A Tale of Two States: Progressive Policies Win

24BORDERS-articleLarge.jpgStarting with the similarities in their histories, Lawrence Jacobs, professor of political science at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, writing in the New York Times, analyzes two extremes and demonstrates how the Progressives in Minnesota have brought growth and security while Wisconsin's Republican majority has failed to make any improvements in the business climate and job growth.

The piece points out that these neighboring states both elected new governors in 2010 and also gave each governor's party a strong majority in his respective legislature. Since then their economic fates have diverged. Minnesota pursued a range of progressive policies, including a highly progressive tax increase to fund essential services and infrastructure, while Wisconsin followed the hard-right playbook by cutting taxes for the wealthiest and for businesses.

As professor Jacobs writes, the election of these opposing governors and legislators "began a natural experiment that compares the agendas of modern progressivism and the new right." Here's the gist of his analysis:

Which side of the experiment — the new right or modern progressivism — has been most effective in increasing jobs and improving business opportunities, not to mention living conditions?

Obviously, firm answers will require more time and more data, but the first round of evidence gives the edge to Minnesota’s model of increased services, higher costs (mostly for the affluent) and reduced payments to entrenched interests like the insurers who cover the Medicaid population.

Three years into Mr. Walker’s term, Wisconsin lags behind Minnesota in job creation and economic growth. As a candidate, Mr. Walker promised to produce 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first term, but a year before the next election that number is less than 90,000.

Jacobs' insights have been picked up in a number of national media outlets like MSNBC, Minnpost, DailyKos, and others.

As it happens, this tale is repeated with another set of comparisons: between California and Wisconsin. And the results are similar. Professor Chinn, Professor of Public Affairs and Economics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, posted a piece on the Econbrowser blog in September in which he "compared economic outcomes in two states that implemented contrasting fiscal policies: California, which surged ahead while raising taxes and cutting spending, and Wisconsin, which lagged far behind as it slashed spending on education, and cut taxes. Latest estimates of current economic activity, and forecasted economic activity six months out, indicate continued lagging performance for Wisconsin."

No matter how you slice it, progressive economic policies promote growth; regressive ones don't.


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