About 56,000 people in our district did not have health insurance in 2017. Those of us lucky enough to have health insurance struggle with monthly payments and emergency costs, even when we’re healthy. When we get sick, insurance companies do whatever they can to profit off our illness. We are the only major industrial nation on the planet where healthcare expenses are one of the most common causes of bankruptcy. This is unacceptable.
Quality, no-cost healthcare is a right. No resident of Southwest Washington should ever have to worry about whether they can afford to go to the doctor or the dentist. Countries all over the world have figured out how to make universal healthcare work, and they've proven the benefits of a single-payer system. It’s time for America to do the same. We need to end for-profit health insurance and provide all people in the US with no-cost healthcare. We need to address the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs and make the cost of medical procedures transparent, consistent, and reasonable.
We also need to work for a healthcare plan that includes full vision, dental, and mental care. Health is about the whole person. Our health coverage should be too. The positive effects of comprehensive health coverage would ripple through our communities and our economy: issues from addiction to elder care, schools, law enforcement, mass incarceration, homelessness, and worker productivity would all benefit if people were getting the physical and mental healthcare they need. Quality, no-cost healthcare is, morally and financially, the right thing to do.
This campaign will never take money from pharmaceutical lobbyists or insurance companies, so we can work for a healthcare system that benefits people instead of corporate bottom lines.
Climate change caused mainly by greenhouse gas emissions released through the burning of fossils fuels threatens the safety and stability of our planet. Southwest Washington is already feeling the effects of a warmer climate: hotter summers, wetter winters, low snowpack, severe droughts, wildfires, salmon die-offs, and toxic algae blooms. Climate change is a danger to our health, our homes, our livelihoods, and our national security. Every hour we delay, the costs associated with the climate crisis rise. We cannot afford to stand idly by.
The United States should be a global leader on this issue. We need to rejoin current international climate treaties and be at the forefront of future efforts to curb emissions globally. At home, we need to transition to a carbon-free, 100% renewable energy system by 2050. Though this goal is challenging, it is also an unparalleled opportunity to invest in our communities. The steps we must take to move beyond oil responsibly -- from replacing antiquated infrastructure to modernizing our electric grid to implementing sustainable heating and cooling in our buildings -- will make our daily lives easier, safer, and less expensive in the long run.
A comprehensive plan to address climate change is also an opportunity to invest in a new green workforce. Any transition plan should address the pressures that push people into high-carbon sectors and the economic inequality that leaves Native communities, small farmers, and low-income Americans most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. No one should be left behind.
Economic stability and environmental sustainability go hand in hand. The problem is many big corporations profit off climate change. Because of their narrow focus on profits, they view the natural world and the majority of its inhabitants as resources to use up and throw away. We will not be discarded in the name of increased returns for shareholders. We need to stand up for ourselves and our future before it’s too late. It’s time to act.
Our current infrastructure was built for a time when there were fewer people and businesses in Southwest Washington and less carbon in the atmosphere. Now, our antiquated infrastructure is jeopardizing our quality of life. Modernizing our infrastructure is an investment in our communities that will create jobs and make our daily lives easier, safer, and less expensive in the long run.
It’s time for Congress to fund a replacement for the I-5 bridge. The insufficiency of the bridge system has created an environmental and physical hazard that hampers the productivity of our regional economy and makes life miserable for the tens of thousands of Washingtonians who make the daily commute across the river. To arrive at a forward-looking solution that works for Southwest Washington, we will need to improve cooperation with our neighbors in Oregon by forming a unified body tasked with handling interstate transportation and infrastructure issues.
A modern infrastructure also means updating our electric grid, expanding renewable energy infrastructure, and bringing every building and car in line with carbon reduction targets. We need to use our existing infrastructure in smarter ways, especially by investing in mass transit to the point that it becomes an attractive alternative to driving. Such an undertaking will give workers in this district and across the country good-paying jobs, stimulate the economy, and boost our national productivity.
Technology is now an integral part of our infrastructure. Our laws have lagged far behind our technological capabilities, resulting in widespread encroachment on our civil liberties and shutting millions of rural and low-income Americans out of the benefits of digital access. We deserve a comprehensive Internet Bill of Rights that ensures universal web access and net neutrality, protects residents from warrantless mass surveillance, and provides users with more control over their digital data.
Regulate Wall Street
Little more than a decade ago, Wall Street greed and government inaction caused the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression. Unemployment rates in Southwest Washington doubled. Neighborhoods were decimated by foreclosure. And now? Banks are bigger and more powerful than they ever were, homeownership rates have fallen, and income inequality has worsened. Some parts of our district have still not fully recovered.
Until we put limits on what Wall Street can do to turn a profit, our livelihoods will be subject to the whims of Wall Street gambling. Banks should not be able to take undue risks with our money. To accomplish this, Congress needs to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act to keep commercial banks from gambling with federally-insured deposits. Additionally, no bank should be “too big too fail.” When banks are so big that their bankruptcy would tank the global economy, the government is forced to bail them out. At that point, banks have no incentive to curb risky behavior. They win no matter what happens to us.
We need to close the revolving door between Wall Street and the highest levels of government. The SEC should have the power to hold banks accountable in a real way. This means we need to eliminate conflicts of interest between outside auditors and the banks they audit. When banks commit fraud or money laundering, the SEC must have the teeth necessary to give more than a slap on the wrist.
With growing income inequality and the economic impacts of climate change threatening the long-term stability of the economy, short-term economic thinking is not an option. For all our sakes, it’s time for a responsible financial system that doesn’t gamble with our futures.
Clean Campaign Finance
We need to change the way elections are funded from the ground up. Most campaigns are currently underwritten by the wealthy and unaccountable super PAC money. This has created an unfair system where elected officials are beholden to their wealthy donors and not the people who elected them. This is a form of legalized corruption that undermines our democracy. When wealthy individuals and corporations are able to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the political process, Congress has little incentive to pass laws that benefit all people.
In the long term, we need to challenge the idea that corporations are people. We need a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, along with other similar rulings that encourage the undue influence of money in politics: Buckley v. Valeo and SpeechNow.org v. FEC.
Constitutional amendments take time. In the short term, we need legislation that increases transparency in campaign funding and ends the stream of dark money flowing through super PACs. We can also reduce the influence of money in politics by publicly funding elections. Funding elections through public money reduces the influence of outside money and makes it easier for people who are not independently wealthy or well-connected to run for public office. Most importantly, when politicians don’t need to cater to the wealthy to fund their elections, they are free to spend more time doing what they’re supposed to do: govern on our behalf.
Americans of every political persuasion oppose the corrupting influence of money. All of us struggle to make ends meet and make a better lives for our families have a stake in clean campaign finance. It’s time to make it happen.
Housing costs are one of the most pressing issues affecting the day to day lives of people in Southwest Washington. House prices and rent are increasing far faster than our salaries. Home ownership is increasingly out of reach, especially for young people. Working families and seniors can’t afford to stay in the communities they’ve called home for generations. Much is being done at the state and local levels to address the drivers of affordable housing in individual communities, and the federal government can do more to help.
Dignified housing is a right. To make sure we all have a home, we need robust, stable investment in the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. This investment would address the gap in current housing investment, much of which goes toward expensive luxury development.
It’s also important to tackle disparities in housing access. We need to increase investment in tribal and rural housing, two communities that are in desperate need of affordable, safe housing options but are often overlooked. Marginalized groups have been denied the same access to homeownership and the wealth it generates through discriminatory renting and lending practices. If we expand the Fair Housing Act to ban discrimination on the basis sexual orientation, gender, marital status, and source of income, like a housing voucher, we can take steps to even the playing field for everyone when it comes to housing.
Given the Trump administration’s attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, support for and solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community is more important than ever. Republicans in Congress routinely draft legislation to deny the LGBTQ+ community basic employment, housing, healthcare, and education. This discrimination effects LGBTQ+ people from an early age: youth in this community experience disproportionately high rates of bullying, homelessness, incarceration, and substance abuse. Currently, 40% of all homeless youth in the United States identify as LGBTQ+.
The right of the LGBTQ+ community to be free of discrimination at school, at work, and in the military is not something we can compromise on. We need to pass the Equality Act, which would expand existing civil rights law to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity illegal. Additionally, any universal healthcare plan needs to take into account the unique physical and mental struggles faced by LGBTQ+ patients, as should sex education in schools.
It’s time for everyone in this district to have someone representing their interests in Congress. Lives are at stake.
39,773 Americans were killed by guns in 2017, the highest number in 50 years. Guns kill more adolescents in this country than cancer does. School shootings are routine. Communities of color experience disproportionately high homicide rates. As trauma surgeons across the country have argued so eloquently, gun violence is a serious public health issue. It doesn’t have to be this way. Cities and states across the country have managed to cut gun violence significantly without denying the 2nd amendment. We have the right to feel safe at school, at the movies, at work, and at worship.
Common-sense gun safety laws have been proven to work in the states that pass them, Washington included. If we pass these gun laws federally, we can save lives while still taking into account differences in gun culture in urban and rural areas. We need universal background checks for all firearms sales, no exceptions. Background checks help keep weapons out of the hands of people with a proven history of violence, including domestic violence and stalking.
Though these gun safety measures will help decrease gun violence in America, it will take a comprehensive push to address the many factors that drive gun violence at a societal level. We are often prevented from having a sustained, honest conversation on the issue because of the influence of the gun lobby in both state and federal politics. It is also true that 60% of gun deaths are suicides. This number is as high as it is because of both the easy availability of guns and the narrow availability of mental healthcare. Anti-corruption legislation and universal mental healthcare are as much a part of ending gun deaths as universal background checks.
My parents immigrated to the United States from Egypt for religious freedom and economic opportunity. Their path to citizenship was long, but it was worth it. When the United States balances common-sense security measures with the welcoming spirit embodied in the Statue of Liberty, the new Americans we add to our ranks -- like my parents -- make all of us stronger, culturally and economically.
We need immigration reform that makes sense for our economy and security, and always respects the humanity of everyone involved. DREAMers should be given immediate legal status so they can live and work freely in the United States, their home. There should also be a reliable and affordable pathway to citizenship for adult immigrants, documented and undocumented, who already live in the country. The 11 million undocumented immigrants living here do some of our hardest jobs, contribute to our economy, and are part of the fabric of American life. Undocumented immigrants who want to become citizens should be granted provisional legal status and a pathway to citizenship to allow them to contribute fully in American society. Anyone who makes an asylum claim should be given due process and granted amnesty if the claim has merit.
If we are serious about upholding our commitment to human rights, we need to treat everyone on American soil with dignity and respect. People without documents are still people. We need to end for-profit immigrant detention centers. Any policies or practices that dehumanize or violate, including family separation, are contrary to what the United States should stand for. We can help reduce the number of human rights violations by addressing the militarization of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Reforming our immigration system is a moral and economic imperative. Our security is important, but security policy should be grounded in evidence, not longer walls.
Criminal Justice Reform
Our criminal justice system does not do enough to protect the rights of the people who come into contact with it, especially those from historically marginalized communities. This includes victims of crimes and those who are surveilled, arrested, and incarcerated.
Victims of crime must have their rights respected and enforced in connection with criminal proceedings. No survivor should face a choice between accessing justice and fair, respectful treatment.
Though the United States is home to only 5% of the world’s population, we account for 25% of the world’s prison population. The result of this over-incarceration is that most of us, either directly or through someone we love, have experienced the weight of the criminal justice system. Documented racial bias in the system means that not all of us experience the criminal justice system in the same way. Black and Hispanic men are more likely to be arrested, to be convicted, and to be given a longer sentence than white men for the same crimes.
Our criminal justice system is not just unfair, it’s a waste of money. We spend billions of dollars a year on mass incarceration, but receive little in return. National crime rates remain historically low, but recidivism is high. For-profit prisons continue to proliferate by taking advantage of federal tax breaks. Working families struggle under the burden of cash bail and the costs associated with parole.
We need to address the current unjust and ineffective criminal justice system by implementing alternative sentencing for non-violent crimes and making marijuana legal at the federal level. We also need to end for-profit prisons and detention centers. Incarceration should not be a profit-making enterprise.
One of the best ways to reduce crime is to stop spending resources on incarceration and invest that money in our communities. Incarceration rates are highest among populations that are undereducated and underemployed. Childhood education and healthcare, jobs programs, and higher wages could stop crime before it starts.
All women deserve to have control over their own bodies and their economic futures. But many of the achievements we’ve made for women’s rights in the 20th century -- including access to vital medical and social services, and basic workplace protections -- are under threat.
Reproductive freedom is key to the advancement of women and trans people. We need to oppose any rollbacks on the rights we’ve already won to access quality reproductive healthcare and medically accurate sex education. At the same time, we need to continue to fight for open access to family planning services, including safe abortions and birth control, as well as access to affordable pre- and post-natal care for all people.
To address the discrimination and exploitation of working women, we must also promote caregiving and basic workplace protections. Census data shows that women are 35% more likely to be living in poverty than men. Legislation that promotes pay equity, affordable childcare and pre-k, paid family leave, guaranteed sick days, increasing the federal minimum wage, and safe workplaces free from harassment will help lift women out of poverty and benefit society as a whole.
Active Military, Veterans, and their Families
Our nation has been at war for more than a decade. If we are going to send Americans to war, we have a responsibility to support those soldiers and their families during and after their service. The people and families who sacrifice for our country should never be homeless, without a job, or left to deal with their mental health on their own.
Military members and their families face a unique set of challenges. Family separation and frequent moves are a particular hardship. Family members at home often have trouble finding work in their field and securing affordable childcare. To better support military members, we must prioritize educational and employment opportunities for military families and advance legislation that eases the burden of raising children without the immediate help of the military partner.
All active military members eventually become veterans. We must absolutely be prepared to care for service men and women when they come home. Part of that commitment is to make the transition to civilian life as smooth as possible. We need to expand job training programs for veterans and make sure military certifications transfer to the civilian sector. The federal government must also create jobs for veterans by offering a tax credit to companies that hire veterans and encourage more companies to post openings on the federal Veterans Job Bank.
Fulfilling our commitment also means improving health services for veterans, mental health services especially. One active duty service member takes their life almost every day, and one veteran every hour. That is unacceptable. It is the government’s responsibility to expand mental health screening, counseling, and treatment immediately, as well as to actively combat the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health and sexual assault. Ultimately, any universal health care system must include special services for veterans and improved training for healthcare professionals in treating combat-related illness.
Education is key to individual economic and social mobility, and key to the next generation’s competitiveness in the global economy. Because education is integral to everyone’s pursuit of happiness, we need to give educators and students the support they need.
The foundations of learning are built during early childhood. We can set our children up for success by supporting universal pre-K. The achievement gap that restricts opportunities for low-income and marginalized communities begins to open during pre-school. Let’s stop it where it starts. We also need to move away from high-stakes testing and support holistic education that gives teachers flexibility and students support. Teachers’ right to collectively bargain for fair compensation and support in the classroom is sacred.
Higher education is almost unaffordable. Average public school tuition rates are now over $9,000 per year, an 11-fold increase over the cost of college in 1978. Working- and middle-class families are increasingly burdened by debt, if they can afford college at all. Relieving the burden of tuition fees would greatly increase quality of life for students and their families. We can support those who decide against college by investing in vocational and job training. To ease the debt burden, we must lower interest rates on all new and existing student debt. The government and loan servicers shouldn’t be profiting off the backs of students.
Millions of older Americans have worked hard and paid into earned benefits programs for decades. Protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare means fulfilling the promise our country has made to our elders. This is especially true now. The Trump administration’s 2020 budget proposal aims to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from Social Security and Medicare over the next ten years. That’s not right. Everyone deserves the dignity of a secure retirement.
Without Social Security benefits, almost 40% of seniors in the United States would have incomes below the poverty line. Even with Social Security, nearly 8% of seniors in Southwest Washington still live below the poverty line. We can begin to fix this problem by raising the tax cap for incomes over $250,000 a year. The extra revenue would extend the solvency of Social Security and allow benefits to keep up with cost of living.
Medicare remains a vital institution for many seniors, but pharmaceutical company price-gouging has made prescription drugs unaffordable for many. Medicare should be able to negotiate drug costs directly with drug manufacturers to lower drug prices for recipients. We can also help our seniors by expanding Medicare to reflect the realities of end-of-life care.