Counterpoint from Keith Ellison: Minnesota values deserve our support

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Via Star Tribune:

MINNEAPOLIS - Some folks say they aren’t into politics. Well, politics is in everything we do.

Making sure we expand economic opportunity, invest in our infrastructure or restore our environment — that’s all decided by politics. I’m running for re-election to move us forward on the values Minnesotans share — that a full day’s work should not land you in poverty; that getting a college degree should not lead to a lifetime of debt; that the voices of the many, not the money, should govern our democracy.

And make no mistake, there are clear choices in this election (“Fifth District deserves a new representative,” Oct. 25).

Take the minimum wage. Economic opportunity is the defining issue of our time. U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone said it best: “We all do better when we all do better.” When working families have more money in their pockets to spend in our communities, Minnesotans and the economy win.

I was proud to work with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which I co-chair, to take up the fight for better pay alongside 2 million federal contract employees who earn poverty wages. We asked President Obama to raise their wages. He did, signing an executive order that will help thousands of families buy groceries and pay their bills.

I was also proud to stand with Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature when they raised the state minimum wage. U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and I pushed Congress to follow Minnesota’s lead, but Republicans voted eight times to block an increase in the federal minimum wage.

Or how about college affordability? Student loans should be a pathway to opportunity, not to years of crushing debt. Too many young people struggle under the weight of unaffordable loans, which hurts the economy by limiting their ability to buy a home or a car. States must keep public colleges affordable, and I am proud of the steps that Dayton and the Legislature took to freeze tuition for two years. I also support a bill introduced by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Al Franken that would allow student borrowers to refinance their loans at current low rates. But when that bill came before the Senate, all but three Republicans voted against it.

Or finally, take the right to vote. Minnesotans vote at the highest rate in the country, and our election system is a national model. In fact, I’m so proud of Minnesota elections, I’ve introduced legislation to take our same-day registration system to the rest of the country. But make no mistake, our democracy is under threat. With decisions like Citizens United, corporate money has flooded our elections. We’ve also seen Republican efforts across the country to limit access to the ballot box, like the voter restriction amendment that Minnesotans defeated two years ago.

We need to make it easier to vote, not harder. We should expand early voting nationwide, like Minnesota state Rep. Steve Simon did when he made no-excuse absentee voting available for the first time this year. We must also once and for all say that voting is a right, not a privilege, which is why I introduced an amendment to establish an explicit right to vote in the Constitution.

But even with Minnesota’s model election system, fewer people show up when a president is not at the top of the ticket. We can’t let that happen this year. Too much is at stake.

Minnesotans know that expanding economic opportunity takes investment — investment in our workers in the form of good-paying jobs, investment in our families in areas like all-day kindergarten and investment in our young people with an affordable college education.

We oppose efforts to maintain poverty wages, to make it harder to exercise our fundamental right to vote or to put partisan politics ahead of our economy by shutting down the government at a cost of 120,000 jobs.

On Tuesday, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Minnesotans have a clear choice.

Let’s go vote.”

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