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Franken defends Democratic policies on economy and says Minnesota’s ‘doing a lot better’ than Wisconsin

REUTERS/Jason Reed
President Obama sharing a laugh with Sen. Al Franken during a 2012 visit to Minneapolis.

This is one in an occasional series of articles about the policy positions of U.S. Senate candidates Mike McFadden and Al Franken.

No big surprise here, but — for those who care about such things — the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota will present plenty of clear policy choices between the leading candidates.

After long, ridiculously substantive, mind-numbingly issue-oriented interviews with Sen. Al Franken and his likely Republican opponent Mike McFadden, I can begin to lay out those differences for you (and may continue until you beg me to stop).

My interview with McFadden ran last week in two parts here and here. I am working to schedule a continuation of issue questions and answers with the Republican endorsee.

With the Senate finishing a session, Franken was tied up in Washington but we spoke by phone late last week.

McFadden criticizes Democratic policies, which he tends to describe as Obama-Franken policies, for creating a slow, sputtering economic recovery. Democrats put too much regulatory restraint on business making businesses reluctant to hire. McFadden, a businessman, pictures a roaring recovery that would ensue if government interfered less and let business do what business knows how to do. I asked Franken to respond to that theme.

Interestingly, Franken didn’t mention, at least not specifically, that the recession started with a market crash before he or President Obama had taken office. But he did respond to McFadden’s characterization of the current economy this way:

“After 52 months of positive job creation, anyone who looked at the situation, taking into account what was happening when Obama took office, would agree that we’re headed in the right direction.”

The recession that began in 2008 was the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, Franken noted, adding that recoveries from recessions that start with a collapse of the financial sector are historically slower than other recessions.

On the argument that Democrats have slowed down the recovery by imposing too many regulations, Franken noted that one of the key causes of the Great Recession was the deregulation of Wall Street that led to risky mortgage-backed securities being sold to unsuspecting investors with AAA ratings. Franken mentioned his own idea: to end the practice of allowing Wall Street banks to choose the credit rating agencies that rate their own products. Franken has sponsored a bill that would change that practice. and it is the subject of his campaign’s most recent TV ad.

Polymet mining project

One of McFadden’s key examples of government regulation that was interfering with job-creating enterprises was the Polymet copper-and-nickel mining project up on the Iron Range. McFadden said that project has the potential to do for job creation in Minnesota what the Bakken oil field has done for North Dakota, but Polymet has been held up for years awaiting EPA clearance to start building the mine.

Franken said he “talk[s] to the Polymet people all the time, and they tell me that this has been a good process and has helped the project tremendously.” Minnesotans want the jobs and economic development that Polymet can bring, Franken said, but they also want clean water. (“That’s what Minnesota means,” Franken said in an aside. “Land of clear waters.”)

The initial environmental impact statement had serious flaws. If the project had been approved based on that proposal, it would have been an environmental “disaster,” Franken said.

“And so, to me, we have to make sure that regulation isn’t overburdensome, but that there’s a purpose to it… To say this could have been approved in six months or something like that is irresponsible.”

Maybe so, but, as Franken acknowledged when I pressed him on that “six months” statement, the Polymet project has been in the permitting process for more than 10 years. But, he added, “the Polymet people will tell you that if we had approved the project [based on the original design] then, this would have been the last copper-nickel mining in the range, ever. It would have been a disaster.”

Responding more generally to the idea that regulation is bad for prosperity, Franken said that all of the world’s most successful economies rely on regulation. And, he suggested, if you want to see a side-by-side comparison of a state being run along the lines that Democrats favor and one being run by Republicans, look at Minnesota and Wisconsin. “We’re doing a lot better,” he said.

The recovery of recent years has lifted the stock market to record highs, Franken noted, which has helped the already wealthy. But, he added:

“Part of the reason for the slow recovery is that we see all this wealth flowing to the top 1 percent — and to the top one-tenth of 1 percent. But the middle class is under assault. When you have an economy that is 70 percent consumer driven, what you need is people with money to spend.”

Unsurprisingly, Franken comes across as a strong believer that the federal government can play a constructive role in the economy, and especially on behalf of those who have been struggling to get into the middle class.

Franken said many policies that could have helped spread the benefits of the recovery more widely have been tied up in Congress or compromised in ways that made them less effective. I asked him for an example. He said immigration reform. Clearing up the status of immigrant workers would be good for the economy, Franken said, and if you don’t believe him, he added, U.S. the Chamber of Commerce thinks so, too.

Getting more of the U.S. workforce education and training that fits the jobs that are available would be great, Franken said. Our interview was sandwiched around trips to the Senate floor where the the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was under final consideration. (In a rare show of bipartisanship, the bill passed the Senate 95-3 and awaits House action.) Franken  played a substantial role on some elements of the bill and was thanked for his leadership by the bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington.

“I’ve been talking a lot about bringing manufacturing back to the United States — and it is coming back,” he said. “We’ve had this skills gap….We’ve had 3.5 million jobs waiting out there to be filled. If we skill these people up, it’s going to address our global competitiveness.”

Deficit, debt, taxes, spending

I asked both candidates how alarmed they are at the size of the federal deficit and debt and what they would like to do about it. McFadden said the large debt is his No. 1 worry, emphasizing the unfairness of leaving behind so much debt for our children to bear. The debt, plus the slow growth, plus the high unemployment rate among young people were, I assume, part of what McFadden had in mind when he hyperbolized that Franken is “waging a war on youth.”

On the other hand, McFadden did not put on the table any concrete proposals for reducing the deficit, such as new taxes (he’s against them) or spending cuts (he didn’t specify any).

Franken, by contrast, doesn’t dwell on deficit reduction much in his everyday rhetoric. But when I asked him about it, he said it was important.

“I do think the deficit and the debt need to be addressed,” Franken said. “They’re huge threats to our sustainability.” To bring down the deficit, he would raise taxes on the wealthy, cut spending on specific areas that he believes are not needed, but at the same time increase spending. (He adopts the usual Democratic turn for his spending preferences, calling such spending “investments.”) Said Franken:

“It’s really a question of priorities. There are cuts we should be making, that we can make because some of our priorities have been the wrong priorities. And there are investments we should be making because they help our economy, they help growth. Over time, it’s the combination that will make it sustainable.”

How, specifically, would he reduce spending? It’s a pretty liberal list.

Franken would authorize Medicare to use its bargaining leverage to negotiate lower prices on the prescription drugs it buys for seniors under Medicare Part D. The savings to the taxpayers has been estimated at $240 billion over 10 years, he said.

Franken is sponsoring a bill to save money on federal prisons by allowing non-violent inmates — if the prosecutor, judge and probation officer in the case agree — to go to what Franken called “mental health court” and be sent to treatment that, he said, has been shown to save a lot of money.

Franken opposes a plan that he said would spend hundreds of billions to update the U.S. nuclear arsenal. “We’re not going to use those weapons and I don’t think some other country is going to challenge us because they think maybe some of our weapons aren’t going to work.”

‘Buffett Rule’

On the revenue side, Franken is a big fan of the so-called “Buffett Rule.” The existing code is full of provision that help the wealthy pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. For example, much of the income of hedge fund managers qualifies as something called “carried interest,” which is tax at the capital gains tax rate, much lower than it would be if it was treated as regular income.

“Forty of the top hedge fund managers make as much as 300,000 teachers,” Franken said. “Yet the tax they pay is a capital gains tax because carried interest is treated as a capital gain… People who make over a million dollars ought to be paying the same rate as the rest of us.” Under the version of the Buffett Rule that Franken favors, anyone’s income above $1 million a year would be taxed at a minimum rate of 30 percent.

The tax code includes $4 billion a year in what Franken calls “tax subsidies” for the oil and gas industries. He would do away with those provisions. Said Franken: “It’s a very mature industry that includes some of the biggest and most profitable companies in not only the world but in the history of the world.”

This post is getting too long, so I’ll just pass along the summary list of the categories of spending that Franken listed as “investments,” because he believes that they ultimately pay for themselves in contributions to the economy:

Federally subsidized research and development (he gave several examples of government R&D projects that contributed to prosperous breakthroughs); education in general (with special emphasis on early childhood education, job training and workforce development), and infrastructure. “From the Erie Canal to the Internet broadband, infrastructure has contributed to economic growth,” Franken said.

Thursday: Franken on Obamacare, Iraq and other issues.

Comments (91)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/02/2014 - 09:09 am.

    This guy…

    Franken is soooooo brilliant!

    • Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 07/02/2014 - 07:22 pm.


      Are you serious? All he has done is incite anger and envy among the self perceived “have not” segment of this society.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 07/03/2014 - 07:14 am.

        Check That

        It’s just possible that the anger of the 99% is due to the fact that despite increasing employee productivity, all of the gains are going to the top. A rigged system, where heads I win tails you lose, is the source of the anger.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/03/2014 - 10:14 am.

        “Self perceived ‘have not’ segment”

        That has to take the prize for the most stunningly clueless comment of the week. My congratulations.

        “Self perceived have not?” What on earth does that mean? I’m wealthier than I think? My pay is more than I have been led to believe by my bank statements? There are not people raking in obscene amounts of money for doing nothing productive?

        Incidentally, you would do well to consider the role envy plays in a capitalist society (especially one that gives lip service to ideas like upward mobility).

      • Submitted by Susan McNerney on 07/03/2014 - 10:34 am.

        People should be angry

        at the puddling of wealth among the non-productive classes. Nothing wrong with that. However, I doubt Franken is “angering” any of the people who can now go to the emergency room or treat their cancer without declaring bankruptcy.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/02/2014 - 09:25 am.

    Eric, I really wish you’d ask Franken the question everyone wants to hear him answer.

    How can he say he and Obama have the country headed in the right direction when 63% of us say otherwise?

    It’s obvious the guy is disconnected from reality.

    • Submitted by Marc Post on 07/02/2014 - 10:13 am.


      It’s not hard to understand. It’s all in how the polling question is framed. In the poll you cite, no data is provided to indicate why the respondent feels that way. It is entirely reasonable to think the country is headed in the wrong direction because it’s not doing more “liberal” things.

      A classic example is polling on “Obamacare”. Many aren’t happy with it because it doesn’t go far enough, but the polling shows them as “unhappy” even though they want more, not less.

      Another example is the Hobby Lobby news. Those who think SCOTUS made a huge mistake might answer that the country is going in the wrong direction. That doesn’t mean they don’t support a more liberal agenda.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 07/02/2014 - 10:17 am.

      Wrong track

      I would say the country is on the wrong track, but I base that on recent Supreme Court decisions, Republicans blocking veteran’s benefits, etc.

      I plan on casting an enthusiastic vote for Al Franken.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/02/2014 - 12:38 pm.

      None of the polls asked

      which party was responsible for the problem.
      They don’t provide a basis for differentiating between (mostly unenacted) Democratic policies and Republican obstructionism.

    • Submitted by Jon Lord on 07/05/2014 - 07:17 am.

      I believe

      That it’s not heading into liberal country fast enough. We’re being held back by neocon’s, TP’ers and RWNJ’s who, among other things, are anti-women, anti-minorities, anti-middle class, anti-poor, anti-intellectual, anti-education, anti-pollution control, anti-gun safety, anti-personal safety of the masses, anti-anything that doesn’t directly make them wealthier, and I have to cut this short because the list is too long.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/02/2014 - 09:29 am.

    One thing about regulation

    One of the biggest reason for regulatory delays is the tension inherent in the regulatory process. The agencies involved are often tasked with promoting as well as regulating the industry they’re overseeing. This causes delays, and gobbles up money. We should drop the “promotion” requirement and focus on regulation. For one thing, industry doesn’t need government promotion by the regulatory agencies, they get plenty of other government promotion in a variety of ways. Second, most industries have plenty of resources available for their own promotion.

    The other source of delay is the constant budget battles that reconfigure the agencies. Regulators are constantly having to restructure their priorities and and focus for political reasons depending on who’s in power. Republicans dial back resources and authority, then Democrats dial it back up. You can’t dial back resources, funding, and support, and expect speedy service. This is one of the problems with the Republican version of reality. Look, you can’t eliminate the EPA, it’s still there, and it still has statutory mission. When you cut it’s budget all you do is make it do the same job with less money, which of course leads to slower service.

    If you want efficient regulation stop cutting budgets and give the agencies the resources they need to get the work done properly and quickly. Look: it doesn’t do any good to cram authorizations and permits through because you’ll only get tied up in court later on for a variety of reason. Do it right the first time.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 07/02/2014 - 01:10 pm.

      “promoting as well as regulating” is a conflict of interest,…

      …from both sides !! A wonderful example is the Minnesota DNR, whose dual roles of protector of the environment and promoter of extraction of natural resources leads to some amazing dances of pro and con from within !!

      Dropping the “promotion” requirement would require a substantial and significant change to MN law, which would be a battle royal. Minnesota Statutes, section 93.001 sets forth state policy to “provide for the diversification of the state’s mineral economy through long-term support of mineral exploration, evaluation, environmental research, development, production, and commercialization.”

      On the federal level, the BLM’s site points out:
      “Promoting the development and use of the Nation’s natural resources for the public’s benefit has long been a goal of the Federal Government. Tax incentives and cost-sharing policies stimulate development on private land. On public land, the Federal Government, in its role as custodian, has facilitated access for economic use. A prime example is the Mining Law of 1872, which allows miners who discover hard rock minerals on public land to file a claim that grants them the right to extract the minerals with no payment to the Federal Government.” How about that example ??

      Your idea of dropping promotion is simply too reasonable for our times.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/03/2014 - 09:50 am.

        Too reasonable indeed

        And whats funny, if you look at that statutory language, it talks about developing resources for “public” benefit… not private profit… so what’s the deal? How does the public benefit when the fed “leases” land for clear cutting of lumber at a fraction of a fraction of what it’s worth so that it can be clear cut and ecologically decimated?

        We can balance public and private benefits but the dual mission of the regulatory agencies stacks the deck against the “public” interest. The public ends up suing its own government in order to protect its interest more often than not… and that isn’t cheap or efficient for anyone.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/02/2014 - 10:00 am.

    Tom’s aparrent assumption

    Regarding the “wrong” track assumes that republican gridlock has nothing to do with the “track” we’re on, it assumes that people blame Democrat policies for the “wrong” track. We’ll see.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/02/2014 - 11:42 am.

      Paul, the Democrats have crammed through all of their major agenda items. They also killed the filibuster.

      Our credibility in foreign relations is a heap of smoldering ruin. Iraq is set to explode.

      In addition, the NSA, IRS are disasters under feckless Democrat leadership.

      In the light of these undeniable facts, blaming the GOP looks very childish to us.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/03/2014 - 10:29 am.

        Crammed though?

        You are seriously misinformed sir. The reality of legislative gridlock has been well documented.

      • Submitted by Susan McNerney on 07/03/2014 - 10:39 am.

        and your foreign policy alternative is….what, exactly?

        War with Iran? War with Russia? War in Syria? War in Iraq? Not withdrawing from Afghanistan? I fail to see how Obama has failed at all. It’s inevitable that the American president who decides not to invest in war will be labeled “weak” and “ineffective” by those who never saw a tank they didn’t like. If you’re keeping up, you’ll find that we’ve had some big victories – chemical weapons out of Syria, Iran’s nuclear program in huge capitulations to the west, and Putin is now in a very tight spot thanks to sanctions. The alternatives to Obama’s policies are, according to his biggest critics, simply swaggering more and blowing things up. Thank goodness we have an adult in the white house these days.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/02/2014 - 10:02 am.

    It is weird though

    You look at the polls and after all we’ve been through Americans still say they think Republicans would do a better job of handling the budget deficit and the economy. What’s up with that?

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/02/2014 - 10:24 am.

      It’s only weird because you refuse to connect the dots. We blame the Democrats, we don’t trust them, and we don’t believe them.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/02/2014 - 11:24 am.


        A we have a country full of citizens who don’t know how to locate and process reliable information. We also have a lot of people dedicated to obscuring reliable information.

        By the way, only 23% of Americans “approve” of congressional republicans, so it’s really not clear who’s blaming who for the wrong “track” of the nation. It’s actually kind of a funky question when you think about it.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 07/02/2014 - 06:28 pm.

        I don’t trust them nor believe them either, but…

        …this does not raise my regard for the GOP.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 07/02/2014 - 09:42 pm.

        Who’s we….

        the people that hated Obama even before he was inaugurated? Polls are little more than an ideology test, and most people that take them (answering land lines) have short memories. The only poll that really mattered happened in 2008 and 2012…and you fell way short on those. Perhaps you remember them? It was right before you dove back into your bunker in despair….most likely after believing Romney’s poll numbers.

        • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 07/02/2014 - 10:18 pm.

          Sorry, all I have is a landline

          Who ever came up with the thought of “liberal elites” wasn’t too far off the mark. All of us racists are too poor to afford smartphones…

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/03/2014 - 10:16 am.

            Too poor?

            I see an inherent tension between conservatives and anything with “smart” in the name.

          • Submitted by jason myron on 07/03/2014 - 10:20 am.

            40% of households

            no longer have landlines,…hardly elitist. don’t sweat it though…when you “take the country back” you can bring back land lines , Windows 98, walkmans and anything else the ancient Fox demographic is pining away for . What time will Andy Griffith be on? Forget it….I’ll look it up in TV Guide when is shows up in the mail.

          • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 07/03/2014 - 10:47 am.

            I have a month-to-month Virgin mobile plan that is cheaper than a land-line. My smartphone only cost 40 dollars, with a coupon, that gives me access to the series of tubes we know as the interwebs. Most people under the age of 30 do not and will not have land-lines. Welcome to the new millennium.

        • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/03/2014 - 08:55 am.

          To set the record straight Jason, the Minnpost censors decided not to post any of my comments for a time. It wasn’t a matter of bunker diving, it was pulling the blankets over the tender sensibilities of the leftist commentariat.

          There have been many stories of Obama voters who regret their ill informed choice, but you’re right, the only poll that matters is in November.

          You may have read that the Democratic Party is bracing for a massive disappointment.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/03/2014 - 10:02 am.


            And the Marriage and Voter ID Amendments were a sure thing. The Republicans literally rejoiced when Franken and Dayton emerged as the Democratic candidates because they were “extreme” liberals destined to be vanquished by “sensible” Republicans promoting magic tax cuts, perpetual budget crises, and superior morality. The $4+ trillion dollar Iraq War was only to cost $32 billion and be paid for by oil revenue, we would be welcomed with candy and flowers as liberators, democracy would spring and stabilize the entire region, and don’t forget Saddam was behind the Sept. 11 attacks… and then not… and the WMDs, all those WMDs. Meanwhile over in Wisconsin and Kansas and Illinois…. well you get the idea.

            Yes, Swift, we would be complete fools were we to ignore your predictions.

            Meanwhile, McFadden has decided that an issue (the Federal Deficit) that 93% of the American people don’t worry about (The economy and health care capture around 70% of our concern) is his primary issue to run on. Go for it I say.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/03/2014 - 10:10 am.

            No, it was personal responsibity

            Funny how you “conservative” champions of personal responsibility always react to being held accountable for your obnoxious and toxic behavior. You have to be pretty bad to get banned on Minnpost yet it’s always a matter of oppression whenever basic community standards are applied. Victims of basic community standards the lot of you.

          • Submitted by jason myron on 07/03/2014 - 10:11 am.

            The only place I read that

            is from republicans hopeful for that outcome….repeating it ad nausem much the same way Dorothy did when she clicked her heels together and repeated “there’s no place like home.” Go ahead…keep thinking 2014 will 2010 all over again if it helps you sleep at night. This “ill informed” voter will enjoy your tears just as much later this fall as I did back in 2012. As for tender sensibilities, I have none. I WANT you and people who think like you to keep speaking loud and clear, illuminating your tired antiquated, misogynist, xenophobic views to as many people as possible. Nothing disinfects like sunlight.

          • Submitted by Jon Lord on 07/05/2014 - 07:35 am.


            They probably did post them but they were on the second page which you failed to notice. Alternately you may have pressed the back arrow to leave the page.

            I think the red states will stay red and the blue will stay blue.

            If a TP’er ever becomes President it’ll be the end of the country and the beginning of WWIII. Don’t be in such a hurry to get there.

    • Submitted by Marc Post on 07/02/2014 - 11:00 am.

      Cherry picking

      Some like to cherry pick their “dots”. For example, in the poll cited above, the wrong track number was 76 for the poll before Obama was elected. The very next poll, post election, it fell to 60. If it was 76 before Obama was elected and is 63 now, connecting those dots tells us fewer people think the country is on the wrong track than when the last Republican administration was in office.

      Another interesting set of “dots” Republicans ignore is that the DOW was at 7949, NASDAQ at 1440 and S&P at 805 when Obama took office. Go look now and connect those dots. Tell me again how bad things are.

    • Submitted by Steve Roth on 07/02/2014 - 01:05 pm.


      most polls haven’t been saying that. Most polls always say the Democrats are more trusted on the economy, and especially health care. It is amazing though, that polls consistently show that the majority of Americans are for everything that the GOP is alway, facts be damned, against.

  6. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/02/2014 - 11:06 am.

    In the Laboratory of States, we have two recent fine examples of the Republican “prosperity”–Walker in Wisconsin and Brownback in Kansas.

    I hear a couple more flushing noises…

    • Submitted by Steve Roth on 07/02/2014 - 01:08 pm.

      Not to mention the red states

      are consistently the “takers” when it comes to the federal budget. I can recall pre-Walker when that wasn’t the case for Wisconsin.

      And Kansas is turning into a fiscal disaster of epic proportions, on top of Brownback’s envangelical fervor in trying to implement social policies that are a “Christian” version of Sharia Law…

  7. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/02/2014 - 12:11 pm.

    Where is Mencken when we need him?

    There is always a well-known solution to every human problem–neat, plausible, and wrong.
    H. L. Mencken, Prejudices: Second Series, 1920

    Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

    The men the American public admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.

    * No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.

    [That Mencken quote originally appeared in an article entitled “Notes On Journalism” printed in the September 19, 1926 issue of “The Chicago Tribune”. It can be found also on page 121 of “A Gang of Pecksniffs”.]


    Everything flows from Mencken’s first statement.
    People like easy answers, even if they’re logically inconsistent and require magical thinking.

    And Mencken was a conservative (for his day).

  8. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/02/2014 - 11:29 am.

    It’s hard to argue with facts…


    Any index above 50 is a sign of economic expansion.

    In Minnesota, factories achieved a significant accomplishment by hitting an index of 70.1 in June.

    That’s up from 67.3 in May and offers further evidence that the recovery of the state’s ­manufacturing sector is cranking. New orders, production and inventory levels hit impressive gains in June, which was welcome news after a frigid spring caused only modest growth in previous months.

    Minnesota far outpaced the other states that make up the “Middle America” region in June. The Creighton University report tracks manufacturing in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

    “There are more workers on Minnesota companies’ payroll than ever before,” Goss said. “Our surveys indicate that this expansion continues setting a new record each month.”

    (end quote)


    the Minneapolis / St. Paul / Bloomington metropolitan area (census definition) has the LOWEST unemployment rate of ALL the large metropolitan areas in the country at 4.0 percent.

    Compare Walker/Milwaukee @ 6.1% and Brownback/Kansas @ 6.2%.

    Socialist hellhole, eh?

    Facts just don’t cooperate with the bluster of the right.

  9. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/02/2014 - 12:30 pm.

    In addition to heading the wrong way, a plurality of us agree that Obama is the worst President since WWII, according to the respected Quinnipiac University poll.

    And yet Sen Franken is out there telling us everything is rosey…

    I’d like to ask Franken why he is so far out of step with us.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/02/2014 - 02:50 pm.

      “Plurality” in this case means 33%

      Compare to some other beliefs:

      – 37% of voters believe global warming is a hoax, 51% do not. Republicans say global warming is a hoax by a 58-25 margin, Democrats disagree 11-77, and Independents are more split at 41-51. 61% of Romney voters believe global warming is a hoax

      – 6% of voters believe Osama bin Laden is still alive

      – 21% of voters say a UFO crashed in Roswell, NM in 1947 and the US government covered it up. More Romney voters (27%) than Obama voters (16%) believe in a UFO coverup

      – 28% of voters believe secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order. A plurality of Romney voters (38%) believe in the New World Order compared to 35% who don’t

      – 28% of voters believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. 36% of Romney voters believe Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, 41% do not

      – 20% of voters believe there is a link between childhood vaccines and autism, 51% do not

      – 7% of voters think the moon landing was faked

      – 13% of voters think Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, including 22% of Romney voters

      – Voters are split 44%-45% on whether Bush intentionally misled about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 72% of Democrats think Bush lied about WMDs, Independents agree 48-45, just 13% of Republicans think so

      – 29% of voters believe aliens exist

      – 14% of voters say the CIA was instrumental in creating the crack cocaine epidemic in America’s inner cities in the 1980’s

      – 9% of voters think the government adds fluoride to our water supply for sinister reasons (not just dental health)

      – 4% of voters say they believe “lizard people” control our societies by gaining political power

      – 51% of voters say a larger conspiracy was at work in the JFK assassination, just 25% say Oswald acted alone

      – 14% of voters believe in Bigfoot

      – 15% of voters say the government or the media adds mind-controlling technology to TV broadcast signals (the so-called Tinfoil Hat crowd)

      – 5% believe exhaust seen in the sky behind airplanes is actually chemicals sprayed by the government for sinister reasons

      – 15% of voters think the medical industry and the pharmaceutical industry “invent” new diseases to make money

      – Just 5% of voters believe that Paul McCartney actually died in 1966

      – 11% of voters believe the US government allowed 9/11 to happen, 78% do not agree

      All from:

      My guess is that if you think Obama is the antichrist, you WOULD rate him as the worst president ever.

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/02/2014 - 08:27 pm.

        But seriously, in a world where politics are split pretty closely 50/50

        And Republican media is consistently placing Obama next to Stalin and Hitler

        And the outrage machine is constantly set on “11”

        Is it a surprise that “Obama is the worst” is a reality for 33 %?

        (that 33 % is given a big head start with the 17% that believe Obama is the antichrist)

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/02/2014 - 03:51 pm.

      Franken is in step

      with the majority of Minnesota voters, who (barring the unexpected) are likely to re-elect him by a comfortable margin.

    • Submitted by Joe Musich on 07/02/2014 - 05:15 pm.

      in a debate facts are used to win …

      arguments. Please use facts Mr Swift.

    • Submitted by Tom Lynch on 07/02/2014 - 07:25 pm.

      Ridiculous question

      The reason the poll turned out that way(Reagan was voted best president???) is that nearly all Republicans voted Reagan best president and Obama worst president. The Democrats split their votes for best president between Clinton, Obama, JFK, and LBJ. They also split their votes for worst president between “W”, Nixon, and Reagan.

      IOW, the Republicans love Reagan and hate Obama. Current presidents are almost always at or near the top of these kind of stupid surveys.

    • Submitted by Jon Lord on 07/05/2014 - 07:55 am.

      you mean

      President’s FDR and Truman who were responsible for saving our way of life and ending WWII.

      I fully believe that the RWNJ’s (TP’ers) feel that way and that way is insane in so many ways. For an unfortunate lot of them it’s a crazy call for the Rapture! (Which by the way isn’t in the bible.) It’s a call for more war and more poverty. How thoughtful of them.

    • Submitted by John Hoffman on 07/06/2014 - 08:13 pm.

      Quinnipiac Poll is misleading.

      Is seems this Quinnipiac Poll is trotted out with every President and none fare too well while in office.

  10. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/02/2014 - 12:46 pm.

    One area where I disagree with Sen. Franken

    is on job training.

    Traditionally American businesses have taken on themselves the function of training workers to do specific jobs, while public education provides people with the more general skills necessary to acquire whatever specific job skills they need.
    Now corporations are trying to transfer this function to government (public funding) — essentially asking for welfare.

    It is worth noting that the successful Northern European economies rely on private programs such as apprenticeships to provide job specific training; not public education. It works.

    The last thing that we need to do is shift more of our limited public education resources to job training. If companies don’t want to provide job specific training themselves, they can contract with private companies to provide this service.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/03/2014 - 09:44 am.


      Yes, I agree resources are better deployed towards education in general from top to bottom. The problem with “retraining” is that assumes you can identify specific skill sets you’ll need for you’re next job which will always be hit or miss. Alternatively if we simply have computer literacy classes for adults, avenues for post high school degrees etc. educational counseling to help people find their strengths and weakness’s etc. And if we simply produce a better educated population from High School on we’ll have better trained workforce.

      Listen: I was doing a photography project a few months ago wherein I was working with some inner city teenagers from MPLS. They wanted to see my photo so I gave them my card and told them to e-mail me… they didn’t know how to do that! They all had smart phones and were on FB and Twitter but they had no clue what do with an e-mail address. How are these kids going to find a decent job without such a basic skill? How can they function in a modern work environment? We should not be taking money away from the public schools.

    • Submitted by Jon Lord on 07/05/2014 - 08:10 am.

      I agree

      Somehow we’ve allowed private held Trade schools to call themselves Colleges when most of their ‘trades’ won’t transfer to a real College. Not only that, most of those Trade school “colleges” offer training in areas where there is limited call for those trades or they train far too many for those trades which forces many students to ‘retrain’ at exorbitant prices or work through contract houses (part time work). Their interests aren’t in the students but rather in the profits.

  11. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 07/02/2014 - 12:48 pm.

    First of all …

    1. Thanks for providing that photo. It will prove helpful.
    2. I can’t believe that you didn’t ask Franken his view of Obamacare and why he said that if we liked our health insurance we could keep it when he knew that wasn’t true?

    The rest of his comments display the level of understanding of how economies work that you would expect from an out-of-work comedy writer.

  12. Submitted by Steve Roth on 07/02/2014 - 01:01 pm.

    The “wrong track”…

    …is indeed what we’ve been on, thanks to historic, unprecedented obstruction that was publicly announced even before Obama took office, thanks to a GOP that has never been more radical and disconnected from reality than it is right now.

  13. Submitted by Lora Jones on 07/02/2014 - 03:59 pm.

    Quinnipiac, sited by Swift, uses flagrant push-polling

    the one and only time they called me, I was appalled at the phrasing and sequencing of the questions, and told the interviewer as much. Surprise, surprise, they never called ME again.

    Also, a look at the cross-tabs show a population weighted significantly towards landlines, people over 65 or between 50 and 64 and White. You ask the Republican base such questions, and you get results like Raygun being the bestest president ever. Interestingly, most respondents still felt that Obama genuinely cared about them and their problems.

  14. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 07/03/2014 - 12:06 am.

    It’s clear

    only one candidate has a clue how things work. Amazing McFadden thinks sulfide mining could do for us what oil did for North Dakota. He evidently has no understanding of the scale of the projects or the economies of the respective states. Even if sulfide mining turns out to be a positive for the immediate area, in the economy of the whole state, it will be a blip. If he thinks it’s a good idea, OK, but get a sense of proportion. Oil in North Dakota has had such a massive impact because the size of the economy and population were so small to start with.

  15. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 07/03/2014 - 09:38 am.

    Buffett Rule

    30% tax rate? I am an unapologetic upper income earner and if I paid 30% of my income in taxes I would be very happy. First the fed takes their cut. Then it is the state of Minnesota. Then they tax the rest of it with every transaction I make in this highly regulated and taxed state.

    30%. I wish.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/03/2014 - 10:25 am.

      Look at your tax return Pavel

      Your effective tax rate is probably around 19% for the Fed and 4% for the State. The sales tax rate is around 7% on select purchases. You coming in well below 30%. Americans are paying less in taxes now than at any time in the last 40 years.

      And Americans pay less in taxes than most other comparable ecnomies:

      Meanwhile, Somalia would appear to be the Tea Party utopia, yet few seem to be moving there to live the dream of small govmint and nearly zero taxes?

      • Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 07/03/2014 - 02:05 pm.

        I doubt it

        Paul, Short of sharing my W2 and tax receipts with you I think you are way off. Between federal and state income taxes, property taxes and every other hidden tax on purchases, utilities and other incidentals I’m well over 30%.

        I’m all for paying taxes to fund the government services that I actually use but it seems that the more one pays in taxes the less government he (or she) uses.

        Your sarcastic and inappropriate comment about the tax free paradise of Somalia detracts from the credibility of your post (and sources.)

        • Submitted by Tom Lynch on 07/03/2014 - 03:21 pm.

          ——-Your sarcastic and inappropriate comment about the tax free paradise of Somalia detracts from the credibility of your post (and sources.)——-

          No, it doesn’t. Not at all. You people that are constantly complaining about taxes when they’re lower than they’ve been in decades make me ill. I think the Somalia comment fits perfectly. For the Tea Party-types it’s always a race to the bottom. Except for those at the top of the income and wealth ladder. For these people the Tea Partiers and GOPers can’t do enough. For anyone else….you’re on your own.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/06/2014 - 11:32 pm.

        Out Dated

        Your New York Times link is out dated since the taxes were raised on the well to do after 2010. Remember when the Democrats kept all the low Bush tax rates on the poor and jacked the rates up on the rich.

        And even with that your own data shows that many people are paying an effective rate of more than 30%.

        Not to mention those awful marginal tax rates of 50+ %. I don’t think we are looking for zero taxes… It is an amusing totally silly comparison though.

        • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 07/07/2014 - 09:38 am.


          You can say that it’s “jacking up the rates,” but they are simply resetting to their pre-war levels… in 2012, during the fiscal cliff, the tax cuts were made permanent for single people making less than $400,000 per year and couples making less than $450,000 per year, and eliminated for everyone else, under the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. BTW, individuals making 400k a year, or a married couple making 450k a year, are only 1% of the US population.

          I have no problem with the 1% paying their fair share, especially given the wage stagnation of the 99% for the past 30 years.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/07/2014 - 09:54 am.

            Fair Share

            I am always fascinated with the concept of their “fair share”.

            Someone making $15,000 gets to use the schools, roads, bridges, libraries, services and pays almost no taxes after you figure in the cash benefits they receive like food stamps, medicaid, earned income tax credit, heating assistance, housing assistance, etc.

            Apparently according to the link, someone making $1,000,000 pays ~$400,0000 in taxes and gets none of the cash benefits listed above. Yet apparently you don’t think they are paying their fair share.

            It is very interesting.

            • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/07/2014 - 10:50 am.

              Fair share?

              “Apparently according to the link, someone making $1,000,000 pays ~$400,0000 in taxes and gets none of the cash benefits listed above. Yet apparently you don’t think they are paying their fair share.”

              Yeah, the top 1% get absolutely NOTHING in return for their tax payments. This idea that the wealthy pay for a government they don’t use is one of the most persistent myths of free market small government fantasies. While the wealthy may not use food stamps, they get billions of dollars worth of other services and subsidies. Even the subsidies that are supposed to be helping the poor are actually subsidies for the wealthy. Food, housing, social security, and health care socialize wages to the tune of trillions of dollars so that employers and share holders can claim higher profits instead of paying employees living wages. Then of course there are the routine multi-billion bail-outs of too big to fail industries. The court system alone is worth trillions to the wealthy because they rely more than anyone else on enforceable contracts of various kinds to acquire and retain their wealth. Every time a CEO gets fired with a multi-million parachute they can thank their enforceable contract and the government for their good fortune. Then we have all the trade agreements, treaties, and international lawsuits that governments negotiate on behalf of the wealthy. In extreme cases the government even deploys the military or covert operations in order to protect even acquire corporate assets. Everyone from Jame J. Hill to Halliburton owes it’s fortune to government largess. And who’s building all those stadiums and arenas again? This myth of the self made billionaire is quite persistent indeed. That’s why there are soooooooo many billionaires living in Somalia and Bangladesh.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/07/2014 - 12:34 pm.

                Equal Benefits

                I believe they get the same advantages as every other American citizen gets. (ie except the welfare type things noted above which are income capped)

                We all get the rule of law, infrastructure, government services, etc, etc, etc. However you think it fair that they pay a progressively higher rate just because they have more.

                I can understand a flat rate. (ie the houses fair share) But this desire to have people pay a higher rate just because they have more seems terribly unfair. “ooh you are winning so you have to give me more of those gains…”

                By the way, I would eliminate payroll taxes from the calculation since people seem to believe they deserve to get that forced savings and insurance back. So I have a hard time thinking of that as a tax.

                • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 07/07/2014 - 12:55 pm.


                  I think it is fair that the 1% wealthiest Americans pay a progressively higher rate, because they have more.

                  • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/07/2014 - 01:35 pm.

                    Yes indeed

                    Most people do think a progressive tax rate is more fair. The concept of fairness that guys like John try to promote- i.e. thems with the wealth should keep more of their wealth than everyone else, ends up devolving into incoherence when you actually work it through. Basically, wealth is derived from exploitation, and it becomes impossible to characterize exploitation as “fair” once you get into the kind of wealth accumulation we see in our society. The more you try to characterize exploitation as “fair” the more sociopathic your system ends up looking.

                    • Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 07/09/2014 - 08:06 am.


                      Wealth is derived from exploitation? Is this how you justify your perceived lack of it? Your post reminds me of a line in Godfather 3 where Franco states,”Power corrupts those who do not have it.”

                      How is it that the Democrats vilify the Koch brothers, Mitt Romney, Mike McFadden for their wealth but not Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett and Mark Dayton? It is a clear example of a double standard.

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

                    How Much

                    They already pay most of our bills. How much would be enough to be “fair”?

                • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 07/07/2014 - 01:19 pm.

                  Progressive rates

                  are part of the Marxist manifesto. They can’t help but support the idea.

                  • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 07/07/2014 - 02:57 pm.


                    Well, the Communist Manifesto also supports “abolition of children’s
                    factory labour in its present form,” along with a “heavily progressive or graduated tax.” All the other requirements of the communist manifesto are insanely odious and oppressive to THIS liberal, DFL capitalist, but those two strike me as both good ideas… so maybe one shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater?

                  • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/07/2014 - 04:54 pm.


                    There is no Marxist manifesto and the Communist Manifesto says nothing about progressive tax rates. Progressive tax rates are a purely liberal 20th century response to income disparity. Liberal innovations like progressive tax rates and Social Security actually defied Marxist predictions and sidelined communist revolutions in the West. Some people never get tired of being wrong around here.

                    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 07/07/2014 - 05:02 pm.


                      The Communist Manifesto specifically promotes “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.”

                      And yes, I know I’m citing Wikipedia here:

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/08/2014 - 08:01 am.

                      Ah, I stand corrected

                      I was thinking of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts wherein they Marx and Engels predict that such intermediate conditions as taxation will become anachronisms. It is weird though in the Manifesto, they go on and on about revolution and supporting other workers and out of nowhere they toss that line about progressive taxes, its in there along with stuff like abolishing private property and factory and agriculture. It’s a been a while since I read the CM, reminds me why Hegelian logic was so impenetrable. I some ways its always been a miracle that Marxism caught on given the fact that the manifesto is by and large unreadable for most people then or now.

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/08/2014 - 05:12 pm.

                      Actually . . .

                      The progressive income tax was first imposed in 1798 by William Pitt the Younger, a Tory. Taxation in England had long been progressive, but it was based on wealth (e.g. land holdings) rather than income.

                      Incidentally, Karl Marx wrote for a Republican newspaper (the New York Tribune). Care to draw a connection?

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/07/2014 - 11:28 pm.

                    This seems more relevant

                    and aligned with their comments.


                • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/07/2014 - 01:22 pm.

                  Your “beliefs” are not the issue

                  “I believe they get the same advantages as every other American citizen gets. (ie except the welfare type things noted above which are income capped)”

                  At-will employees do NOT get the benefit of enforceable multi-million labor contracts, nor do bus drivers get billion dollar stadiums. The guys who built James J. Hills railroad on the land he got from the government did NOT become millionaires. These government services and programs are worth more to the wealthy they the are anyone else. The wealthy have more because they extract more from the economy we all participate in and THAT economy is facilitated by the social, political, and physical structure the government provides. Those who benefit the most should pay the most.

                  Progressive tax rates are simply an economic and mathematical necessity, there’s no other way to collect the necessary revenue given our levels of income disparity. In a democracy economic disparity drives tax rates, not jealousy. It always surprises me that so few people actually understand the basic necessity of our tax system. I’ve written a basic explanation: I’m sorry I haven’t found a way yet to summarize the problem more succinctly.

                • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/07/2014 - 01:58 pm.

                  Equal benefits and progressive tax rates

                  Besides, even with the Dayton tax hikes on the wealthy we still have a regressive tax syste in reality in MN despite the ostensible tax brackets. By the time the wealthy get done with all their itemized deductions they end up paying a smaller percentage of their income than most other tax payers. They used to pay around 9% vs. 12% for middle income and 22% for the bottom three deciles. Now I think it’s gone all way up to something like 11%? In some ways you can describe our existing system as kind of de facto flat tax.

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/07/2014 - 11:52 pm.

                    Total Tax Bill

                    I think the Feds more than make up for the slight MN benefit.

                    Remember: these folks can afford to move to a different state. Then we see little or no revenue from them.

                    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 07/08/2014 - 09:33 am.

                      Let them move

                      I would never suggest that we should intentionally drive “the wealthy” away, or anyone, for that matter. But you cannot honestly categorize our (Minnesota’s) collective attempts to have a solvent, stable, and high-end state AS attempts to drive people away.

                      If the thing you care most about in life is the almighty dollar, and a slight increase in your taxes while you are making upwards of a half-million a year or more (and in many cases, it’s much more) than you do about your community, family, and friends, then leave. We’ll just continue making it a better place, with or without you.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/08/2014 - 10:08 am.

                      Natural Consequences

                      Then don’t vent when they move or work to minimize their bill.

                      By the way, do you use online shopping to get better deals and avoid sales tax?

                      Or do you make sure you use the brick mortar stores that pay Minnesotans and raise State revenues? Just curious.

                    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 07/08/2014 - 10:51 am.

                      I shop primarily at locally owned brick-and-mortar stores, I also worked in one for many years, so I well understand the plight of their owners and employees. I also tip well. Like most middle-class Americans, the majority of my income goes directly back into the local economy. My wife and I are very intentional with how and where we spend our money.

                      Do I shop online too? You can bet your sweet bippy I do. And no, you can’t shame me into thinking that I’m somehow complicit in any tax-dodging scheme by doing so, or that I am damaging the local economy. Being price conscious when I buy things like diapers and detergent online is A-OK. Besides, when I ran my own LLC back in the aughts, I actually paid the recommended state sales tax for purchases my company made online when I paid my quarterly taxes.

                      BTW, the data doesn’t support your position that a slightly higher tax rate drives out the rich (the estate tax is more likely to do so). There certainly are a small number of people who would/do move, enough to fill a comment page with anecdotes, but not typically a statistically significant number.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/08/2014 - 05:03 pm.

                      No Guilt

                      Just curious if you are internally consistent. Being price conscious is the justification most of use as Capitalists to justify our actions. This is the same for the poor, middle class and rich.

                      Typically I only buy online or high foreign content goods when the product is hard to find or an equivalent American product is not available.

                      Only time will tell where the well to do baby boomers will retire. My guess is that many of them will be price conscious.

                    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 07/09/2014 - 08:53 am.

                      Well to do baby boomers

                      Given that the baby-boom generation hasn’t really ever been price conscious and have left this country in shambles, to their benefit and their children’s detriment, I’ll take that with a huge grain of salt.

                • Submitted by Jon Lord on 07/08/2014 - 02:10 pm.

                  good grief man

                  A billionaire has the same advantages as every other American? That’s laughable. A billionaire gets what a billionaire wants and that’s more money, more houses, more cars, more boats, just more of anything they want. Including welfare. True it’s more than what we normally think of when we think of welfare but it’s still welfare. There is no way a person on the bottom will ever achieve that kind of wealth and privilege by legal means. In fact most of the Robber barons of the 1800’s were exactly that, robbers, cheats, and at best just sociopaths.

                  There comes a point where a person no longer cares about anyone but themselves. Even among other sociopaths any chance they get they’ll cut each other loose if they figure it’s advantageous to themselves, if and when they can. To the majority of the citizens of the US, the TP’ers are nothing if not hazardous to their lives. While not all are sociopaths, the TP’ers that aren’t follow them blindly towards a cliff of their own making. They are listening to the crying of the wealthy TP’ers claims that they are being put upon by the poor. Good grief.

  16. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 07/03/2014 - 06:00 am.


    I have always wondered why Democrats were so defensive about Minnesota. Our wages are considerably higher than those in Texas and our unemployment is considerably lower. While it may be true that the Texas business climate is wonderful and ours is truly hideous, somehow it’s the case that despite their huge natural advantages, floating atop an ocean of oil as they do, somehow we are rich, relatively, and they are poor.

    Republicans who want us make us more like Texas, although sadly a Texas without the oil, need to explain to us what is it about Texas economy they envy.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/03/2014 - 10:33 am.

      Wondered why?

      It goes back to the “New Democrats” of the late 80s and early 90s, the DLC. They misread the actual location of “moderates” on the socio-political spectrum and embraced republican principles rather than liberal principles. It’s been a disaster for the country.

  17. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 07/09/2014 - 09:44 pm.


    Wealth through exploitation? Is that really the case? Leftists want to accuse their wealthy political opponents of that but when it comes to their candidates they toss out terms like “career public servants” and the like. They turn their heads the other way when guys like Mark Dayton and Al Franken go on the campaign trail.

    Perhaps the “rank and file” liberal uses the concept of wealth through exploitation to justify their lack of and pursuit of wealth. What they don’t realize is that all wealth is not financial and it comes in the form of good family and friends. But they are obsessed with anyone with more financial resources than they have. They know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

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