People who work hard deserve a fair wage, a safe work environment, good benefits, and a chance to enjoy retirement security. Wages have not kept pace with inflation and buying power with the same dollar has decreased. I support the right of workers to collectively bargain for better pay and working conditions. America has lost good-paying jobs, including manufacturing jobs, overseas through out-sourcing. Trade policies need to look for ways to net export American goods and services and should prioritize fair trade with an eye toward creating American jobs. Investing in both people (education) and infrastructure (transit, roads, broadband) are smart investments in growing the American economy. Supporting small, local businesses helps create local jobs. I support equal pay for equal work.
The current Congress has failed our youth. Students and their families are now shouldering $1.3 trillion dollars in student debt, surpassing credit card debt. Whether it be skilled trades, community colleges or universities, youth and adults need affordable opportunities to get the training or re-training they need so they can pursue their dreams and make a living. We can help students, their families and our economy by reducing interest rates on student loans, making it easier to refinance existing debt, increasing merit and need-based scholarships, PELL grants, and through targeted loan forgiveness programs. The inflation of college tuition has been 1,140% from 1978 through present (compared to 631% for health care and a general inflation rate of 268.5%).
The recent Congress has been one of the least productive in recent history and we are facing a crisis of confidence in the fundamental American system of American democracy. We can and MUST do better. The current Congress has been plagued by obstructionism, shut-downs, threats of debt default, and a greater emphasis on scoring cheap political points over doing the people’s business. Congress is broken, ineffective and has not demonstrated responsible leadership on helping to solve America’s problems. There have always been disagreements between leaders in this nation but rather than debating how to best serve the people, the current Congress is simply talking (or yelling) over each other, rather than solving problems.
I support campaign finance reform, including the repeal of Citizens United. Every dollar spent in trying to shape our elections should be fully and honestly disclosed because the public has a right to know who is trying to buy the election or persuade their vote. The U.S. Constitution recognizes “one person one vote” and it should not be distorted into “one dollar one vote.” As large corporations have an expanded role in spending in our elections, ordinary citizens rightfully fear that their voice and vote no longer matter. I support lobbying reforms to provide greater transparency to the American public of who is spending how much money to pass or defeat each measure before Congress. I support increasing the power of the citizenry to meaningfully participate in the Congressional legislative process. This is why I wrote the book, Take Back Your Government: A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Change.
Our pensions are our promise to America’s workers and seniors. We should be judged by whether we honor or undermine that promise. I support strengthening Social Security and Medicare. I oppose privatizing Social Security or turning Medicare into a voucher program. I oppose increasing the retirement age or expanding for-profit interests in the Medicare system. Social Security has been critical to our economy for provision of survivor benefits, for people with disabilities and help for dependent children who lose a parent.
When we ask our men and women to serve and sacrifice for this country, we must honor our commitments to provide timely benefits when they return. This means timely access to education through the GI bill, health care, disability benefits and retirement benefits. This means acknowledging service-connection for illnesses caused by Agent Orange, traumatic brain injuries and PTSD. The veterans in our community deserved timely completion of the VA hospital with a mental health unit.
Our national policies should focus on inclusion and accommodation in our schools, affordable access to health care, good vocational rehabilitation and training, respite care and relief for those who are caretakers, increased reimbursement for in-home (non-institutional) health options, and protections against discrimination. Maximizing autonomy should be our goal so that everyone has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.
I love Colorado, our public lands, open spaces, parks, trails and quality of life. Our natural beauty also brings significant dollars into the economy for eco-tourism and recreation. I strongly support the transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. The clean technology and energy sector has created good jobs and boosted Colorado’s economy. I believe we need to recognize that there are finite resources on this planet and the geo-political instability it causes when we are fully dependent on them. I am committed to clean air, clean water, conserving our water and protecting our rivers.
We have a responsibility to invest in our public education system, reduce classroom sizes, and support special education needs for students with disabilities. I stand with the parents, students and teachers who are fighting to restore teaching back to the classroom and away from over-reliance on standardized testing at the expense of actual learning. Critical thinking skills empower our kids to become future leaders, entrepreneurs, valued employees, and strong citizens. There is no reason we can’t lead the world in educational excellence and give our kids the foundation they need to succeed.
America’s pursuit of liberty and justice is a work in progress and has not always been available for all. I support doing whatever is necessary to end discrimination in all its forms – whether based on race, sex, national origin, religion, disability or sexual orientation. I support the freedom for two consenting adults to love and marry whomever they choose. Mass incarceration, disproportionately of people of color, is a civil rights issue and our deeply broken immigration system is a human rights issue. We need comprehensive immigration reform that unites, rather than divides families. We are most American when we welcome refugees who face racial, religious, political or gender persecution in other countries.
Our first aim should always be to resolve differences through diplomacy and dialogue, whenever possible. Our goal should be to grow allies, not enemies and use armed conflict only as a truly last resort when failure to do so will result in compromise to American national security or ethnic cleansing or genocide. American attempts at nation-building have not been particularly successful so any entry into a conflict must be entertained only with a clear definition of what constitutes success and an exit strategy. Our goal should be to de-escalate conflict and violence wherever possible. Suspected terrorists should be promptly charged, tried, and if guilty, be fully brought to full justice. We should identify and interrupt terrorist communications, finances, and support structures whenever, wherever we can find them and pay attention to the hopeless, desperate conditions that make it easier for terrorists to recruit and prey upon others.