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Confused by claims that Minnesota isn’t doing well economically? Look outside the Twin Cities

This month, Republicans in Minnesota did better at the ballot box than many had dared even dream. They increased the size of their majority in the Minnesota House, and — in a surprise to many — gained control of the state Senate.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump also did better than many thought he would. The president-elect exceeded the expectations of polls, pundits and statisticians to easily win enough electoral votes to become the future 45th president of the United States. Trump came within 1.5 points of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Minnesota, a state that hasn’t gone for a Republican for president since Richard Nixon in 1972.

In post-election analysis, Trump’s success — and the nationwide success of Republicans in down-ballot races — has been partly attributed to an ability to tap into a rural, working class disaffection with the status quo.

“This is about the forgotten man and the forgotten woman that are being expected to carry the weight for everyone else. They’re asking for someone to hear them. They want everybody to succeed, but not at the expense of their success,” U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, a Trump supporter, told MinnPost on election night.

For some Minnesotans, that news might come as a surprise. Taken as a whole, Minnesota’s economy looks pretty good: unemployment is among the lowest in the U.S., at 4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Minnesota is in the top 10 among states for median household income (above $61,000)  and the number of jobs has risen above pre-recession levels, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

That all sounds good. So why are some Minnesotans feeling, as Emmer said, forgotten?

Economic strength not evenly distributed

About 60 percent of Minnesota’s population lives in the Twin Cities metro area, where, by most measures, things are going pretty well. Unemployment is low, at 3.3 percent. Average weekly wages are among the highest in the state, at about $1,120, according to the most recently available data (of course, the cost of living is higher, too), and poverty, at 10.7 percent, is below the state average of 11.5 percent.

Those averages obscure racial disparities and poverty in the Twin Cities. But with things going so well — on average — where the bulk of the state’s population is located, there’s another thing you don’t necessarily see when you look at state averages: how people are doing in the rest of Minnesota. And in parts of Minnesota, some people are doing markedly worse.

Economists consider some level of unemployment — between about 4.5 percent and 6 percent — a natural consequence of people changing jobs and other normal economic factors (the unemployment rate doesn't include residents who have stopped looking for work, or who are underemployed). But in a handful of Minnesota counties, including Koochiching, Itasca and Clearwater in the north, and Cottonwood in the south, unemployment in September was above 6 percent.

Unemployment by county, September 2016
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Koochiching County, which borders Canada in the central part of the state, had among the highest unemployment rates of any county in the state, at 6.9 percent in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — just a bit lower than the county’s unemployment rate in 2009-11, during the Great Recession.

There, jobs in manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities, and education and health services make up the largest shares of the workforce, and several sectors, including education and health services, and manufacturing have lost jobs in the last decade, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Koochiching isn’t the only county in the Iron Range with higher unemployment than the state, on average: in a September snapshot, Itasca, St. Louis, Carlton, Aitkin and Cass also shared that distinction, though to a lesser degree.

The economic challenges facing residents of northern Minnesota are nothing new, said state demographer Susan Brower.

The Range economy has been punctuated by ups and downs for decades. In the 1980s, offshore steel, expensive labor contracts and an energy crisis thrust employers and workers into uncertainty. The 1990s and 2000s continued to bring economic swings, with mining companies closing and reopening as a result of these forces and changing technology. In 2007, the Great Recession hit, causing jumps in unemployment.

In Range counties, the unemployment rate spiked to higher levels than it did in the state on average, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Then, it tended to take longer for unemployment to come back down to pre-recession levels than did the state as a whole.

“There were a lot of jobs that were lost,” said Monica Haynes, the director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Minnesota-Duluth Labovitz School of Business and Economics. “For a lot of industries, they’re only now getting back to the level that they were before the recession.”

Some of the changes that have caused instability in the industry for decades  — globalization and technological change — don’t appear to be going away anytime soon, causing fear of a more unstable future.

While things appear to be looking up in some ways now — some of the mining jobs have come back in recent months, Haynes said, “There are layoffs and then when the jobs come back they don't come back to the same level so each time it happens it’s kind of a winnowing away of the industry little by little.”

She added that there's a sense that mining layoffs that numbered more than 1,000 last year, may have contributed to the economic frustration in the context of the election. Those jobs, often unionized, can pay $90,000 or so a year.

While there high poverty areas across the state, some of the largest clusters of people living below the poverty level are also in northern Minnesota, according to 2014 Census data. In tiny Mahnomen County, home to part of the White Earth Reservation, more than 25 percent of residents are living in poverty. In Beltrami County, which includes Bemidji and parts of the Red Lake Reservation, that number is above 20 percent.

Poverty by county, 2014
Source: 2014 American Community Survey

Whether by coincidence or not, northern Minnesota — long a Democratic-Farmer Labor stronghold — is a part of the state where Trump did well, even managing to flip some counties, such as Beltrami, Itasca, Mahnomen and Koochiching (in the latter, he won by 20 percentage points, where Obama won by 10 in 2012). Trump even won more votes than Hillary Clinton in the Iron Range town of Hibbing, which hasn’t voted for a Republican since Herbert Hoover.

Lower wages in southwestern Minnesota

Unemployment and poverty aren’t the only measures of economic health.

While there tends to be higher unemployment in northern Minnesota, the wages are generally better there for those who do have jobs, at least among Iron Range counties, wrote Steve Hine, director of the Labor Market Information Office at DEED, in an email.

The opposite happens in southwestern Minnesota, where unemployment is generally lower, along with wages.

“While many counties in the (southwest) part of the state might have low unemployment, they also have jobs that don’t pay (as) well,” Hine wrote. “Much of this is industry driven.”

Average weekly wages by county, second quarter of 2016
Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

In Cottonwood County in 2016, average weekly wages were $681 in the second quarter, about the same as last year's annual average weekly wages.

That’s not the lowest in the state, but it was coupled with the highest unemployment in Minnesota in September, at 7.5 percent according to the BLS — an increase from 5.4 percent at the same time last year.

More than a quarter of Cottonwood County’s workers are employed in manufacturing, while retail trade and wholesale trade make up the next biggest job sectors.

Between the second quarter of 2015 and 2016, the county lost more than 300 jobs across sectors, according to data from DEED. Gains in some areas didn’t offset the loss of more than 460 jobs in manufacturing between those periods.

Last December, a beef packing plant with 260 employees in Windom, Minnesota — located in south-central Cottonwood County — closed. The University of Minnesota Extension estimated the closure would affect 409 jobs, mostly in beef cattle production, wholesale trade, and truck transportation, for a net total of $14.1 million in labor income lost.

In February, Glen Taylor announced he would buy the plant, which is slated to open by January, according to Kare 11.

Unlike the Range, Cottonwood County has tended to go for Republicans in presidential elections. In 2012, Mitt Romney carried the county with 57 percent of the vote, while Trump got 65 percent in this year’s election.

All in all, Trump managed to flip 19 counties that Obama won in 2012. In general, he did better than Mitt Romney in rural Minnesota, and worse than Mitt Romney in the Twin Cities and its suburbs. Is his success entirely attributable to the economy? Probably not. Might it have been a factor in parts of greater Minnesota? Perhaps.

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Comments (48)

  1. Submitted by Luke Soiseth on 11/29/2016 - 12:40 pm.


    I worry about rural communities. I drive around Minnesota a lot and so have seen many of the small towns – especially downtown main streets – all boarded up and empty and it’s heartbreaking. Manufacturing has left or more likely been turned over to robots, mining comes and goes (mostly goes), and service jobs are service jobs. The choices are bleak and/or nonexistent.

    I’m not sure but my guess is that despite the workforce available in rural areas most companies when looking to locate or relocate choose locations closer to large urban areas with that many more workers, other businesses (partners, vendors, suppliers), large airports and so on. This doesn’t leave greater Minnesotans many choices other than start a business (amidst an ever-decreasing population with little money to spend), relocate to find work where the jobs are, or hope the powers-that-be make some miracles and make things like they once were.

    Unfortunately, this has been going on for a very long time and no politician is going to fix it. All the tax incentives in the world won’t convince a company to relocate to a place they really don’t want to be. Completely new thinking has to take place within the communities and among the disaffected and disenfranchised, and that’s a tough row to hoe.

    • Submitted by Matthew Steele on 11/29/2016 - 01:28 pm.

      One possible bright spot

      This won’t be a panacea, but one possible bright spot is the increasing number of knowledge workers who can work remotely from anywhere. This is popular in many industries, especially with tech jobs. It would make sense for some larger small towns to position themselves for this growing market, maybe people who want to live in a walkable community with amenities, but one where you can get a family-sized house for $200,000 instead of $400,000+ in Minneapolis or St. Paul neighborhoods. Strip down zoning codes to encourage adaptive reuse of boarded downtown buildings into makerspaces, breweries, etc. Build stronger cultural connections with larger cities or institutions. And sell us on your town! A decent and growing percentage of the workforce could live there while retaining high-paying employment via telecommuting, so make it desirable to do so.

      • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 11/30/2016 - 01:15 pm.

        College towns can do well

        The amenities that attract telecommuting knowledge workers overlap with the amenities that attract college students. Cities like Bemidji, Northfield, St. Peter and Duluth should be fine. It goes without saying that cities that want to attract those employees need to invest in high speed broadband connections more than they need to invest in highways.

  2. Submitted by Patrick Tice on 11/29/2016 - 12:44 pm.

    Where is the blame?

    Okay, I’ll grant you that our Twin Cities unemployment is low and there are vastly more opportunities here than in what is euphemistically called “Greater Minnesota”. Having grown up in Southern Minnesota, I can’t recall a time when that hasn’t been the case. Cities are the economic engines of any modern economy, which is why ambitious people everywhere migrate to them. Sadly for Trump supporters, there is really little that government can do to reverse that megatrend toward urbanization. Instead of sitting around complaining, they need to move to where the jobs are or figure out a way to make a living in an area that they know will provide a lesser standard of living – and they need to own up to making that choice. The days of fat paychecks for mining jobs in places where hunting and fishing are good are OVER, and they must make their choice.

  3. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 11/29/2016 - 01:13 pm.

    Typo and finding scapegoats

    It was interesting to see the Iron Range once referred to as the Iron Rage. A Freudian typo – describing angry voters picking an angry man for President.

    Let’s see. Why is employment higher there? Existing businesses with out of town owners are closing or cutting staff to compete and new businesses aren’t opening. Local residents could move to the metro as most local grads do, but they like the lifestyle and family connections, so they stay home in places that fail to thrive because corporate American just isn’t interested.

    And I am talking about guys like Donald Trump, who know little and care less about rural America. Truth be told most people who never lived rural understand or sympathize, and that is the fundamental problem. If you live in a minority community, you understand the people and small town Americans have now become just another minority group others don’t understand.

    So, think long term. Set up programs with other groups to develop a common understanding. Invite kids from the city and suburbs to spend a month or two on a farm or in a small town. Sort of like a domestic foreign exchange program. Open some eyes at an age where people are willing to learn.

    Rural life is different. People work hard. They try to get along. If you treat them well they reciprocate. They are less distracted by the demands of city living and are less clock driven. If you give them a job, they will do it and take pride in it. And they are a lot less likely to focus on what is in it for them. If they use and abuse others, they will pay through their relationships, which is where they find their happiness. It is different, but in many ways appealing. Focus on these things and sell what you have to offer, rather than expecting city rubes to figure it out.

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/29/2016 - 04:04 pm.

    Let’s Not Forget

    That the LARGEST share of mechanization in Minnesota,..

    the one that has emptied out large swaths of the rural landscape,…

    and closed down a lot of small businesses and the towns that hosted them,…

    is mechanization on Minnesota’s farms.

    There are many Southern, Southwestern, and Western Minnesota counties,…

    essentially, those without lakes or other tourist attractions,…

    where the population is now only 1/3 of it’s peak in the 50s and 60s.

    The town where I went to high school in the 70s has almost ceased to exist,…

    with the school long since merged into a regional school system and the old small-town school buildings now gone.

    Globalization and “big government” didn’t do this to these farmers.

    In their pursuit of easier work lives, higher profits,…

    and cheaper prices for groceries and other goods,…

    (I remember folk who would ignore their local town and drive 40 miles to save a nickel on a loaf of bread)…

    they did it to themselves,…

    but that doesn’t prevent them from being massively jealous of,…

    and resentful toward,…

    all those who left “Lake Wobegon”,…

    and moved to Minneapolis or someplace with a warmer climate.

    Somehow the fact that they now have no choice but to travel a considerable distance for routine groceries and supplies,…

    is the fault of those lazy, worthless inner city folk,…

    or “big government.”

  5. Submitted by Jon Lord on 11/29/2016 - 06:14 pm.

    Greg is right.

    I spend my youth growing up in North Dakota. K-Mart and places like that quickly became the place to go for choice and price in rural Minnesota and North Dakota as well. Those usually were located in one of the larger of the small towns, such as Fargo-Morehead, Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and so on. That plus mechanized and automated systems requiring far fewer people to run, something I know too much about, has and will continue to bring ‘fewer’ jobs the rural community (as well as in large cities). The “Big Government” that did the least to help the rural community wasn’t the President, rather it was the Legislative branch whose main and most definitely the loudest message was and is that it doesn’t want to spend money…on people. For the normal person, rural or urban, there will be no improvement to their condition or in “Big Government” and promises to be even less. This election they acted in anger, almost always a bad idea.

  6. Submitted by John Appelen on 11/29/2016 - 06:41 pm.


    I wonder if education level or lack there of is the common factor. We know we have a mess in the urban areas and challenges in the rural areas.

    Kids like me left the farm, went to college and moved to the burbs. Many of my less academically capable class mates who did not go to college are still back in SW MN just getting by.

    Maybe this isn’t so much about metro / rural as about our old friend the education achievement gap… 🙂

    • Submitted by Jon Lord on 11/29/2016 - 07:28 pm.

      Tell me John

      What jobs are available to most rural people where more education will help them get? What kind of numbers are you thinking about? You know? Jobs where they can all move into with more education? Companies in the rural areas who are just begging for many academically superior employees?

      I moved to the twin cities when I was 18, put myself through college and stayed here. This place was too big a shock to many of my classmates (it was to me too but I had no choice) so they went home where the lifestyle is less hectic.

      Where are these rural area folks going to get more education? For high end jobs that aren’t there in the numbers needed? What kind of education are you speaking of? How affordable?

      Or are you suggesting they relocate.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/29/2016 - 10:12 pm.


        Please remember that I am from farm country, so the ideas will be with regard to that.

        My friends who did go to college / vo-tech, were pretty bright and worked hard seemed to have found plenty of opportunities. Many of them started businesses and grew them. (ie trucking, insurance, realty, insurance, grocery store, machine shops, custom cabinets, electrician, plumbing, construction, etc) And the ones who preferred being an employee found positions in agribusiness, healthcare and manufacturing firms.

        Just as in the urban areas, it is those with lower capabilities and ambition who earn less.

        • Submitted by Jon Lord on 12/01/2016 - 04:09 pm.


          Please remember that I am from farm country, so I’ll judge what you say in regards to that.

          You know something? There aren’t that many opportunities for most people in rural areas no matter how much schooling they get. As one person said, most of the rural towns have become near ghost towns and that I find to be true. I know a few that have store fronts with no one in them and those that still run are only open for a short time during the day, like for lunch. Agribusiness tends to be run by Universities, or by seed and feed businesses, and there isn’t a huge need for dozens of them in any one area. Same with dealerships, most are located in the larger cities, no longer in small towns. Same with healthcare, only towns of sufficient size have openings, and not for everyone! Manufacturing…like with Cargill…are moving to places like…well, Mexico. Unless given millions of dollars to stay…for now. And not all states have any manufacturing like that located in small towns. Have you travelled to any small towns lately?

          I mean…where have you been all this time?

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/01/2016 - 09:03 pm.


            I think you need to look a bit deeper when you drive out West. And yes I am out there about every third weekend.

            I do agree that there are a lot of low income barely made it through High School folks trapped in low income service jobs, just like in the cities. But there are also many people like those I described above who make good money and live great lives.

            The other benefit is that many of them do not feel the need to have a huge home, fancy cars, etc. How does that saying go again?

            “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”
            ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

            • Submitted by Jon Lord on 12/03/2016 - 12:02 pm.

              Of course…

              But the numbers in ‘small towns’ are down. Franchises have moved out in towns of around 1000 and under and have gone to larger cities like Grand Forks and Fargo-Morehead. Those small towns don’t have what they did when I was growing up there, and that includes the populations. Try find a clothing store. Or a gun shop. A doctor’s office. It’s true many have retained their bars but in many you’ll find a lack of movie houses, maybe one or two small restaurants that aren’t always open but no Burger Kings, etc. None. It’s changing and has been for forty years at least. Slowly and there might be a certain point where that levels off or has leveled off. But if you simply start a business in those towns now, it’d better be something they need and no other business like it in those towns. I don’t think you are old enough to remember the heydays of the late 50’s or 60’s.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/03/2016 - 11:52 pm.


                I agree that just like in the cities… It is different, especially with the convenience of online shopping and our modern acceptance of driving a half hour to save a few bucks. I have been seeing the growth of some interesting businesses in my home area, Dairy Queen, Subway, Caseys and the Dollar Stores, there must be a niche to be filled.

                • Submitted by Jon Lord on 12/06/2016 - 08:39 am.

                  and I

                  have seen Dairy Queen’s and drive-in or drive up restaurants leave towns with no Subways, Caseys or Dollar Stores to begin with. The niche to be fill probably exists in larger towns over 5,000 to 10,000 and up. Cities like Grand Forks-East Grand Forks, Fargo-Morehead, Rochester and etc. The majority of small towns are closer to 1000 and under in population. They aren’t growing and businesses are leaving them.

                  Saving bucks by driving a half hour from small towns isn’t going to help a small town economically. It doesn’t bring money to truly small towns. Surely you’ve seen that. It always depends on where you draw the line, that point where you begin to ignore something important.

                  You can always say it’s a function of supply and demand, because, there it is.

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/06/2016 - 11:30 am.

                    Tale of 2 Towns

                    While I agree that the smallest towns will shrink away or become bedroom communities. The 2 towns that have been adding new businesses out West are Canby (hometown area) and Dawson. Both have significantly fewer than 5,000 people.

                    I think Dawson being on 212 helps it, and Canby is home to a Sanford regional medical center, a technical college and lots of wind turbines just SW of town.. Plus Farmers are running so much land now that they outsource much of the agronomy, fertilizing and spraying work to businesses located in these towns.

                    Times are a changing.

  7. Submitted by Derek Thompson on 11/29/2016 - 06:55 pm.

    Economy of Greater Minnesota

    Has there every been a time that this wasn’t the case? Obviously there used to be more farming/mining jobs in rural areas, but I was always under the impression that there was always more opportunity in the cities.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/29/2016 - 08:02 pm.


      Seems like a derivative of the Jesse James theory: Why do you rob banks? because that’s were the money is. Why do so many people live in the cities, because that’s were the opportunities are?
      And perhaps a life style more akin to what some folks are looking for.

  8. Submitted by Mike Downing on 11/29/2016 - 07:30 pm.

    “On average”…

    “On average” you are OK with one foot in ice water and one foot in hot water. However, both feet are hurting.

    There is a huge divide between the needs of rural MN and urban MN. For example, rural voters want roads & bridges whereas inner city voters want buses & LRT. Our MN legislature forgot about rural needs and Congress forgot about “fly over country”. The 2016 election was testimony that the DFL pushed their urban agenda too far and the Democrats in Congress pushed the needs of the Northeast & West Coast too far.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/29/2016 - 08:19 pm.


      More than half of the population of Minnesota (5.457 million) lives in the Twin Cities metropolitan area (3.28 million). This is where the votes are, as well as the big ticket donors.
      This trend started hundreds of years ago (read your Adam Smith). The only place that I’ve seen it reversed is in science fiction.
      As Greg Kapphahn pointed out, mechanization has affected farming as much as it has manufacturing (just look at those mechanized monsters rolling down the road). 4% of the population can feed the whole country, with plenty left over for export.

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/29/2016 - 10:00 pm.

      How Soon We Forget

      Let’s see, who was it that passed a bonding bill that,…

      although it would have funded a lot of rural road projects INCLUDING roads and bridges,…

      PROHIBITED metro area counties from using THEIR OWN property tax receipts to pay for light rail?

      It was the Republicans in the Minnesota House that REFUSED to take care of METRO needs,…

      got their bill vetoed because it did not take care of metro needs (with money FROM metro counties),…

      just as it was the Republicans in the US House or Representatives that opposed anything and everything President Obama proposed to try to help those in need,…

      both in metro and rural areas.

      If you think the Republicans in Washington and St. Paul will be able to bring themselves to spend a nickel to help rural folk,…

      you haven’t been paying any attention at all to what’s been going on for the past 8 (if not 30) years.

      Things are about to get a WHOLE lot worse for rural areas across the US and in Minnesota.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/30/2016 - 08:41 am.

        The Money Tree

        I am always fascinated at where folks think the government money to service bonds and spend on projects comes from? Is there a secret money tree in St Paul?

        From my simplistic understanding, every dollar that the government spends has to be taken from the citizens. Or in the case of bonds, it is spent on the current citizens while the burden of paying the bill is transferred to our children.

        Now I understand that many here think that the MN government has not been increasing their spending fast enough. However this data from the MMB clearly shows that gov’t spending is/has been increasing more rapidly than our incomes. Probably not a good trend.

        And please remember that it was the DFL who wanted to raise taxes on fuel (regressive tax), rather than finding ways to make government more effective and efficient.

      • Submitted by Mike martin on 12/03/2016 - 12:48 pm.

        Please check your facts

        The DFL blocked $ 1.4 billion of spending & tax benefits for all of MN because they wanted the state to spend $ 135 million for SW LRT. The urban DFL & Governor didn’t offer anything to the GOP to get GOP votes for SW LRT. It was their way or nothing so the state got nothing.

        Ultimately local government & a funding gimmick by the Met Council got the $135 million for SW LRT. If urban DFL & Governor had done that in the beginning the state would have had the bonding and tax bills. And the DFL would not have lost control of the Senate.

        The urban focused DFL got punished by rural and suburban voters in the election for holding the bonding bill and tax benefits hostage to SW LRT

  9. Submitted by Jeffrey McIntyre on 11/30/2016 - 06:54 am.

    Where the Jobs Are

    Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and go where the jobs are. I’m retired now; but I moved my family 3 times (out of Mn) because that’s where the job took me. With that said, Trump was close to winning in Mn for one reason…democrats who stayed home on Nov. 8. In Mn, HRC got 200,000 less votes than Obama did in 2012…while Trump got 2,000 more than Romney. Now those grumpy out state types can sit back and watch as their healthcare insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security goes away. Elections have consequences. Good luck.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/30/2016 - 09:51 am.

    Leaving people behind…

    Is actually an explicit republican agenda. To the extent that republicans embrace libertarian (i.e. Ayn Randian fantasy) principles they actually celebrate the success of a few at the expense of others. Republican’s explicitly promote policies and agenda’s that leave “losers” behind to wallow in their failure of personal responsibilities. If rural Minnesotan’s aren’t “winning” it’s no one’s fault but their own. If you think you’ve been left behind by the democrats, you haven’t seen anything yet, republicans actually promise to leave people behind, it’s part of their platform. Republican’s think rural American a actually wants to be left behind.

    To the extent that rural MN has been left behind, they’ve inflicted that retarded growth on themselves. Rural Minnesotan’s have increasingly voted for either divided government which creates gridlock, or republican government with leaves them behind as a matter of principle. This is voting stupidly.

    All rural voters have won themselves at this point is a government shut down that typically hurts them more than it hurts the Metro Area. If rural Minnesotan’s think they’ll improve their conditions by buying into the bogus republican politics of resentment and alienating sympathetic urban liberals, they’re going to run out of feet to shoot themselves in some day.

  11. Submitted by Candace Oathout on 11/30/2016 - 12:57 pm.

    It is amazing how many people can tell you how you think.

    As I read through these comments I am amazed at the spitefulness displayed by those who chose to live the urban lifestyle. I truly do not know where these folks get their information.

    Perhaps the most significant statement is the one defining rural as people who want there roads and bridges and urbanites as people who want light rail and buses. No matter how many rail lines you build and bus routes are available urbanites are still dependent on someone else to transport them. Rural residents do want decent roads and bridges but they can and will travel independently when necessary. Just remember every dollar the government spends comes out of the working taxpayer’s income. The government has no money to spend that it hasn’t taken from some who earned it.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 11/30/2016 - 11:53 pm.


      They take it from us (actively employed and successful urban folks) to give to you (unemployed, struggling rural folks). Kinda underlined by the premise of the article. Don’t get me wrong, we’re happy to help, as is our nature, being generally liberal and such. We just tend to get a bit miffed when folks decide they need to “take their country back” at the expense of those footing their ever increasing tab. Just because rural folks seem to want to be left to fail out of some misguided sense of duty doesn’t mean we as a society should just leave them to it. Pride truly is one of humankind’s greatest impediments to progress.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/01/2016 - 08:41 am.

      Urban Spite?

      The only people who don’t seem to understand where the tax money comes from are rural voters who think they pay for their own roads and bridges. Urban liberals aren’t the ones whining about their taxes, and we’ve been happily footing the bill for rural services, infrastructure, and schools for decades, that’s not spite.

      Urban liberals don’t have a problem with rural America, we wan’t everyone to have good roads and bridges, and health care, and decent schools, and we aren’t complaining about paying for it. Republicans on the other have one idea and only one idea, and that’s shrinking the “cost” of government. We need $1.2 trillion worth of new spending to bring our infrastructure up to grade. Republicans “offered” to spend $300 million, then agreed to $600 million but the refused to come back and actually pass that spending in a special session. If you’re a rural voter and you think you’re going to get ANYTHING from republicans, you’re just not being smart, and or you’re just not paying attention.

      Nor is it particularly smart to think that trimming a few regulations here or there to get government out of your way is going to create some kind of economic bonanza. Regulations didn’t cause the recession, or shut down the mines, or cut down all the old growth trees. Regulations didn’t poison the water with farm run-off and they don’t determine the price of commodities. No business gets to exhaust, or pollute, or destroy public resources for profit, that means farms.

      Roads and bridges have nothing to do with being “independent”, different locations and populations need different types of transportation. No one’s trying to build a light rail system in Luverne MN because they’er just so independent down there, it simply wouldn’t make sense. It’s not about someone “else” moving you.

      So here’s what happens if rural voters decide that whining about their taxes and electing small govement republicans who rely on politics of division and resentment is a “good” idea. The Twin cities will get it’s rail and mass transit, and rural areas will get zilch. Why? because we don’t need rural money to pay for our transit but rural area’s need our money to pay for their roads bridges. That’s not “spite”, it’s economic reality. And that’s not going to be a pissing match that urban liberals started so where’s the “spite” really coming from?

      One thing it is to complain about where your own money is spent, but you’re complaining about where urban citizens are spending their money because they’re spending it on their own transit instead of yours… yeah, real “independent”. My advice? Just don’t go there, vote for politicians who want to solve problems and represent you rather than turn you against your fellow citizens.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/01/2016 - 05:03 pm.


        This is ironic.

        I am pretty sure the Urban Liberals are also unaware of where the money comes from. The reality is that it comes from the wealthy people who live in the Cities, Suburbs and Rural Communities. And that does not stop Urban Liberals from asking for more than they are already given.

        Most citizens pay in less than they receive back in infrastructure, services, credit, etc.

        Imagine a medium income Minneapolis household with 2 children. 13 years of school / child care at $20,000 + 17 years of the child tax credit at $1000 per year). That’s like $554,000 in expense. And that doesn’t include Medicaid, food stamps, earned income tax credit, higher ed, infrastructure, national defense, etc.

        My point is that most of us have some people to thank for paying most of our bills and it is not decided by physical region.

        • Submitted by Randle McMurphy on 12/05/2016 - 12:27 am.


          No, it’s not “decided” by physical region, it’s just that an overwhelming number of the state’s wealthiest citizens happen to live in MSP. I can understand why Medina ($126,000 median household income) favored Trump by a 10-pt. margin. But how did he carry Redwood Falls ($45,000 median household income) by 28%? See, I think a substantial number of our rural residents have been encouraged to view themselves as heroic “makers.” Unfortunately, they don’t “make” enough money to qualify for the GOP’s social-Darwinist schemes. Tax revenue from Maple Grove and Wayzata gets redistributed to both Fairmont and Brooklyn Center. In fact, on a per capita basis, the former receives about 17x as much LGA as the latter. But Fairmont has too much pride to acknowledge its dependency, so it keeps supporting a party that promises to lavish more largess on Edina.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/05/2016 - 09:17 am.


            Personally, I think most of them are Makers. Therefore they are willing to vote against what Liberals would call “their best interest”. (ie State aid, Big Government, etc)

            As Makers, they value work, personal responsibility and supporting charities. It is a testament to them that after decades of Democratic policies created to make them Dependent, they are still willing to vote for a less intrusive government.

            Another thing about small towns, they know everyone’s business… Therefore they know who is receiving government assistance, how they choose to live and often they see bad life choices being rewarded by their tax dollars. That does tend to frustrate the hard working folks.

            • Submitted by Randle McMurphy on 12/05/2016 - 11:07 pm.

              “Personally, I think most of them are Makers.”

              You act as though this is a matter of taste or opinion. In reality, every fiscal/economic metric available confirms that rural Minnesota is subsidized by MSP. People in Medina are wealthy; people in Redwood Falls are not. I know — I’ve spent considerable time in both places. Just curious, how many folks in your neck of the woods have indoor swimming pools and basketball courts? Cobblestone driveways encircling fountains? That’s when you’ve know you’ve really made it — when your driveway forms a loop and is paved with some material other than asphalt or concrete or gravel. Also: elevators.

              “It is a testament to them that after decades of Democratic policies created to make them Dependent, they are still willing to vote for a less intrusive government.”

              They’re voting to kill their (already dying) towns so that people in the West Metro can pay lower taxes.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/06/2016 - 11:22 am.

                As discussed

                As we are discussing elsewhere, many cities in MN are net recipients of LGA, including most of our Urban centers.

                Please remember that wealthy is a state of mind… Many people in rural America feel much more fulfilled and wealthy than some of the folks in Medina. While their net worth is much less.

                Being a Maker or Taker has little to do with wealth and more to do with belief systems and life style.

            • Submitted by Jon Lord on 12/06/2016 - 09:10 am.

              Randle M. has it right.

              You John, specifically, should understand that’s what ‘supply and demand’ is all about. The supply is and has been moving to the larger cities where the demand is greatest and consequently that’s where the demand is going to continue to go! People have to move to the areas where the supply is greatest. Therefore cheapest. As ‘demand’ moves to where the ‘supply’ is it leaves the rural areas. Those small towns tend to keep those who are least able to just pick up and move. That’s not going to change.

              The supply moves to where the demand is greatest. That’s the trend! Demand has to follow. As for jobs, they will continue to disappear in smaller towns. In fact, in larger cities too. Trump hasn’t ‘created’ jobs by saving a few in the Cargill deal. He just postponed a loss of jobs. Those loss of jobs, if you had been listening closely, will happen anyway as Cargill automates many of it’s processes ‘at that plant’ and others. That’s what Cargill said. That is the future. Our population will continue to increase and our supply of jobs will continue to shrink as the demand for them grows. There is absolutely no way to stop it from happening.

              It simply follows, as more and more processes (like checkout lines) become automated, jobs will disappear. In doing so the poor will increase and hard working folks will disappear.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/06/2016 - 11:15 am.

                Thats it

                That’s it. I am going to give up because we are doomed… Really?

                Change has been happening for a very very long time. I think we will manage.

                But it is critical that we pressure ALL Americans to become educated and/or skilled, and hold Parents, Social Services and our Public Schools accountable for doing so !!! No Child Should be Left Behind !!!

                And I think you meant Carrier.

  12. Submitted by Heather Craig on 11/30/2016 - 04:33 pm.

    I seem to recall Minnesota Republicans promising vast improvements to rural broadband development, and never following through on those investments. It is hard to telecommute or build a small business if you do not have reliable internet connections.
    I don’t understand why rural voters did not take their Republican lawmakers to task more for this failure to fulfill their promises.

    • Submitted by Anthony Walsh on 12/05/2016 - 09:23 am.

      What they do vs. what they say

      But they did follow through with their real intentions, by blocking the governor’s attempt to do rural broadband by adding it to a bonding bill in the governor’s second year (?).

      I Daudt very many people read the paper so thoroughly to know that, however.

      Facts don’t speak for themselves when they are kept secret.

  13. Submitted by Matt Haas on 12/01/2016 - 12:12 am.

    I think

    We as urban liberals underestimate the powerful hold that nostaliga holds over some folks in rural areas. Mainly because for many of us, the happy times being recalled were before our lifetimes. I spent part of thanksgiving weekend looking through stacks and stacks of old photos that were unearthed during the cleanout and subsequent auctioning of my 95 year old grandparent’s home. My older relative’s focus was seldom on the person’s photographed, those names were lost to the ether decades ago, but rather the places depicted. I come from a backwater community in the farm country of Western Wisconsin and was captivated by the talk of root beer stands, car dealerships, department stores, and movie theaters that used to populate our little burg, all of which were fading memories by the time I came around. It was vibrant, it was bustling, nothing at all like the place I knew. I can understand the desire of some to get back to that place, the ardent belief that all it takes is the will to do it. What our challenge will be, as liberals, is to recognize what ideal it is we are trying to live up to with regards to rural communities, and help their residents to understand that while we DO want to make things good again, that it won’t, it can’t, be the place that they remember. Too many things have changed, some by the choice of those very same residents. Small farming is bascially a memory, it can’t be the core of rural communities any more, the numbers just don’t add up. Small manufacturing similarly cannot compete (no matter what you cut their taxes to). This doesn’t mean other types of small and medium enterprise cannot still thrive and fuel a resurgence in the rural economy. Its gonna take investment that conservatives will simply be unwilling to make. Selling folks on that idea, that a new type of economy is what’s needed, rather than a return to the glory days of yore, and that liberals are who WANT to bring it about is the catalyst that can reverse this trend.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/01/2016 - 03:52 pm.


      But nostalgia pretending to be history is a well documented feature of conservative mentalities, not just rural folks in rural areas.

      This was a democratic fail because you’re right, they didn’t get out there and sell themselves. I kept waiting for them to offer a substantial answer to the republican narrative but it never materialized. All they had to do was point out that republicans promised more roads and bridges and produced an illegal budget that refused to fix in a special session. Republicans promised to deliver to rural areas and then got bogged down in blocking urban transit projects instead. Republicans were so intent on blocking “choo choos” that kept rural roads and bridges off the table by refusing even let urban voters pay for their own transit.

      Democrats could have produced a single statewide series of adds organized around republican incompetence but they never even try.

  14. Submitted by Kent Klinger on 12/01/2016 - 09:26 am.

    Just Don’t Get It

    A Lot of Nice Graphs and Fiscal Reasons Highlighted in the Article. It Is What it is Because A Few Simple Reasons. People are Tired of the Crybaby Liberals Being Produced By Acedemia With Their Safe Spaces and the BLM Movement being Shoved in their Faces. Secondly, People Want To Be Safe and Democrats Seem to Be More About Controlling and Provide What They Percieve that People Need. Lastly, the Presidential Candidate That Was Crowned as the Dems Answer is a Status Quo Establishment With Extreme Leftist Tendencies not to Mention a Criminal that Belongs Behind Bars and Was Less Popular Than Her Predecessor With a Ton of Bagage. The Lame Street Media is Clueless With Their Metro Mantality and Arogant Progressive Agenda What is Important to the Small Town Grass Roots Populous Nationalist America Lovers. Who Are the Real Haters? The Left. They Hate America and What it Stands For and Will Find Out What Not Having an America Hating President is Like. That’s Why My I Hope They Continue on Their Path Because Look At The Results

    • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 12/04/2016 - 11:07 am.

      Sorry, Mr. Klinger, but facts and graphs to illustrate them do matter.

      It is the Democrats in the U.S. who are compassionate, tolerant of all kinds of difference among peoples and different opinions (try running in MN as a Republican who doesn’t abide by Tea Party strictures!). It is Democrats who have worked hard to extend a broad safety net, so the poor and the sick and the disadvantaged–no matter where they live–do not fall to the hard ground, where they would suffer and die in misery. Only Democrats care to invest in the disadvantaged so they can get up and out of economic distress, e better educated and be more independent (none of us is wholly independent of government help). I don’t see the hate that Mr. Klinger says motivates Democrats. But I did see and hear hatred of all kinds of “other” Americans from Trump supporters at his frightening rallies.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/05/2016 - 08:07 am.


        Given the name calling done by the Left regarding Trump, his voters, American businesses, the wealthy and anyone who believes differently from them in general, I have to disagree.

        Please remember that currently 7 out 10 Black children are born out wedlock, generational poverty remains and the MN achievement gap is one of the highest in the nation. And this is in a Liberal state like MN.

        Now I know it feels good to take money from other tax payers to give it to the needy. Unfortunately it has the unintended consequences of making them dependent and promoting making bad decisions. The Liberal War on Poverty failed, time for something forces personal responsibility, independence, continuous learning, etc.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/05/2016 - 09:55 am.

          Please remember…

          That Blacks in Mississippi are far more worse off than those in MN, and Mississippi is one of if not THE most conservative republican states in the country. And remember that whenever we try to address the education gap, republican raid the education budget to plug budget holes they’ve created elsewhere. The liberal war on poverty didn’t “fail”, the republican war to preserve poverty has succeeded.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/05/2016 - 11:17 am.

            Gaps Matter

            The people of Mississippi apparently are in the fight together. (#19)
            Whereas in Minnesota the gaps are HUGE. (#51)

            Of course the war on poverty failed. Making people dependent on handouts simply encourages the wrong behaviors and choices.

            • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/06/2016 - 10:13 am.

              Yes, gaps matter

              The Mississippi’s economy is the poorest in the nation with a per capita GSP of $32,000 compared to Minnesota which has the 12th highest per capita GSP of $54,000. That’s a gap of $22,000. 8% of Mississippi’s black 8th graders score as proficient in reading compared to 33% of black students in Minnesota, that’s a gap of 25%.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/06/2016 - 09:56 pm.


                There are many historical, geographical and industry differences between the two states that explain the difference. However that does not explain why our Liberal MN has the worst achievement and wealth gaps in the country. It seems we have been doing something wrong here.

        • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/06/2016 - 07:48 pm.

          I guess:

          The same effect is taking money from the middle class to cover the taxes the uber wealthy don’t pay, like the president elect, seems lots of us have been covering his short fall for ~ 20 years!

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/06/2016 - 09:50 pm.


            Just curious… Who do you think pays more in total taxes? Donald or yourself?

            What do you think the property taxes are on a ~1 Billion dollars in real estate?

            Now I agree that he is somewhat slimy, but come now…

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