My Point of View: Minnesota makes a difference by putting people first

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

It is a joyous feeling when we’ve made it through another winter and the trees are spritzing out new leaves overhead. Living in Minnesota means we keep our snow shovels within reach, though, even when we’ve moved out our patio furniture. Why do so many people choose to live here despite some of the longest, harshest winters in the U.S.?

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Minnesota is a state with natural beauty, abundant resources and high quality of life. It’s a state that invests in its children and protects its environment.

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Minnesota puts people first.

Just 10 miles south of Albert Lea is a state that has chosen a different path. The voting patterns of people in this area match the political majority in Iowa rather than in Minnesota, and I think we should all evaluate the results of this natural experiment.

An overall indicator is population. One hundred years ago, Iowa had a slightly larger population than Minnesota. Today, Iowa’s population hasn’t grown much and is almost down to half of Minnesota’s population. Will Minnesota continue to grow and Iowa continue to stagnate?

What will be the impact of Iowa siphoning away money from public education toward private schools and Minnesota expanding its investments in public education?

What will be the impact of Iowa continuing to be a cheap labor state and Minnesota becoming a more worker friendly state? Iowa still uses the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (which nobody can afford to live on) and is moving to loosen child labor restrictions so that 14-year-olds can work in dangerous occupations like roofing and demolition. Minnesota’s minimum wage is more than $3/hr. higher, and it’s attempting to enact paid family and maternity leave.

What would be the impact of expanding Minnesota Care so that more people of working age have access to affordable health insurance? A health insurance system made to favor preventive care will save people money and extend quality years of life. Why is this push so “controversial”? Mostly because it would cut profits that concentrate in the hands of a few.

Executives and shareholders are not letting go easily of the money they accumulate by making health outcomes worse and costs higher, and the DFL is pushing ahead for a big win for ordinary Minnesotans.

What will be the impact of adopting ambitious climate legislation for a better environment vs. aiming to cut back water quality monitoring that measures nitrate and phosphorus pollution from agricultural run-off, which causes health problems and toxic algae blooms?

Minnesota puts people first.

Last week Gov. Tim Walz signed into law three bills that protect individual freedoms in Minnesota. These new laws protect people seeking abortions in Minnesota, ban the harmful, homophobic practice of conversion “therapy” for minors and protect access to gender-affirming health care.

Minnesota is allowing LGBTQ people to openly exist in peace. Our Republican state Rep. Peggy Bennett claimed last week that proposed changes, which remove an outdated sentence in the Human Rights Act, “could allow the potential for an argument to be made that pedophiles are protected under the human rights act.” No. This is fever swamp nonsense based on deep fear of LGBTQ people. Minnesota is moving beyond old ideas meant to marginalize LGBTQ people, including ones that falsely equated homosexuality with pedophilia.

Meanwhile, another person with ties to the Republican Party has been associated with sexual abuse of minors. Last month the Daily Beast reported that a young man accused Ali Alexander, one of the pro-Trump ‘Stop the Steal’ organizers behind the Jan. 6 insurrection, of soliciting pictures of his genitalia when he was 15 years old and promising access to figures in Alexander’s political network.

Which party can you most trust to protect the health and safety of kids? The one that protects profits above everything else — to the point that they’re willing to roll back restrictions against child labor? Or the party that protects people?

Please look beyond Republicans’ culture war divisiveness. The party leadership has twisted a lot of things — including subverting Christianity to serve the higher idol of money — in its relentless pursuit of protecting profits at any cost to people and the environment. If a politician protects profits first and people second, that’s your first clue that any claim they make to operating on Christian values is suspect. The Bible says to take care of each other, not private equity funds.

I’m thankful to live in this state where the DFL is making solid progress in protecting the people we love and the environment we depend on for quality of life.

Minnesota puts people first. That’s what we do. Maybe our cooperation is necessitated by a climate so harsh that we’re wary of putting our snow shovels away, but it has made us stronger, and I would never bet against this state.

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