1.Do you consider the increased concentration of economic wealth in the United States to be corrosive to our democracy? If yes, how should this issue be addressed? If not, why not?
Yes, I am concerned about the increasing concentration of wealth in our democracy, and it should be addressed. The gap in income inequality at this time is at some of the highest in US history. In fact, it has gotten significantly worse since the 1970s as a result of federal tax policies that have been implemented. I believe it can be corrosive to communities to have so much wealth concentrated in so few. This was the main issue that Bernie Sanders ran on, and I think it’s because of general frustration with ongoing income equality that he was able to garner such a large following of supporters.
I think as elected officials we need to be hyper-cognizant about this issue because we need to reduce the gap inequality by raising the wealth of everyone. And we need to scrutinize the legislation that we pass to make sure that it helps those who are on the bottom rung of income and be wary of giveaways to those at the top rungs. For this reason, I voted against a tax credit for yacht owners, voted against a large corporate tax credit for Northrup Grumman, and voted for legislation like the Home Act (that prevents landlords from discriminating based on a tenant’s source of income) during my first term in office.
2. What are your thoughts on social democracy?
My understanding is that social democracy is a democratic ideology that seeks to promote social equality and justice through economic and social interventions within a capitalistic system. Speaking generally, I do think there is a need to address social inequities (whether in income, education, location of residence, etc.) within our current system of capitalism. Capitalism run unchecked could truly lead to rapidly rising income inequality, and so the desire to promote social justice interventions is important in counterbalancing pure capitalism.
3. Racial discrimination continues to plague our nation. This is evident in our workforce (hiring practices, income disparities, opportunities for advancement, etc…), in the administration of our criminal justice system, in systemic efforts to disenfranchise voters based on race, in the relative dearth of substantive environmental protections for communities where people of color constitute a large percentage of the population, and in other facets of American life. What steps can and should be taken to address these issues?
I think you’re correct that racial discrimination does continue. In spite of pronouncements of this being a “post-racial” nation after the election of Barack Obama, I think the reality proves the contrary. As you point out, racial discrimination continues to occur in our workforce, criminal justice system, the ability of one to vote, and in environmental justice. And I believe there continues to be implicit bias in our society. The first step in changing this is acknowledging that racial discrimination or implicit bias is occurring, and then the second is to be focused and vigilant about fighting discrimination at every turn.
For that reason, I have voted to support every measure that has come to the House floor to help enfranchise voters and to make it easier to vote. This includes voting in support of allowing ex-offenders who have paid their time and are reintegrating into society the ability to vote. I’ve also voted to support the Justice Reinvestment Act of 2017 which modernized our criminal justice system, emphasized rehabilitation and reintegration, and reduced the penalties for non-violent offenders.
As a public health doctor, I also recognize that there is a lot more that influences a person’s health beyond what takes place in the clinic and hospital. In particular, that the social determinants of health matters just as much, if not more. This includes: a person’s zipcode of birth, level of educational attainment, access to healthy food, income, the environment they live in, etc. that all play into an individual’s health. For that reason, I’ve served as the General Assembly’s representative on the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities for the last three years, where we’ve taken a look at state policies and in issuing recommendations to reduce inequities in health and wellbeing based on the environment around lower-income areas.
4. Thinking about the principles of liberty and equality, and this can apply to any given challenge (fiscal, social, etc…), how can they both be promoted to ensure that the “unalienable rights” of all Americans are protected?
Yes, I think the principles of liberty and equality can both be promoted to ensure that the rights of all Americans are protected. However, these two principles are not always in alignment, and so there is a constant need to balance them. Liberty promotes each individual to do and act as they choose, but that can clash with equality when an individual’s liberty infringes on another’s. So similar to so many pillars of our democracy, these two principles need to be held in equilibrium through constant checks and balances. Too much liberty, and equality is put at risk. Too much equality, and one might be infringing on liberty. Our nation was founded on a series of compromises (big states vs. small states, federalism, etc.) and this balance between liberty and equality is another one of those compromises. Neither liberty or equality is absolute, and it is the job of our society—and our elected officials—to ensure that there is proper balance between the two.
5. Let’s assume that something called “class warfare” exists. If so, who has been winning? For how long? And in whose interest is it to continue the war?
If class warfare is alluding continued income inequality, then I believe we as a society must continue to make a concerted effort to reduce the growing gap in income. It remains in the interest of those who benefit the most from income inequality to continue policies that widen this gap. Those who have a financial interest (the top of the inequality scale) would have the greatest incentive to advocate for keeping the status quo which in large part benefits them.
6. Considering the UN’s sustainable development goals which refer to gender equality as a “fundamental human right,” how is America performing when it comes to promoting gender equality and what specific steps can and should be taken to secure true gender equality in the United States?
I agree that gender equality is a fundamental human right, and it is one that we in the United States have not fully resolved. The US can and must do more to advance gender equality. Much gender inequity remains: for example, there are far fewer women serving in elected office, the pay gap remains between men and women, and there continues to be a gap in other areas like healthcare (i.e. why women had to pay higher premiums in the past because they could become pregnant). One step that can be undertaken is ensuring greater transparency in wages and salaries; this would help women earn or negotiate to be more equivalent to their male counterparts. Another step that can be taken is to provide greater support to women want to enter fields where they are underrepresented; this could include greater training and educational support in the STEM fields, which fewer women than men currently pursue. In the US, we must strive to advance gender equity in order to serve as an example for other developing nations as well.
7. Many LGBTQIA Americans have expressed concerns that the current Administration (and those who view the world similarly) are dedicated to rolling back recent legal protections fought for, and recognized, in this country. What steps can and should be taken to safeguard the rights of LGBTQIA citizens to participate fully in the “pursuit of happiness” stated in our Declaration of Independence?
I think it is important for us to help safeguard the rights of LGBTQIA residents because of ongoing rollbacks of recent advancements that have made on the federal level. As a result, it has become critically important for the state to undertake measures that are going help ensure that LGBTQIA residents feel safe. In Maryland, we have made many advancements over the last few years, including passing marriage equality, allowing transgender individuals to request updated birth certificates, and allowing individuals to use a bathroom of their own choosing. We must continue to look for potential opportunities to protect our LGBTQIA community and also address any new or ongoing concerns of discrimination.