For many working families, the American dream is no longer within reach due to only modest increases in the average American family’s income and the skyrocketing costs of healthcare, housing, higher education and even basic needs such as groceries. Those families who earn minimum wage must choose between whether they can pay their rent or eat. Between the years of 2009 and 2014, 58% of all new income went to the top 1% of Americans while one of in five children in America live below the poverty line. I was one of those kids.
A democracy means a chance for all of us to improve our lives, not just the lives of the wealthiest Americans. Yet, since the 1980’s, the lion’s share of opportunities in our nation are in the hands of the billionaires and multimillionaires, not working families. To level the playing field and make America the land of opportunity, we must provide a living wage of at least $15 per hour to all workers and provide our students with access to free public university education and vocational training which would benefit many in our rural district where over 50% of households in the district live on less than $50,000 per year and over 25% of households live on less than $25,000 per year.
Some of the hardest work in our country is performed by our immigrants who work on our farms to ensure we have food on our table and who construct our homes. Whether our ancestors came to the America many generations ago. My husband immigrated to the US from Holland, and my great grandparents immigrated from Slovenia and Croatia. My great grandmother was a laundress and my great grandfather poured cement.
We must also close the tax loopholes and low rates which corporations, real estate and passive investors have taken advantage of to the detriment of those who must work for a living. We are also the only developed country which does not provide universal healthcare to its citizens primarily because of the lobbying power of insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
Healthcare is a right and not a privilege of only those who can afford it. We must elect members of Congress who place the needs of their voters ahead of large corporations.
Roosevelt envisioned four key freedoms for America: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. I would add to these freedoms the right to know each of our votes in our democracy counts by taking dark money out of our political process.
Let’s take America back for the people!
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Access to Healthcare Impacts All Americans
Americans spend more per capita than any other country in the world, amounting to one-sixty of our economy. Yet, despite the hefty price tag, the United States remains the only developed country which does not provide universal healthcare to its citizens.
Americans deserve the right and assurance that regardless of age or the nature of the medical care required, they have access to healthcare, without exclusions and without limits.
Universal healthcare would lower the costs of services and prescription medication through a single payer plan with reduced administrative costs by removing the involvement and interference of private insurance. Although median household incomes have not increased significantly since the 1980’s, healthcare costs have risen exponentially. Business owners and their employees have been shouldering the burden of these high costs. Even for those workers who have insurance through their employers, the costs passed on to workers particularly for coverage of a spouse and children are outpacing increases in a worker’s income.
By lowering healthcare costs, employers will have greater flexibility to raise wages and lower the contributions for healthcare required by employees, resulting in more take-home pay for working families. Americans would no longer need to make the difficult choice between paying for rent and food or paying for healthcare, or filing bankruptcy because a family could not afford the high cost of a medical procedure.
Through universal healthcare, our citizens who have the courage and aspire to start new businesses will have greater flexibility and freedom to ensure that they and their employees have access to healthcare.
The Affordable Care Act significantly expanded access to healthcare for millions of Americans through subsidies, eligibility for Medicaid, and the increased protections against lifetime limits on coverage and exclusions due to pre-existing conditions. Universal healthcare would build further on the achievements of the ACA by ensuring all Americans have access to coverage by putting the interests of our citizens first above the profit interests of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
Rural communities are especially in need of expanded access to medical care and services provided by local clinics. By providing expanded student loan forgiveness to healthcare professionals and promoting communities which are welcoming of new members regardless of their race or religion or who they love, we can attract talented healthcare providers to our rural districts. I support funding to increase access to medical services in rural communities to meet the needs of residents in remote locations and to encourage more families to live in our beautiful region of California.
Forests & Wildfire Prevention
Our forests in the North State are one of our greatest treasures. The forests provide the watersheds that flow into our streams and rivers, which make fisheries and agriculture possible, as well as provide water to our growing population. However, to ensure the continued health of our forests and access to water, the forests must be actively managed.
The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project estimated that in pre-settlement
The reduced rainfall and increasing temperatures have led to endemic bark and
The decades-long practice of suppressing all fire in the forest has had disastrous and unintended consequences. Suppressing the restorative function of fire to enhance ecosystem functions and reduce wildfire risk through reduced fuel loading is lost. More flashy “fuels” (leaf litter, grass, and logging slash) tend to propagate fire quickly. These unwanted fuels serve as ladders that carry fire up to the lower limbs of mature trees. From the limbs, fire reaches the canopy with such heat intensity that the crowns of the trees flame like torches. This intense heat creates wind storms of
Another unintended consequence leading to the degradation of our forests is the introduction of non-native, invasive species. For example, Caltrans’ landscaping with
We must implement forest management practices developed to return our forests to a healthy state. To this aim, the stakeholders, including Forest Services, Bureau of Land Management, CalFire, lumber companies, PG&E, academia, county elected officials, and residents of the Wildland Urban Interface organized in local fire safe councils have developed a network of County Fire Safe Councils. The North State is fortunate to have the Butte County Fire Safe Council. This model council, under Executive Director Calli-Jane DeAnda, has developed innovative programs for thinning brush from the forests through hand crews and reintroducing controlled fire on the ground.
These programs help keep ingress and egress open for residents and firefighters by creating shaded fuel breaks along crucial arteries. They also run a chipping program that takes brush and branches gathered by forest residents while clearing their 100 ft defensible space around their homes and reduces it to small chips which are left on site. These chips suppress brush growth and enrich the soil by adding organic matter.
Unfortunately, sporadic funding sources have often severely limited the effectiveness of the Fire Safe Councils. Redirecting significant federal funds into supporting best fire management practices through Fire Safe Councils will, in the long run, reduce federal expenditures in fighting fires.
The California Conservation Corp. creates employment opportunities in the mountainous areas by undertaking forest thinning activities which have the dual benefit of creating meaningful employment by thinning the forest and encouraging local youth to stay in their communities instead of migrating to the urban areas. Unfortunately, this program is woefully underfunded and could benefit from a federal-state partnership and a sizeable infusion of funds.
The economics of a preventative program like this makes sense. Fire suppression is significantly more expensive than prevention. According to Dept. of Finance statistics “in nine of the past ten years, firefighting bills in California have exceeded budget.” And according to Scott McLean, CalFire spokesman, “as of Dec.6, 2017, CalFire had incurred expenses totaling $490.3 million…to put out large wildfires.” This total does not include the billions of dollars in lost residential structures nor the value of over 500,000 acres destroyed by fire.
As your Congresswoman, I will fight for federal funding to manage our forests, prevent forest fires, and provide job opportunities in our North State.
Renewable Energy is America’s Future
It is imperative for America’s economic future and the sustainability of our planet that we prioritize the development and utilization of clean energy technology.
For every one job in coal, there are five jobs in the solar industry which continues to add jobs at a faster rate than our overall economy.
Businesses and many households, including my own, have benefited from the savings of reliance on solar power. Contractors and businesses in our district and throughout America have benefited from the increased demand in solar energy. We obtain a greater return on our investment for every dollar spent on renewable energy versus fossil fuel. We also have the benefit of increased energy independence from commodity price fluctuations and geopolitical uncertainties in Russia and the Middle East. Through solar and wind tax credits, we have been able to power millions of American homes. I support the extension of tax credits for renewable energy installation and storage.
Of paramount importance is our ability to reduce carbon emissions through increased reliance on renewable energy. The pace at which the earth is warming is resulting not only in the loss of significant wildlife habitat but poses an immediate threat to our security. As ocean temperature warms, catastrophic storms such as hurricanes gain increasing strength to wreak havoc in our communities. Additionally, increased and extreme droughts and flooding forcing farmers throughout the world to abandon their lands and seek employment elsewhere which results in economic desperation, the spawning ground for radicalism. By reducing our reliance on climate altering energy sources such as fossil fuels and coal, we protect our nation and planet from the dangers and costly damage of global warming as well as the political instability and terrorist threats which arise from economic devastation.
Renewable energy will put money back in the pockets of many families by helping them save on utility costs, and I support the Low Income Solar Act introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders to provide low-income families with access to solar power installed on their own homes and promoting access to community solar projects. In addition, I support the Weatherization Assistance Program, the Rural Energy for America Program, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program which help lower bills for low-income and rural families and make their homes more energy efficient.
Let’s move to the top and join world leaders in renewables, such as Sweden and Costa Rica, while improving our economy by increasing our reliance on clean energy.
Greater investment in our public schools and access to higher education, including universities and vocational training, is essential if we want to ensure the best career opportunities for our children and grandchildren and remain competitive in a global and an increasingly automated economy. Throughout the United States, significant disparities in the quality of public school education between the wealthiest regions of our country and economically depressed communities, particularly in rural areas. Many teachers are required to buy books and pencils for their students out of their own paychecks, and the United States consistently ranks below many countries including Vietnam in math and science.
We cannot further undermine our public schools by extending vouchers for private school tuition. Instead, we must provide more federal funding for our public schools, particularly in rural and less prosperous communities to ensure all of our American children have the skills they will need to start businesses, find high paying and fulfilling jobs, buy a home and be able to raise their families with peace of mind.
With the sky high costs of college tuition, many Americans decide that they cannot afford a college education or for those who are able to obtain loans, they may graduate with debt well into the six figures. This level of debt is crippling for those graduating from college who are beginning their careers, trying to save for a home, and pay for daycare. Our graduates may spend many of their working years simply trying to climb out a mountain of student debt rather than being able to build savings. Americans on both sides of the political aisle agree that what they love about their country is the opportunity to make a better life. College education was not always as expensive as it is today. Tuition at the University of California schools was free until the 1980’s. However, from 1980-2014, the average annual increase in college tuition grew by nearly 260%, over twice as much as other consumer goods. However, those opportunities are not available if the best education is not affordable or accessible to all Americans. For that reason, it is high time we offer tuition-free public universities and vocational training.
Growing up in a family of seven kids and living below the poverty line during most of my childhood, I know the value of higher education. Because of federal financial aid and grants, I was able to receive my undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and my law and MBA degrees from the University of California at Davis. Higher education provided me with the tools to break the barriers of poverty and make a better life.
I want to serve you as your Congresswoman to ensure that opportunities for higher education are available to all Americans, not just the children of wealthy families.
For the many Americans who are struggling to repay their student loans, I support debt forgiveness programs for our teachers and doctors who commit to serve our country in rural areas, such as our district. And, we must cap the interest paid on federal student loans to 2% to relieve many working families of the burden caused by student loan payments and its hindering effects.
Access to free higher education and vocation training is critical to our nation’s future and ensuring the next generation has access to opportunities for a better life and to give back to the community.
When my great grandmother and great grandfather immigrated to northern California, they took in laundry and poured cement to make a living and ensure a stable life for their children. Like my great grandparents, many of our current immigrants and first generation Americans are prepared to perform difficult work harvesting our fields and building our homes and key infrastructure while enriching our communities. For these reasons, I am a fierce advocate for immigration reform, including the “blue card” program supported by Senators Feinstein and Harris to provide a legal pathway for undocumented farm workers to stay in America and eventually obtain citizenship.
For most of the children of undocumented immigrants who came to America while very young, our country is the only country they know. They are our friends and neighbors, fellow students and co-workers. I have had the honor and sincere pleasure to get to know two DREAMers in our district who are leaders in our fight for the rights of all immigrants nationally and by meeting with members of the Silicon Valley business community, including Mark Zuckerberg, and our senator in California, Kamala Harris.
Our nation’s greatest leaders, Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez, fervently fought for our civil rights and the rights of farm workers. And, in decades past, we have made progress against racism and discrimination through the Civil Rights Act and legislation to protect those who perform dangerous and labor-intensive work. Yet, the current administration and attorney general would turn our country back not only to a pre-Obama era but a pre-Civil Rights era. We will not let America slip backwards. We are moving this country forwards, and we are electing members of Congress who firmly condemn white supremacy and neo-Nazism.
We will not stand by silently in the face of injustice. We will continue to rekindle the flame held by the Statute of Liberty and carry the torch for our immigrants and refugees.
America is now and will always remain a land of immigrants.
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