For an insightful overview of broadband’s great promise and the challenges still ahead in connecting rural Minnesota to the world economy, we recommend Tim Gihring’s recent article in MinnPost. Public investment in recent years has boosted high-speed coverage areas, and especially in rural areas, and access has risen from 55 to 88 percent of households statewide. But tens of thousands of households and many regions of the state are still unserved or under-served with substandard speeds. We agree with this bottom line offered by Gihring: “Pragmatism suggests that communities will probably need some combination of technologies — fiber to connect a core of businesses and homes, and wireless or satellite for everyone outside of it. But for some advocates of rural communities, being told to wait or settle for lesser service is just another sign of second-class citizenship.”
Fear-mongering about tax flight _ the notion that people and businesses are fleeing en masse to evade our taxes and our relatively larger public sector _ has been a staple of public policy debate for decades. That mongering will no doubt continue, despite overwhelming evidence that overall Minnesota is both highly competitive and superior to other states in quality-of-life measures, attractive to employers and workers alike, in part because of better public goods and services. A particularly thoughtful critique of the tax-flight fear, with context around the recent federal tax revisions, was offered recently in a commentary for the St. Paul Pioneer Press by Ed Lotterman, one of our more lucid Minnesota economists. Lotterman’s final words: “I’ll venture that when this century ends, New York, Chicago, Seattle-Tacoma and Minneapolis-St. Paul will still be doing well and will still maintain edges in education, productivity and income over most of the territory east of the Texas borders and south of the Mason-Dixon line. And the combined bite of local, state and federal taxes probably will remain higher in these cities than in currently lower-tax regions, but so will levels of living.”
We are a think tank and we love charts and data. And although we are focused on a more inclusive and equitable economy for Minnesota, we try our best to provide broad national context in our policy analysis. In that vein we recommend these accessible and digestible “Top Charts of 2017” from the Economic Policy Institute. Among key takeaways from the data: the U.S. economy can afford a $15 minimum wage (#3); big cuts to economic security programs will push millions into official poverty (#5); the racial wealth gap is the clearest legacy of past discrimination in housing markets (#6); and median household income made historic gains from 2014 to 2016 (#10).
“When you ask rural leaders about their priorities, it’s not broadband. It’s jobs, attracting good employers, schools, crime, and drugs — but these are all things that can be addressed with broadband.” Bernadine Joselyn, Director of Public Policy and Engagement for the Blandin Foundation, in MinnPost article cited above.