When I went to bed the other night I was troubled. Troubled by our President’s incoherent response to the current pandemic we are facing, but also by thoughts of how our neighbors, friends and fellow Iowans are struggling today.
I was thinking about the hairstylist in Waterloo I met a few weeks ago that will likely experience severe financial hardship as customers and employees stay home to stay safe. This small business owner won’t benefit from a payroll tax cut, paid family leave or other programs that are currently being proposed.
She deserves better.
As I struggled to fall asleep I thought about the cafeteria worker, like my mom Lori who worked at schools in Des Moines when I was growing up - workers like her are going to lose out on their hourly wages as schools across Iowa close for extended periods. As colleges shutter their doors and daycares shut down. How will they pay their rent, cover the cost of groceries and deal with the unexpected costs of medical treatment?
They deserve better.
I thought about our seniors who can’t just pick up and drive to the local grocery store to pick up toilet paper, cleaning supplies or other essentials.
I thought about the groups we’ve helped over the years, homeless folks and hungry folks and community outreach. How could I help our communities now and what are the right steps to take?
They deserve better.
And I think about the single mother who doesn’t have a job that will give her paid leave when her kids are sent home from school and daycare centers have closed. That single mom that will be reaching out to friends and family to find options for their kids to spend the day - or the nightshift - with friends or family struggling in the same ways they are.
Iowans are tough - and we know how to come together and address these challenges, but isn’t there a better path forward? Don’t we deserve better?
In times of national crisis, we are faced with a critical decision - to bury our heads in the sand and retreat to our partisan corners, or take bold decisive action to both address challenges immediately before us, but also pursue solutions that will position our country for continued growth and prosperity.
This is one of those times for the State of Iowa and the United States of America. As we consider our response to the COVID-19 pandemic we need to ask ourselves? Are we going to let this moment trap us in a silo of short-term thinking and limited vision or are we going to choose progress and look to make tomorrow better than today?
I believe Iowans, and every American, are prepared to rise to this challenge and choose progress over passivity, unlimited potential over retreat, and responsibility over regression.
As John F. Kennedy said, “We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier [...] the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, the frontier of unfilled hopes and unfilled threats. ... Beyond that frontier are uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered problems of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus.”
We believe that now is the opportunity to propose a bold and progressive vision for how we not only respond to the crisis before our great country but also to make changes that rebalance the economy in favor of the workers, small businesses and family farms that built the American middle-class. It is time to distance ourselves from those in positions of political and economic power that choose to restrict our vision to one of limited possibilities that serve to benefit their own interests and agendas.
It is time for a renewed hope for a New Frontier. A New Frontier that puts public health first, not PACs and special interests.
A New Frontier that lends a voice to the voiceless rather than amplifying the voices of those who sow division and discord.
A New Frontier that puts those in poverty, the working, and middle class and those struggling paycheck to paycheck before Wall Street bankers and tyrants.
We deserve better than the limited vision of Joni Ernst, Mitch McConnell, and the Trump Administration. Iowans, and all Americans, are capable of incredible things if given the opportunity to come together, pool our collective talents and passions and tackle the challenges of today.
We have lived with a limited playbook for far too long. It is time for a new approach. It is time for new leadership. It is time for a New Frontier for America.
Confronting the COVID-19 Pandemic and Positioning America as a World Leader
Declaration of a National Emergency Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic - The COVID-19 pandemic could kill 100s of thousands of Americans and millions internationally. It is time to recognize the pandemic for what it is - a national emergency - a global emergency. A Declaration of a national emergency would communicate to Americans and the world that this is a crisis deserving of a coordinated and comprehensive national action. A response that should echo America’s answers to the Great Depression and World War II.
I am proposing a six-point plan for an immediate response to the COVID-19 Pandemic that will protect public health and safety while positioning the United States to confront future pandemic threats to our national security.
A New National Security Council Director of Pandemic Response - COVID-19 is just the tip of the iceberg. Climate change, international migration patterns, deforestation, and population growth will continue to introduce new viruses and diseases into the international lexicon. Whether through a natural process or through threats of biological weapons terrorism, we need to elevate pandemic response to a top tier position within the National Security Council. This expert will serve as the point person on responses to pandemics and will have a role in coordinating response across multiple federal agencies as well as providing proactive guidance on the impacts of climate change, international migration, deforestation, and other national security threats.
A Universal Basic Income for All Americans in Times of Emergency - Americans believe in the value of working hard and showing up for their families. In times of pandemic threat, this instinct can be detrimental to efforts to protect public health. The instinct to go to work even in times of illness is strong in our country, and we need to take this into account when crafting a response. We are proposing a Universal Basic Income of $1,000 per month for every American over 18 years of age upon declaration of a National Emergency related to a pandemic event. A Universal Basic Income of $1,000 per month will help families cope with unexpected expenses, lost wages, basic necessities, and unforeseen health expenses during the crisis.
Providing a Universal Basic Income of $1,000 per month would add 1-2% to our GDP each month during the emergency declaration and provide a far more effective stimulus to those that need it.
Rescinding Trump Administration Food Stamp Cuts - Over 700,000 Americans are likely to lose access to food stamps due to new rules proposed by the Trump Administration. This is wrong. This is evil. These cuts must be reversed.
Provide States Medicaid Spending Flexibility in Times of National Pandemic Emergency - State and local governments are on the front lines of pandemic response and need the resources to make preparations, provide treatment and cover the costs of testing on a moment’s notice. First, the Trump Administration should rescind current Medicaid rules that restrict state flexibility. Secondly, Congress should pass new legislation immediately that gives states the flexibility they need to use Medicaid dollars to provide care and services to those in need during a public health emergency.
Universal & Comprehensive Paid Family Leave - The instinct to stay at work while sick dramatically increases the potential for the spread of not only coronavirus but countless other illnesses that impact workforce productivity and impact the quality of life for American families. We need a paid family leave program, funded through the unemployment insurance program operated by the Department of Labor, that provides for up to twelve (12) weeks of paid leave for qualifying events. According to New America, “Paid leave offers important benefits to both employers and employees. Providing paid sick time to employees reduces the spread of illness, increases productivity, and improves public health. Paid leave policies increase women’s labor force attachment and representation in the workforce, which in turn has measurable positive impacts on the GDP.”
New Frontier Public Health Services Program - The Peace Corps, Americorp and other national service programs should serve as a model for dramatically increasing the provision of public health services in both rural and urban areas. It is often incredibly difficult to find public health professionals to work in both small rural and underserved inner-city areas throughout the country. First, I propose a “New Frontier Public Health Services Program” that would immediately provide grants to employ 50,000 Certified Nursing Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, and currently retired health professionals to serve in dedicated roles in pandemic response throughout the country. Additionally, we should use the Peace Corps as a model to recruit, train and develop public health professionals with CNA degrees with a grant program that hires and trains professionals as fully certified nurses, nurse practitioners and other critical healthcare roles to work in public health fields in rural and inner-city areas. Upon completion of CNA programs with focus on public health, the New Frontier Public Health Services program will identify candidates for further education in fields related to mental health, counseling and other nursing professions with additional grant support for working in rural and other underserved areas.
The hairstylist in Waterloo. The cafeteria worker. The waitstaff at your favorite restaurant. Your child’s teachers. Our parents and grandparents. They expect more from us. They deserve better from Washington.
Families across the country were struggling before this pandemic crisis, they are struggling today and they will struggle even more tomorrow. They yearn for leadership that will address the problems facing this country with the courage and urgency that this moment in history demands. They yearn for a day when they truly believe that tomorrow will be better than today.
The quest for the New Frontier of the 21st Century is the challenge that is now before us. I am calling on every Iowan - every American - to come together and confront this crisis in ways we haven’t seen since the victories of America’s greatest generation. We are ready to be the sign of a new exceptionalism, a new era and a New Frontier!