Courtney: The myth of moderacy

Are my politics truly extreme?


by Zach Courtney

Because I write columns for the Minnesota Daily and am known in my family for being a political nerd, I’ve become famous — or perhaps infamous — among my friends and family for my left-wing political and economic beliefs. I agree that I am left-of-center, and I proudly accept that label. What I will not accept, however, is that I am an extremist.

What I and other progressives stand for is not extreme. In fact, I think just the opposite. Those opposed to a bold, progressive and left-wing economic agenda — sometimes coined as “moderates” — are the true extremists of our society today. One only needs to look at a few areas of policy before this becomes apparent.

Health care
Let’s start with health care. So-called moderates of the Democratic Party would call the Affordable Care Act — better known as Obamacare — a relative success that needs to be tweaked around the edges.

Republicans call for it to be repealed for being too far-reaching, even though a repeal of Obamacare would kick nearly 30 million Americans off their health care.

The Republicans’ position is worse, but that doesn’t make the position of “moderate” Democrats truly moderate. It’s still extreme to accept a status quo that leaves millions of Americans uninsured and millions more underinsured.

Is it extreme for progressives like me to push for a universal, single-payer health-care system — something that every other industrialized country on Earth has implemented — so all Americans can receive the health care they need?

Medicare for All, proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), is the only proposal that would ensure health care access for all Americans. Even conservative studies show consumers would save $200 billion per year if implemented.

So, are Sanders and I extreme for aiming to expand the healthcare system to cover all Americans and save taxpayers’ money while doing it? Or are “moderate” Democrats and Republicans extreme, as they aim to pad the bottom lines of their corporate donors at the expense of regular Americans?

Child poverty
So-called moderates of the Democratic Party — i.e., Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and co. — are just fine with seeing the Child Tax Credit expire, as are their colleagues in the GOP. This is tragic. And not just for our children and their families.

It is also tragic for our society, economy and country as a whole. If the moral tragedy of child poverty is not enough, I hope the economic factor is convincing. Child poverty is estimated to cost Americans more than $1 trillion per year due to expenses like lost economic productivity, increased health and crime costs and increased costs resulting from child homelessness and maltreatment.

So, not only would eradicating child poverty be morally just, it would also be fiscally responsible. Remind me, who are the “moderates” on the issue of child poverty again?

Right here in the Twin Cities, we are letting Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey get away with calling himself a moderate as well, despite brutally breaking up homeless camps in the middle of the Minnesota winter.

People experiencing homelessness are in need of one thing — a home. Not a temporary shelter. That is why the Housing First Model is the only model that makes sense with regard to homelessness. Just give them a place to live. Not only is it morally just, but it is also fiscally responsible. As of 2016, a person experiencing chronic homelessness costs taxpayers an average of $35,000 a year due to expenses like emergency room visits and legal costs.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said in “The Letter from Birmingham Jail:”

“Though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’ … And Abraham Lincoln: ‘This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.’ … And Thomas Jefferson: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …’ So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”

I agree with King. His sentiment remains true to this day.

Will we be extremists that expand health care to all or extremists that ensure only some can afford health care without being burdened by its cost?

Will we be extremists and eradicate one of the largest injustices we have in our society, child poverty? Or will we be extremists that allow it to exist in the wealthiest nation this world has ever known?

Will we be extremists and find homes for those in need so they can live in dignity? Or will we be extremists that allow many to spend another night homeless on the streets?

In all three instances, I want to be the first kind of extremist. I hope you choose the same.