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Chose doing good things over doing nothing
Somebody has made a new survey and it tells us this little waterlogged nation of ours is rocketing up the misery charts. Maybe they took it before the sun came back out.
Or maybe they took it any time in the last two years. Because negativity is quite surely the new black.
What’s the cause? I can think of a few big reasons:
For one: even though there are excellent solutions to our problems, we insist on keeping things the way we are and so we go on soaking in them.
For another: we have a news media that loves negativity for all its clicks and money so let’s wake up Barry Soper and get him to interview himself about economics.
And compounding this cesspool of doom: social algorithms that accentuate the negative, also for clicks and money.
We don't stand a chance.
Or do we? On Sundays I like to share stories that inspire, and boy do I have a beauty for you today.
My only hesitation is work ethic guilt at copying and pasting so many of someone else’s word. But on this Sunday, please hear my confession and absolve my sin, brothers and sisters, for this is good stuff and totally worth it.
This song of hope comes from Minnesota, where they face all the same headwinds I just described, not to mention a bunch more such as Republicans and culture wars. And yet, and yet, look what they’ve managed to do, the Democrats of the Minnesota legislature.
They have just completed — and I’m now quoting our source, Will Stancil of Minnesota — what is probably the most productive session anywhere in the country since probably the New Deal: sweeping reforms across every area of life.
With just a six-vote margin in the House and a bare one-vote majority in the Senate, he reports, something really incredible has happened here.
They have implemented vast new social programs, enacted protections for groups threatened by far-right states and the Supreme Court, strengthened unions, poured money into schools, replaced infrastructure, and fed every Minnesota child.
They decided they had come to get things done, and by god, they were going to get as much done with their one-vote margin as they could.
And now here comes one hell of a lot.
Do by all means scroll on down to the bottom of the list if it seems too much. But I invite you to soak it all in, item by item.
Feel the warm glow of progressive accomplishment! Not once, not twice, but dozens and dozens of times.
Enjoy the positive feeling of the world being made more fair and more even and sane, item by item, by one vote margin by one vote margin.
Here's what they did:
They fully legalised marijuana
They made school lunches free for all students, leading to Governor Tim Walz being adorably mobbed by elementary schoolers
They created new protections for Uber and Lyft drivers
They codified Roe v. Wade, ensuring that Republicans can't endanger abortion rights in Minnesota simply by controlling the courts.
They funded the replacement of all lead pipes in the state (another law).
They banned noncompete agreements and created statewide paid sick leave.
They enacted a raft of laws to make the state a trans refuge, and ensure people receiving trans care here can't be reached by far-right governments in places like Florida and Texas.
They ensured that everyone, including undocumented immigrants, can get drivers' licences.
They made public college free for the majority of Minnesota families.
They dropped a billion dollars into a bevy of affordable housing programs, including by creating a new state housing voucher program.
They massively increased funding for the state's perpetually-underfunded public defenders, which lets more public defenders be hired and existing public defenders get a salary increase.
They raised Minnesota education spending by 10%, or about 2.3 billion.
They created an energy standard for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040.
Minnesota already has some of the strongest election infrastructure (and highest voter participation) in the country, but the legislature just made it stronger, with automatic registration, preregistration for minors, and easier access to absentee ballots.
They expanded the publicly subsidised health insurance program to undocumented immigrants.
They expanded background checks and enacted red-flag laws, passing gun safety measures that the GOP has thwarted for years.
They gave the state AG the power to block the huge healthcare mergers that have slowly gobbled up the state's medical system.
They restored voting rights to convicted felons as soon as they leave prison.
They made prison phone calls free.
They passed new wage protection rules for the construction industry, against industry resistance.
They created a new sales tax to fund bus and train lines, an enormous victory for the sustainability and quality of public transit. Transit will be more pleasant to ride, more frequent, and have better shelters, along more lines.
They passed strict new regulations on PFAS ("forever chemicals").
They passed the largest bonding bill in state history! Funding improvements to parks, colleges, water infrastructure, bridges, etc. etc. etc.
They're going to build a passenger train from the Twin Cities to Duluth.
They indexed the state gas tax to inflation, effectively increasing the gas tax. They actually indexed a bunch of stuff to inflation, including the state's education funding formula, which helps ensure that school spending doesn't decline over time.
They made hourly school workers (e.g., bus drivers and paraprofessionals) eligible for unemployment during summer break, when they're not working or getting paid.
They passed a bunch of labour protections for teachers, including requiring school districts to negotiate class sizes as part of union contracts.
They created a state board to govern labour standards at nursing homes.
They created a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, which would set price caps for high-cost pharmaceuticals.
They created new worker protections for Amazon warehouse workers and refinery workers.
They passed a digital fair repair law, which requires electronics manufacturers to make tools and parts available so that consumers can repair their electronics rather than purchase new items.
They made huge improvements to the state's Public Employee Labor Relations Act, making it far more labour-friendly (e.g., by making staffing ratios a mandatory subject of bargaining).
They made Juneteenth a state holiday.
They banned conversion therapy.
They spent nearly a billion dollars on a variety of environmental programs, from heat pumps to reforestation.
They expanded protections for pregnant and nursing workers - already in place for larger employers - to almost everyone in the state.
They banned price gouging in public emergencies.
They created a new child tax credit that will cut child poverty by about a quarter.
They dropped a quick $50 million into homelessness prevention programs
They increased child care assistance
They banned "captive audience meetings," where employers force employees to watch anti-union presentations
They forced signal priority changes to Twin Cities transit. Right now the trains have to wait at intersections for cars
They provided the largest increase to nursing home funding in state history
They also bumped up salaries for home health workers, to help address the shortage of in-home nurses
They legalised drug paraphernalia, which allows social service providers to conduct needle exchanges and address substance abuse with reduced fear of incurring legal action
They banned white supremacists and extremists from police forces, capped probation at 5 years for most crimes, improved clemency
They banned no-knock warrants
They also laid the groundwork for a public health insurance option
They created a huge new statewide paid family and medical leave program, raising the number of workers receiving paid leave from 25% to 100%
What might we take from this, down here in the waterlogged nation of Mike and Kate’s reckons?
Do we think a progressive government here could also yet find this kind of resolve?
Actually that trope that Labour does nothing is readily disproved by their own long long list.
But all the same that Minnesota list feels more red-blooded.
Will Stancil explains their posture this way: they clearly figured, no matter how small their majorities were, it was better, politically and morally, to choose doing good things over doing nothing. And they did, again and again.
The absolute boldness and certitude of that, I love it. You might be the butterfly that dies at the end of the day, voted out at the end of this term, but you came here to make things better, so that’s what you’re going to do.
No matter how small their majorities were, it was better, politically and morally, to choose doing good things over doing nothing. And they did, again and again.