Harry Burger, Green Party, NY-2


  1. What should be the role of science and scientists in government policy- and decision-making?

I completely agree with Neil DeGrasse Tyson – “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” In any endeavor, we ignore science at our own peril.  I’m a design engineer, with a dual BS from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Mechanical Engineering and Science & Technology Studies, plus 15 years of experience in design and manufacturing. 

  1. Optional: Taxpayer-funded basic research is a key economic driver. What is your position on the Endless Frontiers Act? With the added technology arm and focus on commercialization to the National Science Foundation’s mission, what policies would you support to ensure equity for taxpayers?

Based on a quick skim of the Endless Frontiers Act, it sounds like a brilliant idea, I’m surprised we haven’t done it sooner.  As far as equity for taxpayers, my first thought is to mandate that any patents arising from research paid for by government funds must be assigned to the People of the United States, free for any facility on American soil to produce.  Licensing fees for production outside the US, importing, etc. are to be paid into the budget of the National Science & Technology Foundation.

  1. Optional: If you could introduce and/or support any major scientific endeavor, what would it be? (i.e. what would be your “moonshot” project?)

I’m very excited by the prospect of Hyperloop technology, with magnetic levitation pods traveling through a tube having most of the air removed to eliminate air friction. In principle, it should transport people and goods across the country faster than an airplane with less energy cost, and that energy could come from clean sources rather than burning jet fuel at high altitude.  This would be a tremendous boon to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while reducing travel time and cost, once the investment of constructing the tubes is recouped.  The key advantage over European style bullet trains is that it’s still efficient without requiring very long and full trains, so it’s much more agile.  This is exactly the sort of massive infrastructure project that needs federal government backing to make it work, and it’s part of my own ideas for the Green New Deal.


  1. 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?

This pandemic has shown all of us just how precarious our daily lives are, what parts of life are truly “essential” and which are not.  It has also forced many people to adopt video conference technology.  I hope that one of the lasting impacts will be that more people question just how necessary travel really is and decide to do it less in the future, to save on energy use and pollution, especially regarding air travel. 

Hopefully we will maintain the improved hygiene habits ingrained by this pandemic to help reduce the spread of other diseases – I’ve heard deaths from influenza are significantly lower than usual in 2020 for example.  In terms of response to future outbreaks, we need a President who will ask the doctors in the CDC how to have the fewest dead Americans, parrot their recommendations for the media, and lead from the front – show the American People that they are following the recommendations personally, like wearing a mask.  Pretty much follow the example of Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand, the polar opposite of Donald Trump’s strategy. 

  1. 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 nonprofit from top to bottom & coast to coast, facilities collectively owned by the residents of the community it serves.  Free for all people at the point of use, financed by national progressive taxation.  One single centralized billing system for ease of use, where all members of Congress and our immediate families are prohibited from spending our own money on enhanced care – we get only what is free to every human on American soil.  Essentially this is applying the “Eat Your Own Dog Food” principle from engineering to government.  That way, any defects in the system will personally affect the people who control it so they will have strong incentive to fix those shortcomings for everyone. 

Big Insurance should be left out of the process completely & driven into Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy as punishment for extortion.  What they do is technically legal now so the Constitution says we can’t send the executives and shareholders to prison for it.  The new healthcare system needs to bargain punitively with Big Pharma to send them into bankruptcy too, then new nonprofit owners buy up all their intellectual property and equipment for a song.  There will always be plenty of people who want to study medicine and research for the benefit of humanity and prestige even without a billion dollar payday in the offering – the patent for insulin was originally sold for $1.

All who became billionaires off the industry should be social pariahs, shunned by polite society unless and until they forsake their ill-gotten gains – sell off their yachts, mansions, and other luxuries, donate the proceeds to charities dedicated to compensating those harmed by the old system enough that nobody would call them rich anymore and they need to take on working class jobs. 

These people are second only to actual Nazis on the spectrum of human evil; they got rich by killing large numbers of people slowly and painfully.  The lobbyists and members of Congress who accepted campaign money from them in any manner are accessories; they are all morally bankrupt and should also be held accountable for this by the People. 


  1. 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 Party has been beating the drum for a Green New Deal since we introduced the term 10 years ago, and it’s absolutely vital to the survival of humanity.  Climate change already gave 2020 tornadoes of fire on the west coast, doubling the record for acreage burned in a year that was set just two years ago, it’s been a record setting year for hurricanes including the worst storm to hit Long Island since Sandy. 

  1. 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?

This is the first time I’m hearing about the Red Deal, from a quick Google search I like the idea.  Just recently I used the Shinnecock Tribe as an example of why the Green New Deal is essential so social and racial justice.  While joining with them to advocate for a law to stop the Town of Southampton from giving permits to dig into their ancestral burial sites (as they’ve been doing for centuries), I recently learned that their reservation is largely swamp land, so when sea levels rise, they will be affected first and worst.  They’re already losing the native clams to climate change and pollution – their shells are the raw material for wampum carvings, an important cultural tradition and art form. 

Indigenous peoples absolutely deserve a seat at the table in discussions of our future.  White people have been giving them a raw deal since 1492; their survivors deserve compensation for our ancestors taking their land at gunpoint & doing things like sending them blankets deliberately contaminated with polio.  Let’s call it what it is, robbery and genocide, and find an equitable way to at least try to make amends.


  1. 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?

The Green New Deal is core to the Green Party platform; without it, humanity is on the path to extinction.  We may very well be too late – 10 years ago we were saying we needed to get this plan fully implemented by 2020 – now we’re saying by 2030 only because even a 10 year timeline is extremely ambitious for the drastic changes that are absolutely necessary.  We find the money by taking the funds away from the military budget – it’s already bigger than the next 10 countries combined, and one of the worst polluters since the military is an exception to almost all our environmental regulations.

Environmental damage creates costs that MUST be paid, and nature charges interest.  It’s a corollary to the law of conservation of mass – the only question is WHO will pay those costs.  Far too often, corporations privatize their profits and try to socialize the costs.  We need a whole new system to ensure that the cost of cleanup is paid up front by those who get the benefit, then those funds then are paid out to those who clean it up – like the nickel deposit on soda bottles, super-sized & applied to producing or importing any materials that aren’t safely compostable, proportional to the damage they cause if they are not properly captured and recycled or safely disposed of.  This would also greatly incentivize standardization of packaging, collection, and re-use, like if consumer scale glass tomato sauce jars were all one of 3 sizes, all brands used the same with just different labels, and they cost $5 to the disposal fund every time a new one is made, people would take the effort to clean and return them, when the truck delivers new food to the store, on the return trip it can take the empties back up the supply chain.

Included in the Green Party platform is free education through college or trade school and canceling all student debt.  The Green New Deal will require enough labor to guarantee a job to every American who wants to work, at a living wage, and training people to do the work where there aren’t already enough qualified workers.  Solar panels & wind farms don’t just install and maintain themselves!

  1. 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?

In terms of equity in the post-COVID economic recovery, the People need a bailout more than the corporations.  Canada gives their people $2000/month for the duration of the pandemic and a few months after – we got $1200 to last 8 months and counting.  When the People get that money, they spend it into the local economy, they pay rent or mortgages on time to keep that whole system moving.  It’s essentially an experiment in Universal Basic Income, which could replace unemployment, SNAP, disability, and other means-tested programs to help the people in most need, removing the hoops beneficiaries currently need to jump through and all the labor associated with administering them. 

Besides a higher minimum wage, we need a maximum wage ratio: First, collect total compensation data for everyone who labors to create value for the company– hourly rate *40*52 for anyone not on salary to fairly include part-time workers.  Take the 15th percentile of that group, multiply by 25.  Any person gaining more than that result from the company in any manner, by salary, bonuses, dividends, or increasing value of equity share, gets taxed at 85% on the margin above that maximum wage.  If employees own some amount of stock, the dividends/increase in equity value they get from that ownership counts towards their income for determining that 15th percentile. This way anybody who wants to be a millionaire needs to make sure they’re taking care of everyone else in the chain very well first, and they can’t use tricks like “independent contractors” to avoid counting low wage workers. 


  1. 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?

All education should be free.  If you have the skills and ambition to be a medical doctor, a lack of money should never be an impediment to that goal, just as one example.  Critical thinking, studying the ways powerful people have deceived the masses in the past and present, common threads among them, logical fallacies that can lead to things like the so-called statistics that racists use to “prove” they are justified, how to research to find the truth independently, all of these absolutely belong in a core basic education.  If high school seniors aren’t calling out the government on their empty rhetoric and logic fails from last week’s news, we’re doing it wrong. 

  1. 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? 

I was very fortunate to get an excellent education, but so many are not.  Long Island is one of the worst examples of wide race and class disparity in education, because this was the birthplace of Redlining to put white people in some towns, Black people in the less desirable neighborhoods.  Then we have so many tiny school districts, many times with only one or two schools of each level, each district has their own superintendent and other administrative staff, and because there’s so much competition for them, they’re paid more than many others with the same title responsible for much larger districts in other areas – all of the 5 Boroughs of NYC are one school district for one very nearby example.  All districts are funded primarily through their own local property taxes, so poorer (more dark skinned) districts are deprived of funding which means trouble for everything from computers to textbooks to paper & pencils. 

We need to make the system much more equitable.  Fund every school within a state with the same number of dollars per student – same for school districts to pay for administration.  Add additional funding dedicated to salaries for teachers and staff based on a formula with the median rent for a 2-bedroom apartment within the district or 20 minute commute by car/40 minute by mass transit (including the walk to a stop), whichever is smaller, so that they can send their children to the same schools they work at.  Pinning down the numbers would require some research, and that’s more a state and local law issue than a federal one.  Perhaps we could offer matching funds for states that implement such a system, with more favorable matches to less wealthy and more rural states. 

It’s disturbing that when I talk about the need for a more equitable system, the first thing I hear from some of my own family is that with my system, my high school wouldn’t have had Advanced Placement classes.  Perhaps not every high school needs them, but which ones do or don’t shouldn’t be determined by how rich a child’s parents are – have larger districts where some schools have different programs, determine which students go to which schools by their interest and aptitude.  For example in Germany, there are different high schools for either learning a skilled trade or preparing for a university education. 


  1. 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?

Honestly I’m not very well informed on agriculture, my focus has always been on engineering and technology up to this point.  There isn’t a large amount of agricultural land in my district, that’s more common out east in District 1.  I would reach out to local organizations of the farmers we do have for guidance on what their needs are. 

  1. 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?

A UBI system would be a difficult idea to sell to the rest of Congress or any candidate for President in 2020 besides Howie Hawkins, but it should be very helpful to people who are currently food insecure.  At a minimum, let’s make it much easier to apply for and receive existing programs like SNAP.  As someone who is on the autistic spectrum and has ADHD, when I hear stories of the hoops people need to jump through, I know that these and other disabilities, especially if they’re untreated because of a lack of access to mental health care (which is far too often inadequate even for people WITH health insurance these days), plus limited access to technology like the internet at home, can create serious obstacles to getting needed resources, which causes more stress and makes lots of those issues worse, creating a snowball effect that prevents people from rising above their challenges. 

We need to reign in the anticompetitive behaviors of big businesses that drive local store owners to bankruptcy and leave far too many Americans no options to shop but Walmart and Amazon.  We should have done that decades ago, now bringing small locally owned businesses back will be even more difficult.  This isn’t really so much of a problem in my area so I haven’t given it as much thought previously. 

I’m not sure how cost effective they are, but I’ve recently learned that there are companies producing self-contained, climate controlled hydroponic farms that only need electricity, water, and some fertilizer chemicals to operate, that are the size of standard cargo containers so they can be transported by ship or semi-trailer. This allows production of fresh vegetables almost anywhere.  Most technologies come down in unit cost as production numbers expand, perhaps subsidies to encourage introducing systems like this into areas with nutrition problems could help. The Department of Agriculture already has programs to guarantee crop loans for traditional farmers, they are probably lagging behind the technology as usual with regard to novel systems like this.


  1. 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?

My personal experience is that almost everyone I know of my own generation (I’m 37) is waiting longer to have children and having fewer because it’s already so difficult to afford taking care of ourselves financially, adding children just eats up more time and money that we don’t have.  I got divorced after being married 2.5 years with no kids, whereas I was born 10 months after my parents married when my father was 25 and I have 3 brothers.  The youngest is 27 and none of us have children yet.  I’ve been hearing that this is part of a broader trend, that our national birth rate is lower than is sustainable in the long term.  The easiest solution to not enough population is to allow more immigration from other countries, especially when they already want to come here. 

It’s only logical to privilege immigrants who have special skills that are in demand, or are students who are going to learn the skills at our universities and stay here.  If there’s actually a documented problem that we have an excess supply of qualified Americans in a particular field, then we don’t have a demand for more people in that category, so we can slow or stop the visas for that particular field. 

The recent news stories of hysterectomies being performed on women in ICE custody is absolutely appalling, this is literally genocide according to international law and requires a thorough investigation.  I’m not sure I would trust our own government to properly investigate exactly how high up the chain of command the orders came from, and has this happened at any other facilities.  We need to give the UN free reign to investigate this, unfortunately we’ve unilaterally exempted all American citizens from the authority of the International Criminal Court.  In fact, Congress has given permission in advance for the President to go to war with the Netherlands as soon as an American citizen is put on trial there – that needs to be reversed.  I wouldn’t be all that surprised if this was a deliberate plan from high up to make women afraid to come here illegally. 

  1. 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?

What I keep hearing is that as the planet warms, the best climate for farming will gradually move farther north, if this keeps up eventually we’re going to either outsource our agriculture to Canada, or given our history and military, possibly annex the newly fertile territory.  I’m not saying we have a right to do that or it’s the best course of action.  I’m categorically opposed to us violating the sovereignty of other countries without international agreement that we need to do something like stop a genocide, but I may not have enough pull to stop it especially as circumstances become more dire. 

We have a special obligation to grant political asylum to people fleeing violence in other countries where we are responsible for the rise of the government trying to kill them.  We have also polluted the environment more than our fair share pretty much since the industrial revolution, so it is up to us to help with the costs of that imposed on other countries, since we reaped the benefits.  That may be foreign aid to help those countries better adapt, or accepting more refugees, probably some of both. 


  1. What is your position on the 1996 Dickey Amendment? What role should the federal government take in addressing issues relating to gun violence?

I’m a firm supporter of the 2nd Amendment.  I learned to shoot at Boy Scout camp when I was 12 years old, own multiple firearms, and enjoy shooting sports.  As an engineer & machinist as well as former ROTC cadet who competed for speed stripping and reassembling an M-16, I know quite well exactly how they work, and how the features restricted by most laws like the SAFE Act in NY that target “assault weapons” don’t impact how lethal a weapon is.  Like how a pistol grip is OK on a pistol, but on a rifle it’s illegal now, so is a carrying handle, unless it’s converted to a fixed magazine.  All it does is require special cosmetic packages just for NY that increase the cost of ownership – make it so rich white people can own them, but people of color with less money can’t.  Meanwhile, which group is more likely to need one to scare off a lynch mob someday? 

At the same time, I’m a survivor of domestic violence, very fortunate compared to most who can say that, but I still appreciate the need for some restrictions.  “Red Flag” laws can save lives, immediately taking firearms away from people accused of certain crimes like domestic violence for a limited time, enough to convene a Grand Jury to decide if there’s enough evidence to justify keeping them away until a verdict.  They still need to have due process rights, but the victim’s life is at bona fide risk; that takes precedence. 

The Dickey Amendment seems at best poorly worded and ambiguous.  I’m not opposed to repealing it – the facts exist, we should at least research to know what they are so Congress can be informed of the truth and decide what to do as a result.  It’s just like how not testing people for COVID may keep the official numbers down, but it doesn’t mean fewer people actually have it, just that they’ll spread it to more people without knowing and make the problem worse.

  1. 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?

The best thing our government can do to reduce crime is to address the problems of poverty without stigma.  For too long we have persecuted and criminalized people of color for minor drug crimes and we as a culture have made a past conviction into a Scarlet Letter, prohibiting them from getting better jobs that would lift them out of poverty.  I support the movement to “ban the box,” referring to a question on job applications asking if someone has been convicted of a crime before they even get to an interview. Obviously certain jobs and particular criminal history shouldn’t go together, like a child molester shouldn’t be a school teacher. 

We need to legalize marijuana and stop the racist war on drugs.  Substance abuse should be dealt with as a public health problem, not as an excuse to send Black men to prison but white people to rehab.  Instead of treating it in isolation, our health and social services needs to support people, find out what needs aren’t being met and provide a constructive solution.  Universal healthcare including mental health would do a lot to help here, as well as major reforms to how we handle police and public safety.  Once we get that going, crime in general should go down, with fewer gangs competing for turf to sell drugs illegally, people who previously would turn to crime in desperation would instead have legal, constructive options with fewer risks.  There’s no 100% solution of course, but punishing our way out of the problem isn’t working – we need to dig out the roots. 

To reduce the risk of gun suicide, perhaps we could require a label inside all new gun safes/storage bags with some message and the phone number for the national suicide prevention hotline.  I’m an engineer not a therapist, we’d need to consult with mental health experts on what text they think would be most effective at convincing someone on the edge to call.  Maybe require gun stores to have stickers available for free if people want to add the label to their existing storage containers.