Issues

Below is a list of issues Darrell Rodriguez finds important. Included are links to additional information about each topic to allow voters to explore the issues further.

 

Healthcare

I believe that everyone deserves quality healthcare in the richest, most powerful country in the world. I believe it is a fundamental human right. If other developed countries can provide healthcare for all and prevent people from dying because of lack of coverage, America can do so as well. But the American healthcare system is unique and complicated. Our for-profit healthcare system puts profit before people, and as bad as that is, it is a reality. We don’t need to repeal and replace Obamacare as Trump and the Republicans are demanding and force people to die because they can’t afford coverage. We need to repair Obamacare and make it work better by providing lower costs and increased access  for more Americans. We need to expand Medicare and cover more low-income people. But most importantly, we need to lower the costs of healthcare and prescription drugs. Medications, tests and medical procedures are a fraction of the cost in other countries as they are in America. The for-profit model of healthcare is unethical, unsustainable, and without negotiations of drug prices and stricter rules on healthcare costs, we will continue to face the challenges of increases in premiums, copay, and deductibles. Even universal healthcare legislation wouldn’t be wise at this point with the for-profit healthcare industry calling the shots.

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Social Security and Medicare

Social security benefits for the elderly and disabled should be increased to reflect the high cost of living in our modern economy. Medicare benefits should be expanded to more low-income individuals as part of a multi-step approach to expanding healthcare to all.

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Immigration

Photo credit: Epi RenDonald Trump and his call for an end to sanctuary cities and his threat to deport millions of undocumented immigrants is dividing the country into “us” and “them.” His creation of a special force to highlight the voices of the victims of undocumented immigrant crimes is demonizing undocumented immigrants, despite the fact that almost all experts agree that the crime rate for immigrants is much lower than the crime rate for American citizens. Trump is also using his authority to deport hundreds of immigrants who are peaceful, hardworking members of our society. He is stripping apart mothers, fathers and their American citizen children, and has instilled fear in the immigrant community. This is not what America is about. This is not who we are as a people. Do we need border security? Of course. Do we need a wall? Experts say additional fencing won’t solve the problem. I believe that we need comprehensive immigration reform that includes a Guest Worker Program that allows for undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows, and be free from fear. Guest worker permits would grant undocumented immigrants legal status in the country while working, and as long as they don’t engage in any crimes, and pay the appropriate fees, they can have a path at citizenship. With talk of trillion-dollar infrastructure spending looming, where do they think the labor force for all this new construction is going to come from? A guest worker program is only logical.

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Refugees

Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban was one of the most despicable things he has done. He brought shame, fear, and worldwide condemnation to America. When people are hungry, weak, wrecked, and fear for their lives so badly that they are willing to flee to another country where they don’t know anything and don’t speak the language, to escape death or torture, they are desperately crying out to our human decency. I understand that some people fear that terrorists could hijack the refugee immigration process, but President Obama knew this was a possibility. That’s why, with almost no news attention, he took extra steps to put in place more stringent measures for vetting refugees coming to America. Trump’s actions are based on fear, ignorance, and Steve Bannon’s ideas. We must continue to resist any attempt by Trump to close the golden door of freedom to people who are fleeing for their lives.

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Climate Change

Scientists around the world overwhelmingly agree that the earth is warming, and the cause is human activity. Republicans want to continue to throw their support behind the coal industry and big oil, but the truth is that coal mining is no longer profitable, and there are less than 75,000 coal miners in the US. Also, wind and solar energies have now taken the lead in providing our energy needs, so it’s time for Congress to get out of the bed with big oil and start paying attention to the realities of the economy. More people are now employed in solar and wind energy than in fossil fuel and coal. Investing in renewable energy is an investment in the future, and it will significantly reduce carbon emissions. I believe we should provide tax incentives and tax credits for private citizens and corporations who are willing to do their part in conserving energy and helping reduce greenhouse gasses.

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Education

As a former inner-city public school teacher, I have more than a few suggestions about how education in America can be made better. Firstly, teachers need a 50% pay raise. We also need to put a cap on classroom size and hire more teachers. I once taught a class with almost 50 students. There weren’t even enough desks, and some students had to sit on counters and on the floor. Capping class sizes at a minimum of 15 will empower teachers to really reach and get to know their students instead of providing expensive babysitting and crowd-control services. Also, teachers need to be free to teach students the curriculum and not be restricted to spending all their time and effort in teaching to the test in order to improve test scores. Standardized testing is taking the fun and excitement out of education and instead is forcing teachers to care more about test scores than student learning. Education Secretary Betsy Devos has vowed to promote school vouchers and for-profit schools, but research shows that students in voucher programs at for-profit schools performed poorly in math and reading when compared to public school students. In business, when the company fails to produce results, the business fails. If a for-profit school fails, it not only fails as a business, but also fails to properly educate and prepare those students for the future.

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Disabilities

Children and adults with disabilities should be given equal opportunities when it comes to access, education, and employment. Although Americans with Disabilities Act was put in place, there are still many corporations and institutions that are overlooking and disenfranchising children and adults with disabilities. I believe in equality for all Americans, including those with disabilities.

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Gun Control

Weapons designed for war do not belong in civilian hands. Until these weapons are banned, we will continue to see shocking mass shootings of innocent people in the most unexpected places in America. I am not against owning guns for hunting and sport, but weapons designed for mass killings give you more power than the 2nd amendment intended. If your hobby involves shooting machine guns, that’s your choice, but should a classroom full of kindergartners, or a nightclub full of  young people have to die in such a violent and horrific way because you want to shoot machine guns at fake targets on your off time? I mean small children’s’ heads were literally exploded while other kids watched in horror at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and the shooter at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando literally laughed as he walked up to people trying to hide as he blew their heads off. I don’t mean to sound graphic, offensive, or disrespectful, but let’s not sugarcoat reality here. These weapons should be banned, period!

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Terrorism

We should do everything we can to fight terrorism abroad and at home by making smart decisions and listening to intelligence and foreign officials. We need to investigate why Americans decide to join groups like ISIS and why seemingly normal people decide to commit such violent acts at home.

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Student Loans

We need to ease the burden on future generations by eliminating college debt and making public colleges tuition free. Colleges have been raising tuition for decades using the extra income to expand on unnecessary facilities like overpriced stadiums, large fitness centers, and bloated amenities. Students have been picking up the bill, and the government has increased loan amounts to help perpetuate the problem. Part of easing the financial burden on future generations is controlling college costs. I propose that we put in place a plan that will gradually reduce the amount of student loans offered to students which will force colleges to lower their tuition or face declining enrollment. Reducing loan caps gradually will allow colleges time to restructure their budgets and learn how to function as institutions of higher learning, not corporations. Also, teachers, nurses, police officers, and other public service employees should have their student loans forgiven. They are investing their careers to the service of the community, and they shouldn’t be saddled with debt as they continue to serve. Those public service employees who have paid off their loans already through hard work and sacrifice should be reimbursed so that they can invest that money in new homes, retirement, and savings.

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Equal Pay

Why is this still an issue in 2017? We need to pass every piece of legislation necessary to ensure that women are treated as equal human beings and paid the same as men for the same job, period! There is nothing to debate here.

 

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Black Lives Matter

I believe that black lives matter and in the Black Lives Matter movement. Those who want to counter the movement by saying “all lives matter” just don’t get it, and need to learn more about the daily discrimination that African-Americans endure.  They are having their resumés looked over because of  “black-sounding” names, or dealing with microaggressions in the form of looks and insensitive comments by white people, or the overt and outright killing, jailing, and prosecution of African-Americans in ridiculous numbers by the criminal justice system. The list of forms of discrimination and microaggressions is endless, and the fact that some people don’t understand what is taking place just adds to the problem.

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Mental Health

I believe that there is a stigma attached to mental health problems, and as a result, these people face discrimination in the workplace, as well as in the criminal justice system. People may lose their jobs due to mental health issues, that otherwise could have been legally accommodated. Also, many people who are in prison or who are jailed are there for no other reason than they are suffering from mental health issues, and they don’t have access to healthcare or medications. We should make it easier for people with mental health issues to be able to get treatment, not lock them up and ignore their problems. We should also offer protections and accommodations that will allow them to keep their jobs in the event that a mental health issue develops.

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Abortion

I’m not a woman, so I don’t feel like my opinion should matter when it comes to a woman’s choices about her own body. This is an issue where women should be listened to over the voices of men like me. I do have an opinion on abortion, and in my opinion I support a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body, and in many cases where rape and incest are involved, how could men make decisions about what a woman should do under those circumstances? What about circumstances in which we can’t even imagine? Well unfortunately, some women don’t have to imagine. I also believe that the focus should be on expanding access to contraception and prevention so that there are less instances of women having to make such a hard decision. Some Republicans have enacted measures to decrease access to contraceptives while at the same time making it more difficult to have an abortion. If they would only educate themselves on the research that shows abortion rates are lower when people have greater access to contraceptives, unwanted pregnancies would decrease.

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Same Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court has ruled that same sex marriage is legal, and I will fight any attempt at curtailing the right granted to millions of Americans to marry who they love,  period!
 

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Religious Freedom

This is just a term invented by Republicans as a cover, giving them the permission to discriminate against people based on their personal religious views. I will fight any “religious freedom” measures and call them out for what they are, hate-based discriminations. I think supporters of these measures need to reread their bibles and ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?”

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Free Speech

Donald Trump’s constant attacks on the media, calling them the “enemy of the American people” and frequently declaring stories he doesn’t like as “Fake News” will not stand. I am glad to see the media continue to hold Trump and his administration accountable and not being intimidated by his incendiary rhetoric. I believe we need to watch Trump closely. History has taught us that seizing control of the media by dictators wasn’t something that happened over night, but instead something that happened gradually. We must be ready to act when there is any indication that Trump attempts to violate the constitution and limit the power of the free press to do their jobs.

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Criminal Justice Reform

Millions of Americans, disproportionately African-American and Hispanic young males, are sitting in our vast prison industrial complex for minor, non-violent drug related offenses. The US has a population of 320,000,000 people and we have more people locked in prison than all other countries combined, including China who has a population of over 1.3 billion people. We are wasting billions of dollars keeping these people locked up for minor, non-violent offenses, and the moral and economic thing to do would be to release these people, give them job training credentials, and spend money on schools and hospitals, not more prisons. Private prison companies like Corrections Corporation of America lobby legislators to keep the prison flood gates open to pursue their agenda of building more prisons and locking up more people for profit.

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Marijuana Legalization

I believe the FDA should remove Marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs, those deemed to be among the most addictive and highly dangerous. Many states across the country have either legalized marijuana medically, recreationally, or decriminalized its possession. Those in law enforcement recognize that low-level offenses like small amounts of marijuana possession do nothing but consume vast resources, tie up the courts, and overcrowd jails and prisons. I propose full recreational and medical legalization of marijuana in all 50 states. This will help people save money on healthcare costs by relieving symptoms of illnesses without the use of expensive pharmaceuticals. It will also give recreational users the freedom to ingest a plant that has been cultivated for thousands of years for its properties that contribute to health and wellness. Most importantly, marijuana legalization will take billions of dollars out of the hands of cartels and provide opportunities to use the tax dollars it generates to help fund education and healthcare.

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Minimum Wage

Photo credit: Michael FleshmanI believe minimum wage should be increased to $15 an hour. The cost of living has steadily increased, while wages have lagged behind. Some people argue that you shouldn’t be paid $15 to flip burgers when some people like first-responder paramedics make only an average of $12 an hour. Did you ever consider they both could use a pay raise?   Flipping burgers may not require critical thinking, but work in the fast-food industry is not as easy as it sounds. As a former fast-food worker who only made $5.15 an hour, I can tell you that I busted my rear and put up with a lot of rude customers for that meager amount of money. Fast-food restaurants are always hiring because the work is hard, the pay is low, and many customers are outright rude. They, and anyone else making minimum wage deserves a raise to reflect the rising cost of living. Anyone who claims that raising wages for these employees will cause prices of their products to go up  is just using those claims as threats so that they can continue to profit at the expense of cheap labor.

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Racism

People in minority communities have known all along that racism is still ever present in our society. Some people were skeptical that race was still a problem in the US because they weren’t witnessing it. Then Donald Trump came along, and with his hateful, racist rhetoric, we began to see videos of Trump supporters all across the country spewing out hatred to blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, and other minorities. But besides the open acts of hate caught on tape, racism is reflected in everything from home ownership rates, to income disparities, to school achievement. If race relations were perfect in America, there would be no need for the Black Lives Matter Movement because cops wouldn’t be racially profiling African-Americans, and there wouldn’t be these killings of unarmed African-Americans by cops caught on tape. We still have a long way to go before everyone in America is judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, and we must always be willing to stand together and rise up against racial injustice in all its forms.

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Income Inequality

It has been made clear by historical and economic researchers that wealth and income inequality in America has gotten worse for the middle class over the past few generations. When the overwhelming majority of new wealth generated in the US is going to the top 1%, we have a problem. Americans are working hard, and they are responsible for generating almost all of that new wealth. It doesn’t reflect in their paychecks, but it sure reflects in the paychecks of many CEOs. And then we have 76% of Americans living from paycheck to paycheck. I think we need to increase taxes on the top 1%, and use the extra tax revenue to give back to the hard-working Americans that helped make the 1% wealthy. The money can be used to give middle-class Americans more tax credits, health insurance, tax incentives, and to improve and expand  infrastructure. Middle class Americans can use the increased tax credits to pay down debts, buy new homes, invest, and make purchases, all helping to grow the economy. Infrastructure spending would generate millions of new jobs and bring American civilization into the 21st Century.

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Net Neutrality

Photo credit: Joseph GruberWe deserve an open and free internet. The FCC’s published rules for Net Neutrality should be protected and defended as a 21st Century human right. Giving control of the internet to corporations would drastically change the way modern society functions by granting them power to monetize open access, speed, and freedom of speech.

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Surveillance

Edward Snowden exposed Americans to a whole new reality. Every personal electronic communication was being monitored and stored by the government. Most Americans don’t agree with the bulk collection of data by the government of their personal emails, texts, phone calls, social media activity, or the recording by their phones’ microphones and cameras, but most Americans feel like there is nothing they can do about it. I believe that under president Obama, the public believed that it wasn’t a serious threat because he was a sane, sensible, thoughtful human being who would never use the power of surveillance to interfere in their lives, only to investigate possible terrorists. Nobody ever considered that when power changed hands in the future, what mechanism would be in place to prevent a corrupt leader from using that power of information against the people? Donald Trump is now our president, and what is to prevent him from spying on the American people for personal or political gain? We need legislation that creates oversight of the government’s use of our private information.

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The Dark Web

There are all kinds of nefarious things taking place on the Dark Web, including some 40,000 chatrooms where pedophiles share child pornography, or interact with children sexually via webcam in unknown locations all over the world. There are ads where parents offer their own children to pedophiles for molestation and sexual assault. These ads, even include newborns, and infants. This is only one example of the many ways people are getting away with the most vile forms of criminal activity on the Dark Web, and something must be done about it. If the NSA is able to collect data from phone calls, text messages, tweets, posts, cameras, and many other methods, why can’t the agency direct some of their efforts at finding the identity of perpetrators of horrendous crimes taking place on the Dark Web. Why don’t news organizations report on the Dark Web? I believe a commission should be appointed to investigate what is taking place on the Dark Web, and should provide advisory decisions so that law enforcement and intelligence agencies can identify nefarious criminals.

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