Issues

CURRENT LEGISLATION MARIANNE WOULD SUPPORT

A:

The following are samples of pieces of legislation introduced in the current 113th Congress that I would passionately support:

THE GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD RIGHT-TO-KNOW ACT (H.R. 1699)

Sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR- 4) in the House and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in the Senate, this bill would require food manufacturers to clearly label any product that has been genetically engineered or contains genetically engineered ingredients, or else the product would be classified as “misbranded” by the FDA.  This requirement does not apply to food used in restaurants, hospitals or other medical environments.  Food manufacturers are protected so long as they have a statement from the grower that the food contains no GMOs.  The bill also protects producers whose food was unintentionally contaminated by GMOs, so long as the contamination did not occur as a result of negligence.  Enforcement would be left up to the FDA, rather than through civil action.

View the bill’s full text: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr1699/text

DRONES ACCOUNTABILITY ACT (H.R. 2183)

Sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), this law would prohibit the CIA from operating or controlling armed unmanned aerial vehicles (known as drones) or combat aircraft.  This law seeks a moratorium against the lethal use of drones until the White House has presented, and Congress has approved, sufficient safeguards and sufficient oversight addressing concerns regarding the current use of drones.

View the bill’s full text: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr2183/text

REPEAL OF THE AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE (H.R. 198)

Sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), this would repeal the sweeping law enacted three days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which was originally intended to give the President authority to invade Afghanistan and go after Al Qaeda and Taliban rulers who sheltered and aided the 9/11 terrorists.  Since that time, AUMF has been interpreted far more broadly, and repeatedly used as an open-ended authorization for the use of military force, including drone strikes.   AUMF is outdated, gives presidents excessive power to act unilaterally and promotes perpetual war.

View the bill’s full text: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr198/text

ENDING SECRET LAW ACT (H.R. 2475)

Sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA-28), this law would require the declassification of significant opinions issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), a federal court which oversees requests for secret warrants from government lawyers.  FISC is currently permitted to withhold its decisions from the public, a practice inconsistent with democratic governance and America’s tradition of open publication of the law.

View the bill’s full text: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr2475/text

PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION PROVIDING THAT THE RIGHTS EXTENDED BY THE CONSTITUTION ARE THE RIGHTS OF NATURAL PERSONS ONLY (H.J.RES. 29)

Sponsored by Rep. Richard Nolan (D-MN-8), this law would prohibit artificial entities from having rights under the United States Constitution.  The bill seeks to weaken the disastrous effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allows corporations and unions to spend unlimited sums of money on elections so long as the money is spent independently of the candidates and political parties.  The Supreme Court’s conclusion was essentially that a prohibition on such expenditures would be a violation of the First Amendment’s protection of free speech. 

View the bill’s full text: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hjres29/text

GOVERNMENT BY THE PEOPLE ACT (H.R. 20)

Introduced on February 5, 2014 by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD-3) and awarded a priority bill number by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12), this bill is a comprehensive campaign reform measure designed to offset the undue influence of wealthy donors on elections.  This law is intended to empower grassroots donors through tax credits and matching public funds for small contributions and the creation of small donor PACs to aggregate the voices and power of ordinary citizens.  By amplifying the voices of everyday Americans, this bill incentivizes congressional candidates to reach out beyond the wealthy donors to the general public for campaign support.

View the bill’s full text: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr20/text 

EXPANDED & IMPROVED MEDICARE FOR ALL ACT (H.R. 676)

Sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI-13), this bill seeks to create a single-payer health care system similar to those in almost every other industrialized country.  It calls for the establishment of a privately-delivered, publicly-financed universal health care system in which physicians and non-profit health care providers -- not insurance companies -- would be in charge of medical decisions.

View the bill’s full text: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr676/text

DEPT. OF PEACE BUILDING BILL ACT HR808

Department of Peacebuilding Act of 2013 - Establishes a Department of Peacebuilding, which shall be headed by a Secretary of Peacebuilding.

Sets forth the mission of the Department, including: (1) cultivation of peace as a national policy objective; and (2) development of policies that promote national and international conflict prevention, nonviolent intervention, mediation, peaceful conflict resolution, and structured conflict mediation.

Establishes in the Department: (1) the Office of Peace Education and Training, (2) the Office of Domestic Peace Activities, (3) the Office of International Peace Activities, (4) the Office of Technology for Peace, (5) the Office of Arms Control and Disarmament, (6) the Office of Peacebuilding Information and Research, (7) the Office of Human Rights and Economic Rights, and (8) the Intergovernmental Advisory Council on Peace.

View the bill’s full text: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr808

DEMOCRACY AT RISK

A:

We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.

-- Justice Louis Brandeis

Democracy itself is at risk today, fiercely assaulted by combined forces of money and power. This assault is in my view our single largest challenge – the issue underlying all other issues. 

This organized, well-funded assault seeks the destruction of our bedrock democratic foundations: voting rights; fair representation; and the principle of one person, one vote. Voter suppression laws being passed throughout the country violate our voting rights. Politically driven gerrymandering, making a shift from voters choosing winners to winners choosing voters, violates the principle of fair representation. And Citizens United has substituted the formula of one dollar, one vote for the democratic principle of one person, one vote. 

A solid drift in the direction of the financial dominance of our politics – aided and abetted, indeed led in some cases, by our own Supreme Court – now threatens to overpower our democracy. In fact, contrary to recent Supreme Court rulings, money is not speech and corporations are not people. The citizens of a democracy have the right to organize around ideas and not just money. Yet, money dangerously controls not only our politics but even our discussion of political issues.

We need a state by state rejection of politicized gerrymandering (California has joined Iowa and Florida in starting this process). We need a Constitutional Amendment to override Citizens United to make way for public financing of our political campaigns, and possibly an Amendment as well to guarantee every citizen the right to vote. In addition, we need to repeal the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that gave permission for media cross-ownership and helped tear down the firewall between journalism and corporate promotion. Once the distribution of our news became controlled by a relatively few corporate entities, our society’s political conversation became narrowed to a dangerous degree. The narrowing of our political options inevitably followed.

These issues are the cornerstones of any serious effort to reclaim our democracy.

THE ECONOMY

A:

If they give it to the poor, they call it a handout; if they give it to the rich, they call it a subsidy.”

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most politicians, when discussing the economy, both begin and end with the message that we need “jobs, jobs, jobs.” It’s important, however, to question why there are so few jobs to begin with.

Often in American politics, what appears to be the issue is merely a symptom of a deeper one. Nowhere is this truer than with our economy.

The social contract between the American people and their government has traditionally led to efforts that broaden the economic franchise for the majority of our citizens. When that franchise has been weak or diminished, we looked to our government to help expand it.

Beginning in the 1980s however, a fundamental shift took place: the American government itself, instead of working to broaden the economic franchise of the majority of Americans, began instead to broaden the economic franchise of a very small minority of Americans, usually at the expense of the majority.

This minority -- called in today’s nomenclature The One Percent -- has become the recipient of extraordinary government largess. From huge corporate subsidies, to tax breaks for the very wealthy, to deregulation of even the most fundamental economic protections (such as Glass-Steagall, which established a firewall between investment and commercial banking), to greater and greater permission given to moneyed interests to flood our political system, to the proverbial “revolving door” practice between corporate and government leaders, American social and economic policy has acted like a vacuum cleaner, taking the majority of our nation’s economic resources and sucking them into the hands of a very few.

Why would a huge multi-national corporation -- with no particular allegiance to the American worker given that it is after all a global institution -- feel any remorse about closing an American factory and relocating it in another country? Or fighting an increase in the minimum wage? Or cutting the health benefits of its workers? Or fighting fair labor practices? Or fighting labor itself? And the list goes on.

The question itself suggests that because corporations cannot feel, perhaps they should not be left to rule the world. An economic bottom line, while appropriate within a business context, is sociopathic when applied to social policy. For that which has no conscience has no business determining policies that affect hundreds of millions of lives.

Such determination, theoretically, is the government’s job. But in an age when our government has become for all intents and purposes but a handmaiden to a new corporate order – surrendering to those whom President Franklin Roosevelt called “economic royalists” -- it is left to the people ourselves to reclaim the fundamentals of economic fairness. A government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” does not perpetuate the canard that by catering to its wealthiest donors it is somehow aiding the people it is meant to serve. The only way we will reclaim the U.S. economy for the benefit of the many as opposed to the benefit of the few is if we the people reclaim democracy itself.

The solution is not to redistribute wealth, but to redistribute opportunity.  The solution is not to give people what they do not earn, but to return to people a fair chance of earning it.  The solution is not to promote class warfare against the rich, but rather to soberly recognize that class warfare is what has been waged -- and successfully so --  against the middle and lower classes of our country over the last few decades. This is not merely unjust. It is a situation that has caused, and is causing, huge amounts of unnecessary suffering among the people of the United States, driving many middle class citizens into poverty and returning to our society the harsh reality of hunger, particularly among children, that had been drastically diminished just a few decades ago. It is time to reclaim the U.S. economy for the decency and righteousness at the heart of a true democracy.

Economic Facts to Consider:  

  • The 400 richest Americans are now worth a combined $2 Trillion dollars, more than the aggregate net worth of half of all Americans, with 95% of all income gains over recent years going to the top 1%.
  • In 1913, Congress created our central banking system, deceptively named the Federal Reserve, although it is 100% owned and primarily operated for the benefit of its private banking corporation owners. Very few Americans understand that the banks were ceded the exclusive monopoly to create America's national money supply; and that every dollar in circulation today has been created privately, as a debt to the Federal Reserve or the banking system it heads. By so doing, Congress relinquished the US government's right to issue currency directly, making it necessary for the US government to pay interest to private bankers for the money they create virtually out of thin air.
  • Since 2008, the Federal Reserve has created over $2 Trillion in interest-bearing new debt (for which American taxpayers are liable) and handed it over to Wall Street in exchange for their toxic assets. While richly rewarding Wall Street for the massive manipulations and recklessness, the Fed's zero interest  policies have hurt savers, pensioners and people trying to live on fixed incomes.
  • If the Fed were truly “federal” and not privately owned, it could lend the full faith and credit of the United States to state and local governments interest-free, greatly reducing the cost of infrastructure and enabling communities to address pressing local needs. 

EDUCATION

A:

I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society, but the people themselves: and…to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”    

— Thomas Jefferson

jpeg.jpg

 In a system where short term economic values have run roughshod over the humanitarian concerns of our citizens – particularly our youth – education lacks the societal and governmental support crucial to a thriving democracy. For education is more than a pathway to a better life; good universal education is crucial to citizen empowerment and a sense of civic engagement and social responsibility. Under-education is a form of lock-out, as an uneducated child is more likely to land in prison than in the halls of power. 

Public education from grade school to college was once purposed for educating our youth to be critical and engaged citizens.  No longer.  In the apt words of Professor Henry Giroux, “Critical thought and the radical imagination have become a liability under casino capitalism and for a growing number of institutions, the enemy of public and higher education, because they hold the potential to be at odds with the reproduction of a criminogenic culture in which greed, unchecked power, political illiteracy and unbridled self-interest work to benefit the wealthy and corporate elite.”  “School reform has” he says, “become a euphemism for turning public schools over to private investors who are more concerned about making money than they are about educating young people.”   

As more and more wealth is commandeered by the top 1% of our population, and more and more educational opportunities are diverted to the top 1% of our population, the accumulated result is oligarchy — a system where wealth and power rest in the hands of an elite few whose prime objective is the accumulation of yet more wealth and power, and by whatever means possible.

The high cost of education is putting college out of the reach for many students unless their parents are wealthy. The average graduate leaves school nearly $30,000 in debt. Student loans now total over a trillion dollars, creating a drag on our economy as young graduates have to spend their money repaying loans instead of buying goods and even homes that would stimulate the economy. We are raising a generation of indentured servants, who will spend decades - if not a life time – paying off the banks.

If elected, I will work vigorously for the following:

• Provide universal pre-school for all children.  This issue carries more weight than it appears, for a child who has not gone to pre-school (usually due to parents’ inability to afford it) enters kindergarten already academically behind on the first day of school. Tragically, we have only two years to help them catch up; if the child hasn’t learned to read by the 2nd grade, he or she is statistically on a 50% probable track to incarceration sometime in his or her life. Even more horrifying is what happens if we haven’t fixed the problem by the 4th grade. The number of students who cannot read by the 4th grade is a general indicator of how many prison beds will be needed for that age group. Pre-school for all children can help close the achievement gap before it widens, and gives each student a better chance to succeed.

• Reduce child poverty. More than 1 out of every 5 children in America is growing up in poverty. This is a moral issue, and also an educational issue: it’s hard to learn if you’re hungry.  Any economic policy that rewards the few at the expense of the many is literally a theft from the mouths of hungry children.

• Offer free college tuition for every qualified student.  My goal is to make it easier for students to attend college. I am open to how this might be achieved. One possibility is the creation of a federal program where the government would pay tuition, and in return college graduates would pay a flat 3% of their income for two decades after graduation to fund the education of future students. Oregon recently passed a bill to do this at a state level, and similar programs are already working in Australia and the United Kingdom. Another option is free college tuition in exchange for one year of public service. Also, students should be given the same interest rate given to banks when they borrow, which would help them get out of the debt trap and pay off loans more quickly.

• Create the most advanced matrix of technical schools anywhere in the world.  Going to a liberal arts college is not the only option for higher education; we should create more opportunities for people who want to work in the trades or technical areas.

• Provide low-cost education for those in middle and older age. In the current economy, large numbers of older workers lack needed skills in working with computers and electronics. Other workers who have lost their jobs need to learn skills for new occupations.  We also have an enormous need for expanded English-language instruction and other adult basic skills instruction for immigrants and for the many people who never finished high school. The large network of community colleges can help uplift low-income people, both younger and older, with education and training to enable them to get jobs.

ABORTION-REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

A:

In 1973, the Supreme Court made abortion legal in the United States. I think that was a proper decision, and I agree with former President Bill Clinton that abortions in America should be “safe, legal and rare.”

I believe abortion is a deeply personal issue and should be decided according to the dictates of a woman’s own conscience. Abortion is an issue of private, not public, morality, and the government has no business making or restricting that decision.

Yet there has been an ongoing assault on women’s rights, particularly when it comes to our reproductive freedoms. I have a deep concern about the chipping away of reproductive rights in the United States.

In several states, restrictive measures such as the closing of abortion clinics and forced vaginal probes are currently in play; these are anathema to me.

Indeed, the second decade of the 21st century has seen a sharp increase in anti-contraceptive and anti-abortion legislation in the U.S., nearly eliminating access for many. In 2013 alone, 22 states adopted 70 different restrictions including limits on medical abortions and bans on insurance coverage. This may be a rapidly accelerating trend. In 2013, 27 of the 50 states were considered hostile to reproductive rights, more than double the number in 2000, while the number of states with laws supportive of reproductive rights dropped from 17 to13. Today, a majority of U.S. women -- 56 percent -- live in states considered hostile to reproductive rights.

I stated in the past -- in 2006, in fact -- that I would support "speed bumps," a series of three neutral counseling sessions for any woman considering an abortion, in order to guarantee that her decision was neither impulsive nor casual. It was pointed out to me that in fact this was a bad idea, given that it could cause hardship and might even be impossible for some women to comply. I agree.  Something that was good therapeutic advice -- to slow down, to make a decision wisely -- did not in fact translate into a good idea for a law.

I will passionately resist any restriction of, limitation on, or diminishment of our reproductive freedoms granted by Roe v. Wade. The women of America need champions in Congress to stand up for our most basic rights, and I will be that.  I am proudly pro-choice.

LGBT RIGHTS

A:

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are values enshrined in our Declaration of Independence as inalienable rights of every American. Yet the LGBT community is still not equal in the eyes of the law, nor does it enjoy the breadth of freedoms that other Americans enjoy. This is not acceptable.

Generation after generation, people have fought to rid our country of the “except for’s”: except for blacks, except for women, and so forth.  Today, we are challenged by the latest prejudice to rear its ugly head and seek to repudiate the fundamental American dedication to freedom and equality for all. The idea that there should be God-given life, liberty and pursuit of happiness “except for gays” is unworthy of our national character.

For many people, getting married is one of the most important things they will ever do in the pursuit of happiness.  Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia allow for same-sex marriage, and 34 states (including Utah for now) have a constitutional or legislative ban on same-sex marriage.  I strongly support the current legislation calling for a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996.  Known as The Respect for Marriage Act, this current bill calls for the federal government to recognize the validity of same-sex marriages. 

The 1964 Civil Rights Act was not just about equality in one sphere of life.  It was about full equality in the eyes of the law. In recent years, marriage equality has made important strides, but it has become the cornerstone of the equality movement, rather than an organic consequence of a full equality movement.  There are other spheres of inequality that continue to exist to which we must no longer turn a blind eye.

Pursuing a livelihood free from discrimination is one such sphere that we as a country have not fully addressed for the LGBT community.  The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), approved in the Senate but not yet on the floor of the House, seeks to prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or identity.  While the objectives underlying ENDA are to be commended, I have concerns about ENDA in its current form.  It does not apply to members of the armed forces, companies with fewer than 15 employees, and most importantly, it contains a sweeping exemption for any religiously affiliated organizations, a category of employers that extends far beyond houses of worship.

It is time to recognize that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the Constitution that suggests that any one group of people has the right to limit another group in any way. The LGBT community should be able to get married, pursue a livelihood free from discrimination and have all of the rights afforded under the US Constitution, not because of their sexual orientation, but because they are American. It is as simple as that.

MASS INCARCERATION

A:

With less than 5% of the world’s population but nearly 25% of its prison population, America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. We imprison 2.3 million people today, as opposed to 300,000 during the 1970s.  Of those 2.3 million, 500,000 are non-violent drug offenders.  

Even more outrageous, building and operating prisons has become one of America’s largest and most profitable urban industries, with a huge financial investment in lobbying public policy for more severe drug and “tough on crime” laws, and increased criminalization of immigrants.  The “prison-industrial complex” thrives on having more people arrested, detained, convicted and sent to their private for-profit prisons. CCA and GEO are the two largest private prison companies, owning 75% of the market and housing an ever-rising percentage of America’s prison population. The primary shareholders of CCA and GEO are banks and related financial entities; thirty six of them, in the aggregate, owning more than two-thirds of the stock of CCA and GEO! Private prisons also run at least 50% of detainment facilities for undocumented immigrants.

Such horrifying statistics – plus the fact that an African-American man in the United States today has a one in three lifetime probability of incarceration – makes the issue of mass incarceration a screaming moral emergency calling for every citizen’s concern.

While no one doubts that violent and even many non-violent criminals belong behind bars, America’s incarceration rate is about something much deeper than catching criminals: it is about the social and economic policies that force desperate people to turn to desperate behavior; it’s about law enforcement and prison guards lobbying for ever bigger budgets and benefits; it’s about corporate exploiters of cheap prison labor; and it's about Wall Street financiers wanting bigger and bigger profits from locking up as many people as possible for as long as possible. The more America ignores those realities and the huge conflict of interest inherent in private for-profit prisons, the richer the prison-industrial complex and all who benefit from it will become— and the poorer America will be as a nation once proudly revered for its sense of freedom, justice and fairness.

OUR FOOD SUPPLY

A:

Over the past century, the advent of modern farming techniques, corporatization of agriculture, use of petrochemical-based fertilizers, and subsidizing and encouragement of the growth of genetically modified foods have created a poisonous brew now affecting our health and well-being in critical ways.

The function of protecting America’s supply was given governmental authority in the early 20th Century, to an agency named The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1930.  Most of us have grown up believing the FDA to be a watchdog on the look-out for threats to our health and well-being.

In fact, the deregulatory trend that began in the 1980s as a financial boon to corporations has resulted in what is now a drastically underfunded and under-resourced FDA.  More significantly, it has been turned into a toothless tiger with drastically diminished authority to actually stop the kinds of abuses we have every right to feel our government is protecting us from.

A way-too-cozy relationship between the US government and its corporate benefactors has become the order of the day. In what is commonly called a “revolving door” practice, former corporate leaders now routinely move into positions of governmental authority. For example, Michael Taylor, now Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the FDA, was formerly Vice President for Public Policy at the Monsanto Company. 

Sources of corruption in our food include the following:

•        pesticides/herbicides/fertilizers
•        genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
•        air and water pollution
•        crowding of animals – chickens, cows, pigs – and feeding them antibiotics and growth hormones
•        food processing

Many of our health problems, including obesity, can be traced to the corruption of our food supply. We experience lack of vitality in our food and our bodies, from processed foods with calories but not nutrients, and residue of poisons from chemical farming.

While its manufacturers claim that GMOs increase yield and thus help feed the starving of the world, scientists question whether that assertion is true. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ 2009 report Failure to Yield, a definitive study to date on GMO crops and yield, “GMOs do not, on average, increase yields at all. 

In fact, they contaminate our gene pool, can be poisonous to birds and other living things and have led to the production of increasingly dangerous herbicides such as Roundup.

Roundup is linked with sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects and cancer.  It has been shown to cause birth defects in amphibians, embryonic deaths and endocrine disruption, and organ damage in animals even in very low doses.

Due to these and other concerns, over 60 countries have banned the production of genetically modified foods.  Yet the United States has over 165 million acres of GM crops under cultivation.  More than 40% of all U.S. cropland is already planted with GMO crops, and nearly 80% of processed foods sold in the US now contain GMOs.

We should at least know when we are eating food made from GMOs. While the Big 6 pesticide makers – particularly Monsanto and Dupont – spent tens of millions of dollars to defeat GMO labeling propositions in both California and Washington State, as a Congresswoman I would do everything possible to limit their power.  I would enthusiastically support a bill in Congress introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Peter DeFazio called the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act.  I would work to label all GMOs, and to strengthen consumer protection by the FDA and USDA.

Once again, until we have limited the influence of moneyed interests on the functioning of our government, we will always be fighting for the interests of the American people against encroachment by huge multinational corporate interests such as Big Ag, Chemical companies and so forth.  We are no longer a functioning democracy when money gets to talk more than we do.

CLIMATE CHANGE

A:

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

-- Sir Robert Swan

Too much of America’s energy – 81%, in fact -- continues to come from fossil fuels that pollute our air and water, causing global warming, climate change and weather disruption more intense with each passing year. This is not just unfortunate, or even critical; it is a clear and present danger to the future not only of our country but to life on earth.    

Our reliance on oil makes us dependent on energy supplies from other countries, particularly in the Middle East.  It constantly draws us into military adventures to defend access to oil (and the profits it yields for the big oil companies), usually under the pretense of “defending our freedoms.”

The fossil fuel industry has turned to fracking (hydraulic fracturing), a method to extract natural gas from deep within the earth, in order to expand supply. But its rapid growth in the U.S. has generated major concerns: the process requires huge amounts of water to be transported to the fracking site at significant environmental costs; potentially carcinogenic chemicals used in fracking can escape and contaminate groundwater; the process is also known to cause earthquakes. In addition, environmentalists contend it encourages continued reliance on fossil fuels instead of investments in renewable energy. On February 28, 2014 the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to impose a moratorium of fracking until it is proven safe, making it the largest city in the country to do so.  I share their concern and heartily commend the Council for its action.

As the result of energy industry lobbying and campaign contributions, the federal government supports the use of fossil fuels by handing out massive tax breaks and subsidies to companies that are already among the most profitable in the world. The top five oil companies made $1 trillion in profits from 2001 through 2011, yet they receive $10-52 billion in tax breaks and subsidies each and every year.

Corruption, both legalized and unvarnished, make it almost extremely difficulty to take on the power of Exxon-Mobil and other energy producer giants that buy politicians and regulators, and lobby themselves massive tax breaks from the government. Once again, until we deal with the issue of money’s powerful influence on our political system, none of this will truly change.

Technological innovation has developed increasingly affordable energy from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, water, biofuels, and geothermal power. The U.S. government should expand investments in clean, green energy, that can lower costs for all of our homes and businesses, as well as improve public health.

Transitioning to clean, green energy is one of the great moral challenges of our time. In fact, we can save half the oil we use through improved efficiency and get the other half from renewable energy sources.  Making this fundamental change in how we as a nation use energy is not something that any one set of legislative actions can manage; rather, this shift will take a change in how all of us -- not only government, but also individuals -- treat the earth on which we live. 

I see no need whatsoever for the domestic use of nuclear energy. Since the Fukushima disaster (which is far from resolved and poses an ongoing threat), we have seen the tragic consequences of thinking that just because something was made by the likes of General Electric – the same company that makes our own nuclear generators – that we need not worry about catastrophes due to human error or natural disasters like tidal waves and earthquakes. If anyone should stand for that realization, it’s Californians! And most importantly, we do not need nuclear energy to fulfill our energy needs.  Given that it provides only 9% of our energy, that need can be met with investment in green technology . As an American and as a mother, I strongly reject the notion that the domestic use of nuclear energy is “worth the risk.”

HEALTH CARE

A:

I have long been a staunch supporter of universal health care in the United States, whether privately or publicly administered. Every industrialized Western nation has it, and so should we.  My preference would be a single-payer system. 

The Affordable Health Care Act, or Obamacare, is a major a step in the right direction.  I support it because it provides a way for every American to gain health insurance; it prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions; and it allows young people to remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.

When the ACA website went live on October 1, there were so many people trying to get information about health insurance that the servers almost crashed.  Given the fact that almost half of American families that have gone bankrupt over the last few years have done so after a serious health problem, this is not a surprise.  When President Obama came into office, 50 million Americans had no health insurance.  America is desperately in need of a better way to provide it, and this bill goes far toward that goal.  

As we know, since September of this year, there has been a fiercely waged battle in the U.S. House of Representatives between those who look forward to the bill’s implementation, and those who are willing to do anything – even shut down the government – to keep it from happening.  Indeed, there are governors around the country working to block the citizens of their states from having access to Obamacare.  This is outrageous.

As a Congresswoman, I would work closely with all those taking a passionate stand in support of the bill’s implementation.  This is just one more area where a government of the people, by the people and for the people should be acting on behalf of, and not against, the interests of the people of the United States.

MEDICARE

Medicare, first signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, is America’s way of providing health insurance to those who are 65 and older.

Medicare is one of America’s most successful programs, running relatively smoothly and, most importantly, doing the job it was intended to do. In fact, there are those – and I’m among them – who thought our universal health care coverage should basically be Medicare for all. 

Predictably, there are those in Congress who argue that Medicare is an entitlement we can no longer afford (if only they would feel that way about subsidies to oil companies, tax breaks for the very rich, and so forth). Failing America’s seniors is not the way to heal America.

In fact, if opponents of Medicare feel it’s an unwarranted expense, then they should be the first rather than the last to give the government a chance to negotiate lower prices from Big Pharma. In addition, Medicare opponents’ idea of substituting vouchers for a Medicare card places not only financial stress but also complication upon our seniors that is both unjust and unkind.

As a Congresswoman, I would be a passionate defender of Medicare as the health insurance program that our seniors deserve.

MEDICAID

Not many people from District 33 are on Medicaid, America’s health insurance program for impoverished Americans and legal residents. But as a Congresswoman, I would see it as my job to represent the conscience of this district as well as its financial interests. 

There is currently being waged in Congress a powerful campaign among some Republicans to basically rid the United States of all food stamp programs. For many of our children, our disabled, our elderly, and even members of our military, food stamps make a daily difference in their lives. The idea of stealing from the poor in order to make it easier for the rich is not, in my mind, the way to cut America’s deficit. A moral deficit is as serious as a financial one, and as a Congresswoman I will not hesitate to say so.

SOCIAL SECURITY

A:

Social Security, signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935, was created to insure that our seniors can live in dignity without fear of poverty. Workers pay into a fund during their prime years, then get regular payments back when they stop working. 

The program has worked well for generations to reduce poverty among seniors and the disabled. It is under attack today by Wall Street banks and related financial “service” entities who want to privatize it for no other reason than to tap into another new and huge source of income and bonuses.

To that end, opponents of Social Security have claimed over the last few years that it is running out of money soon. It is true that there could be problems with Social Security funding down the line, but they are quite easily solvable by making modest changes such as raising the cap on income subject to Social Security payroll tax. That simple modification can keep the system solvent indefinitely, without reducing benefits. 

Under no circumstances should we put Social Security at risk. We need to protect this successful and compassionate program that retiring Americans have relied on for nearly 80 years. As a Congresswoman, I would vigorously seek to do so.

WAR AND PEACE

A:

While America has some serious enemies -- and it’s certainly our responsibility to protect our country and our children -- I believe our country’s way of dealing with security issues is increasingly obsolete.  We cannot simply rely on brute force to rid ourselves of enemies. In so doing, we overburden our military by asking them to compensate for the work that we ourselves are not doing.  The only way to make peace with your neighbors is to make peace with your neighbors.

I believe that if, over the last 50 years, more people around the world had seen the American flag decal on schools, hospitals, roads and so forth -- as opposed to military installations and other material support for regimes in their countries which they themselves knew not to be democratic -- then we might not be in the fix we are in today.  For America’s problem is not just how many people in the world truly hate us.  It’s also how many people don’t actually hate us yet don’t like us either, and are therefore willing to go along with those who would, if given the chance, harm us, our country and our children.

We treat violence both domestically and internationally in an allopathic fashion; simply waiting for the problem to occur, then seeking to suppress or eradicate its symptom.

With physical health we have learned that we ourselves are responsible -- through nutrition and exercise and other life-style choices -- for helping to prevent sickness, and for helping to ameliorate it when it does occur.  This same holistic model now needs to be applied to issues of war and peace.  For just as we have learned that health is not the absence of sickness but rather sickness is the absence of health, we are learning that peace is not the absence of war but rather war is the absence of peace.  I believe our current commitment to military action as primary problem-solver – a commitment of enormous and often tragic amounts of money, talent and human resources – is not what it appears to be.  I believe it is less about America’s genuine security and more about the $800 billion spent each year on our military budget -- often in ways that our military itself is not asking for, yet increasing the coffers of the military-industrial complex.  I do not believe our nation’s security is in direct proportion to the amount of money we spend on the military; in fact, that amount dwarfs in a dangerous way the amount of money we spend on genuine peace-building efforts.

Both in our district and throughout the country, many fine, talented and extraordinarily skilled people work for the military as well as for military contractors.  They are citizens who work hard, contribute to our country and use the money they earn to support their families.  It would be ill-conceived and irresponsible to simply starve the beast of bloated military spending.

Rather, America should embark on a 10- to 20-year plan for turning a wartime economy into a peace time economy, repurposing the tremendous talents and infrastructure of our military-industrial complex in such a way as to leave us strong enough to deal with America’s legitimate needs for military preparedness, yet moving on to the urgent task of building a sustainable society and sustainable world. From massive investment in the development of clean energy, to the retrofitting of our buildings and bridges, to the building of new schools and the creation of a green manufacturing base, it is time to release this powerful sector of American genius to the work of promoting life instead of death.

As a Congresswoman, I would gladly co-sponsor the bill before Congress to establish U.S. Department of Peacebuilding Act, introduced first by Congressman Dennis Kucinich and most recently by Congresswoman Barbara Lee. This legislation would provide the President with broad consultation regarding the availability and accessibility of non-violent problem-solving options. This department would be paid for by 2% of the defense budget, and go far toward expanding America’s skill set at truly creating a more peaceful world. 

Among other things, I believe we need to deeply reconsider the effects of drone warfare.  By killing innocents, I believe our drones have done more to create new enemies for America than it has done to kill old ones.

If we truly want peace, we need to help women both at home and abroad expand economic opportunities more than we need more military hardware.  If we truly want peace, we need to provide girls with more educational opportunities more than we need another B-2 bomber.  And if we truly want peace, we need to resource far more diplomatic, economic and development programs that help people around the world live better lives.

MY COMMITMENT TO VETERANS

In March 1888, the heiress Arcadia Bandini de Baker along with U.S. Senator and silver miner, John Percival Jones, donated 300 Acres in W. Los Angeles. The land was deeded to be permanently maintained as a disabled soldier’s home, to be the birthright of all who served in the military wars and battles to defend our nation.

By 1889 there were over 1,000 Veterans living in the Soldier’s Home in W. Los Angeles and for the next eighty years tens of thousands more vets lived there. 

The Pacific Branch National Home for Soldiers became a fully functioning city within the County of Los Angeles. It had everything from a post office to a trolley station. There were 150 acres under cultivation with orange trees all over the place.

The orange trees are all gone. 

The housing fell into disrepair and for the past several decades, the dormitories have been empty. Over the years the VA has leased parts of the site to Enterprise Rent-a-Car for a parking lot, a 20-acre athletic complex for a private school, to the Marriott hotels for a commercial laundry, to 20th Century Fox for storing sets, to UCLA for a baseball field, and used as a dog park. Meanwhile, homeless veterans sleep on the street outside the locked gates. 

While the VA has now after much litigation, designated three vacant buildings to be renovated, as housing for vets, each would only hold 60-65 residents, barely putting a dent in the estimated 8,000 homeless vets living in the streets of Los Angeles.

Through FOIA, major long-term rental agreements as well as related correspondence between the VA and members of Congress have been obtained and reveal that over the past dozen years, the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center has taken in at least $28 million and possibly more than $40 million from the rental agreements. It is unclear what the money is being used for, and the plans to fix the three housing facilities remain unfulfilled. Work is currently underway on just one, Building 209.

There is new legislation that is supposed to jump-start the process for the other two buildings. 

The new bill, a privatization scheme that would allow the VA to circumvent restrictions on extended commercial leases on its property, would allow it to forge a long-term partnership with a private developer to do the necessary renovation, an unfortunate sign of the times where nothing seems to happen, no matter how moral or just, unless someone, somewhere is making a lot of money off of it. 

Even with the privatization scheme, the proposed housing project for disabled Vets will fall far short of our obligation.

I hold a vision for the VA, that it will be used as promised, that it will be restored as the birthright to every soldier as intended. As a healing and comforting home for the broken and damaged servicewomen and men from our recent wars.  A place where many local residents so skilled in the therapies and modalities required for healing these broken souls will find an abundance of employment and service opportunities too.

I also hold a vision that the callous, insensitive, almost Scrooge-like treatment of our military Veterans, leaving 10’s of thousands of them homeless, and living in a brutal reality where 22 veterans commit suicide every day, will become but an unhappy memory, never to be repeated.

They gave their service and now we must give ours, to properly care for them. As a congresswoman I will work endlessly to make this vision a shared vision and a reality.

 

IMMIGRATION REFORM

We clearly have a very broken system. I propose that a complete reformation of that system would benefit us all. 

First, I support the Dream Act as well as a path to citizenship for the immigrants living, working and going to school here in the United States.

The Problem:

A massive undocumented population. 

  • The current state of immigration complexities has created a situation of a massive population of undocumented people living in the United States.
  • In January 2010, the Department of Homeland Security estimated that 10,800,000 undocumented persons are living in the United States (DHS.gov). Some argue that the number could be closer to 18-20 million. 
  • An estimated 8 million+ are believed to be in the workforce, which makes them a vital component of our economy at a minimum of 5.2% of the workforce.  
  • For the estimated 5.2 % of the U.S. workforce—the 8 million undocumented immigrant workers—securing fundamental protections in the workplace is a daily struggle, including physical exploitation and sexual abuse, which are commonly perpetrated against undocumented people.
  • Undocumented worker’s jobs don’t usually come with healthcare benefits, causing a great lack of preventive care, increasing incidence of contagious illnesses and emergency room costs.
  • Too many undocumented wages that do not contribute to Medicare, Social Security, or pay into the tax system.
  • U.S. taxpayers are spending at least $18.6 million per day to house an estimated 300,000 to 450,000 illegal immigrants who are incarcerated and eligible for deportation from the United States, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The Solution:

Document the undocumented.

  • A complete reformation of our immigration system is desperately needed for the wellbeing of our society. It must begin with full documentation of all people living inside of America. 
  • It is in the best interest of society to know who is here; where they came from; if they have a criminal background; where the live; if they work, where they work; how much they earn; if they send money back to their country of origin and how much. We also benefit by making certain that they are healthy and insured. 
  • The benefit of being documented would include the first step on a path to citizenship. Documentation would also assure aspiring citizens equal protection under the law with workers permits that would allow for legal employment; allow for insurance pools; allow for immigrants to more fully participate in the systems of education, healthcare, social security, and infrastructure.
  • The program would be inexpensive to execute with permit fees and employer side fines covering most of the cost. The fees and fines would not only cover administration costs, but would set up pools for immigrant insurance programs, and even small business and education loan programs.
  • Through strong employment side enforcement, we can remove the incentive for employers to use undocumented workers. Agricultural subsidies should be redirected to supplement low wages to keep food prices down, rather than the current use of them, which are actually used to keep food prices up. 
  • Using technology to integrate data bases, biometrics and commonsense, we can get rid of the lines for citizenship altogether. It is very possible to enact a virtual Ellis Island, and bypass so much of the involvement of attorneys and red tape, which exploit and muck up the current process. We can give all illegible aspiring citizens the appropriate roadmaps for citizenship unique to their respective situations. 

Bringing our undocumented people out of the shadows and into the light is a win-win for everyone. We will in fact increase available funds in our public coffers- growth in payroll taxes, social security taxes, reduced emergency room costs, reduced incarceration costs, reduced border security costs, and increased entrepreneurship to grow our nation’s prosperity.  

As a Congresswoman, I will work to create an entirely new system for immigration.