Q&A: Progressive Party Questionnaire

Clockwise from top left: Constitution Party, Libertarian Party of Oregon, Oregon Progressive Party, Working Families Party, Pacific Green Party, and Independent Party of Oregon

Oregon has six active “third” parties: Constitution, Pacific Green, Independent, Libertarian, Progressive, and Working Families. On the Left end of Oregon’s political spectrum are the Greens and the Progressives. The Oregon Progressive Party (OPP) was founded in 2008 to support the Presidential candidacy of Ralph Nader, originally known as the Oregon Peace Party. The OPP supports the environment, workers’ rights, consumer advocacy, electoral reform, and social justice. As activists, the OPP has led efforts to get big money out of politics in Oregon and has an active presence in Portland. This questionnaire is part of my effort to get their endorsement in by Congressional bid.

Though disparate in their beliefs, I fully support the promotion of all third parties in elections. The diversity of opinion among these groups would greatly enrich the debate, while also enabling new and innovative ideas to enter the discussion. In 2018, I moderated a third party debate between Patrick Starnes (I), Chris Henry (P), and Nick Chen (L) that was broadcast on Portland Community Media. We also invited Aaron Auer (C), who was unable to attend due to a prior commitment, but was gracious for the invite.

1. What is your position on the Trump re-negotiated NAFTA “Free Trade” agreement with Mexico and Canada? Why would you vote Yes and why would you vote No? What would need to change to allow you to change your position?

Because of its impact on environmental regulations, agriculture, and labor, I agree with Mumia Abu-Jamal’s opinion that NAFTA was “a pact made in Hell.” Free Trade has proven itself to be anything but. I support Fair Trade treaties where equity is favored. I would have to read the full text of the USMCA, but its labor provisions have been described by the AFL-CIO as “toothless.”

2. How would you describe the US military budget? What changes would you make to it?

In a word, bloated. I support the Green Party’s original Green New Deal (a different proposal than the one currently in Congress backed by AOC and Ed Markey), which would slash the US military budget by half. This may seem to be a drastic cut, but it would still have the United States well ahead of its “competitors.”

Read the full text of my amended Green New Deal.

3. The US military is the largest institutional user of fossil fuels in the world. What should be done to reduce that level of use?

The transition to renewables, away from fossil, nuclear, and natural gas by 2030 is a provision of the Green New Deal. This would apply to military and civilian vehicles alike. We will always need an armed force on hand to act in defense, and I make no utopian illusions to the contrary. However, the US military is one of the single-largest polluters in the world. Innovations in renewably-powered vehicles — not just wheeled transportation, but watercraft and aircraft — will bring about solutions.

4. Do you support restrictions on the President’s ability to make war? What might those restrictions look like? How might restrictions be instituted?

Yes, the Constitution only grants the power to declare war to Congress. Executive orders from the President should be subject to legislative and judicial oversight. If it is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court should be able to overturn such an executive order; similarly, Congress should have authority to amend EO’s.

5. Is the American use of economic sanctions a form of war?

Absolutely, only the body count comes from the imposed austerity of starving/choking a nation’s resources, rather than bombs or drone strikes. I favor diplomacy first, with sanctioning and direct warfare to only be last resorts — acting in defense, never in offense.

6. What wars that the US is currently engaged in should we continue being engaged in?

None. With our current military actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Niger, and Libya, these situations are plainly visible as imperialistic expressions of white supremacy with religious undertones. We are standing on the neck of Black and Brown majority nations, many of them Islamic Republics, for their refusal to capitulate to Western capitalism. Sharia Law forbids the compounding of interest — in Islam, this is regarded as the sin of usury — which serves as a mode of profit for Wall Street and the big banks. Our present efforts to keep the Muslim world bombed back to the Stone Age make a great deal more sense with that fact in mind.

Besides our approach to diplomacy, we must also transform our economic system by ending interest and slapping a tax on Wall Street transactions.

7. The Trump admin has made threats of attacking both Iran and Venezuela. How do you respond to those threats?

I recognize Nicolas Maduro as the legitimate ruler of Venezuela. Juan Guaido is a US-backed puppet. John Bolton even admitted that the American saber-rattling towards Venezuela was an effort to procure their oil.

Iran should be left alone. It is well-known that Iran has been the proverbial great white whale on the Pentagon’s Kill Bill-style hit list, which also included several of the nations mentioned above. I support the full self-determination of the Iranian people and believe a peaceful coexistence between Iran and the United States is an achievable reality.

The United States should never intervene in foreign affairs, and especially not in the underhanded, clandestine manner we have seen on the part of our Central Intelligence Agency.

8. How welcoming of refugees should the United States be?

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.” We shouldn’t be the world’s sheriff. We should be a shelter and safe haven for people fleeing oppression and violence.

9. Should refugees be allowed into the United States while their refugee status is being determined?

Yes — refugees should be given shelter, food, and other basic resources (including trainings and job assistance) as they await confirmation of their refugee status.

10. How can the federal government address the homeless crisis, or is that just a local issue?

Homelessness and the housing crisis are nationwide issues. I have worked in homeless services, in Portland’s Old Town district, the epicenter of our city’s homeless population. Prevention is key, with protections in place to keep families, workers, and those with mental health needs housed. Some housing programs are setups for failure, creating greater dependency on the system rather than promoting independence. Rehabilitation efforts for people experiencing homelessness need to be more sustainable.

It is absurd to think there are vacant housing units while families are sleeping on the street, whether it is Manhattan, Portland, or Troutdale. The solution to this and countless other problems distills down to issues relating to income inequality and the unfair distribution of resources.

11. Attacks on Social Security continue. What steps would you take to secure the financial future and security of America’s retirees?

Not everyone eligible for Social Security needs it. I would be interested in exploring income caps for Social Security payouts (does Warren Buffett really need Social Security?) and providing opt-outs. Money taken from cutting the military budget could almost singularly save Social Security.

12. The income and wealth gap between the rich and poor is now realized to be worse than during the Gilded Age. What would you support to trim that gap?

Close corporate tax loopholes. My first political experience was with the Working Families Party in New York State, campaigning to end corporate welfare. Major corporations like General Electric pay $0 in taxes. That must end. We need to raise the minimum wage, and in the absence of that, a Universal Basic Income.

13. Should strengthening the union movement be an objective of the federal government? Why/Why not? How if Yes?

Yes, but the current climate with many prominent and moneyed unions — I will point to the American Federation of Teachers as an example — is that they are little more than honorary caucuses for either of the corporate political parties. Unions should be focused first on worker protections, not partisanship. The International Workers of the World is one such organization.

14. Should marijuana be legalized at the federal level?

Yes. Nonviolent offenders should be released and their records expunged. Legalization would open the gates for effective research on the therapeutic applications of THC and CBD. I support efforts to legalize psilocybin, but the present referendum facing Oregon voters has some sticking points with which I disagree. Drugs should be decriminalized, but I do not support their full legalization.

15. We need to stop cutting our forests for use as paper products. Would you support programs to encourage the planting of hemp and bamboo while imposing restrictions on how soon forests can be cut? What might such a program look like?

The timber industry in Oregon should transition to more sustainable models utilizing high-yield, hardy sources such as hemp and bamboo. Growers would receive incentives to transition to these plants. Replanting should be a mandate for all harvests. Similarly, we should also promote lifestyle changes to reduce waste, from single-use plastics (which we can make from hemp!) to timber/paper products.

16. Should there be lengthy restrictions on the revolving door in Washington that allows former congresspeople and their staff to take jobs in the industries they regulate?

Yes, and there should also be term limits. This is my opponent’s 12th election bid for the seat he occupies. Political dynasties and personality cults have no place in American politics.

17. How do we address the climate crisis? Green New Deal?

My amended Green New Deal, based on the Green Party’s bill, includes a five-point plan: clean energy transition by 2030, a radical jobs program, cutting the military budget by 50%, implementing Universal Basic Income, and a national health service to administer Medicare For All.

18. After many changes to the national health care system via Obamacare, there are still major gaps in coverage and for many who have coverage, and the co-pays/deductibles still do not allow individuals to use coverage. What changes do you support to make health care affordable and universal?

We will close that gap by making Medicare For All a reality. Democrats use loophole language — “access to quality healthcare” is a phrase I have heard from both Governor Kate Brown and former Vice President Joe Biden, and it translates into “we will let you in to see a doctor, and here is your bill.” This is equivalent to five-star restaurants boasting that they have “access to quality food.”

Drug pricing in this country is utterly criminal. Pharmaceutical companies that apply astronomic markups to their products should be prosecuted.

19. Should the US Constitution be amended to state that “money is not speech and that corporations are not people”, or should it just be amended to say “money is not speech”?

We need to overturn Citizens United. Money is not free speech — such a belief is a cornerstone of fascism. Despite what Mitt Romney may think, corporations, while made up of people, are entities, not people.

20. In 1866 Congress reduced the number of justices on the United States Supreme Court from 10 to 7. Later Congress increased the number to 9. The U.S. Constitution does not specify the number of justices. Should Congress increase the number of justices to 11 in order to offset the “Merrick Garland” seat that the Republicans hijacked by refusing even to address his nomination?

Mitch McConnell put the United States into a Constitutional crisis for his refusal to hold hearings in Congress to consider Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. He should have faced impeachment for his actions. During the Trump Administration, neoliberals are all but praying for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to stay alive so as to prevent another SCOTUS appointment under 45’s watch. Raising the number of justices to 11 creates a situation where the sitting President could “court-pack” by adding two more Justices to the bench.

21. Please examine our table of issues, comparing the positions of the Oregon Progressive Party with the Democratic and Republican parties. Please identify any of the positions of the Oregon Progressive Party you disagree with and briefly state why.

I read it twice and honestly, we’re on the same page on everything. I may even be slightly more to the Left. One position I’d like to highlight is the opposition to gambling/lotteries. As a practicing Hindu, I am against gambling and do not believe the state should turn to it as a source of revenue.

Counselor, musician, and Saivite Hindu. I left academia to see 48 states and find God, and not once did I let schoolwork get in the way of my education.