Mitch Pearlstein explains why his conservative think tank is flourishing after 25 years in Minnesota

Mitch Pearlstein
Center of the American ExperimentMitch Pearlstein

Congratulations to the Center of the American Experiment, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this summer, and to Mitch Pearlstein, its founder and president.

I recently had a great chat with Pearlstein about his love affair with the Twin Cities and his experience running a conservative think tank in this (generally) liberal place.

Pearlstein, a kid from Queens (the New York borough), drove cross-country with some friends during a college summer and came through the Twin Cities for the first time.

“I just loved the place, and I still do,” he told me, and so he started looking for an opportunity to make a life here. He first moved here in 1974, as part of the retinue of C. Peter Magrath, who had just been named president of the University of Minnesota.

“If I had to come up with a couple of adjectives to describe what attracted me to the place, I would describe it as ‘measured’ and ‘less crazy,’’ Pearlstein said. True, “less crazy” is not technically an adjective, and it prompts the question: Less crazy than what? Pearlstein explained: “There was something about the whole East Coast that I wanted to get away from.” (I am also a native of the East Coast megalopolis, and I know what he means and I feel the same way.)

After working for Magrath and then for the Pioneer Press (as an editorial writer), Pearlstein had an opportunity to go to Washington (which had also been on his bucket list) and work on education policy, a major interest (still is).  But …

“Once I got to Washington, which was an experience I had thought I really wanted to have, almost right away I missed the Twin Cities and started thinking about how to get back here.” His plan: start raising funds and creating the infrastructure for a conservative free-market think tank based in the Twin Cities. It took him two years, but when he was able to move back here “it was like coming home.”

He is weirdly enamored of the fact that we are in the smack middle of the United States (at least on the east-west axis). “It feels good being surrounded by my country,” he says.

Civility in Minnesota

When I press him for qualities (other than “measured”) he likes about Minnesota, he started talking about the deep strain of civility: “There’s something to the idea of civility here. Sure, politicians certainly know how to beat the crap out of each other when they are running against each other, but the quality of the beating is more substantive and not as ‘vicious’ as it is in some other places we could think of.” For example, Pearlstein said: He can’t imagine a Minnesota paper that would descend to the rudeness level of New York Post headlines. And if one did, Minnesotans would reject it.

Not long after CAE launched, he recalled, he organized a large conference on homelessness and welfare-reform featuring some nationally prominent conservative thought leaders on those topics, including an NYU professor named Larry Mead. Many of the out-of-town guest speakers agreed to come for free, Pearlstein said, because they didn’t believe a right-leaning think could pull off such an event in Minneapolis (or, perhaps, they thought they could say yes and not have to show up).

Afterward Mead marveled at the way he was received while expressing righty views in such a liberal town. “In New York I would have been pelted with fruit,” he told Pearlstein.

Pearlstein also suggests that Minnesota is not quite as liberal as its reputation. Republicans win lots of big statewide elections (fewer recently, but during the 1980s and ’90s, this was most definitely true). But, Pearlstein conceded: “I do recognize that, everything else being equal, a Democrat is usually gonna win here.”

But there are plenty of smart, thoughtful conservatives here to keep the center going. “When I was laying the groundwork to start the center, I was totally confident that there were more than enough people here who would like to read the kinds of things that we would produce and like to hear the kinds of speakers that we would be presenting,” Pearlstein said. “We sold out the Civic Center for Margaret Thatcher. Some people here go absolutely batty crazy for Charles Krauthammer, who we’ve had here to speak more than once.”

Minnesota policies

I asked him how conservatives deal with the fact that Minnesota adopts so many policies that conservatives suggest should be inconsistent with producing prosperity, low unemployment and so on but gets such good results. His reply began:

“On the surface, it does look like conservatives are in a bind on that one. But we believe that we [Minnesota] might be even better off if we had lower taxes. Those on the right tend to think so. Personally, do I believe that, over time and on average, lower taxes lead to higher growth? On balance, I absolutely do.

“Do I believe that a lot of folks on the left are oblivious to the fact that Minnesota being an outlier on the estate tax is leading — absolutely is leading — to the departure of a lot of folks who might be called deep-pocketed, the folks we also call the donor class. I absolutely do.

“Go out and speak to some financial advisers right now about how often people are coming to them, people of high net worth, and saying, ‘I don’t want such a large portion of my estate to go to the government. I want it to go to my kids or to charity.’ And they are making sure that they’re out of Minnesota every year for six months and a day.

“There are a lot of people, and maybe most of them are Republicans, who choose to believe that they ought to have first dibs on their own money. Democrats generally think that government has a stronger claim to those dollars than Republicans tend to think.”

“I’m not trashing our economy or anything about this state. But do I believe life in Minnesota would go to hell if we lowered taxes? I definitely do not.”

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Comments (92)

  1. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/09/2015 - 09:16 am.


    Thriving based on what? Simply existing after 25 years doesn’t mean thriving. This man lives in a state he loves for a lot of reasons but he wants to change it because somehow the recent policies of Wisconsin will make it better. Here’s a hint–it won’t. And if you like it, WI isn’t so terribly different from MN. You could move there and see for yourself.

    One of the reasons MN and various MN communities make it to the tops of a bunch of lists like “best place to live” and “best place for business” is that the state’s policies make it so. I found it amusing when CNBC named MN the top state for business, saying “Never since we began rating the states in 2007 has a high-tax, high-wage, union-friendly state made it to the top of our rankings.” Hehe. Well, if “high-tax”, “high-wage”, and “union-friendly” were such a negative, then why didn’t the previous states with the opposite policies not stay at the top of the list? Because business is two sided. If consumers can’t afford the business, the business doesn’t exist. If workers are miserable, they are inefficient. If the financial and economic climate of the state can’t support a highly educated work force, then businesses will suffer from the lack thereof.

    Even Forbes puts it in its top 10, and Forbes is hardly what you would call a liberal rag. What’s telling about the Forbes rating is that it puts MN merely in the middle of the pack for what Republicans consider most important for business: Regulatory Environment and Business Costs. On the other hand, the only part of the equation in the Forbes analysis that MN really excels at is Quality of Life. It also does pretty well in Economic Climate, but that’s despite it’s so-so status on what pro-business, anti-tax conservatives (like Mr. Pearlstein) harp on as being what we need to change.

    Look, there’s always room for improvement, but if the policies that Mr. Pearlstein’s “think tank” pushes really worked, WI would be doing much better than MN and the opposite is true. I don’t even think that the long run/short run argument on success of such policies are valid. If it was, we’d all be doing much better than we are because Congressional policies have moved more “conservative” (that is, Post-Ronald Reagan “conservative” not traditional conservative) for the last 30 years. Instead, those policies directly lead to the 2008/2009 melt down.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/09/2015 - 04:20 pm.

      Let’s feel good that we are better than Wisconsin

      That is a popular comparison among folks that attribute high taxes, high wages, and union friendliness with economic success.

      Yes unemployment in Minnesota (3.8%) is lower than in Wisconsin (4.6%). These are May 2015 numbers.

      Let’s compare Wisconsin with California, the 3rd highest tax burdened state, including the 2nd highest personal income tax and the 6th highest corporate tax. California unemployment is 6.3%, 1.7 points higher than Wisconsin.

      The ten states with the highest taxes:

      With such high taxes, how has California failed to tax themselves into prosperity?

      • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/09/2015 - 10:37 pm.

        California? Really?

        You mean one of the world’s largest economies and the primary driver of the modern American economy? The one with the most billionaires by far? That California? Not a good idea to bring that up.

        Change in Real GDP Per Capita, 1997 to 2014

        California: 32%
        Wisconsin: 20%


        • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/10/2015 - 08:41 am.

          Really? Billionaires?

          Great news for California billionaires, if you are one of the 100. There are over 1,200,000 unemployed people in California; not so good for them. That number does not include the number who have stop seeking work nor the underemployed.

          I recall that when Intel decided to build a new $5 billion dollar wafer fab facility, they chose Arizona rather than their home state of California. Apple is headquartered in California, but build most of their products in China.

          • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/10/2015 - 10:34 am.

            Individual income tax rates v unemployment rates

            Here is the Pearson’s correlation coefficient between the highest individual income tax rates for each state versus their most current unemployment rates:


            What that means is there is precisely zero connection between the individual income tax rates and unemployment rates.

            As for “high tax” states, here are the top 10 states for local and state government share of the economy:
            New Mexico
            South Carolina
            West Virginia

            For those keeping count, that’s 8 red states and 2 blue states.

            Here are the 10 with the lowest share:
            North Dakota

            For those keeping count, that’s 6 blue states and 4 red ones.

            For further reference, Minnesota is 12th lowest and Wisconsin is 12th highest. California is near the middle at 23rd highest, ie, state and local government shares of the “high tax” California and Minnesota economies are smaller than that of “low tax” Wisconsin.

            Your Republican articles of faith are simply wrong. Move on.


            • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/10/2015 - 11:21 am.


              The whole point of my participation is this discussion is to debunk the notion that correlation equals causation, that any of us can infer causation just because we can find a difference.

              0.001, that speaks to the first comment above regarding Minnesota and Wisconsin. Thank You.

              • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/10/2015 - 01:10 pm.

                You’re here to debunk a notion no one holds?

                “The whole point of my participation is this discussion is to debunk the notion that correlation equals causation”

                I’m certain everyone here understands that correlation and causation are not the same thing, so your fact-averse participation to “debunk” a notion that no one holds is a pointless effort. In logic, that’s called constructing a strawman. It is a logical fallacy.

                “0.001, that speaks to the first comment above regarding Minnesota and Wisconsin. Thank You.”

                It speaks nothing about Minnesota and Wisconsin, since that’s not the data set from which that number comes. Nor would a correlation coefficient with just two states have any statistical meaning.

                Basically, in the face of evidence contrary to your assertions, you’ve now devolved into the predictable “numbers don’t mean anything” line of defense.

                And, yes, it’s faith. You, like many Republicans, have an unbreakable faith that higher taxes create worse economic outcomes. The data does not support this argument, since there isn’t even correlation, let alone causation. Denying the evidence and believing something contrary to it is faith, not science.

                • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/10/2015 - 03:27 pm.

                  Look Again

                  From comment #1, ” but if the policies that Mr. Pearlstein’s “think tank” pushes really worked, WI would be doing much better than MN and the opposite is true.” That is the oft proffered line of argument that Minnesota is more prosperous than Wisconsin because of Minnesota’s superior political policies. No proof nor argument is offered in support of that claim. But, because a correlation can be drawn, there is assumed causation. There it is; right there. People may well understand it, but they still do it. No strawman, no logical fallacy.

                  Both Wisconsin and Minnesota are in the population of the data set.

                  Those on the left have great faith that governments can spend their way into prosperity. Tax on!

              • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 07/10/2015 - 07:57 pm.

                Correlation and causation

                Good points to bring up.

                Maybe you’d then agree that Arthur Laffer and his “supply side economics” was a failure.

                The US enjoyed one of the longest sustained expansions in history after WWII following the principles of J.M. Keynes. This period which went through 1980 was also a period of marginal high tax rates where many wealthy people also paid very little in taxes. (Check out the number of books from the 1970’s about the number of rich people and corporations who paid little or no taxes). Reagan cut marginal tax rates and began the cycle of deficit spending that has dragged this country along until today.

                Some states like Wisconsin and Kansas are two states which have adopted this same philosophy.

                Unemployment and unemployment benefits are one way of looking at the results. Another way is looking at education. Wisconsin and Kansas are both cutting state support of education as ways of enforcing austerity budgets. Wisconsin is making deep cuts to the University of Wisconsin to balance its budget (even as it’s approving funding for the Buck’s arena). It has also adopted the right wing cause of vouchers, public funding for private education. Do you actually think this is wise?

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/10/2015 - 08:58 am.

        Even if Jay hadn’t made a good point about the fact that some of the popular numbers thrown around by conservatives about California belie the true wealth and prosperity of that state, you’re comparing apples to oranges. Probably very literally. In case you haven’t noticed, CA differs from MN in a lot of ways–climate, population, size, business, culture, history, etc. etc. So, a direct comparison between the two is a tad bit ridiculous, and why a comparison between MN and WI is much more apt.

        In any case, the unemployment rate of CA is probably not related to taxes. First, let’s assume that this Learnvest website is the authority on tax burden. Then, let’s assume that the level of tax burden is directly related to unemployment. NY should be first in unemployment, NJ should be second, and CA should be third. Guess what? That’s not how it works. DC is first (7.3%–probably the politicians), then, in order: WV (7.2%), NV (7%), SC (6.8%), AK (6.8%), MS (6.7%), LA (6.6%), NJ (6.5%), and CA (6.4%). You have to get through 6 low tax burden states before you even get to New Jersey, let alone California. AK and NV don’t even have personal income taxes and LA and NJ are tied at 4%. As for corporate taxes, SC is one of the lowest at a flat 5%, but still has high unemployment.

        You can have your opinion about it and direct others to all of the websites that agree with you. But, while you’re entitled to your own opinion, you’re not entitled to being right. You gotta earn that.

        • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/10/2015 - 10:57 am.

          Let’s look back …

          Let’s look back at your statement that started this exchange, “Look, there’s always room for improvement, but if the policies that Mr. Pearlstein’s “think tank” pushes really worked, WI would be doing much better than MN and the opposite is true.”

          So you contend that Minnesota and Wisconsin are an apt comparison. In case you haven’t noticed Minnesota differs from Wisconsin in many ways. Minnesota relies less on manufacturing than Wisconsin, and manufacturing has lagged other sectors in the economic recovery. Economies are very complex and to attribute differences between states solely to political policies is both unfair and misleading. My comparison between Wisconsin and California was merely to make a contrast to your Minnesota-Wisconsin comparison. It is a classic ploy; infer causation by finding correlation.

          Instead, let’s try it this way. Everyday the sun comes up after I waken. There is definitely more lag between those two events in the winter, presumably due to things outdoors moving more slowly in the cold weather. Anyway, I have thousands of data points, decades of days; there is a very strong correlation. I am left to conclude that I cause the sun to rise by my wakening. It happens each day.

          • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/10/2015 - 11:29 am.

            Wrong again

            “manufacturing has lagged other sectors in the economic recovery”

            The latest US recession ended in the second quarter of 2009.

            Since that time, manufacturing has grown 24.6% while the rest of the economy has grown 23.3%.

            In Wisconsin specifically, between 2009 and 2014, manufacturing grew 21.9% versus 18.4% for the rest of its state economy.


            • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/10/2015 - 01:03 pm.

              Some veneer perhaps

              Deceptive use of statistics is best sold with a thin veneer applied. Your “analysis” is underpinned by the false assumption that all sectors of the economy fell the same amount during the recession; they did not. Manufacturing was hit particularly hard, even though billions were poured into failed stimuli, like Cash-for-Clunkers by the federal government. Showing that Manufacturing is recovering a small percentage more that the rest of the economy is a meaningless comparison.

              • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/10/2015 - 03:34 pm.

                Iron-clad disproof of your assertion is not “veneer”

                “Deceptive use of statistics is best sold with a thin veneer applied.”

                So we’ve now moved on from “numbers don’t mean anything” to calling me a deceiver. The predictable rhetorical devolution continues.

                Let’s again review your assertion:
                “manufacturing has lagged other sectors in the economic recovery”

                Those are your words. The data show the opposite. It shows manufacturing has grown faster than other sectors of the economy since the recession throughout the US, and even more so in Wisconsin. You used this “lag” theory to try and explain why Wisconsin is dragging the rest of the country down by not pulling its weight. Your “because manufacturing has lagged” theory is false, so what’s your new theory to explain why Wisconsin is underperforming compared to Minnesota and especially California, the state you unwisely chose to bring into this discussion?

                ” Showing that Manufacturing is recovering a small percentage more that the rest of the economy is a meaningless comparison.”

                Then why did you bring manufacturing up and assert the opposite without actually having the evidence to support it?

                Here’s a suggestion: Don’t make assertions without first checking to see if they’re true.

                • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/11/2015 - 12:03 pm.

                  The Rust Belt

                  It has been a long time since anything was clad with iron, long enough to have rusted through.


                  “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there were 17,619,000 Americans employed in the manufacturing sector in January 1998; by January 2010, this figure had declined to 11,462,000, or 6,157,000 factory jobs lost in 12 years – an average annual decline of 513,000 jobs and a 35 percent overall decline in manufacturing employment over a 12-year period. Focusing on the last decade, the BLS employment data offer a sobering perspective on the manufacturing sector’s growth in employment in recent years Between 2010-2014, 762,000 new U.S. manufacturing jobs were created over that five-year period, at an annual average rate of 152,400 new jobs. In contrast, during the preceding five-year period (2005 to 2009), 2.8 million manufacturing jobs were lost in the U.S. economy, or an average decline of 562,200 jobs per year. Placed in perspective, this means that only 762,000 and about 27 percent of the 2.8 million manufacturing jobs lost during the five years between 2005 and 2009 were actually recovered in the last five years (2010-2014) of economic recovery.”

                  Only 27% of the jobs lost in five years were recovered in the subsequent five years, according to the BLS. This is hardly a success story.

          • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/14/2015 - 08:47 am.


            You’re trying to teach me a lesson in the difference between correlation and causation?? I already understand the difference. The problem is, the article is about a guy who loves MN but thinks that reducing taxes will CAUSE it to be better. If reduced taxes caused an improvement, we would expect WI to be better in some measurable economic way than MN (they are quite alike, actually), but it’s not. Quite the opposite is true. While WI and MN policies and economic outcomes paralleled each other for quite some time, the recent divergence in policy coincides with a recent divergence in economic outcome. While that’s not proof of causation, the correlation is strong enough to suggest that you should think hard about how WI policies might improve MN. And WI isn’t doing “just fine.” While the unemployment rate is still relatively ok, and actually shrinking, it’s not because more people are employed. It’s because the labor force is shrinking. Employment is also shrinking, but not as fast as people leaving the workforce, so unemployment numbers look good. In contrast, the MN economy, including employment and the workforce, is growing.
            Compare this:

            to this:

            • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/15/2015 - 02:29 pm.

              The shrinking labor force is due in large part to the number of Americans chronically unemployed. They fall off the unemployment rolls and crawl over to the employment population ratio.


              That ratio has reached historic lows in recent years and dropped below 60% in 2009, where it has stubbornly persisted every month to the present. All these years are the Obama years. Borrowing your politics-controls-the-economy line of thinking, I am left to conclude that it is Obama’s fault. I’ve shown a strong correlation and no causation; perfect for this conversation.

              The BLS also tracks and reports employment population ratio by state.


              Here we see that Minnesota again outperforms Wisconsin. However, we also can see that Wisconsin also outperforms its neighbors Illinois and Michigan, both blue states. What to make of it?

              • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/16/2015 - 10:44 am.

                Labor participation: Obama v Reagan

                When President Reagan had a record-tying 1984 election victory in November 1984 (taking 49 of 50 states), the 12-month average labor force participation rate of people in their prime working years (ages 25 to 54) was 80.7%.

                That number now stands 0.2 percentage points higher at 80.9%. It has essentially flattened out (ie, has not been declining) over the past year or so.

                The rate peaked at 84.16% in June 1999 – over 9 1/2 years before inherited the worst economic contraction in post-war history from his Republican predecessor. So clearly its decline is… Obama’s fault?

                Its 50-year average is 79.7% – 1.2 percentage points lower than its current level.

                • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/16/2015 - 12:22 pm.

                  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics


                  “Over the 1950–98 period, most of the increase in the Nation’s labor force participation rate occurred between 1970 and 1990. (See table 1.) During this 20-year period, the participation rate (the proportion of the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years of age and older either at work or actively seeking work) jumped from 60.4 percent to 66.4 percent.” Note, Reagan was President from 1981 to 1989.

                  Check out the downward slope on this graph showing labor force participation; a steady decline each year through all of the Obama years


                  It seems that the two sentence summary of President Obama’s legacy will contain at least one reference to President Bush

                  Not yet done?

                  • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/16/2015 - 12:29 pm.

                    Labor participation rate under Obama > Reagan

                    Yet Reagan good, Obama bad.

                    Got it.

                  • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/16/2015 - 01:03 pm.

                    No, Not Yet Done

                    Read the next sentence of the article. Why do people never think anyone is going to read something they link to?

                    “This increase coincided with the entry of the babyboom generation into the labor force, and, most notably, a 14.2-percentage point increase in the aggregate labor force participation rate for women.”

                    So the labor force increased due to two major demographic changes. Is President Obama somehow to blame for not replicating them?

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/16/2015 - 01:37 pm.

                      Unlike the Previous Commenter …

                      Unlike the previous commenter, I provided the source and a link regarding my comments about labor force participation, knowing that some would choose to read it. I am neither blaming nor crediting any President nor Governor in my commentary; I find that whole line of argument overly simplistic. I provided the BLS links as a straight-up rebuttal to the numbers and Reagan-bad conclusions served into the net.

                      How about that negative slope?

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/16/2015 - 02:07 pm.

                      How About It?

                      The downward slope started in 1999. According to another BLS study:

                      However, in recent years, downward pressure has been exerted on overall participation due to the movement of the baby-boom generation into the 55-years-and-older age group, which traditionally has lower participation rates. In particular, the first of the baby boomers (those born in 1946) reached age 55 in 2001. Also, the labor force participation rate of women has flattened out in recent years.


                      Not that anyone’s blaming any President or anything. That would be oh, so simplistic.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/16/2015 - 04:12 pm.

                      Looking Upstream to Comment #1

                      “but if the policies that Mr. Pearlstein’s “think tank” pushes really worked, WI would be doing much better than MN and the opposite is true.”

                      When an unsupported case can be made, differences between outcomes in different times and different places are due to politics, politicians, and governments. When holes are made in those arguments, it is time to cart out the links that show the differences are due to demographics (baby boomers, women, and other groups).

                      There you have it, directly from the playbook.

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/16/2015 - 05:19 pm.

                      When All Else Fails

                      So it couldn’t be due to demographics? Is the BLS lying when it says the decline in workforce participation started before Obama was President, and was not caused by his policies?

                      Or do you just want the last word?

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/16/2015 - 07:12 pm.

                      Have you read my comments?

                      It certainly appears to be due to demographics. As I have repeatedly pointed out, those commenters on the Left like to credit/blame politicians, politics, governments, if they can find a correlation. I haven’t blamed anything on the President. Another, and particularly verbose, commenter is linking all the way back to the Reagan administration.

                      Quote me where I have criticized a Governor or President for the state of the economy.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/10/2015 - 10:03 am.

        Here are some interesting numbers

        According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (, California added more jobs in May of 2015 (54,200) than any other state. New York was second (42,700). Who’s that bringing up the rear? Why, it’s Wisconsin, with a loss of 8,600 jobs in just one month!

        Incidentally, the numbers folks you cite show that unemployment in California has been declining steadily since 2010.

        • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/10/2015 - 11:10 am.

          It comes as no surprise

          The state that has the most unemployed people 1,200,000, put the most to work, 54,200. That is about 4% of the state’s unemployed, some of who are not even counted as unemployed.

          One month’s unemployment data is statistical noise. Wisconsin is doing just fine, well ahead of the national average. Try as hard as you like to find meaning in one month’s numbers.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/10/2015 - 12:48 pm.

            Wisconsin is doing just fine

            If you have a pretty loose definition of “just fine.” When you compare Wisconsin to other states, especially to Minnesota (the state it most closely resembles), it is going down rapidly (40th in the nation in job growth between September 2013 and 2014. That’s more than one month, if you’re keeping track). Before Governor Walker was installed in office by the Koch brothers, Wisconsin ranked 11th in the country.

            Or is “doing just fine” a new way of saying “being driven into an economic hole by idiotic economic policies?”

          • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/10/2015 - 12:55 pm.

            Change in private sector employment since June 2009 – CA v WI

            California: 14.7%
            Wisconsin: 6.6%

            For those counting at home, that means private sector employment has grown 2.2x faster in California since the end of the last recession than in Wisconsin.

            Got rid of that statistical noise for you.

            BLS series IDs SMS06000000500000001 and SMS55000000500000001

            • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/10/2015 - 01:14 pm.

              Look upstream

              We have already covered that. Wisconsin has an unemployment rate 1.7 % lower than California. That fact that California has had reasonable growth over the past six years and is still that far behind, 1,200,000+ still unemployed, that is truly remarkable.

              • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/10/2015 - 03:17 pm.


                Your figures could just mean that California sustained more serious economic damage than Wisconsin from the recession, but that it is still growing at a more rapid rate than Wisconsin.

                Your figures still don’t explain why Wisconsin is so far behind the rest of the country in job creation, or why it is lagging in economic growth. They also don’t explain why the state’s economy has deteriorated under Governor Walker.

              • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/10/2015 - 03:49 pm.

                Now you’re contradicting your own words

                To paraphrase another comment of yours:
                “Your ‘analysis’ is underpinned by the false assumption that all states in the economy fell the same amount during the recession; they did not. California was hit particularly hard”

                So which is it? Should we account for how far something fell or not when looking at levels? Are you performing analysis or “analysis”? Are you sticking to facts or employing a “deceptive veneer”? Those are rhetorical questions.

                To review the cold, hard facts:

                Here are the shares of the US adult population of California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin:
                12.1%, 1.7%, 1.8%

                Here are the shares of US GDP growth since the end of the recession for those states:
                13.3%, 1.9%, 1.6%

                And here are the shares of US private sector employment growth since the end of the recession:
                15.4%, 1.8%, 1.3%

                So, California and Minnesota outperformed their adult population shares by 10% and 11%, respectively, for GDP, and outperformed in private sector employment by 27% and 6%. Wisconsin, on the other hand, underperformed GDP growth by 14% and private sector employment growth by 26%.

                To top it off, of the 79,000 person decline in federal government employment in that period, Wisconsin again underperformed by 30% with that metric.

                Meaning, since the recession ended, Wisconsin has dragged down US GDP and private sector employment, yet took far less of a federal government employment haircut than the US norm. All of which directly contradicts Republican mythology about their policies and their effect, the mythology you’re presenting as reality.

                We’re done.

                • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/11/2015 - 11:51 am.

                  Are we?

                  I am fully aware of the unemployment and GDP numbers for the states of this discussion. Looking upstream, I see that I was the first to note that Minnesota was performing better than Wisconsin. I brought California into the discussion as a contrasting reference, a state more like Minnesota than Wisconsin in fiscal policy.

                  Why was California hit particularly hard by the recession? They have advantages over Minnesota and Wisconsin in the areas of agriculture, petroleum, and electronics manufacturing. They seem to have those spot-on liberal fiscal policies which you support.

                  Perhaps there are other forcers in the economy that have nothing to do with politics and politicians. I think there are, but I haven’t heard that in this discussion.

                  According to this Huffington Post article, the recession didn’t end in 2009 in California, it continued through 2010, 2011, and 2012. The Huff Post references Census Bureau data and surveys.


                  A couple of excerpts:

                  “While economists say the national recession officially ended in 2009, new U.S. Census data indicate that Southern Californians became increasingly impoverished at least through last year.”

                  “The state’s poverty rate climbed 3.6 percentage points from 2008 to 2012”

                  “In Los Angeles County, the poverty rate also climbed 3.6 percentage points from 15.5 percent in 2008 to 19.1 percent in 2012. It rose 0.8 percentage points from 2011 to 2012, according to the Census Bureau’s American Communities Survey.”

                  “Meanwhile, the median household income adjusted for inflation has also fallen significantly from 2008 to 2012 in these counties.”

                  “It declined from $59,196 to $53,001 in L.A. County — a 10 percent drop — and from $58,209 to $50,770 in San Bernardino county, a nearly 13 percent decline.”

                  With unemployment three percentage points below that of Minnesota, California can’t challenge Minnesota for their position as poster child liberal fiscal policy.

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/09/2015 - 10:11 am.

    Another Possibility

    The CAE has “thrived” because of clever marketing. Mainstream media outlets, desperate to fend off charges of bias, come to the Center for a conservative, officially nonpartisan, viewpoint. The Center is able to supply the Strib et al. with something respectable. This gives those affiliated with the Center the gloss of intellectual respectability (including one often referred to as the “Worst Paid Writer in Minnesota”). That gloss attracts donors, who want a little gravitas to back up what they already believe.

    The real proof of whether an institution like the CAE is thriving is by measuring its influence. Continuing existence, as Ms. Kahler points out, is not the same as thriving. Has the CAE done anything besides issue studies backing up established Republican policies, or giving Mr. Pearlstein media exposure?

  3. Submitted by Jim Elwell on 07/09/2015 - 11:07 am.

    It’s a great place, as long as you don’t have to pay for it

    ‘ “Go out and speak to some financial advisers right now about how often people are coming to them, people of high net worth, and saying, ‘I don’t want such a large portion of my estate to go to the government. I want it to go to my kids or to charity.’ And they are making sure that they’re out of Minnesota every year for six months and a day. ‘

    There are some polite synonyms for the free-loaders who exploit the MN lifestyle for part of the year, but don’t want to actually pay for it (including moocher, leech, parasite, barnacle and sponge).

    • Submitted by joe smith on 07/09/2015 - 05:08 pm.

      Jim, I paid taxes as a state resident for 40 yrs. Between my property taxes (which I still pay) and State taxes I have given the state of Minnesota millions of my money. I was fortunate to do very well in business as many other high net worth folks were. I assume they all paid millions in state taxes over the years also. I am in the Minnesota 4-5 months a year now and am a resident of a state where there is no state tax, I don’t feel guilty at all. I have paid more than my fair share and if it comes down to leaving you my money or my children, I choose my children. I’ve had a job since I was 15 and never was a leech, parasite or sponge.
      I, like many successful folks, can decide what to do with my money just like I assume you do with yours. I have no right to your money, just as you have no right to mine.

      • Submitted by Sean O'Brien on 07/10/2015 - 09:42 am.

        I won’t call you a leech

        You are certainly free to choose where you wish to live and how to best distribute your estate. I applaud and admire the hard work that has gotten you where you are today.

        However I hope that when I get to the end of the road of my working life, I can go beyond admitting that “I was fortunate” and fully appreciate the circumstances that led to that good fortune, including the policies that contributed to an environment where I could succeed. To say things like “I have paid more than my fair share” seems awfully insular and ungrateful.

        • Submitted by joe smith on 07/10/2015 - 02:02 pm.

          Sean you can feel any way you would like when you get to the end of working career. I worked in the mining, logging and shipping industries, I can not think of one policy that helped me in my work but can list 50 regulations that hurt!

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/10/2015 - 03:42 pm.

            Feel the Pain

            Did your children go to public schools?

            Did you drive on state highways?

            Ever been to a state park?

            Etc. There is more to state government than “taking my money for welfare and a bunch of **** fool regulations.”

            • Submitted by joe smith on 07/11/2015 - 08:07 am.

              No, I sent my kids to a private Catholic school, but I did pay taxes for other kids to attend public school. I paid to drive on the roads, a great deal in the business I was in, I will add. No, I don’t go to State parks, I like my peace and quiet up here on the Range.
              Regulations have put more folks out of work in the mining, logging and Duluth ports shipping business as any depression could.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/12/2015 - 09:42 pm.


                I think it is very hard for some of the other commenters to understand exactly how many dollars in taxes that successful folks pay. One of the successful folks who saved, invested, learned, worked hard, etc can pay hundreds of times what the typical Minnesotans pays. And yet people will always say they owe more.

                As I ask before, I wonder how many of them would willingly continue to pay those huge taxes after ~5 decades of helping to pay for the services of many other citizens. Many of these folks likely shop online to avoid sales taxes, and yet think others should pay much more when other good options are available.

                • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/13/2015 - 12:18 pm.

                  I don’t know…

                  a sense of noblesse oblige, perhaps?

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/13/2015 - 02:56 pm.

                    Noblesse Oblige

                    Definition: “The inferred responsibility of privileged people to act with generosity and nobility toward those less privileged.”

                    When I was young I was priveleged to be out cleaning livestock pens, walking soybean fields, picking rocks, etc. And by working hard, scrimping, saving and investing in more land my extended family acquired and built wealth.

                    I am thankful to have been born into a family with these beliefs, however priveleged may be an overstatement. And I really prefer to give to charity rather than give to the government bueracracy.

                    How about these folks?

              • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/12/2015 - 11:04 pm.

                Of course

                those private schools are free to bump whatever kids they won’t or can’t educate (such as special needs) into the public school system, among other benefits. This is one of the indirect sources of public support that the private schools receive.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/09/2015 - 11:09 am.

    My 2¢

    I moved here from a low-tax state (Colorado) as a retiree on a relatively fixed income. My property taxes are 50% higher here than there, and my state income taxes are 3 times what they were in Colorado. If pseudo-conservative economics works at all, I should be bankrupt, and living under a bridge in a cardboard box. Eventually, I’ll hit the figurative wall of my defined-benefit retirement plan, at which point my income really *will* be fixed, but in the meantime, my standard of living here is actually *better* than it ever was in Colorado, and my current income is well short of the Minneapolis median figure. My guess is that my standard of living has improved largely because Minnesota provides a trifecta: housing costs are dramatically lower here than in “destination” areas like Colorado and parts of California; living in the city proper, near grandchildren and shopping, has also lowered my transportation costs; and my unscientific impression of food costs is that they’re modestly lower here than in Colorado, as well.

    Or, more succinctly, I think Ms. Kahler has nailed it.

    I do understand Mr. Pearlstein’s affection for ideas and policies that, when they’ve been tried in the real world, simply don’t work except for a select few, but as the Walker administration has proven on the east side of the St. Croix, ideology often trumps reason and fact – something that’s true of both left *and* right, but in recent decades, far more often on the right.

  5. Submitted by Nathaniel Finch on 07/09/2015 - 12:07 pm.


    Mr. Pearlstein and his cronies at the CAE who regularly get their musings in various Twin Cities media outlets (including MinnPost) became tiresome long ago. There are only so many ways to say “cut taxes” and “the permissive 60s were bad.” It’s time to give these folks and their tiny focus of attention a rest. If you read the headline of a piece they’ve written, you can pretty much fill in the rest. Note to media outlets: these folks are boring. Boring does not attract readers (or advertisers, or sponsors).

  6. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/09/2015 - 12:13 pm.

    Faith-based economics….”Personally, do I believe that, over time and on average, lower taxes lead to higher growth? On balance, I absolutely do.”



    We find that, while there is no doubt that tax
    policy can influence economic choices, it is by
    no means obvious, on an ex ante basis, that tax
    rate cuts will ultimately lead to a larger economy.

    (end quote)

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/09/2015 - 12:54 pm.

      On Balance

      The key is to give the strategy enough time. Eighty or ninety years should be enough.

      On average. It may take longer.

  7. Submitted by David Broden on 07/09/2015 - 01:05 pm.

    CAE Impact that is Never Discussed- Lets Return to MN Moderates

    I will express a view of the impact of CAE etc. on MN politics and policy which is never discussed. The organization has become and tries to be the policy focus for the Mn GOP- to the extend it shapes the policy and the candidates selected as well as providing a view of government foreign to MN history. I am among the breed of MN citizens who recall the MN GOP as being very moderate, often called progressive, and we built the strength of Mn with a legacy of legislators and governors from 1938 thru 2008 etc. The moderate and progressive GOP views and policies have been stamped on by the CAE and their policies. There clearly is often a lack of understanding of what MN citizens want and see from government. We view government as important resource for all people of the state. We seek to build a state the enables opportunity for all and growth focused. CAE seldom if ever reaches to this view and tends to suggest we do not need services or some other approach that government wiith a good government focus can do as a service to all. As a result the CAE has reshaped the MN GOP to a party without a broad constituency in MN– to be effective in Mn the center wins – right or left does not- a coalition of GOP, independents, and some DFL make winners- CAE has destroyed this cooperation. Lets break the mold and let the GOP moderates/progressive built the future w/o one more think tank of wonks telling us how to live. Mn are a independent group and we make good sound decisions without being told that some knows better.

    dave Broden

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/10/2015 - 10:35 am.

      I left Minnesota in 1984 and moved back in 2003

      I had seen the evolution of the Oregon Republican Party from being the party of conservation-minded governor Tom McCall, anti-war Senator Mark Hatfield, and other principled, pragmatic politicians to being a party of pseudo-Christian haters of anyone who wasn’t a white, middle-class resident of a suburb or small town with a well-paid job, anti-environmental demagogues (who urged unemployed loggers and wood processors to blame environmentalists instead of the policies of their own employers for lost jobs), and reflexive anti-tax jerks. (It got so bad that students who graduated from high school in 2003 had seen their district budgets cut every year since kindergarten, and the once lovely system of parks and highway rest stops suffered under poor maintenance, with some even closing.)

      Remembering my younger days in Minnesota, when the state seemed consistently well-run as the Republicans and Democrats handed control back and forth on a regular basis, I was shocked to see the same type of fanaticism on the part of Minnesota Republicans. Attending a DFL event a few months after my arrival, I got into a conversation with a well-known veteran state official (not Dayton, but someone almost as well known), who agreed with my assessment and said, “We’ve always disagreed with the Republicans on some points, but it used to be that we clearly all wanted what was best for the state and were able to work things out with respect for one another. Now the Republicans are out for blood.”

      In both Oregon and Minnesota, the Republican Party went from being reasonable advocates for small towns and small business to being hardcore ideologues. They remind me of a Japanese friend from my student days who got sucked into one of the many religious cults they have over there. She went from being a normal twentysomething to being an unquestioning loyalist who had a canned answer for everything and didn’t care whether it made sense or not.

      In Oregon, the group that churns out talking points for Republican pols is the libertarian-leaning (but only on economic issues) Cascade Policy Institute. Its counterpart in Minnesota is the Center for the American Experiment. (Of course, when scientists conduct experiments, they care about whether the experiment yields the expected results, and if it doesn’t, they go back to the drawing board instead of insisting that they just didn’t experiment intensely enough.)

  8. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 07/09/2015 - 02:55 pm.

    The dirty, little secret….

    That Pearlstein will never admit to is: grab a handful of Chamber of Commerce or MN Business Partnership types, strap them to the waterboard (Dick Cheney says this works) and ask them to choose 1 or 2:

    1. You can have a 30% reduction in your MN income tax burden (which translates to less than a 5% increase in pre tax profit).


    2. Have the region’s finest transportation infrastructure, the best post secondary schools, and a quality of life that enables employee recruitment from across the country and 10% higher state income taxes. (a little over 1% hit on pre tax profit).

    And they will pick 2 every time when the towel gets wet enough. Ask them the same thing at a cocktail party and they will say something like:

    “Personally, do I believe that, over time and on average, lower taxes lead to higher growth? On balance, I absolutely do”

  9. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 07/09/2015 - 03:28 pm.

    Why right-wing “think-tanks” thrive

    Right-wing “think-tanks” exist by providing intellectual respectability to cranks which appeals to the vanity of the wealthy elite and their hangers-on. But good for Mr. Pearlstein that he finds an audience and a market for his brand of mumbo-jumbo in Minnesota. I’m sure the American Enterprise Institute supports the local economy somehow.

    The French economic historian Thomas Piketty has written that historical returns on wealth have always exceed growth by a few points, which, unchecked by wars, depressions and high taxes, leads to extreme inequality of wealth and widespread poverty and squalor. This trend was abated or checked in the 20th century by high marginal (90% and higher) progressive income taxes and estate taxes, along with wars and depressions. But after Reagan slashed high marginal rates, the trend toward extreme inequality has returned. If capital is not taxed, this country and others will soon be returning to inequality in wealth not known since the 18th and 19th centuries. I take it Mr. Pearlstein’s “think-tank” and other right-wing think tanks have no problem with extreme inequality of wealth or for that matter with plutocratic rule in this country.

  10. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/09/2015 - 10:49 pm.

    Pearlstein’s hackneyed “the rich are fleeing” theory

    In 1997, there were 2,377 MN tax filers with an adjusted gross income of a million dollars or more.

    By 2012, it was 6,530, nearly triple the 1997 level.

    In 1996, the effective state and local tax rate on the top 1% of Minnesota households was 11.0%. By 2017, it’s projected to be 10.5%. In both years, the top 1% paid lower effective rates than the median Minnesota household.

    Just goes to show one can “thrive” as a “think tank” for 25 years, despite not dealing from the reality deck. He’s just doing what his wealthy backers pay him to do.


    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/12/2015 - 08:02 am.


      Was this adjusted for inflation and the growing population size of the MN?
      And remember the typical disclaimer: Future Result may Vary From Past Results.

      The reality is that there are many more million dollar people than than 15 years ago just because of inflation and the stock market. Also, the percentage of baby boomers in their highest paying years occurred in this time frame. Now those baby boomers will be retiring and no longer tied to one state where they work. So 6 mths and 1 day somewhere warm and with no state income or estate tax is going to start looking pretty appealing.

      When you are retired, would you really keep your MN residency if it was going to cost you tens of thousands of dollars per year and hundreds of thousands of dollars when you die?

      Right now I am writing from my parents beautiful lake home right across the border near Gary SD. Our family is still tied to MN taxes due to the farm land in MN, however many people like my parents will not have that constraint. Food for thought.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 07/12/2015 - 03:12 pm.

        There are always tradeoffs.

        Texas has no state income tax, but some of the highest property and sales taxes in the country. Couple that with lousy infrastructure/services and six month and a day isn’t all that appealing to a lot of people. Your parents might like living in South Dakota, but for anyone of working age, it’s nothing but service economy jobs and zero cultural amenities, unless the motorcycle and tumbleweed festivals are of interest. Which is precisely why there isn’t one Fortune company located there.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/12/2015 - 09:30 pm.


          I think you need to spend some more time within ~50 miles of Brookings SD. There are quite a few things to do in Sioux Falls, Brookings, Universities, etc. And I don’t think I have ever seen a tumble weed, though I once visited a “corn palace”. And I am pretty sure there are beautiful communities with even more cultural amenities in TX and FL, not so sure about AZ.

          Apparently FL, AZ, TX, CO, WA and SD are the top beneficiaries of our current tax policies. And this is with the baby boomers just starting to retire.

          • Submitted by jason myron on 07/13/2015 - 07:50 pm.

            Welll, I lived in Texas and Arizona

            and have spent a great deal of time in South Dakota. If’ you’re under 40 want a decent job, night life and excitement that doesn’t involve sitting in a duck blind, Minnesota has them all beat. And you can spare us that link to a conservative think tank. I’ll get my information from a more unbiased source, thank you very much.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/13/2015 - 11:22 pm.

              Over 65

              You may be correct for younger people, however we are talking about baby boomer retirees. The winter weather is already working against us keeping them here, don’t need to give them more reasons to move.

              • Submitted by jason myron on 07/14/2015 - 01:03 pm.

                I couldn’t cae less if they move.

                You act as if Minnesota is the only state with retirees that snowbird. Your beloved South Dakota as well as Wisconsin and every other northern state has the same issue..with SOME people. The reality is that there are more of us that choose to stay year round than go. Those that obsess about their tax rate are the same that spend their retirement in their lazyboy yelling back at their TV everyday.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/14/2015 - 03:58 pm.

                  Snowbird vs Nest Change

                  Snowbirding is fine as long as they continue to call MN their primary nest. The problem is that our tax policy is one that encourages people to leave this nest.

                  And I guess I would say… The people who have worked, saved, invested and are very aware of the cost/value of things tend to be wealthier when they get to retirement… And yes they are very aware of the tax rates and options available.

                  • Submitted by jason myron on 07/14/2015 - 09:23 pm.

                    No, John

                    WEATHER is what encourages people to leave. And please stop insinuating that it’s only people of a certain political ideology that “work, save and invest.” This may come as a shock, but liberals are financially successful and know the value of a dollar as well.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/15/2015 - 09:04 pm.

                      Please explain how I insinuated anything relative to political ideology.

                      I am quite certain that both wealthy Liberal and Conservative retirees share similar qualities and will change residency if the tax penalty for staying is too high.

              • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/15/2015 - 04:04 pm.

                I’m a boomer old enough to retire

                and I would never move to a red state.

                The winter weather is a drawback, but I’d move overseas before I’d move to a place where making life even more difficult for the poor is considered a virtue, where “Christian” means “fundamentalist,” and where being ignorant is considered a sign of good character.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/16/2015 - 01:40 pm.

                  Making Life

                  “making life even more difficult for the poor” Please explain.

                  I can understand how MN makes life much easier for the poor by taking money from others and giving it to them whether they show effort, make good choices or not. However I do not see how State’s giving them some money, but not as much as MN, is making their life more difficult.

                  Somewhere there is a sweet spot where society helps them, but not so much that they are comfortable staying as they are.

                  • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/16/2015 - 06:23 pm.


                    People stay poor because it’s “comfortable”

                    Not because their employers pay minimum wage while demanding huge bonuses for themselves

                    Not because the jobs that used to provide the first step up the economic ladder have left for the Third World

                    Not because people are too poor to leave a depressed area. (Yes, it happens. To leave in search of jobs, you have to have money to travel and then to support at least yourself until you a) find a job, and b) receive that first paycheck. The average affluent person cannot imagine lacking these resources.)

                    It’s because being poor is such a cushy way of life and because the Democrats shower so many benefits on them, giving indirect corporate welfare to companies that underpay their workers, that low-income Minnesotans have turned into cynical slackers on their $1500/month pre-tax pay.

                    Got it. So places like Alabama, which, due to heavy reliance on sales taxes and very low income taxes, makes the poor pay a higher share of their income than the rich, and still has the $7.25 minimum wage ($1160 a month) should have very few poor people, right? Because the extra hardship should motivate them to work harder?

                    When people tell me what a wonderful deal it is to be poor in Minnesota, I challenge them to give up their jobs and their bank accounts and go work at a convenience store or a fast food place or cleaning service for some experiential learning.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/16/2015 - 10:07 pm.

                      Regressive taxes

                      Well I do agree with you on one thing.

                      Regressive taxes are not a very fair way to fund their state governments. That was one of the reasons I was against the DFL proposed gas tax increase.

                      Comfort is relative to your goals and aspirations. I know the nicest couple who is very low on motivation and very tolerant of living a bare bones existence. They are very happy living here and milking our system for every benefit the State provides. I am not sure what would motivate them to work full time, further their education, etc. However keeping them comfortable has not been the answer.

                    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/17/2015 - 10:16 am.

                      So you know ONE couple

                      and are extrapolating from that perspective.

                    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/17/2015 - 10:17 am.

                      You have not answered my implied question:

                      If benefits granted to the poor encourage them to stay poor, why isn’t Alabama a shining example of affluence?

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/18/2015 - 07:43 am.


                      Maybe like my neighbors, they are okay with a very basic existence. These are 2 of my favorite videos.

                      Pelosi Interviewing Conservatives

                      Pelosi Interviewing Liberals

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/13/2015 - 09:15 am.

        Cry Us a River

        “When you are retired, would you really keep your MN residency if it was going to cost you tens of thousands of dollars per year and hundreds of thousands of dollars when you die?”

        You may not realize it, but the prospect of Minnesota residency costing “hundreds of thousands of dollars when you die” is so far-fetched as to fall in the realm of a fairy tale for most people. In the real world, there aren’t that many people who leave estates in excess of $1.4 million (or more than $5 million for decedents whose estates included farm or small business property). In 2012, there were 1,141 decedents in the entire state who had to pay any estate tax. Very few of them also paid federal estate tax.

        The idea of retirement is also becoming hypothetical for many people.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/13/2015 - 09:48 am.


          We are not talking about the “many people”, we are discussing the people who worked, scrimped, saved, invested, scrimped, saved, invested, worked, etc. These folks have the freedom to do as they wish in retirement and often know how to pinch a penny until it screams in submission.

          If this was a non-issue, the DFL would not have fought so hard against eliminating the State’s estate tax.

          If only 1,141 decedents had to pay it, I wonder how many moved to avoid it?

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/13/2015 - 10:14 am.

            “We are not talking about the ‘many people'”

            We are talking about a few, very wealthy people and the desirability of crafting state policy aroud their whims. Got it.

            “[W]e are discussing the people who worked, scrimped, saved, invested, scrimped, saved, invested, worked, etc” More likely, we are talking about people who inherited a lot money first. In any event, even pretending that the very wealthy all got that way entirely due to their own efforts and their wise choices that others could just as easily make, they aren’t the ones paying the tax–the heirs are, through inheriting less from the estate. Check out what capitalist hero Andrew Carnegie said about the effects of inherited wealth.

            “If only 1,141 decedents had to pay it, I wonder how many moved to avoid it?” According to an exhaustive study of the available literature by the Minnesota Department of Revenue:

            Most rigorous and peer‐reviewed studies of migration fail to find any statistically significant effects of
            tax variables.  This is true even when studies are limited to seniors, and it is true for both estate taxes
            and income taxes.  Estate taxes affect such a small proportion of seniors, though, which may explain the
            failure to find a statistically significant impact when studies include all seniors (or even the richest
            quarter of seniors).  . . .    
            These peer‐reviewed and rigorous analyses certainly show less of an impact than would be expected
            based on either the anecdotal evidence or fairly simplistic analysis often cited by opponents of the tax.


            • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/13/2015 - 11:35 am.


              No, we are talking about considering the positive and negative consequnces of being a high tax state. Often commenters here seem to think they can make tax changes with no negative consequences.

              • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/13/2015 - 12:46 pm.

                No Negative Consequences

                Kind of like in Kansas, where they made radical changes to tax policy and expected to see the state’s treasury emerge, at worst, unscathed?

                Or are there no negative consequences to being a low tax state?

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/09/2015 - 10:50 pm.


    As a hack group of pseudo intellectual’s do everything they can to obscure any issue the decide to “study”. The only experiment I see in play here is how little integrity can an anti-think tank have and still get press access?

  12. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 07/10/2015 - 07:55 am.

    Think twice about ‘Minnesota NIce’ Pearlstein…

    First you have to light all the candles on your think tank’s cake in order to celebrate and then blow… even as that old Blueprint has faded to gray?

    Think twice about counting on gullibility and ” Minnesota Nice’…certainly posters here convey some mighty fine points in a state where ‘progressive’ is still a powerful voice sans the self-centered greed of the uninformed and conservative wing which has lost too many feathers to fly anymore. But have a nice day as they say,eh?

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/10/2015 - 09:06 am.

    I guess another “experiment” might be…

    Proving that some people NEVER get tired of being wrong.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/13/2015 - 08:08 am.

      That experiment …

      That experiment continues daily right here on the MinnPost comment board. Thank You.

    • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/15/2015 - 12:20 pm.


      Never doubt the enduring power of greed, hatred, ignorance, cognitive dissonance, and Dunning-Kruger.

      It is amusing how some people can make falsifiable claims, have them falsified, then with a straight face not acknowledge it. Usually double down, as seen above.

  14. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 07/13/2015 - 08:02 am.

    CAE “white papers” are largely garbage

    A fine example is Peter Nelson’s “Minnesotans on the Move to Lower Tax States”.

    The title and thesis of this paper is so disrespectful of the reader, you’d have to believe that Mr. Nelson and the CAE would pray that no one actually READS the thing. It provides little or no support to its thesis – rather, combines its assumptions with fuzzy thinking and tells you the conclusions it would like you to draw.

    Their “studies” are not validated, peer-reviewed efforts at real research, with firm connections to data. They are pure opinion pieces with a paper-thin gloss of intellectual jabber. If they had any pride, they’d be ashamed to publish this crap.

    Read Nelson’s paper and see what you think – but it’s only an example of this outfit’s lack of intellectual integrity.

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/16/2015 - 10:00 am.

    Well, these comments about sum it up

    One has to remember that the reason these right-wing think tanks were created back in the 70s was a realization that facts, logic, and academia hadn’t worked out well for republicans. This is when the myth of the “liberal” media emerged from American reactionary circles and groups like Pearlstein’s started sprouting up. It’s critical to keep in mind the fact that these so-called think tanks were created because these ideas, “research”, and observations couldn’t cut it in the world of peer reviewed academia. These are by and large factories of sophistry pretending to be intellectual missions. These so-called think tanks are actually a manifestation of an anti-intellectual reaction to evidence based policies and propositions. The fact that they pretend to be intellectuals themselves is simply another incoherent feature of the reactionary mindset.

    Whether it’s Katherine Kersten claiming that “diversity” is a new religion on America’s campus’s, or commentors here on Minnpost, all you get is high school debate games devoid of integrity or substance.

    The question for the rest of us is: “how do we respond to this?” It’s not a harmless feature of our socio political landscape. This attack of debate mentality has actually prevented any real progress on a host of perfectly manageable but large problems. We’ve had perfectly good and feasible solutions for everything from a troubled education system to energy policy sitting on the shelf for decades yet most of these problems have actually gotten worse. We have been saddled with intractable problems for decades, bur rather intractable opposition to progress.

    Clearly, arguing issues point by point doesn’t work because you can’t “win” an argument with someone who has no shame or integrity, they’ll just keep arguing because they NEVER get tired of being wrong. Actually, it’s important to remember that someone with no intellectual integrity doesn’t actually care about being wrong, especially in a political context. Such people will make arguments right or wrong as long as they think it will win elections or accumulate power.

    So it’s clear that the real agenda of groups like Mr. Pearlstein’s isn’t to win arguments or study any particular problem per se, the mission is to obscure the entire intellectual enterprise so that no solutions of any kind emerge, and that’s a mission they’ve clearly succeeded with. Reactionaries will fight to maintain the status quo as long as the status quo accrues power to their organizations.

    So if arguing issues isn’t the solution what is? Well, one’s instinct is to ignore them but guys like Eric Black keep writing articles about them 🙂 so that’s not an option… yet. I think the best approach to all these reactionary anti-think tanks is to publicize the complete and utter lack of credibility they’ve piled up over the decades. You have to remember this all started with the hysterical charge that legalized abortion would lead to euthanasia in our nursing homes, or even before that Ronald’s Reagan’s charge that Medicare would lead to communism within a generation. From deregulation to global warming, it’s been a parade of one hysterical false claim after another. In fact I can’t think of a single issue that these hysteria-mongers have been correct about, and the of false claims is impressive after 4-5 decades. Magic tax cuts, self regulating markets and banks, soviet bases in Central America, collapsing patriotism because we still let people burn the American flag, stable economies based on greed, welfare queens and kings, the drug war, private sector efficiency, and I haven’t got to WMD’s in Iraq.

    What we have to do is find a way to expose these fallacies in a clear and concise way without engaging in debate games. And we have to find a way to expose the over-all lack of integrity, and credibility without attacking individual personalities. Step back and look at the big picture, don’t get bogged down in the trees.

    • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/16/2015 - 01:49 pm.

      High school debate games would be an upgrade, Paul

      Instead, what we see is basically a comprehensive example set in a logical fallacy textbook – moving goalposts, ad hominem, non sequitur, etc.

      The structure of the exchange is generally responsible for the poor outcomes. Essentially there’s a limited baseline of expectation of behavior with respect to ad hominem (inconsistently applied, particularly with Minnesota-style passive-aggressive techniques) and certain other types of inflammatory language.

      But there is no baseline with respect to being qualified to express something, nor is there any mediating entity or tools to filter out the mendacious comments and their writers. Without this, it’s pretty much a free-for-all — somewhat akin to playing a sports contest without a ref or any standards for entry based upon ability. As a result, there is very little consequence for bad behavior and performance beyond the familiarity we each have with one another and the impressions we form based on the iterations of interaction. For example, there isn’t a simple tool to keep comments from certain commenters coming through, if a person has through experience learned that such person will not be expressing thoughtful, humane, reality-based words. A further complication is the honor system of “real names”, which a small number of people use to create alternate and/or false identities.

      All of this could be solved quite easily, but as with most media sites, commentary is seen more as a necessary evil and assist in traffic generation and not taken seriously in terms of its results – the people it attracts and keeps and the quality of their contributions.

      I realize my methodology of mostly refuting falsifiable claims with objective data can seem pedantic, but the intent is to undermine mythologies which are commonly held and perpetuated. If the person who makes the false assertion then can’t even acknowledge that their belief has been conclusively proven false (forever) and keeps on with more mendaciousness, then it has demonstrated something important about the specific people behaving in that manner and their ideology generally. Serious people acknowledge the faults they make, even when their perspectives may differ from another person. Tribalist disrupters do not. It’s good to demonstrate which one a person is and the overall character within ideological tribes. Suffice to say, this is not exclusive to any given ideology, but people can judge as to its relative commonality between competing camps.

      Beyond that, you made some excellent points about the big picture. Kudos.

      • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/17/2015 - 11:27 am.

        It seems ….

        It seems that you have forgotten what this discussion is about. Regarding your claims of ad hominem, take a passing glance at your own posts.

        While GDP is a popular metric for measuring the health of an economy, it can mask issues within the economy and in economic sectors. As I had mentioned earlier, Manufacturing lagged other sectors in the economic recovery, and though GDP may not indicate that, employment certainly does. While things like government spending and Apple buying iPhones from contract manufacturers in China buoy the GDP, they don’t provide manufacturing jobs. As I pointed out and sourced above, 27 percent of the 2.8 million manufacturing jobs lost during the five years between 2005 and 2009 were actually recovered in the last five years (2010-2014) of economic recovery. 73% of those jobs are gone; that is the human side of the lag. Governments and corporations can brag all they like, but these are real people.

        From a story, quoting Obama’s former chief of staff, “Barack Obama former aide: Economic recovery has benefited ‘very small slice’

        Nearly all of the income growth since Obama took office has gone to the top 10%, and Real Median Household Income in the United States has continued to decline.

        The rich get richer and the Manufacturing sector of the economy continues to sputter; that is if you bother to look at the people formerly employed there.

        • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/17/2015 - 03:26 pm.

          Wrong again

          “As I had mentioned earlier, Manufacturing lagged other sectors in the economic recovery, and though GDP may not indicate that, employment certainly does.”

          GDP definitively does not indicate that. Not “may not”. You made a false assertion, ergo the argument based on that false assertion was also false. Basic logic. Strike one.

          As for employment, here are the manufacturing employment numbers for Wisconsin, the state you focused on for this metric. The data are employment at the end of the recession, current employment, and percentage change. Employment numbers are in thousands.

          All employment less manufacturing: 2,305.0 ; 2,404.7; +5.25%
          Manufacturing employment: 429.6; 472.6; +11.30%

          11.30 / 5.25 = 2.2

          BLS series SMS55000000000000001 and SMS55000003000000001

          So, your latest assertion manufacturing employment in Wisconsin “certainly does” lag employment in the rest of the economy since the recession ended, when in fact it has outpaced it 2.2-fold. So much for “certainty”. Strike two.

          BTW, with respect to logical fallacies, the ones in the just this latest comment are:

          1) ad hominem
          2) strawman
          3) false cause
          4) appeal to emotion
          5) slippery slope
          6) tu quoque
          7) personal incredulity
          8) special pleading (your favorite)
          9) burden of proof
          10) ambiguity
          11) appeal to authority
          12) begging the question
          13) anecdotal
          14) texas sharpshooter
          alt) use of “it seems…” (anonymous authority / tergiversation)

          14 out of 24 primary formal logical fallacies with an additional informal one in only 251 words. Impressive.

          Strike three.

          • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/18/2015 - 06:40 am.

            ad hominem

            You have failed to identify even one logical fallacy in my post, even though you have compiled an impressive list.

            Here is an example of one of your manifold ad hominem statements, “Never doubt the enduring power of greed, hatred, ignorance, cognitive dissonance, and Dunning-Kruger.”

            You certainly did not refute the BLS numbers I provided regarding the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs lost and not regained. Your argument regarding the high performance of the Wisconsin economy with respect to manufacturing jobs brings us full circle to the statement I made on the morning of July 10, “Wisconsin is doing just fine.” Thank You.

  16. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/16/2015 - 01:28 pm.

    Understanding how to analyze statistics

    Obama’s economic numbers are excellent. In terms of what he inherited (worst economic contraction in the post-war period) and what things are now, the numbers are undeniably better than most other post-war presidents, particularly Republicans.

    So what we’re “treated” to is the designated Republican talking point about labor force participation rates, a topic of non-concern to Republicans prior to Obama (as the rate started declining in 1999 and continued throughout the Bush presidency).

    Numbers don’t exist in some sort of non-contextual universe. When judging impact results, one fairly looks at the hand dealt and what was done with it.

    With labor force participation rates in particular, it’s a common mistake to not even understand what the basic rate is. It’s simply (employed + unemployed) divided by the civilian non-institutional population for people ages 16 and over. The problem with this basic metric is that if a population gets relatively older on average within that group, the denominator doesn’t change (relatively) yet the numerator declines because past a certain age, people tend to stop being in the workforce – which lowers the rate. This is why it is better to look at the 25 to 54 year-old cohort, as that washes out changes in share of people getting post-secondary education as well as changes in the age distribution among people 16 years and older.

    So once you have the more useful data set, and are wishing to critique a given president for the rate under them, one then must look at the slope of the curve as they inherited the presidency versus the slope of the curve as they left the presidency.

    The data goes back to 1948. So we are able to compare all presidents from Eisenhower to Obama.

    Since the president doesn’t just stop an economy on a dime when taking office, and since the data we have is not seasonally adjusted, a fair way to look at the inherited rate is the slope of the curve during the six months prior to taking office and 6 months after (July to July). We can then take the slope of that curve and compare it to the slope the president leaves for their successor.

    Here are the results, from best performance to worst. The order is political party, difference between outgoing and incoming rate, presidential era, incoming rate, outgoing rate. Outgoing rate for Obama is the most recent 12 months. Some results differ by .01 percentage points due to rounding differences in the underlying data (averages which can go past two digits).

    D, +0.72%, Kennedy / Johnson, -0.29%, +0.43%
    R, +0.52%, Nixon / Ford, +0.43%, +0.94%
    D, +0.36%, Obama, -0.48%, -0.12%
    D, +0.12%, Clinton, -0.48%, -0.36%
    D, -0.04%, Carter, +0.94%, +0.90%
    R, -0.12%, W Bush, -0.36%, -0.48%
    R, -0.29%, Reagan, +0.90%, +0.61%
    R, -0.74%, Eisenhower, +0.45%, +-0.29%
    R, -1.08%, HW Bush, +0.61%, -0.48%

    Once again, which happens time and again, the metric Republicans choose to harp on simply highlights how poorly their party’s leaders have done relative to Democrats over many decades, and how well President Obama in particular has done relative to Republicans. This indicates that the ones leveling the critique are simply repeating partisan talking points and madly Googling for supporting evidence without the desire and capability to actually look at the objective data and what it indicates. Because that is both difficult to do (learning statistical analysis generally and researching a topic specifically) compared to simply repeating talking points and doing rudimentary online searches in an exercise of confirmation bias.

    BLS series ID LNU01300060

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/17/2015 - 05:05 pm.

      How Convenient

      That approach certainly brightens the numbers, at least from your perspective.

      Throw the old people out of the data set, even though people are living and working later in life than they ever have, certainly later than during Kennedy-Johnson. Displaced older workers are having a more difficult time regaining employment that those in the 24 to 54 year-old cohort. Those that do find work are finding it takes longer to do it.

      Interesting article from 2014 on long term joblessness for older workers. It also notes that teenage unemployment is over 21%. The young are also jettisoned from your data set, as they too are a downer.

      As I pointed out and sourced above the, the employment population rate under Obama has been abysmal, under 60% every month since 2009.

      • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/17/2015 - 07:37 pm.

        Wrong again, with yet another special pleading fallacy

        “That approach certainly brightens the numbers, at least from your perspective.”

        Nope. Reality is the opposite of your belief yet again.

        Over the past 12 months, the labor force participation rate for people ages 55 and up has been constant. As Obama entered office it was going up.

        Labor force participation rates of people over 55 have been going up steadily for over 20 years, the opposite direction to the overall trend of the past 16 years.

        Excluding that cohort’s data from President Obama’s numbers make his numbers look worse, not better, as the incoming negative slope would have flattened and the latest 12 month slope would be unchanged, making the differential smaller than just the 25 to 54 cohort data.

        “As I pointed out and sourced above the, the employment population rate under Obama has been abysmal, under 60% every month since 2009.”

        There is no such thing as “employment population rate”. That doesn’t have any meaning. There is the “employment to population ratio” and it is not synonymous with “labor force participation rate”. And no one who is serious would refer to its level as “abysmal” in isolation. Being below 60%, historically speaking, is far more common than being above. It has no correlation with productive economic output, inequality measures, etc. It’s recent decline through the recession began in lated December 2006, which was under a Republican president. It fell a full 4 percentage points while he was in office. It has remained flat since the end of his recession.

        Not knowing all of this belies another iteration of lack of familiarity with the subject matter which Googling for articles won’t compensate for.

        As my prior comment pointed out, one should know how to properly understand and analyze statistics before debating about them.


        • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/17/2015 - 11:33 pm.

          Ratio & Rate

          A ratio and a rate calculate the same, a numerator with respect to a denominator; I am sorry that it confused you.

          Whether it is labor force participation rate or employee-population ratio, the number is less this month than the month President Obama took office.

          Here are both metrics for ages 16 and up. If you tinker with the data set, you may paint a picture other than these negative outcomes for the years of this President.

          Labor Force Participation Rate:

          65.7 Jan 2009, 62.6 June 2015; steady downward slope

          Employee Population Ratio:

          60.9 Jan 2009, 59.3 June 2015; precipitous drop through 2009 and 2010 followed by a flat line.

  17. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/19/2015 - 06:58 pm.

    Pearlstein – long on beliefs, short on facts

    For a “think tank” leader, Mr. Pearlstein frequently invokes the phrase “I believe”.

    That’s a sign of a faith-based religion, not rationality. Good choice, since facts don’t align well with his beliefs.

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