Pioneer Press Tries And Fails to Smear Center of American Experiment for ‘Conservative’ Economics

The Center of the American Experiment released its annual “The State of Minnesota’s Economy” report Tuesday, written by University of London and London School of Economics grad John Phelan.

But The Pioneer Press wasn’t pleased with Phelan’s application of “data that has become popular with conservative economists,” that being GDP per worker.

“By that measure, Minnesota ranks 28th among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., and is well below the national average. It’s in stark contrast to figures cited by economists, including gross domestic product per capita,” Dave Orrick of The Pioneer Press writes.

Notably, Orrick drops the label of “conservative” when he isn’t writing about Phelan, and began his piece by pointing out that the Center of the American Experiment “frequently criticizes liberal Minnesota policies like taxation and light-rail spending.”

Phelan issued a response Wednesday titled, “The Pioneer Press gets confused between GDP per capita and GDP per worker.” He goes on to note that “GDP per worker is a standard measure of productivity, not a ‘conservative’ thing.”

“First, GDP (or output) per worker isn’t a concoction of ‘conservative economists,’ whoever they are. It is a standard measure of labor productivity used by economists of all stripes. Here is a rummage through my old undergrad and postgrad textbooks,” Phelan writes, listing dozens of economists and standardized textbooks that use the GDP per worker measurement.

“Have a look at these names: Bernanke, Frank, Samuelson, Nordhaus, Mankiw, Stiglitz. Are these guys ‘conservative economists’ as opposed to regular ‘economists?'” Phelan asks.

He also notes that Orrick mistakenly suggests that GDP per worker and GDP per capita are “different measures of the same thing.” Instead, Phelan points out, they “are measures of different things” entirely.

“It is just not true that GDP (or output) per worker is a tool of ‘conservative economists’ and that ‘economists’ use GDP per capita instead. GDP per worker is a standard productivity measure used by economists who would run a mile from being labeled ‘conservative,’” Phelan concludes. “It is simply not the case that you can pick which one you like depending on your ideological persuasion. You have to look at both to get the full picture. That is what we do in our report.”

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to
Photo “Dave Orrick” by Dave Orrick. Photo “Minneapolis Skyline” by Joe Passe CC2.0 






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