Scientists are united, and the debate is over. Climate change is real. Humans cause it, and the devastating problems are present in every community that has unseasonably warm weather or torrents of rain or devastating droughts. We must act now to preserve this planet, and it will take bold action, such as investing in clean, sustainable energy to generate power through our revolutionized electric grid.
Clean energy technology will keep America as a leader in job creation, manufacturing, and local community revitalization. Every dollar that we invest in energy efficiency provides a $4 benefit in energy savings for Americans. It makes sense economically and morally to invest in solar, wind, geothermal, and other sources of clean, sustainable energy.
Southern Indiana has the potential to be a leader in green energy and economic development. President Franklin Roosevelt hired thousands of young men in the Great Depression to plant trees, build dams, and other methods to promote environmentalism and energy development. I propose the same drastic measures. Young men and women can plant trees in the parts of the state where Indiana has promoted deforestation. The jobs that teenagers used to have are being worked by adults who cannot find better opportunities. Until we can provide upward mobility in this economy, I propose using government action to provide employment and environmentalism. Our youth can work jobs that will help their environment while we create new opportunities for adults to work full-time, living wage jobs.
Campaign Finance Reform
Washington incumbents have ensured that money is speech, corporations are people, and tremendous piles of cash do not need to be disclosed to the public. Representative Hollingsworth III epitomizes what is wrong with the current political situation. The wealthiest Americans can move to any district in the country, spend over $3,000,000 of their own money, and buy themselves power to advance their own interests. That is not democracy. We need to have a system that promotes small donations over corporate interests. We need a system that limits all donations, even by candidates to their own campaigns, to $2,700 per election season. Representatives should be beholden to their constituents, not to their own interests or their rich friends, and our current system does very little to promote democracy.
Moreover, super PACs provide the perfect vehicle to circumvent already poorly enforced campaign finance laws. We all know super wealthy donors who are backing political groups for specific reasons, whether it is the Koch brothers or George Soros. Both sides of the aisle are guilty, and now we need to promote a system that treats all Americans equally. Super PACs are supposedly independent expenditures, unable to coordinate with candidates or their campaigns, but it does not work that way. The system is broken, and we need a better one. We deserve a better campaign finance system, and we can create it.
Minimum Wage & Income Inequality
The United States is the wealthiest country in the world, but this wealth is not enjoyed broadly. When the top 0.1% of families own as much wealth as the bottom 90%, there is something drastically wrong with that statistic. If that is not appalling enough, almost 1/3 of all American children live in poverty. This is not acceptable. We need to do better by our children and by their families.
Increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour is a step in the right direction. No American worker should put in a 40-hour work/week and still live in poverty. We also need to make sure that each stage of the economic ladder is able to support everyone. Teenagers and young adults need employment opportunities to step onto the economic ladder, and investing in infrastructure will put at least 13 million American adults to work repairing our roads, bridges, and other needs. The rungs on the economic ladder that made the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers successful are today missing or need reinforcement.
There are countless other issues in our lives that affect our incomes. Education costs, health insurance, pay inequity, childcare, and other factors of modern life take meager paychecks and make them impossible to cover all life’s needs. My guiding principle will be to provide American families with the opportunities and programs to help them escape poverty and economic stagnation.
It has been 30 years since the last tax reform, and special interests and corporations have hijacked the tax code. The effective corporate tax rate is only 12.6%, not the 35% that corporations decry, and despite the record-breaking profits they enjoy, their contribution to the total federal revenue is a measly 11%. And that is only for the corporations that actually paid federal income taxes. These businesses use public roads, electric grids, and other infrastructure, but they avoid paying for these necessities. Multi-national corporations and other large businesses should pay their fair share for the public infrastructure they use. Families and small businesses, groups unable to hire lobbyists, have been stuck with the tax bill that larger companies should be paying. That will end.
Wall St. banks, the same ones that got us into the Great Recession, need to pay for their speculation with a tax on trading stocks, bonds, and derivatives. If those hedge fund managers want to engage in high-frequency trading, they can pay for their speculation. If we impose a 0.5% tax on trading, we could raise millions of dollars and incentivize prudent financial decisions rather than promoting the system that almost collapsed the world economy.
Most of our taxes are progressive, which means the more you make, the more you pay. Social Security has a cap set at $118,500 per year. That means a multi-billionaire and someone making $118,500 pay the same amount into a Social Security system that is running out of money. If we removed that cap and kept the Social Security tax at the same rate, only 1.5% of workers would be affected, but it would keep the Social Security fund solvent for another 58 years. The more you earn, the more you pay because too many of our citizens make too little to contribute while too many of our corporations pay nothing.
21st Century Economy
Most of our district is rural, which means we need a representative who understands the problems facing family farms and the rural economy. I want to make sure that family farmers thrive by supporting young and beginning farmers rather than corporate farms. We need to enforce antitrust laws against large agribusiness corporations which dominate the market and force small family farmers out of business. We can help the rural parts of our district by improving the electric grid, expanding broadband Internet services, and creating large scale bio-mass fired electric plants to power that grid and internet.
For the rest of the district, we need to cut red tape and regulations for small businesses and entrepreneurs who want to revitalize Indiana’s old economy. We need to create public-private investments in our infrastructure to foster economic development and create new markets for entrepreneurs right here. That is why we need an infrastructure bank now more than ever.
An infrastructure bank takes private investments and directs them toward long-term infrastructure and other public utilities. The savings from a modern, energy efficient building more than pays for the loan to renovate these buildings while paying a fair return on investment to the private financiers. This bank’s mission is not to generate as much profit as possible but to entice new investments that will benefit the communities which allow the infrastructure bank to lend. Modern schools, water treatment facilities, libraries, and other public buildings can be a reality in each small town in America. This bank can provide funds for fixing our crumbling infrastructure without raising a single dime in taxes.
Finally, we need to provide paid family leave for new mothers and fathers. The rest of the world has gotten the program, and it is not as expensive as people think. Employers can pay for what amounts to as parental insurance for pennies on the dollar to cover the wages and benefits for parents to take leave to take care of their newborn. Every family is entitled to twelve weeks of paid leave to take care of ill children, older family members, or new additions. The challenges families face with eldercare, newborns, and even personal illness are often economically crippling, but we can change that.
The foundation to any democracy is a vibrant public education system. Each and every child deserves to have access to high-quality K-12 education, and even before these children get to Kindergarten, they should have had the opportunity to attend pre-K learning. I support fully funding a statewide pre-K program so every child can get the type of head start that he and she deserves. Education is the silver bullet to break the cycle of poverty, and the demands of a 21st century economy requires individuals to be well educated to succeed.
Moreover, I want to return more education decisions to the local school boards, and I want them to have the funding and tools necessary to be successful. Schools in Gary, Indiana face far different challenges than the ones in Paoli, but both school corporations need money and support. Right now, a phenomenon known as “lunch shaming” has been occurring throughout the state when children do not have enough money in their lunch accounts, and schools take away hot meals and offer peanut butter sandwiches instead. I intend to expand the free and reduced lunch program to support families caught between being too wealthy to qualify now but too poor to actually afford lunch every day for their children. Funding seems to be the reason why children cannot have at least one hot meal each day, and the government has a role to play in supporting schools and their mission to educate tomorrow’s innovators, leaders, and teachers.
Finally, teachers’ salaries should not be tied to standardized test scores, and the state should not be creating the standards by which teachers are hired or fired. I trust local school corporations to determine which teachers are doing well and which ones might not be. Our teachers have been highly trained, and their pay should be reflective of that. The problem with retaining the great teachers we train at Indiana University and Ball State University is that we are not competitive in salary and benefits. The state has cut property taxes so deeply that school corporations are hard-pressed to fund everything necessary to be successful. My guiding principle in education reform is to let the teachers teach students – not tests.
College/Student Loan Debt
The economic scourge of my generation is college loan debt. It prevents many of us from buying a home, saving for retirement, and generally depresses our individual economic security. The government should not be charging interest rates as high as 7.9% on loans to students. Turning a profit on young Americans is not what government supposed to do, so I propose charging no interest on student loans except for the costs for managing the loan, which should be significantly lower than current interest rates. I also want to codify the income based repayment plan and other types of loan repayment assistance to allow young adults to be able to afford college and to start building up their economic security. I will work to expand Pell grants for working-class kids who are willing to work hard. Student loans and grants should be opportunities for teenagers to make their lives better through education rather than saddling the next generation with lifelong debt.
Colleges have been raising tuition at dizzying rates. The 21st century economy demands more and more education to be successful, but the costs of college are prohibitive to many teenagers. I support making public colleges and universities, community colleges, and vocational schools free to everyone who qualifies for admittance. Public education needs to go beyond the K-12 system that we support now. By taxing Wall St. banks and the top 0.1% of wage earners, we can fully fund public universities and community colleges. No longer will cost be a barrier to a college education.
We can fully support our military and the ones protecting us from foreign dangers without irresponsibly increasing military spending, but we have not done our job ensuring that veterans receive all the benefits that we owe them. We need to expand the VA and improve the bureaucracy surrounding veterans’ claims for care and compensation. Incentivizing doctors and nurse practitioners to join the VA network is imperative to be sure that there are enough care providers for all those who need to be seen. For the first time, the suicide rate among veterans is higher now than the rate among civilians. The VA system needs more mental health providers to accommodate the number of veterans who are seeking care. We can do better by our veterans, and it is our sacred duty to do so.
Access to healthcare is a right, not just a privilege. We have tried that system – the one that allows only those who can afford it to be treated. It is absurdly expensive and provides an awful return on investment for all of the money we spend getting treated. I believe that the free market does provide the most affordable outcomes for individuals in many instances, but the free market prioritizes profit over solutions. We need a public option that allows everyone to access affordable health care. That could be Medicare for All or amending the Affordable Care Act to help those who do not qualify for Medicaid or for the subsidies on the exchanges.
We can also help Americans by removing employer-based health insurance and removing the anxiety of worrying about health insurance when Americans lose their jobs or change employment. Freeing people from working a job just to maintain health insurance would promote innovation and entrepreneurship by Americans who are otherwise tied to their current employment. Parents could stay at home to care for kids; employers could focus on running their businesses rather than evaluating health insurance plans for their employees; and Americans could finally end the deplorable dilemma between paying for medicine or rent, health care or food, dental care or heat. Employer-based health care is a good solution in the current situation, but its downsides are numerous and are hindering Americans from reaching their full potential.
The idea that universal access to health care is prohibitively expensive or would create long waits to see a doctor is a myth. Instead of having employers and employees pay for health insurance plans, we can have an income-based public health care premium that is often lower than current, private plans’ premiums. This type of universal access will cost Americans about $1.38 trillion per year, but we spend almost $3 trillion per year now with 29 million Americans still uninsured or underinsured. The lunacy has to end, and universal health care is both possible and necessary.
Women, minorities, and LGBT have come a long way since America’s founding, but there are many areas in which we have stopped making progress or are trying to move backward.
For women, we need to ensure pay equity, to defend the reproductive rights of women, and to promote WIC and other programs to help pregnant mothers and infants.
For minorities and other people of color, we need to promote policing practices that keep everyone alive, to expand the Voting Rights Act so that every American is able to vote while doing everything possible to encourage voter participation, to reform our criminal system that pushes mandatory minimums and unfairly punishes minorities with harsher sentences than white people receive, and to encourage economic policies that help minorities overcome the barriers to success that have hindered generations of Americans.
For the LGBT community, we need to ensure that LGBT Americans have access to comprehensive health care without fear of bias, to work to end discrimination at school, work, and everyday life, to oppose any legislation that supposedly protects religious liberty at the expense of others’ civil rights, and to provide better resources to lower the suicide rate in the LGBT community.
Our society is better when everyone is better, and right now, we have had some knee-jerk reactions to equality that pulls us backward. Equality is not a zero-sum game with winners and losers. One group gaining legal protections does not deprive another group. It is a core tenet of our society – to form a more perfect union, and we can work towards that goal for every American.