A question to wrestle with

My mind clears in one of two places: in bed in the wee hours when I’m not really asleep or awake, or while I’m walking/jogging. While on my favorite jogging path this morning, a thought came to me after I passed a large group of cross-country middle and high school students. If I had a chance to speak to them, what would I tell them?

Why I run

I’d start by connecting with their story. I started jogging about 15 years ago when I connected with a group of adults who played Ultimate Frisbee on Saturday mornings year-round in Saginaw, Michigan. Before I began, I had no idea how much running is involved in Ultimate. I nearly puked.

To keep up with those guys, I needed to get in shape. There’s a recreation center a mile from our house with a walking track, so for the next four months I spent a lot of time there, building up some endurance.

I was never a great Ultimate player, nor was I ever the one with the strongest lungs. Far from it, in fact. But Saturday mornings were fun. The exercise was worth it, and I still keep in touch with a few of those guys even though we haven’t lived in Saginaw for eight years.

I found other benefits to jogging. It’s a great stress reliever. About that time, the job I held for 24 years was eliminated. Without hard exercise, I might not have survived that time period.

And I discovered I enjoy being outside, year-round. I enjoy working up a good sweat in summer (which happened this morning), and in the winter, cold air on my cheeks is invigorating. Give me four seasons, and I’ll spend them all outside.

What we control

Then, my mind wandered to another question. If I could give those students a word of wisdom, what would I say?

Here’s the thought that came to me:

The only things you can control are your body, mind, soul and spirit. That’s it. You can influence other people, and we do, but control? Only ourselves.

Get some physical exercise all your life long, not just now on the cross-country team. It will help you feel good about yourself, and it’s a great stress reliever. It will help keep you healthy.

Mental health is a major issue these days, as I’m sure you’re aware. We all know people who are suffering from mental health issues, and others who have overcome them, right? Read books. Learn things. Take care of your mind.

Your soul, your emotions, needs your attention too. Do things you enjoy, things that help you relax. There are times to get serious and buckle down, but we need to breathe as well.

And don’t forget your spiritual life. We all have one, you know. This world is not about you. There’s a Creator who designed and built this world, and who designed and built you. The evidence for this is overwhelming. Just open your eyes and look.

What we don’t control

Recent events prove this, too. Some people don’t want to wear a mask, saying that COVID-19 doesn’t affect them. They miss the point. It’s not about them. It’s about protecting other people.

The systemic racism we continue to learn about after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis also proves that the world does not revolve around you. Other people have experiences that you and I know nothing about. If anything good has come from that horrible death, it’s this: We are learning how to listen to each other. To understand each other in ways we didn’t before.

It’s not about you.

I’ve heard personal stories from black friends, outstanding citizens who I’d trust my life with, who have experienced racism in recent months – before this issue became a national story. I thought we were beyond systemic racism. We’re not.

lorain2

There’s a bigger picture here that many Americans don’t want to see, but you need to see it. It’s not about you. It’s about us, about us learning how to get along with each other. Respect each other.

Systemic racism rears its ugly head in our public education system. My sister and I grew up in a household where we were expected to attend college. My wife and I raised our three sons the same way – a college degree was an expectation, and we took steps to ensure that they got good grades and had other opportunities that paved the way for a good college life.

Many minorities don’t have all that. Perhaps the best teachers stay in the suburbs, where my family has always lived. Suburban communities can afford good schools, which many inner cities cannot. The state offers minimum state funding to all districts to try to ensure a good education for all, but it doesn’t play out that way, does it?

My wife works at our local community college. We’ve learned that that is an excellent option for many of you. You can live at home and take courses for far less cost than a four-year university will charge you. And there’s an excellent vocational school in the county as well, if you’d like to learn a trade. These are all great options.

But then, even if a black student earns a good degree or trade certificate, he or she might have a hard time finding a good job. There’s an article in today’s local paper that says while white college graduates are getting good jobs, the unemployment rate for black college graduates is actually rising. Why, why is that?

So you see, young people, the world does not revolve around you. The color of your skin makes a difference in your opportunities, as does your health. And other things.

Reconciling

If you’d like a homework assignment, I’ve got one for you. I said earlier that the only thing you can control is yourself – your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. That is absolutely true. Then, I just said that the world does not revolve around you. It was here before you were born, and it will be here after you are gone.

So, how do you reconcile those two thoughts? You control yourself. The world does not revolve around you.

If you can figure that out, you’ll go a long way in this world. I wish many adults would wrestle with this question as well. This country would be a lot more hospitable if we could figure this out.

Best of everything to you. Good luck on your season.

Hope rising from the pain

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

Galatians 6:7-8

 

If we sow violence, we reap violence. If we sow finger-pointing, we reap finger-pointing. If we sow anger, that’s what we reap. If we sow peace, we receive peace (in the Spirit, if not in practice).

We don’t get this. If we raise a Bible outside (or inside) a church, we think God is automatically on our side. If we defend every lifestyle under the sun, we think that defines love.

If we actually opened our Bibles and tried to understand its meaning, we’d see that both sides have missed the point.

All is not lost, however. Many of us do get it.

Especially in the past week or so. As George Floyd is laid to rest, we as a nation are taking a collective breath.

Perhaps for the first time since the Civil Rights Act was passed after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, we are learning to listen to each other. Equality, justice and mutual respect are gaining traction, but we still have a long way to go. A very long way.

We see violence on cell phone and store camera videos, but racism goes much deeper than that. An offhand comment here. A derogatory word there. A promotion not received. Educational disparities. Housing discrimination. A look in a donut shop or grocery store.

listening 5

I attended a listening event last week in my city, where I heard about two dozen people share stories, many stories, including young people facing racism from peers, teachers and administrators at school; parents who did not receive justice in the courthouse next door; people who suffered silently from random events around town …

I’ve heard stories from friends with a different skin color than mine, people who are successful in life, people full of caring hearts and kind words. Even they have stories. I had no idea.

Recent stories. Current stories.

We have such a long way to go.

We focus on institutional changes, and those need to happen. Accountability in our police departments. Changes to our educational systems. Prosecution of looters and vandals – and how to prevent those people from showing up at future demonstrations and riots. Hires and promotions earned regardless of skin color.

These are big-picture, long-term issues that our nation must address.

We reap what we sow.

And yet … we cannot legislate morality. Changing laws will do only so much.

 

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away, see, everything has become new!

2 Corinthians 5:16-17

 

Even more than new (or better) laws, we need new (or better) hearts.

The human point of view is selfish, me first, I’m right and know what’s best. This goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. Every human, man and woman, who has ever lived understands this. Myself included. Every time I run a red (or pink) light I’m saying that my values and purpose are more important than society’s values, that the light has to turn green for someone else and I have to stop and wait while other drivers pass through the intersection.

I roll my eyes, get impatient. Especially when traffic clears and the light stays red.

Selfishness is that easy. I need a heart change.

Time to breathe.

Society does not revolve around me. I have to keep reminding myself of that, and still I don’t learn.

We wave the Bible in public, making a mockery of God’s written word because we won’t open the pages and actually read what’s inside it.

Those who condemn our president’s recent Bible-toting photo op in front of a Washington, D.C., church often aren’t modeling Christian values either.

There’s plenty of anger and finger-pointing on both sides. The anger and, yes, hatred on both sides have simmered for years; George Floyd’s horrific death was the lightning rod that triggered our hearts to act on our anger.

Righteous anger? Yes, far too often.

As a white man, it’s not up to me to analyze what’s going on and decide how to fix it.

White men have run this country since it was formed. Let’s be honest. In all other societies throughout history, the only way a minority group takes power is by force – figuring out how to overthrow the ruling oppressors.

We in the United States are working to share leadership, power and authority. It’s not natural, and it’s certainly not coming easily.

It requires a heart change. We can’t legislate morality. We can write in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal …” but until we actually treat each other that way, such statements are nothing more than pipe dreams.

This requires humility. The willingness to listen. To let others lead. To respect opinions and decisions different than ours.

None of that happens without a heart change.

I am encouraged. In the midst of police brutality and destruction of small businesses despite our not-quite-over-yet isolation from COVID-19, I see many people listening. I see police chiefs and officers marching with protesters, not against them. I see many people helping clean up broken windows and stores. I see blacks, whites, Asians and others talking, listening, meeting together, seeking to find similarities instead of differences.

In the midst of struggle and pain, I see hope.

We have such a long way to go.

But we have to start somewhere.

Will history look back at this moment as a turning point in our country?

This is my prayer.  Let’s make it happen.

Where he stands: Andrew Yang

One in a series profiling Democratic presidential candidates – in their own words:

 

https://www.yang2020.com/policies/

 

Freedom dividend

Andrew would implement the Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income of $1,000/month, $12,000 a year, for every American adult over the age of 18. This is independent of one’s work status or any other factor. This would enable all Americans to pay their bills, educate themselves, start businesses, be more creative, stay healthy, relocate for work, spend time with their children, take care of loved ones, and have a real stake in the future.

Other than regular increases to keep up the cost of living, any change to the Freedom Dividend would require a constitutional amendment.

It will be illegal to lend or borrow against one’s Dividend.

A Universal Basic Income at this level would permanently grow the economy by 12.56 to 13.10 percent — or about $2.5 trillion by 2025 — and it would increase the labor force by 4.5 million to 4.7 million people.  Putting money into people’s hands and keeping it there would be a perpetual boost and support to job growth and the economy.

  • Approximately 40 million Americans live below the poverty line.
  • Technology is quickly displacing a large number of workers, and the pace will only increase as automation and other forms of artificial intelligence become more advanced. One-third of American workers will lose their jobs to automation by 2030, according to McKinsey. This has the potential to destabilize our economy and society if unaddressed.
  • Good jobs are becoming more scarce and Americans are already working harder for less.
  • It is necessary to support and preserve a robust consumer economy.
  • Many Americans are stuck in the wrong jobs because of a need to survive.
  • Many positive social activities are impossible for many to do because they lack the financial resources to dedicate time to it, including taking care of a child or sick loved one, and volunteering in the community.

Health care

  1. Control the cost of prescription drugs through negotiating drug prices, using international reference pricing, forced licensing, public manufacturing facilities, and importation.
  2. Invest in technologies to make health services function efficiently and reduce waste by utilizing modernized services like telehealth and assistive technology, supported by measures such as multi-state licensing laws.
  3. Change the incentive structure by offering flexibility to providers, prioritizing patients over paperwork, and increasing the supply of practitioners.
  4. Shift our focus and educating ourselves in preventive care and end-of-life care options.
  5. Ensure crucial aspects of wellbeing, including mental health, care for people with disabilities, HIV/AIDS detection and treatment, reproductive health, maternal care, dental, and vision are addressed and integrated into comprehensive care for the 21st century.
  6. Diminish the influence of lobbyists and special interests in the healthcare industry that makes it nearly impossible to draft and pass meaningful healthcare reform.

Human-centered capitalism

The central tenets of Human Capitalism are:

  1. Humans are more important than money
  2. The unit of a Human Capitalism economy is each person, not each dollar
  3. Markets exist to serve our common goals and values

As President, I will …

  • Change the way we measure the economy, from GDP and the stock market to a more inclusive set of measurements that ensures humans are thriving. New measurements like Median Income and Standard of Living, Health-adjusted Life Expectancy, Mental Health, Childhood Success Rates, Social and Economic Mobility, Absence of Substance Abuse, and others will give us a much clearer and more powerful sense of how we are doing both individually and as a society.
  • Rein in corporate excesses by appointing regulators who are paid a lot of money – competitive with senior jobs in the private sector – but then will be prohibited from going to private industry afterward. Regulators need to be focused on making the right decisions and policies for the public with zero concern for their next position.
  • The government should create a modern time-banking system that will reward people and organizations who drive significant social value.

In addition to GDP and job statistics, the government should adopt measurements like:

  • Median Income and Standard of Living
  • Levels of engagement with Work and Labor Participation Rate
  • Health-adjusted life expectancy
  • Childhood Success Rates
  • Infant mortality
  • Surveys of National Well-being
  • Average Physical Fitness and Mental Health
  • Quality of Infrastructure
  • Proportion of Elderly in Quality Care
  • Human Capital Development and Access to Education
  • Marriage Rates and Success
  • Deaths of Despair / Despair Index / Substance Abuse
  • National Optimism / Mindset of Abundance
  • Community Integrity and Social Capital
  • Environmental Quality
  • Global Temperature Variance and Sea Levels
  • Re-acclimation of Incarcerated Individuals and Rates of Criminality
  • Artistic and Cultural Vibrancy
  • Design and Aesthetics
  • Information Integrity / Journalism
  • Dynamism and Mobility
  • Social and Economic Equity
  • Public Safety
  • Civic Engagement
  • Cybersecurity
  • Economic Competitiveness and Growth
  • Responsiveness and Evolution of Government
  • Efficient Use of Resources

Climate change

Achieve net-zero emissions goal – 2049

  • 2025 – Establish net-zero standards for newbuildings
  • 2027 – New nuclear reactors begin to come online
  • 2030 – Zero-emission standard for all new cars
  • 2035 – 100% emissions free electric grid
  • 2040 – Net-zero for all transportation sectors
  • 2045 – 85% methane recapture
  • 2049 – Fully green economy

Budget Overview (Direct Spend)

$400 billion invested in Democracy Dollars over 20 years

$10 billion invested in a debt forgiveness fund for rural co-ops

$200 billion invested in Grid Modernization over 15 years

$50 billion invested in the next generation of safe, clean nuclear power over 5 years

$250 billion invested in net-zero emission ground transportation over 15 years

$80.8 billion invested in net-zero emission air transportation over 15 years

$285.5 billion invested in sustainable agricultural, forestry, and land methods use over 15 years

$5 billion invested in research for sustainable materials over 5 years

$45 billion invested in National Labs over 15 years

$3 trillion to finance loans for household investments in renewable energy over 20 years

$60 billion invested in vocational and apprenticeship programs over 15 years

$70 billion invested in combating rising sea levels over 20 years

$25 billion in pre-disaster mitigation grants for high-risk hurricane communities over 10 years

$122.5 billion invested in fire prevention and combating wildfires over 5 years

$90 billion to establish and fund the Climate Change Adaptation Institute over 20 years

$800 million invested in geoengineering research methods

$200 billion discretionary spending to fund additional necessary programs over 20 years

TOTAL INVESTED OVER 20 YEARS: $4.87 Trillion

As President, I will:

  • Create the American Scorecard to better measure our environmental quality and sustainability, and treat it as a primary measurement of our economy and well-being.
  • Pass legislation requiring large corporations to document the externalized costs of their environmental impact.
  • Pass Climate Risk Disclosure bills to incentivize divestment in oil companies and other heavy polluting industries.
  • End all fossil fuel subsidies and use that money for retraining programs and subsidies for low-income individuals to transition to sustainable energy sources.
  • Stop all new leases for oil and gas companies on public lands, and end any existing lease.
  • Fight against any new pipeline or similar infrastructure, especially any that would cut across contested land.
  • Create more aggressive Clean Power Plan targets, and end the grandfathering-in of old plants that haven’t been sufficiently upgraded to trigger NSR.
  • Provide a $10 billion debt forgiveness fund for all rural co-ops that are relying on non-renewable sources who want to replace their plants with renewables, and provide public financing/securitization options for rebuilding with sustainable energy.
  • Commit to equipping and powering all federal buildings with American-made efficiency and clean energy technology.
  • Work to create standards allowing common elements of systems (e.g., batteries) to be easily replaced as the technologies develop.
  • Create a plan to recycle elements (e.g., batteries) that become obsolete.
  • Set sustainable infrastructure standards for all new buildings; buildings that are being rebuilt or upgraded; and all federal buildings.
  • Propose a carbon fee and dividend system that:
    • Sets an initial carbon tax of $40/ton, which would increase in regular intervals of $5/ton for the first four years and then $10/ton until it hits $100/ton.
  • Create a border carbon adjustment to protect American goods that would:
    • Charge a fee on imports from countries that don’t impose a similar carbon fee, or some type of carbon tax.
    • Provide a rebate on exports to countries that don’t impose a similar carbon fee, or some type of carbon tax.
  • Dedicate at least half of the money raised through the fee to dividends specifically designed to help Americans afford transitions to sustainable energy sources and vehicles.
  • Create a “Race to the Top”-style competition to drive innovation in our grid system by the private sector.
  • Invest $50 billion in incentives for private companies and investment in new modern infrastructure.
  • Invest $150 billion in upgrading our current electric infrastructure systems.
  • Invest $50 billion in research and development for thorium-based molten salt reactors, and nuclear fusion reactors, to provide a green energy source for Americans.
  • Engage in a public relations campaign to update the reputation of nuclear reactors.
  • Have new nuclear reactors start to come online by 2027.
  • Immediately create a system similar to the ZEV program in California, and require all vehicles starting with 2030 models to be zero-emission.
  • Invest $50 billion in EV charging stations in nonurban areas.
  • Create a $200 billion grant program to states to convert their public transportation systems (trains, buses, school buses) to electric vehicles.

Pass the Aircraft Emission Act, requiring:

  • All commercial, private, and government aircraft to move toward low-emission standards as is technically feasible by 2040.
  • Government investment of $2 billion in carbon capture technologies research and $9.5 billion over 15 years in installing carbon capture systems that can equal out the remaining limited amount of air travel emissions.
  • Government investment of $300 billion over 15 years into research for alternative aircraft fuel.
  • Provide grants and guarantee profitability for farms that experiment with new, sustainable techniques.
  • Increase farm bill subsidies by $75 billion over the next 15 years for farms that experiment with new, sustainable techniques.
  • Invest $2 billion in research for vertical farming techniques.
  • Direct the Department of Agriculture to provide reports to states and private enterprises to help them improve their grazing and livestock land management.
  • Work with states to determine sustainable crops for their areas, and suggest changes as climate change continues to advance.
  • Increase funding to biogas programs by tripling the current annual mandatory funding for biogas to $200 million.
  • Authorize a $500 million increase to federal agencies tasked with maintaining land to increase afforestation while rejuvenating high-carbon ecosystems such as peatlands, wetlands, rangelands, and mangroves.
  • Invest in research for drought-resistant crops.
  • Provide $300 million in tax credits to incentivize supermarkets to waste less food, either through donations or inventory management changes, and to source more local food.
  • Create the Renewable Energy Building Association – REBA – to loan up to $3 trillion over 20 years to individuals to purchase heat pumps, solar panels, batteries, and other technologies for their residences. If households choose to take advantage of this, they will pay off these loans at a 3% (or lower) interest rate and will end up paying less annually than their previous energy bills.
  • Research coastal communities that are likely to be impacted by rising sea levels and provide property owners with information about risks and options.
  • Make up to $40 billion available in subsidies, grants, and low-interest loans to individuals who wish to elevate or relocate their homes, or move to higher ground.
  • Help communities plan for rising sea levels with expertise and information.
  • Invest $30 billion in high-risk cities to build seawalls and water pumps, upgrade roads and sewer systems, and rejuvenate beaches to serve as barriers to rising sea levels.
  • Invest $25 billion over 10 years in helping communities that are likely to be impacted by repeated hurricane and flood damage to make their communities more disaster-resistant through pre-disaster mitigation grants.
  • Re-evaluate the way FEMA and the NFIP determine where structures can be rebuilt, taking a stricter stance against rebuilding in danger zones.
  • Quintuple the budget for the U.S. Forest Service to $24.5 billion for at least five years, and specifically tailor it to focus on fire prevention, and promote partnerships with local experts on combating wildfires in their areas. This will more than pay for itself by preventing megafires.
  • Work with federal agencies such as the EPA to adjust how specific metrics are measured to take a more long-term view of the costs and benefits of prescribed fires.
  • Work with Congress to pass legislation aligning incentives for states, developers, and homeowners towards fire prevention and avoiding high-risk areas.
  • Establish a National Fire Insurance Program that provides insurance for homeowners in high risk fire zones, with a stipulation that homes must take preventative actions such as defensible space and reevaluation standards in case locations are determined to be dangerous for rebuilding.

Establish a Climate Change Adaptation Institute with a starting annual budget of $4.5 billion to monitor the ongoing effects of climate change and propose new adaptation measures, including:

  • Better urban planning, better farming methods, and better land use, especially with respect to water management during droughts.
  • Educational drives to inform people on how to cope with heat waves, and prepare treatment centers to quickly respond to and treat individuals suffering from the effects of a heat wave.
  • Better equipping local officials to respond to emergencies such as floods, droughts, landslides, mudslides, avalanches and outbreaks.
  • Provide $800 million to NASA, the Department of Defense, and NOAA to research, experiment with, and test geoengineering methods that will either give us more time to deal with climate change, or give us options should we hit a climate tipping point of which we aren’t aware.
  • Convene a global summit on geoengineering. Many researchers in the U.S. and other countries are doing work in this field – if we bring them together we can formalize and accelerate our learning and build a global approach.

Criminal justice

As President, I will…

  • Work to end the use of private prison facilities for federal inmates.
  • Shift drug policy away from punishment and towards treatment.
  • Invest money to fund innovative prison programs that decrease recidivism and increase reintegration.
  • Invest money to support businesses that hire felons who have served their prison term.
  • Push to reconsider harsh felony laws that prevent those who have served their prison term from reintegrating into society.
  • Identify non-violent drug offenders for probation and potential early release.
  • Support the full legalization of marijuana at the federal level and remove it from the controlled substances list.
  • Expunge the federal convictions of all marijuana-related use or possession offenses.
  • Identify non-violent drug offenders for probation and potential early release.
  • Work with states to decrease their reliance on cash bail, providing assistance and grants for various programs to increase trial attendance without the need to incarcerate people ahead of conviction.
  • Implement a federal program of pre-trial services that would be made available to states, such as a text message system to remind individuals of their upcoming court dates.

Education

As President, I will…

  • Immediately reduce the student loan payments for millions of Americans by ensuring that the American government does not profit one cent from its educational loan servicing and that students get the same interest rates as the wealthiest bank. Any profit that the government does realize will go into reducing rates the following year until profit is zero.
  • Explore a blanket partial reduction in the principal of school loans, especially for recent graduates with the largest debt levels, and forgiveness for debt beyond a certain period after graduation.
  • Propose the 10×10 Student Loan Emancipation Act, a plan by which the federal government would buy student loan debt (negotiated rate with the private lenders) and allow students to opt into a plan to repay it through pledging 10% of their salary per year for 10 years, after which the balance would be forgiven.
  • Ask schools to forgive in part or in whole the debts of those who do not graduate.
  • Initiate a program that allows graduates to pay a percent of income instead of a fixed amount.
  • Establish a commission that will explore debt forgiveness or reduction for students who sought degrees under false pretenses.
  • Change bankruptcy laws to make it easier to discharge educational debt.
  • Expand a program that forgives the debt of graduates who work in rural areas or with underprivileged populations.
  • Close schools with high loan default rates and consistently low employment placement success.
  • Police and prosecute all marketing representations of schools that might induce enrollment under false pretenses.
  • Allow student loan debt to be discharged through bankruptcy, thus forcing lenders to work with students in good faith to find workable repayment plans.
  • Increase funding to vocational programs within public schools.
  • Direct the Department of Education to provide materials to all public schools about career paths that don’t require a college degree.
  • Prioritize career paths that students express interest in rather than giving blanket advice that college is the right/only option.
  • Begin a public education campaign championing vocational jobs and education, “I Work With My Hands – And It’s Awesome.”
  • Ensure HBCU federal funding levels are equitable when compared to similar schools.
  • Commit $250 million in federal funds to provide training programs in grant writing for faculty and staff at HBCUs.
  • Provide $7.5 billion in federal funding for general infrastructure improvements including facilities and academic resources, as well as $750 million for building out a fundraising infrastructure.
  • End any practices that allow banks to charge HBCUs higher fees, and provide public funding options to ensure that all HBCUs can receive lower rates.
  • Help strengthen HBCUs with support for loan forgiveness and salary incentives through $1.5 billion in federal funding to recent PhDs who commit to teaching at HBCUs.
  • Strengthen and empower the White House Initiative on HBCUs by providing $6 billion in federal funding for scholarships and internships through the organization, and by encouraging them to engage in dialogue with HBCU leaders on strengths and weaknesses of various programs.

Government reform

As President, I will…

Pledge to personally:

  • Divest from all personal investments and business interests, and place all assets in a blind trust.
  • Disclose the previous 10 years of my income tax returns.
  • Accept no speaking fees or board positions for personal gain after leaving office.

Hold my cabinet officials to a higher standard by:

  • Increasing salaries for government officials who operate in a regulatory capacity to much higher levels, but ban them from receiving anything of value in exchange for advocating for a position (lobbying) to members of the federal government.
  • Providing an Anti-Corruption Stipend for all members of the Executive Branch after the termination of their employment, to be paid as long as they don’t accept anything of value in exchange for advocating for a position to members of the federal government.
  • Firing anyone in my Administration who accepts money from lobbyists for a personal legal defense fund they’ve established to defend from any wrong-doing, whether while in office or before.

Work with Congress to pass legislation that:

  • Raises the next President’s salary to $4 million and simultaneously bars them from receiving any speaking fees or board positions for personal gain after leaving office.
  • Prevents individuals serving in government from accepting money from lobbyists for a personal legal defense fund.
  • Create a new executive department – the Department of Technology – to work with private industry and congressional leaders to monitor technological developments, assess risks, and create new guidance. The new department would be based in Silicon Valley and would initially be focused on Artificial Intelligence.
  • Create a new Cabinet-level position of Secretary of Technology who will be tasked with leading the new department.
  • Create a public-private partnership between leading tech firms and experts within government to identify emerging threats and suggest ways to mitigate those threats while maximizing the benefit of technological innovation to society.

Family/social cohesion

As President, I will…

  • Work with Congress to pass the Equality Act, the Do No Harm Act, and any legislation extending protected status to individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Restore the Voting Rights Act to protect against voter ID laws that can deny transgender individuals access to the ballot box.
  • Allow transgender people to serve in the military.
  • Appoint LGBTQ+ individuals to senior posts in my administration.
  • Restore voting rights to individuals convicted of felonies and prohibit states from denying ex-felons the right to vote.
  • Restore voting rights for current inmates unless they have deprived someone else of their right to vote.
  • Prioritize all initiatives to expand and restore voting rights in the U.S. to the previously and currently incarcerated.
  • Create a Department of the Attention Economy that focuses specifically on how to responsibly design and use smartphones, social media, gaming, and chat apps. It will include overall guidelines, as well as age-based ones.
  • Direct the Department to investigate the regulation of certain companies and apps. Many of these companies essentially function as public utilities and news sources – we used to regulate broadcast networks, newspapers, and phone companies. We need to do the same with technology companies now that they are the primary way people both receive information and communicate with each other.
  • Provide guidance (and regulation, if needed) on design features that maximize screen time for young people, like removing autoplay video for children under 16, removing the queues that allow infinite scrolling, capping the number of recommendations per day, reducing notification signs and “like” counts, and using artificial intelligence and machine learning to determine when children are using devices to cap screen hours per day.
  • Establish rules and standards around kid-targeted content to protect them from extreme or inappropriate content.
  • Incentivize content production of high-quality and positive kids programming similar to broadcast TV.
  • Require platforms to provide guidance on kid-healthy content for parents, and provide incentives for companies that work to make user data of minors available to their parents.
  • Include classes on the responsible use of technology in public school curricula and teach children how to distinguish reliable from unreliable news sources online.

Women

As President, I will…

  • Provide every American voter with $100 Democracy Dollars for each election cycle, a voucher that they can use to support candidates of their choosing.
  • Commit to appointing women in top leadership positions in government and the military.
  • Prioritize the skills and capability over typical traditional experience for judicial nominees, thereby prioritizing women and minorities for the federal bench.
  • Implement a Freedom Dividend that empowers women to start businesses and further their education.
  • Explore legislation similar to the California law that promotes women on corporate boards.
  • Require certain diversity standards for federal contracts and development grants as a way to incentivize women in leadership.
  • Implement a gender-neutral paid family leave federal mandate.
  • Work with Congress to codify Roe v. Wade into law.
  • Appoint judges who support a woman’s right to choose.
  • Ensure comprehensive contraceptive care is covered under all health insurance plans.
  • Repeal the Hyde Amendment.
  • Fully support and increase funding to Planned Parenthood. Repeal the Title X Gag Rule and the Global Gag Rule.
  • Implement a comprehensive federal Paid Family Leave plan that provides the ability for all families, regardless of make-up, the time to heal and bond with their child.
  • Guarantee six months Paid Family Leave for all parents, making this accessible to all families and employees in the U.S.
  • Offer tax breaks for employers who offer 12 months of paid leave for single parents.
  • Ensure this policy applies to the addition of a new child by birth, adoption, or foster care.

Foreign policy/veterans

  • Work with our allies to rebuild our stature in the world, and strengthen alliances such as NATO.
  • Reinvest in diplomacy and bolster funding to the State Department.
  • Work with allies to project our combined strength throughout the world, without engaging in activities that will cost American lives and money with no clear benefit to our long-term well-being.
  • Sign a repeal to the AUMF, returning the authority to declare war to Congress, and refuse to engage in anything other than emergency military activity without the express consent of Congress.
  • Regularly audit the Department of Defense.
  • Focus our federal budget on fixing problems at home instead of spending trillions of dollars abroad.
  • Work to combat the misconception that most veterans face mental health issues, decreasing employment prospects.
  • Create mentorship programs, and work with businesses and nonprofits to do the same.
  • Incentivize businesses to hire veterans, and create programs to help with early career transitions for veterans.
  • Assist veteran-run businesses in getting off the ground, and in becoming successful.
  • Implement policies to increase the stability veterans feel, and assist in their transition to civilian life.
  • Invest in veteran mental health, and improve funding to crisis helplines.
  • Create an initiative to have senior members of the military discuss their own battles with mental health issues, and the treatment they received, to destigmatize it.
  • Provide all veterans with gun storage lockers.

Immigration

As President, I will …

  • Secure the southern border and drastically decrease the number of illegal entries into the U.S.
  • Provide a new tier of long-term permanent residency for anyone who has been here illegally for a substantial amount of time so that they can come out of the shadows, enter the formal economy, and become full members of the community.
    • This new tier would permit individuals to work and stay in the country, provided they pay their taxes and don’t get convicted of a felony.
    • This tier would put them on a longer, 18-year path to citizenship (the same amount of time it takes those born in the U.S. to get full citizenship rights), not only reflecting our desire to bring them into our country but also their decision to circumvent legal immigration channels.
  • Invest heavily in an information campaign to inform immigrant communities of this new tier of residency, and deport any undocumented immigrant who doesn’t proactively enroll in the program.
  • Support the DREAM Act as a part of comprehensive immigration and border security reforms.
  • Enhance the H-1B visa program and give workers who receive positive reviews from employers the option to remain in the country as permanent residents.
  • Enhance the F-1 visa program and automatically grant any student who graduates with at least a graduate degree a green card.
  • Personally encourage the top students of the world to come to America, start their families here, build their companies here, and then their child can become President.

Where he stands: Bernie Sanders

One in a series profiling Democratic presidential candidates – in their own words:

 

https://berniesanders.com/issues/

 

Immigration

As president, Bernie will:

  • Put a moratorium on deportations until a thorough audit of current and past practices and policies is complete.
  • Work with Congress to codify limitations on the President’s ability to restrict or suspend the entry of people or classes of people into the United States by passing the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act.
  • Instruct DOJ to drop any litigation or funding restrictions relating to sanctuary cities.
  • Connect detainees with sponsors and supports.
  • Ensure all children who were separated from their families by the United States government are reunited swiftly.
  • Convene a hemispheric summit with the leaders of Latin American countries who are experiencing migration crises and develop actionable steps to stabilize the region.
  • Immediately extend legal status to the 1.8 million young people currently eligible for the DACA program, and provide administrative relief to their parents, those with Temporary Protected Status, and parents of legal permanent residents.
  • Use executive authority to allow undocumented immigrants who have resided in the United States for five or more years to stay here free from threat of deportation.
  • Expand parole in place to the families and caregivers of citizens and legal permanent residents and employed workers, and use hardship waivers to remove barriers to green cards and citizenship for as many eligible cases as possible.
  • Push Congress to enact a swift, fair pathway to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently living, working, and contributing in America today.
  • Prioritize expedited citizenship for undocumented youth.
  • Ensure any path to citizenship does not come with a reduction in traditional, family-based visas.
  • Repeal 8 U.S. Code Section 1325, putting border crossings on par with other forms of immigration violations, such as overstaying a visa.
  • Establish immigration courts as independent Article I courts, free from influence and interference.
  • Authorize and fund community-based alternatives to detention, which will connect immigrants with health, legal, educational, and work resources.
  • Ensure any shelters necessary to provide temporary housing for immigrants meet humane, 21st century living standards. This includes medical screenings and access to medical services, nutrition, hygienic conditions and supplies, educational opportunities, and counseling.
  • Ensure justice and due process for immigrants, including the right to counsel and an end to cash bail. Create a $14 billion federal grant program for indigent defense. Ensure access to translation and interpretation services throughout every stage of the legal process. …
  • Break up ICE and CBP and redistribute their functions to their proper authorities. Deportation, enforcement, border and investigatory authority would return to the Department of Justice. Customs authority would return to the Treasury Department. Naturalization and citizenship authority would be given to the State Department.
  • Refocus border enforcement on stemming the flow of firearms and drugs at ports of entry that have contributed to the opioid epidemic, ensuring that labor standards on the border are enforced, and stopping human trafficking. …
  • Ensure schools, places of worship, medical facilities, courthouses and other sensitive areas are exempted from immigration targeting and enforcement.
  • End the use of DNA testing and facial recognition technology for immigration and border enforcement.
  • Work with Congress to pass the Protecting Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation (POWER) Act, which would expand the U-visa to protect undocumented immigrants who report labor and workplace violations. …
  • Restructure work visas to make them portable … allow spouses to work, raise the prevailing wage, and include a pathway to citizenship for those seasonal workers who wish to pursue it.
  • Withhold federal contracts for employers found exploiting guest workers.
  • End workplace raids and shift the focus of enforcement from workers to employers who mistreat their workforce.
  • Strengthen labor protections for farmworkers, domestic workers, gig economy workers and other historically under-regulated industries that rely heavily on immigrant and undocumented workforces.
  • Require at least a $15 minimum wage and overtime pay for agricultural workers, and remove farmworker exemptions from the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Direct OSHA and the EPA to create and enforce heat stress and air quality standards.
  • Require employers to provide protective gear and respiratory equipment to farmers working in conditions affected by smoke and wildfires. …
  • Restore and increase aid to Central and South American nations, work to strengthen human rights, and fund programs to curb corruption, political repression, violence, and poverty. …
  • Create a program to welcome migrants displaced by climate change, and set a floor of accepting at least 50,000 climate migrants in his first year in office. …
  • Provide year-round, free universal school meals; breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks through our school meals programs to all students regardless of immigration status, and offer incentives for sourcing food from local sources.
  • Address disciplinary practices in schools that disproportionately affect Black and Brown children.
  • Pass a permanent repeal of the public charge statute, so we do not penalize immigrants who at some point may need to access support programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
  • Ensure customs and immigration agencies have the funding and personnel necessary to eliminate the backlog of pending applications and cut wait times for immigration applications. …
  • Eliminate discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families throughout immigration laws, including making sure that all children born to U.S. citizen parents have acquired citizenship, regardless of a biological relationship.
  • Direct the newly created National Office of Disability Coordination to work with agencies to ensure the immigration and citizenship process is fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Health care

  • Create a Medicare for All, single-payer, national health insurance program to provide everyone in America with comprehensive health care coverage, free at the point of service.
  • No networks, no premiums, no deductibles, no copays, no surprise bills.
  • Medicare coverage will be expanded and improved to include dental, hearing, vision, and home- and community-based long-term care, in-patient and out-patient services, mental health and substance abuse treatment, reproductive and maternity care, prescription drugs, and more.
  • Ensure that no one in America pays more than $200 a year for the medicine they need.
  • Allow Medicare to negotiate with the big drug companies to lower prescription drug prices with the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act.
  • Allow patients, pharmacists, and wholesalers to buy low-cost prescription drugs from Canada and other industrialized countries with the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act.
  • Cut prescription drug prices in half with the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, by pegging prices to the median drug price in five major countries: Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan.
  • Eliminate the $81 billion in past-due medical debt. Under this plan, the federal government will negotiate and pay off past-due medical bills in collections that have been reported to credit agencies.
  • End abusive and harassing debt collection practices.
    • Prohibit the collection of debt beyond the statute of limitations.
    • Significantly limit the contact attempts per week a collector can make to an individual through any mode of communication, regardless of how many bills are in collection.
    • Require collectors to ensure information about a debt is fully accurate before attempting to collect.
    • Substantially limit the assets that can be seized and the wages that can be garnished in collection to ensure consumers do not lose their homes, jobs, or primary vehicles and will be able to financially support their families.
  • Instruct the IRS to review the billing and collection practices of the nearly 3,000 non-profit hospitals to ensure they are in line with the charitable care standards for non-profit tax status, and take action against those who are not.
  • Reform the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 to use the existing bankruptcy court system to provide relief for those with burdensome medical debt.
    • Eliminate means testing requirements to file for bankruptcy.
    • Allow for the adjudication — including potential discharge — of debt, including interest and penalties, stemming from direct payments to providers and insurers for medical expenses. Assuming documentation, this includes medical debt incurred on credit cards or any other consumer debt product.
    • End “credit counseling” required before filing to discharge medical debt.
    • Include broad “automatic stay” protections, placing an immediate prohibition on any evictions, utility (heat, electric, etc.) interruptions, foreclosure proceedings, wage garnishments, driver’s license suspensions, and other actions.
    • Prohibit requiring the disclosure of medical debt discharge on housing, loan, or other applications.
  • Remove and exclude medical debt from credit reports.
  • Create a secure public credit registry to replace for-profit credit reporting agencies. This registry will use a public, transparent algorithm to determine creditworthiness that eliminates racial biases in credit scores. Allow Americans to receive credit scores for free, and prohibit medical debt from being included.

Climate change

As president, Bernie will:

  • Transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to 100 percent energy efficiency and sustainable energy by 2030 at the latest. …
  • Build enough renewable energy generation capacity for the nation’s growing needs. Currently, four federal Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) and the Tennessee Valley Authority generate and transmit power to distribution utilities in 33 states. We will create one more PMA to cover the remaining states and territories and expand the existing PMAs to build more than enough wind, solar, energy storage and geothermal power plants. We will spend $1.52 trillion on renewable energy and $852 billion to build energy storage capacity. Together, with an EPA federal renewable energy standard, this will fully drive out non-sustainable generation sources.
  • We will end greed in our energy system. The renewable energy generated by the Green New Deal will be publicly owned, managed by the Federal Power Marketing Administrations, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Tennessee Valley Authority and sold to distribution utilities with a preference for public power districts, municipally- and cooperatively-owned utilities with democratic, public ownership, and other existing utilities that demonstrate a commitment to the public interest. The Department of Energy will provide technical assistance to states and municipalities that would like to establish publicly owned distribution utilities or community choice aggregation programs in their communities. Electricity will be sold at current rates to keep the cost of electricity stable during this transition.
  • Build a modern smart grid. A smart grid means a resilient, secure, and intelligent electric grid system that is capable of managing high amounts of renewable energy, charging electric vehicles quickly, and maximizing efficiency. We will spend $526 billion on a modern, high-volt, underground, renewable, direct current, smart, electric transmission and distribution grid.
  • Weatherize homes and businesses to perform energy efficiency upgrades to make buildings more energy efficient and lower energy bills. We will provide $2.18 trillion for sliding-scale grants for low- and moderate-income families and small businesses to invest in weatherizing and retrofitting their homes and businesses. …
  • Phase out the use of non-sustainable sources. This plan will stop the building of new nuclear power plants. … It will also enact a moratorium on nuclear power plant license renewals in the United States to protect surrounding communities. …
  • Regulate all dangerous greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide is a dangerous greenhouse gas, but it is not the only one we must address. Methane is 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) can be more than a thousand times more powerful. To ensure we reach our carbon pollution emissions goals, the EPA will, under the Clean Air Act, regulate carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons. …
  • Grants to purchase a new EV. Provide $2.09 trillion in grants to low- and moderate-income families and small businesses to trade in their fossil fuel-dependent vehicles for new electric vehicles. …
  • Vehicle trade-in program. Provide $681 billion for low- and moderate- income families and small businesses for a trade-in program to get old cars off the road. Families with a conventional car will be able to access an additional incentive for trading in for an American-made electric vehicle. …
  • Electric vehicle charging infrastructure. … We will spend $85.6 billion building a national electric vehicle charging infrastructure network similar to the gas stations and rest stops we have today. …
  • School and transit buses. Provide $407 billion in grants for states to help school districts and transit agencies replace all school and transit buses with electric buses. …
  • Replace all shipping trucks. Because this nation depends heavily on goods that are shipped all over the country by truckers, we must ensure that they are able to keep up their pace while we meet our climate goals. That means we must spend $216 billion to replace all diesel tractor-trailer trucks with fast-charging and long-range electric trucks. …
  • Build public transit that is affordable, accessible, fast, and resilient. With a $300 billion investment, we will increase public transit ridership by 65 percent by 2030. …
  • Build regional high-speed rail. A $607 billion investment in a regional high-speed rail system would complete the vision of the Obama administration to develop high-speed intercity rail in the United States. …
  • Retrofit dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure. … The Federal Railroad Administration will adopt new rules requiring companies to retrofit coal and oil trains to prevent explosions, derailments, and spills. We will take similar action to protect communities’ well pads, substations, compressor stations, and pipelines. …
  • Invest in decarbonizing the shipping and aviation industries as soon as possible. … We will fund a $500 billion effort to research technologies to fully decarbonize industry, and a $150 billion effort to fully decarbonize aviation and maritime shipping and transportation.
  • heEstablish a nationwide materials recycling program. …
  • Invest in the Green Climate Fund. … In order to help countries of the Global South with climate adaptation efforts, the U.S. will invest $200 billion in the Green Climate Fund for the equitable transfer of renewable technologies, climate adaptation, and assistance in adopting sustainable energies. …
  • Bring together the leaders of the major industrialized nations with the goal of using the trillions of dollars our nations spend on wars and weapons of mass destruction to instead work together internationally to combat our climate crisis and take on the fossil fuel industry. …
  • Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and enforce aggressive climate reduction goals. …
  • Renegotiate trade deals to protect the environment. …
  • End overseas fossil fuel financing. The federal government currently supports investments in fossil fuels through the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, OPIC, the Export-Import Bank, and other multilateral institutions. These international investments are inconsistent with a goal to curb the global climate crisis and must end. …
  • Create a Climate Justice Resiliency Fund. The CJRF will ensure our infrastructure and communities are protected from the unavoidable impacts of climate change. Once the CJRF is established and funded at $40 billion, the EPA, together with a number of other agencies, will conduct a nationwide survey to identify areas with high climate impact vulnerabilities and other socioeconomic factors, public health challenges, and environmental hazards. Each community will then be eligible for funding in order of most vulnerable to least vulnerable.
  • Rebuild America’s infrastructure, including the nation’s water systems. …
  • Build resilient, affordable, publicly owned broadband infrastructure. Internet access and communications are key in the wake of a disaster. We will provide $150 billion in infrastructure grants and technical assistance for municipalities and states to build publicly owned and democratically controlled, co-operative, or open access broadband networks. This communications infrastructure will ensure first responders and communities are ready to deal with the worst climate emergencies.
  • Increase funding for roads. … Bernie’s Rebuild America Act provides $75 billion for the National Highway Trust Fund to improve roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure in the United States and another $2 billion for other surface transportation needs.
  • Build 7.4 million affordable housing units to close the affordable housing gap across the country. We will greatly expand the National Housing Trust Fund to build the units necessary to guarantee housing as a right to all Americans.
  • Adapt to sea level rise. Forty percent of the U.S. — more than 126 million Americans — live on the coasts. … We will provide coastal communities with $162 billion in funding to adapt to sea level rise.
  • Increase funding for firefighting to deal with more frequent and severe wildfires. … We will increase funding for firefighting by $18 billion for federal firefighters to deal with the increased severity and frequency of wildfires. …
  • Increase investments in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which helps mitigate damage from future disasters. The program saves $4 for every $1 invested up front by decreasing the impact of future disasters. We will invest $2 billion to ensure communities that are rebuilt after disasters strike have necessary resources to build back stronger than before the disaster.
  • Invest in green infrastructure and public lands conservation by reinstating the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). One of the most successful New Deal programs and the most rapid peacetime mobilization in American history, the CCC put millions of men to work building and maintaining trails and conserving America’s wilderness. … We will invest $171 billion in reauthorizing and expanding the CCC to provide good-paying jobs building green infrastructure, planting billions of trees and other native species, preventing flood and soil erosion, rebuilding wetlands and coral, cleaning up plastic pollution, constructing and maintaining accessible paths, trails, and fire breaks; rehabilitating and removing abandoned structures, and eradicating invasive species and flora disease; and other natural methods of carbon pollution sequestration.
  • Fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which helps stimulate our nation’s $1.7 trillion a year outdoor recreation, natural resource protection, and historic preservation industry by conserving millions of acres in our national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, and wild and scenic river corridors via more than 41,000 state and local projects. In 2019, the LWCF was permanently authorized. However, it has been chronically underfunded. We will spend $900 million to permanently fund the LWCF.
  • Prosecute and sue the fossil fuel industry for the damage it has caused. President Sanders will ensure that his Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission investigate these companies and bring suits — both criminal and civil — for any wrongdoing, just as the federal government did with the tobacco industry in the 1980s. …
  • End fossil fuel subsidies. The federal government hands out almost $15 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry every year. …
  • Ban offshore drilling. …
  • Ban fracking and mountaintop removal coal mining. …
  • Ban imports and exports of fossil fuels. …
  • Divest federal pensions from fossil fuels. …
  • Ensure a just transition for energy workers. … We will spend $1.3 trillion to ensure that workers in the fossil fuel and other carbon intensive industries receive strong benefits, a living wage, training, and job placement. …
  • Provide employers with tax credits to incentivize hiring transitioning employees. …
  • Invest in workers and de-industrialized communities’ economic development. Counties with more than 35 qualifying workers will be eligible for targeted economic development funding to ensure job creation in the same communities that will feel the impact of the transition most. Economic development funding will be distributed through an interagency effort spearheaded by the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. Funds will be allocated through the Appalachian Regional Commission, Economic Development Assistance Programs and the Abandoned Mine Lands fund. Other eligible projects include drinking and waste water infrastructure, broadband, and electric grid infrastructure investments. These targeted investments are intended to supplement, not supplant infrastructure and economic development funding throughout the rest of this plan. …
  • Focus job training and local hiring to reflect the racial and gender diversity of the community receiving federal investments. …
  • Incentivize farmers to develop ecologically regenerative farming systems that sharply reduce emissions; sequester carbon; and heal our soils, forests, and prairie lands … with an investment of $410 billion. This assistance will focus on both sequestering carbon and increasing resiliency in the face of extreme weather events. Funds will be used to offset the costs of enterprise-level changes and barriers to transition, including design, technical assistance, purchasing equipment, installing infrastructure, site remediation, contract termination, and repaying farm-debt. …
  • Invest in family farms and rural communities, and break up big agribusinesses that have a stranglehold on farmers and rural communities.
  • Invest in historically underserved communities to grow the number of farmers of color. …

Higher education

When Bernie is in the White House, he will:

  • Guarantee tuition and debt-free public colleges, universities, HBCUs, Minority Serving Institutions and trade-schools to all.
  • Cancel all student loan debt for the some 45 million Americans who owe about $1.6 trillion and place a cap on student loan interest rates going forward at 1.88 percent.
  • Invest $1.3 billion every year in private, non-profit historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions
  • End equity gaps in higher education attainment. And ensure students are able to cover non-tuition costs of attending school by: expanding Pell Grants to cover non-tuition and fee costs, tripling funding for the Work-Study Program, and more.
  • Provide Pell Grants to low-income students to cover the non-tuition and fee costs of school, including: housing, books, supplies, transportation, and other costs of living.
  • Require participating states and tribes to cover the full cost of obtaining a degree for low-income students (normally those with a family income of less than $25,000) by covering any gap that may still exist after we eliminate tuition, fees, and grants.
  • Place a cap on student loan interest rates going forward. … Today, the average interest rate on undergraduate student loans is more than 5 percent. Under this proposal, we will cap student loan interest rates at 1.88 percent.
  • In addition to eliminating tuition and fees, we will match any additional spending from states and tribes which reduces the cost of attending school at a dollar for dollar rate. This funding goes beyond closing the cost gap – participating states and tribes could use this money to hire additional faculty, ensure professors get professional development opportunities, and increase students’ access to educational opportunities.
  • Triple funding for the Work-Study Program. … Today, this program provides about $1,760 per year to some 700,000 students. When we are in the White House, we will expand the program to reach at least 2.1 million students – a 1.4 million student increase. And we will ensure that funding targets schools that have large low-income student enrollment.
  • Provide $1.3 billion to private, nonprofit HBCUs and MSIs per year to eliminate or significantly reduce tuition and fees. This funding would support some 200 schools which serve at least 35 percent low-income students.
  • Double funding for the TRIO Programs and increases funding for the GEAR UP Program so more low-income students, students with disabilities, and first-generation students can attend and graduate college with a degree. By increasing our investment in these programs, we will reach 1.5 million students through TRIO programs and more than 100,000 additional students through GEAR UP than the program reaches today.

Public education

As president, Bernie Sanders will:

  • Increase federal funding for community-driven strategies to desegregate schools.
  • Triple Title I funding to ensure at-risk schools get the funding they need.
  • Establish a dedicated fund to create and expand teacher-training programs at HBCUs, minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and tribal colleges and universities to increase educator diversity.
  • Fully fund the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
  • Fund school transportation to help integration.
  • Increase funding for public magnet schools to $1 billion annually to help integrate our schools.
  • Increase access to English as a Second Language instruction.
  • Ban for-profit charter schools and support the NAACP’s moratorium on public funds for charter school expansion until a national audit has been completed to determine the impact of charter growth in each state. That means halting the use of public funds to underwrite new charter schools.
  • Charter schools must be made accountable by:
    • Mandating that they comply with the same oversight requirements as public schools.
    • Mandating that at least half of all charter school boards are teachers and parents.
    • Disclosing student attrition rates, non-public funding sources, financial interests and other relevant data.
    • Matching employment practices at charters with neighboring district schools, including standards set by collective bargaining agreements and restrictions on CEO pay.
    • Supporting the efforts of charter school teachers to unionize.
  • Rethink the link between property taxes and education funding.
  • Establish a national per-pupil spending floor.
  • Eliminate barriers to college-readiness exams by ensuring states cover fees for the ACT, SAT and other college preparatory exams for all students.
  • Provide schools with the resources needed to shrink class sizes.
  • Provide $5 billion annually for career and technical education.
  • Ensure schools in rural communities, indigenous communities, Puerto Rico and other U.S. Territories receive equitable funding.
  • Give schools the funding needed to support arts, foreign language and music education.
  • Ensure that the federal government provides at least 50 percent of the funding for special education.
  • Guarantee children with disabilities an equal right to high-quality education by enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Address the shortage in special education teacher recruitment, training opportunities, workload and pay.
  • Set a starting salary for teachers at no less than $60,000 tied to cost of living, years of service, and other qualifications; and allowing states to go beyond that floor based on geographic cost of living.
  • End racial and gender disparities in teacher pay.
  • Triple the above-the-line tax deduction for educator expenses and index it to inflation to reimburse teachers for the nearly $500 on average they spend on out of pocket classroom expenses each year.
  • Create a grant program to provide teachers with funds explicitly meant for classroom materials.
  • Empower teachers to provide a teacher-supported curriculum.
  • Spend $5 billion annually to substantially expand access to summer and after-school programs, teen centers and tutoring.
  • Provide year-round, free universal school meals; breakfast, lunch and snacks through our school meals programs, and offer incentives for sourcing food from local sources.
  • Expand Summer EBT across the country to ensure no student goes hungry during the summer.
  • Pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act into law to protect the rights of LGBTQ students.
  • Protect students from harassment, discrimination, and violence in educational institutions by protecting and enforcing Title IX.
  • Enact gun violence prevention laws to end the epidemic of gun violence in this country and in our schools.
  • Ensure that immigrant children and their parents are free from harassment and surveillance at school, regardless of their immigration status.

Workplace democracy

Bernie’s pro-union plan would:

  • Provide unions the ability to organize through a majority sign up process, allowing the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to certify a union if it receives the consent of the majority of eligible workers. …
  • Enact “first contract” provisions to ensure companies cannot prevent a union from forming by denying a first contract. Employers would be required to begin negotiating within 10 days of receiving a request from a new union. If no agreement is reached after 90 days of negotiation, the parties can request to enter a compulsory mediation process. If no first contract is reached after 30 more days of mediation, the parties would have a contract settlement through binding arbitration.
  • Eliminate the “Right to Work for Less.” Bernie’s plan would repeal Section 14(b) of the Taft Hartley Act, which has allowed 28 states to pass legislation that eliminates the ability of unions to collect dues from those who benefit from union contracts and activities, undermining the unions’ representation of workers.
  • Give federal workers the right to strike. …
  • Make sure every public sector union in America has the freedom to negotiate.  …
  • Require companies that merge to honor existing union contracts.  …
  • Deny federal contracts to employers that pay poverty wages, outsource jobs overseas, engage in union busting, deny good benefits and pay CEOs outrageous compensation packages.  …
  • Ban the permanent replacement of striking workers.  …
  • Protect the pensions of workers. 
  • Establish federal protections against the firing of workers for any reason other than “just cause.”  When Bernie is president he will fight to make sure workers cannot be fired “at will.”
  • Create a sectoral collective bargaining system with wage boards to set minimum standards across industries, not just employer-by-employer.  In addition, under this plan all cities, counties, and other local jurisdictions would have the freedom to establish their own minimum wage laws and guarantee other minimum standards for workers.
  • Guarantee the right to unionize for all workers. Bernie will ensure farm workers and domestic workers, historically excluded from labor protections, are afforded the same standards as all workers, including the right to overtime pay and to join a union. He will enact a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to secure safe working conditions, collective bargaining, and a living wage for domestic workers.
  • Allow for secondary boycotts. This plan reinstates a union’s freedom of speech to take action to pressure clients and suppliers of companies opposing unions.

Social Security

Today, a billionaire pays the same amount of money into Social Security as someone who makes $132,900 a year because the Social Security payroll tax is capped.  Bernie’s Social Security plan would lift this cap and apply the payroll tax on all income above $250,000 in order to accomplish four things:

  • We will make sure that Social Security will pay every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 52 years.
  • We will expand benefits across-the-board including a $1,300 a year benefit increase for seniors with incomes of $16,000 a year or less.
  • We will increase the minimum benefits paid to low-income workers when they retire.
  • We will increase cost-of-living adjustments to keep up with the rising cost of health care and prescription drugs by establishing a Consumer Price Index for the Elderly.

Housing

When Bernie is president, he will:

  • Invest $1.48 trillion over 10 years in the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund to build, rehabilitate, and preserve the 7.4 million quality, affordable and accessible housing units necessary to eliminate the affordable housing gap, which will remain affordable in perpetuity. Units constructed with this funding will be eligible to be located in mixed-income developments.
  • Invest an additional $400 billion to build 2 million mixed-income social housing units to be administered through the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which will help desegregate and integrate communities.
  • Expand USDA’s Section 515 program by $500 million to build new affordable developments in rural areas, and protect existing units from being converted to market rate housing.
  • Increase funding for the Indian Housing Block Grant Program to $3 billion.
  • Invest $70 billion to repair and modernize public housing, including making all public housing accessible and provide access to high-speed broadband for all public housing residents.
  • Ensure that public housing has high-quality, shared community spaces.
  • Fully fund tenant-based Section 8 rental assistance at $410 billion over the next 10 years and make it a mandatory funding program for all eligible households.
  • Strengthen the Fair Housing Act and implement a Section 8 non-discrimination law, so that landlords can no longer discriminate against low-income families based on their source of income.
  • Expand and strengthen enforcement of the Small Area Fair Market Rent rule to make sure that landlords are fairly compensated when they participate in Section 8, but do not make a windfall from the program.
  • Enact a national cap on annual rent increases at no more than 3 percent or 1.5 times the Consumer Price Index (whichever is higher) to help prevent the exploitation of tenants at the hands of private landlords. Allow for landlords to apply for waivers if significant capital improvements are made.
  • Allow states and cities to pass even stronger rent control standards.
  • Implement a “just-cause” requirement for evictions, which would allow a landlord to evict a tenant only for specific violations.
  • Provide $2 billion in federal matching grants for states and localities to provide a right to counsel for persons in eviction or foreclosure proceedings, or at risk of losing their Section 8 rental assistance.
  • Create an office within the Department of Housing and Urban Development to coordinate and work with states and municipalities to strengthen rent control and tenant protections, implement fair and inclusive zoning ordinances, streamline review processes and direct funding where these changes are made.
  • Pre-empt laws that prevent inclusionary zoning for luxury developments.
  • Make federal funding contingent on creating livable communities. Encourage zoning and development that promotes integration and access to public transportation to reduce commuting time, congestion and long car commutes. Prioritize projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create walkable and livable communities, and reduce urban sprawl.
  • Encourage zoning and development designed to expand and maximize the number of units fully accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Place a 25 percent House Flipping tax on speculators who sell a non-owner-occupied property, if sold for more than it was purchased within 5 years of purchase.
  • Impose a 2 percent Empty Homes tax on the property value of vacant, owned homes to bring more units into the market and curb the use of housing as speculative investment.
  • Encourage “circuit breakers” on property taxes to protect homeowners in gentrifying neighborhoods from being priced out of their own homes as their property values rise.
  • Prioritize 25,000 National Affordable Housing Trust Fund units in the first year to house the homeless.
  • Double McKinney-Vento homelessness assistance grants to more than $26 billion over the next five years to build permanent supportive housing.
  • Provide $500 million in funding to states and localities to provide outreach to the homeless to help connect them to case management and social services.
  • Create an independent National Fair Housing Agency similar to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau dedicated to protecting renters from housing discrimination, investigating landlords who misuse Section 8 vouchers, and enforce housing standards for renters. The Fair Housing Agency will also conduct audits to hold landlords and sellers engaged in housing discrimination accountable.
  • Create an office within the Fair Housing Agency to protect mobile home residents from housing discrimination, rent instability and unjust evictions.
  • Fully fund the Fair Housing Assistance and Fair Housing Initiatives Programs at $1 billion over the next 10 years.
  • Pass the Equality Act to include LGBTQ+ Americans in the Fair Housing Act.
  • Make sure that people who have served their time are not excluded from public housing.
  • Guarantee that renters have the right to form tenants unions free from retaliation by landlords or managing agents.
  • Invest $50 billion over 10 years to provide grants to start and expand community land trusts and other shared equity homeownership models. This funding will enable more than 1 million households to purchase affordable homes over the next 25 years.
  • Invest an additional $15 billion to enact a 21st Century Homestead Act to purchase and revitalize abandoned properties to create community and individual wealth and assets for historically disadvantaged communities.
  • Invest an additional $2 billion at USDA and an additional $6 billion at HUD to create a first-time homebuyer assistance program.
  • Expand pre-purchase housing counseling to all prospective homebuyers.
  • End the mass sale of mortgages to Wall Street vulture funds and thoroughly investigate and regulate the practices of large rental housing investors and owners.
  • Make data such as evictions, rent increases, and safety violations for large landlords available to the public and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • Implement legislation to prevent “contract for deed” transactions and use existing authority to protect communities of color, which for too long have been exploited by this practice.

Veterans services

As president, Bernie will:

  • Work to fill the nearly 50,000 vacancies at the VA during his first year in office. The VA must hire the doctors, nurses and medical professionals necessary to provide the care that veterans need when they need it.
  • Ensure that all those with prior military service in every state and territory have access to the full complement of health care services they need to stay healthy and well.
  • Guarantee comprehensive dental care to all former service members.
  • Greatly expand access to VA mental health and suicide prevention services. …
  • Guarantee home and community based long-term care services. …
  • Provide more than $62 billion in new funding for VA infrastructure. …
  • Ensure VA providers have the option of appropriately prescribing medical marijuana to their patients.
  • Improve and simplify the claims process so veterans receive the compensation they have earned quickly, accurately, and without bureaucratic red tape.
  • Eliminate the VA benefits backlog. A Bernie Sanders Adminimstration will no longer tolerate more than 70,000 veterans having to wait more than 125 days for a determination on their benefits and up to seven years to wait for a decision by a Veterans Law Judge. …
  • Expand the list of injuries and illnesses presumed to be connected with military service. … Ensure that veterans exposed to toxic substances from asbestos and ionized radiation in World War II to Agent Orange in Vietnam to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan are compensated for the myriad of diseases associated with these chemicals.
  • Improve and expand VA’s comprehensive caregiver program. … Expand eligibility for the VA’s Caregiver Program to include not only those veterans with injuries connected to their military services but also illnesses, like cancer, blindness and dementia. … Their families also deserve to be compensated for the care they already provide; they deserve education on how to best care for their loved one, transportation to and from medical appointments, and respite care that allows them the time needed to care for themselves.
  • Ensure any service member discharged from the military for marijuana use or possession can apply for a discharge upgrade, so they can become eligible for the full complement of services and benefits provided by the VA.
  • Immediately terminate deportations of non-citizen members of our armed forces, veterans and their families.
  • Improve and simplify education benefits. …
  • Ensure access to better jobs and job training. …
  • Guarantee housing for veterans. …

Justice

As president, Bernie will:

  • Ban for-profit prisons.
  • Make prison phone calls and other communications such as video chats free of charge.
  • Audit the practices of commissaries and use regulatory authority to end price gouging and exorbitant fees.
  • Incentivize states and localities to end police departments’ reliance on fines and fees for revenue.
  • Remove the profit motive from our re-entry system and diversion, community supervision, or treatment programs, and ensure people leaving incarceration or participating in diversion, community supervision, or treatment programs can do so free of charge.
  • End the use of secured bonds in federal criminal proceedings.
  • Provide grants to states to reduce their pretrial detention populations, which are particularly high at the county level, and require states to report on outcomes as a condition of renewing their funding.
  • Withhold funding from states that continue the use of cash bail systems.
  • End federal programs that provide military equipment to local police forces.
  • Create a federally managed database of police use of deadly force.
  • Provide grants for states and cities to establish civilian oversight agencies with enforceable accountability mechanisms.
  • Establish federal standards for the use of body cameras, including establishing third-party agencies to oversee the storage and release of police videos.
  • Mandate criminal liability for civil rights violations resulting from police misconduct.
  • Ban the use of facial recognition software for policing.
  • Require and fund police officer training on implicit bias (to include biases based on race, gender, sexual orientation and identity, religion, ethnicity and class), cultural competency, de-escalation, crisis intervention, adolescent development, and how to interact with people with mental and physical disabilities.
  • Ban the practice of any law enforcement agency benefiting from civil asset forfeiture. Limit or eliminate federal criminal justice funding for any state or locality that does not comply.
  • Provide funding to states and municipalities to create civilian corps of unarmed first responders, such as social workers, EMTs, and trained mental health professionals, who can handle order maintenance violations, mental health emergencies, and low-level conflicts outside the criminal justice system, freeing police officers to concentrate on the most serious crimes.
  • Incentivize access to counseling and mental health services for officers.
  • Diversify police forces and academies and incentivize officers to live and work in the communities they serve.
  • Triple congressional spending on indigent defense, to $14 billion annually.
  • Establish federal guidelines and goals for a right to counsel, including policies that reduce the number of cases overall.
  • Create a federal agency to provide support and oversight for state public defense services.
  • Abolish the death penalty.
  • End mandatory sentencing minimums.
  • Reinstate a federal parole system and end truth-in-sentencing. People serving long sentences will undergo a “second look” process to make sure their sentence is still appropriate.
  • End “three strikes” laws. No one should spend their life behind bars for committing minor crimes, even if they commit several of them.
  • Expand the use of sentencing alternatives, including community supervision and publicly funded halfway houses. This includes funding state-based pilot programs to establish alternatives to incarceration, including models based on restorative justice and free access to treatment and social services.
  • Legalize marijuana and vacate and expunge past marijuana convictions, and ensure that revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.
  • Provide people struggling with addiction with the health care they need by guaranteeing health care — including inpatient and outpatient substance abuse and mental health services with no co-payments or deductibles — to all people as a right, not a privilege, through a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program.
  • Decriminalize possession of buprenorphine, which helps to treat opioid addiction, and ensure that first responders carry naloxone to prevent overdoses.
  • Raise the threshold for when drug charges are federalized, as federal charges carry longer sentences.
  • Ban the prosecution of children under the age of 18 in adult courts.
  • Work to ensure that all juvenile facilities are designed for rehabilitation and growth.
  • Ensure youth are not jailed or imprisoned for misdemeanor offenses.
  • Ensure juveniles are not be housed in adult prisons.
  • End solitary confinement for youth.
  • Abolish long mandatory minimum sentences and life-without-parole sentences for youth.
  • Eliminate criminal charges for school-based disciplinary behavior that would not otherwise be criminal and invest in school nurses, counselors, teachers, teaching assistants, and small class sizes to address disciplinary issues.
  • Ensure every school has the necessary school counselors and wrap-around services by providing $5 billion annually to expand the sustainable community school model.
  • End the use of juvenile fees.
  • Decriminalize truancy for all youth and their parents.
  • Eliminate federal incentives for schools to implement zero-tolerance policies.
  • Invest in local youth diversion programs as alternatives to the court and prison system.
  • Work with teachers, school administrators, and the disability rights movement to end restraint and seclusion discipline in schools.

Enact a Prisoner Bill of Rights that guarantees:

  • Ending solitary confinement.
  • Access to free medical care in prisons and jails, including professional and evidence-based substance abuse and trauma-informed mental health treatment.
  • Incarcerated trans people have access to all the health care they need.
  • Access to free educational and vocational training. This includes ending the ban on Pell Grants for all incarcerated people without exceptions.
  • Living wages and safe working conditions, including maximum work hours, for all incarcerated people for their labor.
  • The right to vote.
  • Ending prison gerrymandering, ensuring incarcerated people are counted in their communities, not where they are incarcerated.
  • Establishment of an Office of Prisoner Civil Rights and Civil Liberties within the Department of Justice to investigate civil rights complaints from incarcerated individuals and provide independent oversight to make sure that prisoners are housed in safe, healthy, environments.
  • Protection from sexual abuse and harassment, including mandatory federal prosecution of prison staff who engage in such misconduct.
  • Access to their families — including unlimited visits, phone calls, and video calls.
  • A determination for the most appropriate setting for people with disabilities and safe, accessible conditions for people with disabilities in prisons and jails.
  • Create a federal agency responsible for monitoring re-entry.
  • “Ban the box” by removing questions regarding conviction histories from job and other applications.
  • Enact fair chance licensing reform to remove restrictions on occupational licensure based on criminal history.
  • Increase funding for re-entering youth programs. We will also pass a massive youth jobs program to provide jobs and job-training opportunities for disadvantaged young Americans who face high unemployment rates.
  • Guarantee safe, decent, affordable housing.
  • Guarantee jobs and free job training at trade schools and apprenticeship programs.
  • Provide funding to end the national rape kit backlog and institute new rules requiring that rape kits be tested and that victims are provided with updates on the status of their rape kits.
  • Address gender-based violence on college campuses.
  • Provide housing assistance and paid leave for victims of sexual assault.
  • Expand non-police interventions for domestic violence, including a national help hotline and state-funded, long-term counseling.
  • Invest in diversion programs as alternatives to the court and prison system for people with disabilities and ensure those people have the community-based supports and services they need.

Wealth tax

This tax on extreme wealth would have a progressive rate structure that would only apply to the wealthiest 180,000 households in America who are in the top 0.1 percent.

It would start with a 1 percent tax on net worth above $32 million for a married couple. That means a married couple with $32.5 million would pay a wealth tax of just $5,000.

The tax rate would increase to 2 percent on net worth from $50 to $250 million, 3 percent from $250 to $500 million, 4 percent from $500 million to $1 billion, 5 percent from $1 to $2.5 billion, 6 percent from $2.5 to $5 billion, 7 percent from $5 to $10 billion, and 8 percent on wealth over $10 billion. These brackets are halved for singles.

Under this plan, the wealth of billionaires would be cut in half over 15 years, which would substantially break up the concentration of wealth and power of this small privileged class.

Where he stands: Joe Biden

One in a series profiling Democratic presidential candidates – in their own words:

 

https://joebiden.com/joes-vision/

 

The middle class isn’t a number — it’s a set of values. Owning your home. Sending your kids to college. Being able to save and get ahead. Across the country, too many families are being left behind. The next president needs to understand what the current one doesn’t: In America, no matter where you start in life, there should be no limit to what you can achieve.

We need to rebuild the middle class, and this time make sure everybody comes along — regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.

Immigration

In the first 100 days, a Biden Administration will:

  • Immediately reverse the Trump Administration’s … policies that separate parents from their childrenat our border. …
  • End Trump’s … asylum policies. 
  • End the mismanagement of the asylum system, which fuels violence and chaos at the border.Trump’s … policy of “metering” — limiting the number of asylum applications accepted each day — forces people seeking asylum to wait on the streets in often dangerous Mexican border towns for weeks before they are permitted to apply. … Biden will … ensure asylum applications are processed fairly and efficiently, while treating families and children with compassion and sensitivity.
  • Surge humanitarian resources to the border and foster public-private initiatives. …
  • End prolonged detention and reinvest in a case management program. …
  • Reverse Trump’s public charge rule. … Allowing immigration officials to make an individual’s ability to receive a visa or gain permanent residency contingent on their use of government services such as SNAP benefits or Medicaid, their household income, and other discriminatory criteria undermines America’s character as land of opportunity that is open and welcoming to all, not just the wealthy.
  • End the so-called National Emergency that siphons federal dollars from the Department of Defense to build a wall. …
  • Protect Dreamers and their families. 
  • Rescind the un-American travel and refugee bans, also referred to as “Muslim bans.” … Prohibiting Muslims from entering the country is morally wrong, and there is no intelligence or evidence that suggests it makes our nation more secure. …
  • Order an immediate review of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for vulnerable populations who cannot find safety in their countries ripped apart by violence or disaster.
  • Ensure that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel abide by professional standards and are held accountable for inhumane treatment. 
  • Protect and expand opportunities for people who risked their lives in military service. 
  • Restore and defend the naturalization process for green card holders. … Biden will … remove roadblocks to naturalization and obtaining the right to vote, addressing the application backlog by prioritizing the adjudication workstream and ensuring applications are processed quickly, and rejecting the imposition of unreasonable fees.
  • Revitalize the Task Force on New Americans by… promoting immigrant entrepreneurship, increasing access to language instruction, and promoting civil engagement.
  • Convene a regional meeting of leaders, including from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Canada, to address the factors driving migration and to propose a regional resettlement solution. Migration out of the Northern Triangle has impacted more countries than just the U.S. Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico, and others have also seen growing numbers fleeing violence and a lack of opportunity. A regional problem requires a regional solution, so Biden will immediately convene regional partners to institute a comprehensive, multi-national plan to address the challenges.

Biden will work with Congress to pass legislation that:

  • Creates a roadmap to citizenship for the nearly 11 million people … who register, are up-to-date on their taxes, and have passed a background check. …
  • Reforms the temporary visa system. 
  • Provides a path to legalization for agricultural workers who have worked for years on U.S. farms and continue to work in agriculture. 
  • Preserves preferences for diversity in the current system. … The Diversity Visa lottery … brings up to 50,000 immigrants from underrepresented countries to the U.S. each year.
  • Increases the number of visas offered for permanent, work-based immigration based on macroeconomic conditions. Currently, the number of employment-based visas is capped at 140,000 each year, without the ability to be responsive to the state of the labor market or demands from domestic employers. As president, Biden will work with Congress to increase the number of visas awarded for permanent, employment-based immigration — and promote mechanisms to temporarily reduce the number of visas during times of high U.S. unemployment. He will also exempt from any cap recent graduates of PhD programs in STEM fields in the U.S. …
  • Creates a new visa category to allow cities and counties to petition for higher levels of immigrants to support their growth. 
  • Enforces the rules to protect American and foreign workers alike. The U.S. immigration system must guard against economy-wide wage cuts due to exploitation of foreign workers by unscrupulous employers who undercut the system by hiring immigrant workers below the market rate or go outside the immigration system to find workers. Biden will work with Congress to ensure that employers are not taking advantage of immigrant workers and that U.S. citizen workers are not being undercut by employers who don’t play by the rules. …

Violence against women

Biden wrote the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, established the first White House Advisor on Violence Against Women during the Obama-Biden Administration, and launched a national campaign to change the culture surrounding campus rape and sexual assault.

As President, Biden will: …

  • Expand the safety net for survivors
  • Empower and protect young people
  • Confront online harassment, abuse and stalking
  • Ensure justice for survivors
  • End the rape kit backlog
  • Address the deadly combination of guns and domestic violence
  • Change the culture that enables sexual violence
  • Support the diverse needs of survivors of violence against women
  • Protect and empower immigrant women, and
  • Lead the global effort to end gender-based violence

Veterans programs

… a Biden Administration will:

  • Rebuild trust in the Department of Veterans Affairs. …
  • Conduct a thorough assessment of the staffing needs and requirements across the VA to inform specific hiring initiatives and programs for attracting and retaining medical professionals. This includes ensuring that professionals are working to the full scope of their license and creating incentives to support health care professionals joining the VA workforce.
  • Refine and update Community Care Guidelines, ensuring that if a veteran is referred to a community care provider that does not meet the same level of access and quality as the VA,  the veteran will be referred back to the VA. …
  • Establish cultural competency training protocols to ensure that providers in VA facilities and in community care settings understand and are equipped to support the needs of LGBTQ veterans in the health care setting.
  • Work with Congress to improve health services for women veterans. Biden will ensure that each VA Medical Center has at least one full-time women’s primary care physician; and, within 200 days of taking office, make available a women veterans training module for community health care providers. …
  • Provide funding to ensure there is safe, reliable child care at all VA Medical Centers.
  • Work with Congress to eliminate co-pays for preventive health care for veterans …
  • Expand the list of presumptive conditions to ensure no veteran who experienced a TBI or had exposure to burn pits or other environmental toxins goes without access to VA health care and benefits. …
  • Ensure that disabled veterans that require a prosthesis are able to access the most modern prosthetics technology available, and that they are able to upgrade their equipment at no cost as new developments occur.
  • Expand funding for direct and purchase-care treatment for disorders related to the misuse of alcohol and opioids in order to reduce … long wait-times for treatment.
  • A Biden Administration will support the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes and reschedule cannabis as a schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts. …
  • Increase funding for and expand access to telehealth through the VA, particularly in rural areas not able to access timely care.
  • Modernize VA hospitals and clinics to serve our veterans better through a nationwide infrastructure plan that provides a comprehensive refresh of VA health facilities. …
  • Create safe, modern, clean, and recovery-oriented housing for veterans being treated for SUDs and those who are homeless by refurbishing buildings condemned or not in use, such as the massive VA Los Angeles campus.

Education

A Biden Administration will:

  • Provide two years of community college or other high-quality training program without debt for any hard-working individual looking to learn and improve their skills to keep up with the changing nature of work. 
  • Create a new grant program to assist community colleges in improving their students’ success.… Reforms could include academic and career advising services; dual enrollment; credit articulation agreements; investing in wages, benefits, and professional development to recruit and retain faculty, including teacher residencies; and improvements to remediation programs. The Biden plan will also help community colleges around the country scale successful programs to help a larger number of students.
  • Tackle barriers that prevent students from completing their community college degree or training credential. There are too many Americans who don’t complete their education or training programs not because of a lack of will, but because of other responsibilities they are juggling, such as a job to pay their bills or caring for children. Often these students and their families also face housing and food insecurity. The Biden Administration’s community college initiative will be a first-dollar program, meaning that students will be able to use their Pell grants, state aid, and other aid to help them cover expenses beyond tuition and fees. In addition, the Biden plan will give states financial incentives to foster collaboration between community colleges and community-based organizations to provide wraparound support services for students, especially veterans, single parents, low-income students, students of color, and students with disabilities who may face unique challenges. …
  • Make a $50 billion investment in workforce training, including community-college business partnerships and apprenticeships. 
  • Invest in community college facilities and technology.Biden will invest $8 billion to help community colleges improve the health and safety of their facilities, and equip their schools with new technology. …
  • Double the maximum value of Pell grants, significantly increasing the number of middle-class Americans who can participate in the program. Pell grants help 7 million students a year afford college, but they have not kept up with the rising cost of college. …
  • More than halve payments on undergraduate federal student loans by simplifying and increasing the generosity of today’s income-based repayment program. Under the Biden plan, individuals making $25,000 or less per year will not owe any payments on their undergraduate federal student loans and also won’t accrue any interest on those loans. Everyone else will pay 5% of their discretionary income (income minus taxes and essential spending like housing and food) over $25,000 toward their loans. This plan will save millions of Americans thousands of dollars a year. After 20 years, the remainder of the loans for people who have responsibly made payments through the program will be 100% forgiven. Individuals with new and existing loans will all be automatically enrolled in the income-based repayment program, with the opportunity to opt out if they wish. …
  • Make loan forgiveness work for public servants. … Biden will create a … program which offers $10,000 of undergraduate or graduate student debt relief for every year of national or community service, up to five years. Individuals working in schools, government, and other non-profit settings will be automatically enrolled in this forgiveness program; up to five years of prior national or community service will also qualify. …
  • Create a “Title I for post-secondary education” to help students at under-resourced four-year schools complete their degrees. The Biden Administration will establish a new grant program to support under-resourced four-year schools that serve large numbers of Pell-eligible students. The funds will be used to foster collaboration between colleges and community-based organizations to provide wraparound support services for students, especially veterans, single parents, low-income students, students of color, and students with disabilities who may face unique challenges. …
  • Prioritize the use of work-study funds for job-related and public service roles. Biden will work to reform federal work study programs to ensure that more of these funds place students in roles where they are either learning skills valuable for their intended careers, or contributing to their communities by mentoring students in K-12 classrooms and community centers. …
  • Crack down on private lenders profiteering off of students and allow individuals holding private loans to discharge them in bankruptcy. In 2015, the Obama-Biden Administration called for Congress to pass a law permitting the discharge of private student loans in bankruptcy. As president, Biden will enact this legislation. …
  • Support and protect post-9/11 GI benefits for veterans and qualified family members. …

Gun violence

As president, Biden will:

  • Ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. …
  • Regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act.
  • Buy back the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines already in our communities.
  • Reduce stockpiling of weapons. … Biden supports legislation restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one. …
  • Require background checks for all gun sales.
  • Reinstate the Obama-Biden policy to keep guns out of the hands of certain people unable to manage their affairs for mental reasons …
  • Close the “hate crime loophole.” Biden will enact legislation prohibiting an individual “who has been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime, or received an enhanced sentence for a misdemeanor because of hate or bias in its commission” from purchasing or possessing a firearm.
  • Close the “Charleston loophole.” The Charleston loophole allows people to complete a firearms purchase if their background check is not completed within three business days. Biden supports the proposal in the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, which extends the timeline from three to 10 business days. …
  • End the online sale of firearms and ammunitions. 
  • Create an effective program to ensure individuals who become prohibited from possessing firearms relinquish their weapons. 
  • Incentivize state “extreme risk” laws, also called “red flag” laws, which enable family members or law enforcement officials to temporarily remove an individual’s access to firearms when that individual is in crisis and poses a danger to themselves or others. Biden will incentivize the adoption of these laws by giving states funds to implement them. And, he’ll direct the U.S. Department of Justice to issue best practices and offer technical assistance to states interested in enacting an extreme risk law.
  • Give states incentives to set up gun licensing programs. …
  • Adequately fund the background check system.

Health care

As president, Biden will:

  • Give Americans … a public health insurance option like Medicare.
  • Increase the value of tax credits to lower premiums and extend coverage to more working Americans.
  • Expand coverage to low-income Americans.
  • Offer middle class families a premium tax credit to help them pay for coverage. For example, take a family of four with an income of $110,000 per year. If they currently get insurance on the individual marketplace, because their premium will now be capped at 8.5% of their income, under the Biden Plan they will save an estimated $750 per month on insurance alone. That’s cutting their premiums almost in half. If a family is covered by their employer but can get a better deal with the 8.5% premium cap, they can switch to a plan on the individual marketplace, too.
  • Stop “surprise billing.” This could occur, for example, if you go to an in-network hospital but don’t realize a specialist at that hospital is not part of your health plan. The Biden Plan will bar health care providers from charging patients out-of-network rates when the patient doesn’t have control over which provider the patient sees (for example, during a hospitalization). …
  • Repeal the … exception allowing drug corporations to avoid negotiating with Medicare over drug prices.
  • Limit launch prices for drugs that face no competition and are being abusively priced by manufacturers.
  • Limit price increases for all brand, biotech, and abusively priced generic drugs to the inflation rate.
  • Allow consumers to buy prescription drugs from other countries.
  • Terminate pharmaceutical corporations’ tax break for advertisement spending.
  • Improve the supply of quality generics.
  • Expand access to contraception and protect the constitutional right to an abortion.
  • Restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
  • Defend health care protections for all, regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
  • Double America’s investment in community health centers, which provide primary, prenatal, and other care to underserved populations.
  • Expand access to mental health care.

Agriculture

Biden will strengthen our agricultural sector by:

  • Pursuing a trade policy that works for American farmers. …
  • Support beginning farmers.  … The Biden Administration will expand the Obama-Biden Administration’s micro-loan program for new and beginning farmers, doubling the maximum loan amount to $100,000. And it will increase funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s farm ownership and operating loans that typically serve beginning farmers who grew up on a family farm but need low-cost capital to add to their family’s operation to support another household.
  • Foster the development of regional food systems.
  • Re-invest in land grant universities’ agricultural research so the public, not private companies, owns patents to agricultural advances.
  • Partner with farmers to make American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions, giving farmers new sources of income in the process.
  • Strengthen antitrust enforcement. From the inputs they depend on – such as seeds – to the markets where they sell their products, American farmers and ranchers are being hurt by increasing market concentration. The Biden Administration will protect small and medium-sized farmers and producers by strengthening enforcement of the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts and the Packers and Stockyards Act.
  • Expand bio-based manufacturing to bring cutting-edge manufacturing jobs back to rural America. The Biden Administration will create a low-carbon manufacturing sector in every state in the country, but not just in cities. …
  • Promote ethanol and the next generation of biofuels.
  • Invest in wind and solar energy.
  • Invest $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure, and triple funding to expand broadband access in rural areas. 
  • Invest in green infrastructure nationwide.
  • Expand access to credit for new and small businesses. … The Biden Administration will dramatically expand funding for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program to help rural entrepreneurs. Biden will expand the number of Rural Business Investment Companies to help rural companies obtain capital.

Together, we find solutions

“I’m hungry. I need a box.”

Several clients have said this to me as I check them in at We Care We Share, a food pantry and clothing closet on East 31st Street in South Lorain, Ohio.

Residents across the county can pick up a food box every four weeks at our food pantry. There are other pantries around and many of our patrons visit them as well. There’s nothing wrong with that.

People are hungry.

In the United States.

Food insecurity

One in five children in Ohio is “food insecure,” John Corlett, president and executive director of the Cleveland-based Center for Community Solutions, told several hundred of us who attended the inaugural Child Hunger Summit on Thursday at Lorain County Community College in Elyria.

Corlett defined food insecurity as “a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life.”

One in five children lives in such a household. 20 percent of our impressionable young people.

Hunger stretches beyond an empty stomach, Corlett continued. Children in food-insecure households have higher rates of asthma, depression, ADHD (which can lead to discipline and behavior issues in school) and hospital emergency room visits. Food-insecure parents have more stress, anxiety, depression and anger, Corlett said.

A comprehensive approach

That’s why the Lorain-based Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio hosted the Child Hunger Summit. The event brought together business professionals, educators, non-profit leaders, government officials and others to brainstorm ways to overcome food insecurity.

It takes a wide-ranging, comprehensive approach. Stagnant wages, unhealthy lifestyles and government programs that too often exclude those who need them all are issues that hungry people face.

Half of food-insecure families in Ohio don’t qualify for SNAP because they make a little too much money to qualify for the federal food assistance program, Corlett said.

Families seeking public assistance – and those who receive it – often are stigmatized as lazy people who sit around accepting handouts. But most people on assistance programs, including SNAP, hold down one or more jobs and still can’t make ends meet, Corlett said.

He advocated expanding basic programs such as SNAP and WIC – which assists pregnant women and families with infants and children up to age 5 – to reach more people who need them.

Living wages

He also urged employers to provide living wages.

While not a poverty issue, this is a main sticking point in the United Auto Workers’ strike against General Motors Corp., which began earlier this week. Many workers, especially new hires, can’t afford to buy the vehicles they make.

Autoworkers also are seeking job security, noting that GM made a big profit last year – $35 billion, according to some accounts.

At the We Care We Share food pantry, I see families – often with a single mom as head of household – who move frequently. It’s not unusual for the address in our computer to be different than the address on her driver’s license. It’s also not unusual for her to give me yet another address.

Food insecurity has many ramifications.

I don’t probe, but I wonder if at least some of these families were evicted. Or at least have trouble making a rent payment.

Improvements uneven

Statistics show that food insecurity has dropped a little since 2008 as the economy has improved, but Corlett noted that the economic gains have been uneven. Wages have not kept pace, he said. And in 2016, household food insecurity was twice as bad for families led by African-American or Hispanic parents than for families led by whites.

The federal government can help food-insecure families, Corlett said. The Earned Income Tax Credit is the best government program to reduce poverty by providing income through the tax system, he said.

Second best is SNAP, followed by the child care tax credit.

SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – reduces adult obesity by 16 percentage points and increases the likelihood of children completing high school by 18 percentage points, he said. (The median SNAP benefit for households with young children is $12.86 per day – often for a household of two or three people, so that money doesn’t go very far.)

And yet SNAP, WIC and Medicaid participation are dropping, for several potential reasons:

  • Those programs have been automated and not everyone has access to a computer. SNAP benefits are loaded on a card that recipients spend at stores that participate, for example.
  • Some needy residents do not speak fluent English, and there’s isn’t as much guidance from volunteers and government agencies to apply for and navigate these programs. (I’ve seen this at the food pantry as well. Thankfully, we have three Spanish-speaking volunteers who translate for us when a client speaks little or no English.) In the United States, Corlett said, more than 20 percent of families with children younger than 6 speak a language other than English at home.
  • WIC – a federal supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children – reaches about 52 percent of eligible participants in Lorain County, the same as the state average, said Marissa Wayner, WIC director for Lorain County Public Health in Elyria. That has declined in recent years. Fewer people are eligible, she said. Other issues include:
  • Lack of awareness of the program.
  • Not knowing who qualifies.
  • Federal immigration policies.
  • Stigma at the store: Am I buying unqualified items?

SNAP and other federal programs are not intended to provide all of a family’s food, said Sandy Moraco of Elyria-based Lorain County Department of Job & Family Services. The “S,” after all, stands for “Supplemental.”

Starting Oct. 1, Moraco said, eligible families may apply for SNAP benefits by phone: (844) 640-OHIO. That will save time and require fewer in-person visits by clients, she said.

Working together

The bottom line?

Food insecurity has multiple causes and requires multiple solutions. All of us in this country must work together to ensure that our residents have access to the most basic rights of human life.

A full stomach. Knowing where our next meal is coming from. Access to health care. A roof over our heads that we can afford.

I haven’t mentioned transportation, but that’s an issue too. We need a dependable way to get to work, to the doctor’s office, to the grocery store.

Most of us take these things for granted. We shouldn’t.

That’s why I volunteer at a food pantry. Perhaps there are other things I can do as well to help those around me overcome food insecurity.

Will you join me in this effort?

How to take back our country from politicians

Here in Ohio, I wish far left U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and very far right U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan had lost in Tuesday’s election (I voted that way so I can say that, right?).

That would have sent a clear message across the United States: We’ve had enough with partisan politics. Let’s learn to get along with each other again.

It didn’t happen, of course.

Brown, first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, received 53.2 percent of ballots cast. Jordan, serving since 2007 and founding member of the Freedom Caucus, received support from 65.4 percent of voters who cast a ballot in his U.S. House district.

Nationwide, Democrats regained control of the U.S. House and Republicans kept their dominance in the U.S. Senate. We’ll see how that plays out in the next two years.

National politics gets an awful lot of attention, far more than local politicians and tax issues do, which is too bad, really.

Locally, there weren’t any surprises in the political races.

Opioid issue defeated

Voters across the county decided quite a few tax requests, some renewals and some new millages. Results were mixed. A tax to fund a local opioid recovery program, for example, was defeated, 52 to 48 percent. That surprised me. Opioids affect all of us in some way, either with people we know who are affected by it or by the crimes addicts commit to finance their habit.

Is drug addiction an illness or a disease? Are individuals responsible for their habits? I think this played into the issue’s defeat. Rather than trying to help those who suffer, no matter how it began, we choose to blame them for getting addicted in the first place.

Prevention is the ideal, yes. But how to do that?

Volunteering at school

On another issue, the local school district renewal passed; I was glad to see that. I’m passionate about supporting our local public schools.

Not everyone is. I talked with a good friend who sent his now-grown children through Christian schools, and said he rejected all tax requests – including for schools – because he wishes the state offered vouchers so he wouldn’t have to pay for public education. Instead, his education dollars could be re-directed to a private school of his choice.

I don’t agree with him on this issue. Jesus wouldn’t either, in my opinion.

Jesus met the needs of people right where they were. He spent time with children, drug addicts, outcasts, immigrants, church leaders, politicians – all types of people. He didn’t create a separate church or school where he taught or expected children to attend. He preached on hillsides, yes, but then he sent everyone home. Be a Christian right where you live, he told them.

Public education in this country is available to all. If parents choose to send their children to a private school, that’s their choice. They should pay for their choice.

And private schools, including Christian-based schools, face the same social issues – bullying, teen pregnancy, drugs – that public schools do.

The vast majority of our nation’s residents can’t afford a private education or the transportation to get there, even if they wanted to send their children to one. Instead, we need to support our students and teachers – all of them. We need to give them the resources they need to do their jobs well, then hold them accountable for that.

Since my children also are long beyond the 12th grade, it’s easy for me to sit back and point fingers at those directly involved in public education. No. I need to get involved, and I do. I’ve been mentoring elementary school students for about a decade, even though we’ve lived in three states during that time. A couple of mentoring programs I’ve participated in have disbanded. I keep searching for another one.

I began doing this at Stone Elementary School in Saginaw, Mich., across the street from the church we attended. That was a low-pressure lunchtime program where mentors played a game or two and ate lunch one-on-one with a student.

When we moved to Rockford, Ill., I found a mentoring program within two months. In that program, I read with second-grade students for an hour in 15-minute segments, in the classroom. The teacher sent me students who needed the most help with reading. As a journalist, that was right up my alley, a win-win for everyone.

Here in northeast Ohio, I’ve served through several programs. One at Midview schools in Grafton disappeared after a year. The next one in Cleveland schools disbanded this summer. I recently found an elementary in Lorain, the next town over, and am just getting to know a fifth-grader there. And through our church, several of us are mentoring high school students in Lorain as well. That’s something new for me, but I’m excited about that too.

Instead of complaining about how our public schools are failing, let’s get involved. Locally, we can make a difference.

Reducing the influence of politicians

If your passion is visiting the sick in a hospital or spending time with drug addicts or pregnant teens or another issue, there are ways to offer support and encouragement. Such programs need money, yes, but they also need our involvement.

The one irrevocable asset we possess is time. Once it’s gone, we can never get it back. Let’s make it count.

Money? We can earn more. Politics? We get another chance every two or four years.

Giving money and voting for people and causes we believe in are important, of course.

But they aren’t enough. Let’s do something with our lives. Choose an issue or two you’re passionate about and make a difference.

We talk about taking back our country from the politicians. This is how we do it. We as citizens must take control of our own lives, and of public life as well.

One student at a time. One opioid addict at a time. One struggling marriage at a time. One pregnant teen at a time. One cancer victim at a time. One veteran at a time. One hungry child at a time. One lonely neighbor at a time.

Et cetera, et cetera.

Open your eyes. Opportunities are everywhere, literally.

Enough with the conservative-liberal hatred. Let’s change lives instead.

One person at a time.

Majoring in minor issues

My outlook on life is changing a little bit these days.

I’m much more detached when reading or watching the news. Politics, especially at the national level, doesn’t interest me much anymore.

I’d rather deal in real life.

Politics

For those of you who live and die by what the Democrats and/or Republicans do, I’m sure you won’t understand.

As a newspaper journalist for about three decades, I followed politics closely, because it sold papers.

Does it still?

Perhaps that’s one reason why what newspapers print isn’t the talk of the town anymore. Their editorial pages, as they have always done, focus on politics and not much else.

Not even government. Politics.

There’s a difference.

I rarely read any editorial page columns. They are so predictable. They say the same thing every day, using the issue of the day to promote their agenda.

Most of them these days slam President Trump. I get that.

But how many times do you have to say it?

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seemed to have an actual discourse leading to a summit, where they would talk about nuclear weapons, among other things.

The summit apparently fell through.

That was interesting, though.

But decades of mistrust can’t end in a few short weeks.

Maybe someday.

For the most part, the national discourse majors in minor issues.

Is kneeling during the National Anthem before NFL games really an issue worth dividing the country over?

Are school shootings really about gun control, or is something deeper at work there?

Do thoughts and prayers actually work? Do they change our outlook on life?

Sex

What’s the point of the #metoo movement, actually? Is it women’s rights, or is there something bigger at work there as well?

We are a sex-crazed society. We are massively messed up, and we all know it.

Exhibit A: #metoo.

Exhibit B: The divorce rate.

Exhibit C: Sex outside of marriage, including among teens, is not only normal, it is expected.

Exhibit D: Pornography is out of control in this country.

Exhibit E: Rape, sexual bondage, date rape …

Exhibit F: Clothing choices. How much cleavage is too much? Only for women, of course.

Exhibit G: Gender identity. Just the fact that we’re talking about this means we don’t know who we are anymore.

I don’t even have to quote statistics. You understand all of this because you experience it, or you know people who do.

But we won’t talk about it.

Not in a way that actually solves anything.

How do we expect to resolve the #metoo movement without talking about the role of sex in society? If sex outside of marriage is normal, why are we surprised when many men (and women) push the limits?

Nearly every song on the radio is about sex, some more blatantly than others. That’s been true for decades. I frequently listen to an oldies’ station that plays songs from my teen years. Talk about politically incorrect …

And yet we still play them. And listen.

Escape

Why are video games so popular? And illegal drugs? And porn?

Those are escapes from real life.

Real life is full of anxiety and stress. We don’t know how to solve real issues. Relationships. School. Jobs.

I’ve done the whole job search thing, and it’s not designed to bring out the best in anyone. It’s not even designed to connect passions with talent with careers. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time.

Some people say there’s no jobs out there. I see “now hiring” and “drivers wanted” and “positions available, all shifts” signs all over the place.

On the other end of the spectrum, highly technical jobs go unfilled because not enough of us are trained for them.

Most of us would prefer a job/career somewhere in the middle, something more than minimum wage and something that doesn’t require an advanced degree that we don’t have time for or can’t afford to get.

Are most of us left behind?

Dreams

I mentored a fourth-grade student in inner-city Cleveland this spring. He has no concept of a long-term future. All he thinks about is getting dissed by a classmate, for which he gets in trouble. He lives with his grandfather. His mother and two older sisters also are in Cleveland, but he doesn’t see them often. His dad is in Arizona, and my student hopes to move out there with him this summer. Cleveland is too violent, he says.

People are people wherever you go, I told him.

If he leaves Cleveland, will his life magically get better?

I doubt it.

How does arguing about President Trump’s tweets solve my fourth-grader’s lack of focus and maturity? How can he learn not to respond in anger when things don’t go his way?
His family is broken. His school is trying, but isn’t reaching him. His teacher can do only so much.

He got suspended recently for cussing out the school principal. Seriously.

Seriously?

A good friend of mine is a Big Brother to a teenager in another nearby city. That teen also lives in a broken home. Some days, he doesn’t feel like going to school, so he doesn’t.

Is there no big picture in this life?

No goals to aspire to?

No dreams?

Respect

In the mentoring program I’m involved in, we’re not allowed to talk about politics or religion. Too divisive. Yes, they are.

But is that how we solve problems, by saying that certain subjects are off-limits?

I thought democracy meant all issues are on the table. By discussing, even debating, issues, we understand what’s too radical and what actually works.

We don’t know how to talk issues without talking personality. How can we talk about sex without condemning those who practice sex differently than we do? Can we disagree and still respect each other?

That’s what we’ve lost in this country. Respect.

For teachers. For parents. For the boss. For the mayor. For the police.

For ourselves.

I’m right. You’re wrong. The world revolves around me. I can set whatever rules for my life that I want.

And we wonder why we’re so messed up.

A motorcyclist passed me the other day in a right-turn lane. Another vehicle and I were stopped, waiting for traffic to clear before proceeding on to state Route 57, a 45 mph highway at that point. The motorcyclist passed us in the turn lane and roared onto Route 57 before the other driver and I could move.

So much for “look out for motorcycles.” It goes both ways, you know.

Or, I wish you knew.

Faith

So, what is the big picture? How is my outlook changing?

While I can’t talk about my faith in school (unless my student brings it up first, of course), that’s where the answer lies. Not in your perception of faith, or mine, but in real faith.

In a God who wrote the big picture. Who wants the best for us.

Discipline is good, sometimes. My student doesn’t understand that. Most adults don’t either.

Good parents do understand that. Children need boundaries. If you’ve had children, you know this.

So, why do we think that we don’t need boundaries as adults?

Political boundaries change all the time. You and I think differently, so the boundaries I set may not work for you, and vice versa.

If we don’t like them, we can change them.

Why will we not look up? Put the video games down, look away from the porn, turn off the music. LeBron James and Steven Spielberg make far more money than you and I will ever see, but are they the best role models? Do they have all the answers?

When I talk about faith, I don’t even mean in a pastor or the Pope. Their interpretations of faith aren’t always right, either.

The best role model? Jesus Himself. And we killed Him.

If Jesus walked the Earth in the flesh today, we’d kill Him again. I’m sure of it.

We still don’t get it.

We’re searching for love in all the wrong places.

Haven’t heard that song in awhile.

Yes, taxes are necessary

What are the purposes of taxes? What should be your attitude toward paying them?

Those questions came up in a weekly Bible study I’m in. Our discussion leader skipped them, probably because the answers are – or should be – obvious.

We pay taxes for projects that you and I need but can’t afford to pay for on our own. Taxes pay to build and maintain roads, including plowing snow and fixing potholes. They pay for water and sewer projects (homeowners often have to pitch in for those). Our tax dollars pay for trash and recycling pickup every week. They pay for parks and recreation – we have awesome public parks where I live, and I don’t have to pay an entrance fee every time I visit one. They pay for libraries (remember those?). And public transportation.

Taxes pay for police and fire departments to protect us, court systems (including jails) to provide justice, and kindergarten-through-12th grade education to help our children prepare for adult life.

And that’s just local taxes (including countywide, in some cases). Here’s the 2016 fiscal year report for the city I live in, taken from the city’s web site. Page 18 includes a flow chart of what the city is all about.

http://www.cityofelyria.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/2016_City_of_Elyria_Ohio_CAFR.pdf

At the state level, taxes pay for other things, too. The biggest spending item – just over half the state’s budget – is “health and human services.” Second is “primary, secondary and other education,” followed by “higher education.”

https://obm.ohio.gov/Budget/operating/doc/fy-14-15/bluebook/budget/Section-C_14-15.pdf

At the national level, the three biggest federal programs are health care (including Medicare and Medicaid), pensions (including Social Security) and Defense.

Next come welfare, interest on the national debt, transportation, general government and protection.

https://www.usgovernmentspending.com/federal_budget_detail_fy19bs22018n

Communication crucial

What should our attitude be toward paying for such services? Hopefully, we pay willingly, since all of these services are needed.

At the local and state levels, those in charge of the budgets are required to balance income and spending. This often requires tough decisions because voters do not automatically approve taxes for every project – nor should we.

Sometimes voters get nitpicky or reactionary. Sometimes leaders ask for a Cadillac project when a Chevrolet version will do just fine. Our local school district in Michigan discovered this a number of years ago: Many school buildings were outdated and new schools in new locations were needed, and since voters had approved many previous school levies, leaders asked for a very expensive plan – which got shot down. They pared it back, asked voters for a smaller yet effective plan, and got that one approved.

Where we live now, voters recently approved a millage to build five new kindergarten-through-8th grade buildings around the city. We learned a couple of weeks ago that cost overruns led the planning consultants to recommend constructing only three buildings – on the north, east and west sides of town, leaving the south side without a neighborhood elementary/middle school.

As you might imagine, that plan isn’t going over so well. Meetings are being held, petitions are being circulated and pressure is mounting to keep the south side school in the plans.

This is the way democracy works. We expect leaders to follow through on promises. We expect budgets to be met. Creativity is required here.

This is why we pay taxes. Every local citizen has the right to express his or her viewpoint on this crucial issue. Our leaders will make the call, but they are accountable to us. And we will be heard.

The benefits of taxes

If we have a job, and if we own a home or even pay rent, we pay taxes. When our Founding Fathers set up our country more than 200 years ago, they set it up this way. We can tweak the system – are property taxes the best way to collect local funds? – but taxes will get collected in some form.

So often, we focus only on how much we pay. We need to be reminded of what we receive. We take trash collection for granted, for example (unless it’s not collected for some reason, in which case residents will howl very loudly). We want our street plowed in the winter, and complain when it’s one of the last to get cleared. (Hopefully traffic volume determines the priority for street plowing.) We recently learned that our city has only 10 employees that plow snow and fix potholes. For the entire city. No wonder they can’t clean every street the moment it snows.

We get what we pay for.

At the state level, they’re talking about combining the K-12 education budget with the higher education budget, creating one huge education department overseeing all of it. State leaders want to streamline everything; opponents say K-12 and higher education have different purposes, and should remain separate.

Not sure that plan will fly, but we’ll see.

No balanced budget, no decisions necessary

The federal government is not required to balance its budget, so Congress often avoids the tough discussions that local and state legislators must have. That skyrockets the federal debt. Is that sustainable?

I’m one of those who would like to see a mandated balanced budget, forcing legislators (and the president) to actually do their jobs. Not every constituent will be happy. Welcome to the real world. (Pork projects might actually get eliminated, since priorities would have to be set.)

We need a federally funded military to defend us across the world. I don’t think anyone would object to that. But how big should the military be? What weapons do we need, and which ones cost more than the benefits they provide?

I wish we could debate those things. At least, I wish our elected leaders would debate those things.

Are they spending our tax dollars wisely?

We have a right to ask that.

Taxes are a given. They pay for goods and services all of us need.

As we debate how our tax dollars are spent – locally, statewide and federally – let’s give thanks for the government structures that our Founding Fathers established.

The system is good. The devil is in the details.