Time To Invest In Ourselves
A Living Wage and Workers' Rights
Minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living. It has been nearly ten years since the last modest increase the federal government was willing to pass. Over that same time, the wealth gap grew larger than ever. This is about justice and basic human decency. If you work hard and you work full time you shouldn’t live in poverty. And all workers should have their rights protected! I support strong unions and collective bargaining. I am forever proud to have stood on the lines and at rallies at the Capitol with the West Virginia teachers and public employees who helped reignite the Labor movement across the country.
Medicare For All
Every attempt made toward affordable health care, including the ACA, has been corrupted by the interests of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Many of the problems with the legislation can and should be fixed with little regard for the profit protection amendments introduced by members of both parties. We can't let the tantrums of corporate lobbyists and their sponsored members of Congress poke holes in our progress through legislative deal-making. We must start looking toward the future. The support for Medicare For All in Washington and among voters has grown to an all time high, but there's still much work to be done. Recent cost-analyses show an average annual cost savings for households and the elimination of unpredictable market-driven prices for coverage. A modernized single-payer system heads-off pharmaceutical price-fixing and takes away the insurance companies' incentives for denying your treatment to improve their bottom line. Also, universal preventative health care reduces overall costs! It's the right thing to do!
Tuition-free Pre-K and higher education
In America, every child deserves a chance to succeed. Equal and unlimited access to a quality education should be a right, not a privilege. Educating the citizenry of a nation pays dividends in the long run, with the economy getting back much more than is initially put in. Crushing student debt for higher education should no longer burden young people trying to improve their lives through hard work. We have the tools to build the best education system in the world! We just need the will to do it.
Ending Corruption in Washington
Voter turnout continues to be depressed because people feel defeated by the massive sums of money spent influencing politicians and elections. Our current campaign financing system is largely legal bribery. Representatives who gladly take huge checks from industry and special interests are not representing the will of their constituents. This has to stop! We have already seen the mess caused by dark money and unchecked corporate donations. Our goal to create free and fair elections should be a clean public financing system. A Constitutional amendment to overturn the corrupt Citizens United ruling will help stem the tide. Americans deserve free, fair, accountable, secure elections so we can trust that Washington is on the side of the people.
Energy Diversity Creates Jobs
With forward-thinking initiatives and federal investment, West Virginia can release the grip extraction industries have on our state’s priorities. Our state can become a leader in the manufacture and installation of products in the booming renewable energy market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that solar and wind installation and maintenance jobs in the United States are growing twice as fast as ANY other industry. Solar alone expanded 17 times faster than the entire U.S. economy in 2017. Solar and wind jobs grew 12 times faster than in the rest of the entire market. Our state is also blessed with the best geothermal resources east of the Mississippi River and these remain largely untapped. The Department of Energy has also identified 18 sites in West Virginia for hydroelectric development. We can even reclaim mountaintop removal sites for hemp and solar farms. Tax subsidies for oil and gas companies must end and be transferred to initiatives for renewable energy to expand.
Clean Air and Water for All
West Virginia rivers and streams are constantly threatened by drainage, dumping, spills, and run-off from all of the industries who get tax and regulation breaks in the name of jobs. Explosions, leaks, and five-day chemical fires have filled our air with toxins. What good are those jobs if you and your family are sick from it? Even worse, most of the companies guilty of these abuses are often headquartered out-of-state and are reporting record profits! CEOs are raking in millions in salaries and bonuses at the expense of our health. Clean air and water should always be part of the cost of doing business.
Tackling the Addiction Crisis
When a community suffers a natural disaster, the urgency brings people from all walks of life together to organize a response in the hope of saving lives. We now suffer a man-made disaster that affects hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life. Addiction and the horrific deaths related to it are consuming our citizens and destroying families at an alarming rate. This is a public health crisis that cannot be met solely with severe punishments for street dealers. Congress must listen to the professionals who advocate for long-term care, more strict regulation of pill mills, proper oversight of pharmaceuticals, and more resources to disrupt the fentanyl black market. We need to address the causes of addiction and the entrenched systems that feed it for profit.
Women’s Reproductive Health
Women have a right to access family planning services, contraception, and professional care. Abortions should be rare, safe, legal and between a woman and her doctor, without government interference. We reduce the number of abortions by funding education and health care, promoting contraception, and fighting poverty. This has already proven effective, reducing the national rate below levels not seen since before Roe v. Wade. Attacks on women’s reproductive rights, cuts in education, and threats of punishment have consistently slowed the rate of reduction, clearly having an opposite effect of that intended. Though the rate had been steadily in decline since 1980, a dramatic reduction occurred over the past decade, coinciding with increased access to health care. Continuing this trend is essential.
Our men and women in uniform have taken a pledge to defend this country and put their lives on the line when deployed. We have a moral obligation to uphold our pledge to provide veterans and their families with the benefits and support they deserve. This includes providing first-class, accessible health care. The VA health care system can be more effective by expanding facilities and allocating staff where most needed to increase quality and access of care and to greatly reduce wait times. Veterans also deserve the choice and convenience of seeing a local health care provider for their needs. Although the Veterans Choice Act of 2014 was intended to address these issues, misappropriated resources and private, third party administrators have left the VA system understaffed and mismanaged. Veterans’ mental health care must also be a priority for our nation. Tragically, an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Expanded VA services, community and outreach programs, and providing alternative treatments would help veterans deal with PTSD and depression. The alarming rate of homelessness among veterans is also a concern. Veterans deserve opportunities to secure well-paying jobs to pay their bills after they come home from war.
Equal Rights for All
Equal rights and opportunity for all: America is defined by equality and freedom. Every person, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, background, education or income is entitled to basic human rights and should have the opportunity to thrive. This includes meeting their basic needs, access to education, health care, and all forms of employment.
Comprehensive Cannabis Reform
Congress can immediately act on removing federal roadblocks to legal medical and recreational cannabis. This would allow states to continue to reap the rewards of the economic boom and permit states like West Virginia to create jobs and join in the prosperity. A growing number of veterans and patients suffering from cancer and other chronic ailments are demanding access to cannabis as a pain treatment. Every effort should be made at both the state and federal level to accomplish this goal.
Create A Just Justice System
One of the many benefits of rescheduling cannabis is that it would pull the drain plug out of the for-profit prison system and reduce the stress of our overworked and underpaid correctional officers. Additionally, more treatment options for addiction will significantly unhinder the prison population of non-violent offenders. Law enforcement has more serious matters on their hands. Continuing with the status quo creates unnecessary weight on our courts and the state budget. It is also often more expensive to house an inmate than to pay for a student’s college tuition. That is taxpayer money that could be spent in smarter ways. Most importantly, we must prioritize helping the most disadvantaged communities, instead of using them as a source for political and financial gain.
Addressing Climate Change
The Pentagon, national security experts, and our intelligence agencies all agree that climate change is a prominent national security threat. Developing contingency plans to deal with the foreseeable impact is imperative to ensure communities are prepared before and after a disaster. We must enact bold policies that prioritize our environment and people over the profits of polluting industries to address the man-made effects on our climate.
Foreign policy challenges should always first be met with diplomatic solutions. Our country has seen too many costly and deadly wars to engage in further unnecessary conflict. We can remain a strong and secure nation by resolving conflicts with peaceful and tactful efforts. Securing and strengthening committed allies builds economic partnerships and cooperation. Our nation can work with allies to prevent international conflict and reduce global threats, such as nuclearization, terrorism, and climate change.
I fully support both the second amendment and common sense gun measures. Again and again we find that, even though nearly 90% of Americans support expanded background checks, Congress has repeatedly failed to take action. I believe in your and my right to own a firearm. Where I come from, respect for guns is a part of life. But many of our representatives of both parties have taken piles of money from gun lobbyists while they kneecapped any legislation that would even marginally cut into the manufacturers’ annual record-breaking profits, even when the public is demanding it. 2017 was the deadliest year for mass shootings in modern history. 2018 is already on pace to eclipse 2017. It doesn't take a scientist to figure out what to do about it, but Congress should immediately empower the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to study the national health impacts of gun violence. Until then, every loophole for background checks should be closed. The reporting criteria for checks must also be mandated and further expanded to include red-flag behaviors, like non-gun violence, threats, mental health incidents, and school disciplinary actions. This will make background checks more effective overall. I also follow the lead of our trained and experienced military veterans and law enforcement who believe that high-capacity magazines and modifications to the modern sporting rifle platform that enable military-style firing functions, sometimes referred to as assault weapons, should be restricted.