Applaud Opioid Talk, Verify Actions

It was good to see the President come out with policies that may help alleviate the opioid crisis. This crisis has expanded from opioids and exploding into heroin use. That adaptive expansion as access to opioids is decreased is even costlier public health crises like blood borne pathogens and STDs.

Putting forward government resources to fund research into non-addictive painkillers is something much needed, and, frankly, something the GOP often sacrifice to fund tax cuts for the wealthy.

Let’s applaud the talk then verify the resources and actions.

It’s also great to see the President be in favor of mental health treatment for those in the throes of addiction, as well as those within the criminal justice system.

Let’s applaud the talk then verify the resources and actions.

Attempting to eliminate some of the worst opioids on the marketplace and to limit patients to 7-day prescriptions can help decrease overdoses.

Let’s applaud the talk then verify the resources and actions.

Also, the focus on drug courts being a pathway forward for those caught up in addiction and the criminal justice system was a welcome one.

Let’s applaud the talk then verify the resources and actions.

The President chose to declare this a national public health emergency over a national emergency, which is unfortunate. That means there will be no additional funds without Congressional legislation. We all know how difficult it is for this GOP-controlled Congress to pass anything.

What was sorely lacking from Trump’s proposal was a national needle exchange program coupled with outreach programs.

Needle exchange programs might be controversial for some, but these have prevented HIV, Hepatitis, and other blood borne pathogen outbreaks. Vice President ended access to needle exchange programs in Indiana and created an HIV outbreak while Governor of the Hoosier State.

That level of shortsighted and reactive policymaking leads to costly chronic conditions that spread across communities and regions, usually under the radar. The threats of blood borne pathogens inside high risk groups can go unnoticed, undiagnosed, and untreated for years or even decades.

These types of public health crises are devastating to a region’s healthcare, social welfare, and community infrastructure. It creates division, prejudice, and animosity about complex health risks that aren’t tangible to many.

So, yes, I applaud the President coming forward today and talking about policies that might put a dent in the opioid crisis. I will be here watching for the funds and the actions to make their way to rural areas like the 15th District.

Here, we have more of a rolling heroin and opioid crisis unfolding. We have to tackle all, through prevention, maintenance, mental health, healthcare, and drug courts.

We can make real progress on this national emergency. We need real resources, real funds, and real actions, not just talking from a podium. 

Let’s applaud the talk then verify the resources and actions.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Reynolds/Pool via Getty Images

Opioids, Marijuana, & Economy

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‘Cockeyed’ Fundraising in the 15th

In a recent news article by the News-Gazette, Tom Kacich highlighted the “cockeyed” fundraising numbers in the race to take back the 15th District for the People.

He’s right; the fundraising figures are completely out of balance. 

If money alone wins elections, Rep. John Shimkus will win, and he has over a million cash on hand, which he spends lavishly. Over 90% of that money is contributed by PACs and special interests. That doesn’t sit well with me, nor most voters.

All of our campaign’s funds are from individuals, not special interests nor PACs. We’ve also out-raised the other Democratic candidates in the race for the year in only one quarter.

Most constituents don’t vote for a candidate that has pockets lined with big money and special interests, especially when that 20 year incumbent’s record doesn’t align with benefiting the People of the 15th District. That’s what I’ve found when I discuss the issues impacting residents across Central and Southern Illinois.

The People are concerned with paying their bills, lagging wages, healthcare, and a lack of leadership in Washington that will make a difference in their communities.

I might not be wealthy, and I know personally the toll that healthcare can take on every aspect of a person’s life. Each one of us has the ability to make a difference with our ideas, knowledge, and experience.

As long as I’m still alive, I’ll be here fighting the good fight, fighting for others, and fighting to make life better for our communities. We all remain relevant as long as we don’t quit and don’t give up that fight.

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The Flag, Kneeling, & The First Amendment

It’s increasingly difficult to have respectful dialogue with people regarding current events. The most recent hot button being the debate over kneeling during the National Anthem.

Extraordinarily enough, the people that are most disrespectful regarding this topic online are the ones that claim kneeling is extremely disrespectful. They use name-calling, bullying, and censorship to stop having a rational discussion about the issue. I can take all the above. Others, however, cannot. They deserve to have their voices heard and their needs met.

Of course, there are different perspectives regarding the Flag and how to respect it. It shouldn’t be as difficult to be respectful of one another while we express our differences, but, apparently, that is too high a bar for far too many.

Some groups of people complain about players being disrespectful when they kneel during the National Anthem while they openly disrespect anyone who disagrees with their positions. Most likely, they don’t even stand for the Anthem from the comfort of their homes when it’s played on their TVs. 

Double standards? Of course. That’s as rich a tradition in America as is peaceful protest. Double standards allow the American people to languish in the status quo. Aren’t we all exhausted by the status quo?

The reality is that our veterans, active military, Congress, and the President all took an Oath to defend the U.S. Constitution. Not part of it, ALL of it. 

The sacrifices made to defend America and Americans were made to protect our rights,  Freedom of Speech and to protest injustice in America being among them. Forgetting our actual history and our actual Constitution seems to be easy for too many Americans today.

Regardless of your belief about whether or not people should kneel or stand during the National Anthem at professional or college games, it is their right to do so. 

I will always stand as long as I can stand. That’s my choice as much as your choices are your choices. Both are protected by our Constitution and have been supported by the Supreme Court many times.

It’s not my place to tell these players what to do, many of whom grew up in poverty, watched family be prosecuted and jailed, and have seen generations lost to violence in their streets. They now have a position and wealth that most never attain. They’re using that position to do good in their communities, but that’s not enough for some players. Those who languish in the status quo deserve people that can and will stand up for them, even if that means kneeling and taking the heat publicly.

It IS my place to protect their right to peacefully protest our government, because that’s what men and women died for while fighting for America, and while fighting for rights here IN America. 

Also, adding more hatred and bigotry into the national conversation does nothing to move our country forward. We need to move forward together.

The First Amendment is First for a reason. It’s what keeps our government serving all her people. If we lose sight of that, we’re in much deeper trouble than we could imagine.

I want to live in a country where we all want to stand together in solidarity with one another.

That’s the American Dream I’ve believed in throughout my life.

We can achieve it, but only through dialogue, listening, and coming together instead of tearing each other apart.

The Case Against Graham-Cassidy

The case against the Graham-Cassidy healthcare repeal bill is complicated.

As usual, the GOP is light on the details, hoping that someone else will do the right thing or that we’re not paying attention.

Within the bill, there is language that allows states to determine what “adequate and affordable” means for those of us with pre-existing conditions. This would mean higher premiums and deductibles for the chronically ill, the disabled, aging populations, as well as for veterans. That’s a big NO GO for me.

It also allows states to deny preventive care and services. These efforts save money down the road. This includes denial of maternity care, childbirth, and even mental health, which includes treatment for opioid addiction. Considering how the opioid epidemic is ravaging communities and families across the country, this seems the exact wrong direction to take healthcare.

The main thrust of the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare is the Medicaid expansion. In states like Illinois that expanded Medicaid, it will result in the loss of healthcare coverage for roughly a million people. Hard working Americans were able to gain access to Medicaid under Obamacare. The GOP wants to take that choice off the table. 

None of this is to discount the very serious problems with Obamacare and Medicaid.

We have to fix the law, protect healthcare for those it helps, fix it for those who are being hurt with high premiums and deductibles, and send retroactive checks to those low wage workers that were hit with tax penalties for not having coverage.

We have to be relentless in our pursuit for better, more affordable healthcare. We cannot stop until no one is left behind. We can do that by electing different people to Congress. People that know how vital healthcare is, how it works, how it can work better for people, and that will never stop fighting.

I have a history of doing just that. I won’t stop as I know personally the costs of dismantling healthcare programs. These are life and death decisions that are current representative to Congress takes cavalierly. I won’t.

Photo: Fortune.com

Democrats for Action, not Litmus

Senate politics are different from House politics. Winning back the House isn’t easy, and Nancy Pelosi knows that personally. Blue meat like single payer doesn’t sell as well or enough in many of these conservative-leaning House districts to make a difference at the ballot box next November.

We must win back the House in order to begin making a difference for the American People again. Doing so as the minority party in Congress is simply too difficult during the next three years.

And, Americans and DACA recipients need us to do more than make simple talking point issues that are unlikely to pass a veto override.

When we have the opportunity to pass legislation once again, we must act. We must take aim at wage stagnation, at protecting healthcare, and at protecting the most vulnerable amongst us. Those are the issues I’ve been targeting in my campaign.

The country did not trust Democrats after the last healthcare overhaul. We have to reforge that trust and not by making massive promises that may not turn out the way we expect. The best of intentions are meaningless if these don’t translate to real results for people.

The rural districts have remained in the hands of the GOP for far too long and are the keys to turning the page on the broken politics of the last few decades. 

I know the voters I listen to every single day are ready for a change that will make a beneficial difference in their daily lives and in their bottom-lines. That hasn’t happened in too long of a time in too many of these districts.

The Democratic Party has to deliver for the People, not just deliver big promises and force litmus tests on its candidates and legislators.

Together, we all can achieve so much for those who haven’t had a voice in Washington, DC. 

Let’s get to it!

Fundraising Highs & Lows for Dems

In a year with many special elections, the most expensive House race in American history, and much frustration with the direction of the country under the leadership of President Trump and a GOP-led Congress, most would believe the Democrats would be outpacing the GOP in cash and fundraising.

The reality is not clear.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has $40 million less in the bank than the RNC. That doesn’t tell the whole story. DNC has nearly $6.9 million in cash on hand. With two quarters left until primaries begin, this should be a warning sign to all Democrats, Progressives, and Independents to not remain complacent in the midterms.

Beyond those bleak numbers, the RNC has doubled the DNC in the amount raised from small donations. Bernie Sanders was able to garner amazing amounts of small donations in 2015 and throughout 2016. These donors might be sitting on the sidelines or have moved to supporting Trump and the GOP.

However, this isn’t the entire picture.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has the opposite fundraising numbers of it’s Republican counterpart, the (NRCC). The DCCC’s first quarter was a record in contributions, spurred on by special elections and reaction to the Trump-GOP agenda.

So far this election cycle, the DCCC has raised $66 million and currently has nearly $23 million in the bank. There is hope for fundraising within the Democratic and Progressive sphere.

Perhaps after the controversies surrounding Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and other issues raised during both the primary and general election about leadership and management of the DNC, more donors are focusing efforts toward the DCCC.

Regardless, the DCCC is not funding many longtime conservative House races. Currently, there are plans to pump resources into the 12th and 13th downstate races, but not into the 15th District.

As many people throughout the 15th District realize by knocking on doors and listening to voters, conservative and independent voters are not satisfied with Rep. John Shimkus and how he has represented their interests for the last 22 years in Washington, D.C.

The People of the 15th deserve opportunities, immediate relief, and new approaches that will make a difference in their daily lives and their bottom-lines. They deserve practical and pragmatic solutions and above all someone who isn’t burdened by special interests and personal businesses that could benefit from their agenda.

Together, we all do better.

When those that struggle have more to spend, local businesses and governments benefit.

When those that work hard but can’t pay their bills earn more money, their lives improve and opportunities open up for them, their families, and their communities. 

When we all come together with a common goal of shared prosperity, affordable healthcare, the best education for every child, more access to your services and absolutely to your representation to Congress, we all learn more about each other and how similar we truly are.

That’s what I intend to do. Come join me!

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Tackling Wage Stagnation

Working hard shouldn’t mean hardly eating, and the GOP has been targeting food stamps for decades. In recent years, they’ve been successful at cutting billions from the program, despite many workers needing this program to feed their families. They’re at it again, planning to cut another 25%.

The program pays for itself; for every dollar spent, SNAP generates roughly $1.75 in economic activity. Therefore, cutting these benefits makes no sense, and, these Americans deserve to put food on the table.

A relevant question to ask is why do hard working Americans need SNAP benefits to feed their families? Wage stagnation.

Since the massive failure of Reaganomics, wage stagnation has harmed not only working families but local economies for decades. It is about time we put an end to the continuing damage from this failed economic model. 

  • GOP-focused tax cuts are too often pocketed by the wealthiest. Tax cuts for the wealthiest and big businesses also have not produced sustained wage growth for workers. This has been the GOP failed strategy for decades. It’s a losing agenda for hardworking Americans.

We can do something about the wage stagnation problem now

while mitigating any short term risks for small businesses. 

  • Larger businesses should lose their massive tax cuts, and we need to eliminate loopholes. Then, these businesses can earn credits and breaks when the wage disparity within the company decreases. This means when the difference between the lowest and the highest income earners’ wages decreases significantly, the business receives a tax break.

This is what the tax code was designed to do in the first place . . . to incentivize good behavior that benefits American families and the economy. Wage growth benefits the economy. Wage stagnation benefits only the executive and administrative classes.

  • Everyone deserves a raise in a company when the company is doing well, not just those at the top. Currently, many large companies eliminate benefits, eliminate jobs, ship jobs overseas, and cut corners, all of which allows for annual raises and big bonuses at the top. Meanwhile, the workers get left behind.

This has to change.

I’ll stand with hard working Americans every day. They deserve more for their hard work. The more they take home, the more they spend where they live. Workers are the lifeblood of local economies.

  • Right now, we need an all-in strategy for American workers. Many are paying too much out-of-pocket for their healthcare, their utilities, and their expenses are too high. All of this occurs while their wages haven’t budged in years.

Let’s do something different for a change.

I’ll fight for innovative strategies.

Policies that directly impact the bottomline of households and small businesses. 

We can do better by demanding better.