Near the end of his first administration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Americans to consider how our descendants would think about us in the future. “Let us hope,” he said, that they at least will “give us the benefit of the doubt, that they will believe we have honestly striven every day and generation to preserve for our descendants a decent land to live in and a decent form of government to operate under.”
It is a question worth asking today.
Since Roosevelt, the advent and spread of nuclear weapons has posed a threat to future generations. More recently, changes in climate and the earth’s ecosystem may pose similar threats to life on earth.
Roosevelt’s answer to this question provides a yardstick for our efforts today.
As thoughtful and responsible citizens of this great country, we should settle for no less - “a decent land to live in and a decent form of government to operate under.”
Stay tuned for additional forthcoming issue statements.
Most Americans understand that our political system is fundamentally unfair. Through enormous campaign contributions, giant corporations and a handful of the wealthiest individuals are able to buy access to our elected officials and dictate legislative outcomes. This is perhaps the most important issue we face as a nation.
If we don’t get big money out of politics, we will not accomplish what needs to be done for working families, the middle class, ordinary citizens. This is why my campaign is not taking a penny from corporations, their political action committees (PACs) or Super PACs. Instead, we are financing our campaign through thousands of small donations from ordinary citizens. When elected, I will not owe any special favors to any corporate interests or billionaire donors. This is in stark contrast to my opponent, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has raised many millions of dollars from large corporate interests. Not surprisingly, her policy positions and votes in Congress largely reflect corporate agendas.
No doubt, our distorted campaign finance system helped shift my opponent’s politics from progressive to corporate. And this is all too typical, with elected officials taking millions of dollars in corporate special interest money and then disregarding what is in the best interest of their own constituents. A comprehensive study by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page confirms this dynamic. After analyzing nearly 2000 policy issues in detail, they conclude: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”
This is not the picture of a strong, vibrant democracy. We can do much better.
As a law professor and activist, I have been a steadfast critic of the Citizens United 5-to-4 decision by the Supreme Court that has allowed a flood of dark money from phantom donors into our politics. As Senator Bernie Sanders has noted, “The Citizens United decision hinges on the absurd notion that money is speech, corporations are people, and giving huge piles of undisclosed cash to politicians in exchange for access and influence does not constitute corruption.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, there has been more than half a billion dollars of such dark money in our politics since Citizens United. By the end of this presidential election, that figure will certainly be well more than a billion dollars. This is why I support a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and why I believe reversing Citizens United should be a litmus test for any nominee to the Supreme Court. When elected, I intend to organize a bipartisan caucus in which members of Congress are pledged to reforming our campaign finance system and cleaning up our political system.
While my opponent also calls for overturning Citizens United, this is part of her pattern of saying one thing and doing another. She says she’s for small-donor driven elections, but she raises millions of dollars from large corporations and their PACs and Super PACs. She has voted for a bill to prevent the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from forcing corporations to disclose their campaign spending to shareholders, and to block the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from curbing special interest donors from forming sham “social welfare” organizations that hide their political spending. These measures were in Omnibus spending packages that she voted for without lodging a single word of protest. As of February 26, 2016, she has refused to co-sponsor the DISCLOSE Act, introduced by Congressman Chris Van Hollen (with more than 110 co-sponsors), to shine a light on the flood of special-interest money.
And in mid-February, it was reported that the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which Wasserman Schultz leads, reversed President Obama’s 2008 ban on the DNC taking money from corporate lobbyists. President Obama was right to ban lobbyist donations because it raises all kinds of conflicts of interest and corrodes our politics, and leads to sweetheart legislation for large companies while costing taxpayers billions of dollars.
The U.S. is one of only a small handful of democracies around the world that does not have publicly financed elections. We must separate corporate treasuries from public elections, and implement a transparent system of publicly-financed campaigns that amplifies small donations. Candidates for federal elections should be given free TV and cable airtime. After all, the public owns the airwaves, and TV and cable companies have benefitted from billions of dollars in public subsidies. Candidates should not have to sell out to special interests in order to raise money to pay these huge media corporations just to communicate with voters.
We must also restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court has recently gutted. We should expand early voting and vote-by-mail, and implement automatic voter registration. We also need to abolish the felon disenfranchisement laws – particularly in Florida – that deprive millions of citizens of their voting rights, often for life and frequently for non-violent drug possession offenses committed years ago.
Of significant importance as well, we must end the practice of gerrymandering, which draws the lines of Congressional districts in a manner that results in “safe” Democratic or Republican seats, making elected officials largely unaccountable at the voting booth. That’s why incumbents stay in office year after year, often for decades, turning them into professional politicians who no longer feel any urgency to represent the interests of the actual people who comprise their own constituents. That’s why members of Congress usually get reelected at rates of over 90 percent, while barely 10 percent of the public approves of the job Congress is doing.
And this is why primary challenges like mine are often the only effective way to force accountability on entrenched incumbents. Here at home, for instance, Florida’s 23rd Congressional District is seen as a safe Democratic seat. My opponent has been reelected over and over, and has never faced a primary challenger, ever! And with no primary challenger in a safely Democratic seat, there is no genuine discussion, much less debate, within our district as to the serious issues facing all of us, and the overall direction of our country.
This is why progressive activist and labor scholar Amy Dean has recognized our campaign as a potential game changer: “If [Tim Canova’s] insurgent campaign catches on, it could represent a serious problem for the Democratic Party establishment. It could signal an increasing willingness by grass-roots activists to use primary challenges to place champions for working people in office rather than accept lesser-evil candidates simply because they are incumbents.”
This is why Zach Carter at the Huffington Post has written that our race in FL-23 “could well reveal more about the Democratic Party than any other contest in this cycle, including the one for president. . . . It’s a test of whether progressive ideas or corporate money are more central to the Democratic Party’s future.”
When we win on August 30th, we will show the way for other ordinary citizens to challenge incumbents who have been seduced by the flood of corporate money. We are already working with others who are developing the online platforms and shared campaign infrastructure that will enable insurgent candidates, potentially in every Congressional district, to raise funds through millions of small donations. This is the way we shall overcome the barriers to effective collective action and enable progressive reformers to win primaries all across the country – giving a voice in our democracy back to actual ordinary people.
Much is at stake.
So many other reforms that we need – from regulating Wall Street, to rebuilding our infrastructure, addressing climate change, providing job opportunities for all, making higher education affordable, protecting consumers, rebalancing our trade relations, and much more – are made so much more difficult as long as obscene amounts of money from giant companies and a few wealthy donors continue to distort our politics. We must un-rig the system.
That’s what our campaign is all about.
For the past three decades, I have been speaking out against the growing inequality in income and wealth in the United States – while serving as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill in the 1980s, while practicing law in the 1990s, and as a legal scholar ever since. In fact, the distribution of wealth and income is now more top-heavy than anytime since the Gilded Age of the 1890s and the Roaring 1920s. Incredibly, the top one-tenth of one percent now owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. And almost 60 percent of all new income since the 2008 financial crash has gone to the top 1 percent. We are now in a New Gilded Age.
What are some of the main causes of all this inequality?
Economists can point to “supply side” tax cuts, which reduced the tax rates for high-income earners. But the theory that tax cuts for the wealthy would somehow lead to economic growth to everyone’s benefit was nothing more than “voodoo economics” – as even George H.W. Bush candidly recognized while running in the presidential primary against Ronald Reagan over 30 years ago. Rather than mysteriously “trickle-down” to ordinary working folks, tax cut savings for the very wealthy are more likely to flow out of the U.S. to off-shore tax havens.
Unfortunately, proponents of ever-more tax cuts for the wealthy never learned the lesson of history. The trickle-down tax cuts of the 1920s culminated in the Great Depression. Likewise, the Bush tax cuts of the early 2000s culminate in our own Great Recession, the adverse consequences of which are still with us today.
Presently, the top bracket has a marginal income tax rate of 39.6 percent, far below the marginal tax rates that prevailed from the 1940s to 1980s, a period when the U.S. enjoyed not just a much more equitable distribution of income and wealth, but also far higher economic growth rates, rising real wages, and stronger labor markets. More troubling is that the top tax bracket begins at an income of $413,200, which means that a family with such an income is in the same tax bracket as those with annual incomes that are 10 or 100 times higher or even more. A hedge fund manager can make a billion dollars and actually pay a lower effective marginal tax rate thanks to the “carried interest” exemption.
For more than the past 100 years, since the start of the modern tax code in 1913, our country has implemented what is known as a progressive federal income tax, meaning that tax rates get progressively higher as taxable income increases, with a larger percentage of income being paid by high-income groups, a lower percentage of income paid by middle-income groups, and an even lower percentage of income being paid by low-income groups. Cutting top tax rates for the wealthiest families reduces the progressive nature of our federal tax code, and undermines the concept of “ability to pay” and the goal of inherent fairness upon which our system of taxation is supposed to be based.
I have always opposed the supply-side tax cuts of the Reagan and Bush administrations, and I have always supported increasing the progressivity in our federal income tax system. I was against extending the Bush tax cuts during the first Obama administration, while my opponent, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, supported extension of the Bush tax cuts.
I believe there should be more tax brackets at the high end of the income distribution scale, with higher marginal tax rates imposed on those making millions and billions of dollars a year. Otherwise, the tax burden falls too harshly on working families, the middle class, and small- and medium-sized business owners, even those trying to make their first million. We should also put an end to “corporate inversions” and other loopholes that allow corporations and wealthy individuals move their money into offshore tax havens, while taking advantage of federal subsidies and access to the largest consumer market in the world.
Another source of our growing income and wealth inequality is related to the Federal Reserve and monetary policy. Since the 2008 financial collapse, the central bank has purchased several trillion dollars in assets from the largest Wall Street financial institutions, while making tens of trillions of dollars in near zero-interest loans to these big banks. Meanwhile, millions of ordinary Americans were wiped out by the crash, they lost their homes to foreclosure, they lost their jobs, and they lost their life savings - and yet the Fed has done virtually nothing to help them. This is totally inexcusable.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the Federal Reserve provided loans directly to “Main Street” small- and medium-sized businesses, and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) – essentially a federal infrastructure bank – provided billions of dollars in grants and loans to rebuild the economy. But since 2008, the Federal Reserve has provide no assistance to Main Street and we’re still waiting for a federal infrastructure bank – something that’s been promised in presidential election campaigns in 1992 and 2008 and that many economic powerhouses with modern infrastructures, like Germany, Japan, and China, have had for years.
Financial deregulation has resulted in more income inequality. Big Wall Street banks have been allowed to impose all sorts of fees on low-income customers. They charge high interest rates on predatory and subprime loans. They pay near zero interest to bank customers on their deposits.
My opponent, after taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks, has co-sponsored a bill to prevent the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFTP) from regulating payday loans and addressing racial discrimination in car loans. This reverses the progress made by President Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren in significant parts of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 - the Obama administration’s main legislative response to the 2008 financial collapse.
In contrast, I have spent my entire career opposing financial deregulation for the big banks, and calling for regulation of lending standards. I warned against watering down and then abolishing the Glass-Steagall Act firewalls that had separated commercial banking from investment banking and risky securities markets for decades. And I support breaking up these huge financial institutions that have become too big to fail, too big to jail, and too big to manage.
As the U.S. has entered into trade agreements with far less developed countries, this has also undermined U.S. wage rates and American jobs, further aggravating the economic inequality in our country. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994 was the first free trade agreement between 1st World and 3rd World countries. American workers quickly saw their jobs outsourced to Mexico. Then a decade later, the U.S. entered into permanent normal trade relations with the People’s Republic of China, a communist dictatorship with no independent trade union movement, no political freedoms, and far lower wage rates, labor standards, and environmental protections.
As a law professor, scholar and activist, I opposed these types of trade policies, including NAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, and China’s membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). My opponent, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has been complicit in these bad trade deals. She supported the Korean Trade Agreement that resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in Florida. She voted to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that will destroy hundreds of thousands of American jobs in the future. And she did this after taking more than $300,000 in campaign contributions in 2012-2014, and no doubt much more since, from corporate interests lobbying for the TPP. I do not take corporate money, period. And I opposed fast-tracking the TPP and I oppose the TPP.
I have been warning about these trends in income and wealth inequality - in countless articles, book chapters, and public speeches since the early 1990s - and for much of that time it certainly did not help my career to attack supply-side tax cuts, free trade agreements, banking deregulation, and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s monetary policies.
But I never backed down.
When elected to Congress, I will continue to fight for fairness in the tax system. Wealthy citizens and large corporations must pay their fair share in taxes.
I will support an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, along with special protections for small businesses.
And I will fight for active fiscal and monetary policies that rebuild our infrastructure, provide jobs in construction and manufacturing, and extend credit to small- and medium-sized businesses that have been neglected by big Wall Street banks. We can do this. Everyone knows that we must make the investments necessary to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, from roads and bridges, to public transit, high-speed rail, water and sewage treatment systems, and a new smart electricity grid.
In addition, we must rebalance our trade relations. I will fight against unfair trade agreements and I will push for trade sanctions against countries that violate the human rights of their own citizens, lack basic minimal labor and environmental standards, and manipulate their currencies to undermine our manufacturing base.
Meanwhile, we should strengthen our own protections for union organizing and collective bargaining. The unionization rate for the U.S. private sector is now down around 7 percent and that’s one of the main reasons for the stagnation in U.S. wages and the decline in the middle class. That’s why I support the Employee Free Choice Act, which would provide an easier system for employees to form or join a labor union to protect their rights and make a decent living wage.
Much of the country, as I do, supports Senator Bernie Sanders’ agenda to help the Main Streets of America. We can create millions of jobs for young men and women by investing in jobs programs. We must demand pay equity for women. We can make tuition free at public colleges and universities, as they were for my dad’s generation after World War II with the G.I. Bill of Rights program. And like Senator Sanders, I support paying for this with a small turnover tax – the so-called “Robin Hood tax” - on financial transactions. In fact, I have advocated for just such a tax since the early 1990s – it was then known as the Tobin Tax, after the late James Tobin, a Nobel laureate in economics and the head of President John F. Kennedy’s Council of Economic Advisers. As Dr. Tobin said at the time, an added benefit of such a turnover tax, would be “throwing sand in the gears of the speculators.” We should be deterring and taxing financial speculation to provide the policy space for governments to pursue full-employment policies.
Rather than cutting benefits to the elderly, I support expanding Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable income above $250,000 so that those earning more -- and in many cases much, much more -- pay a bit more into the system. I have also called on the Florida Congressional delegation to co-sponsor legislation introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren to expand assistance to our poorest seniors and disabled people under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Although more than 124,000 seniors in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties live below the poverty line, my opponent has dragged her feet on this issue and as of February 2016 still had not co-sponsored this effort to strengthen the safety-net for citizens most in need.
I believe we should improve upon the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama’s main health care initiative, by moving to a “Medicare for all” single-payer healthcare system that guarantees every citizen health care as a basic right. Many of our trading partners and competitors have single-payer healthcare, as well as paid family and medical leave. We should require employers to provide at least 2 weeks of paid vacation; 7 days of paid sick days; and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave – as is done in Germany and many other capitalist democracies that are outcompeting us on trade.
As Senator Sanders has said, “Real family values are about making sure that parents have the time they need to bond with their babies and take care of their children and relatives when they get ill.” And we need a universal childcare and prekindergarten program to support the development of our children in their most formative years.
These are just some of the policy prescriptions that we can employ to improve the lives of our neighbors in South Florida and millions of other citizens throughout the United States. We live in the wealthiest country in human history, but the current trend of income and wealth distribution is completely upside down. For the past four decades, the rules have been rigged in favor of Wall Street and the billionaire class. Now it’s time for them to pay their fair share, to make sure that we all can make a decent living.
Climate change is a global challenge. Here in South Florida, it is not simply a theoretical problem, but a very real and growing threat to our homes, businesses and neighborhoods. We already see the erosion of our seawalls, corrosion of critical infrastructure, and salt water intruding into the aquifers we rely on for our drinking water.
Yet, our elected officials have been slow to act. Addressing climate change must be a national priority. We need to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses into the environment by aggressively reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and harmful environmental practices like fracking. I was proud to stand with South Florida environmental groups, labor, community activists, the League of Cities, the Association of Counties and others who opposed the harmful state legislative bills that would have made it easier for big oil and gas companies to bring fracking to our state. In addition to clearing a path to potential environmental disasters, these fracking bills would have taken away local municipalities’ ability to pass local ordinances to protect their own constituents.
We must focus our efforts on transitioning to sustainable, clean energy sources to power our future. For many years, I have supported a carbon tax, as well as cap-and-trade proposals. I reject arguments that somehow these initiatives would hamper our economy. There is no good reason for the U.S. to be lagging behind other major countries, like Germany, in converting to alternative, renewable energy sources. By allowing other countries to take the lead in the research, development and innovation of this growing market, we put our country’s role in developing these revolutionary technologies at risk.
The reality of climate change will demand that we make huge investments in critical infrastructure in the coming years, from reinforcing sea walls and raising streets to protecting our electrical grid and modernizing sewage and water treatment facilities. This is why I have taken the Climate Mobilization Pledge in support of a program on the scale of the World War II mobilization of human, industrial, and financial resources to restore a safe climate. I want the United States to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and to make tremendous investments in carbon capture and sequestration technologies to actively remove carbon dioxide from our atmosphere.
While my opponent Debbie Wasserman Schultz says that she’s for addressing climate change and protecting our local environment, her words ring hollow in light of her actions. Despite stating on her official website that protecting the Everglades is a “fundamental responsibility” that she does not take lightly, my opponent is consistently ranked as one of members of the Congress who accepts the most money from the sugar lobby. She has voted multiple times to reauthorize and extend millions of dollars in corporate welfare to the sugar industry. Worse still, sugar producers have been identified as the chief polluters of the Everglades, an ecosystem that plays a critical role in in maintaining the health of the Biscayne Aquifer – the fresh water source for millions of Floridians.
When thinking of how to best address climate change I am reminded of a Greek proverb: “a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” When I am elected to Congress I will make sure we protect South Florida’s environment and stand up to the Big Sugar industry that threatens our fragile ecosystems and drinking water. I will not rest until our country makes serious progress to combat climate change and protect our environment, both locally and across the globe. Simply stated, climate change is a problem that South Florida must face head on, and I am committed to leading the charge so that future generations may continue to enjoy this planet we call home.
I have opposed the misguided drug war for many years. We should not be locking people up for using the same drugs that have been used by at least the last three American presidents and, according to many surveys, by a majority of American people.
As an activist and a law professor, I have been involved in the grassroots movement to decriminalize drugs. The goal should be to let adults make their own decisions as long as they are not harming themselves and others, let the States and their voters decide their own drug policies, and treat drug abuse as a public health issue, rather than burdening our criminal justice system. And the federal government should get out of the way.
In Florida, I supported the 2014 medical marijuana referendum that garnered about 58 percent of the vote state-wide, falling just short of the required 60 percent mark. My opponent, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is a drug warrior who opposed the medical marijuana referendum. Calling marijuana a “gateway” drug, she refuses to allow her constituents in South Florida, in consultation with their doctors, to decide for themselves whether to utilize this plant-based medicine to alleviate pain and other symptoms of various illnesses and the side effects of other medications.
Certain industries have a special interest in keeping marijuana illegal - for example, the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries, both of which view recreational and medicinal use of marijuana as a competitive threat; and the private prison industry, which profits from warehousing people in jails, including for marijuana possession. Not surprisingly, having taken in lots of campaign donations from the alcohol, pharmaceutical, and private prison industries and their political action committees (PACs), Debbie Wasserman Schultz opposes medical marijuana and supports privatized prisons and mass incarceration. Unlike my opponent, I do not take any contributions from these special interests, or from any corporate interests at all.
In addition to Florida’s medical marijuana referendum, I also support the recent reforms by Miami-Dade and Broward Counties to decriminalize marijuana for personal use, and I call on the federal government to “de-schedule” marijuana from the list of controlled and dangerous substances.
Far more serious than recreational marijuana use is the rise of illegal pill mills, the over-prescription of opioids, the enormous increase in heroin abuse, and the epidemic of flakka, synthetic crystals and bath salts imported from China, which has turned many users into paranoid and often violent zombies with superhuman strength and off-the-charts near-death vital signs. In the first year since the flakka epidemic began in Broward County, 60 people have died as a result, with hospitals getting dozens of overdosed patients a day, and on some nights, half the calls to police are flakka-related emergencies. Likewise, opioid use has resulted in an alarming rise in overdose deaths around the country, including in more affluent areas, and particularly in South Florida. These are the type of drugs on which we should be focusing our law enforcement and public health efforts.
In many of the states that have moved in the direction of legalization and regulation of marijuana for personal use, entire new industries are flourishing, adding jobs and increasing tax revenues, and crime rates are falling. While I support state efforts to allow individuals to make their own decisions, I also recognize the need to provide young people -- and people of all ages -- with many more job and educational opportunities in a time of decriminalization and legalization.
While ending the drug war presents a range of challenges, there is no doubt that the drug war itself has been a costly disaster for millions of individuals, families, and taxpayers. An entire private prison industry has arisen that lobbies for harsh drug wars with severe sentencing. The drug war institutionalizes racial, generational, and economic injustice, by disproportionately punishing people of color, young people, and people with lower incomes at far greater rates than the population as a whole. For instance, although surveys show that illicit drug use is no higher among people of color, African-American men are arrested at many times the rate of white men on drug charges in the U.S., and at even higher rates in Florida.
The drug war results in mass incarceration. More than half a million people are languishing behind bars on drug charges in the U.S., breaking up and often irreparably destroying families. And there are other collateral consequences. People convicted of even misdemeanor drug offenses, including marijuana possession, are denied access to education, housing and federal financial aid under federal law, and frequently will find that they are virtually barred from the job market. In Florida and some other states, those convicted of non-violent drug felonies are barred for life from voting, even after they have served their sentences, regardless of whether they are responsibly employed, paying taxes, and raising families. In 2001, I helped spearhead the grassroots lobbying campaign that overturned New Mexico’s felon disenfranchisement law, and worked successfully with a Republican governor to do so. Unfortunately, Florida leads the country in felon disenfranchisement. According to the New York Times "more than one in ten Floridians – and nearly one in four African American Floridians – are shut out of the polls because of felony convictions," most of which are non-violent drug felonies.
Public opinion surveys show that people across the country, and particularly in South Florida, want to end this misguided drug war. Unfortunately, powerful industries continue to lobby for the drug war – including the same pharmaceutical, alcohol, and private prison companies from which my opponent readily takes large amounts of money. It is time to take corporate money out of politics, end the drug war, and provide legal and healthy alternatives for everyone. People should have the freedom to decide with their doctors whether to use medical marijuana, and to decide for themselves whether to use marijuana recreationally. We don’t need more prisons. We need more jobs and more educational opportunities as alternatives to drug dealing and chronic drug use. And for those who are caught in the grip of the disease of drug addiction, rather than warehouse them in prisons as punishment, we need more treatment programs to provide a better means to help them recover.
Though economists tell us that the 2008 Great Recession ended years ago, many Americans have been left behind by the economic recovery. In this time of so much economic uncertainty, millions of hardworking American families are living paycheck to paycheck and are increasingly relying on payday loans to keep up with their bills and make ends meet.
Payday loans are short-term loans, generally less than $500 in value that come due when the borrower collects their next paycheck. While the amounts being borrowed are relatively low, the interest rates on these loans are shockingly high. Most credit cards companies charge between 15 and 30 percent annual interest, but payday lenders typically charge more than 300 percent annual interest for their loans. Worse yet, due to the high cost of borrowing and the very short repayment period for payday loans, the consumers that rely on them often become trapped in what President Obama called “a vicious cycle of debt.”
Despite their predatory lending tactics, the universal outcry of consumer protection groups and the condemnation of leaders such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and President Obama, my opponent Debbie Wasserman Schultz has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from payday lenders. If this were not enough, my opponent has also joined Republicans in co-sponsoring a bill that would delay the regulation of payday lenders for years and continue to burden millions of working families with endless debt. This is why the editorial board of the Sun Sentinel has called on Wasserman Schultz to “not swim with loan sharks.”
Debbie Wasserman Schultz has also voted to prevent President Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from issuing regulations against “racial redlining” in the auto loan market. There should be no place in our society for these kinds of predatory financial practices, including those that discriminate against people on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender or other personal characteristics.
When I am elected to Congress I promise to regulate the payday lending industry. I will work hard to limit the loan shark style practices of the payday lending industry and the debt traps they work so hard to create. I also promise to propose alternatives – like postal banking – to give working families access to the type of small loans they may need in an emergency, but at much lower interest rates. By working together, we can put a stop to this greedy industry that exploits hard working families and find new solutions for the people of Florida.
Israel and its security needs
I was raised in a blended family, Catholic on my mother’s side and with a loving Jewish stepdad for the past forty years. We observed Jewish holy days, honored Jewish traditions, and learned much about Israel from many friends and loved ones who had visited. In the year before I started law school, I decided to live and work on a kibbutz in Israel. I developed a deep attachment to the land and people of Israel, and a deep commitment to Israel as a democratic Jewish state.
I also remain fully committed to a two-state solution that includes a democratic Palestinian state and I believe the U.S. must play an active role in promoting the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Any peace settlement must respect and safeguard the human rights of both the Israeli and Palestinian people. This would require difficult compromises by both sides, and I believe the U.S. could play a constructive role in encouraging the peace process through the judicious use of incentives and rewards for each side.
It is difficult to imagine the peace process moving forward until Israel’s neighbors accept Israel’s right to exist and recognize her legitimate security needs.
The Iran nuclear agreement
The gravest threat to Israeli security would be nuclear proliferation in the region. Israel’s most dangerous adversary has been Iran, which has funded and armed Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
While I have criticized several deficiencies in the Iran nuclear deal (no international agreement is ever perfect), now that it has been entered into, I support its full implementation.
What were my concerns with the agreement? I was troubled by the inspections protocols. I also thought that a more measured and incremental lifting of sanctions and release of frozen assets would have provided continuing incentives for Iran to comply not just with the nuclear deal but also with its anti-ballistic missile commitments. I was also concerned that the wholesale lifting of sanctions and release of assets may strengthen hardliners in Iran. In a democracy like ours, it is important for citizens and elected representatives to critically scrutinize proposed international treaties and executive agreements, whether they be trade deals or arms control agreements.
Now that the Iran nuclear deal has been adopted by all parties, I support its full implementation and I would not support any efforts by the U.S. to unilaterally scrap the agreement.
Wars of regime change
I have opposed every war of regime change in the Middle East, from the Iraq War to the civil wars in Libya and Syria. These countries have also become battlegrounds for seemingly never-ending proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran, two misogynistic, authoritarian regimes that pursue radical and often violent visions of Islamic fundamentalism. The results have been terrible bloodshed and carnage for the people of the battleground countries and a Syrian refugee crisis of catastrophic proportions.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State (ISIS) has spread throughout Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere, and now threatens Israel’s northern border with Syria. Unfortunately, many outside countries – the U.S. included – remain complicit in this bloodshed by arming and funding the regimes and proxy armies in the region.
The U.S. must do everything in its power to reverse the militarization of the region, including full diplomatic efforts to negotiate a general disarmament for the entire region that includes nuclear, missile, and conventional arms reductions.
We should recognize that peace and security for Israel, the U.S., and the rest of the world is no longer possible without general disarmament and fundamental political and social reforms - specifically in Iran, Saudia Arabia and among other state sponsors of terror - throughout the Middle East. We must work to bring about such reform as much as possible through non-violent peaceful means using the full range of U.S. economic and diplomatic power.
Our world is more interconnected than ever before. Because of this, the economic, social, and political instability of countries all over the world often create ripple effects here at home. These effects are often most visible in the form of immigration.
America is a country built by generations of immigrants who came to its shores in search of a better life. Today, the United States continues to be a prime destination for those seeking opportunity, prosperity, or refuge for themselves and their families. However, welcoming immigrants in the 21st century presents problems that we did not face in the past. Our country needs to reform its immigration policy so that we have sensible and humane solutions to the challenges of today while continuing to attract the world’s best and brightest to help build a better tomorrow for all Americans.
When I am elected to Congress I will fight tirelessly to forge a fair path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants in the country. I will support the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs so that people, like the Dreamers, who have lived in America most of their lives are not forced to return to countries they no longer recognize or call home. I also intend to reform student and skilled worker visa programs so that we can continue to attract the best talent to America and lead the world in technology and innovation for generations to come.
While advocating for a more humane policy for undocumented immigrants, I also support enhancing our border security. Unfortunately, weak border security has at times provided a safety valve for corrupt and repressive regimes south of our border. The U.S. has to do more to be both a good neighbor and encourage democratic reforms in those countries to our south.
During the 1980’s, as America was dramatically expanding its long and misguided War on Drugs, federal and state governments were incarcerating so many people that they could no longer build prisons fast enough to house all the new inmates. To meet the demands of an overburdened system, private companies began building and managing prisons in an effort to make money off the endless stream of prisoners that were being locked away.
Since then, for-profit prisons have become a multi-billion dollar industry and the companies that build them are now traded on the New York Stock Exchange. To guarantee profitability for shareholders, most of these companies sign contracts that require federal, state, and local governments to maintain certain levels of prison occupancy or taxpayers are forced to cover the cost of any empty beds in these for-profit facilities. In turn, these contracts incentivize governments to imprison people for minor and often non-violent offenses in order to satisfy the requirements of these contracts.
To further secure their profitability, private prison companies are spending millions of dollars every year lobbying politicians to maintain and promote the sort of flawed policies that keep private prisons full, such as mandatory minimum sentencing, three strikes, and truth-in-sentencing laws that prevent people from qualifying for parole. These policies are often not only counterproductive, but they have also been consistently proven to disproportionately affect poor and minority communities.
In spite of the all negative effects of for-profit prisons, my opponent has accepted thousands of dollars from the for-profit prison industry since she came into office. In 2011, Debbie Wasserman Schultz even actively lobbied to have a $100 million for-profit prison facility built within her district, in Southwest Ranches, despite widespread opposition by people living in the neighborhood.
I do not believe that these are the kinds of businesses that we should be attracting to Florida’s 23rd Congressional District. When I am elected to Congress I will fight tirelessly to stop the for-profit privatization of our nation’s prisons. I will do so because while I strongly believe in punishing hardened criminals for breaking the law, it is immoral to support an industry that makes millions of dollars from unfairly targeting the poor and minority communities by sending more people to jail for minor and nonviolent offenses.
My parents instilled in me the value of an education. They always told me and my siblings that we had to work hard and go to school so that we could better ourselves. Through college, and then law school, I worked hard so that I could attain the opportunities my parents promised would come with a college degree. However, with each passing year, higher education is becoming more unaffordable. As a law professor, I see my students graduate hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt before they ever even pass the bar exam. I do not believe that young people – especially in a country as rich as ours - should mortgage themselves to get an education.
In today’s economy, everyone should have the opportunity to attain a four year college degree. I am in favor of a 0.5% Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street to pay for free tuition at public colleges and universities. I am also proposing a Voluntary National Service Program that would allow young Americans right out of high school to serve for two years in their choice of civilian or military service. Civilian service would include a Land & Sea Conservation Corps, Works Projects, and National Youth Administration. In return, volunteers would be eligible to receive tuition free higher education and living stipends while they study – like the GI Bill of Rights did for my dad and the entire WWII generation.
Furthermore, it is absurd that Wall Street banks get access to credit from the Federal Reserve at interest rates below one percent, yet students pay seven percent and higher on their school loans. I support charging half a percentage point (0.5%) interest rate on student loans- a small service charge. The federal government should not be making more than $30 billion a year off the backs of students. With these and other reforms we can prepare the young people of today for the jobs of tomorrow’s economy. Investing in educating America’s youth is an investment in our future.
Over the last hundred years our country has made many advancements to protect the rights of women. Today however many of these hard fought rights are under attack by Republicans and others who want to deny women access to their health and reproductive rights. There are even many who still insist on opposing the efforts to guarantee women equal pay for equal work.
I firmly believe that we cannot have true progress in America unless we have progress for all. It is incredible that more than forty years after Roe v. Wade a woman’s right to control her reproductive health remains under attack.
It is shameful that women are still paid less than men for performing the same work. It is because of this that I support equal pay for equal work and want to ensure that all women have access to the health services they are guaranteed by law. But this is not enough. We need to do and demand more.
When I am elected to Congress I will not rest until employers are required to provide employees with 12 weeks of paid family leave so that all Americans can care for their loved ones in their time of need. I fully support the development of free universal childcare for all American families because working parents should not have to choose between providing for their children or leaving them home alone. I also want to expand the availability of pre-kindergarten education programs so that all children, irrespective of class or circumstance, can have access to these programs in the most critical stages of their development. Together we can secure the rights of women across the country and build a better, more compassionate America for ourselves and future generations.
In recent years our country has made tremendous strides to advance the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. It was not long ago that gay Americans could not receive benefits from their spouses, serve openly in the military, or marry the ones they love. Though our country has come very far in a short time, there is a still a lot of work to be done before we have full equality for all Americans.
Today, despite our recent progress, more than half of all U.S states do not protect against discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Several states have recently passed laws overruling local governments from banning discrimination against LGBTQ people.
This is unacceptable. In a fair and just society there should be no room for state sanctioned bigotry based on gender identity or sexual orientation. That is why when I am elected to Congress I will fight to end discrimination in all its forms. I intend to cosponsor the Equality Act which would provide LGBTQ Americans with anti-discrimination protections in the areas of housing, employment, and education, among others. I also plan on working to pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act which would prohibit adoption or foster care placement services that receive federal funding from denying a prospective parent the ability to adopt or foster a child because of the parent’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. With your support we can work together to create a fairer and more equitable America for everyone.
It is a sad a reality that rising health care and housing costs are pushing many American seniors into poverty. According to the latest government figures, 6.4 million Americans over age 65 are living in poverty. In 2013, 9 percent of all households that included seniors experienced hunger. If present trends continue, those numbers are projected to increase by 50 percent in the next decade, while homelessness among seniors is projected to double over the next three decades.
In Florida, 11 percent of seniors over 65 live below the poverty line, which is $11,770 a year for a senior living alone. It’s even worse in South Florida. In Miami-Dade, more than 22 percent of seniors aged 65 and over live in poverty, in Broward County about 14 percent of such seniors live in poverty — that’s more than 124,000 seniors in Miami-Dade and Broward counties living below the poverty line. Thousands of seniors, many who thought they were prepared for retirement before the 2008 recession decimated their life savings, now find themselves choosing between food and medicine every day.
Some of the hardest-hit seniors are those receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a safety-net program administered by the Social Security Administration that provides a very basic income to the poorest people among us — older adults and people with disabilities who have little or no other income or resources.
The full federal monthly benefit available for individual SSI recipients is $733, a figure that requires recipients to live at just 75 percent of the federal poverty level. However, SSI has not been substantially updated since it was signed into law in 1972. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has not responded to this crisis. She has yet to co-sponsor the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2015, which would help many SSI recipients from having to struggle with homelessness, hunger or malnutrition. Meanwhile, I have been working with advocates for seniors and people with disabilities in support of this bill for many months.
Despite all these dangers to the safety and security of America’s seniors, there are many in Congress who want to cut and push back the eligibility for Social Security benefits. This is unacceptable. When I am elected to Congress I will not only protect Social Security but expand it by lifting the cap on Social Security taxable income above the current $118,500 so that those earning more – and in many cases much, much more – pay their fair share into the system. I intend to support efforts by several lawmakers in Washington — led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders — to update the SSI program’s income and asset limits to make them more in line with today’s economic realities, so that seniors who rely on SSI can continue to buy food, stay in their homes and access the health care they need. This a simple, reasonable fix that would make life just a little bit easier for the more 550,000 Florida SSI recipients who have nothing else to fall back on.
As the Social Security program celebrates its 80th birthday this year, it’s time to commit not only to preserving the nation’s most successful anti-poverty program, but also expanding it so that it can continue to provide hope and dignity to growing numbers of seniors.
The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a monumental achievement. With the stroke of a pen, President Obama signed into law the most important health care reform since Johnson’s Great Society. Through the ACA, millions of Americans have gained access to health insurance that was previously too expensive or otherwise unattainable. It is because of the ACA that insurers can no longer deny coverage because of preexisting conditions, drop policy holders when they get sick, or issue policies with lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits. Simply put, the ACA was a transformational piece of legislation, but I know we can do better.
The United States remains the only major developed country that does not provide universal health care to all its citizens. Generations of American leaders – Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson, among others - have tried to guarantee health care to all Americans, without success. Despite the reforms of the ACA, tens of millions of Americans still do not have health insurance. Millions more are underinsured, cannot afford high priced deductibles and co-payments, or are forced to declare bankruptcy because they simply cannot afford to pay their medical bills. This should not happen in a fair and just America. I firmly believe that health care is a universal human right and it is because of this that I want to improve upon the Affordable Care Act, by moving to a “Medicare for all” single-payer health care system that would guarantee every citizen health care as a basic right.
That said, on the road to creating a universal health care system for all Americans, we must not ignore improving Medicare in its current form. Currently, many seniors struggle to afford the prescriptions medicines they need. That is why when I am elected to Congress I plan on working to create legislation that will allow the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to bring down the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare recipients. I also intend to introduce legislation to change the asset and income tests for getting help with Medicare premiums and copays so that the seniors who are most in need are not forced to choose between their health and feeding themselves.
Expanding universal health coverage to all Americans would give us all the peace of mind to know that getting sick will not lead to bankruptcy. We will no longer have to choose between a better job or better health care coverage. It my sincere belief that if we come together we can achieve this goal that has eluded us for too long and we can make a better America for all of us.
Indian Tribes and Nations are sovereign governments that predate the formation of the United States. The United States Constitution through the Commerce, Treaty and Supremacy clauses recognizes the inherent sovereignty of tribes over their lands and citizens. Also, recognized is the direct relationship between Indian Tribes and the United States without State interference.
As a member of Congress I will fight to empower tribal nations. This is our agenda for Indian Tribes and Nations:
Support tribal sovereignty: Indian tribes must be able to exert civil and criminal jurisdiction over all who break tribal laws on tribal lands.
Uphold the trust responsibility: The United States must honor its responsibilities under the treaties and statutes that form the trust relationship with Indian tribes.
Encourage economic development: Diversified economic development must be supported to raise the standard of living of all Native Americans. Access to capital, markets and infrastructure are essential to growing tribal economies. Here in Florida’s 23rd Congressional district, the Seminole Tribe is the epitome of what can be done by Indian tribes to raise their standards of living through diversified economic development.
Restore tribal lands: All Indian tribes must have the ability to place land into trust to restore native homelands. I will work to ensure that the Secretary of Interior can place land into trust for all tribes.
Protecting sacred places: Native Americans must be empowered to maintain and pass on traditional religious beliefs, languages and social practices without fear of discrimination or suppression. Tribal cultures, sacred places, religious practices, and landscapes must be federally protected.
Protect native children: Native children are the future of tribal nations; the Indian Child Welfare Act is critical to survival and must be enforced with the original intent of the law.
Fight Climate Change and Promote Environmental Protection: Indian Country is at risk from environmental pollution of the air, water, and land, as well as from the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels. We must address climate change in a comprehensive and systematic way.
Whether the setting is a school, a church, a movie theater or a nightclub, the headline has become all too familiar: “Innocent Americans gunned down in a hail of bullets.” The statistics are alarming. From January 1, 2016, to June 22, 2016, there were 147 mass shootings in America where someone was killed or injured. In 2016 it is likely that more than 100,000 Americans will lose their lives or suffer violent injury because of firearms.
Today in America – through either our negligence or willful inaction – we have created a culture of fear; the fear that anywhere and at any moment we can be the victim of senseless gun violence. I do not want to live in a culture of fear that threatens our freedom, our liberty or our happiness. That is why when I am elected to Congress I will make every effort to end this culture of fear while preserving the liberty for which our founder’s fought so dearly.
I plan on introducing common sense proposals that are widely supported across our country, even by a great majority of members of the NRA, such as:
I have no doubt that this legislative agenda will be very challenging. At the same time, therefore, I will support proposals that can be implemented through executive orders, such as prohibiting the federal government from doing business with firms that produce or distribute assault rifles for civilian use.
I am not an enemy of guns, I am an enemy of guns in the wrong hands.
If we organize ourselves and work to enact each of these proposed measures, or succeed with even just one of them, America will be safer place for everyone.
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