When folks in this country are unemployed, it isn’t because there isn’t enough work to be done. As we look around our communities, there are endless projects to take on – dilapidated housing, care work of every type, beautification of our town squares, increasing access to healthy foods – but the money to start these projects always seems just out of reach as our local governments scramble to find money to keep the basic infrastructure in place. Meanwhile, Federal money is being used to shower already wealthy corporations and pay for endless wars. It is time we put that money to work in our communities. A Federally funded, locally administered job guarantee would put the resources in our hands to prioritize the things we need done and build an economy that works for us.
The local administration of this program will focus on the democratization of our workforce. Sometimes when we tell people about the job guarantee, we hear “what about the people who don’t want to work?”. We believe that people DO want to work, but there currently aren’t positions that fit their physical, mental, or socioeconomic needs.
In urban areas, good paying jobs are highly competitive. Even with a Bachelor’s degree, finding a job can itself be a full-time job. Furthermore, finding a position that fits your skills AND pays enough to afford your exorbitant student loan debt is next to impossible. In low-income urban areas, there are often no jobs available. Capital has a tendency to concentrate, and that is exactly what happened in our urban areas. As our cities began to suburbanize, corporations moved out of low-income neighborhoods so they could be closer to the hip neighborhoods that were attracting college educated young people. This disinvestment has especially caused Black neighborhoods to be without decent paying jobs. Folks often work 2 or 3 minimum wage jobs just to keep the lights on.
Rural towns around Kansas mostly sprung to life in the mid-late 1800s, as there was money to be made in fossil fuels, minerals, or farming. Many of those towns were left to die after big industry stripped the resources from the ground and moved on to the next opportunity. Farming towns have fared a little better than oil, coal, lead, and zinc towns, but we have started to see a shift to less prosperity in those communities as well, as our farming system continues to commodify. Folks in our rural communities often drive 30+ miles per day to find work in a plant or factory in the nearest commerce district, only to then have their tax dollars are extracted by the company who is incorporated in another state or country.
Over the next few months, we look forward to talking with folks throughout Kansas communities to further discuss what types of jobs might be appealing to them as we begin to re-envision our economy. It is essential we start having these conversation and understand what the infrastructure should look like. We know our economy ebbs and flows, and the current growth cycle will eventually come to a halt. In a recession, when many lose their jobs, a job guarantee would make sure people can continue contributing and earning. Once the economy gets back to normal, the private companies can hire back. Rather than be unemployed during rough times, we can keep working on the things we decide are important in our communities.
These jobs will pay a living wage. If the jobs are worth doing, they are worth paying people enough to live on. This will help stabilize prices to avoid both deflation and inflation. Providing a price floor at a living wage and maintaining stable employment will provide fewer fluctuations in the economy, and the set wage will avoid bidding up prices against the private sector. The job guarantee will allow for a just transition of the economy. When fossil fuel energy workers are displaced by the transition to sustainable energy, and insurance and billing workers are displaced by Medicare for All, the job guarantee ensures that those people continue to have meaningful jobs in our communities.
It’s time we turn our Unemployment Offices into Employment Offices!
Quality, safe, and affordable housing is a basic human right!
The housing crisis in this country is one of the most under-talked-about phenomena we are facing. The need for quality, safe, and affordable units far exceeds the number currently available, and the popular definition of “affordable” does not bear resemblance to the actual needs of the tens of millions of low-income families living through this crisis. In urban areas of Kansas, thousands of livable units ranging from $0 to $500 per month are urgently needed. In rural areas, homes that fall into disrepair are abandoned and left for dead; as our small communities look for ways to attract outsiders, they are constantly up against the reality that there are not homes available to house those newcomers.
Rent keeps going up, while wages remain the same. The viability of becoming a homeowner is decreasing with each new generation. The housing market is becoming increasingly commodified, while private corporations continue to squeeze low- and middle-income Kansans. Urban and rural communities across the United States are cash strapped and rely on property taxes to fund local initiatives and infrastructure. This does not lend to incentivizing the building of truly affordable housing.
We need to prioritize the construction of public housing, community land trusts, cooperative housing ownership, and any other means necessary to maintain affordable and habitable housing. It is up to the Federal Government to step in and provide the funding necessary for communities to give their residents quality housing regardless of income level.
Good neighbor Republicans know that the Kobach approach to immigration reform is out of line with our values. From Garden City, to Wichita, to Emporia, to Kansas City, we know that our communities of immigrants and refugees are a strength to our societal fabric. Our campaign has close friendships with folks who have left their homes to seek refuge and opportunity in the United States, and we will advocate for them at every turn.
We support immediate citizenship for all DACA recipients, and DACA must be extended to include the new generation. It makes no sense that those who have been a part of our communities since early childhood should be treated differently just because of the geography of their birthplace. The rhetoric used by White Nationalists like Kobach say that immigrants should ‘assimilate’ but, as the policy stands today, it is nearly impossible for non-citizens to go to college or find decent paying jobs, despite the never-ending effort that so many put into it.
It is with the same common-sense value of compassion that we also support a path to citizenship for the vast majority of all unauthorized immigrants and refugees in our country. We believe a lot of the anti-immigrant sentiment that we see in this country stems from the financial squeeze caused by our ultra-capitalist society. As we move toward a more communitarian, democratic, and sustainable economy, we will be better equipped to help our neighbors find their place in our communities.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) needs to be abolished or at least seriously de-funded and restructured. The organization was created less than 2 decades ago, and it’s main function today is to round up folks in the US who do not have proper documentation and destroy their livelihoods. This needs to end. The budget for ICE is approximately $6 billion/year. That money could be much better spent on housing or food to make our communities better places to live.
We also support a more compassionate and humanitarian policy at the border. Unlawful entry should be a civil infraction rather than a criminal one. We support the repeal of Section 1325 of Title 8 of the US code. We will also push to have the asylum bond retracted. Asylum seekers currently have to pay a $1500 ransom/bribery fee to avoid immediate deportation. This is a violation of international law and needs to be stricken from US law. The Public Charge Rule is openly classist and should also be stricken from our law. We will work not only to repeal the recent changes to the Rule, but to remove it completely.
Healthcare is a basic human right!
Our current healthcare system is a detriment to our collective health, both medically and financially. Those who are lucky enough to have insurance through their employers usually still pay a monthly, out-of-pocket premium, and then hope nothing goes wrong, because it will break to bank to pay the $6000-$8000 annual deductible. The reality for far too many Americans is that health insurance is out of reach. Tens of millions of working Americans do not have employer-provided health insurance, make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but can’t afford the $400-$500 monthly premiums plus co-pays and deductibles.
We have the resources available to ensure every person in this country can see a doctor without having to worry about what it might do to their bank account, and we can choose to make this ideal a reality. Medicare for All will drastically reduce the costs of healthcare in the United States and provide access to care for the many who are left out of our current system. It will save our rural hospitals and provide for a just and equitable healthcare system that lessens the life expectancy gap between our low- and high-income communities.
Medicare for all will include free access to mental health care.
It is time we stop associating “mental health” as something criminal or undesirable. We are facing a despair crisis right now in this country. Suicides are on the increase across demographics. More than half the country doesn’t know how they’re going to pay their bills if their next paycheck doesn’t come. Addiction to opioids, amphetamines, and alcohol are prevalent throughout every class and demographic. We live in fear of our neighbors, despite ever-decreasing levels of crime. This collective anxiety we are facing needs to be addressed. Providing access to mental health care for every American will have immeasurable benefits on the health of our country. It will provide each of us with the tools required to better navigate the world around us, and it will have a direct effect as financial anxiety will wane when people have the assurance that going to the doctor will not lead to bankruptcy.
Our criminal justice system is completely broken. It is, and always has been, a caste system used to drive socially undesirable people out of our society. Communities of color and poor people have been disparately impacted from laws targeted toward these groups.
In response to the Crack Epidemic, instead of treating it like the public health crisis that it was, Congress and the Clinton Administration passed the 1994 Crime Bill that tore families apart and created the system of mass incarceration that we are still dealing with today. Now, in the age of the Opioid Epidemic, we must learn from our past mistakes. Substance dependency should not be treated as a criminal offense. Simple drug possession should be de-felonized across the board, and money should be redirected to create a network of programs that pinpoint and treat the source of the dependency.
We should not be locking children up and throwing away the key. If you are under 18, you are not an adult, and therefore should not be tried as an adult under any circumstances.
Mandatory minimums have no place in our society. They should be thrown out completely. Non-violent offenders should never spend time in our prisons, and sentencing times for violent offenders should be drastically reduced. Instead of locking folks up in violent institutions, we should focus on providing resources to improve mental and societal health.