A single-payer, government-run healthcare system is the best way to ensure that every person in the U.S. receives quality medical coverage. I support a Medicare for All plan that:
-Enshrines healthcare as a human right;
-Insures all people in the U.S. regardless of immigration status;
-Covers dental, vision, special needs, mental health, abortion, contraception, and hormonal/surgical transition services (for transgender people);
-Creates programs to support those who currently work in the private insurance industry so that they can transition to the public sector or other related professions; and
-Mandates that health institutions improve transparency and medical training programs to combat racial disparities in the healthcare system.
To make Medicare for All a reality, l will work collaboratively with various different social justice organizations, such as immigrant rights, workers rights, and racial justice groups, to collectively push Congress to pass Medicare for All. I will canvass the people of my district to encourage them to rally their Senators and other elected officials to support Medicare for All. By working together, we can pass universal healthcare and dramatically improve the medical systems of our country.
Where our children attend school has a defining impact on their futures, and the future of our communities. Where not done carefully and deliberately, school districting has increased the racial, economic, and social segregation of our elementary, middle, and high schools. Stronger federal laws must be passed and implemented to further integrate our school systems so that our communities share resources, advocate for each other, and learn together.
Working class families often struggle to pay for the cost of Pre-K, which means lower-income children are limited in receiving early childhood education while their parents try to balance work with the exorbitant costs of child care. We need to invest in universal Pre-K so that children can get the best education and parents do not make difficult choices between putting food on the table and covering the cost of child care. The quality of a child’s education should never be determined by their family income.
College debt is dragging post secondary and graduate students into cycles of economic stress and poverty. The college debt crisis increases unjust wealth gaps and particularly affects students who are low-income, people of color, and first generation. According to Experian, the average student loan debt in 2019 is $35,359. From personal experience, student debt weighs on every decision in one's life, from where one lives to the job one accepts. We need to pass student debt relief legislation that focuses particularly on eliminating the debt for low-income individuals and families. We also need to pass legislation that will implement free public college programs that will cover both tuition and housing.
Our current education system is contributing to societal polarization. In school, students rarely learn about the history of institutional racism in the U.S. According to a study by Teaching Tolerance, only 8% of high school seniors could identify that the preservation of slavery was the reason that the southern states seceded from the Union before the Civil War. If we do not collectively understand the facts of our shared history, we will not be able to confront racism together. Our unity in this effort is important because the oppressive ideologies of xenophobia and white supremacy have caused and continue to cause racial injustice and further divisiveness. Therefore, we must teach ethnic studies, the history of racism, and social justice movements in our classrooms. Only then can we shift both culturally and socially toward a national dialogue that values justice, respect, and human rights.
Virginia lags behind with increases in school funding. The state hardly ever gives enough, so the federal government needs to step in to fill the gap.
Indigenous communities have long warned U.S. society about the dangers of polluting and degrading the natural world. As it stands, governmental and corporate destruction of the environment disproportionately affects those who already face societal marginalization. Politicians must acknowledge that racism, classism, and climate change are all linked together. We have seen countless examples of this, from the poisoning of Black communities in Flint, to the criminalization of indigenous groups in Standing Rock, to historic flooding where People of Color have a harder time receiving assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). To combat these intersectional forms of oppression, we need leaders who are willing to pass ambitious legislation that prepares our society for a better future.
I fully support the Green New Deal, which assures that as we are creating a new society, nourishing the natural world, and protecting ourselves from the worst impacts of climate change (global temperatures rising over 1.5 degrees Celsius). I support ending federal subsidization of the fossil fuel industry. I support getting corporate money out of politics so that industries that pollute our world and their representatives cannot buy political influence to stop necessary pro-environmental policies.
When it comes to environmental justice, incremental change is unethical and unjust. We are at the brink of an international crisis. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns us that increasing global temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius will cause droughts, food insecurity, and increased levels of poverty all over the world, particularly in places that currently face these issues. Therefore, we need leaders willing to work cooperatively on an international scale to learn from other countries and create multilateral plans for a better future focused on environmental justice.
I know firsthand how the changing environment affects people who are just barely making ends meet. To build a more environmentally just society, we need to listen to the voices of those who have the most to lose in the ever changing climate: indigenous communities, People of Color, those living in poverty, and living in areas that are at the forefront of environmental disaster. I will be a strong voice and advocate for environmental justice.
Systemic racism against Brown and Black people has devastated our country since its inception. Daily, People of Color confront societal oppression for their skin color, names, native language, and a host of other factors tied to racial identity. In essence, racism impacts the social, political, economic, and emotional lives of People of Color. To combat racism and white supremacy, there must be a cultural shift where our society collectively begins to recognize that Black Lives Matter, the need to respect indigenous rights, and the need to build an equitable country where our voices as People of Color bring about tangible change.
To create these societal shifts, we need to target core inequities. The Economic Policy Institute has shown that the median wealth of Black families is twelve times less than that of white families. As a direct result of the racial discrimination Black families cotinuously face disparities in to housing, income distribution, healthcare, education, and other factors while white families consistently obtain societal privileges related to these wealth indicators. Though the median household income is relatively high in Virginia’s 11th Congressional District, there are huge racial wealth gaps that manifest in inequitable access to resources. The median household income for non-Latinx white people in the district is $120,000, which is around $15,000 more than the district in general. Every community of color in the district has a lower median household income. Self-identifying Asian and Asian-American households’ median income is approximately $16,000 less than white households, Black households earn about $35,000 less, and Latinx households make about $44,000 less, to highlight a few.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, Fairfax County has the highest cost of living in all of Virginia. Prince William County has the sixth highest. The Fairfax County NAACP has shown that the county is currently short 30,000 affordable housing units and around “fifty percent of the county’s African American community are currently categorized as housing insecure”. In VA -11, gentrification is increasing the cost of living and exacerbating income inequity, particularly for communities of color. As your representative, I will listen to the voices of People of Color and fight for equitable policies such as:
- Increasing affordable housing and instituting stricter federal regulations barring housing, interest rate, and mortgage discrimination;
- Supporting unions and a $15 per hour minimum wage;
- Expanding funding for HBCUs and MSIs;
- Standing against big money in politics, which consistently builds up the white wealthy class at the expense of working People of Color;
- Working with others, such as the NAACP, Urban League, National Action Network, Black Lives Matter, to investigate the best ways to pay reparations for slavery and systemic racism; and
- Unifying the voices of my constituents of color to inform progressive policies that combat racism.
As it stands, people living in poverty, particularly People of Color and low-income individuals, face the largest barriers to accessing reproductive care. In Virginia, Medicaid only covers abortion procedures in extreme cases, which means that every year thousands of low-income people are left on their own to come up with hundreds of dollars in order to access reproductive care.
The Trump administration's rolling back of Title X has caused more people to lose access to contraceptives, which means that the need for abortion care will rise at the same time that the right to choose is under threat. As your representative, I will work to repeal the Hyde Amendment, the Global Gag Rule, and pass a law to codify Roe v. Wade.
I will fight for Medicare for All to include complete access to reproductive health care, so that everyone has access to affordable abortion procedures. For those living in areas with limited access to abortion care, I will fight to include coverage of transportation costs within Medicare for All to help people get to their procedures.
Currently, Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) actively work to misguide the public about information relating to abortion and contraceptive care. Even though many CPCs do not require medical licenses to operate, they freely share medical advice and try to appear like medical professionals in order to deceive patients. CPCs tend to target low-income communities of color in order to spread misinformation about reproductive care. Currently, many pregnant people use CPC services to receive free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and baby products, I will advocate to make these essentials affordable and accessible. I will fight for legislation that will force CPCs without medical licenses to disclose to patients that they are not medical professionals and cannot provide medical advice. I will fight for legislation that will require state governments to only give medically accurate information to patients before abortion procedures.
Some states go further to limit abortion access by instituting Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) Laws that place an undue burden on abortion facilities to meet governmental regulations that do not improve the quality of their medical care. The purpose of these laws is to place so many burdens on clinics and their patients that the state forces clinics to close. The Supreme Court recently found these types of laws to be unconstitutional, but the new conservative majority court will hear a nearly identical TRAP Law case in 2020. We need leaders who will pass legislation that federally eliminates TRAP Laws because they are unconstitutional in that they place an undue burden (as defined by the Supreme Court) on accessing abortion care.
Immigrants are vital members of our communities. We work some of the toughest jobs while contributing our values, perspectives, and cultures to the social fabric of the U.S. We are also a diverse group of people, with different experiences and priorities. To address the many needs of various immigrant communities, we need to take a variety of steps to improve life for immigrants.
We need to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which terrorizes communities, bends laws to its benefit, plants seeds of distrust between immigrant communities and the government, and tears families apart. We need to decriminalize crossing the border, so no one can ever be thrown in a cage, separated from their family, or detained indefinitely on the border again.
Private companies have no place in our immigration system, because no one should make a profit off locking up families and children. Moreover, we must expand our points of entry and immigration courts to ensure immigrants obtain their asylum quickly rather than waiting years for courts to render decisions. Moreover, there must be a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people living in the U.S. so that people do not live in fear of deportation. We must also work to keep families together through expanding access to family visas so that siblings, parents, and children are never separated. As the richest nation in the world, we need to be a leader in addressing the international refugee crisis by accepting more refugees into the U.S.
Immigrants are capable of leading and speaking out on issues that affect their community. As your representative, I will work to center the immigrant voice to ensure that we receive respect throughout the political system.
There is an epidemic of violence against transgender people, particularly Black transgender women. These acts of violence are examples of the intersectionality of systems of oppression. Black transgender people confront societal marginalization because of their race and gender identity. It is unacceptable that while LGBTQ+ people face everything from microaggressions to murder, there are no federal laws to grant them civil rights. I fully support the Equality Act, which federally protects the rights of LGBT people. However, this act alone is not enough to guarantee that LGBTQ+ people gain full membership in U.S. society.
To combat violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, particularly Black transgender women, we need to create a new federal department which will focus on social justice and equity. The rise of white supremacy and other hate groups coincide with a rise in violence against groups who face societal marginalization. The government needs to stand up to fight for the rights of those who are facing murder and discrimination because of ideologies of hate. Creating a new federal organization to combat this violence would reduce the number of hate crimes and provide more support for victims and survivors.
Transgender people and LGBTQ+ youth in general also face higher rates of self harm, attempted suicide, and homelessness. To best support these communities, we need to pass a comprehensive version of Medicare for All that covers hormonal therapy, surgical transition, and other forms of transgender related healthcare. We also need to expand access to affordable housing, long-term transitional shelters, and social support groups so that LGBTQ+ youth, particularly youth of color, don't face cycles of poverty, marginalization, and criminalization.
We need a leader who has a bold vision about how to center the experiences of LGBTQ+ people when creating public policy. We need a leader who will lead a cultural shift to bring about a more equitable world. As your representative, I will bring LGBTQ+ perspectives into the legislation that I propose and pass.
Small reforms of the policing and criminal justice system are not enough to alleviate the pain that these oppressive systems cause to communities of color, particularly Black communities. Police violence against Black people stretches far back to the creation of the police force in the U.S. We need courageous leaders to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement to call for fundamental changes to the police system in the U.S. In hiring, training, and evaluation of the police force, strong regulations must be implemented to train officers on implicit bias, fire racist officers, and prioritize community policing and de-escalation techniques. Moreover, we need unbiased third parties to investigate officer-involved shootings so that there is no bias in favor of the officer in the process. On a wider level, we need to demilitarize the police force because officers should not be using weapons of war to police, especially in communities of color. We also need to get rid of qualified immunity and defund the police so that we can invest in social services that actually focus on supporting communities who are on the forefront of systems of oppression.
Police should serve the communities in which they work, not criminalize and brutalize those they are meant to protect. More police officers should come from the communities they serve and demographically represent the neighborhoods in which they operate. Police need to be held accountable by community boards that are demographically representative of the neighborhoods in which they are located, and oversee and provide feedback on the actions and policies of the local police.
Not one more Black person should be murdered at the hands of the police. Not one more Latinx person should be interrogated because they are assumed to be undocumented. Raising our federal standards to protect the essential value of sanctity of human life is essential.
Using the term "justice system" to refer to the Prison-Industrial Complex is an oxymoron. Prosecutors often use their discretionary power to coerce People of Color, particularly Black and Latinx people into plea deals instead of going to trial. While everyone is theoretically guaranteed the right to a jury of one's own peers, plea deals take a person’s ability to appear before their peers completely out of the equation.
For those who do go to trial, but cannot afford a lawyer, public defenders are appointed. Typically, public defenders are underpaid and overworked, meaning that people often cannot obtain to quality legal representation. Moreover, juries are commonly very white, which means that People of Color often are not judged by a jury of peers. Once people are incarcerated, People of Color face high levels of violence and abuse in prisons and jails. Once they leave the Prison-Industrial Complex, many lose their right to vote, live in housing with federal assistance, and cannot get a job without disclosing their criminal history. Racial bias in the Prison-Industrial Complex means that People of Color, particularly Black people, receive harsher sentences for the same crimes as white people, are more likely given the death penalty, and held on a high cash bail. We are in a crisis and to put a bandaid on this complex issue is not justice for those who have suffered signficant consequences of racial discrimination at the hands of our prision system. .
To end the Prison-Industrial Complex, there must be a complete overhaul of the criminal “justice” system. That can be accomplished through some of the following:
-Ending cash bail;
-Focusing on rehabilitation programs while decriminalizing most drug offenses and retroactively reducing or ending drug related sentences;
-Creating incentives for lawyers to serve as public defenders;
-Creating strict federal anti-discrimination regulations in regards to sentencing and plea deals;
-Shifting the punitive focus of the Prison-Industrial Complex to restorative justice;
-Shutting down private prisons so that no one can profit by detaining people;
-Ending forced labor in prison; and
-Getting rid of questions relating to criminal history on job forms; and ending the process of denying civil and human rights to prisoners.
As your representative, I will fight for these substantial changes to the Prison-Industrial Complex and elevate activists to lead the conversations to create this social change.
Autistic people generally face distinct challenges based on the barriers set up in the educational, healthcare, criminal justice, and employment systems. Since Autism is a spectrum, not everyone with ASD has the same experience. For example, People of Color and low-income people with ASD face barriers to getting identified as having ASD and receiving support while facing higher rates of discrimination. At the same time, there are issues that affect almost all people within the community. In District 11, we have seen discrimination that students on the spectrum face in the educational system. In Fairfax County, isolation policies led many autistic students to face grueling conditions that caused increased stress and anxiety. The unjust seclusion policies negatively impacted many students, families, and their loved ones. Incidents such as these indicate that we need to create more federal legislation that expands upon the rights of those with ASD.
The timing of when students are identified as autistic can affect when they get access to services that may be able to support their learning styles. Science Daily has posted research that shows that low-income students are less likely to be identified as having autism in comparison to their higher-income peers. This discrepancy means that students with ASD may go longer in the educational system without receiving specialized resources to support their educational development. The same study by researchers at the University of Madison, Wisconsin indicates that in some countries where there is universal healthcare coverage, discrepancies in ASD identification rates between low-income and high-income students disappear. These conclusions indicate that a universal healthcare program, such as Medicare-for-All, could help low-income students with ASD access more resources from a younger age.
At the same time, socioeconomic status isn’t the only factor affecting ASD identification discrepancies. The Center for Disease Control and Spectrum News have both reported about how particularly Black and Latinx students face lower rates than white students of ASD identification, regardless of economic status. That means that a Medicare-for-All program, which provides free healthcare access to all people in the U.S., might not get rid of the disparities in ASD identification for students of color, particularly those who are Black and/or Latinx. Since these students aren’t usually identified as autistic until later in life, they may lose access to valuable resources that could have helped them develop individualized education plans from a young age. Moreover, Students of Color are more likely to be seen as misbehaving, rather than being neurodivergent, which leads to the disproportionate disciplining of Students of Color. Along with Medicare-for-All, we need to pass new Civil Rights legislation, which provides stronger security against discrimination based on race in the healthcare and educational systems. This new legislation would also allow the Justice Department to assess healthcare access in communities and create action plans to reduce racial disparities by partnering with local stakeholders to create a system to reduce inequities. Our educational and healthcare systems need to be better at supporting ASD People of Color, and we can pass laws to live up to our values of equity and justice.
As corporate profits have bloomed, wages in the United States have stayed stagnated while costs of basic human needs rise. As a working class person, I believe we must shift power back to working families and pursue their interests rather than those of multinational corporations. Furthermore, it has come to my attention that many of America’s low-wage employees are affected by a scheduling practice called “just-in-time,” an algorithm-based scheduling software that assigns hours to workers in real time based on time of day, weather, the season, or even nearby sporting events. This allows schedules to change on a day-to-day basis with no warning to workers.
This constant change can leave workers unable to plan aspects of their lives such as childcare arrangement and financial stability. I support Fair Workweek laws that have been implemented in New York City, Chicago and the State of Oregon. Under the Schedules That Work Act, part-time workers in Virginia and across the country will be able to provide a stable source of income and maintain their dignity by:
-Ensuring employers engage in good-faith processes with employees in potential schedule changes;
-Protecting workers who are caregivers, suffering from serious health conditions, enrolled in career-related educational programs or with secondary forms of employment;
-Protecting employees from possible retaliation in exercising their outlined rights; and
-Giving workers as well as employers the proper guidance and technical assistance they deserve through labor organizations.
The greatest threat to the care our veterans rely on is privatization. The passing of the MISSION Act in 2018 was done so in the name of expanded healthcare choice for our veterans. In reality, this law has allowed the current administration to refuse to fully fund or fully staff the VA, which in turn provides justification to divert veteran healthcare from the trained, experienced professional care providers of the VA to the profit-driven and already overburdened private healthcare system. As fewer and fewer people use the VHA, the system is further undermined and starved of resources and staff.
National Nurses United (NNU), which represents 11,000 registered nurses at 23 VA facilities, reviewed the published literature comparing VA healthcare with the private, profit-driven healthcare sector and concluded:
-The VA provides higher quality care than the private sector to veterans who are sicker, poorer, and older than the general civilian and veteran populations;
-The VA provides more cost-effective care than the private sector; the first month of outsourced care costs exceeded the entire previous year’s cost of care provided at VA facilities;
-The VA is the only fully integrated publicly accountable healthcare system in the country; and
-The VA—of which many staff are veterans themselves—is uniquely equipped to care for veterans because of its specialized medical expertise and cultural competence, while the private sector is unqualified to do so.
Study after study has found VA healthcare is often superior to care in the private sector. The latest such study came out of Dartmouth University, where researchers found that in 121 regional healthcare markets, the VA performed “significantly better” than other hospitals in 14 out of 15 measures. A study of new patient wait times published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2019 found VA hospital wait times are better than the private sector. The study found that the average wait time was improving in the VA to just under 18 days, while the average wait time in the private sector was nearly 30 days.
The private sector is already struggling to meet the needs of the general population and is not capable of caring for the nine million veterans who currently get care at the VA. The VA is the best place for veterans to receive care with a holistic approach to well-being. The VA provides not only medical care, but support services for employment, housing, addiction, dental care, pharmaceutical benefits, and more. The VA also provides critical support for family members and caregivers.
The perpetuated pandemic of homelessness and suicide among veterans cannot and will not be resolved with a for-profit system and must be addressed with the highly focused, specialized care of the VA.
The VA must be fully funded and fully staffed to meet the clinically complex and unique needs of veterans. The VA must immediately halt efforts to privatize care. Any care provided by the private sector must meet the same exacting standards the VA upholds. A healthy VA means healthy veterans.
Expand Accessibility of Veteran Services/Benefits and Reduce Bureaucratic Deterrents
While in the line of duty, service members are focused on accomplishing the mission at hand as safely as possible and with maximum precision. If a service member is uninformed of the vigorous requirements they will be expected to meet in pursuit of needed services and benefits after their time in service, they will be forced to endure an uphill battle of red tape if they are ever to receive the care and support of which they are entitled. This can often be made impossible if their personnel or medical records were not annotated with the necessary information to justify their post-service life’s needs and/or support.
Measures need to be taken to ensure that not only are the service and medical records maintained accurately throughout a person’s time in service, but that the offices processing their benefits are operating in the best interest of the veteran, not against them. This includes overhauling the VA’s disability compensation calculation method in a way which enables veterans to navigate the system without the need for specialized lawyers, advocates, or other administrative experts. Reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs’ administrative bureaucracy such that it is able to be easily navigated by the everyday veteran is the only way to ensure that every veteran is able to be served and supported with a high level of detail, care, and precision.
Extend veteran benefits and services to ally personnel now residing in the United States
Our military service members do not fight alone and often rely on the dedicated service of local armed forces and contractors. The sacrifices and dedicated service of these outside personnel who have since immigrated to the United States should be recognized and met with returned support, such as treatment for medical conditions caused by or associated with their service and other benefits on which veterans rely in their post-service lives. The loyal devotion to duty and sacrifices made by all people in the U.S. military should be met with equally loyal devotion, appreciation, and support.
Changing to a new vision for international relations and national security requires a shift in priorities, from what is important to maintaining the privilege of a select few to what’s important for promoting peace and human rights. The priorities of most Americans (on both the left and right) mostly align with this new vision.
The Human Cost of War
Our government’s investments in the military-industrial complex directly lead to the loss of innocent human life. The world is currently in the midst of a massive refugee crisis. U.S. military intervention has created the conditions that have caused many of the world’s current refugee population to flee from their homes. Many of these people are running for safety because a common trend in nearly every war that we fight is that we kill more civilians than “enemy combatants.” Even the definition of “enemy combatants” is dubious since, as the Afghanistan Papers demonstrated, the U.S. has had a practice of labeling any male over the age of 18 as a military combatant in order to make it seem like we’re killing fewer civilians than we actually are. At the same time, our decades-long involvement in endless wars has resulted in thousands of deaths from those who serve or support the U.S. military. Millions of people at home and in the international community are seriously questioning U.S. international policy and our ability to foster peace instead of engaging in war.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized similar injustices in his own time period. He noted, in his speech “Beyond Vietnam,” that much of our military involvement came from “refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments.” It’s still true that the arms and military-contracting industry have made billions of dollars of profit from war. Indeed, many members of Congress have tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in the military-contracting industry while also receiving huge campaign contributions from the same companies. When our politicians and the wealthy stand to profit from war, it is very unlikely that we will ever have peace.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also talked about this general problem with U.S. militarism. In his speech “Beyond Vietnam,” he argued that “we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” Our movements for social justice at home are directly connected to ending military profiting and human rights abuses abroad. I therefore will fight to:
-Make it so that policymakers cannot profit from war. Legislators should not be able to invest in or accept donations from the arms and military-contracting industry;
-Reign in the powers of the Executive branch to engage in war or militarism without congressional approval;
-Become a global leader in refugee resettlement and the protection of refugee rights;
-Increase funding for the veterans affairs (VA) to increase monthly payments to veterans with disability, improve the quality of the VA healthcare system, and increase jobs programs for veterans;
-Reduce U.S. investments in the military-industrial complex and reinvest in our educational, healthcare and infrastructure systems; and
-Create a jobs program to help those who will have to change careers find new professions in areas such as education, infrastructures, healthcare, and clean energy.
Economic Impacts of Shifting International Relations Goals on CD-11
CD-11 is in a unique position due to the fact that many who live here are employed by the military industrial complex in some capacity. Here are some additional reasons why it’s so important to start shifting to a new vision of progressive international policy.
-The department of defense (DoD) fully acknowledges the existential threat to our national security (and even global security) of climate change. However, they are simultaneously the world's largest source of pollution. This paradox is due to the fact that a small group of entrenched interests (leaders of the defense contracting industry, telecom companies, industrialists) do not want to see their short term profits take a hit. However, this prioritization of quarterly profits is an injustice if one considers the threat to ourselves, our children and our children’s children. The status quo will affect their health, their children’s health, and the well-being of the earth. This is a much bigger risk and we must acknowledge that the status quo cannot continue sustainably.
-To combat climate change, a large mobilization of jobs with specialized skills is necessary. These highly compensated jobs will be in high demand once we reprioritize.
Reinvesting in Our Shared Infrastructure (and Other Shared Resources)
-U.S. Infrastructure got a “D+” grade by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2017. Trillions of dollars are estimated to be necessary to make our infrastructure simply adequate. Infrastructure is also an equity issue, since much of infrastructure is decaying in communities of color, low-income communities, and rural communities. This is an immediately pressing national security concern, as the roads and ports that transport the goods and services we need, the water we drink, our schools, and our waste processing are all dependent on this infrastructure. Instead, we are spending 15.6 billion on growing our nuclear weapons stockpile alone. We already have thousands of nuclear weapons, enough to achieve a nuclear holocaust. Again, it is an injustice to prioritize investing in weapons while neglecting something as critical as our degrading national water supply. We need to shift funding into improving the quality of our rapidly declining public education system to ensure that we protect education as a human right. Engineers who are currently tasked with DoD weapons manufacturing can be retooled into educators, infrastructure engineers, and many other pressing needs.
Actually Keeping the People of the U.S. Safe
-Over the past 20 years, The DoD and the IC (intelligence community) have invested trillions of dollars into PATRIOT act style surveillance technologies and regime-change operations with the aim of fighting terrorism. However, the productive use of these technologies and operations has been bungled severely and, despite the trillions spent, many of our national secrets (and our data) are in the hands of many other nations today, due to gross mismanagement and dysfunction. Simply reforming the dysfunction and corruption of the national security culture will improve national security. Prioritizing national security around the actual security needs of the people will prevent unnecessary conflicts and foster cooperation and trust internationally. America will regain its position as a respected member of the international community, one which the world can look to for true leadership, which is so desperately needed, especially regarding climate change. This was John F. Kennedy’s vision of international relations.
The purpose of the “War on Drugs” was and is to police and incarcerate Black and Brown communities. Marijuana has been at the forefront of this over-policing of communities of color. Even though white people and Black people use marijuana at roughly the same rate, Black people are about four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. Even though there are widespread decriminalization and legalization movements for the sale and possession of marijuana, the racial disparity of the enforcement of existing marijuana laws continues to exist. Moreover, according to the ACLU, arrests for marijuana possession still total more than arrests for all violent crimes combined.
Now that marijuana is becoming legal in some states, some of the same people who were the architects of the War on Drugs and swooping in to reap huge profits. Existing laws regulating the marijuana industry tend to favor those who already have huge amounts of capital and resources to invest. Therefore, many of the same communities who were and are the target of the war of drugs are suffering from discriminatory policing practices while being unable to benefit from the legalized economy. We cannot have a system that structurally supports the rich, the wealthy, and the white at the expense of Black and Brown communities.
I support marijuana justice. We must:
-Immediately decriminalize marijuana, commute the sentences of those in jail or prison because of marijuana, and expunge the criminal records of those who have been charged with marijuana-related offenses;
-Implement implicit bias training to end the unequal enforcement of existing laws against communities of color;
-Invest, via federal subsidies, in the communities most impacted by the discriminatory drug laws that allowed for the over-policing of communities of color;
-Support communities of color, particularly Black and Latinx communities, in the creation of businesses that engage in the marijuana economy; and
-Change the licensing process to make it easier for small-scale businesses to profit from the marijuana industry.
The majority of deaths from gun violence in our country come from suicides. This puts many communities who struggle with self harm, such as the LGBTQIA+ community and veterans, at risk for taking their own lives if they have easy access to firearms. The issue of gun violence is complex. Over-policing of guns in communities of color has led to police brutality and mass incarceration. We need to treat gun violence as related to a public health emergency and we need to focus on making sure that people get the care that they need.
There are concrete steps that we need to take to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country. For example we need to:
-End police brutality through anti-racism and implicit bias training, demilitarize the police, and implement a National Standard for the Use of Force which bans brutality and prioritizes de-escalation techniques;
-End the “boyfriend loophole” by barring anyone who commits domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, or stalking from purchasing a firearm;
-Enforce universal background checks;
-Have community-centered violence reduction programs that focus less on policing and more on supporting those in need while investing in communities by having communities help create job opportunities, educational opportunities, healthcare access, and access to social services in their communities;
-Expand extreme risk protection orders on demonstrable threats to health or public safety on a federal level to make it easier for a teacher, social worker, or concerned family member to report risks and therefore reduce gun violence;
-Fund CDC research into reducing gun violence;
-Get rid of barriers to suing the gun industry;
-Pass a requirement to safely store firearms;
-Disarm hate groups;
-Increase resources for survivors of gun violence; and
-Pass an assault rifle ban and high-capacity magazine ban.
These steps will help us reduce the rate of suicides, homicides, and mass shootings.