Thursday, September 3, 2015

On Which Side is the Grass Greener?

Your favorite Peasant has a running battle, a friendly one
mind, going with a friend from my days in Minnesota
where I attended college and lived for twenty years
after my four years at the University of Saint Thomas
in Saint Paul. My friend, who still lives there, needles me
with articles which compare my Wisconsin, my once and
again home state with Minnesota on subjects such as
business climate, economy, quality of life, and so forth.
I came home to Wisconsin because, most of all, I missed
the warmth and genuineness of the people in the Badger State.
Besides, the people here, except for Madison and some
Milwaukee neighborhoods, are not reflexively politically
liberal --- that is to say that they are not knee-jerk about
their politics, unlike more than a few Minnesotans I have met.
I'm talking about a state that has gone Republican just once
in the presidential elections since 1932, almost three-quarters
of a century!

Anyway, I came across a recent guest editorial piece in the
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week, written by Kurt R.
Bauer, President and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers &
Commerce. This gentleman pointed out the contrasts in the
economies of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and how each state
compares as a result. Bauer states that it is far too early to
tell how effective Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker's business-
friendly reforms have impacted the state's long-term economic
competitiveness. Bauer did state, however, that Walker was
hampered greatly in his first term by the left-wing protests
and the recall election that took place just two years after
first being elected.

But many indicators are optimistic on Wisconsin's future
economic prospects. Business optimism is very high, and
many leading rankings on economic outlook as well as
business climate have improved greatly since Walker took
office in 2011, taking over from a spendthrift Democrat
governor who even raided the state transportation fund
to spend that money on programs unrelated to transportation.
By comparison, Minnesota has not fared quite as well in
these rankings.

Now, Bauer does aver that Wisconsin does trail the North
Star State in some economic metrics; Minnesota has more
corporate headquarters, higher per capita income, a lower
unemployment rate, and a better educated population. But
the last measure is largely due to the fact that the Twin Cities
(Saint Paul and Minneapolis) were not part of the Great
Migration of people moving up from the south to get work
in the factories. Milwaukee, Beloit, and Racine, Bauer states,
were adversely affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs
in the 1970s and '80s when those jobs went overseas, and many
of the people left behind never made it back to the same
economic footing that they had when they had these jobs.
This phenomenon was not as prevalent in Minnesota.

Also, those well-schooled in technology (read: computers) and
in finance have largely chosen Minnesota over Wisconsin as
their career destinations, hence the edge Minnesota has over
my Badger State in education (your studious Peasant's
observation). However, the overall quality of education in the
colleges and universities in each state are running neck-and-neck.
Bauer also notes that the Twin Cities are a big draw for these
young and budding professionals in his article.

However, Wisconsin has a definite advantage over their western
neighbor in that it has a fully funded state employment pension
fund. Also, Wisconsin's taxes are declining while Minnesota
Gov. Mark Dayton, a stoutly liberal Democrat, has taxes on the
rise in his state. Moreover, Dayton has increased the costs of
doing business in Minnesota while Walker has taken same in
the opposite direction in Wisconsin. Furthermore, when
Wisconsin recently became a right-to-work state, that left
Minnesota surrounded on three sides by states considered by
business observers as being more business-friendly, making
Minnesota stand out in a negative way.

A note to my friend, who is also an avid reader of this blog:
Wisconsin's improving business climate will lead to a better
economy for Wisconsin. My state realizes this truth and is
acting upon it. Minnesota seems to not be cognizant of the
benefits of making itself more business-friendly, and that is
to its peril. You may want to begin looking at the online
versions of my state's newspapers' jobs sections and circle
some leads!


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