I am running for governor because we live on the precipice of history. What we choose to do -- or not to do – over the next few years will determine whether we will succeed in building a just, sustainable, and prosperous Commonwealth.
For Massachusetts to thrive and to lead, we must boldly confront three structural problems that are undermining our prosperity and our future.
The first is inequality. The Declaration of Independence says we are created equal. The Constitution declares that our rights are equal. The Supreme Court declares that our justice will be equal. And our core economic belief – the bedrock of the American dream – is that our opportunities must be equal. Even when we knew that we were far away from those ideals, we still made progress towards them
Today that progress has halted. Franklin Roosevelt defined the basic ingredients to a decent life as a good home, a good school, a good doctor, and a good job. Today affordable housing, quality education, basic health care, and solid employment have become harder for everyone but those at the top. Low income families are being shoved out of their homes; young people are being crushed by rising tuition and fees; mothers, children, senior citizens, and those with severe diseases face crushing medical expenses; and many workers hold jobs that are insecure and underpaid. Why is this? Because whenever productivity improves and the economy grows, the benefits go primarily to those at the top. For most people wages, wealth, and income have remained flat.
No wonder people are frustrated. No wonder people have lost confidence in the American Dream.
This can and must be changed. We know that there are many tools -- higher wages, better training, support for small business, local capital, anchor institutions, public banks, and tested business models like cooperatives – that can build real jobs for real people in real communities. We need a $15 minimum wage, paid sick time, and a millionaire’s tax that follows the ancient principle of fairness that “from those to whom much has been given, much will be asked.”
The second problem is the cost of energy and climate change. Our present and future prosperity is currently being stolen by utilities and energy companies that keep us addicted – at great expense – to fossil fuels and by government officials who do not want to challenge this broken system. Over the last 20 years we have spent approximately $360 billion – an amount nearly ten times our entire annual state budget -- buying fossil fuels from outside the state. All of that heating oil, gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and other fuels have not only damaged our air and changed our weather, but they have also blown a hole in our economy. $360 billion works out to $3,000 per person per year - $60,000 over twenty years!
We are also putting our children, and their children, and all the children for the next thousand years in danger through our failure to confront climate change. A generation ago, our leaders here in America could have acted with maturity, acknowledged the problem, and jumped into finding the solutions with characteristic American ingenuity and common sense. But because of ignorance, inconvenience, greed, fear and cowardice, they failed us, and so today the problems are more dangerous, more expensive, and more complicated.
We have been told that there is no alternative – but that was not and it is not true. Moving to a clean energy economy –- as so many countries around the world are now doing -- would drive down the cost of living for every person, every family, every small business, and every town and city in Massachusetts. Imagine what would happen to family, business, and municipal budgets if energy prices dropped by half. Fixing our energy system would be a major tool in addressing economic inequality. But we have not had the commitment and leadership from the top that would enable this to happen.
Finally, we facing a threat to our democracy. Abraham Lincoln reminded us that ours is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” How can that remain true when our government is being run by a cabinet of billionaires who got rich peddling oil or gaming Wall Street? To make matters worse, Republicans in state capitals and in Washington have systematically distorted congressional districts, suppressed voting, and flooded our elections with money all because they fear the changing demographics and opinions of the American people. Now we have a president whose decisions and policies openly violate the Constitution itself. Even here in Massachusetts we have allowed money to invade our politics, making it harder for candidates to run and for bills to pass.
These problems could be solved through leadership, especially leadership from the governor. Unfortunately Governor Baker has chosen not to move aggressively on any of these questions. At a time when we need bold, visionary action, he takes timid baby-steps. He could be attacking inequality by supporting more affordable housing, or expanding public education, or promoting better health care, especially for women and children, or pushing for higher wages. – but he is not. In many cases he has slashed state support for these goals.
He could be pressing for rapid change in our energy system – but he is not. In fact, he had to be forced by a judge to obey the Global Warming Solutions Act, first passed in 2008.
He could be fighting to reduce the impact of money in politics; instead he is bypassing state limits by soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars for the national party, expecting that it will be returned to him in the future.
He could be publicly refuting the damaging decisions and outright lies coming from the White House. He has remained silent, day after day, week after week, as the leaders of his own party destroy decades of progresses and gut the Constitution. Because he is not protecting the core values of the Commonwealth, he is no longer qualified to lead it.
The good news is that Massachusetts already has all the tools and talents we need to overcome these structural problems. But we need leadership.
We need someone who can help us to unite across many backgrounds, beliefs, and differences, to rise above our short-term interests and embrace our long-term destiny. I have worked for racial and economic justice for more than thirty years and wrote a major book on the South African divestment movement. I know how far we still need to go to bring justice to our economy and our land. I understand our history of setting great goals and then working tirelessly to achieve them.
We need someone who can take what seem like impossible ideas and make them happen. Throughout my life I have done that -- as the founder or leader of powerful organizations like Ceres, the Global Reporting Initiative, the Investor Network on Climate Risk, and the New Economy Coalition. Working with groups from around the globe, I took on the world’s biggest corporations and successfully pressed them to measure and disclose their impacts on workers, human rights, climate change, and the environment. Together we succeeded in driving sustainability straight into the heart of our corporate economy.
We need someone with the right combination of values, skills, experience, and drive to move us decisively forward. I have been through hard times and have recovered from them with strength, passion, and boundless commitment to the future. I understand that our strength as a state comes not from the decisions of the few, but from the intelligence and creativity of the many. I know that leaders must lead with respect, and that the essence of respect is listening.
If we come together we can unleash new ideas, new cooperation, new imagination, new technologies, and new resolve to overcome today’s problems and drive forward into a thrilling tomorrow. I invite you to join my campaign as one of hundreds of efforts of resistance and renewal that signal the birth of a new American era.
We are known to the world as the “Commonwealth” of Massachusetts, because we understand that when one of us succeeds, we all succeed. From its very beginning, this state has worked to be America’s beacon of hope, prosperity, and inclusion. We must rededicate ourselves to that purpose.
By embracing new vision and action, let us now respond to the call of history and boldly move our state towards the destiny that we all deserve.