8 Ideas in the 8th
Our First Idea
Yesterday I announced the first of our 8 Ideas in the 8th.
I shared details with a group of supporters about what I hope to be the beginning of my congressional agenda: specific goals on gun safety.
Gun violence in the United States is an epidemic. 30,000 gun deaths each year is 30,000 too many.
I have three goals that I hope to work on for new federal and state policy on gun safety. First, I want to keep guns from people who commit violent misdemeanors. Second, to keep guns from abusive boyfriends and girlfriends, even if they are not living with their intimate partner, and third, to allow family members or law enforcement officials to petition judges to keep guns away from the person they know is in crisis or on the verge of violence.
I will push for new ideas and progress on gun safety and the many other pressing needs in Virginia and the United States.
I hope you will join me, and share this email and our ideas with your friends.
Our Second Idea
I want to tell you about another of our Eight Ideas in the 8th!
Last week began our weekly announcement of sensible policy ideas that I will pursue if elected to Virginia’s 8th district on November 4th. Today’s idea highlights my intention to work on economic improvements to help the most needy.
Our nation lacks sufficient affordable housing, driving hundreds of thousands of households further into poverty by forcing them to pay higher rent than they can afford. We need to follow through on the nation’s promise to fund the National Housing Trust Fund, which was signed into law by President Bush in 2008.
When people are hungry, it is not because there isn’t enough food in this country. But when people can’t find affordable shelter in the United States, often it is because there are limited houses or rental units in their price range.
The rule of thumb on housing is that people should spend no more than 30 percent of their gross income on it. But in this congressional district alone, nearly 21,000 low-income households pay more than half their gross income for shelter! Nationally, that number is 11 million.
It was with this crisis in mind that the National Housing Trust Fund was established six years ago. The intention was to fund the construction, preservation and rehabilitation of affordable units through block grants to every state.
But the funding sources – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – ran into trouble. Those government-sponsored companies went into conservatorship. Now they are profitable again, but to date have not contributed. Forcing their contribution is one option for funding.
Another proposal that is gaining traction from people of all political stripes is reform of the mortgage interest deduction. That deduction, intended to expand home ownership, helps upper-income people more than middle and lower-income people. One-third of the benefits go to homeowners with incomes over $200,000, who do not need us to subsidize their home purchases. Modifications to it, such as gradually converting it to a tax credit and lowering the cap on mortgages from $1 million to $500,000, could extend tax relief to even more households, while generating billions of new revenue. And some of this revenue could go to the Housing Trust Fund.
Thank you for being part of this journey. And please write to me at email@example.com if you have ideas you think we should pursue!
Our Third Idea
It’s time to tell you about the next of our 8 Ideas in the 8th!
Two weeks ago, we started our eight-week countdown to Election Day, highlighting each week a policy idea that I will pursue if elected to Virginia’s 8th district.
This idea is long past overdue: It is time the United States ends animal testing for cosmetics products.
This practice is cruel and inhumane. In addition, Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to it and support legislation to end this testing. Not only is this an outmoded practice; it can fail to even accurately determine whether a product is actually safe for human use.
The European Union banned the use of animal tests for cosmetics over a year ago. As a result, many U.S. companies no longer use animal testing because they want to meet E.U. standards.
Rep. Jim Moran, who I hope to succeed if elected on November 4th, introduced this legislation just months ago, working in conjunction with the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF). I have been in touch with both Rep. Moran and the HSLF, who endorsed me in this race. Both will work with me to help us succeed in this effort next year.
Even though many U.S. companies are already doing the right thing, this practice should be outlawed, both to ensure best practices and to require that imported cosmetics meet this standard. It will also help pressure other nations to follow suit. Today, India, Brazil and China are making great strides in this area too. The United States must be a world leader and not a follower.
Please join me today by signing this pledge with the Humane Society Legislative Fund. Together we can help the world be that much kinder.
Our Fourth Idea
We promised you eight sensible policy ideas for Virginia’s eighth congressional district. Three weeks ago we talked about gun safety. Two weeks ago we talked about affordable housing. Last week we announced our intention to further Congressman Moran’s work against inhumane testing on animals.
Today the topic is Pell Grants.
It is time to improve our nation’s signature program for helping more Americans afford higher education. Two proposals especially interest me.
One is to simplify the application process. Instead of a complex process of determining whether someone is eligible for a Pell Grant, anyone’s eligibility could be determined simply through an assessment of tax returns – information the government already possesses!
The second proposal concerns supporting the students, rather than just handing them a check. As proposed by Sandy Baum and Judith Scott-Clayton, each Pell Grant recipient would receive guidance and support services. Particularly for students seeking shorter-term credentials with the goal of preparing for specific occupations, this added support will lead to more students earning credentials of value.
In the words of the academics advocating for this, such guidance “would for the first time make Pell a true program, and not just a grant.” They propose paying for this with five percent of Pell Grant funds. This would decrease the average grant of $3,800 by about $200.
Here is the thinking: Many students –– and especially those who are not recent high school graduates, seek additional education in order to get a better job. (Almost 40% of Pell Grant recipients are over the age of 25.) But many set out with an unrealistic plan, either pursuing a career with few openings in their region or a field that has not been their traditional strength. Too many are oblivious to the potential for student debt to outstrip their capacity to pay if they don’t succeed in earning credentials that pay off. And a significant percentage of these older students do not complete their degrees. Studies show that simple, inexpensive coaching can affect students’ persistence and success in college.
Given the problems of both student debt and a dearth of trained workers for various fields, it only makes sense to design the nation’s flagship education funding program to help address these issues.
Thanks for reading. And please let us know what you think of this idea and whether you have other ideas I should be thinking about!
Our Fifth Idea
We promised you that we would have eight policy ideas during this autumn’s campaign season.
Idea Number Five is 18-year term limits for Supreme Court justices.
This idea of altering the current life tenure of the nine justices is not new: It has been proposed by many legal scholars in some form or another a number of times in the last decade. The justices work largely in secrecy and, as unelected elites, they are often isolated from the daily lives of the millions of people whose lives they affect.
On top of this, they have little accountability and serve as long as they like. In recent decades, the average tenure has been 26 years.
Some critics call the Court’s system “the framers’ mistake.” Many believe that this was not something intended or envisioned by the Founding Fathers and have called on Congress to amend the Constitution.
The proposal I endorse is staggered eighteen-year terms. Every two years, the president would appoint a justice, so that a one-term president would name two Supreme Court justices; a two-term president would name four. There are myriad solutions for these justices’ life tenures, such as completing their work on a federal court once their 18-year tour is through.
We must maintain judicial independence. At the same time, leading legal scholars are calling for an overdue improvement and we should heed their advice.
Our Sixth Idea
It is time for 8 Ideas in the 8th! For each of the last eight weeks of this campaign in Virginia 8th congressional district, we propose a policy idea designed to get Washington working again on behalf of our citizens and make our community and country a better place. If you missed the first five, you can read about gun safety, affordable housing, animal protection, the Supreme Court, and Pell Grants here.
Today we roll out the Sixth Idea: Green cards for those who earn a Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, or “STEM.”
This idea, advocated by the Obama Administration and introduced in both houses of Congress in the last few years, is just common sense. Business leaders, Republican and Democrat alike, ask the same question: Why should we educate some of the brightest potential innovators and researchers in the world and then send them home the moment they graduate? Instead, we should encourage them to stay here to patent their ideas, start their business, and start the next great idea in the high-tech sector.
The United States has a cap on the type of visas used for foreign students who have advanced degrees from universities here in the States. The idea would be to exempt qualifying students from this cap and potential eligibility for permanent residency.
The relevant and bipartisan legislation is called the Staple Act, because the policy would “staple” a green card to an advanced STEM diploma. According to statistics from the White House, every foreign-born graduate holding such a degree is associated with 2.6 jobs in the United States.
The Staple Act makes sense anywhere in America, but it especially makes sense here in one of the nation’s most educated and sophisticated congressional districts. And it is essential to American competitiveness.
We have just 19 days left in this campaign. I am invigorated to get to victory on Election Day, and then to get to work on this and other ideas!
Our Seventh Idea
I promised you a policy idea each of the last eight weeks of the campaign: 8 Ideas in the Eighth! With just 11 days left, it is time for Idea #7.
We should expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), one of the United States’ most impressive and successful anti-poverty programs.
This wage subsidy is highly regarded – among Democrats and Republican alike – in part because it encourages work. The benefit rises with earnings until it reaches a plateau, then gradually phases out as earnings continue to rise. The EITC lifted over 6 million Americans out of poverty in 2012. About half of them were children.
The EITC could do so much more with three expansions. First, we should expand the benefit for childless workers. While the EITC provides more than $3,000 on average to low-income working families with children, the benefit for low-wage workers who have no children is very little, averaging just $270. (A full-time, minimum wage worker with no children is not currently eligible for EITC.)
In addition, we should lower the EITC age threshold for childless workers, some of whom are actually noncustodial parents. Today, a childless worker younger than 25 is not eligible for EITC. That threshold should be lowered to 21.
Finally, the maximum tax credit available to childless workers should rise from its current level of about $500 to at least double that amount. Research shows that the small amount of money goes toward car repairs, education and basic household needs.
Under today’s guidelines, many of the 7 million low-wage, childless workers can be taxed into or deeper into poverty. The Obama Administration proposed these EITC expansions in January, estimating that they would lift half a million people above the poverty line, while reducing the depth of poverty for another 10.1 million people.
The expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit would cost roughly $60 billion over 10 years. The Republican and Democratic proposals have different ideas about how to find this money in the current budget. I am not wedded to either, but would like to work across party lines, if elected, to find a path forward on this critical need.
Our Eighth Idea
Each of the last eight weeks, we have proposed a sensible policy idea. Eight ideas in the 8th! These ideas included gun safety, humane treatment of animals, government assistance for education and to lift people out of poverty, Supreme Court term limits, and green cards for Ph.D.s in the math, science, and technology fields. Your feedback has been thoughtful and inspirational. (Read more here.)
With election day just around the corner, it is time for our 8th idea! And, to bring things full circle in this tenth month of the campaign, I want to reprise my very first idea — and one of the prime reasons I entered this race: We must address the crisis of climate change, the most pressing matter we face today. We must pass a national carbon tax.
Nine of the ten warmest years on record have been in the 21st century. If we don’t act soon, the planet will warm eight degrees Fahrenheit within a century, with a sea level rise of three to six feet. There is a threat of mass extinctions, of extreme weather and weather events, and of greater political instability in the regions first and most severely affected.
Despite this, there is no direct cost for carbon release. A carbon tax would change that, setting an initial price per metric ton of carbon dioxide. This policy must not increase poverty or put an undue burden on those households least able to afford it. So some of the revenue – perhaps even all of the revenue, as proposed by Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen – would be refunded through a refundable tax credit or electronic benefit transfer system.
I promise you that one of my first acts as a Congressman – should you elect me on Tuesday – will be to sponsor or cosponsor legislation to enact a national carbon tax.
Please vote on November 4th.