Ask any Baby Boomer and they can tell you: it all started going wrong around Nixon. But why? Nixon has been dead for 23 years now, and yet things have not improved for the majority of working Americans. The economy is the engine that drives our prosperity, so why has it been stalled for millions of us since the 1970s? I’m no economist, but I do know that the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer, to where simple basic needs are out of reach for thousands of us. What happened?
Put simply, we were lied to. We were told that we needed to try something different to shake the malaise back in the 70s, and we rightly decided to give it a try. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, after all. And so a new group of power-brokers came to America with a plan: invest in us, give us the money in the form of tax breaks, loopholes, and deregulation, and we’ll start making so much money that it’ll make your head spin. And what’s more, we’ll have so much money that our pockets will overflow and trickle down to all of you, and we’ll all share in the prosperity.
They got our money: money we gave up from our towns, our schools, our local way of life, because you have to bet big to win big, after all. But, when the money started coming in, they took that money that was supposed to trickle down to us and ran off with it, hiding it in offshore accounts, managed bankruptcies, stock buybacks, and other tricks of the trade. The only thing that did trickle down, it seemed, were the taxes, as by cutting them up top meant our tiny towns and neighborhoods were suddenly on the hook for more and more of our local operations, while those at the top took money we trusted in them to buy another mega-yacht.
It was a bad investment. And any broker would tell you that you have every right to ask for your money back.
We’re not stealing from the mega-rich, we’re just asking for the money back we invested in them to begin with. We want higher taxes on the rich for no other reason than to get the money back we were promised and put it back into our schools and our neighborhoods. That’s your money they ran off with, and you have every right to demand we soak the rich and get your money back.
2018 is an election that will be won on whatever candidate best comes up with a plan to serve the basic needs of a growing majority of Minnesotans and Americans. These are tough times for many, many people, and whichever candidate best understands that will win. DFL candidates need to show that there is a reason we are not called Democrats; we need to dust off the legacy of the Farmer-Labor party and nourish Minnesota’s strongly progressive roots before the tree dies. The progressive traditions of Orville Freeman, Wendell Anderson, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Paul Wellstone and countless other Happy Warriors are what have made Minnesota the beacon of human rights it is today, but Hillary Clinton only won Minnesota by 1.5% last November. Minnesota’s progressive armor is tarnished, but not destroyed, and the way forward does not lie through establishment politics. It lies through the old, tried-and-true methods of the left: listening, laboring, and legislation to serve people’s basic needs first and foremost.
And I do mean basic needs: food, water, and shelter. This system of brutal, no-holds-barred psychocapitalism has gone so far and cut so deep that to even ask anything beyond that is to risk looking like an out-of-touch elite. 2018 won’t be won on social issues, it will be won on lunch-pail issues. We’re talking about a return to old-school, New Deal era policies of chickens in pots and shovels in hands. The fiction put forth in 1976’s film Network has become reality: We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat. Massive corporate influence greases the wheels to allow food that doesn’t nourish, water that kills, and healthcare that puts profits before health. The richest country in the world can’t seem to spend money to deliver clean, safe drinking water to Flint or any of the thousand other towns without access to safe water. A campaign in 2018 needs to be able to promise to never stop fighting to bring healthy food and water to every citizen, not just those who write the checks, along with shelter not only from escalating climate change but also from sickness and disease, including the devastating affects of over-prescribed opiods. Shelter comes not only in the form of good homes and and strong infrastructure, but also clean energy and single payer healthcare to preserve our future and guarantee we can live to see it.
Times really are that bad; anyone out here in Greater Minnesota will tell you that. We need to have our basic needs covered, and after 30 years of Reaganomics have bled us dry in the small towns and rural areas, we’re ready to try something else. At the end of the day it comes down to securing basic needs for people, which is how a 74-year-old Jewish Socialist from Vermont ended up winning double the votes in Minnesota. When you reach a certain point, you stop caring about what your neighbor is choosing to do in their life, and focus instead on how to save your own. That’s what we need to promise people. That’s how we can win.