Duluth News Tribune - Rebuild the Middle Class to Achieve the American Dream

Op-Ed

By Rick Nolan

The simple truth is the American Dream is slipping away from many in today's economy. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is getting crushed. It's about time we start rebuilding the middle class.

The fact is earlier generations could show up at the local factory and find a good-paying job, stay for 40 years, then spend their retirement years comfortably. Or you could labor for a summer, pay off a year's college tuition and get a job in one of the professions. I'm fond of saying if you were in the middle class and you wanted to fail, you had to have a plan.

The fact is the same is not true today. Unfair tax incentives have encouraged corporations to move their manufacturing and headquarters overseas, taking about 1 million living-wage jobs with them. So-called "free trade" agreements like NAFTA and the ongoing TPP negotiations have hurt our economy dearly. And with higher education becoming unaffordable for many, today a Minnesota college student can expect to graduate owing an average of $30,000.

I'm proud to say that when I was elected to Congress in 2012, I went to Washington and got things done: protecting our Mississippi watershed and the Great Lakes from the threat of invasive species, prohibiting future raids on the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, passing a law that relieves small airplane manufacturers like Cirrus in Duluth from unnecessary burdensome regulations, passing an amendment to the Defense appropriations bill that cuts up to $89 billion from nation-building overseas, among those things.

For our students, I'm working with Congressman Joe Kennedy to allow the refinancing of student loans at lower rates, just like corporations do. I support provisions in the Affordable Care Act that guarantee coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and that allow young adults to stay on their parents' plans until they're 26. Because of the ACA, 3,900 more young people in the 8th District are insured.

For our seniors, I've stood up to protect Social Security and Medicare, protesting the administration's proposed changes to how benefits are calculated. I always will defend seniors from my opponent's plans to privatize these two vital programs.

For women, I voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which requires employers pay female employees equal wages for equal work. Fifty-one years after the Equal Pay Act was enacted, women still make only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

And for every worker, I've fought to raise the national minimum wage. People shouldn't have to work two to three jobs just to make a living.

Furthermore, I've worked on reforming our tax policies to reward the middle class for working hard and to make the millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share. History shows that trickle-down economics, with its tax breaks for the super-wealthy, doesn't work. The best way to grow the economy and create opportunities is from the bottom up and the middle out.

We've got to make sure our trade policies keep good-paying American jobs here. It's unfair to ask our businesses and workers to compete with countries that don't have the same high standards as we do for wages, benefits, the environment, health and safety.

And above all, we've got to end the wars of choice and nation-building abroad. It's costing us blood and trillions in the treasury; we need that money for deficit reduction and to reinvest in America.

The American Dream isn't about accumulating as much wealth as possible. It's simply about having a secure, good-paying job with benefits and enough money left in your pocket at the end of the week for a little recreation or a dinner out with your spouse and family.

By raising the minimum wage, reordering our priorities, making our tax and trade policies more fair and keeping higher education affordable, we can make that great American Dream possible again for everyone. Send me back to Washington, and I'll keep fighting for that dream.


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