s responsible for that? Who’s voting for whom and who’s donating slavishly to any Republican the Chamber endorses?

  17. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/18/2014 - 09:38 am.

    The other thing is…

    Basically there does seem to this bizarre notion that business people possess some level of special economic knowledge or expertise and there are problems with that assumption:

    1) It simply isn’t true. Most business people have a very narrow focus on their own business interests and rarely think coherently about larger economic issues. This is McFadden’s problem, he actually has a very narrow skill set that he’s trying to sell as broad economic wisdom.

    2) We have a mediocre executive class comprised of degreed but uneducated executives. These people take jobs in companies someone else built and get paid huge salaries just to be there until they do something to get themselves fired; then collect a pile money on the way out. The idea that any economic wisdom will flow out of this well is pure fantasy.

    3) What’s good for business isn’t necessarily good the community, or ultimately the larger economy. Cheap labor, zero safety regulations, and zero environmental regulations can make for a great business opportunity but ultimately lead to rivers that catch fire and sick and impoverished populations. In theory, free market principles would point to Somalia or Bangladesh as the best business environments on the planet, yet Microsoft hasn’t moved there for some reason.

    This particular author doesn’t seem to even recognize the basic fact that businesses are the primary beneficiaries of public investment in infrastructure, education, and strong government services. Government regulation stabilizes the business environment, levels playing fields, and protects property and investments. Not to mention the flat out subsidies businesses get. This is one thing that’s always amazed me, looking back at the last ten years or so you’d the idea that big damn recessions and economic catastrophes are GOOD for business? Was the recession good for YOUR business? Why would you want to promote policies that put the economy on a roller coaster of one recession and bubble burst after another? Do you really think that’s good for business?

  18. Submitted by Joe Weidt on 07/18/2014 - 02:31 pm.

    Same old, same old

    I’m 52 years old. I probably started paying attention to the news when I was about 10, and there has been articles like this that entire time. We are always “just about” to lose thousands of jobs because of our business climate, and we are always one of the strongest economies in the country.
    Which is it?

    The only time I can remember us really suffering is during the last decade, when years of disinvestment by a guy who used what would look good to presidential primary voters rather than what was good for the state as his guiding principal in policy making. During that time things got kind of run down here, and we fell behind.

    Now we are back on the verge of economic ruin. I guess low unemployment and no deficits are different indicators than I thought. Yawn.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/18/2014 - 08:43 pm.

      Low unemployment and no deficits are easy

      Just raise taxes on private workers and business owners, and use those funds to hire more public sector workers.

      You are correct that was the easy solution. I wonder what the consequences will be?

      I like Tolkien’s words… “Shortcuts cause long delays”

      • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/18/2014 - 10:06 pm.


        Since the DFL assumed complete control of state government in Minnesota in January 2013, state government employment has declined by 200 jobs.

        Since Minnesota’s recession period employment trough of September 2009, total employment in the state has increased by 200,500. Private sector jobs accounted for 95.7% of that growth, compared to state government’s contribution of 0.3%.

      • Submitted by Richard Helle on 07/19/2014 - 06:45 am.

        Alan Greenspan Jan 25 2001

        The most recent projections, granted their tentativeness, nonetheless make clear that the highly desirable goal of paying off the federal debt is in reach before the end of the decade. This is in marked contrast to the perspective of a year ago when the elimination of the debt did not appear likely until the next decade.

        It’s clear. Tax cuts do not grow the economy. Supply Side Economics is a sham. The middle class is the real engine of, not only our economy, but the world’s economy.

  19. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 07/19/2014 - 12:23 am.

    Certainly we’re glad that the State added 8500 jobs in June

    Bringing the total for the year to around 10,700.

    • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/19/2014 - 09:13 am.


      Since the state started experiencing post-recession year-over-year job growth in August 2010, the median year-over-year growth in MN employment has been 1.63%. The number for June 2014 was 1.65%.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/19/2014 - 03:45 pm.

        Please note that the recovery started long before Dayton and the DFL’s recent tax and spend work. The reality is that we don’t know the impact of last years changes yet. The good times we are experiencing now came from the GOP’s fiscal restraint.

        Time will tell the impact of these higher taxes and additional spending.

        • Submitted by jason myron on 07/21/2014 - 12:11 pm.

          You have zero proof

          that the “good times” were due to republican “restraint.” That’s your unsubstantiated opinion…nothing more.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/21/2014 - 05:26 pm.

            Just as your belief that somehow changes that have been in effect ~12 months or less have somehow miraculously “turned things around”. I mean the DFL folk even undid some of their “improvements” before they even got implemented.

            And yes tax and spend should have a short term positive impact since it is the forced collection of revenues and forced spending/hiring. The long term effect is usually the problem as people and businesses find a better option elsewhere. (ie they can not adjust as fast as the law can change)

        • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 07/21/2014 - 05:26 pm.

          Fiscal restraint of GOP?

          Oh yeah stealing from the kids’ education and keep taxes low for the 1%. LOL

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/22/2014 - 07:34 am.

            Remember the Title

            “Dismissing the cost of doing business in Minnesota will be at our peril”

            Please note that paying teacher’s more than market wage (ie collective bargaining / strikes) also reduces the number of Teachers we can afford to have in the classroom. Are the Teachers and Unions stealing from the Kid’s education?

            • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 07/22/2014 - 08:55 am.

              “Are the Teachers and Unions stealing from the Kid’s education?”

              See, when you ask a question like that, it annihilates any sense of even-handedness that you try and try to cultivate. I can still practically name every teacher I ever had from 1st grade through college, and none of them ever tried to steal from me.

              Besides, we know who stole from kid’s educations. It was the republicans who raided the state education fund.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/22/2014 - 02:51 pm.

                How would you know

                If 10 of your Teachers cost just 10% more than they could have, it means your school had ~1 less Teacher than it could have had. That could have meant lower class sizes, an art course, a music course, extra tutoring for the most challenged students.

                Rough math… If MN ED has 70,000 Teachers who are paid 10% more than they could be… That means we could have ~7,000 more Teachers in our schools helping close the gap.

                This is just meant to be a different perspective.

                • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 07/22/2014 - 03:37 pm.

                  Warped Perspective

                  You claim teachers are overpaid and thieving, I claim they are underpaid and undervalued. Your solution to class size problems are to pay the teachers less so more of them can be hired. My solution is to increase school funding so more teachers can be hired. I don’t believe that MN should be in a race to the bottom in regards to school funding. Besides, across the whole spectrum of employment (except for CEOs, it seems) higher pay translates into happier workers and better performance.

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/22/2014 - 06:37 pm.

                    2 vs 20

                    2 classrooms located next to each other.
                    Both have 25 students of equal demographics.

                    Room 1 has a gifted energetic organized teacher with 2 years of experience who is payed $38,000/yr. Students are engaged and excelling.

                    Room 2 has an ok teacher with 20 years of experience who is paid $58,000/yr. Students do okay but the class is somewhat disruptive and homework is lost sometimes.

                    Does this make sense to you? Rationale?

                    Worse yet. Budget cuts occur because this a shrinking school district. The gifted 2 year teacher is let go and the ok teacher is kept.

                    Does this really seem good for the students? Rationale?

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/23/2014 - 06:55 am.


                      Because we all know that in the real world the best and brightest are always the newest and youngest. Also, that in the face of budget cuts the administration will always choose based on merit, not simply on what will save the most cash. A more likely scenario would be the 20 year educator being canned in deference to a cheap new hire, with the process to be repeated every time a long termer has salary demands the district deems unpleasant. Then we get to add the influence of a public election on the administrator’s bosses which may lend a political element to whether a teacher is retained or not and we would end up with a wonderful mess that would would virtually ensure only the meekest, cheapest, and most masochisitc among the teaching pool remain. But then, since the conservative endgame is not really about ensuring a good education anyway, this probably sounds grand, right?

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/23/2014 - 07:32 am.

                      Cost and Quality

                      This is why some Conservatives and Liberals are trying to hold America’s education system accountable for both cost and quality. Remember NCLB and AYP. The Administrators need to be held accountable for both, just like business managers are. Otherwise they would all hire the cheapest employees available.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/23/2014 - 11:49 am.

                      Just like business managers are

                      Thanks for the laugh. While the naivete present in that statement is precious, I know you know better. Beyond that, I’ll let the schools be run like a business when businesses let the public elect their boardrooms. Fact of the matter is, schools are not businesses, nor should they be. They shouldn’t be a battlefield in the culture wars, nor should they be subsidized job training systems for corporate America. They should serve one purpose, turning out well informed, critically thinking, civic minded citizens, who can then go on to bigger and better things. Leave job training to business, culture wars to activists, and politics to politicians.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/23/2014 - 03:56 pm.

                      Please explain your indifference to the problem to the many kids who can’t pass basic academic capability tests, graduate, get good jobs or go to college because the status quo education system is failing them.

                      Regarding quality and cost, I am very serious. Imagine what Apple would be worth if 25% of their product didn’t meet the basic performance requirements like the Public School system, or it’s costs were too high. They would be bankrupt and another company / model would be put in place.

                    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 07/23/2014 - 04:45 pm.

                      Of course

                      Apple controls everything that happens in their design, manufacturing, and testing process. They design the product, choose the raw materials, and control the assembly and testing.

                      Public schools have to take whoever lives in their district, much of the important work required to be a successful student takes place outside of school walls and is not under their control, and they are subject to a politically driven testing and accountability system.

                      I don’t think people are indifferent about the problem, it’s just they have distinctly different ideas as how to solve it.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/23/2014 - 05:38 pm.


                      So do you mean management (ie the employees, the teachers and administrators in your example) or the business (ie the schools, and apple in your scenario). Managers fail continuously, especially at the highest level, one need only scan the business periodicals to see story after story of high profile folks being dumped. The key difference is that they don’t suffer, they simply collect their winnings and move on to the next failure. Businesses file for bankruptcy continuously as well, passing the buck for their poor decision-making to their employees and creditors. Do you suggest either option for failing schools? I sincerely doubt you’d like to pay off then folks you consider at a level slightly above rat catcher, and we already know you don’t want to pay for the schools themselves so what next? I think the real problem is that the metric for success you prefer, test passage, detracts from the metric I prefer, which I stated previously. You don’t create well rounded, critical thinkers by teaching to the test, and by attempting to do both, as well as being forced to serve as de facto corporate training departments, schools and education has suffered. Put schools back on the duties I stated and see where they stand.

                    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 07/24/2014 - 09:16 am.

                      I’m not going to participate in this biased hypothetical, with the exception of pointing out that you are completely ignoring the fact that teachers don’t get to pick their students, and therefore the one metric you want to judge them on is almost entirely out of their control in terms of what they have to work with… but I digress.

                      I think you’ve kind of threadjacked this comment board, which is about ‘the cost of doing business in MN.’ The Chamber offered no specifics or numbers to back up their claims, yet we have great evidence that the ‘red-state’ plan (Wisconsin, Kansas) is failing, while the ‘blue-state’ plan (Minnesota) is succeeding.

            • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 07/22/2014 - 09:18 am.

              Asserting teachers are paid “more than market wage” has no basis

              There are talent shortages for many teachers – special education, science and math in particular. If you know enough math to teach calculus and you have skills to present information to a room full of people you can usually find a job that pays at least twice as much as a high school math teacher.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/22/2014 - 02:45 pm.

                No More Steps and Lanes

                Yippy…. That is great news…

                We can rid of those pesky steps and lanes and let the administrators set the employee’s compensation based on their effectiveness, productiveness, unique skills and the market. Kind of like what is done in most of the private sector.

                Even better yet, the administrator can layoff poor performing Teachers when they deem it is best for the students, not after a lengthy “due process” where they have to prove the Teacher is failing. The whole while kids are exposed to this failing Teacher.

                • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 07/23/2014 - 08:17 am.

                  Great news?

                  You are the only person I know who thinks it is great news that we cannot attract people with skills in science and math to teaching.

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/23/2014 - 11:54 am.


                    My point is that if we didn’t pay by steps and lanes, we may have more money to pay specialists and highly productive Teachers more. (see 2 and 20 example) Therefore making better use of our constrained funding.

  20. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/21/2014 - 12:54 pm.

    Time has told… repeatedly

    We’ve been through this a number of times already. Every time Republicans get into enough power to implement their small govmint magic plans, they drag us into a recession and turn surpluses into deficits. I think Reagan and the 1st racked up three recessions between them and their tax cuts didn’t even reduce government spending. Then Bush and Cheney pushed their tax cuts and deregulation (although Clinton had also done his bit, no matter who employs magic plans it’s a bad idea) and we got the worse recession in 70 years.

    We can go back further if you want, the Confederate States of America had a slumping economy because despite actual slave labor they were having trouble competing with Europe and the industrialized North. Then they started a doomed war and lost largely because they hadn’t built the infrastructure they needed and didn’t have a sufficient tax revenue that could finance their war. One of the best historical examples in the world that cheap labor, zero taxes, and weak government don’t unleash economic miracles. They did have a lot of wealthy plantations and slave owners though.

    And of course we can always look around the world today, the magical thinking on display here would predict that Somalia and Bangladesh would be the strongest economies on the planet. If you don’t those example look at India and Greece. Greece tried to balance it’s budgets without collecting taxes as well… oops. Predictable outcomes one and all if you simply look at facts instead of fantasy.

  21. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/21/2014 - 12:58 pm.

    And then we have Minneapolis

    Despite the high taxes and meddlesome liberals with all their bike paths and choo choos, and living wage laws, somehow MPLS ends have one of the strongest economies of any major city in the country.

  22. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/22/2014 - 12:43 pm.

    Voting blue and economic performance by state

    There is a strong positive correlation between a state’s voting preference for Obama and its per capita economic output, excluding the 4 states which have an outsized amount of petroleum in them (North Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, and Texas).

    Any assertion that preferring Democratic governance is deleterious to economic performance is contrary to the facts.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/22/2014 - 02:54 pm.


      There are some links here to explain why this is meaningless without more data.

      • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/22/2014 - 04:32 pm.

        Strawmen 101 and Statistics 101

        1) No claim of causation was made on my part. It is very dishonest to rebut non-existent claims, and particularly predictable in this case to see someone chime in with “correlation does not equal causation”.

        2) There is a causative claim, however, in this opinion piece and in many comments, and the data I presented rebuts that claim.

        It is indisputable that blue states outperform red states economically and that US federal deficits increase under Republicans and shrink under Democrats. Facts, not opinions. And since these are indisputable, and contrary to a belief widely and deeply held, it is very upsetting to people who hold such a belief.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/22/2014 - 06:27 pm.

          Too simplistic

          Your “facts” are intentionally misleading and good enough to be placed on a political commercial.

          Fact: “blue states outperform red states economically”
          Assumption? Blue causes this better performance?

          Fact: US federal deficits increase under Republicans and shrink under Democrats
          Assumption: President controls taxes, spending, business cycle, tech improvements, etc?

          With this logic I could say something foolish like this

          Fact: White people typically have higher academic performance scores and earn more than Black people
          Assumption? White causes this better performance?

          Making loaded statements with the attempt to imply that they mean something is what I call dishonest.

          • Submitted by jason myron on 07/22/2014 - 09:04 pm.

            Hmmm…loaded statements

            with the attempt to imply they mean something…You mean like this one? “The good times we are experiencing now came from the GOP’s fiscal restraint.”

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/23/2014 - 07:44 am.

              I agree

              That was an over simplification on my part, there are likely many other factors in play. Including the huge increase in farm revenues over the past decade, the huge medical industry that Medtronics brought into our community, etc.

          • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/23/2014 - 12:36 am.

            Let me help

            The general proposition of this opinion piece, clearly shared by the likes of people like yourself:

            * Democrats hurt the economy.

            As has now been stated three times, no one is asserting a causative relationship between voting blue and economic performance nor is anyone stating a causative relationship between Democratic presidents and changes in the deficit. Yet the correlation clearly exists. Ergo, the belief that your hold that Democrats harm the economy is simply false. Unequivocally.

            I shall not explain this again. Three times is enough to comprehend something so simple.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/23/2014 - 07:53 am.


              I am not certain that any one has said that Democrats hurt the economy.

              I think people believe that a high degree of arbitrary government madated wealth transfer will harm the economy by encouraging the people who are being forced to pay more than their “fair share” of the bills to move elsewhere over time.

              Whereas the Liberals here seem to think these folks are an infinite well to be pumped as they wish. And that these folks should happily pay these high taxes, and are wrong to look for less expensive alternatives.

              Even though all of us look for sales and ways to decrease our costs/taxes every day. It just seems ironic to me.

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/23/2014 - 10:39 am.

                Yeah, problem is….

                “I think people believe that a high degree of arbitrary government madated wealth transfer will harm the economy by encouraging the people who are being forced to pay more than their “fair share” of the bills to move elsewhere over time.”

                There is no “arbitrary” government mandated wealth transfer. Just like there are no liberals who believe in “unlimited” or “inefficient” government. These imaginary liberal phenomena is the product of conservative stereotypical thinking. Liberal policy is not arbitrary, it’s based on evidence. That doesn’t mean liberal policy is always right, but it’s not arbitrary. You can argue that liberal policy is wrong, but then you have to produce evidence, not mere declarations or observations that something is simply “liberal.” Conservatives define it as arbitrary and rely on stereotypes because they can’t engage on the evidence, evidence doesn’t support magical thinking, which in a way is just another form stereotypical thinking… if you think about it.

                So yeah, everyone agrees that arbitrary economic policy is a bad idea, that’s why no one is doing it.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/23/2014 - 03:45 pm.


                  It may not be the best word, however I think it is close…

                  Merriam Webster: arbitrary

                  not planned or chosen for a particular reason
                  not based on reason or evidence
                  done without concern for what is fair or right

                  I mean beauty/reason is in the eye of the beholder… And we have a lot of beholders in America.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/23/2014 - 08:42 am.

            This isn’t logic

            John says:

            “Fact: “blue states outperform red states economically”
            Assumption? Blue causes this better performance?

            Fact: US federal deficits increase under Republicans and shrink under Democrats
            Assumption: President controls taxes, spending, business cycle, tech improvements, etc?”

            John, people can provide facts but they aren’t responsible for the bad assumptions you draw from those facts. What you’re providing here isn’t logic, they’re logical non-sequitur’s.

            In order for your arguments to actually be logical, they’d have to look like this:

            You can’t base a conclusion on a contrived misrepresentation of a word definitions, you have to define terms, not assume absurd term interpretations.

            Fact: Some states in the US are painted Blue, others Red. Blue States outperform red states. Therefore the color Blue causes better economies than the color red.

            You can’t introduce a conclusion that hasn’t been proposed by the argument, so concluding that a president controls taxes etc. from an argument that didn’t mention the president is a non-sequitur. Your second argument would have to look like this:

            Fact: The President controls spending, taxes, business cycle’s, and all innovation in the US. THAT control determines the size of the deficit. When presidents are democrats, the deficit shrinks, when the are republicans, deficits get larger. Therefore Democrats are better at shrinking deficits than republicans.

            Now you seem to recognize the absurdity of your racial IQ claim, but you don’t seem to realize it’s a non-sequitur:

            Fact: White people typically have higher academic performance scores and earn more than Black people
            Assumption? White causes this better performance?

            Again, you can’t introduce a contrived misunderstanding as a valid proposition, you have be more precise. In order to make this a logical argument:

            Fact: Skin color determines IQ. IQ determines economic success. People with white skin are more economically successful than people with black skin, therefore white skin causes better economic performance and higher IQ’s.

            Now we all KNOW that logic alone does not make a statement true, you learn that the first day of any class in a logic course. The fallacies of all of these statements are obvious: States are not painted colors in the US, Presidents don’t control economies, and skin color does not determine IQ or economic success. One may be able to make John’s arguments logical, but they are still obviously untrue.

            Now of course we all know that Charles Murray, the king of correlational fallacies, actually made this white skin-IQ claim in: “The Bell Curve”. All John is doing here is manufacturing liberal absurdities to match conservative absurdities.

            It helps if you actually understand the concepts you’re trying to work with.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/23/2014 - 11:49 am.

              Liberal Absurdities

              I didn’t manufacture them. I just commented on them.

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/23/2014 - 05:34 pm.

                No, you manufactured them

                No liberal has argued the the color blue makes or brakes economies or deficits, or that a sitting president possess omniscient and absolute power over everything in the economy…. those are YOUR fantasies, you merely attribute them to liberals.

  23. Submitted by Chris Williams on 07/22/2014 - 02:45 pm.

    Great find. Would love to see an article further examining this. I wish Minnpost had a staff economist to break this stuff down!

  24. Submitted by Theo Kozel on 07/22/2014 - 05:48 pm.

    Ignore the contradictions

    Ms Kadoun and I agree on quite a lot. For example, we both believe Minnesota’s economy is doing quite well. “It’s true that Minnesota has done better than Michigan, but much of that is likely due to our more diverse economy”

    We also agree that relatively recent economic policy changes can only be tentatively judged by current economic performance. “In addition, remember that the 2013-14 legislative sessions put Minnesota’s spending and taxes on steroids with double-digit increases and cost burdens among the highest in the nation. The economic impact of these decisions may not be factored into our economy for some time.”

    But we diverge roughly at the point where Ms. Kadoun has to rely on implications and innuendos rather than empirical observations. If it is true that high taxes depress economic growth, how then can it be that “Minnesota’s above-average taxes and higher services have been the go-to model for years”, even going back to the 70’s, yet still Minnesota has consistently been a relatively solid economic performer for decades? Have we not given such policies enough time to measure the longer term economic after 40 years?

    Indeed, take out the factor of oil wealth (which is not the result of tax policy) and you would be hard pressed to find a low tax state that matches or exceeds Minnesota’s enduring economic performance. Factor in median income and overall you’ll see that Minnesota performs extraordinarily well with its high tax/high service model. Labor here is not cheap, people are well paid (good), yet our unemployment rates have consistently been below the national average.

    “We need to consider which successful economies we want to compare ourselves to that rely on forward-looking tax and investment policies that encourage greater business retention and growth.” OK then, let us consider which successful economies we want to compare ourselves to- how about Germany? Is that some sort of low cost utopia the likes of which the Chamber would like to emulate? No, indeed, it’s actually quite a high cost place to do business with its high energy prices and well-paid labor and strong unions. Yet it also it the third largest exporter in the world. What does it rely on? Education and skills, not cost cutting. In no way does Germany’s performance square with the Chamber’s economic dogma, and call me radical but when dogma and reality do not square I know which one I’ll drop. And in that, Ms. Kadoun and I meet our final and ultimate divergence.

  25. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/23/2014 - 01:34 pm.

    A half century of evidence

    We are fortunate to have complete and accurate data about the output of US state economies dating back to 1963. We can then take that data to calculate real dollar GDP per capita over time and then run that against voting preferences in presidential elections.

    The hypothesis in this piece, and held fervently by many ideologues, is that liberal approaches to governance harm economies and drive wealth away. Well, luckily we have this GDP per capita data and can see if this indeed occurs.

    What we find is in fact the opposite.

    With the exception of the Carter (a former southern governor) elections of 1976 and 1980, in every presidential election from 1964 to 2012, the 10 richest US states (excluding the 4 most oil-rich states per capita – ND, AK, WY, and TX) are always more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate than the Republican one. Furthermore, the gap between the two widens with each election. Over the entire data set of 46 states (again, except for 1976 and 1980), it is a positive correlation between a state’s wealth and its propensity to vote for the Democratic candidate. And the correlation coefficient keeps getting stronger with each election.

    If there were going to be a movement of economic fortune away from the more liberal states, a half century is more than enough time for that to occur. Yet in fact the opposite is occurring.

    So people who believe in a causative relationship between more liberal governance and lower economic performance are simply adhering to an unfounded belief based on feelings and hopes and not evidence.

    [As a coda, if anyone has a predictable compulsion to assert that excluding oil-rich states is a skewed approach, they would be advised to look at countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Norway, Qatar, Brunei, etc, and ask exactly what policy approaches made these countries so wealthy, instead of the simple fact that they have very high oil output per capita.]

  26. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/23/2014 - 05:55 pm.

    Jay’s got it, but…

    Thanks for analysis Jay.

    But you know the point can be made much more simply. The fact is that not a single one of the real affluent nations or economies on this planet is a low tax, cheap labor, weak government nation. The United certainly didn’t get where it is as the wealthiest nation on earth with low taxes, cheap labor, and a weak government. We know the taxes aren’t low because republicans have been complaining about them for decades, yet here we are, the largest economy on the planet, more than twice as large the next largest economy. We know we don’t have cheap labor, and our economy was the strongest when our middle class (i.e. labor) had a bigger share of the wealth than it does now. And we certainly do not have a weak government. If these guys were right, the United States and it’s economy would simply be impossible.

    Furthermore, not a single huge corporation or wealthy individual exists without considerable assistance from the government or the public, and most the biggest corporations in the world reside here in the US. Whether government assistance is in the form of bribed officials and corrupt law making, or legitimate services like enforcement of copyrights or the protection of property and negotiation of favorable trade deals, wealth does not accumulate in any serious amount where there is no government, or generally affluent population.

    You would think that a business people, of ALL people, would understand the environment they live and do business in, and it’s advantages, and maybe a lot of them do? The Chambers on the other hand seem to think the Confederates had the right idea, and Somalia is crawling with opportunity and billionaires.

    On the other hand, really wealthy people and big companies seem to understand the situation because here they are, in the US… not Bangladesh, or India, or Nigeria…

  27. Submitted by John Appelen on 07/23/2014 - 08:24 pm.


    Now you are in my world of expertise. Natural variability and surprises occur in all aspects of design, manufacture and test. The most successful companies and employees are those that manage it most effectively. I am amused by the idea that Apple controls Google Motorola and Samsung. If they do, they are doing a poor job.

    As for indifference, it seems to me that many of the commenters here want to double down on a system that has left millions and millions of children behind.

    Many Superintendents, Administrators and Teachers get buy outs to make them go away. The current system has delivered millions of adults who are not academically capable enough to get a good paying job. I think a change is worth the risk.

    Nobody demands that the education system “teach to the test”, but the students had better be able to answer the questions on the test if they want to go to college, a good technical college or get a high paying job.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/23/2014 - 10:16 pm.

      Still missing my point

      You need to decouple your mind from the notion that the only purpose of education is to A. Provide the business community with skilled labor and B. Provide the means for individuals to accumulate wealth. Now to be clear, those are both ancillary effects of a strong education system,
      but they cannot be its focus. Education is what provides us civilization itself. It is a base level necessity lest we descend into dystopian savagery. You see into quantify, to commoditze knowledge and wisdom to parcel it out in the smallest, cheapest possible form necessary to satisfy your narrow needs. In so doing you by necessity homogenize and standardize as much as you can, as is dictated by the god of efficiency so many of you technocratic conservatives worship. Unfortunately, that isn’t how learning works, it requires many differing approaches across the wide spectrum of students, from a wide spectrum of educators. In practical terms this means expense, more teachers, more materials, more schools to achieve smaller classrooms, more individualized learning, more technology, more everything. To which, the answer from your side has always been, and will always be, NO! Far from indifferent, I am simply actively opposed to all the solutions you propose, as I see no good faith from your side that your end goals are anything but self serving. You want my solution? Compulsory, taxpayer funded education pre-k through a bachelor’s or technical equivalent (with those equivalents requiring a certain proportion of non-technical for lack of a better term “liberal arts” based coursework, the civilization stuff J mentioned earlier) Come up with the money however you like. Make a degree or equivalent or progress toward one a feature of every prison sentence handed out. Make business pay for the retraining of every employee they lay off without cause. In short, make a good education the baseline expectation for every citizen and put forth the resources to do so. You can quibble all you like about the price, tell me how throwing money at the problem won’t work, what have you. The biggest portion of the change I seek is the transition of thought from believing education is a NICs thing to have if you can afford it, to thinking orbit as a baseline necessity, like air, food, water, shelter, and treating it accordingly. From asking “why should we spend so much money on educating our kids?” to “how could we ever think to spend LESS to educate our kids?”

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/24/2014 - 09:47 am.

        Success Criteria

        I am not sure what is self serving about demanding that every child has the knowledge and capabilities to earn a middle class or better living in our modern competitive world. I am thinking reading, writing, math and basic science capabilities would be an acceptable minimum standard. The challenge is that we spend a great deal of money on education in the US and have many many students who can not even meet this minimal threshold.

        How would you know the education system was successful in your version?

        Or does society just give unlimited funds to the system and trust them when they say it is excellent?

        Remember that we have done that for decades and the academic achivement gap still is huge.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/24/2014 - 11:52 am.

          Last reply to deliberate obtuseness

          I don’t care if ones education leads to employment, middle class or otherwise. As eleoquently stated by Mr. Udstrand below, education is not a commodity to be sold for a return. My standard for success would be functioning citizens, capable of engaging in the day to day business of society, capable of playing an active role in their own governance, capable of resisting persuasion from any number of interests whose goals do not align with their own. The ends you strive for, a skilled workforce for the minimum input cost possible, addresses none of this. Malleable corporate drones might make for a useful business investment, but also a disastrous society.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/24/2014 - 03:02 pm.

            So send us the money

            So your answer is send the education system more money and trust that they will take care of things.

            And send more checks to the adults who are unable to get jobs, because the education system failed them.

            Interesting concept… Now I understand why the war on poverty is failing.

            • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/24/2014 - 06:37 pm.

              Ah yes

              Far better I suppose the conservative approach. On poverty, kick the poor while they’re down, blame them for the beating, and incarcerate them when they step out of line. On education, fire all the teachers with experience, as they’re too “expensive” ( mainly due to the fact their Union supports people we don’t like), replace them with “industry experts” with “real world experience” ( a bunch of recent grads looking for a paycheck while adding a few bullet points to the resume for their “real” job), complain that the system is broken when this brilliant approach fails, come back to the real objective privatization of the public school system and the limiting of education (for all but the super rich) to that which is deemed the bare necessity for a cheap, skilled labor force.
              Yeah, I think I’ll stick to my approach.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/24/2014 - 10:21 pm.


                I think the Democrats and the Republicans agreed to give the Status Quo Education System 10 years to improve their performance. Like a good Teacher, NCLB explained the expectations clearly, set a clear due date and defined the grading criteria. And yes the goal was nearly impossible to fully succeed at, but it is a worthy goal.

                Unfortunately the education system like a poor student spent the 10 years procrastinating and complaining about the assignment instead of working hard to earn a passing grade. Therefore here we still sit with many children being left behind and earning low incomes.

                No one told them to do any of the things you mention above. They just insisted that they learn, improve and make sure that NO Child is Left Behind. How to do this was left up to the teachers, unions and administrators Unfortunately they earned an “F”, so they did what any poor student would do. They went to their friends and complained about how unfair the assignment was.

                • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/25/2014 - 12:39 pm.


                  As it was old news I disregarded the prequel to the conservative education stratagem listed above. It goes as follows, propose and pass a landmark “mandate” (with as much pie in the sky optimism as possible) to prove how much conservatism “really cares” about a good education for all. Proceed to deny any significant funding towards said mandate, then use its utter failure ( as planned) as rationale to proceed with what I stated previously.

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/26/2014 - 01:11 am.

                    Kennedy helped author it and get it passed if I remember correctly.

                    I didn’t know he was a Conservative or in the GOP…

  28. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/24/2014 - 08:26 am.

    As far as education is concerned

    A lot of conservatives really don’t understand the fundamental purpose of education, and that’s why it was a huge mistake to consider their agenda. First we abandoned innovation in the public schools because conservatives demanded that we get “back to basics”. Then we developed amnesia regarding the aforementioned innovations and decided that entrepreneurs were the only people on the planet who could possible save our educational system…. with charter schools and vouchers. Standardized tests are the legacy of the back to basics movement, and most people now agree that No Child Left Behind program that made those tests a central feature is a dud. The result is that we’ve made almost no progress and in many ways rolled backwards over the last three decades. It shouldn’t surprise anyone because on a very basic level a lot of powerful conservatives never really believed in public education in the first place. Historically they’ve been fighting it one way or another since the time of Thomas Jefferson.

    What many conservatives don’t get, is that education is about developing good intellects, teaching people how to think, not WHAT to think. A good education system trains people how to think, not what to believe. You pick up diplomas and degrees along the way, and you can specialize in later stages of education, but the degree is product of intellect, not merely ticket to affluence.

    The problem is we’ve moved away from a model of an education system that produces good intellects into a market based education system that sees degrees as tickets to affluence. We have a degree “market” that sells education. The result is that we graduate more and more people who have degrees… and poor intellects. I had a friend who used to say we were becoming a nation of people who were increasingly “degreed” but not educated. You can see that in the recent polls that have found that Americans who are ignorant about a variety of issues are NOT uneducated in the sense that they’ve graduated high school and gotten more advanced degrees. They’ve gotten the degrees they need to enter the job market, but they don’t have the intellect to sort out or recognize reliable information and evidence.

    And of course the chamber of commerce always supports the wrong approach to education 🙂

    • Submitted by jason myron on 07/24/2014 - 11:10 am.

      Spot on, Paul…

      Absolutely on the mark!

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/26/2014 - 01:19 am.

      Basics and Innovation

      I am uncertain how defining expectations stifles innovation in education?

      It seems the first is defining what minimum needs to be learned.

      Whereas the second is how is it best taught to ensure all children have a thorough understanding.

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