Hansen Clarke’s Vision

Creating Jobs and Economic Security

My top priority is creating jobs and economic security for the people of Metro Detroit.

People are saddled with mortgages, student loans, credit card bills, and medical bills, while wages are stagnant.  When everyone is paying down debt and few people are spending, businesses can’t hire, and the economy slows.  This has devastating consequences for government deficits and debt as it erodes our tax base.  Most importantly, it has terrible consequences for people struggling to make ends meet.

There is a better way.

The answer to this urgent crisis is to ensure that people can get free of their crushing debt and rebuild their purchasing power.   We can take sensible steps right now to change this situation.   As your Representative in Congress, I will fight for:

  • Consumer Debt Relief to Jumpstart the Economy: In my last term, I launched a bill called the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 to create a more manageable way for student borrowers to repay their debts and avoid default. This bill would enable student borrowers to receive forgiveness after paying ten percent of their discretionary income for ten years. This will enable people to get back to restoring strength to our economy: buying a home, investing, or starting a business. I also launched the Save our Neighborhoods Act of 2012 to allow Americans facing foreclosure to delay eviction and remain in their homes by making a lower mortgage payment. I will reintroduce these initiatives to allow people to rebuild their purchasing power, increase consumer demand and fuel powerful job creation.

  • Investing in People: I will work to build financial security for Metro Detroiters directly through direct public investment and quality constituency services.  In Congress, I was our region’s leading advocate for transportation investment including the M1 light rail development along Woodward Avenue in Detroit as well a job training and research programs through President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act.  Over the past year, I have worked to organize two major job fairs that connected thousands of area residents—including many veterans—with employers. I also worked with the White House to train Metro Detroiters at Wayne County Community College for well-paying technology jobs.  Finally, I’ve succeeding in passing four bipartisan funding measures that brought real resources to our community for promoting public safety and economic recovery.

Overall, we need to restore our economy by investing in people.  This means reducing illiteracy, improving education, and creating hope.  This is the moral challenge of our time.

Overcoming Student Loan Debt

American students have witnessed steep rises in tuition fees over recent years, and total outstanding student debt recently topped $1 trillion.  The problem is not just the enormity of the debt. It’s the lack of opportunity for students and graduates.  A recent Rutgers University study found that only 53% of a random sample of recent graduates of U.S. four-year universities were holding full-time jobs. Worst of all, student borrowers cannot discharge or even refinance their debts in bankruptcy, regardless of how desperate their situations become.

  • A Bold and Innovative Proposal: I  proposed the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 in order to eliminate many of the awful consequences of educational debt. In doing so, this bill would give Americans greater purchasing power, helping to jump-start our economy and create jobs.  The bill provides full loan forgiveness for current borrowers who have paid the equivalent of 10% of their discretionary income for 10 years or who are able to do so over the coming years. It limits interest rates on federal student loans and enables existing borrowers to break free from crushing fees by converting many private loans into federal loans. Crucially, Americans who are behind on their payments due to a setback such as unemployment or illness would be eligible to enroll in the new program.  To control costs and create sensible incentives for both students and institutions going forward, the bill allows future enrollees in the program to receive forgiveness up to a limit of $45,520 after paying up to 10% of discretionary income for 10 years.

  • A National Movement of the People: This proposal has received more than 1 million signatures through an independent national petition, available at HR4170.com.  It was also been endorsed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus as well as policy groups including Americans for Democratic Action and professional groups including the American Osteopathic Association and the American Dental Education Association.

Saving our Neighborhoods from Foreclosure

While Wall Street banks received a bailout to deal with the aftermath of the economic crisis, the people of Metro Detroit have received no such assistance.  Our region’s homeowners were mostly left on their own to weather the storm. This has had awful consequences not only for families but also for their neighbors, local governments, the environment, and our nation’s financial health. In Detroit, evictions have led to population loss, a decline in property values, and a loss of city and state tax revenue.  Abandoned homes have also resulted in increased crime.  When somebody sees a broken window or a boarded-up house, they’re less likely to respect the neighborhood and the people in it.  The time for change is now.

  • A better way forward:  In my last term, I proposed The Save Our Neighborhoods Act,  legislation that would allow many homeowners to stay in their homes by suspending the foreclosure process for up to three years.  Suspending foreclosures would encourage banks to agree to modify mortgages and make payments more affordable.   At the end of the foreclosure suspension period, a court would be able to reduce the mortgage principal for underwater mortgages.  This law would result in more vibrant communities and a healthier national economy.

  • Advocacy for Evicted Families: I have played a public role on this issue, standing in solidarity with community members like Mr. Alfred Palombo, a disabled senior citizen who fell behind on his mortgage payments after he was laid off and suffered from injuries sustained on the job and in two car accidents.  I have taken public action to urge Fannie Mae to work with Mr. Palombo and others who are facing foreclosure due to circumstances beyond their control and to find ways to allow them to stay in their homes through rental or purchase arrangements.  Such advocacy forces agencies like Fannie Mae to reconsider cases and potentially give struggling homeowners a second chance.

Education for All

As a proud graduate of Detroit Public Schools, I am committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to quality public K-12 education.  I believe that achieving quality education for all requires collaboration from teachers, school administrators, all levels of government, families, and communities.

  • Proven Record Fighting for Students:  I have worked tirelessly in Congress to provide greater funding to programs like Promise Neighborhoods, which brings together government, businesses, and nonprofits to empower children and teachers in distressed areas with the services and learning tools they need as well as to build a “college-going culture.”  I successfully fought to increase funding for this program from $10 million to $30 million during this Congress.

  • Honoring Our Teachers: The dedicated public school teachers I knew as a young person changed my life in countless ways.  These experiences have given me an incredibly deep respect for all teachers, which shapes my service in Congress.  I support the full funding of federal mandates, increasing teachers pay to reflect their significant contributions to society, and focusing funding on traditional public schools.  I received an “A” rating from the National Education Association for my service in the current Congress.

  • Making College Affordable: Our nation’s educational needs hardly end with a high school diploma.  I believe the United States can regain global economic competitiveness through top-notch skills and leading technologies.  This is why we need a highly-educated workforce and serious federal support for public higher education.   The federal government should provide additional aid to states that keep tuition low at public universities.  The federal government also has a direct role to play in increasing college affordability by reforming the nation’s broken educational financing system.  This is why I’m proposing the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 to reduce some of the most awful consequences of educational debt.  We can make education work for all.

Reforming our Prison System

Born and raised in inner-city Detroit, I’ve seen the consequences of our out-of-control prison system first hand.   I’ve seen folks with good hearts and great potential incarcerated for petty crimes and thrust into a vicious cycle of joblessness, hopeless, and then continued crime.  It’s no surprise to me that, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 50% of inmates released this year are likely to be re-arrested within three years.  Our criminal justice system fails to rehabilitate people.  Accordingly, it wrecks our state and federal budgets and makes our communities less safe.  I am taking action to reform our broken prison system:

  • Addressing the Root of the Problem: According to the National Commission on Adult Literacy, 56 percent of US adults in prison or jail in 2008 were deemed to have” very low literacy skills.”  I believe we must focus much more on the plight of illiteracy, particularly among African-American and Latino men, in order to break the “school to prison pipeline.”  I’m working with colleagues from both parties to pass legislation and secure resources to address this issue.  Over the coming year, I will also continue working to ensure that  funding is targeted toward preventative investments like “reentry support”—anger management programs, addiction prevention services, job skills training, and assistance finding housing—upon release.  Developing a sensible corrections system means guaranteeing successful reentry into the workforce and into society.

  • Launching a Bipartisan Alliance on Prison Reform: Strong evidence shows we can cut costs while making communities safer.  This is why I have been an advocate for allocating more resources to public education and less to supporting a system of mass incarceration for nonviolent offenders.  I am glad to say that even many national Republican leaders including Reagan attorney general Ed Meese and anti-tax campaigner Grover Norquist have come to an enlightened position on this issue and signed on to a declaration of support for reducing the scale of our national corrections industry.  For the sake of our communities, our young people, and our nation’s fiscal situation, I am fighting for sensible reform.

Restoring our Environment

Southeastern Michigan has tremendous natural beauty but faces serious environmental challenges.  The Detroit River, in particular, is contaminated with organic compounds and heavy metals, which threaten both people and broader ecosystems.  Invasive species such as the Zebra Mussel have decimated Great Lakes fish populations and caused problems for municipal water supplies.  The possibility of natural gas extraction through dangerous hydraulic fracturing practices poses yet another challenge to our ecosystems in our region.  As Congressman for the 14th District, I can offer:

  • A Proven Record for the Great Lakes and Global Environment: In 2011, I was the only member of the Michigan delegation to receive a 100% score from the League of Conservation Voters.  I earned this distinction by voting to ensure responsible standards in mining, to protect against invasive species, and to protect our waters from offshore drilling.

  • Connecting Green Policies and Economic Growth: We need to get past the old thinking about environment and economy as opposite priorities.  In the 21st century economy, the most competitive economies are environmentally sensitive and energy efficient.   My top energy priority is the development of new job-creating initiatives for renewable power.  This means effective federal policies like investment in the development of a Smart Grid to reduce electricity use, investment tax credits for solar energy, production tax credits for wind power, and highly competitive grants to renewable energy developers. Such initiatives can create countless jobs for Metro Detroiters, given our competitive advantage in producing advanced renewable energy components such as high-efficiency batteries.

  • Innovative Thinking for the Future: Policymakers in Washington need to recognize the importance of our remarkable but fragile ecosystems.  Right now, I am developing legislation that would, among other objectives, set the US Bureau of Economic Analysis on the path toward computing “Green GDP”—a new way to measure economic growth that would take our planet’s finite natural resources into account.   As a member of the Science Committee in the US House of Representatives, I have been proud to be a strong advocate for the environment and a proponent of fresh thinking on energy.

Protecting Metro Detroit and Our Nation

As a proud member of the Homeland Security Committee in the US House of Representatives, I worked diligently in my previous term to protect our region and nation from terrorism and natural disasters.

  • Proven Record on Public Safety:  When legislation was introduced that would cut federal emergency management funding to our region, I authored and sponsored an appropriations amendment—which passed the US House on a bipartisan basis—restoring Urban Areas Security Initiative funds for police, fire, and emergency response personnel for our region.  I additionally secured $10 million in public safety funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s State and Local Programs and $5 million in grants for firefighters to keep their jobs and better serve our community over the past year.

  • Fighting Terrorism while Securing our Civil Liberties:  I applaud President Obama’s record in making this country safer and free from the threat of terrorism.  As a member the Homeland Security Committee, I have also fought to ensure that counterterrorism efforts are successful and also that America’s essential civil liberties are protected.  I am against the use of torture, which I believe to be forbidden by the 8th Amendment to the US Constitution. Likewise, I look to the 4th Amendments to the Constitution to conclude that  all American citizens have a right to due process.  I strongly believe we can defeat terrorism without compromising our nation’s core values.

Promoting Global Peace

It’s time to stop focusing our national resources on foreign wars and start focusing on developing our communities here at home.    While I believe the United States should continue to maintain certain elements of its role as a global superpower—such as the responsibility to intervene when genocide is imminent –I also believe we need to bring our global role into line with our economic reality.  This means less willingness to intervene in major foreign wars or to prop up unstable regimes regardless of the costs.  I believe it’s also necessary that we bring our foreign policy posture in line with global geopolitical realities.  This is why I support President Obama’s effort to “pivot” US foreign policy resources toward Asia, where so much of the history of the 21st Century will be written.

Making Immigration Work

I am a strong supporter  and was a Congressional co-sponsor of the DREAM Act to allow children who have entered the country without documentation to remain on a path to citizenship as long as they pursue  higher education or enter military service.  I applaud President Obama’s recent efforts to bring this vision of a more just society closer to reality.  These accomplished young people—who committed no crime—should be treasured by society rather than shunned.

I also believe sensible immigration reform can help promote economic growth and create jobs.  I have introduced legislation to modify our “EB-5” visa system in order to welcome immigrant investors to our most distressed urban areas to start new businesses and employ local residents.  Our nation was built, in large part, by enterprising immigrants, and I believe our current laws should reflect that fact.

Ensuring Access to Healthcare

I believe that healthcare is a human right. It’s also increasingly an economic imperative.  Companies are more willing to create jobs in the United States when they know that their workers have access to affordable quality care.    By investing in universal health insurance, we can ensure that no American dies of a preventable cause or goes bankrupt for lack of coverage.  We can also ensure that businesses locate in the United States with confidence that their employees can thrive.

I strongly support the President’s healthcare reform law, and I will continue to defend it from politically-motivated attacks.  I believe the combination of universal insurance coverage with a prohibition against denial of coverage for preexisting conditions is the right formula for increasing access.  As reports by the independent Congressional Budget Office have demonstrated, the President’s Affordable Care Act will reduce the long-term impact of healthcare on the federal budget.  Obamacare is both morally and economically right.

The Future of Metro Detroit

I believe in Detroit.  Our metropolitan area has the know-how, the machinery, and the spirit to revive American manufacturing and lead a new energy-efficient economy.  But budget cuts alone will not create this bright future.  We need new investment in people and public safety.

  • Returning Tax Dollars to Our Region: The Detroit Jobs Trust Fund, a bill I proposed in the 112th Congress, would take all federal taxes collected from Detroit residents and businesses for a period of five years and reinvest them in the city’s stabilization and renewal.  By restoring the city’s finances, this legislation would enable the city to restore its credit ratings and reduce its costs of financing.  More municipal funds could go toward vital city operations and redevelopment initiatives  rather than faraway bankers.  The idea is both bold and realistic as it attracted considerable support from both Democrats and Republicans.  I believe this fresh start would enable a real Detroit renaissance.

  • Proven Record Fighting for Metro Detroiters: I opposed a state takeover of Detroit not only because it would embody “taxation without representation” but also because it would lead to bad economic outcomes.  Growth—not reckless budget slashing—is the key to overcoming a fiscal crisis.  If the city were forced to address its current crisis by cutting police officers and vital infrastructure projects, crime would rise and businesses will flee.  If the city were forced to gut basic services and eliminates jobs, its population would decline further. All this would further exacerbate our fiscal crisis by shrinking our tax base.  Instead, I proposed and fought for the Detroit Growth and Stability Act in the United States Congress to authorize up to $500 million in loans from the US Treasury to a agent authorized by state law to rebuild the region.  This bill followed the model of New York City’s successful revitalization program undertaken during the1970s and was praised as a commonsense solution.

Americans’ Right to Organize

My commitment to organized labor stems from the experience of my father, a committed UAW member who died prematurely due to working conditions in an auto foundry.  I support the right to collectively bargain and believe it should be enshrined in our Michigan Constitution.  Organized labor has made our nation strong and fair, and it is an essential part of our 21st Century economy.  I am proud to have been honored with 100% ratings from the AFL-CIO, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and other major labor organizations for my service in Congress.

Honoring our Veterans

I am committed to serving those who have served us.  For me, this means providing strong reliable services and advocacy so that our veterans receive the benefits they have earned. I believe our nation can go much further in providing for the financial, social, and health needs of our returning warriors, which is why I was been a steadfast supporter of veterans’ issues in Congress.  It’s also why I have played an active role in support of veterans in our community, helping to connect hundreds with local employers through the VA for Vets job fair in Detroit.  We have a responsibility to ensure our soldiers have dignity and opportunity as they transition to civilian life.

Protecting Women’s Rights

Women’s rights are civil rights.  It’s unacceptable that, in 21st Century America, women are discriminated against in the workplace, in the insurance market, and in healthcare.  I am committed to fighting for equality in the US Congress.

  • Equal Pay for Equal Work: Women continue to earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man.  That’s why I’ve been a strong supporter Title VI, the Equal Pay Act, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which takes steps to put an end to workplace discrimination.

  • Fair Insurance:  With little reason, women are often charged significantly higher premiums for insurance coverage than men.  Thankfully, President Obama’s health reforms, which I have proudly defended in Congress, include provisions to ensure that gender is no longer treated as “a preexisting condition.”

  • The Right to Choose: The government has no right to be involved in a woman’s personal medical decision.  As a Member of Congress, I am proud to have received 100% ratings from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Dealing with Deficits and Debt

Our $15 trillion federal debt is unsustainable. But we can take sensible steps right now to get it under control without jeopardizing economic recovery and job creation.  Here are five in particular:

  • First, we need to curtail our military engagements for the sake of our soldiers, our global relations, and our fiscal situation.  The long-run costs of military intervention, including foreign reconstruction and long-term medical care for our veterans, are often underestimated.

  • Second, I have found common ground with many of my Republican colleagues on the need to trim our nation’s bloated “prison-industrial complex” by sending nonviolent offenders to treatment and rehabilitation programs rather than prison.  America spent $68 billion on prisons in 2010, but the economic impacts of this decision are actually far more dire when we factor in the human potential lost through our current system.

  •  Third, I believe the federal government can reduce its interference in free markets by reducing the scale of subsidies and other corporate giveaways, starting with the billions we give annually to big oil.

  • Fourth, I believe we can make significant cuts by streamlining some agencies and ending enforcement of outdated or unneeded regulations.  There is always room to make government more efficient.

  • Fifth and finally, I believe we can deal with our long-term debt through tax reform.  We can cut roughly $65 billion from the annual deficit by allowing President Bush’s misguided tax giveaways for the wealthiest 1% to expire.  Meanwhile, we can increase revenue by simplifying the tax code and eliminating loopholes for multinational corporations.

Changing the Culture of Washington

Individual Members of Congress can take steps to change the broken culture of Washington.   For me, it’s about promoting civility and putting real people ahead of politics.  That’s why I refuse to make personal attacks against my colleagues.  That’s also why many of my key proposals—such as a reduction in capital gains taxes for investments in distressed cities—combine business-friendly ideas with a focus on progressive priorities like urban redevelopment.  Both parties can get behind these ideas.  And they do.  In my previous term in Congress, I’ve sponsored four successful funding amendments on the floor of the US House of Representatives with bipartisan support.

Maintaining the Promise to Our Retirees: Protecting Social Security and Medicaid

Government has a sacred obligation to defend Social Security and maintain regular cost-of-living adjustments (COLA). I have fought against efforts to change Social Security from a defined-benefit program into privatized accounts and will continue to defend Social Security when reelected. Medicare is a key pillar of our nation’s social safety net, and I am committed to protecting benefits. I am opposed to the voucherization of Medicare, which would amount to severe benefit cuts that would not only impose hardship on seniors but also undermine the basic social contract that has made America strong for the past half-century.

There is only one way to protect our social safety net into the next century: create jobs and economic growth to ensure our revenue base is big enough. While I believe we need to be vigilant and take needed steps to secure Social Security, I also believe that some recent concern over the program’s solvency is overstated. The Congressional Budget Office projects Social Security to be fully funded through 2038 without any changes to payroll tax rates. To make the program solvent for the rest of the century, most analysts show that we would need a small revenue increase, equal to 5% of projected wage growth over the next three decades. As for Medicare, changing demographics and the rising costs of health care require that we look at a wide-range of potential changes such as the expansion of Accountable Care Organizations, which under the Affordable Care Act, cut costs by creating incentives for prevention. Privatization and benefit-reductions are not the answers.

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Ultimately, I believe in changing what it means to be in politics: Through everything that I do, I am committed to motivating others to take responsibility over their lives and their community and to hold elected officials accountable.  I believe that’s the essence of democracy and the spirit that is needed to see our region through to better days.