Care about crime and inflation? Support the candidates who are doing something about it — not just stoking fear and anger
By LARRY BROWN
(Nov. 7, 2022) — Tomorrow’s the big day.
Tuesday is Election Day. That means this week we’ll find out if our government is going to be run by people who care about quality public services and prioritize working families and good jobs — or if we drift toward fascism by electing people who want to take away our freedoms, dismantle our social safety nets and undermine democracy.
If that sounds dramatic and alarming, I get it. Every election we hear candidates claim that horrible things will happen if their opponent is elected. In fact, I’d wager that most people have become numb to such talk and no longer believe there will be dramatic consequences, regardless of who “wins.”
That’s why I wanted to write this column. I don’t want to scare anybody. I just want you to look around. Look at the facts. Ignore the horrible TV ads and the political rhetoric. Think about what’s right for you and your family, and vote in your best interests. Because this election will absolutely have consequences.
Like hundreds of other union members, I’ve volunteered in recent weeks for the Washington State Labor Council’s Labor Neighbor walks to knock on fellow union members’ doors and urge them to support labor-endorsed candidates. Among many of the folks I’ve spoken to, the issues of crime and inflation seem to resonate most. That’s understandable. After all, what directly affects you more than your ability to afford basic necessities and the perception that your family’s safety is threatened?
But if you feel that way, will you vote for the candidates who are simply stoking fear about crime and inflation, and trying to benefit from it to get elected? Or will you vote for the candidates who are actually doing something about it?
As an Auburn city councilman, I know that the 2021 passage of the American Rescue Act absolutely made my family more safe. Our city got $14 million so we could avoid the layoffs of police officers and first responders in our community. In fact, we were able to hire more. In addition to funding federal vaccine efforts, helping safely reopen schools, and providing direct economic relief to families throughout this country ($1,400 per adult and $2,000 to $3,600 per child), that legislation helped cities like ours avoid dramatic cuts in essential public services that keep our families safe and healthy. In fact, the American Rescue Act included $350 billion that state and local governments could use to hire more public safety officers.
Every Republican in Congress voted against the American Rescue Act. Every single one. They called it an unnecessary “bailout.” They called efforts to avoid laying off public service workers, including police and first responders, “excessive government spending.” And now they claim it was the Democrats who want to “defund the police.”
Republicans are also desperately trying to convince you that the American Rescue Plan caused the inflation we are all struggling with. If you believe that, why are inflation rates higher in so many other countries, particularly in Europe, Asia, and South America? Is that the Democrats’ fault, too? Or could it be that other global forces are responsible?
What’s really caused inflation is a pandemic that disrupted international supply chains, a Russian war against Ukraine, and the biggest cause of all, corporations that exploited these crises and boosted their profits to the highest level in 70 years. Higher corporate profits alone are estimated to be responsible for more than half of price growth our families have experienced.
Most households are now spending more than $5,000 a year on gasoline alone, up about $2,200 from the year before. Why? Because oil companies seized on the pandemic and the war in Ukraine as an excuse to dramatically raise prices. It wasn’t just to cover higher costs. They are making record profits: tens of billions of dollars per company in just the last three months.
If you blame any politician for that, it should be the ones who ignore that reality and are happy to let oil companies rob you blind with no consequences. And guess what? The only elected officials in Washington, D.C. who are even talking about this are President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats. They are demanding that oil companies end their “war profiteering” and proposing to hold them accountable by imposing a tax on Big Oil’s windfall profits to provide consumer relief.
What have Republicans in Congress proposed to address oil company price gouging? Absolutely nothing. In fact, Republicans want to expand and make permanent the Trump-era corporate tax cuts that will further enrich these oil companies and other corporations already experiencing record profits.
Congressional Democrats also passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which will invest in domestic energy production and manufacturing to shorten supply chains, lower health care premiums under the Affordable Care Act, and allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices (among other things), all while reducing the federal deficit.
The Republicans voted against that, too.
Yes, Republicans are also openly talking about cutting Social Security and Medicare, passing a nationwide ban or abortions, imposing new voting restrictions, and launching investigations on everything from Hunter Biden’s laptop to the FBI instigating the Jan. 6 attack. This destructive nonsense is motivating a lot of people to get out and vote for candidates who’ll oppose them.
But for others, I totally understand why those threats — though absolutely real — seem far-fetched or not likely to happen. We’ve heard politicians tell us many times before that the sky will fall if we don’t vote for them, but Social Security checks still arrive (for now), we can still vote by mail (for now), women can still make their own healthcare choices, at least in Washington, (for now), etc.
What some can see right now with their own eyes are unsafe neighborhoods that didn’t used to be that way, and crazy gas and food prices that didn’t used to be that high. We are angry that government leaders haven’t fixed these things, so we’re tempted to vote for people who stoke that anger. In the end, it’s my hope that union members and their families will vote based on their families’ true best interests, and not be manipulated into voting against those interests by anger and fear — funded by the wealthy and powerful.
So, please, ignore the ads. Ignore the rhetoric. Ask yourself what candidates will actually do to fix things you care about. Will they fund public safety and health to protect our families, or will they consider that wasteful government spending? Will they try to hold corporations accountable for fleecing us, or will they ignore that completely and continue to give corporations more tax cuts?
You decide. Please vote by tomorrow. It’s not too late. Find out how here.
Larry Brown is President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.