Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III Understands America [OPINION]
Massachusetts Representative Joe Kennedy III delivered a short and powerful message to the corporate world on the state of our union and our economy last month.
The Democratic Party has lost the trust of some of the people who made it a successful political party. Congressman Joe Kennedy understands the divide, and he has the ability to lead his party into the future.
On November 26, the congressman addressed the New England Council. This august body is about business and it is proud of its heritage.
"As its founders envisioned when they gathered in Maine in 1925, the New England Council remains the leading voice for the region’s business community on Capitol Hill," the Council's website reads.
Standing before the leaders of the New England economy, Congressman Kennedy delivered a pro-American message. He celebrated the American system of capitalism and the incredible abundance it produces.
"American capitalism has done great good for a great number of people. It has given our average citizen a better standard of living than anywhere else in the world, lifted millions out of poverty, and powered the globe," he said.
Kennedy isn't part of the "hate America" crowd that is deeply embedded in some elements of his party. He comes from a family that became a political force because it was first a business force. Nobody would have listened to his great-grandfather, grandfather, his great uncles, or his father if they didn't have the personal wealth to get a seat at the table. American capitalism is at the root of the Kennedy family's ability to influence public policy for nearly 100 years.
He also told these captains of New England industry about the plight of the average American:
"Meanwhile, the top one percent owns 40 percent of our country’s wealth. The average CEO makes 361 times what their average worker makes. Payouts to shareholders after the GOP tax bill will hit $1.3 trillion this year while wages still hover at the lowest they’ve been in over half a century," he said. "Even in Massachusetts – where we hold ourselves up as a beacon for progress and inclusion and equity – the top 1 percent of earners in Suffolk County make over 50 times more than the bottom 99 percent. In Boston the average net worth for white households is over $247,000; for black households, it’s $8."
He told them the truth.
He pointed out some young people now favor socialism over our capitalist system. He pointed out that President Trump recognized the anger of the middle class and used it to win the Oval Office. He is trying to show that the Democratic Party and American capitalism deserve credit and trust with the voters.
He calls it "moral capitalism."
New Bedford City Councilor Hugh C. Dunn is on the frontlines of this movement with Congressman Kennedy. In addition to serving as an elected leader in New Bedford, Mr. Dunn is the executive director of SouthCoast Development Partnership, which is based at UMass Dartmouth. According to its website, "The SouthCoast Development Partnership’s Mission is: to stimulate, facilitate, and support the economic prosperity of the SouthCoast through transformative innovation, educational attainment, and workforce development consistent with the UMass Dartmouth Strategic Plan."
Councilor Dunn is an attorney and spent years on the staff of Congressman William Keating. He understands the region and the ways of Washington, D.C.
When I questioned Dunn on the role Rep. Kennedy has played in our transforming economy he told me the following:
"Kennedy is doing more than asking the private sector to embrace 'moral capitalism' - he is expending his political capital to support his vision. While Rep. Kennedy represents affluent areas like Newton, he also represents the SouthCoast and partnered with Congressman Keating and SouthCoast Development Partnership to launch the Blue Economy Corridor economic development initiative to advance the region's coastal economy. Congressman Joe Kennedy asked the region to adopt a broader economic vision and when they did he helped make it happen."
Attorney Christopher Hendricks of New Bedford was elected to the Massachusetts legislature this year when he defeated a longtime incumbent in the Democrat Party primary. He was impressed with the speech Congressman Kennedy recently delivered.
"To understand the vulnerabilities and the problems of our economy, we must know the history of how we got here. Congressman Joe Kennedy outlines that perfectly and it is encouraging," Hendricks said. "Our economic policy should prioritize American workers first. That was the focus of FDR's New Deal and we can re-establish that today with the right leadership. Congressman Kennedy is bringing that leadership and I'm excited to be a part of this progressive and positive movement in the greatest country in the world."
Dunn believes the partnership between Rep. Keating, Rep. Kennedy and local elected officials like himself and others is a winning combination.
"Congressman Kennedy is very effective at bringing people together and then helping them achieve their shared goals," he said. "I've seen it first hand an I'm optimistic about his call for "moral capitalism" across our nation."
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.