This is a long article on the issues involved in raising the minimum wage. I prepared it last year for the Advocacy Committee of the City Club of Portland, following up the City Club's endorsement of raising the Oregon minimum wage. Subsequently, the Legislature did adopt a plan to significantly increase the minimum wage over a period of years. The minimum wage remains a national issue and a key element of the progressive movement. Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
The City Club of Portland Report On Raising the Minimum Wage
Portland Needs a Higher Minimum Wage
The Minimum Wage Pre-Emption Statute should be repealed to give local
jurisdictions the option of having a minimum wage higher than the state’s
The City Club of Portland Board of Governors created the Minimum Wage Research
Committee in 2015 and charged it with answering two questions:
- Should individual Oregon municipalities be allowed to set a minimum wage rate
higher than the state-set minimum?
- Should Portland specifically set a higher minimum wage than the state-set rate?
The committee of nine individuals began its work in April, 2015 and met every week
for five months, hearing testimony from every side of the minimum wage debate,
including business interests, politicians, economists, activists, employers and interest
group representatives. The committee also examined a large body of research targeted at
the public and academics alike. The unfolding political story of the minimum wage in
other cities also was followed.
The committee’s report was completed in November and it concluded that the answer
to both questions put to it by the Board of Governors was “Yes.”
The membership of the City Club approved the report and its recommendations by a
Questions and Answers About the Minimum Wage
Q: What is the origin of the idea of a minimum wage?
A: Probably the first economist to write about a minimum wage was Adam Smith in
1776 when he wrote in his enormously influential classic, The Wealth of Nations: “A man
must always live by his work, and his wages must at least be sufficient to maintain him.
They must even upon most occasions be somewhat more; otherwise it would be
impossible for him to bring up a family.”
The labor movement began pressing for established minimum wages in the late
1800s.. To reduce labor strife, New Zealand in 1894, Australia in 1896 and the United
Kingdom in 1909, established boards to set minimum wages in industries. When former
President Theodore Roosevelt ran as the Progressive Party Presidential candidate in 1912, the party platform contained a demand for a "living wage." In speaking to that party's
convention, Roosevelt said:
“We stand for a living wage. Wages are subnormal if they fail to provide a
living for those who devote their time and energy to industrial occupations. The
monetary equivalent of a living wage varies according to local conditions, but
must include enough to secure the elements of a normal standard of living--a
standard high enough to make morality possible, to provide for education and
recreation, to care for immature members of the family, to maintain the family
during periods of sickness, and to permit of reasonable saving for old age.”
In the 1920s and early 1930s, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively prevented a national
minimum wage by ruling unconstitutional minimum wage laws of some states as
violations of the right of contract. The Fair Labor Standards Act, enacted in 1938
established a national minimum wage of 25 cents/hour ($4.14/hour in 2015 dollars) and
a work week maximum of 44 hours. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the Act in
1941 and there have no effective legal challenges to the minimum wage since then.
There have been 22 increases in the minimum wage in the 77 years since it was
enacted. Its peak value in 2015 dollars was in 1968 when its $1.60 would be worth more
than $11.00 today. Because it never was indexed to inflation it has lost value since then.
Q: Why is the minimum wage receiving so much attention now? It has not been this
controversial in many years.
A: Issues involving the minimum wage have been debated since the late 1800s and
many of the arguments pro and con have changed very little. However, the American
economy has changed enormously. Manufacturing employment has declined
dramatically since the 1970s and today more low-wage jobs are being created than middle
or high wage jobs. This has helped to generate the worst economic inequality in our
history. (Low wage jobs are defined by the Labor Department as jobs that pay less than
two-thirds of the national median hourly wage of $17.00, or less than $12.00/hour).
Low-wage workers today comprise more than 30% of the workforce, (25% in
Portland) the highest percentage of low wage workers of any developed nation. In fact,
the median hourly wage of $17.00 has declined slightly over the past ten years. More than
50% of all hourly workers today are making less than what is considered a "living wage."
A substantial increase in the minimum wage also would push up the wages of the tens of
millions of low wage workers.
The financial crisis of 2008 and the resulting Great Recession sparked renewed focus
on the national minimum wage, which has been $7.25 since 2009. With many more
people trying to support themselves - and their families - on minimum or low-wage
incomes, pressure has been growing to make the minimum wage a "living wage,"
sufficient to provide basic support. And as shown above, when progressives like Theodore
Roosevelt promoted the idea of a minimum wage early in the 20th Century, their concept
of it was as a "living wage," capable of supporting a family.
Because the minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation, or productivity, today it
provides less than half of what is considered a very basic "living wage." If it had kept pace
with inflation it would be 50% higher than it is today. If it had kept pace with productivity
growth it would be more than $18/hour today.
Support for increasing the minimum wage has been growing among the general
population but efforts to raise it have stalled in Congress. As a result, campaigns pushing
higher minimum wages increasingly have been focused on states and on major cities,
especially those with high costs of living. Since 1996, 18 of 20 ballot initiatives to increase
the minimum wage have been successful in 16 states, including Oregon. Today, 29 states
and the District of Columbia, comprising about 61 percent of the population, have
minimum wages higher than the national minimum.
Oregon’s minimum wage of $9.25 currently is ninth highest, behind $9.47 in
Washington, $9.60 in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont, $9.75 in Alaska, $10.00
in Massachusetts and California and, in July, 2016, $11.50 in the District of Columbia.
Minnesota will have a $9.50 minimum wage for large employers in August, 2016.
Higher minimum wages are in the process of being implemented in a number of other
states and cities, including $15.00 minimum wages being phased in over several years in
Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Two potential 2016 ballot initiatives are
underway in Oregon, one that would set the minimum wage at $15.00, the other at
$13.50, with local option to go to $15.00. The City of Portland and Multnomah County
have adopted a $15.00 minimum wage for their employees.
There also have been industry-specific efforts by unions, especially in the fast-food
industry, promoting the $15.00 minimum wage as a “living wage” because so many low-
wage and minimum wage workers are older than they used to be and are trying to support
Q: What is the origin of Oregon’s current minimum wage?
A: In 2002 Oregon voters approved Measure 25, which raised the state minimum
wage to $6.90 and, unlike the national minimum wage, set it adjust annually based on
the Consumer Price Index.
Q: Why are local municipalities currently unable to have minimum wages higher than
the state’s minimum?
A: The Legislature approved a law in 2001 that prohibits localities from setting their
own minimum wages different from the state minimum. This is known as “pre-emption.”
Fifteen other states have similar laws.
Q: Why should there be different minimum wages in different parts of the state?
A: The cost of living in Oregon varies greatly across the state. The Center for Women’s
Welfare at the University of Washington School of Social Work has developed "The Self-
Sufficiency Standard," a compilation of the various costs of achieving very basic self-
sufficiency without any public support. Self-sufficiency standards have been computed
for 37 states, including Oregon. A self-sufficiency standard was developed for every
county in Oregon in 2014. The highest cost counties are those around the Portland area
and the lowest cost counties are in the rural areas of the state. The hourly wage to support
one adult and two children in Portland is $28.42 compared to $17.85 in Medford.
Costs of living also are increasing in considerably different percentages. The cost of
self-sufficiency in Multnomah County has increased by 68% since 2008 but only by 10%
or less in 11 mostly rural counties. And the self-sufficiency standard was computed prior
to the recent significant increases in housing costs in the Portland area.
There are other methods of computing the differences in cost of living but all models
agree that in Oregon the cost of living is significantly higher in Portland than in rural
areas and the state average. Most models place the cost of living in Portland at 50-80
percent higher than in rural parts of the state. Due to this variation, Oregon needs a
system that allows the minimum wage to vary by city and by region.
Q: Won't it be difficult and confusing to have different minimum wages in different
parts of the state and expensive to manage?
A: There are many places in the country where different minimum wages exist side
by side with no significant problems. For example, in the Washington DC metropolitan
area, which includes the District of Columbia and portions of Virginia, Maryland and
West Virginia, with a population greater than all of Oregon's, there are four different
minimum wages, ranging from a low of $7.25 in Virginia to a high of $11.50 in the District
of Columbia. In New England, six adjacent states have six different minimum wages,
ranging from a low of $7.25 in New Hampshire to $11.00 (in 2017) in Massachusetts.
There are 12 cities in California with minimum wages higher than the state's minimum
wage of $10.00, ten of them in the Bay area, ranging from $10.30 currently to $15.00
being phased in over a period of years.
We found no evidence that local governments will necessarily respond with an
unwieldy patchwork of divergent policies. We also found no evidence to support the
claims that eliminating preemption would create a significant administrative cost burden.
It is possible that eliminating preemption could lead to competing efforts for local
minimum wage initiatives, but local governments already face strong incentives to
coordinate minimum wage policy and avoid widespread variation that preemption
Q: Why couldn't the state government manage a structure of different regional
A: Creating a state-generated minimum wage policy that accommodates more than
one minimum wage for different regions would be very difficult. This does not mean that
state management of two or more minimum wage schedules is impossible. In theory, the
state could assign a unique minimum wage schedule for Portland and other Oregon cities
where the need is most pressing. We recognize that preemption will be difficult to
overturn, and a creative and responsive solution at the state level would be better than
nothing. If the state legislature is willing to consider solutions that respond to the need
for multiple minimum wages, and if preemption is unavoidable, then they should try to
implement the best solution available to them.
However, we think that eliminating preemption altogether is the best solution. In the
long run, important advantages of local policy ownership are lost under preemption.
Professor Paul Diller of Willamette University Law School has argued that preemption
inhibits policy innovation, begging the question: why would it not serve the interests of
minimum wage opponents to demonstrate the effectiveness of lower minimum wages by
applying it in specific places?
Local control would improve the chances of achieving many important minimum
wage policy goals. Local control would provide Oregon with the greatest likelihood of
minimum wages that reflect Oregon’s geographic diversity. Cities have an incentive to
respond to this opportunity with awareness of the behavior of the other cities around
Q: If so many workers are not making living wages, how are they managing to live and
support their families?
A: Millions of people are working more than one job. Some people - maybe more than
a million - work three part-time jobs. Then there are the government assistance programs,
the two most important of which are the foodstamp program (SNAP) and the Earned
Income Tax Credit (EITC). There also are other programs that provide assistance with
housing costs, nutrition, and child care. SNAP and the EITC account for about $150
billion in federal spending. Oregon also has some assistance programs that supplement
the federal ones. Under a number of different scenarios a low income family trying to live
on minimum or low wage incomes may be able to receive enough government aid to meet
their subsistence requirements.
The EITC program has been popular with both political parties because aid only goes
to people who work, and virtually all of it only goes to families with children. About $70
billion is spent on this program, which in simple terms is nothing more than a program
that subsidizes employers whose wages are so low their employees must obtain
government aid to survive. For example, according to a Congressional committee
estimate, employees of the nation's largest corporation, Walmart, a $400 billion company
with profits of more than $15 billion, receive more than $6 billion in government aid to
make up for their very low wages. Much of that subsidy would not be necessary if Walmart
paid living wages to its employees. Is there any logical reason why Walmart should receive
this subsidy? Or that any other corporation should?
The fact is that American taxpayers are subsidizing profitable - in many cases
enormously profitable - businesses that do not pay living wages to their employees. Would
not everyone be better off if living wages were paid and much of the $150 billion in
foodstamps and EITC were spent on rebuilding our infrastructure, providing free, or low-
cost advanced education or training, and helping new businesses and technologies to be
Q: But aren't businesses, such as fast food companies, paying low wages because their
work requires very little skill or education and thus can be done by just about anyone?
A: Just because a job requires little skill does not mean that it does not have value. No
private business employs people it doesn't need. Someone has to flip the hamburgers or
toss the pizzas, or stock the shelves at Walmart. That work generates profits for the
business. It is the value of that work that should determine what it pays and, given the
considerable profits of most of these businesses - and the wealth of their owners - how
can there be any doubt that the workers who generate these profits should be entitled to
wages that provide them a decent living?
Q: Won't increasing the minimum wage cause unemployment as businesses cut jobs
to make up for the higher wages?
A: This is one of the classic questions that has generated substantial research over
many years. The general consensus today - with a vocal minority - is that there is very
little evidence that increasing the minimum wage - if done in reasonable step-ups - causes
unemployment. In fact, some of the most recent empirical evidence - an expansion of
restaurant business in Seattle - is that it may stimulate the economy and increase
employment because workers with more money spend that money and generate increased
Companies do not routinely hire people they don't need. The bigger the company the
more efficient they can be in calculating exactly what they need, and hiring no more than
that. For most of these large corporations, wages are not their major expense. Most of the
studies that have been done of this issue have concluded that increases in the minimum
wage have had little or no effect on employment.
In June, 2014, more than 600 economists signed a letter to the Congressional
leadership supporting an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 and stating:
"In recent years there have been important developments in the academic
literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with
the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have
had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers,
even during times of weakness in the labor market."
There are situations that need consideration for possible exemptions, carve-outs, or
longer phase-in periods.. They include non-profits that may be locked into financing
contracts, as well as small, mom-and-pop family businesses where no one is making a lot
of money and where increasing prices to offset higher wages may be quite difficult,
especially if it had to be done rapidly.
Q: Won't a substantial increase in the minimum wage cause inflation?
A: It may to some extent if there is a substantial increase and if the increase is not
phased in over several years, as most jurisdictions are doing. A major increase in the
minimum wage will have its greatest effect on industries that employ the largest numbers
of minimum wage and low-wage workers, but they may be more able to minimize the
impact of the increased cost.
Excessively low minimums allow employers to keep all wages very low, in an
environment where low-wage workers will receive public assistance. A low minimum
wage is a kind of subsidy to employers of low-income workers and the largest ones are
among the most profitable corporations in the world, hardly needing these subsidies.
For a real world example, consider Walmart, the nation's largest employer. From the
company's Annual Report, its revenues in 2014 were $473 billion, of which $279 billion
was generated by stores in the United States. Operating income was $26.8 billion, of
which 83% was gained from U.S. operations. Its wages, on average, are so low that its
employees received at least $6 billion in government assistance.
Based on information publicly available about Walmart's wage structure, as well as
from its financial reports, raising the minimum wage to as much as $15.00 seems likely
to cause an increase in Walmart's annual wage expense of $15 to $18 billion. With Social
Security and Medicare withholding the total increase may be around $20 billion. The
company's domestic U.S. revenues were $279 billion in 2014. That $20 billion is about
7% of its U.S. revenues. If the increase to $15.00/hour were spread over three years,
Walmart could cover the expense by increasing prices about 2.3% per year. That seems
like a very reasonable price to pay for a living wage for its employees - and for saving $6
billion annually in federal subsidies.
The overall impact of the influx of cash into the economy would more than offset price
increases. By spreading the doubling over several years, employers would have time to
adjust, as would the economy overall.
Q: However, the vast majority of businesses do not have the economic power of
Walmart. To make up for a much higher minimum wage, won't they raise prices in a
highly regressive fashion?
A: Businesses may increase prices but if the minimum wage is phased in, the
increases may be minimal. In most industries prices are set by competition, not by labor
Q: What is the philosophical argument for the minimum wage being a "living
A: Excessively low wages are simply unfair, irrespective of their economic impact.
People who work full-time for a living should not remain in poverty, but rather should
be able to afford the very basic requirements of an ordinary economic life, particularly
Q: What would be the impact on the level of poverty and government revenues
and expenditures if the minimum wage were increased to a "living wage" level?
A: Minor increases in the minimum wage have minor effects. Raising the
minimum wage to a "living wage" level would make a significant contribution to the
reduction of poverty and save substantial government expenditures. $150 billion is
being spent by the federal government on the two major programs, foodstamps and the
Earned Income Tax Credit. If the minimum wage were raised to the level of a "living
wage" a substantial portion of these programs might be eliminated. In addition, the
higher the minimum wage the more workers affected by the increase will be paying in
Social Security, Medicare and income taxes.
Q: But isn't it true that the majority of minimum wage workers live in households
with a surprisingly high median income, and are not typically heads of households?
Instead, aren't they typically first time workers, workers who quickly rise from the
minimum wage after acquiring some on-the-job experience, or workers who are
marginally employable and would otherwise fall out of the labor market entirely?
A: The majority of minimum wage workers are older than 25 and are trying to
support themselves and, in many cases, a family. The pattern has changed from several
generations ago. Now the majority of minimum wage workers are trying to support
themselves and their families, and opportunities to increase their earnings have
Q: Doesn't the minimum wage violate the right of contract? Doesn't it prevent
people from negotiating wages that more closely align with their needs that they best
A: This is the oldest argument against the minimum wage, one that was
prominent before it finally was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 1941 when it ruled
that the public interest outweighed the "liberty of contract." The idea that most workers
can negotiate contracts with most employers simply is absurd. The minimum wage
protects the bargaining power of low-income workers in an economic relationship that
is otherwise dominated by employers. Fewer than 10% of private industry employees are
represented by unions today and half the states have right-to-work laws that have
reduced the influence of unions.
Q: Doesn't the minimum affect only a small percentage of the total workforce?
A: A major increase in the minimum wage will increase the wages of many more
workers than just those at the minimum wage. While only about 3.8 million people (a
little over 100,000 in Oregon) work at the minimum wage, almost one-third of all
workers are being paid at low-wage rates - less than $12.00/hour. The minimum wage
sets a baseline that recalibrates other wages. The effect of the minimum wage is visible
throughout the lower end of the wage spectrum, not just for those who earn the
minimum wage. A 2013 report from the Congressional Budget office estimated that 16.5
million low-wage workers would benefit from a $10.1o/hour wage, including 900,000
who would be lifted out of poverty. A CNN analysis projected that a $10.10 minimum
wage would lift 5 million out of poverty. That probably would not be the case in Portland
where living costs are relatively high - about equal to Seattle's. Based on federal wage
statistics, if the minimum wage were increased to $15/hour at least 40 million workers
would get a raise and for most it would be substantial.
Q: Isn't it possible that a substantial raise in the minimum wage could increase
A: A higher minimum wage can increase employment by stimulating the
economy. Raising the minimum wage means minimum and low-wage wage workers
have more money to spend which means more money ripples throughout the economy.
There is a "multiplier" effect generating greater economic activity, increasing overall
demand, and then businesses expanding to meet the increased demand, including the
hiring of more employees.
Q: Are there benefits to employers who pay living wages?
A: Yes, substantial benefits - reduced turnover and absenteeism, better morale,
and better service. Employees who are making a higher wages feel more comfortable
and satisfied and they are less likely to quit. This means there would be a lower
turnover rate, which results in fewer expenses to hire and train new employees. It also
means better performance on the job, better service to customers and less theft.
Q: Doesn't a minimum wage creates a serious drag on overall performance of the
economy because Employers roll back the number of jobs they would otherwise offer,
and make substitutions in ways that deny access to the workforce and inhibit
A: Businesses do not cut production if they are selling their product. And, as
discussed earlier, there is no substantial evidence that the minimum wage negatively
Q: Isn't the minimum wage is a protectionist policy that unfairly protects the
existing workforce at the expense of newer workers entering the market?
A: No, it sets a level below which no wage should be acceptable.
Q: Won't a significant raise in the minimum wage increase labor costs to the
point that threatens the viability of small businesses?
A: There is no objective evidence that this is the case except for very marginal
businesses in which almost no one is making any money. Then the question is if these
businesses need to pay slave-labor wages - which is what the minimum wage is today -
in order to survive, should they really survive?
Q: Won't some workers now receiving government assistant lose much of that
assistance if there is a substantial increase in the minimum wage and wind up worse off,
financially, victims of what is called the "Benefits Cliff?"
A: This is a reasonable concern and it needs to be taken into account in
calculating how high the minimum wage should be. The higher it is, the less of a
problem this will be.
Q: Don't workers lose valuable training opportunities from entry-level
employment when the minimum wage rises? And are not low wage jobs helpful as
gateways into the workforce, and teach basic skills that are relevant to any job?
A: Most minimum wage jobs are dead-end jobs and do not require much training
or skills, nor do they offer them. By and large minimum wage jobs are not "bootstrap"
jobs. Employers that hire workers for higher skill jobs pay more for those workers even
if they require training.
Q: As the minimum wage rises don't employers face greater incentives to dodge
it, creating a greater challenge to enforcement?
A: The fact that a law may be evaded by some has never been an argument
against its validity. The penalties for violating wage and hours laws are very severe and
very few employers are going to take the risk of being caught. And those who do will get
Q: Doesn't the argument for raising the minimum wage ignore growth in other
kinds of compensation, such as health care, sick leave, incentives, and tip
A: No, because almost none of the those are available to minimum and low-wage
workers, with the exception of tip compensation - and what evidence is there that it is
increasing? Some American restaurants are beginning to follow the French example,
where employees are paid living wages and diners are not asked to tip.
Q: Don't most good businesses recognize the advantages of paying higher wages
without the regulatory burden of a higher minimum wage?
A: Businesses set their wages according to what is competitive in their industry
and generally pay no more than absolutely necessary to obtain the workers they need.
Q: Aren't certain industries disproportionately affected when the minimum wage
is raised, either because of the size of the affected workforce, or because they cannot
respond by raising prices? Examples include non-profit organizations, and companies
with a significant offshore revenue base."
A: Some accommodation will have to be made for certain kinds of businesses and
organizations. That does not mean they should not pay higher minimum wages, just that
how the increase is done, and over what period, may have to be modified for their
Q: Even though the minimum wage may not threaten their viability won't higher
minimum wages affect long-term profitability?
A: American businesses, especially the large ones, have been experiencing record
profits since the Great Recession. A higher minimum wage will generate increased
economic activity. They will sell more of their products and services and make even
I will try to answer two questions: Whyisliberal democracy losing support? And whatcanbedonetothwart the
I have drawn material from three articles
in the March, 2017 issue of Atlantic,
“How to Build an Autocracy.” By David Frum, “It’s Putin’s World,” by Franklin Foer,
and “Containing Trump,” by Jonathan Rauch, “The Signs
of Deconsolidation,” by Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk, in the January,
2017, issue of the Journal of Democracy,
and two articles in the Washington Post,
“Trumpism: Made in Europe,” by E.J. Dionne, May 16, 2016 and “Americans are
losing faith in Democracy – and in each other,” by Nathaniel Persily and Jon
Cohen, October 14, 2016.
Why is democracy losing support? Why is an authoritarian like
Trump our President? Trumpism is an import from the right-wing populists in
Europe. Major factors behind the rise of right-wing populism are opposition to
immigration, fears of terrorism and crime, economic nationalism, and promises
of a muscular hand against the forces of disorder.
Underlying all of these are ethnic and racial fear and anxiety
– the fear of the other – the fear that they are losing their majority and their
culture. – that this will no longer be their country. By blocking immigration
and deporting the undocumented they are trying to slow down the rapidly
increasing population of minorities. In 2012, the Census Bureau forecasted that
non-Hispanic whites could be in the minority by 2044 – just 27 years from now.
Last year the far-right candidate for Austria’s presidency lost
by just 6/10th of 1 %. Austrian voters also showed the same kind of
geographic political, economic and cultural divide as our November election –
with strong support for the authoritarian in the rural areas. The Brookings
Institution reported that while Hillary Clinton carried fewer than 500 of
America’s more than 3,000 counties, those counties she carried – mostly in and
around major urban areas - generated 64% of the nation’s economic activity in
2015. Not only do we have the worst economic inequality among income groups in
our history, we also have enormous geographic economic inequality, which is far
more sinister and enormously more difficult to change.
There is huge economic anxiety among middle and working class
people, especially those outside the major metropolitan areas. Across the Rust
Belt, from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin there are hundreds of small cities and
towns that lost their primary employers. Globalization put our middle-class
workers in competition with very low wage workers in other countries. Our
workers lost. Pro-big business government policies permitted massive mergers
and consolidations, resulting in hundreds of plant and business closings.
Walmart came to town with its low prices killing off local businesses while its
employees needed public support to survive on its low wages.
Surveys discussed in the article, “The Signs of
Deconsolidation,” show that young people around the world have far less faith
in democracy than do their parents and grandparents. There also is a global
rise of citizens wanting a strong leader. About a third of Americans want a
leader who doesn’t have to bother with elections.
In mid-2012 51% of Republicans had a very unfavorable view of Kleptocrat
Putin. That dropped to 14% in 2016. In January of this year a survey reported
that 75% of Republicans said Trump had the right approach to Russia.
Trump does not have the support of a majority of the people but
he has a solid base of support – of millions of people who believe what he
says, regardless of how far from the truth it is. This is a very dangerous
situation. We have as our President – I hope for not too much longer - a sociopathic
narcissistic liar and bully who likes to use his power and has no morals, no
conscience, no belief in democracy.
He has to be stopped.
How can we do that?
Our Resistance must operate on multiple levels. We must
vigorously oppose everything Trump and the Republicans do that threatens the
nation. Without that opposition, millions could lose their health insurance,
massive pollution of lakes and rivers could resume, nothing will be done to
slow climate change, millions will be deported, maybe even the dreamers, and
economic inequality will increase because he is not going to bring back those
jobs. All he is going to do is help the rich get richer. And he may start a big
We must document and publicize the damage he does, challenge his
programs in court, and demonstrate over and over. There already is active and
organized opposition. There are networks of organizations working together to
oppose Trump. We must help to grow that opposition. It may be that some of us
are not suited to demonstrating, but we can publicize the demonstrations
through social media. We can donate money. We can phone bank.
We need to show support for our elected Democrats who oppose
Trump. Write letters to our senators and our members of the House. Letters are
better than emails but you can do both. Call their local offices as well. Tell
them how strongly you oppose Trump and how much you appreciate their
opposition. If you are able to donate money to them, please do so. That makes a
really good impression. Also, write our state public officials to reinforce
their resistance to Trump. There is a lot that can be done.
We also must win over some of those who voted for Obama and
then for Trump. Americans want change but they probably are not going to be
happy with the changes Trump brings. Bashing and opposing Trump, alone, will
not bring us victories. We have to show them that we understand their issues
and are sincere in wanting to address them. To win, we must also offer viable,
practical alternatives that will make a difference in their lives. Those
alternatives are progressive programs and progressive government.
Progressive government means doing for the people what they
need done but cannot do for themselves. We need higher wages and thus we need a
much higher minimum wage. We need national health insurance – Medicare for all.
We need a concentrated attack on climate change and an end to our reliance on
fossil fuels. We need roads and bridges, and high speed trains. We need to end
the war on drugs and legalize marijuana. We need to raise taxes on the wealthy
and reform our corporate tax system. We need to improve Social Security. We
must regulate Wall Street. These are just some of the things that the people
need but cannot do for themselves. Progressives will do them.
Because there is an enormous deficit of historical knowledge
among our population, we must go to them and show them how progressive governments
and programs improved the lives of the vast majority of Americans. It happened three times during the 20th
Century – in the time before WW1, during the Great Depression and during the
1960s. Out of progressive government came food and drug regulation, anti-trust
and pro-labor laws, women getting the right to vote, social security, the minimum
wage, bank regulation, Medicare, Medicaid, integration of public schools and
public facilities, voting rights protection, Headstart, and much more. In fact,
almost every popular federal program came from progressive government.
We can make the Democratic Party the progressive party. We are
doing right now here in Oregon. Since last year, we progressive activists –
many of us veterans of the Bernie Sanders campaign - have taken control of a
number of county parties, and we may be on the verge of taking control of the
state party. It’s happening in other states as well. By so doing here and
across the nation, we can recruit and help elect progressive candidates for
every public office from the local school boards to the national Congress.
Progressives will bring reforms and programs which will begin
to solve the economic and geographic inequalities. If economic anxiety is
lessened, maybe racial and ethnic anxiety also will diminish.
The danger to democracy is real and is growing as more and more
people lose faith in it. Trump could accelerate that loss of faith. Our
successful opposition to Trump may restore it. We must block him and go to the
people with better ideas and better candidates for public office. There is no
time to lose.
David Frum’s article in the Atlantic is a must-read and his
conclusion will be mine:
“We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free
government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens
next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be
your finest hour as a citizen and an American.”