Minnesota is levitating. The state is lifting away from Wisconsin and heading off into the 21st century while Wisconsin is working hard to reestablish the economy and social mores of the Dark Ages.
Simply put, the backward policies of Governor Scott Walker and the illegitimate Republican majorities in the Legislature as well as the bought-and-paid-for-by-big-business state Supreme Court are driving Wisconsin's economy down the tubes.
It shouldn't surprise any of us that this governor's "open for business" policies are driving business away. We rank 44th nationally in job creation. We're one of only three states to actually lose jobs in the last two years and we lead in that dubious category.
There's a very straightforward reason for that: extremist conservative policies are job killers.
While Minnesota works with unions, approves same sex marriage, invests in public education, protects its environment, embraces health care reform and invests in transportation, Wisconsin kills its unions, continues to discriminate against gays and lesbians, disinvests in public education, weakens its once proud tradition of environmental stewardship, stubbornly and stupidly continues to fight improvements in health care, and can’t even muster the support to rebuild roads much less invest in high-speed rail.
And the result? Minnesota's unemployment rate is 5.3% while Wisconsin's is 7.1%. Median household income in Minnesota is almost 12% higher than Wisconsin's. Income is over $6,000 a year higher than the national average in Minnesota while it's $400 below the national average in Wisconsin. The percentage of the population with a college degree is 32% (four points above the national average) in Minnesota compared to 26% (two points below the national average) in Wisconsin.
And it didn't have to be like this. Wisconsin and Minnesota continue to share remarkably similar political cultures. As reported by Craig Gilbert in last Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a whisker of a difference in the 2010 elections saved Minnesota from our fate. Both state legislatures turned strongly Republican, but by a narrow margin the Democratic candidate Mark Dayton was elected governor of Minnesota. That put him in a position to insist on a fair redistricting, which in turn resulted in Democratic control of the legislature in 2012.
By contrast, because Republicans controlled everything after the 2010 elections they gerrymandered the state into a strong majority of locked-down Republican districts. So, even though the pendulum swung back to the Democrats in 2012, just as it did in Minnesota, the Republicans maintained their control of the Wisconsin Legislature.
The fact that our politics are so similar only rubs salt in the wound as we watch Minnesota claim its place in the modern economy while we're governed by Calvinists. I keep waiting for the extremist conservatives in the Legislature to require insurance companies to cover blood-letting as their answer to Obamacare.
I have a close friend with three bright young kids. He's a native Madisonian, but his job would allow him to work anywhere. He's seriously considering taking his family to Minneapolis because he sees no future for them in his backward state. That situation, repeated tens of thousands of times, tells the story. Soon enough our Dark Ages politics will result in a Dark Ages standard of living.