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May 15, 2012

Time for lawmakers who put needs of society first

Richard Lugar, after six terms as a Republican senator -- known for his middle of the road rationality and his foreign policy finesse -- has been ousted by a Tea Party extremist backed by outside right-wing funding.

This opponent, Richard Mourdock, questions even the constitutionality of Social Security and Medicare. He is known for strident partisanship, as is the whole Republican Party.

The Republicans fought President Barack Obama's plan to keep interest rates low on federal student loans unless it was funded by taking public health funds from Obama's health care law.

They pushed 300,000 kids off school lunches to preserve military spending. They held hostage $261 million in funds for health care provisions, food stamps, unemployment insurance benefits and child tax credits, to offset automatic defense cuts.

Republicans have opposed three jobs bills to avoid raising taxes on millionaires. They have voted to protect tax breaks for oil companies instead of funding clean energy investment. They voted to block the Buffett Rule requiring people making more than $1 million a year to pay a fair share in taxes. They proposed the Blunt Amendment to allow employers or insurance companies not to cover any health care cost to which they have a "moral objection."

Well, here is where the ocean meets the shore. Remember the name Joel Tyner. He is running for Congress in the 19th District. He is a Democrat, a Dutchess County legislator for five terms and a man of conviction.

Tyner presents himself as a proactive problem solver. He is not tied to any entrenched political interests that so commonly become de facto _ but hidden _ constituencies. He does not take money from insurance companies or corporations.

Tax relief for the rich does not translate into more jobs. Spending for society does. Money should come from taxing in accordance with the ability to pay. The nourishment of a healthy community requires a fair continuity from rich to less-rich people, within a spectrum of neighborly connections and relations.

There needs to be a net of social connection that nourishes feelings of belonging, common interest and responsibility. That is what progressives seek to foster and protect proactively.

Conservatives, on the other hand, focus on protecting wealth and property rights, with less concern for those who have little or no property.

Tyner opposes the war in Afghanistan. Corporate personhood needs to be ended by constitutional amendment, and replaced by legislation supporting clean elections and campaign finance reform.

He would end the Bush tax cuts. He is pushing to block fracking and begin building up renewable energy. He elaborates on the use of solar energy, geothermal energy and raising the efficiency of conservation methods.

Tyner decries the demise of independent family farms, and clearly pulls the curtain back on entrenched and habitually subsidized monopolies of corporate agribusiness. These are what undercut family farming.

Putting more money to work repairing and enhancing our aging infrastructure also benefits both the public in general and lowers the unemployment rate.

The minimum wage should be raised to put more money into the hands of consuming wage earners. These are the ways to revitalize the economy. Progressive ways. Protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as school budgets and nursing home care from budget cuts is likewise essential.

But some programs stand out as long overdue and deeply essential. Chief among them is health care. Medicare for all, he points out, would benefit all, but save money, too. It would include support for women's health and reproductive rights.

I am going out on a limb here, however, because I have not yet heard his opponent in the Democratic primary for this new 19th Congressional District on June 26. He is Julian Schreibman. He is backed by his home-base Democrats in Ulster County. Schreibman sees himself up against powerful Republican interests and able to confront Tea Party types.

Tyner says he is ready to confront even the Democrats, whom he sees as in the thrall of wealthy interests and corporations, to the detriment of support for core social issues, such as Social Security and medical care. He does not deny that climate change is related to human activity, is pro-choice and pro-hunting.

Joel Tyner is an underdog is this race. He is open, accessible and a quick study, who is up on the issues. But he works from the bottom up more than by pulling strings behind the scenes. So give him a listen, and I think you will find him to be a person who will always be listening to us, as constituents.

William Masters can be reached at The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Star and its editorial board.

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William Masters
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