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Priorities

HEALTH CARE

For too long, creating a health care system that works has looked like an intractable problem in the United States. While the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, rather than working to make it better, extremists like Senator Mitch McConnell and his special interest bankrollers have spent years undermining the system while trying to take coverage away through Congress and now through the Courts.

Today, in the midst of a pandemic, those same extremists have taken a lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act all the way to the Supreme Court that, if successful, will strip health care from the 1.3 million Tennesseans with a pre-existing condition.

The price of inaction is not paid by elected officials in Washington. Members of Congress receive excellent health care, while so many of their constituents live in fear of losing coverage if they lose their job or get priced out of the market.

Since James launched his campaign at a closed rural hospital in McKenzie, three more have closed, and today, Tennessee leads the nation in closed rural hospital per person. The opioid epidemic continues to ravage our communities, and there is not even a discussion about a solution. Add in COVID-19 making all these problems worse, and one can see a perfect storm gathering across Tennessee.

James believes that access to health care is a right, and that access to women’s health care is a right. While our opponent openly calls for getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, slashing Medicaid, and putting insurance companies back in charge, James knows that increasing costs and reducing coverage for Tennesseans is wrong, and he’s ready to fight.

JOBS AND THE ECONOMY

Every Tennessean working a full-time job should be able to meet the basic needs of raising a family, but today that is not the case. The current $7.25/hour minimum wage, set a decade ago, is not enough as it’s just $290/week and $15,080 a year before taxes. What happens is folks stuck in dead-end and low-wage jobs are forced to get two or three of them to get by – and there’s no time left in the day or the week for anything else. No time for family, no time to learn new skills or earn a degree, and no time to find a better paying job. This is the reality for too many in our state as Tennessee ranks near the top nationwide in percentage of jobs that are paid minimum wage.

Increasing minimum wage to $15/hour increases annual pay to $31,200 a year before taxes. While that is an improvement, James knows what we really need are investments in areas we know will create good-paying jobs now and into the future: infrastructure, education, and clean energy.

Tennessee’s crumbling infrastructure is holding us back. Today, more than a million Tennesseans live in “internet deserts” without access to good broadband connections – a limitation that has been exacerbated by COVID-19. There are nearly 1,000 bridges across Tennessee considered structurally deficient – putting all Tennessee drivers at risk. There is bipartisan consensus to invest in infrastructure, but rather than passing a bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell directed dollars we need in Tennessee to his biggest campaign donors in Kentucky.

James believes public education is and has always been the best pathway to opportunity. Today, in Betsy DeVos, we have a Secretary of Education at the Federal level who does not believe in that mission. The president’s handpicked candidate for U.S. Senate, Bill Hagerty, led the Trump Transition team in 2017, and we have him to thank for DeVos and so many other cabinet members more focused on looking out for themselves than the people they’re entrusted to serve.

The Department of Defense has called climate change one of the greatest threats to our national security, and James agrees. With historic Oak Ridge National Laboratory, we have evidence right here in Tennessee that Americans have the ingenuity and capacity to solve big problems. But we can’t do it when one political party is dedicated to denying the existence of the problem. We can create a clean energy future, create jobs, and protect the environment, but it’s not going to happen by electing people, like Bill Hagerty, who deny scientific realities. Tennessee is well positioned to help lead the way in realizing a clean energy future that could become the basis for our next economic boom, and James will help make it happen.

Tennessee’s economy can benefit from a global economy but only if we aren’t taken advantage of in bad trade deals. The Administration’s trade war of choice hurts Tennessee’s economy more than any other state, making it harder for Tennesseans to sell our products. Because we’re part of a global economy, some of those markets aren’t coming back. James will only support fair trade deals that put American workers on an equal playing field, and unlike Bill Hagerty, he won’t make it easier to ship our jobs overseas.

Tennesseans need a senator, like James, who knows how to grow our state’s economy and create more good-paying jobs, who will close unfair tax loopholes we don’t need and can’t afford, and who will work to give folks willing to work hard and play by the rules a fair shot.

FIXING OUR BROKEN POLITICAL SYSTEM

Our system works best when people vote, volunteer, and make their voices heard. When our voices are drowned out by floods of corporate cash, we all suffer.

The narrow and incorrectly decided Citizens United ruling has unleashed a flood of secret, corporate cash on our democracy, and it’s preventing us from starting conversations about fixing health care, reducing gun violence, how to give small businesses a break and a boost to hire their neighbors, which investments will foster the growth of the next economic boom, and how to expand 21st century infrastructure to rural Tennessee.

In the Senate, James will reduce the influence of Citizens United by either passing legislation to vastly increase transparency or by a constitutional amendment – because we all need to know who’s influencing our democracy.

Reform may be a tall task, but James knows we have to try. Change starts with him, and that’s why James won’t accept corporate PAC contributions. James will work with employers and corporations that employ Tennesseans to help strengthen our economy, not to fund his campaigns.

COVID-19 has understandably left voters of all ages concerned about exercising their right to vote safely and securely in the upcoming election. Ensuring all Tennesseans can do so is one of James’ top priorities. Tennessee must make mail ballots accessible to all voters, regardless of age, and adopt measures such as extended early voting periods and expanded curbside voting in order to guarantee that all Tennesseans are able to vote safely in person or in their own home. If voter registration efforts are too costly, as local Tennessee officials have complained, James believes adopting automatic voter registration can both increase access to the ballot box and reduce costs.

James’ campaign is, and will continue to be, fueled by individuals wanting to fix a system that’s been rigged against us, and he’s proud to be endorsed by End Citizens United and Let America Vote, the nation’s leading advocates for campaign finance and elections reform.

SERVICE

The benefits of service are well known. Service builds character, allows young people to meet and work with a diverse group of people, gives us all a stake in our communities, and can help pay for higher education.

While funding for service programs enjoys strong bipartisan support in Congress and among voters across the ideological spectrum and offers a positive four-to-one ratio for every dollar invested, this Administration has repeatedly attempted to defund service programs like AmeriCorps, Legal Aid, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. As someone who paid off his student loans with combat pay from Iraq, James will not stand by while national service is under attack.

James believes the modest annual investments we make in service programs ought to be a down payment on a more robust program to further incentivize service and give young Americans across the socio-economic spectrum opportunities to give back to the communities they love.

Service can be unifying, and at a time when we are so polarized, it can help bridge some of our political divides.

VETERANS

When individuals step up to serve in our all-volunteer military – usually at great sacrifice to themselves and their families – they swear an oath to protect our nation. In turn, a grateful nation promises to care for them after their service. It’s a solemn commitment we make to our veterans, and when that commitment is broken, it’s a serious moral failing for our country. Worse even, it discourages folks from volunteering for service in the first place, making us all less safe and less secure.

We must make sure we’re living up to our commitments to veterans so that the best and brightest continue volunteering the way James did after we were attacked on September 11. However, an average of 22 veterans will take their own lives each day, and there are still nearly 50,000 unfilled positions in the Department of Veterans Administration (VA) – making it harder for all of our veterans to access the very services they earned risking their lives to protect our freedom. Under no circumstance will James support putting the unique care needs of his brothers and sisters-in-arms in the hands of corporations who put profits ahead of people.

Politicians paying lip service to the promise of helping our veterans is nothing new. Those same politicians turning around and voting against veterans is why we need to elect a veteran like James Mackler to the U.S. Senate. James is proud to be endorsed by VoteVets and Serve America as the best choice for Tennessee’s open U.S. Senate seat.