Jason Lewis’ latest attack in his Star Tribune column on Minnesota’s nonprofit community--opening with disdain for the very concept of “shared responsibility"--is wrong in tone and content, and far removed from Minnesota sense and sensibility.
The smart-alecky dismissal of nonpartisan groups ranging from public radio to anti-smoking campaigns was mostly just unfair and cynical and predictable. But the biggest shortcoming was a glaring omission. Lewis did not say a word about the billions of tax-deductible dollars contributed nationally to fundamentalist churches, right-wing causes and conservative think tanks, including, in Minnesota, the Center of the American Experiment. All of those groups must adhere to the rules that forbid political endorsements while allowing religious expression, nonpartisan citizen engagement and communication around public policy.
It would have been fair enough for Lewis to propose reducing tax breaks for contributions to nonprofits, which actually would have the effect of raising federal and state taxes on the affluent. Some progressive tax reformers propose just that. But Lewis didn’t travel very far down that road at all. His obvious aim was to stir up anger on the far right against only those nonprofit, nonpartisan causes and foundations that don't line up with his extremely individualistic world view.
Finally, we at Growth & Justice were pleased to be associated with the other constructive Minnesota organizations listed in Lewis’ “rogues’ gallery." It was instructive to see that Lewis’ idea of roguish causes actually includes “reproductive rights, saving the planet, and world peace." (Horrors!!) But he got it half-wrong in dismissing us as “a merry band of collectivists." Growth & Justice is no more “collectivist" than the moderate Republican former office-holders, business managers and former CEOs who have supported us from our founding. We seek ways to broaden prosperity and business growth, with evidence-tested and cost-effective policies and interventions. And we have been allies with business leadership in this state on a host of policy fronts, including early childhood education, increasing transportation investment and gas tax revenue, and reducing some business taxes. But we are also almost entirely positive in our tone and content and therefore, I suppose, “merry."