Letter: Why we are divided and probably always will be
"Now that the Democrats have control of both Minnesota state houses, they will use our tax dollars for some things, like infrastructure projects, that most of us want," writes Kevin Carpenter of St. Cloud, Minn. "They will need to find a balance between spending money to make Minnesota a place where people want to live and allowing people to keep enough money for themselves so that they can afford to live here."
We hear a lot about an “urban-rural divide.” Looking at our recent election results, it’s pretty clear that the majority in rural Minnesota vote for Republicans and the majority in urban Minnesota vote for Democrats. And we wonder why.
On August 8, 2022, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviewed Princeton University professor Kim Lane Scheppele about comparisons between Victor Orban’s supporters in Hungary and Donald Trump’s base here in the U.S. Scheppele described both as “rural, less educated voters who feel left behind by globalization…the former working class…the former farmers, who have found themselves…in the wake of globalization with far less prosperous lives than they might have otherwise had.” These people have a perception that in the city “there are all of these educated people who look down on them and who would much prefer to mingle with company that doesn’t look like them.” These rural people are less well educated, many do not have passports, they have almost never been out of the country and they don’t speak a second language.
At first glance, this appears disparaging to rural people. But I see that it actually describes me, though I’m not part of Trump’s base. I don’t speak a second language. I’m reasonably well-educated by some standards, but not in comparison to Ivy League or similarly highly-ranked college standards. I definitely feel like I’ve missed out on the prosperity that globalization has brought to many others.
And while I tend to agree with Scheppele, I’ve come to a slightly different conclusion about the rural/urban divide. Remember how in the airplane they tell you that if there’s a loss of cabin pressure you should put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else with theirs? Generally, you need to take care of yourself first before you can take care of someone else? That’s what it appears to me that most Republicans think. Most Democrats think that way, too.
What many people — Democrats, Republicans and independents, too — are missing is that corporations almost never take care of anyone but themselves. I’d say never rather than almost never but there are situations where a corporation appears to do charitable things. Often there’s a tax write-off involved, in which case the act either costs the corporation nothing or actually saves the corporation money.
Think of it this way: if one of two competing corporations gives money away that it doesn’t have to, it makes less money than its competitor and its investors move to that competitor.
A number of years ago, some large corporations discovered that they could save a lot of money by lobbying Congress for more favorable tax laws and buying ads that encourage voters to vote for candidates who will let those large corporations pay less taxes (billionaires spent a record $880 million to influence the recent mid-term elections). If you have not yet read Dark Money by Jane Mayer, I highly recommend it.
There are some things that we need to address collectively, things like public safety, climate change, clean air and water, homelessness and related poverty issues, that sometimes tie into public safety. Many rich people don’t want to contribute anything to addressing these problems. Picture Donald Trump, red in the face, screaming at you that you are stealing from him if you make him contribute toward the public schools in the neighborhood where he lives.
Now that the Democrats have control of both Minnesota state houses, they will use our tax dollars for some things, like infrastructure projects, that most of us want. They will need to find a balance between spending money to make Minnesota a place where people want to live and allowing people to keep enough money for themselves so that they can afford to live here.
But no matter what those Democrats do, rich Republicans will sit on their gold toilets and scream like stuck pigs that tax-and-spend liberals are ruining the country. And a lot of people will believe them to the point of voting against their own economic interests.
It’s all about balance. It always has been. It always will be.
But things are changing. In the recent elections, a lot of young people voted. And they don’t listen to rich people whining about being oppressed. They want a better world, and they’re going to make everyone pay their fair share toward that better world.
Kevin Carpenter is a resident of St. Cloud, Minn.
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.