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Talking Kitchen Table Economics

This Thanksgiving, give your political skills a try and steer the conversation in the correct direction

Kris LaGrange's picture
Nov 21, 2018

With Thanksgiving finally here, everyone knows the rule to avoid politics and religion at the dinner table, yet we ignore it now more than ever. It's our duty to not accept that defeatist attitude and confront ignorance and complacency head-on. It's what we do, and probably why you are reading this.

In order to make the inevitable discussion of politics at the Thanksgiving table more fruitful, try bringing up “kitchen table economics” – or critical issues like wages and health care that affect working people every day of the year, including Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“Kitchen table economics” is based on the fact that the kitchen table is where many working households conduct their financial dealings. It is where the working man or woman, or both, open their checkbooks to pay the bills and calculate what’s coming in (not much) and what’s going out (a lot). A working person's kitchen table is the opposite of the financial sections of newspapers and cable news. Those mediums limit the scope of their analysis to stock prices, GDP growth, and unemployment statistics that don’t don't make much sense to the average working Joe and Jill. The kitchen table makes a lot of sense. It's where families come together and decisions are made.

At the Thanksgiving feast this year, will we dare discuss the contradictions under the Trump, as inflation hampers wage growth and tax breaks for the wealthy don’t trickle down to benefit anyone sharing dinner with you today? Trickle down economics is a long con and it never has worked anyway. Fox News will tell you otherwise and some people at your table today just don't want to believe that Fox is fake.

What the average worker sees and experiences is what matters most to them: income, cost of living, savings, and whether those things are increasing, decreasing, or stagnant. The wealthy, with their accountants and financial advisers, can afford to ignore day to day financial concerns. Ask them the price of a gallon of milk or gasoline or daycare and you’ll get different answers.

Feeling bold? Let's try this - start a conversation after the bird is carved with these examples of “kitchen table” topics:

  • How has work been treating you?
  • Do you expect a holiday bonus?
  • Is our insurance plan going to cover Mom's upcoming surgery?

By asking and answering these questions, we may learn more about what’s really going on in the world and point an easily mislead family member in the correct political direction. Eventually, by identifying real-life problems together, we will become more united as a family unit and come to the obvious conclusion that collective bargaining, organized labor and community involvement are the keys to making America great; not walls, murdering journalist or sending troops to invisible borders to wait for nothing to happen.

Not all of your Thanksgiving kitchen table political jargon has to be negative. An expensive mortgage also means someone just bought a new house. Child care costs also mean new and growing members of the family. These are blessings.

More examples of counting your blessings at the Thanksgiving feast are:

  • Our cousin just got her Master’s Degree!
  • My brother just moved into a new apartment!
  • Did you hear Uncle James finally got a job?!

The positives will help smooth over differences and draw people in for further discussion. Therein lies the power of having meaningful conversations with our loved ones about issues that really matter, a.k.a. “kitchen table economics.”

Analysis of the midterm election results shows that the “kitchen table” approach worked for Democratic candidates as well. Rather than respond to fears of migrant caravans and kneeling football players protesting for civil rights in America's urban centers; progressive Democrats brought their message back to the basics. By promoting health care for all, which is overwhelmingly popular among voters of all stripes, they were able to connect with working-class and first-time voters and successfully flipped the U.S. House of Representatives and state-level bodies across this diverse nation.

It remains to be seen if the Democratic Party stays at the “kitchen table” beyond Election Day, but the change can’t start with us in our conversations with each other during the holidays. The Democrats can survive without us, and winning using the kitchen table economic approach worked then, and it's working now.

Dan Hinton contributed to this piece.

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