Let's FIX it!

Affordable Housing:  Affordable housing options for all citizens are vitally important for the health of America.  According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, families who spend more than 30% of their income on housing have difficulty paying for other necessities. A family with only one wage earner earning minimum wage can’t afford a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States. The shortage is becoming more critical in our district, with up to a 9,000 unit shortage in Greenville County alone. We must address these issues both by increasing the minimum wage to a living wage and by addressing issues of gentrification which cause people to no longer afford housing in neighborhoods where they have spent their entire lives.

Climate Change: Climate change denial cannot be taken seriously as an alternative political position. 2017 was the hottest year on record in the US and the third hottest worldwide. We must heed the science on this issue. Failure to do so could be catastrophic. We have too much CO2 in the atmosphere at 410 parts per million. It’s been millions of years since we’ve reached that level.  Although El Nino is partly to blame, the bulk of the blame lies with us. Backing out of the Paris Accord might bring cheers at a political rally, but it is not a globally responsible position. Educated political leaders must be willing to act. Coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystems on Earth and they are dying.  This affects jobs in the fishing industry and causes erosion of coastal areas of which South Carolina has one of the best. We can reverse course with a coordinated global effort to reduce emissions through green energy solutions.

Criminal Justice System Reform: Inequities in the criminal justice system have decimated entire segments of the American population. We must stop the school-to-prison pipeline now. Needs for prison cells are currently being projected based upon 3rd grade reading test scores. We have 5% of the world’s population and 20% of the world’s prison population. That's good for big business but bad for America.  For-profit prisons create a need to fill those prisons. We need to change our thinking from incarceration to rehabilitation.

Education: In America we start too late, saddle teachers with busy work, and then charge too much for higher education. We need to teach to the child, not to the test.  Education funding should be dispersed equally.  The value of the property where a child lives should be irrelevant to the quality of education that they receive. While school choice in some forms is positive, tax dollars should not be removed from public schools, which are admitting students of all walks of life, and given to private schools which are not.  Public schools provide bussing, assistance to those with disabilities, lunch and breakfast to those who cannot afford it, and many other services that private schools do not.  Private schooling should certainly be part of the options available, but not funded by taxpayers.

Gun Safety: We live in a state with some of the laxest gun laws in the country. We also have some of the highest rates of violence in the country, especially in regard to men murdering their partners.  Dylan Roof visited Greenville just a few weeks before he shot nine people at a church in Charleston. Weapons of war have no place in the civilian world. Eugene Stoner, the creator of the AR15, built the rifle as a weapon for soldiers, not civilians.  The second amendment references a “well-regulated” militia. Well-regulated includes universal background checks, longer waiting periods, more stringent licensing, training & recertification regulations.

Healthcare:  Donald Trump is currently suggesting that he will remove one of the most popular aspects of the Affordable Care Act, the prohibition of insurance companies to decline patients due to pre-existing conditions. This will harm the most vulnerable amongst us.

One aspect of the GOP tax reform bill was the elimination of the ACA’s individual mandate. What this means is that fewer revenues are now going into the revenue pool for insurance companies. As a result, it will mean that premiums will rise on those who do have insurance, causing even more people to have to drop it altogether. The ACA has worked well in states that accepted the Medicaid expansion. Unfortunately, South Carolina was one that rejected those federal funds even though we still paid the taxes contributing to it.

Republicans would like us all to believe that the invisible hand of the free market will fix the healthcare crisis. Unfortunately, when that invisible hand moves, it means some get richer while others get poorer, and in the case of healthcare that means reduced quality of life and even shorter life spans.

Healthcare does not work like other products and should not be compared to them. When a hamburger chain raises the prices of its burgers, customers either demand a better burger or find a competitor.  A third option is to simply go without. This is not a legitimate choice with healthcare because going without can mean chronic illness or death and often there are no competitors to help lower the price.

The bottom line, healthcare is cheaper when all Americans are covered.  Moving toward a two-tiered system is the best way to achieve that. A two-tiered system would provide basic health coverage for all with the option for purchasing more. This is not a government run healthcare system. The hospitals and other providers are all still privately run.  This can only work, though, if everyone who is financially capable is required to pay into the system.

Immigration: If you care about people the way I do, then you're just as upset about how things are being handled at our southern border as I am.   It wasn't that long ago that Republicans sold themselves as the party of family values, but no more. A new CNN poll shows that 61% of the country disapproves of children being separated from their parents at the border. However, 57% of Republicans approve! Republicans are spreading false rumors that this policy has existed for years. This policy was instituted on 4/6/2018. Japanese internment camps are considered a black spot on American history but even then parents were not separated from children.

Undocumented immigrants have been a vital part of our economy and the recent heavy handed deportations have left many American businessmen struggling to find workers. Most of them pay Social Security taxes from which they will never receive a benefit. If they were to be deported, the Social Security Trust Fund would not be able to make payouts. We must find compassionate ways to deal with immigrants entering our nation, many of whom are fleeing crime ridden areas in their own countries. 

Medical Cannabis: In the recent primary election, 80 percent of Democratic voters agreed that medical cannabis should be legalized.   According to a recent Pew Research poll, nationwide, 61% of the population desires cannabis legalization.  Decriminalizing marijuana use could go a long way towards prison reform and could ultimately be a cash cow for states like the Carolinas where fertile farmland is abundant in the coastal regions.

Tax Reform: The GOP Tax Reform Bill reduced personal income taxes in a way that lines the pockets of the top 1% while the typical taxpayer received only a minimal increase in their take home pay. That money was quickly eaten up by increased prices for gas and food.  While Republicans touted a doubling of the standard deduction, they often failed to mention that every taxpayer lost the $4050 personal exemption. Many taxpayers also lost write-offs for home equity loan interest and state and local property taxes. The top rate on high earners was reduced from 39.6% to 37% giving millions to the millionaire class.

Corporate taxes were reduced from a statutory rate of 35% to 21%. Corporations are largely using this windfall to increase dividends and engage in share buybacks, further enriching the shareholders who already benefit from the lower personal income tax. Republicans said that companies would increase investments, increase wages and hire more people. This has already been åshown to be inaccurate. For example, companies like Harley Davidson continue to ship jobs overseas.

The cost of this tax “reform” is estimated to be at least $1.4 trillion. Republicans are already talking about reducing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to address the deficit they created by this give away to the wealthy.  Reducing the tax bill would be better achieved by bringing personal income tax rates back to pre-reform levels and removing loopholes to corporations whose effective rates are currently lower than the new 21 percent marginal rate.