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Health care, taxes and debt: Stewart Mills banks on conservative message for northern Minnesota

MinnPost photo by Devin Henry
Stewart Mills is a first-time candidate hoping to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan in the 8th Congressional District, which covers much of northern Minnesota.

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — Stewart Mills is straight out of central casting for a would-be Republican congressman: A fresh-faced, straight-talking businessman who came to political prominence through a web video promoting second-amendment rights.

Ask him to dive a bit deeper into his policy positions and you’ll find a platform matching his image: on most everything from health care to tax policy, Mills is conservative and proud of it — making him a fine GOP foil to incumbent Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan in what’s expected to be a competitive 8th District race.

That said, Mills isn’t ready to follow the party’s lead on everything. Take one very conspicuous example: the budget plan presented by Rep. Paul Ryan, which Mills said last week that he wouldn’t support because of its approach on Medicare.

Lauded by conservatives, the Ryan plan repeals the Affordable Care Act while maintaining the law’s cuts to future Medicare spending and converting its benefits structure to a voucher system. The overall budget would save $5.1 trillion over ten years, and while cutting deficits and reining in the national debt are both goals of Mills, he said he doesn’t support the Medicare schemes Ryan had proposed.

Part of the Medicare savings in both the ACA and the Ryan budget are from planned cuts to Medicare Advantage, plans run by private insurers. Mills said he supports that program and wouldn’t want to move forward with those cuts.

“Nobody can honestly say that you’re going to have the same amount or more doctors offering the same number of services or more services by cutting payments to them,” the Fleet Farm executive and first-time candidate said during a lunchtime interview at a favorite Grand Rapids taco joint last Wednesday. “Ultimately, the seniors will be negatively affected, but at the same time, you have to tackle, through consumerism, the problems with the medical economy.”

Cutting the debt

Ryan’s chairmanship of the Budget Committee will end at the end of the year, so it’s possible the GOP may table the Medicare cuts in any future budget plan. Democrats have wielded votes for past iterations of Ryan’s budget against Republicans around election time, highlighting the Medicare cuts especially. Only 12 Republicans voted against this year’s budget bill.

Mills said he thinks bringing down health care costs is one of the best ways to tackle the national debt, and he suggested the first step should be repealing the ACA (more on that below). But he hasn’t proposed any potential fixes to Medicare itself, indicating that those would come after he’s elected to Congress.

Similarly, Mills demurred a number of times when asked how to reform Social Security, which, alongside Medicare, is one of the biggest drivers of the national debt long-term. He said “you have to get to Washington” and talk to both Republicans and Democrats before pitching a Social Security plan.

“If one side were to say something, even a little bit innocuous, you’d see a picture of grandma being driven off the cliff,” he said. “And all the other person was doing was advancing an idea to preserve Social Security. So it’s highly politicized.”


He’s less shy when talking about the Affordable Care Act.

Mills said the law has failed to live up to its promises of expanded access and lower costs and argued the law’s success at enrolling new beneficiaries is based too much on expanding Medicaid eligibility. He pitched a replacement plan filled with ideas long pushed by Republicans: offering health insurance across state lines, expanding health savings accounts, tort reform and more transparency in medical costs. He said he favors a “safety-net culture” based around programs like Minnesota’s MCHA high-risk pool program — which is closing because of the ACA’s pre-existing conditions requirement — rather than an approach like the ACA.

He said that the law’s relatively popular provisions — such as ending the ban on pre-existing conditions, allowing children on their parents’ plan until they’re 26, etc. — wouldn’t necessarily be a part of a future reform effort.

“I start with the fact that socialism doesn’t work,” he said. “Even if you have mechanisms that look like Obamacare, it still is government control of one-sixth of our economy, and consumerism does work. I believe that those two points are inarguable.”

Nolan, who has defended the law even as he pushes for a single-payer health care system, said he’s opposed to any efforts to repeal major provisions of the law, especially ones that he said he’s “seen firsthand how it’s benefited so many people.”

“There’s a lot of good things in there and I’m not remotely interested in repealing any of them, and it’s just unfolding now,” he said Thursday in Walker, Minnesota. “And as it unfolds, I think it will become apparent what’s working well and what needs fixing. But I have no interest in repealing that.”

MinnPost photo by Devin Henry
U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan speaks at the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe’s State of the Band event last week in Walker, Minnesota.


The two are similarly divided on business tax policy.

Mills said he favors a “flatter, fairer tax code” based on trimming out tax loopholes to help pay for lowering overall tax rates on “job creators,” small- and medium-sized businesses that file their taxes on the individual tax scale.

Democrats, including the House Majority PAC in a television ad campaign against Mills, have noted such a plan would inevitability mean lowering tax rates on individual high-income earners. But Mills said the point of the plan would be to help small businesses compete with corporations armed with accountants to help them navigate the tax code.

“Here’s the problem the Democrats have: they say they’re for jobs, but they’re constantly at war with job creators,” he said. “They’ve put a target on the backs of our Main Street businesspeople and their employees, and that’s very troubling.”

Nolan said he has supported bills in the House meant to preserve tax breaks aimed at helping businesses increase capital investments, but he rejected lowering overall rates to help bolster business.

“The idea that somehow people of wealth are just unilaterally, across-the-board, the business and the job creators, it’s just bull crap,” he said. “I support tax cuts and deductions that require actual investment, not just a windfall benefit for the wealthy.”

Guns and mining

Mills has already made hay with Nolan’s F grade from the National Rifle Association, pointing to Nolan’s support for an assault weapons ban and a limit on magazine capacities. Nolan, who is a hunter, said it amounts to “deceit and demagoguery” to suggest he doesn’t support second amendment rights.

The two are expected to wage a fight over mining as well, though both say they support the PolyMet copper-nickel mine currently under environmental review. But Mills said he expects to benefit politically from a potential divide among the 8th District’s miners and environmentalists who have traditionally teamed up to support Democrats.

“These people are willing to vote for a Republican if they’ll represent their interests,” he said, “because the Democrats have stopped representing the interests of the people here because we have what they call the blue-green divide” between labor-aligned Democrats and environmentalists.

The 8th District race is expected to be the most competitive in Minnesota this cycle, and both sides are girding for an onslaught of outside spending between now and Election Day. Despite sending Republican Chip Cravaack to Congress in 2010, the district continues to generally favor Democrats and Nolan won by a healthy margin in 2012. But Republicans have sought to weaken the DFL’s hold here, with Mills waging a strong challenge to Nolan and gubernatorial and U.S. Senate contests toping November’s ballot.

“The district is changing, the conservative voter intensity is picking up,” Mills said. “We have a great pitch to make to folks this election cycle, and it’s resonating.”

Devin Henry can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry

Comments (79)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/25/2014 - 11:32 am.

    False promise

    Most of what Mr. Mills is advocating is right out of the Cato Institute playbook. What isn’t from that playbook seems to be of the “trust me” variety – “Send me to Washington and I’ll work on your behalf, using ideas I can’t talk about during an election campaign.”

    His take on the ACA is pure sophistry, since the program, in spite of a glitch-filled rollout, is, in fact, expanding access to health care, and is also lowering costs. Health savings accounts are meaningless for people with incomes that are, at best, modest. They can’t save any money as it is, and what they’ll be able to save for health care will simply be a cruel joke when the bill arrives for even a minor hospital stay or procedure. Health insurance across state lines is a good idea that would be easy if Republicans would support a single-payer system, which, to put it mildly, they do not. Tort reform is code for “Let the for-profit hospital remove the wrong (insert organ or extremity here), ruin your life, but escape with a minor award that doesn’t even cover your ongoing medical costs as a result of their mistake.”

    No serious candidate for any office higher than the figurative dog-catcher is going to be publicly opposed to greater transparency in medical costs, so Mills’ position there is hardly a great leap forward.

    Mills is an interesting guy, and might be fun to talk to over a burger, but a man whose working career began in the family business, and who has inherited a fortune of several millions, will not – has no idea how to – represent the interests of miners, farmers, loggers, resort employees, and other middle-and-working-class residents of the 8th District.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/25/2014 - 01:19 pm.

      Ray, are you sure he’s not reading out of the ALEC playbook….or the Koch primer?

      Too, an argument can be made that Mill’s “send me to Washington” “trust me” message came from the Pelosi “We have to pass Obamacare to know what’s in it” playbook. Or maybe it’s the Dayton “I won’t tell you what next year’s MNSure premiums will be but trust me, they’re gonna be swell” playbook.

      Hard to keep track of playbooks without a program, right?

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/25/2014 - 12:10 pm.

    So Typical of the Children of Successful Entrepreneurs

    Mr. Mills really only has ONE set of interests: his own.

    Anyone who believes he would seek, in any way, to make their own lives easier (except, of course, for business owners of his own social class), is deluding themselves.

    Folk such as Mr. Mills are a dime a dozen, these days, all of them sharing a singular blindness:

    they can’t even come close to imaging what it would be like to be anyone but themselves (they never have, nor would they care to “walk a mile” in any lesser person’s shoes).

    They can only imagine one reason why other people’s lives are not going as well their own: those people are not enough like their betters.

    They can’t conceive of the bald faced lie, the massive delusion, and stubborn ignorance behind their conviction that, if everyone else were exactly like themselves, we’d all have the prosperous life that they, themselves, enjoy.

    Somehow the fact that the life they currently enjoy was never earned by themselves but was handed to them on a silver platter by mommy and daddy, who were the ones that actually did all the hard work to create that life completely escapes them.

    Not only has Mr. Mills been (likely inadvertently) raised to regard himself as a “prince” among men, but he can’t imagine there might be some benefit to living out the “pauper” side of that old story. Indeed, he would not dream of debasing himself by doing so.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/25/2014 - 01:31 pm.

      Unless I’m mistaken, and I’m not, Stewart Mills has worked in his families store since he was very young, and started at the very bottom of the rung. And unless I’m mistaken, and I’m not, he still puts in a 50+ hour work week there to this day.

      Fact is, Stewart Mills background puts your entire stereotyped missive to the torch. Maybe you’re confusing him with one of the Kardashian princesses, although they are dedicated leftists.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/25/2014 - 03:11 pm.

        To be clear, he put in 50+ until this run for office.

      • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 08/25/2014 - 04:49 pm.

        Source for your opinions Swift?

        Pardon all of us for refusing to take your opinions based on your word alone

      • Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 08/25/2014 - 05:46 pm.

        No Bottom Rung for Mr. Mills

        He may have spent a few months on the bottom rung, but no matter what job he did, or how well/poorly he did it, he was always going to be climbing the ladder very fast because he is a Mills with a rung at the very top reserved just for him.

        Mr. Mills – like his hero’s George W. Bush and Mitt Romney – is a spoiled rich kid who cannot imagine what life is like without the silver spoon in his mouth. There are other people born into wealth that believe that serving in public office is a great opportunity to make the lives of those less fortunate than themselves a little easier and perhaps a little fairer. Sadly, Mr. Mills seems to believe that public service is an opportunity to advance his own narrow interests, not the greater interests of his would-be constituents.

        • Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 08/25/2014 - 08:48 pm.


          that those critical of Mr. Mills’ being born into wealth cannot come to the realization that our current governor has enjoyed the same.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/26/2014 - 09:25 am.


            That those who snipe about our current Governor’s inherited wealth cannot come to the realization that he does not take his win in the genetic lottery as evidence that coddling the rich is a sound public policy.

          • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/26/2014 - 10:02 am.

            All Rich Folk Are the Same BECAUSE They’re Rich?

            I beg to differ. Gov. Dayton was raised by a family of hard working folk who grew wealthy because of their hard work, just as Mr. Mill’s parents did,…


            The Dayton family (as did the vast majority of Minnesota’s business leaders of earlier generations) ALWAYS believed their wealth gave them special responsibilities to the community and the society around them. Yes, they lived well, but not nearly so ostentatiously as they might have, because they also built into their companies and their own lives the requirement that they would give back to the community a portion of their profits and their income.

            The Daytons were wise enough to know that net worth has precious little to do with whether or not you are a worthy member of the human race. Such worthiness is to be found in what you offer of yourself and your resources to help those who need help.

            Sadly, Mr. Mills seems to have been raised to believe that his worth is found only in what he can gather into his own pockets and hang onto.

            Mark Dayton’s focus has always been on other people and how he could make life better for the folk he’s serving in elected office.

            Mr. Mill’s focus seems only to be on himself and how he can help himself and those like him to grab whatever power and resources he can lay hands on as an elected official.

            Those are two VERY DIFFERENT ways of being “rich.”

            Most religions of the world would say that one leads to blessedness, the other to perdition.

        • Submitted by Joe Musich on 08/26/2014 - 01:21 am.


          the evidence of corporate commitment is how many Fleet Farms on da Range ?

  3. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 08/25/2014 - 12:34 pm.

    Mills needs to get a haircut if he wants to be from central casting.

    The fact that he categorically rejects any socialist solution without even listening to the proposal tells me he’s not someone I want representing me in Congress. Personally, I want someone who has an open mind and is willing to look at all possible solutions, regardless of their source. Mr. Mills claims there aren’t any working socialist programs, while at the same time he turns a blind eye to our police force, fire protection, and roads, all of which are socialized and work very well.

    Looking at his health care proposals, none of them pass muster. As Ray pointed out, having health savings accounts doesn’t do much good when you’re living from paycheck to paycheck. If you manage to save up a few hundred bucks at your waiter job that won’t be much consolation when the $250,000 bill comes due for your cancer treatment.

    Vouchers are simply another way of giving away tax payer’s money to big businesses. They’ll lure people in with more junk insurance plans that ACA banned; plans that take money and provide no real value.

    Selling plans across state lines is a non-starter as it’s like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s a nice idea, but what does it really do? So you get some overpriced insurance plan that’s not selling well in another state. Big deal.

    The ONLY sensible thing to do when it comes to health insurance is single payer, universal, government run health care. Couple that with compensation reform (procedure based to outcome based) and you’ve got a real winner. Anything less than that is just spitting in the wind.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/25/2014 - 01:42 pm.

      “…while at the same time he turns a blind eye to our police force, fire protection, and roads, all of which are socialized and work very well.”

      Well working roads:

      Well working police:

      Well, one out of three don’t stink too bad, I guess.

      • Submitted by jody rooney on 08/26/2014 - 11:39 am.

        While I don’t agree with Mr. Hintz that this is socialism

        at work. I think it is government regardless of philosophy. I do think some one of your sources are a bit off. The first three sources are are rent seeking – “if I cry wolf long enough someone will give us some money” or “isn’t a contingency fee great”.

        All organizations that have publicly funded infrastructure like to show a backlog, the U of M does it, the DNR does it and so does DOT. I worked for two organizations that did infrastructure for over 25 years. While it is somewhat self serving it is also a political necessity since most funding has to be appropriated and politicians would rather build something new rather than maintain what we have.

        • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/26/2014 - 05:09 pm.

          I agree Jody, however as far as roads in Minnesota go, taxpayers’ cars are being trashed by the backlog.

          Also, isn’t the very ability to garner cash by crying wolf an indictment against the idea that government supplied services “work well”?

          That is to say, don’t they work proportionally well as the pile of cash that greases them continues to grow?

          • Submitted by jody rooney on 08/29/2014 - 08:59 am.

            Have you ever worked in private industry

            I have got to tell you I have been in both and I wouldn’t necessarily paint the private sector as more efficient although it has fewer forms. The inefficiency just occurs at the “yes men” level. Has the government screwed up as badly as the S&L scandal, or the housing derivatives, or even the big three auto makers?

            I drive my car and truck until they have 300,000+ miles on them and that’s a lot of miles and they seem to do fine on Minnesota Roads.

            There have been numerous experiments with privatizing government services. Is there one that works well at a lower cost? Organizations and government units need to make arguments for their funding. But it is not unlike rent seek by private corporations – but that is called lobbying for tax breaks.

  4. Submitted by David Frenkel on 08/25/2014 - 02:23 pm.

    realities of government

    Like it or not the Federal legislative process is rooted in seniority and which political party has the majority in either house of Congress. It should be discussed during the election that loosing an incumbent does matter in Congress. A newly elected Congressman gets an office in the basement and no real political power. Bachmann had to go outside the halls of Congress to speak her mind because nobody in her own party would allow her to speak inside.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 08/25/2014 - 02:29 pm.


    Mr. Hintz…..Re Mill’s hair……….Interesting that you would notice Mills hair fetish.
    I live within the Brainerd area, and back in January if I remember correctly, Stewart met with a small group of advocates at one of the resorts North of Brainerd and as the Brainerd paper post-meeting article indicated, Mills had told the group that ‘he was keeping his hair long in order to attract the youth vote’. That statement in itself should tell the voters what most already have guessed about Mills, that he is clueless as to the intelligence of today’s voters. It appears that Mills feels that his love of hair and guns is what is going to garner him enough votes from those who have those singular driving interests in order to defeat Nolan….which in itself tells the voter that Mills is not qualified in order to represent the citizens of the 8th in Congress.

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/25/2014 - 02:53 pm.

    Republicans still don’t know how our government works.

    Typical mediocre “executive” who doesn’t understand fundamental policy and why flat taxes in economies as disparate as our end up collecting either insufficient revenue or disproportionate amounts from the bottom 8 deciles. This is basic math and it’s sooooo typical that a republican business boy doesn’t get it. This is how these business boys always end up producing deficits and recessions. When was the last Mr. Fleet Farm decided that less revenue was a good idea for his company?

    • Submitted by Alex Seymour on 08/25/2014 - 05:56 pm.

      But we have flat taxes today……

      I would pull back some of your ire. The US is already operating under a perverse type of flat tax system. Under a progressive system, as one’s income increases one’s tax rate also increase. This US has that. However, the US has a myriad of tax loopholes, which the rich are better able to exploit. The end result is a very complex tax code where the .1% of the highest income pays about the same rate as the middle class.

      The only difference is that our current system is more complicated. What advantage does this complexity bring? Other than employment for tax preparers, none that I can think of. And if you reread the article, you will see that Mills is not for a flat tax – just a flatter one.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/25/2014 - 10:18 pm.

      It Depends

      If the flat tax starts after the first $30,000 or some other base… The poor pay nothing, the middle class pays little and the wealthy pay a lot. Just about like today

      Though we would need to find new jobs for quite a few tax accountants, tax lawyers, etc.

      • Submitted by jody rooney on 08/26/2014 - 03:15 pm.

        And everything counts as income would be an add on

        to the flat tax, e.g. company paid health and life insurance, dividends, stock sales, and there would no tax deductions for anything – mortgage interest, college costs etc.

        I think some charitable deductions should be allowed but I would have to ponder how that would be done to eliminate the faux 501c 3’s.

  7. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 08/25/2014 - 04:49 pm.

    The “youth vote” with long hair?

    Someone should tell him that hair bands had their heyday twenty years ago.

    So he worked 50 hours a week in his family’s business. I’d like to know what his family paid him. Not minimum wage, I would guess.

    Has he ever had to wonder whether he would be able to pay all his bills? Does he even know anyone socially who lives paycheck to paycheck? Has he ever lived among the poor? Has he ever volunteered in a charitable agency or taught school in a poverty area or worked in health care in a poverty area?

    Better yet, has he ever worked for an industrial temp agency? That’s where you really learn what grinding, desperate lives the working poor lead, and suddenly, all the glib recommendations to “just get a better job, just go to college, just cut out all luxuries, just move to a place with more jobs” seem patronizing and callous.

  8. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 08/25/2014 - 06:40 pm.

    All I can say is…

    …about the sad state of Republican candidate choices. Take a good look at what has been the history lately; entrails of not too desirable candidates: Bachmann, then McFadden with his on again, off again political paper trail; policy which McFadden himself does not appear to understand?

    Now along comes Steward Mills sounding like a stand-up political parody; a caricature of what is a conservative-fundamental candidate? You ultra conservative truth seekers should be “sore afraid” indeed?

    Unless the uncommitted voter is less then one should give him credit for…this Stewart fellow is just another “millstone’ for the R-Party.

    All I can say is go for him, he will be a real blast…wow.

  9. Submitted by Wes Davey on 08/25/2014 - 06:59 pm.

    Why is there no discussion?

    Why is there no discussion coming from either candidate about defense spending or what they believe is the role of our military in the coming decades? No reporter questions either Mills, Nolan, or any candidate about these issues, but they are far more important than anything discussed in this article. DoD and defense/military/security related spending takes the biggest chunk of the Federal budget pie, yet not a peep from anyone.

    If reporters are unwilling to educate themselves about this bloated part of the budget, then perhaps they could at least ask candidates this simple question: “What part of the defense budget would you cut?” The answer they give better not be like the one Michele Bachmann arrogantly gave a few years back, which was to cut the VA budget – a position she quickly rescinded after further enlightenment.

  10. Submitted by Sagrid Edman on 08/25/2014 - 07:10 pm.

    Mills campaign

    He does not know what socialism is. The ACA is dominated with private insurance companies.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/26/2014 - 09:27 am.

      He knows what “socialism” is

      It’s a scary word tossed around without regard for its real meaning. He knows what “socialism” is the same way that a four year old child knows what the monsters under his bed are.

  11. Submitted by David Therkelsen on 08/25/2014 - 10:50 pm.

    “Job Creators” fallacy

    We simply have to call out these politicians who want us to protect “job creators” by taxing them less.
    Pre, during, and since recession, the gap between the richest among us and the rest of us has become wider than it’s been in a century.
    Yet pre, during and since recession, employment has been flat at best. Taking into account under-employment, it has been less than flat.
    Let’s tax the very wealthy at previously high rates, as during, say, the Nixon administration.
    There is simply no evidence that low tax rates for the very wealthy results in “job creation.”

  12. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 08/26/2014 - 08:48 am.

    Taxing job creators

    I’d be happy to tax job creators less. But only if they can prove that they actually create jobs. Full time, benefit bearing jobs. I’d be happy to give you a tax break equal to your tax share of the welfare benefits they don’t actually use because of the job you created. If you employ a crapload of people, that might actually add up to something.

    • Submitted by Annie Grandy on 08/27/2014 - 11:53 am.

      Jobs creation shell game

      It’s so easy for corporations to “create new jobs for lucrative incentives” in new locations and then close old plants letting go long term workers who are paid more and are fully vested in benefits. All government incentives to lure jobs should be stopped so this “shell game” of moving/swapping jobs from one location to another and claiming “jobs creation” is replaced by real job creation and expansion based on business/profit growth. Oh well, one can dream.

      • Submitted by jody rooney on 08/29/2014 - 09:06 am.

        Some companies make a habit of this

        I had a company contact me about moving their company to the reservation. This company had moved 3 times in 6 years. It looks to me like they were mining the system

  13. Submitted by Jon Lord on 08/26/2014 - 01:08 pm.

    Personally offensive

    Mills is. The GOP can’t insure jobs. Except those that are created overseas. That must not be allowed to count. It’s just the weaseling out of reality. The best that the Minnesota GOP can say is that they finally are out of debt…finally. That says a lot but it’s not a good talking point, and leaves a lot to question. Which part of their debt? Their unpaid rent? Or all of their debt? Why they always go into debt is something that speaks plenty to how they operate. (no pun intended…”Pawlenty”). Mills is nothing but a rich boy playing.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/26/2014 - 09:24 pm.


      Those citizens who buy high foreign content product and services are most capable of sending jobs over seas. Where was your car, phone, appliance, clothing, etc designed, tested, built, etc? Also, where is the corporate office, the accounting office, R&D, etc?

      Is the manufacturing facility in a strong union state or a right to work state?

      • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 08/27/2014 - 10:02 am.

        Quick Question

        Do you support corporate tax inversions?

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/28/2014 - 10:55 am.

          Post Idea

          I will need to think more about it. My initial questions are:
          – Are people who buy Hyundai’s unpatriotic and selfish since they spend their money outside the country?
          – Are people who shop online to escape MN sales tax unpatriotic and selfish?
          – Are people who open enroll or move to a “better” school district not community minded and selfish because they desert their old community that could really use their help?
          – Can companies be sued by stockholders for spending more money than they have to?
          – Why aren’t America’s business taxes competitive with Canada, Ireland, Scotland, etc? They aren’t moving to Somalia…

          • Submitted by jody rooney on 08/29/2014 - 09:12 am.

            Here’s my response to the questions

            – my Honda was made in the US and my Suburban in Canada -it’s a bit more complicated than it seems
            – I shop on line not to escape taxes but because there is a larger selection of what I am looking for and I hate shopping. Although I do have to say many of my ABE book purchases were published in England originally
            – no they aren’t because they are just choosing how to invest in human capital
            – boy I wish they could
            – I have no clue but I will look

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/29/2014 - 11:01 am.

              More than Assembly

              Cars have many aspects to “American Content” and some Honda models are very high in domestic content.

              You are like me, however many folks go to Best Buy to test drive the product. And then they go on line to get a better deal and avoid state taxes. What do you think of that behavior? I figure if I am in a MN store using their inventory and personnel, I will happily pay a bit more.

              My daughters attend Robbinsdale schools which are good but a bit rough at times. Many people move to or open enroll in Wayzara, Orono, Osseo(Maple Grove side), Privates, etc. The fact is that every “active academically focused well to do family” that leaves the community means fewer volunteers, fewer role good role model students, fewer funds, less money, etc. They are doing what they doing what they think is best for their child, but they are deserting a community where their presence was beneficial. When one family runs it isn’t a problem, when thousands of families run it is a big problem.

              I hope not, every company would need to move as necessary to maximize profits. Or face law suits. Us investors like it when companies make profits and increase our retirement funds.

              I think you will find that these countries understand that attracting growing companies creates jobs.. And lower business taxes attract companies. And those employed citizens then pay more in taxes than what was lost.

          • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 08/29/2014 - 02:00 pm.

            I presume the answer is a ‘yes’ then? None of the questions you asked were about Corporate Tax Inversion strategies, but they seemed to be attempting to be leading towards a “well, if liberals who buy hyundais can send their money oversees, so can corporations” argument.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/29/2014 - 04:06 pm.

              My answer is maybe

              What are your thoughts?

              Do you think poor and middle class citizens can act in their personal self interest and it is okay, however when companies or well to do people do it is betraying their community and country?

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/26/2014 - 03:09 pm.

    Virtural flat taxes and “it depends”

    Alex suggest we already have flat tax rate because of loopholes etc:

    “the US has a myriad of tax loopholes, which the rich are better able to exploit. The end result is a very complex tax code where the .1% of the highest income pays about the same rate as the middle class.”

    Well, yes and no. In fact we have less-than flat tax rate, we actually have a regressive tax system at this point. The thing is this situation isn’t the product of loopholes and accounts, we’ve cut the tax rates for the wealth by more than 50% over the last 60 years, loopholes help, but the tax cuts are the main explanation for the regressive tax system.

    John says: “it depends”

    “If the flat tax starts after the first $30,000 or some other base… The poor pay nothing, the middle class pays little and the wealthy pay a lot. Just about like today”

    Again, this basic math, and basic math doesn’t “depend.” 10% of $50,000 will always yield fewer dollars than 10% of $500,000. since the median income for bottom 6 deciles is $50,000 a year or less, and the median income for the top 1% in the top decile is $500,000, the top earners will put more dollars into the tax coffers even IF we had a flat rate. That not unfair gouging of the wealthy, it’s math. As it is, the top 1% currently put less of their annual incomes into taxes than the bottom 10%.

    When you situations like ours where the top 10% are contributing around 40% of the tax dollars, it’s not a sign of oppressed wealth being gouged by the masses, it’s a sign if incredible wealth disparity.

    The income disparity in the US is almost unfathomable. In 2009 Minnesotan’s earned a total of $165 billion dollars. Out of that, $71 billion went to the 245,000 people in the top decile while only $1.5 billion went the 245,000 in the bottom decile. In fact, the top 1% alone, the wealthiest 24,000 Minnesotan’s, pulled in $28 billion dollars, that’s more than the bottom five deciles combined. THAT’S why the wealthy put so many dollars into the tax coffers. Flat tax rates won’t level contributions unless income is flat across all deciles.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/27/2014 - 10:23 am.


      Please provide a source that shows that the current tax system is regressive.

      Preferably one that accounts for the cash payments given to the lower income folks.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/27/2014 - 01:27 pm.

        Suits Index

        Again, it helps to know what your government actually does and how it works.

        Every two years the MN State Revenue Dept. produces a Tax Incidence Study. One of the things that they calculate is the Suits Index, which measures the progressivity of the tax structure. The higher the Suits index number, the more progressive it is. Anything higher than zero indicates a progressive tax structure in which the wealthy shoulder a higher percentage of the tax burden, numbers below zero indicate a regressive tax structure wherein the poorer citizens are paying a majority of he tax burden.

        Ever since 1990 Minnesota’s Suit index has been in negative territory. In 2006 it reached historic lows of -.068 and 2010 it was -.060. This means our tax system is currently regressive. A truly flat tax would presumably be zero. page 17.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/28/2014 - 12:29 am.

          Bigger Picture

          Yes I know about the tax incidence study and am not impressed.
          1. It only looks at MN taxes.
          2. If I remember correctly, it just looks at taxes and does take into account how much citizens get back in cash payments from the government. If someone pays $2,000 in taxes after getting $10,000 in credits, food stamps, etc. It seems silly to say they have a 20% tax rate.

          Maybe if we blend the TIS and this, we would have a clearer picture of what Minnesotans actually pay in taxes.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/28/2014 - 08:46 am.

            Clearer picture?

            John, you can’t get a clearer picture of what MN’s actually pay in taxes than a document that tells you exactly what MN’s pay in taxes. If you want to look at a national Suits Index you can, in 2009 it was .06. which does indicate some progressivity, however when you look closely at data you find that:

            “The lowest quintile of
            taxpayers pay an average of about 16% of their
            income in taxes, median income taxpayers pay
            an average of around 25% of their
            income in taxes, while those at the highest income levels pay
            slightly more than 30% of their
            income in taxes. Thus most of
            the progressivity of the overall
            system arises from the lower levels of the income
            spectrum rather than the upper levels. Also
            note that the average overall effective tax rate for
            the highest income percentile is lower than the
            average tax rate for the top 10%.
            This is largely a result of the
            relatively high portion of income
            among the top 1% that derive from capital gains,
            which are taxed at a lo
            wer rate than income.”


            So to the extent that our national tax system is progressive, it’s because the median deciles are paying more than the lower deciles, not because the highest decile or the wealthy are paying more than everyone else. In fact, the top 1% is actually paying less as a percentage of their income.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/28/2014 - 10:47 am.

              Excellent Source

              I’ll need to study it closer. I thought this was interesting though.

              “The overall tax system in the U.S. is progressive, but only slightly as shown in Figure 3. The limited data on the entire tax system indicate a decrease in progressivity of the entire system over the last decade, with Suits Indices of 0.09 in 2001 and 0.06 in 2009.”

              It would be interesting to see what their data looks like now that ACA, Capital gains and Income Tax rates were raised on the well to do. I am guessing we have moved from slightly into moderately.

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/28/2014 - 12:20 pm.

                Capital gains taxes have been cut, this is one reason the national system is actually regressive.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/28/2014 - 03:32 pm.


                  Here is a link to the tax increases that have occured in the last few years.

                  And your source says taxes are progressive.

                  • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 08/28/2014 - 04:34 pm.

                    The Daily Signal is the heritage foundation’s own ‘news’ service. Reading the first two lines of that piece is a dead giveaway towards it’s own bias, then scroll to the bottom of the site and boom, Heritage Foundation.

                    And your source is not objective.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/28/2014 - 06:48 pm.


                      They provide sources. Bias does not change facts, and the Liberal press is not too interested in explaining how much ACA and other changes have increased our taxes.

                      There is one goofy part to the story… Technically the politicians get to claim credit for reducing taxes for many of us because the Bush Tax cuts were about to end. But what really happened was they let them increase on the well to do.

                      The end result… They were progressive and now they are even more progressive.

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/28/2014 - 09:49 pm.

                      Sources shmources

                      I don’t care who your source is, if they’re telling that capital gain taxes were increased they’re wrong. They dropped from 20%-27.5% in 2001 (depending on how long stocks were owned prior to sale) to 15%-20% in 2013. Capital gains taxe rates are now about half of what they were in 1990. And that’s according to Forbes, hardly a lefty source.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/29/2014 - 09:05 am.

                      Start Point

                      Your source that said taxes are progressive was dated 2010.

                      My point is that the taxes have been raised significantly on the wealthy since 2010.

                      So now they are even more progressive. Not regressive by a long ways.

                    • Submitted by jody rooney on 08/29/2014 - 09:22 am.

                      Tax incidence study

                      Look for the Minnesota Tax Incidence study there is a table that is incidence by income level.
                      You are just considering the income tax – this looks at all taxes.

                      I think there is a federal report that is similar. You can’t just consider income tax when you look at taxes there are other taxes. Think of the Medicare and Social Security taxes which have an income cap. Then of course there is the sales tax where percentage of income “consumed” or subject to the tax is higher at lower income levels.

                      Unfortunately the income tax is one of the few tools available to make taxes progressive because many others aren’t.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/29/2014 - 10:39 am.

                      Read Pauls Source Closer

                      It addresses most taxes. Many more than the MN TIS.


                      However it does not add back the cash benefits citizens receive. So it actually understates the progressive nature of our tax/benefit system.

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/27/2014 - 04:38 pm.

    This tax cut for creators idea never made sense

    Over the last few decades the US economy has “financialized”, we’ve gone from a industrial economy to a financial/service economy. The “wealthy” today are not industrialist who make money off of other peoples labor, they make most of their money by investing one way or another. This means that more often than not the wealthy grow their wealth by eliminating America jobs, and decreasing labor costs, not creating jobs or paying workers more. Leaving more money in the accounts of the wealthy under the assumption that they’ll use that money to create jobs is worship pretending to be economic theory.

    In fact job creation and innovation rarely flow out of the ranks of the already wealthy. Just look at history, few of the industrial or technology giants of the last century started out wealthy. One of the most prosperous, innovative, and creative era’s in American history was the late 50s and 60s when tax brackets for the wealthy were as high as 90% and executives made 4-5 times what their workers made rather than 400 – 500 times they make now. Real creativity and innovation has rarely flowed out of the executive class in this country over the last 30 years. Mr. Fleet Farm here was born on the 3rd base and seems to think he hit a triple somewhere.

    The whole idea of wealth concentration makes no sense anyways unless you just want a disparate economy for some reason. Growth is ultimately driven by an affluent population with a lot of disposable income, not a few thousand billionaires. We have a consumer economy, how many cars and TVs do you think a few thousand billionaires can buy? If you want to grow the economy, and create jobs, you need to increase demand. If you want to increase demand you put your money into the bottom 8 deciles, you don’t funnel all the money into the top 5% hoping they’ll create jobs for everyone else. Wealthy concentration with no or minimal safety nets create unstable economies subject to frequent recessions and crashes. This is actually lived experience for 90% of the population.

  16. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 08/27/2014 - 09:04 pm.

    It is unfortunate

    that the majority here harbors so much anger toward one guy from a wealthy, hard working family yet idolizes another who portrays himself as a modern day Robin Hood.

    The assumption that Mr. Mills is seeking political office so that he can take care of his wealthy compatriots is absolutely ridiculous.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 08/28/2014 - 07:08 am.

      Most Unfortunate

      I agree that Mr. Mills’ position is indeed ridiculous, but unfortunately his stance fosters and supports people’s ire with him. One candidate pursues policies that help the middle class and poor. The other wants policies that only favor the wealthy.

      I’m sorry you don’t agree with the perceptions, but that’s the fault of your candidate, not the public.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/28/2014 - 08:02 am.

      Robin hood for the wealthy

      Pavel, taking care of the wealthy isn’t a ridiculous proposition, it’s the explicit agenda of trickle down economies such at the one you and Mill’s are promoting; that’s the cornerstone of your economic theory.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/29/2014 - 08:57 am.

      And yes.. it is ridiculous

      Oh, and yes, trickle down/Chicago School/Ayn Rand inspired economics ARE ridiculous.

    • Submitted by jody rooney on 08/29/2014 - 09:27 am.

      Get a grip

      People are known by their actions. Show me the philanthropic history of the Mills family then compare it to the Daytons.

      My grandmother worked for Daytons during the depression where they were actually hiring more people than they needed because the only way to get out of a depression was to put people to work so they had money to spend.

  17. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/28/2014 - 09:08 am.

    Not to promote myself

    I actually wrote a series of blogs a while back that covers the bases of the why’s-wherefores- and how’s of contemporary tax policy. I illustrate the basic principles by imagining a small town with given budget, population, and flat tax rate and then extrapolate out to larger and more complex economies. If you’re interested you can read that:

    I didn’t write this to promote myself, I wrote it because frankly, I’ve never seen a basic and detailed explanation of how and why we have the tax structure that we have written in one place and a lot of people don’t seem to know this stuff.

  18. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/29/2014 - 11:02 am.

    significant tax increases

    Read the material, stop “debating” and try to comprehend.

    The MN tax incidence study projects out to the year 2015 and our state tax system is still regressive despite Dayton’s tax on the wealthy.

    The national study only yields a positive Suits Index because those in the median deciles are taxed more heavily than those in the lower deciles. When you look at the top percentile and decile you still see regressiveness, again, despite the 2013 tax hikes.

    Marginal income taxes for those making more than $450 thousand rose 4.6% from 35% to 39.6% and the capital gains went back to 20% up from 15%, that’s where it was in 2001. (which means the way that I was mistaken earlier when I claimed that capital gains taxes had gone down since 2001, in fact they ended staying flat.)

    The tax cuts did not grow the economy, balance the budget, or produce any other promised miracles. The 2013 tax hikes, lowered the deficit, and produced none of the predicted catastrophes.

    Now, the extent to which the wealthy actually paid these increased taxes is questionable because there are still a lot of loop holes and deductions for them to exploit, although clearly tax receipts went up. Whether not these tax hikes were “significant” depends on your perspective. They certainly not significant given the fact that the wealthy are far wealthier now than they were 40 years ago, and given the fact that they used to live a 94% tax bracket. Compared the tax breaks they’ve gotten 4.6% and 5% don’t look like a lot.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/29/2014 - 01:38 pm.

      Your Source

      Shows for 2010 in Figure 3 that the rates were 16, 20.5, 25.3, 28.5, 30.2, 31.2, 31.6, 30.8, 28.6.

      Since 2010 many tax have been raised on the wealthiest Americans.

      Plus those MN tax increases…

      Let’s hope Tufts updates their report with all of the new taxes in place. Then we will have a factual answer.

      • Submitted by jody rooney on 09/01/2014 - 09:21 am.

        Rate does not equal payment

        Payment equals payment and that is what tax incidence means.

        That is why the better off would pay a lot more under a flat tax no deductions and everything is income taxed at equal rates.

        This is the Minnesota 2010 tax incident table page 62

        The is the projection for 2015 on page 64 of the PDF.

        Even in 2014 the top 40% of income earners pay have a lower tax incidence than the other tax payers. Let me be clear. They pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than the bottom 60%.

        So just using Minnesota taxes and the 2015 table it looks like a flat tax would be 11.6 and anyone making more than $121,000 would be paying more.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/01/2014 - 09:33 pm.

          MN is the Universe

          So it makes no difference that the progressivity of the national tax system more than makes up for the slight MN regressivity?

          Or that many of the lower levels get many unaccounted for cash benefits that phase out way before the upper levels. Or does the tax incidence study add those in…

          If we want a flat tax, it should be flat in total. Not just at the state level.

  19. Submitted by jody rooney on 09/01/2014 - 10:24 am.

    Speaking of tax rates and data legitimate sources

    This is the equivalent although not as clearly displayed federal equivalent of the tax incident study done by CBO.

    Income quintiles are defined on table B-1.

    I call your attention to that table because many people believe they are middle class and they are in the top quintile. That gives them a distorted picture of how everyone else is doing. So take a look at those smaller shoes of the rest of the lower quintile and see how you would like walking in them.

    Table 1 shows that even after taxes the top 20% of the population makes 48% of the income after taxes.

    Table 2 shows that the highest federal tax incidence for the top quintile is actually 24% not the rate you have quoted here. That is because the wealthy have more tax credits and other preferential sources of income.

    Table 4 shows the impact of the 2013 tax law changes.
    This shows indeed that it was a middle class tax break because both the poor and wealthy are have the greatest change in post tax income.

    I’m not sure exactly what figure 9 shows other than changing the tax rate on the top 1% those making over 306,000 per year have been doing pretty well.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/01/2014 - 10:11 pm.

      Points to Consider

      Your source is before all of the ACA and Federal tax increase that have occurred in the past 4 years.

      You are correct, people with money to invest can make money no matter where consumers decide to buy their products from. That is not so for the typical American worker. So are you saying the consumers should be free to send all those jobs and wages over seas, thereby lowering the worker’s wages. And we should just make up for their choices by charging the savers/investors more?

      In other words, you are saying they have had good years so we should make their taxes even more progressive. Are you sure this does not sound like envy?

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