Rodriguez Says We Must Embrace Data-Driven Environmental Policies For those who are ideological conservatives, it is inconsistent to oppose the idea of conservation—it is the very root of the modern environmental movement.
Two Republican presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, were the greatest champions of the conservation movement. Each signed into law signature legislation that advanced the cause of environmental protection in the U.S. This topic should be one of the points of common sense agreement between people of different political stripes. movement...
We all appreciate the benefits of clean air and clean water, both for ourselves and our children and grandchildren. Although there may be costs to achieve this, it is clear that the benefits far outweigh the shared burden. Some claim that the free market, left to its own devices, will make wise choices that will protect the environment. However, we know from experience that markets can be driven by factors in conflict with moral choices. It takes deliberate decisions, like removing lead from paint and gasoline, to implement legislative solutions to serious societal health problems. If we ignore such remedies that serve the public good, we find ourselves in an unnecessarily dangerous world. Would you freely choose to work in an asbestos-laden workplace? Are you happy about eating fish contaminated with mercury?
Common sense regulation that is rooted in the public interest is beneficial to society, but we must be careful to avoid excesses of over-regulation. The key to enacting common sense policy is making decisions based on data and not either party’s ideological talking points. Failure to make data-driven decisions will only lead to more man-made disasters like the water crisis in Flint, MI. We cannot be science deniers. We can and must do better to preserve a healthy planet for generations to come.
My opponent joined with other political ideologues to try to prevent several attorneys general in various states from moving forward with an investigation of ExxonMobil to see if the company misled its own shareholders and the general public about knowledge linking emission of greenhouse gases to environmental degradation. The political class should not give shelter to special interests like multi-national corporations that withhold evidence because they wish to protect the company’s bottom line. Unfortunately, the efforts succeeded and the SEC dropped the investigation in August of 2018.
Fiscal responsibility is essential in the U.S. House of Representatives if we ever hope to see a balanced budget and begin the important work of reducing the national debt. Since past Congresses have shown little effort to achieve this end, it is therefore necessary to force a procedural rule that will make it much more problematic for members of Congress to continue to fund so called “pork projects” or legislative earmarks.
A spirit of total transparency is necessary in the legislative process so that the American people can readily see how much government largesse their Representative is spending on pet projects that are largely deemed nonessential.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a nonpartisan agency that operates within the government to provide data-driven analyses of any pending legislation that has been approved by a committee of the House or Senate. Accordingly, the CBO uses its analytical skills to make cost estimates of most pending legislative bills, but according to congressional custom it does not follow this practice for appropriations bills. As a result, these are the pieces of legislation that often become filled with special earmarks during those late evening sessions when the give-and-take of political deal-making is in full swing. If we want to fix broken government, the fix must begin here.
Junius Rodriguez is proposing a procedural rule that would require an estimate from the CBO on all pending bills that have made their way through committee, including appropriations bills, so that an analysis can be made regarding the necessary cost of the pending legislation and the additional cost that would be added if legislative earmarks were included. Since acronyms can serve a useful purpose here, the CBO should be required to affix a label on all pending legislation—the Fiscal Accountability Tracker (FAT)—to provide the American people with the exact cost of legislation that is pending before the U.S. Congress. Moreover, the procedural rule would require a minimum of a forty-eight hour waiting period for the CBO to conduct its estimate before legislation could be put forward for a final vote. This would put both transparency and rationality as the driving forces in the legislative process and would eliminate the circumstance of late-night votes upon massive bills that no one has read.
In short, this procedural rule is necessary because we cannot allow congressional fat to clog the arteries of the body politic. It is certainly possible that some of the items that are currently funded as congressional pork projects might well have a legitimate purpose, but if so, these projects must stand or fall on their own merits and not as quid pro quo compensation for a rightly-cast vote. Although every legislator would love to return more funding in appropriations to the district than was paid out in tax revenues, this is financially untenable and logically unsound. The U.S. Congress must learn to live within its means.
If this procedural rule is established, the Fiscal Accountability Tracker (FAT) label would be included on all legislation that is up for consideration by the Congress. It would also be available for public review online at the Library of Congress website (Thomas) where voters can review legislation that is pending. This rule would also provide a new metric by which we could measure the effectiveness of legislators in keeping their promises regarding fiscal accountability. Many would agree that Washington, D.C. needs a diet, and perhaps the use of a FAT label is one method that can begin the process of restoring our fiscal health and wellness.
Rodriguez Favors Term Limits
Any candidate who says they are willing to challenge the toxicity and dysfunction within the U.S. Congress should state a clear, unequivocal position on the question of term limits. Voters should demand this. Recent election cycles clearly demonstrate the power of the conveyor belt of incumbency, and we can see the disastrous effects on our Democracy.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2014, 95% of incumbents in the U.S. House of Representatives who sought reelection were returned to their posts. In 2016, it was 97%. This was in spite of the abysmally low ratings for the U.S. Congress in the national polls. Their wide name recognition and a usually enormous advantage in campaign cash typically allow incumbents to hold onto their seats with little trouble.
Junius Rodriguez believes that one of the most important measures of a person’s character is how they handle power. A person’s willingness to relinquish power voluntarily is one of the most consequential tests of leadership. Supporting term limits is one of the ways that we can restore a level of accountability to a political system that has become terribly corrupt in the eyes of the People.
Although Congressman Darin LaHood, the Republican incumbent, has on occasion voiced his support for term limits, when pressed for more specifics, he has dialed back his endorsement of the idea. In May 2015, while a candidate in the Special Election to fill the vacancy in the IL-18th seat, LaHood signed a pledge with the advocacy group U.S. Term Limits to support a three-term limit for members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Only weeks later, during a radio interview, LaHood was asked about his views on term limits and he stated that “serving somewhere between six terms and eight terms would be something that would be appropriate.”
Junius Rodriguez has stated on multiple occasions that he personally supports term limits. He believes that there is an inherent danger in the power of entrenched incumbency in American politics today. He does not want to go to Washington to permanently join the club, but rather to challenge the business-as-usual mentality that prevails there.
Independent Maps Are Absolutely Necessary According to Rodriguez There is a constitutional requirement to reconfigure the maps of legislative districts every 10 years after the results of the census have been announced. This sets off a frantic effort by our state legislators to redistrict in a way to preserve their domain and make it bulletproof against potential challengers for their seats.
We have permitted a system which gives politicians the constitutional right to select their voters and gives voters much less of a choice in selecting their representatives. This has enabled something totally against the notion of the Founding Fathers—the career politician. How is it that we have allowed our citizen democracy to sink to this level?
I support the idea of having legislative district maps developed by an independent commission absolutely free of partisan influence. We must rely upon the judicious temperament of independent-minded individuals to sort through the demographic data and make the best choices.
Having legislative and congressional district boundaries determined by an independent commission will not undermine the power and the influence of the voting public. Certain safeguards can be put in place to protect the rights that racial and ethnic minorities are guaranteed under the Voting Rights Act. In addition, the districts drawn should reflect the common interests of the residents included and should honor geographic boundaries rather than simply dividing a neighborhood down the middle of a street.
The gerrymandered districts that currently exist have been tremendously effective at preserving the status quo, and where has that gotten us?
The independent maps approach is a true good government reform that can hopefully produce government that is more effective than our current system. In a true citizen democracy legislative districts should not be personal fiefdoms to be maintained by the political class. The People are sovereign within our system, and the People are relatively independent-minded when it comes to understanding what is right from what is just plain wrong. We deserve the right to a system that can help make our government better. Our goal from the beginning has been “to form a more perfect Union,” and the independent maps proposal can help us achieve that end.
Rodriguez Says That We Can and Must Preserve Social Security The Social Security Trust Fund will become insolvent down the line unless we find the courage to act now. Therefore, the next Congress must begin the challenging work of guaranteeing the life of Social Security for future generations. Social Security has been described as “the third rail of American politics”, meaning that it is a potentially deadly issue that politicians should stay away from. As such, it has been famously ignored during a generation of congressional do-nothingism because many Representatives are more concerned about perpetuating their careers than they are about doing the hard work of governing.
Junius Rodriguez says we can extend the lifetime of Social Security with multiple, gradual fixes.
I believe that we can and should make the following changes:
Begin the process in 2019 of incrementally raising the retirement age from 67 to 70 within a decade. Americans are experiencing a longer life-expectancy today. Raising the age of eligibility over a 10 year period allows those who are approaching retirement to plan accordingly.
In 2018, no worker pays FICA taxes on any salary above $128,400. This should be raised to a $200,000 cap over the next decade. We must perpetuate a sense of inter-generational responsibility. Those of us currently working support our parent’s and grandparent’s generation with the assurance that our own generation will be treated equitably in due time.
We should implement means-testing system for the most wealthy. Individuals among the millionaire class who do not need to receive monthly Social Security checks in order to make ends meet should not receive them. However, this must be indexed to inflation on a regular basis so that no one is unfairly penalized; individuals who fall below the threshold would again be eligible for benefits.
The U.S. Congress must also rise to the occasion with fiscal responsibility. Congress must make it a priority to make Social Security a program that is fully funded. Without this, we are simply passing the problem on to future generations.
Job Creation is a Key Piece
The single most effective means of strengthening Social Security for years to come is the creation of good jobs at good wages. We should set as a target the creation of at least 25 million new jobs providing living wages and beyond in the coming decade. Individuals who are working at good jobs with good wages will be supporting the Trust Fund. They will also have the ability to save money—something that is an unavailable luxury to those living from paycheck-to-paycheck. We must also create incentives to save for the rising generation of American workers—not as a means of privatizing Social Security, but as a means of supplementing future Social Security payments.