Tale of two states

Scott Walker is running for president. Why vote for him? He says that his policies in Wisconsin should be writ large across the nation—and the world, especially in the Middle East. If he can best the public unions in his state, he can do the same with Isis, so vote for Walker.

Republicans, as a rule, are simple-minded. They cling to cherished principles without letting facts get in the way. Walker is no exception, and for those of us who pay attention to facts, his story is is not as shiny as he would lead us to believe.

Walker, like his fellow Republican hopefuls, loves rich people and detests the poor. He expresses these attitudes by lowering taxes on the wealthy while cutting social services for everyone else.

Right next door in Minnesota there’s a different story. Led by the Democrats, with Governor Mark Dayton at the helm, the state has a budget surplus, while Wisconsin has a deficit. Minnesota has raised taxes, especially on the wealthy, and spent liberally on its public institutions. From Mother Jones:

Over the past several years, Minnesota has become a testing ground for a litany of policies Democrats hope to enact nationally: legalizing same-sex marriage, making it easier to vote, boosting primary education spending, instituting all-day kindergarten, expanding unionization, freezing college tuition, increasing the minimum wage, and passing new laws requiring equal pay for women. To pay for it all, Dayton pushed a sharp increase on taxes for the top 2 percent—one of the largest hikes in state history. Republicans went berserk, warning that businesses would flee the state and take jobs with them.

The disaster Dayton’s GOP rivals predicted never happened. Two years after the tax hike, Minnesota’s economy is booming. The state added 172,000 jobs during Dayton’s first four years in office. Its 3.6 percent unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country (Wisconsin’s is 5.2 percent), and the Twin Cities have the lowest unemployment rate of any major metropolitan area. Under Dayton, Minnesota has consistentlybeen in the top tier of states for GDP growth. Median incomes are $8,000 higher than the national average. In 2014, Minnesota led the nation in economic confidence, according to Gallup.

Here are a few charts, based on data from the St. Louis FED.

average annual wage Wisconsin and Minnesota

The difference: $5,408, or over 11 percent higher.

As for taxes, Minnesotans pay more on both income and purchases than those who live in Wisconsin. Here’s a look at the state income tax on the respective average annual wages.

income tax Wisconsin and MinnesotaAfter subtracting the income tax from the annual wage, the Minnesota worker is still better off—by almost $5,000.

Also, if you live in Minnesota you stand a better chance of being employed.

total unemployed Minnesota and Wisconsin

But if you really want to see conservative policies in action, look toward Kansas under Governor Brownback.

The situation in Kansas was just as dire, if not more so. Brownback began the year by cutting education in the face of the state’s budget crisis, but he also proposed that legislators raise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. The new taxes were part of an effort to close a staggering gap for fiscal 2016, estimated at $650 million in January, or more than 10 percent of the state’s $6 billion general fund. More urgent, the state still needed to cut about $300 million from this year’s budget as, month after month, tax revenues continued to arrive well below expectations. In January alone, the state took in $47 million less than anticipated. As Brownback saw it, these new taxes on consumption were necessary so that his priority — the march to zero on income taxes — could proceed.

No, the Republicans will never learn.