Providing a nonpartisan model for generating and sharing          

    essential information on public issues and proposed solutions              

Shining a light on Minnesota public policy since 2005

                                                                                                  About Civic Caucus   l   Interviews & Responses  l   Position Reports   l   Contact Us   l   Home  

 Response Page - Nelson  Interview -      
                                                      Please take one minute to evaluate our website. Click here to take the survey.

These comments are responses to the statements listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Peter Nelson Interview of

No justification for new state spending


Peter J. Nelson is director of public policy for the Minneapolis-based Center of the American Experiment, asserts that his March 2013 report, Minnesota Spending 101: Smart Budgeting for an Era of Limits, finds no justification for new state spending at this time. His report shows that all-fund state spending, adjusted for inflation, has increased from $8.1 billion in 1960-1961 to $61.9 billion in 2012-2013. Per capita spending, also adjusted for inflation, grew from $2,341 in the 1960-1961 budget to $11,433 in the current budget. Both measures have increased almost every biennium since 1960-1961. Nelson compares Minnesota's spending in various categories both nationally and with 10 peer states and finds that Minnesota's spending in almost every category ranks high in both comparisons. On the top end, Minnesota ranks second nationally in its state and local spending on public welfare per person under 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline and higher than all 10 of its peer states. On the bottom end, Minnesota ranks 48th in state spending, excluding local spending, on corrections per person in prison or under community supervision and lower than all 10 of its peer states. Nelson advises state policymakers, "We don't need to spend more. It's very clear that in comparison with other states, we're not spending too little."

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary: Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Peter Nelson. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readersí zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Restrain spending to compete. (6.1 average response) To be competitive in the future, nationally and internationally, Minnesota must restrain its level of government spending.

2. Enhance private economy. (7.2 average response) More care is needed to assure that state spending helps to enhance, not inhibit, the private economy.

3. Education, health to require more. (6.3 average response) It is inevitable that education and health and human services will continue to consume an ever-greater percentage of state resources.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. (5.4 average response) Having remained fairly constant, between 11 and 12 percent since the mid-1980s, the proportion of total state spending to the value of the Minnesota economy appears to have been more than sufficient and there is no compelling need to increase that proportion.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. (4.6 average response) The 2013 Legislature should enact a biennial budget that requires no more new revenue beyond an estimated $600 million needed to cover the budget shortfall.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Restrain spending to compete.







2. Enhance private economy.







3. Education, health to require more.







4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK.







5. Limit new revenue to $600 million.







Individual Responses:

Chris Brazelton (2.5) (7.5) (5) (5) (2.5)

1. Restrain spending to compete. Being competitive means different things to different people. Competition for new businesses also comes in many forms. Tax rates is one area, quality of life, quality of education, public safety, and many other elements are part of the overall picture.

3. Education, health to require more. Nothing is inevitable. Senior care will consume a greater amount of our resources unless new and creative ways are found to manage the needs. Shifts in thinking about independent living vs. group living with shared overhead may reduce demands on resources.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. There also may be no need to decrease the proportion. We must regularly analyze the effectiveness of spending in achieving our goals, and reevaluate our quality of life goals. Assuming our quality of life standards remain high, and after maximizing our efficiencies, spending needs will be determined by how well those standards are met.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. If we have cut services beyond what the majority wishes to tolerate, then spending may need to increase. Quality control and efficiency measurements must be evaluated in all service sectors.

Bruce A. Lundeen (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5)

Anonymous (0) (2.5) (7.5) (0) (0)

Anonymous (0) (0) (10) (10) (0)

Lydia Howell (0) (0) (7.5) (2.5) (2.5)

1. Restrain spending to compete. The welfare grant in MINNESOTA has not been raised in 27 years. But, corporations like Target and Best Buy along with pro-sports teams owned by billionaires get public funding for lavish stadiums. Meanwhile, housing costs keep going up and low-income wages are stagnant. We have the highest achievement gap between white students and students of color. Peter Nelson has his priorities upside down.

2. Enhance private economy. The so-called "private economy" is Peter Nelson's term for corporations that get welfare--aka "subsidies", "public-private partnerships", and tax breaks. The private economy gets roads, infrastructure, law enforcement and public education for the workforce (to name some benefits) yet does not pay it s fair share in taxes. Iím sick of big businesses screaming for more and more from government while demanding tax breaks (or they threaten to take the jobs away). The true private economy we should invest in is small, local businesses with combinations of grants and low interest loans (not Big Corporations who take, take, take from government, communities and workers.)

3. Education, health to require more. Until we make the right investments to raise more of our people up---especially in this Great Recession, which for some is actually a Great Depression. We need universal Pre-K and extended school day/school year. We need community based clinics and mental health care. And we need to make college more accessible to students who are not upper-income.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. See question #3. Stop spending on corporate subsidies, sports stadiums and housing for upper-income (using a couple of units of "Affordable housing" to say the developer should get public money). Stop giving out tax breaks to big corporations. Once you do this, then we can talk about if the 11 to 12 per cent is [the] right level.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. See #3 and #4. Stop all corporate subsidies that people like Peter Nelson/Center for American Experiment never criticize---or even push for...then, we'll see where we stand. Peter Nelson and his think tank represent the 1%, Corporations and the super wealthy--not the needs of everyday working and poor Minnesotans. His views do not support traditional Minnesota values of humanity and community. Nelson and his American Experiment are all about a dog-eat-dog, social Darwinism where the majority is expected to serve a wealthy minority---and be grateful for whatever crumbs we get. That's not the real American experiment in democracy.

Michael _______ (10) (10) (5) (7.5) (10)

2. Enhance private economy. Benefits for state employees, teachers and university employee are too generous. The State needs to switch from defined benefit pension to defined contribution. Changing 1 key assumption for only 5 years increased the pension deficit by $3 Billion. If Minnesota changed this assumption to what California is using the deficit could be over $60 billion. Currently every man women and child needs to pay over $2,000/year to eliminate the current deficit.

3. Education, health to require more. The answer is Ďabsolutelyí unless current laws are changed. Otherwise there will be no money to build and fix highways, LRT, EPA highway patrol, etc.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. The Senate is proposing to raise property taxes on business even though the business property tax rate is 3 times that of homeowners. Plus business property taxes in the metro area will be increased for 20 years to subsidize the next expansion of the MOA.

Scott Halstead (10) (10) (10) (0) (5)

1. Restrain spending to compete. We also need businesses and individuals that have been evading taxes to pay a reasonable share. Businesses need to make decisions that are in the long-term interests of their business, nation, stockholders, employees and customers and less on their short-term personal interests

2. Enhance private economy. We need balance, fairness and care for our environment.

3. Education, health to require more. We need to spend more to improve wellness and quality of life and less on high cost Medicaid/nursing home care. We need to structure our entire systems and incentives to change government, business and individuals so those that choose unhealthy lifestyles pay more and those who live a healthy lifestyle pay less. We need to change our welfare system to more of a workfare/job retraining model.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. We need to change our transit and transportation funding. Our light rail, commuter rail and proposed high-speed rail is ridiculously high cost for the minimal benefits. Other cities can achieve good light rail systems for less than half the costs of those in the Twin Cities. Why are we constructing a $650 million bridge over the St. Croix to encourage Wisconsin residents to take lengthy commutes and waste fuel? We have vacant housing and facilities already constructed. Why high speed rail that is slow, expensive to construct and operate and has little if any saving over other means?

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. We should not be raising income taxes to reduce property taxes. We do need to utilize best practices and establish quality control to ensure effective delivery of services and reduction of wasteful spending. We continue to bail out local government retirement plans that have been mismanaged and often merge them into state operated retirement funds that are still trying to recover from previous underfunded absorptions. Something needs to change with local retirement programs.

Anonymous (2.5) (7.5) (7.5) (2.5) (2.5)

John S. Adams (2.5) (7.5) (2.5) (5) (5)

1. Restrain spending to compete. This is the wrong question. See below.

3. Education, health to require more. See below.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. I'm not sure.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. Most of the attention to state spending and spending per capita--in absolute terms, in spending in constant dollar terms, or in comparison with other states, has been the main thrust of Peter's argument. This is the easy way to address spending. What is much more difficult and deserves more attention that it receives is to ask: What are we getting for the spending and investment? Price tags alone provide little useful policy information, and comparison of price tag provides little truly useful policy analysis. A further issue surrounds the extent to which various sectors of "the service economy" have increasingly engaged in "rent seeking" by arranging licensing and political action to ensure limited competition for their services and direct and/or 3rd-party payment schemes that insulate them from market forces. The real question is not "are taxes too high?" The real question is, "What genuine value are we getting for our public dollars (plus many private dollars) that are being spent and invested to strengthen our state's economy and society as we head into the future. The arguments presented here are shallow ones.

Pat Barnum (10) (10) (2.5) (10) (10)

2. Enhance private economy. The state does not need to select winners and losers with its tax revenue being redistributed to private enterprise. It simply needs to get out of the way.

3. Education, health to require more. In this current political climate it is most assuredly guaranteed to continue to climb. But it does not have to be that way, if the legislature and Governor would tamp down [their] desire to control all.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. In fact, the more it decreases taking productive resources from the economy the better off the state will be.

Dane Smith (2.5) (7.5) (7.5) (2.5) (0)

1. Restrain spending to compete. If the private sector continues to pay people less and reduce benefits for health and retirement, and if economic inequality ratchets further to the benefit of the top 5 percent, we may need a whole lot more of the economic security and equalizing of opportunity that the public sector provides.

2. Enhance private economy. Yup. And this often means investment in education and physical infrastructure. We could do a lot more to make sure these investments are effective in serving the legitimate needs of the private sector.

3. Education, health to require more. Yes. Sorry that public health investment has helped extend our lives, and it's too bad that 40 percent of our public school kids are on free-and-reduced lunch, but we have to face that music. We'll figure out how to do it more efficiently but we simply [have] to pay those bills.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. Actually, the Price of Government has declined from a high of 18 percent in the early 1990s to a projected 15 percent in the near future. We may need to get closer to an apparent optimum of 16 to 17 percent, which is where we were when our economic growth was strongest.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. That leaves little for early childhood, higher education and research, new transit and public works, restoring our state capital, and lots of other neglected and increasingly shabby public goods and amenities. The things we do with our tax dollars may actually be more valuable than many of the things we buy with our discretionary income.

Roland Cleveland (0) (5) (7.5) (0) (0)

3. Education, health to require more. Unless we really get serious about real healthcare reform, like a single-payer system.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. Used to be higher when we were a great state. With healthcare taking a much higher percentage we cannot do the same as before without increases.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. Would not fix projected shortfalls into future. Would just kick the can down the road again.

Jerry Hiniker (0) (5) (2.5) (0) (0)

1. Restrain spending to compete. Why? Government spending is an essential part of the economy and generally advances competitiveness.

2. Enhance private economy. Of course care must be taken, but most spending does enhance the private economy, infrastructure fuels the private sector, and most other spending improves the community, which is also good for the private sector.

3. Education, health to require more. Never say "inevitable".

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. There has been no evidence to support this claim. Just what does one consider "sufficient"? We have to decide what kind of community or society we want, and then determine how much we want to invest from public funds, and give the highest priority to those that spur the private sector.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. What is magical about 600 million? The population grows, the economy grows, society progresses, so why would we want to limit ourselves. The world is simply not a "status quo". It is a living entity. We cannot restrain the future.

Frank Long (10) (10) (10) (2.5) (10)

1. Restrain spending to compete. We are losing manufacturing and industrial business and investment capital to bordering states due to the increasing burden, both financial and regulatory imposed by state government.

2. Enhance private economy. Care needs to be taken that any "enhancements" take place across the board, not just targeted on certain businesses or regions as in the past. Those types of programs or grants have been an expensive hedge against a progressive evolution towards socialism.

3. Education, health to require more. With government taking a larger role in healthcare people will become more disconnected as has happened over time in our education system. Without a direct financial connection to these programs the population at large loses focus and therefore the influence that requires results. We end up with expensive, unaccountable systems that focuses on process, not results.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. I truly believe that we could reduce the proportion of spending percentage by reducing the size, scope and redundancy in our state government workforce. Outsourcing and elimination of state benefit and pension liability could result in a much smaller government spending footprint.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. Growth and spending in government should never outpace the rate of growth required to pay for it. Just "raising your prices" arbitrarily doesn't work in the private sector and can't be perpetually sustained if you expect health and growth in your economy.

Warren ______ (0) (0) (0) (0) (0)

1. Restrain spending to compete. Government spending is often preferable to private spending. Only a few will benefit, in the long run, from a brainless race to the bottom.

2. Enhance private economy. Services that people need and want should be provided in the most sensible way possible. If the government can do it better, the government should do it. Private enterprise is not always better except, perhaps, for the very greedy upper class who think they should take a cut from everything.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. Services that are needed should be provided. I believe in practical solutions, not knee jerk religious rituals and right wing dogma.

Dennis L. Johnson (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (10)

1. Restrain spending to compete. This is self-evident. Just compare California with Texas.

2. Enhance private economy. A robust private economy helps many more people than does a generous nanny state.

3. Education, health to require more. Only if public policy allows and accepts this as inevitable. Health care cost adjusts to the funding made available, as with all other public spending.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. Makes a lot of sense, when viewed in this perspective.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. The kind of analyses put forward by Peter Nelson [is] a giant step in the right direction and should be encouraged. Looking at programs and spending priorities one at a time inevitably leads to the conclusion that they all need more money. Congratulations to the Civic Caucus for coming across this speaker, a welcome relief from all the spending advocates usually heard.

Kevin Kujawa (0) (0) (0) (0) (0)

Dave Broden (10) (10) (7.5) (5) (7.5)

1. Restrain spending to compete. Equating restraint to applying state funds to activities, services etc., that add value and ensure the quality of life for Minnesota. This must include economic growth at a rate above the national average as an annual goal.

2. Enhance private economy. The issue is not only state spending it is also the role of the state in regulation, competitiveness, education, and infrastructure in terms of the commitment as well as spending.

3. Education, health to require more. This is a likely situation but if put in context of the level of spending vs. economic growth, even with the growth of seniors, the [percentage increase of spending] may not be as severe as those who tend to look only the growth of those needing these services.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. I will never say "never" to an increase so long as it is with a purpose. There may be periodic needs for increases that benefit the state and those should be balanced with economic impact when discussed, not only decided, based on [whether] itís a good idea.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. This is a failure statement since it ignores the need for redesign of government and consideration of the value and purpose of programs. Perhaps some sunset is appropriate and perhaps some new make sense. Just doing $600 million is simply patchwork.

Eric Lammle (2.5) (5) (2.5) (0) (0)

1. Restrain spending to compete. Time and again, it has been proven that austerity budgets do not work. Mr. Nelson's responses document the dollar amount of spending increases without accounting for the percentage of income and GDP that it represents. Mr. Nelson's suggestions are in practice in Wisconsin, which is currently undergoing a race to the bottom in every category, while Minnesota's unemployment goes down and revenues increase. That said, we should ensure that government spends wisely and that each dollar spent is truly an investment in our future needs.

2. Enhance private economy. As stated above, spending is not the problem. However, we have a responsibility to ensure money is spent wisely.

3. Education, health to require more. Through smart reforms we can reduce these costs. This has already been proven as some of the reforms of health care reform start to take effect.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. By this logic, we should neglect our infrastructure in recessionary times and only spend money when the economy is good. President Hoover followed these policies. The drastic results of those policies plunged America further into depression. Only four terms of FDR and the build-up of our economy for World War II turned this around. Austerity and cuts-only budgets work in theory but never in practice.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. Putting limits into law to replace the judgment of our elected officials is a mistake. We have a tool to address foolish spending or strict adherence to "anti-tax" pledges. That tool is called an election. We elect people to make difficult decisions and stand behind them. Putting limits into laws lets our elected officials off easy.

James C. Fuller (0) (2.5) (2.5) (0) (0)

1. Restrain spending to compete. Same old [nonsense]. Truth is, we have always been most "competitive...nationally and internationally" when our infrastructure was in top shape, our schools and public universities were functioning as teaching institutions at top level, our poverty rates were low and our citizens content and productive. What we need is more public spending to prime the economic pump.

2. Enhance private economy. This and similar comments from the right generally are from a corporate viewpoint and mean "state spending puts money in my pocket."

3. Education, health to require more. No. When the economy is working properly, the percentage is fairly stable, but perhaps a smaller percentage than they want goes directly into the pockets of the wealthy.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. This state (in fact, any state) has always functioned best, and produced the greatest over-all economic health, when state spending has been geared to the needs of its citizens, and to keeping its infrastructure in top form. Our infrastructure has inarguably fallen into disrepair, and there is too little spending aimed at increasing the economic picture for all citizens.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. All this says is "don't tax the people with the most money because they want to keep it all (in offshore accounts)."

Ron Kuecker (10) (10) (0) (10) (10)

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. [Regarding t]his determination of the budget shortfall, whose budget are you using? "Budget shortfall" is the most abused term in use today.

Susan Tanner (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (10)

Don Anderson (2.5) (2.5) (2.5) (2.5) (5)

2. Enhance private economy. Isn't that what we're doing? The private economy supplies government with materials and services that are paid for with tax money.

Anonymous (10) (10) (0) (10) (7.5)

Robert Jacobs (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. Finally a brush with reality.

Michael Miller (0) (7.5) (10) (0) (0)

Roger Johnson (2.5) (10) (5) (2.5) (0)

1. Restrain spending to compete. Minnesota is a unique state in many ways. It is our uniqueness that has brought several Fortune 500 companies to come here and stay here. They want the very best for the children of their executives and for the entertainment of the adult executives and their spouses. Of course, this will cost us a bit more; but we all profit from this uniqueness, even us middle class members.

2. Enhance private economy. If you ask clear-thinking DFLers, like Rep. Melissa Hortman, she will tell you that she and many of her colleagues on the Democratic side of the aisle feel exactly the same way about this topic. And that feeling is that they are pro-business.

3. Education, health to require more. This is no great revelation. Just examine the demographic changes forthcoming in the older population, with their longevity and care requirements, and HHS spending will have to increase. But eventually, as that demographic moves to their burial grounds, the state will once again be able to spend elsewhere. Schools are getting more complex in their equipment requirements to keep kids competitive globally. This is no great revelation either. If we want our children to have a lifestyle anywhere equivalent to our own, we have to invest in them.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. Of what serious value is this ratio? By whose analysis is it necessary that such a ratio remain constant? There needs to be an argument that it does, and this has never been established in basic economics.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. Why shut the door on economic growth and investment in our population to meet its needs? This notion of putting a lid on the garbage can and expecting it to smell better in a few more years is a striking example of conservatism gone awry. Typical shortsightedness and a continuing example of the thinking of people raised psychologically with the "strict father" model.

Paul Holmgren (10) (10) (5) (10) (0)

1. Restrain spending to compete. Finally a guest without their hand out for more money from the several governments which are elected or appointed.

2. Enhance private economy. Yes. How are you going to grow a tree if you take away the roots?

3. Education, health to require more. Only if the legislature continues to hand out state funds like candy when school districts should be raising their own budgets and (health and human) services should be means tested much more than it is now.

4. Spending-to-state-economy ratio OK. The state government should tax less, apportion resources wisely and show fiscal constraint, especially during time when funding sources are inconsistent and changing.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. No, the legislature should find way to cut spending and reduce state regulations to allow for growth to make up this and future budget 'projected' shortfalls.

David G. Dillon (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

1. Restrain spending to compete. As a Minnesotan and an entrepreneur I can't tell you how disheartened I am to be exploring the tax benefits of dropping Minnesota residency.

3. Education, health to require more. I want to disagree but can't. Still, innovation is possible and this could be changed.

Josh D. Ondich (10) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5)

Mike Miller (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

Who cares what other states spend when the quality of life in them is less than ours? The question should be what's an appropriate level of expenditure for the needs of Minnesota?

Spencer Buerkle (10) (10) (1) (10) (10)

Paul and Ruth Hauge (5) (6) (7) (3) (2)

Wayne Jennings (6) (6) (6) (4) (3)

Everything has become more complex in todayís society, more safety regulations, more regulations for special populations, more attempts to make old systems work effectively, greater costs for bridges and buildings due to higher expectations and specifications. The answers are illusive; weíre becoming more of a socialized state and nation. I donít think thatís bad (consider Scandinavian countries with great social services but with much higher taxes than we pay). I do think some systems need substantial redesign for improved outcomes to lower long-range systemic costs. We used to pay professors low wages and poor pensionsóno longer true and that is good but expensive. Multiply that many times for many subsystems. But be careful or, for example, you end up with a terrific number of highly paid higher education administrators or public radio and public TV with dozens of highly paid administrators. We do have enormous wealth differences in the USA. Look at people who can have far more than they need to live comfortably. I donít agree with the premise of Mr. Nelson that we canít be taxed more. Thatís not to say that systems have to stay the same, just pour more money in.

John Milton (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

ToÖall the good moderates who guided the Citizens League, a major contributor to the Minnesota Miracle, you have gone deeply into the dark side with this. The Center for the American Experiment is a right wing, evangelist, birther, anti-government organization funded by the most dangerous extremist people in the USA. If Civic Caucus insists on dumping this [nonsense] on its responders, count me out.

Al Quie (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

We need to do more working with some parents during prenatal through 4 years of age. A sales tax on clothing would be a good way to fund it.

Tom Spitznagle (8) (7) (9) (6) (7)

Bill Kuisle (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

Carolyn Ring (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

There must be more insistence on government "zero budgeting." Too often programs and expenses are added with no thought to what can and should be eliminated. When you add, what can and should you subtract?

Richard Theisen (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

The six questions are rhetorical questions. They are statements of right wing ideology. If you want a dialogue get rid of the ideologues.

Fred Senn (10) (10) (6) (8) (1)

3. Education, health to require more. It's possible that technology and teaching improvements could stabilize education costs - even in K12.

5. Limit new revenue to $600 million. Although I agree with the intent, I don't believe in taking flexibility away from future lawmakers.

I've not seen a comparison like this where federal funds are included.

Chuck Lutz (5) (6) (9) (3) (2)

Tom Swain (9) (5) (10) (5) (2)

Lyall Schwarzkopf (8) (9) (8) (8) (8)

Richard McGuire (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

Nelson gets s few things right and a few things wrong in his analysis and conclusion.  The general underlying tone sounds like a very typical conservative leaning "tax less, spend less" prescription; donít be overly concerned with what we are spending onÖjust spend less.  He correctly points out that the aging population is going to require more in health care spending and long term care spending.  He correctly points out pending problems with pension fund obligations.  His statement that increased globalization requires Minnesota to spend less in the public sector makes no sense and has no basis in fact.  If anything, globalization is pushing the US to spend more on infrastructure and educating to remain competitive.

Nelson says the private economy is the determinant of our future prosperity seeing the economy as a zero sum game where public sector spending apparently diminishes future prosperity.  Most economists would argue that taking $1000 from someoneís paycheck and putting it into high speed internet, better roads, improved rail or barge terminals, or higher education will have a better impact on future prosperity than if the money is spent on another flat screen TV, a few more shirts to hang in the closet, or a yearís supply of lattes.

Nelson seems to be alarmed that state and local spending has increased from $8 billion in 1960 to $62 billion in 2012 [he needs to double check his "adjusted for inflation" terminology; these appear to be nominal dollars].  While that is a sevenfold increase in 50 year, Minnesotaís Gross State Product [GSP, i.e. the size of the total economy] increased much more that that over 50 years.  In fact the GSP tripled in just the last two decades.

Then Nelson makes a number of comparison as to how much Minnesota spends per capita on various items compared with other states; the ultimate in "keeping up withÖ.or down with" the Jonesís analysis.  What if the Jonesí arenít spending the right amount on any given part of their budget?  Again, is there anything comparable we could learn from peer states like Nevada, Colorado, and Maryland?  Minnesotaís demographics and geography are quite different form these states.  That says little about getting to the question of how much should Minnesota or any state for that matter be spending on education, infrastructure, social welfare?  Nelson does seem to have concern that we arenít keeping up with our neighbors on prison expenditures and his concern may be that we donít have enough people incarcerated in Minnesota.  A lot of statistics about what someone else is doing, without anything more, just elicits a big yawn.

Nelsonís takeaway argument that we donít need to spend more may be completely true or, completely erroneous.  He spent a lot of time making no compelling argument about how much Minnesota should be spending on anything. 


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   David Broden,  Janis Clay,  Bill Frenzel,  Paul Gilje,   Jan Hively,  Dan Loritz (Chair),  Marina Lyon,  Joe Mansky, 
Tim McDonald,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and Bob White

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008

2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.
Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

contact webmaster



Hit Counter