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The Social Question: Income Inequality

The main issue underlying many of the problems our society faces, from lack of affordable housing to the existential crisis of climate change, is income inequality. Income inequality is a euphemism describing the class division in our country and how the wealth and opportunities are boundless for the upper class while the rest of us fight for scraps. According to the Census Bureau, our country has reached the highest level of income inequality in 50 years, with the Bay Area being one of the most unequal places.

Income inequality is the reason a family goes into bankruptcy because of medical debt, how some students leave schools with a six figure job while others leave with six figure debt, how some people agonize over which yoga studio they will join while others worry if they have enough money for groceries this week, or how the doors of opportunity fly open for some people while others despair the future.

The concept of income inequality has its roots in the division and struggle of class, something we in America have a hard time talking about. This is at the core of "The Social Question" that was first posed in the 1920's on the conditions of the wage earning class and their struggle for a dignified existence. A hundred years later we have to reexamine this question and refight these battles, for progress is hard fought and never guaranteed, and successes gained can always be taken back. 

Over the last generation, so much of our society's wealth has been funneled upwards that five members of one family own as much money as the bottom 40% of Americans. The middle class has been eroded away as jobs were shipped overseas while bankers and stockholders became rich. We're told that college is the ticket to the middle class life, but seizing on this notion, colleges became ever more expensive to the benefit of the provosts and administrators who run them.

Politics at its core is about the economy- more specifically, how we set up our economy and decide how to split the gains thereof. More and more of the share of our nation's progress has gone to the 1%, and this has made life wretched for the rest of us. This is the reason I seek the office of U.S Representative of California's 15th district. I want to remedy the injustice of income inequality and lift this burden off our nation's shoulders to allow the flourishing of our middle class once again.

Below are the core issues that I believe will allow us to reestablish the middle class and ensure our planet's health for the next generations. 

Collective Bargaining

Employees are powerless against companies because of the lack of collective bargaining. This allows them to underpay the employees and funnel those wages to the executives and shareholders instead. 

Unionization is difficult because of the strong opposition companies put up and the onerous process of organizing. The restoration of unions can be helped by the passing of card check, which will allow unionization to be streamlined. President Obama wanted to pass this but never got it through. There are other proposed legislations that I would support such as the Employee Free Choice Act.

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Break Up Monopolies

The consolidation of companies has put unprecedented power and influence into the hands of a few corporations. This is an inherently undemocratic situation and leads to distortions in how our economy runs. Companies that are too strong can manipulate markets to the detriment of consumers or underpay employees since there is no competition. 

Antitrust laws were passed in the 1890's and early 1900's and are still on the books. The enforcement of the laws is up to the Department of Justice, which is under the purview of the executive branch. However, the Congress can play its role in forcing action or passing legislation demanding the breakup of these companies for a more equal playing field.

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Medicare for All

Healthcare must be a universal right, not a privilege afforded to us by an employer. We are the only industrialized nation without a universal health care system. There is no place for profit in the realm of human lives and wellbeing, therefore I support Medicare for All. 

Roughly half of bankruptcies in the United States are due to medical expenses, and our citizens are forgoing care and dying due to the cost. This has created an intolerable inequality between those with access and those without and must be remedied.

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The preservation of our environment is of the utmost importance. As I mentioned before, even this issue has roots in income inequality. Who gets to access the land, who gets to extract resources from the land, and who dictates what happens to the land is largely determined by those with money and those in power.

I support the Green New Deal because it not only attacks the problem of climate change with concrete solutions, but it will also completely retool our economy and provide millions of new jobs. If we are to address this or any issue, we must be mindful of people's wellbeing and financial security. It's hard to care about the environment 20 years from now if you're worried about being able to buy groceries this week.

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Agriculture is what transformed us from hunter-gatherers into a civilization and is our most meaningful interaction with the natural world. Because of its outsized impact, we cannot solve the issue of climate change or even inequality without addressing agriculture specifically.

Agribusiness is dominated by a handful of companies and farmers are forever under their thumb. These companies take huge subsidies from the federal government- i.e., the taxpayers- and crank out unhealthy foods and destroy the environment. The Farm Bill and its subsidies must be oriented towards local and sustainable farming, as opposed to supporting huge monocultures that benefit a handful of companies.

If we make farming more local and sustainable, opportunities will be created for a new generation of farmers to return to the land with meaningful jobs to nourish their communities.

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Committee to Elect Tuan Phan
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