My Point of View: It’s a case of red herrings for many in the Republican Party 

Published 8:44 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2022

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

FDR’s policies helped pull the U.S. out of the Great Depression with long-term reforms that built up the middle class and smoothed out boom-bust economic cycles. “Big government” made the middle class great and created unprecedented prosperity, especially for white Americans, in the 1950s and ’60s, a period that many who experienced it still fondly remember.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Republicans have spent 70 years relentlessly chipping away at these reforms — which included protection of unions, high top marginal tax rates and limiting financial speculation —ever since. Over time, the middle class has hollowed out and shrunk.

Here’s the inescapable truth that we should have learned from the 1920’s: Small government means a small middle class. The Republican power base has always preferred a large pool of cheap labor, and that is at direct odds with supporting a strong and vast middle class.

But why are so many people outside of the top 10% of income and wealth still willing to squander good chances for upward economic mobility and building modest generational wealth, opportunities which were generously available to their parents and grandparents?

It’s because Republicans know how to throw red herrings at people who are feeling economically precarious. 

For example, state Rep. Peggy Bennett has talked about public schools “grooming” children. She doesn’t support a proposed $3.4 million increase in funding for Albert Lea Area Schools out of the state’s budget surplus. She said she favors a tax break, like the one state Sen. Gene Dornink supports, that goes mainly to the top 10% of earners.

Here’s a closer look at the numbers: the median household income in Freeborn County in 2019 was $53,600. Most people here would hardly see a penny of the Republican-controlled state Senate’s tax break plan because 90% of it would go to those earning $84,000 or more.

Just 3% of Freeborn County households earn $200,000 or more, and they would be among the group showered with about 30% of the total tax break.

In contrast, DFL legislators want to give more of the surplus to public schools and a refundable child tax credit for children 16 and under to working families.

The state of Minnesota invested in me when I didn’t have many monetary resources, and I feel lucky, not resentful, that I pay a higher tax rate than I used to. I want this state to keep investing in families and education and public amenities. I’m proud of this state, its innovation and its forward momentum.

I want our state to invest in every child, no matter their skin color or first language or ethnic background, so that they can better reach their potential and prosper and give back to our state too. This is how we build a vibrant future together.

Bennett and Dornink do not share this vision. They are entrenched in giving the most help to those who’ve already reached financial stability and even excess.

What do they offer the rest of us? The chance to deny women fundamental reproductive rights and bully LGBTQ children, who are already at higher risk of self-harm and suicide, into making themselves invisible. This is a terrible bargain.

The latest Republican red herring campaign regarding “grooming” and “pedophiles,” which is spreading misdirected nastiness all over the country including Disneyworld, should be refocused back at its own ranks. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz’s associate Joel Greenberg, former Kentucky Republican judge Tim Nolan, former RNC strategist Ruben Verastigui, Trump’s Oklahoma campaign chair Ralph Shortey, former Trump associate George Nader, Republican reality star Josh Duggar, and Jennifer Carnahan Hagedorn’s former large benefactor Anthony Lazzaro have all been indicted for, or convicted of, sex crimes against minors.

The situation is disgusting, and it’s a giant case of projection. 

It’s like Fox News devoting loads of airtime to Hunter Biden’s laptop (which fell into Trump’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s hands instead of going through a proper chain of custody), but has little to note about Donald Trump Jr. texting coup plans to his father’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows right after the 2020 election, and Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner (who Trump gave access to top secret information over the objections of national security specialists) getting a $2 billion investment from Saudi Arabia in his new private equity firm even though he has zero financial asset management experience. Kushner is getting a cool $25 million/year fee to line his amateur pockets. What’s the deal here?

Investigate where there appears to be wrongdoing, and keep a sense of proportion and objectivity. No one can be above the law in a functioning democracy.

I am exceptionally grateful that Mary Hinnenkamp has recently entered the race to challenge Peggy Bennett for House 23A. Mary would ably serve the working families and retirees of our district, not throw stale red herrings at us.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.