George Peppard would be proud

This is not your grandpa’s think tank.

A recent five-day flurry of activity from Center of the American Experiment put me in mind of The A-Team, the old ‘80s TV show. More on that in a minute.

Let’s start on Thursday, when a SRO crowd of more than 200 people attended our quarterly speaker series at the Minneapolis Hilton to hear economist Stephen Moore’s impressive riff on the remarkable—and remarkably unreported—turnaround in the U.S. economy. Moore has been an outside adviser to President Donald Trump since the days of the campaign. We all know about the overall rise in stock prices, but Moore also showed how the country’s current 3-plus percent economic growth can provide an elixir to a long menu of society’s needs. He described the ongoing benefits of America’s oil boom; the benefits of the tax cut; the unmistakable growth in manufacturing, mining and construction; surging employment among blacks and Latinos; escalating growth in consumer confidence and small business optimism, and declining inflation. John Hinderaker, our president, sat down with Steve later that day to conduct the Q&A interview “The Triumph of Trumponomics” that begins on page 42.

The next day Hinderaker took off for Washington, D.C., to represent the Center at CPAC, the massive annual weekend gathering of conservative activists and elected officials, sponsored by the American Conservative Union. The Center hosted its first-ever booth in CPAC’s exhibitor hall that featured some of our research products plus copies of our magazine. He used part of his Friday to guest-host Laura Ingraham’s nationally syndicated daily radio program, something he does frequently from a remote studio in the Twin Cities. This was his first opportunity to work from Ingraham’s home studio.

On the following Monday, while Kim Crockett and Catrin Thorman were lending the Center’s support for Mark Janus on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court (see sidebar nearby), Hinderaker and John Phelan, our economist, spent two hours communicating some hard truths about Minnesota’s economy to the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee. They based their testimony on Phelan’s report “The State of Minnesota’s Economy: 2017— Performance Continues to be Lackluster,” which noted that our GDP growth and private-sector productivity both lag the nation, and that personal income growth is keeping pace with the national average, but only because it’s been driven by government transfer payments. You can see a video of their testimony at AmericanExperiment. org. Phelan’s quiet analysis has been consistently outstanding since he joined the Center’s staff last year. You’ll see why when you read, “Why Minnesota Should Pull the Plug on the Death Tax” on page 36. Phelan uses economic modeling to demonstrate that Minnesota probably loses money on its arcane death tax.

That Monday night, we began phone interviews for our Thinking Minnesota Poll. We retained one of America’s top political pollsters for the first of what will be a credible quarterly snapshot into policy issues that really matter to Minnesota’s citizens. The results can be found on page 26. Hinderaker provides more detail in his column on page 48.

The long weekend of activity demonstrates the impressive evolution of Center of the American Experiment. This is not your grandpa’s think tank. Under Hinderaker’s leadership, American Experiment is not satisfied to merely “think big thoughts.” We’ve recruited impressive people who are creative and are encouraged to use their research to make a difference. We never forget that we’re a state-based think tank, but we’re ready to help tackle national issues when they will help local communities. And we’re not afraid to speak objective truth to power, even if it’s unpopular.

It all puts me in mind of something actor George Peppard used to say at the conclusion of an episode of The A-Team (c’mon you remember the ATeam…Mr. T?) The A-Team chronicled the exploits of a clandestine team of special forces outlaws who would regularly perform heroic exploits on behalf of underdogs. Each week Peppard, their leader, would consider their success and say, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Don’t remember him? Your grandpa would.