Issues

We Can Do Better

In recent decades the American economy has lost steam, most of the limited economic gains have gone to the very wealthy, and most Americans have figured out that Congress is broken.

For the first time in history, most Americans believe that the next generation will be worse off than the present. People are frustrated with government, and so they should be. Congress is broken. When President Trump is not just erratic he works for big business, and big money has corrupted our government.

We can do better.

We can restore economic growth and build an economy that is fair, that works for all Americans. We can fix our democracy, so government works for the common good, and restore America’s position as the world’s leader in the face of this century’s daunting challenges.

But to do this we have to address challenges at the source, and base our strategies on evidence. And we have to insist that America only prospers when we prosper together.

We can build an America that is strong and fair and good, and this is why I am running for Congress.

We need to get big money out of politics and carry out electoral reforms that empower citizens.

Big money in politics corrupts business and government at the same time. Businesses increase their profits by investing in politicians. Our tax code is riddled with loopholes and subsidies, and law support the profits of big banks, oil, pharmaceutical, and insurance industries, and many more. With so much money in politics, our politicians need to raise enormous sums to compete, and this makes them beholden to big donors, not only over their own constituents but also over the common good.

Partisan redistricting has created “safe seats” for Republicans and Democrats. This means that moderate voters are edged out as primary competitions cater to the extremes. The answer is nonpartisan redistricting. Also, we need to make it easier to vote. Make election day a holiday or allow everyone to vote by mail, and register Americans to vote automatically when they turn 18.

Money in politics has given us an economy that is rigged. It is the anti-Robin Hood, stealing from the poor to give to the rich.

It doesn’t help that we’ve had an ideology that states that greed is good. Profit is God for many large corporations. Profit comes
ahead of people, country, or the environment. American prosperity has been built on great entrepreneurial spirit – this we need to cultivate – but with economic success comes responsibility to the society that made it possible. We need a tax code and culture that encourage companies to build and invest at home, rather than supporting corporate inversions, outsourcing, and foreign tax havens. We need a tax code where the rich pay their fair share to support the common good.

At the same time, we need to recognize the demands of a globalized economy. America needs to remain the world leader in technology. Robots, artificial intelligence, and a dynamic economy will take some jobs away. White men with less education have been the biggest economic losers in recent decades, and this has led to increasing substance abuse, declining life expectancy, and political frustration. This, in turn, has led to populist insurgencies, most spectacularly that of Donald Trump. But Donald Trump lied. The coal jobs are not coming back, and he can’t make them.

We need to embrace a high tech future and knowledge based economy while ensuring that its benefits are broadly shared. Most fundamentally, this means dramatically improving our education system, with universal access to high quality preschool, excellent public education, and wide and fair access to apprenticeships and higher education. It also means building an economy that helps workers to re-tool and move into new occupations, maintaining some degree of economic security along the way. Today we don’t do enough to educate and train people for the jobs our economy needs.

One cause of the increasing gap between rich and poor in America is our declining labor movement. Unions contributed fundamentally to America’s shared prosperity from 1950 to 1980. In the 21st Century, however, we need unions to not only defend and promote workers’ rights, but also to promote competitiveness in a globalized environment. We could learn from Germany, for example, where a stronger labor movement is committed to technological advances and increasing productivity, and to workers getting a fair share. Both business and labor need to align with the country’s economic needs in a dynamic global economy, and this can only happen with support from government.

Our health care system costs too much, it under-performs, and for many Americans it is still out of reach. The private insurance-based model has failed, and for good reason. Health care costs are a drag on our economy, poor health undermines productivity, and they both hurt economic competitiveness. Experiences in other countries show that a well-managed single payer system such as Medicare For All can produce better health results at much lower cost. Health care administration would cost 10 cents on the health care dollar instead of 30 cents. We would promote good health rather than merely trying to cure disease. All Americans could have access to good quality, affordable health care throughout their lives, wherever in the country they go.

Because our health care system is so badly broken this is an area of enormous opportunity. But today’s Republican health care plan fails utterly. Our broken health care system will keep hurting us until we fix it.

Our criminal justice system is also broken, and here the costs fall most heavily on young men who are black, brown or poor. In the United States in 2013 2.2 million adults were in prison or jail and another 4.7 million were on probation or parole, altogether about 2¼ percent of our adult population. This proportion, far higher than in any other country, is significantly due to the failed war on drugs, mandatory minimum sentences, and legacies of racism in the police and courts. Our criminal justice system has focused on punishment rather than rehabilitation even for nonviolent offenses. We should address substance abuse first as a problem of public health, align sentences with those of other industrialized countries, and reform plea bargaining.

With these and other evidence-based reforms we can move a million Americans from jail or prison into jobs in our communities without threatening public safety. This will cut costs to tax payers and this million Americans will then be paying taxes and contributing to their families and communities.

The United States also has the second highest child poverty rate among industrial countries, and deep challenges with intergenerational poverty. Ending the school-to-prison pipeline involves improving our education system, raising the minimum wage, addressing teen pregnancy, and making it clear to all young Americans that they have a stake in our country’s future.

Good education and health care and a humane criminal justice system should be rights of citizenship. Happily, they can also help the economy. The opportunities to have a job and to earn a living wage should also be benefits of American citizenship. While technology will reduce employment in some areas, increasing production in America will take up some of this slack. America has enormous needs in infrastructure, education, caring for the environment, and caring for a growing population of seniors. While our Federal Reserve Bank appropriately aims to contain inflation and support full employment, we should expand the role of the Department of Labor to make jobs available to all. After the 2008 economic meltdown the federal government did much more to protect banks than to protect workers – this is not right. To reduce poverty we should increase the Earned Income Tax Credit. We should also raise the minimum wage, but not so much that it would cost many workers their jobs. A reasonable level would be $15 an hour or half the state median wage, which works out to $12 an hour in Michigan and $9.60 an hour in Mississippi.

We also need to defend the right to a secure retirement for America’s seniors. To protect Social Security and increase it for seniors below the poverty line we should remove the “cap” on income subject to Social Security tax.

These are the core issues for building a stronger and fairer economy and a stronger democracy, so that the next generation will be better off than the present. But for any of this to work we have to address the threat of climate change. And for our political soul we need to continue to address historic inequalites based on race and gender and the status of undocumented immigrants.

Climate change is an area where big money in politics has done enormous harm. We would be much further along the transition to clean energy if big oil had not promoted the lie that climate science is in doubt, and if big oil had not bought off politicians like Congressman Upton. We should take America’s target for the Paris Agreement – to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to 27% of 2005 levels by 2025 – as just a start, and double down on a more rapid transition. There are up-front costs, but this will increase jobs and strengthen the economy. It will help to secure a sustainable environment, and to save civilization.

With 11 million undocumented immigrants the choice is between a pathway to citizenship and a permanent under-class. We must build a pathway to citizenship while strengthening enforcement of our borders. There is no way to correct the historic sins of slavery and genocide of Native Americans, but we can address ongoing racism in police forces and the legacy, for example, of housing discrimination. Generally, however, the most powerful response to historic injustice is to strengthen justice today – with a stronger democracy, jobs that pay a living wage, good education and health care for all, and strong and inclusive economic growth.

America’s future is on the line. The Trump administration is taking us backward. Congress is broken. The country is divided.

We can do better – much better – but we have to fix Congress. We need to unify around an agenda that can actually improve the lives of most Americans.

I believe in America. I am passionate about getting Congress to work on the critical core issues.

This is why I’m asking for your vote, and for your support.

Paul Clements

We Can Do Better With Health Care

All Americans can be covered for the full range of health care needs at lower cost than today. We can focus on good health and empowering patients rather than just treating disease. And we need to. Today’s system is the most expensive in the world with sub-par health outcomes, and with more Americans entering their senior years, demand for health care is rising. Health care today is stressful for patients and a burden to business.

We know how to fix it. If we follow the evidence we can be healthier and happier and have a stronger economy.

In Congress I would vote for Medicare for All such as through H.R. 676, the United States National Health Care Act, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers.

Medicare for All can lower the administrative costs of health care from 30% to 10% of health spending. This will provide the money to cover all Americans for the full range of health care needs: inpatient and outpatient, preventive and reproductive, long-term and palliative, vision, hearing and oral health, mental health and substance abuse services, and prescription medications.

We know this is possible from Canada’s experience. With a universal health care system like Medicare for All, in 2016 Canada spent less than US$5,000 per person on health care while America spent over $10,000 per person. But Canada still had longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality.

With Medicare for All we can also:

Lower prescription drug costs. Americans pay by far the highest prices for prescription drugs in the entire world. Yet, last year, nearly one in five Americans between the ages of 19 and 64 – 35 million people – did not get their prescriptions filled because they did not have enough money. With Medicare for All we can end price gouging by big pharma and ensure a reliable supply of the medicines Americans need.

Increase prevention of disease. People will not need to wait till they have to go to the Emergency Room before seeing a doctor, and free annual checkups increase prevention and early detection of disease.

Money in Politics ...

... has given us a government that responds to the wealthy over ordinary people and an economy tilted in favor of the wealthy. I am running for Congress to restore free air time for the main candidates, public funding of elections, complete transparency in campaign contributions and limits on corporate spending on politics. Also, to strengthen our democracy, I support non-partisan redistricting, universal vote by mail, and registering all citizens to vote at age 18.

We Can Do Better With the Economy

• Increase production in America
• Strengthen American leadership in technology
• Build a 21st Century infrastructure
• Raise the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit
• Strengthen unions
• Break up banks that are ‘too big to fail’ and support community banking
• Provide free community college and free public university for families below $100,000
• Increase job training and apprenticeships
• Provide good child care and excellent pre-school for working families
• Launch Medicare for All, so all Americans have access to good, comprehensive and affordable health care
• Move a million Americans from prison or jail into the workforce
• End the school-to-prison pipeline
• Improve treatment of drug addiction