- What should be the role of science and scientists in government policy- and decision-making?
There’s a reason this administration has excluded science and scientists from the policymaking process: science is powerful. Science reveals that we have just a decade to confront a climate crisis of our own making. Science exposes that COVID-19 is not simply another flu. By illuminating the challenges we face, science helps us to solve them – and helps us hold the government accountable along the way.
But we need to do more than listen to science. We need to invest in it. Public investments in science – from basic research to cutting-edge technology – serve the public good. We also need to empower more scientists. I’m heartened to see more scientists and medical professionals running for public office.
- What have you learned from the coronavirus pandemic? What policy changes should be made to both prevent and respond to future pandemics in a more effective way?
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed many of the gaps in our social safety net. Today, our healthcare system leaves 87 million people uninsured or underinsured. For these folks, timely testing and treatment are often out of reach — threatening their lives and livelihoods and putting all of us at risk. As the pandemic drives some of the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression, we need to recognize that affordable healthcare shouldn’t be conditioned on having a job. Instead, we need a universal system that covers everyone: Medicare for All. (In my next response, I share more about my support for Medicare for All.)
Meanwhile, we need a comprehensive federal recovery plan that serves the people most severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating economic consequences. As a member of Congress, I would support Rep. Maxine Waters’ proposal to guarantee six monthly payments of $2,000 per adult and $1,000 per child to every American. I also support a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, emergency rental assistance, and student debt forgiveness.
Further, the pandemic has underscored the racial gaps in healthcare coverage and outcomes. Black people are more likely to be uninsured than white people, and more likely to suffer from treatable, preventable diseases. It’s long past time to close these gaps.
Finally, we need to ensure that the federal government and state and local governments are always prepared for pandemics. That includes maintaining reserve supplies of PPE and other essential medical supplies, empowering federal healthcare agencies and officials to deliver the credible scientific leadership pandemics require, ensuring that every level of government has a pandemic response plan, and investing in the public scientific research required to enable us to rapidly respond to the pathogens of the future.
- Optional: In your opinion, what is the ideal healthcare system? How will you incorporate advances in basic science, clinical, and public health research to inform your positions on healthcare policy?
The ideal healthcare system is a universal, single-payer system that guarantees health care to everyone as a human right. That’s why I support the Medicare for All Act (H.R. 1384), which would guarantee health care to all Americans, without premiums, deductibles, or co-pays, while capping the annual cost of prescription drugs at $200 per person. This is the only proposal that would bring down our ridiculously high systemic costs, eliminate barriers to treatment like premiums, deductibles, and copays, and ensure that everyone–and I mean everyone–is covered and can see their doctor regardless of employment status or economic means. Even a public option would leave as many as 10 million Americans uninsured.
Science informs my policy views, from how to ensure high-quality, affordable healthcare to how to combat the climate crisis. For example, the overwhelming scientific consensus that everyone diagnosed with COVID-19 should self-quarantine for at least two weeks informs my support for federal legislation requiring employers to provide mandatory paid sick leave to every American worker. Without paid sick leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, millions won’t be able to afford to quarantine when they need to — putting everyone at risk. I would welcome the opportunity to learn more from the New York State Science Debate Coalition about how best to ensure that scientific advances continue to shape policy.
CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
- What are your policy priorities to address the ongoing climate crisis? How would these policies impact other systems, if any (e.g. economy, agriculture, education)?
The Green New Deal is my top policy priority for addressing the climate crisis. In fact, enacting a Green New Deal is one of the key priorities of my campaign. I will push every single day for legislation to enact it.
The reason is simple: it’s literally life or death for our planet. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, we have 10 years remaining to prevent irreversible damage to Earth due to global warming. We must take swift action to decarbonize our economy. The Green New Deal would transition America to 100% renewable energy and help avert climate catastrophe.
The climate crisis is one of the issues that drove me to run for Congress in New York’s 17th District. I’m part of a generation that will inherit a planet that stands to be devastated by climate catastrophe — all because people who have been in office for too long have failed to act with the urgency this crisis requires.
Because the climate crisis threatens our economy, agriculture, and countless other social systems, the Green New Deal will transform these too: reducing inequality, advancing environmental justice, improving public transportation, cultivating sustainable food production, and more. For example, the Green New Deal puts environmental justice at the forefront. The plan includes equity for frontline communities, including, but not limited to, people of color, indigenous people, and people with disabilities. This includes supporting direct investments in these communities and prioritizing funds to them. I support a Green New Deal because I believe we need large-scale mobilization of our collective resources to combat climate change while also creating new infrastructure, jobs, and addressing pervasive inequalities.
I also support a nationwide ban on fracking, a total ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure, a ban on fossil fuel exports, and a total halt to new fossil fuel development on federal lands.
- Optional: What is your position on policies encompassed in the Green New Deal and the Red Deal? Should the US federal government work with Native American nations to manage and conserve land? If so, how?
Our response to the climate crisis must center justice and equity for indigenous communities. Indigenous peoples in the United States have long been among the leading voices for environmental justice, yet experience some of the most egregious environmental injustice. As the Green New Deal resolution emphasizes, no federal policy affecting Native American nations and their lands should be implemented unless all affected Native peoples have offered their free and informed consent. Congress needs to go even further, by amplifying the voices of frontline indigenous communities in the legislative conversation about a just and equitable response to the climate crisis.
- Do you support the Green New Deal? Why or why not? If you support transitioning our economy away from fossil fuel dependence, how will you support workers who will need to transition to different industries?
As I explained above, I am committed to passing the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal will create 20 million good-paying jobs in the process. It would also ensure that there is a just transition to green jobs for fossil fuel workers who are displaced, provide dedicated support to the communities most at risk, and invest in new, sustainable infrastructure across the country. A just transition for affected workers will include job training and new, union jobs in a range of sectors, including green infrastructure and construction, agriculture, renewable energy, and environmental management.
- Optional: What does a thriving economy look like for you and your constituents? What role should the government play in addressing income and wealth inequality, particularly in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery? How will science help inform the policies you would introduce or support to achieve this vision?
To me, a thriving economy puts people over profits. In addition to Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, that means ending homelessness, protecting tenants’ rights, establishing a $15 minimum wage, providing universal child care and paid family and sick leave, bolstering unions, ending forced arbitration agreements, enacting a wealth tax, ending corporate tax loopholes, and closing the racial wealth gap.
Science is essential for shaping our economic response to COVID-19. As scientists have emphasized from the beginning, the best way to minimize the economic damage from this disease is to implement the comprehensive, national public health measures required to test for it, trace its spread, and contain it as well as we can – from mask mandates to universal free testing. Tragically, this White House’s disdain for science has set back both public health and the economy.
- What should our education system, from K-12 to higher ed, be doing to prepare students to be adaptable critical thinkers, especially considering the challenges of climate change, misinformation, and work at the human-technology frontier?
To educate critical thinkers and engaged citizens, we need to start by empowering teachers. I’m proud – and grateful – that public school teachers in the East Ramapo Central School District helped shape me into who I am today, and helped me rise from poverty to attend schools like Stanford University and Harvard Law School. That perspective is essential to building a culture of respect and gratitude for educators. Educating our students requires treating teachers like the professionals they are. I’m committed to amplifying teachers’ voices in designing curricula and setting education policy. Federal, state, and local governments need to support teachers’ lifelong professional development so they can achieve their own aspirations, too. And we need to renew our efforts to build, retain, and support a diverse community of teachers across the country. As a black student, it was invaluable to see educators who looked like me and who understood my lived experience.
Equipping students to root out misinformation and hone their critical thinking skills requires comprehensive skill-building across our education system and in every grade. To confront the climate crisis, for example, we need to center the science of climate change, but we also need to integrate climate education throughout school curricula, from history to the arts. And as the pandemic compels so many students to learn remotely, dedicated technology education is vital. I’m committed to fighting alongside scientists and science teachers every step of the way.
- Optional: How, if at all, has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your positions on education policies? What should be the federal government’s role in ensuring public schools are equitably funded and serve the needs of our children?
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the inequities of our education system and the urgency of acting to correct them. Education is supposed to be society’s great equalizer, but for many school districts in New York’s 17th Congressional District and throughout our state, it is not. Students of color and low-income students especially are routinely failed by our public education system because they are more likely to live in underfunded districts compared to their wealthy, white counterparts. I support increasing federal Title I funding for our most under-resourced school districts, Title II funding for professional development for our school administrators, and Title IV funding for technology and other educational resources. I also support fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, which Congress has failed to fully fund since it was passed 45 years ago.
In Congress, I will co-sponsor Rep. Deb Haaland’s Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act (H.R. 3315). Under this legislation, the Department of Health and Human Services must support sponsors (e.g., states, local governments, tribal organizations, and nonprofit community organizations) that provide child care and early learning services for families. In Congress, I will also co-sponsor Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Universal Prekindergarten and Early Childhood Education Act (H.R. 4213), which would expand access to free pre-kindergarten through a partnership between the federal government and the states. This has been piloted in New York City to great effect, and will improve outcomes for millions of children across the country.
FOOD & AGRICULTURE
- To what extent are you concerned about the threat of climate change in disrupting agriculture in New York State in the coming decades? What, if any, policy changes should be made to ensure our farms are resilient?
I am deeply concerned about the threat the climate crisis poses to New York’s agriculture and food systems. New York’s farmers are already reckoning with hotter summers, more intense extreme weather events, increasing pest and disease outbreaks, and the disruption of the seasonal patterns they used to be able to rely on. Over 200,000 jobs, millions of acres of land, and untold financial burdens are at stake.
The federal government needs to step up. With between $10 and $20 billion in federal funding going to farmers each year, reorienting federal farm subsidies towards increasing agricultural resilience could dramatically improve farmers’ adaptation to the climate crisis. Additionally, the Federal Crop Insurance Program should reward farmers for transitioning to more sustainable crops better suited to the future of their land.
Reforms to agricultural policy can also mitigate the climate crisis. Cover cropping and more efficient use of nitrogen fertilizers, for example, can significantly reduce agricultural emissions. State and federal policies should support farmers in their efforts to adopt best practices, including by compensating them for choices that reduce or offset emissions.
- Optional: How do you see federal food and agriculture policies impacting public health? What interventions should the federal government employ to help people living in food deserts or with food insecurity?
Everyone should have access to good-quality, affordable, healthy food to feed themselves and their families. Many people in my district, including my own family growing up, really struggle to put food on the table. I want to legislate on agriculture and food policy in a way that ensures that everyone in this country has affordable, healthy food options. To combat food insecurity, I’m
eager to develop a plan to move back towards small-scale farming and food sovereignty, including in communities of color. That could include shifting subsidies to independent family farms, providing support for community-run food co-ops, or other financing options.
Factory farms create some of the most pressing public health problems in our food system. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), for example, are major sources of animal waste, untreated water and air pollution, and antibiotic resistance. These facilities can devastate the communities they’re located in and make life difficult for small, independent, and family-owned farms. I support the Farm Systems Reform Act (H.R. 6718), the most ambitious federal legislative proposal yet to take on factory farming.
Federal oversight is also important for protecting and improving food safety. We must ensure that the food we produce in this country is up to standard, and that means regulating industries that are responsible for this food production. Food safety regulation that ensures that we put good-quality food in our bodies should not be negotiable. And because agricultural overuse of antibiotics is increasing antibiotic resistance, I support legislation like the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.
I’m also concerned about vertical integration in food production. Concentrating industry power in the hands of a few corporate integrators has extremely detrimental effects both on our economy and health. In the food sector, unregulated integration can damage the global food supply and the resilience of our food system. We should explore the potential of antitrust legislation in this industry.
- Restrictions and suspensions of new work visas, especially for high-skilled workers in science and technology fields, could affect scientific progress and innovation. Do you agree with these restrictions? Why or why not?
I oppose restricting or suspending new work visas. I would not be here today had my paternal grandfather not immigrated to New York City from Kingston, Jamaica. Immigrants are the backbone of our society, from our economy to our personal relationships. Immigrants are our family members, friends, neighbors, and loved ones. And immigrants can contribute so much to our scientific progress, advancing medicine, technology, and basic research. We must center our immigration system around human rights, uniting families, dignity, and strengthening our economy. We do not have to accept trade-offs between these complementary values. Workers’ rights and immigrants’ rights are human rights.
- Optional: As climate change worsens, the number of climate refugees will increase within the US as well as globally. What role should the US play in mitigating this problem? How, if at all, should US immigration policies adapt to this issue?
The United States has a special duty to mitigate the climate crisis and address the rise in climate refugees. After all, we’ve cumulatively emitted more greenhouse gases than any other nation. As a start, we need to drastically increase the cap for refugees and make the migration process faster and more equitable, so that people fleeing conflict, violence, and deprivation can find safe refuge in the United States. While the solution to climate migration must be international, the U.S. absolutely must take a lead role.
I support bold climate action – including the Green New Deal – to protect our planet and to ensure that people do not have to leave their homes due to rising sea levels or severe droughts that devastate their food and water supplies. I would also advocate for a humane trade policy that does not devastate the economies of other countries and cause people to risk life and limb to enter the United States illegally for a better life.
- What is your position on the 1996 Dickey Amendment? What role should the federal government take in addressing issues relating to gun violence?
I support the repeal of the Dickey Amendment. Gun violence is an epidemic, and we need to treat it that way. The Dickey Amendment has robbed the country of the research we need to reduce gun violence as much as we can. Alongside repeal, we need to allocate new federal funds for research into gun violence prevention and gun control measures. As President Obama’s Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy demonstrated, public health officials across the federal government can be important advocates for the gun control measures we need.
In Congress, I plan to fight for the laws we need to end the gun violence epidemic: conducting universal background checks; banning assault weapons and imposing a mandatory assault weapons buyback; banning high-capacity magazines; creating a nationwide system of gun licensing and registration; requiring a 30-day waiting period for all gun sales; imposing civil liability on negligent gun manufacturers, distributors, and sellers; and ending the gun show loophole, boyfriend loophole, and Charleston loophole. I also support declaring gun violence a national emergency.
- Optional: Considering the majority (over 60%) of gun deaths are due to suicide, what are some policies that could be enacted to promote safer gun ownership practices and address people’s mental health needs?
Gun violence is not just about homicides. The United States has the highest proportion of suicides by firearms in the world. In New York, 54 percent of gun deaths are suicides. The youth suicide rate has risen over 50 percent nationwide in the last decade. And research consistently shows that access to guns increases the likelihood of suicide. A universal 30-day waiting period and uniform, stringent permit restrictions are particularly important for suicide prevention, because they reduce the likelihood that someone in the midst of a mental health crisis can immediately obtain a gun. Mandatory firearm safety training and safe gun storage are also essential.
In addition, I’m committed to a holistic approach to preventing these tragic deaths. I support Medicare for All to guarantee absolutely everyone comprehensive access to mental health care. To alleviate the economic insecurity that can contribute to the suicide rate, I support raising the minimum wage to $15, making housing affordable for everyone, and providing free public colleges and universities.