A recent commentary published in the Star Tribune (Taxes and the legislative session: Stop attacking large Minnesota employers, May 2, 2019) claimed that DFL legislators have vilified large corporations in Minnesota by raising questions about tax loopholes and tax fairness.
The basis of this commentary—the idea that what’s good for big corporations is good for people—has driven governing decisions for decades. As mothers, community leaders, and Indigenous women and women of color in elected office, we believe we are overdue for a new approach to tax policy.
We have to end the lie of trickle-down economics and hold highly profitable corporations accountable to paying their fair share in taxes. Working people, women, and people of color can’t afford to wait as we perpetuate tax policy that has led to the greatest wealth and income inequality in generations. It hurts all of us.
This flawed conservative ideology has allowed politicians to pass trillion dollar tax cuts for billionaires, like President Trump’s 2017 tax bill, while sending the message that there is not enough. Meanwhile wages stagnate, homelessness increases, schools fall farther behind, and many students are focused on finding food to eat and a place to rest their head at night.
The same ideology has been used at our State Capitol this session to push statewide legislation that would strip power from local government, and block $15 wages and paid sick time from working people in our cities.
What if, instead of accepting the trickle-down economic theory, we governed from Indigenous principles that emphasize respect, compassion, and wisdom. What if we approached our budgets under the premise that we are responsible for each other’s well-being and our environment? What if we replaced austerity with the notion that we live in a state that is resourceful and abundant? What if we replaced fear and political divisions with a deeper sense of community and interdependency?
As budget negotiations at the Legislature ramp up, we call on our fellow elected officials to make a choice about the world we want to live in - one that makes things easier for the people at the top, or one that takes care of the families and working people across our state who are struggling to make ends meet.
Our state budget is an opportunity for us to begin what Rev. Dr. William Barber calls a moral revolution - a call back to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1960s Poor People’s Campaign. The wisdom of that campaign is that poverty isn’t rooted in personal failure, but in structural inequity. The tremendous divide between those at the bottom and those at the top is a reflection of the fact that the wealthiest individuals and large corporations for too long have had their interests protected in policy-making.
The antidote to this is reflected in Anishinaabe values that say that as community leaders, we do not belong in the mountains looking at those at the top. Rather, we belong at the center with the people, so we can hear their needs.
The House DFL budget moves us closer to a more just state. It makes historic investments in public schools, affordable health care, safe communities, and tax credits for working families. All of this is possible because it challenges corporate influence in policy-making. It increases taxes on capital gains, brings back money that corporations are stashing in overseas tax shelters, and insists that the wealthiest Minnesotans pay their fair share.
As elected officials, we’re confident that we can work together to provide meaningful tax reform to benefit those who have waited too long for wealth to eventually trickle-down on them. Our constituents tell us that the Minnesota they want to live in is a state that takes care of all it’s residents. And we are building that state, together.