Battling Against Racism

It is a struggle; for though the black man fights passively, he nevertheless fights; and his passive resistance is more effective at present than active resistance could possibly be. He bears the fury of the storm as does the willow tree.
–James Weldon Johnson

I’ve noticed a tendency among the right wing: if someone says #BlackLivesMatter, they need to counter it by saying #AllLivesMatter, with the explanation that no lives should matter more than others. However, they are perfectly fine with saying #BlueLivesMatter. Clearly, the word they find offensive word is “black.” Killing anyone–black, blue, brown, pink, trans–is wrong, but arguing over that point is a waste of time. Here are the facts: #BlackLivesMatter is not a terrorist group, and racism is a very real issue.

The statement that #BlackLivesMatter is meant to be a reminder that lives of people of color are being unfairly wasted, and it’s true. Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, and it seems as good a time as any to outline my stances on racial justice. As the above picture shows, let’s not forget that Dr. King faced colossal hardship to achieve his goals, and was once unfairly labeled a thug just like so many others today.

Ending Institutionalized Racism

I’ll never forget how I felt when I tutored a student essay that actually argued that racism doesn’t exist and black people can “just be entrepreneurs like Bill Gates.” Sure, Bill Gates founded a multi-billion dollar company in a garage after dropping out of college, but he came from an upper middle class family and dropped out of Harvard, of all schools. It’s more than a little tough for anyone else to have the luxury of doing the same.

During my relatively short time as a substitute teacher, I’ve worked at various schools around Duval County, and I’ve found a very different story from the situation that fed Bill Gates’ success. It’s almost universally true that schools in poorer and blacker areas receive less funding and therefore fewer resources for serving students. I’ll never forget an experience I had with an honors class that saw no future and therefore no reason to do any of the classwork or follow any school rules. If opportunities are unavailable, why bother with school? College is too expensive, and job prospects are terrible.

The truth is that the hopelessness I witnessed has its roots in a long history of institutionalized racism. When the Federal Housing Administration was set up in 1934, it rated neighborhoods based on how worthy of home loans the people in them were. As one could predict, white neighborhoods received high ratings while black neighborhoods received low ratings. Therefore, white families had access to loans that would allow them to move to better neighborhoods, build better houses, and pass on more to their children. As whites left the city for the suburbs and the property of blacks became essentially worthless, this policy of “redlining” essentially created the inner city ghettos. As Lyndon B. Johnson’s Kerner Commission concluded, “What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

Despite the passing of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 that outlawed redlining, the aftermath of the practice still affects neighborhoods today. In the time leading up to the 2008 Housing Crisis, big banks unfairly and disproportionately targeted African Americans with housing loans with unfair terms. Because of income disparity, mortgage terms are usually less favorable to non-whites. On that note, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a black woman needs to work 19 months to make the same pay a white man makes in 12.

How is someone supposed to pull up their bootstraps when they can’t afford boots? How can they afford to drop out of an Ivy League education? The same economic opportunities should be available to all Americans, regardless of race. Institutionalized racism must end, and all Americans should have access to reasonable financial products and equal pay for equal work.

Ending the Prison Industrial Complex

Contrary to popular belief, slavery never ended. The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution says, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Literally, the work done by prisoners is slave labor. And who makes up the majority of prison populations?

Consider two situations, both involving a small amount of an illegal drug, like marijuana. The subjects are two young men, perhaps 17 years old, one white and one black. They are both caught by police. Which one is more likely to go to prison?

It’s quite common for a black man to receive a mandatory minimum sentence and spend a year in prison, while a white man receives a slap on the wrist, despite white and black males committing non-violent crimes at roughly the same rate, adjusted for population. Even though more white people are arrested, that is only because of higher population. Black people are still more likely to be sent to prison.

Why? Because it is easier to exploit black inmates as cheap prison labor. Companies like McDonald’s, Walmart, AT&T, and even Victoria’s Secret and Whole Foods rely on prison labor to keep cost low and proudly display a “made in USA” label. Prisoners are technically paid for their work, but the pay can range anywhere from nothing to $3.45 per day.

This is insane, and it has led to rise of for-profit prisons that make money on human misery. American taxpayers are literally financing the bottom line of corporations that exploit slave labor and get huge tax breaks. For-profit prisons even advertise high rates of recidivism (returning to prison after release) to their shareholders. It costs the government over $30,000 to keep one inmate in prison each year, and America incarcerates more people than any other industrialized nation, beating out even China and Russia.

Of course, anyone who goes to prison has a harder time getting a paying job, accessing education, and receiving adequate and affordable healthcare upon release, even for a nonviolent offense. Past incarceration is like a curse, and it leads to a vicious cycle of falling back into the same behavior that led to going to prison in the first place. Prisons may be called “correctional facilities,” but they appear to correct nothing.

Of course, murderers and rapists should certainly be locked up. I’m not arguing against that. However, permanently ruining the lives of nonviolent offenders, disproportionately arrested by race, just so they can be used as slave labor for the benefit of corporations is inexcusable.

For-profit prisons must be outlawed, and prisoners must be paid a living wage for their work. If they make a living wage, corporations will have less incentive to use prison labor, which will lead to better opportunities for everyone else. The end of cheap prison labor will also reduce corporate pressure on police and judges to incarcerate more people. Mandatory minimum sentences must also be abolished, along with the war on drugs. However, one matter is most important to reducing incarceration rates.

Police Accountability

Whether it’s in Ferguson, New York, or right here in Jacksonville, police have killed black people at alarming rates. Regardless of any crime Michael Brown committed, it wasn’t a violent crime, and he was unarmed. That alone shows that his death was unwarranted.

This contrasts with the treatment of Dylan Roof after he slaughtered nine people at a primarily black church. The police appear rather cordial with him, with unconfirmed allegations of buying him Burger King.

On the whole, police patrol black neighborhoods far more than white neighborhoods, searching for potential crime, and the police on patrol too often don’t reflect the neighborhood. Whereas the police should be a source of reassurance and safety, for too many police represent the fear of going to prison or outright dying. And too often, brutality and death of nonviolent offenders goes totally unpunished. The JSO officers, who brutalized the Hemming Park 5 while rushing to the defense of the Trump supporter who harassed and threatened them, are still on the force.

Police should not be acting as judge, jury, and executioner. Police forces must take efforts to recruit officers who reflect the neighborhoods they patrol. Race should not be an issue in punishing crime. Now, most police are good people who uphold the law and keep others safe; the problem is that the ones who don’t aren’t being held accountable.

Police should wear body cameras, and the footage from those cameras should publicly available. This doesn’t only protect suspects of crimes–it also protects the officers themselves. Video would make it clear who is threatening who and would remove all doubt about the officer’s actions. Furthermore, non-violent offenders and suspects would be safer from undue death or brutality since police would have every incentive to act professionally.

Is Donald Trump Racist?

Yes.

Final Thoughts

Will addressing the issue fix racism? Of course not. Racism is deeply ingrained in American culture and government, and it won’t magically go away, regardless of who is elected. But we can get the ball rolling. We can fix our broken criminal justice system. We can outlaw slavery once and for all. We can move the police toward being a force of good in the community rather than fear. We can ensure that everyone has access to financial and educational opportunities that lead to advancement.

If Dr. King were alive, he’d be appalled. Let’s fix that.

Nothing Will Trickle Down: End the Madness

Trickle-down economics is a lie.

On December 20th, 2017, the Republican majority in Congress passed a disastrous giveaway to their ultra-rich campaign contributors. Republicans claim that this tax bill will cause more money to “trickle down” into the pockets of everyday Americans. This, of course, is not true. While the bill entails modest and temporary tax breaks for individuals, it presents a permanent golden platter of free money to corporations and the ultra-rich. These incentives to billionaires will add trillions to the deficit and throw Social Security and Medicare into jeopardy. It will also eventually make health insurance for millions–myself included–too expensive to afford.

Of course, the Republican excuse is that this will “create jobs” and lead to better pay for workers, but this clearly not the case. Profits for the ultra-rich have been at all-time highs for decades, whereas pay for everyday workers has stagnated and available jobs have dried up. As I like to say, the only “trickle-down” is Donald Trump’s golden shower. If the rich can get more money by installing politicians willing to give them anything, what reason will they have to invest in jobs? “Trickle-down” policies do nothing but make the rich even richer and inflate the deficit.

shut up and take my money
How Trump’s fans react to trickle-down.

Paying Their Fair Share

Republicans like to bring up that America’s corporate tax rate has been “the highest in the world.” Effectively, this is not true because corporations access so many tax loopholes that few ever pay anywhere near what they technically should. Some of these loopholes include listing a private jet as a personal expense. In fact, too many corporations even receive money back from the government, getting a fat check every year straight from taxpayers. Does any of that fund new jobs? Of course not. Why should the government pay the rich for existing? Because they fund campaigns for anyone willing to give them more money. Meanwhile, the rest of us pay the price.

On that note, as far as I am concerned, any corporation stashing its money in foreign tax havens like Bermuda or Switzerland are not American. Corporations that pretend to be foreign for tax purposes should be foreign in all other ways and subject to none of the benefits included with being American. This includes being fully unable to make campaign contributions.

Overall, question is not about how much tax the rich should pay. Rather, it is about whether the rich should pay taxes at all (Yes). It is about whether the rich should receive free money from provided by the poor middle class (No). It is about whether the government should only protect the interests of billionaires (No).

Punishing Bad Actors

One of the worst consequences of Republican devotion to the wealthy is that those who willingly harm others rarely face consequences for their actions. President Trump himself is on record as committing molestation, considering his now-infamous “grab ’em by the pussy” statement.

Back in 2008, billionaire bankers ruined the American economy by exploiting the Bush administration’s lax rules. They treated the American people’s savings as poker chips at the Wall Street casino. Had these bets succeeded, Americans would have received nothing while the bankers became wealthier. When the bets failed, however, the government awarded the bankers with tremendous bailouts funded by taxpayers. Of course, no bankers went to prison, and they awarded themselves with millions in bonuses, giving nothing back to taxpayers.

While the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau set rules after the crisis to help prevent another from happening, President Trump has installed Mick Mulvaney as the bureau’s leader, who, like Trump’s other leadership picks, will stop at nothing to give billionaires more special rights to treat everyday Americans as walking ATMs with no consequences.

When the rich break the law, they should face consequences just everyone else. Jail time and heavy fines are more than reasonable for corporations that threaten the nation’s financial stability and exploit hardworking people for profit. The government must prevent dangerous and immoral decisions, not encourage them.

Final Thoughts

Perpetuating the trickle-down lie is the only reason why Republicans can justify keeping themselves in power. The truth is that the rich are not all-powerful gods who will rain jobs upon those who pay them tribute. Rather, they have merely found a way to make money without working for it like the rest of us.

Internet for All: Reinstating Net Neutrality

I am extremely disappointed in the ruling of Ajit Pai’s FCC to end net neutrality. Contrary to those who romanticize the world before the Internet, it was far more difficult to politically organize and know what events were happening both locally and around the world. Personally, I was mostly a shut-in until I had a calendar readily available on my phone. For so many of us, the Internet has increased our face-to-face interactions with others, not decreased them, as stereotypes claim.

The excuse of corporations like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T that the end of net neutrality will allow them to create an “Internet fast lane” is complete tripe. Instead, we’re trading government regulation for corporate regulation. Corporations will be able to charge whatever they want for Internet access and treat websites like the channels in their overpriced cable TV bundles. Do you prefer Netflix for $12 monthly over Comcast’s own Xfinity for $75 monthly? Too bad! Comcast can now legally say that your only choice is to pay for an Xfinity cable bundle. They now have the option of blocking Netflix or charging customers to access it. Comcast can also charge Netflix to make the site available through Comcast Internet, or  slow down Netflix so much that it becomes basically unusable.

This is especially bad for small businesses. Unlike huge corporations like Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix, small businesses would not be able to afford the costs Internet providers will require to make content available. Considering the assets available to Amazon, a small online retailer would barely stand a chance.

The decision will even likely kill jobs. I currently work as online writing tutor, and now that job could be in jeopardy. Most jobs use the Internet for hiring, with most job applications being online. Employers will face more difficulty reaching out to potential applicants, therefore stifling available talent.

Students also require Internet access now, as many classes and assignments are online. Their research will likely become tougher since they will need to hope that reliable websites are still available or that information in books at their local libraries is current. Students who take courses online, who may not have access to classrooms locally, may lose their access to education entirely.

Furthermore, the FCC’s decision stifles freedom of speech. If Internet providers decide that a website violates their political views, they can block it. The fact that I am posting a disagreement to the decision right now means that AT&T could block my website and speed up John Rutherford’s just to ensure that I can’t threaten their profits. This can especially hurt minority communities, for whom the Internet has finally provided an outlet to have their voices heard.

The worst part of it all is that consumers will have have no choice. In too many areas, one company will own a monopoly on available Internet service, thus preventing the free market from deciding anything through competition. Furthermore, these corporations are constantly merging with one another to give consumers even less choice.

Beyond this ludicrous decision, the price of Internet access in America is already ridiculous, especially compared to the pricing packages available across the rest of the world. Why should Americans pay more for an essential service? Why should telecommunications companies be allowed to charge more for higher speeds even though those higher speeds cost no extra money to provide?

I vigorously oppose any closure of the Internet based on the interests of mega-corporations. Americans need the Internet for work and educational productivity, just like electricity. I also support allowing cities to open public options for Internet access, treating it as a utility. Without any competition among corporations, this is one of the few options for bringing costs down.

As your Congresswoman, I pledge to reverse the FCC’s decision and make sure that the Internet is protected for those who need it. I hope that you will join me. Furthermore, you can support the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s efforts to fight this corporate dominance.

Monica

Possible Future Internet Plans
A mockup of the possible future. The consequences are likely to be far more subtle than this example. Source unknown.

 

America at Work

Fair Pay and Ending Welfare for the Rich

By pretending that all billionaires are somehow “self-made” and “job creators,” Republicans have duped Americans into worshiping what Monica calls the “Cult of Corporations.” This belief requires the super-rich to pay nothing in taxes and receive huge kickbacks at the expense of government programs that serve others. The rich will then supposedly reward their worshipers by making prosperity “trickle down,” allowing the masses to have the same opportunities as the rich with hard work.

Here’s the truth: most American millionaires and billionaires today—including Donald Trump, the Koch brothers, and the Walton family—inherited their wealth from their fathers. Giving them tax breaks has proven time and again to do absolutely nothing to create jobs. Why would they create more jobs when they can just mooch more money from the government? Trickle-down economics amounts to nothing more than welfare for the rich.

Speaking of welfare, America spends over $6 billion providing welfare benefits to Wal-Mart workers. They need the public funding to supplement minimum wage work and support their families. Otherwise, they would die. This means that the Walton family, who reserve billions in profits for themselves, rely on the same welfare system that Republicans claim is such a waste. Corporations like Wal-Mart that rely on shortchanging their workers to inflate their executives’ pockets are the real “welfare queens.”

Minimum wage was originally intended as a living wage, not a starvation wage. Very few minimum wage workers are pre-college teenagers, and most are struggling to basically make ends meet on the current national minimum of $7.25 per hour.

Demand for goods and services increases when people have more money to spend. Demand creates jobs that fulfill it and profit from it. Therefore, the only logical way to encourage growth is for a minimum wage increase and, in fact, a fair increase to all wages for all workers. The highest incomes have skyrocketed while all others have stagnated.

A minimum wage increase to $15 per hour is an excellent start but will not be enough. If first responders are making little more than $15 per hour, then that is also unacceptable and must increase appropriately. Highly-skilled adjunct university professors in Jacksonville can make a mere $2,250 for each semester-long course taught; this is also absurd, and many professors around the country have even resorted to welfare.

An increase to wages would effectively eliminate the need for many welfare programs. Along with requiring the rich to pay their fair share of taxes instead of throwing money at them, far more money would become available for other government programs and a reduction of the national debt.

The wants of the rich should not outweigh the needs of everyone else. The time has come to value the hard work of all instead of the entitled dynasties of the 1% who think they should own America.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Too many employers discourage workers from asking what their coworkers make; this allows employers to shortchange some workers who don’t know how much they should be making. The unjust and arbitrary abuse of some workers over others must end.

Many employers, such as UPS, have weaseled their way out of giving fair pay and benefits by defining some workers as part-time or as “contractors” and using that to justify paying them less per hour and denying them access to benefits. Part-time positions in and of themselves are fine, but they must pay the same amount that full-time workers receive per hour for the same work. Adjunct university professors, for example, do the same teaching work as full-time professors with the same degree and skill level; however, they earn less than half what full-timers make with no benefits and no opportunities for full-time positions. How does this make any sense?

Likewise, women should never be paid less than men for the same work. It is absolute lunacy that a gender gap would still exist in the modern era, but apparently, all too many employers think that it’s okay to pay women less than men. Women of equal skill and work ethic deserve equal pay.

Age has also become a major concern regarding fair pay standards. Many Millennials have discovered that more and more jobs want to hire them as independent contractors, part-timers, adjuncts, or even unpaid interns instead of any paid position. This “Uber economy” is not working as the low pay, long hours, and intense demands put the dreams of owning a home or paying off student loans out of reach. These twisted concepts of employment are the true causes of those  “lazy millennials” clichés that make their rounds online.

Union and Bargaining Rights

Even non-union workers have benefitted from the work of unions to guarantee fair pay, benefits, hours, and work opportunities. Now, however, new part-time-focused work models and “right-to-work” legislation prevent people from joining unions. However, unions still must represent full-time workers who can’t join or choose not to, causing other members’ dues to increase.

As an adjunct professor, Monica was not legally able to join a union. The United Faculty of Florida ironically can only represent full-time professors. Of course, full-time positions are disappearing because the adjunct position is exploitable. Lack of job security ensures that adjuncts will not dare to form their own union.

The same patterns have emerged in other industries as politicians have empowered union-busting corporations. “Right-to-work” means nothing more than right to exploitation.

Monica opposes all “right-to-work” legislation and pledges to protect workers’ rights to bargain for fair pay, fair conditions, and benefits, whether individually or as part of a union. Voicing the need for a living wage should not be grounds for firing.

Seniors

Even though Social Security pays for itself, Republicans talk about cutting benefits or privatizing it so corporations can make money. Yet seniors on fixed incomes haven’t received cost of living adjustments in entirely too long.

Everyone who works contributes to Social Security, and it meant to be a guaranteed benefit to American workers. Cutting it or using it for corporate profit are not acceptable solutions.

Charlottesville Racists Were Violent, Not “Many Sides”: Monica DePaul’s official statement

Outright, I reject everything that Nazis, Klan members, white supremacists, and racists who insist they aren’t racist but really are stand for. The mob that descended upon Charlottesville and attacked peaceful counter-protestors represents a vile stain on American culture that has only spread thanks to the rhetoric of Donald Trump and the so-called “alt-right.”

President Trump’s continued claims that such violence comes from “many sides” is downright absurd. For one example, despite the memes spread on Facebook, Black Lives Matter has no connection, whether literal or figurative, to ISIS. BLM protestors have never held hostages, kicked anyone off of buildings, or turned whole towns into literal warzones. And those calling Ferguson a warzone clearly have no idea what a warzone is.

Yet the death of Heidi Heyer is quite telling. A part of the Unite the Right rally consciously drove his vehicle into the crowd of counter-protestors. That is an act of terrorism. Then the alt-right had the audacity to mark her as “fat” and “childless” as if either of those adjectives has anything to do with the value of her life (they don’t; also, I’m not providing a link to such a disgusting article). Considering the weight of many male alt-right members, it also seems especially ironic.

“But Monica!” One might counter, “They can’t be terrorists because they aren’t Muslims and just want to Make America Great Again!” Wrong. “Terrorism” refers to causing fear in others for some purpose, particularly through violence or threats thereof. With continual chanting of “Jews will not replace us” and overt threats and acts of violence, white supremacists are terrorists. Dylan Roof is a terrorist. The Charlottesville rioters, and only those on the “alt-right” side, not “both sides,” are terrorists. “Make America Great Again” is coded terrorism that hearkens to a past time when only straight, cisgender, white males had any rights at all, a rally cry for those who think that the rights of others somehow infringe on their own.

Donald Trump’s equivocation and coding has delighted white supremacists but shown the rest of us his true colors. An eventual condemnation came, but only with pressure, and he still insists that others are also to blame. He values the support of his core supporters—those who would view the world through the lens of fear and hate. These are people who would rather blame minorities for their problems instead looking in a mirror.

While the First Amendment protects the right to have horrible racist views, it stops as soon as threats of violence start. In fact, I’m sure that this is far from what many Trump voters had in mind, as I have met many who are reasonable people at their hearts. Therefore, I call upon Republicans, both inside and outside of the government, to reject and distance themselves from the alt-right’s violent rhetoric.

Please have the courage to call out LITERAL NAZIS for what they are instead of deflecting the blame to “many sides.” Otherwise, the whole situation seems far too familiar historically.

Healthcare Policy Details

Providing Coverage to All Americans

Some pundits say America has the “best healthcare in the world”; perhaps it’s the best in their tiny world where only rich people matter.

Monica will be the first to admit that Obamacare was far from perfect. The law’s biggest problem was that insurance companies were still an essential part of the system. Much of the cost of health insurance contributes to the insurance corporations’ bottom line, and they have every incentive to weasel their way out of paying for treatments because it means more money in the pockets of executives.

Trumpcare will make the problem far worse. With subsidies based on age instead of income, too many hardworking people will have no affordable options. Those with preexisting conditions will take a hard hit, including even those with mental health issues. Why cut coverage? So billionaires get their tax breaks. Apparently, the free market should decrease costs, but private, for-profit health insurance has only ever increased prices.

This is why Monica supports a single-payer Medicare-for-all public healthcare system. This is the only viable solution. Removing the element of profit will remove the incentive for rates and prices to increase. Using a risk-based pool for a service people need to use simply makes no sense. Seniors who are on Medicare appreciate it for its simplicity and its wide breadth of coverage. Therefore, such a system can easily work for all Americans.

Republicans complain about public healthcare amounting a new tax, but any tax to pay for a single-payer system would be lower than premiums for private insurance. Republicans also insult public systems in other countries for being “socialist”; however, just about every other developed country in the world has superior access to healthcare, with citizens who are far more satisfied. Removing the need for complicated coverage plans and corporate profit will save money, time, and confusion for everyone.

Expanded access will also create jobs as more people can get the care they need. Supporting healthcare experts instead of insurance executives will be a valuable investment to improve America’s economy.

Lowering Prescription Drug Prices

Americans pay higher prices for prescription drugs than any other industrialized nation. This is only because pharmaceutical corporations can charge whatever they want for the medications people need to survive.

A key example of this happened in 2016 when Martin Shkreli inflated the price of an essential AIDS medication from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Later, Milan hiked the cost of the EpiPen from $94 to $600 for a 2-pack.

Many Americans need these drugs to live, so they’re consistently in demand. Therefore, corporations can charge whatever they want to line their own pockets. If everyday Americans can’t afford their prescriptions, they may die.

Out of control drug prices must stop.. If other countries can pay less for the same drugs, so can the U.S. Therefore, Monica proposes allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and allow Americans to import prescriptions from countries where they are less expensive.

Women’s Health

Federal law already prohibits the usage of tax dollars to fund abortions. Therefore, when Republicans defund Planned Parenthood, they are really defunding the cancer screenings, preventative health services, and gynecology services that make up 97% of what Planned Parenthood provides.

Furthermore, many Republicans are hell-bent on banning all abortions, even for miscarriages and when both the baby and mother are certain to die if they carry to term. Almost all third trimester abortions happen on wanted pregnancies that have become too dangerous to continue. Most of the rest occur when abortion access is unavailable during earlier points of fetal development. Mothers who just suddenly feel like aborting a previously wanted pregnancy are exceedingly rare.

The irony, of course, is that contraceptive services like those from Planned Parenthood prevent abortions. Denying access to these services does nothing to prevent pre-marital sex, as Republicans would like to believe.

Monica is not a fan of voluntary abortions; she doesn’t like them at all, which is why she believes in access to contraceptive services. Families that can wait until they are ready and willing to have children will ultimately be happier and healthier. Politicians calling themselves “pro-life” are not even willing to address the economic and social concerns that prevent parents from properly caring for children.

Mental Health Access

Mental health services in America are a joke. Too many Republicans only mention mental health after a mass shooting by someone they can’t tie to ISIS. Then they immediately forget about it, doing absolutely nothing to help the situation.

Because illnesses of the mind are not physical, they are too often treated as illegitimate even though lack of treatment for them costs America many untold hours of productivity and leads to more people being imprisoned. No one should be expected to “just get over it,” which doesn’t work and is more likely to lead to violence or suicide.

Access to necessary counseling and medications must be available to those who need them, so any single-payer healthcare system must include full mental health access.

Education Policy Details

K-12 Education

As a public school student and the daughter of a now-retired first-grade teacher, Monica got a behind-the-scenes look at the stress teachers deal with. The stereotype of “lazy teachers who get the summer off and are just glorified babysitters” is a lie. Teachers work hard and do not deserve the extra stress of low pay and poor benefits. Improving the quality of America’s schools starts with making the teaching profession more respectable and enticing. This will attract more new blood and better skills to the field.

Part of the problem is reliance on standardized testing to measure performance, which started when Monica was in school. These tests cause extreme stress to students and often evaluate skills that hardly transferable into students’ adult lives. Large private corporations make huge profits from creating these tests and evaluate them based on grossly inconsistent rubrics. Furthermore, teachers must struggle to teach enough of the test’s material because it determines both student success and teacher pay. Instead of paying teachers, Congress and state legislatures would rather waste public money on ridiculous tests. Teachers work hard to prepare the leaders of tomorrow, yet they are vilified and forced to teach useless fluff.

Therefore, Monica proposes an overhaul of the educational system to make room for skills beyond bubbling in a test form. Students learn best when they can personally connect with material. Teachers work best when they make enough money. Where will the money for this come from? Schools can save much by abolishing standardized testing and reinstating traditional methods of teacher evaluation without corporate bloat.

The government also wastes money on voucher programs to send students to private schools. No reliable evidence shows that vouchers accomplish anything to benefit students since private schools escape accountability. By taking away high achievers from public schools, vouchers create the illusion that public schools are always lower quality. The also reroute public money to the private sector and ignore students from poorer areas.

Furthermore, many cuts to education have happened for the sake of tax breaks for billionaires. This does nothing but benefit billionaires, and money could be better invested in America’s future.

Since art surrounds students daily, the defunding of arts and humanities must stop. Arts are ways of understanding the human experience and help with learning and remembering other subjects. Sciences are equally important, and Monica proposes making more room for experiential learning opportunities like field trips. Preserving America’s national parks and museums will allow students to experience what they are studying firsthand.

Most high school students learn what a logarithm is and then forget it, but they never learn basic cooking or banking skills. Home economics should no longer be sole territory of women of past decades. Basic finance should not be limited to business majors in college. These are useful skills for a healthy society. Furthermore, civic education is grossly lacking. Many students graduate not knowing how local, state, and federal governments work. To raise healthy, engaged citizens, schools should teach essential real-world skills and knowledge.

Corruption in Higher Education

Monica has worked as an adjunct English professor and experienced the corruption rampant in colleges and universities. Despite the cost of tuition constantly rising, less money comparatively goes to education. Colleges now more than ever rely on “adjunct” professors to teach classes; they usually make less than half what full-time professors earn, receive no benefits, have no job security between semesters, have no path toward promotion or tenure, and receive no compensation for research, travel, or other expectations of academics. Students, however, pay the same tuition regardless of whether their professor is an adjunct. Monica can attest to the demoralizing absurdity of a system that treats highly skilled workers as disposable just because they weren’t lucky enough to win the hiring bloodbath for rare full-time positions.

Where does the money from inflated tuition go instead? Administrators have inflated their own salaries and increased bureaucratic positions, causing even public colleges to act like corporations. Much of the budget also goes to luxury amenities on campus and sports programs with highly paid coaches.

Federal and state governments do little to help, cutting public college/university budgets to give tax breaks to billionaires. However, large corporate interests like the Koch brothers contribute much to universities; this is why administrations will prioritize funding for business schools teaching the lie of trick-down economics.

Monica plans to introduce legislation to audit public college and university administrations and funding spent on education. Students need professors with time and energy to pass on their expertise, not adjunct wage slaves too focused on paying their own rent and student loans. Adjunct pay must be equivalent to full-time pay. This way, perhaps colleges and universities may be willing to hire full-time professors.

Student Debt

America also has a student debt crisis. Student loans are the only debt that cannot be discharged when declaring bankruptcy. The government even garnishes Social Security income to pay off student loans since they take so long to pay off. Interest rates are much higher than what banks pay when borrowing money from the government. In fact, the government make a profit on student loans.

Better allocation of funds in higher education would help alleviate this problem. However, existing student loans need a serious change of the rules, including a vast interest rate reduction. Likewise, the cost of tuition needs to come down significantly.

Monica will support Democratic efforts to make colleges and universities free or low cost for all qualifying students. Funding will come from ending ridiculous tax-breaks for billionaires and adding a miniscule tax for Wall Street speculation, which is currently untaxed income exclusive to the wealthy.

However, she wants to take this plan much farther. America needs welders, mechanics, chefs, and countless other so-called “blue collar” professions. Therefore, such programs should have access to public accreditation and should also have free or low tuition.

Monica DePaul for U.S. Congress