In the United States, there are many forms of theft, but the single largest source of theft is not robbery. It is wage theft. Each year, employers steal billions of dollars from working people in a variety of ways, including working them off the clock, failing to pay the minimum wage, or cheating them out of overtime pay.
Most working people have had an experience with wage theft in one form or another, and very few have been able to do anything about it.
In a new ad recently released by Pennsylvania Attorney General and candidate for Governor Josh Shapiro, he makes a clear attempt to turn wage theft into a campaign issue by highlighting a 2021 case he brought and won against a contractor who stole over $20 million in wages from its employees.
The ad – and the issue itself – are reminiscent of a time when campaigns were more about issues and records, and less about sensationalism and flooding the zone with attacks and conspiracy theories.
In the post-Trump era, it can be difficult sometimes to remember that elected officials work for the people, and they have records that can be evaluated at election time. That is, if we can cut through all the distractions long enough to do so.
The response to issue-based campaigning has always been to sensationalize; but these days, things are getting a bit weird. Republican candidate for Governor Doug Mastriano is openly running on a platform that claims the 2020 election was stolen (it wasn’t), climate change is “fake science” (it isn’t) and that anti-semitic social media sites like GAB reflect the values of Pennsylvanians (they don’t).
Mastriano’s extremism has divided the GOP, with many prominent republicans now forming a PAC to support Shapiro instead of their party’s own nominee.
“The real issue is stopping an unacceptable choice, which is Mastriano,” said Craig Snyder, former chief of staff for Republican Senator Arlen Specter.
In the end, the voters will decide what counts as a record worth supporting. Sensationalism, distraction and fear are not new concepts. They have been enough to win elections for many politicians in the past, and they will be on display all over the country in the next few months as extreme candidates take aim at high offices in several states. In November, the politics of fear will once again succeed, or it will fail, and no one knows for sure yet how it will turn out.
But one thing is certain: working families will have their say.
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