Thursday, May 22, 2014

Congressional Progressive Caucus Endorses Stanley Chang


Last year, Honolulu City Councilman Stanley Chang wrote a guest post for us explaining why he wants to join the Congressional Progressive Caucus. This week, in their first round of 2014 endorsements, the CPC endorsed Chang, who's in a crowded 9-way August 9th primary for the seat New Dem Colleen Hanabusa is giving up. Stanley's opponents are, first and foremost transactional careerists rather than principled, values-driven leaders. Last week, we took a closer look at nominal front-runner state Senator Donna Mercado Kim, a corporate-oriented conservative from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.

As we mentioned then, Kim’s unwavering loyalty to corporate interests and the Religious Right has helped turned her into a prodigious fundraiser. As a result, she has more cash on hand than anyone in the race, and within the last week has started airing her first (issue-free) TV commercial. Stanley's first TV ad (above) is the opposite of issue-free. But he needs a lot more money if the voters in Honolulu are going to actually ever see it. You can contribute to his campaign here. But you don't have to take my word for it. Below are the responses to a few of the many questions the members of the Progressive Caucus asked him:

Hold Wall Street Accountable

We need a firm wall between speculators and families’ life savings. I support Elizabeth Warren’s 21st-century Glass-Steagall Act to stop investment banks from gambling away our savings. Until the 1990s, the Glass-Steagall Act created a strong barrier between investment and consumer banking. The repeal of this legislation encouraged investment banks to make risky bets with the savings of ordinary Americans. Many experts consider the repeal of Glass-Steagall to be a major contributing factor to the economic crash of 2008. I propose to return order to our financial system by protecting working families’ hard-earned money and preventing banks from becoming “too big to fail.” If financial speculators want to put their own money into high-stakes investments, they are welcome to do so, but they should not be able to drag down our economy if their bets don’t pan out.
Good Jobs And Shared Prosperity

Social Security needs to be protected and strengthened, not weakened. The integrity of Social Security has been threatened several times in recent years. We need to fight every attempt to weaken or dismantle this critical backbone of our social safety net.

Social Security was enacted in the aftermath of the Great Depression and has raised millions of seniors out of poverty. This program served as a model to many retirement savings systems around the world. Social Security has its own separate revenue stream and does not contribute to the deficit. There have already been several fixes to account for the retirement of baby boomers and advances in medical care that have allowed our seniors to enjoy greater quality of life into their golden years.

Recently, President Obama proposed that Social Security benefits switch to so-called “chained CPI” to calculate cost of living adjustments. This proposal represents an unacceptable cut to retirement payments and I firmly oppose it. While the chained CPI plan was withdrawn earlier this year, we must remain vigilant to protect the retirement income of our seniors. Social Security is currently predicted to be solvent for the next few decades, but with a simple fix it will be on a sound financial footing for generations. Only the first $113,700 of income is currently taxed for Social Security, but if we “scrap the cap” and make all income taxable, we will have the necessary funds to ensure that our seniors remain healthy and financially secure.

…We need to raise the minimum wage and we need to do it now, because no one who works full time should live in poverty. Last year, Wall Street bonuses in New York alone were $26.7 billion. That is $11 billion more than the combined income of every minimum wage worker in the country. We can do better for working families.

America needs a raise, but the last time Congress approved an increase was 2009. This is why we need to pass legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 over three years and index it to inflation. Americans must be secure in the knowledge that rising prices will not threaten the value of their hard-earned paychecks. Increasing the minimum wage has huge benefits for our economy as well. Workers who earn this wage are likely to spend their money on consumer goods, injecting much-needed economic stimulus. Leading economists have determined that better paid workers tend to stay in their jobs longer, reducing the cost in time and money of training new employees. With fewer Americans living below the poverty line, expenses for government benefits will decrease.

…We must ensure that the wealthiest Americans are paying their fair share of taxes. While we applaud the success of entrepreneurs and investors, we must reexamine government expenditures that only benefit the wealthy. When conservatives express nostalgia for the golden years of our country’s economic growth, they conveniently fail to mention that marginal tax rates for the wealthy were quite high by today’s standards. Decades of tax cuts for the wealthy have not caused the benefits to “trickle down.” Rather, they have led to extraordinary inequality that hurts our bottom line.

Regardless of their talents, the wealthiest 1% benefit greatly from government programs and services. Tax breaks, loopholes, and subsidies have given many advantages to businesses and investors. All we ask is that the wealthy contribute their fair share.

Business leaders such as Warren Buffett have pointed out the absurdity of a CEO paying a lower tax rate than a secretary. This practice must end. For too long, Congressional Republicans have focused exclusively on indiscriminate spending cuts as a means to end our budget problems. We need to look at both sides of the equation: a fair and equitable tax structure combined with prudent use of government funds is the path to fiscal responsibility and prosperity.

We need serious and immediate reform that is fair to all taxpayers and to legal immigrants. There should be a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but one that would require them to pay a fee and go to the back of the line. Immigration is a central theme of our nation’s history and the main source of its strength.

Immigration reform is an issue close to my heart. My parents came to Hawaii from China to seek opportunities for my brother and me-- opportunities that were not available anywhere else in the world. Our economic future depends on our ability to continue attracting hardworking individuals to contribute their talents and strengths to our economy.

Our current immigration system is broken. Employers are circumventing the system by hiring undocumented workers, and more and more undocumented immigrants are being deported. Recent improvements in border security are necessary and welcome, but do not address the fundamental issue. We need to streamline the process in a way that is rational and avoids breaking up families. Deportation will not solve our problems; it is cruel, wasteful, and damaging to our economy. We need to include law- abiding, tax-paying undocumented immigrants in our society, rather than relegating them to the shadows.

I also support the DREAM Act, which would provide permanent residency to children of undocumented immigrants who graduated from U.S. high schools, attained higher education, or served honorably in the Armed Forces for at least two years. These children would be given an expedited opportunity to gain legal citizenship.
Civil Rights

Marriage equality won in Hawaii; now couples across the country must enjoy the same rights. This is the civil rights issue of our time and needs to be addressed at the federal level. The Supreme Court’s ruling last year invalidated a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, but the rest of the legislation still stands and must be repealed. I support the Respect for Marriage Act and other efforts in the U.S. Congress to recognize same- sex marriage across state lines. While marriage is regulated at the state level, there is a great deal that all three branches of the federal government can do to ensure fairness for all.

The majority of states still do not allow committed same-sex couples to marry, and many retain discriminatory bans in their constitutions that make a legislative fix difficult. I have supported marriage equality from the beginning and have never needed to “evolve” on this issue. Like many in my generation, I don’t understand how barring loving couples from committing to each other in front of their families and under the law makes any sense. Marriage encourages responsible childrearing and leads to economic prosperity for families as well as for the entire country. To deny the joys of marriage to a group of people based on a core part of their identity is cruel and unfair.

I am a strong advocate for other policies that benefit LGBT Americans, including employment nondiscrimination, measures to address bullying in schools, and ensuring proper treatment of LGBT elders in long-term care facilities. I was honored to receive the endorsement of Steven Levinson, who authored the lead opinion in Baehr vs. Lewin, the 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that was the first ever to determine that denying marriage to same-sex couples was discriminatory.
Predatory Student Loans

Students should pay the same rates as Wall Street for their loans. Debt is crushing our young generation before they even start their careers. Profiteering in student loan programs needs to be stopped. Our parents may have been able to work their way through college, but with high tuition and our rising cost of living, this is increasingly out of reach for today’s students. Today, too many college students are forced to take out expensive loans in order to finance their education, and can’t get off on the right foot once they graduate and start working. If subject to predatory interest rates, the paychecks for their first few years on the job will be siphoned away. They will not be able to save to buy a home and support a family. If the prospect of paying for college is too daunting for today’s working families, our economy and productivity will suffer in the long run. Let’s make sure that the student loan industry is appropriately regulated so that funding is made available to our young people at reasonable rates.
Health Care

The biggest challenges facing our health care system include: ensuring the proper implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA); the sustainability of Medicare and Medicaid; and the skilled workforce needed to support our system.

Ensuring that the U.S. government broadens health insurance pools through the ACA will bring much-needed financial sustainability to the health care system and help achieve the overarching goal of providing coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

However, the expanded coverage envisioned by the ACA will undoubtedly put a strain on our health care providers. Thus, Congress must act to expand training opportunities to bring more workers into the health care sector and help keep current health care workers prepared for evolving challenges, such as telemedicine. In addition, changes to Medicare and Medicaid must be sustained with reforms that shore up these programs’ finances without placing new burdens on beneficiaries or service providers. The inclusion of a public option would go a long way toward ensuring the long-term sustainability of the ACA.

Studies have shown that Medicare is vastly more efficient than private insurance companies in providing health care and limiting administrative costs. I oppose any proposals that cut Medicare benefits for seniors, including increased cost sharing, further means-testing of Part B and D premiums, and raising the Medicare eligibility age. These proposals would only cause funds to be spent less effectively. In particular, raising the Medicare eligibility age has the potential to increase rather than decrease Medicare expenditures in the long run as seniors could delay important preventative care.

Hawaii must take its rightful place as a leader in modern energy generation. We must invest now in 21st-century energy, so over time we can lower the costs of production for all of our homes and businesses, and cut the use of old, dirty energy sources like oil and coal. Hawaii is blessed with abundant natural resources such as wind, solar, and tidal energy that could be harnessed for the benefit of our people without polluting the environment. Green energy solutions not only enhance our sustainability, but also create good-paying local jobs and inject much-needed stimulus into our economy. This is the wave of the future. We can’t rely forever on expensive and dirty energy generation methods based on fossil fuels. The price of gasoline continues to be a major concern for our islands and is another reason why we can’t wait for renewable energy.
Women's Issues

Robust protections for women ensure a healthy society on every level. Women’s rights are a fundamental component of universal human rights, and I support every effort to ensure that these critical rights are protected. I will defend Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose. I am a strong advocate for family planning and reproductive health services, including but not limited to increased access to accurate information, contraception, and family planning resources. I believe that by shifting our focus to proper preventative measures, we can reduce the need for abortion. However, in cases where abortion is imminent, this procedure should above all else be safe, legal, and rare.

It is critical to the well being of our community that women of all ages have access to a wide range of services and that we continue to ensure funding for key programs. I believe that we should permit use of federal and state funding for abortions to ensure that there is equal access for all women. Public funding for abortion is vital to ensure that low-income women can receive essential reproductive health care. We must integrate pre- and post-natal services to allow women of all backgrounds to benefit from these resources.

Despite several advances, there still exists a gender gap in pay, where full-time female workers lose an estimated $434,000 in wages over a 40-year period. Women currently earn an estimated 77 cents on the dollar compared to what the average white male earns, and this is despite women being the primary financial providers in roughly 40% of households. Put simply, women deserve economic equality and security, and I support every initiative to close this inequality gap and give women equal pay for equal work. I stand with President Obama, who has expressed his strong commitment to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.
There are no other candidates in the race running on this kind of a progressive platform and Kim, the front-runner has more in common with Republicans than she does with Stanley's positions. When the CPC asked him if there were any other topics he wanted to bring up that he feels will be important issues while he's in Congress he listed five:
boosting job creation through federal funding of infrastructure projects;
enhancing Hawaii’s transportation network;
providing free college tuition to students who complete military or volunteer service;
enacting strong gun control to protect our children; and
labeling GMOs in our food supply while regulating pesticide use.
Is Stanley Chang the kind of congressmmeber you'd like to see working on legislation in Washington? If so, please consider helping him get his message out here.

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