Securing Affordable Healthcare
Every Alabamian deserves access to high-quality healthcare at an affordable price. We cannot afford to go back to a time when the insurance companies discriminate based on a pre-existing condition or charge unreasonable premiums to a vulnerable population. We must also hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for keeping the price of their drugs to a reasonable level to ensure the public good is never sacrificed in exchange for larger corporate profits. A healthcare system that leaves large populations uninsured is not just morally reprehensible, it also is fundamentally flawed economic policy. By improving policy coverage and incentivizing new insurers to enter underserved markets, we can further reduce personal bankruptcies, medical costs and premiums, and provide more effective patient care for better health outcomes.
Corporations and businesses can play a vital role in adjusting health care policy, cost, and outcomes. Moving beyond the traditional wellness program, tax incentives should be available to business and corporations that invest directly in their employee’s well-being through common-sense strategies, providing health options to the employee at their job. Employers should be encouraged and rewarded for offering employee benefits that include having on-site fitness centers and programs for employee use, on-site registered childcare to give parents of pre-kindergarten children affordable options and convenience, employer mandated lunch breaks for salaried employees and additional paid flex-time to reduce stress, offering healthy food options in employee cafeterias or break rooms, company-sponsored health education classes that focus on increasing awareness of nutrition and preventative disease, and instituting company policies aimed at avoiding work-related stress and fatigue.
These programs will benefit the employer’s bottom line beyond the tax incentives by reducing employee turnover and lowering health care costs through realizing better health outcomes. These programs also benefit the employee through reduced stress, better nutrition, and increased time and convenience to exercise.
Empowering the Middle Class and Reducing Wealth Gap
In the past 40 years, we have seen a steady decline in the middle class and a corresponding growth in the gap between our wealthiest individuals and our poorest. An economy with such significant difference is not sustainable. When the socio-economic differences are set at the extremes, it causes friction, misunderstanding, and class conflict that is perpetuated and exploited by politicians. Increasing the median household wage and lifting families out of poverty must be a national priority. It is in the economic and moral interest of every American, whether a high or low income individual, to work together in bringing down those barriers that prevent upward movement on the economic ladder of success. We are only as strong as those we leave behind.
Rebuilding a healthy and vibrant middle class will take time and will not be easy, but it can be done. We must work together to restructure the corporate tax structure by closing loopholes, bringing offshore revenue and assets back to America for reinvestment, and incentivizing businesses to keep jobs here rather than seek cheaper labor outside our borders. We must invest in a new path forward for public education, leveraging the unique federalist form of government to ensure both the fulfillment of baseline standards at the federal level while allowing our states to be the true laboratories of creative instruction. We must encourage corporations to invest in their employee’s well-being and health well beyond the standard wellness program, removing impediments to stress management and exercise. Doing so will improve health outcomes and keep costs lower for both employees and employers.
Rethinking & Strengthening Public Education
The building blocks of a stronger society start in the classroom. To be competitive in the global marketplace, we must prioritize the education of our children and invest in tomorrow’s workforce, today. Specifically, we must improve the public school facilities and infrastructure where our children attend classes. Many are overcrowded and no longer suitable for a productive learning environment.
All three levels of government have a specific role to play in educating our children. The federal government should create the broad-based strategy and accountability measures that keeps our country competitive in the global marketplace. The Department of Education is responsible for setting standards and developing efficient methods of measurement that do not overburden state resources. Every public school in the United States must first be provided with the minimum resources needed to effectively educate our children, including ensuring that adequate funding for infrastructure and protections for students with disabilities. Once base guidelines are met at the state level, states can then apply for innovation in public education partnership credits that help underwrite the cost of new education strategies encourage state and local leaders to develop innovative ways to education children. These partnership credits from the Department of Education provide an economic incentive to a state that is willing to seek new paths forward and raise the bar of student progress. States would be responsible for reporting results and outcomes to share with the general public, including written accounting of known biases and differences in student population demographics.
Our collective goal should be to use a system of base requirements with additional monetary incentives that encourage the federal, state, and local governing bodies to all work together. We should dedicate ourselves to freeing the innovative minds of our teachers, reaching our students in ways beyond the traditional methods of textbooks and testing.
Promoting Real Family Values
Policymakers must accept that economics play a role in strengthening or weakening the family unit. Elected officials are tasked with providing the framework for how we keep real family values at the center of our priorities. This begins with giving families more opportunity to maintain a healthy balance between work and home and also includes access to quality, affordable healthcare, offering additional paid flex-time and leave for single and working parents, raising median household wages, further strengthening oversight to discourage and prosecute gender-based pay discrimination, and reigning in abusive practices that overwork salaried employees to the detriment of the family bond. The family values we all wish to achieve can only be realized through a combination of policy that allows for reasonable progress toward that objective and community responsibility that continues to keep focus on how we best raise our children to be productive, responsible citizens.
Science & Technology
Investing in Science, Technology, and Medical Research
Advancing scientific thought and discovery has been a hallmark of American innovation and global competitiveness. It is also a moral and ethical imperative. Medical research into diseases, complex medical conditions, and genetic abnormalities needs to remain an urgent budgetary priority. These disorders and illnesses can be better treated and cures are ultimately possible if our investment of resources keeps pace with advances in technology and human knowledge.
Funding the natural sciences is also paramount for our country. Understanding and combating climate change, better forecasting severe weather and other natural hazards, and protecting our environment so that we may live healthier lives are just a few examples of the dividends that can be paid back many times over if we properly focus our resources.
Promoting Disability Rights
As the longtime leader of the free world, America has the moral obligation to fully ensure the basic, fundamental rights of all Americans and rededicate ourselves to the promise of equality inscribed within our nation’s Declaration of Independence. We must protect and provide for our most vulnerable citizens; those who are unable to take care of themselves or those who require a measure of additional assistance. Yet, we also owe these individuals the dignity and compassion to choose their own destiny if they can do so. The expansion of programs focused on integrated community settings and access to meaningful employment so that they may give back to society must be a perpetual goal for our nation. We must also support the ratification of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an UN charter ratified in 2007 and already adopted by 173 other nations in the world.
Green Energy Investment for Sustainable Economic Growth
Balancing the budget while growing the economy is the only certain way to lower the national debt and secure our economic stability. To accomplish this task, we need targeted investments that provide the good-paying jobs of tomorrow for workers, but which also pay dividends to the overall economy. Energy efficient solutions and green technology is the logical step towards achieving this goal. Alabama has an opportunity to play a leadership role in this effort by improving our ranking of 48 out of 50 states in renewable energy use based upon the 2015 ASCE Infrastructure Report Card.
The United States must be the global leader in combined effort between government, business, and the private technology sector. Focuses such as retrofitting buildings to use less energy, investing in technological advances to further reduce our dependence on petroleum, and maintaining international climate change agreements, such as the Paris Treaty of 2015, that seek to reduce global temperatures through the reduction of known greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane. This will have both a short and long-term impact on the economy, creating more and better jobs in the green industry and positively impacting the economy through steady increases in energy savings. We must help secure America’s place as the undisputed leader of the next global economic expansion that is driven by the technology and entrepreneurship that are hallmarks of American ingenuity.
Eliminating Corruption; Restoring Integrity
The people of Alabama have lost confidence in their elected officials. The continued political scandals and government corruption have damaged the reputation of our state. We must be dedicated to restoring integrity and reasonable debate in government or risk creating an environment intolerable of new ideas that can take Alabama to greater heights. The people of Alabama need pragmatic leadership from our next senator, not a poll-tested politician who serves as a rubber stamp to the executive branch. The constitution was created intentionally to provide a system of checks and balances so that one branch of government does not gain too much power. We must restore the Senate to a place of high ideals and distinguished policy debate, not one that simply votes in lockstep with the President.
Alabamians need effective policies that once again open economic opportunity to the middle class, secure the availability of quality, affordable health care for every citizen, and promote real family values. We need to protect our most vulnerable citizens from discriminatory practices, particularly those with pre-existing conditions, disabilities, and our seniors. We cannot afford to let our politicians divide us up into groups and subgroups for the sole purpose of winning elections and assuming power.
We must protect our nation’s information infrastructure by upgrading our cybersecurity protocols and software to the highest possible level, keeping pace with the technology of today and limiting opportunities for hackers, rogue groups or nation states, and cyberterrorists to do potential harm. The events of this past election cycle are but one example in a string of recent cyberattacks aimed at weakening our country. We need to encrypt sensitive government data to the highest possible level, help vital non-governmental organizations and utilities maintain adequate defenses, and assign more human resources to fully executing and strengthening the Cybersecurity Act of 2015 and the Cybersecurity National Action Plan outlined in 2016 by President Obama.
Gerrymandering is one of the central reasons behind the dysfunctional workings of Congress the past two or more decades. When district lines are drawn in such as a way as to give one party a distinct advantage by intentionally diluting the votes of the opposing party, incumbents worry less about being defeated in November and more worried about being defeated in their own party’s primary by somebody more ideologically partisan than themselves. This results in a race to the extremes and an inability to compromise for the good of the people. One need not look anywhere other than Alabama’s Congressional district maps for good examples of this practice.
Whether it’s racial, socio-economic, or partisan reasons, gerrymandering is not good for our political process and getting things done for the people of Alabama — either in state government or federal government. The Supreme Court would be wise to end this practice and install an independent process where neutral rules are followed instead of one side attempting to gain an unfair electoral advantage after each census is taken.
If the Courts are unable to solve this, then the people should do so – in the form of a constitutional amendment outlawing the practice for good. I would support legislation to do just that when I am elected to the United States Senate. If we limit a president’s power by holding them to two terms, it stands to reason that we should also contain the power of the majority legislative party at a state level so they cannot trample on federal minority rights through use of this archaic practice.
The issue of immigration has become a political weapon used to incite emotion by pitting cultures and people against each other for political purposes. We have avoided solving the problem because our politicians keep us at the extremes to get votes. We had two consecutive presidents (President Bush and President Obama) ready to work with Congress to solve this issue. Instead of showing political courage and leading, our elected officials chose to play politics by refusing to compromise on any reasonable plan. And here we are, 10 years later, with tensions high and no solution. We can do better than this.
The question about building a wall with Mexico makes for great politics if you’re of the mindset that something simple must be done about illegal immigration. But it’s not a practical solution whatsoever. First, the cost, estimated on the low end at $20 billion, is an outrageous sum of money when you consider that we could be using that concrete and labor to pour new pavement for roads or build new bridges. According to the American Road and Transportation Builder’s Association, more than 16,000 bridges in Alabama are either structurally deficient or in need of significant repair in some way. The cost to repair or replace those bridges? $29 billion dollars. Yes, that’s correct — the cost of building this proposed wall would nearly repair or replace all the crumbling bridges in Alabama. Let us keep that in perspective. This does not include the remaining 49 states and the District of Columbia that have their own transportation ills. Needless to say, we have a major infrastructure problem in the United States! Building unnecessary $20 billion people barriers is not a practical or responsible solution. Instead, we should be fixing the roads and bridges that Americans drive on every day.
Next, consider the question of whether the wall will even be effective in halting illegal immigration. By all accounts, drug smugglers and illegal immigrants use a variety of methods to make it into the United States, including an elaborate system of tunnels that are very difficult for border agents to detect. A wall might be dug down a decent distance to be embedded into the Earth, but along 2,000 miles of border, there would be numerous vulnerabilities that would be exploited. What is more practical from a border enforcement perspective is to use the modern technologies we currently have in place to detect illegal border crossings and the highly trained agents that monitor these areas. And consider what would happen if political priorities were to change in the middle of building this wall? How effective will that wall be if it were only half-built by the time Congress defunded it? That is a real possibility in today’s political climate.
We must also question the morality of breaking apart families of illegal immigrants, already in the United States, through mass deportation. We may face unintended consequences such as leaving undocumented citizens uneducated or without health care, and creating a gaping hole that would easily be felt if we mass-deported the immigrants who work in the agriculture industry.
The bottom line is this: We need Congress to do their jobs and pass comprehensive immigration reform; real legislation that modernizes our 31-year old immigration code. Building “the wall” was an effective tool on the campaign trail for political purposes, but it’s not practical to implement, maintain, or enforce. It’s just an easy answer to give when you don’t have a plan. The only way to solve the number of problems with immigration is to review the mammoth immigration law code of 1986, introduce subsequent legislation for debate, and work together to create better policy. Real change can happen only if we elect leaders that have the political courage to put their plans on the table and find common ground. We must stop looking backwards in our history for culprits to our problems and instead focus on finding pragmatic solutions that exist today.
I believe strongly in equal rights for all, including those who identify as LGBTQ. I believe the June 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges is settled law and settled correctly. There should be no tolerance for discrimination of any kind in our society. As the father of a daughter with multiple disabilities, I have felt the impact of discrimination and am committed to fighting for equal rights and equal protection under the law.