Special to The Courier-Journal, 10/24/14
From my travels throughout Kentucky, starting with the late ‘60s campaign for coal miners’ health and safety laws, I’ve observed that Kentuckians would like their politicians to be driven by Kentucky values. This election season, voters must be wondering: How has Sen. Mitch McConnell lived up to key Bluegrass State commitments?
1. Rewarding hard work
Kentuckians don’t want handouts — they believe in working for a living. That’s why they believe in a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.
Mitch McConnell is worth more than $27 million, but has blocked efforts to prevent the minimum wage from seriously eroding due to inflation. He would rather allow McDonald’s and Walmart have taxpayers, through the earned income tax credit, pay for their workers’ public assistance than raise their minimum wages to meet workers’ basic needs.
2. Honoring your elders
Many Kentuckians follow the Fifth Commandment: Honor thy father and thy mother. They believe our elders, after a lifetime of work, deserve a decent living standard.
Mitch McConnell dishonors our fathers and mothers when he says that the government should cut funding for Social Security and Medicare, programs that give Kentucky elders, who paid into these safety nets, much-deserved security in their golden years.
Kentuckians want politicians to have the same practical problem-solving spirit that they and their neighbors exhibit in daily life.
Mitch McConnell has called himself a “Proud Guardian of Gridlock” in Washington and, as the Washington Post wrote, has “raised the art of obstructionism to new levels.”
4. Respecting women
Kentucky women have made sure that respect and equality for women is a pillar of Kentucky culture.
Mitch McConnell has shown where he stands on disrespecting women: He has voted against helping mothers take leave for sick children, domestic violence victims seeking justice, and working women seeking fair pay.
5. Being forthright
Kentuckians don’t like politicians talking behind their back — saying one thing to them in public and another in closed rooms full of fat cats.
Mitch McConnell does just that, meeting privately with the multi-billionaire Koch brothers and promising even more Senate opposition to raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits and helping students pay for college.
Kentuckians believe people should be held responsible for how they treat others. They believe corporations should be held responsible for the harm they cause to their workers.
Mitch McConnell has helped roll back safety measures that hold corporations responsible for worker safety. At the urging of business groups, he helped pass a resolution declaring that Clinton administration safety rules protecting against repetitive-stress injuries “shall have no force or effect.” The United Mine Workers of America’s legislative director Bill Banig said McConnell has “not done anything to help us with mine safety.”
7. Love thy neighbor
Kentuckians don’t want their neighbors in hard times dying because they’re struggling to make ends meet. That why they don’t want their neighbors subjected to “pay or die” health care, whether it is because of the staggering prices of drugs, operations, emergency treatments or health insurance.
Mitch McConnell stands opposed to the most efficient health care system, single payer, or full Medicare for all: everybody in, nobody out, with free choice of doctor and hospital. He even campaigned vigorously against Kynect, which has helped hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians sign up for health care.
8. No one being above the law
Kentuckians do not believe anyone should be above the law. They want Wall Street crooks who crashed our economy and were bailed out by taxpayers to be prosecuted and put in jail.
Mitch McConnell is an avid Wall Street protector in Congress while he takes campaign cash from Wall Street bosses who he works to keep above the law. He has pledged to “go after” Dodd-Frank financial protections and has been a vocal opponent to the law-enforcing Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Wall Street was the No. 1 contributor to McConnell’s campaign committee from 2009-14.
9. Defending the Constitution
Kentuckians defend the Constitution and especially believe in its first phrase: We the People. They believe that corporations are supposed to be our servants, not our masters.
Mitch McConnell has said that the “worst day” of his political life was when Congress passed the bipartisan McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms aimed at limiting corporate influence on governance. He proudly told a group of billionaires that the Citizens United decision allowing floods of corporate money into elections was a victory for “open discourse.”
Kentuckians love the commonwealth and the nation. They honor our soldiers and the fallen for their loyalty to America.
Mitch McConnell has allied with disloyal, unpatriotic corporations who are abandoning America. He voted against laws that would help stop outsourcing and voted for tax breaks that perversely reward corporations for shipping American jobs overseas.
McConnell also voted in 2003 to defeat an amendment to provide $1 billion in life-saving body armor for the National Guard in Iraq and later in 2005 voted against an amendment to provide $213 million for more protective Humvees from roadside bombs in Iraq.
As Kentuckians head to the polls this November, I hope they keep these facts in mind about how McConnell has opposed these longstanding Kentucky values.
Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate and the author of “Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.”