The demise of Home Valu (it will always be affectionately thought of as Plywood Minnsota to us old-timers) reminds me that its owner, former U.S. Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, has been a stand-up guy in many respects: a good family man, a community-minded business leader, serious about his Jewish faith and traditions, and at times a voice for moderation and common sense as a Republican Party leader.
The announcement that his chain of home improvement stores is going out of business reminds me that Rudy was NOT one of those types who was constantly denigrating Minnesota's taxes and business climate.
In doing some research in the 1990s on a book about Rudy's election loss to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, I ran across a newspaper clipping from the 1970s (when taxes really WERE higher in Minnesota) in which Rudy said it would just be bad form to disparage the business climate in a state where he had become wealthy and successful at business. (Rudy's family immigrated into the U.S. from Nazi Germany in the 1930s and he moved to Minnesota in the 1960s after growing up in New Rochelle, New York.)
In the statements about the company's closing, there is no mention of state business climate issues, only national crises and over-arching private-sector failures brought on by the collapse of the housing bubble and tight credit. Competition from bigger-box national retailers no doubt were a factor. Businesses most often fail because other businesses drive them out of business.
Boschwitz, of course, was an early supporter of George W. Bush, and as a senior party leader he did approve of the Pawlenty-Bush state-federal tax cuts a decade ago. The ensuing lower-tax decade was a Lost Decade economically for most Minnesotans, perhaps the worst since the 1930s, and one in which Minnesota dropped to about average in tax rankings (see page 15 of Minnesota Taxpayers Association PDF). It also began underperforming the national economy for the first time in many decades.
Many progressive and moderate business owners recognize that business is actually helped in the long run by taxes if they are converted to smart public investment in human potential and infrastructure, such as education, transportation, and health-care, that support economic security and stability for middle-income folks.
And that way, those folks more likely can afford to buy carpet and paneling for their basement remodeling projects.
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