Voting Rights. By some measurements, we have fewer rights than we did 54 years ago and have found that politicians who get elected through racist gerrymandering and voter suppression subsequently pass laws that cut health care and hurt the poor, including more poor white people. What will you do to address this attack on voting rights and our impoverished democracy?
Poverty and Inequality. The United States is the richest country in the world and yet we hear there isn’t enough to go around, that ending poverty is impossible, that people should just work harder, have fewer children, get right with God, close our borders. When the stock market crashes, or banks are too big to fail, our government suddenly finds all kinds of resources to bail out the rich. When the U.S. decides to go to war, the money is right there. What is your response to this lie of scarcity, especially in regards to programs for the poor?
Poor People in the Election. There are 140 million people—43.5% of the population—61% of black people, 66 million white people, over 50% of our children—who are poor or one emergency away from poverty. Poor and low wealth people represent, in numbers, the key to a new political and electoral calculus. Politicians love to say who endorsed them is personality based. But we are interested in policy. With this in mind, why can’t the Democratic or Republican Party and candidates like yourselves talk consistently about poverty? Why do you only seem to have the capacity to discuss the working class as though poor people don’t work and as though poor people are a political curse?
Southern Strategy. There are 50 million poor and low wealth people living in the South, more than one third of all poor people 1/3 are white and millions are without health care in the former Confederate states. What will you do to ensure the broadest engagement of the southern states in the 2020 elections? Once in office, how will you reverse the legacy of disproportionate poverty, voter suppression, racism and more in these southern states?
Health Care. COVID-19 has laid bare the limitations of our health care system. While some emergency measures are being taken, it is clear that a health care system where 87 million people are either uninsured or underinsured is unacceptable and failing. The Poor People’s Campaign demands universal health care. What is your health care proposal for this country and how will you accomplish this in your first four years in office?
Systemic Racism. Racism is escalating across the United States. Islamophobia, xenophobia, anti-semitism, are all on the rise, while women’s rights, and the rights of LGBTQ communities are under attack. These attacks emanate from policies that systematically deny equal protection under the law, whether through immigration policy, mass incarceration, housing and welfare policy, fair wages and employment practices, education policy, tax policy, and more. What would you do—in your first days in office—to reverse the legislative, regulatory and legal policies that are empowering the injustice of systemic racism and discrimination?
Indigenous Rights. Native and indigenous people face some of the highest poverty rates, homelessness rates, violence from guns and police brutality. Many native communities lack access to clean water, good schools and decent health care. The US violates with impunity the treaties it has signed with indigenous nations going back generations. As President, what will you do to ensure the protection of their sacred lands and resources and how will you repair the damage with indigenous nations?
Immigration. Our immigration system separates families and incarcerates children. It denies the humanity of the millions of people who have come to this country to seek a better life for themselves and their families. What will you do to make real the claim that the US is a country of immigrants and continues to welcome people from all over the world?
Wages, Income and Welfare. Wages for the bottom 80% of workers have remained largely stagnant for decades while the costs of basic needs like housing, health care, transportation, and child care have outpaced the rise in incomes. At the same time, social programs are being scaled back and others are imposing work requirements making many ineligible to receive these benefits. As President, what will you do to ensure that everyone can earn a living wage now—not in 10 or 12 years—and that our right as workers to organize in a union is protected? How would you protect existing social welfare programs, and what additional programs do we need to respond to the critical needs millions of people face today?
Mass Incarceration. Our families and communities are torn apart by mass incarceration and the violence of a criminal justice system that brutalizes the poor, especially black, brown, and native people. Our communities are seeing more prisons and jails and military equipment instead of good and safe schools, recreation centers, affordable homes and decent jobs. How will you end the violence of mass incarceration and revive our communities?
Homelessness. We are facing a massive housing crisis, with 8-11 million Americans homeless or on the verge of being homeless, including 1.5 million children in public schools and many veterans. There is not a single county in this country where a full-time minimum wage job can pay for a 2-bedroom apartment. How do you plan to address homelessness, expand affordable housing and make the American Dream of having your own home a reality for every family and household in the country?
Education. Government investments in education at all levels have been on the decline for decades, including less support for teachers, administrators, and infrastructure. This has contributed to the re-segregation of schools along the lines of race, income and ability, and a general decline in support for our children, especially poor children and children with disabilities or special needs. As President, what will you do to make sure that all students have a fully-funded, diverse, and strong public education, from pre-school all the way to college? How will you support teachers and build up our schools so our children have what they need to thrive in today’s economy?
Access to Water and Natural Resources. There are at least 14 million households that cannot afford their water. During the COVID-19 crisis, many states and cities are suspending water shut offs to ensure that everyone has access to water. At the same time, at least 4 million families have lead in their water and millions more live with toxins and carcinogens from polluting industries in their air, water and land. How will you ensure that everyone access to clean water, air, and land? What will you do to defend and protect our environment from polluting industries, now, and for future generations?
Military Spending. The US spends 53 cents of every federal discretionary dollar on the military and less than 15 cents on health care, education and anti-poverty programs combined. Most of the $738 billion allocated for military spending doesn’t go to the troops—half of it goes directly to military corporations, while 23,000 active-duty troops make so little money that they and their families qualify for food stamps. What will you do to address the distorted priorities of our nation’s budget? How will you end the poverty draft on veterans? You have already committed to cutting the military budget—how much of the $738 billion would you cut, and how would you redirect those funds?
Foreign Policy. With the rise in military spending, international diplomacy has been almost abandoned. Sanctions that are described as “alternatives to war” always result in serious abuse of civilian populations—they are really acts of war, rather than alternatives to war. What would you do to rebuild the capacity of the US government to use diplomatic measures, rather than war, as a basis of our foreign policy?
Climate Threats. Scientists have known for decades that human activities, particularly the use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas, are warming the planet. In spite of knowing the risks, political leaders have dragged their feet on implementing solutions. Most recently the Trump Administration has backed out of the Paris Climate Agreement and redirected FEMA funding towards building a wall at our southern border. How will your administration respond to the increased threat of disasters and emergencies from climate change? What is your prescription for reversing the rapid escalation of climate change in this country fueled by human actions and human greed?
Fair Taxes. Multiple administrations have justified cutting taxes on the wealthy, corporations and Wall Street in order to boost the economy. In the most recent round of tax cuts, corporations gained $1.5 trillion, while 40% of the country does not have the savings to cover a $400 emergency and we face an explosion of household, consumer, and student debt. How do you plan to address the inequitable taxation system we currently have, where billionaires pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries? What kind of fair taxation system will you support and implement?
Poverty Measure. There is no good measure of how many people are struggling to make ends meet today. The official poverty line is way too low and out of date, and no other measure takes into account the debt that working families are carrying or that you can be working multiple jobs and still not earn enough to pay your bills. What is your definition of poverty? How do you address poverty in a low-wage economy and how do you square the claims about the low unemployment rates with the reality of so many people being poor or one accident away from poverty?
Voter Participation. There were 100 million people who didn’t vote in 2016, including a large number who are poor and low-wealth. What will you do to reach poor and low-wealth potential voters and ensure the greatest possible participation, including of poor and low-wealth voters, in the political process?
Emergency Response and Welfare. To address the COVID-19 crisis, city, state and local governments are passing moratoriums on evictions, water and utility shut-offs, and tax foreclosures. Other countries are cancelling debt payments, including mortgages. Will you work to expand these measures across the country, and make them permanent? What will you do to address the underlying crises of the lack of housing, access to water and heat, the need for mortgage assistance?
Moderation. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and William Lloyd Garrison, two great Americans, challenged the politics of moderation. One said that a moderate “who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’” is the greatest stumbling block to justice. The other said “I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present.” How do you respond to this?