For too long we've let career politicians promise change that never comes. We continue to elect lawmakers to the US House of Representatives when we should be electing independent and innovative thinkers—those who have created jobs and started companies—for they understand how to make America grow.
We have an opportunity to elect someone who will work for us, who will put Nevadans first, who has created jobs and companies worth billions of dollars, who believes in the future of our great state and, most importantly, is someone who will be
Our New Voice in Congress.
Bill Townsend's companies have created thousands of high paying jobs for Americans. You know these companies: Internet search pioneer Lycos; social media innovator sixdegrees.com, whose technology formed the backbone of LinkedIn; GeoCities (now Yahoo!), Deja.com (now Google and ebay), newegg.com, and others. Bill is the President & CEO of RevolutionSports, Inc. and TRICCAR Holdings, Inc., as well as founder of Amati Foundation, a global nonprofit...all based here in Nevada. He has turned these firms over to his managers so he can focus on representing your interests in Washington, DC.
Bill is an entrepreneur, which he says, "is someone who sees a problem and solves it." He believes in fixing what's wrong, measuring success, creating high paying jobs, serving others with honesty and integrity, being a powerful voice for those in need, and being held accountable. He believes in facts and data and viewing a problem's entire ecosystem to find solutions. He's asking for your support and vote to bring his brand of innovation and insight, along with fiscal responsibility, social compassion, and common sense to solve Nevada's—and America's—problems so our families have a bright future.
Bill Townsend has big ideas for Nevada, which you can read about below. Bill says, "Running for Congress was not in my plans, but I can no longer sit by while our great nation disintegrates before our eyes. I pledge to work diligently to accomplish positive advances for Nevada. I need and want to hear from the people of Nevada's 4th Congressional District because I know everyone has thoughts about what is happening to Nevada and America. It doesn't matter what party you belong to, if you elect me, I will work for all Nevadans; not for special interests. I don't need their money and I don't want fame. What I want are results and accountability. It starts at home. It starts with you. It ends with me being accountable to you. That's why my campaign is all about being 'Our New Voice in Congress.'"
"We have a unique opportunity ahead of us. One of my first actions will be to convene all newly elected Representatives—from all political sides—to form a coalition to address the top concerns of our nation. These are the new faces who are going to Congress to enact change and we will begin by banding together the innovators, new leaders, and people who are committed to achieving results on behalf of Americans. They have not been corrupted by Party leaders nor special interests. If they see the positive changes we can make, together, they will join to change business as usual in Congress."
Within the pages of this website, and the download section, you will read about Big Ideas…innovative ideas…ideas that solve problems. You will read a realistic way to improve education, make schools safe, fully fund Social Security for the next 80 years, reduce health insurance and prescription drug costs, solve the immigration problem once and for all, and more.
Scroll down to learn more, including "12 Big Ideas for Nevada" and click
on any red box for more details or to navigate through the website...
We love our state, its people, its heritage, and its "can do" attitude. It's what makes Nevada unique among all the Western states and it's what makes this time in our state's history vital to its future.
Your candidate can't win this race without your help. Talking to neighbors, hosting a coffee, posting a yard sign, and donating what you can are all ways of helping us achieve our goals together. This can only be done with your support.
I have seen firsthand the increasing difficulty in hiring skilled workers because our education system is failing. Nevada ranks next to last in education and America has fallen to 14th worldwide. This is unsustainable and we are at a crossroads...
Gaming and tourism provides a solid foundation for Nevada, but we must look at ways to position our state for future growth that results in jobs training, higher pay, increased property values, better transportation, and opportunities for all Nevadans...
Too many Americans struggle in their golden years under the weight of increased living expenses, while Social Security benefits barely keep up. Our plan will fully fund Social Security for the next 80 years and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid.
I am the parent of four kids, so you know I am concerned about school safety. The ruckus taking place in the media fails to address how we make schools safer. Our plan gives children the same safety that judges and Members of Congress enjoy...
Battle Born. It's not just a slogan. It's a way of life in Nevada. We are home to multiple military bases and our men and women in uniform deserve the best equipment, latest technologies, and opportunities for fulfilling careers as they carry out...
I pledge to work diligently for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and legislation covering Equal Pay for Equal Results, plus, early child development, sexual harassment, improving the family, and other major issues that concern women...
The healthcare issue is about three things: affordability, costs, and access. Once you get rid of all the political posturing you realize that basic changes to our healthcare system can have big impact, such as limiting prescription drug prices...
You're getting a tax cut, but unlike the wealthiest Americans, yours expires in a few years. And while you're paying your taxes week after week, major corporations like General Electric have paid nothing for years. The political parties have forgotten who...
The mass shootings in Florida yet again call for the need to take actions to try to mitigate such violence. The immediate reaction from many is to call for a ban to firearms like the one used. The calls to, “Do something. Do anything!” have become...
Immigration is a hot topic this election year. Who should be allowed in our country? Who should be deported. Can we afford to allow illegals to remain in America or do we spend $80 billion deporting them? And, how can we stop illegal immigration?
Nevada has approximately 26,000 homeless people, with 25,000 of those in Southern Nevada. Of these, unsheltered homeless people--the ones with no roof over their heads, sleeping in their cars or parks--number about 8,000. There are solutions...
Ours is a state rich in natural resources, excitement and entertainment, splendor, and filled with people who all seek the same thing: a better future for our families. It's time we positioned Nevada for the future, regained ownership of our land, and ...
Watch this video to learn more about Bill Townsend and why he's so passionate about working toward a great future for all Nevadans.
Also see his biography in both short and long versions by scrolling down.
The short version:
Candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Nevada’s 4th Congressional District. I've turned my companies and non-profit over to managers so I can focus on representing you with innovative ideas to solve America's issues.
Currently President & CEO, RevolutionSports, Inc., a television and event production company, and TRICCAR Holdings, Inc. a pharmaceutical research and development firm, both headquartered in Las Vegas.
Founded Amati Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, in 2000 to provide stringed instruments to up and coming artists who could not afford them.
Previously founder, co-founder or senior leadership at:
Married to my best friend Katrina, a CPA, who immigrated to the United States from Beijing in 1992 and earned her citizenship legally in 1999.
Four children, three boys and a daughter, ages 17, 16, 13, and 8. (And yes, my daughter has me wrapped around her finger.)
Residence: Centennial Hills area of Las Vegas, NV
In a nutshell:
Words to live by: "To whom much is given, from him much is expected," Luke 12:48
The long version:
I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, the 4th generation to live on our family farm. I attended a small school district and my graduating class of 176 was, at that time, the largest in the school's history.
Like many young people from the mining and steel mill communities of Pennsylvania, I left the state to pursue a college degree and obtain a job. Pennsylvania was once a manufacturing powerhouse but by the time I graduated high school, the only iron that remained in our steel mills was found on old, decrepit machinery.
My mother, Jacquelyn, was Miss America in 1963 with a great life ahead of her. Seven years later, at age 28, she suffered a stroke which left her paralyzed and without speech. I would come home after half a day of school to teach her what I learned that morning: the ABCs, how to tie my shoes, how to read Dr. Seuss books, how to write: things she had taught me just a year earlier.
My father, John, is an attorney by training, a former assistant district attorney, and general manager of a pari-mutuel horse racing track in Western Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of the College of Wooster, Stanford University and University of Virginia Law School, and worked in Robert Kennedy's Presidential campaign. During his career, he would leave the house at 7am and often didn't return home until midnight. Watching him, I learned from an early age that hard work is a necessity in life.
As I got older and began running my own businesses, I learned that working hard was always a prerequisite to success, but working smart, effectively, and focused on goals was the way to dramatically affect change.
I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Wooster, a liberal arts college in Ohio. I was the seventh person in my family to attend Wooster, which extended all the way back to my great-grandfather, who graduated in 1906, and was a Presbyterian minister. Other graduates included my grandfather and grandmother, my Dad, my uncle and his wife, and my cousin, who graduated two years after me.
As I recall, 13% of our student body was made up of international students and this exposure altered my views on the world. At Wooster, I was an editor for the college newspaper, a member of ΒΚφ, and a member of the track and cross country teams. Like many young people, I worked during college, delivering pizzas, painting fences, taking care of livestock, working in facilities maintenance, and hosting a radio show.
I earned my MBA in global business from the esteemed Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University in Texas, where I was also named one of the Top 100 Alumnae and had the honor of lecturing on business and entrepreneurship to undergraduate and graduate students.
I started my first company at age 14 when my friend Nick and I began manufacturing jumper cables as part of Junior Achievement. By 24, I owned my own advertising agency, working with hospitals, law firms, equine businesses, and small companies seeking to grow.
In 1991, I saw that things were not well in our country and I decided to do something about it. Six of my friends and I began planning a campaign to take back our country.
The following year, at age 27, I ran for U.S. Congress in Pennsylvania’s 20th District. Situated west and south of Pittsburgh, the area was comprised of five counties that ranged from predominantly agriculture and mining to the white collar suburbs of Pittsburgh, much like Nevada's District 4 with the suburban areas of Las Vegas and the rural areas throughout the center of the state.
The majority of the area, once home to thriving steel mills and coal mines, had instead become known for outlet malls a casino, and a Trolley Museum, and offered few economic opportunities for young people.
I was a political neophyte at the time and I ran as a Republican in an area where the Democrats enjoyed a 4-to-1 voter registration edge. We (I say "We" instead of "I" because it was a team effort) raised funds to run our campaign through $25 - $250 donations from Democrats, Republicans and Independents, gaining widespread support across Party lines. Along with a dedicated team of volunteers, we carried our message of individual responsibility and personal choice, states’ rights, lower taxes, less government interference in our lives, and pro-growth initiatives to bring jobs back to our state.
I ran as a Republican because then, as now, I believe in the party as it was when Abraham Lincoln was president, which is quite different from the Republican Party of today. As your voice in Congress, I hope to be able to influence the Republicans to return to their roots; to focus on fiscal responsibility; to expect more from every taxpayer dollar spent; to hold government employees and contractors accountable to the American public; and to seek compromise across party lines in order to advance the needs of Nevadans and all Americans. And I hope to convince the Democrats to put the interests of American citizens first and find ways to create jobs without massive government spending.
You see, having had thousands of employees over the years,I believe that most social problems take care of themselves when men and women can support their families through good paying jobs.
Bipartisanship must be returned to Washington, DC. I will work across party lines because I want to see action and results. This doesn’t mean you give up your morals and it doesn’t mean you are what some call a RINO (Republican In Name Only). Too often Republicans believe only they have good ideas. And conversely, too often Democrats believe only they have good ideas. If there is anything I have learned from being at the forefront of some of the most exciting technology companies of the past 20 years, it is that great ideas can originate anywhere.
I'm a person who is focused on hypothesis-based ideas, backed by data, that results in measurable results and accountability. Isn’t that what we want from our government? Of course it is.
Our message is simple: fiscal conservatism combined with socially compassionate programs supported by innovative ideas to improve government.
This is how we get government off the backs of hard working men and women, yet ensure the social support programs and safety net are in place for those who needed help. This is how we bring measurable results to critical issues like education, school safety, women's issues, fully funding Social Security, protecting our nation, and more.
Ours is a message of rolling up our sleeves, challenging the conventional wisdom, using data to inform decisions, demanding accountability and results, and doing more with your tax dollars.
Looking back at the 1992 campaign, I'd like to say we won that race and had the opportunity to work on fixing things, but we didn't. I led the election count up until 10pm election night, but narrowly lost to a 16-year Democrat incumbent by 1½%, just a little shy of victory.
Our message then, rings true today. It is not a message of Liberal Left or Far Right. Instead, it's a message of doing what is right for the people of our great country.
When I ran for Congress in 1992, I published an 8-page newspaper called "Americans First". Because I believe people seeking public office should put their plans out for the voters to read, I outlined in detail, my ideas for changing Washington DC to better serve Americans. I received so many positive comments for writing down my ideas for the people of the district that I decided I'd do the same this election, but instead of newsprint, you'll find my positions and policy statements—what I call the 12 Big Ideas for Nevada—here: All written by me, not some hired political firm, not an ad agency, me. You can also download the full policy papers here. Feel free to share them.
Why am I setting aside my daily business to ask you to elect me to the U.S. House of Representatives? Over the Christmas holiday my daughter asked me about a big scrap book my grandmother compiled for me. It is filled with newspaper clippings and materials from my 1992 campaign. As I reread my campaign's "Americans First" newspaper , it struck me that here we are, 26 years later, and the very same issues are still facing our nation: access to affordable health insurance and prescription medicines, an out of control national debt, a military that is facing new and different threats than the Cold War, strained race relations, tens of millions of people unemployed or under-employed, a nation whose morals and values have declined, an educational system that has dropped in global rankings at a time when global economics and trade are the new way of life, and an endless blame game that has not only taken over politics, but consumed Washington, DC in ways that hurt individuals and families seeking the American dream.
As I write this, it is the last day of February 2018, precisely 8 days after deciding to run for office. The primary election is less than four months away. "Why on earth would you run for the Congress now?" asked one of my friends that day. It's really quite simple. I decided to seek election in Nevada's District 4 because, as I watch what occurs in Congress, I can no longer sit by the sidelines writing letters and making phone calls (which I do...a lot. President Trump and the leaders of both political parties get a lot of feedback and maybe a little scolding, too, from me because I believe elected officials should be held accountable).
I can not allow our nation to continue down the path it has been on for the past 15+ years. I will not sit by and, with utmost respect and no animosity to the other candidates in the race, see more of the same thinking that has gotten us to where we are today.
America is at a point in both domestic and foreign policy that we must take action now to protect and rebuild our nation. For too long we have watched inaction in Washington, DC: from the Republicans blocking every effort of President Obama to the Democrats blocking every effort of President Trump, Congress has become a collection of mostly older people who are woefully unaware of the changes that have occurred between the generations of the Baby Boomers to the Millennials. The average age of a US Senator is now 62, with the oldest being 91. They don't understand how social media has negatively impacted two generations of young people. They fail to comprehend how young people communicate and can instantly spread demands for action. Many are stuck in old ways of thinking about women in the workplace and women's rights in general. Many still think it is acceptable to pay women less than men who produce similar results. They don't understand how the incessant partisanship has turned Americans off.
Simply put, they are out of touch. They have little respect from the American public and they prove over and over again, why they can't be trusted to act in the best interests of our country instead of the special interests that line their pockets. (By the way, if you elect me to serve you, I won't move to Washington, DC. I'll be there when I need to be, but other than that, I'll be right here in Nevada listening to you, working for you.)
I have four children: three boys, ages 17, 16, 13, and a daughter, age 8. When my daughter looks at me and asks why there are so many robberies and shootings and people living on the streets and people without jobs, it's difficult to give her an answer she'd understand. I can only say to her that "Daddy is going to try to fix those things so when you go out on your own, the world will be a better place."
When my 17 year old son asks me how America is going to compete when China is committing the equivalent of $15 trillion on infrastructure, I tell him "we'll compete the way we always have, by out-thinking the competition."
At 53, I am in a position where I can hand over the reins of my companies to my partners and focus on improving our great country. I hope you give me that opportunity.
Years ago, I began studying the speeches of President Abraham Lincoln. A quote that sums up my candidacy was made on July 1, 1854, at which time Lincoln said, “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves -- in their separate, and individual capacities.” It is my intention to take this approach with me to Washington, DC, focusing intently on fixing the many issues in government, then return to Nevada to continue growing my companies and giving Nevadans a great place to work to pursue their own American Dream.
If you've read this far, I hope you will consider giving me the biggest gift you can, which is your vote. If you trust me with your vote, I pledge to act with responsibility, accountability, innovation, care, and will always remember that I was elected to the House of Representatives to serve YOU and to make Nevada better for all of us. As my daughter would say, "That's just how Daddy is."
P.S. If you'd like to share with me your ideas on how to make America better than ever, please email me directly at Bill@TownsendForNevada.com. Your email will come directly to me and be answered by me.
Enjoy our website!
I have seen senior citizens struggle through retirement, skimping on food, heat and medicine.
I’ve seen countless young people leave Nevada in search of a better economic future.
I’ve watched the middle class get squeezed tax dollar for tax dollar while the wealthiest Americans reap the financial benefits.
I’ve seen the working class, both union and non-union, see their standards of living fall year after year.
I’ve seen farmers and ranchers, who for generations fed America, have their farms taken away from them.
I’ve heard the cry of babies as they’re fed water because formula and milk are too expensive for their mother to purchase.
I’ve seen American citizens cut their pills in half and not go to the doctor because they couldn’t afford basic treatment.
I’ve watched family’s deteriorate because of financial pressures, social media’s negative influence, a lack of God’s teachings in their lives, and companies that no longer put employees first.
I’m sure you’ve seen it, too.
Sadly, the people in Washington, DC are too sequestered in their federal government bubble to see what the rest of America is going through. That’s why I’m seeking your vote to become your voice in the United States House of Representatives. That’s why I am taking time off from my companies to try to turn America around. This campaign is for my children's future, your children's future, and the betterment of our country and great state.
What do we need for Nevada to thrive in the future?
What have I learned? Americans have it pretty good and we often forget how fortunate we are to live in a country where you don’t need papers to travel, are not told by your government what career you’ll be forced into, and are not living in constant worry that a revolution will break out and you’ll be dragged out of your home, beaten in the streets, or worse. But we have much to do to Make American Even Better. All it takes is hard work, good ideas, and a willingness to question the way government operates.
My life's experiences set the stage for me to confidently state that “there is nothing we cannot do as Nevadans to make our state the most prosperous, safe, ingenious, and respected place to live in America.”
This is a big vision for Nevada’s future and it involves radically improving our education, transportation, job training, and healthcare systems and developing ways to access the capital required to attract these industries. This will increase property values, add to local economies, provide funding for infrastructure, and bring high paying jobs to Nevada. It will lower crime because economic opportunities are available. It will decrease mass shootings and opiate abuse because there will be hope for a better tomorrow.
In speaking with my fellow Nevadans, I find they are overwhelmingly unhappy with the country's direction, dissatisfied with its political leadership, and interested in electing a representative to Congress that will confront people who are making bad decisions. That’s me. I don’t care if you’re Democrat, Republican, Independent, or the President of the United States: if you’re not making wise decisions, I’m going to call you out. If you're not 100% committed to fixing what is wrong in our already great country, I'm going to work hard to convince you to pay attention to those of us who are and get behind our efforts to bring prosperity and safety and opportunity to all Americans.
I invite you to join me in making this view of Nevada a reality. Send your ideas to my personal email address at Bill@TownsendForNevada.com.
Talking with Veterans in Politics International on March 31st.
All photographs are Copyright 2018 Bill Townsend and may not be copied, used, or distributed without written permission.
I have seen firsthand the increasing difficulty in hiring skilled workers because our education system is failing. Nevada ranks next to last in education and America has fallen to 14th worldwide. This is unsustainable and we are at a crossroads.
Nevada is ranked next to last in education: 49th out of 50 states. We should be ashamed. How can a state that reflects the theme “Battle Born” sit by while our public schools fail our children? There is no longer time for excuses. We must act now to improve our schools and prepare our children to compete in a global economy.
Pretty much everyone in Nevada agrees on the importance of bettering our education system, and yet, consider these numbers: our nation spends over $810 billion annually on our school systems and still we are in 17th place in reading and 32nd place in math globally. Nevada ranks even lower. Is this acceptable? No. Can we do better? We must.
We live in a global economy unlike any time in our past, thus, our need for better education outcomes in this country never stops. It is the foundation of what made America great in the past and it is the foundation of what is needed to make American great again. It is the key ingredient for global competition.
Our children are being left behind and the statistics are overwhelming. Recent studies show that Hispanic and African American students are still graduating 10-15 points behind the national average. The number of students who leave eighth grade without the ability to do grade-level math and reading is close to 66 percent. This is a failure on a mass scale that not only affects these kids, but all of us who rely (and hope) for America to become more competitive.
There is hope. Meghin Delaney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (December 14, 2017) wrote an article that stated that graduation rates at the 56 schools in Clark County generally improved in the 2016-17 school year, with Laughlin Junior/Senior High School leading the charge by achieving a 100 percent graduation rate, up from 76%. That’s a phenomenal increase!
Other Clark County schools that significantly increased their graduation rate over the previous year included:
As your voice in Congress, I will pull administrators and teachers from each of these schools together to learn what the commonalities are that made their advancements in graduation rates possible. I’ll ask others to do the same. Then we can deploy these tactics statewide and across the United States.
We’ll also look at under-performing schools such as Burk Horizon Southwest High School, a credit-recovery high school for at-risk students, which saw a 14% drop in its graduation rate, from 49 percent in 2016 to 42 percent in 2017. We’ll try to identify what went wrong and how it can be corrected, and again, we’ll share it with other schools in Nevada. This isn’t difficult; it simply needs to be done.
Each day in Nevada, over 492,000 students are entrusted to our teachers. Nationwide, more than 50,000,000 students are in their care. In most households, our children spend more time with their teachers than they do with their parents. So why don’t we want our teachers armed with the best resources to educate our children? We do. Why haven’t we? Political will.
Education in America—and especially Nevada—must catch up to meet the demands of the global marketplace.
Some districts and states in America have moved toward what other democracies take for granted. Accountability structures and tougher standards, charter schools, and school-choice programs have changed the educational experience of hundreds of thousands of children and their families.
These important changes make it possible to contemplate rewriting the rules all the way down. In sociological terms, the plausibility structure has changed; what was inconceivable 30 years ago is now conceivable, because we have begun to see, experience, and study it.
We need to study charter schools to learn why their students earn better grades, in general, than our public schools. We need to understand what it is that helps teachers focus their student’s attentions—off of social media and texting—and into books and the blackboard. We need to understand if these schools give their teachers things our public school professionals lack, such as more flexibility. Once we understand this, we can move toward remedying the sad state of educational skill levels in Nevada.
Charter schools offer the opportunity to foster innovative environments that allow teachers and students to interact in ways that prepare them for jobs and skills that will be relevant in the future. Why can’t this be replicated across the state and, indeed, across the entire nation? It can.
Teachers are an incredible group of professionals, and for teachers, school never really ends. According to an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study primary school teachers work as many hours as the average full-time employee across other sectors. Given that many of them are hired as 10-month employees, this means that their days are incredibly long and teachers are consistently going above and beyond expectations over weekends and summer months. Nearly every teacher I have spoken with over the past 30 years has told me that they are preparing a month to two before school starts, so they really do have year-round jobs.
Teachers deserve quality professional development and coaching to support them in their efforts. Teaching may be one of the only professions where you are hired as a 22 year old and 25 years later you may not have had a single continuing education course. Meanwhile, doctors, accountants, lawyers, etc., all have the opportunity to continually learn and grow their knowledge base. They do so because the world changes and they need to adapt. We must offer the same for our teachers. As your voice in Congress, I will seek funding to begin pilot programs in professional development, technology skills, and threat assessment so that our teachers are up to speed with what is happening in the world—which, by the way, directly relates to what our children learn.
Innovative learning experiences and opportunities for educators will lead to better outcomes for students and it will also build an engaged, talented, and supported workforce. We need to value our educators by supporting them as dynamic professionals invested in improving their practice.
We can seek out and implement accountability structures that reward teachers for jobs well done. Standardized testing which leads to “teaching to the test” can’t do this. We have accountability structures in corporate America and it can work wonders for education. Highly influential teachers who expand students’ minds and increase grades and scores should be eligible for bonuses. Under-performing teachers should be eligible for retraining and, in the worst cases, termination.
We can identify why school-choice works for some students and how to apply those learnings to all Nevada schools so the idea that a parent has to send their child to another school for a better education doesn’t even have to be a consideration.
I attended small elementary, middle, and high schools in Western Pennsylvania. We had the standard math, English, Latin, science, biology, art, and music classes. We had after school clubs like drama, band, and audio/visual. We had sports. The thing I remember most from my schooling wasn’t the facilities (they were average), wasn’t the books (many were outdated), wasn’t the food (it was actually pretty good); it was the teachers. It was the typing teacher that taught me how to type 120 words a minute. It was the English teacher that taught me the joy of reading. It was the math teacher who taught me not only how to memorize my multiplication tables, but also taught me how to apply math in everyday life.
The school district where I attended school had eleven people in administration. Today’s schools and colleges are often overly burdened with administrative officials. In Clark County, over 5,600 employees, the vast majority of them in administrative roles, earn over $100,000 a year total compensation. The district, one of the largest in America, has technical support, campus security, coordinators, and directors earning more than teachers, and in many cases earning 3 times the median household income and 7 to 10 times the average per capita income of residents. (Clark County’s median household income is just $55,552 and per capita income is $26,040.) You have to go through 20 pages on the school district’s transparency in compensation website (http://transparentnevada.com/salaries/clark-county-school-district/) before you begin seeing teachers listed amongst administration roles. You have to go to page 113 of their website to find the first employee who earns total compensation of less than $100,000 a year. This means in one school district there are 5,634 people earning salary and benefits of $100,000 or more. This is not a knock against administrators who negotiated for their compensation packages just like everyone else, but one has to wonder why a school district needs 1,000+ such administrative positions when technology has helped companies reduce administrative roles and cut costs so that more money can be directed to producing products. In the case of education, the product is our children.
In my opinion, teachers should earn almost as much as administrators, yet across America, administrators often make two, three, even 10 times as much as the people who are most directly influencing our children. In Clark County, teachers typically earn $40,000 to $85,000 in total compensation. Part-time and teacher’s assistants start at about $19 an hour. Teachers are the ones influencing our children day in and day out. Teachers are where we make advancements in student learning.
Even better would be to begin testing—and if proven successful—implement a system based on Finland’s, where schools are managed by the teachers and staff, which largely eliminates full-time administrators. The local municipal authority in any given region appoints principals for six- or seven-year terms, but once appointed, the municipal authorities largely leave the running of the school to the principal and his or her teachers. Principals are responsible for managing the school staff, ensuring the well-being and success of the students, and managing the school budget, although they do this generally in collaboration with the teachers.
The future of education in Nevada.
Four years ago, Pearson conducted a study called “Learning Curve” to determine what made schools effective. This education assessment service gathered the information of The Economist Intelligence Unit, did extensive desk research, and interviewed the world’s education leaders to report each nation’s ability to prepare students for the modern workforce.
What they found could serve as a blueprint to improving education:
The leading countries relied on the accountability and involvement of a well-utilized network of people to educate their students.
The study concludes East Asian nations are best in education, whose proof lay in the fact that American universities are loaded (some say overloaded) with highly intelligent and driven Asian students because of their success in elementary and high school. The study named South Korea on top, followed by Japan (2nd) and Singapore (3rd), and all these countries have clear learning outcomes and a strong culture of accountability and engagement among a broad community. As for the leader, the education system of South Korea has transformed the country over the last 50 years, leading to an expanding economy.
What makes South Korea’s educational system successful? Two things stand out:
What can we learn from other countries about improving education and begin incorporating in our system?
We must start early. Programs like Head Start are highly effective and should be expanded.
We must develop more respect for teachers. As I stated earlier, these are the people we trust our children with. Let us find ways to increase pay, especially performance-based bonuses, and provide additional teaching tools, to make classes more dynamic and engaging. Virtually every education leader I’ve spoken to affirmed the urgent importance of elevating and strengthening the teaching profession in a knowledge economy. Around the world, education is now recognized as the new game-changer that drives economic growth and social change. And it is great teachers who help build the higher-order skills that students need to succeed in the 21st century.
We should better manage schools and provide funding necessary to create teacher to student classroom sizes of about 16:1 in order to allow teachers time with each student. Teachers need and deserve more autonomy—and they must become real participants and partners in reform if outcomes for children are to dramatically improve: mandating smaller classrooms will help this occur.
We must give teachers extra time for training and curriculum development. Part of this professional development that teachers in most all areas of the country also need is in the area of teaching students whose first language is not English. Studies of teachers show that the majority do not feel they have the skill set in order to meet the demands of second language learners in their classrooms.
Raise the standards for becoming an educator. Require more stringent training for teachers in their actual subject (for example, the low standards for degrees in math education have not kept pace with the current requirements in the global economy).
Hold teachers accountable for the results of their teaching: Reward the most effective and weed out ineffective educators.
Provide annual seminars, workshops, and classes for teachers. This can be accomplished online at very low cost. In order to stay competitive with the world, our teachers, the backbone of the education system, need to be continuously growing and learning new skills and ways to effectively teach. Those who take advantage of such programs would see their pay increase. Professional development for teachers in the US is fragmented. We spend at least $4 billion every year in federal funds on professional development—and don't have good results to show for it. We must change these programs to provide measurable results that lead to better education outcomes.
Update and improve teaching curricula yearly. Utilize a digital forum setting among teachers that teach the same subjects across several school districts. Allow teachers to learn from each other. This may include summer retreats to learn from and network with each other or a universal teaching platform where teachers can share lesson plans and activities that engage students. No single teacher following a set strict level of rules from a book will ever become the best teacher. You need multiple teachers coming together iteratively to achieve the best level of teaching and improving upon it each year.
Providing personalized learning opportunities for students. Moving away from standardization and uniformity of learning focused on a one-size-fits-all system that is excessively focused on bachelor degrees for all as a measure of success and achievement is needed. In its place, the system should develop and promote career and technical education at grades 6-12, offering greater career choices.
Focus on STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math, along with literacy, composition, and writing as the basics for every student. Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) needs to be emphasized as well.
Return the arts in schools. The correlations between music education and higher order thinking skills is proven.
Students in the US are often not pushed to learn, nor do they have widely based motivation to engage. Parents too often want good grades without the hard work required. Some parents tell teachers too much homework interferes with their kid’s extracurricular activities, which are often undertaken because colleges look favorably on extracurricular involvement.
Many kids in the US dream about playing football or creating an app they can sell for millions of dollars. We need to reduce the distorting role of sports in school life, which engenders misplaced priorities for too many people. Kids in Germany want to solve problems (for example) and kids in Taiwan want to achieve exceptional academic skills to be able to attend a leading university. The culture plays an important role here: it is said Asian students have six parents: Mom and Dad, two Grandpas and two Grandmas. It’s largely true as many nations, especially highly ranked Asian nations, focus on their children’s education in ways that involve the entire family. In some countries parents are ashamed if their children don’t perform better than they did.
Classrooms should be used for discussion of lectures that are on video. Khan Academy video lectures are an example of lectures that could supplement classroom lectures. The classroom is best used for discussion of material previously seen on video because today’s youth learn more readily via video than reading.
America has many high-performing schools. We also have thousands of low-performing schools. If we can move toward a better funding system, along with the other items I have outlined here, we will build a nation where education is equitable, and the achievement gap which currently run across socioeconomic lines will be replaced with one that lowers the achievement gap as to result in little disparity in performance.
It is clear that most high-performing nations establish a number of common principles and cornerstones to build a strong education system and high-quality teaching profession. Every nation, of course, has unique characteristics of its teaching profession, culture, and education system, which may not work in the US. To the extent that we can copy or adapt successful practices from other nations, we should do so.
The familiar sentiment is that America’s education system can only be as good as the quality of its teachers. I would change that thought to: “the quality of a country's teachers can only be as good as the system that recruits, prepares, provides professional development, and compensates teachers while engaging parents in pedagogical support.”
We must engage unions to build this system. In Finland, strong teacher unions contribute to building a top-notch teaching profession by serving as professional organizations that train and develop teachers. They have evolved beyond the traditional adversarial focus on pay and benefits to build trusting but tough-minded partnerships with school districts and elected officials. They have even taken responsibility for quality and professional accountability to one another.
Restructure a school finance system that’s based on local property taxes. It’s deeply regressive and, again, out of touch with the rest of the world. In many countries with successful education outcomes, funding responsibilities are divided between the federal and local governments with the federal government assuming about 60 percent of the financial burden of schools and municipal authorities assuming the remaining 40 percent. The amount of federal money given to each municipality is determined not by the wealth of the people that live in a district, but by the number of students and an annually calculated unit cost per student. This spreads financial resources to everyone. Here’s the best part: it doesn’t have to cost us more. Total US spending averages $15,171 per student, more than Switzerland’s $14,922 per year, and more than Finland’s $13,865. The money is there, but it is not spent in the optimal benefit for our children.
With students, we must promote more critical thinking/analysis and less memorizing. Innovation and creativity are based on understanding things, not on one’s ability to memorize. Critical thinking skills help position children for advanced subjects, help position teenagers for college and trade school educational programs, and help adults throughout their lives.
We’ll develop practical skills programs in addition to an academic program. Too many teenagers graduate high school and cannot complete simple tasks such as balancing a checkbook, buying a car, or understanding how to register to vote. Many never had the opportunity to learn how to cook or sew a button on a shirt because Home Economics classes are not offered at their schools. Here’s a quote from Emily Ma, a senior who was never taught cursive in school and had to learn it on her own, who attends New York City’s academically rigorous Stuyvesant High School: “It’s definitely not necessary but I think it’s, like, cool to have it.” Cool to have it? It’s a necessity in life. You must at least know cursive in order to sign your name. It’s the faster means, when compared to printing, to take notes. It has been proven that hand-writing notes in class results in better retention of knowledge than taking notes on a computer. Our children need these basic skills.
We will remove the emphasis on standardized testing as a measure of rigor and accountability, and replace that with support for a child’s whole education, including social and emotional needs. This may lead to fewer teens being prescribed anti-psychotic medications, potentially earlier detection of mental issues or behavioral concerns, more parent-to-teacher involvement, and, if my hypothesis is correct, greater outcomes in the long run. Included in this is devoting funding and resources to providing social supports to students and families in terms of nutrition, health care, child care, counseling, supervision, mental health, college preparation, and more. Once we begin building a child’s life through the entire cycle of their environment we will be on the cusp of an educational system that would be, with our nation’s wealth backing it, unrivaled.
We’ll make scholarships for service to the country more lucrative. If 18-24 year olds commit 4 to 8 years of giving back (e.g., in the Armed Forces or AmeriCorps or non-governmental programs such as Teach For America) to communities in the US, and in exchange can have all or most of their college tuition reimbursed, they will more likely be able to afford college and possibly be in much better position emotionally and mentally to make the most of their educational opportunity. (AmeriCorps offers a full-time, residential, team-based program for young adults, age 18-24. Members develop leadership skills and strengthen communities by completing 10-month service projects and gaining life experience. Upon the completion of the program, members are eligible to receive the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award equal to the maximum Pell Grant amount: $5920. Teach For America places qualified individuals in classrooms across America to help under-served schools and their students, committing two years or more to expanding education). We will also look into creating a national service corps of high school and college graduates who could work in economically disadvantaged communities while enrolled in online courses, giving them the opportunity to receive tuition assistance through their work efforts.
Acknowledging that we have a problem is the “easy” part. Addressing it is where things get tough. Beyond what I outlined above, here are five broad stroke ways we can work to improve our education system:
1. Stay the course on accountability.
It’s not always popular, but accountability is crucial to closing the achievement gap. If there are no consequences for under-performing schools, the status quo will prevail and broad swaths of students—most of them minority or low income—will continue to slip through the cracks. This is unacceptable for a nation founded on the promise of opportunity, and it’s a recipe for economic decline. We will reverse the Obama-era guidance aimed at ensuring school districts aren’t discriminating against students while disciplining them. That directive, issued in 2014, sought to confront a systemic problem: that low-income students, minority students and students with disabilities are disciplined, suspended out-of-school and expelled more often than their white, more affluent peers. Instead of hiding the problem as the directive did, we address these issues head-on, just as we would with any other person who is breaking rules or has the possibility of committing an act of violence.
2. Focus on the basics.
When schools focus on basic skill development like math, science and literacy they turn out young adults who can think for themselves. We will supplement these areas of study with technology and engineering to round out STEM studies. This leads to better scores in college and better job opportunities for those not attending college. The ability to analyze problems, question assumptions, create hypotheses, and test statistical variables to come to a conclusion is an important part of almost any higher paying job, yet our schools rarely focus on these skills.
3. Demand higher standards and implement them.
We’ve seen a nationwide movement to raise standards so that our students are better prepared for college or career and can contend with international competitors. This signals progress, but implementation of initiatives, like the Common Core State Standards, lag as opponents or advocates for the status quo spread misinformation. We cannot base decisions on our students’ curricula through misinformation. We must use data to determine what is happening in our schools and raise the levels from what that data tells us. Facts will help drive the debate forward. For example, let’s look at Common Core, which many people hate—largely because they don’t understand what it is intended to teach.
What did I learn from taking the time to study Common Core? The old way of teaching formulas and procedures is only a portion of the picture. Students understand the use of these formulas and procedures (and remember them) when they can derive the formulas themselves in interesting activities done with manipulatives and visuals to make mathematics real and real life. Then, students need to utilize these traditional formulas and procedures solving real life problems and have whole class discussions about their findings. This makes mathematics a field of problem solving, which it truly is, rather than just a field of disparate numbers that are memorized. The legacy will be a generation of adults who can utilize mathematics seamlessly to solve real life problems, instead of generations of adults who state, “I never really understood math,” as we have now.
Is Common Core the answer? Maybe. Maybe not. After taking the time to study Common Core math, it made a lot of sense. It made calculating math problems in my head much easier than the way I was taught over 30 years ago. Before we throw the baby out with the bath water, let’s ask what works in Common Core and keep that, and then replace what doesn’t work.
4. Teach our students to be competitive and employable.
High-growth sectors like information technology require a workforce with advanced skills. We must increase access to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, encourage students to pursue STEM studies earlier and with greater focus, and better train STEM educators. We must really focus on bringing girls into the STEM studies as they are sorely lacking in these skills. When a firm such as McKinsey & Company projects that upwards of 30% to 50% of the jobs currently in America will disappear in the next 30 years because of automation, robotics, and technology, it should be a warning that we must begin to adapt our children’s learning to meet future needs. STEM programs will provide the backgrounds our children will need in the future. It is also important to identify students early-on that may not be cut out for college, but who may excel in a trade. These teens must be given the encouragement to pursue studies in the trades—honorable professions that often pay more than many white collar jobs. Years ago, kids who got shipped over to “Vo-Tech” (vocational training schools) were seen as the ones who weren’t quite smart enough to get into college. This was wrong. We should encourage those who wish to pursue careers in auto repair, heating and plumbing, electrical, and other trades.
5. Encourage innovation.
Though there are exceptions, the American classroom has been virtually untouched by the technology revolution that has swept the rest of society. The smart deployment of technology could empower teachers, engage students, customize learning, and make schools and districts more efficient. Data should also be used to improve students’ performance, enabling educators to predict successes and intervene when risks emerge. Technology can also greatly expand our children’s mental capacity. See the Resek Plan below.
In sociological terms, the plausibility structure has changed; what was inconceivable 30 years ago is now conceivable, because we have begun to see, experience, and study it. Our nation operates each school district as a separate entity, each school campus as a separate facility that has to be staffed. We need teachers in the classroom, but we can empower our teachers to raise the pedagogical standards much higher if we think differently about how children today interact with the world around them.
Most children, as young as 5 years old, are familiar with using a computer or tablet. They know how to search for information. They know how to click on links and interact with web pages. How do we take this relatively new skill set and make it an important part of Nevada’s curriculum?
This leads me to something I will use my role in Congress to push forward. I call it the Resek Plan, named after the elementary school teacher who had the most impact on my early development. The Resek Plan is something I began developing in 1999, along with a couple college educators. At the time, the technology necessary to make it happen wasn’t available, but today it is and it can be a boon to improving the minds of our youth.
Imagine if we could record and distribute lectures from the best teachers in Nevada. What if every K-5 student could have lessons from Mark Leamy of Doral Academy, high school math lessons from Katherine Kareck of Edward Reed High School, or lessons from Rachel Leach of Silver Stage Middle School in Lyon County or Aaron Grossman at Roy Gomm Elementary School or Nevada Teacher of the Year, Pilar Biller. Imagine if we asked Pam Ertel, John Tierney, Ian Salzman, Jeffrey Hinton, Adam Whatley, Deanna LeBlanc, Cheryl Macy, Kathleen Schaeffer, Steve Johnson, LeAnn Morris, and Melanie J. Teemant, all former Nevada Teacher of the Year recipients, to develop a 12 hour lecture series, delivered via the Internet into classrooms and available to students and parents at home? The results would be an unprecedented impressive expansion of minds.
Our plan takes it a step farther and create a national knowledge sharing program that puts in place requirements that any college or university receiving Federal funding select their 2 best professors and have each create a 12-hour lecture series on their specialty, which would be made available to every middle and high school student in America. If we pursue this initiative, over the course of 2-3 years, over 11,000 lecture series, representing 134,000 hours of subject matter from the brightest minds in academia would be available for every child in America to access.
Do you want to learn about agriculture? Log in and take a course from the top professors at UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences or Perdue University.
Want to learn about veterinary medicine? Log in and take a course from the top professors at Ohio State University or Pennsylvania State University.
Computer programming? Learn from the great minds at MIT or Stanford.
Artificial intelligence? Access thought leaders from Carnegie Mellon University or Berkeley.
Nursing? Learn from the best minds at Drexel or University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Medicine? Baylor College of Medicine or Johns Hopkins University.
Hospitality? Cornell University, School of Hotel Administration or University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The list goes on and on. The professors I’ve spoken to generally love the idea of being able to share their knowledge with millions of kids. Most said they wouldn’t expect to be paid for such a course because of the honor of being selected as one of the two best professors at their campus.
Let’s pretend you are a 16 year old in Ely, Nevada and you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. Having access to these types of lectures could set you on the path to your future career. It’s possible to do this if we get Congress to take the lead. (For those who question how we can get things done in Congress, we need only remember that it takes 218 votes to pass a bill in the US House of Representatives and send it to the Senate. I firmly believe there are 217 other people in the House's 435 who believe education is important to our nation.)
It would not cost very much money to bring this knowledge to children across the United States. Let’s suppose each professor earns $5,000, and coordination, recording, and editing a 12-hour lecture series, then uploading to a website, has hard costs of less than $1,000. This means we could take two professors from each of the 5,600 colleges and universities in America and for about $68 million, create over 134,000 hours of educational materials for every boy and girl in our public schools. With 50+ million students in America, that is only $1.33 per student. We can’t afford not to do this.
The current budget for the US Department of Education is $68 billion, so finding $68 million, just 1% of their budget, to accomplish this task is possible if the will of the people are behind it.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of improving education will not be with the teachers, administrators, or unions, but with parents. Making these changes will challenge parents’ assumptions of their involvement in their children’s learning. It will push parents to learn their kids’ subject matter. It will require more effort from parents to stay on top of the changes in curricula and force them to increase their involvement in their children’s education. Quite frankly, that is needed and programs like this may be the only way for parents to wake up to the fact that schooling today is nothing like it was 30 or 50 years ago. It’s more competitive, more worldly, broader, and with instant access to information, the experience past generations had accidentally being exposed to information, such as what happens when flipping through the pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica to learn one subject but being exposed to others. With Internet search engines, Siri, Alexa, and Google, this no longer happens. Spontaneous learning has been relegated to the trash bin of history. Unfortunately, this isn’t a benefit as the serendipity of learning is removed.
I’m a realist. Some of these changes will be difficult to implement and will be met with resistance from teachers unions, school districts, politicians, and others, but we cannot back down. Can we afford the alternative, which is to do nothing at all? No. Our students deserve better, and our economy and competitiveness demand more.
By now you have seen that I thrive on thinking differently and focusing on big ideas that can have lasting effects. I look at the whole picture: for instance, education is not just affected by teachers and money; it is influenced by parental involvement, access to technology, higher standards which most children and teens can, and will, rise to achieve, parental involvement, college and university commitment to the K-12 learning years, and the role of Congress. It is impacted by the economy and jobs, availability of early child learning programs and child care, and more. Many big ideas don’t require huge expenditures, they simply require an idea that is thought through and implemented.
It is time we stopped thinking about how something interrupts the status quo and started discussing things that will radically change our education system for
There can be no more excuses: the time to act is now. Our children and our nation’s competitiveness depend on it.
What else do you think we should do to improve education? Email me at Bill@TownsendForNevada.com
You can download an Adobe PDF of this policy position here. Feel free to share it with others.
Social Security taxes provide security and stability to millions of retired Americans, disabled individuals, and the children and widowed spouses of deceased workers. However, these benefits have not kept pace with the financial needs of those dependent on the program, nor is it guaranteed to be available to future generations.
Financial advisors generally counsel clients that they’ll need about 70 percent of pre-retirement earnings to comfortably maintain their pre-retirement standard of living. If you have average earnings, say $35,000 - $75,000 over the course of your lifetime, your Social Security retirement benefits will replace only about 40 percent, leaving large gap.
Last year the average Social Security benefit was $1,342 per month or $16,104 a year. For those with little retirement savings who are relying solely on Social Security benefits, this puts them only $330 a month ahead of the Federal poverty rate. This is important to note because according to a 2017 GOBankingRates survey, more than half of Americans (57%) have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts and a full 39% have no savings.
Beneficiaries expect benefits to increase as costs increase, but that is not always so. Social Security benefits had no increase in 2016, followed by an abysmal 0.3 percent cost of living allowance (COLA) increase in 2017, the smallest in history. This meant the typical retired worker saw only $4 more per month from the COLA increase. Meanwhile, recent data show spending on health care growing at its fastest rate since 2007, with prescription-drug spending again outpacing all other categories of personal health care expenditures, growing at double-digit numbers for brand name drugs.
As more and more people reach retirement age, the financial demands for the basic necessities of shelter, food, clothing and health care far outweigh the growth in Social Security benefits. The failure of Congress to reign in exploding health insurance and prescription drug costs is one of the most damaging financial miscues of the past decade, and continues to this day with neither side willing to take on the special interests that flood political campaigns with cash.
Social Security isn’t much better for those who reached maximum taxable earnings each year and who retired at age of 66 in 2017. The maximum benefit they were eligible to receive was $2,687 a month, or $32,244 a year. But to get this amount, the worker would need to earn the maximum taxable amount, currently $128,400, each year after age 21. Unless you’re a Wall Street banker, pharmaceutical sales rep, or technology wunderkind, earning that much starting at age 21 is very difficult.
When we look at Nevada, we see a state that has a median household income that is $2,437 lower than the US household income. Individual incomes fare no better. In White Pine County, Nevada the average individual income is $24,186; in North Las Vegas it is $20,899; in Mesquite it is $26,105 and in neighboring Bunkerville it is only $14,120.
The fact of the matter is retirement age income inequality is growing with no relief in sight.
Largely due to the Nevada’s tourism and gaming-centric economy, with its low pay and lack of upward mobility compared to more diverse industries, Nevadan’s are at a lifetime earnings disadvantage. Our worker’s incomes are partially reflected in some of the state’s leading industries that include service industries like gaming and tourism, plus logistics (a fancy term for shipping and trucking), manufacturing, mining, aerospace, and agriculture.
While manufacturing is touted as being an industry that is relatively easy to grow, Nevada’s core manufacturing industries are centered around printing and publishing, food products (meat-packing, pet food, processed foods), concrete and machinery (electronic, appliances, neon signs, electrical machinery), much like many other states. What’s missing are the high paying manufacturing industries of medical equipment, computers and technology, and industries that high skilled workers in information technology, artificial intelligence, data analytics, and mechanical and electrical engineering.
Our mining industry is a gleaming part of Nevada’s employment base that produces about 3/4 of the gold produced in the United State. We lead in the production of silver, too. Mining pays much higher salaries than other industries with average income exceeding $90,000 a year, and based on Nevada Mining Association’s website, many jobs waiting to be filled (NMA provides links to jobs at https://www.nevadamining.org/jobs/).
Aerospace is one of Nevada’s top industries. This field currently has more than 13,000 Nevada employees, each earning about $78,000. Airports, commercial aviation, private jets, helicopter tours, and supporting personnel typically earn above average pay. Nellis Air Force helps drive this industry as a major hiring force. Located on more than 14,000 acres, the base employs 12,000 civilian and military workers. Nevada plays a major role in the nation’s national security, with Nevada businesses researching, designing, developing and applying a variety of technologies for defense applications. The area is also home to Creech Air Force Base, Naval Air Station Fallon and the Hawthorne Army Depot.
Based on revenue generated, Nevada’s top five agricultural products are cattle and calves, hay, dairy products, onions, and potatoes. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers earned a 25th percentile salary of $47,160, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. Somewhere on this list belongs cannabis, i.e., marijuana, initially legalized for medical use and later for recreational use. Nevada marijuana retailers sold about $195 million during the first six months of the state’s legal cannabis market, generating $30 million in tax revenues. While encouraging from a tax perspective, medical marijuana dispensaries and growers typically hire hourly workers, playing from approximately $9.43 per hour for Sales Associate to $16.42 per hour for Brand Ambassador; usually with no benefits.
Within these industries, the opportunities to earn $128,400 or more are usually reserved for senior management or highly specialized positions. This is why changes to the Social Security program need to be made that will increase retirement benefits for all recipients, and why fixes to health care, health insurance, and prescription drug costs are also vitally important.
To understand the demands of Social Security program, we must look at the US population statistics (from 2017):
This leaves about 94.6 million Americans not in the labor force. A lot of them are not working for understandable reasons.
Of the 94.6 million Americans not working, 86.8 million are retired, disabled, taking care of a loved one, or in school.
That leaves 7.6 million people: what about them?
Oddly, these numbers don’t match up with the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) own figures that show an estimated 173 million workers paying Social Security taxes last year. For the
remainder of this policy paper we’ll use the SSA’s figures. Keep this number in mind: When the taxable-maximum amount was increased in 2017, as it is every year, about 12 million of the 173,000,000 workers ended up paying more in Social Security taxes.
Background on Social Security taxes and contributions.
Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes are collected together as the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. FICA tax rates are statutorily set and therefore require new tax legislation to be changed.
For employers and employees, the
Medicare payroll tax rate is a matching 1.45 percent on all earnings, bringing the total Social Security and Medicare payroll withholding rate for employers and employees to 7.65 percent each—with only the Social Security portion (6.2 percent) limited to the $127,200 taxable-maximum amount.
Those who are self-employed must pay both the employer and employee portions of FICA taxes, equal to 15.30%.
A graphic circulating the internet shows Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and claims that Social Security and Medicare are covered 100% by payroll taxes (FICA). Is that accurate? No.
FICA only covers about 85% of the commitments of the Social Security program. As more and more people retire and fewer younger people contribute to Social Security through FICA, the amount of money available through FICA will continue to decrease. Add in threats from automation and artificial intelligence which are estimated to eliminate 30-45% of all jobs in America in the next 30 years and the situation is more dire.
Social Security’s total expenditures have exceeded non-interest income of its combined trust funds since 2010—8 years and counting—and the Trustees of the Social Security program estimate that Social Security cost will exceed non-interest income throughout the next 75-year projection period. The annual cash-flow deficit averaged about $76 billion between 2015 and this year before an expected rise as income growth slows while the number of beneficiaries continues to grow at a substantially faster rate than the number of covered workers.
If this were a business, you’d be safe to assume that Social Security is broke. It certainly is losing money each year and will continue to do so, unless we act now.
The graphic featuring Senator McConnell is wrong in stating that Medicare is financed “100% by FICA deductions from paychecks”. It is not. Substantial portions of the Medicare program are funded by general tax revenue, including Parts B (outpatient medical expenses) and D (prescription drugs), and a portion of Part C (managed care insurance).
The United States’ entitlement programs are badly underfunded, which is why we’ve been hearing for years that they need to be shored up, either through trimming future benefits or increasing revenues. They cannot continue indefinitely as they are and they are emphatically not fully funded under current law, because they are both already spending down trust fund assets.
If you are young, this is a big reason why it is important that you save 10% of your weekly earnings in a retirement account of your own. You simply cannot rely on the Social Security system to be solvent when you retire—unless we put our plan in place to save Social Security and make it solvent for the next 80 years.
What to do if you are retired or soon to be retired?
For years you worked hard and were told that when you retired Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would be available to help you through retirement.
For the past 20 years these programs have been under fire from Members of Congress who themselves have cushy pensions and great health care plans. Republicans have more often than not shown their lack of compassion by going after changes in Social Security and its related programs, either cutting budgets or forcing budgetary requirements on states. Democrats have done little to nothing to fix the problem. Senator Bernie Sanders is standing out in left field with nobody listening to him, except for perhaps Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Simply put, the people in Washington, DC who are supposed to make laws to ensure the benefit and safety of the American people, have been too concerned with re-election to face the truth and make the hard choices to fix entitlements.
The good news is, the fixes are not difficult—they simply require strong will and saying “no” to special interests.
As your voice in Congress, I will work to ensure Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (“SSMM”) are not reduced or dismantled. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of ways to strengthen SSMM, but I will focus on what can realistically be accomplished in the House of Representatives through our plan that can and will work to make Social Security solvent and sustainable for the next 80 years.
First of all, I believe Social Security is not only an entitlement—it is insurance Americans have paid for to fund retirement, disability, and survivor benefits earned through a lifetime of work. Social Security helped build the middle class; it is the most dependable part of most American’s retirement planning. Plus, it is our government’s most effective anti-poverty program.
Our plan will ensure that the government is able to continue to pay 100% of the benefits you have through nearly the end of the century, plus it will increase benefits for nearly all Americans.
Here’s the hard truth that nobody is talking about: unless Congress expands Social Security, millions more retirees will be impoverished. Most people in Congress believe the remedy for an underfunded Social Security program is to privatize it or to cut benefits. Offering more benefits is hardly in their sights. Ask anyone who is in Congress or who previously served in Congress what they did to extend Social Security’s life by 80 years and they’ll only look at you with a blank stare on their face. They can’t say anything because they did not do anything.
That’s why the answer to solving Social Security’s funding shortfalls for the future depend on an entirely different approach.
The real story is Social Security lifts Americans, including children, out of poverty and boosts our economy as a whole. This is a system we can count on, and by taking common-sense steps, we can ensure that Social Security benefits keep up with the needs of current and future generations. Remember these facts:
Social Security is the only guaranteed retirement benefit most Americans have and it must be strengthened and expanded.
Our plan addresses these key points:
We’ll ensure Social Security is solvent for at least the next 80 years by making some fundamental changes in the system that will positively affect current recipients and ensure future recipient receive benefits.
There will be NO privatization of Social Security accounts. There will be NO means testing. There will be NO loss of benefits.
There will be long-term stability to the program. There will be an increase in benefits. There will be a plan in place and fully functioning as reach year 2100 and beyond.
1. We start with removing the cap from Social Security payments. We’re going to ask millionaires and billionaires to pay the same rate of tax on income as everyone else. Simple, right? If we get the American people behind this, it will happen. Why hasn’t this happened? Because most people in Congress who fight real reform of the programs are bought and paid for by wealthy campaign contributors, insurance companies, the medical industry, and the pharmaceutical industry. We have to change this way of thinking if we want to solve the Social Security funding crisis and I believe that I can find people and convince them that this is the best path forward.
[NOTE: One of my first actions as your new voice in Congress will be to convene all newly elected Representatives—from all political sides—to form a coalition to address the top concerns of our nation. These are the new faces who are going to Congress to enact change and we will begin with Social Security. They have not been corrupted by Party leaders nor special interests. If they see the positive changes we can make, together, they will join to change business as usual in Washington, DC.]
Presently, payroll taxes are not collected on wages over $128,400. Our plan applies the payroll tax to all wages earned regardless of income. If you earn $30,000 a year you pay Social Security taxes on $30,000. If you, like Members of Congress, earn $174,000 a year, all your income over $128,400 is free from Social Security taxes. That’s $45,600 that is not taxed. If you’re Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, who had a base salary of $1.1 million and a bonus of almost $1.7 million, he’d pay Social Security taxes only up to $128,400 of his earnings, thus not owing any Social Security taxes on $2,671,600 of income.
Does it seem unfair, punishing the men and women who are working 40 hours a week to earn $30,000? It is.
Under our plan, if you make $174,000 a year, you pay Social Security taxes on the full $174,000. (Maybe this is why Members of Congress don’t really want to solve the funding crisis.) If you are CEO of Aetna and make $2.8 million in salary and bonuses, you pay Social Security taxes on $2.8 million. If you earn $50 million a year, you pay Social Security taxes n $50 million. It is simple and it is fair to ask all Americans to pay into our national retirement system on an equal basis regardless of income.
This single change will generate approximately $100 billion a year more for the trust fund and any excess funds would be used, along with changes in the health care system, to increase beneficiary payments and further fund Medicare and Medicaid. Yes, you read that correctly. Under our plan, there will be a surplus. When is the last time someone suggested that and actually had a plan to make it happen?
“But, Bill”, some will cry, “if I earn $5 million a year I will never get back what I paid into the program!” That’s fine. The majority of people making $300,000 a year or more have already invested privately for their retirement and they can continue to do so. Social Security is a program with national benefits. It improves the lives of low income retirees. It helps keep people off welfare. Its general benefits to our nation are such that high earners should not view this change as a penalty, but as a means to make contributions to the system fair for all Americans, which means every dollar earned pays into Social Security.
So as not to shock these high earners, we will phase in the increase on those earnings over $128,400. The first year’s Social Security tax rate on income over $128,400 will be 20% of the standard rate. The second year’s rate will be 35%. The third year’s rate will be 55%. The fourth year it rises to 80% and by the fifth year, we will require all income to be taxed equally to support Social Security well into the future.
Raising the cap will mitigate the erosion of Social Security’s payroll tax base caused by rising wage inequality and increased automation of jobs through robotics and artificial intelligence. Most workers’ taxes will not change. While the degree of increase in high earners’ taxes would go up, it will increase higher earners’ benefits as well, depending on how Congress treated newly taxed earnings.
There are 173 million workers contributing to Social Security and only about 12 million highly paid individuals ended up paying more in Social Security taxes when the taxable amount goes up. That’s under 7% of the working population and it correlates with the top 1% of family incomes.
This big idea would close virtually all of Social Security’s solvency gap, (remember, it is about $79 billion in the red and this program will generate $100 billion in new revenue, depending on how it is structured.
2. We will add to the Social Security tax in a very conservative way to ensure solvency remains on track should the wealthy shift their income to indirect compensation.
To be fair, everyone should pay a bit more to Social Security to ensure its long term survival. So as to not leave the wealthy feeling picked on, along with this removal of the FICA cap, we will further guarantee the Social Security system’s solvency by phasing in a gradual increase in the contribution rate over 20 years so that workers and employers would pay an additional 1% by 2038. Just one percent over 20 years, which is equal to 1/20th of a percent each year. For example, suppose you earn $50,000 and receive a 3% raise each year: In the first year you’ll pay 48 cents per week more. Most people spend ten times that with a single visit to Starbucks or McDonald’s.
At the end of 20 years, assuming you earn a 3% raise each year, you’ll be earning $87,675.30 and pay just $16.86 a week in additional Social Security taxes. Over the 20 years implementation phase, you’ll average just 0.0574% increase in Social Security taxes, which is a little more than half a percent. At the conclusion of 20 years, instead of paying 6.2% Social Security tax, all workers will pay 7.2% social security tax and all companies will pay 7.2%. This tiny increase provides the assurance that the program is fully funded for at least 80 years.
3. Allow a portion of the Social Security Trust Fund to be invested in America’s economy.
If we’re making positive changes to Social Security that will put more money into the pockets of beneficiaries who will turn around and contribute more to the economy, our program should benefit. As an additional measure, our plan allows a portion of the Social Security Trust Fund to be invested back into the American economy to bolster the system. Let me be clear, this is not privatizing. This idea is based on a plan put forth by former Social Security Commissioner Robert Ball and Social Security Works co-director Nancy Altman and is similar to what is currently done in the railroad retirement program, the Federal Reserve Board pension system, and many state pension systems. The investment in a broad-based, diversified index fund would be overseen by an independent board with fiduciary responsibilities and limited to no more than 15% of Trust Fund reserves.
There is currently a $2.8 trillion reserve for Social Security. By investing 15% we can put $420 billion dollars to work for retirees. If the stock market maintains its historical averages, this should double the rate of return that portion of the trust fund currently makes. Of the gains, 80% will be paid out as beneficiary bonuses to all recipients and the remainder will be reinvested. The stock market has returned 7% annually over the past century (total return, net of inflation). If the future holds true to the past, the fund could generate almost $30 billion in returns, resulting in a yearly bonus payment of about $420 per beneficiary. Remember, the average beneficiary receives $16,104 a year in benefits, so this bonus payment is equal to about a 3% increase, far outstripping the recent cost of living allowances which were 0.0% for 2016 and 0.3% for 2017.
The best part is this will not negatively affect the benefits guaranteed to individuals as it will be not be count against regular benefits nor cost of living adjustments and the 20% balance will be solely used to bolster the Trust Fund for the future.
4. Tax relief for 10 million people.
We’ll also provide tax relief for Social Security beneficiaries due to an increase in the threshold for taxation of Social Security benefits to $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for joint filers, up from $25,000 and $32,000 respectively, creating a tax break for over 10 million Social Security recipients.
5. Protection for low income workers.
We’ll protect low income workers through an increase in the special minimum benefit so that it equals up to 125 percent of the poverty level for an individual. This would be indexed in future years by increases in the average wage level prevailing in the national economy.
There you have it: 5 steps to saving and strengthening Social Security. It is actionable, measurable and can happen if Americans get behind it, which I believe they will.
This plan does not privatize Social Security, it does not cut benefits, nor does it create any sort of means test. What it does is fund Social Security for at least 80 more years, increases benefits tied to the cost of living allowance. The program will increase benefits every year, even if COLA stays flat, because we’ll also take into account costs of living associated with three key expenditures that retirees face: health care and prescription drug costs, shelter costs, and food costs--all of which have historically increased year after year. Even with the additional benefits millions of Americans will receive, the program ensures Social Security is solvent for today’s retirees and future beneficiaries.
This will require serious effort to educate other members of Congress and to pull senior groups such as AARP and others into the conversation. It’s going to require many elected officials to step back and think differently about Social Security. If done correctly, we can show all stakeholders that the political capital gained by helping tens of millions of present and future retirees far outweighs any risk of being seen as a “big government spender”, and actually, by supporting this plan you are not one. Instead, elected officials who back this program will be seen as the saviors of what is arguably the most important social insurance program the United States operates.
We will be able to obtain buy-in from even conservative politicians concerned about the future of the country because we can show them that increasing Social Security and making it solvent helps those most in need, thus reducing strains on other social services. If they’ll open their eyes and ears to something new, expanding Social Security may not be as difficult a task as many would think—particularly when it’s combined with a solution to the funding problem.
Most Republicans and many Democrats claim that the trust fund is guaranteed to run out of money. With our plan, that will not happen.
Strengthening Medicare and Medicaid
With all of its benefits to millions of people, Medicare also has flaws. There are still significant gaps in coverage: vision, hearing and routine dental, plus long-term care. Traditional Medicare does not include a cap on out-of-pocket expenses or its own prescription drug benefit. Medicare Advantage adds costs to the system and significantly limits enrollees’ provider choices. Assistance for low-income individuals is limited.
People who choose traditional Medicare ought to have the same cap on out-of-pocket costs and the same “one-stop-shopping” opportunities as people in private Medicare Advantage. Like their counter-parts in Medicare Advantage, people who choose traditional Medicare should be able to obtain prescription drug coverage without having to purchase a separate Part D plan. If supplemental, Medigap insurance continues to be necessary to help with cost-sharing, it should be available and affordable for all people with Medicare, including people with disabilities and pre-existing conditions, which it is not the case in many states.
Our plan is another innovative approach to improving Medicare and Medicaid, which are the primary health insurance and coverage programs for seniors and the disabled.
1. Move to a value-based payment system.
We must stop using traditional fee-for-service payment methods that merely encourage volume, reward inefficiency, penalize clinical performance, and treat providers as piece workers. This is the equivalent of taking your Malibu to the Chevrolet dealer and them getting paid for how many times you bring it in instead of betting paid to fix it!
We can reform provider payment to align financial incentives with positive clinical performance (quality of care, patient safety, and outcomes) and cost efficiency – both for the provider’s own services as well as the patient’s entire episode of care. Congress can guide Medicare and state Medicaid programs, in concert with health plans and self-insured employers, to bring, I believe, at least 75% of all health care spending under value or performance-based payment by 2038. This will provide significant cost savings.
2. Increase market share to the statistically proven best performing providers.
We’ll reward the best performing doctors, clinics, and other providers through various network and care management strategies. We’ll weed poor performers out of the system by adjusting the co-payment structure so payments to poor performing providers are reduced, while payments to top performers are increased, potentially to the point the patients who seek top-rated performers have zero co-pay.
Given the impact of performance on patient’s lives and taxpayer’s wallets, charging Medicare beneficiaries the same 20% co-pay to see a high-quality physician as a low-quality doc doesn’t make sense. It may have before the days of data-driven, evidence-based measures of quality, safety, and outcomes, but not anymore. Today we have the means to measure medical care that simply wasn’t available 30 years ago. Even the variation of the nominal co-pays permitted in Medicaid could make a difference in expenditures and quality of service.
This will help address the problem that most consumers, including seniors, don’t check out a provider’s quality scores online. Value-based, differential cost sharing is a highly transparent way to drive attention to and understanding of the scores – by both consumers and the providers. It will help patients understand which doctors are better than others—something that is nearly impossible to judge today—and will push physicians, clinics, hospitals, pharmacies and others in the health care chain to ramp up their service levels.
3. Share savings with providers.
Medicare should pay Medicaid long-term care providers incentives or shared savings when they improve outcomes and thereby reduce the need for Medicare-funded acute and post-acute care.
Meanwhile, state Medicaid programs should pay Medicare-funded physicians, hospitals, and post-acute providers incentives or shared savings when their performance reduces or delays the need for Medicaid-financed long-term care services and supports (nursing home, home health, personal care, and non-medical home and community-based services).
Much of the need for long-term care can be prevented or reduced through proper care upstream by physicians, hospitals, and post-acute provider. For example, if a retiree breaks a hip and receives inadequate care, the likelihood she will need Medicaid long-term care skyrockets. Our plan rewards physicians, hospitals, and post-acute providers for their performance in reducing the need for Medicaid-funded long-term care services and support through tracking how their patients do long after they leave their care. The federal government can then share Medicaid savings with those Medicare providers that reduce or delay the need for long-term care services and support will improve patient care. Better care means better results and physicians and clinics will rise to serve consumers in improved ways while sub-performing doctors will be forced out of the system. This improves care for everyone.
Conversely, the performance of Medicaid long-term care providers can greatly impact inpatient admissions, emergency department visits, post-acute services paid for by Medicare. Nursing homes, home health agencies, and home and community-based waiver program providers paid by Medicaid have little or no financial incentive to take steps to, for example, prevent a hospitalization paid by Medicare. Similar to how Accountable Care Organizations are compared for their impact on overall per capita spending of patients they serve and allowed to share in any savings, Medicaid long-term care services and support providers should likewise be compared for their impact on Medicare per capita spending on acute and post-acute services.
4. Comprehensive care coordination.
We will work to incorporate comprehensive care coordination and chronic care management in the Medicare benefit package and fee-for-service delivery system, which lags well behind much of the Medicare Advantage delivery model.
5. Focus on prevention of long-term care.
We can enlarge the scope of state long-term care reform efforts to emphasize prevention or minimization of the need for nursing home level of care. Efforts to redesign the Medicaid long-term care services and support system have focused on building up home and community-based services and steering utilization away from institutional, nursing home care. This is certainly essential but again this deals with beneficiaries who are already at or near needing that level of care. Genuine long-term care reform should include large-scale efforts to, where possible, prevent or mitigate situations that generate or increase a person’s need for long-term care services and supports in the first place. Home-based care, when done properly, plays a key role in preventing or delaying the need for nursing home or hospice care.
Medication non-compliance is a leading cause of hospitalizations and nursing home admissions by seniors. We must design programs to improve medication adherence as this is a highly cost effective place to start.
When we think of nursing homes and home care, we think of life’s inevitabilities. We get old, frailties kick in, and we need assistance with day-to-day living. In most cases, the need for long-term care can be reduced, delayed, or even prevented entirely by ensuring seniors and persons with disabilities get improved primary, acute, and post-acute care.
6. Provide patients an annual benefits report.
Each year, every Medicaid and Medicare beneficiary will receive a personalized report on the benefits they received, including what the providers charged, the government paid on their behalf, what they paid in cost sharing, degree they used recommended preventive services, and how their use and costs compared to their peers (same age, sex, region, health status). For Medicare beneficiaries, it should also show their Medicare costs to date compared to what they contributed during their working years and how this compares to their peers. For children or families in Medicaid, the report would go to the parent, guardian, or head of household.
The report will be a simple, aggregate overview, reader friendly and emphasize use of clean infographics. The annual benefit report can be part of a larger effort to inform Medicare and Medicaid consumers about the performance (quality, safety, outcomes) of providers and to highlight high scoring providers in their community: yet another tactic to improve patient care.
Health care is one of the few industries where the people buying services—the patients—generally have no idea of the costs. By creating an Annual Benefits Report, beneficiaries will become more aware of costs. Yes, a lot of these reports may go straight to the trash, unread, but it’s an important first step in empowering and respecting Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries as consumers.
Many in Congress want to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare. This is a bad idea. It would save the federal government little money in the long-term, raise total health care spending, impose significant financial burdens on many financially vulnerable seniors and impose new costs on businesses and state governments.
7. Restore rebates and discounts.
Under current law, drug manufacturers are required to give rebates or discounts to the Medicaid program for prescription drugs purchased by Medicaid beneficiaries. However, Medicare Part D—the optional prescription drug coverage—does not require similar manufacturer rebates or discounts. Our proposal requires manufacturers to provide Medicare with the same rebates or discounts as those Medicaid receives for drugs purchased by certain low-income Part D enrollees. Restoring the discounts will save the Medicare program $112 billion over the next decade. This is a simple and effective way to save money for Medicare and help lower the federal budget deficit.
8. Reduce market exclusivity from 12 to 9 years.
Expensive biologic drugs (medications made from living organisms) are used to treat conditions like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. These types of drugs currently provide manufacturers with 12 years of exclusive market access before generic versions (known as biosimilars) can enter the market. Our proposal would reduce the exclusivity period to nine years for the Medicare/Medicaid system only, not the general insurance markets. Because generic medications have a lower retail cost, this would save money for Medicare and its beneficiaries. This will encourage lower prices and maximize savings for consumers and Medicare while giving manufacturers a nine year monopoly to recoup their drug development costs.
9. Fix issues around dual eligibles.
About 9 million low-income older and disabled people are covered by both Medicare and Medicaid. These people, called “dual eligibles” are generally a less healthy population, with higher costs and greater health care challenges. All low-income seniors should be encouraged to enroll in a managed care plan to improve the care they receive through better coordination among their many doctors and providers, and lower costs for the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Currently, people with both Medicare and Medicaid receive their health care through two programs, with different rules and different networks of doctors and providers. Better management of care could reduce wasteful or unnecessary use of health services and could reduce medical complications that can lead to more expensive care and treatment. To encourage enrollment, co-pays for the patient could be reduced.
10. Reduce prescription drug costs by implementing our Median Pricing Program.
The United States spends almost $1,000 per person per year on pharmaceutical drugs. That’s around 40 percent more than the next highest spender, Canada, and more than twice as much as than countries like France and Germany spend.
Under our Median Pricing Program, if you are a pharmaceutical company and want access to the United States market, no drug provider will be allowed to charge American consumers more than 110% of the average price of their drug worldwide. This will upset Wall Street and the pharmaceutical companies, but it is only fair that Americans not be gouged by drug companies.
The pharmaceutical companies will adapt to earn more revenue overseas which will force them to raise their prices worldwide and not stick Americans with the biggest drug bills. If they want to sell in our market, they have to adhere to this rule.
Under this plan, Celebrex, a popular pain and inflammation drug, would not cost $330, but $132.80 ($120.73 average cost plus 10%). Cymbalta, which millions of Americans take to battle depression and fibromyalgia, would not cost $240, but $76.45 ($69.50 average cost plus 10%).
Enacting a Median Pricing Program requirement would dramatically lower the costs of drugs for the Medicare/Medicaid program and would likely reduce total drug expenditures by more than 40% nationwide.
The importance of trying to pass a Median Pricing Program isn’t wed to an average global price plus 10% to be effective. It could be an average global price plus 30% and it would still save American families hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars annually.
I’ll readily admit I am not an expert on the ins and outs of Medicare/Medicaid programs. I think you’ll agree these are good starting points to control costs, improve care, and advance the wellness of beneficiaries. These savings could amount to well over $100 billion for Medicare and Medicaid. With these savings, some managed care plans may even be able to offer additional patient services and support, such as free dental services or access to doctor/nurse help telephone support. The savings could jump-start implementation of telemedicine and remote monitoring of chronic disease, lessening the need for patients to physically travel to doctors’ offices and clinics. Most important, combined with changes to fund Social Security, the federal government would finally be taking the lead in lowering health care costs for retirees, the disable, the injured, and all Americans.
Please share your thoughts with me by writing Bill@TownsendForNevada.com.
The Left is calling for bans on guns based on their appearance and “choice” among mass shooters. The Right isn’t budging in the “ban guns” debate. Thousands of high school students are taking to the streets calling for gun bans, with some seeking a complete repeal of the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution. Thousands more are silenced in school or by media for wanting to suggest that guns aren’t the issue, mental health is the issue.
Regardless of your position, the most important issue for all sides is something we can agree on: how best to protect children and teens in schools.
Schools use a variety of practices and procedures to promote the safety of students, faculty, and staff. Certain practices, such as locking or monitoring doors and gates, are intended to limit or control access to school campuses, while others, such as the use of metal detectors and security cameras, are intended to monitor or restrict students' and visitors' behavior on campus. Alas, as we have repeatedly seen, security cameras do little to prevent crimes and in many cases are moderately beneficial for the reporting of crimes.
In the 2013–14 school year, 93 percent of public schools reported that they controlled access to school buildings by locking or monitoring doors during school hours. This isn’t always true as I learned recently when I went to see one of our local elementary schools that “locks all their doors” only to find it was easy to walk into the office and hallways of the school. I then visited a high school and found the same thing: Easy access with nobody asking who I was or what I was doing there for at least several minutes.
Other safety and security measures reported by public schools included the use of security cameras to monitor the facilities (75 percent), a requirement that faculty and staff wear badges or picture IDs (68 percent, yet only 9% require students to wear badges or picture IDs, meaning any young person can walk into a school without the need to prove they belong there), and the enforcement of a dress code (58 percent).
Walk into 96% of the schools in America, where children age 5-18 spend the majority of their waking hours, and it is rare to find metal detectors and armed security. Only 4% of schools have metal detectors and only half of those schools require students, staff and visitors to pass through them daily.
Just 9% of schools require students to wear badges or picture IDs, meaning any young person can walk into a school without the need to prove they belong there.
What about armed security?
43 percent of public schools reported the presence of one or more security guards, security personnel, School Resource Officers, or sworn law enforcement officers at their school at least once a week during the school year. Once a week and unarmed security guards won’t cut it in today’s world. Schools, just like airports, courthouses, and Congress, need full-time armed security personnel on site and in the buildings at all times.
Over half of our schools do not have a structured program for reporting threats or dangerous student behavior.
Now, walk into nearly every Federal or state courthouse, the Senate and House of Representatives’ buildings, the White House, many concert and sporting events, conventions and conferences, and what do you find? Tens of thousands of people are required to go through metal detectors each and every day. It is estimated that eight million people walk through metal detectors every day at US airports. Our children are not offered this level of protection.
In all these facilities, armed guards stand nearby to protect the inhabitants and visitors and to provide rapid response to any risks to those in the building. This isn't available for most of our children.
I’ve said it before I launched our campaign for Congress and I’ll say it over and over again until people begin to wake up: “It is time to provide our children the same level of security that judges, courthouses, and Members of Congress receive.”
How many kids have to be injured or killed before we take the safety of our children as seriously as we provide safety to judges and government workers and citizens and crew that travel on airplanes? The answer should be, “none”.
It’s time we got serious about protecting our children, teachers, and school personnel.
The first step in protecting our children is to protect facilities and there are ways to do this which the Federal government, via the agencies in charge of protecting thousands of federal facilities, the Federal Protective Service, and Department of Education, Department of Justice, and Congress should fund and enact.
In this day and age it is ludicrous that schools do not have armed security and that all visitors and students must pass through a screening process.
It is a sad fact, but one that needs repeated: We live in a new era of violence and our children must be protected.
It's time to install metal detectors and armed security in schools to thwart violence and tragedies from occurring. Can we stop all violence? No. Can we make it much more difficult for someone to cause harm to our kids, teachers and administrators? Absolutely.
As parents, we must demand school districts install secure access systems, like the facial recognition system provided by Kansas-based StoneLock, where kids are enrolled and as they approach doors and are identified, the door opens. If they are not in the system, such as the case of someone who was expelled, the door remains closed. At under $3,000 a door, these could be integrated across the United States quickly and easily.
All visitors should have to pass through metal detectors. One or two setups in each school will be enough.
An armed security officer should be stationed at every main entrance where people enter and exit the building. Other doors can be secured using an automatic access system like the aforementioned StoneLock biometric access devices.
This is what it comes down to:
1. Just as we do with airports, courthouses and other public buildings, install metal detectors in the main entryways of all schools and have those machines staffed by armed guards.
America has over 50 million children in school at about 98,200 public schools and 34,600 private schools offering kindergarten or higher grades. The average cost for a walk-through metal detector is $3,500. The typical school would require 2-4 walk-through metal detectors which would cost about $2-$2.5 billion to outfit nationwide. We should immediately include this in the budget for infrastructure improvements and set about requiring every school in America to install metal detectors and hire staff to operate these machines or risk losing federal education money.
After speaking with security systems integrators and security training companies, I believe with funding in place, every public elementary, middle, and high school could be outfitted within 24-36 months.
I promise to write legislation that will provide over $200 million a year in funding support for educational resources (anti-bullying, school safety, early identification of troubled youth) and facilities safety (biometric access, metal detectors).Our program is called “School Training And Readiness” program or “STAR”. STAR will fund the expansion of the FBI’s background check system (NICS), safety education, and facility security programs for schools across America. It will add a $10 fee per background check payable by every application through NICS. The fees would be split three ways: 15% for supporting the FBI operating budget for NICS, 25% for funding firearms safety, anti-bullying, and at-risk youth identification programs in schools, and 60% for funding a nationwide safety program for schools.
In 2017, over 25,200,000 background checks were conducted. A low $10 fee could generate $252 million each year with $37.8 million for NICS, $63 million for education, and over $151 million for metal detectors and security guards in schools.
Most law-abiding gun buyers will gladly support a program that directly benefits school safety. In the small sample of 56 gun owners, 54 said they’d have no problem paying an extra $10 when purchasing a gun if the money went to these three areas.
Why is education and the early identification of at-risk students an important part of this program? If you have watched the passionate speeches given by the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, you have likely seen 18-year-old Emma Gonzalez. She is an outspoken woman who has become a powerful voice for more safety in schools. There is one comment she made that should make all of us stand up and take notice. Ms. Gonzalez said, “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities again and again. We did, time and time again. Since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should have not ostracized him, you didn’t know this kid. OK, we did. We know that they are claiming mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue.”
Here’s what she said in a nutshell:
In this case, there is compelling evidence of not only a system-wide failure by the school and law enforcement to take action, but also failure of students, teachers, and administrators to extend a hand to a very disturbed young man. This statement is made not to shame the students, but to point out that they knew they ostracized the shooter and yet, likely because they are at an age where emotional immaturity is still high, and they were not educated on the risks of bullying and ostracizing a fellow student, this continued. And it continued from at least middle school through high school. Thus, we need to provide educational materials to help all students understand that their actions against fellow students, whether intentional or not, can have severe consequences. The STAR program would provide these needed educational resources.
The Department of Justice should work with the Department of Education, along with input from the FBI, law enforcement associations, and the NRA, to design a video-based educational program that teaches children the dangers of guns, what to do in an emergency, and how to report those suspected of gun crimes.
We’ll work with the National Institutes of Health, leading psychologists, psychiatrists, behavioral specialists, and celebrities, to cover bullying, safe social media practices, the effects of being excluded and ostracized, and how to talk to teachers and parents about at-risk youth. (My late business partner, Roddy Piper, was an influential spokesperson for anti-bullying’s Stand for the Silent. I can attest that a celebrity speaking to children leaves a lasting impression that can change their attitude about something very quickly.)
STAR’s videos and corresponding print content will be designed once, updated as needed, and distributed via electronic means to schools, parents, and the media networks children and teens watch most. The materials will be highly effective and will cost pennies per student to put in front of the 50+ million students in our United States. I estimate the initial program would cost less than $18 million, or about 4 cents per student. We cannot afford not to do this.
We don’t have to debate whether these fixes will work. They will. They’re better than any other options on the table. STAR will make our nation safer. STAR will save children’s lives. It’ then becomes not a question of how can we afford this (only $10 per NICS application), but how can we not afford to take action on such common sense programs with potentially huge impact on the safety of our schools and communities?
2. Stop classifying schools as Gun Free Zones, which simply mark them as easy targets, and hire armed security at each and every school.
We should create a budget as part of the Department of Education that can be used by schools to hire recently retired police officers, retired military police, and other qualified individuals to operate metal detectors and provide security throughout the day. Just as former President Clinton’s initiative was to put 100,000 cops on the streets, our Safe Schools initiative could put 250,000 security guards in public and private schools. At an average 9-month salary of $45,000, the cost of this program would be just under $12 billion annually or about $98 for every American who pays federal income tax. The Dept. of Education has a $68 billion annual budget and I am confident a good part of this funding could come from the existing budget. Another benefit of this is these security guards could act as a conduit to local, state and Federal law enforcement for reporting of suspected risks. If state and local governments don’t want to run the program, the Federal Government could and it could provide consistent and measurable results that could be viewed an analyzed by legislators, administrators, and parents each year to determine what works and what is ineffective.
A rogue teenager is going to think twice before targeting a school that is protected by armed guards, metal detectors, and physical access devices.
3. Require students to wear school IDs while on campus.
IDs are used across the government and corporations to ensure people who are not supposed to be there are quickly identified. It’s time we demand the same protections for our children. I have witnessed at my children’s schools the ease of walking into a school building without anyone questioning why you are there. IDs may not prevent an attacker from getting in your building, but it would quickly identify someone who doesn't belong there.
4. Utilize biometric access devices with 2-factor authentication to access buildings and high risk areas.
A 2-factor biometric identification system provides access control to doors. For schools it must utilized a facial biometric (something that is personal and not easily spoofed), along with a pin code and/or swipe card (what could, for example, be a teacher or student ID) to gain access through a door. At a minimum, these should be installed at every entry point to a school building. Without the biometric, you are not gaining entry. An entire wing, floor, or individual classrooms can be quickly closed off to anyone who does not possess the correct credentials to be in the building.
5. Educate children on how to react in cases where people are intent on committing violence.
The STAR program will help educate kids on what to do if they find a gun or hear that a student is acting in inappropriate ways, whether in school or on social media, is a concept whose time has come. We must create additional education for kids to help them prepare for acts of violence, which can be done in a respectful and meaningful way.
Educating kids on what to do if they find a gun or hear that a student is acting in inappropriate ways, whether in school or on social media, is a concept whose time has come.
A reporting structure for tips on dangerous student behavior must be devised and deployed across all schools with the tips acted upon either internally, or turned over to local police for investigation.
Teach students how to utilize textbooks to provide a barrier between them and a shooter or knife wielding attacker. Three textbooks inside a backpack can stop many bullets and nearly all knife attacks. It’s not an ideal last line of defense, but it could prevent deaths.
Just as previous generations held fire drills, had bomb scares, and learned how to prepare in case of nuclear attack, today’s students need annual training on how to respond in an emergency.
We can also educate teachers and administrators, and even parents through online courses that can be created once and made available nationwide.
6. Test, and if it passes, provide every classroom with a tool like the JustinKase door block tool.
Somerset High School (Wisconsin) senior Justin Rivard invented the JustinKase tool, made of steel plates and connecting rods, for emergencies such as active shooter situations. His device slips beneath a classroom door and latches to the door’s jam. With the device in place, he has yet to find a person who can push a classroom door open, including linemen from his high school football team.
7. We must address the problem of pharmaceuticals and their use in behavior modification.
We have challenges that impact children that are not directly about school access, but certainly must be considered as part of the move to make schools safer. These challenges also affect adults as we’ve seen with the Las Vegas shooter and others. They are summed up in one word: pharmaceuticals.
Medication is becoming almost as much a staple of childhood as Nick, Jr. and McDonald’s. Kids pack their pills for school right along with their lunch money. Some are taking drugs for depression and anxiety, others for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Properly prescribed drugs can help those who truly need them, but many kids are given medication to mask the ordinary emotional turmoil of growing up. Our children can go through six or seven different drugs by the time they are old enough to drive; in the United Kingdom, children are usually sent for cognitive behavior therapy first and if that doesn’t help, then they turn to medications.
If Johnny is unruly and has pent up energy, his parents, who are both likely working, may not have the patience or time to take Johnny outside to get active and burn off his energy. Instead, they’ll find a doctor to prescribe medications such as these anti-psychotic drugs:
These medicines include amphetamine and/or methylphenidate, which are stimulants. Stimulants may help improve the ability to concentrate, plan ahead, and follow through with tasks. They have also been proven to cause side effects which include irritability, mood swings, depression, insomnia, and may increase the risk of developing heart or psychiatric problems. In some cases, thoughts of suicide occur.
Put this way, with these kinds of side effects, medicating children may not be the best path to preventing thoughts of violence.
Parents are largely to blame. They begin to look at psychiatric diagnosis and treatment with drugs as a viable option for making their children perform better or behave in a more manageable manner. In America, we have parents demanding, “My child needs a drug to help her focus because all the other children are taking one.”
Our nation has been purposefully creating addiction for the past 2 or 3 generations of children and it has profound effects during their developmental years. There is also a risk that they will never learn to live without these drugs.
We already know that the effects of these drugs leads to less empathy for others and an increased need to be accepted—or in facebook-speak, “liked”—in order to measure self-worth.
Since the 1980s, corresponding with the introduction of Apple's iPhone, there has been a rush away from family time, social gatherings, parent-teacher involvement in children, strong church-to-community interaction, to today’s “always-on, always in the moment” society. A society that used to be about physical interaction with people to now become a society of non-physical interaction involving fake facebook friendships, Snapchats, access to content 24 hours a day, text messaging and Facetime, bits and pieces of content thrown at you with no links to one another except what is shown on a computer screen, from unknown sources and for unknown reasons! It’s no wonder those raised in the past 20 years have little true understanding of how real relationships are formed or how to grow out of a “stage” they are in.
This leads back to the need for comprehensive health care reform. Included must be stricter guidelines on prescription drug prescribing for ADHD, bipolar disorder and other ailments commonly reported among children and teens.
The Centers for Disease Control states that 11% of 4 to 17-year-olds in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD, almost 4 times the rate of other countries, and a label for those who are disruptive in class and unable to concentrate. By contrast, the United Kingdom reports just 3% of children are diagnosed with ADHD and just 1% are on medication. When I was a kid, this wasn't called ADHD, it was called being rowdy or having too much pent up energy. We went out to recess every day and ran around to burn off this excess energy. We had physical education classes every day. If we were still disruptive we were sent to the Principal's office and our parents were called in for a conference. What happened then? In most cases, we learned not to be rowdy. Drugs weren't needed; adult supervision was.
It’s been reported that 20%-25% of students at most universities in the US are on medication, often on multiple prescriptions. Taking your meds is often seen as proof that a young person is dealing with their problems or working to become an exceptional student. The problem is you are not going to learn coping skills if you are taking pills.
Researchers have proven beyond a doubt that the human brain normalizes violence and younger brains, those under 25 years old, are more influenced by this normalization than older brains. The more the brain is subjected to violence, the more it begins to accept it as a societal norm. Over the past 2-3 decades, violence has increased and become readily accessible to children through television, movies, music, social media, video sites like YouTube and Vimeo, and video games. Kids of all ages are now just a click away from videos depicting bullying, beatings, police shootings, criminal activity, rape, torture, pornography, and violence.
We used to live in an America where it was accepted that teenagers were confused and would often do stupid things. We lived in communities where children were taught that in life there are “Winners and Losers” and you respect your elders and especially your teachers. We were taught that profanity was not a socially acceptable means to express yourself. We could watch network television during Prime Time and not fear exposing our children to profanity or violence. This version of America has largely disappeared from view because:
In addition, during the Obama-era reporting of bullying, abuse, fighting, and other disruptions were under-reported to local law enforcement and many times not reported at all.
Along with sensible changes to our gun laws (please see our policy section on "Guns & Violence in America" and “Education”), what you just read is what is needed to address school safety. It's not a big list. It is a list of "can-do" items that we should demand Congress to move forward on funding and deploying immediately. It's not a Democrat concept and it’s not a Republican concept; it's an action plan to keep our children safe.
As your voice in Congress, I will push legislation to fund and support any of these areas that have not been fulfilled by the current Administration, Senate, and House of Representatives.
Do you have other thoughts on how to improve school safety? Please let me know by writing to me at Bill@TownsendForNevada.com.
You can download a copy of this policy in the Downloads section of this website. Click here. Feel free to share with others.
The past year has seen women around the world stand up against harassment, discrimination, and for protected rights. You stood up against the wage gap, the education gap, the health gap, political representation that didn’t support your needs, and you’ve called for more school safety, access to birth control, and opportunities for young children, such as Head Start.
As your voice in Congress, I will to push for legislation to ensure women’s rights are protected and expanded, while protecting the rights of all to create true equality in our country.
Here are ten areas I pledge to focus to improve women’s lives and bridge the gap.
1. Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) which was passed by Congress on March 22, 1972, and sent to the states for ratification by both houses of their state legislatures. Nevada ratified the Equal Rights Amendment in early 2017, 45 years to the day after it was passed by Congress and sent to states. In ratifying the ERA, Sen. Pat Spearman, a North Las Vegas Democrat who pushed the resolution, said correctly, “Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.”
The ERA is straightforward:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
A proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution when approved by three-fourths (38) of the 50 states. The original seven-year time limit was extended by Congress to June 30, 1982, but at that deadline, the ERA had been ratified by only 35 states, three states short of the 38 required to put it into the Constitution. With the addition of Nevada, only two more states need to vote in favor of the ERA.
I would like my and your daughters to be able to read the Constitution and see that men and women are persons of equal stature under the laws of the United States of America. I will work with members of Congress from those states that have not yet ratified the ERA to try to convince them to take the message back home that the Equal Rights Amendment should be ratified and finally made part of the Constitution.
2. It is time we enact laws to provide paid maternity and adoption leave. The United States is one of just three countries out of 195 in the world that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave, the others being Oman and Papua New Guinea. Think about that…we are part of the 2% that doesn’t have laws governing paid maternity leave.
As your voice in Congress, I will dedicate my efforts to passing legislation regarding maternity leave and adoption. The law will address the following as a base for benefits but may have better benefits as well.
When businesses fail to do what is right in addressing the 47 million women who work, Congress needs to step up and make reasonable laws that will strengthen the family.
3. School safety requires more action than what current Members of Congress and the Administration propose. As the parent of 4 children and uncle of 3 more, you have my solemn word that I will push, push and push some more for my plan for school safety, which will help ensure our children are able to learn in a safe environment. (You can read about this in School Safety, found on the “12 Big Ideas for Nevada” page or download it from the Downloads page.)
4. I will fight for “Equal Pay for Equal Results” legislation.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal for employers to pay men more than women performing the same job, and yet more than 55 years later the gender wage gap still persists. Maybe it’s time to try something new!
Supporting opportunities for all Americans has to be one or our priorities to ensure jobs are created and accessible to men and women. One way to make sure the economy rewards hard work for every single person, regardless of gender, is “Equal Pay for Equal Results”. I've implemented this in each of my companies and it works.
“Equal Pay for Equal Results” means that men and women are compensated based on equal results. Why not equal pay for equal work? Because that isn’t how business works. People who perform better than others typically earn more than others. This is called lifting the boat. When someone excels they can earn more. When they don’t, they don’t. This is fair for men and women and rewards someone based on results, not gender.
By focusing on results, you achieve pay that is commensurate with your own actions. That is the fairest form of compensation available.
In my experience through a dozen companies I have founded or co-founded and those I worked for, depending on the role, women often outperform men. In some cases, such as physically demanding work, men often outperform women.
Equal Pay for Equal Results means that regardless of gender, if you achieve the goals of your position, you should be paid equally to another person who also achieves the same goals. This is the fairest way to ensure compensation between the genders is equalized.
The problem for proposals pushed in Congress over the past two decades is that wide variations within any given job category and equally wide variations in the education that men and women bring to their work is almost impossible to justify. Equal pay discussions focus on creating a model that says, two people of different educational backgrounds—for instance, a Harvard graduate and a community college graduate—hired for the same position, must be paid the same. Another example, for instance, a definition of the medical profession that lumps together pediatricians and neurosurgeons misses huge differences in training and skills. What this model can’t take into account is each relevant variable that matters to a skilled manager or recruiter, even after controlling for hours worked or, most critically, years out of the work force. Such issues as willingness to travel, working overtime in dangerous neighborhoods, making cold calls to prospective customers, handling risk, or responding to hostility in interpersonal relations are relevant in how much an employee is paid. The effect of any one of these variables could be small, but in aggregate, they can have a direct influence in the salary someone is offered.
Why does “Equal Pay for Equal Results” work? As our global economy has grown and competition no longer comes from the company in the next town, but instead from countries including China, Taiwan, Indonesia, and automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics, the importance of replacing a “face-time” work culture (for instance, you show up and put your 40 hours in) with a results-oriented workforce (you don’t get compensated based on hours worked, but instead, results) becomes more relevant to success. Isn’t this what women have been seeking all along: to be judged fairly and based on their skills? Yes. In addition, companies that facilitate flexible work and results-oriented measurement see higher engagement, productivity and retention rates—not to mention better returns and greater pay equality for men and women. In my experience, this leads superiors to manage the work instead of managing the people which results in increased employee satisfaction, more productivity, fewer sick days taken, and greater communication between all levels of the organization. This level of open discussion can lead to even greater advancements for women (and families) with companies beginning to understand the benefits of on-site child care, flexible work hours, a “stepping up” of employees to cover the workload of a new mother, and a change in women’s ability to ask for a raise because it can be based on something tangible.
5. We will put more focus on anti-violence initiatives. Globally, one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, rapes, and muggings combined. Domestic abuse has historically been defined as between a husband and wife but with the increasing numbers of women (and men) who are shunning marriage, and same gender relationships, it needs to be expanded to include all relationships outside of marriage.
Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery impacting our most vulnerable populations, and it is a serious problem in Nevada largely due to our tourism industries that warrants our full attention. It is a brutal, complex, and widespread crime in which children are used in commercial sex and adults are targeted through force, fraud or coercion to engage in activity against their will. Thousands of victims are shipped into Nevada every year with many children under the age of 13. Shockingly, calls about human trafficking made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, ranked Las Vegas 6th among the 100 most populous cities in America and 5th based on per capita population.
Children resettling to America from war torn countries and victims of sex trafficking face obstacles many of us cannot imagine. They very likely require rehabilitation, both mental and physical, for which most adoptive parents are not prepared. Early intervention can prevent long-term harm. For adoption of refugee children and those who have been victims of sex trafficking, we should provide vouchers for psychologist and psychiatric care up to $2,500.
Creating educational opportunities and other resources to rehabilitate victims of domestic violence, physical abuse and sex trafficking, along with awareness campaigns to educate women to stand up against violence will help empower women and children to stand up for themselves. This is important because many women don’t even report violence. Often, they’re scared due to current laws. Some feel they are responsible for the act. Still others are afraid that reporting violence may result in divorce, thus leaving them more vulnerable to poverty. Since this is such an important problem that needs to be fixed, it should be addressed in a big way – and women should not have to live in fear.
6. I will write legislation that outlines a better, more protective path for women to come forward when harassed in the workplace that would form the core of what should be adopted by all government agencies and companies. Laws must be changed to protect the identity of the accused and accuser; provide for a fair means to investigate and determine the extent of any harassment; create standards of proof, set minimum guidelines for resolution, such as providing options for transfer within a company, punishment for the offenders, etc.; and provide confidentiality for all parties in order to protect the work environment.
7. We must address the problem of access to affordable birth control in America. After hours and hours of researching the abortion issue, including talking to over 200 women, I had a revelation. America does not have an abortion problem. Abortion is already difficult to obtain in 90% of the United States and for most women, it is a last resort that comes with complex emotional and moral dilemmas. The Supreme Court has ruled that it is legal and continued efforts to limit its access without understanding what leads women to seek abortions and how to prevent pregnancies in the first place is not helpful. The real problem is America has an access to birth control, personal responsibility, and education problem.
I know it’s a touchy subject, and some of you might have differing views than I do. I respect your opinion. Let me share with you why I believe access to birth control will lower abortion rates in America.
First, most women do not view abortions as a form of birth control. Not only are they fairly expensive—even on a sliding fee scale—but they leave a woman with lasting doubt. Some people believe a woman should have to go before a judge or “abortion panel” to end a pregnancy. I believe it is unfair to judge each woman on a case-by-case basis and a woman shouldn’t have to discuss her rape or her contraception failure to someone who knows nothing about her circumstances, such as a judge or panel. In my opinion, the best option is to keep the relationship between a woman and her doctor. Can you imagine if we made men who wanted a prescription for erectile dysfunction appear before a judge or "ED panel"? Men would go ballistic. Every Member of Congress who has sexual performance issues would fight this tooth and nail, and yet, this is what some of those very Members want women to have to go through.
What we know about abortion is that some 60% of women having abortions are in their 20s; 86% were unmarried; 75% were economically disadvantaged; and 62% reported a religious affiliation. This means the majority of women who sought abortion services identified themselves as religious, single, and three-quarters are economically challenged to carry a child to term. The answer is to help women get in a position, through education and low cost prescriptions, where they don't have to worry about becoming pregnant in the first place.
[Allow me to sidetrack into the religious views on abortion and birth control. I have a dear friend who is very religious, would never consider abortion as an alternative to birth, who has a severely handicapped son and another with no handicap. She is against abortion at all costs. She is also against the government providing birth control in any form, believing her faith does not allow for the use of birth control. That is fine. It is what she and millions of people believe.
My beliefs are near and dear to me. I don't discuss them openly. If my wife became pregnant, we'd view it as a blessing: but we're also in a position where we can afford to have a baby and raise him or her to age 18. If my wife's health was in jeopardy due to a pregnancy, we'd hope that an operation to save her life would be available to her. I believe 95% of men who truly love their wife would say the same thing.
When it comes to the Bible (and I will refer to Christianity as it is the most popular form of religion in America) the Bible does not condemn birth control. it doesn't. Two passages in the Bible are sometimes interpreted as being opposed to birth control. First, after the creation, God said to the man and woman, "Be fruitful and multiply." Some people interpret that as meaning that intentionally preventing pregnancy would be wrong. But in its original context, this verse was part of a passage telling how God has given mankind stewardship over the world, and it was not a statement about birth control:
And God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (NAS, Genesis 1:28)
The second passage has to do with the Old Testament law of levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). If a man died childless, his brother or nearest relative was expected to marry his widow and father a child to carry on the deceased's name and inherit his property. Onan refused to fulfill that duty and used a birth control method known as coitus interruptus to prevent pregnancy:
Then Judah said to Onan, "Lie with your brother's wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother." But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother's wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD's sight; so he put him to death also. (NIV, Genesis 38:8-10)
Most experts say Onan was condemned for using his brother's widow for sexual pleasure while refusing to provide offspring for him, and that no general criticism of birth control was intended.
The Bible gives clear, direct guidance on many topics of morality, but not on birth control. Thus, any inferences from the Bible are opinions and not Biblical evidence.]
With that said, our society faces great challenges and unexpected pregnancies, mostly due to not understanding when and how pregnancy occurs or not being able to afford birth control, is a topic that only takes common sense to fix. It is less expensive for taxpayers to provide birth control than to have a woman, especially one on social assistance, become pregnant.
If you’ve read my positions, you already know that I try to find the root cause of issues. Abortion is no different. We have to look at the path backwards from the act of abortion. That means unprotected sex or contraception that failed. Unprotected sex may occur with a partner, husband, or in the case of rape or incest, a stranger or relative. Further back the path is “how” did the pregnancy occur? In the majority of cases, contraceptive use is the key predictor of whether a woman will seek to have an abortion. Women who were not using contraceptives accounted for the majority of abortions. Many of these women did not think they would get pregnant or had concerns about contraceptive methods. (As an aside, in 2014, I was shocked when a group of female employees, all in their 20s, were in our company’s cafeteria talking about the pregnancy of a co-worker. There were nine women there, all born in America except one, and 8 of them believed you could have unprotected sex most of the month without risk of pregnancy or if a man “pulled out” they would not get pregnant. Hearing this, I went to our health insurance administrator and suggested we offer a course on pregnancy and birth control to help employees understand that their beliefs about how to one could become pregnant were incorrect.)
A minority of abortions occur among the much larger group of women who were using contraceptives in the month they became pregnant. Many women who fall into this category have reported difficulty using contraceptives consistently, usually having to do with condom use, which as we know involves the male partner and, let’s face it, many men refuse to use condoms.
Wanting to understand this—to get to the root cause—I conducted a survey of 312 women as to why they don’t use or desire to use birth control. The top 5 answers were:
1. “I don’t want to get fat.”
Weight gain was, once upon a time, a concern for women on the pill. But this side effect is characteristic of earlier versions of oral contraceptives. Today, weight gain is no longer a legitimate side effect for pills that contain progesterone and estrogen, though rumor seems to still perpetuate this idea and especially across lower income females.
2. “I might suffer depression.”
Birth control interferes with hormones—that’s what it’s meant to do, as it uses estrogen, progesterone, (or a combination of the two) to suppress the ovaries from ovulating. For women taking birth control, the risk for developing depression increases by 10%, so, yes, this is a genuine concern for women.
3. “It causes cancer.”
It’s true taking oral contraceptive pills raises a woman’s risk for developing certain kinds of cancer, like breast cancer. By the same token, it’s also true that the pill lowers a person’s risk for developing other kinds of cancer, like ovarian and uterine.
4. “I’m not at risk for getting pregnant.”
One study showed that 36% of women who experience unplanned pregnancies cite their reason for not using birth control as “thinking they couldn’t get pregnant,” an excuse that proper, informative sex education could clear up. Another reason was “infrequent intercourse” as a justification. Again, informative education could help clarify the risks of pregnancy.
5. (Tie) “I don’t want to put chemicals in my body.”
Amy, 32, said, “I want a 100% healthy and unaffected reproductive system for when I am ready to have children." Unfortunately, there is a huge misconception among women that taking birth control pills will have a long-term negative effect on their bodies. The fact is, birth control works on a daily basis; it doesn’t build up in your body over time. As soon as a woman ceases taking birth control, hormones leave the system and a woman is susceptible to pregnancy.
5. (Tie) “Cost”
I was surprised that cost ranked 5th in the survey and was not higher on the list. The people who stated cost is an issue were predominantly African American or Hispanic and in lower income groups. Of teens who took the survey, 61% said cost and access was the reason they did not use birth control (another 29% believed they couldn’t get pregnant if the man pulled out before ejaculation). You can see why parents are failing their children and why it is time for our action on this issue. Unprotected sex isn't just about getting pregnant, it's also about stopping the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Education is needed and it appears parents are not doing a good job of informing their children of the risks of pregnancy.
Thirty-eight percent of all women of reproductive age are not currently using a contraceptive method, largely due to the reasons listed above. The good news is numbers 1, 3, 4, and 5 are all able to be improved upon through better education. Cost and access, tied for #5 on our list, is also addressable, especially for lower income women. For instance, we could expand welfare, WIC, and other social programs to provide vouchers for birth control. We could investigate allowing pharmacies to prescribe birth control, much like we allow them to offer flu shots, eliminating the expense of doctor’s appointments which costs on average $79. Some people may scream that “this is just more big government” but I argue it is the opposite.
Providing birth control pills for a 28 year old mother who collects welfare is cheaper than paying for healthcare through a pregnancy, the actual birth, and support of yet another child on welfare.
Many on the “Far Right” believe that birth control should not be offered to women. But being too frugal by opting for a “free” but relatively ineffective method, such as fertility awareness or withdrawal, can easily lead to accidental pregnancy. A couple using no birth control has an 85% chance of becoming pregnant in one year, and yet, birth control is affordable.
The cost of the birth control pill, birth control patch, and vaginal ring runs $15-$50 a month. I would estimate the US Government could purchase a month’s supply for under $25 including distribution to the woman. Over the course of a year, this amounts to about $300.
IUDs last up to 12 years and are 99 percent effective. While the upfront cost is a $500 to $1,000, the fact that it lasts so long means that the average annual cost is actually cheaper than condoms.
The Depo-Provera injection occurs every 3 months and is also about 99 percent effective, according to the FDA. Each shot costs between $35 and $75, and sometimes comes with an additional doctor’s visit fee of $20 to $40. That equals between $220 and $460 a year.
For low income men and women who opt for sterilization: vasectomies for men and tubal ligation for women, this permanent birth control method makes sense for people who don’t wish to have children in the future and don’t want to take a pill or use other forms of contraceptives. For both men and women, it is 99 percent effective. Vasectomies cost between $350 to $1,000 and sterilization for women costs between $1,500 and $6,000. But since it’s permanent, the cost per year over the long-term is lower. For example, if a 30-year-old women gets sterilized, it prevents her from getting pregnant for the rest of her fertile years. Spreading the cost of a $3,000 procedure over 20 years brings the annual expense down to $150. Similarly, if her partner gets a $600 vasectomy, the annual cost averages out to $30 over 20 years.
Early and continuous prenatal care is essential both before and throughout a pregnancy to help ensure a safe delivery and healthy baby. The average cost of prenatal care is about $2,000.
Prenatal vitamins cost about $15 per month.
A crib is easily $200. Diapers are $40 for a box of 250. A monitor can add $25-$50. A changing table and pad $125, car seat $125, plus clothing and food and future medical costs.
The cost of delivery is typically $9,600 to $15,000.
Once born, the necessities for a baby equal $450 - $800 a month (source: WebMD)
All of the birth control methods listed here are cheaper than the cost of carrying a baby to birth which is estimated to average between $12,000 and $18,000. They are certainly cheaper than raising a child to age 18.
This begs the question of why so many elected officials—mostly men—want to prevent government spending on birth control, at $300 a year for prevention, as a means to prevent unwanted births ($12-$18,000) and abortions. From a financial standpoint to our country, providing birth control for free, at cost, or even reduced retail rates, is much better than not. As the Republicans continually try to defund federal payments to Planned Parenthood because of the organization’s pro-abortion focus, one option which I want to address with them is turning that money over to contraceptive access. The amount they want to take away from PP could provide 1.6 million women with birth control free of charge or 3.2 million women if the government picked up half the cost of birth control.
In the twentieth century, scientific knowledge of reproduction, sensitivity to women's rights, and concern about overpopulation produced great changes in attitude. Most churches now say reproductive decisions are private matters between husband and wife and their consciences. Birth control methods are no longer discouraged.
The fact remains: If you want to slow the rate of abortion, make birth control affordable and available to those most at risk of pregnancy.
In America, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of law. Forty-five years ago abortion was made an individual right by the Supreme Court. Today it is one of the most carefully cultivated institutions in America, while still being offensive to many: even though 50% of the population defines themselves as pro-choice, 44% still consider themselves pro-life. It is protected by courts, subsidized by legislatures, performed in hospitals and clinics, and even promoted as a "fundamental right" by our State Department. Generation that grew up since 1973 hold the expectation that legal abortion will be available for them if they want it.
Today, many well-known civic groups, from the League of Women Voters to the American Civil Liberties Union, are committed to its protection and subsidization. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education now requires that abortion techniques be taught in all obstetrics-and-gynecology residency training programs.
Part of the challenge in coming to common ground on the abortion issue is that the Left doesn’t like to use the term abortion. They will call it a "reproductive health procedure" or a "termination of pregnancy." Abortion clinics are "reproductive health clinics" (more recently, "women's clinics"), and the right to obtain an abortion is "reproductive freedom." Sometimes the word abortion is unavoidable, as in media accounts of the abortion controversy, but then it is almost invariably preceded by a line of nicer-sounding words: "the right of a women to choose" abortion.
The Clinton Administration was the first Administration openly committed to abortion. Even they didn’t want to mention the word abortion. President Clinton's 1993 health-care bill would have nationalized the funding of abortion, forcing everyone to buy a "standard package" that included it. Yet nowhere in the bill's 1,342 pages was the word abortion ever used.
Meanwhile the Right is more than willing to use the term, mostly focusing on the negative connotation and brutal nature of abortions with terms like “death by abortion” and “aborting the fetus” or “aborting the baby”.
Why can't we have civil discussions on abortion, using the term abortion? I believe this is because the majority of both pro-choice and pro-life people sense that there is something not quite right about the procedure. How could there not be? Abortion is troubling because it is a killing process. Abortion clinics may indeed be places of care for women, as Planned Parenthood maintains, but their primary purpose is to end a pregnancy, which is interpreted by most people as to kill human fetuses. And for those who have seen videos of abortion, the understanding that it ends the viability of a pregnancy is brought to chilling light.
Where we have gotten derailed as a nation is the idea that we cannot address the core issues that lead to abortion as a means to slow down the frequency of the procedure. That is where access to affordable birth control comes in and that is why I believe it must be addressed. It is why I believe the Republican Party must switch course and focus on providing at-risk women with the tools to prevent abortion, which means preventing pregnancy. It is why i believe the Democrat Party must push for more access to low cost birth control. And this is why I believe there is hope to get passage of laws improving access and cost, because both sides want a solution.
What’s happening in Nevada?
88% of Nevada counties had no clinics that provide abortions and roughly 9% of Nevada women live in those counties.
On a positive note, abortions have declined in Nevada over the past few years. There was a 22% decline in the abortion rate in Nevada between 2010 and 2014 and today Nevada represents just 1.2% of all abortions in the United States. Whether you are pro-life or pro choice, this is a trend on which we all can agree is positive in nature.
This is likely due in part to expanded access to long-lasting contraception methods that are now covered by health insurers under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion and other initiatives. Another reason could be attributed to birth rates which have declined since 1960 to the lowest point in recorded history in 2017. The general fertility rate is 62.0 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 with this trend being driven by a decline in birthrates for teens and 20-somethings, many of whom no longer engage in intercourse.
How do we drive abortion rates even lower? We must work to make birth control more affordable, increase funding for sex education, and very likely, push sex education into schools as parents have not been doing a good job of explaining pregnancy risk.
Though the teen birth rate has declined to its lowest levels since data collection began, the United States still has the highest teen birth rate in the industrialized world. Roughly one in four girls will become pregnant at least once by their 20th birthday. Teenage mothers are less likely to finish high school and are more likely than their peers to live in poverty, depend on public assistance, and be in poor health. Their children are more likely to suffer health and cognitive disadvantages, come in contact with the child welfare and correctional systems, live in poverty, drop out of high school and become teen parents themselves.
Creating channels where young women can gain access to affordable birth control is a better use of spending than having teens give birth.
What about education?
Education plays an important role in decreasing unwanted pregnancies.
Currently, less than half the states require the teaching of sex education in high school and only 21 of these mandate sex education and HIV education. This is largely because the majority of parents, mostly in Midwestern and Southern states, believe forcing sex education in schools runs counter to parental rights. As much as I believe we have to better educate our teenagers, let me assure you, there is no way I would remove a parent’s right to opt out of this curriculum if they prefer to teach this topic at home.
For those parents who may be ill-informed, uncomfortable, or desirous of a third-party to present sex education, there is a role that the US Congress can play. Congress can provide funding for the National Institutes of Health and leading sex education and medical professionals to create courses and then have an independent medical board review curriculum for accuracy and mandating that curriculum be based on information from published authorities upon which medical professionals rely. As part of this, sections dealing with pregnancy, its risks and its consequences, could be offered separately so that parents who want to opt-out of sex education for their children could allow access to pregnancy-focused content. Likewise, with a federally funded course, it could be distributed via the Internet and made available for parents to use at home. This entire program could be completed for under $500,000 and made available online.
8. High-quality and affordable child care. Most families need childcare at some point. As more and more families consist of two wage earners, access to affordable and high quality childcare has not kept pace. Childcare is expensive and licensed center-based care is unaffordable for families of poor to modest means. There is broad public support for more government spending on childcare as long as that spending does not result in another unfunded entitlement that worsens the deficit.
Claims that more spending on childcare will pay back the taxpayer in the long run based on better child development or increased workplace productivity are logical.
I believe we can provide a substantial subsidy for every child from birth to fifth birthday in a family at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which would positively impact nearly half the families in the US.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concludes that affordable childcare should not exceed 7% of family income. There is only one state, Louisiana, in which the cost of center-based infant care for one child meets that definition for a married couple with the median income for the state. In other words, childcare of the type and in the settings that experts favor for child development is simply unaffordable for the vast majority of working families.
What are the consequences of this issue? Among them lost productivity for employers due to parents missing work to handle gaps in childcare or to care for a sick child; lost wages and reduced retirement benefits for parents who have to drop out of the labor market to provide at-home care for their young children; a substantial downward pressure on the wages of childcare workers with effects on the quality and stability of the childcare workforce; and lost opportunities for further education, college savings, and other investments that working parents could make in themselves and their children but cannot afford because they are spending most or all of their disposable income on housing, health insurance, and childcare.
I have been formulating a solution to this problem and it may—let me reiterate that—IT MAY—be possible to fund affordable childcare programs across America by making one adjustment to the charitable deduction program in the US tax code. Don’t worry; I’m not suggesting we end the tax deductibility of your charitable donations.
Let’s start with some background on the charitable deduction and how it works. The charitable deduction falls into a category of revenue losses, so-called tax expenditures, attributable “to provisions of the Federal tax laws which allow a special exclusion, exemption, or deduction from gross income or which provide a special credit, a preferential rate of tax, or a deferral of tax liability.”
Specifically, the charitable deduction allows individual taxpayers and corporations to deduct from their taxable income in a given year the present value of contributions they make to nonprofit groups that are religious, charitable, educational, scientific, or literary in purpose, or that work to prevent cruelty to children or animals. Examples of organizations that qualify as recipients of contributions for the purpose of a tax deduction include non-profit educational institutions such as Harvard University, think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the Brookings Institution, hospitals such as St. Jude’s, philanthropies such as the Gates Foundation, and arts organizations such as Amati Foundation, which I founded in 2000.
Charitable deductions favor high wage earners. The charitable deduction is only available to individuals who itemize their deductions, which is about 30 percent of American taxpayers. Thus 70 percent of taxpayers, i.e., those who take the standard deduction, don’t take advantage of the tax benefits of charitable giving.
I am investigating whether requiring taxes be paid by the organization receiving the donation would fund many of the programs we'd like to see offered, and if so, could those funds pay for the creation of affordable child care programs? At first glance, I believe they can. There will definitely be push back against such a proposal and most of the negative response will come from people who don't run nonprofits or understand the ease in which a nonprofit can adapt to a 10% tax, so we'll have to educate those impacted. I can speak from my experience and say the nonprofit organizations I have been active in or supported financially could pay 10% tax on their income and still provide the level of support—in most cases—that they do now.
As noted earlier, increased childhood subsidies would cost just under $45 billion and would provide a substantial subsidy for every child from birth to fifth birthday in a family at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This is nearly half the families in the U.S.
Current federal spending on childcare and early childhood programs amounts to about $26 billion a year, so $19 billion more would be required. Total giving to charitable organizations was $390.05 billion in 2016. If we taxed these organizations just 10%, it would generate $39 billion which would provide full funding for childcare and early development programs, with a $20 billion balance which could be put into a federally supported training program to train childcare workers, provide low interest loans to childcare centers for construction of physical facilities, and leave hundreds of millions of dollars available for the development of training programs, STD classes, pregnancy education, and other educational supplements that could be created and distributed nationwide.
What will this do to the charitable organizations? Not much. Most organizations will begin planning to account for the 10% tax and within a couple years should be able to fully absorb the cost of this program.
You’d still be able to give to your church or animal charity and receive a tax deduction. What changes is the charity would be taxed. For instance, in the case of the charity I started, if we receive $1,000,000 in donations, our donors would still be able to take a tax deduction, but the charity itself would plan for the need to pay taxes on donations. If phased in over 3 years, charities and other non-profits will have plenty of time to adapt their programs to accommodate this tax. And, since these funds would be earmarked for childcare programs and early education programs like Head Start, there shouldn’t be anyone who runs a charitable organization complaining about having to give back a little to support America’s children and their families.
9. Get more women involved in STEM. STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.
Though the United States has historically been a leader in these fields, fewer students have been focusing on these topics recently, a dangerous trend for our future competitiveness. According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 16% of high school students are interested in a STEM career and have proven a proficiency in mathematics. If elected, I will find out if the Obama 2009 "Educate to Innovate" campaign to motivate and inspire students to excel in STEM subjects has worked and if so, how can we expand it to bring more young men and women—but especially women—into the program.
It is estimated the US needs 8.65 million workers in STEM-related jobs in 2018. The manufacturing sector faces an alarmingly large shortage of employees with the necessary skills—nearly 600,000. The field of cloud computing has created over 2 million STEM-related jobs with no slowdown in sight. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by the end of this year, the bulk of STEM careers will be:
Many STEM jobs do not require higher education or even a college degree. Less than half of entry-level STEM jobs require a bachelor's degree or higher. However, a four-year degree is incredibly helpful with salary—the average advertised starting salary for entry-level STEM jobs with a bachelor's requirement was 26 percent higher than jobs in the non-STEM fields. For every job posting for a bachelor's degree recipient in a non-STEM field, there were 2.5 entry-level job postings for a bachelor's degree recipient in a STEM field.
Not unexpectedly, Asian students have historically displayed the highest level of interest in the STEM fields. Prior to 2001, students of an African-American background also showed high levels of interest in STEM fields, second only to the Asian demographic. However, since then, African-American interest in STEM has dropped dramatically to lower than any other ethnicity. Other ethnicities with high STEM interest include Native American students.
As a way to provide women with a career path that will be in demand for the foreseeable future, encouraging and rewarding young women to enter STEM fields of study is a fantastic goal.
Middle-school girls outperform boys at STEM: A 2016 study of 21,500 eighth graders found that 45% of the girls were proficient at using their skills to solve real-world technology and engineering scenarios, compared with 42% of the boys. By the time they’re teenagers, however, a small share of girls plan to pursue a career in STEM: Just 11% of teenage girls said they expect to go into STEM, according to a survey published earlier this year by Junior Achievement, a youth-focused nonprofit, and consulting firm EY. That’s compared with 36% of teenage boys.
Why? Women's’ hesitancy to get into these jobs may be due in part to the images of scientists they’re exposed to early on in television and other media. Have you noticed that shows which children watch often depict characters that like science or math as social outcasts? They do! This perpetuates the idea that being interested in STEM makes you a nerd, which may be holding girls back from pursuing STEM studies.
It’s also rare to see a female scientist on television. A 2012 report from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media found that just 21% of female characters on prime-time television have STEM careers compared with 79% of male characters. With that kind of influence, is it any wonder girls don’t envision themselves working in STEM fields?
The share of women holding bachelor’s degrees in computer science and working in those fields is dropping at a scary rate. In 2004, 25% of bachelor’s degree holders in computer science were women. 10 years later that number dropped 7 percentage points to just 18%. As computing and engineering have become more elite and male dominated, women may have become more marginalized. It may have occurred unconsciously, but as these fields have become more prestigious and more elite, there’s been a move—most often found in tech companies like Google, facebook and others—to leave women out of it. We are going to turn this around.
During my career, I have been fortunate to have talented and strong leaders of all types within my companies. I’ve worked with many incredibly smart and talented female computer programmers and project managers over the years and one thing I’ve learned is that diversity is an advantage in STEM-related fields because two biologically different viewpoints are brought forth. When done correctly, diversity pushes companies to find, train, and support people who have talent, regardless of gender. If we apply this thinking to programs to make young women enthusiastic about STEM, we can, maybe not in this generation, but certainly down the road, bring millions of women into traditionally male-dominated roles that will have a positive impact on the future of our country, planet, communities and families.
10. Work toward realistic solutions to the rising costs of health insurance and prescription medications. As outlined in “12 Big Ideas for Nevada” the out of control costs of health insurance and prescription medications is a huge deterrent to women getting early and preventive medical attention. If we focus on ways to identify ailments early, we can address illnesses quicker and prevent many long-term complications. This will also lower the cost of healthcare in the United States; a benefit for all Americans.
I'll include this in #10, although it could stand alone. Like most people, I cheered when President Trump publicly stated his intent to give patients with terminal illnesses a right to try unproven experimental treatments. I was appalled when the House of Representatives recently voted on the measure and it failed because 140 Members of Congress, mostly Democrats, voted against passage and the measure failed. Those against giving you and your doctor the right to try experimental treatments said the bill gave false hope to patients and could endanger people dying of incurable diseases. What? You have an incurable disease and you are facing death and 140 people decided you could risk your health by trying an alternative treatment. Uhm, what part of “incurable disease” do these folks not understand? You are facing a death sentence so looking at any and all alternatives should be your right.
If you elect me to be your voice in Congress, I will work to get this bill, or one like it, passed, so that people with incurable diseases can try other forms of treatment, including new, not fully vetted by the FDA treatments, cannabinoid protocols, oxygen and vitamin therapies, and other treatments as a last line of defense in your battle.
As many of these policies are intimate and passionate issues for women, I invite your comments and suggestions. If you don’t want to include your name that is fine: I will treat all comments with confidentiality. Please email me at Bill@TownsendForNevada.com or call 702-330-2430.
You can download an Adobe PDF of this policy position here. Feel free to share it with others.
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A personal note to women reading this page. Why do I, a 53 year old man, believe I can be effective in pushing these ideas through the male-dominated House of Representatives? Because, sadly, data suggests men listen to men more than they listen to women. I was recently told about a company called Gong Research Lab that has been analyzing anonymized conversations with artificial intelligence to determine if men speak and listen differently to other men or women. It found that when women pushed an agenda to a man, she spoke about 48% of the time, meaning the listening phase was about even, too. When men pushed an agenda to another man, the listening phase jumped up and the pitch men spoke 28% less than the other way around. (I want to be transparent here. As I wrote this last section I thought it sounded odd because after all the things I want to work toward on behalf of women. I felt like I was saying that men can sell better than women or they can explain something better or they can comprehend faster. I don't mean to sound that way, in fact, I was simply pointing out data and statistical analysis that suggests men listen to men better than they listen to women. So perhaps a man in Congress, focused on women’s issues, can get the not so “woke” men to listen to him.)
America has an economic problem and it’s called Washington, DC. The weak economic growth of the past decade is not because Washington failed to do enough, but because Washington overstepped its role by flooding our economy with regulations, failed to address the means for businesses to get funding, failed to improve education to keep up with other countries, thus creating a highly skilled workforce, and for, until recently, failed at focusing on ways to put more money into the pockets of workers and business owners.
I have traveled all across this state and nation and I’ve met the most amazing people. Every day, I’ve seen the goodness and character of our country. I have met brave citizens proudly fighting through hard times and difficult circumstances to bring their version of the “American Dream” to fruition. What I’ve learned is the most important thing we can provide someone is a path to a stable job, for from there everything else grows—improved health, closer knit families, housing and food, and personal fulfillment to name a few.
Without a robust economy, crime increases, drug use increases, and people’s hope for a better tomorrow diminish. Nevada faces many challenges in order to combat crime, drug abuse, opiate addiction, and get people back to being productive fathers and mothers. Sadly, we’re not alone. Every state in America faces the same problems and it will require a concerted effort by federal, state and local law enforcement, governments, businesses, philanthropists, and drug treatment providers to solve these issues. In addition, the Federal government must be brought under control and Wall Street must be coerced to free capital for companies to grow, hire, and prosper.
Focusing on the root cause of our nation’s many challenges, we can see that lack of economic opportunity is the biggest impediment to successful careers, families, and communities. Above all else, without good paying jobs, the social ills we have experienced in the past few decades will grow worse. Without good paying jobs to support our neighborhood merchants; to buy a home or rent an apartment; to purchase a new car; to pay for health care; to pay for college; to vacation; to be able to drop $10 onto a blackjack table; to buy a new phone—whatever it is that you want to do—we cannot accomplish our goals.
As your voice in Congress, I will bring my 30+ years of business management, job creation, innovation, and creativity to government to seek ways to continuously improve our economy, thus leading to more jobs and better pay.
Where Nevada stands today.
Nevada’s top industries include Tourism & Gaming, Logistics, Manufacturing, Mining, Aerospace, Agriculture, and up and coming sectors such as renewable energy. I envision a future where we retain our strength in those industries, but grow the list to include software, technology, medical devices and drugs, electric vehicles, and solar panel design and production into the top 10 industries. In short, I envision a Nevada that offers a path to the future for our children and labor force.
Tourism and Gaming
We are home to a multi-billion dollar tourism and gaming industry. It is here the state rakes in fast cash and boosts its job market. Hotels, casinos, and other venues currently employ nearly 400,000 employees, with an average yearly gain of 2,500, according to Nevada’s Office of Economic Development. But the wages aren’t great, with an average worker earning only $31,000.
Jobs keep trucking into Nevada thanks to the logistics industry. This sector currently employs more than 66,000 employees, each one earning about $56,000 each year, according to the Office of Economic Development (OED). Nevada continues to focus its efforts on this industry and has plans to turn the state into a warehouse distribution hub, but along with this must be plans to continuously improve our highways and infrastructure and to ensure the addition of thousands of more tractor trailer trucks doesn’t cause undue congestion or damage our environment. In addition, with the coming of autonomous vehicles, we must prepare now to support our truck drivers who may become displaced by robotics.
No industry builds Nevada jobs faster than manufacturing, which may include everything from printing and publishing to slot machines and military supplies. This industry pays an average of $54,330 in yearly wages and has room to grow as we develop more tech-savvy college graduates and retrain those that want to move into advanced manufacturing roles.
Nevada’s mining industry has created more than 15,000 jobs in the state. Some of these positions represent the lowest wages in the region. Support positions represent the minority and are low-paying jobs, however, this sector pays an average of about $90,000, if you’re lucky to get one of the mining or administrative positions.
Aerospace and Defense
Aerospace is flying high as one of Nevada’s top industries with more than 13,000 Nevada employees, each earning about $78,000. Nellis Air Force helps drive this industry as a major hiring force. Located on more than 14,000 acres, the base employs 12,000 civilian and military workers.
Other industries of importance include agriculture and renewable energy. (Be sure to read “Nevada’s Future for my plan to return 15 million Federally owned acres to Nevada.)
Agriculture in Nevada is focused mainly on range livestock production. Nevada ranches rank third in the nation in size, averaging 3,500 acres. I will work to expand free grazing access for ranchers and to find ways to ensure water rights are maintained and irrigation is readily available for those who help feed Nevada and America. I'll also call for the Federal government to return between 10-15 million acres of land they currently control to the State. We can better manage this land locally, making it available to the needs of our citizens.
Renewable and Alternative energy
Nevada’s renewable energy portfolio has attracted significant domestic and foreign investment to the state, with its potential for generating wind, solar and geothermal power. Nevada is already home to the Tesla Gigafactory 1, a lithium-ion battery factory for Tesla, Inc. at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, and Hyperloop One’s test track for its high speed people movers, in North Las Vegas.
We have a superb opportunity to attract
entrepreneurs to base companies in Nevada to develop and manufacture world-class solar and wind energy systems and to convert sunlight and wind into low cost energy for all Nevadans.
In addition, companies including Switch and Amazon could be tapped to investigate and deploy high speed broadband across the state, even reaching remote areas with fast, inexpensive access. This will provide companies (and citizens) the backbone to the Internet that is required to compete in a global economy. Only 10.4% of Nevada’s citizens have Internet access at speeds of 1 gigabyte or faster. There are 220,000 people in Nevada without access to a wired connection capable of 25 Mbps download speeds. There are 225,000 people in Nevada that have access to only one wired provider, leaving them no options to switch. Another 100,000 people in Nevada don’t have any wired internet providers available where they live. Strong, stable, fast access to the Internet is no longer a choice, but a requirement for Nevadans to compete and communicate.
We must move quickly to supplement our service industries with their typically flat organizations that limit career advancement, to include a robust technology, medical, distribution, and manufacturing economy. Gaming and tourism is a solid foundation to build from, but we must look at ways to position our state and Nevada’s 4th Congressional District for future growth that corresponds with higher pay, which leads to lower crime, better school outcomes, higher property values, and better economic futures for all Nevadans.
As a lifelong entrepreneur who understands how to create jobs, I will work to create new programs and improve existing programs so people who want to start a business in Nevada can. It’s fairly easy to raise money if you live in Silicon Valley, Boston, or New York City, but it’s downright difficult, if not impossible, in Nevada unless you already have significant assets. I’ll push for small business lending programs that enable entrepreneurs to launch companies and create jobs and encourage venture capital companies to look more closely at all the great things Nevada’s entrepreneurs are doing.
We must expand the role of the Small Business Administration in guaranteeing SBA-backed loans to small business and make applying for such loans easier. In addition, we must determine how to enable those entrepreneurs, especially young Americans and women, who often do not have physical assets they can pledge as collateral against a bank loan, to obtain the financing they need to launch their businesses.
As a father of four and business owner, I see firsthand the importance of dramatically improving our education system. Put simply, we must demand:
To be competitive in today’s global economy we must tackle our nation’s health care issues, especially around cost which drains both company’s and consumer’s pockets. We must:
In Nevada, we must support growth beyond gaming and entertainment. One way to do this is to create what I call “Nevada Entrepreneurial Economic Development Zones” (NEEDZ). These zones can be based throughout our state and will become incubators for new businesses. These zones would provide 3- and 5-year “entrepreneurs in residence” for a small business to launch and grow, all without the need to worry about high Federal corporate taxes which would be capped at 15% for 5 years, giving companies the ability to reinvest more revenues than normally possible.
To support local economies, the startups will work with local legal firms to ensure they are incorporated properly with all the standard paperwork, avoiding legal time-bombs that could cause serious hassles and delays later. NEEDZ will work with local job banks and employment agencies to help startups find and hire their first employees. We can help with intellectual property questions, like what to patent, and when.
NEEDZs would allow Nevadans to develop their business ideas in an environment that is home to multiple companies, enabling the sharing of information, resources, and knowledge.
NEEDZ will create a new model for funding early stage startups. Companies would be able to apply for grants of up to $250,000, which would be invested in a large number of startups. Each grant would require the startup to provide equity in their companies which would be held by the US Treasury. Grants of up to $50,000 would be available for 10% equity in the company; $50,001 to $125,000 for 18% of the company; and over $125,000 to $250,000 for 22% of the company. Companies would pay back the grant over 5 years at a very low 5% annual percentage rate. When a company is sold or becomes publicly-held, the stock would be sold and the proceeds would go back into the NEEDZ system to fund future Nevada startups.
The startups move into a NEEDZ facility where they can gain access to a dynamic work environment, high speed Internet, video conferencing, printers and copiers, and other services that are typically reserved for well-funded companies who can afford Class A office space. NEEDZ locations can be placed in economically disadvantaged zones, reclaimed land, or Native American Tribal lands, and would have a main campus in North Las Vegas and satellite offices in smaller cities such as Mesquite, Pahrump, Tonopah, Warm Springs, and Ely. NEEDZ companies could work from any of the offices and patch into a network of support staff and services.
By creating partnerships with leading educational institutions, venture capital and Angel investors, as well as thought leaders in business, marketing, accounting, human resources, and more, we can develop what is essentially an MBA-type program of support offering hands-on assistance from Nevadans who have experienced success through their own companies.
NEEDZ will work intensively with company founders to get the company into the best possible shape and refine their pitch to investors to a point where they have something impressive enough to raise money on a larger scale. The program will introduce the business managers to later stage investors—or occasionally even acquirers—which can provide funding needed to expand and grow.
Although technology has made some jobs redundant, it’s also raised demand for tech-based jobs, and can help improve worker productivity. It is a double-edge sword though that is important for all Nevadans to understand. As robotics, data collection and analysis, and automation improve, more and more jobs will cease to exist. We already see machines taking the place of people in banks, at McDonald’s, and in companies around the country.
There is a line from William Gibson, the science-fiction writer, in which he says, “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” By looking at industry and technology’s impact we can see what is happening today and then extrapolate forward. Most of the automation is centered on man–machine combinations. Productivity means that when you have productivity increases, each person is accomplishing more. Therefore, the unit—the number of people to do this amount of work—goes down. This is a danger for under-skilled employees, and also an opportunity for more skilled workers.
An example of this is the transformation from an agricultural economy to a manufacturing economy. We used to have 41% of Americans employed in agriculture: raising animals, growing crops, creating food. Today that number is less than 2%. What happened to the other 39%? They found other jobs. There may have been pain in doing so, and that is a role of Congress, to make that pain a lot less.
I’ve toured leading manufacturing companies in Taiwan and China and though expecting to see mass amounts of robotics, which I did, I found that there is still about 40% of the manufacturing process centered on people. Some of this is due to the low wages in these countries but most of the jobs involve high pay. These non-automated jobs require high skills and, perhaps most importantly, adaptability, which, as we know, people are more adaptable than machines.
What’s a classic example of the man-machine paradigm? Uber. It is a technology platform that provides the means for someone seeking a ride to find someone willing to drive them. It has completely upset the traditional taxicab model of transportation in most cities. It has its share of problems and while disrupting licensed cab companies’ businesses, it has also lowered tax revenues to cities, created issues of safety for riders, and, with no real efforts to ensure the backgrounds of drivers are the safest one could find, it will continue to have problems occur.
Ultimately, man-machine technology is focused on making better experiences for consumers. This combination lowers costs, increases production, and speeds delivery of finished products to buyers. It also can lead to layoffs and companies growing to large sizes without the manpower traditionally required, which means fewer jobs. Amazon.com is a prime example of this: 15 years ago, pre-automation, a typical warehouse would employ at least 20 people. Today that number can be as low as 4 to 6 because of the automation of “pick and pack” the process of selecting items off a shelf and putting them into a customer’s box. At newegg.com we operated six warehouses employing hundreds of people. New pick and pack technology enabled the company to reduce the workforce while increasing productivity, and then retrain and reassign warehouse workers, often to higher paying jobs.
This is occurring in every industry.
While there have been optimistic predictions that new technology would increase prosperity and lower drudgery, very few of us are working the 15-hour work week that, in 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted would be the norm for his grandchildren. If anything, we’re working 15-hour days just to keep our heads above water.
Today’s technological revolution is an
entirely different beast from the industrial revolution, and of course, the agricultural revolution. The pace of change is exponentially faster and far wider in scope. Automation is blind to the color of your collar. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a factory worker, a financial advisor, or a professional musician: automation is coming for you.
The pessimistic scenario is compounded in that we have a serious youth-unemployment problem today. And when a large percentage of unemployed youths think they don’t have a future, that usually leads to some form of civil instability. Part of this instability is simply not preparing teens and young adults for the science, technology, engineering and manufacturing jobs that are coming down the pike.
Manufacturing is trickling back to the United States and the recent changes in corporate tax law are helping make that a reality. It’s not rushing back, because of the infrastructure costs, because of the difficulty in retraining a workforce, because of regulatory hurdles and environmental concerns. When it does come back, automation and robotics are core to its successful deployment. What might happen if we wait 5 or 10 years and that trickle becomes a flood? In “The Future of Employment: How susceptible are Jobs to Computerization?” Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne estimate that 47% of total US employment is in the high risk category of potentially becoming automated over the next several decades. I don't believe it will be that high, but it will likely be above 30%.
In former Nevada Attorney General George Chanos’ book, “Seize Your Destiny: Choices That Lead to a Happy, Successful, and Meaningful Life", he writes “the number one job held by American men (2.9 million of them) is truck driver. The number-one job held by American women (three million of them) is administrative assistant.” Both of these occupations are likely to be performed by computers rather than humans in the future and we’re already seeing large scale tests of autonomous trucks that require no human control at the wheel. A Tesla automobile has about 160 robots deployed in its construction. 50 years ago this would have equaled between 160-250 full-time employees.
Virtually any field—entertainment, gaming, mining, medicine, biotech, infotech, nanotech, energy, sports, whatever—every one, right now, is wide open to revolutionary transformational developments.
Maybe we’re looking at the wrong symptoms as opposed to looking at the fundamentals: we are not innovating at the speed of the economy. We are not adapting fast enough. But just about everything you can imagine can be automated. So what does that world look like? It’s hard to know. But in the short term, the number of opportunities we have in America is unprecedented.
Related to the issue of jobs is wage stagnation, which plagued the eight years of Obama’s presidency but has received a jolt in the last year. It’s an indicator of a broader problem with inequality: People with college degrees have made progress, but those who only got as far as high school have not. The result is many who have dropped out of the labor force, especially less educated men. While the skills gap among these two groups makes it reasonable to expect an income disparity, it could be smaller if we address STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) illiteracy and provide the programs necessary to retrain existing workers for the jobs of tomorrow. The positive thing about being a person who lacks these skills in today’s America is that, with the Internet, they can learn these skills no matter where they live. They simply need access to the materials and teachers.
Adding to that disparity, nearly everyone with the skills most in demand has been hired. That’s what Federal Reserve officials allude to when they say the economy is “near full employment”. In reality, it exposes the lack of skills among those who would prefer to work in higher-paying jobs.
Due to increased automation, a big push to boost American manufacturing, then, might not necessarily create more jobs. If a machine can make 400 hamburgers an hour, is the big burger company going to keep hiring employees who earn $8-$12 an hour and only make a fraction of that number of burgers? No. What we need to do is prepare people to run the machines that take low wage jobs.
The answers are right in front of our eyes: Education, job training, retraining, access to online resources to sharpen skills, the NEEDZ program, and an emphasis on exposing children to core STEM initiatives, moving away from memorization and toward higher order thinking skills.
What else can we do to create jobs?
One of the best things Congress can do to create a vibrant economy that creates jobs is to balance the budget and keep it balanced: the Republican Party used to be the Party of balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility. I will work to bring the Party back to center to focus on creating a balanced budget by:
I will not hesitate to cross the aisle to work with Democrats. If someone has a good idea that will help Nevada and America, I will support it. I don’t care if they’re progressive, left, left of center, moderate, right of center, conservative or far right. I don’t care if they’re white, brown, yellow, red, blue, purple...or orange...if the idea has validity and it will move America forward, I’ll back it. And I’ll be sure to let others know this and that I’ll expect their backing on issues I bring forward.
Many of the people running for Congress this year carry a message of working across party lines. Some, like Connor Lamb (D-PA), who recently won a special election in my old Congressional District in Western Pennsylvania, ran as a moderate Democrat who spoke out against his Party’s leaders and said, “I will work with anyone to protect our people and bring good jobs here.” That’s the kind of open-minded approach America needs to elect if we want to change the good old boys network in Washington, DC. That’s why I will pull all new members of Congress together to bridge Party lines and tackle the difficult challenges facing our country.
There’s an oft-repeated phrase in politics: “Democrats support labor and Republicans support corporations”. I’m here to tell you the two are not mutually exclusive. As a long-time business owner, executive, and founder, I’m proud that my companies never had labor issues, never had a strike, never felt like we were not competitive because of our people. Company management needs labor and labor needs company management. The old way of thinking, as was the case in the 1930s-1970s, was one of conflict: each side fighting for an advantage over the other. The new way is one of collaboration: management and workers teaming together to take on competitors.
Unions continue to play an important role in protecting workers and enabling collective bargaining. They are responsible for many of the workplace safety rules we now have and increased benefits for workers. I believe there are areas where unions need to make ingress, such as in the technology field, where often employees put in 50+ hours a week with no overtime benefits and no collective bargaining rights.
In my companies, we operate under an “Equal Pay for Equal Results” plan that compensates workers and management on reaching goals. We offer employee benefits that include health insurance, vision and dental insurance, disability insurance, retirement planning, fitness center membership, tax preparation service, above market salaries, instant bonuses, employee stock ownership programs (ESOP) and 10% of company profits are given back to employees under the rank of Vice President. We also put in place a program I developed over 20 years ago where an employee who finds ways to save the company money, earns a bonus of half the first year’s savings. It was highlighted in the Harvard Business Review which you can download here. The result? Motivated, dedicated team members who are working for a common goal and who hold each other accountable. These are the types of programs Congress can encourage companies to adopt.
To keep the budget balanced I will work with other members of Congress to put in place the structure needed to measure programs for effectiveness. America must scrap the big government model that spends more and more each year without fully understanding if programs can be better managed by other means. Due to over-regulation and more and more laws being past over the last half century, we now have many duplicate programs that need to be conjoined into one effective program.
Right now, government costs too much and delivers too little value. 535 people in Washington, DC cannot understand the needs of Nevadans. Our state and local communities can provide better value and more quickly respond to the unique needs of their residents, so its vital we look at ways to provide funding to states for programs better managed locally. By shrinking and breaking up the big Washington bureaucracies and sending their responsibilities and resources back to the states with fewer strings attached, Americans can have lower-cost government that serves them—not the other way around.
The US interstate system has long been finished and highway design and construction overseen by the states, the costly federal highway bureaucracy and its burdensome oversight of state highway work are barriers to growth. I believe we should return the majority of Federal gas tax receipts to the states, keeping just a minimal amount with the Department of Transportation for national priorities. We can then downsize the department and refocus it on safety and research support for states. We will measure the effectiveness of the states’ management of the funds. If we find that, for example, ten states are misusing the funds, responsibility for those funds will be returned to the Department of Transportation.
Nevada workers have different needs than those in Maine, Arkansas, Florida, and Ohio. Across its dozens of job training programs, Washington permits very little flexibility, innovation, or true responsiveness to employers’ needs. To reduce Federal costs and improve help for workers who need it, job training should be consolidated into a handful of grants funded federally, and administered by the states, thus providing them the flexibility to align training with the skills employers are seeking. This will ensure workers can upgrade their skills and employers can stay competitive.
Each state has different employer needs and we will bring that understanding to Congress.
As an example of the different labor needs, Nevada is in continuous need of qualified professionals with experience in gaming, entertainment, tourism, mining, aerospace, defense, agriculture, and energy. Compare this to Oklahoma where business services, government and health care are among its top industries: the education and training needs for workers is very different. Washington, DC can’t even understand what Washington DC needs, let alone Oklahoma and Nevada.
I generally oppose outsourcing of Federal jobs, but have seen times when it provides better service to customers. An example is giving military veterans the ability to choose any physician they want, regardless of whether the physician is part of the Veterans Administration. We may find that outsourcing elements of Federal departments to states and local governments (provided we also give the financial support necessary to operate these projects) is a better use of tax dollars.
Unleashing state and local innovation across the country is essential to providing better value and higher quality while containing costs. Pushing federal funding to the states is the most effective means to ensure each state can prepare for their future.
I intend to write legislation requiring mandatory cost-benefit analysis in rule-making so regulations don’t do more harm than good. This legislation will also require congressional approval for any regulation costing the economy more than $100 million.
I will call for a minimum corporate tax rate of 10% to combat the funny accounting companies like GE, Priceline and International Paper have participated in to avoid paying any federal taxes. Likewise, my plan to remove the cap on Social Security tax payments on those making over $128,400 in order to fully fund Social Security for at least 80 years and provide beneficiaries with increased benefits, will help the economy by ensuring millions of senior citizens have more money to spend, thus returning dollars to local merchants.
Corporate tax cuts put more money into businesses’ hands. In turn, we should expect corporations to use this newly found money for new investment and employees. In that way, tax cuts create jobs. But if the company already has enough cash, it may use the cut to buy back stocks or purchase new companies which can lead to job losses. I believe we should be looking at ways for companies to obtain lower tax rates when they create more jobs in America, and pay higher tax rates when they fail to do so with their tax cuts. The last thing we want is for companies who receive big tax cuts to use them to increase employment overseas. This is just an idea, but it may be worth investigating since the purpose of tax cuts for corporations is to increase investment in the company and expand employment.
High-quality infrastructure is essential to economic growth in Nevada. We need modernization of airports, roads, and bridges, locks, and dams to move people and goods into and out of our state, to attract new businesses, and to create new jobs.
To help boost infrastructure spending, I will introduce legislation establishing a two-year deadline for new major infrastructure permits. This will speed up the permitting process and put more Americans to work.
Across America, we need a secure, reliable electric grid that cannot fail. We need water treatment systems that keep storm water runoff out of our streets and guarantee safe drinking water.
I pledge to work on increasing energy from all sources—oil, gas, algae, nuclear, coal, sun, wind, and emerging technologies—to provide the affordable, reliable energy our economy needs, make us independent from overseas oil and allow us to achieve the goal of sourcing all our energy entirely from North America. To do this we will need to allow export of US-produced oil and end this artificial, counterproductive market distortion; increase access to oil and gas production on non-sensitive public lands with proper environmental protections; work to repeal regulations on energy production that are counterproductive to our nation’s safety and economy; encourage and fund research in new technologies that increase efficiency and conservation while reducing costs and environmental impact such as high-capacity, long-life batteries; fuel cells; the high-efficiency “smart” electricity grid; next generation solar and wind; and cleaner coal.
I will work with any member of Congress who is committed to creating a comprehensive infrastructure bill that will create good jobs, and unlike the massive tax cuts the wealthy recently received that just added trillions to the deficit, infrastructure investments pay for themselves.
Contrary to what many may say, it is possible to keep US incomes rising even if domestic employment falls. Technology can boost the returns we get from each hour worked. It can create new industries that could employ millions. It can facilitate more home-based businesses and home-based flexibility in working for companies. This in turn can create the opportunities to bring more women into the workforce, especially single mothers who may otherwise find it difficult to afford child care in order to take a job.
In the long run, these actions will benefit Millennials, those born in the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years. Millennials and the generation following them are the most broadly educated, ethnically diverse and culturally accepting generation in the history of modern America. They are born into technology and adapt to it and adopt it like no other generation. They are perhaps the first generation in the past century that is more concerned with finding fulfilling work than making money and they are willing to accept lower paying jobs if the jobs are rewarding. They are also the most likely to be able to effectively work from home or remotely, leveraging technology in ways previous generations can’t fathom. Everything I outlined here will assist Millennials in the job market, help them in becoming established within a community, and set them on a path to prosperity.
The US must move to an immigration system that assesses the skills and age of its potential newcomers to ensure that they have sufficient training and youth to make sustained contributions to the US workforce. For decades, Canada has operated a points-based immigration framework that has ensured its new arrivals are skewed toward the young and employable. As a result, the rate at which immigrants to Canada find jobs is the third-highest among industrialized countries, and immigrants drive nearly a lot of growth in the country’s labor force.
What people forget is that when there are innovations that destroy jobs—we’ve been doing that for at least two centuries—incomes are usually created for somebody else. These incomes may be spent, but if they’re going to be spent they have to be spent on something, and that something creates new jobs. We may not know what they are ahead of time, but we do know that something, whatever it is, is likely to creates jobs. Where the private market won’t do it—and there are lots of mechanisms in the private market that contribute to creating new jobs—but where it doesn’t create enough new jobs, then we can do it through monetary and fiscal policy.
As part of the planning for future jobs overtaken by robotics and automation and artificial intelligence, we must begin planning now for alternatives to support our citizens. A universal basic income is one option and, as your voice in Congress, I will work to determine what that may entail and how our country would afford such a program. We already know that expansionary fiscal policy expands the amount of money in an economy. It puts more money into consumers’ hands to give them more purchasing power. It uses subsidies, transfers payments including welfare and unemployment programs, and income tax cuts. It reduces unemployment by contracting public works. All these measures increase demand. That spurs consumer spending, which drives almost 70% of our economy. The other three components of gross domestic product are government spending, net exports, and business investment.
Expansionary fiscal policy works fast if done correctly. For example, government spending to stimulate the economy should be directed towards states spending on areas that hire workers through local companies, not on hiring more government employees. This immediately creates jobs and lowers unemployment, which, in turn, restores the consumer and business confidence. For instance, business owners believe the government will take necessary steps to end the recession. That’s critical for them to start spending again. Without confidence in the economy a recession could turn into a depression.
By making government smaller, less costly and more responsive to our needs we can get our economy going again.
By focusing on eliminating duplicate government programs, we can save taxpayers hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars a year.
By returning money to the states, who know better what is needed to move their state forward, we can increase local spending and jobs.
By putting the resources in place to secure our nation, protect our schools, improve the lives of women and children, reduce the deficit and federal debt, and seek ways to bring new industries to Nevada so we can grow beyond tourism, we can strengthen our families and communities, and reach our full potential.
As I’ve often said, a major problem America faces is education that has not kept pace with the world. The good news is that technology is beginning to create curricula that can transform education and by refocusing our job training programs for the industries of the future we can get ahead of the curve for once.
That’s why, as your voice in Congress, I will call a meeting of visionary technology, renewable and alternative energy, aerospace, and defense leaders like Elon Musk (Tesla, SolarCity), John Chambers (CISCO), Eric Schmidt (Google), Tom Steyer (Farallon Partners) Marc Benioff (Salesforce.com), Rob Lloyd (Hyperloop), Marillyn Hewson (Lockheed Martin), and Phebe Novakovic (General Dynamics) to understand their vision for their companies and what skills will be required to meet those future goals. I’ll also reach out to leading labor union Presidents like Richard Trumka (AFL-CIO), James Hoffa (Teamsters), Lee Saunders (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), Lily Eskelsen García (National Education Association), and my old union president, Mary Kay Henry (Service Employees International Union).
These leaders live and breathe the global economy day after day. They possess more insight into what is needed to prepare our country for the future than anyone in the Senate or House of representatives. Let’s learn from them to better prepare all Americans for the future.
Let me know what you think. E-mail me at Bill@TownsendForNevada.com.
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Nothing embodies the spirit of American patriotism like a man or woman in uniform.
A strong America is a better America and our nation must maintain a strong military and borders. We no longer need to be the policemen of the world, but we must give our active-duty and reserve military personnel the tools they need to face changing enemies.
As your voice in Congress, I will work to bring advanced technologies and capabilities to Nevada’s military bases, creating new career, recruitment, and expansion possibilities. Whether at Tonopah, Nellis, Creech, or other facilities, Nevada-stationed soldiers and their families deserve to work on the most advanced training and weapons systems available.
I will work to provide our Armed Services with the funding they require to maximize operational readiness. The services have each taken their own approach to averting a readiness crisis under the pressure of sequestration and continued operational requirements. The Air Force has looked to trim training and readiness to preserve modernization accounts. The Marine Corps has done the opposite, looking to compromise anywhere but on readiness. The Army and Navy are somewhere in between, propping up readiness in some areas and taking “risk” in others. The problem is that they must fight as one joint force. This haphazard approach to readiness is like having a pickup truck with good brakes, bad steering, and one working headlight, and a bed that is rusted out and can’t hold anything. A plus-up across the board would level the playing field.
I will work to put money back into modernization accounts. We must restore some predictability and consistency in funding for major defense programs like submarines, drones, air-refueling tankers and surface ships.
I’ll support programs the leaders of our military want and cut programs they no longer need. For too long we have let members of Congress keep bases open the military doesn’t want (at taxpayer expense) and buy weapons the top brass says we don’t need (in an effort to get funding into defense contractors’ accounts).
A couple years ago, all the armed services agreed that they would not be able to continue to meet mandatory missions under the National Defense Strategy – win a major war, deter the threats of a second, major enemy and protect the homeland at the same time.
The Defense Department's acquisition and procurement personnel were concerned with wasting money on equipment the services didn't need.
The defense spending bill included $120 million for tanks that the Army has repeatedly said it did not want. For three years, the Army in numerous
Congressional hearings had pushed a plan that essentially would have suspended tank building and upgrades in the US for the first time since World War II. The Army suggested that production lines could be kept open through foreign sales, but it didn't need any more tanks.
Retired Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno, in congressional hearings, stated, "We are still having to procure systems we don't need," adding that the Army spends "hundreds of millions of dollars on tanks that we simply don't have the structure for anymore."
Each time the military tells Congress they don’t want spending on unneeded equipment, Congress has pushed back. Why? Because members of Congress with defense contractors in their districts/states use government pork to win votes and keep employment going at these companies. This sounds like a great plan until you realize keeping those jobs may be putting the men and women of our Armed Forces in harm’s way.
"When we are talking about tight budgets a couple of hundred million dollars is a lot of money," Odierno said. "There are lots of people that have looked at procurement reform. And the one thing that has been frustrating to me is as the chief of staff of the Army is how little authority and responsibility that I have in the procurement process. I have a say in requirements, to some extent, but I have very little say."
In this particular case, Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, said that Congress "recognizes the necessity of the Abrams tank to our national security and authorizes an additional $120 million for Abrams tank upgrades. This provision keeps the production lines open in Lima, Ohio, and ensures that our skilled, technical workers are protected." There you have it. The real reason the tanks were pushed through was the Congressman wanted to keep people working in his district, even if the military already had 9,000 tanks and didn’t want any more. This, my friends, is one of the reasons we have runaway costs in Washington, DC.
Do you think the men and women who run the Armed Forces have a better understanding of their needs than an elected official? I do. That's why I pledge to listen to their recommendations and seek solutions to short and long-term needs.
This leads to understanding the important of new initiatives versus previous programs that may no longer be useful. It's also why having people with technical sophistication is important for Congress.
Tanks are useful, but compared to drones they are relics. On February 4th, 2002, in the Paktia province of Afghanistan near the city of Khost, the CIA used an unmanned Predator drone in a strike for the first time. The target was Osama bin Laden. Though he turned out not to be there, the strike killed three men nonetheless. The CIA had used drones for surveillance before, but not in military operations, and not to kill. What had once merely been a flying camera in the sky was now weaponized.
In the following years, the Bush administration authorized 50 drone strikes, while the Obama administration greatly expanded the program, authorizing 506 strikes over his tenure.
These were almost exclusively Predator and Reaper drones, piloted by a human hundreds of miles away in American military bases, interfacing with systems that resembled playing a video game more than flying a combat fighter. The pilots were so far removed from the killings that the military itself had a term for a drone kill – "bug splat."
In speaking with members of the military, drones, especially drones that act in concert—what the military calls “Swarm Drones”—will be the future of battle. A single Predator or Reaper drone will generally have multiple people involved with its flight and decision-making process. Not only do these drones require maintenance crews to repair it, each drone needs a human pilot on the ground to fly it. Perdix drones, on the other hand, communicate autonomously with each other and use collective decision making to coordinate movements, finding the best way to get to a target, even flying in formation and healing themselves—without a human telling them how. While a single person gives them a task, for example, "go to the local hospital" or "encircle the blue truck", the drones decide autonomously what the best way to carry out the mission, without human direction.
The Air Force released a 20 year flight plan for small unmanned aerial devices, outlining how they'd begin to integrate drones and find more ways to use them in their existing projects. The military also is currently exploring ways to embed this technology in conventional military forces such as supply trucks crossing the desert or vessels patrolling a foreign coast. In 2014, the Navy successfully tested autonomous swarm boats, with their technology allowing unmanned vehicles to "not only protect Navy ships, but also, for the first time, autonomously 'swarm' offensively on hostile vessels." At one point during the test, as many as 13 boats operated autonomously and coordinated their movements, all without a sailor actually at controls.
Of course, these types of advanced fighting technologies require funding and it is important for the security of the United States that members of the House and Senate provide funding needed for the projects the military says it needs. As an example, many feel the next generation of a swarm drone is a cluster bomb drone. Cluster bombs are munitions that contain multiple explosive submunitions—or clusterlets—and are dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground or sea, before opening up in mid-air to release tens or hundreds clusterlets that explode on impact.
Cluster bomb drones’ capabilities would be devastating, enabling simultaneous precision strikes on targets. Traditional clusterlets, which just fall, would be no match in precision and lethality as cluster bomb drones would instead navigate to a specific target once released.
These "cluster drones" could link up in the air autonomously once dispersed from the cluster-bomb shell to maximize their payload, or they could immediately disperse to separate pre-set targets. Each drone has a definitive amount of explosive attached to it. Once the cluster bomb is dropped, these drones swarm out of it, find their specific target, hit it and explode.”
Drone cluster bombs are just one subset of what are known as loitering munitions, or unmanned aerial vehicles that are designed to blow up targets that are outside of the operator’s sight with an attached warhead or explosive. Loitering munitions are equipped with ultra-high resolution and infrared cameras that make it possible for a soldier to keep the explosive in a holding pattern in the air while they identify and watch a target, before striking when the time is ideal.
It is important to realize the U.S. military doesn't have a monopoly on these kinds of drones. Up until recently, China led the world in drone development. Countries like Israel, South Korea, Turkey, Poland and Iran already have, or are looking to invest in, loitering munitions because they can be seen as an affordable alternative to a very expensive missile. In addition, the risk of soldier causalities is greatly reduced.
As innovations such as swarm micro-drones and loitering munitions continue to advance and expand how governments and their constituencies think of drones, the technology has spread to both state and non-state actors, sometimes with deadly results.
Development of these types of technologies will not slow down and funding must be assured to continue development and stay ahead of enemies and threats. We are going to have more robots taking on a greater number of tasks, and in many ways doing them in a smarter and more effective manner than humans.
Countries and non-state actors are going to come into possession of greater numbers of weaponized drones, and they will start to shape the battlefield in new and dangerous ways. From cluster bomb drones, to swarm drones and kamikaze drones, these threats are real.
As drones become cheaper and smaller, new threats will arise. A small, briefcase-sized drone could be dispatched from a parking lot and release biological weapons down the length of Freemont Street (as an example) or swarms of smaller drones could be used to bring down aircraft as they take off or approach airports. America must be ready with defensive capabilities for what is inevitable. Do we spend more on tanks because a congressman wants to keep the jobs in his district or do we spend more on weapons to engage and destroy the enemy’s offensive and defensive capabilities? These are questions that must be answered.
It’s time for Congress to allow the military to make decisions on what weapons they require to keep America safe.
Expanding Education & Training
Education is a vital part of any American’s ability to succeed. While each branch of the military offers tuition assistance programs intended to cover a portion or the entirety of a service member's tuition costs for a degree or professional certificate offered by accredited colleges, universities, and technical schools, the maximum coverage currently stands at $250 per credit hour up to a maximum of $4,500 per fiscal year for active duty service members.
However, according to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017–2018 school year was $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.
You can see the problem.
I want to give our active duty personnel, veterans, National Guard and reservists even more incentive to continue their education during service by the creation of what I call the Armed Service Education Training and Tuition (ASSET) program.
The ASSET program will provide college loans for the aforementioned men and women of our armed services. ASSET will be available to any personnel who either:
Loans covering full tuition at any US-based accredited college, university, trade school, or medical school, plus books and room and board will be available as long as a B or better grade point average is maintained.
The annual interest rate will be set at 2% with no increase with the interest used to administer the program.
For active duty personnel, after the first full year of college, 5% of their weekly take home pay will be deducted to pay towards the loan and if the recipient remains in the Armed Forces for 12 years, since the beginning of studies, he or she will have the remainder of their loan, if any, forgiven.
For those whose college degrees are earned under the ASSET program, upon graduation, they would receive a step up in pay as recognition of their new completion of a degree program.
Under ASSET, if you racked up a substantial amount of student loan debt before entering into the military, you may be eligible for student loan repayment or forgiveness depending on your qualifications and promised commitment. The details of this will have to be worked out but it provides a means for more individuals to serve their country and receive additional education benefits for doing so for enlistments of 8 years or more.
The program will be available for a son(s) or daughter(s) of Armed Services personnel permanently disabled or killed in action since 1990, who agrees to enlist in the Armed Services with the ability to earn their degree prior to active duty.
ASSET may also be applied toward the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) which allows service members to earn college credit by taking any of the 33 introductory-level college subject tests and receiving a satisfactory score. Nearly 3,000 colleges around the country accept the tests for college credit.
We must keep our promises to our veterans. President Trump signed legislation that will dramatically expand a program at the Department of Veterans Affairs that lets patients seek care from private doctors if they want to bypass the troubled VA system. This is a positive step forward, but there is much to be done.
As our Armed Forces personnel receive greater armor protection the loss of life has decreased but long-lasting physical and mental damage has increased. We must fund and study new treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and decreases in mental capacity, as well as prosthetics. Included in this must be cannabis, or “medical marijuana”, which has shown in initial tests to be a potential solution to PTSD, as well as promise as a non-addictive opiate alternative, especially when taken in oral form. As one of the leading states in “medical cannabis” cultivation, testing, and sales, Nevada should lead the way in development of clinical trials for PTSD, pain, nerve pain, and other illnesses.
Restructure the VA medical system.
The first step in fixing the myriad issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs is to fix the accountability problem. In 2017, Congress passed the VA Accountability First Act, signed into law by President Trump, that removes the red tape and bureaucratic barriers that prevent VA leaders from quickly firing bad employees.
Since the Phoenix VA wait list scandal, there remains in many parts of the VA a culture that has become tainted due to a lack of accountability. Wait list manipulation is still widespread. A typical example is VA employees classifying scheduled appointments as “desired appointment times,” even if the appointment is weeks or even months after when the veteran requested. Manipulated wait lists are not simply a means to rig the system to show accountability, it is a problem that leads to death for many of those awaiting care.
Misconduct is worse than wait list manipulation. A facility in Alaska held a job open for an accountant while he served a prison term for killing a man. The same facility also hired a convicted child molester, keeping him on the payroll while he repeatedly reoffended. This must stop and the only way to stop it is to fight the special interests (primarily the American Federation for Government Employees) to bring about changes in human resources management, accountability, and termination protocols.
The VA’s mission to serve our military’s veterans is failing. When Army vets like D.J. Skelton walk into the VA in San Francisco and find a bathroom toilet tissue holder still broken after more than three months, it sets a bad example of the lack of respect the VA has for our vets. As Skelton says, “great example of why I am pissy towards VA care. In the Army, this would never fly. We take pride in our equipment. Besides...it speaks volumes of the kind of leader that runs the joint. If you really care about your troops, you will ensure they have the best equipment..or at the very least..(crappy) equipment they have been assigned is in the best of condition...ready to deploy at anytime. One of the surest signs that your leadership doesn't care about you is when they let your equipment and tools go to (crap).” He continued, “I even looked for the inspection log to prove that it was inspected recently (due to OSHA and local Health Laws) yet...there was no health inspection log to be found.”
Skelton continues: “I make my way to the dental clinic to sign in (at the kiosk). At the end of signing in, it tells you all of your appointments you have in the upcoming 30 days. It displays I have none. That's odd. Earlier this morning I got an email from the VA listing at least 3 appointments in just the next 2 weeks. Ironically, yesterday, my case manager tells my all of my upcoming VA appointments, which are different than what the email tells me...which is different than what this Kiosk tells me. Sooo...who is right? Which appointments do I really need to go to?”
This treatment of the men and women who served our nation must stop immediately. There is no excuse for any organization, regardless of size, to be run in such a roughshod manner. Veterans continue to struggle with limited access, poor service, bureaucratic operational systems and processes. This must end.
If the Veterans Health Administration cannot provide the services necessary to ensure veterans receive timely and professional care, Congress must be prepared to allow all vets to receive care in the private markets and under-performing VA centers should be shuttered.
Re-entering Civilian Life
Over the past 17 years, roughly 3.5 million active and reserve members of the U.S. armed forces have left military service and returned to civilian life. For a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who has served in a military at war for more than a decade, reintegrating into civilian life can be challenging.
Veterans don’t return home to federal agencies; they come home to communities, and meeting their needs often falls on the shoulders of county and city organizations with little experience in re-homing vets.
The transition from uniformed duty to civilian status is not just a change of jobs; it is a change in almost every aspect of life: careers, responsibilities, homes, communities, lifestyle, health care, training, and more. If service members have families, the transition will also mean big changes for spouses and children, maybe even more so because these family members largely have no access to continuing support from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Our plan is to find ways for the government to partner more effectively with private and nonprofit sector institutions that are employing and supporting veterans. This means navigating complex federal ethics regulations to enable these partnerships to work, and sharing information between the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs on one side, and private companies and nonprofits on the other.
The Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs needs to work more closely with corporations, state and local governments, to open opportunities for placement of veterans. Many skills that veterans possess do not easily translate to commercial company operations because of how they are classified; thus, we need to help companies understand just what someone who served in logistics in the Air Force can offer a company. Members of Congress and their staffs are ideal conduits to reach out to their communities to put these processes in place.
As your voice in Congress, I plan to work with other members to design programs that can be deployed, tested, tweaked, and replicated across America and I believe Nevada is an ideal state in which to test these initiatives.
Supporting the transition of service members to civilian life is not just a way to keep faith with the men and women who have put everything on the line for their country. It is also an investment in the strength, diversity, and security of our communities.
People who have pets tend to have lower blood pressure, heart rate and heart-disease risk than those who don’t. Those health boons may come from the extra exercise that playing and walking require, and the stress relief of having a steady best friend on hand.
Research concludes that:
As your voice in Congress, I will introduce legislation creating block grants to The Humane Society of the United States to train and place rescued dogs with veterans who have PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), or simply wish to have the companionship of an animal to address stress or other medical conditions. This program will give our retired and honorably discharged men and women the therapeutic care necessary to fully engage in their personal and professional lives.
With PTS and TBI often come suicidal thoughts. It’s estimated that 20-22 veterans take their own lives every day, about on par with suicides by those under 18. New scientific evidence shows that specially trained service dogs are helping our veterans win the battles they’re still fighting.
Current adoption programs may take as long as two years; much too long to wait for a veteran who is in need of companionship now. The average cost to train a companion dog to enable him or her to perform in public, is $14,400. Our program will develop the outline of the training program, deploy it to every Humane Society location across America, and then match animals to veterans based on geographic location.
By creating a centralized training system that can be distributed nationally, we believe the time to train an animal can be reduced to 12 months and the cost reduced to approximately $9,000.
We will propose 3 categories of training for canines: a) a companion-type animal that is house-trained and obedient but not likely to be used in public (such as in a shopping mall); b) a dog that is trained to behave properly in public; and, c) a fully trained service dog capable of work or task training. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the US Department of Justice (DOJ) requires that service dog training includes work or task training. Tasks are disability-mitigating responses to cues that are intentionally given, for example, getting a bottle of water from the fridge or turning on a light switch when asked. Work includes passively-available trained behaviors that are offered by the dog in response to changes in the person or their environment, without the handler intentionally giving the cue. Examples include alerting the handler to a panic attack or to an alarm the handler doesn’t hear (for example, waking a veteran with a hearing disability when a fire alarm is activated). We will seek waivers from the DOJ to provide the first two types of training as many veterans do not require a work or task trained animal and work with DOJ to ensure the third type of work and task trained animal meets their standards. At a minimum, every dog made available through the program should reliably perform the following commands:
Approximately 3.9 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year with a projection that between 500,000-800,000 could be trained as companion animals. While this won’t cover every veteran who may want to adopt a dog, it could reach the most at risk individuals, and due to its nationwide presence, bring vets and dogs together quickly and efficiently.
The legislation will fund veterinary services in zones where convenient and low-cost care is lacking and contract with regional and national veterinary clinics and national chain pet stores to provide discount care, grooming, and food.
1 out of every 4 homeless men in the United States is a Veteran. There are anywhere from 529,000 to 840,000 Veterans who are homeless at some time during the year. Our plan to combat and end homelessness will provide veterans the shelter, training, tools, and communication/outreach they need to reestablish themselves.
Please read our “Homelessness” policy in “12 Big Ideas for Nevada” or download an Adobe PDF file here.
If you’re active duty or a veteran I’d love to hear from you. Send me a note to my personal email at Bill@TownsendForNevada.com.
You may download a copy of this policy paper here.
Perhaps there is no more polarizing topic in the news today than “gun control” and the call to ban so-called “assault rifles”, often known as the AR-15. Unfortunately, inaccurate statements on the part of media, gun control advocates, and even pro-gun rights supporters have muddled the facts behind gun violence in America. These include: Which households own guns, and the deeper, perhaps more troubling and more complicated causes behind mass shootings (e.g. mental health issues, the overuse of anti-psychotic prescription drugs, bullying and fatherless boys).
In this policy position I will attempt to give you a clear explanation of my views and why some actions on gun ownership need implemented and others, regardless of intent, would have negligible or no effect on violence in America.
As always, I pledge to give you the verified facts surrounding an issue and guns and violence are no different. You deserve to know where every candidate stands--in detail--well past the convenient sound bite. I hope to leave you with an understanding that the answer is not a simple ban on “assault rifles”, but is indeed, something much more complex, yet able to be accomplished. We’ll examine America’s gun culture, three common sense laws that would help restrict guns from those who should not possess them, the effects of prescription medicines such as Adderall and Ritalin on young people, and the more troubling statistic of what every mass shooter teenager of the past two decades have had in common: they were ostracized by fellow students and lacked of a father figure in their lives.
Introduction, background, and context:
I grew up on a farm in Western Pennsylvania, the fourth generation to be raised there. Safe gun handling was part of that area’s culture. We used to joke that we got two extra days off from school each year: first day of trout season and first day of deer season. That’s how many of us would miss school!
I learned to fire a rifle at age 12 after taking a course presented by the NRA called “Eddie the Eagle”. It taught me to both fear and respect guns and what to do if I found myself around someone with a gun. After the course, I went into one of our fields with my grandfather and we set up tin cans and other targets and spent all afternoon learning about what a gun does and how to handle it safely. We did this weekend after weekend. We went deer hunting together many times until I began hunting with a Pennsylvania State Trooper who lived nearby.
Years later, I took my sons, then 9 and 13, to a professional firearms training class for lessons on gun safety. We have taught our children to respect firearms, what to do if they encounter one, and what to do if a shooter is near them, just like my grandfather taught me and his father taught him. My boys don’t have much interest in hunting. Target shooting is of interest to only one, but at least they understand what to do if a gun is found and who to contact if one of their friends is waving a pistol or rifle around. I told some friends about this experience and two of them—both anti-gun—took their kids to a gun safety course so they’d know what to do if in the presence of a firearm. Both told me that the experience was very educational and they were glad they did it. One even purchased a shotgun for home defense and then took lessons on its proper use.
I obtained my first concealed carry permit in Pennsylvania at age 24—almost 30 years ago—and have applied for and held permits in that state, Texas and Nevada. I own firearms and frequent the shooting range to keep my skills honed. My wife is also a concealed carry license holder and we’ve made shooting one of our favorite hobbies. We own an AR-15 (“AR” stands for Armalite, the original manufacturer and does not stand for Assault Rifle), another rifle, a shotgun, and several handguns, all of which are kept locked in safes, except for the ones we carry.
We try to be responsible firearms owners and we train so that if there is danger present where we are, if it is necessary, and life hangs in the balance, we will step up to take action to stop the threat. That’s what we believe and that’s why we train in safe and effective firearms handling.
At the same time, I understand that guns aren’t for everybody. That is fine, and I respect those who have concerns about gun ownership. I hope by reading this you will gain a broader understanding of what has happened in our country that has made violence increase.
Many years ago I took a friend to a shooting range thinking he’d like learning how to shoot a .38 pistol, what was once the most common gun for police officers to carry and one of the easiest to shoot. Within twenty minutes I could see he was not enjoying the experience. He didn’t like the noise. He hated the smell of gunpowder. He didn’t see what was so fun about putting holes in a paper target 20 feet away. He simply didn’t feel a connection to shooting. I was thrilled he tried it, but again, just like for many people, shooting is not for everyone. At the same time, I have turned many of my friends on to shooting and have one who now spends her weekends in competitive pistol tournaments. Another began shooting for fun, so I turned him on to Ted Nugent hunting videos, and soon thereafter he became a bow hunter and started taking guitar lessons.
The next two paragraphs are important for you to know.
Let me be 100% transparent and state that I am a lifetime member of the NRA and I believe wholeheartedly in the 2nd Amendment, as I do in the entire US Constitution. Every right we have been given has come at the cost of human lives. I’m not willing to let those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice die in vain. I believe that with every fiber of my being. Too many of my relatives and friends have died or faced war for me to not recognize their contributions, and those of all service-men and -women, to our nation.
If you just read that and are ready to stop reading because you’re in favor of more gun control, please don’t. Read on. You see, while I have strong opinions regarding the importance of the US Constitution, and I wish everyone could be responsible enough to not commit crimes with guns, I also understand that we live in a world where that is not a reality. I don’t always agree with all gun-rights positions and I don’t agree with most anti-gun positions, which simply look at slogans and headlines as a way to deflect from the very real issues of mental health, fatherless families, bullying, social media, and more. Instead, I believe and support a common sense compromise on three important areas that will please the gun-control groups and be acceptable to the pro-gun groups, including the NRA:
1. Requiring a background check when purchasing a firearm makes sense and closing the so-called “gun show loophole” can help keep guns out of criminals’ hands.
Known as the “gun show loophole,” most states do not require background checks for firearms purchased at gun shows from private individuals-federal law only requires licensed dealers to conduct checks. If you walk into Spartan Arms or New Frontier Armory in Las Vegas, and wish to purchase a firearm, you will fill out paperwork and go through a federal background check, unless you already hold a concealed carry license. But if you walk into a gun show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and find a table of firearms and pick one out, and it is being sold by a private collector, you don’t need to go through the background check. It makes sense that the rules on purchasing should be the same regardless of who is selling the firearm.
Having all private sales go through a licensed dealer would close this loophole without infringing on anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights.
As you’ll see farther into this policy position when I discuss our “School Training And Readiness” (STAR) program, this change will support enhancing the Federal background check system, educating our youth about safety (including anti-bullying initiatives), and provide for security guards and facilities protection at our schools.
2. We should raise the age to 21 to purchase a rifle; the same age necessary to purchase a pistol.
This makes sense given young people’s lack of hunting and firearms experience as compared to 30 years ago, and their reduced social interaction skills and mental development levels that past generations evolved into. I have three teenage boys with lots of friends and have seen the negative impact of social media, texting, violence on television and movies, and a numbness to understanding what violence of any kind physically and emotionally does to a person. In addition, recent studies indicate that since the advent of the iPhone, teenagers minds do not develop as fully as they did 30 years ago. It is now understood that the brain doesn’t reach maturity until around age 25 and the glut of disparate and segmented information teens take in via social media has created emotionally disconnected individuals in greater numbers than ever before.
3. We must ensure states and the Armed Forces provide accurate and full information to the FBI NICS background check system.
We have a background check system to protect the public from those who should not purchase a firearm, but if we don’t have all states and the Armed Forces feeding information into the system in a full and timely manner, people who should not be buying firearms will slip through the cracks. An example is the gunman in the Sutherland Springs massacre who had been kicked out of the military for assaulting his wife. By Federal law, that should have prevented him from purchasing a firearm, but the US Air Force later admitted it had not submitted his records to the FBI’s background check system, National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
As your voice in Congress, I will work to ensure these three areas are addressed.
Please read on for a closer look at the causes and comm
on sense solutions to the issue of gun legislation in our country.
Why do these “assault rifles” get such bad publicity?
Because they look “mean”. They look like the guns our military personnel use (although they are not functionally the same). They are used in some crimes, (pistols are used in far more crimes), and often they are used in mass shootings, often in combination with handguns. In addition, the media has done a very poor job of explaining what a real assault rifle is—a military-grade, selective fire weapon that can fire multiple rounds of ammunition with one pull of the trigger—and how it differs from what the public can purchase—which is a look-alike semi-auto rifle that is most often used in sporting, hunting, and self-defense and shoots one round of ammunition with each pull of the trigger, the same way a handgun operates. The misinformation around “assault rifles” is rampant:
It is so bad, I recently watched a reporter fire a 12-gauge shotgun at a watermelon, which blew it to smithereens as a shotgun is designed to do, all the while explaining that it was an AR-15. It was not; it was a 12 gauge shotgun, commonly used to hunt ducks or rabbits. For those of you not familiar with firearms, an AR-15 fires a single bullet each time you pull the trigger; a 12-gauge, fires a single shell that may contain 30 steel pellets each time you pull the trigger. Both are, in the case of the video, semi-automatic weapons, meaning, one pull of the trigger results in one bullet or shell fired.
We’ve all watched Members of Congress make outlandish, factually incorrect statements about these rifles, that to knowledgeable firearms owners make no sense. Former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi’s statistic about the number of mass shootings in 2017 was echoed by former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, claiming, “There have been more than 270 mass shootings in the United States this year alone. That’s where four or more are killed.” Had either done their research and looked at the government’s own definition of “mass shooting”, they would have learned that there were, in fact, only a small fraction, nowhere near 270, in which four or more people died in a single event. How many? Between January and March 2018, there were 11 mass shootings that fit the government’s definition of a mass shooting. Eleven. It’s still eleven too many. To put this number into perspective, in 2017, according to Breed, there were 49 dog attack incidents that led to a human fatality. According to dropzone.com, there were 47 incidents of people dying from parachuting. Perspective and facts can be a humbling thing for people who are hell-bent on pushing an agenda for political gain.
Here are a couple more you may recall:
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-New York) stated, “The Second Amendment only protects the people who want all the guns they can have. The rest of us, we’ve got no Second Amendment. What are we supposed to do?” Really? The 2nd Amendment and the US Constitution applies to all Americans. Perhaps Ms. Slaughter missed civics class in elementary school.
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) said, “If you ban them in the future, the number of these high-capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available.” This statement left me shaking my head. She doesn’t even realize that magazines do not come with ammunition and are reloadable.
These kinds of comments from elected officials, daytime and late-night talk show hosts, and celebrities—the very people most likely to be protected by armed guards—show their lack of understanding of the issues and the US Constitution. It proves their complete lack of understanding of firearms, how they operate, what they are intended for, and how law-abiding citizens use them for hunting, sporting, and defense. It is wrong and it us dangerous because it shapes public discourse in opinion, not facts. And it needs to stop.
Even gun shop owners can make statements that are not accurate. In one case a shop owner told a reporter that with an AR-15 in his hands he could “fire about 300 rounds in 60 seconds”. What? That’s 5 pulls of the trigger every second. That’s not going to happen with a semi-automatic weapon that requires the trigger to be pulled with each shot fired. That’s not even going to happen with a military issued M16A4 or the lighter M4 in semi-automatic mode. Both of these are standard US military issue rifles capable of single, semi-automatic, or full-automatic firing (aka, machine gun). These rifles carry 30 rounds of ammunition in a magazine which is placed into the rifle in order to be fired. Once the 30 rounds are fired, the magazine must be ejected and replaced with another full magazine. Either this gun shop owner has the world’s fastest finger or he is simply dead wrong or debate perhaps he was trying to impress the reporter. Comments like this from a professional firearms dealer, are not helpful to the debate, but worse, they are completely inaccurate.
It goes to show you how important it is to get real facts and data when discussing the gun issues to which Americans are concerned.
Following, we will examine gun ownership, violence in the USA, and what has led to mass shootings and, more recently, bombings.
The NRA’s stance that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is a slogan that is technically correct but causes great consternation with many people. Of course we know this statement to be true, just as a bottle of whiskey or a car or truck doesn’t kill people; it’s the drunk or reckless driver behind the wheel that does (although with self-driving cars and the recent tragedy in Phoenix of one killing a pedestrian, we may find that “cars do kill people on their own”). But constantly referring to a slogan doesn’t solve anything and it appears to drive a bigger wedge between the pro-gun and anti-gun movements. More troubling, young people, most of whom have only known mass shootings since going into school and who never worried about other countries invading or bombing the US, are more likely to want to strip the 2nd Amendment from the US Constitution than any previous generations.
Violence in America is, much like homelessness, drug addition, job creation, and education, a multi-pronged issue that is going to take more than a slogan to fix. The first thing that’s needed is an honest, level-headed discussion.
A gun locked in a safe is not going to kill anyone, but once it comes out of the safe, and is in the hands of a human being, it can be used to kill someone: just like a baseball bat, hammer, golf club, or knife can kill someone. This leads us to the heart of the issue. The real cause of violence isn’t the gun, it’s the person. As soon as the “pro guns” on one side and the “ban guns” crowd on the other side come together and recognize this, the sooner we move on to enacting laws that reduce violence.
I have spent many years, dating back to criminology classes in college, researching and studying crime and violence, including statistics on gun violence. After the Clinton-era ban it became apparent, and supported by facts and data, that a ban on so-called “assault rifles” will have a negligible effect on violent crime if we do not address other areas—some more difficult, some easier—that can have a long-term positive influence on making America safer.
In most cases, excluding suicide, guns don’t kill people unless there is an evil person holding the gun. There are accidents, but most crimes involving guns are because someone is trying to threaten, maim or kill someone else on purpose.
How bad is gun violence in America?
Here is a comparison between two things Americans love: Guns and Alcohol. In this exercise, I’m going to exclude suicides as these people will find any way to take their own lives no matter what is available to them. (We should note that teen suicides have increased since 2007 and each year, 1,266,550 kids attempt suicide, an average of 3,470 attempts by young people grades 9-12 every day. 8,030 children commit suicide every year. That’s 22 a day. Something is definitely happening with our kids and we must get a handle on what is occurring.)
In 2017, there were 15,590 non-suicide deaths committed with a firearm; whether a pistol, shotgun or rifle. Every day, about 42 people die from gunshot. This includes those shot by law enforcement. About 1,297 children and teens are killed each year by guns, most by accident, but as we’ve seen in the case of school shootings, some lives are taken by mentally sick individuals intent on committing violence. Regardless, this is 1,297 children too many, although not nearly the 8,000+ that commit suicide.
During this same time period, 85,796 deaths were caused by alcohol. Every day, 241 people die from alcohol-related deaths and 28 people die as a result of drunk driving. Teenagers are responsible for approximately 2,400,000 episodes of drinking and driving a month. Read that again: teens are responsible for 2.4 million episodes of drinking and driving every month which means every year, there are almost 29 million episodes. According to MADD, about 500 kids, ages 1-18 are killed in alcohol-related vehicle crashes each year.
Here we have the statistics side-by-side:
To put this into perspective based on our nation’s population of 328 million people, gun-related non-suicide deaths occur to 0.005% or our population, while alcohol-related, non-suicide deaths occur in 0.027% of our population. Even if we included suicides by gun, the total gun-related death rate would be 0.001%, still well below alcohol-related deaths. Not to take anything away from the tragedy of gun violence, but gun deaths are equal to just 17% of alcohol-related deaths; and yet, we don’t see people protesting in the street to ban alcohol.
Firearms ownership generally does not lead to more dangerous activities, and when it does, drugs and mental health issues are usually involved. For instance, owning a sporting rifle doesn’t make you want to own a tank or rocket launcher.
On the other hand, alcohol usage does lead to more dangerous activities. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida has shown that alcohol is the #1 “gateway drug”, leading to the use of tobacco, heroin, and other illicit substances. Moreover, students who used alcohol exhibited a significantly greater likelihood of using both licit and illicit drugs.
Again, we don’t hear calls to ban alcohol, so there must be something else about guns that causes so much concern.
How do gun-related deaths compare to other death rates in America? Let’s take a look at the Center for Disease Control’s statistics from two years ago on numbers of deaths that are largely preventable (thus, this list does not include things like cancer, stroke and Alzheimer’s).
Every death is tragic for the family and loved ones of the victim, however, when death by gun is viewed in the grand scheme of what is killing Americans, it is pretty low down the totem pole. If it weren’t for the media splashing it across our television, computer, and smartphone screens every day, we’d hardly know it existed unless we were personally affected.
I hear some people say, “you’re comparing apples to oranges” or “dying of heart disease or diabetes is your choice, not some madman’s choice,” and you know what? You’re right. They are different, but it is important to first understand just how many people die and of what causes in order to have an intelligent discussion about these topics.
Many more people die as the result of someone else’s driving than do gunshot.
By looking at the entire picture, it helps set the stage for more than just discussions on gun control, but discussions on opiate abuse, prescription drug abuse, drunk driving, diseases caused by processed foods, and smoking, which has been proven, over and over again to cause disease and death, yet we see no anti-Fentanyl, anti-smoking, anti-Big Mac, nor anti-deep fried chicken protesting.
What are the facts on gun ownership?
The media likes to trot out the statistic that there are “as many guns in America as people”, which are about 300 million firearms of all makes, models and calibers. What they don’t say is that this figure includes firearms such as muskets and non-functioning weapons. They also don’t tell you the fact that gun ownership by household has actually gone down. That’s right. Down. The percent of American households owning guns is at a near-40 year low, with about 41-42 percent of U.S. households owning at least one gun. There simply has not been an increase in gun ownership as a percentage of households. General access to guns has not changed significantly in the past 100 years.
So why all the uproar about gun violence? As I stated, the media is largely to blame for making crimes with guns a big part of what they cover. When is the last time you heard someone on the news talk about “241 people died yesterday from drinking alcohol”? You don’t. But you very may very well hear about someone murdered during a crime by a criminal with a gun. Why? Because it is sensationalism at its best and that is what attracts people’s attention, which leads to higher ratings for media networks, which leads to higher advertising revenue. The media doesn’t normally accept advertising from gun makers, but they take hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising from beer and booze makers. Guns scare many people. A can of Budweiser does not. A Big Mac does not. Colonel Sanders? He’s no big threat.
Today, the majority of young people have never gone hunting and have a very different view on guns than people born in the pre-1980s era. Their view of guns is based largely on what the media, video games, and Hollywood show them. For those of you old enough to remember TV shows in the 1960s and 1970s, you will remember firearms in shows like The Lone Ranger, Ponderosa, Wild Wild West, and my favorite, Cimarron Strip. What happened when someone was shot? They clutched their heart and fell to the ground. No blood. No guts splashing everywhere. Compare that to television shows of today, like Stalker, CSI, and 48 Hours on CBS, Hannibal on NBC, The Walking Dead on AMC, Sons of Anarchy on FX, even Game of Thrones on HBO and even news outlets that consciously make violence a core part of the programs. With the amount of violence, blood, and gore on television, is it any wonder our last two generations have grown immune to its real-life consequences? No. Can it be changed? Yes.
As a firearms owner who also enrolled and gone through police training to learn more about law and the use of guns in self-defense and crime, I may be able to look at the gun issues with a wider perspective than most. I know fanatical 2nd Amendment people who want nothing more than the outright ability to buy any kind of gun and carry it anywhere with no training required, and I know people who would never pick up a gun, even if you offered them $100 to do so. Somewhere in between lay the majority of Americans.
I had dinner the other evening with a business partner from Australia and his friend who lives in London, England. When I asked about the consequences of the government’s confiscation and buy-back of guns several years ago the first thing out of his mouth was, “I wish I had the right like Americans to defend myself.” Think about that for a second: this is a person whose government said he could not own a gun and he looks upon America, and even with all the violence in our country, he wishes he had the privileges the 2nd Amendment grants you. He then went on to tell me how other forms of violence and murder have increased since the gun ban, with people committed to harming others turning to ramming cars down busy walkways and using knives and swords, often times leaving more grizzly damage than a bullet causes.
The woman from England told me that largely due to the influx of refugees and immigrants, acid attacks—where acid is thrown, splashed or poured on people—and rapes and sexual abuse, have grown exponentially and are at an all-time high. She said London is now the #1 city in the world for acid attacks. She then said, “I would rather be shot and die than be permanently disfigured by acid poured on my face.” Both were upset that, unlike Americans, being able to keep and carry firearms as a means of self and family protection is not allowed in their countries.
Again, perspective gives us views we may not normally consider.
I try to evaluate all sides of the conversation and listen to the kids and families affected by school violence; to the Far Right that tries to compare gun deaths with abortion deaths, to members of law enforcement, to the concerns and fears of the anti-gun groups, to those on the far left who march in protest while being protected by armed security; to those who have never fired a gun; and read as much as I can on the entire debate.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
Can we make access to guns more difficult for mentally impaired individuals while keeping and still honoring the intent implied by our Founding Fathers regarding American’s 2nd Amendment rights? Absolutely.
We know that about 18% of crimes committed with a firearm are committed by the owner of the gun. These are people who have legally purchased a firearm. In most cases, the crime they commit is carried out with a pistol or revolver. Both of these weapons, like an AR-15, fire one round of ammunition with each pull of the trigger. Revolvers typically hold six bullets and pistols typically hold anywhere from 5 to 19 bullets.
We also know that 78% of all crimes committed with a firearm involve a gun that was stolen or obtained without the owner’s permission. Criminals generally do not walk into gun shops and fill out forms that result in a Federal background check occurring. No, criminals obtain the majority of their firearms illegally; however, there are ways to decrease criminals getting their hands on weapons.
This does not explain the mass shootings and other firearms crimes that occur with weapons purchased legally, such as what we witnessed in 2017 in Las Vegas when a lone-gunman with significant mental issues and hate toward others opened fire on a concert venue. Apparently, even his girlfriend did not know he planned a mass shooting. The hotel where he stayed did not seem to think a person hauling over 20 suitcases and bags into his hotel suite for a 1 week stay was cause for concern. Many clues were missed, but most would never have raised concern with people. What it showed is that, over and over again, mass killers seek out and obtain firearms, often through legal means or in states with lax gun purchasing requirements, and then they seek weak targets such as open air concerts and schools. Some take guns from people who purchased them legally, such as was the case with the shooter in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The loopholes that allow mentally ill and drug-impaired shooters to get access to weapons are things we can fix without infringing on the 2nd Amendment rights of law abiding individuals. They are fixes pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association and gun control groups like The Brady Campaign should support.
We must all agree that one of the biggest challenges to violence is that criminals, those most likely to commit a violent act against another person, do not obey the law. Therefore, a fundamental problem with efforts to increase gun control with hopes it will have a measurable impact on violence is that criminals don’t obey laws and we cannot expect them to begin doing so in the future.
Realistically, only law abiding gun owners are going to fall under and adhere to new regulations while criminals continue to obtain guns illegally. Since criminals don’t follow the rules of society, most new regulations proposed on gun ownership only serve to burden lawful owners while doing little to combat crime.
When 4 out of 5 guns used in a crime are
stolen or taken without the owner’s permission, how do you stop it? Unfortunately, I have not read a single proposed solution from anyone who has served in Congress and, while what I’m about to recommend has not been proven (yet), I do believe a combination of tactics to address ownership, straw purchasers, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs, and age, can have a positive effect on reducing firearms purchased or obtained under dubious circumstances.
It’s likely that many guns on the black market got there via what’s called “straw purchases”—where a person purchases a gun from a dealer without disclosing that they’re buying it for someone else. This is ILLEGAL under federal law. It is illegal for any person not in possession of a Federal Firearms License to purchase a firearm for the benefit of someone who would not normally be allowed to purchase, and yet, it continues.
We can reduce straw purchases by enacting legislation that creates co-responsibility, from a financial standpoint, if someone using your firearm commits a crime. If you purchase a firearm and give or sell it to someone and that gifting or sale does not go through a FFL dealer, you should be held liable if that gun is used in a crime within 2 years of purchase, unless the gun was stolen and it is reported stolen before the crime occurs.
At the same time, we should encourage lawful owners to purchase specific liability insurance to protect against such crimes should they occur. Responsible gun owners likely already have theft insurance on their weapons. Perhaps the best way to push for the adoption of liability insurance, is to pass co-responsibility legislation and then the NRA and other groups can create liability insurance programs which should become popular with law-abiding gun owners who worry about theft of their firearms. The NRA and other pro-gun groups already offer some insurance plans for gun owners, so they would theoretically sell more insurance policies and thus approve of requiring liability insurance coverage to increase sales across all gun owners. But...keep in mind criminals will not purchase liability insurance.
We must continue to push the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) to crack down on irresponsible firearms dealers.
Past research has demonstrated that a small fraction of gun dealers are responsible for the majority of guns used in crimes in the United States. BATF knows exactly who these gun dealers are, but they’re not allowed to share that information with policymakers or researchers due to a law passed by Congress way back in 2003. As a result, solutions for stanching the flow of guns from these dealers to crime scenes remain frustratingly out of reach for public-health researchers. We should immediately call upon Congress to rescind this law so that up-to-date data can be compiled, including the number of people who were on legal and illegal drugs at the time of the murder.
A broad federal review, conducted by a task force of scientists appointed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the nation’s gun control laws—including bans on certain weapons and magazine sizes—found no proof such measures reduce firearm violence. The task force reviewed 51 published studies about the effectiveness of eight types of gun-control laws. The laws included bans on specific firearms or ammunition, measures barring felons from buying guns, and mandatory waiting periods and firearm registration. None of the studies were completed by the federal government. In every case, a CDC task force found “insufficient evidence to determine effectiveness.” This doesn’t mean a waiting period or “cooling off” period can’t be a part of sensible firearms regulations as the last thing anyone wants is someone to get mad at their spouse, rush out to buy a handgun, then return home and commit murder.
About 2 years ago, a young man bought a .45-caliber Glock pistol at a Charleston, S.C.-area gun store despite confessing to drug possession a month earlier. The seller ran a NICS background check, which was delayed and assigned to an FBI official in West Virginia. The official failed to discover the confession for drug possession before three days had passed, and the sale to the man was completed. The confession would have disqualified him from buying the gun he used to murder nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015. Now you see why NICS needs to be updated and made mandatory for all states, US territories, and the Armed Forces to report into.
How do we prevent the likelihood of this occurring in the future? Again, we need to take a common sense approach to the issue. Let’s enact a 7 to 10-day waiting period on all gun purchases, whether individual or through a dealer, and do so nationwide so the argument that is used in Chicago for instance, that criminals simply cross the state border to Indiana to buy guns because their laws are lax, ends. Let’s ask the FBI, which operates the NICS database, to present data on what length of waiting period is most likely to decrease shootings and keep guns out of the hands of those who would choose to commit violence. According to the FBI, roughly 92% of checks render an instant verdict. If a check is clean, the gun is sold. If it’s denied, the sale doesn’t go through. In about 9% of cases, the verdict is delayed, and the seller has to wait three days. If there is no verdict after three days, the sale can go through. Do we really want to take a 1 in 10 chance a person checks out? Let’s end this three day period and make it 7 to 10-days, giving the FBI sufficient time to conduct thorough background checks. In no way does this interfere with our 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms.
The firearms industry has a long record of supporting background checks. The existing background check system must be fixed, however, and increasing the number of prohibiting records is the best way to keep prohibited individuals from purchasing firearms, without punishing law-abiding retailers and firearms owners.
For the “gun control” lobby, this would be seen as a good compromise with them finally getting their long-sought mandatory waiting period.
Another way to think of this is in regards to immigration. We would never want to limit our immigration policy to include a 3-day timer on an immigrant’s application, especially from a terrorist linked state, but with regard to firearms, we expect our government to have all checks completed within 72 hours. We are better off erring on the side of caution and enacting a 7 to 10-day waiting period.
Implementing a 7-10 day “cooling off” period provides a logical approach for those who may need to have additional screening completed.
In Nevada, if you are a concealed carry weapon license holder, you can walk into a gun shop and purchase a firearm at that moment. After speaking with dozens of CCW holders, most of whom are also NRA members, the vast majority agree that a 7 to 10-day waiting period for those who have not gone through the rigors of applying for and being granted a concealed carry license is reasonable. For concealed carry license holders, the ability to instantly purchase a firearm upon presentation of their CCW recognizes their additional training, testing, and background checks. Interestingly, of the 44 people I spoke with on this topic, 38 said they’d have no problem with a 3-day waiting period for CCW holders which goes to show how the majority of legal gun owners want to make gun ownership safer.
Hunters, sport and competitive shooters, and people who purchase a firearm for home defense generally do not wake up Friday morning and decide to go buy a gun that day. They research their options. They talk to friends and dealers. They usually take several weeks to decide to purchase a firearm. A 7 to 10-day wait for for new owners and an instant or 3-day wait for pre-approved concealed carry licensees does not infringe on the 2nd Amendment rights of individuals, nor does it create an undue hurdle for people to jump over.
Let us come together as a nation and apply common sense to our laws and close the “gun show loophole” and require all transfers of firearms sold or gifted—pistols, revolvers, rifles and shotguns—be transferred through a federally licensed dealer. This is a minor inconvenience to law-abiding gun owners, but we are also the ones who will understand why this is necessary in today’s environment. This law, accompanied by a 7 to 10-day background check waiting period, would give the Federal government time to complete a comprehensive background check on each purchaser. There is no reason that every firearm transaction, whether a purchase or gift, should not be facilitated through a federally licensed firearms dealer.
There will be those who are adamantly against what I’m about to propose: We should enact Federal legislation that limits anyone under 21 years old from purchasing a firearm or any type of gun—whether a revolver, pistol, shotgun or rifle (today, you cannot buy a revolver or pistol until age 21, but you can buy rifles). You must be 21 to buy alcohol. You must be 21 to buy a handgun, but you only need to be 18 to buy a rifle. Let’s standardize the age of ownership to 21 years old. This may keep teens, such as the Florida school shooter, from buying guns and make parents more responsible for the actions of their children. Parents who want their kids to learn to shoot can purchase a gun and let their kids use it, but the responsibility and ownership of the firearm must be kept at the parental level until their child is 21.
I have found—and significant research has shown—most 18 year olds are not at the emotional maturity level as 18 year olds were 30 years ago. I believe this is because of the decay of the family unit, the massive number of fatherless children, the instant gratification they seek through social media, and the fact that they don’t have the hours upon hours of real face time with friends that previous generations had. Add in the fact that 11% of our children are classified as having learning or behavioral issues and are put on anti-psychotic drugs (compared to just 1% prescription levels in the United Kingdom and Japan), and you can see that being a teenager today is vastly different than it was 30 years ago. Increasing the purchase age an additional 3 years should help prevent recent graduates or drop outs from wanting to exact revenge on their old school and it does not curtail anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights. A teen that wants to go hunting or target shooting can do so by using their parent’s firearm, just as many teens who want to drive a car borrow their parent’s automobile.
Psychologist and author Jean Twenge found today’s youth have poorer emotional health thanks to new media. She found that new media, a.k.a. social media, is making teens more lonely, anxious, and depressed, and is undermining their social skills and even their sleep. Research has also shown the prescribing of anti-psychotic drugs for the treatment of ADHD and other behavioral problems increases irritability, depression and thoughts of violence and suicide.
How bad is the emotional maturity of teens today?
Homicides among children declined between 2007 and 2014, but suicides rose by 60 percent. The study, taking data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System database, found that about a third of the children who committed suicide had been depressed, while about a quarter had been clinically diagnosed with a mental health problem. Teens are getting depressed over things adults never imagined: not getting enough “likes” on their Instagram post, cyber-bullying, keeping up with the Kardashians, the political turmoil in Washington, DC, Hillary Clinton’s defeat and a job market that makes it harder for teens who traditionally filled most slots in fast food restaurants—which are now given to adults—to get jobs. As all of us who had a job as a teen knows, this aids in emotional development.
Intellectually, teens today are exposed to and consume more information than earlier generations. In many ways they have been forced to grow up too quickly. However, this worldly experience does not always translate to maturity in teens and may even stunt their emotional development.
Today’s teenagers grew up with cell
phones and tablets in an always-on/always-connected society. They had an Instagram page before they started high school and do not remember a time before the Internet. Most only remember two Presidents: Obama and Trump. Most were not alive when 9/11 occurred. None experienced the arms race and the constant fear of nuclear war. None remember the Iran hostage situation or the bombing of the US Embassy in Libya. None grew up when violence on television only occurred after 10pm. Most were not playing the highly popular, yet benign, video games of 30 years ago: Pacman, Asteroids, and Pong.
Being a young person today is entirely different than previous generations. Teens spend five to six hours a day texting, chatting, gaming, web surfing, streaming and sharing videos, and hanging out online. They play first person shooter games that glorify violence. They listen to music that is violent and demeaning to women. They watch shows that have more gore and graphic violence than at any time in American history. A record number come from fatherless households. Worse, they are addicted to their cell phones, spending an average of 9 hours a day on them. That’s over 1/3 of the day! Those ages 8 to 12 aren’t doing much better, spending 6 hours a day on their devices.
Parents are putting digital devices into the hands of children at an earlier age than ever before. While some researchers have equivocated about the impact, one aspect of this new digital life has proven real: More than two hours a day raises the risk for serious mental health problems.
Regions of the brain that specialize in language, for example, grow rapidly until about age 13 and then stop. The frontal lobes of the brain which are responsible for high level reasoning and decision making aren’t fully mature until the early 20s, according to Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, a neuroscientist at Harvard’s Brain Imaging Center. This is different than 30 years ago when 18 year olds were more mature. This is another good reason to raise the age to purchase a rifle from 18 to the same age to purchase a handgun, 21.
It is provable that the national rise in teen mental health problems mirrors the market penetration of iPhones—both take an upswing around 2012. This is correlational data, but competing explanations like rising academic pressure or the Great Recession don’t seem to explain teens’ mental health issues. And experimental studies suggest that when teens give up social media sites for a period of time as short as one week, or spent time in nature without their phones, for example, they become happier.
We need to face the fact that today’s young people are simply not at the emotional level as past generations and probably should not be able to purchase firearms until age 21 (these studies have potential impact on other areas such as determining if teens are emotionally capable to drive at 16, serve in the military at 18, or even start college right after high school.)
Speaking of the military, some will say, “How can you tell an 18 year old he’s old enough to serve in the military, but not old enough to purchase a rifle?” The answer is simple: When you join the military, you are thoroughly trained in how to use a firearm: you are proven to be emotionally mature or else you are discharged.
As your voice in Congress, I will fight to uphold the 2nd Amendment and to work on common sense approaches to violence eradication, school safety, and social media influence.
I believe that legislation to make gun ownership safer should focus on:
Once a state reaches these requirements, residents of that state may begin national concealed carry upon the re-issuance of their license or permit, under the new guidelines. I propose a person is eligible for a license to carry a concealed handgun if the person:
I would support focused legislation that required completion of a gun safety course before being able to obtain a concealed carry license that was recognized across America and believe most responsible gun owners will say the same. As one told me, “we already make people study for and pass a driver’s test, why not require the same for carrying a gun?” Maybe it is a 16-hour course like Nevada’s; held over 2 days that includes classroom and shooting range lessons and testing. Many gun shops already offer such courses. As a gun owner and concealed carry license holder, I feel safer knowing other CCW licensees will have gone through the same training I have.
I am sure Congress, along with representatives from law enforcement and from states with highly rated concealed carry training requirements can design a course that could be deployed nationwide. This can be done in conjunction with our plan to fund school safety which you can read in the “12 Big Ideas for Nevada” section of our website.
I don’t say this lightly, but had the ideas presented here, along with our school safety plan been implemented, it likely would have prevented the bloodshed at nearly every school shooting of the past decade.
Nevada requires everyone requalify for their concealed carry license every 5 years. Yes, it’s inconvenient to have to spend a day with instructors, but it is good practice to have a trained professional review the laws and watch you handle a firearm every 5 years. If I get to the point where I am at the age where I am unsafe with a firearm, this requirement would hopefully get me to stop carrying and to pay more attention to my skills. Who knows? Maybe when I’m 85 I won’t feel the need to protect myself and my family with a gun. If I don’t pass the 5-year test, an instructor will ensure I don’t get my license renewed. I can still own a gun and keep it in my home for protection, but if I barely pass or the instructor sees things I need to work on, it may be enough for me to decide that due to declining physical and mental abilities, I probably shouldn’t carry a firearm anymore.
The beauty of this approach is it is still an individual choice and that is what most people want—to make their own choices about the way they live.
A difficult element of this plan would be requiring psychiatrists who prescribe anti-psychotic prescriptions to inform Federal authorities of the patient’s information when they believe the patient may be a threat to him/herself or the community so that this could be logged into the Federal background database used for firearms purchases. HIPPA laws may prevent this and would need to be changed. Again, using common sense, any person under the care of a licensed psychiatrist and who is prescribed anti-psychotic medications and under the advisement of the doctor believes the person to be a risk to the community or themselves, should not be allowed to possess a firearm while on the medication and certainly should not be allowed to obtain a concealed carry license or permit. This requirement must be expanded to the purchase of firearms, thus helping to keep firearms out of the hands of those individuals who are taking psychotropic drugs.
Vermont recently passed legislation, largely supported by pro- and anti-gun groups, that addresses how to deal with mentally ill firearms owners. Under the bill, families and law enforcement can seek an extreme risk protection order. If a judge approves it, firearms could initially be seized for fourteen days. After a court hearing, the seizure could extend to 60 days and be renewed with another hearing. This is an interesting bill and it should be studied over the next 5 years to see if 1) it works, and 2) if it works, can it be expanded nationwide while still protecting the rights of Americans.
Improving and filling the gaps in the FBI NICS program is vitally important to increasing safety. A background check is only as good as the records in the database. FBI NICS databases are currently incomplete because many states have not provided all records that establish someone as prohibited from owning a firearm under current law, especially including mental health adjudications and involuntary commitments orders. Including these missing records will help ensure more accurate and complete background checks. States and the Armed Forces must improve the NICS database by submitting any and all records establishing an individual is a prohibited person, such as mental health records showing someone is an “adjudicated mental defective” or involuntarily committed to a mental institute, as well as official government records showing someone is the subject of a domestic violence protective order, a drug addict or subject to another prohibited category.
Why would states do this? We can tie the funding of Federally funded school safety measures such as armed guards, metal detectors, video surveillance systems, and biometric access to buildings to the requirement that states submit all the required data necessary for the FBI to operate a comprehensive NICS database. An elected official would be a fool to not want safer schools in exchange for providing accurate data to NICS.
As your voice in Congress, I will propose a new program to further support NICS and improve school safety. It’s called “School Training And Readiness” program or “STAR”. STAR will financially support the expansion of NICS, safety education, and facility security programs for schools across America. It will add a $10 fee per background check payable by every application through NICS. The fees would be split three ways: 15% for supporting the FBI operating budget for NICS, 25% for funding firearms safety, anti-bullying, and at-risk youth identification programs in schools, and 60% for funding a nationwide safety program for schools. ( Please read our policy paper on School Safety at http://www.TownsendForNevada.com/downloads )
In 2017, over 25,200,000 background checks were conducted. A $10 fee could generate $252 million each year with $37.8 million for NICS, $63 million for education, and over $151 million for metal detectors and security guards in schools.
Most gun buyers would support such a program. In the previously mentioned group of 44 CCW licensees, 43 said they’d have no problem paying an extra $10 at renewal if the money went to these three areas. In speaking with 12 other gun owners, 11 said they’d gladly support such a program. The lone dissenter said he’d be happier just paying $5.
Why is education and the early identification of at-risk students an important part of this program? If you have watched the passionate speeches given by the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida shooting, you have likely seen 18-year-old Emma Gonzalez. She is an outspoken woman who has become a powerful voice for more safety in schools. There is one comment she made that should make all of us stand up and take notice. Ms. Gonzalez said, “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities again and again. We did, time and time again. Since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should have not ostracized him, you didn’t know this kid. OK, we did. We know that they are claiming mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue.”
Here’s what she said in a nutshell:
There is compelling evidence of not only a system-wide failure by the school and law enforcement to take action, but also failure of students, teachers, and administrators to extend a hand to a very disturbed young man. This statement is made not to shame the students, but to point out that they knew they ostracized the shooter and yet, likely because they are at an age where emotional immaturity is still high, and they were not educated on the risks of bullying and ostracizing a fellow student, this continued. And it continued from at least middle school through high school. Thus, we need to provide educational materials to help all students understand that their actions against fellow students, whether intentional or not, can have severe consequences. The STAR program would provide these needed educational resources.
The Department of Justice should work with the Department of Education, along with input from the FBI, law enforcement associations, and the NRA, to design a video-based educational program that teaches children the dangers of guns, what to do in an emergency, and how to report those suspected of gun crimes.
We’ll work with the National Institutes of Health, leading psychologists, psychiatrists, behavioral specialists, and celebrities, to cover bullying, safe social media practices, the effects of being excluded and ostracized, and how to talk to teachers and parents about at-risk youth. (My late business partner, Roddy Piper, was an influential spokesperson for anti-bullying’s Stand for the Silent. I can attest that a celebrity speaking to children leaves a lasting impression that can change their attitude about something very quickly.)
STAR’s videos and corresponding print content will be designed once, updated as needed, and distributed via electronic means to schools, parents, and the media networks children and teens watch most. The materials will be highly effective and will cost pennies per student to put in front of the 50+ million students in our United States. I estimate the initial program would cost less than $18 million, or about 4 cents per student. We cannot afford not to do this.
We don’t have to debate whether these fixes will work. They will. They’re better than any other options on the table. STAR will make our nation safer. STAR will save children’s lives. It’ then becomes not a question of how can we afford this (only $10 per NICS application), but how can we not afford to take action on such common sense programs with potentially huge impact on the safety of our schools and communities?
When guns are involved, who are the victims?
According to GunViolenceArchive.org, there were 15,590 non-suicide deaths from firearms in 2017 (the FBI reports 11,008, but for the sake of argument, let’s use the larger number).
Of those deaths, 2,395 were related to law enforcement (2,078 subject/suspect and 317 law enforcement personnel). This leaves 13,195 gun related deaths.
2,040 deaths were of perpetrators breaking into homes and the homeowner/resident shooting the intruder. This is called self-defense. This leaves 11,155 deaths.
2,020 deaths were caused by unintentional discharge of a firearm: someone not paying attention, playing with a gun they don’t know is loaded, or in other words, not being a knowledgeable and responsible gun owner. Most children who lose their lives to guns do so in this manner. Educating parents on the need to keep guns out of the hands of their children is something we will address with our proposed firearms safety education program.
If you take away police shootings, self-defense, and accidents, it means there are around 9,000 intended killings with a gun each year, about 24 per day, with the vast majority committed with guns that did not belong to the shooter, and a large percentage committed by gang members or drug sellers.
Now we see where the real opportunity to control violence rests: Cracking down on criminals, gang members, and drug dealers. All things the NRA and like-minded organizations have been calling for decades.
Of all the gun deaths in 2017, only 374 homicides were committed with a rifle, including AR-15s: just over 3 percent of the total firearms deaths. That’s 0.0001% of the percentage of annual deaths in America. This represents a very small number of deaths—all tragic, no doubt—that gets blown out of proportion by the media that is clamoring for ways to boost their viewership ratings and ad revenue.
Chicago had 681 homicides last year and already nearly 500 shootings in 2018. The vast majority of these crimes are related to gangs and drugs, two things our governments have been fighting for years. The majority of guns used these crimes are stolen. The guns most used are not AR-15s, but common pistols and handguns, which are used in the majority of all gun violence.
Just like with alcohol, there is no call to ban semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. It will never happen in America because the 2nd Amendment is a right conferred on all of us and rights should never be taken away. The calls to ban so-called “assault rifles” will accomplish nothing if we don’t address mental health, bullying and ostracizing, and fatherless kids, and increasing school safety.
For those that say the Founding Fathers never imagined semi-automatic weapons or large capacity magazines in their age of flintlocks, the Bill of Rights was written and approved on September 25, 1789, a full seventy-one years after the semi-automatic Puckle gun was introduced. The Puckle gun was one of the earliest weapons to be referred to as a “machine gun”, being called such in a 1722 shipping manifest. Certainly, the authors of the Bill of Rights knew about this and they still wrote the 2nd Amendment as they did, not excluding the Puckle gun.
Part of the miserable ritual that follows mass shootings is the cry that nothing can be done unless we get rid of the 2nd Amendment. Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. For instance, one cannot simply drive down the road to GunMart and buy an F-18 fighter jet or a M982 Excalibur 155 mm extended range guided artillery Howitzer. Today, it is exceptionally difficult and restrictive to purchase a fully automatic rifle, commonly known as a machine gun. This is not something new; it was enacted as part of the National Firearms Act of 1934.
For all intents and purposes, people do not go out and buy machines guns. It’s too difficult.
The point is there are limits already in place as to what you can purchase, who can purchase, and what can be done with a firearm. By law, it is illegal to kill someone unless in self-defense. By law, you cannot carry a firearm into a commercial airport or on a commercial jetliner. By law, you cannot buy a firearm and then sell or give it to a person you bought it for. These are all laws that have been on the books for years and still, it is worth repeating, people who commit crimes, do not follow the law.
Laws are not meant to be selectively enforced and are not meant to apply to only one segment of the citizenry. A 17-year-old recently told me that he knows that driving while texting is against the law but he and his “friends do it all the time”. Another teen told me he knows it is illegal to smoke marijuana, but since his parents do it, he figures it is OK for him to do so. Two high school seniors told me that they know its illegal for them to drink and drive, but they do it anyway, saying “we’re careful. Nobody will get hurt” to which I responded, “Tell that to my cousin whose father was killed by a drunk driver.”
Most Americans understand the law and why they are enacted. Many choose to follow only those laws they wish. Don’t believe me?
You've broken the law. These offenses happens all the time. The point is, laws are on the books and in most cases, they lead to an orderly society, but when they are broken, they can have a detrimental impact on individuals, families, and communities. Gun laws are no different.
For those calling for more laws banning guns, statistically, the facts don’t suggest that more gun control laws will do much of anything to stop a person who is intent on killing. This begs the question, “What has happened in the past 30 years that may be contributing to gun violence?”
Here are some indisputable facts:
1. Access to mental health treatment and care in America has been decimated.
It’s not Nevada, but it’s a good indicator of what has happened in the USA. In 1959, California had 37,000 mental health patients in state hospitals. In the 60s and 70s, politicians—looking to cut state expenditures—believed that with the advent of psychoactive medications, people could be released out of mental hospitals.
By 2018, mental illness cases have risen in California, while treatment and funding have not kept up. California’s Department of State Hospitals operates just five state facilities with a combined patient population of around 5,000. Since 1995, California’s population has increased by more than 7 million people, but the facilities and beds for acute psychiatric care have decreased by 30%. Twenty-five counties no longer have a single psychiatric hospital bed. Meanwhile, the California Health Care Foundation states, “Nearly 1 in 6 California adults has a mental health need, and approximately 1 in 20 suffers from a serious mental illness that makes it difficult to carry out major life activities. The rate among children is even higher: 1 in 13 suffers from a mental illness that limits participation in daily activities.” That’s a lot of people dealing with mental issues.
The point of highlighting this is mental illness has been increasing since about 1980. Interestingly, there is a correlation that I’ve uncovered that should be investigated by the National Institute’s of Health and CDC and, if elected, I will fight for this to occur. While mental illnesses were increasing, care options were decreasing: thus, more people went undiagnosed and untreated, with many ending up homeless. By the time 1980 rolled around, the number of psychiatric beds in America was at a 100-year low with huge drops seen throughout the 60s and 70s. This is also around the time that psychoactive drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms were becoming the recreational drugs of choice. The result was more mentally ill people and fewer getting treatment.
What else occurred around this time period? For much of the 20th century there were, on average, a handful of mass killings per decade. But that number spiked in 1980, and kept rising thereafter.
Viewed over a multi-year period, the introduction of Ritalin in 1959, the massive reduction in mental treatment facilities between 1960 and 1980, coupled with the statistically valid increase in mental illness starting between 1970 and 1980, all leads up to the year 1980 which coincides with an increase in mass shootings. Are these connected? It’s time to find out.
2. Today’s children and teens are over-medicated and the results are just now being seen.
Anti-psychotic drug use today is out of control when it is estimated that 11% of children and teens take drugs for behavioral problems. Compare this to just 1% in the United Kingdom and Japan.
Often, because parents learned little Jimmy was on Ritalin to help him focus, sweet Suzy’s parents also run to the doctor and got a prescription for her so she could keep up with Jimmy. It’s true. Physicians have told me that in about one-third of the cases they see, parents ask to have drugs prescribed because they can’t deal with their own children. Most doctors won’t say “no” so the parent’s get their wish and drug the kid up, send him off to school and let teachers deal with him. Parents often choose prescribing over parenting and discipline and outside influences such as social media are having a detrimental effect on the mental health of many young people. Statistics prove this: according to new analysis from the CDC, suicide among teen girls recently reached a 40-year high and 22 kids kill themselves every day.
3. Violence on television, movies, and online has paraded the glorification of the so-called “assault rifle”.
Action must be taken to convince Hollywood to tone down such violence, first on their own, but if they refuse, through legislation, and enforcement of access to certain rated movies and television shows based on age. We can begin by addressing those celebrities who are outspoken advocates for gun control yet who earn their livings making movies, music, and television shows that glorify violence. Let’s challenge actors, directors, and producers to make recommendations to protect our children from unnecessary violence, to push back on those who wish to add violence to a storyline just for effect, and to demand their co-workers in television and movie production become more aware of the normalization of death that these productions are spreading.
4. Video games push the glorification of death.
There’s a big difference between the video games of the 70s Pac-Man, Centipede, and Tron, and today’s games such as Call of Duty, Far Cry, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Halo, Bulletstorm and Battlefield. While research suggests that video games don’t contribute to crime, in fact, most of the mass shooters were not into video games which have become online social settings and we know most mass shooters are not social, but instead, loners. It has been proven that the brain normalizes violence, so in order to decrease normalization, we need to find ways to decrease violence in video games and lessen the likelihood that children have access to these games without parental permission.
5. Social media must stop providing anonymous outlets for people who wish to do harm to others.
Bullying is at an all-time high. Young girls today feel more stressed and self-defamed than at any time in history and are committing suicide at growing rates. Over 1.2 million kids attempt suicide each year. Over 8,000 die. Mentally ill individuals use social media to brag about their intentions to harm. Even our President uses social media in ways that many would consider cyber-bullying. We must get a handle on this.
We have learned that social media companies purposefully alter the content a person views to make them more addicted to the experience: just as tobacco companies at one time altered the contents of cigarettes to make them more addicting.
I pledge to work to enact legislation ensuring that identification be required for every social media account, and especially for those under the age of 21.
It’s very easy to upload a photo of your ID and for a company such as facebook or YouTube to verify your address and be able to keep a record in case law enforcement has a question about a user and needs to interview said user, under court order. I will push for hearings to learn what social media networks are doing to combat cyber-bullying and enact legislation that holds these networks at least partially responsible for content that falls under hate crimes or cyber-bullying definitions. I will also push for the technology industry to build privacy controls that parents control, not for-profit companies, and that will empower parents to gain control over the viewing habits, friends lists, and other information their children may be giving or receiving via social media, mobile phones, and other communications platforms.
6. Schools are ill-prepared to deal with troublesome at-risk students and even less prepared to deal with violence.
Funding for at-risk youth programs must be increased and results-based analysis must be completed to ensure taxpayer funds are being spent effectively.
We must restrict willy-nilly prescribing of anti-psychotic drugs for minor or unneeded cases of ADHD or behavioral problems. Most kids who are wound up, disruptive, or unruly, are either hungry, bored, have not had any recess or physical education in which to release stress, and often have parents who are non-disciplinarian. Many parents, upon learning that their child’s friend is taking a drug like Adderall or Ritalin, rush to the doctor to make sure their kids get it, too, so their kids have an advantage in ability to focus and study. Adderall, and its competitors, is a central nervous system stimulant. it is typically prescribed to help people focus and be less impulsive.
College students abuse Adderall and similar drugs at higher rates than any time in history. I’ve met a couple professional gamblers that take it before tournaments because of these effects. The drug contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and can be habit-forming when used by a person who does not have ADHD.
The common side effects of taking Adderall include feelings of hostility, irritability, and paranoia. Most experience changes in personality, depression, and sometimes suicidal thoughts.
How can it be a good idea to give a drug like this to children when their emotional maturity hasn’t even begun to peak? The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25! How can they be expected to deal with feelings of hostility, worthiness, self-esteem, love and lust, academic pressures, and life in general when these drugs increase their paranoia and can lead to increased risk of depression and suicide. Congress must begin investigating the effects of these drugs, and others, on our society.
7. We must recognize that children who do not have a father in their life are at greater risk for committing acts of violence than those that have father’s present.
Writer Mark Meckler of Patheos pointed out in a February 27, 2018 article “Of 27 Deadliest Mass Shooters, 26 of Them Were Fatherless.” Fatherlessness is a serious problem. America’s boys have been under stress for decades. It’s not toxic masculinity hurting them; it’s the fact that when they come home there are no fathers there. Of CNN’s list of the “27 Deadliest Mass Shootings In US History," only one was raised by his biological father since childhood. Psychologists have now identified a direct correlation between boys who grow up with absent fathers and boys who drop out of school, who drink, who do drugs, who become delinquent, who wind up in prison, and who kill their classmates. This problem can’t be solved by any policy, or any sort of gun control.
To point out that boys need their fathers is to point to divorce and single mothers; and that is, uncomfortable. But there’s no other way to address fatherlessness and its impact on children. The fact is, divorce and family breakdown is proving to be catastrophic for many children. Kids are deprived of their father through divorce, death, or out-of-wedlock births. More often than not, children lose contact with their fathers because mothers remain the default custodial parent in the average American divorce and/or it is usually women who consider themselves the aggrieved party, as evidenced by the fact that wives initiate 70 percent of divorces. The result is that some divorced mothers use any opportunity to undermine their children’s relationship with their father or, if not that, dismiss the significance of a father’s role.
Girls who grow up deprived of their father are more likely to become depressed, commit self-harm, and more likely to be promiscuous. But they still have their mothers, with whom they identify. Boys do not have a comparable identification and thus suffer more from absence of their father. They also tend to act out in a manner that’s harmful to others, which girls typically do not. It’s being proven when boys don’t have their father in their lives, they suffer. They suffer in school. They suffer in the ability to create true friendships. They become outcasts. They are often bullied or ostracized by their classmates. They sometimes find the only place to feel connected to the world is in a gang or in a fantasy world.
The fact remains, a majority of school shooters come from fatherless homes; and a study of older male shooters (such as the 2017 Las Vegas massacre shooter) produces similar results.
It is time to have a serious discussion about the degradation of our cultural norms, the staggering cost of lives ended by these individuals, the ease of no-fault divorce, and changing the custody rules in divorce to give both parents equal time with their children.
8. We must provide children, the same levels of safety that we afford judges, pilots, government workers, and Members of Congress.
Our comprehensive plan for school safety that includes armed security, IDs, metal detectors, door jams, biometric access to facilities, could increase the safety of our children to a point it would be exponentially difficult for a mass killer to gain access to a school building without immediately notifying the police, thus the killer would likely never attempt an act of violence in a school.
Do you ever wonder why mentally unstable people and criminals don’t attack the Senate building or police headquarters? It’s because it is too difficult. Mentally ill people and criminals look for easy targets and, historically, schools, with their lack of security and high student to adult ratios, have been one of the easiest targets these people identify.
9. Commonsense measures must be enacted to improve our laws while retaining our 2nd Amendment rights.
The good news is I believe the NRA, pro-gun groups, anti-gun groups, and most Americans can reach a common understanding if we focus on the items outlined herein.
The President and Congress are already taking action. The ban of bump stocks is a smart move. They make a semi-automatic firearm act like a fully-automatic firearm which has essentially been illegal since 1937.
The free markets have responded. Some retailers are taking action with the removal of so-called “assault rifles” from their stores. They will likely loose more customers than they expected, but choosing not to sell an item is their prerogative.
Gun dealers are taking action by spending more time evaluating potential buyers and reporting those they feel are not mentally capable to be responsible owners. Training courses like those offered by Discount Firearms in Las Vegas, are being expanded to include elements that go above and beyond what state laws require.
Students are speaking up and demanding the adults do something about school violence and other young people’s easy access to guns.
All of these activities are positive movements that we should applaud. But more importantly, we need to take action and do something about the root causes of these problems. It’s not the guns. It’s the people.
Let me know what you think. E-mail me at Bill@TownsendForNevada.com.
You can download a copy of this policy in the Downloads section of this website. Click here. Feel free to share with others.
In 1960, the marginal tax rate for those earning $1.5-$3 million (in today’s dollars) was 91%. The top 1% of households earned 9% of all income, and paid 13% of all taxes
Today, the top 1 percent of earners (incomes in excess of $615,000) are paying nearly half of income taxes: 45.7%, not because they’re taxed too high, but because they earn the majority of income, rising from 9% to a current 20%. Nearly 1/5 of every dollar earned in America today now goes to the top 1%.
Two decades ago, when Bill Clinton was elected president, the 400 highest-earning taxpayers in America paid nearly 27 percent of their income in federal taxes, according to I.R.S. data. By 2012, when President Obama was re-elected, that figure had fallen to less than 17 percent. That’s a 10% tax cut for the wealthiest while the middle class saw their standard of living fall.
It’s more visible when looked at this way:
In 2018, the Forbes 400 own more wealth than the bottom 61 percent of the country combined, a staggering 194 million people.
Wealth inequality is widening sharply partly because the rate of return on capital has historically outpaced the rate of economic growth, allowing those with the ability to access capital-the rich-to gain increasing share of a country’s wealth.
If the bulk of that money had been paid out as salary or wages, instead of investment income, as it is for the typical American, the tax obligations of those wealthy taxpayers could have more than doubled, providing funding for critical infrastructure, school safety, education, and social network programs.
The Republican tax plan that was recently passed was supposed to provide tax relief for the middle class and below. It does. But it’s not permanent and it gave too much away to the wealthy who are the very people who needed the tax cut the least.
As an example: if I sold my companies for what they are currently valued, I would make $134,000,000 and I’d pay long-term capital gains tax of either 15% or 20% tax to the IRS. I could walk away with $107 to $114 million dollars. Payday! Ka-ching! I could retire and spend my time in a casino playing blackjack and slots. But is it fair? I don’t believe so. And yes, this is a very UN-Republican thing to say, but it is what I think. Those who receive the most income as a percentage of their standing (households) in the community, should pay more in taxes.
Here’s an idea I have long believed in and, as your voice in Congress I will work to introduce and pass: If you make more than $25 million a year, regardless of how it is earned, you pay a flat 33% tax on that income above $25 million with no deductions allowed, no means to ship the funds offshore and then have them reinvested, no “carry interest” provisions for lower tax rates for Wall Street money managers. We keep it simple and thus make it extremely difficult for lawyers and accountants to hide the money: any income over $25 million, regardless of source, is taxed at 33%.
What would that do to my sale of companies? Instead of paying $20 to $26 million in taxes under the new tax law, I’d pay $44.2 million in taxes, nearly double. Would I care? No! I’d still be taking home nearly $90,000,000. his is fair. Besides, I believe the Bible verse is correct: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required,” Luke 12:48 KJV.
Would Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Abigail Disney, Ben Cohen, or the 200 millionaires who signed the Patriotic Millionaires pledge care? No. They want to pay more, even encouraging Congress to not lower tax rates for millionaires.
Companies are built on the backs of everyday people who commit to work 2,000 hours a year and have to pay more in tax than current long-term capital gains investors do. Why should a single mother of two who lives in Pahrump and makes $45,000 a year have to pay more as a percentage of her total income than a rich banker from New York City or Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Miami? She shouldn’t. Those who can afford to pay more should and this proposal would ensure that occurs.
This proposal would also likely lead to the wealthy investing their income into new businesses or expanding their businesses, a positive move to create more jobs in America.
In addition, since Family Offices, the entities that manage the billions of dollars in family wealth (think Rockefellers, Fords, Mellons, Soros, etc.) are some of the most blatant tax dodgers, all Family Offices should be required to register with the SEC in the same manner Hedge Funds do. Lobbying against this idea was successful in 2009 and it allowed people like George Soros to take his $24.5 billion hedge fund and take advantage of it, converting to a family office after returning capital to its remaining outside investors. The hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller, a former business partner of Mr. Soros, took the same step. As your voice in Congress, I’ll work to close this unfair loophole.
“But Bill,” you say, “that’s un-American. That’s un-Republican. That’s un-fair.” Is it? We don’t build companies purely on our own. We are able to grow companies based on what our country has provided: the interstate highway system, utilities, the US Postal Service, the Internet, etc. When someone tells me that asking the more fortunate among us to contribute more to our country is unfair, I politely remind them that without the infrastructure that government provides, much of the wealth created in America over the past 40 years would have never occurred.
I’m all for lowering corporate income taxes as President Trump promised and delivered on, but I’m also very interested in lowing personal income taxes on those making under $100,000 a year for singles and $150,000 for married couples (which would end the disastrous “marriage penalty”), and potentially finding ways to eliminate federal taxes altogether for those making under $50,000 a year.
I believe in focusing our efforts on putting more money back into the pockets of 93% of Americans. The other 7% can take care of themselves.
The media reports Americans in the middle of the income zone will get an $840 tax break in 2019, but this shrinks to just $40 by 2027. One of the President’s spokespeople said on Good Morning America, “We have also said that wealthy American’s are not getting the tax cut.” This is simply not true. The top 0.1% will get an average cut of $62,000 in 2019 increasing to $182,000 in 2027. Is this fair? No. That’s why I plan to address it as your representative in Congress.
My opponents in this race will likely pull this section off my website and scream, “He wants to raise taxes!” but you know the truth. I am going to stand against any increase in income taxes for those making less than $100,000 a year. I want those fortunate enough to make more than $25 million a year to pay more so those making less than $100,000 a year can pay less. Don’t you agree that is a step in the right direction to help middle and lower income families?
Another tax change I’d like to see is a minimum corporate tax. A new analysis of 258 profitable Fortune 500 companies that earned more than $3.8 trillion in profits showed that although the top corporate rate was 35 percent, hardly any company actually paid that. The report, by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, found that 100 of them—nearly 40 percent—paid no taxes in at least one year between 2008 and 2015. Eighteen, including General Electric, International Paper, Priceline.com and PG&E, incurred a total federal income tax bill of less than zero over the entire eight-year period: meaning they received rebates. The institute used the companies’ own regulatory filings to compute their tax rates.
The answer? Congress should institute a minimum corporate tax of 10% to be paid by every corporation on gross sales and that this minimum tax not be subject to any types of deductions whatsoever. If you set in place a minimum corporate tax, along with the generous cuts in corporate tax rate that the recent Republican bill provides, we can increase revenues to the Federal government while ensuring all corporations pay some level of taxes on their revenue. For a behemoth like GE, which had $115 BILLION in revenue in 2015 to have paid zero in corporate taxes is unconscionable. I doubt these corporate tax benefits were available to small businesses in Ely, North Las Vegas, Tonopah, Coaldale, Hawthorne, and Pahrump. Again, this is not un-Republican or un-capitalism, this is about fairness being applied to all corporations operating across the United States.
I’ve been accused of not being a conservative enough Republican. If making taxes fair to all Americans makes me not conservative enough, then so be it. I believe in doing what is right.
The wealthy can take care of themselves. They will reinvest in their companies or postpone selling so they can earn more. They have the means to figure out how to move assets around to avoid taxes. My plan stops this and makes those whom much is given, step up to the plate and pay their share. George Soros be damned! He can pay more in Federal taxes, just as I could, and he should be happy to do so for the privilege of working in a country that offers him the ability to earn what he does.
Does this make me a bad Republican or someone who is fiscally conservative and socially responsible? I’ll let you decide.
This leads me to the second part of this policy: the Republican Party.
I identify strongly with the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln which is quite different from the Republican Party of today. As your voice in Congress, I hope to be able to influence the Republicans to return to their roots; to focus on fiscal responsibility; to expect more from every taxpayer dollar spent; to hold government managers, employees and contractors accountable to the American public; and to seek compromise across party lines in order to advance the needs of Nevadans and all Americans. And I hope to convince the Democrats to put the interests of American citizens first, and especially before those who have entered our country illegally or overstayed their visas.
Bipartisanship must be returned to Washington, DC. This doesn’t mean you give up your morals and it doesn’t mean you are what some call a RINO (Republican In Name Only). It means you are focused on getting results, and isn’t that what we all want? Yes, of course it is.
The Republican Party at its founding was the party of business owners. Until the past 30 years, it has continued to be the party that represents the owners of industrial-America’s factories—the people who make things, who build America’s infrastructure, who create jobs so all Americans can prosper. As those owners moved their wealth to Wall Street and multinationals, the Republican Party stayed locked to it. I always felt this was wrong. I don’t believe Wall Street bankers should be benefiting from special tax programs as they do from pushing paper around. Wall Street does have a place for businesses to be able to access capital and raise money to operate (with very little going to small business startups where the majority of new jobs are created), but other than that, how does it impact what we do day to day? Wall Street doesn’t actually build anything and it doesn’t create jobs for people living in Clark, Lyon, Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye, and White Pine counties. Wall Street doesn’t act in the best interest of you and me. It acts in self-interest. It acts in ways that game the investing world so they earn their fees and get paid millions of dollars. Wall Street’s greed is what has led to the past housing mortgage problems, massive drops in the stock market (and your retirement savings plans, although to be fair, most retirement plans have increased in value since President Trump focused on cutting burdensome regulations), and wild speculation that the inside guys make money off.
How can a man or woman in Nevada, working 40 or 60 hours a week, earning perhaps $40,000 a year, compete with a banker in New York City who has millions of dollars in investment software at his fingertips, connected to millions of dollars in computer hardware and able to execute trades at milliseconds? She can’t. On top of this, Congress has given Wall Street bankers who are otherwise known as Hedge Fund managers, a sweetheart tax deal. Their income is taxed at 20% no matter how much they make. That’s not fair. This is just one example of where the Republican and Democrat Parties have failed the typical American voter.
On social-issues I am more moderate than some Republicans and more conservative than most Democrats. I’d say I am right where I need to be, much as Abraham Lincoln was. I believe in giving companies a fair playing field in the global economy. I believe in supporting workers rights. I believe in helping those less fortunate with a hand up. I believe in ensuring every child in our country, no matter if their parents make $250,000 or their single mom makes $25,000 should have equal opportunities for education, healthy school lunches, and great medical care. I believe, like many of you, that most Americans want the same things.
In the Lincoln days, most industrial activities took place in the Northeastern US. America was still largely an agricultural country. Representing those same interests was radical in 1860 (anti-slavery, defend America’s weak industries with tariffs). Lincoln backed public funding of infrastructure projects, something many Republicans of the past have been against.
The Republican Party at its founding was the party of the hard workers, of social change, of greater acceptance for more people (anti-slavery, women’s suffrage).
Let me restate this. The Republican Party of old was focused on:
This turned completely around when the Southern Strategy (very much worth Googling), in response to Civil Rights, was introduced. The Democrats were more in favor of Civil Rights at the beginning of the 1960’s than the Republicans, though back then the parties were much more mixed then today. The Southern Strategy locked the Republican Party into almost exactly the opposite of its original social position—and is the beginning of a shift in the underlying interests.
The Southern Strategy sorted the Republicans into largely a party built on the demographic of people opposed to Civil Rights, when it was founded on the opposite belief, a belief that All Men Are Created Equal. This is the first time since its founding that voters were really lined up by a social issue, instead of social issues floating on top of a foundation of pro-growth for all Americans. To win elections, the Party’s leaders made alliances with anti-Civil Rights, rural, and religious-right groups that were used for votes, but the idea was to not give them any real power. This worked very well through the Reagan years, and broke the Democratic dominance since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But in today’s world, when we need to bridge the divides between parties, race, gender, it is outdated.
The Democrat Party didn’t fare much better during the past 50-70 years. They are largely indistinguishable from the party of FDR. The Democrats were the more tradition-minded party. They were also the party focused on keeping taxes low and when it came to promoting commerce, etc., wanted to leave it to the states. Generally speaking, they were the “states’ rights” party. An example of how they changed can be seen in the years Senator Harry Reid was head of the Senate. During that time he could have easily persuaded the Federal government to turn over ownership of tens of millions of acres of Nevada land to the State of Nevada. The Republicans would have voted for it and we’d now be controlling our land instead of it being controlled by Washington, DC. And yet, he didn’t do that because the Democrats of the past 30+ years do not believe in state’s rights as they once did (for more on this, see “Nevada’s Future” in our website’s policy section).
While I don’t believe this to be completely accurate as I know many moderate and conservative Democrats and Republicans (in fact, I truly believe most people are middle of the road), the Democrats have become known as the “liberals”—in favor of more federal action in general, less power to states, active government that attempts to solve problems or encourage outcomes and the Republicans have become known as “conservatives”—less enthusiastic about federal action in general except for military operations, wants more power given to states, more passive federal government that maintains a minimal footprint in social and economic affairs.
I was at a restaurant the other night and sitting next to me were two brothers, both in their late 50s. As we began talking I explained I was running for Congress and what my 12 Big Ideas for Nevada were. He looked at me and said, “I’m a Democrat, so I can’t vote for you in the primary. I’m also a liberal, and I own guns and I support our military, so I can vote for you in the November election.” I thanked him and asked if he was really a liberal or more of a Blue Dog Democrat—the kind made famous during Clinton’s presidency. He laughed and said, “I was a Blue Dog until nobody cared to use that term so now I’m a liberal, even though maybe I’m not really far left liberal.” We both had a good laugh and it speaks volumes to how most people feel about their political party.
The fact remains, both parties lost their focus on doing what is best for the American people because both moved too far from the center. Aren’t most of us more aligned with common sense approaches which reside in the center than with far right or far left approaches? Sure, we have our key issues which may be on one side or another, but most problems have solutions that lay somewhere in the middle where compromise is possible.
Immigration is a big issue today and part of the challenge is that Republicans have traditionally wanted to keep immigration unchecked in order to provide low cost—cheap—labor for industrial farms and the corporations that own them. The Democrats welcome illegals because once here they tend to vote for their party. Therefore, why would anyone in Washington, DC be serious about securing our borders and ensuring that when people do immigrate to America they learn what it means to be a citizen and they melt into the cultural fabric of our nation? They don’t. We need to change this with immigration laws that assimilate foreigners to the way of America, belief in our Constitution, belief in our desires to hold jobs, raise families and contribute back to our communities.
Interestingly, (here we go...I can hear some Republican candidates screaming “He is a Republican in name only…I’m the true conservative…elect me, not him!”, some of the other great Republican presidents are also looked down on by today’s Republican Party.
Titans of government like Teddy Roosevelt (who broke up companies when they got too big) and Eisenhower (who raised taxes and increased government spending) also have been given short shrift in the Republican Party. A lot of people have noted that Ronald Reagan (an advocate for bipartisanship, a willingness to raise taxes when necessary, and a penchant for using military might as a way to avoid wars) would probably be considered too liberal to be the Republican nominee today.
Lincoln explicitly strongly approved of labor unions and “a wage that allows a laborer to save and go on to start his own business.” This is what I believe in, as well.
Many people believe Lincoln was a war hawk, but he wasn’t. He managed to keep the United States out of many potential conflicts. His view as the leader of the Republican Party was that the United States exhibit its exceptionalism by becoming an example of a democracy not by intervening into the affairs of other nations. This is also what I believe.
You may ask, “why are you running as a Republican in Nevada, which is a largely Democrat state?” The answer is simple. I believe our campaign's message appeals to the vast majority of Nevadans, and, as Abraham Lincoln did, that it is important to:
This last section is why I signed the U.S. Term Limits Amendment Pledge to
cosponsor legislation to enact term limits for Members of Congress: 3 terms or 6 years for the House and 2 terms or 12 years for the Senate. If I can’t accomplish what I am proposing in my 2-year term, then I should be held accountable by the voters and not be re-elected. I’m smart enough to know that if I can’t accomplish what I tell you I will do, perhaps someone else can...or worse, perhaps nobody can...but I will not let myself think that Washington, DC is irretrievably broken.
During an exchange with a Republican in Mesquite, who suggested that Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan would no longer be welcome in the Republican party, I realized there is a disconnect between Republicans and Conservatives that actually hurts the Republican Party. Many conservatives really don’t understand what the term means. That is why some conservatives accuse non-far right Republicans of being RINOs. The person I was speaking with was treating conservatism as an ideology of a political party; and it’s not. They failed to understand that Republican and conservative are not necessarily the same, and that the Republican Party has many members who are committed to the principles of the party, which, if read alone, could be the principles of most every political party that cares about America. These principles include:
We believe in American exceptionalism.
We believe the United States of America is unlike any other nation on earth.
We believe America is exceptional because of our historic role — first as refuge, then as defender, and now as exemplar of liberty for the world to see.
We affirm — as did the Declaration of Independence: that all are created equal, endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We believe in the Constitution as our founding document.
We believe the Constitution was written not as a flexible document, but as our enduring covenant.
We believe our constitutional system — limited government, separation of powers, federalism, and the rights of the people — must be preserved uncompromised for future generations.
We believe political freedom and economic freedom are indivisible. When political freedom and economic freedom are separated — both are in peril; when united, they are invincible.
We believe that people are the ultimate resource — and that the people, not the government, are the best stewards of our country’s God-given natural resources.
We wish for peace — so we insist on strength. We will make America safe. We seek friendship with all peoples and all nations, but we recognize and are prepared to deal with evil in the world.
Based on these principles, this platform is an invitation and a road map. It invites every American to join us and shows the path to a stronger, safer, and more prosperous America.
This platform is optimistic because the American people are optimistic.
This platform lays out — in clear language — the path to making America great and united again.
These are things all of us want. They’re not just Republican ideals, but everybody’s ideals.
During our discussion, we talked about how being a Republican means affiliation or membership to the Republican National Committee (RNC). The Republican Party is a private organization. A club or membership organization, if you would. The Party has a platform of issues it supports and not all are conservative in nature. Republicans are generally followers of the RNC’s platform, and, like many Democrats, may not believe in all to which the Party stands.
For instance, "We believe our constitutional system — limited government, separation of powers, federalism, and the rights of the people — must be preserved uncompromised for future generations" is a popular statement, and well worth fighting for. However, many who consider themselves very conservative don’t necessarily believe in the rights of the people and want government to not help those less fortunate or allow women access to contraception (as examples).
A conservative is one who believes and follows the principles of conservatism, usually rooted in their upbringing. Conservatism is not a club or membership. Conservatives espouse traditional values and ideas with opposition to change or innovation. They are often proponents of theological conservatism, pushing their understanding of the Bible into their beliefs, and thus, onto others. Conservatives often believe in traditional natural rights and view political policies as intended to preserve order, justice, and freedom. Although Conservative principles can be economic, or social, at its core, it’s a way of living.
Democrats and liberals have a similar difficulty in stating who they are. Until the 1980s, the Democratic Party was a coalition of two parties divided by the Mason–Dixon line: liberal Democrats in the North and culturally conservative voters in the South, who though benefiting from many of the New Deal public works projects opposed increasing civil rights initiatives advocated by their northern brethren.
True liberals, such as Senator Bernie Sanders or former Senator Barney Frank, lean toward socialism as a model for governing: a thinking that the government can take care of people better than people can. Moderate Democrats, like Bill Clinton and the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, tend to focus on government’s definition as a Republic and seek ways to strengthen working families and those in need.
Does being a true liberal as opposed to being a more moderate Democrat make you more effective or cause you to not care about the welfare of Americans? No. Does being a Republican or a true conservative make you more likely to shun helping those less fortunate? Not necessarily.
There is an informative website called the Center for Effective Lawmaking, supported in part by Vanderbilt University, University of Virginia, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (as in Hewlett-Packard). If you search the last year available, 2015-2016, you find the ranking of Nevada’s Senators and House Members. In terms of effectiveness, Senator Dean Heller was ranked 17th out of 54 Republicans while Harry Reid was ranked 35th out of 44 Democrats. In the House, Dina Titus was ranked 72nd out of 193 Democrats and Mark Amodei was ranked 52nd, Joseph Heck was ranked 72nd, and Cresent Hardy was ranked 166th out of 250 Republicans.
Their Legislative Effectiveness Score is a measure of each person’s ability and effectiveness in moving their agenda forward in Congress, from writing a bill to passing it into law. The average score for all members is 1.0, so if you score higher than 1.0 you are considered effective and if you score lower than 1.0 you are considered ineffective. (Actually, I don’t like that word, so let’s say they are considered not as effective as the average). In Nevada’s House of Representatives congregation, Amodei ranked at the top with a score of 1.956, followed by Heck at 1.647; both above 1.0. Below 1.0 were Hardy at 0.646 and Titus at 0.579. In the Senate, Heller received a Legislative Effectiveness Score of 1.508 and Reid 0.306.
What does this tell us? Six different individuals with six different views ranging from liberal to moderate to conservative, Democrats and Republicans, ended up with vastly different results. This largely dispels the theory that only arch-conservative Republicans or left leaning liberal Democrats make effective members of Congress.
What it also reveals is that those who can manage the middle, who can create buy-in from others, who can write sound legislation that benefits the great majority of people, tend to be more effective public servants.
“We expect Congress to represent. We expect members to bring into the legislative process the views, needs and interests of their constituents; we expect the Congress as an institution to provide a forum where the interests and demands of all segments of society are expressed. But, while we want Congress to be a forum where the full range of views is expressed, we also want Congress to make decisions to pass laws. Congress should pass laws that reflect the will of the people; that is, Congress should be responsive to popular majorities. Congress should pass laws that deal promptly and effectively with pressing national problems. These two criteria, which can be labeled responsiveness and responsibility, are distinct. Only in a perfect world would what the majority wants always accord with what policy experts deem most likely to be effective.
“What are the skills members need for Congress to legislate effectively and are they the same skills that allow a member to get ahead within Congress? Congress has a large and complex workload; members must be willing to work hard and to develop expertise in some segment of it. Because members must make decisions even in areas in which they do not and cannot have expertise, being a quick study helps. Because decision making is a collective enterprise among relatively equal members who represent districts with different interests and have differing policy preferences, bargaining skills and the ability to work with others are essential (see Sinclair forthcoming). To function well, Congress needs members who understand the need for and have the skill to compromise; who are willing to be team players; who can fight for what they believe in without demonizing their opponents, thus making it possible to work with them on a different issue tomorrow.
"The contemporary Congress rewards smart, energetic, hard-working members with political bargaining skills. Members’ influence is much less dependent on seniority and more dependent on their own efforts than in the past. To respond to their members’ demands for opportunities to participate actively in the legislative process and their own need to funnel that participation into channels that further party efforts, Democrat and Republican Party leaders have enlarged their whip systems, created task forces and working groups, expanded the leadership circle and activated their caucuses. This provides opportunities for the activist members who have the desire, stamina, and ability to take on many tasks and do them well to make a name for themselves quickly and get things done. Two great examples of this were Dick Gephardt’s work on task forces charged with passing major legislation and Newt Gingrich’s 100-day plan to rework government.
“The job we expect Congress to do is a complex one; it involves many components and tradeoffs. As a result, there are many niches for people with different skills, characteristics and strengths to contribute meaningfully. The committee specialist who develops real substantive expertise is critical to Congress maintaining its power in the political system. The generalist coordinator is just as necessary to make the institution work. Junior and mid-level activists serve a variety of important functions, usually as aides to the party leaders in party maintenance, coalition building and public relations. The issue or coalition leader, who speaks for a group or point of view, performs a significant representational function and may also contribute importantly to responsive lawmaking. The agenda setter, the visionary, even the ideologue have their place as well: they bring new ideas into the system; they give often small but intense constituencies a voice; and they remind their more flexible colleagues that at some point compromise does become selling out and it should be avoided.” (Source: The Dirksen Congressional Center)
As you can see, whether you are a conservative or a liberal, a moderate or Blue Dog Democrat, doesn’t matter so much as whether you can push your agenda effectively through a chamber made up of 434 other Members, each with their own views on what is important for America and their districts. Therefore, ideas are often more important than ideological leanings; after all, one has to be able to come up with such a great idea that people of all walks of life, Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, socialists, and independents, will also find the idea valid and want to be attached to it because it solves problems. And that, my friends, is how we can make a difference in Washington, DC.
Like many people I’ve spoken with across our great state, we expect the Federal government to provide a strong military, strong borders, safe schools, affordable health care, world-class education, and the ability for businesses to create good paying jobs.
We don’t want our government telling us what we can and can’t do with our money, how we raise our children, how we spend our free time.
We expect our government to enforce our laws, whether immigration, sanctuary cities, gun laws, money laundering, embezzlement, selling drugs, or others.
We don’t want our government to lie to us.
We don’t want it to sit idly by as illegal immigrants who have snuck into America and deported multiple times kill American citizens.
We want our Federal government to be responsive to our needs, frugal with our tax money, focused on improving our own ability to make a living and pursue our hopes for the American Dream.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which political party you are affiliated with; if you don’t believe and fight for these basic principles of what it means to be an American, and you can’t agree to work with people in both major political parties to do what is right for American citizens, you probably shouldn’t be elected into a position to effect change to move our government’s focus back to the important issues facing our nation.
Do you agree? Are we on the right track? Let me know by sentding me your thoughts at Bill@TownsendForNevada.com.
Healthcare in America is exceedingly expensive. According to OECD data released in 2018, among 34 advanced industrialized countries, the U.S. spends $10,348 per person, which is more than twice the OECD average.
The next highest per capita spender on healthcare is Switzerland at $7,919 and then there is a sharp drop-off to #3 Germany at $5,550. Since 1980 the gap between what America spends on healthcare and what other countries spend has widened and our private sector spending is triple that of comparable countries.
In 1995, the US spent about 13% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare. Today that number is 17.9% and tops $3.3 trillion.
Despite all that spending, America’s health system does not perform particularly well. The US ranks 27th for life expectancy at birth. This comparatively low ranking is not merely a consequence of higher infant mortality, where the US ranks a dismal 53rd in deaths per 1,000 live births. Even considering life expectancy for men aged 65 places the U.S. in 23rd place.
The US ranks poorly on health outcomes partly because we are the only advanced industrialized economy that has not provided health care to everyone. Not having health insurance adversely affects access to health care, which in turn affects mortality and morbidity. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health calculated that there were approximately 45,000 excess deaths because of the absence of universal health coverage.
Numerous research studies have analyzed some of the pathways that lead to these excess deaths, including reduced use of preventive screenings among the uninsured, which means that disease is detected later when it is more difficult and expensive to treat.
When I was the Republican nominee for Congress in 1992, over 35 million Americans lacked health insurance. For all its problems, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) increased access to health insurance for Americans with 13 million people gaining insurance. There problem is that in the 26 years since 1992, we still have 29 million Americans who don’t have insurance. Twenty-six years and still 29 million people without inurance.Why? Cost and availability.
The primary focus must be on containing and reducing costs.
We need to look at the health insurance industry to see why costs keep rising. The largest health insurance companies in the United States reaped historically large profits in the first quarter of 2017, despite all the noise surrounding the Affordable Care Act's individual marketplaces. Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealth Group — the big five for-profit insurers — cumulatively collected $4.5 billion in net earnings in the first three months of 2017. That was by far the biggest first-quarter haul for the group since the ACA exchanges went live in 2014.
The nation's top health insurers reported $6 billion in adjusted profits for the second quarter. That's up more about 29 percent from the same quarter in 2016 — far outpacing the overall S&P 500 health care sector's growth of 8.5 percent for the quarter.
Consider UnitedHealth, the nation's largest health insurer announced record-breaking profits in 2015, followed by an even better year in 2016, and this is after the ACA was in effect and supposed to reduce costs. In July 2016, UnitedHealth celebrated revenues that quarter totaling $46.5 billion, an increase of $10 billion since the same time last year.
UnitedHealth’s CEO Stephen J. Hemsley made over $20 million in 2015. To be fair, that is a pay cut. The previous year Hemsley took home $66 million in compensation.
Aetna, whose CEO Mark Bertolini reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission a $27.9 million compensation in 2015, has sky-high profits. “In 2015, we reported annual operating revenue of over $60.3 billion, a record for the Company,” Aetna told investors.
America doesn’t have a healthcare problem; it has an insurance problem coupled with a prescription drug cost problem.
Some would say the only long-term fix to our health coverage problems are to move to a single-payer "Medicare for all" system. Others believe a federally run insurance system, which would eliminate the profit of healthcare insurance companies, is the right approach. Still others believe the free markets provide the best approach, although this has been largely debunked in most countries.
What is a health insurance company other than an intermediary that adds costs to a system? Health insurers payments from employers, individuals, and governments and then send that money to health care providers such as pharmacy benefits managers, doctors, and hospitals, of course keeping some for themselves to cover overhead and, in some instances, profit. As an example, Stanford University, which has its own medical school, hospital, and doctors, sends money to Blue Shield on behalf of those employees who use Stanford Medical Center services (and others). And then Blue Shield sends that money back to Stanford for the services Stanford renders to its own employees. The obvious questions are: how much does this intermediation cost and what valuable purpose does it serve? I can't be the only person who thinks this is crazy.
Let’s consider evidence on the cost issue first. In 1991, Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein, two Harvard doctors with an interest in health policy, published a paper in The New England Journal of Medicine in which they estimated that health care administration constituted somewhere between 19% and 24% of total spending on health care, an amount that was 117% higher than what it was in Canada and much more than in the U.K. What a waste of money!
It may be time for single national insurance system to take back control of health insurance. As your voice in Congress, I will investigate this. The idea behind a single nationwide insurance system is akin to Medicare, but would offer more options. It gives every American a lower insurance plan because it would include coverage in all 50 states, would provide for a massive reduction in duplicate paperwork and administrative costs, would allow you to see any doctor you wish, and would strip billions of profits and overhead out of commercial insurance companies. It would need to provide at least six key benefits in two categories: long and short term care. The Long-term benefits are: Wellness & Sickness, Invalidity (non-employment disability) and Survivors (minor children who are survivors of a deceased parent). Short-term benefits are: Wellness & Sickness, Maternity, Funeral and Employment Injury. Under a single nationwide insurance plan, contributions to the plan are paid by employees and employers on earnings, and by employers on certain benefits-in-kind provided to employees. We already pay FICA taxes and most people who obtain insurance through an employer have the costs of the insurance taken out of their paycheck automatically, so nothing would change from that perspective, but the costs should go down. The self-employed would contribute the same way they pay FICA. Individuals who are not employed, are disabled, or have some other incapacity, would pay into the system in order to access it. These payments could be based on a percentage of their disability payments or as a set fee each month that would give them access to basic health care needs and also carry a higher deducible long-term care insurance plan.
As long as there is profit for someone being sick nothing will change. People often conflate medical care with the payer system. Insurance companies are multiple payers. Hospitals, doctors and other health care providers have to endure the paperwork of each and every insurance plan they bill. That is a huge waste of time and money that adds to the cost of healthcare: about 9% annually. By going to a national insurance system, the paperwork is reduced to one standardized set. This has nothing to do with sitting in the ER for three hours or more, which occurred pre-ACA, during the ACA and will continue to occur as long as other imperfections, like physician and nursing shortage in rural areas, primary care physicians who are underpaid relative to highly paid surgeons, lack of clinics, and overpriced drugs. Single payer insurance is a solid first step to begin to save time and money like the other western industrialized countries already do and to put that time to reducing the wait time, and then use that money to implement incentives for a healthy lifestyle, functional medicine training for providers, and increase clinics.
What’s the downside? Many health insurance companies will go out of business, although the smart ones will offer supplemental health plans for those with the financial means to purchase. Many insurance company employees will lose their jobs, although many will find opportunities to work in the national insurance program.
Let’s look at the healthcare market as if having a single national insurance provider is not an option.
Health care costs are like a runaway train. It keeps rolling and rolling, faster and faster, and nobody wants to stand on the tracks to try to slow it down.
There are many ways to lower costs of care and make it more affordable and better for America’s citizens. While the Republicans have tried multiple times to repeal the ACA, they never succeeded. Now is the time to fix what doesn’t work and increase those areas of the ACA that are most beneficial. To do so we must first step back and look at what an effective national healthcare reform program must include:
1. Retain the provision forbidding discrimination based on pre-existing conditions as this is a vital part of ensuring people obtain and remain on insurance.
2. Allow those under 25 years old, living at home, to remain on their parents' healthcare plans.
3. Allow portability of employer-sponsored plans, if they are not part of a national insurance program, enabling someone who leaves an employer to continue on the employer’s plan indefinitely; essentially converting it from an employer plan to a personal/family plan. This isn’t Cobra, but the conversion of a plan from employer-based to private. Of course, if the person moves to another company that offers healthcare, they would convert to that company’s plan.
4. Most physicians believe that good oral and vision health leads to better overall health, so any health plan that is comprehensive in nature should include dental and vision coverage. The idea that we have to purchase separate plans for these two important coverages is dated and needs to be eliminated. It’s the equivalent of telling women they have to purchase pregnancy insurance—something that used to occur prior to ACA and rightfully was resolved in ACA. Vision and dental must be included in any new healthcare program.
5. We must examine costs at a granular level at which clinical outcomes are matched with the business and administrative processes. Demand-side options, such as consumer-directed health plans, to supply-side options, such as alternative methods to pay care providers, can reduce costs significantly. For example, a standardized insurance claim form, available via digital submission, used across all physicians and insurers, will lower administrative costs significantly, by millions of dollars in man-hours, paper costs, and other administrative expenses. It will also cut down on errors. Harvard Business Review reported that administrative complexity eats up 9% of the nation’s health care expenditures.
6. For coverage of uninsured the approach should be that every American needs to be covered by a plan whether it is private, employer-based, public (Medicare/Medicaid), association-based, or a new single source nationwide insurance system. Instead of the “fine”, anyone not enrolling in a plan should be auto-enrolled in a single payer major medical plan that kicks in when emergencies or catastrophe occurs and carries a very high deductible—perhaps $15,000 or $20,000, but a very low monthly subscription rate that is affordable for these enrollees and is billed monthly until the individual enrolls in a formal plan such as available through an employer or the ACA. This solves the fear of “people dying in the street” which most Americans do not want. We are a caring nation and we want those who cannot afford health care to be able to get care.
Since many of the people who do not buy health insurance are under the age of 30, creating a “Comprehensive Coverage” program that costs only $59-$99 a month is a safe insurance policy against disaster and would result in almost $34 billion a year paid into the program by those not currently insured.
Even with ACA, millions of Americans still do not have health insurance. Many uninsured people cite the high cost of insurance as the main reason they lack coverage. In 2015, 46% of uninsured adults said that they tried to get coverage but did not because it was too expensive. Many people do not have access to coverage through a job, and some people, particularly poor adults in states that did not expand Medicaid, remain ineligible for financial assistance for coverage. Some people who are eligible for financial assistance under the ACA may not know they can get help, and others may still find the cost of coverage prohibitive.
Most uninsured people are in low-income families and have at least one worker in the family. Reflecting the more limited availability of public coverage in some states, adults are more likely to be uninsured than children. People of color are at higher risk of being uninsured than non-Hispanic Whites.
7. We must enact reforms on pharmaceutical drug pricing. As the President & CEO of a pharmaceutical and nutraceutical company, I can tell you the average cost to bring a prescription drug to market through the FDA process takes about 12 years and costs an average of $1.4 billion. Surely pharmaceutical companies must recoup their investment, but currently, they rely mostly on the US consumer to do that. These costs need to be spread across the global market which will lower costs for American’s in need of prescription medications.
The United States spends almost $1,000 per person per year on pharmaceutical drugs. That’s around 40 percent more than the next highest spender, Canada, and more than twice as much as than countries like France and Germany spend.
As your voice in Congress I will write legislation to create a Median Pricing Program. This is a program I designed that provides pharmaceutical companies a solid return on their investment, reduces costs to consumers, and would reduce by 40% of the cost of prescription drugs.
Under a Median Pricing Program, no drug provider who obtains FDA approval to market a drug in the United States can charge American consumers more than 110% of the average price of their drug worldwide. This will upset Wall Street and the pharmaceutical companies, but it is only fair that Americans not be gouged by drug companies. If drug companies want access to the most lucrative market in the world, they can play by our rules.
The pharmaceutical companies will adapt to earn more revenue overseas which will force them to raise their prices worldwide and not stick Americans with the biggest drug bills. If they want to sell in our market, they have to adhere to this law.
Under our plan, Celebrex, a popular pain and inflammation drug, would not cost $330, but $115.24 ($120.73 global average cost plus 10%). Cymbalta, which millions of Americans take to battle depression and fibromyalgia, would not cost $240, but $76.45 ($69.50 global average cost plus 10%).
Imagine what this would do for someone spending $200 a month on medications? They’d see about an $80 discount to today’s pricing, resulting in approximately $1,440 a year savings. Most Americans can do a lot of good things with an extra $1,440 a year.
Enacting and enforcing a Median Pricing Program requirement would dramatically lower the costs of drugs for the Medicare/Medicaid program and would likely reduce total drug expenditures by more than 40% nationwide.
8. If a Median Market Pricing law cannot be passed, we must allow Medicare to negotiate to lower drug prices. Authorizing Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies to set prescription drug prices will lower costs—the challenge is the people most against allowing Medicare to do this are Republicans. The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA), which established Medicare Part D, included a ban on such negotiation. In theory, if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) could negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, the agency could leverage its purchasing power to pay less for drugs. The idea has broad public support, reflected in a recent poll showing 87 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the idea.
CMS’s proposed a pilot on value-based drug purchasing in Medicare Part B. (While most prescription drugs covered by Medicare are managed in Part D, certain drugs, such as those administered via infusion by physicians, are managed in Part B.) I believe this pilot program could generate useful data and could be initiated without Congressional action.
The Part B pilot continues to receive significant backlash funded by the pharmaceutical industry and has resulted in increased Congressional scrutiny of CMMI’s activities. House Republicans even introduced a bill (H.R. 5122) to prohibit further action on the proposed Part B pilot, even though CBO estimates that blocking the project would cost $395 million in direct spending over the next 10 years. The pilots should proceed and then pilots on Part D should follow a similar pattern to build evidence for value-based drug pricing or other reforms that will finally bust the gridlock, prove to elected officials that negotiating drug prices is the best thing for our country, and results in lower drug costs for Americans.
9. Earmark all settlements with drugmakers and device makers to be applied to help offset costs of the Medicare program.
A report by Public Citizen, the Washington DC-based health care advocacy group, ranks the largest settlements by drugmakers, and shows these companies paid out 74 settlements to the tune of $10.2 billion from Nov. 2010 to July 2012. The report does not include J&J’s $5+ billion settlements. Where does this money go? The public doesn’t know because we’re never told where these fines end up. Let’s pass legislation to earmark all settlements with drugmakers and device makers to be applied to help offset costs of the Medicare program.
10. As citizens we must take better care of ourselves and a simple rule requiring every insurance plan to cover one yearly healthcare screening, with no copay by the individual, to detect and prevent health issues should be mandated. If you want insurance, you need to see a doctor at least once a year, have a blood test, perform a cardio/stress test, receive advice on healthy diet and exercise, etc. In the long run, because of early detection of illnesses, this will save lives and money. If you don’t make your yearly physical screening, you should face a fine of $75 with the proceeds going into the general insurance fund. Consumers need to start taking their health care decisions seriously and this would accomplish that goal.
In addition, if 328 million people require annual screenings, the demand growth for doctors, registered nurses, clinics and testing laboratories would boom, creating hundreds of thousands, if not millions of new jobs.
Clinical waste (spending that could be reduced with better prevention and high-quality initial care) is estimated to consumer 14% of our nation’s health care expenditures. Annual screening may even be able to be accomplished by nursing professionals—registered nurses—with doctors reviewing the test results and having a consultation with the patient, after the results are returned. And as a preventive measure annual screenings can do much to lower costs.
11. Many members of Congress like to talk about eliminating the artificial boundaries that separate health insurance providers, the so-called “letting insurers sell across state line”. This is what I call “political do-nothing talk”.
Sabrina Corlette, the director of the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute and co-authors completed a study of a number of states that passed laws to allow out-of-state insurance sales. Not a single out-of-state insurer had taken them up on the offer. As the study found, there is no federal impediment to across-state-lines arrangements. The main difficulty is that most states want to regulate local products themselves. The ACA includes provisions to encourage more regional and national sales of insurance, but they have not proved popular. The challenge is cost: plans simply don’t have incentives to create doctor networks in other states without first having a large base of policy holders. Let’s stop kidding ourselves with thoughts that this is an approach that will lower costs. It won’t.
12. Any health care program should allow our Armed Forces and Veterans to see the doctor, clinic, or hospital of their choice. This is a plan both Republicans and Democrats should be able to get behind.
13. Fifty percent of Americans take multivitamins. 1 in 5 U.S. adults takes herbal supplements. Most people do not need to take any supplements as they get enough vitamins from their food. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force doesn't recommend regular use of any multivitamins or herbs.
The FDA only spot tests 1% of the 65,000 dietary supplements on the market. All these are reasons the FDA should require truth in labeling and testing of all dietary supplements to prove the ingredients being touted are actually in the supplements being sold.
There are an estimated 85,000 dietary supplements sold in America generating over $30 billion in annual revenue, but the producers are largely unregulated and stories of false ingredient labels are rampant. It is time that dietary supplements (diet, vitamins, muscle building, etc.) be required to have their ingredients and doses confirmed by the Food & Drug Administration prior to being sold to the public.
How bad is it? This is a transcript from a recent PBS Frontline series where a hospital addresses the difficulty in obtaining accurate data—if at all—related to supplements that patients bring into the hospital. It's shocking.
SARAH ERUSH, Pharm.D., Pharmacy Clinical Manager:
Families are showing up literally with shopping bags full of dietary supplements. The regulatory issues in the United States are that you have to— if a patient brings a medication into a hospital, we have to, as pharmacists, verify that this is a quality product, it is what it says it is, it’s labeled appropriately, it’s being dosed appropriately, and so on.
PAUL OFFIT, M.D., The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia:
We got fed up. We took a step back and we said, “OK, we’re going to ask these companies to at least meet a labeling standard.” They have to send us something called a certificate of analysis, which means they’ve had their product analyzed by an independent party that says that what’s on the label is what’s in the bottle.
Ninety percent of the companies never responded. And of the 10 percent that responded— of that 10 percent, often they would send us certificates of analysis where what was on the label wasn’t even close to what was in the bottle. And these were the ones who responded to us, which made us fearful of an industry that we couldn’t trust.
For example, this is an aqueous Vitamin D drop. So we use Vitamin D in premature infants. It says it should have 400 International Units per one ml of solution. However, it tells us that the results are that it’s 213 percent of the legal value. So it’s more than double what it says that it is.
So if we’re dosing premature infants who need very tiny doses if this drug, we’re now potentially giving them double what they should get, and could really put them at risk for toxicity.
GILLIAN FINDLAY (Journalist):
In the end, only 35 supplements met the hospital’s standards.
Not only is this shocking, it is also dangerous.
Dietary supplements represent a hidden danger to the American public and can lead to illness or death. The FDA’s charter is to set regulations is to ensure that the system best protects and promotes the public health and the well-being of patients. We cannot meet this goal if supplements are not put under FDA oversight. Fees from these approvals should be applied to operating the FDA and supporting both public and “Comprehensive Coverage” insurance programs. I believe any health care program for Americans must include the FDA oversight of dietary supplements---even if it is simply to prove that what is in a supplement is what is reflected on the label.
[In the interest of openness, my company, TRICCAR, formulates dietary supplements and has about a dozen products that will have to go through FDA approval in order to be made available to consumers. While we conduct double-blind studies on our products' efficacy and only work with trustworthy bottling and packaging companies, this proposal would negatively impact our bottom line. However, if this leads to better control over the supplements market, providing consumers with safer products and telling them exactly what is in each product, then it’s worth it to have more safety in the market.]
14. For years some elected officials have rallied against the abortion industry while also not requiring health plans to cover contraceptives. Meanwhile, single motherhood, babies born out of wedlock, and fatherless families have increased. 26 of the last 27 mass shooters came from fatherless families? Coincidence?
As a nation, we can’t have it both ways. Contraceptives for men and women should be part of every health insurance plan offered in America. If you have a moral objection to a man using a condom, then don’t buy condoms. If you morally object to your health insurance paying for the birth control pill for a single mother of three on welfare, then don’t complain when welfare expenses have to be increased to pay for a fourth baby. I also believe that any woman receiving CHIP or welfare benefits should be offered free birth control as part of her benefits.
When you look deeper—beyond the rhetoric, shouting, name calling, and rancor—you realize the abortion issue is not about pregnant women wanting abortions: it is about unwanted pregnancies.
There are many reasons a woman chooses to have an abortion. Maybe they can’t afford a pregnancy and a child. Maybe they have health problems. Maybe they are not in a place in their lives where they can properly care for a child. Maybe they are minors. Or maybe, they just don’t want to have the baby.
Regardless of their reasons, the core cause of abortion is an unwanted pregnancy. Naturally, the way to end abortion is to stop unwanted pregnancies from occurring in the first place. If a woman never becomes pregnant without wanting to be pregnant, there would be no need for abortion, and the divisive debate could finally end. In my policy statements on Women’s Issues, I write about the need to make contraception more readily available and affordable and the requirement that we better educate young women about what birth control does and doesn’t do. Why do I do this? Because it is a means to and end; a chance to reduce abortion rates and help women who are under-educated about sex, diseases, and pregnancy.
Abortion is already difficult to obtain in 90% of the United States and for most women, it is a last resort that comes with complex emotional and moral dilemmas. The Supreme Court has ruled that it is legal and continued efforts to limit its access without understanding what leads women to seek abortions and how to prevent pregnancies in the first place is not helpful. The real problem is America has an access to birth control, personal responsibility, and education problem.
Many staunch conservatives believe that birth control should not be offered to women. But being too frugal by opting for a “free” but relatively ineffective method, such as abstinence, fertility awareness or withdrawal, can easily lead to accidental pregnancy. Add in the transmission of diseases, including HIV, and it’s a recipe for long-term higher costs to taxpayers.
A couple using no birth control has an 85% chance of becoming pregnant in one year, and yet, many simply don’t understand the likelihood of pregnancy. Thirty-eight percent of all women of reproductive age are not currently using a contraceptive method.
All of the contraceptive methods, from the Pill to shots, to sterilization, are cheaper than the cost of carrying a baby to birth which is estimated to average between $12,000 and $18,000. They are certainly cheaper than raising a child to age 18.
This begs the question of why so many people and elected officials—mostly men—want to prevent government spending on contraception, at $300 a year for prevention, as a means to prevent unwanted births and abortions. From a financial standpoint to our country, providing birth control for free, at cost, or even reduced retail rates, is much better than not. The average yearly payment to a woman on WIC with one child is $2,504. If one-third of women who are on or may end up on WIC were to accept free contraception, the American taxpayer would save over $1.1 billion a year. That’s money that could be better spent in education or providing more safety in every school in America.
Plus, regardless of the financial benefits, this will decrease the number of abortions, which is what the pro-life side wants, and, in speaking with the 312 women who took my survey regarding contraception and abortion, the pro-choice side wants as well. Ahhh…compromise. Could it be that because both sides have been battling over the medical procedure of abortion that they’ve failed to realize a common ground is possible?
Abortion rates are already trending downward. Offering low-cost or no-cost contraceptive options could bring it down dramatically more. The Center for Disease Control states there are about 650,000 legal abortions performed each year. This is a drop of about 21% since 2008. That’s a positive trend.
The highest percentage of abortions occurred in the Washington, DC/District of Columbia (38%), New York (33%), and New Jersey (30%). California and Florida reported about 222,000 abortions, with the majority—53%—being performed on women who are Black or Hispanic and predominantly poor. Nevada’s abortion rate has steadily dropped the past ten years: the state reported 7,294 abortions in 2016, a large reduction of 32.4% over 2008.
Ours is a health system of unbelievable heights, offering innovations and levels of care other first world nations do not. But we are also a nation of catastrophic lows: vast underserved areas, inaccessible medical records, tens of millions of uninsured and opioid addicts dying in the street.
We can do better. We can have our outstanding medical inventions, lower the costs of insurance and medications, improve the safety of nutraceuticals and dietary supplements, provide a dignified social safety net, and still staff the Mayo Clinic. We can no longer pretend health care is a zero sum game that risks our collective prosperity. Rather, productivity surrounding the care we provide to one another represents almost 18% of our economy. Healthier people equals a more prosperous economy.
We must fix the problems of the Affordable Care Act in a way that protects and treats all Americans and the only way to do that is through reducing or eliminating insurance company profits, providing Americans the choice of choosing their own physician, covering all maladies from head to toe, including vision and dental, and working to streamline the paperwork costs that eat up 9% of our healthcare expenditures.
There are bound to be hundreds of other ways we can address healthcare, insurance, and prescription drug costs. If you have ideas, please share them with me at Bill@TownsendForNevada.com.
Nevada has about 26,000 homeless people, with 25,000 of those in Southern Nevada. We have one of the highest per capita rates of homelessness in the nation, resulting in a three-quarter of a billion dollar drain on our resources.
The number of unsheltered homeless people in Nevada is about 8,000. These are people on streets, in parks or vehicles. They are the people that tourists call “vagrants” and business owners call “nuisances”.
Studies show the cost of leaving a homeless person on the streets is $30,000 while the cost of housing them is just $10,000. Addressing this crisis is both the moral and fiscally responsible thing to do.
There is much we can do to alleviate their problems and improve Nevada. Their plight reflects on us as a state, and in a state with such a large tourism industry, it behooves us to work on finding solutions to chronic homelessness.
Southern Nevada ranks among the nation’s highest in homeless population. In 2017, Las Vegas’ population ranked 28th in America, yet our homeless population ranked 8th, behind San Francisco and ahead of Boston and Philadelphia. Clark County ranks fifth among large metropolitan areas with the highest rates of unsheltered homeless and only the California cities Fresno, Los Angeles, San Jose and Oakland had higher rates.
Economists say the rule of thumb for personal housing costs is that they should be no more than 30 percent of your income. Compare the average per-capita income in a given region with the average per-capita housing cost. The more it exceeds 30 percent, the more homeless people you will have. This is why places with high costs of living, specifically cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have severe homeless problems, but why does Nevada where housing is affordable compare to other cities of similar size or larger? What draws the homeless to Nevada? The answers are varied and complex. Tourism. Fair weather. Ease of obtaining alcohol and drugs. Places to hang out and shelter such as parks, underground tunnels, casinos, and 24-hour restaurants. An influx from California which has 25% of the nation’s homeless, or about 135,000 people.
Many times young people move to Nevada to start their lives and find the service industry is low paying and hours long. They end up without enough money to keep their apartment, then live in their car, and when they can’t pay their loan, they end up on the streets. All of these steps contribute to the homeless problem in our state. The same happens with workers in construction who are often employed or not based on our local economy.
How do we address homelessness?
First, we have to admit that we are not doing enough to solve the structural causes of homelessness—lack of affordable housing, wage stagnation, the ever-increasing wealth gap, racism, and inadequate health and social services—especially mental health care—for people living in poverty.
Our federal government has led the way in fighting homeless with states and local communities trying to pick up the slack. Over the past 50 years, billions of dollars have been spent to combat homelessness with little to show. As soon as one person gets housed, another ends up homeless.
The approach we need to take involves admitting that we’ve been wrong and focusing on four areas that, if managed correctly, should dramatically cut homelessness and help those less fortunate find stable employment.
Second, we have to understand that, like other hot topic issues such as gun control and 2nd Amendment rights, healthcare, education, immigration, and crime, there is no single answer. It is a complex mix of actions that must be taken to solve the problem once and for all.
Tactics to solve the homelessness issue:
Homelessness is defined by lack of housing; therefore housing is the essential foundation to ending homelessness. Simple enough, right?
Housing is safety and security. Housing provides a stable base from which people can get and keep a job, address mental illness and substance abuse, take care of their health and nutrition, and find purpose in their lives.
We cannot address housing person by person, family by family. It must be scaled. In the 1980s, politicians slashed investment in affordable housing. As an example, in 1970, there were 300,000 more affordable units than low-income renters (6.5 million units for 6.2 million renters). By 1985, demand had grown sharply, with 8.9 million low-income renter households. Unfortunately, affordable housing didn’t increase to cover those people; instead, it decreased down to only 5.6 million affordable housing units by the mid-80s—a gap of 3.3 million between units available and those who desperately needed them. America has never recovered from these policy decisions.
To end homelessness, we cannot take current resources and reallocate them. This is a common strategy in Washington, DC, but the negative side is inevitably pits one group against another (singles vs. families vs. seniors vs. veterans). This approach also causes conflict between services for housing and shelter for housing.
We must create a national commitment—public and private sectors—to ensure affordable housing for all. This can be accomplished by looking at new building methods ranging from construction of cinder block and concrete walled homes and apartments to converting abandoned buildings to utilizing new housing methods such as reclaimed shipping containers to create low cost shelter. This is the fundamental starting place of any policy.
Housing is essential, but it is not sufficient. Housing alone, without attention to physical health, behavioral health, employment, education, and other community support, will continue to result in instability and recurrent homelessness for many people. Services provide stability and prevent future homelessness.
Before you poo-poo a call for services, please realize we all need services. Health care is a service. Childcare is a service. Public transportation is a service. Substance abuse, case management, and employment services are also services critical to ending homelessness.
Housing alone cannot address the myriad complex challenges facing so many people living in poverty and experiencing homelessness. We must find a way to ensure that services are available, accessible, and affordable across the lifespan. Without such comprehensive support mechanisms in place, how can we expect housing alone to end homelessness in a way that is real, deep, and sustainable? We can’t. We must make structural changes to how we address services for the homeless.
3. Social Connectedness
Many homeless who are moved into government housing find their lack of connection to the community leads to loneliness, depression, relapse, or worse, suicide. In many cities the homeless are stigmatized by those who believe they should “just get a job”, and many should, but without a home in which to safely sleep and shower, they can’t find employment.
America should study nations that have focused on strategies for social inclusion—countries like, Canada, Scotland, Denmark, Singapore and Japan—that work actively to destigmatize mental illness, substance use disorders, homelessness, and poverty. Greater Tokyo’s total population is over 36 million yet their number of homeless amounts to only about 700 people. Singapore’s homeless problem is virtually non-existent. These countries actively build affordable homes that homeless can purchase over time, giving them an established place to reside and work—through social services programs –to reestablish themselves and become productive members of the community.
Another option is to work with technology firms and corporations that are upgrading their computer systems to donate those machines to provide low-cost Internet connected devices so online classes (Word, Excel, etc.) can be offered and newly resettled citizens can use the Internet to connect with others.
Homelessness prevention means more than just intervening at eviction court and providing a short term housing subsidy to stabilize a family who is about to be thrown out of their home. While that is an important tactic, prevention requires we look across multiple systems—housing, healthcare, homelessness, education, child welfare, criminal justice, employment, and others—to identify pathways into homelessness, then design solutions that catch people before they fall. That is hard work. We must do it. We must understand how to stem the flow of people into homelessness. If we do not, we cannot expect to end homelessness.
We know what works. We can refer to what has worked in other countries as well as what has worked in America. Still, after decades of research we never seem to generate the political will to fund such programs at levels necessary to meet the need. As a nation, we continue to not do enough for the hundreds of thousands of individuals, families, and youth still experiencing homelessness each night in America.
We have 26,000 homeless in our state, most situated in Clark County, creating one of the most dense homeless populations in America. We also spend among the lowest in the nation in terms of percentage of welfare, health services, housing, and community development.
As your voice in Congress, I will introduce legislation to create a $200 million pilot project to dramatically change our approach to homelessness through the initiative outlined above. If it works in Nevada, it can be deployed nationwide. If successful, and I believe it will be, we can get people off the streets and into homes and jobs, thus providing them the opportunity to restart their lives to become valued people in our communities. And that makes Nevada a better place for all.
Have thoughts on how we can help the homeless? Email me at Bill@TownsendforNevada.com.
Immigration is a subject that is close to home for my family. My wife is an immigrant. Katrina immigrated to the United States from Beijing, China in 1992. She came here legally, holding a Green Card, because her mother had taken the legal route and obtained permanent residence status. After arriving in America, Katrina applied for citizenship and, in 1999, after 7 years of waiting, became an American citizen. She describes that moment as “One of the proudest days of my life”.
While awaiting citizenship, she earned a college degree in accounting, became a certified public accountant, enrolled and received certifications in information technology and auditing, and worked for a handful of companies, rising to the head of global finance for newegg.com, a $2.8 billion revenue company in Southern California that also has facilities in Tennessee, New Jersey, Canada, China, and Taiwan. By all definitions, she is the kind of person we want to immigrate to America.
Immigration has become a hot button topic in politics. From DACA and DREAMers to illegal aliens and border security, there is a lot of screaming on both sides, but not much resolution and very little common sense.
On one side the Democrats seem to want to allow anyone and everyone into the United States. On the other side, the Republicans seem to want to deport anyone who is here illegally, including the children of illegals who were brought her at a young age. In the middle are people like me and you who understand that fixing the country’s immigration problem correctly can have long-term positive effects for America.
The first question we should ask is, “Is immigration good for America?” Famous immigrants to our shores include journalist Joseph Pulitzer, guitarist Eddie Van Halen, singer Joni Mitchell, Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, YouTube founders Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, baseball great Mariano Rivera, Albert Einstein, the first female Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, fashion icons Liz Claiborne and Oscar de la Renta, and the author of our beloved “God Bless America” Irving Berlin.
Governor (and “I’ll be back” actor) Arnold Schwarzenegger, musician Dave Matthews, actor Charlize Theron, soccer star Freddy Adu, basketball stars Yao Ming and Dikembe Motumbo, ballet great Mikhail Baryshnikov, and 13th Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff Ret. Gen. John
Shalikashvili were all immigrants.
The founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, may have never started Apple…or even been born if his father hadn’t emigrated from Syria before meeting his mother in America.
The facts of the immigration debate are universally acknowledged. Immigration has long supported the growth and dynamism of our economy. Immigrants and refugees are entrepreneurs, job creators, laborers, taxpayers, and consumers. They add trillions of dollars to the US gross domestic product, and their importance will increase in the coming decades as America’s largest generation—the baby boomers—retires en masse, spurring labor demand and placing an unprecedented burden on the social safety net. However, additional benefits to the US economy and society more broadly could be obtained through legislative reforms designed to modernize the US immigration system and provide unauthorized immigrants already in the country today (but not future illegal immigrants) with a path to becoming taxpaying members of our society.
Increased immigration enforcement imposes costs on taxpayers and threatens legal immigrants, their families, and their communities across the country.
The effect on illegal immigrants is even starker. Stepping up detentions and deportations will not only cost taxpayers billions of dollars but will also break apart families and place vulnerable individuals—such as survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in the United States, as well as women and children fleeing violence in their homelands—in peril.
For the sake of our country’s future, it makes sense to develop a well-rounded strategy to deal with the issue of legal and illegal immigration, and especially on how we deal with those here illegally.
Here are the facts:
42 percent of all undocumented persons in the US came here legally and overstayed.
The first thing we must look at is something that most Americans have little or no knowledge of: A large number of immigrants settling in the US without authorization are first coming to the country legally. Yes, legally. Crossing the border is not the way the large majority of persons now become undocumented, according to the Center for Migration Studies (CMS). Two-thirds of those who joined the undocumented population did so by entering with a valid visa and then overstaying their visa. In fact, overstays have exceeded those entering illegally every year over the past 10 years.
The Department of Homeland Security states that about 739,478 people who are illegally in America came via travel visas in 2016 and have overstayed their visa. They come from all over the world, but mostly from South America, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Mexico. Contrary to popular opinion that the most visitors who overstay are from Mexico, DHS reports the nation with the most visitors who failed to leave at the end of their authorized stay was Canada.
Canadians are the #1 illegal immigrant group via visas. Mexicans made up 49% of unauthorized immigrants in 2014 (including some who arrived decades ago), but they account for only about 9% of foreigners (or 42,000 people) who arrived by air and sea, overstayed and had not left by the end of the next fiscal year. Canadians, meanwhile, account for about 1% of unauthorized immigrants in Pew Research Center’s latest estimate, but 19% of overstayers (about 93,000 people), more than double the Mexican overstayers.
By the way, Canadians who immigrated to the US and became famous include singer/guitarist Neil Young and actors Pamela Anderson and Michael J. Fox.
DHS has various record-keeping challenges that make it difficult to match arrival and departure records for the same person. If the government does not match these records because of data errors, a person who actually left the country would be erroneously counted as an overstayer. Similarly, if not all departure records are collected by the airlines and transmitted to DHS, erroneous reports of overstays would result.
Regardless, if we want to address illegal immigration, we must demand DHS more diligently record and track those that enter the country on visas and overstay and put into place methods to ensure these people return home. We can begin to fix this by requiring every person who enters the United States have a biometric scan of their face, a photograph, height and weight recorded, copy of their passport and visa, and list of destinations and where they will stay. We can then match them to their expected departure date—searching against airplane and ship records for instance—and if they are “x” numbers of day late, we can have our immigration department track them down.
This would be a good place to start.
58% of immigrants came to America illegally.
I often hear people say, “The majority of illegal aliens aren’t criminals.” The fact of the matter is, technically, by the book, by the rule of law, they are. They broke the law when entering America illegally and continue to break the law by staying here. Should we reward this behavior? No. For if we do, we tell the world that it is acceptable to sneak into America and live here illegally. That is wrong. However…there is a way to deal with this issue while telling would be illegal aliens there is no way outside of official channels to move to America.
We have an estimated 11 million illegal aliens in the US. Of this number, a staggering 3.6 million are DREAMers.
The political debate over the fate of undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, aka DREAMers, has overlooked just how many there are in the country today. DREAMers got their name from the DREAM Act, a bill that has been proposed in Congress since 2001, but never passed, that would protect those here illegally by no fault of their own. (As my son said to me, “Dad, it’s sort of like when you take me to Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary and I don’t want to go but you make me go anyway.”)
The 3.6 million number is not widely known, in large part because so much attention has been focused recently on 800,000 mostly young DREAMers accepted into the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Former President Obama took executive action to allow them to remain in America, bypassing the responsibility and role of Congress. When President Trump took office, he rescinded Obama’s ill-conceived order.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services said there were 689,800 active DACA recipients as of Sept. 4, 2017, which means about 110,000 eligible DREAMers have, for one reason or another, failed to apply to the DACA program.
To qualify for DACA, created 6 years ago in 2012, applicants had to undergo a thorough background check, prove they arrived in the US before their 16th birthday, were 30 or younger, were attending school or in the military, and had not committed a felony or serious misdemeanor. The program provided work permits and two-year reprieves from deportation that could be renewed if the applicants continued to meet all the requirements.
There is a lot of debate on DACA, but I believe at this point in time, it is best to leave the DACA program in place for those that meet the current requirements and add two additional criteria of “if not attending school, is actively employed for at least 20 hours a week” and “is fluent in English”. Then give each person an additional 1 year to apply, during which time they will fulfill the requirements because this will incentivize applicants who are not in school or the military to find employment which will result in taxes being paid. After application, we should give them a pathway to becoming citizens.
Some of you may disagree with me on this last point. You may say, “They’re here illegally. They shouldn’t get a chance to become a citizen!” You’re right. They are, by the rule of law, in the United States illegally.
Let me pose a scenario. I want you to imagine this in your mind as you read it.
What if a young woman had been living in squalor, abject poverty, or under fear of assault and rape, and decided she would cross the border to another country to escape the hell whence she came? And what if this young woman had a baby boy, perhaps only one year old, strapped to her stomach as she fled? She snuck across the border and ended up in Mesquite, Nevada.
What if this young mother worked two jobs so she could put food on the table and send her son, now 5, to elementary school.
What if this mother did this for another 13 years and her son, now 18, was about to graduate with the 5th highest grade point average in his class?
What if this young man attended the University of Nevada to study biology, a subject at which he excelled? What if he gets through 4 years, graduates with honors, and gets accepted into Harvard Medical College?
Imagine if before he leaves for Harvard, armed agents bust through the door of his mother’s house at 5am, arrest her and him, and deport them back to a place they hadn’t been in nineteen years and that he doesn’t even remember?
…imagine that young mother is your mom and that young man is you.
All you’ve ever known is America. All your friends are in America. All you have been taught has been centered on America and what a great land of opportunity she is. Outside of the fact you were born in another country, your entire memorable life has been about being in America.
Kids can remember events before the age of 3 when they’re small, but by the time they’re a bit older, those early autobiographical memories are lost. Few adults can remember anything that happened to them before the age of 3. A new study from Emory University has documented that it’s about age 7 when our earliest memories begin to fade, a phenomenon known as “childhood amnesia.” Infants do not have the sophisticated neural architecture needed to form and hold onto more complex forms of memory so by the time they reach 9 or 10, they only remember about 30-35% of the events that occurred in their lives, and this includes birthdays, learning to read and write, who grandma and grandpa are and things that are ingrained in them over and over again, such as how to tie shoes.
We now have scientific proof that a child born in Canada, Mexico, or China, who is brought into the US at a young age, is most likely not going to remember much of anything about being in another country. In their minds, except for being told they were born outside the US, they only know and recognize the US as home.
As a nation that supposedly cares for the weak, can we honestly say it is morally acceptable to put a person who has committed no crime (except being carried over a border), has gone to school, is fluent in English, and contributes to our great nation’s prosperity, on a plane to be dumped in a country they don’t know? I don’t believe so.
Plus, how do we morally accept this if we know that there could be children involved today? Many DREAMers have families and in the majority of cases, their children were born on US soil, automatically earning them citizenship.
Imagine if one day you were that small boy, an American citizen, and you woke to find Mommy and Daddy are missing and you’re being dragged off to Child Protective Services?
What good does this do for anyone involved? Nothing. That’s why we must find solutions.
How can our elected officials be so callous and morally bereft to imagine that this type of action is good for families? What about each of us who most likely, unless we are ancestors of indigenous tribes of North America, came from immigrants? What benefit does the United States derive from this action?
Would we not be better served to ensure the child and mother become assimilated to our culture, pay their fair share of taxes, and get in line to earn their citizenship? Yes, of course, we would.
How can those espousing their strong religious beliefs of compassion and love accept ripping apart a family? Perhaps it would be wise for them to read Leviticus 24:22 ESV where it says, “You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for
The salient point is this: We are a generous and caring nation that has the means to accept those who will benefit our society, and to not accept and deport those that don’t.
It’s a difficult dilemma to be faced with those that break our laws to get into our country, but who obey the laws once here, and contribute to our society through hard work and paying taxes. Let’s help the DREAMers become legal and give them an opportunity to become citizens of the country they have called “home” for years and for most, as long as they can remember. Let’s let them pay into Social Security, Medicare, school safety, defense, and infrastructure. Let’s welcome them to our country just as many thousands were welcomed through Ellis Island, operational from 1892 to 1924 and once America’s most active immigration station, where over 12 million
immigrants were processed.
What do we do about the 110,000 who didn’t apply for DACA?
We should direct the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to devise a plan to locate the approximately 110,000 DREAMers who did not apply to DACA and to determine the status of each. It may be that some didn’t understand how to apply for DACA. It could be that some are afraid to come forward. It may be that some are criminals. If they are qualified to apply for DACA, they should, and if they do not qualify, they should be deported.
What do we do about the remaining DREAMers?
What about the other 2.8 million illegal immigrants who are not part of DACA? It may be my compassionate nature and sense of empathy for those less fortunate, but I believe exposing millions of DREAMers to deportations would be a moral and economic calamity. Our economy is growing and our labor market is very tight. Many DREAMers contribute significantly to society through their work and many more have skills that contribute to this economic growth.
The number of DREAMers is roughly a third of all undocumented immigrants and does not include potentially millions of their immediate family members who were born on US soil and are, therefore, US citizens.
What do we do with two DREAMers who have been in America for 20+ years and how have one or two children, both US citizens? The legal argument is the parents should be deported, but then what becomes of the children? The moral argument is that the parents should be given 1 year to apply to obtain a work permit and apply to become a citizen and start the process through which to become a citizen. If they fail to do so, then deport them. Their minor-aged children would likely have to go with them, but would be allowed to return to America at any time since they are citizens.
In addition, we could enable DREAMers who enroll in the Armed Forces and serve 8 years to earn their citizenship upon the successful completion of service.
The elephant in the room: the 7.4 million illegal immigrants that are not part of the DREAMers classification.
7,400,000 illegal immigrants are equivalent to the populations of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston…combined. I’m a realist and I try to get to the root of all issues to device a solution. Do I believe we can round up 7.4 million people, process them, then deport them? No. How many agents would be required? How much shelter would be required? The costs alone, to each and every one of us, will be staggering.
Last year, ICE spent an average of $10,854 per deportee. This includes all costs necessary to identify, apprehend, detain, process through immigration court, and remove an alien. With 7.4 million aliens, the cost to deport everyone would exceed $80 billion or about $338 for every American man, woman, and child.
It gets worse. If the illegal alien is in a city that is considered “sanctuary cities and counties” that refuse to cooperate with ICE, the costs associated with deportation can rise to as much as $27,000 per person. Beyond breaking federal authority, this is yet another reason sanctuary cities must be eliminated.
A better use of funds would be to go after the illegal aliens who have criminal records, are in gangs that commit crimes, have been arrested for child or spousal abuse, or have drug problems and deport them. ICE estimates this number to be 2 million aliens. Deporting 2 million illegal aliens will cost taxpayers almost $22 billion or $92 for every man, woman and child in America. This is a huge amount of money, but worth spending to remove criminal elements from our communities.
What to do with the other 5.4 million illegal immigrants that do not have criminal records, but did come to America illegally? As you’ve seen, the cost to deport is astronomical and I have yet to meet someone who has said they’d gladly pay $338 for each member of their family to help cover the cost of deportation. A family of four would pay $1,349.91. I can think of a lot better ways a family could use $1,350, can’t you?
Again, we must look at facts and not be swayed by specious arguments from both sides of the political spectrum.
A comprehensive 2015 study by the National Academy of Sciences concluded, “Immigrants are less likely than the native-born to commit crimes, and neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have much lower rates of crime and violence than comparable non-immigrant neighborhoods.” That includes lower-skilled immigrants from Mexico and Central America, who are the most likely to be in the United States without documentation, and who are the people most Americans associate with illegal immigration (but we already know the Canadians overstay their visas more than any other visitors and, since 2009, new Asian immigrants have outnumbered new Hispanic immigrants. By 2013, both the new Chinese and Indian immigrants outnumbered new Mexicans immigrants).
In my experience, most of the illegal immigrants I’ve met are peaceful, hard-working members of their communities who want to provide for their families. They cherish living in the United States because it offers more opportunity and a better way of life than their original countries. Mexico’s average hourly wage is $5.10; it’s $2.31 in Panama and $1.10 in Honduras. Is it any wonder someone from these countries who can get to America and earn $6-10 an hour to support their families decides to make the trip? People are self-serving and given the chance to earn more than presently earned, most will seek to earn more.
What about all the illegals taking American jobs? The National Bureau for Economic Affairs reports that illegal immigrants, on average, earned only 3.4% less than their legal peers and most illegal immigrants are not competing with American citizens for jobs, they are competing with other illegals. Regardless, this is an issue that can be addressed by requiring all employers to utilize the e-Verify system for checking the legality of employing someone. If an employer doesn’t use e-Verify and hires someone who is here illegally, then the employer faces fines. As your voice in Congress, I will gladly sponsor or cosponsor legislation calling for a $5,000 per incident fine for not using e-Verify or hiring an illegal even after using e-Verify.
I recently spoke with three strawberry farmers in Southern California. I asked them about the field workers and of the dozens of employees they have, nearly all of them were from Central or South America. Only 1 was Caucasian and 1 was African American. The farmers told me the argument that “those jobs could go to Americans” is somewhat invalid as Americans are not pursuing those jobs. Two of the farmers said they have not had a Caucasian apply for a job in the field for as long as they could remember. When I asked how many of the workers were in the United States illegally, all three said over 75%. Mandatory e-Verify compliance and severe fines will go a long way to ending the practice of hiring illegals.
If labor for agriculture were to dry up due to enforcing our nation’s immigration laws, we could create worker programs where foreigners could come to the US for a set period of time and work, then must return home. We can also assess a financial transaction fee of, say 20%, whenever these workers wire transfer funds back to their country. Of course, there is always an alternative: we can look at creating prison-to-work programs where low-risk prisoners could earn minimum wage working on farms, construction sites, and other places where low-cost illegal labor has been most used. This would provide companies with a workforce, provide prisoners with a job and an opportunity to earn money while incarcerated, and potentially lead to an easier move from prison to release. This may be a ideal prisoner re-entry program for non-violent offenders such as illicit drug crimes.
Returning to the 5.4 illegal immigrants left over from the DREAMers and criminals, what do we know about them? Most belong to families that include US citizens and citizen children. A majority have lived in the United States for more than five years, a third for a full decade or more. They fill jobs in sectors such as agriculture, hospitality, retail and other services. Pulling them from the workplace would cause those industries to contract, reducing investment, and putting at risk the jobs of managers, accountants, sales representatives and other middle-class US citizens.
Perhaps the most morally acceptable and practical solution to illegal immigration is “earned legalization” for those who are already living and working here. Earned legalization of immigrants already here would not be blanket amnesty. Newly legalized immigrants should be required to pay fines (perhaps $5,000 per person, automatically deducted from their paychecks over three years prior to earning citizenship) and back taxes and submit to background vetting. The fines could be allocated to enforcement and border security. These illegals wouldn’t necessarily qualify for an automatic path to citizenship, either. They’d need to show that during the citizenship process they remain enrolled in school, have a job, enroll in the Armed Forces, or are mothers of elementary or middle school aged children. They would need to be felony and serious misdemeanor free and should undergo random drug testing during the citizenship process. If they commit a crime or are found with non-prescribed opiates, cocaine, heroin, or other banned drugs in their system, they should be deported and warned that any illegal re-entry would result in incarceration. Any illegal alien who is deported and then returns to America illegally should receive an automatic 5 year jail term which ends with their deportation. If they return a third time, they would receive a 20-year jail term.
To slow down trafficking, let's enact a minimum 20-year jail term for human traffickers who bring illegal aliens into the United States.
Only with a very strong sentencing law can we begin to halt future illegal immigration. If those thinking they can sneak into America and live here undetected understood that 1) all employers have to comply with e-Verify, including those who hire housekeepers, nannies, cooks, etc., 2) getting caught would lead to immediate deportation, and 3) any subsequent illegal reentry could result in 5 years or 20 years in jail, the number of illegals entering America would decrease.
Here are the benefits of “earned legalization”. First, it will enhance our security by bringing people out of the shadows. We would know who is here, and the legalized immigrants would have more incentive to cooperate with law enforcement. Those with real criminal records or any connection to terrorism could be more likely to stand out and would be subject to prosecution and deportation.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 failed to end illegal immigration because it did nothing to expand future opportunities for legal entry. Our economy continues to create demand for low-skilled workers at a time when the number of American workers willing to fill those jobs continues to shrink. The problem is we lack a workable temporary visa program for low-skilled workers that can respond to the needs of dynamic labor markets, such as agriculture and construction.
If workers are allowed to enter the United States legally to fill jobs, they will be far less likely to enter illegally. They will most likely be seasonal workers, coming in for planting or harvesting season and returning home at other times. That was our national experience in the mid-1950s, when Congress dramatically expanded the number of temporary-worker visas. The result was a 95 percent drop in apprehensions at the southern border.
An expanded temporary-visa program would free US Border Patrol agents to concentrate on intercepting real criminals: felons, repeat offenders, MS-13 gang members, and people who commit serious crimes like:
The effect of visitor labor programs, new laws on illegal border crossings and smugglers, and comprehensive enforcement on criminal activities, would send a clear message to would-be illegals that they are not welcome to come to America in any manner except through legal means.
By reducing pressure on the US-Mexico border, expanded legal migration would eliminate most rationale for building an expensive wall simply for the benefit of keeping illegals out. The wall should still be built in areas where US Border Patrol suggests, but with an additional focus of stopping the flow of opiates and illegal drugs coming over the border. We should also enlist the US military and our helicopter and drone divisions to patrol and terminate drug traffickers.
1 out of 3 illegals came into the US legally.
A third or more of illegal immigrants in the
United States entered legally but then overstayed their visas, so a wall would do nothing to keep them out. With far fewer people trying to cross the border illegally, the US Border Patrol would be able to keep bad people out without the building of a wall across the entire border, instead relying on additional hires (which increase employment and contribute to growth in the economy), technology (such as sound and movement sensors and drones), and the US military. We can build some wall, where needed, but stopping illegal immigration through a physical barrier is prone to defeat via tunnel or other means and unless a concerted effort along the wall will result in a dramatic reduction in illegal drugs, there isn’t much call to build along the entire US-Mexico border.
What can we do in 2019’s session of Congress to address and fix the immigration issue facing America?
1. Enact a law that prohibits, form the day it is passed forward, people who have entered the United States illegally from applying for citizenship.
If you ever have entered the United States illegally, you give up your right to ever apply for citizenship.
2. Enact a law that prohibits people who have entered the United States illegally from applying for a work permit.
If you enter the United States illegally, you don’t ever get a work permit.
3. Work-place enforcement through mandatory e-Verify must be codified.
Redefine the legal responsibilities of employers: Rather than facing civil and criminal penalties for knowingly hiring an illegal, they should face civil and criminal penalties for failing to verify the legal status of an employee. If Carl’s Landscaping or Mario’s Mexican Cantina or another company gets fined every time it gets busted using illegal labor, Carl, Mario and the other owners are going to be more inclined to obey our laws.
4. We should require certain regulated businesses — especially banks, check-cashing companies, and those offering electronic fund transfers — to require non-citizens to document their legal status when making certain transactions that routinely require a photo ID.
Identification is required for everyday tasks such as cashing a check, sending a wire transfer, boarding a domestic flight, renting a hotel room, etc. Those wishing to conduct such activities while on a business or tourist visa would be required to present evidence of their legal status (e.g., they are still in their visa’s window). Those overstaying their visa would be quickly be identified and reported to ICE.
This places no new burdens on citizens, minimal burdens on businesses, and very light burdens on legally present aliens. It won’t prevent visa overstays entirely, but it will make overstaying a much less attractive proposition.
5. Enact legislation that states any illegal alien who is deported and then returns to America illegally will receive an automatic five year jail term.
After their sentence, they would be deported to their home country within 7 days. If they return a third time, they would receive a 20-year jail term and subsequent deportation. This may sound harsh, but penalties like this will prevent a lot of new illegal immigration occurrences from happening because of the risk of long-term incarceration.
6. Complete the Congressionally-mandated biometric entry/exit system to track non-immigrant visitors.
We should immediately deploy 2- or 3-factor biometric identification systems that require, at a minimum, a facial biometric scan and a scan of the visitor’s passport. These systems require the person to present a) something they are, b) something they have, or c)something they know. In this case it could be a facial scan, a passport or programmed key card like you get at work or when checking into a hotel, and something the know such as birth date and place. Along with these identification records should be a detailed recording of where the visitor will be traveling to, the purpose, and where he/she will stay.
A 2- or 3-factor biometric identification system can be placed at all points of entry and in federal buildings nationwide where work visa, vacation visa, and other travelers can check in occasionally. In addition, prior to their scheduled departure, the facial scan would determine if the visitor is indeed the same one that came into the country and record them as successfully exiting once confirmation from the airline, boat or other exit transportation company has occurred. If a key card was employed in this scenario, the card could be turned over to the boarding agent upon entering the vessel and then turned over to immigration control to read the card and match it to the user who has already been identified in the system. This last step simply ensures the visitor did indeed get on the plane or boat.
This system would immediately identify visitors who overstayed their permit, notify ICE and law enforcement, providing where the visitor reported staying, their passport and key card numbers and enable ICE or law enforcement to conduct a biometric scan of the person’s face, which can be done from a few feet away.
7. Require state and local law enforcement to report affirmatively all non-citizens in custody to ICE, make ICE detainers mandatory, and require ICE to pick up and remove deportable aliens.
This should already be happening but in the case of “sanctuary cities” it doesn’t. We must crack down on states and cities that refuse to assist in the enforcement of US laws.
8. Expand expedited removal to include all illegal aliens with criminal convictions.
820,000 of the approximately 11 million people living in the country illegally had criminal convictions.
After several reports pointing toward an increasing trend of Immigration and Customs Enforcement targeting undocumented immigrants with no criminal background or low-level offenses we now have the statistics needed to assess the effectiveness of this program.
According to ICE, while border arrests have slowed, arrests of undocumented immigrants within the US have soared since President Trump took office. The number of arrests of immigrants for civil violations increased by 30 percent, and the number of immigrants without criminal records arrested more than doubled. Overall removal numbers declined, however, by about 6 percent.
Instead of wasting precious law enforcement resources on illegal aliens with no criminal records, we need to focus on getting the 820,000 illegals with criminal convictions out of the country.
9. End catch-and-release of illegal aliens by requiring that they be detained until removal.
A de facto catch-and-release policy for illegal immigrants nabbed crossing the border in Texas was reinstated last November, with Border Patrol agents being told not to even bother turning them over for deportation because there was no bed space. Brandon Judd, an agent and president of the National Border Patrol Council, said the problem is that illegal immigration has surged once again after dipping during the early months of President Trump’s term. That has left the deportation agency, ICE, struggling to find places to hold the illegal immigrants. As a result, Border Patrol agents who brought apprehended people to ICE were turned away.
This is shockingly stupid and akin to your local police capturing the neighborhood burglar, but because they don’t have a cell available, they turn him loose. We must find the means to house those crossing the border illegally so that their deportation can be processed in a speedy manner.
10. Deny immigrant and non-immigrant visas to nations that refuse to repatriate their citizens.
Under President Trump, Homeland Security has managed to drastically cut the number of countries that habitually refuse to take back immigrants whom the US is trying to deport. Before taking office, there were 20+ countries and now there are 12; the shortest list in a decade.
Even longtime offenders including Iraq and Somalia have earned their way off the list.
There are approximately 110,000 immigrants currently in the US that our government wants to deport as a result of criminal activities. Their home countries need to take them back.
In August 2017, the Trump administration decided to impose visa sanctions on four countries that refuse to take back foreign nationals deemed to be in the US illegally: Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone. As a result, more than 1,900 Cambodians, approximately 700 Eritreans, 2,137 Guineans, and 831 nationals of Sierra Leone—all convicted criminals—are now residing in the US while subject to final deportation orders.
Over five thousand five hundred convicted criminals sounds like a lot, but it pales in comparison to the criminals from the other 8 who have roughly 104,000 convicted criminals stuck in America because they refuse to take back their own citizens. Leading the list? China with over 39,500 people. Then comes Cuba with 26,200; Vietnam with 8,500; Laos with 4,500, and Iran with 2,800.
We need to protect long term foreign relationships, but more pressure must be put on countries to take back their own people and immigrant and non-immigrant visa sanctions are a good place to start.
Even if immigrants are unable to be returned to the home country due to a well-founded fear of persecution (race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion), we need to push for their return.
They committed crimes in America or were found to have committed crimes elsewhere and they need to be sent home.
11. Reign in the practice of birthright citizenship for illegal aliens and foreign visitors.
From the LA Times: “Chinese citizen Xiaoyan Zhang made it clear that she had one objective for traveling to the US from China — to give birth so her child would automatically be an American citizen.”
“Rest assured, a representative of You Win USA, a company advertising “maternity tourism” services, told Zhang. For fees starting at $38,000, the firm guides pregnant women through the process, and she would soon be in the US on a tourist visa to await the birth of her child at a luxury Irvine apartment complex.”
“The company instructed Zhang and her cousin to book tickets to a popular tourist destination, such as Hawaii or Las Vegas, purchase a tour package she had no intention of using and fabricate an employment history to convince immigration officials that she would not overstay her visa.”
“If the story is convincing and she’s good looking then the success rate will be pretty high when she goes for the visa interview,” a company representative told Zhang’s cousin.
“In fact, the woman and her cousin were undercover Homeland Security Investigations agents, according to the affidavit, which documented their discussions with You Win USA officials. In a coincidence, the operators of You Win USA set up their operation in an apartment complex across the street from the federal agency’s Irvine field office.”
“You Win USA was one of three operations raided in 2015 by federal agents targeting “maternity tourism” schemes in which pregnant Chinese women travel to the United States, usually on tourist visas, so that their children will be born US citizens.”
Birth tourism is an increasingly popular option for foreigners who seek a way around our immigration laws. By travelling to America, giving birth, then having their kids automatically become US citizens, the parents generally hope for two things to occur: 1) their children will qualify to attend college in America, and 2) after age 18, the children will sponsor the immigration of their parents.
Efforts to outlaw or regulate the practice has so far been unsuccessful. A bill in the 2013 Congress to limit birthright citizenship to babies with at least one American parent was never voted on. A California Assembly proposal that would have made it a misdemeanor to operate hotels outside areas where they are allowed by zoning codes died in a legislative committee. Los Angeles County assembled a task force in 2013 to field related complaints and cited 28 maternity hotels, but never passed an ordinance specifically barring birth tourism.
The fact is, birth tourism takes advantage of our US Constitution in ways that the Founders never imagined.
Under United States law, US citizenship is automatically granted to any person born within and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. This includes the territories of Puerto Rico, the Marianas (Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands), and the US Virgin Islands, and also applies to children born elsewhere in the world to US citizens (with certain exceptions). The policy stems from the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The 1868 text states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
The original intent of the Clause was that if people came to America, they came legally and they intended to stay in America, becoming citizens. The Clause ensured that their children would be granted citizenship at birth. It was not intended to give those who came to America to give birth and then return to their home countries, citizenship.
I believe that a valid legal argument can be made that someone who came to the US with the purpose of giving birth and then returning to their country, is not “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” because of their leaving the US. If Congress determined that this is an accurate representation, legislation could be written to declare American-born children of foreign nationals who return home within a set number of days, months, or years, would not to be “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States”, and thus not entitled to citizenship via the 14th Amendment, unless at least one parent was an American citizen or a lawful permanent resident. Another approach would be to require that both parents are present if a child is born in the US. A third approach may be to require that the parents are legally allowed to remain in the US while the child is a minor, meaning they would have to establish they are legally allowed in America for 18 years, an almost impossible thing to do if you are entering the US as a visitor, but possible for parents who enter as immigrants seeking citizenship.
I believe the case for denying automatic citizenship for children for illegal immigrants is even stronger. The illegal immigrants did not enter the country legally, have not been issued permission to be in the US, and thus, are not, at the time of the birth of their child, are not subject to the jurisdiction thereof.
We need to end the practice of birth tourism where pregnant women, mostly from Asia, come to America during their last trimester and give birth here in order to have citizenship conferred on their child. We know the primary reasons they do this is so when the child is older they can attend a US university and then sponsor their parent’s visa and citizenship.
As your voice in Congress, I will introduce legislation that states “any non-citizen, non-immigrant visa holder, or illegal immigrant giving birth in the United States within 12 months of entering the country, and not remaining in the country until the child is no longer a minor, foregoes automatic citizenship for the birth baby(s), until such time as one or more of the parents become citizens.”
12. Reform legal immigration laws to include skills and education requirements so America may attract the best and brightest from around the world.
America needs to attract the best and brightest from around the world. These people add to the productivity of our nation through unique skills they possess. These skills may center on the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine, languages and the arts. The more highly skilled people we attract, the higher likelihood of successful integration into our culture and long-term success of the immigrants.
13. End the often corrupt EB-5 visa program.
Citizenship is a long process for those who come to America legally. For a wealthy few, it’s up for sale, thanks to a little-known product of America’s insane immigration system.
The culprit here is the EB-5 Immigrant Investment Program, or EB-5 for short. EB-5 is a government-sanctioned cash-for-visa scheme. The program often hurts local economies and puts our national security at risk.
Created by the Immigration Act of 1990, and renewed over a dozen times since, the goal of the program is to incentivize foreign direct investment in troubled economic areas in the U.S. More Americans get jobs, foreign cash flows into American bank accounts, and the investors get a green card to show for it.
The EB-5 visa program grants fast-track citizenship to a foreigner who invests $500,000 in a US company based in a Targeted Economic Area (TEA) or $1,000,000 in a company in other areas. These investments are supposed to be done with risk capital—meaning the investment is at risk and payback is not guaranteed—however, many cons are taking place where EB-5 programs don’t put the capital at risk.
Part of the requirement is that for every investor, 10 jobs must be created. Thus, if you raise $15 million for a hotel in a TEA, 300 jobs should be created. There problem is the program includes part-time or seasonal jobs, including construction jobs which may last only 8-15 months. In 2 years, the total new jobs created could be only 30-40 and not the expected 300. Finally, there is the issue of buying or investing in a company in an economically disadvantaged zone, having two people invest $500,000 each and creating 20 jobs. Most companies in TEA cannot support 20 jobs with a total investment of only $1 million.
US citizenship therefore becomes available to someone who buys something as basic as a burger franchise that employs two shifts of people, allowing foreigners to get around the residency/naturalization process that everyone else has to go through. No learning the language, learning US history, assimilating to our culture and customs—one needs only be able to write a check. Canada had a similar program it cancelled in 2014 after the government realized it “undervalued Canadian permanent residence” and provided “little evidence that immigrant investors as a class are maintaining ties to Canada or making a positive economic contribution to the country.”
One of the easy ways EB-5 is manipulated is when a foreigner invests in a company that is owned by a friend or relative and then is paid back the investment after receiving citizenship. This is illegal, yet happens often; and it is increasingly difficult to catch. Another way is to buy a business, such as a hair salon, move it 2 miles down the road and employ the same people, thus “creating” jobs for the new location.
Many projects such as hotels, real estate, and strip malls, lure foreign capital with the promise of returns of 2-6%, devaluing the benefits of US citizenship. Still others raise millions from foreign investors and the people behind the project then disappear with the money and the dashed hopes of the investors.
As the US economy improves and capital for business growth and expansion becomes available the need for the EB-5 program disappears. Given the history of the program and the opportunities for manipulating the visa process, EB-5 should be ended completely.
Tell me what you think. Email me at Bill@TownsendForNevada.com.
You can download an Adobe PDF of this policy position here. Feel free to share it with others.
Nevada’s future will be much brighter if we roll up our sleeves and address the issues that most affect our state.
As you’ve seen in our “12 Big Ideas for Nevada”, issues including education, school safety, jobs, women’s rights, homelessness, taxes, guns and violence, making Social Security fully funded and solvent, solving the high costs of health insurance and prescription drugs, supporting our Armed Forces and their families, fixing immigration, and creating new industries which all contribute to a better future for Nevada’s residents.
Additional programs I propose, such as NEEDS, which will create startup incubators across our state; ASSET for our military personnel's education and training; and STAR, to fund school safety and education; are all important and work in synergy to propel our state forward and improve the lives of all Nevadans.
There is more to be done. Below, I share some thoughts on multiple areas that, in addition to the “12 Big Ideas for Nevada”, are important to address for our future:
I may add to this list as our campaign continues and you share your concerns.
15 Million Acres: This Land is Your Land, Except When it’s Not.
When I moved to Nevada in 2010, I was surprised to learn 84.9 percent of Nevada’s land is owned by the Federal government. According to a lands summary by the state of Nevada in 2015, the government owned 58,226,015 acres of the approximately 70,000,000 total acres in Nevada. By comparison, the government owns the least amount of land in Rhode Island — 5,157 acres of the state’s 677,120 total acres (less than 1%).
Throughout Nevada, the land is divided between the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Fish and Wildlife Services, Forest Service and National Park Service. The land these organizations oversee covers approximately 93,000 square miles of the 110,000 square miles in Nevada’s borders.
Placed on a map, the amount of land owned by the Federal government looks like parasites about to take over the body of the host.
The Federal government's extraordinarily large involvement in the management of western lands is far more than a conflict about grazing, water, mining, logging and other development. It pits the principle of good stewardship of the land, for the welfare of present and future generations, against one of America's foundational axioms: That government is best which governs least.
In 2013, the Nevada Legislature passed AB227 which created a task force to study the implications of transferring public lands to the state. The Task Force was made up of one member of the County Commission from each of the seventeen counties in the Nevada and reported their findings to the legislature. The Task Force determined Nevada could both afford to make the transition and, if it were to manage its own public land, could expect a net revenue, at a minimum, of $350 million a year.
As you’ve read my positions on policy, you have come to understand that I believe local control is more successful and serves the public good better than Federal control (except for key national elements such as, for instance, social services, coordinated school safety programs, controlling healthcare costs, and the military). It’s simply impossible for a group of bureaucrats 2,322 miles away to understand the best use of land in Nevada.
If elected to represent you, I will work with other members of Nevada’s congressional delegation and our two Senators to put forth a plan for the Federal government to turn over ownership of up to 15,000,000± acres of land to state ownership within 5 years.
This land will be owned by the citizens of Nevada, controlled by the state, and made available for use as currently operated. Land earmarked for disposal by the Federal government will be included. The National Parks, National Monuments, military and Indian lands and some other special designation lands will remain under Federal control.
For hunters and fisherman, ecologists, hikers and campers, the environmental community, and those concerned about natural resources, the transfer from Federal to state ownership must include a full transfer of all valid existing rights and uses. If you want to hunt, fish, camp, graze, or do whatever on these public lands now, you will be able to do so after transfer of ownership to the state.
Whatever you can do now, you will be able to do in the future. The only difference will be the land will be owned and managed by the state and access and use will be better protected.
The transfer must take place in such a manner to guarantee the public lands will remain public and cannot be sold to private entities.
Use of the public lands in Nevada will be available to everyone in the nation but it will be up to the people of Nevada to ensure the natural resources are protected and used wisely. A percentage of fishing and hunting license fees can be earmarked for preservation of lands, restocking of game and fish, and studies to determine and measure the health of the ecosystem. Treasure hunters, campers, hikers, and others accessing the land can pay a small daily fee which will help support the preservation of the countryside.
The many mountainous, arid and difficult-to-reach tracts of land in Nevada simply are not attractive to farmers, but they are good for outdoor sports and grazing. By keeping the land publicly-owned, we can guarantee our cattle farmers and ranchers have access to large swathes of needed grass on which to feed their animals, while securing grazing fees to help with preservation and upkeep.
In taking ownership in the land, I will work for the removal and dissolution of any fines incurred over the past 10 years that have not been paid to the Federal government. These fines, mostly due to grazing fees not being paid or licenses not being purchased, were to be paid to the Federal government and largely affect Nevada residents. As the new overseer of the land, Nevada should forgive all past due fines and start fresh with new usage fees, giving every Nevadan a chance to use our land.
We will look at ways to protect our state’s 38 endangered species—22 endangered and 16 threatened—such as the desert tortoise, chub, bull trout and more, while also protecting the outdoor needs of Nevada’s residents. Some of these actions to protect our environment will not please everyone, but on the whole, gaining ownership of 10-15 million acres of land will benefit all of Nevada for generations to come.
I believe state ownership will be more responsive to the preferences of the people who wish to use the land. I believe our Nevada representatives will be good stewards of the land and will expand the necessary natural resources departments and personnel to ensure these lands remain viable ecologically and commercially for generations to come.
Congress can easily right this discriminatory wrong. As the leader of the US Senate, former Senator Harry Reid could have proposed legislation reverting the land to Nevada’s control, and Republicans in the House would have enthusiastically agreed, but this never occurred.
It’s time we took possession of Federal lands and restored our state’s rights to manage the land within our boundaries.
Access to Banking for State Legalized Industries
“Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source of revenue to large-scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels” – the Cole Memo.
This memo, written by James M. Cole, former Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice, outlines the DOJ’s stance on many topics such as preventing distribution to minors, preventing revenue from the sale of cannabis from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels, preventing violence, growing on public lands, and possession on federal property. It also states that outside these enforcement priorities, the Federal government has traditionally relied on states and local law enforcement agencies to address cannabis activity through enforcement of their own narcotics laws.
Nevada and other states have enacted laws that authorize cannabis production, distribution, and possession by establishing regulatory schemes. The Federal government’s guidance is that it expects the states to implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems, which Nevada and others have done. Thus, a tightly regulated market helps to keep criminal enterprises at bay. Plants are tracked from seedling to final product to distribution and sale.
With over half the country’s states enacting legal cannabis laws in one form or another, there are more cannabis businesses than ever in an industry that is expected to grow exponentially. But the cash component is not effectively tracked, largely because the vast majority of cannabis businesses cannot open and operate bank accounts, and are thus relegated to dealing in cash…lots of cash.
Despite the prevalence of these state laws, many business owners cannot obtain legal banking services because of arcane and outdated banking laws enacted at the Federal level. This leads to large amounts of cash stored at dispensaries, offices, warehouses, and even homes, making this industry ripe for criminal activities. It also means the net receipts of legal cannabis sales have the potential to be moved around in cash transactions, making them ripe for money laundering.
The best means to prevent this is through making banking accessible to cannabis businesses.
When you open a business account at a bank, you need to prove that your business is legal, that you are insured and licensed, and that you are compliant with state laws. Financial institutions are legally obliged to report your account if any illegal activity is suspected, and any investigations that may ensue will cost the business owner time and money. There is also a risk that your business may be interrupted. But with the cannabis ecosystem in Nevada under state regulation, these are all provable.
Continual compliance is possible within the current system and banks should not be held potentially liable for actions its customers take, especially when acted upon under state laws.
Under Federal regulations, banks are not permitted to handle money from cannabis businesses. Because the Federal government classifies cannabis as a “Schedule 1” drug, on par with heroin, banks that handle cannabis money could be charged with money laundering. Meanwhile, companies are shipping large amounts of cash to state capitals in order to pay the required taxes, often subjecting those transporting cash (for instance, driving from Las Vegas to Carson City) to possible theft or worse.
This doesn’t only affect those growing and selling cannabis. Advertising agencies, law firms, printers, packaging, testing equipment, fertilizers, distribution, and other companies who work in the cannabis industry also find it difficult, if not impossible, to legally deposit the money they earn into a corporate bank account.
Cannabis is projected to become a $7-$8 billion business this year with expected tax revenues of approximately $1 billion. Handling large amounts of cash is a burden on any business—just ask any casino operator. Besides the risk of theft, companies face confiscation by local police departments, and banks face risks because they are required to prove that firms are not selling to minors, funding crime groups, and not using the pretext of selling marijuana to push illegal drugs. As long as banking remains outside the use of the cannabis industry a huge underground economy of cash and digital currency transactions will occur. It behooves us to legalize the banking of cannabis receipts, as well as any other industry that is legal under state laws, to ensure these industries operate within the confines of the law.
As your voice in Congress, I will introduce straightforward legislation that states, “banks, savings and loans, and other financial institutions may provide banking services to any industry that is legal under the state laws in which the bank operates, regardless of the type of business or its products.” This simple act will instantly change the availability of banking services for cannabis (and other state legalized businesses) even while marijuana is classified as a “Schedule 1” drug. It would bring the last remaining piece of the cannabis industry out of the shadows.
Crime: An Increasing Problem for Nevadans
Crime is a problem that is increasingly difficult to combat. As a state that is spread out, largely rural, and whose two biggest cities are destination points for tens of millions of visitors, Nevada has unique crime enforcement challenges.
Like many issues, crime does not have a one-answer solution. Crime occurs primarily because of lack of economic security. Poverty, parental neglect, low self-esteem, alcohol and drug abuse are all connected in explaining why people commit crimes. Some people are simply at greater risk of becoming offenders because of the circumstances into which they are born.
Crime is a fact, a matter of law. It is not an opinion. As society changes, some actions which used to be criminal, for example, are no longer criminal. Take for instance, legalized prostitution in most of Nevada or legalized medical marijuana in 28 states and the District of Columbia. Likewise, some actions, such as smoking in public places are turned into criminal acts.
The causes of crime are complex. Most people today accept that poverty, parental neglect, low self-esteem, alcohol and drug abuse are all connected in explaining why people commit crimes. Some people are simply at greater risk of becoming offenders because of the circumstances into which they are born. Individual weakness or lack of 'values' may be two reasons why people commit crimes. Ultimately if someone chooses to commit a crime, that is their responsibility. If caught, the individual should pay the consequences.
Nevada has among the lowest high school and college graduation rates, which experts say tends to lead to higher poverty rates. Nearly one-third of our Native American residents live in poverty. 22% of African American and 19% of Latinos live in poverty. 12% of Caucasians and 9% of Asian join that group. Among these groups are 26,000 homeless, of which many turn to petty theft to get by.
What else contributes to crime?
The way out of the poverty trap is through education, retraining, housing, and job availability (I address these in “12 Big Ideas for Nevada”).
Many people feel that if punishments were stronger and the police and the courts had more powers, there would be less crime. Others believe that in order to tackle crime, the social conditions which create the conditions for crime need to be addressed. Therefore, better housing, better employment opportunities, and a more equal society will make crime less of an attraction. If people are in work and are content with life, they will be less motivated to break the law. The fact is both sides are correct.
More than ever before, Nevada faces rising property crime, including the following exclusive groups: vandalism (including motor vehicle and property vandalism); all motor vehicle theft related incidents; housebreaking; personal theft; burglary and robbery.
According to USA Today, Nevada is one of the top 5 states for likelihood of a person becoming a victim of crime. Neighborhood Scout reported there were 95,983 violent and property crimes in Nevada last year. That equals 32.65 crimes per 1,000 residents. With our state population near 3,000,000, Nevada’s crime rates compared to the entire United States is, to put it mildly, out of whack.
Nevada is higher in murder, rape, and robbery, than the national average, with robbery being over double the national average. Our burglary rate is 30% higher than the national average and our motor vehicle theft rate is nearly double. Our heroin and opioid problems are escalating as well and continued use of these drugs often leads users to turn to crime to support their illegal habits.
Nevada ranks among the worst in the country for its robbery rate, motor-vehicle theft rate, and aggravated assault rate. It also ranks high in categories like burglaries and forcible rape.
Much of the crime, state officials maintain, comes from the millions of tourists who visit Las Vegas, Reno and other cities with casinos and related entertainment.
Some crime can be linked to the national heroin epidemic, gang activity, a lack of jobs, and lingering woes from the recession. A rapid rise in suburban poverty may be contributing to the increase in property crime and today there are actually more poor people living in suburbs than in the big cities of our major metro areas.
The city of Las Vegas and surrounding area is unique in that its problems have been mostly blamed on policy decisions.
According to leaders within the Las Vegas metropolitan police department, the city’s troubles can be attributed to a shortage of uniformed patrolmen, less jail space and California’s effort to reduce prison overcrowding.
New laws in neighboring California have allowed the release of prisoners. Since 2011, California has given early release to about 30,000 prisoners due to overcrowding. Many of these people have made their way to Nevada, mostly in Las Vegas and Reno, and have been caught committing crimes.
In cities like Las Vegas, decentralizing the police department’s Gang Unit opened the door for gang members. When gang members from California come east to Las Vegas, they quickly learn that the lack of police on the streets is the equivalent of letting them know they are no longer targets for law enforcement. Metro Police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill has said the enforcement part of the Gang Unit dropped to just 14 people, which he said made the unit “ineffective.” The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has arrested enough ex-convicts from California on robbery, shooting and homicide charges to consider it an “influx”.
What stands out is Nevada is visited by a lot of people from the Oakland, California area, and many have arrest records. This will likely increase as the Oakland Raiders move to Southern Nevada and their fans—considered by many to be the most rowdy of all NFL teams—come to town to attend games and party. How bad is Oakland? During the first decade of the 21st century Oakland has consistently been listed as one of the most dangerous large cities in the United States and ranks highly in California for most categories of crime. Violent crimes including assault, rape and murder, occur from two to five times the US average.
As more visitors from Oakland descend on Las Vegas to follow their Raiders football team, we must be prepared to fight what is likely to be an increase in crime and the best way to do that is through the hiring of additional police officers.
To rebuild the Las Vegas Gang Unit, they require about 100 trained police officers. These must be new hires as removing officers from patrol area commands where they’re desperately needed would open those areas to burglary, assault and other crimes. With the new NFL team coming, one possible solution is to enact a convenience tax on ticket sales and hotel rooms during Raider home games that would be earmarked for hiring of police officers.
Las Vegas Metro has fewer cops per capita than many police agencies in the United States. The average major police department has 2.42 officers per 1,000 residents. The Los Angeles Police Department has 2.62; Metro has 1.72. The state of Nevada had 76 law enforcement a