Pioneer Public Television, based in west-central Minnesota, covered our historic Thriving by Design gathering this summer in Granite Falls and recently produced a half-hour video interview with the leaders of the conference host organizations. Jane Leonard, president of Growth & Justice, and Brett Buckner, managing director of OneMN.org, offer compelling arguments in the video for bridging our regional and demographic divisions. Our Thriving by Design process and project , aimed at producing a “One Minnesota Equity Blueprint’’ in early 2019, now has its own website. The site contains content and presentations from the gathering, and links to some of the best thinking in Minnesota about how to address racial and economic disparities and create a more equitable economy, a state that works for all of us.
Our emphasis on shaping a “One Minnesota’’ mentality in politics and policy-making got a boost in a Star Tribune editorial last week. The editorial, headlined “One Minnesota Wins,’’ argued that voters in the Aug. 14 primary apparently “don’t like divide-and-conquer politics that deepen divisions between rural and urban Minnesotans.’’ The newspaper observed that “in both parties, voters chose gubernatorial candidates with the potential to appeal to the whole state.” Congressman Tim Walz’s “stronger-than-expected showing “suggests that DFL voters agreed that an effort to make the DFL more than an urban party should be a priority this year.” Meanwhile, Republican nominee Jeff Johnson “did not engage in the big-city bashing that (former Gov. Tim) Pawlenty employed,’’ the editorial opined. At Growth & Justice, we agree wholeheartedly with this further admonition in the editorial: “Candidates up and down the ballot should pay heed. Voters may be growing resistant to efforts to win local votes by casting aspersions on entire regions of the state. Increasingly, they may see such appeals for what they are — a ploy that risks long-term damage to this state’s ability to govern itself and compete in the 21st-Century economy. This year, there may be an advantage for candidates who exhibit an understanding that functioning as one state is key to Minnesota’s success.’’
Long periods of steady economic growth tend to take the edge off concerns about growing inequality and racial disparity. A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute, comparing pay increases for CEOs and ordinary workers, shows why we have to keep our eyes on who exactly is benefitting from the growth. In 2017 the average CEO of the 350 largest firms in the U.S. received $18.9 million in compensation, a 17.6 percent increase over 2016. The typical worker’s compensation remained flat, rising a mere 0.3 percent. Why is this important? EPI says: “Regardless of how it is measured, CEO pay continues to be very, very high and has grown far faster in recent decades than typical worker pay. Higher CEO pay does not reflect correspondingly higher output or better firm performance. Exorbitant CEO pay therefore means that the fruits of economic growth are not going to ordinary workers. The growth of CEO and executive compensation overall was a major factor driving the doubling of the income shares of the top 1 percent and top 0.1 percent of U.S. households from 1979 to 2007. Since then, income growth has remained unbalanced. Profits and stock market prices have reached record highs while the wages of most workers have continued to stagnate.”
“Too often, executive compensation in the U.S. is ridiculously out of line with performance. That won't change, moreover, because the deck is stacked against investors when it comes to the CEO's pay. The upshot is that a mediocre-or-worse CEO - aided by his handpicked VP of human relations and a consultant from the ever-accommodating firm of Ratchet, Ratchet and Bingo - all too often receives gobs of money from an ill-designed compensation arrangement.” —Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, considered one of the most successful investors of all time and ranked 3rd wealthiest person in the world as of June 30, 2018.