Public Transportation is of vital importance in a healthy economy. A society with efficient public transportation allows communities in all levels on the economic ladder to be able to travel as far as possible with complete agency. Compared to personal vehicles, public transportation requires less commitment and is cheaper to access, enables areas with high population density to travel similar distances with less traffic, and allows individuals of lower incomes to be able to find and maintain a reliable job if they do not own a vehicle. Ridesharing is not a solution to this problem, and in fact, it can exasperate some of these problems.
This is also an environmental issue. Physically, vehicles like cars can never be able to efficiently transport a community. A car can be useful, but its utility does not equate to efficiency. By efficiency, I am looking at the size/weight of a vehicle, in relation to its maximum occupancy. Invariably, if you have a high number of personal vehicles like cars, and little public transportation investment, you will encounter high levels of traffic because of the inefficiency of these personal vehicles.
I have been riding the public transportation in Miami for over a year, and the state of the public transportation is almost embarrassing. The infrastructure is poorly maintained, we are using mostly old vehicles, there aren’t enough buses, making most buses uncomfortable to ride from squeezing on too many passengers, the vehicles don’t arrive reliably, and the coverage is poor. These are only some of the issues, and these problems can discourage using public transportation. which, in turn, increases traffic, increases the cost of service because of lowered ridership, and worsens some these problems further.
We need to reform our public transportation to not only have proper coverage, but the necessary density as well to be reliable and arrive on time within a fifteen-minute time frame. This means we not only need more buses, but more bus lanes. We also need to audit the efficiency of the bus route to reduce unnecessary stopping. Furthermore, we need to expand our infrastructure for rail and rail vehicles, and improve our current infrastructure of rail and modernize our current rail vehicles. The importance of this reform is vital. We cannot expect people to reliably work and apply labor if they cannot reliably get to work. Without reliable public transportation, certain communities can’t function. Our society needs to function for everyone, and that cannot happen without everyone being able to function within it.
Criminal justice, in the US, should better be described as "retributive justice". Punishment is a higher priority than rehabilitation. This is clear if you examine the policy, mandatory minimum sentencing, zero-tolerance policies, the death penalty, etc. What we classify as a “crime” is generally non-conformist behavior, that’s the product of a society and the disorganization of the social structure.
However, there is no clear dividing line between crime and non-conformity, and, not every non-conformity is a crime. Knowing this, the way we apply criminal justice as retribution, rather than rehabilitation, is causing an intensified cycle. With the war on drugs that was started by Richard Nixon, for admittedly racist reasons, mind you, our prison population ballooned. Misguided drug laws and draconian sentencing have produced profoundly unequal outcomes for communities of color.
Furthermore, this allowed for non-violent and first-time offenders to interact with veteran criminals. This led to prison acting as a “Crime University”. Then, compound the fact that felons have very little support, generally, and our society definitely does not provide any. Moreover, felons experience very high difficulty in finding employment. This is invariably a recipe for recidivism.
In Florida, we have made strides towards reformation by allowing felons, those directly impacted by this issue, to be involved in the democratic process. However, we can and should do more. African Americans, for example, make up 47 percent of the Florida prison population, but only 17 percent of the state population. Prisoners are forced to serve a minimum of 85 percent of any sentence, regardless of the circumstances.
We need to remove the incentive of profiting off crime. Florida is holding 200 percent more people in private prisons in 2016 than in 2000. As well as incentivize prisoners to radically change their behavior by reducing sentences. If implemented retroactively for currently incarcerated people, the most immediate impact from rehabilitation credit reform would be for people with shorter sentences – usually people with convictions for nonviolent crimes.
Which is why I support the bills being fought for, by The Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform (CCJR), SB394 & HB189.
The US has been increasingly more hostile towards immigrants. For decades poor, vulnerable, and anxious immigrants have been scapegoated for issues with racist vigor. However, the real source of these issues, such as low wages, or low job availability, originates from the manipulation of our society by the wealthiest and most powerful individuals, not the migration of the poorest and most vulnerable individuals.
The vilification has been so rampant, we have irreversibly separated children from their families within concentration camps on our southern border, Donald Trump has also authorized lethal force on that border for a time. This was during the farcical scare about the caravan in 2018. This is undeniably a tactic to invigorate a racist response to the migration that the US is largely culpable of. From our intervention within most of the Central and South American countries, to install military dictatorships when we deemed necessary, as long as it benefited our ends, and anything else be damned.
While, this racist response is more severe under Trump, this response is mostly different in severity, not in kind, compared to other presidents. For example, the Bill Clinton administration was the origin of the policy for militarization on the southern border. During the Bush administration, In 2003, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, was created. Also, even President Obama admitted that, all along, he was being tough on immigration for political reasons, he even had record-setting deportations. This is not about the Republican or Democratic party. These are policies, put in place by both sides, that fuel a system of oppression, hate, and distrust against these vilified individuals.
Moreover, as we, in the US, make it more and more difficult for immigrants to move to our country, capital flows freely from border to border without an impediment. Using trade deals like NAFTA, the US corporations were able to take advantage of the extreme levels of exploited labor to undermine US employment, and produce their products in these lower-income countries. This destroys the viability of business within those countries as well, as they are unable to compete with these massive corporate forces. If we allow capital to flow freely through borders, we must allow the same freedom to people.
I am not proposing a border that is opened and unmaintained or unmonitored. It is important, for the organization of our society, to know who comes in and who leaves our country. However, this doesn’t mean we should militarize the border and treat people as monsters or predators, this doesn't mean we restrict people’s movement, unless they are a verifiable threat.
Wages being too low are one of the few subjects that a majority of Americans will agree with. Since 1973, the real median wages have been effectively stagnant after accounting for inflation, but productivity has improved by over 70%. Wages, or the flow of money an individual or a family receives, is generally their total stock, their wealth, less any liabilities. However, the top 0.1% saw a massive increase in wealth by over 400% since 1980 to now. Which is measured beyond just income, this includes property and all assets. All the while, economic mobility slows, and poverty rises. The conditions that lead to our current society of rampant exploitation and inequality are multifaceted, but culminated to corporate entities with immense power and influence. Including the reduction of competition and choices by excessive acquisitions of smaller companies by larger ones with no limitations. This has led to a concentration of wealth that is almost translatable directly to power in the current state of our current electoral system. Especially at the state level.
No longer should we accept this exploitation. The minimum wage program was meant as a defense to this type of exploitation, but corporate influences have gotten powerful enough to turn that defense into an anchor. If a company is unable to provide goods and services while paying their employees a living wage, then they have no business being in business.
I support a federally mandated $15 an hour minimum wage by 2025, proposed by Bernie Sanders. The current minimum wage of $7.25 (federal) is not enough money to pay the bills and support a family, even when working full-time and year-round. The minimum wage is currently so low, many workers earning the minimum wage receive public assistance from the federal government to support themselves and their families. This bill has already been passed in the house, and the largest obstacle is the self-described “Grim Reaper” of bills, Mitch McConnell.
This will be mentioned many times, but it cannot be overstated. If you live in the US, you live in the richest, single nation, on earth. Yet, many live on the streets. Over 500,000 Americans live on the streets, and millions are without a home, if you consider those renting as homeless, since they do not own a home.
This is an artificial scarcity, there are more empty homes in the US than individuals living in the streets. In fact, in Florida alone, there are nearly enough vacant homes for all the homeless in the nation. There isn’t a lack of homes, and there is, undeniably, not a lack of space. It’s a scarcity because of a lack of affordability.
However, this is most appalling when, right now, at this very moment, there are machines that can build homes with limited necessity for labor and in a single day for less than $10,000. This is accomplished by using a giant, craned, 3D printer. A home is essential for a stable life and family. Without it, you are vulnerable and insecure. There is no reason in this modern and advanced age that any Americans should live on the street, or is unable to afford their own home. Housing is a right, not a privilege.
Let us not also forget about rent. If you work within the city or downtown, and would like to live near your work, it would cost from a significant amount to a fortune. Even here, in Miami, the prices for rent downtown could get out of control. This forces those who can’t afford it to move to the outskirts, where public transportation and traffic are worse, further distance from stores, and this situation could prove dangerous for individuals who work late at night. Rent must be controlled, so that the pernicious effects of too much profit aren’t forcing people into gentrification, or to live on the streets.
We could pave the way for the nation, right here, in Florida and eradicate our homelessness issues with a new public housing program. This is not infeasible, approximately 34,000 homeless Americans are residing in Florida. This is not a number we are incapable of treating and/or housing. The program could also include those who rent, by only allowing one increase per year that equates to the rate of inflation, in addition to, a small percentage for profit.
One of the most egregious attacks against our democracy (second only to the alterations made to our electoral system by corporate influences) is the further commoditization of our education. Our education is lacking in every level from primary schooling to higher learning. Then, after the poor curriculum, we are burdened by costs that can only be afforded by most individuals through loans. The student debt in the US is not only an issue, it’s a crisis, but notice how it’s unique only to the US. The national student loan debt is now at $1.5 trillion!
From an early age, your education is dependent on your financial status, your social class. The schools for primary and secondary education are funded not nationally, but by district. That means that poor districts get poor schools, unable to afford the necessary supplies. While rich districts are bestowed with excessive supplies in comparison, and we are speaking only of public education. Then, there is the influx of private schooling that is capable of even further material advantages, depending on the school, if you can afford it.
Once a student trudges through our classist (un)education system and reaches higher learning, they are then expected to burden the cost of their entire education from then on. In the early stages of their adult life, they are hamstrung. This further exasperates the class divide and highly influences the direction of study from interest and/or necessity to monetary gain and inflates specific industries.
We need to forgive the student loan debts crushing millions of Americans, and make education a right, not a privilege, by making public colleges and universities free at the point of access. However, we must not forget primary and secondary education, and provide federal funding for public schools, as well as federal standards which can be audited. Wrong information is more dangerous than no information.
Our environment is approaching ecological collapse due to global warming caused by climate change. And by “Global Warming”, I am using the definition outlined in the IPCC report as “as an increase in combined surface, air, and sea surface temperatures. Averaged over the globe, and over a 30-year period.”
I will not make an argument for the existence of climate change. There is no debate or conflict amongst experts and the entire argument over the existence of climate change stems not from science, but corrupting influence in politics. There is irrefutable evidence proving its existence. Rejecting climate change is tantamount to rejecting gravity. Since this discussion only serves as a diversion, I will skip directly to the causes and what can be done.
If we do nothing, at the current trajectory, by 2100 the global temperature will rise by 2 degrees Celsius rather than the goal we must reach to ensure our societies don’t collapse around the globe, which is 1.5 degrees Celsius. While half of a degree may not seem like much, at the scale of the global temperature, it can be utterly devastating.
If we reach our goal, some examples of the difference from the impact of just half of a degree, at this scale, can reduce the individuals exposed to deadly and extreme heatwaves (several millions of people) by over half, a substantial reduction to droughts and improved water availability, species loss could be reduced by half for plants and animals and a third for insects, slower water level increases, and more. You can find the full details within the IPCC report.
The only solution available to us, is to refrain from exceeding the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature target by 2100, the problem is, we will reach that temperature by 2030-2050 with current carbon emissions. We need to declare climate change a national emergency and become carbon neutral by 2050, which is why I am supporting the initiatives from the Green New Deal. This is an existential threat and we are the last generation that can do anything to prevent it, and failing will mean the complete disruption in the way we organize our modern societies. Joe Biden did pledge to reach that goal, but it's up to us to hold him accountable for that pledge.
The system we use in the United States for Healthcare is not only callous, it’s unnecessary. We live in the richest nation on earth, and we not only spend more than any other developed nation per capita, we provide less care per capita. Our system is not dysfunctional, it functions exactly as it’s meant to, which is to enrich healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies that supply them with inflated prices. We have to change the priority from profit to care, or we will continue to witness more people who are sick die because they couldn't afford treatment.
The solution is not to allow a “public option” for healthcare, such a system could not work. To see why, let us examine the economics of healthcare in the abstract. For healthcare to work, you need two groups of people, those who need care, and those who do not. When the individuals that need care seek it, those who do not need the care at that time, are paying a fee which allows us to fund the care for those in need. This is how the healthcare system works now. The fees are paid to private insurers, except at the moment, we pay those fees, and the care is not proportional.
However, if we allow a “public option”, it is destined to collapse. If a private system is allowed to compete with the public system, for the same service, rather than existing for auxiliary or cosmetic care, then it would obstruct our ability to keep the cost of healthcare as low as possible. This is because the private apparatus of a healthcare system, that is allowed to compete with the government for the same care, will incentivize those who do not need care to use their service over the option provided by the government; as they will pay the fees, but not use the care. Additionally, naturally, the people who need care will go with the best option for care, which will be the public option. This will fragment our pool of funding and would increase the cost of care for everyone. The more individuals in a single pool for funding, the cheaper care will be, since the cost is divided amongst everyone.
The only proposal that can effectively provide the entire country with care in a lasting way is Bernie Sanders’ Medicare For All proposal. This bill would prevent private corporations to compete with the federal government. This way we can ensure everyone is covered and cared for. Lastly, with the question of funding, for this plan, it is definitely possible. Bernie Sanders released a document outlining possible “Options to Finance Medicare For All”, but ultimately, taxes will be increased. Although, you will spend less on care overall because you will not have the cost of premiums, fees, co-pays, or deductibles.