Have Tacos With the Shawano Dems
Wed., May 15th
Shawano Civic Center
$10 meal with drinks and dessert
7:00 Dems’ Meeting
Speakers: Lee Snodgrass, candidate for the 2nd Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of WI
Jake Fenzl, Regional Organizing Director for NE WI
Below are the op-eds that were printed for April and May.
IT’S MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER TO PROTECT THE EARTH
“Earth Day. Let’s never call it a day”
This was the slogan on the 25th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22nd in 1995. International alliances brought 184 countries around the world to observe Earth Day in 2000.
Gaylord Nelson was a leading figure in the fight against environmental degradation in the twentieth century. In Wisconsin he became known at the “Conservation Governor.” He 1962 he took his fight for conservation to the US Senate. Through his efforts the first Earth Day was held on April, 22, 1970. It started out as a teach-in for schools across the country and continues to inspire individuals to do something to preserve our environment ever since.
During the “Environmental Decade” some of the most important environmental protection legislation of our time was passed. The Clean Water Acts, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, The Federal Pesticides Act, The Clean Air Act, the Environmental Education Act, The National Hiking Trails and the National Scenic Trails Acts were all a part of the legislative reforms which were enacted due to Nelson’s initiatives.
Contrast this progressive governor with Wisconsin’s ex-governor who slashed environmental standards during the past 8 years. Passed was pro-polluter legislation, the weakening of the inspections of Big Ag, the trashing of the DNR staff, and the firing of science experts.
There was no shortage of companies thinking they could make a profit by using Wisconsin’s water and natural resources. But were the long-term consequences of these efforts worth the short-term economic gains?
Our clean drinking water is the most precious of our natural resources but Wisconsin has developed a drinking water crisis.
High Capacity wells on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) are pumping vast quantities of water into very small areas. The almost 300 dairy CAFO’s have put massive amounts of animal waste on the surrounding cropland as fertilizer. This animal waste is seeping into ground water causing contamination.
Sulfide mining companies, such as the Back Forty Mine on the banks of the Menominee River, can also pollute our water. The bar was lowered in 2017 when the law was repealed which required companies to prove they would not be harming the environment.
In addition, if the Foxconn deal is not scaled back, the company will be able to pump up to 7 million gallons of water per day, returning only 4 million back to Lake Michigan daily. There is also the possibility water surrounding the facility could be polluted if harsh chemicals are used in the manufacturing process.
The next time a big company or industry asks Wisconsin to roll back water protections for their profits, we need to ask how this decision might harm our environment. In an effort to protect our most precious resource, Governor Evers has committed to making 2019 the “year of clean drinking water” in Wisconsin. His budget also includes funding for activities such as staffing and cost-sharing for county land conservation and studying state forestry practices.
We need to make the right choices today. Our children and grandchildren’s health and prosperity depend on it. We should be making every day “Earth Day”.
GOVERNMENT SHOULD WORK FOR THE PEOPLE
President Abraham Lincoln believed that democracy is a form of government that is “by the people, of the people and for the people.” In a democracy the government administers programs that are for the public good.
Presently there are ideas being presented by some Democratic presidential candidates and members of Congress which have the interests of the majority of Americans in mind. These progressive programs have been identified by the term democratic socialism.
Throughout our history there have been presidents who have truly cared for the people. These progressives strove for an America where people cared about each other, not just themselves, and acted with strength and effectiveness to help each other.
Each generation has the opportunity to make its mark on advancing the common good. From 1901-1921 “The Progressive Era” brought about needed reforms. Three presidents–Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson–had administrations which saw intense social and political change.
In this age when big business seemed all-powerful, the United States appeared to be abandoning its promise of freedom and opportunity for all. These presidents felt that problems could best be solved by making the government play a stronger role in promoting democracy and solving national problems.
Teddy Roosevelt believed that workers and consumers were not receiving fair and honest treatment. His program of reform, which became known as the “Square Deal”, focused on regulating big business and protecting the common man.
Corporations were becoming too large for President Taft. He fought to limit the power of big corporations with “trustbusting” legislation.
President Wilson pushed through other progressive reforms to give a greater voice to the average citizen. He also thought there was too much corporate influence. He wanted to reduce the corruption in the federal government. Among his most notable achievements were laws on banking and tariff reform and the creation of the Federal Trade Commission.
Children in the early 1900’s were put to work. Under Taft, the Department of Labor established the Children’s Bureau to “investigate and report upon all matters pertaining to the welfare of children.” Wilson went further to push for a ban on child labor. In 1916, he signed the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act, which prohibited companies involved in interstate commerce from hiring workers under 14 years of age.
Workers at that time could be required to work long hours. Companies had resisted unions’ demands to shorten the work-day hours. Under Taft, the eight-hour day became to rule for government employees.
During the Great Depression of the 1930’s poverty rates among senior citizens exceeded 50 percent Another progressive, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, signed the Social Security Act in 1935. The Act was an attempt to limit the dangers of old age, poverty, unemployment, and the burdens of widows and fatherless children.
Workers continue to make contributions to a “trust fund” from their paychecks to pay for their retirement and other benefits they’ll need in the future. Since the 1930’s provisions of Social Security have changed based on concerns for those with disabilities and changing gender roles.
In 1965 it was virtually impossible for those over 65 years of age to get health insurance coverage. About one-half of America’s seniors did not have hospital insurance. One in four elderly were estimated to go without medical care due to cost concerns. .Medicare was created under President Lyndon Johnson. This popular program has helped improve the health and longevity of older Americans ever since.
All these progressive achievements were brought about because of a need for change. A liberal attitude toward anything means more openness to change. Government action can bring about equal opportunity and equality for all. Its obligation is to solve problems that are affecting it citizens.
Problems cannot be solved if we do nothing. Conservatives have opposed many of the reforms of the past. Social Security was controversial when originally proposed because it was thought it would reduce the labor force and bordered on socialism. When Medicare was first introduced it was framed as “socialized medicine”.
The struggle to maintain Social Security and Medicare for the American people continues. President Trump’s budget outlines massive cuts. However, these programs are sustainable for at least 20 years if the present level of funding continues.
To the conservative mind, socialism may be thought of as a society in which no one is held accountable, and no one has to work for what they receive. But these social programs are only sustainable because of free markets and capitalism. Businesses are owed by the private sector but they are only profitable if there are workers employed to make the products.
Today there continues to be monumental problems that need solutions. As in the early 1900’s we again have the domination of large corporations. The wage gap has widened and many working individuals are having a hard time making ends meet. Many are without health insurance. In addition, our planet is undergoing undesirable changes because of climate change.
When the government in a democracy steps in to administer programs that improve the life of its citizens, it could be called democratic socialism. Paying workers $15 an hour, Medicare for All and the Green New Deal have all been proposed as solutions to current problems.
Government can be helpful in bringing about change for the common good. Our democracy must continue to be by the people, of the people and for the people.