Federal Tax Increases Are Justified In 2021, History Tells Us Why

With the death of Walter Mondale last week we were reminded of the honest, and required dialogue, that our leaders should have with the citizenry. In 1984, the Democratic presidential nominee told the nation that if he were elected there would be a tax increase. While some saw that honesty with the nation as a political blunder I saw it as needed candor about the necessity for more tax revenues.

Over the decades I have continuously rejected the notion that there is never to be any new tax hikes or ways to reap revenue. That is just a most absurd and untenable position from which to govern.  For far too long there has been a line of rhetoric that cutting government is the only way to move either the nation (or a state) forward.  We have seen the limits, and pure folly of such a political argument when following policy needs on the national level.

Since becoming an adult I have felt it not only an obligation but a responsibility to pay taxes. I have argued that the nation should raise taxes to pay for our wars, and also advocated on the local level for a wheel tax. Though I have been disheartened Congress has not in recent years adhered to the actions from the war of 1812, and up through the Vietnam War where special taxes were levied, I was pleased when Madison enacted a wheel tax.

This spring the nation is embarking upon another major discussion about new taxes that are needed to pay for national programming. The rhetorical volume is sure to increase following President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress and his proposal for trillions in spending for infrastructure needs and family support bills.

Biden laid out his plans repeatedly during the long presidential campaign. At the center of the revenue plan is an increase in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, implement a minimum corporate tax, nearly double taxes on investment gains for the wealthiest, and the tweaking of inheritance laws.

The announced plans for corporate taxes would cover the $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan dealing with transport, broadband, drinking water, ports, and electricity grids. Capital gains and other proposals will create the needed revenue streams for family infrastructure which deals with early education and home care. The estimated price tag for that portion of the larger plan could reach over $1.5 trillion. 

We could cut and paste the same tired rhetoric from conservative Republicans when it comes to government spending or the needs of the citizens. Saying no and doing even less is simply what they have come to stand for over the years. That same lingo is what they will offer going forward. All the GOP can offer is claiming that any new government action is socialism. The current batch of angry white males in the party could never even pretend at fostering policy ideas akin to how former congressman Jack Kemp once labored! 

For the rest of us, however, there is history that we can look back on as a way to gauge our path forward.

Aggressive federal power has always been an active ingredient for progress. President George Washington had an industrial policy so to build and enhance a much-needed manufacturing economy. No prudish Federalist, but rather a determined nationalist.

Sidney Blumenthal writes in his volumes about the strong feelings Abraham Lincoln had for federal dollars on behalf of infrastructure projects, and a deep understanding as to why increased spending on public education was a necessity.

The list could go on and on about the leaders who knew the power of government, and the wise use of harnessing it for the greater good. As one reads about President Teddy Roosevelt or later President Franklin Roosevelt the battles were not about big government or small. That is due to the way they acted as leaders. As with the others through our nation’s narrative, they grasped the fact that government is the means of getting big things done for the people that matter.

The conservatives will snark endlessly this year about taxes but the rest of us have history on our side.

On April 8, 1789–three weeks before George Washington will be sworn into office for the first time–James Madison stood up in the House of Representatives and introduced a tax bill.  It was the first bill ever introduced under the new form of government outlined in the U.S. Constitution. 

The very first order of business in the very first session of Congress was a bill to make sure that the economy was placed in a more sure-footed path, and that manufacturing would be promoted.  The means to do that were duties, and tariffs on a whole range of products from rum, beer, molasses, sugar cocoa, and coffee. 

There was a clear sense of the need for revenue, and while there was a lively debate about the taxes, the bill passed.

That must be the same frame of mind and outcome in 2021.

And so it goes.

My Memories Of Walter Mondale

A brief shower failed to dampen the enthusiasm of Democratic Presidential candidate Walter Mondale and Vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro during a Merrill campaign visit. Applauding them is Congressman David Obey who represented that area in Congress.

Walter Mondale, the former vice president and champion of liberal politics, activist government, and civil rights who ran as the Democratic candidate for president in 1984, losing to President Ronald Reagan in a landslide, died on Monday at his home in Minneapolis. He was 93.

He was my type of Democrat, my type of politician. Correct on the issues with a strong moral character and manners that would be welcome in any home in the nation. He was also the first major politician I had the chance to encounter.

On Labor Day 1984 I was attending the first major political rally of my life.  It was also the first major political rally that I would report on for WDOR radio news.

I was young, eager, and so excited that I could barely contain myself.  Days before the event I had gone through a background check to gain press credentials which allowed me onto the risers with the national press.  Knowing I was going to stand alongside some of the journalists I had a deep respect for was as electrifying to me as being at a rally with a presidential nominee.

I had traveled from Sturgeon Bay to Lincoln County Fairgrounds in Merrill, Wisconsin in my light blue Chevet and still recall the feeling that life could not be better.  I was doing what I had always really wanted to do, which was get close to politics and report about it.  I knew then not everyone could say they get to live what they dream, and I recall attempts to slow down to better take in every moment, every detail.

Many broadcasters were questioning whether the traditional start of the presidential fall campaign was best done in a place like Merrill.  If memory serves me right Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro started that Labor Day in New York and encountered rainy weather.  That the sky was gray and filled with sprinkles in Merrill was not lost on those who thought it an omen for the election outcome.

But Mondale saw it far differently.  With rolled-up shirtsleeves, Mondale told the audience it did not matter whether it was rain, hail, sleet, or snow.  The Democrats would make it to the polls on Election Day!

Here is the final draft of that speech.

Once at the rally site I climbed to stand with the press and was truly pleased to be about three feet from Lynn Sherr and Brit Hume, both from ABC.  I smiled to myself when Sherr asked Hume how to pronounce “La Follette” and I then laughed out loud later than night when she mispronounced it on the national news.   Everyone has on-air slips, and it was comforting to see it play out in front of me.

To be honest being on the risers with the press could have been the culmination of the day and I would have been totally content.

When the music ramped up and Mondale and Ferraro took the simple outdoor platform and gave punchy dramatic stump speeches I knew at once that my political infection was for real.  Never before had I felt so alive.  So in the moment.

Geraldine Ferraro was loved by that crowd in Merrill.  The applause was enthusiastic, and the warmth for her was genuine.  Later I went down and recorded some interviews with voters and my thrust of the news story was how they viewed the first female nominee.  Ferraro was breaking new ground and they were glad Labor Day in Merrill was where she spent some of her time.

I shall be forever grateful to Mondale for choosing Ferraro as his running mate

I will never forget that first major rally, the sense of being young and living life. Or the strong convictions of a man who would have been a far superior choice for the nation that year in the election.

Our country has lost a great man who epitomized the meaning of public service. Mondale summed it up best with one line. “Politics is not about power. It is about doing good for the people.”

And so it goes.

In an Oct. 30, 2012, file photo, former Vice President Walter Mondale, a former Minnesota senator, gestures while speaking at a Students for Obama rally at the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center in Minneapolis. Mondale, a liberal icon who lost the most lopsided presidential election after bluntly telling voters to expect a tax increase if he won, died Monday, April 19, 2021. He was 93. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

Labor Day Democratic Presidential Rally In Merrill, Wisconsin: 1984 And A WDOR Reporter

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A brief shower failed to dampen the enthusiasm of Democratic Presidential candidate Walter Mondale and Vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro during a Merrill campaign visit. Applauding them is Congressman David Obey who represented that area in Congress.

On Labor Day 1984 I was attending the first major political rally of my life.  It was also the first major political rally that I would report on for WDOR radio news.

I was young, eager, and so excited that I could barely contain myself.  Days before the event I had gone through a background check to gain press credentials which allowed me onto the risers with the national press.  Knowing I was going to stand alongside some of the journalists I had a deep respect for was as electrifying to me as being at a rally with a presidential nominee.

I had traveled from Sturgeon Bay to Lincoln County Fairgrounds in Merrill, Wisconsin in my light blue Chevet and still recall the feeling that life could not be better.  I was doing what I had always really wanted to do, which was get close to politics and report about it.  I knew then not everyone could say they get to live what they dream, and I recall attempts to slow down to better take in every moment, every detail.

Many broadcasters were questioning whether the traditional start of the presidential fall campaign was best done in a place like Merrill.  If memory serves me right Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro started that Labor Day in New York and encountered rainy weather.  That the sky was gray and filled with sprinkles in Merrill was not lost on those who thought it an omen for the election outcome.

But Mondale saw it far differently.  With rolled-up shirtsleeves, Mondale told the audience it did not matter whether it was rain, hail, sleet, or snow.  The Democrats would make it to the polls on Election Day!

Here is the final draft of that speech.

Once at the rally site I climbed to stand with the press and was truly pleased to be about three feet from Lynn Sherr and Brit Hume, both from ABC.  I smiled to myself when Sherr asked Hume how to pronounce “La Follette” and I then laughed out loud later than night when she mispronounced it on the national news.   Everyone has on-air slips, and it was comforting to see it play out in front of me.

To be honest being on the risers with the press could have been the culmination of the day and I would have been totally content.

When the music ramped up and Mondale and Ferraro took the simple outdoor platform and gave punchy dramatic stump speeches I knew at once that my political infection was for real.  Never before had I felt so alive.  So in the moment.

Geraldine Ferraro was loved by that crowd in Merrill.  The applause was enthusiastic, and the warmth for her was genuine.  Later I went down and recorded some interviews with voters and my thrust of the news story was how they viewed the first female nominee.  Ferraro was breaking new ground and they were glad Labor Day in Merrill was where she spent some of her time.

I will never forget that first major rally, the sense of being young and living life.

I am pleased that in some small way I was able to brush up alongside the historic campaign year when Geraldine Ferraro was on a national ticket as the first woman.

As we now observe this Labor Day in a national health crisis and a most troubling presidential election year, there are many reasons for anxieties and dread. But I have found one personal story which has made for smiles in our home.

 

 

Barber For Hubert Humphrey And Walter Mondale Retires

A great friend for decades sent me this article as it was his barber which was featured in the story.  As my friend noted the barber was a great guy with plenty of stories to share.

John Vreeman was just out of barber school, barely 20 years old, when Vice President Hubert Humphrey sat down in his swivel chair.

The young barber trembled as he cut the political VIP’s hair at the Sheraton-Ritz hotel barber shop in downtown Minneapolis. As Humphrey got up to leave with an entourage of Secret Service and media, Vreeman figured he’d probably botched it: “I was such a nervous wreck,” he said. “I remember distinctly being a little shaky … I didn’t feel I did the kind of job I should have done.”

But Humphrey came back, and so did a stream of other distinguished men over the following decades: then-U. S. Sen. Walter Mondale, federal judges, FBI agents and others.

After half century of styling many of Minnesota’s elite, Vreeman, 70, is hanging up his scissors for good.

Vreeman rarely missed a day of work, returning to his station as soon as possible even after a fall left his jaw wired shut. Once, after he dropped his shears and accidentally stabbed himself in the stomach, he continued to cut hair until it became clear he had to go to the emergency room. He was back that afternoon.

April Blue Wave In Wisconsin Bodes Well For November

I recall when Walter Mondale, the 1984 Democratic presidential candidate, spoke to a Labor Day audience in Merrill, Wisconsin.  The skies were cloudy and at times a light drizzle fell.  But with rolled-up shirtsleeves Mondale told the audience it did not matter whether it was rain, hail, sleet, or snow.  The Democrats would make it to the polls on Election Day.

Mondale lost his spirited campaign for the Oval Office that year, but his words are ones I have not forgotten.  I was in that crowd, covering the political rally for WDOR News.  On Tuesday night when Supreme Court candidate Rebecca Dallet pulled in Democratic, progressive, and independent voters to secure her place on our high court the words from Mondale came back to me and my face was covered in a smile.

I am not one who usually applauds races for the Supreme Court since I strongly feel that merit selection would be the most appropriate way to fill vacancies. I also was not cheered by the–at times–politicized nature of this race to win a  court seat.    So why, then, am I so deeply warmed by this win on a night when spring has a winter-like look and feel?

The fact is our nation is living through a most trying time.  There are forces at work which strive to continually strike at our Constitution, undermine our political and governmental institutions, and remove the social decorum which has guided us for decades.  What has happened over the past 18 months is more than what the average voter can tolerate.  And in state-after-state where either regular elections are held, or special ones scheduled, the mood of the nation has been made clear for all to see.

Voters in Wisconsin stepped in line with all the others who have expressed their deep concerns, and on Tuesday, selected Dallet.  In so doing the conservative majority on the Court has been cut down to 4-3.

After having endured years of Wisconsin Republicans over-performing be it with Scott Walker, Ron Johnson, and Donald Trump the victory for Dallet was not only about the Court but also a message for the Democrats.  A message they need to feel.

With strong anti-Trump sentiment and Democratic enthusiasm voters can effect change.   They were able to carry their message into the Court and with continued determination can do the same in the fall elections.

If Republicans were smart they too would be taking in the message that has been delivered by yet another state with hundreds of thousands of voters.  The message is that Trump has severely damaged their party and undermined the guiding principals that once were their foundation.  Therefore, something needs to be jettisoned.

If the GOP will not do it, the voters will.

And so it goes.

I Vividly Recall Labor Day 1984

On Labor Day 1984 I was working at WDOR in Sturgeon Bay when I was dispatched to cover the Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro rally in Merrill, Wisconsin.   It would be the first major political rally of my life, and the first such large news story I would report on for WDOR news.  The second would be when President Reagan visited Oshkosh.

I was young, eager, and so excited that I could barely contain myself.  Days before the event I had gone through a background check to gain press credentials which allowed me onto the risers with the national press.  Knowing I was going to stand alongside some of the journalists I had deep respect for was as electrifying to me as being at my first major political rally with a presidential nominee.

I had traveled from Sturgeon Bay to Merrill, Wisconsin in my light blue Chevet and still recall the feeling that life could not be better.  I was doing what I had always really wanted to do, which was getting close to politics and reporting about the story.  I knew then not everyone could say they get to live what they dream, and I recall as I was driving my mental attempts to slow myself down to better take in every moment, every detail.

Many broadcasters were questioning whether the traditional start of the  presidential fall campaign was best done in a place like Merrill.  If memory serves me right Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro started that Labor Day in New York and encountered rainy weather.  That the sky was gray and filled with sprinkles in Merrill was not lost on those who thought it an omen for the election outcome.

Once at the rally site I climbed to stand with the press and was truly pleased to be about three feet from Lynn Sherr and Brit Hume, both from ABC.  I smiled to myself when Sherr asked Hume how to pronounce “La Follette” and I then laughed out loud later than night when she mispronounced it on the national news.   Everyone has on-air slips, and it was comforting to see it play out in front of me.

To be honest being on the risers with the press could have been the culmination of the day and I would have been totally content.

When the music ramped up and Mondale and Ferraro took the simple outdoor platform and gave punchy dramatic stump speeches I knew at once that my political infection was for real.  Never before had I felt so alive.  So in the moment.

Geraldine Ferraro was loved by that crowd in Merrill.  The applause was enthusiastic, and the warmth for her was genuine.  Later I went down and recorded some interviews with voters and my thrust of the news story was how they viewed the first female nominee.  Ferraro was breaking new ground and they were glad Labor Day in Merrill was where she spent some of her time.

I will never forget that first major rally, the sense of being young and living life.

I am pleased that in some small way I was able to brush up alongside the historic campaign year when Geraldine Ferraro was on a national ticket as the first woman vice-presidential nominee.

Remembering Joan Mondale, Dies At 83

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They are fewer in number now (it seems) then decades before, but when you hear of a classy lady it stands out.  Joan Mondale was pure class who allowed her real light to shine, her humanity not to be dimmed, and her passion for life to always lead her forward.

Joan Mondale died Monday at the age of 83.  Our thoughts are with Walter Mondale who I believe to be one of the most sincere men in national life, and to the family at this time of sadness.

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Joan Mondale’s own words, uttered during the high Minnesota political drama of late October 2002, seem a fitting summation of her life, which ended Monday at age 83.

Mondale was asked whether she or husband Walter had any hesitation about coming out of retirement to run for a U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the airplane-crash death of Sen. Paul Wellstone.

“Oh, heavens, no,” she said. “We’re public servants. That’s what we do.”

That self-analysis is apt. Joan Mondale’s name never appeared on a ballot. But she was indeed a public servant, participating with her husband in myriad ways as he served as Minnesota’s attorney general and U.S. senator and the nation’s vice president and ambassador to Japan.

The Mondale marriage was a partnership from which each drew support and strength that fueled their public work and enlarged their impact. Growing up in a Presbyterian clergy manse, Joan inherited a zeal for service that was reinforced by her marriage in 1955 to an up-and-coming law student, DFL activist and Methodist preacher’s son from Elmore, Minn.

As his political career unfolded, Joan got involved. She proved to be a vigorous campaigner, an effective public speaker, an engaging conversationalist and a ready sounding board.

She was an artist, too, specializing in ceramics. But through most of her life, Joan Mondale used her interest in art as a tool with which to enhance her work for Minnesotans and Americans. She wrote a book, “Politics in Art,” about how political commentary is reflected in artworks. She chaired the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. She used art to forge connections with the Japanese people while serving as the U.S. ambassador’s wife.

The Mondales were the first family to move into Number One Observatory Circle in Washington after it became the vice president’s official residence. Joan gave the mansion her personal stamp, making it a showcase of American art and a welcoming venue for official gatherings.

She served as the nation’s Second Lady at a time of transition in the public’s expectations for political spouses. She chose a role neither fully independent nor fully traditional. Instead, she tailored her personal interests to fulfill a shared mission of public service. Her sincerity shone through her work, winning her the nation’s admiration and an abiding place in Minnesota hearts.

 

Eleanor Mondale, Daughter Of Walter Mondale, Dead At 51

More sadness to report from another wonderful political family.  Thoughts and prayers go to the Mondale family.

Eleanor Mondale, a broadcast journalist and the daughter of former vice president Walter Mondale, has died at 51, according to the Associated Press.

Family spokeswoman Lynda Pedersen says Mondale died Saturday at her home in Minnesota. Mondale had been diagnosed with brain cancer years earlier.

Mondale had been off the air at Minneapolis station WCCO-AM since March 2009, when she announced that her brain cancer had come back. She had surgery to remove the tumor in August 2009 at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. A post on her CaringBridge website declared the surgery a success.

Mondale worked for her father during his unsuccessful attempt to unseat President Ronald Reagan in 1984. She also made phone calls in 2002 in her father’s last campaign, when the former VP took the ballot slot of Senator Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash just days before the election.