Column: Explaining being a Democrat to students memorable
It was humbling, spending a day teaching eighth–graders at Mile High Middle School about the Democratic Party, (following a Republican’s day). I have to hand it to teachers—explaining the same subject all day is exhausting, even if students are awake or engaged.
Mostly, though, it was a fun and interesting exercise, and one I will remember for a long time. I supplied a slideshow, facts, and opinions when asked, and told my personal story. The students asked some interesting questions. But I feel like I still didn’t have enough time to connect the dots for students so that they really understood the meaning of being a Democrat. I’ve been told in the past that I assume people know what I know and that I need to explain things better. As a writer, I have the luxury of thinking at length about what to say. A teacher has fleeting moments to impart ideas and reach students—that’s why I’m a writer and not a teacher.
So I apologize to the eighth–graders of Mile High Middle School who might not have grasped the full meaning of what I was trying to tell them. I’ll try here.
A lot of you asked about taxes and why Democrats differ from Republicans. It’s hard to explain 60 years of economic policy, but let me summarize it: when Democrats lead a country or a state, everyone does better. It’s a fact that this has happened under every Democratic administration in modern times. The economy becomes stronger, working class people have jobs, they get paid more and even rich people do better. Policies of tax relief and job creation for the middle class benefit everyone because people who don’t make more money than they can spend actually spend the extra money, which benefits all businesses in the economy.
When the wealthy and corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes, it means more money for people at the top in big businesses, Wall Street or in the financial system (the system we have now), and they don’t spend the money. They save it or reinvest it in the stock market, buy back their own stock or protect it from taxes in overseas accounts. No one else benefits much except for luxury item sellers, like yacht companies. Republicans have called these people “job creators,” but the truth is that most don’t create jobs at all. It’s middle class people who become entrepreneurs by opening small businesses in their communities who create jobs. Big corporations are shipping more and more jobs overseas for cheap labor, so small businesses are more important than ever.
Also, contrary to what you may have been told, Democrats have reduced the deficit during every Administration since Jimmy Carter was President. Republican tax cuts and war spending have increased it. If you want the full picture, read the bestselling book, “The Conscience of a Liberal” by Paul Krugman, 2008 Nobel Prize winner in Economics.
Working class Arizonans in general are poorer than people in a lot of other states because it is a non-union state. Unions protect workers from being exploited by big corporations who only care about pleasing their shareholders and making money for the executives who run them. This means if workers have no way to get corporations to pay more in wages, even if these corporations are making record profits and can easily effort to do so, they won’t. They rarely do the right thing unless a power greater than individual workers, like collective bargaining, forces them to do so. The “Right to Work” movement, in which workers don’t have to or get to join unions, really only benefits big companies, which make more profits.
The young woman who mentioned how her mother is struggling to pay bills and blamed it on taxes resonated with me. I was once a single mother. But I was living in New York and could find jobs to increase my income. I doubt her mother will have many opportunities, and education to change careers is expensive for working people. Property taxes are very low in Arizona, but “regressive” taxes, sales taxes on the state and local level, which hurt low-income people much more, are high. I’ve lived in states where sales taxes are low and property taxes are much, much higher, which benefits lower and middle class people more. The Republican Party supports Arizona’s system because it favors property owners.
Several students asked me what I think of Donald Trump. He’s a demagogue and charlatan. He settled a federal lawsuit for discriminating against black renters. His smears against Mexicans, Muslims and women are despicable. He panders to hatreds of unemployed and underemployed men whom he wouldn’t help if elected.
When I discussed how Lincoln established free public education, I forgot to add that I believe public education and low-cost college education are what made this country great.
One young man asked what issue was important to me. I said “affordable health care” because that got me interested in politics, but in retrospect, I’d say “education.” It’s shameful how our tax money is being funneled to wealthier school districts, for-profit schools and for-profit prisons instead of public schools.
The former Superintendent of Public Instruction, Carolyn Warner, wrote, “I Am A Democrat,” which I should have recited to you. If you request a copy from DWPrescottArea@gmail.com, I’ll send it to you. It’s worth reading.