Responses to CCPC's endorsement application questionnaire from:
Mark Dent, candidate for US Congress, OH-16
Political Party Affiliation: Democratic Party
Current or previous elected offices: none
The greatness of our nation is not determined by how we treat the connected and the well-heeled; it is how we treat the poor, the sick the needy. It is this measure of greatness where we have failed as a country. The United States has the highest relative poverty of any industrialized nation. We incarcerate more people than any other country on the face of the earth. This is not only morally reprehensible, but it is also economically foolish.
In our quest to weed out ‘undeserving’ people from getting handouts, we have also declined to provide a hand up to those who need it the most. Addressing these failures require that we raise the minimum wage to be a living wage. It requires national healthcare so all can be covered without putting the burden on businesses so small business can compete with large.
As a leader in our country, it is essential to address quality of life. Citizens are not servants of their government or their employers. As the United States advances, so should the lives of each and every citizen. We need maternity leave, more vacation time and economic security in retirement. Some say that ‘will kill our businesses.’ It has not killed the business in Germany, England, France, Spain or any of our peers. Instead, it is us who have been plagued with over 40 years of stagnating median wages while the wealth of the top 1% has exploded. It is time for us to change.
Wayne Dawkins wrote: “In America, voters don’t pick their politicians, politicians pick their voters.” This practice has led to the most divisive and unproductive Congress in the past 100 years. It has enabled a few well-connected billionaires the ability to re-write the tax code to their liking as members of Congress cowered in fear that they would be cut off from their precious contributions.
Meanwhile, the campaign finance laws that are pass are used to favor one party over another and are often ineffective as institutions find ways around the laws. Public funding of campaigns is a move in the right direction and will reduce but not eliminate the corruption so pervasive in politics. We also need to remove the power of redistricting from politicians and give it to disinterested professionals who will be fair and impartial.
The other solutions proposed for campaign reform often sound great, but I know in practice they are almost always ineffective, struck down by the courts or have some other fatally flaw. We need to think outside of the box, and I am open to listening to new ideas on effective ways to combat this corruption.
The first questions asked in the book of Genesis: “Am I my Brother’s Keeper?” The answer to this is “Yes I am.” We have failed minority communities offering indifference rather than understanding, jail time in place of hope. The answers to any challenge faced by a minority community are to lock them up. Having failed to respond with compassion and understanding, there is now a crisis impacting the white community. The opioid crisis that impacts our towns and community has only been made worse by the fact that we didn’t have a game plan for this. Had we addressed the crack epidemic that roiled poor inner-city neighborhoods, and responded compassionately, we would have the game plan. We would have had a template on how to respond, and much of the infrastructure to quickly mitigate the damage.
It is time to recognize that failure to address the plight of the underserved and disadvantage only serves to grow and expand those who are underserved and disadvantage. Policywise: we need to rescind the block grants for TANF (AKA Welfare) and have this program federally administered. States have raided these funds for the poor like it was their personal piggy bank. We need to strengthen the social safety net making sure those that need help get it and that there is a hand up for those wanting to do better. We need lighter sentences for non-violent crime and alternative programs that have a proven track record of success. We also need to provide employers incentive to hire those release from jail so they can break out of the cycle of poverty.
Solar, wind, renewable energy, these are not just nice ideas, they are essential to the growth of our country. Yes, the earth is warming. Yes, we played a major role in that, but let’s set that aside. Let’s set aside that much of the eastern seaboard could be wiped out. Ignoring all that, we will still be better off pursuing addressing climate change.
Why? We are at our best when we tackle large issues; when we pursue larger than life projects. That’s what brings us together and forges a national identity. Was it Democrats that landed on the moon? Republicans who built Hoover Dam? No, it was Americans. In our quest for small government, we are losing our identity as a nation and dividing into tribes.
We need to tackle climate change not just for the health of our planet, but for the survival of our nation.
While serving In the military, I spent time in both Afghanistan and Iraq. When arriving in Iraq, we had a Colonel who treated the Iraqis with dignity and respect. The Iraqis responded in kind; they were helpful and pleasant. At the end of my tour, we were replaced by another division lead by a Colonel who reasoned; we have the guns and the tanks, we don’t talk with the Iraqis, we tell them what to do. The Humvees of the new commander were desert brown; ours were army green. Within two weeks, the new command had lost more troops that we did the entire two years we were there. Even though we would do patrols with the new guys, only the desert brown Humvees would be targeted; the army green ones were left alone.
While beating our chest and talking tough plays well back home, it also cost American lives and only undermines the goals of the United States. We need smart and strategic initiatives that keep our country safe and to the extent possible, the military out of harm’s way. Ill-timed publicity stunts and childish taunts only serve to week our country and strengthen our enemies.
While at Fort Drum, I was a trial counsel for one year. I tried 13 cases in the courtroom. One aspect that has stuck with me was justice was not blind. It saw race; it saw economic status; it saw gender. I can tell you that the more the person on trial looked like, sounded like and talked like the jury, the harder it is to convict. At the same time, if the victim was more like the jury, this increases the likelihood of conviction. The judge that presided over the cases I tried did his best to mitigate these dynamics, but I am afraid many judges do not. It is because of this dynamic that we need laws to protect people of color, LGBTQ, and other disadvantaged groups.
However, this is not all we need. There is a false perception that a few policies stack the deck in favor of minorities. What we need is a concrete effort to push back on this narrative. What are the facts? The facts are, if your name sounds like it’s black, you have to put out twice the number of resumes to get the same number of interviews. Once you have the interview, you’re less likely to be hired and more likely to be paid less. The unemployment rate for African Americans is double that of the white population.
While there has been a recent effort to shun diversity in our nation, the reality is diversity has been our nations greatest strength.