Income & Wealth Inequality
The mountains of Western North Carolina are home to honest, hard working people, but our economic system has turned its back on them. The top 1/10th of 1% in the United States owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90%. More than half the country now earns less than $15/hr, meaning more than half of the U.S. doesn’t even earn a living wage.
Nearly a century ago, Western North Carolina was revitalized by the New Deal. Today, this district deserves an even better deal–and certainly a better deal than the one we’re getting from Mark Meadows. We need to attract new kinds of businesses and good paying jobs into our communities, instead of bailing out big banks and companies that send jobs overseas.
North Carolina doesn’t spend nearly enough money on its public schools. We’re one of the lowest ranking states in the country when it comes to spending per pupil. We need to invest in North Carolina’s children, from kindergarten all the way through college.
Everyone knows that it’s hard to achieve the American Dream – a living wage, a car, to one day buy a house you can call your own – without a college degree. So many of the jobs of the future in our changing economy depend on the right kind of training, and yet a good college education is out of reach for so many hardworking Americans. Even those who are able to get a college degree find themselves enslaved to massive student loan debt. We need a bold plan to retrain millions of workers who have been left behind in the new economy, and make it affordable and easy to get the education they need. I believe we need tuition free public college, so that young people don’t leave college with a crippling amount of debt.
The Tennessee Valley Authority revitalized Western North Carolina during the New Deal. Thanks to FDR, thousands of new jobs flowed into Southern Appalachia, along with infrastructural improvements that provided electricity to homes and businesses. We need new, meaningful investments and sensible infrastructure that will transform rural communities like ours. Investing in infrastructure here in WNC–in the form of broadband internet, roads, sanitation, and more–will help to create new jobs by attracting new businesses, and raise the standard of living across the district.
Earning a living wage is the best way to reduce people’s dependence on government help. Raising the minimum wage keeps more money in the communities where people work. That’s why jobs have increased in cities that have raised the minimum wage, like Seattle. Raising the minimum wage creates jobs, it doesn’t destroy them. That’s a myth. It’s time we raised the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 per hour.
Social Security and Healthcare
Americans have paid into Social Security their entire lives, and they deserve to retire with dignity. Some members of Congress think Social Security is a handout and want to privatize it. That’s the worst thing we could do for our senior citizens: we owe it to them to ensure that Social Security stays solvent and viable for years to come.
Our healthcare system is broken. It is too costly, too complicated, and out of reach for millions of Americans without help. Having millions of people with no insurance at all is a recipe for disaster for our hospitals and urgent care facilities. We need a system to cover all Americans that can bring costs down, especially drug costs, across the board. Many Americans are covered by insurance provided by their workplace, which places a financial burden on many business owners. Medicare is the most efficient, streamlined, and inexpensive insurance program in the United States, and it’s time to open it up to people of all ages and income levels. We need Medicare for All.
Big Money in Politics
Big money influences both parties in Washington, and it’s a cancer killing our democracy. Politicians don’t listen to the people anymore, they listen to special interests that want legislation slanted in their favor. We need a constitutional amendment that makes it illegal for corporations and special interests to buy politicians if we want to save our democracy. Term limits for Congress would also go a long way to keep career politicians out of Washington, and ensure that our representatives work for the people, and not just for perpetual reelection.
America cannot continue to be the world’s policeman. It is too costly, and doesn’t empower our allies around the world to sustain their own democracies. Building diplomatic relationships, strengthening economic ties, and establishing effective partnerships with allies all over the world makes our economies stronger, our defensive alliances more effective, and makes gigantic military operations that cost us trillions unnecessary. If we are threatened, however, we will not hesitate to use the overwhelming force of the United States military in an appropriate way to protect ourselves and our allies.
I want to make our military the smartest, sleekest, and most effective military in the world. The fact is, the threats to our world are changing rapidly, and we need military spending that makes sense, not just more of it. We spend more than all of our adversaries by far, but how much of that military spending is going toward projects that really strengthen us? Spending money on extra fighter jets while ignoring cyber warfare, for example, isn’t smart military spending. There are far better ways to spend our money, both at home and abroad.
The best minds in the United States military and National Security are in agreement that climate change represents a profound national security risk. As the climate shifts, we risk massive economic collapse of countries all around the world, wars over resources, and the prospect of mass migrations away from uninhabitable regions. Climate change is the greatest existential threat to the planet, and the United States must lead the charge in innovating the technologies that will save our planet and our economy at the same time by turning away from dirty, inefficient fossil fuels.
As a former farmer, I know what it’s like to put in a hard day of work. Undocumented workers do too, and they deserve the dignity of a pathway to citizenship. There is no doubt our immigration system is broken, but the reality of our country in the 21st century is this: our economy depends on immigrant labor in significant ways we can’t ignore. Undocumented workers fill jobs that most Americans don’t want – in farm fields, poultry processing plants, restaurant kitchens. They have taxes taken out of their paychecks just like you and I, and they deserve the dignity of a pathway to citizenship because they help keep America going.
As part of fixing our immigration system, we need to seriously rethink how we deal with deportations. Deportation programs for non-violent immigrants and refugees are inhumane and a waste of taxpayer money. Private detention centers and deportation programs have proven over and over again that they can’t even follow the laws they are supposed to uphold without endangering safety and human rights. This is a system that isn’t working. We can do better than this.
In the America I believe in, everyone should have an equal shot in our economy. Unequal pay for the same job is fundamentally unfair. But today, for every dollar a man makes, a white woman makes 79 cents for the same hour of work. Women of color make less than 60 cents for that same hour of work. Everyone should be paid fairly for the work they do, no matter what their gender or the color of their skin. It says in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, which I read as all people are created equal. But we don’t act like it in real life. It’s time to take those words seriously. And if we are serious about equal rights for women, we have to take their medical and biological rights seriously as well. Nearly half of all births in the United States are paid for by Medicaid: the insurance safety net for the poor. We have to do better for medical coverage and family leave for women.
We make a sacred pact with the members of our Armed Services: for those who serve their country and protect us, we pledge to take care of them on the homefront the way they deserve. But we’ve failed in our sacred duty to care for our veterans. We must fully fund and and fix the Veteran’s Administration so our soldiers get the care they desperately need.