By being bad at very little, Minnesota ranks No. 3 on best states list

Hi, America. We’re Minnesota and we’re better than you. Well, most of you, anyway.

Like any good Minnesotan, I didn’t bother initially reading the article with today’s release of the U.S. News best states list. I went right to the list to see where in the top five Minnesota ranked.

Third. Behind only Washington state and New Hampshire.

We’ve been on lists like this so long we probably know exactly what this latest ranking is going to say about us. But we like to read it anyway.

As the northernmost territory in the 48 contiguous states, Minnesota is known for its frigid conditions. Its residents see about 70 inches of snowfall each year in the northern region, along with an average winter temperature of 8 degrees Fahrenheit.

The cold weather explains ice hockey’s popularity in Minnesota, and makes it a perfect destination for cross-country skiing, ice fishing and other snow sports.

The state is also known for its many bodies of water, which eventually flow into the Hudson Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The headwaters of the Mississippi River start in northern Lake Itasca. The Dakota fittingly named the land “Minisota,” meaning sky-tinted water. The state’s nickname as the Land of 10,000 Lakes is an understatement – the state has more than 11,500.

The Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit organization with hospitals and research initiatives in different locations, is headquartered in Rochester and is among the state’s top employers. Manufacturing and retail trade are two other major industries in Minnesota, which houses many Fortune 500 companies such as UnitedHealth Group, Target, 3M and General Mills.

That’s all pretty underwhelming.

What we really want to know is what makes us better than most every other state.

Other than “opportunity” (No. 3) and natural environment (No. 3), the only other category Minnesota really excels in is infrastructure (No. 6), which is a joke if you look at the condition of our roads and bridges. But we get a bounce for good internet access and short commute times. So maybe the theory is: sure our roads are awful, but we don’t have to drive on them for long.

We’re No. 25 in fiscal stability, No. 10 in health care (we’ve been slipping there for years),  16 in crimes and corrections, 17 in education, and 18 in economy.

In other words, we’re so consistently “not that bad” in so many categories, that our overall ranking puts us at No. 3.

But are we as good as we think we are?

For the umpteenth straight year, the Legislature and governor are heading for an impasse in which almost nothing gets done. Kids are dying because they’re rationing their way-too-expensive insulin and even that can’t get lawmakers on the same page.

What is Washington state doing to earn the No. 1 ranking? It helps to have most every high-tech powerhouses there, but U.S. News credits its climate-friendly energy policy.

Earlier this month, Washington’s legislature passed a slate of clean energy legislation to put it on a path to fossil fuel-free electricity by 2045.

But even with all that going for them, Washington ranks 19th in “opportunity,” between Alaska and Kentucky, which is saying something because Alaska is otherwise a basket case in this survey.

The curious segment ranking for Minnesota is “fiscal stability” (No. 25). Other than noting we’re 30th in long-term fiscal stability and 19th in short term stability, there’s almost no explanation provided for our rank. We get solid marks for budget balancing but our state constitution requires a balanced budget.

In health care, we get high marks for the number of insured, and the ease of access, but we’re pretty average/mediocre on quality. That’s a bit of a slap in the face for a state with the Mayo Clinic.

But, there we are atop the list at No. 3, looking down at 47 other states while politicians struggle at the Capitol with a question they can never seem to answer from year to year: What kind of state do we want to be?