Austin farmer seeks Senate seatPublished 10:59am Friday, August 10, 2012
Austin farmer Stephen Williams knows a thing or two about growing corn. But he also has a few ideas on how to help the country recover from the recession.
“I feel, economically, we’re being led into a very bad situation,” he said “I don’t think that we’re anywhere near out of the woods yet.”
Williams, who is an Independence Party candidate for Minnesota’s U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Amy Klobuchar, said the mortgage market collapse and the near collapse of the financial system five years ago showed the problem.
Other changes Williams would like to see are the eliminate payroll taxes and making Medicare available for all Americans, rather than just those older than 65.
“A nation’s real wealth is created by productive labor,” he said.
“We have to do everything we can to support the growth of jobs … Any expense we put on the employer is ultimately paid for by the worker.”
Cutting payroll taxes and making Medicare available across the board will take a large financial burden off the shoulders of the worker. Williams said he understands that will create some financial gaps that the government will have to fill through other means. He has a different solution.
“I believe in taxing consumption rather than labor,” he said.
He doesn’t suggest that extra tax land on food or other basic necessities, but rather “discretionary goods.” He’s looking at TVs, cell phones and automobiles; the sorts of goods advertised and sold to fill a want rather than a need.
Williams was born in south Minneapolis and lived in the city for 25 years. He moved to the Austin area 32 years ago, settling on what came to be known as Honey Tree Farm outside of Austin. He has farmed there for the last 32 years.
The farm now concentrates exclusively on sweet corn to maximize the efficiency of growing the crop, though Williams used to grow other products, including honey. He and his wife and children work together picking the corn and packaging it up, then Williams delivers it to grocers, including local retailers like Hy-Vee and Super Fresh.
Williams said he thought he had a “fairly good chance” taking on Starbuck, Minn., farmer Glen R. Anderson Menze, the other candidate running in the Independence Party, in the Aug. 14 primary election. Menze ran for U.S. Congress in Minnesota’s 7th District three times before, most recently in 2010, and each time passed the primary. Williams has run for senator two times before, but has no experience in elected office.
“I’ve never worked with the government and probably would rather not,” he said.
But the country needs to find a new direction, or the consequences are going to be severe, he said.
“It’s kind of like predicting an earthquake,” he said. “You know it’s coming, but timing is tough.” The sooner we deal with it, the less severe the consequences will be, he said.
The country has to move from a consumer economy to a stewardship economy, and build for the future rather than steal from it, he said.
“We cannot transfer all this unpaid debt onto the younger generation,” he said. “I know that I’m asking people to take a completely different look at how we do things in this country. If I try, I can go to sleep with a clean conscience.”