We are motivated by

MINNESOTA COMMUNITY VALUES AND COMMON SENSE

  A GOOD ECONOMY FOR WORKING FAMILIES:  “We all do better when we all do better”.


  FIGHTING HATRED AND RACISM WHEREVER WE FIND IT:
This begins with quality education that does not “whitewash” our history.
We also support our allies (At home and abroad) when they fight against fascism,
tyranny, and dictatorship.


  TRUE LIBERTY AND FREEDOM FOR ALL
:
Health care that is a right for everyone – a person does not have liberty if they are
 sick and cannot get the help they need.


  TAKING CARE OF OUR HOME
: Stewardship for the earth.

By Heather Cox Richardson

June 7, 2024

Two big stories today that together reveal a broader landscape.

The first is that the Bureau of Labor Statistics today released another blockbuster jobs report. The country added 272,000 jobs in May, far higher than the 180,000 jobs economists predicted. A widespread range of sectors added new jobs, including health care, government, leisure and hospitality, and professional, scientific, and technical services. Wages are also up. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have grown 4.1%, higher than the rate of inflation, which was 3.4% over the same period. 

The unemployment rate ticked up from 3.9% to 4%. This is not a significant change, but it does break the 27-month streak of unemployment below that number. 

The second big story is that Justice Clarence Thomas amended a financial filing from 2019, acknowledging that he should have reported two free vacations he accepted from Texas billionaire Harlan Crow. While in the past he said he did not need to disclose such gifts, in today’s filing he claimed he had “inadvertently omitted” the trips on earlier reports. ProPublica broke the story of these and other gifts from Crow, including several more trips than Thomas has so far acknowledged. 

Fix The Court, a nonprofit advocacy group that seeks to reform the federal courts, estimates that Thomas has accepted more than $4 million in gifts over the last 20 years. As economic analyst Steven Rattner pointed out, that’s 5.6 times more than the other 16 justices on the court in those years combined.

These two news items illustrate a larger story about the United States in this moment. 

The Biden administration has quite deliberately overturned the supply-side economics that came into ascendancy in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan took office and that remained dominant until 2021, when Biden entered the White House. Adherents of that ideology rejected the idea that the government should invest in the “demand side” of the economy—workers and other ordinary Americans—to develop the economy, as it had done since 1933. 

Instead, they maintained that the best way to nurture the economy was to support the “supply side”: those at the top. Cutting business regulations and slashing taxes would create prosperity, they said, by concentrating wealth in the hands of individuals who would invest in the economy more efficiently than they could if the government interfered in their choices. That smart investment would dramatically expand the economy, supporters argued, and everyone would do better. 

But supply-side economics never produced the results its supporters promised. What it did do was move money out of the hands of ordinary Americans into the hands of the very wealthy. Economists estimate that between 1981 and 2021, more than $50 trillion dollars moved from the bottom 90% of Americans to the top 1%.

In order to keep that system in place, Republicans worked to make it extraordinarily difficult for Congress to pass laws making the government do anything, even when the vast majority of Americans wanted it to. With the rise of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to the position of Senate majority leader in 2007, they weaponized the filibuster so any measure that went against their policies would need 60 votes in order to get through the Senate, and in 2010 they worked to take over state legislatures so that they could gerrymander state congressional districts so severely that Republicans would hold far more seats than they had earned from voters. 

With Congress increasingly neutered, the power to make law shifted to the courts, which Republicans since the Reagan administration had been packing with appointees who adhered to their small-government principles. 

Clarence Thomas was a key vote on the Supreme Court. But as ProPublica reported in December 2023, Thomas complained in 2000 to a Republican member of Congress about the low salaries of Supreme Court justices (equivalent to about $300,000 today) and suggested he might resign. The congressman and his friends were desperate to keep Thomas, with his staunchly Republican vote, on the court. In the years after 2000, friends and acquaintances provided Thomas with a steady stream of gifts that supplemented his income, and he stayed in his seat.

But what amounts to bribes has compromised the court. After the news broke that Thomas has now disclosed some of the trips Crow gave him, conservative lawyer George Conway wrote: “It’s long past time for there to be a comprehensive criminal investigation, and congressional investigation, of Justice Thomas and his finances and his taxes. What he has taken, and what he has failed to disclose, is beyond belief, and has been so for quite some time.” A bit less formally, over a chart of the monetary value of the gifts Thomas has accepted, Conway added: “I mean. This. Is. Just. Nuts.”

As the Republican system comes under increasing scrutiny, Biden’s renewal of traditional economic policies is showing those policies to be more successful than the Republicans’ system ever was. If Americans turn against the Republican formula of slashing taxes and deregulating business, those at the top of the economy stand to lose both wealth and control of the nation’s economic system. 

Trump has promised more tax cuts and deregulation if he is reelected, although the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently projected that his plan to extend the 2017 tax cuts that are set to expire in 2025 will add more than $3 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. In April, at a meeting with 20 oil executives, Trump promised to cut regulations on the fossil fuel industry in exchange for $1 billion in donations, assuring them that the tax breaks he would give them once he was in office would pay for the donation many times over (indeed, an analysis quoted in The Guardian showed his proposed tax cuts would save them $110 billion). On May 23, he joined fossil fuel executives for a fundraiser in Houston.

In the same weeks, Biden’s policies have emphasized using the government to help ordinary people rather than to move wealth upward. 

On May 31 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it will make its experimental free electronic filing system permanent. It asked all 50 states and the District of Columbia to sign on to the program and to help taxpayers use it. The program’s pilot this year was wildly successful, with more than 140,000 people filing that way. Private tax preparers, whose industry makes billions of dollars a year, oppose the new system. 

The Inflation Reduction Act provided funding for this program and for beefing up the ability of the IRS to audit the wealthiest taxpayers. As Fatima Hussein wrote for the Associated Press, Republicans cut $1.4 billion from these funds last summer and will shift an additional $20 billion from the IRS to other programs over the next two years. 

Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued five new reports showing that thanks in part to the administration’s outreach efforts about the Affordable Care Act, the rate of Black Americans without health insurance dropped from 20.9% in 2010 to 10.8% in 2022. The same rate among Latinos dropped from 32.7% to 18%. For Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, the rate of uninsured dropped from 16.6% to 6.2%. And for American Indians and Alaska Natives, the rate dropped from 32.4% to 19.9%. More than 45 million people in total are enrolled in coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

President Biden noted the strength of today’s jobs report in a statement, adding: “I will keep fighting to lower costs for families like the ones I grew up with in Scranton.” Republicans “have a different vision,” he said, “one that puts billionaires and special interests first.” He promised: “I will never stop fighting for Scranton—not Park Avenue.”

By 

Matt Audette, a right-wing provocateur elected to Anoka-Hennepin’s school board, has recently threatened to obstruct his district’s budget unless a list of demands is met. He put it this way in a recent Facebook post: “It is time to put a stop to the spreading of divisive, one-sided views, training, and learning that go against the values and beliefs of many families, students, and staff in our community.”

But what does Audette mean when he says current “one-sided views” go against the “values and beliefs of many”? Who is the “one side” and who are the “many”? Audette has claimed current district policies and programs are teaching “divisive, dehumanizing ideologies and world views.” In reality, nothing close to that is happening; instead, Audette, and others like him, prey on fear and cause divisions because they fear an end to their dominance in society. Although the three board members recently backed down from their threats to hold the budget hostage (“Anoka-Hennepin district averts shutdown,” April 25), it is important to understand their antics as hyperpartisanship that does not contribute to civil dialogue or serve the district’s students.

To guard against Audette’s unwarranted claims, members of the public should know exactly what Anoka-Hennepin teachers and leaders are taught and practice that Audette and others decry. They should know what precisely is meant by terms like “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) and “social and emotional learning” (SEL). Below are several examples of some DEI and SEL training and practices Anoka-Hennepin schools implement and opponents rail heavily against. See for yourself if the following DEI and SEL practices go against your values and beliefs, all of which I have observed either as a parent or as an assistant professor of education who works closely with many school districts across the state:

• Valuing bilingualism: Through Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) training, teachers are taught to build upon the first language of multilingual students. Research shows that honoring and building upon the language structures students already have helps students learn both languages more effectively. This speaks directly to one of the goals of DEI — to support students’ cultural identities.

• Integrating multiple perspectives of historical concepts: As an example, my fourth-grader at Rum River Elementary was taught about the Indigenous people who lived in America before colonization, as well as what brought the colonizers to the continent. They learned that the Indigenous people had structured governments, justice systems and their own cultural norms. Thoughtful, deep engagement with history gives us a chance to think more critically about our past and to learn from mistakes that were undoubtedly made.

• Co-creating classroom norms and rules: Teachers are encouraged to set up their classrooms such that student voices are heard and honored. For instance, at the beginning of the year, many teachers engage students in generating lists of the types of behaviors that help them learn best. Students often share what works well for them and how they can commit to positively contributing to the classroom community. These are then used to foster pro-learning community norms.

• Holding morning meetings: These are used in the younger grades to create opportunities for young children to practice skills like turn-taking, having conversations, and asking and answering questions. In some grades, this structure is also used to discuss challenges the class may later experience. Students are invited to share concerns, and then as a community, the students and teacher work to solve the problem. This develops important conflict resolution skills key to a democratic society.

You may be thinking, “Yes, but you’ve obviously cherry-picked these examples.” I have, for example, skipped a topic many consider to be at the forefront of what is “wrong with” schools — the emphasis on the rights of LGBTQ students. As a former Anoka-Hennepin teacher and current parent of students in the district, I can assure you that the schools are not teaching or encouraging your students to “be gay” or to engage in sexual behaviors. Instead, Anoka-Hennepin teachers are choosing to support all of their students, regardless of religion, gender or sexuality.

Supporting all students requires, at literally the most basic level, that teachers acknowledge the presence of LGBTQ students and meet their needs. The reality is that when the LBGTQ community was not addressed, Anoka-Hennepin’s LGBTQ students faced extreme harm, sometimes resulting in truly tragic deaths. A school district’s job is to ensure the safety of its students. Teaching tolerance and acceptance of all students, regardless of beliefs, is not only morally right, but legally required.

If this type of “DEI” or “SEL” learning goes against your values as Audette proclaims, I would urge you to examine your core beliefs. I am unaware of a moral or faith system that doesn’t advocate for justice, fairness, reflectiveness and love. These values are at the core of both DEI and SEL. I encourage you to spend time in your children’s classrooms. See how DEI and SEL actually play out in a real context and not just in the imaginations and hardened hearts of the fearful on Facebook.

Get involved, then let your school board members know that you don’t appreciate their divisiveness and half-truths. We need thoughtful, open-minded school board members who take opportunities to learn and to better our district, not those who hold the district budget — which funds everything from teacher salaries and classroom supplies to building maintenance — in limbo over their extreme, unfounded, radical proclamations. Especially when they, of all people, have every opportunity to know and therefore do better.

Abbey Payeur is a professor, an alumna of the Anoka-Hennepin district and a mom of three kids in district.

LETTER: Vote against the growing ‘conservative influence on school district agendas’


August 27, 2023

To the editor:

As a former public school teacher and long-time volunteer political activist in Anoka County, nothing scares me more right now than the growing conservative influence on school district agendas and in school board elections, especially in Anoka-Hennepin District 11.

Anoka-Hennepin has School Board elections this fall, in Districts 1, 2 and 5. While Erin Heers-McArdle, who has been an invaluable board member standing up for the rights of disabled students, seeks re-election in the Anoka area district, two of her fellow board members, from Blaine and the Brooklyn Park-Brooklyn Center areas, are retiring this year.

The Anoka-Hennepin Parents Alliance, which has one current Board ally in District 4’s Matt Audette, are showing support on their Facebook page for the three conservative candidates in all three races. (Editor’s note, school board races are officially nonpartisan).

Teachers and parents must be partners in the education of our Anoka-Hennepin students, but teachers are the trained professionals in charge of their classrooms, while parents’ greatest responsibility is to support the teachers and their children at home and in extra-curricular activities. School administrators and specialists are the professional experts in charge of school direction and curricular choices.

I fear a group that sees parents and other residents as having a greater responsibility for our schools than is their traditional role.

We’ve seen and read of school boards taken over by the radical right, attacking the books selected by the professional school personnel, attacking the books in the library, attacking teachers who espouse a “too liberal” curriculum, attacking schools that are open and affirming of their gay, lesbian and transgender students, and attacking the teachers unions that protect their members under state and national labor laws. I’ve witnessed Anoka-Hennepin Board meetings with a constant flow of anti-school, uninformed, hysterical right-wing propaganda from the mouths of area residents and parents.

I will be working this fall to support candidates that will not ban books, will not bring homophobic attitudes, will not embrace the falsehoods of the anti-critical race theory advocates, and will not be on a constant attack of the superb professional administrators and teachers in Anoka-Hennepin School District.

Wes V.
Andover