Democratic candidate for U.S. House (6th district)
Responses to our questions
The U.S. government is now $20 trillion in debt. To address that historic level of public indebtedness, the country would need to raise revenue and/or decrease spending. What is your position on the budget and debt?
Addressing our ballooning national debt should be a high priority for our country. I am not opposed to all deficit spending, but it should only be done in the name of making an investment that will provide a high rate of return down the road. Instead of following that approach, Republican lawmakers passed a tax bill that gives away $1.5 trillion to the billionaires and corporations that need it least. I strongly oppose the Republican tax bill, and will have no patience for any Republican who voted for this bill and then cries foul about the debt the next time we debate the social safety net. Republicans have lost all credibility on this issue.
Can you identify any major federal expenditures or programs that you would eliminate?
I would slash our bloated defense budget, which is the highest in the world by a huge margin. We absolutely must ensure the safety of our citizens, but the amount of money we spend on the military is truly absurd. It's merely a factor of the pull the defense contractors have on our elected officials, thanks to the huge sums of money they pour into elections.
If we reduced our military budget by even 25%, we could pay for a single payer healthcare system and have enough money left over to make college free for all. Those plans would each be much more effective uses of our resources. If we're going to spend that much on the military, more of it should be going to help our veterans get the support they need when they come home.
Medicare and Medicaid costs continue to spiral. How can these programs be restructured to control costs and avoid collapse? Be specific about your willingness to change or reduce future benefits.
I am not willing to reduce benefits under any circumstances. Medicare and Medicaid play a critically important role in our society, providing health care to our country's most vulnerable citizens. We should not be cutting benefits; we should be expanding the programs to offer more coverage and allow others to opt in.
If we can afford to give $1.5 trillion away to billionaires and corporations, as Peter Roskam and the Republicans just did in their tax bill, then surely we can afford to fully fund a service relied upon by so many.
Ultimately, we must transition to a single payer system, which is the only surefire way to control rising costs in the long term. In the meantime, we need to at the very least allow Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate prescription drug prices. The current restrictions on negotiating drug prices help no one but the pharmaceutical companies.
What if anything should be the federal government's role in helping Americans obtain health insurance coverage?
Health care is a human right, and therefore the federal government should guarantee all Americans have health insurance coverage. I favor transitioning to a single payer system similar to those employed by almost every other industrialized nation around the world. This system will not only guarantee universal health coverage, it will be much simpler to navigate - greatly reducing the administrative costs that are spiking premiums under our current system. When most of the developed world has implemented an objectively superior health care system, it's time for the U.S. to stop clinging to our outdated system and finally deliver the affordable, universal care our citizens deserve.
Economic growth has been steady but wage growth is slow. Are you content with the state of the economy? What is your recipe for enhancing American prosperity?
I am not content at all with the state of the economy. The American people are working harder than ever, but they aren't being rewarded with the economic security they were promised. Meanwhile, our wealthiest citizens are raking in unfathomable amounts of money. It's time to turn our backs on the harmful lie at the heart of our economy: that our free-market system guarantees that everyone gets exactly the amount of wealth they deserve. We need to re-balance the employer-employee relationship and build a new economy that works for everyone, not just those at the very top.
I would do this by working to strengthen our unions, guaranteeing health care (so no one is stuck in a job they hate for fear of losing their coverage), breaking down the massive corporations that exert their monopoly powers to screw consumers out of our money, and investing in massive public works programs that put people back to work repairing our crumbling roads and bridges.
If you could fix longstanding problems with this country's immigration system tomorrow, what would you do? What is your position on the future of DACA and the Dreamers?
I strongly oppose the Trump administration's cruel decision to end DACA and use 800,000 Americans as political bargaining chips. The "Dreamers" came to America as children, and are now important members of our communities and our economy. It is inexcusable that Trump is threatening to send them back to countries they barely know simply because their parents didn't fill out the proper paperwork years ago. This decision flies in the face of everything America stands for, and Congress needs to pass a clean DREAM Act immediately.
Beyond that, I believe that all undocumented immigrants should be provided a path to citizenship. I am proud that we live in a nation to which so many travel so far to make their new home. We should continue to be welcoming, both because of our shared humanity, and also because the majority of immigrants become productive members of our economy within 10 years of arrival. If we make the legal immigration process easier and more fair, and implement stronger crackdowns on businesses that circumvent minimum wage laws by employing undocumented workers, then suddenly there is no incentive to immigrate here illegally. That will put a much more effective and humane damper on illegal immigration than the absurd border wall beloved by Trump and his supporters.
North Korea's nuclear weapons program represents a direct threat to the security of the United States and its Pacific allies. How should the U.S. confront or contain Kim Jong Un's regime?
North Korea is an incredibly tricky problem, but I remain hopeful that we can persuade them to turn away from their nuclear program by applying strong international diplomatic pressure. If those efforts ultimately fail, we may have no choice but to choose a military option. I would not choose that option unless it becomes clear that it is the only way to stop North Korea from achieving full nuclear armament. If they are permitted to complete their nuclear program, not only does it put us and our allies in immediate danger, it also sends the message to other bad actors that they can build a nuclear program without facing repercussions. We cannot allow that to happen. Certainly any military solution must only be undertaken with the support of the international community, particularly North Korea's neighbors in the Pacific.
ISIS is contained in Syria and Iraq but terrorism remains a threat. What are your priorities in keeping the country safe?
There are two ways I would combat the threat of terrorism here in the U.S. The first is to implement much stricter gun control regulations that make it more difficult for dangerous people to get their hands on dangerous weapons. The second piece is to invest more in public education, mental health services, and job-creating infrastructure repairs. Studies have shown that the vast majority of domestic terrorists in the U.S. are radicalized only after they arrive here. By giving all those living in America the tools they need to succeed in our economy, we ensure that fewer people are angry and desperate enough to be susceptible to the radicalizing influence of ISIS.
Should the U.S. continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran?
Yes, absolutely. The Iran deal is one of the most important diplomatic deals of the past 50 years, and Trump discarded it out of hand without any apparent justification. By all indications, the agreement was succeeding in its goal of putting a stop to Iran's nuclear weapons program. In the absence of the enforcement mechanisms of the deal, there's no reason Iran won't immediately return to developing nuclear weapons.
If we don't change course quickly, there's every reason to think we could be a few short years away from facing a showdown with Iran similar to the one we currently face with North Korea. But unlike North Korea, this showdown would be entirely self-inflicted. Trump's decision to pull out of the deal simply to settle an old score with President Obama shows exactly why he is so dangerously unworthy of the power we've entrusted him with.
What is your position on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?
We need to have a plan to bring our troops home from Afghanistan as soon as possible. The war there has been going on for more than a decade-and-a-half, with no end in sight. We need to do whatever we can to ensure that the region won't immediately fall into chaos once we leave, which may force us to consider unpalatable options like negotiating with the Taliban, but we need clear goals in place to finally get out of Afghanistan for good in the near future.
Do you support a unified, federal background check system for gun sales? Do you support magazine limits or a ban on certain rifles? Describe, briefly, your position on how to balance safety with the Second Amendment.
I respect the 2nd Amendment's protection of a citizen's right to keep and bear arms, but American citizens also have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When one person's right to carry a gun infringes on public safety, we have to make choices. To me, the choice is clear: safety first. We need many new regulations to both make it harder for dangerous people to get their hands on dangerous weapons, and to make those dangerous weapons less capable of inflicting such severe damage.
The single step I would start with is to mandate universal background checks, closing loopholes that allow the unregulated sale of weapons to people who are likely to endanger others — like those with a record of domestic abuse and the mentally ill. I also wholeheartedly support outlawing the sale and use of bump stocks, because they make it easier for mass murderers to inflict more damage in a shorter period of time. I support banning large magazines and silencers as well. There must be no let-up in our demand for stricter gun laws until tragedies like the one in Las Vegas last October are a thing of the past.
Should the U.S. government take steps to curb emissions of greenhouse gas? If so, what steps? If not, why not?
Yes, I believe we must act quickly and decisively to limit our greenhouse gas emissions, and I will support any legislation that does so. Carbon released into the atmosphere from burning coal, gas, and oil is by far the biggest contributor to the steady rise in global temperatures that threatens our way of life. We have a moral obligation to be responsible stewards of this planet, and climate change represents an existential threat to the planet and all its inhabitants.
My preferred solution to limiting carbon emissions is establishing a national cap-and-trade system similar to the Kerry-Boxer plan I worked on during my time at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Such a system would take advantage of the best features of the free market, allowing reductions in carbon emissions to be made wherever it is cheapest and easiest to make them. It also guarantees that emissions are kept under the threshold required to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
I would also support a carbon tax of at least $30 per ton of carbon emitted. This solution is simpler from an administrative perspective, but runs the risk of failing to reduce emissions enough, especially if the initial tax is set too low. It would also make for a rockier transition to a clean-energy economy, as those companies unable to reduce emissions would lack the options built into a cap-and-trade system.
Any such policy would have to include provisions for vast worker re-training programs to help oil, coal, and gas workers transition to the new economy. The beauty of these policies is that not only will they stave off the worst effects of climate change, they will also spur an economic boom in clean-energy industries. Even major oil companies like Chevron and ExxonMobil have devoted huge amounts of resources to preparing their businesses to compete in the green economy. They merely await a signal from our lawmakers to flip the switch. There is a massive opportunity here, and only Congress' devotion to billionaires and lobbyists stands between us and a brighter, healthier tomorrow.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
I have more than $100,000 of student loan debt, and won't pay it all off until 2045. Unfortunately this is a problem all too common among people in my generation. The economy is simply not providing the opportunities for advancement that we need in order to reward the investment we made in our education. Too many in my generation are being forced to delay buying homes, getting married, and starting families because they can't afford to do so while paying down their enormous debt. That's holding our entire economy back, and it's one of the key issues I want to go to Washington to address.
If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term.
I am not an incumbent (yet!)