Universal Health Care

America must have a truly universal health care system, which brings down costs and ensures that no one suffers or dies simply because they cannot afford healthcare. We will advocate for a single payer system, such as Medicare for all, to achieve this goal. The United States spends almost one fifth of its GDP on health care, more than any other developed nation by a large margin, and achieves worse than average outcomes. Many procedures cost twice or more here as they do in other developed countries like Israel, the UK, and Canada, where life expectancy is higher. Costs are rising too quickly and the recent changes to weaken Obamacare passed by the Congress will only accelerate this problem. A universal health care system will not only ensure that every citizen has access to health care, but will also be cheaper for everyone. Universal healthcare must also include access to women’s reproductive health services, contraceptives, and vaccines for diseases such as HPV, which leads to over 40,000 cases of cervical cancer a year. Members of Congress who vote on laws that affect the reproductive health of their constituents should have an understanding of basic biology.

Veterans and National Defense

The United States must prioritize people over pork barrel spending. We should base our funding decisions in decency, and provide adequate care for Veterans before funding expensive projects that mainly benefit large contractors. The military investments of the future must be focused on the areas where we have the most vulnerability. First and foremost, American must invest in greater cybersecurity. From hacking of our financial systems to interference in our elections, the US remains more vulnerable to attacks online by malicious actors than any other kind of threat. We must conduct serious and thorough investigations into how the Russian government interfered in our most recent elections and take steps to identify and neutralize such interference by hostile powers in the future. We must also use all available resources to identify and disrupt terrorist networks before they are able to launch attacks on the United States or its allies. This includes forcefully rejecting any American leaders’ demonization of specific faiths, which can be used to increase recruitment for terrorism.

Climate Change

Our government must base its environmental policy on evidence not ideology, and accept the overwhelming consensus among scientific experts that human activity is causing climate change. We will hold government agencies that do not accept scientific consensus accountable. As weather anomalies and natural disasters increase, there will be massive disruptions to economic and political systems, including massive new numbers of refugees from areas affected. We must recommit to addressing this problem as a global issue. The United States has always been a leader in energy production, and as the demand for fossil fuels decreases, we should strive to remain the leader of the world in the production and innovation of renewable energy. America must continue to invest in renewable energy sources which will provide power and good jobs for middle class Americans. We should also look at an evidence-based approaches to mitigating our emissions, including innovations in land usage, agriculture, and waste disposal which will have major impacts on emissions going forward.

Gun Violence

The rate of gun violence in America is unique to the developed world, with six times the gun homicide rate of Canada, and almost 20 times the rate of Australia.  Parents and community members should not have to live in fear of repeated mass shootings at their children’s schools and public gathering places.  Sensible gun safety laws and regulation of firearms, such as universal background checks, bans on high capacity semi-automatic weapons, restrictions on straw purchases, and required firearm insurance, can be implemented without infringing on the second amendment. Congress must have the political will to prioritize protecting victims and preventing gun violence, including mass shootings, above partisan politics.  We support working with responsible gun owners to promote meaningful gun safety reform that actually reduces violence and we challenge gun rights advocacy organizations, such as the National Rifle Association, to work with families and victims to pass real gun reform. We advocate boycotts, walkouts, and all legal methods of raising awareness and putting pressure on any groups which oppose gun reform, until such time as serious action to prevent future gun violence is taken.

Education

The United States should invest in higher education so that all students are able to graduate from a public university, college, or vocational school debt free. We will push to provide adequate resources to our primary and secondary schools for all students, including those with special needs, difficult home situations, and linguistics barriers. The Department of Education should not encourage the depletion of those resources through voucher programs. The federal, state, and local governments should partner in a way to provide enough flexibility for school boards to implement needed changes, while the state and federal government share best practices in social and emotional student support systems. The federal government should also spur innovation, especially in use of technology and teacher training.

Voting Rights

The right to vote is the fundamental basis on which a democratic society is built. Universal enfranchisement should be a goal and and voting rights should be protected against attempts at disenfranchisement. The Voting Rights Act should be restored, and all citizens should have access to their voting rights, including those incarcerated with no criminal conviction. I support automatic registration, same day registration, expanded access to early voting, and a voter holiday, so that working families are not disenfranchised.

Economic Inequality

American workers must receive a wage that they can live on. We will fight to guarantee that no Texan who works full time is unable to afford basic needs, like food or housing. We also deserve a taxation system that can fund necessary public services and provide incentives for creating middle class jobs, instead of simply increasing economic inequality. Congress recently passed the most unpopular tax cut in history, adding $1.5 trillion to our national debt, the interest on which will be paid for by cutting government services, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. A tax cut that primarily benefits those making more than $700,000 in a year when the stock market is already hitting record highs is unnecessary and unfair to the middle class. Our trade deals should be contingent upon maintaining high labor and environmental standards.

Disaster Relief

The United States must have an adequate disaster response system that treats victims with compassion and decency. In a year in which we saw the highest damage due to natural disasters in history, the response by the administration to flooding in Texas was incompetent, and Congress prioritized tax cuts over disaster relief. FEMA should be funded adequately to deal with the victims of these disasters. “We are not first responders” is not an acceptable answer when victims are out of their homes for months. Residents must have better information about the risks of the areas they live in, the federal government must have better services for victims, and constituents must have better representatives in Congress who prioritize disaster relief, who do not spread misinformation about evacuations, and don’t avoid town halls with victims.

Criminal Justice Reform

Our current mass incarceration is ineffective and inhumane, and we will introduce legislation to reform it. We have the largest prison population in the world, with more than 2.3 million people incarcerated at any one time and more than 11 million jail imprisonments every year, many for being too poor to pay a fine. Even as overall crime has decreased, the prison system has grown, destroying families of the incarcerated, and impacting our entire society through a huge loss of productivity and increase in the burden on public services. In addition to a system of rehabilitation which actually addresses the root problems of violence, America also needs a new approach to the 47-year failed War on Drugs. We waste more resources, with worse results, than countries who have taken a medical approach to the issue of drug addiction. By treating a medical issue with a medical solution, not a law enforcement solution, we can reduce our drug addiction rate, take revenue directly away from organized crime, and free up resources for police to reduce violent crime.

Immigration Reform

Congress must pass a clean DREAM Act as soon as possible, to address the situation of millions of children who have grown up in the United States without a legal status. This should not be a partisan issue, as 91% of Democrats and 76% of Republicans favor a pathway to citizenship, if certain conditions are met. Congress must also pass a comprehensive immigration reform which is sensible and compassionate, and takes into account the practical realities of maintaining security along 2,000 mile border with Mexico, the demands of American farms and companies for migrant labor, and the need for highly skilled workers from other countries, without undercutting American labor or lowering labor standards. Our immigration policy must provide funding for adequate border security, punishment for employers who do not adhere to U.S. labor standards, a legal route for migrant workers to supply their labor and return across the border, and a reduction in the red tape and complications for highly skilled workers to come to the U.S. We must also acknowledge that there is a global refugee crisis which will create more instability and conditions for fostering terrorism if the international community does not equitably share the burden of resettling and assimilating refugees. America must do its part to deal with this refugee crisis.

Sri Preston Kulkarni