What are your key issues?
JOBS: The latest projections by the AP and many pollsters are pointing to unprecedented rates of unemployment and poverty in this country, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that among developed nations, the US poverty rate is the third worst, only exceeded by Turkey and Mexico. Our situation is a result of the policies put in place by both legacy parties, which have led to the loss of jobs and manufacturing, while subsidizing the profits of large, multinational corporations. Inequitable trade policies have led to the race for rock-bottom labor costs, at the expense of the American worker, in addition to allowing manufacturers to skirt pollution regulations put in place to protect our environment, all in the cause of creating greater CEO pay and short-term gains for investors. We need to invest in our greatest resource, the most productive workforce in the world, our fellow citizens. The situation we are in today has its parallel with the Great Depression, and so is the answer: a massive investment in jobs programs, like the WPA and the CCC. Not only did these programs lift people out of abject poverty, they created an infrastructure that can, in many cases, still be seen today. Investing in Green energy, Green transit, and Green mass communication will help restore our country’s position as a world leader. Funding for these programs can be achieved in many ways, but the most obvious would be to begin to restore our tax structure and policies that were in place during the greatest boom in productivity, the decades immediately after WWII. In addition, curtailing our out-of-control defense spending, ending the wars, and refusing to invest in undemocratic and volatile countries can only help to increase our own security.
STOP THE WARS. The Center for Defense Information has projected the total costs of both wars to reach 1.08 Trillion dollars by the end of fiscal year 2010. The costs in our troops lives and injuries are incalculable, in addition to the numbers of innocent civilians killed and maimed and made homeless. We need to stop the hemorrhaging of our blood and wealth for wars that are illegitimate in both their cause, and their prosecution. There is also a tremendous amount of waste, corruption and fraud connected to our military expenditures, and it would be better policy to invest our money, talent, and energy in productive enterprises aimed at improving our employment and energy policies.
HEALTHCARE. As a nurse, I’ve seen the immense damage and pain caused by our being the only developed nation in the world that does not provide healthcare to its citizens. Passing Medicare for All will produce many improvements in our lives. Unhealthy people cannot work, be productive, or lead happy, fulfilling lives. Enacting Single Payer would also immediately stop the leading cause of bankruptcies in this country, a shameful statistic. In addition, our businesses will be more competitive with those of other nations, whose citizens have universal healthcare. The cost savings in the elimination of bureaucracy and administrative costs would be 400 Billion dollars a year, a sum that would not only cover everyone, but would lead to improved coverage.
Free Press questions to the candidates
What is the most important thing Michigan’s congressional delegation can do to promote the growth of employment in Michigan? Michigan’s congressional delegation’s number one job is to help create jobs in this state, by promoting, and passing, a jobs stimulus bill, like the WPA, that would actually reach the working families of this state, rather than a bail-out for the bankers and speculators that caused our recession/depression. In addition, we need to revamp our trade policies, by repealing NAFTA and CAFTA, instituting strong controls and conditions on foreign-based manufacturers’ environmental and labor policies, and removing the subsidies and supports for corporations that off-shore both manufacturing and profits, and avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
Do you support efforts to repeal health care reform measures adopted by Congress? What further steps should the federal government take to stem the rising cost of health care? I would support the effort to repeal what I call the “Health Insurance Providers Profitability Act”, and enact Medicare for All. Removing the 30% of every healthcare dollar from private insurers’ profits and bureaucracy would serve to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans. While the US spends more than 50% than the next most expensive country, our outcomes are poorer, by any measure: life expectancy, infant mortality, access to care, are all lower than other countries. We also need to be able to negotiate prices of pharmaceuticals, rather than guarantee fixed profits to companies. It is immoral to generate multi-million dollar salaries to CEOs, and profits in the billions to healthcare corporations, on the backs of the citizens of this country who may be ill or injured.
Do you believe that congressional action is required to address climate change? What steps, if any, would you support to limit the emission of global warming gases? Of course congressional action is needed to regulate global warming gasses – private industry, left unchecked, will always move towards the lowest cost, least restrictive, and least responsible acts to generate profits, as seen by the recent coal and oil industry depredations and tragedies all over the country, and the world. Congress must move to punish polluters, and work to enact controls on carbon emissions by reducing the amount of fossil fuels being burned. Increasing the price of fossil fuels, by collecting a fee in proportion to the carbon content, at the point of production or entry, and allotting 100% of monies generated apportioned to each US citizen, will not only create a “true cost” price structure of our fuels, and increase the movement towards conservation and sustainable energy, it will also benefit the lowest income citizens in this country.
How effective do you believe federal stimulus money has been in supporting the development of green industry in Michigan? Do you support continuing federal subsidies for battery research and other alternative energy initiatives? The federal stimulus money directed towards Michigan could have been more effective, if the amount had been larger. We are losing valuable R&D and manufacturing jobs to countries such as Germany and China, who subsidize green industry to a much greater extent than we do. Our government, on the other hand, subsidizes private corporations in the coal, oil, nuclear, and agribusiness sectors, who generate the majority of our environmental degradation. Our federal investment in green initiatives such as battery research needs to increase exponentially, and Michigan has the educational and technical expertise in abundance to move us forward.
What changes would you support in the way federal transportation aid is allocated in Michigan? Do you support the construction of a second, publicly-owned bridge across the Detroit River to Canada? Federal transportation aid needs to be directed towards bringing our transportation system in line with those of other developed countries. We need to invest in creating more efficient, high-speed rail and mass transit systems, and Michigan is uniquely positioned to help develop and manufacture the components of these systems, which would create jobs and support research here. I do not believe that any federal crossing should be held hostage to the whims of the private sector – the movement of trade, and our security, are too vital to our citizens . We need to forge ahead with our partnership with Canada, and construct a second bridge.
What initiative(s) proposed by members of the opposing party do you support? First of all, there is more than one opposing party, but I would easily support any party that proposes ending our wars, restoring our constitutional rights, ending torture and rendition, and generally restoring the rule of law, rather than allowing our executive branch to run roughshod over our civil rights. It appears that the Libertarian party holds some of these positions, as well as reducing military spending, which I also support. Some Democrats and Republicans also support reducing the influence of corporate money on our elections, which I believe is a prime cause of so much dysfunction in our government today.
What do you believe was the principal cause of the financial collapse that occurred in late 2008? Will the increased regulation of financial institutions Congress has proposed reduce the risk of a similar crisis? The simple answer was given by Senator Durbin, “The banks own the place”. But a more detailed explanation would state that the collapse was the result of years of dismantling the regulatory constraints on banking, and trading, and not pursuing what little legal remedies we did have to rein in the flagrantly illegal and unethical selling, bundling, and rating of sub-prime loans so that the traders and bankers could generate obscene bonuses. The lobbyist-written legislation thus led to the collapse of the stock and housing markets, effectively wiping out a large chunk of the middle-class, while the bailouts served to continue the outrageous payouts to Wall Street traders. The regulatory bill passed by Congress does not address the systemic problems that led to the collapse, for example the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the laissez-faire oversight of banking practices and rating agencies, the monopolistic size and influence of our banking corporations (TBTF), and a host of others. Our “booms, bubbles, and busts” will continue and work to impoverish the average American, while the corporate titans continue to accumulate wealth and power until we enact laws that mandate publicly-funded, clean, fair elections, and pass laws that eliminate lobbying influence on both houses of Congress.
Do you support the repeal of the estate tax, or favor other significant changes in the federal tax code? I do not support the repeal of the estate tax. We need to re-impose the progressive taxation policies of the Eisenhower era, a time when the wealthy paid their fair share of taxes, as opposed to the present-day, when a secretary pays more, proportionately, in taxes than some billionaires (and even corporations).
What are the three most important steps Congress should take to reduce the federal budgetary deficit? When conservatives want to engage in illegal wars, fatten the coffers of the MilitaryIndustrialComplex, add tremendous amounts of ‘pork’ to bills, well, then, “deficits don’t matter”. But in the maws of the worst recession in memory, possibly to become even worse, the outcry to “decrease the deficit’ is tantamount to throwing ‘stop-sticks’ in front of a sputtering vehicle. Deficit spending has been proven to alleviate depressed economies, and we need to invest in our people and infrastructure to help get the economy going again. We’ve been shown that investing in “paper-pushers’ (TARP), those who don’t create wealth, and just shuffle it into their off-shore bank accounts, doesn’t work. The government needs to invest more wisely, by spending enough to create full employment, while working to solve our other problems, such as environmental degradation and climate change, alternative energy and transportation, and education. If the government wants to decrease wasteful spending we can end the wars, cut the bloated defense budget and close our hundreds of overseas bases. To increase governmental income, we can move to close the loopholes and tax dodges in our tax laws that allow, for example, billions of untaxed dollars to migrate to overseas banks, and restore progressive income tax policies.
What is the most serious threat to the Great Lakes, and what can Michigan’s congressional delegation do to protect against it? Our Great Lakes are our most precious resource, and they will be even more important as climate change advances. The threat of pollution to these waters is the most serious danger, and that includes the pollution of invasive species, such as the Asian carp, zebra mussel, etc. We need to enact strict regulations on the generators of polluting gasses and particulate matter, and those that discharge noxious waste into our waters. We also need to insure that our Superfund account is large enough to pay for remediation and cleanup, by being more aggressive in capturing the costs from the violators.
Do you support immigration reform legislation that increases border security while providing a path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented aliens living in the United States? Immigration “reform” as discussed by politicians and the media has served to demonize foreign citizens, and illegal aliens, while completely ignoring the corporate-friendly policies that are the root cause of the push for illegal immigration. Large numbers of undocumented workers are hired by American corporations every day, thus creating a draw for immigration, with little or no legal reprisal. And, until we stop demanding trade policies that undermine local trade and agriculture in foreign countries, so as to expand the profits of US corporations, we will continue to create conditions that force people to emigrate. As for increasing border security, spending billions upon billions of dollars to build walls, and hire border guards demanding papers, is not an effective way to spend our dollars. The undocumented workers already here, who are law-abiding, working, raising families, and paying taxes, should be provided a mechanism by which they could become American citizens.
As a candidate, will you commit to release your real estate holdings and income tax records for the last two years at least 30 days before the election and, if elected, during your time in office? I will comply with all federal regulations relating to the release of financial information.
With the government spending much more than it collects in revenue, would you support raising personal income taxes, dramatically cutting spending, or continue doing what we’re doing and leave it for future generations to figure out? Once we achieve full employment through an aggressive WPA-style program, tax revenues will increase accordingly. In addition, as I’ve stated previously, cutting our bloated defense budget, which is larger than the total defense expenditures of the next top nine countries in the world, would go a long way to decreasing wasteful debt. And creating a single-payer system would immediately provide a brake on the ever-increasing amount of GDP we spend on healthcare, while providing all of our citizens with quality care. Raising the personal income tax rates on earnings over 250,000 dollars would also provide 700 billion dollars in revenue.
State and local employees and teachers have come under increasing pressure to accept wage and benefit concessions, but federal employees have faced little pressure to do the same. Would you do anything to change this? Rather than pressuring more and more employees to “race to the bottom” in both wages and benefits, it would be more productive to do all we can to re-create a middle-class, and use governmental policies to raise the effective middle-class income, that has been stagnant for the past 30 years, while the income for the top 1% has soared over 250% over the same time frame. This is not a sustainable, equitable path.
How would you solve the long term funding of the Social Security system? Eliminate cost of living adjustments? Eliminate the cap on earnings (now about $106k per year? Raise the age for full or graduated benefits? A combination of all the above? I don’t think that Social Security has a problem that needs to be “solved”, other than refuting the lies and myths promulgated by billionaires like Pete Peterson. There is a core group of wealthy, reactionary, conservatives that have been trying to undermine Social Security for decades, and it’s not because they are interested in our general welfare. They want to get their hands on the last social safety net available to the working people of this country, reduce benefits, and shovel the trust fund into the hands of the banks that caused the greatest increase in poverty in over 50 years. Social Security funds are kept in a separate trust, and that trust is currently running a surplus of 2.5 Trillion dollars, and that is projected to keep growing for another decade. In 2037, the projected pay-out of benefits could possibly decrease to 75%, but that is not a “bankruptcy” figure. To increase the trust fund, and meet 100% of the scheduled payout, we need to restore the cap on earnings to again cover 90% of earnings. And, contrary to raising the retirement age, we should lower it, there are many people in their 60′s who cannot continue to work in physically demanding jobs, unlike the jobs in Congress.