My Policy Objectives
- A Guaranteed Job or Guaranteed Retraining for all who are able to work. A legally enforceable right to one or the other. This is the fundamental plank, more transformative, if we achieve it, than all else.
- The Right to a Childhood Without Fear: Restoring sanity in setting limits to private weapons ownership. Transforming our most crime-ridden cities, where America's least advantaged children are 24/7 in a shooting gallery. A Marshall Plan for Baltimore. Building a Wealth-Stake in Poor Neighborhoods through Home Ownership by Those at the Bottom. Rethinking Imprisonment. Using inner-city creativity and energy to bring beauty to the mean streets of America. Immediate: Two Months of Safety = Sleep-away camp for the kids in our worst cities.
- A Living Wage and a Livable Work-life: A $15/hour minimum wage, or retraining, supplemented by the earned income tax credit. Putting shorter hours back on the national agenda, after an 80 year hiatus. Expanding leisure. Slowing down.
- Free higher education in all public colleges (just as I had at City College of New York). Untying education spending from personal earnings. Free public childcare as well. Education for simple living. Learning how to be happy without being rich, without having to have more than the other guy. Accessing, through education, the wealth that we have by virtue of inheriting great works of literature. This means schools in which each and every student loves to read and learns how to be “value added” to the world.
- Medicare Option for All: To address, immediately, the needs of those who cannot access or afford decent health insurance from the private sector. Enhancing Medicare to cover long-term care, and gradual premium-elimination funded through tax reform, thus, untying health care from personal earnings. It also means Medicare that will be forward-looking as we transition into the health care revolution that is just beginning, one that will ultimately explode the life-span and transform the human condition.
- Take Back Your Time: Worker Liberation—The right of every person to determine how much time they will put up for sale to the so-called “job creators.” Paid time-off, paid sick leave, paid family leave, paid vacation time -- minimum total of 30 days a year. Returning to the traditional Labor Agenda of a Shorter Work Week and a Short Work Day. Lowering the need for money by making America a truly efficient society in which basic needs can be met with modest incomes. Education of all young people in start-up. Becoming your own non-profit, as we all become our own “job creators."
- And Beauty for All: Equal access to America’s natural and human-made beauty. Protecting the environment for the next generation. Urban Renaissance. A recognition of the unappreciated role of beauty and creativity, both in economic development and as an essential part of the good life. Creativity classes in our schools. Arts for the elderly. Funding the humanities. Not just bread, but good bread, and New York style bagels too.
- Foreign Affairs: De-escalation in Korea. De-escalation in our relations with Iran; letting the ink dry on the nuclear deal. An even-handed policy in pursuit of a just Israeli-Palestinian peace, and making full use of the US role on the UN Security Council to do so. Values-based foreign policy. Building international structures of law and robust mechanisms of humanitarian intervention under the United Nations. Recognition of a legal right to boycott. Increased economic development assistance directed at the poor majority through basic human needs development strategies. And really, really, meaning it when we say: Never Again -- Not To Anyone -- Not Anywhere.
What This Campaign Is About
This campaign is about winning in June. The window for a Republican candidate to enter their primary closed February 27th. There will be no Republican powerhouse on the ballot in November. The June Primary, only open to Democratic voters, will pick Maryland's next Senator. This campaign is about defeating Ben Cardin, a sitting Senator, who has been an elected official for 50 years.
There are two aspects to this challenge, one having to do with foreign affairs and the other with domestic policy, except the foreign/domestic distinction tends to ignore the powerful linkages. The Iraq war cost the United States around $2 trillion, that's enough to have eliminated tuition at every public college in the United States for 20 years. Just the interest payments on this $2 trillion increase in the national debt, at 3% a year, comes to $60 billion a year. And ask this: If we go to war with Iran, as in Vietnam, from which social class do our soldiers come? Not the top 1%.
I'm regularly told, "You can't win in Maryland on foreign policy." That's correct, but misplaced advice. I don't intend to. As is clear above, my campaign is focused on the core issues of American life: work, time and money. That said, let me make two points about what it is to be a Senator. First, Senators are the Constitutional check on run-away war-power by any President. One of the greatest tragedies of American history was that this power was not exercised under both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, both of whom led tens of thousands of American boys and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese men, women and children to their pointless deaths because neither wanted to be "the first American President to lose a war." And the utter bungling of George W. Bush's ill-conceived invasion of Iraq exacted a price on the world that is still accumulating.
Secondly, about being a Senator, the truth of the matter is that all liberal Democrats basically vote the same (with a few exceptions such as Ben Cardin on the Iran nuclear deal). And almost all provide good constituent service and watch after the special needs of their state. What really matters is the focused area where the Senator carves out his or her influence and expertise, and becomes a leader for other Senators. For Ben Cardin, that just happens to be in Foreign Affairs, and most centrally, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My own area of expertise. And Ben Cardin has made himself part of the problem, and whether it is the priority of Marylanders or not, it is here that replacing him will have the greatest impact for good.
I address this at length in other parts of this website. Here are the main points:
1. Cardin is a vehicle of AIPAC, the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, only second to the NRA in its influence over Congress. AIPAC carries the agenda of Bibi Netanyahu, for Israel and, unfortunately, too often for the United States as well. Twenty-nine years ago, I founded the Jewish Peace Lobby (www.jewishpeacelobby.org) as an alternative vision of what it means to be pro-Israeli. This campaign is the first time we, or anyone, has challenged AIPAC electorally, and challenged their tight grip on Congressional action on all things directly or indirectly related to Israel.
2. AIPAC/Cardin defends and shelters the aggressive settlement activity of the current Israeli government. This is destroying the possibility of the two-state solution, and thus, necessitates an Israeli choice between being a Jewish state or being a democracy. It is clear that democracy is losing in that contest. This is a heart breaking tragedy, and must be fought with all we have got.
3. Secondly, Cardin, again aligned with AIPAC, joined with all 54 Republican Senators in opposing the Iran Nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama Administration. President Obama told us that the choice was either between the nuclear deal or the use of force against Iran. Bibi wanted an American attack. John Kerry confirmed this publicly a month ago. In effect, Ben Cardin voted for war against Iran. Anything he says to the contrary is BS.
4. Cardin, in his blank-check support of any Israeli government policy introduced legislation that would felonize (up to 20 years in jail) any American who joined and supported a boycott of the Israeli settlements, if that boycott was called by the United Nations or any of our European allies. The ACLU has condemned this as un-Constitutional, as has my excellent Congressman, Jamie Raskin, formerly a Professor of Constitutional Law.
Further, I join the Congressional Black Caucus in calling on Israel to halt the deportation of African refugees seeking asylum in Israel. Of course, Israel has to have control of its borders, but as a country that calls itself the Nation State of the Jewish People, Israel must be true to our people's historical experience. We must remember Exodus 22:21 "And a stranger shalt thou not wrong, neither shalt thou oppress him; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt."
I am running against Cardin from the left. My campaign banner is Bread and Roses, the banner carried by women textile workers in their historic strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912.
Bread basically means A Decent Society, one in which basic human needs are met, even for the poor. Roughly speaking this is Bernie Sanders. I support the goals of Bernie's agenda, and most of his policy positions.
Roses means something else. Something not attained through higher pay. It speaks to the more complex needs of people, even beaten-down immigrant workers in 1912. It is about our deeper need for beauty and meaning, about having time for life itself, time for being with old friends, time for enjoying our children when they are very young, time for being with our parents as they age, or in a book club, or for playing racquetball with an old buddy, three times a week. It's what I call the Alternative American Dream. It is captured in the bumper sticker wisdom: Nobody ever died wishing they had spent more time at the office. My campaign offers something new to progressive politics. It offers a policy agenda for Roses, one I developed in my book: Graceful Simplicity: The Philosophy and Politics of the Alternative American Dream.
I raise the most basic question of public policy: What is an economy for, anyway? My answer is this: To give us all a material platform that satisfies core needs with enough time and energy left over to allow us to turn away from the economic realm and to do those things that are most important in life, each according to their own drummer.
I CAN WIN
The main question that hovers over this campaign is whether there is any, even remote possibility, that I can beat Cardin. If people believe it is possible, then funds, money and passion will pour in. So here is the basic point: Bernie got 34% of the Democratic vote when he ran against Hillary in Maryland. Today he is even more popular. This 34% is my starting point. I build from there. People voted for Hillary for all sorts of reasons that don't apply to Cardin (e.g. She is a woman and might have been our first woman President; As a Clinton she had long and strong relationships with the black community; She was viewed by many as one of the most highly qualified candidates the Democratic Party had ever fielded.)
And Cardin is vulnerable. The ACLU has come out forcefully against his anti-BDS legislation. Donald Trump has triggered an enormous response around the country and Bernie has shown that real change is possible. America is transforming as we speak. Ben Cardin is not a transformational figure. But if I am anything, that is who I am.
Cardin's vote on the Iran nuclear deal disqualifies him for leadership in the Democratic Party on Foreign Policy. That vote was a vote for an American attack on Iran, or at the very least, American support for an Israeli attack. But this was madness. We would never know whether a humiliated Iran, with the nuclear agreement destroyed and IAEA inspectors expelled, was then racing for nuclear weapons. American troops in Iran would be the next order of business, and that with no exit strategy. We have seen this horror movie before.
And how did Cardin come to be the point-man in the Senate for all this? Follow the money. AIPAC-related PACs give to everyone. In his last race as a Congressman in 2004, Cardin was number 432; he received $750. Two years later when he ran for the Senate he was number 2 in the country and received $420,000, enough to ensure his 44% to 41% victory in the key Democratic primary against Congressman Kweisi Mfume. Enough said.
Bread & Roses