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Alan Sandals

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BackgroundEdit

  • D, attorney, 52, Philadelphia, 215-825-4017, candidate for US Senate in 2006 primary. Lost to Bob Casey and Chuck Pennacchio

LinksEdit

Issues (a linking page)Edit

  • Issues Chart (clever idea)
  • Discrimination/Affirmative Action
  • Education
  • Energy and the Environment
  • Ethics Reform
  • Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research
  • Gay Marriage
  • Gun Violence and Control
  • Health Care Crisis
  • Immigration
  • Personal Privacy and Choice
  • Retirement and Social Security
  • Sexual Harassment/Domestic Violence
  • The War in Iraq
  • The War on Terror

ChoiceEdit

Alan is pro choice; he believes that abortions should be safe, legal and rare

War on IraqEdit

The American military should redeploy to the borders, focus on training Iraqi security forces, and begin withdrawing troops

The War in Iraq is a misguided policy that distracts attention and resources from the effort to contain and eliminate terrorism. OVER 2200 soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the start of this wrongheaded policy.

We have spent over $235 BILLION –$1 million per day and this misallocation of national resources has:

  • Raised our Deficit
  • Increased our Debt
  • Threatened our homeland security
  • Sent our National Guard abroad instead of HOME

The American people have endured lies and incompetence on the part of their President, but the free pass for George Bush has got to end. It is clear that there is no plan to win and no exit strategy. Now we have played into the hands of the insurgents and the country is on the brink of civil war.

I support a redeployment of our troops from Iraq over the next two years to strengthen security in our country and to better fight the war on terror:

  • By the end of 2006, all National Guard and Reserve troops, over 33,000 of them, should return to the US. This is necessary to let the Guard focus on shoring up gaps in homeland security and offer the kind of vital assistance when disasters like Hurricane Katrina cause destruction in this country.
  • Move 20,000 troops away from Iraq to bolster NATO efforts in Afghanistan to stop the resurgence of the Taliban, and in Africa and Asia, where terrorists operations are increasing.
  • Place consultants to help facilitate the rebuilding of their infrastructure.
  • Encourage the International Community to reengage-peacekeeping effort.

TortureEdit

Alan opposes the use of torture under any circumstances; Even during times of conflict, U.S. troops should uphold the Geneva Convention

Pension ReformEdit

Alan opposes privatization, and would propose extending age eligibility and tax free years to encourage older workers to remain in the workforce longer.

Gun ControlEdit

He supports the assault weapons ban and advocates measures to reduce gun violence, including closing the gun show loophole nationally

I recognize and respect the interests of hunters in safe and responsible use of sporting rifles. U.S. citizens have the right to hunt for sport. But is also is essential that we protect our citizens, including defenseless young children, from death and serious injury made possible by rampant handgun trafficking.

5 years ago, President Bush pledged $ 550 million to fund prosecution of gun violators. But the money never came, and homicide rates with guns have increased.

I propose the following 10 Point Plan to reduce deaths and injuries from irresponsible use of guns:

1. Reduce illegal handgun trafficking by limiting private buyers to the purchase of no more than one handgun per month.
2. Close the gun show loophole at the federal level.
3. Restore a strong and effective assault weapons ban.
4. Establish and enforce effective product safety standards for handguns.
5. Control the purchase of certain types of ammunition.
6. Enact a gun buy-back program.
7. Increase the visibility of police on the streets.
8. Take steps to more closely monitor gun shops that sell assault-style weapons in order to protect homeland security.
9. Require gun owners to report lost or stolen guns within 24 hours to prevent straw purchasing.
10. Allocate the $550 million that was pledged by President Bush 5 years ago to fund prosecution of gun violators.

EnvironmentEdit

Alan is a strong advocate of corporate accountability; he believes that there should be serious and immediate steps to reverse the trend of global warming, and he would support alternative sources of energy-See Energy Policy

Earth Day Environmental Issues Statement (Environment cont.)Edit

“One of the primary reasons I launched my campaign is that I believe our country is making too many shortsighted decisions as it relates to environmental policy. Throughout my legal career, I have confronted corporate America’s excess and stood on the side of average Americans. I will take that same ethic to the Senate and work with environmental advocates to create laws to protect our environment and the health and future of our children.”

Global Climate Change (Environment cont.)Edit

I believe that Global Warming is real, and without dramatic action and focus, the very health of our planet is in jeopardy. In the Senate, I will sponsor and support aggressive measures to significantly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. I will also seek new investments in alternative energy technologies such as solar and wind power.

Stem Cell ResearchEdit

Supports federal funding of embryonic stem cell research and Therapeutic Cloning

Medicare Part DEdit

Allow Government to negotiate drug prices for volume discount-close donut hole-simplify so seniors can understand-in favor of extending the penalty deadline

Tort ReformEdit

While he would advocate the elimination of frivolous cases through a panel of expert lawyers and retired judges, Alan thinks it is unfair to victims to put a cap on their damage awards.

HealthcareEdit

Alan believes healthcare is in a state of crisis. He thinks we should move to a single payer provider under an improved system based on the Medicare model. The new system should streamline claims processing and allow patients to keep their choice of physician.

We all know that our health care system is in terrible shape. Even though we devote a larger share of our economy to health care than any other country in the world, the United States actually trails behind many other countries in health care quality, including infant mortality.

The health care system is soaking up more and more of our resources – to the point where we are all threatened economically. Employees, retirees and businesses are suffering. Health care costs are a major threat to expanding our economy and keeping jobs here at home. Unless we find a solution soon, the costs associated with medical care when the Baby Boom generation ages and begins to need more and more care are going to bankrupt Medicare and bankrupt all of us.

It’s time to face the fact that more tinkering with health care isn’t going to solve this problem. After all, for the last 25 or 30 years we’ve been trying to squeeze costs out of the system but nothing seems to work. Some politicians want us to believe that it’s the fault of trial lawyers, or accident victims, or malpractice insurance premiums, or the lack of competition among doctors and hospitals. But the fact is that when each of these issues is studied and examined in the real world, we see that each of them plays a relatively small part in the overall problem of health care costs.

Why are health costs out of control? Mainly because our system is incredibly inefficient and there is a level of profit at every step in the process. And the system has lots of bells and whistles that add to the expense but don’t make us any healthier. Everywhere we look, we see gold-plated, Cadillac care when a Chevrolet or Pontiac will do just fine if we use our health care dollars wisely.

We don’t need to look far to find a solution to this problem. Medicare has been working very well for tens of millions of seniors for 40 years. Unlike the other parts of our health care system, Medicare is very efficient. There is a single, streamlined claim process and the firms that process Medicare claims make very little profit. This is the benefit of bulk purchasing. With the help of the government, we buy medical care wholesale and get the best possible prices.

We need to take what we know from Medicare and use it to create a new model for health care in this country. Eventually, Medicare should be expanded to cover all Americans. We should phase this in over the next 10-15 years, beginning with retired Americans who are not yet age 65 and children under the age of 18. There will still be a need for employers who now pay for medical care to continue paying for their employees. But the rapid rate of cost increases will be reduced. This will help everyone, including employers who will spend less on medical coverage so more can be spent on other things, like wages, pensions, and job creation.

The new Medicare Part D drug benefit for seniors has serious problems and needs to be fixed as soon as possible. I’ve worked with retiree groups for more than a decade to wrestle with the problem of escalating costs for prescription drugs. These costs are the fastest growing part of medical care. Medicare Part D answers a great need to help senior citizens get lower cost, guaranteed drug coverage.

There are serious problems with Medicare Part D because Congress wanted to help drug companies and medical insurance companies more than it wanted to help seniors. With Medicare Part D, the U.S. government is now the largest buyer of prescription drugs in the world. When you buy a large volume of a product, you should be able to negotiate the best prices. In other parts of the government, you can’t even buy a case of paper towels without competitive bidding. But Congress prohibited Part D from bargaining for the best deals for prescription drugs. This makes the whole program much more expensive than it needs to be. We also have the highest drug prices in the U.S. because just about every other country has the sense to control drug costs. So we end up paying for both our own drugs and for drugs used in Europe. This obviously has to stop.

The drug industry also is guilty of pushing drugs that may not really help us, and in fact hurt us in some cases. It’s true that the drug industry performs an essential service to ease suffering and make our lives more productive. But the industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to promote drugs we don’t necessarily need. We end up paying for all of these ads in our drug prices. It’s time for the drug industry to start acting like responsible citizens instead of profiteers who are wrecking our economy.

Because Congress prevented Medicare Part D from saving money where it easily could have, the program did not have enough money to cover all costs. This resulted in the “doughnut hole” so that in many Part D coverage plans there is no coverage and help for drug costs between $ 2,250 and $ 5,100 per year. The doughnut hole makes it very hard to predict whether Part D will help you. The doughnut hole should be eliminated altogether by better use of our dollars or by setting a higher deductible, so that everyone will know that once Part D kicks in, it will apply to all drug costs from then on.

The new Medicare Part D is very hard to understand. It is so complex you have to be an accountant to figure out what plan option will work best for you. And there are so many options that you can’t easily compare one plan to another. Part D should have the same kinds of standard plans we have had for decades with the Medicare Supplement (Medigap) options A-J.

Finally, we must take advantage of full stem cell research to cure and prevent disease, to avoid or reduce suffering and medical expenses. The most promising area for medical advances is stem cell research. And the most valuable stem cell research makes use of embryos that have been fertilized but were going to be discarded if they did not get used in research (such as ones that were created for use in fertility treatments but are not needed). There already are strict rules in this research to prevent abuses. Some people, including Rick Santorum and Bob Casey, object to using these embryos on religious grounds and want to prohibit federal research grants for this work. But I believe that when we have a choice between throwing away an unneeded fertilized embryo, or using it to help discover a cure for cancer, the obvious answer is to try to get a benefit for medical research.

The War on TerrorEdit

The U.S. invasion of Iraq was a misguided effort distracting us from our effort to get to the source of terrorism-Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden and his kind represents the most dangerous terrorist threat but he still operates with impunity and continues to build his network of terrorists.

This administration has not implemented any of the programs recommended by the September 11th Bipartisan Task Force.

We have created terrorists where there weren’t any--in IRAQ--and ignored and mishandled places where there is a real threat to our Nation like in North Korea, Iran, and in Afghanistan. In addition, our country is less secure due to the Army, National Guard, and Reserve being stretched to their breaking points.

For this reason, I support a redeployment of our troops from Iraq over the next two years to strengthen security in our country and to better fight the war on terror:

  • By the end of 2006, all National Guard and Reserve troops, over 33,000 of them, should return to the US. This is necessary to let the Guard focus on shoring up gaps in homeland security and offer the kind of vital assistance when disasters like Hurricane Katrina cause destruction in this country.
  • Move 20,000 troops away from Iraq to bolster NATO efforts in Afghanistan to stop the resurgence of the Taliban, and in Africa and Asia, where terrorists operations are increasing.

PATRIOT ACTEdit

Alan opposes the Act in its current form; it needs revision-see War on Terror for more.

The USA Patriot Act reauthorization bill which became law on March 9, 2006 still retains serious flaws from the original Patriot Act. Specifically, it still fails to require that any private records sought in an intelligence investigation be about suspected foreign terrorists or Americans conspiring with them. If elected, I would support passage of a Senate version of the Security and Freedom Ensured Act of 2005 (SAFE Act), as well as the amendments sponsored by Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and Arlen Specter (R-PA). These legislative proposals would help cure many of the problems that are left unfixed in the law. The proposals, along with legislation sponsored by Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA) would, among other things, put needed checks on the National Security Letter powers that are being used to gather the financial and internet transactions of tens of thousands of Americans.

HomosexualityEdit

Alan believes that all people should enjoy civil rights, and it is not the role of the government to cast judgment on the private affairs of American citizens

Gay MarriageEdit

Alan believes that all rights granted to legally married couples should be granted to same sex partners.

I am opposed to discrimination and intolerance of any kind, regardless of whether it is based on race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Based on my opposition to discrimination, I support civil unions and other social arrangements that afford the same set of legal protections, rights, and benefits as marriage to a same-sex couple.

Separation of Church and StateEdit

Religious beliefs should not influence public policy

Economic GrowthEdit

Alan believes the Federal Government should invoke a moratorium on outsourcing of jobs and reassess

NAFTA & CAFTA.Edit

He views energy independence as a vital economic goal.

Supreme CourtEdit

Alan opposed the nomination of Justice Alito and advocated a filibuster

Living WageEdit

Alan supports increasing the minimum wage according to Rendell's program to increase to $7.25 over 2 years and move to a living wage standard. Believes that women should receive the same compensation for doing comparable work to their male colleagues.

PrivacyEdit

Alan opposes unwarranted wiretapping by NSA and opposes government regulation of women's private medical decisions. Casey and Santorum show disregard for privacy. Ethics There should be a ban on fundraising by lobbyists, and the K Street Project should end

Campaign Finance ReformEdit

Alan supports the idea of providing public financing for congressional races. He believes it is best to establish reasonable limits on spending and provide equal access to public airwaves in order to take influence away from special interest groups

Death PenaltyEdit

Supports DNA Testing and moratoriums on executions until there is an explanation for the disproportionate sentencing of racial minorities to death row.

Voting RightsEdit

Supports Voter Verified Paper Record/Ballots, open source and applications by vendors and mandatory % recount of randomly selected precincts

Energy PolicyEdit

Supports investment in renewable energy sources, pollution controls and supports CAFÉ Standards; Government should help private sector build infrastructure for alternative fuel

Discrimination / Affirmative ActionEdit

I’ve spent the last 20 years as a lawyer who stands up in court to protect the pensions and medical benefits of working and retired people. I would use this experience to fight discrimination in this country. Specifically, I would push for legislation that would make it more difficult for employers to cite non-discriminatory reasons for any discriminatory practice. I would also support measures that would lower the hurdles for victims of discrimination to show it occurred. Finally, I would strengthen legal prohibitions against age discrimination.

Affirmative action is still an important component in combating racism and sexism of the past and present. According to a report from the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, a large proportion of minorities and women are locked into low-wage, low-prestige, and dead-end jobs. Additional data suggest that these two groups have been proportionately affected by current trends in workforce downsizing. As your Senator, I will fight to reverse those trends.

EducationEdit

Results of No Child Left BehindEdit

After four years, the grades are back and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is failing. In fact, 47 states have objected in some way to the federal NCLB mandate.

A report released by the National Conference of State Legislatures documents the NCLB-related backlash in the form of anti-NCLB legislation (21 states), opting out/waivers/exemptions (40 states), litigation (four cases, with more in the offing), NCLB unfunded-mandate cost studies (21 states), and NCLB school failure rate studies (including one in Massachusetts predicting that NCLB will "flunk" 74-90 percent of the state's public schools over time).

The report concludes that the law "creates too many ways to ‘fail’ and therefore spreads resources too thinly over too many schools and reduces the chances that schools that truly are in need of improvement can be helped.” It also fails to recognize differences among school populations and fails to allow for those differences in testing requirements.

Here in Pennsylvania, the results are just as unsatisfactory. Using results from the 2004 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment — the state's standardized test — a 2005 study projects that 77 percent of schools will no longer be able to meet the law's increasing mandates by 2014. According to the study, 76 percent of schools in Montgomery County, 75 percent in Bucks and 77 percent in Chester will be labeled failing by 2014.

Consequently, many school districts are understandably concerned. The legislation requires much of school districts but provides few resources to actually help them comply. As a result, school districts are fighting back. In April of 2005, the Reading School District filed suit against the federal government seeking to relieve schools from complying with any unfunded federal mandates (Similarly, Connecticut filed a lawsuit against the federal government for not providing enough money to fund "No Child Left Behind" requirements).

The Federal Government’s Response (Education cont.) Edit

A new study by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University (CRP) shows that instead of systematically dealing with the problems of NCLB, the law is being changed through a series of negotiations between the U.S. Department of Education and individual states. The authors contend that this process of making compromises with individual states has altered the meaning of accountability since no two states are now subject to the same requirements. The entire point of the NCLB bill—to improve accountability nationwide and judge schools equally according to the same standards—has now been undermined. According to Gail Sunderman, the report’s author, “Rather than deal systematically with the problems in the law, the Department of Education has adopted a political strategy to changing NCLB.”

For example, changes some states have negotiated in how districts are held accountable under NCLB reduce the number of districts identified for improvement, but these changes primarily benefit those districts serving more white than minority students. These inconsistencies undermine the parts of the law that have the greatest potential for reducing educational inequalities.

According to Professor Gary Orfield, “The effort to paper over the defects of the law’s limited and unrealistic accountability scheme has failed, and threatens the entire effort unless Congress and the Administration admit the problems and work together with educators to devise means that will produce serious reforms and genuine gains.”

I could not agree more. Here is how we should improve the No Child Left Behind Act.

What Needs to be Done (Education cont.)Edit

To really "leave no child behind," we must give low-income and minority students better resources and better teachers, rather then simply depend on high-stakes tests and punitive sanctions.

Schools serving minority and low-income students are larger and have larger classes, have fewer qualified teachers, fewer college prep or advanced placement courses, and fewer computers, books and supplies. According to Linda Darling Hammond, a Professor at Stanford, the top 10 percent of districts in this country spend 10 times more than the bottom 10 percent. In Pennsylvania, as in most states, the ratio between the high-spending and low-spending districts is at least three or four to one.

Federal funds need to be appropriated to school districts for assessment tests. These “multiple measures” approaches to graduation, used in at least 27 states, differ from single-test approaches in that they consider a variety of student work, which may include student academic records, research papers, portfolios, essays, capstone projects and oral exams.

Research at Stanford showed that states utilizing assessment tests have schools that perform better than states where tests are used only to impose student or school sanctions--the current practice under NCLB. States using multiple measures assessments for graduation tend to have higher student test scores and higher graduation rates, and produce student who are better prepared for today’s workforce and for higher education.

(Energy and the Environment) THE CRISIS IN OUR ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY PRICESEdit

Hurricane Katrina was a wakeup call. For years, scientists have told us that our burning of fossil fuels is raising average temperatures on earth. Now, we’re beginning to see the results of this global warming. Storms which are much more violent and frequent. Destruction of our environment – effects that American citizens already are experiencing in Alaska. Disruption of agriculture. Droughts and famine.

Scientists also tell us that we are going to run out of oil, during this century for sure. Oil will be gone during the lifetimes of my own children – maybe even during my own lifetime should I be blessed with all those years.

It’s easy to predict what happens when more and more oil is needed (both here and throughout the world, including China and India) but there is less and less of it to go around. The price goes up, not down. The drastic increases during the last 12 months in the cost of gasoline, heating oil, and natural gas are just a preview of what we are facing. These rising prices are going to create hardships in our cold homes this winter and difficulties for every business, leading to loss of jobs, inflation in the prices we pay, and an overall threat to our economy.

Even though most people could see these trends in energy prices coming for years, the Bush-Santorum team has done nothing to protect us from these forces or to prepare us for the future. They continue to act as though global warming doesn’t exist and they say we just need to drill more holes in the ground. They even want to drill in the Alaska wilderness. (What kind of lesson do we teach our children, who we tell to be responsible and use self-restraint, when our government sets aside land to be wild forever, but then can’t resist the urge to drill on it just ten years later?) They also are begging the Saudis to pump more oil. But even if the Saudis could do this (and experts say that Saudi Arabia may be at its peak production of oil), we aren’t helping ourselves get over our dependence on foreign oil by asking the pusher to sell more of it to us at cheaper prices.

Congress is letting us down, across the board. Instead of working to find real solutions, they are making things worse. For example, the White House and Republican Congress this summer pushed through energy legislation that gives away billions of dollars of our tax dollars to oil companies that don’t need the help, considering the record profits they are earning. Worse still, Congress ducked its responsibility to us and our children by defeating efforts to increase fuel economy in cars and trucks and to begin to tackle global warming. The White House and Congress also are acting to weaken our laws on clean air and water and to eliminate funding to clean up hazardous waste sites.

We can’t afford to let Congress continue to ignore what all of us know. Precious time is slipping away from us. Every month we hold off from facing up to global warming and the end of oil, the more we risk catastrophe for ourselves and our children. My worst fear is that some day a grandchild will ask me, “How can it be that you knew all about these problems, but then did nothing to protect us?” There is no good answer to this question for us as citizens and parents. And there is no excuse for politicians who continue to fail us on energy and the environment.

What should we be doing in Washington? (Energy cont)Edit

The rapid increase in energy prices is going to hurt all of us. Working families already are struggling to keep up with rising gasoline and home heating prices at a time when paychecks aren’t growing. Meanwhile, oil and gas companies are raking in record profits – tens of billions of dollars in profits – for doing nothing other that having oil and natural gas to sell. Just as we did in the years when Republican Ronald Reagan was in the White House, we again need to have a windfall profits tax to get additional funding for home energy assistance programs and to help us afford steps to make our homes and cars more fuel efficient.

We also need to take immediate steps to require increased fuel economy in our cars and trucks and to close loopholes that let the auto industry count gas-guzzling SUVs as “trucks.” Republicans like to say that “the market” will make the auto industry respond to our needs. But “the market” doesn’t think about the long term. It only cares about profits right away. So we already can see that Detroit is losing the race in new engine technology. The executives in the U.S. auto industry just kept making high-profit SUVs while Toyota and Honda engineered and built the new hybrid cars. Now that high gas prices are here, Detroit can’t sell its SUVs and it has nothing to offer to help American consumers save money on fuel. Time and again, Congress had had to step in to force the auto industry to meet our needs – for seat belts and air bags, catalytic converters to get lead out of gas, and the original fuel efficiency standards. It’s time again to lead Detroit to make the cars we need.

We need to seize the initiative on global warming by becoming the world leader in pollution control technology. We can create millions of new jobs in this industry for all kinds of trades, from steel and sheet metal workers, machinists and pipefitters to engineers and scientists. We can sell this technology to the world, including countries like China that have an increasingly urgent need for pollution control.

Finally, we need to invest in and expand mass transit. There is just no good reason why most commuters must continue to drive their cars into cities for work. Gas costs are making those commutes unaffordable and traffic delays rob hours from the free time of each commuter, so mass transit is an obvious answer. But our mass transit systems are reaching capacity – just when more and more people need to use them. Adding rail cars, subway cars and buses will increase ridership, decrease costs per passenger, reduce our use of expensive fuel, and also start to reduce global warming.

The threats to all of us from global warming and energy prices demand immediate and serious action. These are only a few of the initiatives that we have to pursue. The important thing is to be honest enough to admit that we have these urgent problems, and we have to be courageous enough to begin the hard work that all of us know has to be done. If politicians are not willing to be honest or brave, then they must be replaced. Delay is only going to make things worse for us.

Ethics ReformEdit

Washington’s culture of corruption and cronyism has been exposed through the Abramoff, DeLay and Cunningham scandals. When lobbyists write our healthcare, energy, and education policies we are in serious trouble.

Rick Santorum has become entrenched in this culture and has led the charge through his role in the K Street Project

The latest Republican lobbying reform is laughable in its irony. Santorum heading up this Republican reform is like the fox guarding the hen house.

The Democratic Reform proposal goes a little further than the Republican proposal, but neither really gets to the heart of the problem.

The solutions:

  • We need public financing of campaigns.
  • We need to have our public airwaves returned to the public.
  • Free airtime must be made available to candidates.

Funding Embryonic Stem Cell ResearchEdit

Opposition to the federal funding of Stem Cell Research is based on religious ideology. If we agree that religion has no place in our governmental decisions, and we still believe in the Constitutional premise of Separation of Church and State, then it follows that there is no sound rationale for withholding federal support for stem cell research.

We now know that there are ways to cure certain debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. This research gives HOPE to

  • End the needless suffering of patients with various diseases.
  • Save dollars spent on medical treatments.

Absent religious objections, there is no justification for withholding support for stem cell research and a Senator should not be voting based on his or her religious beliefs, but rather on representing his or her constituency.

ImmigrationEdit

This country was founded by immigrants and our society has always distinguished itself by being open to them. I believe that immigration keeps a society flexible and competitive. But, I also recognize that we, as a society, will not be able to sustain a majority in favor of flexible immigration if we cannot control our borders. The fact is that porous borders empower only anti-immigrant demagogues.

This is why I support a policy that has coordinated and up-to-date enforcement at our borders, as well as the so-called "Essential Worker Visa Program." This comprehensive approach, which has been debated in the Senate, is a much more sensible solution than the bill passed in the House of Representatives.

Opposition to the Sensenbrenner bill in the House of Representatives (Immigration cont.)Edit

I am strongly opposed to the immigration bill passed in the House--HR 4437. It is both too harsh on undocumented immigrants and imposes unworkable requirements on employers. It takes a truly terrible bill to generate fierce opposition from business lobbies, ethnic groups, religious organizations, and labor unions. The reason it is has almost no support is because the bill was written not to solve the problem but only to satisfy the extreme right wing of the Republican Party. Unfortunately, that wing of the party, led by members like Rick Santorum, determines much of the legislation that is passed in Congress.

Personal Privacy and ChoiceEdit

We must continue to maintain the constitutional and deeply-rooted American value of separation of church and state. Like most Pennsylvanians, I am alarmed that certain legislators, including Rick Santorum, choose to pander to extremists in order to divide and distract us from the problems that threaten all of us. These politicians actually want Congress to pass legislation (a) to restrict women’s right to choose their own destiny in matters of conception, pregnancy and bodily integrity; (b) to interfere in private family decisions about end of life medical treatment; (c) to interfere with legitimate decision-making by state governments on the rights of gay and lesbian citizens to secure minimum financial rights, including efforts to recognize marriage between same-sex couples; and (d) to inject into our schools the study of “intelligent design” and other “theories” that have no real scientific basis. In the United States, we just don’t pass laws to promote one religious viewpoint over another.

Let’s face it. Our personal lives are hard enough as it is. We don’t need politicians butting in to tell us how to make the most difficult decisions that we wrestle with as adults. With our faith, family and friends as our guides, we can find our own way. We always have and always will.

In my private life, I am proud of my own religious heritage and practices. And like most Pennsylvanians, I believe that a religious upbringing and faith can be an important guiding force to help both children and adults become and remain caring and charitable citizens. So maintaining separation of church and state does not mean that we are against religion and faith in our private lives. We just understand that religion and government do not belong together. It’s our own personal duty to teach our children to be good and caring people. We can’t and shouldn’t expect government to take the place of parents, families and religious institutions.

These rights to privacy and equal rights also apply in the workplace and the community at large. No one should lose his or her job or place to live because someone else thinks that he or she is different. The love and commitment of same-sex couples should be recognized under the law. There is no room for government discrimination of any kind. It’s un-American.

Retirement and Social SecurityEdit

I’ve spent the last 20 years as a lawyer who stands up in court to protect the pensions and medical benefits of working and retired people – you, your neighbors and your relatives. There are 100 United States Senators, but not a single one of them understands pensions and retirement the way I do. We can change that.

Since day one of my campaign, back in April 2005 when I gave my first speech at Independence Hall, I’ve been speaking out to oppose the foolish proposal to privatize Social Security. Rick Santorum, George Bush and the Republicans made this proposal because they thought young Americans could be suckered into trading the security of a reliable Social Security check every month for gambling in the stock market. My speech in April showed that the privatization proposal was terrible for a number of reasons – it would greatly expand the deficit and basically force young people to buy the stocks and bonds that every pension plan and mutual fund will begin selling off as the Baby Boom generation ages. So the claim that people will make money with their private accounts is bogus – all the evidence we can see is that a person is more likely to lose money and end up with so much less in retirement. Is Social Security privatization finally dead? Let’s hope so – but Rick Santorum continues to try to peddle it.

It’s true that traditional Social Security needs to be strengthened, but there are obvious ways to do this without destroying the system that has worked so well for us for 70 years. As we’ve done many times in the past, we need to increase the wage base that is subject to Social Security withholding.

Even more important to our economy, we need to encourage people to work longer if they can do so. That’s why I’m proposing “tax free years” for wage earners beginning at age 63 or so. Your “tax free years” will enable you to keep working but not have to pay federal income taxes or Social Security withholding on your wages, up to a reasonable amount close to the average wage. These “tax free years” will be worth more than Social Security benefits. So instead of starting retirement sooner and taking Social Security, you’ll have the option of continuing to work and accumulate more for your private savings for retirement.

Most of us can expect to live longer and lead more productive lives than our parents did. And most of us would welcome the chance to keep working, if we can be assured that employers will allow us to and give us a chance to have a more flexible schedule. Already, many employers are facing a shortage of experienced workers. Helping people stay in the workforce, if they want to, will strengthen our economy in many ways. We just have to keep our eye on the big picture and understand the challenges that we face.

The laws protecting our pension and medical benefits during retirement are not strong enough. For 20years, I’ve felt like I had to fight for you with one arm tied behind my back. As your Senator, on my first day in office I will introduce and work day and night to pass pension reform legislation to do the following things:

  • 1. Ensure full pension plan funding by prohibiting high pay (in excess of $ 1 million) for the executives of any business that has an underfunded pension plan. Goodies for the top brass should not be available when thousands of retirees who spent careers at a company are worrying about their pensions.
  • 2. Give pension plans and retiree medical plans first priority in bankruptcy court. Too often, people who worked hard and earned pension and medical benefits in place of higher pay get robbed in bankruptcy court. There is no reason why an investor who jumps into an investment for short term gain as a small part of an investment program should get better protection than someone who dedicated his or her life to the company.
  • 3. Under the law now, retiree medical benefits can get taken away in a bankruptcy. But these benefits often are more valuable than a pension. So they should have the same level of protection.

This is just a start. From my experience, I know that the pension laws are terribly weak and do a very poor job protecting working and retired Americans. I will be laying out more reforms as we go forward.

Like Franklin Roosevelt, I believe that the strength of America is in its working people. Our country will not grow and prosper for any of us so long as millions of Americans live in fear of their future. We all value hard work and teach our children that it will be rewarded. Congress needs to practice what it preaches and act immediately to end the looming pension crisis.

Sexual Harassment / Domestic ViolenceEdit

Programs within the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) must be fully funded. While I applaud Congress for reauthorizing VAWA and protecting the VOCA Fund from elimination last year, they must ensure full funding of these vital programs this year. Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking are devastating and pervasive crimes that directly affect at least 1 in 4 women in the United States and touch the lives of nearly all individuals. Full funding for all VAWA programs and continuing to protect the VOCA Fund are crucial investments in our communities, investments that save money and lives. Without full funding for VAWA programs, women and children cannot access the services they need to escape from violence. If the balance of the VOCA Fund is eliminated, counties across the state may lose these services entirely.

The Bush Administration is once again saying one thing and doing another. In the President’s budget, few of the existing programs in VAWA and VOCA come close to receiving the full amount authorized by the new law. If elected, I would demand that these essential programs receive full funding each year.

I also support measures that would increase awareness in young people of the harm that comes from verbal and physical harassment. If we can make young people realize the damage of harassment in all its forms, we can, hopefully, minimize physical abuse.

According to the research report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Educational Foundation, nearly two-thirds (62%) of the 2000 college students surveyed last May said they had been subjected to sexual harassment while at college. LGBT students are even more likely than heterosexual students to be targets of harassment, with nearly three-quarters of LGBT students reporting incidents.

The AAUW report also observed that students do not talk openly and seriously about sexual harassment. Harassed female students are more likely than male students to tell someone, but even so, fewer than ten percent of them report harassment to a school employee, mostly because they are not aware of the resources available.

Confidential procedures—like a web-based reporting system—are needed, and colleges should reach out to students each year to inform them about the resources that are available if they experience sexual harassment.

LinksEdit

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