On Thursday, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin traveled across the border to Minnesota to give a speech at the Freedom Club, a small-potatoes Republican PAC. However, the presidential hopeful and darling of the Koch brothers was not warmly received by the rest of the blue state’s residents. Former Democratic mayor of Minneapolis, R.T. Rybak, used the visit as an opportunity to rip the Republican governor for his failure to improve the lives of Wisconsinites and to draw a sharp comparison with the achievements of Minnesota’s Democratic Governor, Mark Dayton.
The two states, neighbors and rivals, provide an excellent dichotomy of the stark differences between Republican and Democratic rule. Both Walker and Dayton were elected in 2010, and the results of their management speak for themselves. Rybak wrote in a scathing op-ed that “In 2010, both Wisconsin and Minnesota faced similar budget woes and a worrisome economic future amid a national recession. Both are also Midwest states, deeply invested in manufacturing and agricultural economic drivers…Only one governor was successful.”
It definitely wasn’t Walker, who six years into his tenure is still grappling with a $2 billion budget deficit. He has followed the Republican Governing textbook to the letter- slash taxes for the rich, slash funding for public education–$127 million– and environmental protection, refuse to expand Medicaid subsidies, smash collective bargaining and benefits for public workers. It has resulted in Wisconsin ranking 35th in job creation out of the whole nation (funnily enough, right next to other GOP presidential hopefuls, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana at 32 and Chris Christie of New Jersey clocking in at 40th).
Walker’s stubbornness is literally driving Wisconsin backwards with his “rejection of hundreds of millions of job-creating federal stimulus dollars, including $810 million for high-speed rail and $23 million to expand high-speed internet service in schools, libraries and government agencies.” His religious adherence to the debunked theories of trickle-down Reaganomics has resulted in Wisconsin having the fastest-shrinking middle class in the country, and at this point are clearly just pandering to his corporate backers, disregarding the well-being of his constituents and the future of his state as he lustily dreams of the White House.
The other side of the border has a very different story to tell. In Minnesota, Governor Dayton has pursued a progressive agenda that has rewarded his constituents; “Forbes has ranked Minnesota as the ninth best state for business, seventh in economic climate and second in quality of life.” Dayton took a budget deficit of $6.2 billion and turned it into a surplus of $1.9 billion, and he did it by- wait for it- “raising taxes on the wealthiest 2% of households, large corporations, and tobacco taxes.” By doing this, he balanced the budget and then was able to cut taxes for two million Minnesotans. With the surplus money, he has been able to fund all-day kindergarten for all Minnesotan children, lifting a burden from working parents and investing in their children’s futures.
The differences couldn’t be clearer. Two states, two governors. One red, and one blue. One has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of all of his citizens, healed a recession-ravaged economy and turned it into a bustling powerhouse. The other has driven his state into the ground, and unabashedly told his citizens to tighten their belts while giving millions of tax breaks to the biggest corporations and the wealthiest citizens. This salvo from R.T. Rypak coming so close on the heels of the news how Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has utterly crippled his state’s economy should be the nail in the coffin on the Republican economic playbook. It doesn’t work. It does not create jobs, it does not raise revenue, it does not improve people’s lives. It’s far past time American recognized this and stop letting the Republican Party drag our nation into the mire.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.