Early last October I had a friend over to talk and during our conversation I told her that I was contemplating challenging Ron Kind for his seat in the US Congress. Without hesitation, she looked at me and said, “That’s crazy,” and quickly added “why in the world would you want to run for congress?” I responded that when I began teaching at Eau Claire Memorial in 1997 I was told that I was on the “wealthy” side of town and the school population qualifying for free and reduced lunches was 7%. When I retired in June of 2014, it was 25% and statewide it has grown to near 50%. Is this going to be the legacy of my generation? What happened?
What happened is the ever expanding belly of the monster known as poverty is standing on its four legs of bad trade agreements, low wages, expensive health care and debt. Eighteen-year incumbent Mr. Kind votes to keep feeding it and I want that monster on a diet.
The largest cities in the 3rd Congressional District are Stevens Point, Eau Claire and La Crosse. All three school districts now average 40% free and reduced, with some elementary schools over 80% and the trend is getting worse. No single policy can be said to have caused such an increase, but we have been promised prosperity from tax cuts and free trade agreements and that prosperity has not materialized for most people. Wall Street and the political establishment have betrayed American workers for too long. Jobs are gone and wages are down. For over 20 years trade agreements like NAFTA have sent American manufacturing jobs overseas. The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is the largest free trade agreement in history and will accelerate this trend. My opponent was a key player in the effort to give our president fast-track authority to negotiate the TPP, expediting the process, and undermining congressional oversight. I’ll oppose trade agreements that outsource jobs and hurt American workers and their families. You have heard that “Freedom isn’t Free,” well Free Trade is not “Free” either; the costs are being paid by the poor and working class all across America.
It seems clear that if many families can’t afford to pay full price for a hot lunch, wages are an issue. No one working full time should be living in poverty. However, a recent report from the Social Security Administration showed that over half of American workers earn less than $30,000 annually. A disproportionate percentage of those workers are women and people of color. It’s time to raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour and pay equity for women is long overdue. Adjusted for inflation, $15 an hour is equal to the minimum wage paid in 1968. The New Democrat Coalition, of which my opponent is the chair, has called minimum wage a “niche” issue. It may be “niche” to the wealthy, but it isn’t to the poor or many in the working class.
During my life I have always been fortunate to have adequate health insurance with no concerns about the cost if anyone I loved needed care. With over twenty million people uninsured in our great country I cringe every time I hear about a family needing a fund raiser to pay for care. I believe that health care is a human right and it shouldn’t be the number one reason for bankruptcy. While the Affordable Care Act is an improvement, it leaves too many uninsured and under insured. I support Senator Bernie Sanders’s plan for a single payer, Medicare for All system which raises the standard of living for millions, covers everyone and contains costs.
I also ponder what life would have been like had I left college under a mountain of debt. When half of all Americans earn less than $30,000, paying for college is out of the question. Many working class students who attend college are bound to leave school with an average of $35,000 in loan debt incredibly having a mortgage with no house. We paid for college after WWII when we put eight million returning soldiers in school helping to create the largest middle class in history. We can and should do it again. The monster of poverty has a tail and that is our addiction to empire and war. My opponent voted for the worst foreign policy decision in US History when he, in opposition to the 23 heroes in the Senate and 133 in the House, allowed George Bush to go to war in Iraq. The instability of that terrible decision continues today in the worst refugee crisis since WWII. Ignoring the words on the Statue of Liberty, Mr. Kind voted to block refugees fleeing the crisis that his 2002 vote helped cause. If bombing creates peace, one would think it would have broken out by now. Lastly, we should be demonstrating to the young that we are serious about their futures by aggressively promoting clean, green energy on the scale of what it took to build the interstate highway system. Let’s put solar panels on every unshaded, south-facing roofline in the country. The manufacturing, installation and maintenance jobs that will be needed will move us towards full employment with good paying jobs and stop the growth of the poverty monster. Cheap energy post-WWII helped build the middle class. We have the opportunity to do it again, cleanly, with the added benefit of saving the planet. Our young are being left a legacy of growing poverty and debt. I am answering the call to join a political revolution to better the lives of the poor and working class. That is why I am running my friend. Myron Buchholz Candidate for the US House, WI-03 Eau Claire, WI