AJC New England 2020 Candidate Survey: Question 12
Question 12: What would be your top three priorities if elected?
Given the times we are in, my first priority is to get massive and immediate covid-19 relief to states, cities, and towns. I have spoken to so many people who are food insecure and uncertain about what the next weeks and months will hold for them. I have also spoken to teachers and parents who are horrified by the prospect of returning to school in unsafe conditions. I think the answer is simple here: we need massive federal relief to keep teachers on the payroll, to keep small businesses open, and to get the PPE we need to open schools safely. So, my top priority in Congress is to pass a multi trillion-dollar covid-19 package to get these things done.
A second priority is to face the greatest existential threat to humanity we have ever faced: Climate Change. In Congress I will be a fearless and tireless advocate for the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take the bold steps we need to combat the climate crisis, build more equitable, resilient, and sustainable communities, and put people back to work. As we face 25%, or even 30% unemployment because of covid, I envision a massive public works program that will restore livable wages to our workers while building the clean infrastructure we need to become climate leaders in the 21st century.
My third priority will be to end the opioid crisis. When I was Assistant Attorney General and Senior Advisor to Maura Healey, I met families whose lives had been ruined by this crisis. I made a promise to them that I would go to Congress and get them the compassionate and comprehensive resources they deserve. I also made a promise that no pharmaceutical companies would ever take advantage of people in real pain the way the opioid companies had. My comprehensive “Opioid National Emergency (ONE) Plan” on my website details how I will create more centralized, better funded, and easier to access resources and treatment for families in need.
Taking on the NRA and finally tackling gun violence in this country. When my son Jack started kindergarten this year, like so many parents, I had to fumble my way to find the words to tell him how to run in a zig-zag pattern or find a quiet place to hide if a scary person with a gun were to show up at his school. That is not a conversation that any parent should need to have with their child or a fear that any child should have going to school. Gun violence has torn too many families and communities apart – and disproportionately communities of color – for too long and the NRA continues to threaten our kids' safety. While I’ve been heartened by the progress and reforms achieved at the state level spurred by groups like Moms Demand Action, it’s way past time for us to enact reasonable gun measures on the federal level –– measures that have popular support from the vast majority of voters in this country. We deserve to live in a country free from fear of gun violence, and I will fight every day in Congress to make that a reality.
Fighting for an ambitious climate agenda in the vein of the value-proposition of the Green New Deal. We’re hurtling toward a future where the everyday realities of climate change overshadow everything. The climate crisis has already arrived, and this pandemic in particular has exposed that low-income communities and communities of color bear the brunt of the effects. I believe that we must leverage our federal resources and investment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, to overhaul our transportation and infrastructure systems, and to uplift millions of Americans with good-paying jobs – all while prioritizing environmental justice for frontline, low-income, and minority communities. We must also revitalize a global coalition to tackle the climate emergency, because we are all in this together and the world needs U.S. global leadership.
Getting money out of politics. In Washington, special interests run the show. Instead of working for families, the Trump Administration and Republicans work to cut taxes and line the pockets of their corporate interest donors. Whether it's Big Pharma indiscriminately jacking up prescription drug prices or Big Oil persuading the Trump Administration to roll back environmental regulations, we see a direct link between money and legislative outcomes that favor those who can buy influence – especially since Citizens United opened the floodgates for dark money and corporate money. That’s why I support enacting H.R. 1, cracking down on the revolving door between public office and lobbying, and a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
I will demand law and order be reinstated with increased funding to police to retrain them in more modern and humane ways of policing that integrate social service and community support personnel into the Community Safety and Policing Team, stimulate the economy by supporting small businesses with lower taxes and removing cumbersome inefficient regulations, to ensure there is excellent healthcare and benefits programs for our veterans and strengthen our military by ensuring they have fully funded state of the art equipment and training needed to successfully and safely perform the missions required by our country.
The unprecedented coronavirus public health and economic crisis has exposed and exacerbated the deep inequities in our society. Similar to the Great Depression, this new, coronavirus crisis requires an unprecedented response. We need a New Deal for our time, and thanks to the tremendous awakening that is happening in our country, we have the potential for this new, New Deal moment to enact transformational change that will provide affordable health care to all, put people back to work, tackle climate change and gun safety, cut childhood poverty in half, and tackle the COVID pandemic.
In this context of opportunity for transformational change in the face of crisis, the three issues which I believe are the most important to our campaign are 1) Restoring the American Dream, 2) Democracy Reform, and 3) Taking on the NRA and fighting the scourge of gun violence across our society. These issues matter deeply to voters in the Fourth District and to the country as a whole.
Systemic injustice has prevented many from accessing the American Dream at all, and over the last few decades, it has become increasingly inaccessible with growing income inequality and the high cost of childcare, education, housing and health care. Student debt, no wage growth, and many other factors have all contributed to this situation, but my career in service has given me the experience necessary to address these factors. We need an unprecedented investment in today and tomorrow’s youth by investing in children at birth through “Restore the Dream Accounts,” much like 529 accounts, with a $15,000 initial investment from the federal government paid for by the estate tax. The money accrues and by the time that child is 19 it is worth $50,000. The child gets that funding upon doing one year of community service through AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, a new Climate Action Corps etc. It can be used for the American Dream, to buy a home, pay for school, learn a trade, do life-long learning, save for retirement and have a nest egg that can be tapped for emergencies, such as is happening right now with COVID-19. Instead of saddling students in debt, we need to be investing in them, and we can do that by having youth serve a year in volunteer service to access these assets.
America is also in urgent need of structural democratic reform. The United States government was meant to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. But today it too often resembles one favoring elites or corporations. That is why I believe we need to get money out of politics once and for all. I specifically will work to undo the effects of Citizens United by amending the Constitution, insisting on total transparency in political donations (including from 501(c)(4) and 527 organizations), and fighting for publicly financed elections. I am a strong supporter of HR 1 and have put forward a comprehensive plan to Fix our Democracy that has been endorsed by leading reform champion Professor Larry Lessig. My proposal includes a 21st century voting rights act to protect and strengthen the right to vote by easing and opening the voting process, eliminating the electoral college, putting term limits on the Supreme Court, reforming lobbying and gerrymandering, and utilizing voluntary national service to help youth use their energy to tackle these pressing societal challenges and others.
Finally, we need to stand up to the NRA once and for all, at the legislative level. I’ve stood alongside amazing March For Our Lives advocates and helped build the sibling march network to unify all of the smaller local marches on this issue and many others. Those marches and that activism can translate into federal action. That is why I’m committed to taking those marches to Congress and standing alongside my colleagues to get comprehensive, substantive gun reform in this country, and start to address the consequences of decades of violence in our communities.
As a social epidemiologist, I have been warning that this COVID-19 health crisis is amplifying the deep inequities in our country. I have authored and been cited in a number of academic and news articles detailing how public health calls for solidarity, not warfare. My perspective of how COVID-19 could hit the U.S. harder than other wealthy countries because of the current political climate highlights the vulnerabilities of disadvantaged communities. I see this as a moment to re-imagine what kind of society we want to live in and re-build our economy and our country with one guiding principle: it must work for everyone.
My three main priorities are:
Building healthy communities and using science-based policies to improve the health and well-being of all;
Ensuring shared prosperity by advocating for policies that meet the needs of all families and protect workers, because for too long the United States has allowed poverty, inequality, and structural racism to go unchecked; and,
Protecting the environment and ensuring that we leave behind a healthy planet for our children by fighting for environmental justice and climate action today.
These priorities support my overall vision of bringing science-backed leadership to tackle public health and science concerns, along with the underlying structural issues that leave marginalized communities more vulnerable to these concerns. I will support legislation that makes progress on these key issues and ushers in a new, progressive era of greater equality.
AJC members can learn more at www.nataliaforcongress.com.
My top priority if elected is leading an equitable response to COVID-19 that creates a fair economy that works for everyone, including:
Fixing our broken health care system. We need Medicare for All – right now –more than ever. The pandemic underscores the deep flaws of our current system, with millions of Americans losing their access to health care in the middle of a pandemic just because they lost their jobs.
Fighting like our reproductive rights might be stripped away – because they might be. That includes access to abortion, which is an essential, time-sensitive medical procedure, not something that can be denied during a crisis to further a radical, anti-choice agenda. That’s why I was the first candidate in the race to put out a comprehensive plan to protect and expand reproductive rights.
Enacting paid leave at the national level to protect workers who get sick or need to take care of sick loved ones. I was one of eight people who negotiated what is now the strongest paid family and medical leave policy in the country in Massachusetts.
Passing a Green New Deal to address our climate crisis and to create good jobs, with particular attention to making desperately needed improvements to our failing transportation system to foster equitable economic growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Top three priorities - the needs and interests of the constituents of the 4th Congressional District, the needs and interests of the people of Massachusetts and the needs and interests of the United States of America.
Healthcare - Enacting Federal Paid Family and Medical Leave, so families no longer have to choose between their work and their family. My wife did not receive one day of paid leave when giving birth to two of our children and was forced with this exact immoral choice. We can no longer be the only industrialized country without Paid Family and Medical Leave. We must also tackle the cost of healthcare. I will also fight immediately for the federal government to be able to negotiate prescription drug prices under Medicare. Finally, I will fight for universal access to affordable, high-quality health care for everyone, including our undocumented immigrants, by strengthening the ACA, providing a public option, and lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to 50 years old.
Response to COVID19 - COVID-19 has devastated families and communities. People are dying and our economy is reeling. COVID-19 has impacted all of our daily lives. I will work on equitable recovery from COVID-19 that centers on the most vulnerable in the community, including fighting for:
Investment in Free Testing and Contact Tracing
Science over Politics
Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave
Investment in the Production and Distribution of a Vaccine
Funds for Language Based Resources
Personal Protection Equipment Standardized Federal Guidelines on Data Collection
Safely Reopening Schools
Protecting our Childcare and Healthcare Facilities
Passing the HEROES Act
Extending $600 weekly boost for unemployment benefits through 2020
Investing More Resources into Small Businesses
National Temporary Moratorium on Foreclosures and Evictions
Broader Consumer Protections
Provide substantial federal aid to local governments to use for education purposes
Provide significant resources to ensure all students and their families have internet and have a device in which they can learn remotely if necessary.
Providing Relief for Student Debt
Supporting and Protecting Our Undocumented Community
Properly Funding the United States Postal Service
Increasing Support to Fight Food Insecurity
Vigorous and Independent Oversight & Accountability
Eliminating Racism - See my answer to Question 1 above and our entire plan that is on our website at https://bensigelforcongress.com/racism
American Jewish Committee (AJC) is the leading organization dedicated to Jewish advocacy at home and around the world. Through a global network comprised of 24 domestic regional offices; 12 overseas posts in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East; and 37 partnerships with international Jewish communities, AJC engages with political, religious and civic leaders to combat antisemitism and bigotry, support Israel’s quest for peace and security, and advance democratic values at home and abroad.
AJC New England recently invited all 11 Republican and Democratic declared candidates for the Congressional seat from the 4th District of Massachusetts to participate in a survey on some matters of import to our community.
AJC is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan organization and does not endorse or support any candidate for elected office, whether or not they responded to the survey. We offer this survey to educate the electorate about the views of the candidates for this office.