PPA Q/A – Josh Harder

The Patterson Progressive Alliance submitted a questionnaire to the campaign of Mr. Josh Harder for Congress 2018 of issues that our members feel is of great importance and would like to see any congressional candidate take a stance on.  That questionnaire was filled out by Mr. Harder and submitted for formal endorsement.  Below are those questions and answers which were submitted in late June, 2018.  Feel free to take the time and read through to hear the candidate’s positions.

1. Today we live in the richest country in the history of the world, but that means very little because much of the wealth is controlled by a tiny handful of individuals. To address this the wealthy and large corporations must be made to pay their fair share in taxes utilizing a strong progressive tax system.

Tax reform can not be just an excuse to give away more benefits to the ultra-wealthy. We all know trickle down economics doesn’t work–letting a multi-millionaire buy a third house doesn’t stimulate the economy, it just makes our budget deficit worse.

The biggest problem in America today is that the economic gains of the last 50 years have not been equally shared. Urban America quickly recovered from the 2008 recession. But here in the Central Valley, we’re still struggling – rural America has fewer jobs today than we did in 2008. Any successful tax reform proposal is going to have to tackle this problem. I think the right way to do it is to make businesses pay less tax on an employee in an area with high unemployment, like Modesto or Turlock, than they do in a place like Boston or New York.

2. Huge financial institutions must be broken up so they are no longer considered “too big to fail.” Too big to fail just means too big.

We must go back and strengthen our anti-trust laws so that they actually work again instead of allowing larger and larger corporations to hold our economy hostage.

3. No one who works a full-time, 40-hour a week job should be forced to live in poverty. The minimum wage needs to be increased to at least $15/hour and attached to a metric like inflation to adjust accordingly.

No American who works full-time should have trouble feeding their family, which is why I support a livable minimum wage that is indexed to inflation. We also need to focus on growing our economy to make sure there’s more good paying jobs for folks in the Valley. That starts with making sure our schools are preparing our children to have a job when they graduate. I toured a fantastic manufacturing program in Ceres that works with local employers to line up good paying jobs for graduates. We need to work to make more programs like that a reality here in the Valley.

4. Social security must be protected and expanded to ensure that every American can retire with dignity.

One of the biggest myths perpetuated by the Republican Party is that Social Security is an entitlement. A better word would be a right. We cannot tell our seniors who have spent their entire life putting money into the system that they don’t get theirs anymore because we spent it on other things. We have to protect social security and expand it to truly match inflation as factors like healthcare and housing have gone up much faster than the rest of the market.

5. A healthy middle class is supported by good paying jobs and support for labor unions. Laws that weaken the union voice and strengthen the power of companies over their workers (like Right-to-Work laws) must be revoked.

While I am not a union member, I come from a long line of card carry members. My father was a member of Retail Clerks 1179–now part of UFCW–for 15 years through high school and grad school. He was still a working member when I was born, and it’s only because of his good union wages that he managed to work his way through optometry school and secure health insurance for our family. Even to this day, my dad receives his union pension and I am eternally grateful for the impact that unions have had on my family. We must protect unions, especially as the supreme court reviews cases which threaten their very survival.

6. Citizens United, a 5-4 Supreme Court decision, resulted in enabling the wealthiest people and largest corporations in this country to contribute unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns with little oversight. This decision must be overturned and corruption in politics must end. This means fighting to pass a constitutional amendment making it clear that Congress and the states have the power to regulate money in elections. We must also eliminate super PACs and other outside spending abuses and work to aggressively enforce campaign finance rules.

The worst supreme court decision of my lifetime has been Citizens United, which allowed corporations unfettered control of our political system and led to the rise of the Koch Brothers and the Mercer family. Not only has the Supreme Court eroded our democracy, but they’ve managed to make cartoon villains come to life. It’s remarkable. Our democracy should not be for sale to the highest bidder. When it is, we get abominations like the Tax Scam that Jeff Denham just voted for.

I’m proud to state that every single dollar for my campaign has come from a real human being, while 70% of Jeff Denham’s money comes from corporations and special interests – is it any wonder he doesn’t stand up for the Valley?

If elected to Congress I’ll do everything in my power to support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and take back our democracy.

7. In order to protect our democracy we must fight to ensure that all Americans have the ability to vote. We must aim for voting to be easier and simpler, not more difficult.

We talk a lot about Citizens United, but that’s not the only problem with how our elections are run. We see rampant suppression of minority voters across the country and have a Supreme Court that rolled back the Voting Rights Amendment. One of my top priorities would be to help institute reform across our electoral process that ensures everyone can vote regardless of which state they live in.

8. Every American who studies hard in school should be able to go to college or vocational training regardless of how much money their parents make and without crippling debt. We must work towards making tuition free at public colleges and universities everywhere and stop the federal government from making a profit on student loan debt.

For far too many families, college is unaffordable. 70% of college student graduate with student debt, with an average of nearly $30,000. That affects the types of jobs that new graduates are able to take, and it’s not healthy for our economy.

When I was in college, I worked 20 hours a week, all 4 years, in a program called federal work study. It wasn’t glamorous – I was moving boxes and answering phones, but it helped me pay for school. But the Trump Administration has announced that they’re planning on cutting that program in half!

But we need larger fixes: 1) I think we need to reform the Pell Grant system. Pell Grants haven’t kept up with inflation and rising tuition, we need to fix that. And, 2) our community colleges, which are critical for economic mobility, should be free to attend nationwide, especially for mid-career students who are changing fields. I want there to be a two-year lifetime community college or trade school credit, so anybody at any time can go back to school to get the skills they need for a new career.

9. Healthcare is a human right. Our healthcare system needs to work for the people. We must guarantee healthcare as a right of citizenship by enacting a Medicare for All single-payer system. Insurance companies must not be able to make a profit off denying medical needs or prescription medication.

I support Universal Healthcare Coverage and Medicare for All.

This is a personal issue for me – my brother, who’s here in the audience, was born 10 weeks premature, and spent most of the first two years of his life in a hospital. When I first saw him, he was less than 1 pound–all I could see were tubes coming out of him behind a glass wall. When he left the hospital, his bill was 104 pages long. Today he’s healthy and productive, but because of the bill his Congressman supported, if that Trumpcare bill becomes law he would be uninsurable until he’s 65 and on Medicare. That’s not right and I’m going to fight against it. And there’s 100,000 people in this district in the same boat.

So I believe that there is one fundamental principle that should guide every decision we make on healthcare – Everyone, no matter how much money they make or how sick they have been, deserves affordable health insurance that is there when they need it most.

10. The U.S.’s infrastructure, from our roads and bridges, to our dams, waterways, and electrical grid, have not been properly invested in nor used the advances in technology for improvements. America is long overdue to rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges, railways, airports, public transit systems, ports, dams, wastewater plants, and other infrastructure needs

At the end of the day the republican tax bill was a way to set priorities with a 1.5 Trillion dollar investment. They decided to give it to corporations who will just use it to increase their profits. Instead, I would have spent it on infrastructure. We’re falling behind the rest of the world and if we want to compete, we need to invest in infrastructure that will create a path to success for the future.

11. The U.S. must move away from a policy of unilateral military action and toward a policy emphasizing diplomacy. We must ensure that the decision to go to war is the last resort.

I believe America’s interests are best supported when we work closely with our allies and when we prioritize diplomacy over military intervention. The Trump Administration so far has done the exact opposite–they’ve alienated our allies in Europe, in Asia, and all across the world, and they’ve hugely under invested in the State Department. Of the 32 most important State Department positions underneath Secretary Tillerson (when he was running it), only 4 of them were filled. 4 out of 32 is 13%. That means we don’t have people running around the globe promoting our country’s interests, and that’s wrong. We see it in North Korea, we see it in Iran, and all across the world.

12. The United States must lead by example in tackling climate change to help sustain this world for future generations. We must transform our energy systems away from polluting fossil fuels and towards clean energy efficiency and sustainability.

I strongly believe in the scientific consensus that climate change is real and man-made. I will fight back against the Trump Administration’s dangerous attempts to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and undo international agreements on climate change. Instead, we must make sure there are adequate incentives to invest in clean energy sources and move away from polluting fossil fuels.

13. Black and latino Americans are twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with police. They also comprise well over half of all prisoners even though the black and latino population only make up one-quarter of the U.S. population. We must change this by demilitarizing our police forces, ban for-profit prisons, eliminate the War on Drugs, eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing, and increase investment in programs that help individuals recover from substance abuse and mental health problems.

We need to confront issues of race in our criminal justice system – both with what we’ve seen in episodes of police brutality, and by taking on sentencing reform. ⅓ of all Americans have an arrest record, and that’s disproportionally focused on minority populations. I think mass incarceration is a big problem – we can’t just keep on building prisons. Senator Cory Booker and others has released a bipartisan criminal justice reform package that recalibrates sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders and looks to focus our criminal justice resources on keeping our communities safe, not just putting more people in prison. I would move to support a bill like that.

14. Despite the central role immigrants play in our economy and our daily lives, undocumented workers are reviled by some for political gain and shunted into the shadows. It is time for this disgraceful situation to end. We must pave the way for a swift legislative path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants and fight for common sense programs such as DACA.

Of all the disgusting things Trump has done, perhaps nothing has been as cruel or inhumane as his treatment of immigrants. I sat down with a DACA-recipient, a young Latina who came to America when she was just 6 years old. On her first day of 1st grade she told me she cried because she didn’t speak any English. But she worked hard, learned English, and graduated college and now has a great job. And the Trump Administration wants to deport her and 800,000 other DREAMers who are the economic and social fabric of our community. That’s wrong.

But the problem’s even bigger than that – we need comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers in this country, 40,000 of whom are in the Central Valley.

15. The inhumane deportation machine must be dismantled by ending deportation programs, closing down private detention centers, offering humane treatment and asylum to victims of violence and minors fleeing from dangerous circumstances. We must never again have concentration camps in our name.

The fact that Rep. Denham sees this more of a media liability than a problem is precisely what is wrong with politics in this country. If elected, I will work to ensure this never happens again.

16. Despite major advances in civil and political rights, our country still has a long way in addressing the issue of gender inequality. In order to address this we must fight to pay equality for women, expand and protect the reproductive rights of women, and provide paid family and medical leave.

America is the only advanced economy in the world without guaranteed family leave, which often affects our poorest workers the most. That needs to change. Furthermore, I support expanding early childhood education, which helps working parents afford the high costs of childcare, as well as reproductive choice, strengthening harassment protections in the workplace, and equal pay for equal work.

17. The United States has made remarkable progress on gay rights in a relatively short amount of time, but there is still much work that needs to be done. In many states it is still legal to fire someone for being gay or to deny someone housing for being transgender. This is unacceptable and must change. We must end discrimination in all forms.

I’m a Democrat because I believe everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. And I think one of worst decisions by the Trump Administration is removing protections from transgender children. The top priority for education in this country should not be singling out transgender children for who they are. In 28 states you can be fired for being gay, and in 30 states you can be fired for being trans. We must amend Title VII to increase protections in the workplace.

18. As a nation we have a moral obligation to provide the best quality care to those who have put their lives on the line to defend us. Taking care of our veterans is the cost of war. The Department of Veterans Affairs must be fully funded and expended so that every veteran gets the care they have earned and deserve. Additional items such as claims processing, mental health, dental services, and VA access must be improved.

We owe a debt to our veterans and healthcare is the least that we can do. However, it should not stop there. Many veterans end up homeless and we must take steps to address homelessness throughout the country.

19. Net Neutrality is the guiding principle of the internet. It preserves our right to browse freely and communicate openly over the internet.Net Neutrality enables and protects free speech. It forces ISPs to provide us with open networks and disallows any discrimination against an application or content which rides over that network.

I am a strong supporter of a free and open internet.

20. Please feel free to share with us any other items that you personally want to advocate for or want us to know about your campaign.

Our country is plagued by school shootings, gun related suicide, and gang related shootings. Here in California, we stepped up to reduce gun violence and have since seen the effectiveness of 10-day waiting periods, assault weapons restrictions, and background checks. Instead of advocating to take these successes nationwide, Denham has looked to undermine California state and local laws, endanger our law enforcement, and make it easier for dangerous individuals to walk around carrying guns. It’s clear that he has been bought by the NRA and gun industry. I will take the successes we’ve seen in California nationwide. In California we’ve seen a huge reduction in gun deaths thanks to our common sense reforms. That’s why I want to take our reforms and institute them nationwide. Not only will this help protect the people living across the country but it will reduce the ability for criminals and domestic abusers here in the Central Valley to getting their hands on guns.