Important Issues affecting our country

 Here are issues about which Kathi is most concerned, in no particular order. You have a right to know where she stands on all these issues.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Campaign Finance Reform 
T
he Environment/Climate Change
Fossil Fuels and Renewable Energy
Education
Healthcare
Equal Rights
Veterans
Reasonable Gun Safety Laws
The Economy/Taxes/IRS
Religious Freedom
Minimum Wage
Social Security
Adoption
Agriculture
Drugs
Foreign Policy
Prisons
 

COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM

We must have comprehensive immigration reform. Building a wall will not make us safer, it will only waste precious resources that need to go to other programs in our country to make us better.

We need a program that permits workers to come here legally and easily, and to be free to go back home for visits. Our broken system now actually encourages people to stay here, because it is so dangerous to try to go home and come back. They’re paying “coyotes” thousands of dollars to escort them past the border. If we had a system where they paid, say, $500 to $1000 for a worker’s permit, the workers would be paying less than they’re paying now, they would be spared exploitation by criminal elements involved in human trafficking and drug smuggling, and it would deprive the drug cartels and other criminals of major revenue streams.  Comprehensive Immigration Reform is a win/win for the decent people on both sides of our borders.

Frankly, we’re at least partially responsible for the violence in many of the countries with fleeing refugees (especially in Central America), due to our wrong-headed past involvement in overthrowing democratically elected leaders in favor of right-wing strongmen we deemed more anti-communist, our past support of murderous dictators, and our “hunger” for illegal drugs. We can and should be big enough to take responsibility for our past errors and step up as good neighbors and proud Americans to do the right thing by their terrified citizens.

In the meantime, children who were brought here years ago, who have no connection to their birth country, who have gone to school here, have done well, and want to continue into college or service to our country should be able to do so. I support Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) until the Congress will finally do its job of reforming our broken immigration system. Children should not have to worry about coming home after school to an empty home because their parents have been deported. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (aka "ICE") needs to focus on actual criminals and less on removing parents whose only "crime" was to work for a better life for their children. They shouldn't have to be scared to go to school for fear an ICE agent will follow them home and arrest their parents.

Beyond the flat cost of the wall, and how wrong it is to build it from a human standpoint, is that Mexico is the biggest trading partner of Texas.  A wall across our southern border will disrupt trade, cause financial hardship, and ruin many small businesses. There are also Texans who stand to lose land that has been in their families for generations, due to Trump's use of eminent domain in taking their land. Shame on our current Congressman for supporting Trump's wall.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM

Citizens United must be overturned, or we will continue to see a very small oligarchy gain ever-increasing political power, as most citizens lose power. We are to be a government of, by and for ALL the people, not the few. People have the right to know who is financing campaigns, so they can make educated decisions. It is past time for Congress to move to amend the Constitution to declare that Money is not speech, and corporations are not people.

THE ENVIRONMENT and CLIMATE CHANGE

Clean Air: Texas has taken some strides towards cleaner air, but needs to do more. We already have rates of mercury in our air that are the highest in the nation. "Texas ranked 1st among all states in industrial mercury air pollution from power plants with nearly 12,740 pounds emitted in 2010, which accounted for 78 percent of state mercury air pollution and 19 percent of U.S. electric sector mercury pollution."  Subsequent years don't show a great change, although it is going down. Changing from coal fired to natural gas fired plants has helped. 

We must move briskly away from our reliance on gas and oil, not only because of air quality, but for our future economic stability. (More on this later.)

According to a recent report, "Gasping for Breath", "Texas will be the worst place in the entire country by 2025 for children suffering from asthma caused by pollution from oil and gas production." For this reason, and many others, Texas needs to reinstate its rebate program for plug-in cars. This program gave rebates for the purchase of new vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), or electric drives (plug-in.) While this isn't a federal program, I will work to publicize the federal rebate program for hybrid plug-ins and all electric vehicles.

Climate change: It is real. The few scientists who question the role of humans in climate change are bought and paid for by petrochemical companies, so it’s no surprise they insist that fossil fuels don’t contribute. We remember the tobacco companies saying cigarettes don’t cause cancer, even after their own internal studies showed they knew perfectly well their products were indisputably carcinogens. It was about money and greed--the IBG syndrome, some call it. (“I don’t care what happens in the future, because I’ll have my money and I’ll Be Gone.”) The earth has always gone through cycles of heating and warming, but scientific data show that the warming has gone up drastically since the industrial revolution- since we started using fossil fuels.

The Pentagon released a report that said “U.S. Military Considers Climate Change a 'Threat Multiplier' That Could Exacerbate Terrorism,” so they certainly consider it a real threat to our security and future. The distinguished political observer Naomi Klein, in her new book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate,” suggests that the ultimate casualty of climate change could well be civilization as we know it.

The G-20 Nations spent an estimated $4.5 billion in 2014 on climate-change-adaptation assistance for poorer nations. Good news?  Certainly, until we realize that those same 20 nations, in that same year, dropped a cool $77,000,000,000  on direct subsidies to fossil fuel producers.  $77 billion in direct subsidies to some of the wealthiest companies on earth.  Don’t let any Republican  convince you that saving our planet is “too costly.”

FOSSIL FUELS and RENEWABLE ENERGY

We should phase out our dependence on fossil fuels for power and transportation. When you think about it, it is grotesquely unconscionable to dig carbon from the ground, throw it into the air and expect our offspring to deal with the consequences. Exporing a "carbon tax" is a free market way to transition out of fossil fuel, while lowering the carbon footprint.

In 1986, oil prices dropped to $12 a barrel. I remember a friend in the oil business saying he thought the Saudi’s were doing it to run Texas out of business, and sure enough, once so many rigs shut down, the prices started going back up. We’ve seen this with other industries as well-- governments of other countries propping up an industry to price US companies out of business. This could be some of what is behind the oil glut now. While everyone loves lower gas prices, I feel for those people down the “food chain” who have lost their jobs, while those at the top continue to cash indefensibly large multimillion dollar paychecks. We are all-too likely to see even more Texans lose fossil fuel based jobs in the coming year.

Rather than shutting down refineries, our government should offer low-cost loans to refit for renewable energy equipment production. We must utilize technological and economical alternatives such as solar and wind power. When the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, a great source of power for the future could be Thorium. Thorium based electric power generation has no carbon output, designs that are exceptionally safe and fuel that is plentiful and available almost everywhere. Imagine that instead of huge polluting power plants, there were distributed mass-produced neighborhood power stations that are quiet, safe and reliable. The government should immediately remove impediments to development of these and similar technologies for sustainable power production for the future.

Another place we can refit are defense plants, which are everywhere, with too many manufacturing equipment the military doesn’t need or even want, but Congress keeps ‘em coming, because defense contractors are crafty, spreading the manufacturing of military hardware across many states. Eliminating those unnecessary and unwanted planes, tanks, etc. could save millions, if not billions, of taxpayers dollars.

I have no wish whatever to throw thousands out of work, but it makes my blood boil when I read about thousands of tanks being made, and then immediately mothballed. Why won’t our Congress turn weapons contractors into manufacturers who could keep our country safe another way--by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels? We can, at last, turn those “swords into plowshares,” and help contractors refit to manufacture wind turbines and solar panels.

We’ve subsidized the oil industry for decades. It is time to instead sponsor our future, and having thousands of workers turning out solar panels and wind turbines will make it more affordable for more people to switch to those types of energy. It will make the air cleaner, and will eliminate our reliance on foreign oil. We can be the world’s leader in renewable manufacturing, making it an economic engine for our country.

Of course, defense contractors will feverishly oppose it, seeing it only as moving from planes or tanks worth billions to making lots of smaller things, worth far less to the corporations’ bottom lines, but if faced with changing or becoming accustomed to a bottom line of ZERO because we’ve stopped ordering equipment that is no longer needed, and given our willingness to help them with the required conversion, and yes, even to buy their solar panels and/or wind turbines for all US government buildings, perhaps they’ll see the light, and decide to do their patriotic duty.

Water: Texas isn’t the only part of our country where the availability of water will be an enormous issue in the decades ahead.  It is one of the largest areas where demand will outpace supply if we continue to pretend the problem will go away if we ignore it. Conservation is a priority project for every state and for most municipalities, nowhere more so than in Texas. It is also critical that the private sector play a role in conservation and in innovation.

The Federal role in this regard should be to encourage/incentivize Conservation and Investments in research and development of new sources of potable water. My goal in the Congress will be to help find a middle ground between ignoring the problem, which would be totally irresponsible, and imposing too heavy and too specific solutions at the federal level, which could discourage efforts by local governments and unnecessarily restrict their efforts to find new solutions.

EDUCATON

Jane Smith Used Online Candidate for her Campaign Website CMS

Public Schools: The high stakes tests have to go. Tests should be for diagnostic testing, not for evaluating teachers and schools, unless the tests are weighted based on socio-economic levels and education readiness of each student. Tests should be given at the beginning of the year, to evaluate students’ strengths and weaknesses, then teachers should be tasked with teaching the students, in the ways that work best for the students. At the end of the year, another diagnostic test can be administered, to discover each student’s progress and his/her suitability for promotion to the next grade.

I understand the need for emphasis on "STEM" (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), but we also need artists, writers, musicians and dancers and "blue collar" workers. We need to value our fine arts curriculum, industrial skills courses and the students who have those apptitudes, as well as those who have STEM-type apptitudes. We must support robust career & tech education in public school, as well as post high school. Many students use the skills they learn in high school in C&T classes to help pay their way for post high school educations.

Successful learning experiences are driven by great teachers. Our emphasis must be on nurturing schools in which teachers are able to do great work.  Great Principals create Great Schools.  We need a national effort to identify best practices among school principals and to provide continuing training and support for principals, so that they can reinvent their schools to serve their communities. I pledge myself to that goal.

School choice: Not every student learns in the same way, and I firmly believe that parents have the right to educate their child/ren as they see fit. This means public school, private schools and homeschooling.

Vouchers:  Tax dollars should be spent to support public schools. It is not appropriate to use tax dollars to subsidize parents who choose religious schools or private schools, although it is their right to educate their children as they see fit.  The public’s obligation to the children who have chosen public schools is to be certain those schools offer the best schooling available and government’s focus should be on that sacred responsibility.

 Charter schools: Given that charter schools overall have proven no better than public schools and, in many cases, much worse, I do not believe charter schools are THE Answer. I much prefer to see our tax dollars being spent publicly, by locally elected School Boards, not by non-public entities, with little to no transparency.

Higher Education: I support the President Obama's plan for 2 years of free community college, so long as a minimum GPA is earned. It ought to be open to all majors, not just STEM majors. We must make college affordable again, and that means that the Federal and state governments should be funding more of college costs. With higher taxes on the über rich, we can afford this. We certainly can’t afford to continue to bog young people down with tens of thousands in college debt, or, even worse, have scores of thousands of young people unable to experience college because they can’t afford it and are afraid to go so far in debt. Other civilized countries make education a priority; it is past time that we did that here.

When our students graduate with such debt, it is difficult for them to participate in the economy in terms of buying homes, and all the things that go into homes, because they're paying off tens of thousands of dollars of debt.

Vocational/Career & Tech education should also be avaialable and affordable. Private colleges often charge far too much for more working class people, and should be regulated o be sure they're not preying on the most vulnerable, driving up debt while not training for jobs that will realistically pay enough to pay back loans.

HEALTHCARE

The ACA is far from perfect, but the supposed Republican replacement is an abomination, cutting care for all the most vulnerable in our society. How can these folks live with themselves when they vote to cut Medicaid, allow insurance companies to charge senior citizens 5X more than now, throw those with “preexisting conditions” into underfunded high risk pools which are likely to be too expensive for most, among many other bad provisons? Williams says “not to worry”, the Senate will redo the bill, but we have to wonder why would he vote for something he seems to want to be changed completely from what he supported. He has also said he doesn’t want to “repeal and replace”, but to “repeal and revert” because he thinks that insurance worked “just fine” before.  Fine for who?

 Until we have a Congress that will pass a public option ("single payer"), the ACA is clearly superior to what we previously had, and far better than what the Republicans in the House passed as a “replacement.” I support a public option, which would allow people to opt into Medicare, starting at 55, then lowering that age every year, with the goal of gradually evolving into a single payer system. This gives insurance companies time to develop a new business model, so that thousands aren’t thrown out of jobs. As much as I’d love to see instant change, incremental change will probably serve us better, whatever its frustrations.

Access to reproductive services: Women are smart enough to make their own decisions about health, contraceptives, and child bearing. No one should abridge the Constitutional right to privacy in the matters of family planning and abortion. Pregnancies are a result of biology. As someone who underwent infertility treatments, I know the biology all too well.

The truth is, there have always been abortions, and there will always be abortions, legal and safe or not. I'd rather see us target the reasons for abortions, and work to bring the number down that way, but abortions need to stay safe, and to do that, they need to stay legal.

I respect those whose religious beliefs are against abortion, and for them, abortion is not the right choice. Whatever one’s religious or personal attitudes toward contraceptives, child-bearing and abortion, it is not appropriate for the government to enact laws forcing religious beliefs on those who may not share them.

EQUAL RIGHTS

I believe all citizens should be treated equally, regardless of our gender, race, or sexual orientation.

When I was growing up, my Mom was one of the few women I knew who worked. She was a nurse, first at the local hospital, and then as a county school nurse. My Dad worked out of the country for many of my younger years, so she was, for most intents, a single parent to 3 girls. My husband’s Mom started her family’s telephone answering service in their home in 1948, as a way to have an income while her husband attended The University of Texas on the GI Bill. Both women were trailblazers. The first hire Mrs. Hastings made was a woman who was mobility impaired, but Mrs. Hastings understood that it didn’t diminish her ability to do the job. As a county school nurse, my Mom sometimes visited students’ homes, to try to talk to parents about how their children were doing in school, and how they might help them to do better. She was often not welcome, most often by Dads who did not like some woman telling them they needed to take better care of their kids. These were the models of my life and of my husband’s life. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted, because of the support of my parents. When we met our daughter’s biological mother in Guatemala, she told me she wanted our daughter to have opportunities that her daughters there cannot even dream, because of the extreme male-dominated society there.

Gender discrimination is wrong. For women not to receive equal pay for equal work, or to be denied raises or promotions because of their gender is completely unacceptable. Women being treated as second-class citizens is a subject no longer seriously debated by civilized people. Less than 100 years ago, women fought successfully for the right to vote. Now, women must USE their votes to elect people who support their right to self-determination.

The Voting Rights Act must be restored. Sadly, racism is alive and kicking. Too many states and counties make it as difficult to vote as possible, which usually impacts poor and elderly people the most. The United States is the foremost advocate of democracy as a form of government and the right to vote is the cornerstone of a democracy. Let us proudly declare our commitment to protecting the right to vote and work to make it easier, not harder, for people to vote.

All our citizens are entitled to be protected from discrimination in employment, adoption, housing and marriage. LGBT people now have the legal right to marry, but this act of commitment often leaves them open to job and/or housing discrimination. It is wrong.

VETERANS

MENTAL HEALTH:  All members of the military who have served in war areas should be screened for PTSD and TBI upon their return. Too many who need this help will not get it for fear of being stigmitized, but if it was routine, and everyone had that screening upon return to the US, we could help many more people. With the suicide rates skyrocketing for those returning from the Middle East, we must do something different, and this is a way I believe we can best help the greatest number of people and their families. If they receive a diagnosis of PTSD or TBI, they need the mental and medical healthcare required to bring them back to health. It is our duty to provide this.

BENEFITS: Whether one supports a particular war or not, we can surely agree that when our men and women volunteer to serve in our military, we owe them all the benefits they were promised, and likely more. We can always find money to go to war, we can darn sure find money to pay for their benefits when they come back. If they’re injured, we must find the money to care of them, to have enough staff at VA hospitals to serve the population, and if they’re not able to easily access a VA, then we need to work with local hospitals and clinics so they can have the care they so richly deserve.

Congress always seems able to find money to fund wars, but seldom to pay for all the services our troops need when they return. With well over a decade of war, many more need VA services than for which the VA was intentioned, yet Congress doesn’t seem to find enough money to greatly increase the number of hospital beds and services for veterans. Neither does the GOP-led Congress seem to be able to find the money to give our troops a pay raise, even when many are having to rely on food stamps for their families. Many join the military for the benefits they’re promised- healthcare, college, a good retirement. We’ve all heard the stories of the long waits for VA care- when you have a system set up for a certain number of people, but then load in many times more people, it will get bogged down- guaranteed! When we promise college, then we need to pay for college, no ifs, ands or buts.

What we also need to do is to support these young women and men who go into the military now. Many are married and have families, and don’t make enough to support their families, so they have to turn to the government for food stamps. 

 It would be interesting to run the numbers, seeing how much food stamps cost us. Eliminating the need for food stamps could help to offset what I'm about to propose.

TAXES: When members of military are deployed, be they active duty military, reservists or guard, their pay while deployed is income tax free, but the moment they get back home, it is taxed again. Not only is this difficult when it comes to filing income taxes, I think it short-changes the sacrifices they make in everyday life, even in America, serving in our military. Why not make all enlisted troops' military pay income tax free, whether here or abroad? Given that the base pay for a new recruit is around $18,000, this makes sense. The lowest paid military are in the 10-15% tax bracket, so rather than a 1% pay raise as promised through 2017, we’d give them a 10-15% raise, all at once. It needs to be phased out at the higher pay grades- someone making $65,000 a year could afford to pay taxes, and by the time we’re paying them that, they’re making about the same as they would in private industry. Like so many good ideas, this one didn’t originate with me, and it does need some more research, but it makes sense and needs to be considered. A retired military man contacted me recently, and suggested this as way to give our troops a pay raise. If we’re going to drive up our deficit fighting wars, then let’s either drive it up a little more to give our military folks this much-needed raise, or let’s cut some of those military weapons that the generals say are not needed or wanted, but that Congress continues to fund, (because the weapons-helicopters, tanks, etc.- are manufactured in their districts, and they don’t want to cause unemployment.) Let’s help those factories refit and start manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines and/or rainwater harvesting equipment. We can beat those “swords” into “plows”, freeing up money to offset the de facto raises for our military,  and it would help make our country more sustainable in terms of power and water. It may also help with troop retention and recruitment. What’s not to like about this?

REASONABLE GUN SAFETY LAWS

 We need common sense gun safety and ammunition laws. Anyone who tells you the Founding Fathers meant to be sure we would all be able to have semi-automatic weapons and privately-owned arsenals of handguns when they wrote the 2nd Amendment either has a very low opinion of the Founding Fathers or is playing you for a real sucker. There should be no gun show loopholes and the penalties for “Straw buyers” needs to be stricter. Gun shows should have to post the penalties, so that anyone considering buying for someone who can’t legally buy understands the trouble they’ll bring upon themselves.

Parents shouldn’t have to bury their children because too many in Congress cower at the thought of an NRA-backed primary opponent if they don’t tow the NRA line.

THE ECONOMY and TAXES

Renewing the Middle Class:  For far too long, there has been wealth redistribution, upward to Janethose at the very top. It was accomplished by a series of intentional tweaks in tax laws, changes that favor the very wealthy over middle and lower income persons. As the burden on middle class has grown heavier, it has gotten lighter on very wealthy, intensifying middle class rage against taxes. Taxes aren’t the problem, the problem is who is being taxed and the fairness of those taxes.

Income Taxes: Those with the most money need to pay their fair share of taxes, on all kinds of income. The so-called “Fair Tax” is not “fair,” but incredibly regressive for middle and lower income people, who spend a much larger % of their incomes on consumer goods. The type of stepped income tax system now in place in the US is the fairest, but we need to end all the loopholes that give so much to the rich.

Capital gains and dividends should be taxed as regular income. I support allowing up to $50,000 to be taxed at the current rates, to encourage middle income people to invest, but all capital gains and dividends above that amount should be taxed like regular income.This added tax revenue could help pay for tax breaks for folks serving as (nonofficer) in active duty, Reserves and National Guard.

Estate Tax: I believe in it. Given that the exemptions is now $5.34 million for individuals and $10.68 million for couples (and indexed yearly), it kicks in on a tiny percentage of estates- approximately .2%, in fact. 

"The estate tax is probably the most hated tax in the country, perhaps because many people believe that everybody who dies will be affected by it. This is not the case. Although every U.S. citizen is subject to the estate tax, the vast majority will never have to pay any taxes at all because a certain amount of a person’s estate is exempt from taxation.

The federal estate tax is a tax imposed on the transfer of a “taxable estate” to a decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries. The “taxable estate” is calculated by deducting funeral costs, debts, and assets transferred to a spouse from the fair market value of all assets, including life insurance, in which the decedent had interest at the time of death.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 sets the estate tax rate at 40 percent for individual estates valued at over $5 million, indexed for inflation.  Additionally, married couples can effectively pass double that to their heirs because the law allows a surviving spouse to claim the deceased spouse’s unused tax exemption and add to the survivor’s  exemptions when the surviving spouse later dies.

Estate tax is only due for amounts that exceed the exemption amount. This means that individuals can pass up to $5 million to their heirs ($10 million for couples) without any estate tax liability whatsoever.

At this rate, over 99.8 percent of individuals won’t have any estate tax liability." Read the full article.

As to the claim that families "would lose their farm or business" because of it,if so, they would have done some extremely poor planning. Most people with such businesses worth over $5 million have an insurance policy or some other type of estate plan that covers the estate taxes. They typically couple that with a well-advised gifting strategy to their children, so that by the time they die, the farm or business has already mostly been gifted to the children.

(To read the article, click HERE.) "The estate tax raised $8.5 billion in 2012 — less than 1% of the $1.2 trillion inherited that year.

Only 1 out of every 700 deaths results in paying the federal estate tax today. The vast majority of estates — 99.8% — do not pay federal estate taxes.

While the top estate tax rate is 40%, the average tax rate paid is just 17%.

Remember, the estate tax is only paid on assets greater than $5.3 million per individual ($10.6 million per couple). Even billionaires pay nothing on the first $5.3 million left to their heirs.

Only 20 small business and family farm estates nationwide owed any estate tax in 2013."

Reforming the IRS
Many people I know have had a bad experience with IRS “customer service” at some point in their lives. The first thing that I would like to see happen in reference to reform of the IRS is to re-educate their employees on real customer service. When there is a problem, instead of them acting as if you intentionally did something wrong, they need to presume innocence. They should be helpful, not scary. If there is a problem that requires you to submit documentation, there needs to be a specific caseworker, or at least a small case-working team, so you’re always talking to people who know your case (so much time is wasted, having to repeat all the details to a different person each time.) There should be a specific address to which to send your paperwork, with not only a file number on it, but the caseworkers’ team number, so that the same people in the same office are dealing with your case time after time. In addition, all this should be able to be submitted via email, so that you’ve got a true paper trail and can prove when it was sent. It would save expense and time of having to stand in line to send a certified letter with return receipt.
We also need to reform how we submit our tax paperwork.We should be able to file and pay all taxes online, without the need to pay a 3rd party.That saves time and money. We submit our credit card numbers and our banking information online all the time through secure sites. Sometimes we find they’ve been hacked, but overall, if you submit over a secure site, it is pretty sure the information is secure. It will be very important for the IRS to have the best security on our information possible. They need the funding from Congress to hire the very best to create this software.
There is no doubt the tax code needs to be simplified. It will be a Herculean job to do that, specifically because of all the special interests who currently have deductions. Republicans say we shouldn’t pick “winners and losers” in terms of exemptions, but I believe we need to look to the good of society and make society the “winner.” For example, communities tend to be more stable when they have a higher percentage of homeowners vs renters, so the exemptions that help people afford homes make sense. When people give to charities that help others, those charities are able to do more good in their community. Not all people give for tax exemptions, of course, but the larger donations tend to be from people or companies who are looking for tax exemptions. Businesses can exempt their professional dues and  costs of goodss. Without those exemptions, the selling price of their goods and/or services would cost more to society, so is that a benefit to society? Every single tax exemption should be looked at, see if they benefit society as a whole, or just save some small special interests money.
 An IRS change I’d like to see is for senior citizens and disabled people who are below a certain income level be able to pay their income taxes quarterly. In Texas, all senior citizens are allowed to pay their property taxes in 4 installments, but it isn’t quarterly. For folks who are on these fixed incomes paying quarterly will make it more affordable for them, and impact their income much less.

Corporate Taxes: Small business, many of which are corporations, could certainly live with some tax relief. I have no objection to lowering the tax rates of the larger corporations, as long as we close off loopholes that allow too many companies to enrich themselves with subsidies and tax credits. Large corporations often pay no net taxes, due to all the subsidies they receive. Perhaps there should be a alternate minimum tax for those corporations?

Free Trade Agreements: When these agreements make it easier for a company to move out of the US and import their goods into our country, it has the potential to hurt our economy if jobs are lost. It is unlikely that "traditional" manufacturing will ever come back because of costs, but if a company offshores jobs, they should be required to help in the costs of retraining the workforce left behind to do other productive work. That, too, should be a part of the cost of offshoring. If a company leaves the US entirely, I would support a ban on the government doing business with them, and I’d prefer to put a tax on the import into our country, so that we recoup some of the revenue lost by the jobs they took away, (unless the company is paying for retraining already.)

RELIGIOUS FREEEDOM

Thomas Jefferson wrote “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”

Our founders had seen the religious wars of Europe. Although many of our ancestors left Europe for religious freedom, that freedom sometimes did not expand to include any but their particular faith in early settlements. For that reason, I am a strong believer that the government should stay out of churches* and that the churches should stay out of government.

* For “churches” who enrich their pastors by paying them millions, allowing them to have multiple multimillion dollar homes, planes, fancy cars, and so on, I believe their tax exemption should be no more than the amount they spend on charity.

MINIMUM WAGE

 When people don't make a living wage, they rely more on the government, local and federal, for help. As Seattle as shown, when employees have money to spend, they help the local economy, something they can't do when they're barely scraping by.

Minimum wages, like so many things, is not an easy on/off issue. I get questions about $15 minimum wage, would I support it. If I have to answer yes or no, I'd say yes, because I think it gives us a place to start talking, but it is clear that $15 an hour is not nearly enough in some parts of the country to be called a "living wage", and in others, it is a lot of money.

One idea of an interim step is requiring a living wage for all employees, based on local costs, for any business which applies to receive tax breaks and/or subsidies, either local, state or federal, with the goal of raising the minimum wage within 3 years, to a living wage based on local costs, and indexed yearly.

An alternate idea is rather than "minimum wage", it become a "training wage" and have a time limit on how long someone may be on this training wage. The truth is that it costs businesses money to train a new employee to their way of doing things. If they can use this "training wage" for a relatively short time- 90 days is usually enough to see if someone is going to work out, then they should be required to raise the wages to a living wage. My fear is that some may use this as an "out" to work people for 90 days, fire them, then bring in the next 90 day workers. There would have to be caveats in the legislation to deal with unscruplous people who try this workaround. Most business owners want good employees, and understand that training costs them money. Long term employees are almost always better than a continious stream of new ones.

SOCIAL SECURITY

I do not support privitizing Social Security. As we saw in the economic downturn of 2008, the Stock Market lost a great deal of money for a great many people. We do not need to be gambling with the money on which many of our senior citizens depend.

I support moving the cap on wages and changing it to at least $250,000. In addition, I believe that incomes under $25,000 should be exempt from payroll taxes. Because so many low wage earners work more than one job, this should be done as an automatic refund once all the W-2's are in from all the employers. This is money that is likely to go right back into the economy, as lower wage earners tend to spend a much larger percentage of their income than those who make more.

I also support preventing the government from using Social Security money for anything other than Social Security, and believe the yearly budget should reflect a repayment schedule for all the money "borrowed" from the Social Security Fund.

ADOPTION

I believe all children have the right to have a family. In a perfect world, all children would be born into families who are able and willing to care for them, but this is not a perfect world, and children are born to parents who are not able or willing to parent them for whatever reason. For these children, adoption into a new family, as early as possible, is their right. Children are not property to be loaned about until their biological parents are able to get it together to be able to parent them.

There is no reason to disallow LGBT people, single or married, to adopt.

I will work to help open international adoption, as well as encouraging domestic adoptions from foster care.

These children, once they are 18, should have a right to birth certificates with their biological parents’ names on them, as well as those of their adoptive parent's.

AGRICULTURE

Given that water is an ever decreasing resource that we will always need, I support research into the less water intensive crops, better ways of watering and low cost loans to aid farmers in purchasing irrigation equipment that doesn’t waste water. Agriculture is big business in Texas, so we need to be sure we’re growing the kinds of crops that are sustainable for a successful future, not only for our soil, but for our water, too.

DRUGS

Illegal drugs: I believe we should decriminalize or even legalize “recreational” drugs. Make no mistake about it, I hate drugs, but our ballyhooed “War on Drugs” is a grotesque, expensive failure. We need to cut our losses. We need to devote our scarce resources to treatment and prevention education to reduce demand, not continue to try to interdict supply with law enforcement and prisons bulging at the seams with non-violent offenders.

Given the toll on innocent people in Central America from drug gang violence, our decriminalization would dry up the revenue streams of the drug cartels. If we tax and regulate recreational drugs as we tax alcohol, we would have the funds to increase our efforts to treat addiction.

Pharmaceutical Drugs: The government should be able to negotiate prices with big pharma to bring down healthcare costs.

Opiates need to be more closely regulated, so that those who need them for pain can have access to them, but so they are not leading to drug abuse.

FOREIGN POLICY

Iran Treaty: The sanctions worked; they brought the Iranians to the negotiating table, just as they were designed to do. No one claims it’s perfect, but working with our allies and with Iran we hammered out a treaty that I believe will make us safer. The question of whether or not the Iranians can be “trusted” is naïve. Of course, they cannot be trusted.  If we trusted them, we wouldn’t need a treaty.  Tearing up the agreement we have made and demanding a “better deal” would isolate us from our allies and accomplish nothing positive. The people denouncing this treaty know these things and are choosing to play on people’s fears by advancing phony arguments. It won’t work, because Americans are tough-minded people, capable of understanding what we can and cannot do in the geopolitical arena. "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

TERRORISTS: With Daesh, we need to continue working to cut off their funding. We're already hearing this is working  because they're cutting back their salaries and even "laying off" people. If we can stop their funding mechanisms, and then make sure they're not getting weapons and ammunition on credit, all their guns become expensive clubs. The Middle East must step up and work with Syria to get a solution there, so that people can go back to their homes. Until that time, the refugees fleeing certain murder will continue to pour out of Syria and other countries that have violent Islamists. Please understand, the terrorists are no more typical of Islam than the Christrian extremists who shoot doctors who perform abortions or who "marry" multiple wives are typical of Christians. Extremists of any religion are dangerous.

I do not believe that sending our troops into those countries will solve the problems, instead, terrorists will use that as a bugle call for recruitment, saying we're "invading" their lands. We need to support the troops that are there fighting, with training and advice, but not with our men and women fighting there.

 

PRISONS

We must change the way we do "corrections." We've got the highest rate of imprisoned people in the world, and our recidivism rate is terrible. Other countries are doing "corrections" differently, realizing that most of these people will indeed be back out in society someday, and we need them to be a participating member of society.  In Texas, once a person has served their time, they are eligible for their voting rights to be reinstated, but many don't know that.

First of all, we must stop the school to prison pipeline. One of the issues considered when planning for the number of future prison beds is the 3rd grade reading rate. Does that blow your mind? It should!  As this article notes, Texas spends under $10,000 per child in public school, which puts us 38th in the nation. As this article from 2012 notes, we were spending $21,390 per prisoner per year, and that was 4 years ago! Wouldn't it make more sense to put more money in schools with "at risk" populations, make the classes much smaller, especially in those critical early education years, and make sure that our kids ARE reading at level by the 3rd grade, and for those who aren't, get them the help they need? If they're behind in the 3rd grade, they're likely to get more and more behind, and more and more frustrated, to the point of dropping out, and that benefits no one. We're really good at reacting, but isn't it time to ACT- we know the results, let's go back to the beginning and fix it! More punitive tests aren't the answer, funding and support for these children IS. This isn't just about the cost to taxpayers of prisons, but the cost to our society when we have these crimes: lives lost, lives ruined.

Secondly, the for-profit prison system is just wrong. It is immoral, in my opinion, to make a profit for locking up people. It also leads to corruption for those whose god is money, and have no ethics. Witness the judge who threw kids into prison for minor offences, as it turns out, he was paid a "bounty" by the prison owners. It sounds like something out of the worst of the Soviet Union tales, but it is happening in the US.

And last, we must change the way we "do prison" -witness some of the models of other countries, Germany, for instance.

 

Use the below form to let Kathi about what you're most concerned.

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Texas needs to reinstate its rebate program for plug-in cars.

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