Anecdotes over data: How Minnesota’s left creates its own reality
Those on the political left in Minnesota always struggle to answer this question: Why, if life in our high-tax and high-spending state is so good, are record numbers of people…
Three reasons why this conservative is not leaving Minnesota.
Recently, we have heard from a disgruntled conservative who is leaving Minnesota and a liberal bidding him “good riddance.” But there is another view: Those conservatives who are staying.
I am sad to say that Howard Root is mostly right (in his May 23 Opinion in the Star Tribune, “Goodbye Minnesota”). Minnesotans were some of the most heavily taxed citizens in the United States going into this last legislative session, and most of them will be even more heavily taxed coming out of it. That is some achievement for a state forecast to have a budget surplus of $18 billion.
Minnesotans don’t get value for all this money. As Mr. Root notes, the state government is increasingly bad at fulfilling its core function of protecting the lives and property of its citizens. Indeed, Minnesota’s serious crime rate — Part 1 crimes as defined by the FBI — is now above the national average.
By contrast, the response from Avi S. Olitzky (in his May 25 Counterpoint in the Star Tribune, “Counterpoint: Minnesota will do nicely without hopeless critics”) was the kind of reflexive, fact-free boosterism that Sinclair Lewis skewered in Babbitt a century ago. He claims to “see Minnesota as a place of robust growth,” and, while he is free to claim what he likes, the fact is that our state’s economy has grown more slowly than that of the United States in every year since 2014.
The old chestnut that Minnesota’s high taxes “fund essential services and programs that contribute to the quality of life we enjoy here” got another airing despite there being no statistically significant relationship between a state’s tax burden and its ranking on something like U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best States Rankings. This is one of those claims progressives seem to think becomes true by repetition.
Mr. Olitzky sees “a state full of hope and potential,” but a growing number of Minnesotans disagree with him — which is why a net 35,712 have fled the state in the last two years, most often for Ron DeSantis’ Florida. When liberals tell you that Minnesota shows that high taxes and high government spending are a social and economic elixir, ask them why, if that is that case, so many of its residents are fleeing.
Like Mr. Olitzky, I am an immigrant to Minnesota. In a nice illustration of horseshoe theory, some among the state’s “progressives” have suggested I return whence I came or, failing that, depart for Florida, at least. There are three reasons why I will not be making the journey with Mr. Root.
First, the liberal grip on Minnesota is not as tight as it seems. In 2022, the DFL’s party unit took in nearly $24 million from all sources, while the state Republican Party took in a paltry $1.3 million. Even so, and with the built-in advantage of a friendly media, the DFL took the state Senate by just one seat and that by just 321 votes. The DFL is governing like a party that just scored 60 percent of the vote, not because they did, but precisely because they didn’t, and they want to ram their agenda through before Minnesotans cotton on to what they’re up to.
The DFL’s awareness of this weakness is evident, too, in its attack on democracy by making it practically impossible for third parties to get on the ballot in Minnesota. Not a single reporter asked a single legislator a single question about this.
Second, even while its economy splutters, crime rises, test scores fall, the lights go out, and residents flee in numbers not seen in at least three decades, Minnesota’s government is being lauded as an example by progressives around the country. NBC News, the Daily Beast, and the New York Times have all run pieces lately praising the state government and Gov. Walz in particular. It matters to the entire country that the sad truth about Minnesota gets out.
Finally, and most importantly, Minnesota is still a wonderful place to live. Its scenery is beautiful, its weather varied (or challenging, depending on your view), and its people decent, none of which, of course, depends on high taxes. When you have something good it is worth fighting for even when you feel the odds are against you. Perhaps especially then.
On May 26, former Pres. Barack Obama tweeted, “If you need a reminder that elections have consequences, check out what’s happening in Minnesota.” He is exactly right. Our state is about to move from the “fool around” to the “find out” stage of voting for ever higher taxes, ever higher government spending, and ever bigger government. Minnesota needs its conservatives now more than ever.
This column originally appeared in Alpha News on June 3, 2023.