Twice in a span of just three days, the Wall Street Journal has run articles suggesting that anti-tax Minnesota lawmakers got their way because the voters were on their side. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Last week, in an effort to end an increasingly costly shutdown of the Minnesota government, Governor Dayton ended his push for a much needed tax increase on the state’s wealthiest residents. As the Governor explained, “continuing the state government shutdown would be … destructive for too many Minnesotans.” A budget, without the tax increase, will likely be enacted some time this week.
While it’s disappointing that the Governor was unable to secure the enactment of one his most significant campaign promises, this may have been the best outcome possible given the level of stubbornness exhibited by anti-tax Republicans. It was not, however, the outcome that Minnesota voters wanted.
Polling from just before the shutdown made clear that a full 63% of Minnesotans wanted their elected officials to enact a tax increase on the richest 2% of taxpayers. The same poll also showed that voters viewed Gov. Dayton much more favorably than the state legislature’s Republican majority.
With this in mind, the level of spin contained in a pair of recent Wall Street Journal opinion pieces is nothing short of astounding.
In a bizarre July 16 article that railed against “socialist holdouts,” “the welfare state,” and “perhaps the most liberal governor in the country,” one op-ed writer claimed that Republicans succeeded because they “reflected more accurately the electorate’s mood.”
Just two days later, Stephen Moore wrote in the Journal that Gov. Dayton “blinked” because “Minnesota voters seemed to understand that the state would only make its economic troubles worse” by raising taxes.
It’s true that Minnesota’s forthcoming “compromise” budget will be heavily tilted in favor of Republican legislators’ priorities, even though most Minnesotans do not share those same priorities.
The Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages are famous for this kind of journalistic fiction. A more interesting question is whether other news outlets will do any better in representing the opinions of ordinary Minnesotans. The fact is, raising taxes on the richest of the rich is widely popular across the country yet strangely invisible from most media coverage of budgets and taxes.