Big government problems

Minnesota’s Big Government policies don’t solve our most pressing problems — they’re making them worse.

The era of Big Government is alive and well in Minnesota. As the state faces serious, persistent problems — rising inflation, out-of-control crime, a middle-class being squeezed of its hard-earned money, and failing public schools, just to name a few — our leftist politicians seem to be doubling-down on the same “solutions” that got us in this dire situation. They pile on more government restrictions, spend more taxpayer money, and give themselves more power without any marked improvement. This is inexcusable. If the state was run like any normal business, everyone would be fired! It should be no different for the governor and the legislature. They work for us, after all, and I find their job performance sorely lacking.

Take crime, for example. The number of carjackings, theft, and violent crime has been on the rise for years. Even after Minneapolis residents voted to keep the police department, the mayor and city council were sued to get more cops back on the street. But even while the city officials drag their feet to enforce public safety with the best tools possible — namely a fully staffed police department — the city implemented a “violence interrupter” program. The program is made up of citizen groups paid by the city to wear brightly colored shirts and walk the streets. Studies have shown these programs do nothing to actually “interrupt” violence. And instead of focusing on known solutions to combat crime, this program was given $2.5 million. But the disfunction doesn’t end there. Despite contract language requiring proper records, city officials thought it was good enough for reporting to be done over the phone — meaning no proper written records exist to chart the group’s effectiveness. But wait, it gets worse. Instead of pausing the program or demanding accountability, the city is giving the program an additional $7.5 million!

Throwing money at bad policies is a favorite big government pastime. Just look at our public schools. Policy fellow Catrin Wigfall’s report, Allergic to Accountability, shows that Minnesota’s public school achievement scores have steadily fallen despite being a state with one of the highest rates of per-pupil education spending. But rather than introducing measures to improve schools — by reducing government heavy-handedness through charter schools and pathways toward equal opportunities for private and home schooling — the Walz administration and the DFL-controlled legislature doubled down last year, opposing Education Savings Accounts. In fact, they want to dump more taxpayer dollars at the feet of the teachers’ union, proposing $525 million above the current base-level spending, even as more families are fleeing the failing public school system.

These examples alone are enough to draw the conclusion that Minnesota’s liberal politicians have adopted a “too big to care” mantra. As the average Minnesotan has seen everything from food costs to utility bills rising, the Walz administration is transfixed on the left coast of America to institute their draconian “green” energy policies here. In this issue, policy fellow Isaac Orr explains what these low carbon fuel standards are and what they mean for the cost of energy, and therefore the cost of doing business, driving our cars, and feeding our families — basically every aspect of life. What it signals is a disconnect between our progressive policymakers who are insulated from the decisions and policies they introduce and the taxpayers who must live, and suffer, by them.

But Gov. Tim Walz and his cronies think a few petty gestures will be enough to placate suffering Minnesotans. His proposed “Walz Checks” are meager crumbs compared to the feast our state government has enjoyed at the expense of the hardworking Minnesotans whose tax dollars fund these green initiatives. And Walz’s public support of the Biden administration’s proposal to allow gas stations to sell E15 gasoline this summer is nothing more than putting a Band-Aid over a bullet wound. It seems more and more like our plump politicians will keep their hands in the taxpayer’s cookie jar as long as it gets replenished. Not until they’re forced to account for their gluttony or explain the negative consequences of their plans do they moderate their appetite.

That is why American Experiment sponsored the Give It Back rally in April. Hundreds of Minnesotans joined us at the Capitol, calling for Walz and the Minnesota legislature to give back to taxpayers what’s rightfully ours: the $9.3 billion budget surplus. Millions of average Minnesotans and their families have to operate on a budget — an increasingly tight one these days — and our politicians should be no different. Afterall, it really is our money, and they need to be reminded of that.

Thinking Minnesota gives out an annual “Golden Turkey” award highlighting the ridiculous projects and expenditures our state and local governments are throwing our money at, often with little or nothing to show for it. Last year’s “winner” was the wholly unnecessary and perpetually empty Newport Transit Center, a park-and-ride facility that cost the taxpayers $6.45 million. Here, the Met Council tried to justify this boondoggle by insisting more mass transit accessibility would alleviate the Twin Cities’ traffic woes. It is another instance of Big Government dishing out more money to nonexistent “problems,” while ignoring real issues — such as repairing the roads we already use.

When they aren’t treating taxpayer money like their own piggy bank, imposing strict regulations are making everything from gasoline to childcare more expensive. Again, this is a consequence of government sticking its nose in places it doesn’t belong and making more problems instead of solving them. American Experiment economist Martha Njolomole has an excellent, albeit maddening, feature in this issue detailing how nonsensical government rules and regulations are exacerbating the rising cost of childcare, especially for families in Greater Minnesota.

The proposed rent control ordinance in St. Paul is another example of government imposing their will without considering the negative consequences. Even before the ill-considered policy took effect on May 1, new housing permits dropped and developers paused new projects. This is Big Government intervention at its worst. Instead of alleviating rising rent and housing costs, this wrongheaded approach of implementing an artificial ceiling only worsens the shortage of housing that would naturally lead to market stability and eventually lower costs. To pile insult onto injury, the Star Tribune reported that this caused home values in St. Paul to drop by $1.6 billion. And now Minneapolis is poised to follow St. Paul down the same disastrous path.

All of this adds up to what Minnesotans can see with their eyes and feel in their wallets: Our state and local governments are too focused on making their lives better than the average citizen, often creating more problems than they solve. President Ronald Reagan’s famous quote is truer now than ever, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”