Sometimes, politicians seem to just stick their jaws out and say, “Hit me.”
One of Minnesota’s own, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, seemed to have one of those “hit me” moments earlier this week.
Bachmann was attending a news conference in Washington, D.C., where some Republican legislators were introducing their cure for our nation’s sick economy. The bill is called “The Middle Class Job Protection Act.” The main feature of this bill is a 25 percent tax cut — for corporations.
At the news conference, Bachmann stuck out her jaw and gushed, “I am so proud to be from the state of Minnesota. We’re the workingest state in the country. The reason why we are is that we have more people that are working longer hours; we have people that are working two jobs.”
Hmmm. One job is good, two jobs are better, three jobs are best? Who needs a life when you can work? Hit me.
Opposing candidate quick to punch
When Bob Olson, a DFL candidate for the 6th District seat now held by Bachmann, learned of those comments, he immediately took a big, hard swing at his potential November foe. (Olson first must get past fellow DFLer Elwyn Tinklenberg.)
“Mrs. Bachmann may celebrate the fact that more Minnesotans have to work extra hours and take on a second job to make ends meet, but I see it as cause for alarm,” Olson said. “… I understand that you’re putting lipstick on our pig of an economy because the president you blindly support is running America into the ground, but touting the hardships that too many families from St. Cloud to Woodbury are enduring is absolutely offensive.”
Bachmann’s office did not return a call seeking comment.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat representing the state’s 1st District, also took a few jabs during an interview on Minnesota Public Radio on Thursday. He suggested that the hope of most Minnesotans is not to have to have two jobs, but rather one well-paying job.
That sounds reasonable. But it may not necessarily be true.
In recent months, state’s ranking has dropped
Until recently, Minnesota has been among the nation’s “workingest” states, constantly in a tussle with the Dakotas, Iowa and Nebraska for that honor.
Minnesota did lead the nation in labor force participation, state demographer Tom Gillaspy said. And unlike South Dakota, which ranks 51st in the country in wages for men (women in the state rank 41st in wages), Minnesotans often led the nation in people having two jobs despite good wages. (Minnesota ranks 12th in wages.)
There have been multi-job workers in Minnesota for a variety of reasons, Gillaspy said. There is a strong work ethic in the state, many workers have multiple seasonal jobs and, in good times, Gillaspy said, the unemployment rate in the state was so low that there were excellent second jobs for working Minnesotans to choose from.
In other words, Minnesotans often worked two jobs because they wanted to, not because they had to.
But recent data show a different picture in the state. The work ethic remains, but opportunities are diminishing.
“Minnesota’s a hard-working place,” said Gillaspy. “It’s actually reasonable to say until the last few months it’s been the hardest-working state. But labor force participation may be dropping, from first to fifth.”
Both Gillaspy and state economist Tom Stinson are studying the bleakest job numbers in Minnesota since the early 1980s. For the first time in decades, hard-working Minnesota has an unemployment rate that equals the nation’s. (Minnesota stands at 4.9 percent; the national rate is 5 percent.)
In the last six months, Minnesota has seen a net loss of 23,000 jobs.
Stinson has gone on record as saying the state is in a “recession.” Which led to Gillaspy cracking a demographer joke:
“Do you know what the difference is between recession and depression?” he asked. “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose your job.”
“That’s dark humor,” he said.
There may be quite a bit of that going around in coming months in Minnesota, where hard-working people are having a hard time finding work.