After several years of endorsing Erik Paulsen for Minnesota’s Third Congressional seat, the Star Tribune, in a surprising and welcome turn, finally announced it would pull their support. Noting that Paulsen is heavily financed by out-of-district special interests, unwilling to engage with voters, as well as his positions on health care and transit, the Strib called for change. While also citing Paulsen’s decision to air what the Strib refers to as “one of the worst attack ads of this election cycle," the Strib otherwise just scratched the surface of concerns, failing to fully outline the reasons Paulsen should be replaced. We will do that here.
Let’s start with Paulsen’s character. While there are a myriad of ways to assess a candidate’s character, our close observation of Paulsen and our growing dissatisfaction with his votes have led us to identify key character traits essential for successful representation that we find lacking in Paulsen. These are honesty, courage, leadership, and transparency.
While politicians are often reviled for their ability to bend the truth to fit their audiences, Paulsen, fearing a narrow window to repeal Obamacare, didn’t just spin the GOP repeal and replace plan to make it more palatable, he flat-out lied. Paulsen, who once said he was cut from the same cloth as Paul Ryan, was a key player in the deceptive Ryan-led GOP public relations campaign, appearing in interview after interview touting the plan. With a smile and a nod, he enthusiastically claimed that under the AHCA health insurance would be more affordable for everyone. This claim was not true and millions would lose coverage under the plan. With a mere 17% approval rating for the plan from the public, Paulsen had to have known that his own constituents would not support the plan, yet he voted for it anyway. What we know about Paulsen now is that he’s willing to lie repeatedly to advance a GOP agenda not endorsed by his own constituents.
Paulsen followed up his shameless participation in selling the GOP health insurance plan with a massive campaign to sell the GOP tax plan that would not only raise taxes for many Minnesotans while giving the majority of the tax cuts to the wealthy, but also balloon the debt and the deficit. Under Obama, Paulsen claimed to be deeply concerned about deficits. But while selling the tax plan, he insisted that the economic stimulus provided by the tax plan would make up for the cuts. As we approach the November 6th election, however, the deficits are clearly growing, not shrinking. Either Paulsen willfully ignored tax reform math to support the GOP agenda to give tax cuts to the rich, or he lacks the capacity to skillfullly interpret all the available data. Neither explanation is acceptable for a public servant.
While Paulsen’s ability to shamelessly mislead the public on critical issues of public policy is alarming, there is another smaller act of deception that should concern his constituents. When asked why he refused to hold town halls, Paulsen said he’s held “hundreds of town halls. The problem is, there is no evidence what-so-ever to support this obviously false claim. In fact, for a period of more than six years, he did not hold a single public, open town hall forum. While Paulsen has held many robo-calls, these calls are not announced in advance, and constituents can never know whether they will get a call at all. Callers are screened, with no opportunity to ask follow-up questions. Paulsen’s lie about holding hundreds of town halls belies his desire to create the appearance of accessibility, while holding constituents at arm's length. Minnesota’s Third District deserves a representative who will do more than create the appearance of accessability. We deserve a representative who is truly accessible.
As Paulsen nears the ten-year mark of service, he’s been able to maintain a stunning moderate, nice-guy facade through the manipulation of his image. His ability to create the appearance of being a moderate, responsive voice has been a key to his success. But a close look at Paulsen’s votes reveal that his votes support the Trump agenda nearly 98% of the time. Any member of Congress who supports the Trump agenda 98% of the time is not a moderate voice in Washington.
One way Paulsen has tried to appeal to the ticket-splitting moderates in his district has been to use Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) as a talking point. While professing his love for the BWCAW and canoeing for the camera in his campaign ads (which were actually filmed in Chaska, not the Boundary Waters), Paulsen has failed the leadership test in this area as measured by his lack of power to influence his colleagues to protect Minnesota’s wilderness treasure. Paulsen knows that it is easy for Minnesotans to conflate his love for the BWCAW with his environmental record. But the League of Conservation Voters knows better and gives Paulsen a lifetime score of just 16% on environmental issues.
Paulsen demonstrates his willingness to mislead the public on key policies, but this year, he’s also demonstrated that he’s willing to take the low road in his advertising, revealing his true colors and shattering the little that was left of his nice-guy image. As the Strib notes, Paulsen’s campaign and the political action committees supporting him have distributed millions of dollars in misleading ads supporting his reelection. One misleading ad accuses Paulsen’s opponent of covering up sexual harassment as a board member of Allina. The ad has been widely rebuked, importantly by the victims of harassment, and their attorney. If this ad weren’t bad enough, a second ad by Paulsen was so egregious (and won’t be reviewed here) it was even rebuked by Politifact.
Paulsen’s willingness to utilize the Trump playbook in his advertising, that involves repeating untrue statements over and over again as if they are true and until they stick, is both disgusting and alarming and a reason to replace him on November 6th.
If Paulsen fails the honesty test, he also fails the transparency test. Over the last two years many constituents have called Paulsen’s office to learn more about his views. These constituents would often be told that Paulsen has not issued a statement on that particular topic. Paulsen’s failure to disclose his positions as well as his general approach to legislating even earned him the nickname “Cowardly Lion” in article published in the City Pages. He has refused to state his positions on key topics such as health care, internet privacy and gun safety, and often won’t disclose how he will vote on key bills.
Paulsen’s predecessor and mentor, Jim Ramstad, was supposedly a more moderate voice for Minnesotans in Washington, but ten years in, Paulsen isn’t following in his footsteps. Instead he is bathing in special interest money, ranking fourth in the total amount taken by any member of Congress and is firmly under the thumb of Trump. Either fearful or in agreement with Trump’s disturbing, violence-inciting rhetoric and harmful, discriminatory policies, Paulsen has done little in the way of standing up to Trump to protect our democracy. Failing to sponsor or support any of the bills in Congress that protect the Special Counsel investigation, or to reform Presidential tax disclosure laws, it’s clear that Paulsen won’t be a voice for Minnesotans who care deeply about truth and justice for all.
Paulsen’s had five terms in office to show us what he can do, yet he has only sponsored two bills that have become law and holds no leadership positions on any committee in the House of Representatives. In the same time period Amy Klobuchar has sponsored twelve bills that have become law and is a ranking member on both the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration as well as on a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. By now Paulsen should be generating high quality legislation and moving into leadership positions. His lack of achievements are a marker of his inability to influence his colleagues and are surely a sign that he lacks the necessary leadership skills to be an effective member of Congress.
It's time for a change. We must replace Paulsen on November 6th.
To learn more about Paulsen's votes, click this link.
President Trump held a rally in Duluth, Minnesota on June 20th and two of our state's three Republican congressmen were in attendance. Erik Paulsen was not one of them. Why would Paulsen skip this event? Is it because he doesn't actually support the President and his agenda for our country? One look at Paulsen's voting record tells us that is definitely not the case. FiveThirtyEight keeps an ongoing tally of how often every member of the House and Senate vote with or against the president. Paulsen's Trump score as of this writing is 97.6%. His Trump Score is higher than either Tom Emmer's or Jason Lewis', Minnesota's other Republican congressmen.
So, no, Paulsen's absence in Duluth wasn't due to lack of support for Trump but , rather, it is part of Paulsen's re-election strategy in a district that has voted for the Democratic candidate for President in the last three general elections. Paulsen is considered a vulnerable Republican and, as such, he's following the midterm election play book for vulnerable Republicans trying to do just enough to distance himself from Trump without alienating the president. The Washington Post detailed this strategy in a June 23rd article: The main election strategy of vulnerable House Republicans: Prove they’re not Trump.
Paulsen is working hard to manufacture a (false) moderate public image to appeal to the moderate voters in Minnesota's Third District. Voters should stay focused on Paulsen's voting record which tells the true story of his allegiance to Trump. Paulsen has been so loyal to Trump that during a visit from Vice President Mike Pence to our state in March, he singled out Paulsen thanking him for "fighting every day shoulder to shoulder with President Trump." There's no question that Paulsen deserves that praise.
Paulsen's received an A rating from the NRA. He doesn't support universal background checks or other common sense gun safety legislation. Paulsen "earned" a 0% grade from Clean Water Action and a 14% score from the League of Conservation voters. He's pro-gun lobby and anti-environment. He has repeatedly voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Paulsen voted for the American Health Care Act which would have stripped health care from millions. He's a champion of Trump's tax bill, handing a huge tax cut to the wealthy while adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit. Now the GOP is planning to come after Medicare and Social Security to balance the budget. You can read details on Paulsen's ultra-conservative voting record here.
Paulsen's vulnerable this election cycle and he knows it. He didn't stand next to Trump for the photo op in Duluth, but you better believe he's standing next to Trump on every vote in Congress. That's why we are working so hard to Replace Paulsen. We need real representation in Minnesota's Third District.
Our democracy depends on the ability of its people to rigorously debate ideas, to outline values, and to develop policies that will be in the best interests of citizens and future generations. When we elect our representatives we entrust them to engage their best thinking skills to solve our biggest problems. We are often grievously disappointed when our legislators act in vacuous ways to make partisan votes and work in their own self-interests. We know that many don’t even read the bills they vote for, but simply vote with party leadership.
While rigorous debate is essential to a democracy, many career politicians have developed the ability to stick to talking points to avoid addressing difficult issues. Indeed, Rep. Erik Paulsen is one of those whose rehearsed talking points are so slippery and genuinely spoken that those who aren’t listening closely are often fooled. Paulsen’s easy grin and folksy speech even earned him the nickname “Opie” in the Minnesota legislature where his participation in the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) taught him that the conservative elite can do all of his thinking for him and he is simply a tool to be used to advance the conservative agenda.
We wonder, what does it take to get to a place where the skill of using talking points to deflect from a genuine discussion is considered a badge of honor? Is it just a matter of time? Or does it take a special set of immoral instincts to deliberately steamroll over the critical issues of the day?
And steamroll, he does. If you pay close attention to Paulsen’s techniques, his easy dismissal of serious problems will take your breath away. He rolls right over them. For example, in a recent robo-call, when asked about whether he would support legislation to protect the Mueller investigation, he claimed that that “the average person that you talk to doesn’t talk about Russia or the Mueller investigation.” Really? No one cares? While advancing the American Health Care Act, he delivered interview after interview about how everyone would save money in premiums as a result of the plan. Non-partisan analysis indicated that was not true, and that the plan, in fact, would make health care unaffordable for many older adults and millions would lose coverage. When advancing the GOP tax plan, Paulsen used his GOP talking points to avoid discussing the impact of the bill on the debt and deficit, and to this day continues to ignore data that does not support his agenda. Not only does he ignore data, but he has become a pitchman for scam sending dozens of tweets and publishing articles in newspapers touting the benefits of the tax plan while ignoring the real harm it will do to the American economy in the long run.
But how can Paulsen, with the boyish grin and Opie charm, sell policies based on a bunch of half-truths and lies? What should we call that kind of behavior? Can you say that someone who deliberately ignores the available data to make false, misleading, or incomplete claims about legislation is an honest man?
We don’t think so. While some may dismiss Paulsen’s deflections and misrepresentations as politics as usual, we see his speech as evidence of something more sinister. His willingness to misrepresent policies for personal and partisan gain is evidence of a serious moral failing. The fact that he does it with a smile and a nod is even more disturbing.
Minnesota’s Third District deserves honest representation in Washington. We will replace Paulsen on 11-6-18.
Paul Ryan and his minions in the House like Erik Paulsen have held their noses against the stench of Donald Trump to blindly pursue their supply-side trickle-down economics ideology. If Trump was willing to sign their legislation cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy, they were willing to put up with Trump’s most egregious behavior and policies. Even leaving aside the obscene immorality of furthering economic inequality, such tax cuts were always a bad idea. Democrats and the clear majority of economists noted that the Republican tax plan would not “pay for itself” with increased growth as Republicans claimed, that corporations would most likely use their tax breaks for stock buy-backs rather than investing to modernize and increase productivity or by paying more to employees whose wages have been mostly stagnant for years. They argued that both deficits and economic inequality would increase because of the trickle-down tax bill.
But Republicans rejected those arguments and shot down a provision that would have triggered an automatic tax increase if their outlandish economic growth predictions did not materialize. That refusal to implement a fail-safe mechanism tells us they really didn’t care whether their plan was based in reality - they just wanted their tax cuts, come what may.
Well, the data is starting to come in and guess what? Critics of the Republican tax plan were right.
On April 9th, the Congressional Budget Office released a report which concluded that the deficit is rising sharply and will surpass $1 trillion per year by 2020. The CBO Budget Director said “federal debt is projected to be on a steadily rising trajectory throughout the decade.” The loss of revenue due to the Republican tax bill will be $1.3 trillion from 2018 to 2028 and when the costs of paying interest on that debt are included, the total addition to the deficit due to the Republican tax bill comes to $1.9 trillion. The increase in the interest payments just on the increased debt from the tax bill is about what we currently spend on the military. Republicans had claimed their proposal would spark massive growth that would limit or even eliminate growth in the deficit. However, the CBO projected that the bill would boost economic growth by only 0.7% over a decade - not nearly enough to keep it from adding to the debt. After the report came out, Republican Senator Bob Corker said, “If it ends up costing what has been laid out here, it could well be one of the worst votes I’ve made”. Other countries are using the comparative calm we are in now after the 2008 financial storm to pare back their deficits. The International Monetary Fund has projected that the United States is the only advanced economy in the world expected to have its debt burden get worse over the next five years.
And what about the critics’ claims that corporations would most likely use their windfall tax breaks for stock buy-backs that further enrich executives and investors rather than for productive investments? Buy-backs have been increasing since the tax cut was passed in December and in February reached a monthly record of over $150 billion. Analysts expect buy-backs this year to exceed a high mark of $589 billion per year set in 2007, just before the crash of the Great Recession. To the extent those buy-backs benefit any one, they will benefit those already wealthy and thus further increase economic inequality which is at record levels now.
Deficits are not necessarily bad and in fact under some circumstances are necessary to finance national priorities like waging a necessary war or pulling the country out of an economic recession. Our largest deficits as a percentage of GDP were for military spending during World War II and after 2008 to pull us out of the ditch of the recession. But to pile on national debt now, at a time when it is not necessary, to hand out tax breaks that primarily benefit the wealthy and corporations is a very bad policy and the height of hypocrisy for politicians like Erik Paulsen who claimed to be so concerned about increasing the deficit when they opposed Obama’s policies that brought us out of the Great Recession. We need a Representative who will do what’s right for the country and all of us, not just hand out goodies to the well-heeled and corporations based on flawed trickle-down economics ideology which has failed every time it has been tried before.
Replace Erik Paulsen.
As residents of the Third Congressional District in Minnesota, the best way for us to resist Trump between now and 2020 is to replace Erik Paulsen in 2018.
They say that politics is the art of the possible and there are many avenues of resistance that are simply not available to us as private citizens. We have no way of defusing Trump’s corrosive tweets or stopping his public statements that divide the nation. Nor is anyone else able to have much effect on Trump in that regard either. We cannot undo his ill-considered Executive Orders. We can’t reverse his awful appointments of cabinet secretaries like Scott Pruitt or his choice of John Bolton as National Security Advisor. Nor can we do anything to stop Trump from following the xenophobic and hateful advice of Stephen Miller on immigration issues. If articles of impeachment are ever brought against Trump as a result of the Mueller investigation, none of us are going to be able to vote on them and of course we can’t directly vote against Trump’s legislative agenda or for the measures we care about.
But don’t despair. It is possible for us to vote Erik Paulsen out of office in November 2018 and that will eliminate at least one of the tools Trump relies on to advance his agenda. As we’ve noted before, Paulsen has voted in line with Trump’s positions more than 97% of the time. Just last month, Vice President Pence thanked Erik Paulsen for his “tireless efforts” in “fighting every day, shoulder-to-shoulder with President Trump to make good on all the promises” Trump made.
By all means go ahead with other ways of resisting Trump; participating in protests, writing letters to the editor, joining active political groups, and donating to political organizations (including this one if you can). But above all, vote to replace Paulsen in 2018. It’s the most powerful concrete action you can take.
Back in 2016 before the election, Rep. Erik Paulsen was initially coy about whether he supported Trump. In May of 2016 when Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee, Paulsen said, “I’m going to vote for, and I said I plan to vote for, the nominee coming out of the convention." Then, in August of 2016 during a 3rd District Congressional debate with Terri Bonoff he said, “Donald Trump has not earned my vote”. And when asked by a reporter who he was going to vote for he said “Whoever earns my vote." Then in October 2016 after the infamous Access Hollywood video came to light, Paulsen said Trump’s comments were disgusting and offensive and that “I will not be voting for him.”
Since Trump was elected, however, Paulsen has supported Trump’s agenda with 97.1% of his votes. In doing so, he’s voted against the interests and values of his own constituents as we’ve pointed out previously in this blog. For example, he voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (I.e., ACA or Obamacare) in May of 2017 after a poll commissioned by the Minneapolis Star Tribune found that Minnesotans living in and around the Twin Cities overwhelmingly supported the ACA and opposed efforts to repeal and replace the law. His vote for the Republican Tax Bill was a particular blow for Minnesotans and to the constituents of the Third District because the House bill eliminated the long-standing deduction for state and local taxes which half of us have relied on in the past. And Paulsen’s right-wing gun votes don’t represent the majority of our district.
Paulsen’s slavish support of Trump and his policies was underscored by Vice President Pence’s recent trip to Minnesota to show support for the Republican congressmen and to try and sell the Republican tax plan which has so far failed to generate much enthusiasm for Republicans. Trump spoke on March 28 at an event sponsored by a group called America First Policies. It was founded by former Trump campaign officials, including Rick Gates who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and making false statements. The group has also been accused recently of skirting around election laws to provide polling data, an in-kind contribution, to Trump’s current campaign.
At the March 28th event, Pence thanked a number of people but “first and foremost” thanked Erik Paulsen for his “tireless efforts” in “fighting every day, shoulder-to-shoulder with President Trump to make good on all the promises” he made. Yikes!!!
So if you’re happy with the direction Trump is taking this country then by all means vote for Paulsen in November because he’s going to work tirelessly, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Trump, to make sure the Trump agenda is carried out. On the other hand, if you find Trump’s policies repugnant, then vote to replace Paulsen!!!
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On February 14, 2018, ironically just hours before the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, we published a blog entitled, “Paulsen’s Right-Wing Gun Votes Don’t Represent The Majority Of Our District”. Since the shooting, notwithstanding all the media attention and political protests in favor of reasonable gun control legislation around the country and in Minnesota, there has been virtual radio silence on this issue from Rep. Erik Paulsen.
On March 26, a group called Listen to the Children ran a full page ad in the Minneapolis Star Tribune addressed to Minnesota’s U.S. Senators and Representatives asking if they would introduce, cosponsor or vote for legislation to ban the manufacture and sale of high-capacity magazines for firearms. It also asked if they would return any donation from the NRA and refuse to accept future NRA donations. A spokesman for Paulsen claimed that he has supported ways to combat gun violence but he didn’t specifically address the issues of high-capacity magazines or NRA funding.
Paulsen has “supported ways to combat gun violence”? Really? Was that his 2009 vote to prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from making any law restricting the possession of firearms? Was it his 2010 vote to authorize debtors in bankruptcy to exempt firearms from the property of their estate? Because we really need to make sure that people undergoing the stress and emotional turmoil of bankruptcy have all their firearms readily at hand? Or perhaps the Paulsen spokesman was referring to his 2016 vote, a week after the infamous Orlando nightclub mass shooting, to prevent even any debate about a bill to ban firearm sales to people on terrorist watch lists. Or maybe it was his 2017 vote to block any rules that would have restricted gun purchases by those who are so mentally incompetent they can’t even manage their Social Security benefits, or his vote to authorize veterans deemed mentally incompetent to buy firearms, or his vote to authorize individuals who hold concealed carry permits to carry their firearms in any state which authorizes concealed-carry and overrides the federal law concerning the concealed-carry of a firearm into a school zone. No wonder he has received a 93% approval rating by the NRA or why it has consistently given him donations since he has been in office.
According to the Star Tribune, Paulsen said last Monday that he would not rule out accepting contributions from the NRA in the future. He said, “I wouldn’t discount it, but I would certainly scrutinize it.” Huh? What is he going to scrutinize? Does that mean he’s going to look for bloodstains on the money before he accepts it from NRA?
Replace Paulsen on November 6, 2018.
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If you want to witness how hypocrisy is at the core of our Representative’s messaging ever since he got elected to Congress, go to Erik Paulsen’s website and search for “Deficits”. That search turns up dozens of Paulsen’s blog posts and press releases before Trump was elected in which Paulsen is critical of virtually anything that increases the deficit. Or you can watch the video of a Paulsen town hall meeting in 2010 where he led off with a lecture about the evil of deficits, saying it was one of his biggest concerns. But now that Republicans are in power, he voted for massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy that will blow up the deficit because of his belief in the discredited theory of trickle-down economics. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Right-wing Republicans have been playing this game since Reagan. They like to call Democrats the “tax and spend party,” but we now know they’re the “cut taxes and spend party.”
Republican strategists believe that putting their best spin on the tax plan is key to avoiding a bloodbath in the 2018 mid-term elections. They are hoping they can fool voters who aren’t paying attention by doling out short term and very modest tax cuts for the middle class that obscure the fact that the trickle-down “Tax Cuts & Jobs Act” is bad public policy. The GOP tax bill, which was championed by Paulsen, overwhelmingly favors the wealthy and corporations and in the long run will likely do great harm to our economy and further increase economic inequality. Recent polling indicates that the Republican defensive public relations strategy on their tax plan is working because support for the tax bill now stands at 51%, up from 37% in December.
Republicans claim that the tax cuts mean more money for middle-class voters and some of them of those voters are already seeing modest withholding adjustments that, for now, boost their take-home pay. For middle-income households earning $49,000 to $86,000, the average tax cut will be about $900 this year. Republicans are counting on middle class voters not recognizing that: a) their average tax cut is less than 2% of the $51,000 average tax cut for those earning more than $733,000; b) the tax cut is only temporary; and c) as a result, in later years, about two thirds of middle-class taxpayers will actually see a tax hike. Moreover, as we pointed out in an earlier blog, the Republicans’ elimination of deductions for state and local taxes is a particular blow for all Minnesotans and especially to Paulsen’s constituents in the Third Congressional District, half of whom claimed that deduction in 2016.
Paulsen and his fellow Republicans also claim that corporations are sharing money from their huge windfall tax cuts with workers and point to a list of over 100 corporations that are giving employees more money due to the cut in corporate taxes. Paulsen has made regular social media posts on this topic, As it turns out, some of those bonuses are more PR than substance. Walmart, for example, announced it would be giving bonuses up to $1000 to workers. However, workers only get $1000 if they’ve been working for Walmart for 20 years and the average worker will only receive about $190. More importantly, the amounts corporations are spending on increased employee compensation pales in comparison to what they are giving to corporate executives and well-heeled investors through stock buybacks. The evidence so far, as Democrats expected, is that corporations are spending most of their windfall on buying their own stock rather than on bonuses, wage hikes, or even on capital investment. Stock buybacks are good for shareholders, especially top executives who often own significant shares of their companies’ stock and buybacks increase the price of those shares. In comparison, various corporations have thus far announced about $6 billion in bonuses for employees versus more than $170 billion in stock buybacks. In other words, to date, the increased compensation corporations are giving to employees as a result of their tax windfall is only about 3.5% of what they’re spending to buy back their stock. The vast majority of the billions of dollars spent on stock buybacks will benefit the richest 10% of American households who own 84% of all stocks and especially the top 1% who own about 40% of all stocks.
Finally, Republicans claim that their trickle-down tax plan will pay for itself because the extra money going to corporations and the wealthy - paid for by increasing the deficit - will be invested and grow the economy. But that premise of supply side/trickle-down economics has failed every time it has been tried since the Reagan administration and there is no reason to believe it is going to work now. The overwhelming consensus of economists is that the tax cuts will not pay for themselves. Now even Steve Mnuchin’s Treasury Department admits that the Republican tax plan will not pay for itself.
So, Erik Paulsen and his fellow erstwhile Republican “deficit hawks” have sacrificed the good of the country and the future of our children and grandchildren to line the pockets of large corporations and the wealthy in yet another misbegotten attempt at trickle-down economics. As Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”
We need to replace Paulsen and elect a Congressperson who we can trust to represent the majority of voters in Minnesota’s Third District.
If you like the work we do, please consider donating to Minnesotans for Real Representation. Minnesotans for Real Representation is staffed by volunteers. All donations support our efforts to replace Paulsen in 2018.
Although sixty percent of Americans believe that laws governing the sale of firearms should be made more strict, Erik Paulsen and his fellow right-wing Republicans refuse to vote for sensible laws designed to prevent gun violence because they fear alienating their primary voters and the National Rifle Association. The NRA has repeatedly demonstrated it is willing to spend vast amounts of money supporting politicians who vote against gun safety laws, and to run opposition ads against those who would defy its agenda. A couple of weeks ago, McClatchy DC Bureau reported that the FBI is investigating whether Russian money went to the NRA to help Trump’s election; it appears that the NRA spent $30 million to support Trump. Just as startling, the McClatchy article noted that the NRA also spent an additional $40 million supporting other politicians in the 2016 election. Erik Paulsen is one of them. He has been receiving money from the NRA and pandering to its interests for years.
According to the Washington Post, Paulsen received over $20,000 from the NRA since he’s been in the U.S. Congress and in 2016, the NRA endorsed Erik Paulsen with a 93% approval rating. If you look at Paulsen’s votes over his time in Congress, it's easy to see why he’s such an NRA favorite. In 2009, he voted to prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from making any law restricting the possession of firearms or enforcing any such restrictions other than a state's pre-existing gun laws in the National Park or National Wildlife Refuge Systems.
In 2010, he voted in favor of a bill that authorizes a debtor in bankruptcy to exempt firearms from the property of his estate, thus permitting people in bankruptcy to keep their guns, up to a value of $3,000. For background, most deer hunting rifles cost less than $1,000, a decent 12 gauge shotgun is about $500 and 9mm pistols run about $400. Three thousand dollars worth of guns is a lot guns. Is it good public policy to give a preference to the possession of firearms in bankruptcy? Do we really want to encourage gun ownership by people who are broke and more likely than not under a lot of stress and emotional turmoil?
In 2011, Paulsen voted to require states to recognize concealed carry permits issued by another state. In 2014, he voted to prohibit the use of funds by the District of Columbia to prevent individuals from possessing, using, or transporting a firearm. In 2016, a week after the infamous Orlando nightclub mass shooting that left 49 people dead, Paulsen voted with other Republicans in the House to prevent any debate about a bill to ban firearm sales to people on terrorist watch lists.
Not surprisingly, in 2017, after Trump was elected and Republicans controlled both the House and Senate, the NRA and Republicans stepped up their game opposing any reasonable form of gun control. Paulsen voted to disapprove a rule submitted by the Social Security Administration that would have restricted gun purchases by individuals who have been deemed to be so mentally incompetent that they are incapable of managing their federal benefit payments. Then he voted for a bill that authorizes veterans deemed mentally incompetent to buy firearms unless there has been a specific finding by a court that the individual is dangerous to themselves or others. And in December, Paulsen voted for a bill that authorizes individuals who hold concealed carry permits to carry concealed firearms in any state which authorizes concealed-carry and overrides the federal law concerning the concealed-carry of a firearm into a school zone or onto federally owned property that is open to the public.
Taken together, Paulsen’s votes clearly demonstrate he is in favor of gun ownership by virtually anyone, including the mentally incompetent and even those who we won’t let on airplanes because they’re on terrorist watch lists. He also wants all those people to be able to carry concealed weapons around in public and across state lines at will. We don’t think his support for the NRA’s agenda reflects the views and values of the majority of voters in Minnesota’s Third Congressional District. In a January 2016 poll conducted by the MInneapolis Star Tribune, a plurality of the respondents said they had an unfavorable opinion of the National Rifle Association and 82% supported a criminal background check on all gun sales, including those sold privately or at gun sales. The poll didn’t ask the question but we’re betting a majority would have supported restricting the sale of guns to the mentally incompetent and people on a “No-Fly” list as well. But Paulsen doesn’t care about his constituents’ views. That’s not who he gets his campaign donations from. In the last election, he got 75% of his donations from out-of-state PACs and out-of-district individuals.
Where is Paulsen in the cartoon above? Fourth from the right.
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Without question, our country is facing the worst income inequality in 100 years and it is likely to get even worse unless we take adequate steps to turn the problem around. At the same time, virtually all economists agree that immigrants, regardless of their legal status, benefit the overall economy and are not a driving force behind income inequality. There can be localized and relatively short term negative consequences of immigration and our political and social challenge is to figure out ways to deal with those without sacrificing the larger and longer term benefits of immigration. We are an immigrant nation and we will continue to prosper as an immigrant nation if we don’t try to haul up the ladder and hunker in a defensive crouch.
Trump and his supporters claim that undocumented workers undercut wages and take jobs that would otherwise go to native-born Americans. Unfortunately, too many Republican members of Congress, including Erik Paulsen, have not taken any meaningful action to counteract the extreme positions of the Trump Administration on immigration. In addition, Trump and many in the GOP claim that undocumented workers and their families use social programs like hospitals and schools that add to our national debt. They argue that we should build a wall at the border to stop illegal immigration, cut back on legal immigration and deport illegal immigrants already in the country. However, last fall, a comprehensive report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded there were “many important benefits of immigration - including on economic growth, innovation and entrepreneurship - with little to no negative effects on the overall wages or employment of native-born workers in the long term”
To be sure, there can be negative consequences of illegal immigration. Undocumented workers are generally paid less and native-born workers, who may compete for the same unskilled jobs, either have to accept lower pay or not work in the field at all. Economists estimate that undocumented workers have lowered the wages of U.S. adults without high-school diplomas (about 25 million people) by between .4 to 7.4%. However, a series of studies by Giovanni Peri at the University of California, Davis, have shown that undocumented workers do not compete with skilled laborers, they complement them. The use of unskilled workers for unskilled jobs allows the skilled workers to focus on what they do best and Peri found that, in states with more undocumented immigrants, skilled workers made more money, worked more hours and the economy’s productivity increased. Indeed, Peri found that from 1990 to 2007, undocumented workers increased legal worker’s pay in complementary jobs by up to 10 percent.
Initially, first generation immigrants may burden governments, especially state and local governments, with high concentrations of immigrants. By the second generation, those families become a benefit to governments, adding about $30 billion a year and by the third generation, those immigrant families contribute about $223 billion in taxes. The last thing we should be doing is ending the DACA program or the provisional residency permits of 200,000 Salvadorans who have lived in the country since at least 2001. There have been several studies showing that the deportation of significant numbers of immigrants will have a negative effect on our economy. During the Great Depression, about 500,000 Mexicans and American citizens of Mexican descent were “sent home” by state and local officials with the approval of the federal government, on the theory that they were taking jobs from American citizens. Recently, economists examined decades of data to determine whether that resulted in higher wages and lower employment promised by the opponents of immigration. In fact, the researchers found that the cities that sent away more Mexicans had worse unemployment and slower wage growth. No broad group of Americans, including low wage workers, benefited from the massive forced deportation of Mexicans.
America is an immigrant nation. Immigrants are enmeshed in our society and they can’t just be removed with the stroke of a pen without serious negative economic implications. Our nation must update our immigration policy in a fair and humane way, for the benefit of society. Economic reality may force us to do what simple human caring ought to. Despite Paulsen's continuous claim that he is a champion of small business and entrepreneurship, he has failed to take meaningful, humane action in Congress to protect immigrants and the businesses that rely on their contributions.
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Minnesotans for Real Representation is a grassroots organization in Minnesota's Third District with the goal of replacing Erik Paulsen in 2018.