Newton, MA: 11.28.2018 release — Congressman Joe Kennedy III today discussed pervasive economic inequities across Massachusetts and the country and urged policymakers to build a moral capitalism that better protects and promotes all Americans. Key excerpts from Congressman Kennedy’s speech are pasted below:
“Our country needs a NEW economic story. Our people need an alternative to the trickle-down, feed-the-top, if-you’re-struggling-try-harder narrative that conservatives have masterfully entrenched in American consciousness.

“But for years, the left has failed to offer a competing — compelling — economic vision. (We’ll have to do more than tax the rich to meet our needs in infrastructure, childcare, healthcare, college and climate change.)
“And a brutal force stepped into that void. Donald Trump picked up our economic story and gave it a bold, new re-write for modern times. His version doesn’t just lean on that age-old conservative theme that success is a treasure some haven’t figured out how to find. He takes it a step further and says success is a privilege some don’t even deserve.
“His is a country of bitter rivalry between fellow citizens, forced to endlessly spar over the scraps of our system. My wages can’t grow unless your food stamps go. Your medical bills can’t fall unless my insurance gets taken way. So Americans spend their days fighting each other over economic crumbs – while our system quietly hand-delivers the entire pie to those at the top.
“That is the twist that matters in our economic story – for the coal miner in Kentucky and the daycare worker in New York. The fifth-generation farming family in Ohio and the first-generation immigrant family in Lowell. The mostly white towns in West Virginia devastated by the opioid epidemic and the communities of color across the county terrorized by the War on Drugs.
“Forget where they’re from or what they look like or how they vote – ALL of these Americans face an economy that does not operate for them.

“They live in cities and towns more likely to be medically underserved, educationally ostracized from today’s job market, plagued by inadequate infrastructure, burdened by crumbling housing or homes no one can afford. They disproportionately shoulder the hard words that make life hurt — eviction, addiction, bankruptcy, violence. They hail from the places where polling locations suddenly disappear; where the biggest economic engine is a payday lender; where lead poisons children’s water; where injustice and insufficiency fester for generations before government thinks to step in.

“This is not a political fight. Our country bears the scars of economic injustice on the left and the right, on the fringe and in the center.

“We hear it in the demands of a new generation that feels socialism better speaks its language. We see it in the activism of marginalized communities that have been forced to fight for opportunity they should be guaranteed. We witnessed it in those pockets of the country that put their faith in Donald Trump – ineptitude, inexperience, intolerance and all – because they saw a system so broken they went for a guy that promised to raze it to the ground.”

***

“How did we get here? How did a country built on the idea that everyone counts build an economy where most people don’t?
“60 years ago, economic inequality in this country was at an all-time low. We were by no means perfect – our union was plagued by segregation and policies from housing to education imbued with discrimination.

“But the Great Depression and its aftermath had forged a durable social contract between the public and private sectors. Each recognized they needed the other. Each put skin in the came when it came to the livelihood of average Americans, because each understood how deeply that livelihood impacted their own success.
“There’s an amazing moment from the heart of the Cold War. In 1959, Vice President Nixon ends up shoulder to shoulder with Khrushchev at the American National Exhibition in Moscow. And they have an impromptu debate about which system – communism or capitalism – provided the greatest prosperity for its people. All while standing in the kitchen of a model American home, filled with everyday gadgets and little luxuries, that Nixon boasted any American family could afford.
“THAT was the point of pride. That was the barometer of economic success our country proudly offered the world. Not based on summer homes or private jets or pricey schools but on a basic prosperity everyone could access.
“Then came a profound shift. In the 60s and 70s, technology and global competition changed the game for American corporations, and they lurched towards self-preservation – cutting costs, wages, benefits and jobs.
“And the United States government made a choice. One that we have doubled down on 1000 ways, 1000 times over the past 50 years. We loosened the terms of our social contract. We allowed – and often embraced – policy changes that freed the private sector from their responsibilities to the people and society that had helped them succeed…
“…Through deliberate choice and conscious action, we recalibrated the American economy — away from workers, families and communities, and toward capital, profit, and shareholders.”
***
“THIS is the challenge of our time. THIS is the injustice we have to solve not just because of some political map but because our system will not survive if we don’t.

“I believe in that system. Let me be clear. American capitalism has done great good for a great number of people. It has given our average citizen a better standard of living than anywhere else in the world, lifted millions out of poverty, and powered the globe. But its current iteration is badly broken – and the sooner we admit that the sooner we can strip it to the studs and build something better:

“A moral capitalism, judged not just by how much it produces, but how widely it shares. How good it does for how many. How well it takes care of us. All of us.”

MA Congressman Joe Kennedy III