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More McFadden views: From Minnesota’s ‘immoral’ test-scores gap to an economic ‘game-changer’

The GOP’s U.S. Senate candidate is not impressed that the U.S. economic recovery is stronger than most other wealthy industrialized nations.

In addition to the senior entitlements issues that were covered in last week’s posts from my most recent interview with Republican Senate endorsee Mike McFadden, McFadden discussed his thinking on several other issue areas. For example:

  • McFadden favors shifting federal education dollars from support of underperforming public schools to more support of charter schools.
  • He considers the high gap between white and non-white student test scores in Minneapolis public schools to be “immoral.”
  • He isn’t impressed with the fact that the U.S. economic recovery is stronger than most other wealthy industrialized nations, terming that statistic “like being the tallest midget in the world.”
  • Likewise, McFadden isn’t impressed with the fact that the unemployment rate in Minnesota has now dropped to pre-recession levels, stating that “when I talk to Minnesotans and go around this state, nobody feels like we’re moving ahead.”
  • He agrees that the growing concentration of wealth in the top 1 percent of the population is a problem, but his for ideas for addressing that situation are the same as his general ideas for stimulating the economy.

In general, McFadden continues to make the economy Topic A and probably Topics B and C as well. He describes himself as a businessman and a “problem-solver,” seeming to use the two-terms as roughly synonymous.

Yes, the economy has grown most quarters since President Obama and Sen. Al Franken took office and the unemployment rate has come down, but McFadden says the figures constitute “the slowest rebound from a recession… that we’ve ever seen in the history of the United States… It is bad. It’s absolutely bad…. Typically, it’s a 4 to 5 percent growth, and we’re at 1 to 2 percent and, like I said, we had negative 3 percent last quarter.”

McFadden’s main idea for stimulating faster growth is to reduce regulations (although he often goes out of his way to say that the government has to regulate) and especially to approve a number of stalled energy and mining projects, like the Keystone Pipeline and the Polymet mining project on the Iron Range.

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McFadden had emphasized these issues in our first interview, so I tried to get him onto a list of topics we had never discussed, but he said I was “going to have to write about it again.”

He doesn’t actually get to tell me what I have to write about, but he was generous with his time and he addressed all the topics I raised, so here goes. Said McFadden:

You’re gonna say I’m a broken record, but I’m gonna keep saying it. I mean energy is a huge issue. It’s a huge opportunity. It’s a game-changer for this economy. And it’s a game-changer for the people of Minnesota because it allows me to put more money into their pocket. And it allows me to create more manufacturing jobs, lower heating bills, lower gas prices. And I’ll increase manufacturing. Another piece of it is regulation. We just continue to add regulation after regulation after regulation, and it’s no more apparent than in the Iron Range with that [Polymet] copper mine.

Mike McFadden
MinnPost file photo by Brian Halliday
Mike McFadden

He said more along those lines. Because I was aware that McFadden wanted to talk again about the economy, I had prepared myself with a few facts. For example, if the cause of the weak recovery was U.S. policy, how did he explain the fact that the U.S. recovery had been stronger than most of the other wealthy industrial nations with the exception of Germany, especially considering that some of those whose recoveries were weaker had tried to address the problems with fiscal austerity? That’s when he said that having a stronger recovery than some of those other nations was ““like being the tallest midget in the world.”

Shortly before our interview, it came out that the June unemployment rate for Minnesota was 4.5 percent, the lowest since February of 2007. I asked McFadden whether he was aware of the state’s unemployment rate? Replied McFadden:

Do you know what the unemployment rate is in the Iron Range, Eric? It just came out, too. It’s close to 10 percent. Do you know what it is in Bemidji? It’s close to 11 percent. Do you know what the labor participation rate is in Minnesota? The lowest it’s been in 30 years. Do you know what the wage growth has been over the last six years? The average weekly wage has gone up $8…

That’s why the vast, vast majority of Minnesotans don’t feel like we’re going in the right direction. And we have the capability to get back onto the road of growth and prosperity by taking advantage of our energy resources…

Lastly, on economic matters, I asked McFadden whether he agreed with the data suggesting that wealth is becoming more concentrated at the top of the affluence spectrum and whether he considers it to be a problem. Replied McFadden: “Yes, it’s happening and I think it’s a problem and I think what it really does is put the spotlight for this economy to really start growing again.”

Last topic for now: education policy. Since early in his candidacy, McFadden has spoken about his experience on the board of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in the Phillips Neighborhood of Minneapolis, a Catholic private school that has had very impressive results getting underprivileged students of color to graduate and get into college.

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I asked McFadden whether there was something Cristo Rey was doing that could be applied more broadly to the challenge of educating kids from poor families, inner-city neighborhoods, demographic groups that are underperforming and that could be influenced by federal policy, since McFadden is running for a federal office.

McFadden acknowledged that Cristo Rey’s model could not be applied broadly to schools all over the country that are struggling with hard-to-educate kids. “We can’t scale it up fast enough,” he said. But the success of Cristo Rey — and charter schools that are also succeeding — is “evidence of what we can aspire to.”

The results in Minneapolis, which has the largest gap in average test scores between white and African-American students, are “immoral,” McFadden said.

The federal government doesn’t run public schools, McFadden acknowledged, but a lot of federal money flows to schools, and what he said he would like to see is “a bigger allocation of what the federal government is currently spending on education as a whole be allocated towards charter schools.”