STEVEN ON THE ISSUES
No American working 40 hours or more should struggle to provide the necessities for themselves or their families. Florida’s minimum wage was raised to $8.10 per hour in 2017 — 27 percent below the living wage necessary for a single adult, and 67 percent below that for a single adult with one child. All Americans deserve not only decent employment, but jobs that pay adequate wages to afford the necessities like food, clothing, housing, and utilities.
While the wage gap between men and women continues to shrink, we must work to eliminate it completely.
What I’ll do:
- Support the Workplace Democracy Act
- Support HR 15, Raise the Wage Act
- Support for the Employee Free Choice Act
While the United States is the wealthiest country in the history of the world, the vast majority of that wealth is controlled by a small number of individuals. Despite the economic advances since the “Great Recession” in 2008, the American working class has seen none of this increase in wealth. Median income remains below where it was in 2007. The working class’ share of the gross national product reached a record low in 2011 and has remained there since. In 2014, while the Dow Jones Industrial Index reached record highs, the majority of the American public believed the nation was still experiencing a recession.
From the early 1930s through 1980, 90% of the American population took home 70% of the national income growth. Since 1997, with the emergence of the “New Economy”, the American working class has taken home none of the country’s economic growth. Rather, only 10% of the population — financiers, corporate executives, bankers, and the so-called “professional elite” — took home the entirety of this growth. This upper financial echelon of society is prospering more than any time in recorded history.
In 2012, corporate profits — measured as a share of the GDP — reached a record high. In 2014, the total of all bonuses on Wall Street totaled more than twice as much as the total earned by all minimum wage, full-time workers in the country.
Americans who are 25 years old today are worse-off financially than those who were 25 in 2007, and considerably worse-off than those who were 25 years old in 1997. Americans work longer hours for lower wages. America has one of the highest childhood poverty rates of any developed country, and has a wider wealth and income gap than any other major developed country on Earth.
What I’ll do:
- Close loopholes that allow corporations to avoid paying income taxes
- Support a progressive estate tax on Americans inheriting more than $3.5 million
- Support taxing Wall Street speculation
- Work to implement a $15 national minimum wage over 5 years
- Support investing in rebuilding American infrastructure, creating over 10 million jobs
- Support the right of American workers to join unions with the Employee Free Choice Act
- Support HR 1144, Inclusive Prosperity Act of 2017
No financial institution can be “too big to fail”. Three of the four largest institutions are 80% larger today than before they were bailed out by the American taxpayers.
A comprehensive Princeton study of over 20 years of American policy-making, studying nearly 2,000 policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, concluded that the United States government does not, in fact, represent the people.
This study demonstrated that a policy with zero percent of public support has a 30 percent chance of becoming law, while a policy with nearly unanimous public support has the same 30 percent chance of becoming law.
In other words — the number of American voters for or against legislation has nearly no impact on whether or not it will become law.
The numbers change when we look at the top 10 percent of income earners in the country, i.e. those who can afford lobbyists. This same study demonstrates that legislation with no support among the so-called “elite” has almost no likelihood of passing. On the other hand, legislation with unanimous support among the “elite” has a greater than 60 percet chance of becoming law.
These numbers speak volumes. They mean that the United States, hailed by many as “the greatest democracy in the world”, has transformed into an oligarchy — a system where the wealthy elite wield the most power. This isn’t a new development, either. Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United are merely symptoms of a long trend, making it harder for the average citizen to perceive in their day-to-day lives, let alone reverse it.
What does all of this mean for the American people? It means the United States has:
- The most expensive healthcare in the world
- A disastrous tax code
- Slower, more expensive Internet access than most of the developed world
- A floundering education system
- A drug war that costs trillions of dollars without results
- 1 in 5 American children born into poverty
Almost every major issue faced by the United States can be traced back to our government’s serving of the financial elite over the American working class.
What I’ll do:
- Support a constitutional amendment delineating the power of Congress and the states to regulate money in elections
- Support the Fair Elections Now Act, creating a publicly-financed and transparent campaign finance system
- Support the Anti-Corruption Act
- Support a rule requiring government contractors to disclose political spending
- Support the elimination of Super PACs
- Work to ensure campaign finance laws are properly enforced
- Work to overturn Citizens United
Additionally, my campaign will not accept a single penny from corrupting special interests or their associated PACs and Super PACs.
The Affordable Care Act was a significant achievement. Under the ACA, millions of Americans have gained health insurance and providers can no longer deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions, or drop policy-holders when they need insurance the most.
Nevertheless, the United States remains the only major developed country that does not provide universal healthcare to all citizens. Even with the reforms of the ACA, millions of Americans still lack access to insurance. Millions have insurance that does not adequately cover them. Millions cannot pay their deductibles and co-payments. It does not make sense that in the “greatest nation on Earth”, anyone is forced to declare bankruptcy because they cannot afford to pay their medical bills.
The benefits of Medicare for All:
- Saves over $500 billion annually from cutting administrative costs
- Lower pharmaceutical drug prices
- Reduce or eliminate premiums, co-payments, and deductibles
- Promote a fairer job market, with health insurance no longer tied to employment
I believe healthcare is a universal human right. There is no time to waste on getting this policy passed while millions of Americans die every year due to inadequate healthcare.
What I’ll do:
- Support HR 676, Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act
- Support S 469, Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act
No state is more vulnerable to the threat of climate change than Florida. The Sunshine State’s economy is intrinsically tied to the integrity of its delicate environment, and the state’s most important industries — agriculture and tourism — will both suffer if climate change is not properly addressed.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says the sea level has been rising over the last century, and that the rate is increasing. Sea levels are expected to rise 6–10 inches by 2030, 14–26 inches by 2060, and 31–61 inches by 2100. Within our lifetimes, we can expect to see increased inland and coastal flooding, intrusion of saltwater into our underground freshwater supply, plummeting property values, and rising insurance costs.
In recent years, tidewaters have begun flooding into the streets of coastal communities like Key West, Key Largo, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Boca Raton, and Delray Beach. Flood waters caused by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy destroyed a segment of State Road A1A in Fort Lauderdale.
A 2014 analysis by Reuters calculated a nearly $1.25 trillion coastal property “bubble” being covered at below-market rates. Once mortgage bankers and other members of the financial community realize it’s too late to adequately address catastrophic sea level rise, this bubble will burst. In 2016, median home prices in areas at high risk for flooding had already dropped 4.4 percent below the level in 2006.
The city of Coral Gables has 47 miles of coastline with property along that coast valuing at $3.5 billion. Over 300 boats regularly dock inland, needing to pass beneath the city’s bridges to get out to sea. Once the rise in sea level leaves those boats unable to clear the bridges, property values will plummet, resulting in the potential loss of a full quarter of the city’s tax base.
Many South Floridians are already selling their properties, trying to preempt the inevitable price crash when many more start jumping ship. In the Keys, rising tides are already resulting in flooded streets and properties, destroying landscaping, damaging cars, and causing mosquito infestations.
It’s not only property values that will be threatened by climate change, either. Florida’s critical tourism industry will be affected by the increasing erosion of our beautiful beaches. Rising sea levels will lead to increased saltwater intrusion into the Everglades, damaging its delicate ecosystem, and endangering many species found only in South Florida.
What I’ll do:
- Support carbon tax and cap-and-trade
- Support investment in clean energy, renewable energy sources, and infrastructure
- Support investment in critical infrastructure like sea walls, street reinforcement, and modernizing sewage and water treatment facilities
- Take the Climate Mobilization Pledge
- Support HR 2242, Keep It in the Ground Act of 2017
Florida is home to 3 national parks, all of which fall within the 26th Congressional District: Biscayne National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, and Everglades National Park. The district and the rest of Florida also contain a great number of additional nature preserves, conservation areas, forests, and wildlife reserves. These sites not only contribute to Florida’s incredible natural beauty, but are intrinsically tied to our economy, creating millions of dollars in tourism and agriculture.
This year, the Everglades saw intense flooding that waterlogged the habitats of deer, endangered species of birds, and other critical animal and plant life. South Florida Water Management had to pump more than 9 billion gallons of water into Lake Okeechobee to offset the flooding.
A significant portion of this flooding is caused by water being redirected out of the Everglades Agricultural Area, a swath of farmland operated by U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals (owners of Domino Sugar), the state’s largest sugar companies. When the EAA receives significant rainfall, these farms pump water full of operational byproducts into the Everglades — pumping upwards of 170 billion gallons of water polluted with chemicals like phosphorus into this pristine ecosystem. In 2016, Florida’s Treasure Coast was inundated with toxic, bright green algae blooms large enough to be seen from space. Just this year, these algae blooms appeared again in Lake Okeechobee.
Big Sugar is not the only problem. Florida Power & Light, earlier this year, was granted the right to store radioactive waste beneath Miami’s drinking water aquifer. This comes after the 2016 debacle when the cooling canals at FPL’s Turkey Point site were leaking waste into Biscayne Bay, which led to a lawsuit when FPL refused to take responsibility.
What I’ll do:
- Support legislation preventing Big Sugar, FPL, and other corporate influences from damaging our fragile ecosystem
- Support legislation to create new and improve existing infrastructure protecting our environmental resources from climate change, especially coastal areas already threatened with erosion
Florida’s public education system is suffering under the yoke of a backwards and imbalanced State Legislature. HB 7069 — backed by the Koch Brothers, Betsy DeVos, and allegedly created to expand school choice for parents and students — diverts taxpayer dollars from our public school districts to privately-run charter and religious schools operated by corporations from out of state. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Scott despite overwhelming opposition from teachers, parents, district superintendents, and school board members. The bill was written behind closed doors by State House Republicans and unveiled only three days before the end of an already-extended session, without the opportunity for public input nor amendment by other lawmakers.
Florida’s per-pupil spending falls around $3,000 less than the national average, landing the state close to the bottom of the national rankings.
The future of the Sunshine State’s education system — and the futures of our children — should not be placed in the hands of privately-run corporations from other states. The State Legislature is undermining our public school system in favor of a mostly unregulated private school industry.
The Network for Public Education, a non-profit public school advocacy group, grades Florida an F for the support it provides for public education. Our children deserve better.
What I’ll do:
- Support increased funding for public schools in Florida and across the nation
- Work with our teachers and faculty to identify the problems faced by our public schools and create workable solutions
In an increasingly global, highly competitive economy, the United States should be striving to create the most productive and best-educated workforce in the world. Instead, millions of Americans leave school facing decades of insurmountable debt and mounting difficulty finding jobs with decent wages. Hundreds of thousands of American students cannot afford to attend college at all.
Every American who applies themselves, studies hard, and demonstrates a dedication to their education should be provided an opportunity to pursue higher education, regardless of whether their parents can afford it and without being burdened by decades of debt.
What I’ll do:
- Support legislation to make public universities tuition-free. This is not a new or radical idea. In 1965, the average four-year tuition at a public university was $243 — the equivalent of only $1,880 in 2017. City University of New York did not charge tuition at all. The University of California system offered free tuition until 1980
- Support HR 1880, College for All Act of 2017
- Support legislation to reduce student loan interest rates back to the levels they were a decade ago, resulting in a decrease of over 2 percent
- Support legislation to prevent the federal government from profiting on student loans
We cannot ignore the reality that is the ever-increasing interconnectedness of the global community. Economic, social, and political issues of countries all across the world affect not only those nations but many others, including the United States.
America began as a nation founded by those fleeing their former homes in search of a better life. This nation was built on the backs of generations of hard-working immigrants seeking better opportunities and prosperity for themselves and their families, or safety from tyranny and oppression.
We must develop reasonable, fair, and humane solutions for immigration reform that address the challenges of the 21st century while providing avenues to the world’s best and brightest to contribute to building a better society for today and tomorrow.
What I’ll do:
- Support for the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs
- Work to ensure that Dreamers (beneficiaries of the DREAM Act — Develpment, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) are not deported
- Support reforming student and skilled worker visa programs
The United States incarcerates a larger percentage of our population than any other country — over 700 prisoners for every 100,000 residents. Our rate of incarceration is over five times higher than most other countries in the world. The United States holds 5 percent of the world’s population and 22 percent of the world’s prisoner population.
If every US state and territory were a country, Florida would have the 9th highest incarceration rate in the world. Florida’s prison system is the third-largest in the country, with over 100,000 people in prison. This does not include the over 15,000 inmates in Florida’s jails. Many of these people are imprisoned not for the severity of their crimes, but because of increased sentence lengths imposed by “tough on crime” legislation and mandatory minimums for nonviolent crimes.
While our criminal justice system may claim to be colorblind, black men make up the majority of the prison population. Black men aged 18–19 are nine times more likely to be incarcerated than whites in the same bracket. Black women are twice as likely as white women.
Since the 1980s, when the heavily criticized War on Drugs was dramatically expanded, both the federal government and state governments became so overwhelmed by the influx of inmates that they couldn’t build prisons fast enough to house them. To meet this new demand, the private, for-profit prison industry emerged.
For-profit prisons have grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, with the companies that build and operate them traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Because these corporations are beholden to their shareholders, they sign contracts with the federal and state governments requiring certain levels of occupancy — otherwise, the American taxpayers foot the bill for the empty beds.
These prisons often suffer from a variety of potentially deadly problems, from inadequate medical care, violence, and the misuse of inhumane solitary confinement cells as “overflow housing”. Driving profit is the motive behind these unacceptable inadequacies.
What I’ll do:
- Support HR 3227, Justice is Not For Sale Act of 2017
While millions of American families continue to struggle financially, affordable rentals are becoming harder to find, and millions of households spend 50 percent or more of their income on rent, mortgage, and other housing-related costs. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 7.1 million American households cannot find affordable housing. Per the NLIHC, renters must earn a wage of $19.35 per hour to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment in most of the United States. Many millennials have resigned themselves t o the likely reality that they will never own a home.
What I’ll do:
- Support extending the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund
- Support funding for federal housing production programs
- Support funding to repair and reform existing public housing programs
- Support a national minimum wage of $15 per hour
Despite many advances, the achievements made toward women’s rights throughout the 20th century are now under attack by the Republican Party.
Planned Parenthood provides vital healthcare services to millions of women. Their clinics provide affordable, quality services including cancer screening, STI and HIV testing, in addition to primary care services. They are facing ongoing attempts to defund them, on top of a long-term smear campaign.
I’ll fight to ensure women remain in control of their bodies, have access to birth control, access to services and recourse against domestic abuse, and equal pay.
What I’ll do:
- Support the Paycheck Fairness Act
- Support expanding funding for Planned Parenthood and other women’s health initiatives
- Support Roe v. Wade
- Support HR 771, Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2017
- Support expanding the WIC program for expecting mothers and infants
The United States has made amazing advances in LGBTQ equality over the last several years. We’ve come a very long way in a short time, but there is a lot of work to do not only in ensuring that all Americans are equal, but that those rights they’ve gained are not subsequently stolen away.
More than half of the states in the US don’t protect against discrimination in employment or housing on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, or gender expression. Several states have passed legislation preventing local governments from banning this discrimination.
There is no room in a fair and just society for state-sanctioned bigotry of any kind.
What I’ll do:
- Support the Equality Act and Every Child Deserves a Family Act
- Support legislation making employer discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity illegal
- Support policies protection the rights and well-being of transgender students
- Oppose any so-called “religious liberty” legislation that protects discrimination
In Florida, 11 percent of seniors over 64 are living below the poverty line — meaning they earn less than $11,770 annually. In South Florida, it gets worse — 22 percent in Miami-Dade, and 14 percent in Broward — with over 124,000 seniors living in poverty. Across the nation, nearly 6.5 million Americans over 65 are living in poverty. If this current trend continues, homelessness among seniors is projected to double over the next 30 years.
Today, more than half of American workers between ages 55 and 64 have no retirement savings. More than a third of American seniors rely on Social Security as their only income. One-fifth of American seniors are receiving less than $9,000 annually.
The Republican Party claims that Social Security is broke and in crisis. This is not true. Social Security has a surplus of $2.8 trillion and can pay every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 20 years.
What I’ll do:
- Support legislation to end the cap on taxable income going into Social Security, currently supported by over 60 percent of Americans
Agriculture is one of Florida’s most important industries, and is a significant part of the lives and livelihoods of millions of rural Floridians. It is critical that we support family farmers, expand support and resources for new farmers, and work with Florida’s farm workers to promote conservation of our environment and help combat climate change.
Since the 1960s, the money received by American farmers for every dollar spent on food has dropped from 40 cents to 16 cents.
What I’ll do:
- Support expanding the Department of Agriculture’s services for new farmers
- Work to enforce antitrust laws against dominating agribusiness and food corporations
- Support investing in renewable energy sources