In a book currently in the works I have outlined a campaign platform for my candidacy for the United States Congress, offering positions on the issues that seem most urgent. As my friends and supporters and colleagues on the Asheville City Council well know, I am unabashed in stating my opinions, willing to listen to others, and prepared to change my mind when presented with convincing evidence that contradicts my suppostions. So, while the positions I have laid out here reflect pretty firmly held convictions, they are not set in mental stone. I’ve lived long enough to know that I don’t know it all, and don’t have all the best answers.
Briefly stated, there is one overarching change we need to effect in our country, and eight core issues that have spurred me to toss my hat into the Congressional ring.
• We must implement public financing of all political campaigns.
Voter-owned elections will free us from the tyranny of corporatism and the purchase of elected officials by the highest bidder. To those who claim such a system is too expensive I reply:
“It can’t cost more than the current plan, where Congressional reps insist on weapons systems the military doesn’t ask for; build bridges to nowhere that aren’t needed; and facilitate no-bid contracts and sweetheart deals for their cronies.”
1. Jobs. I’ve issued a white paper on jobs. In brief, we need to create jobs today through federal spending: a renewal of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) that bailed out so many families following the Great Depression is the way to go. We have many unmet needs: infrastructure like bridges, highways, light rail; teachers and teachers aides in our schools; care providers for the elderly and infirm; tree planting; park maintenance; and much more. Until we put American’s to work, the economy won’t recover and federal deficit spending succeeded in the past. We can do it!
2. We must create meaningful programs to protect children, to ensure that our nation’s next generations are well fed, healthy and educated. This includes paid leave for mothers or primary care-givers during the first five years of a child’s life, funding public elementary education and approval of the ERA. It also necessarily includes science-based environmental protection so we leave our children a living planet.
3. We need to get rid of income taxes on wages below $200,000. I am a progressive Democrat, and under our current tax system I fully support a progressive income tax. However, over the years the IRS code has become hopelessly tangled with loopholes that benefit special interests and those who can afford teams of accountants. I believe we should consider adopting a modified form of what is known as the Fair Tax. The Fair Tax is a consumption tax on new goods. No more tax kickbacks to General Electric or Big Oil. No more filing of ever more complicated tax returns for those of us who work for a living at average jobs. There would be a tax paid at the cash register. The regressive element of a sales tax would be eliminated with a prebate, cash given to every citizen to offset the disproportionate impact of sales tax on the poor. We should also implement a Financial Transactions Tax on stock, bond and other securities trades, and an estate tax on large estates. This system would be much more fair to all, and would collect money from parts of the economy currently not taxed (drug lord or gang money, undocumented worker wages, etc.) A progressive income tax at the upper income levels would further diminish the regressive nature of a consumption tax.
4. We must end the war on drugs. Prohibition has failed and failed again for more than a century. Our drug war has destroyed lives, destroyed families, wrecked communities, increased crime and increased the quantity and availability of the drugs it supposedly intends to eliminate. I concur with the international panel on drug policy which has just submitted a report to the United Nations recommending an end to the global war on drugs.
5. We must renegotiate global trade deals including NAFTA and CAFTA to include worker and environmental protection. If nations like China continue to refuse to cooperate, I think we should at least consider imposing tariffs on their goods. China collects a 30 percent tariff on imports, and has kept the yuan artificially low: this is blatant violation of their obligations under membership in the World Trade Organization and we must demand an end to their protectionism.
6. We must no longer assume the role of the world’s policeman, and we must close all or most of our hundreds of military bases on foreign soil, including Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to reassert civilian authority over the military.
7. We must introduce a public option to the recently enacted health care legislation and then move toward a single-payer system. The best path is to permit anyone to participate in Medicare (with higher costs for workers than retirees.) I have specific plans for how we can save Medicare and reduce medical costs across the board, as part of my tax proposals. We should fund all pharmaceutical research at the federal level and eliminate patents on medications. All prescription drugs should be generic, with no advertising of prescription drugs to the general public.
8. We must act to eliminate corporate personhood—that is, the practice of treating corporations as natural persons under the law. The founders of this nation threw off the yoke of British corporate rule, and we need to do it again. Corporations exist to protect investors from liability, and that protection should only be granted to the extent that the goals of the corporation serve the public good.
In seven short chapters I will expand on each of these positions, and in a final chapter I will include shorter answers and discussions of numerous other issues that face our communities and our nation.
•Alternative energy systems offer a path to the future. Having lived off the grid on solar power for more that two decades I know we can do it, creating jobs and unhooking from foreign oil.
• Climate change is real. Our energy and economic policies must be shaped to address greenhouse gas emissions now. We were first made aware of the problem twenty years ago. Ignoring it hasn’t made it go away. Click here for more.
• Education: Free public education from pre-school through four years of college for those who can make the grade.
• Evolution happened. Get over it. We can’t afford to teach fairy tales in science classes. (And note that it’s still happening. The creatures that greet the sunrise in a billion years will be as different from us as we are from bacteria.)
• Immigration reform is urgent, to create a rational path to citizenship and guest worker status. Massive undocumented immigration is a side effect of our fraudulent free trade policies and can be reduced with reform as mentioned above. The Fair Tax system will eliminate one of the reasons that employers hire undocumented workers (to save on payroll taxes) and it will eliminate one of the reasons why undocumented workers are willing to work for less (if no income or Social Security tax is deducted from their pay, they can work for “less” and still have the same take-home pay).
• Jobs can be created now through federal funding of infrastructure projects: bridge repair, water system upgrades, high speed and expanded freight rail systems are all urgently needed. Massive investment in alternative energy systems will create jobs today and savings tomorrow.
• Marriage: Ideally government should get out of the marriage business. Relationships between people are their own business and if they want to marry they should do it under whatever auspices they choose, be it church, synagogue, mosque, coven, etc. Unfortunately, government has intruded into personal relationships in hundreds of ways, according specific rights to married people that are not accorded to unmarried people. Until those problems are corrected, marriage should be available to anyone who wants government sanction for a relationship.
• The National Debt is a straw issue offered by Republicans and Blue Dogs in order to justify a collapse of government systems. Deficit spending saved our bacon following the Great Depression and through WWII. We can afford to buy now and pay later with cheaper, inflated dollars. We’ll bring down the debt over many years as we have in the past, but it isn’t a current emergency.
• Women’s Issues: Abortion should be legal, safe and rare. We should supply full funding for Planned Parenthood and offer comprehensive sex education in schools. (Although this applies to both genders, it seems to me that women are far more vulnerable biologically, both due to pregnancy and disease.) Pass the ERA and do everything possible to assure equal pay for equal work. Paid parental leave for one parent for the first five years of a woman’s first two children’s lives. (Note that this also addresses unemployment, since it would permit a parent to step out of the work force as a full time caregiver, a double bonus for the social investment. The two child limit is proposed as a disincentive to reproduce as a “business” decision