I’m running for Congress to stick up for working people in our district. Corporate profits keep hitting record highs, but the workers who make those profits possible are getting less than they ever have. Tens of thousands of people in this district are trying to feed their families on minimum wage, but the real minimum wage has not gone up since the 1970s. So-called “right to work” laws are destroying workers’ right to organize and fight for better conditions on the job. Congress just voted to slash the tax rate for giant corporations, while at the same time voting to raise taxes on the middle class. It is class warfare, plain and simple, and we need to fight back.
What does that mean? It means supporting the fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage, not just because it will be great for the economy, but because it’s the moral thing to do. If mega-corporations like Wal-Mart can afford to pay their CEO $22.5 million a year, they can pay their workers $15 an hour. These big companies just don’t want to, and they won’t unless we make them.
It means supporting union workers in every industry in our district. It means investing federal money in long-overdue infrastructure projects, like rural broadband and solar energy, that create good-paying jobs here in Pennsylvania. It means getting serious about antitrust laws, which have been bulldozed by a record-setting wave of mergers that have left consumers with little or no choice in everything from their cable company to their insurance company, and left small businesses struggling to compete with massive corporations.
Ask yourself: are you better off financially than you were after the financial crisis of 2008? If the answer is “no,” you are not alone, and you can do something about it at the voting booth.
I believe that healthcare is a human right. In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, there is no reason why we should leave tens of millions of people uninsured, while tens of millions more, including tens of thousands right here in our district, are struggling so hard to afford their health insurance or to pay for the care that their insurance doesn’t cover. That’s why I’m proud to support the fight for a single-payer, Medicare-for-all insurance program. All of us get sick at one point or another, and all of us get old. It’s time we had a simple, easy to understand national health insurance system in place so that we’re all covered. Taking care of each other is a moral decision, and our federal budget needs to reflect our moral priorities.
Medicare-for-all also happens to get better results. Every other country in the developed world has a system like Medicare that covers all of its citizens, young and old. We don’t, and the result is that we pay twice as much per person for healthcare outcomes that are half as good. Medicare is easier for everyone to use, it costs less for every procedure than private insurance, its costs are transparent to the public, and the security it provides encourages people to get cheap preventative care when they need it, rather than waiting until the problem is much worse and much more expensive.
In our district, we also have a special need for help dealing with the opioid crisis. Big pharmaceutical companies have pumped millions of pills into districts like ours and made sure people went home with many times more than they needed. The result is that people who are sick and vulnerable get hooked, and then turn to harder drugs when the pills run out. Big Pharma has bought the votes of enough members of Congress like Tom Marino to keep the pills flowing, even while they voted to slash the budget for treatment and recovery programs, which are used by thousands of people in our district alone. This problem can be solved, but only if we elect members of Congress who will vote on behalf of the public, not big drug companies.
I will vote to increase funding for public health projects and medical research, which will benefit our communities, hospitals, and universities. I will invest in our local healthcare systems, especially in our rural communities, where we need more doctors, nurses, and other resources.
Last year, we stopped Congress when they tried to throw millions of our friends and neighbors off their health insurance. This year, we’re going to replace them, so that we never have to fight with our own elected officials to protect our lives ever again.
Education is the single best way to ensure that our children grow up into good citizens with good-paying jobs. I’m the father of two young daughters, and above all else, I’m running for them.
As an educator, I know how vital education is to the future of our district and our country. Right now, our educational system is under attack. Decades of federal policy that takes from the middle class to give breaks to the rich has left communities struggling with poverty, and the K-12 schools have suffered as a result. With public schools struggling, privately-owned charter school companies are set to pounce on your tax dollars. These companies have bought their way into the Department of Education and the halls of Congress, with the goal of using your tax dollars to prop up their profit margins.
If you ask me, our kids’ education shouldn’t be for sale to a private company that gets to pick its students, control what they learn, and refuse to listen to parents and voters. As your Congressman, I will vote to expand federal funding for K-12 schools in our district, especially in the rural communities that need more resources and more teachers. The problem isn’t that we don’t have enough tests or enough standards — we demand more of our kids and their teachers than we ever have. The problem is poverty, and I want to take the fight against poverty to Congress.
Our district is also home to a dozen colleges and universities, including several Penn State campuses. We need a member of Congress who will help the higher education system in our area grow, including community and vocational colleges. We need a member of Congress who will bring federal research money to our universities, encouraging the next generation of scientists and scholars to make breakthroughs in areas like energy, medicine, and technology.
Environmental justice isn’t just about preserving the natural beauty of the home we share. The science is clear: climate change poses a grave threat to our life on Earth. But climate change is also about economic justice, although we don’t usually discuss it that way.
Dirty air and water get people sick. When people get sick, they miss time at work that they can’t afford to lose. When kids get sick, they miss time at school that sets them back in their education. And when anybody gets sick, the medical bills can be crippling. These costs hit the most vulnerable among us the hardest: rich people can afford bottled water and expensive medical treatments, but poor people can’t.
I believe that clean air and water are a right for all human beings, not a privilege for the rich. Unfortunately for us, Tom Marino seems to disagree.
In the last three years alone, Tom Marino has voted to eliminate common-sense rules that stop huge industrial companies from polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink. He voted to eliminate protections for wildlife refuges and public lands. He voted over and over again in favor of fossil fuel giants and against renewable energy initiatives.
Would you believe that the fossil fuel industry is one of his biggest campaign donors? He’s raked in close to $76,000 from energy giants in the eight years he’s been in Congress.
Pennsylvania has the fourth dirtiest air of any area in the country, behind only California, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. We have one of the worst childhood asthma rates in the country, and we spend about $500 million a year on hospitalizations related to asthma.
Pennsylvania also has a clean drinking water crisis, with the third most drinking water safety violations in the country (behind only Texas and Florida). Our poor water quality has led to major increases in hospitalizations for neurological conditions, skin conditions, and cancer. The number of violations nearly doubled from 2011 to 2016, and the problem won’t get any better with Tom Marino clearing the way for polluters in exchange for huge donations.
We can and must fix this, and there are solutions. We can invest in infrastructure like water treatment plants. We can restore our pollution laws to protect our air. We can empower environmental and wildlife protection agencies to do their jobs. But we can’t do any of those things while Tom Marino is busy working for polluters instead of his constituents.
The environmental challenges we face here in our district also present us with a great opportunity. Pennsylvania is lagging behind the rest of the country on green jobs, and it’s time we put people to work building up our renewable energy infrastructure in wind and solar. If we commit to a future focused on clean energy, we can hire the army of manufacturing professionals, construction workers, and equipment operators we’ll need to maintain it.
I’m running for Congress because I believe in restoring justice to our political system. That means justice for workers and the poor, justice for those with illnesses and disabilities, justice for our kids and their educational opportunities, and justice for our environment and all of us who share it.