Recently retired judge Tim Bjorkman held the first public event of his U.S. House campaign yesterday evening in Canistota. The Democratic candidate spoke to a friendly crowd of about 170 friends, neighbors, and visitors at the Canistota Veterans Memorial on the grounds of the Canistota Public School.
Introducing Bjorkman were his neighbor and former Canistota teacher and school superintendent Keith Ligtenberg, his friend and Total Stop Food Stores president Jeff Nielsen, and his sister Nancy Pulford:
In a 25-minute address, Bjorkman spoke of his desire to honor “what really makes America great… her ideals.”
Bjorkman said he saw firsthand in his courtroom the impacts of the middle class falling away from the well-off. Bjorkman said that growing inequality creates a “quiet desperation” and threatens “the economic, social, and moral fabric” of the nation. The problems he saw from the bench are beyond his ability as a judge to sole; thus, said Bjorkman, he feels a calling to run for Congress, where he believes he can solve these problems.
Sounding like Bernie Sanders, Bjorkman expressed his dismay that one American family has more wealth than 130 million American combined. He said it is morally wrong that in a nation as rich as the United States, one in three kids grow up poor.
Bjorkman said we need to honor work again and require able-bodied recipients of public assistance to to do some kind of work. He advocated moving people off welfare by raising the minimum wage. Bjorkman said the federal minimum wage he made back in 1968 at the Kimball IGA offered purchasing power in today’s dollars of $11.25. (This CNBC report pegs the 1968 value at $10.90.) He said a mom working full-time at an $11/hour minimum wage wouldn’t qualify for food stamps. Bjorkman indicated that a minimum wage that still leaves full-time workers qualifying for public assistance merely subsidizes low-wage employers.
Bjorkman called for more access to mental health care and drug treatment in our corrections system. He said we don’t need to have a debate about whether health care is a “right”; we simply need to recognize the making health accessible to all is the right thing to do morally and economically.
Citing Warren Buffett’s statement that “medical costs are the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness,” Bjorkman said that health care costs drag American businesses down more than taxes.
Bjorkman said the health care system reminds him of something Almanzo said to Laura in the Little House books:
“Everyone gets their ice; it’s just that the rich get theirs in summer and the poor get theirs in the winter.” The poor in South Dakota get their health care in our emergency rooms, our jails, and our prisons, often erratically and when it’s too late to easily treat, and often far, far more expensive than it needed to be.
Bjorkman called the House GOP health care plan “a moral, economic disaster” that is hardly a health care plan and more of a tax cut for the wealthy. He said he would have voted against that plan. He called on his fellow candidates in the House race to say on the record how they would have voted on that House plan.
Bjorkman also decried the cuts the Trump budget would make to the USDA. Those cuts, said Bjorkman, amount to “economic war on rural America” at a time when rural communities are already worse off than our cities with “higher poverty, higher unemployment rates, higher incidence of substandard housing, and poorer water quality.”
Bjorkman said South Dakota has too often elected people we like but who go to Washington and fall in with their national party’s agenda and wealthy corporate special interests. Bjorkman said just about everyone in Washington has a lobbyist except for regular folks and promised to be “your advocate.”
After the speech, guests enjoyed sloppy joes served by the Bjorkman campaign. Folks with young ‘uns then walked a block downtown to enjoy the carnival on the first evening of Canistota Sport Days festivities.