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.
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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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.
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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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Two news stories really caught our eye this week.First was a study that found the U.S. has a higher child mortality rate than other wealthy nations despite our greater per capita spending on health care for children. The second was news that a stopgap measure to continue funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through March is going to start running out of money next week. Why are our nation’s children suffering compared to other wealthy countries? Our aberrant political environment and economic policies over the last 30 years have resulted in growing economic inequality that hurts everyone but especially innocent children. And now, as noted by Sen. Bernie Sanders, “We have a Republican leadership more concerned about throwing 30 million off healthcare and giving tax breaks to billionaires than worrying about the health of children”.
The medical study published this week examined mortality data for the U.S. and nineteen wealthy comparator nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for children ages 0-19 from 1961-2010 using publicly available data. In 1961, the U.S. had lower child mortality than the other countries. While child mortality progressively declined for all countries over the next fifty years, mortality in the U.S. has been higher than in peer nations since the 1980s. According to the study, “the lagging US performance amounted to over 600,000 excess deaths.”
From 2001 to 2010 the risk of death in the U.S. was 76% greater for infants and 57% greater for children ages 1-19. During the same period, children ages 15-19 were eighty-two times more likely to die from gun homicide in the U.S. because gun homicide is virtually non-existent in the other countries which have much lower gun ownership. Incidentally, our U.S. Representative, Erik Paulsen, has an A+ rating from the NRA and is such a rabid opponent of gun control he has actually voted 13 times to block the “No Fly, No Buy” legislation which would ban suspected terrorists on the FBI’s terror watch list from buying guns.
In discussing the reason for the fact that the U.S. has ranked the worst in childhood deaths since the 1990’s, the study’s lead author, Ashish Thakrar, said “It really seems to be the impact of our fragmented health care system.” Thakrar also pointed to the rise in childhood poverty in the 1980’s that coincided with the United States falling behind peer countries on health outcomes. When we have record levels of economic inequality, children are going to bear the brunt of it.
One way of protecting our children is the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP was created in 1997 and has reduced by half the number of children who are uninsured. It’s been reauthorized by bipartisan majorities of Congress in the past but this year Republicans failed to renew CHIP in September after spending the first nine months trying to repeal Obamacare and then devoting their time to passing a tax bill which will increase the federal debt by $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years in order give tax breaks mostly to corporations and the wealthy. According to the Congressional Budget Office, reauthorizing CHIP for ten years would actually decrease the deficit by $6 billion. Those statistics really clarify Republican priorities, don’t they? Increasing the deficit to fund tax breaks for the wealthy while dropping the ball on healthcare for children somehow seems right to them.
Finally, a month after CHIP had lapsed, the House of Representatives voted to allocate $2.85 billion to CHIP that they claimed would carry the program through March. Erik Paulsen bragged about his vote in a November 3, 2017 tweet. But what he didn’t say was that Republicans insisted on funding CHIP by cutting Medicare and public health programs created by the Affordable Care Act, including funding for prenatal care, children's receiving preventive care, vaccines, flu prevention and combatting the opioid epidemic. In other words, the Republican “solution” was merely robbing Peter to pay Paul. Moreover, it turns out the amount of money they allocated was based on a gross miscalculation and some states are going to start running out of money after January 19. You’d think that Paulsen, who brags about being “a math guy”, would have figured that out.
Shame on Erik Paulsen and his Republican colleagues for treating our children so shabbily. The GOP platform says that the party believes in American exceptionalism -“the notion that our ideas and principles as a nation give us a unique place of moral leadership in the world”. When our society has a level of economic inequality that means our children have a higher rate of mortality than children from other wealthy countries, we have sacrificed any claim to a unique place of moral leadership.
Replace Erik Paulsen.
Economic inequality is rising across the United States and in Minnesota as well. Recently, Minnesota was ranked second worst in the U.S. for racial inequality in terms of unemployment, income and home ownership.
Paulsen supports the Republican Platform that claims their number one priority is rebuilding the economy and creating jobs. But the GOP's trickle-down economic and tax policies favoring the wealthy on the theory that they are “job creators” who will fuel the economy are dangerously flawed. Those policies have never worked any time they have been tried and will only worsen the problem of economic inequality.
Job creators in the U.S. are customers who are willing and able to purchase goods and services. If the middle class and poor don’t have money to spend, they can’t be customers. When the middle class and poor are strapped for cash, they’re often compelled to incur consumer debt that isn’t sustainable over the long term and we know that every economic depression and major recession since 1900 has been preceded by high levels of consumer debt. Guess what? Consumer debt is now at an all time record high in the United States.
The level of consumer debt shouldn’t be at all surprising because economic inequality has accelerated during the last 30 years. The graphs below from the Congressional Budget Office tell the story.
Consider also the graph from a recent New York Times editorial showing the wealth gap between the top 1% and the bottom 90% over the last 100 years.
On January 4th, the Washington Post reported on a new study using a massive new data set suggesting that economic inequality is going to get even worse.
Clearly we have a problem that cannot be ignored. This economic disparity was at the heart of the angry populist rhetoric of the 2016 election and it will only get worse until the problem is resolved. As Justice Brandeis said, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.”
Globally, the U.S. ranks only 23rd out of 30 developed countries in the World Economic Forum’s “inclusive development index” which analyzes data on income, health, poverty and sustainability. The fact that we rank so low is in large part due to our dramatic concentration of wealth. We ranked worst on measures of distribution of income and wealth and the level of poverty. Paulsen’s votes supporting the Trump/Republican agenda of tax cuts favoring the wealthy coupled with their plans to cut spending on social safety net programs will only worsen income equality.
Paul Wellstone once said, “We all do better when we all do better.” As a society we need to work to reduce economic inequality, not just because it’s the moral thing to do, but because when the middle class and poor are not economically disadvantaged they will purchase more goods and services which drives the economy that serves us all, including the wealthy.
Are Trump or his cronies in government going to work to reduce economic inequality? Trump campaigned as a populist but he’s governing as a plutocrat. And his plutocratic cronies like Secretary Treasury Mnuchin don't even pretend to want to resolve economic inequality. On the contrary, they appear to revel in it.
Our Congressman, Erik Paulsen, is well aware of the issue. He is a member of the Joint Economic Committee that is charged by law with the responsibility for preparing annual Joint Economic Reports. That Joint Committee has held hearings and heard testimony about the extent of economic inequality and proposed solutions.
It has taken decades to reach the level of economic inequality we currently face. It’s generally agreed that reducing inequality will take time and that there is no single silver bullet solution. Among the partial solutions that have been discussed are:
In the end, economic inequality hurts our entire society. We need a Representative who will fight to reduce economic inequality, not increase it by voting for policies that primarily benefit the wealthy donor class.
Replace Erik Paulsen.
There have been numerous demonstrations calling for Rep. Erik Paulsen to hold town hall meetings but he’s refused. We recently found a video recording of a town hall meeting Paulsen held on August 2, 2010 courtesy of Michael McIntee. After watching that, it’s easy to understand why Paulsen doesn’t hold town halls; he’s awful. It almost makes you feel sorry for him, until you realize that what makes his performance so abhorrent is his blind adherence to conservative memes that primarily benefit businesses and the donor class but penalize the middle and lower classes and increase economic inequality.
In light of the recent vote on the $1.5 trillion Republican tax plan that will increase the national debt in order to give tax breaks to large corporations and the donor class, his 2010 town hall meeting was almost laughably ironic. He claimed then that the most difficult problem facing the country was the projected increase in the national debt. One constituent astutely pointed out that we need taxes to pay for our schools, roads and so much else that contributes to our quality of life and noted that if Congress let the Bush tax cuts expire and returned to the higher level of taxes that existed during the Reagan administration, the national debt problem would be less. Paulsen responded that he didn’t want to terminate the Bush tax cuts because that would “punish” businesses and ruin economic growth. In fact, the evidence shows that to be false. As noted in an earlier blog, in 2012, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service published a report that flatly contradicted the conservative ideology that lowering tax rates boosts economic growth.
At the 2010 town hall, Paulsen was also confronted by a constituent who said that people voted for him because they thought he was a moderate but that after being elected, he has acted as a conservative ideologue. See the video at 38 minutes, 52 seconds. Paulsen denied the claim, saying “I vote what’s right for the district . . . based on constituent feedback”. That is also demonstrably false.
As noted in our last blog, the day before Paulsen voted to repeal and replace Obamacare on May 4, 2017, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published a poll showing that residents of Hennepin County, Paulsen’s constituents, overwhelmingly supported Obamacare and opposed repeal and replacement of the law. Paulsen knew or should have known of those poll numbers and he’d previously gotten an earful of “constituent feedback” from the protests against repeal and replacement right outside his office window.
Paulsen’s vote for the House Republican tax plan was clearly not what’s right for the district. Lori Sturdevant pointed out in a recent Star Tribune Op-Ed that the House bill’s elimination of the long-standing deduction for state and local taxes is a particular blow for all Minnesotans and especially to Paulsen’s constituents in the Third Congressional District because half of us claimed that deduction in 2016. According to an article by the Hennepin and Ramsey County Commissioners, the loss of that deduction puts pressure on state and local governments to spend less on education for our children and grandchildren, on infrastructure which all of us use, and the social safety net for those who cannot help themselves. Those public resources, paid by taxes, of value to us all, are what make our communities thrive. As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said ”Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.” Eleven Republican Congressmen from other high tax/high services states refused to vote in favor of the House bill when they saw how it would adversely affect their constituents. But Paulsen voted against the clear interests of his constituents to support a conservative ideology that has never worked to the greater good of us all.
Minnesotans for Real Representation is a grassroots organization in Minnesota's Third District with the goal of replacing Erik Paulsen in 2018.