Economic Justice for NY-12
•Cancel the Colonial Debt of Puerto Rico; Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act
•Pass Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act
•Raising the Minimum Wage to $15 and a Path to A Living Wage
•Ending the LGBTQ, Gender, Racial, and Disability Wage Gaps
•Eradicating Medical Debt
•Portable Benefits for Freelancers
•Creating An Equitable BIPOC Driven Cannabis Industry
•“Clean Audit” and Reign in the Military Budget and Aiding Veterans
•Protecting and Expanding the Right to Unionize
•Increase Wealth Tax and Stop Repeal of Estate and Inheritance Tax
•SAFE SEX Workers Study Act
•Ending Money Bail (see: Digital and Media Justice)
•Abortion Access and Ending Hyde (see: Gender Justice)
(For other policies that put us on the path to Economic Justice see: Education Justice, Gender Justice, Universal Childcare, Universal Healthcare, Environmental Justice, Housing Justice, Transportation Justice, Media and Digital Justice, and Voting Rights)
Go to electmaya.com for more information and to donate.
My father’s side of the family never had a real chance to create financial stability let alone generational wealth. Even with my father playing professional basketball in the 1970s, their salaries were capped at $150,000, and on average made “blue collar wages.” I interviewed my father for an episode of my podcast and he discussed growing up under Jim Crow, “there was a strain and there was prejudice… my dad could not read or write. And my mom, Mildred, she lived in Mississippi, [and at that time] Black people could only go to the sixth grade. My dad at 39 years old could not read or write. My mom wanted an education. And she kept apologizing because when I came home, [because] she couldn’t help with my homework. I mean, she felt really bad about that.”
My father went on to tell me that his mother and father never talked about their parents occupation, as sharecroppers, or their grandparents who were born into slavery. It was too painful, “The worked the land but they didn’t own it. They didn’t talk about it. I remember when I used to go to Mississippi every summer, my sister and I were sent down to Mississippi to live with the grandparents for two months in the summertime. Well, one time I asked my mother, I said, ‘Mom, I can make some extra money [picking cotton] because my cousin used to pick cotton in the field.’ My mom said, ‘You will never – ever – pick cotton.’ And I thought, okay, but we need the money. But she said no.”
My father’s dad, Willie Sr., had a difficult time finding a job because he couldn’t read or write. I asked my father if his dad suffered because of this lack of access to opportunities. My father answered, “Yeah, I will be honest, I think this will kill me. Because I remember one day, we were sitting at home, I was about 10 years old. And I said, I said, ‘Dad, can I help you? Would you like me to help you to learn to read and write?’ and he slap me for about a mile across the floor. My mother came up and said, ‘if you ever hit that boy again…’ and she’s a Christian woman, ‘I’ll kill you’. And I know I know how frustrated he was with his life. Right? I didn’t understand that then and my mom never talked about it again. I started reading about it as I got older, when people are illiterate. It’s a lot of frustration buildup inside.”
Poverty is traumatizing. Lack of opportunity is harm. All of it can lead to violence. This is why we must strive to correct that wrongs of the past and the present. We must make economic justice our future.
Cancel the Colonial Debt of Puerto Rico; Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act
Puerto Rico is $72 billion in debt.
Author of “War Against All Puerto Ricans” Nelson Denis explains, “[the debt] is inherent in the relationship with the United States.” Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory when the Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898. On August 3, 1899, Hurricane Ciriaco devastated Puerto Rico, wiping out $50 million of its coffee harvest. Instead of bailing out it’s new territory,the United States decided to devalue Puerto Rico’s currency by 40% thereby cutting almost every Purto Ricans net worth in half. The very next year, 1900, Puerto Rico’s US-appointed Treasurer, Jacob Hollander, imposed the Hollander Act, a land and property tax detrimental to Puerto Ricans.
As Nelson Denis states, “between the hurricane, currency, devaluation and property taxes, the farmers were losing the property, they were desperate for liquidity, they had nowhere to go, they could only go to one place, the American colonial bank, but there was no usury law restriction. So the American colonial bank charged whatever it wanted. The reason is, they didn’t want the debt repaid. They wanted the collateral, they wanted the land.”
By 1930 North America owned 80% of the agriculture of Puerto Rico, and just four American companies owned half of that 80%. Denis explains, “between taking away the agriculture from the Puerto Ricans themselves, their own land, and by creating the Jones Act, you basically took away the ability of Puerto Ricans to develop their own economy, they made them utterly dependent on foreign capital and non the United States… The United States created a completely dependent economy in Puerto Rico.”
Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) has introduced the United States Territorial Relief Act in the 115th, 116th, and now the 117th Congress. This legislation would establish “a process under which Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories may terminate certain debts if they meet eligibility criteria.” This is a step towards canceling the colonial debt of Puerto Rico. Rep. Maloney has never co-sponsored this bill.
Many Puerto Ricans have expressed that they would like to “determine their own relationship” with the United States. A way to do that is to pass H.R.8113 — Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 2021. When the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act was introduced in the 116th Rep. Maloney did not co-sponsor this legislation. She is now in the 117th Congress.
It’s not only time we cancel the colonial debt of Puerto Rico but the United States federal government must listen to the wishes of Puerto Rico so they can determine their political future.
Pass The Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act
Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX) introduced H.R.40 — The Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act in January of this year. It would be a historic study to find pathways towards reparations and bring with it “a formal apology from the U.S. government…for the perpetration of gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants.”
This is critical legislation. Rep. John Conyers introduced this legislation every year from 1989 — until his resignation from Congress in 2017. Rep. Carolyn Maloney never sponsored this bill in the entirety of her Congressional career until the 116th Congress when perhaps she recognized her constituents were wanting more than lip service from her on Racial and Economic Justice issues.
Raising the Minimum Wage to $15 and a Path to a Living Wage
Raising the minimum wage would reduce harm for many in America. This is a critical component rarely referenced, but should be, in the fight for fair wages. It is also a step toward closing the racial and gender wealth gaps.
According to a 2021 report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), “providing families with higher incomes, minimum wage increases have improved infant health and also reduced child abuse and teenage pregnancy.”
Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour also means that 31% of Black Americans, and 26% of Latinx would get a raise, benefiting 1 in 4 Black and Latina women.
Over 60% of essential and front-line workers benefit from a $15 minimum wage. According to EPI, “The median pay is well under $15 an hour for many essential and front-line jobs; examples include substitute teachers ($13.84), nursing assistants ($14.26), and home health aides ($12.15).”
Raising the minimum wage to $15 would benefit the vast majority of workers, to do that we must pass The Raise the Wage Act. It is also important to realize that $15 is a floor not a ceiling on wages. According to EPI, today in the U.S., “…a single adult without children needs at least $31,200 — what a full-time worker making $15 an hour earns annually — to achieve a modest but adequate standard of living. By 2025, workers in these areas and those with children will need even more, according to projections based on the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator.”
According to The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), if the minimum wage rose “in step with productivity growth since 1968 it would be over $24 an hour today.”
Ending the LGBTQ, Gender, Racial, and Disability Wage Gaps
The LGBTQ, racial, gender, and disability wage gaps will not be closed by just a few policies. It will take many continuous policies and diligent awareness of the multitude of ways people are shut out from Economic Justice. There are many harmful factors that play into why there are pay gaps for many groups, a few include: historically less opportunities and access to good paying jobs, less access to higher and affordable education, barriers for people with disabilities to earn income, discrimination, and sexual harrassment. This is evidenced in part by the disparities on the hourly wage.
Compared to white non-disabled cisgender men Asian Women earn 90 cents on the dollar, White women earn 79 cents on the dollar, Black women earn 62 cents on the dollar, and Latinx women earn 54 cents on the dollar.
A 2007 Williams Institute study finds that “gay and bisexual men earn 10 percent to 32 percent less than similarly qualified heterosexual men.” This same study found “women in same-sex couples have a median personal income of $38,000 compared to $47,000 for men in same-sex couples.”
Fifteen percent of all Transgender people make less than $10,000 a year, and transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty. 22–64% of the employed Transgender population earns less than $25,000 per year. This is a crisis in need of an immediate solution.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro introduced the The Paycheck Fairness Act for the first time in 1997. It is legislation to strengthen the almost 60 year old Equal Pay Act. It has been introduced in the current 117th Congress once again. As of this writing it has passed in the House. If this Congress cannot pass The Paycheck Fairness Act we must get it done in the 118th Congress with even larger Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. While The Paycheck Fairness Act will 1) “make wages more transparent” 2) “require that employers prove that wage discrepancies are tied to legitimate business qualifications and not gender” and 3) “prohibit companies from taking retaliatory action against employees who raise concerns about gender-based wage discrimination;” it does not remedy the money loss caused by sexual harassment or discrimination.
According to the Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2019, 16.8% of the sexual harassment charges were filed by men, 83.2% of the charges were filed by women.
As of right now, we don’t have the full picture of harassment in the workplace because there has not been enough research done across sexual orientation, gender, race and ethnicity. We need Federal dollars to research this issue. I will advocate for this in Congress.
While the EEOC can give us a picture who has filed charges, we don’t know who is not coming forward. For example, we know the worry of losing one’s job can prevent many from coming forward with sexual harassment claims. Studies have shown women facing discrimination or sexual harassment in the work place are not only facing a hostile work environment but are often in danger of losing wages if they report these incidents. Women who advance in their careers can be quickly sidelined by sexual harassment. Fear of having to find another job with a lesser title or lower wage can deter women from taking legal action.
Black women face a full range of discrimination in the workplace: from racial and sexual discrimination to how we wear our hair. According to a study sponsored by Dove, “Black women’s hair is 3.4 times as likely to be perceived as “unprofessional” versus white women’s hair.” This is an Economic, Gender, and Racial Justice issue. A 2017 Nielsen report found that Black women spend more than 9% more than white women on hair related expenditures. Trying to avoid hair discrimination at times plays a role in the amount of money some Black women spend on appearance in a country built on Eurocentric definitions of beauty. The passage of The CROWN ACT would make this type of discrimination illegal. The legislation was passed in the House in 2020, but sat in the Senate when Sen. Mitch McConnell refused to bring it to the floor for a vote. Rep. Carolyn Maloney did not co-sponsor this legislation in the 116th Congress. Perhaps, realizing that her constituents like myself, who was told to “tame” and make my hair “less big” for work, have faced hair discrimination she finally co-sponsored the legislation in the 117th Congress. Black Women and our policy needs should never be treated as an afterthought. If this legislation does not pass this year, then when I am elected to Congress the 118th Congress, I will make sure to co-sponsor this legislation.
Another group facing multiple institutional barriers to achieving equity is the Disability community.
1.7 million Americans earn the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or less. Disabled workers earn as little as $1 an hour. This is called the Subminimum wage. The Fair Labor Standards Act (1938) is a federal law governing a number of employment practices like overtime, employer record keeping, and minimum wage. There is a section within The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLS) called 14(c) which allows employers — through Department of Labor certification –to pay individuals with disabilities less than minimum wage. This section was placed within FLS as an incentive for employers to hire disabled veterans. 4(c) has created a false standard that non-disabled workers are more productive than disabled workers despite study after study proving this to be untrue. According to NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker, “Subminimum wage certificates do nothing more than perpetuate a life of poverty and dependency for people with disabilities.” The Raise the Wage Act of 2021 would not only raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour but it would also phase out section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
As Tom Ridge, chairman of the National Organization on Disability states, “this [current] system tells Americans with disabilities and their families that they are not worth the same as other Americans, that society values them and their labor less.”
The Raise the Wage Act of 2021 is a solid start, but we must work toward a living wage. One that pulls every single person living in America out of poverty and into financial stability.
Disabled Americans are not only dealing with Subminimum wages but are also struggling with barriers and limits to earned income. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is critical for bringing some financial security for those with disabilities and some seniors who are either unable to be in the workforce or are facing obstacles entering the workforce.
According to Justice in Aging, “Examples of older adults who may qualify for SSI include an 80-year-old low-income retired couple with unexpected medical costs who are facing homelessness, a 50-year-old person who is blind, with no savings, and a 70-year-old single woman with little to no Social Security benefits. Over 8.1 million people rely on SSI benefits, including over 2.2 million seniors and 1.1 million children with significant disabilities.”
While these benefits can prevent some from becoming unhoused, it can still keep some trapped in living below the poverty line as “the  maximum SSI federal benefit is $783 per month, or 74% of the federal poverty level.” The program’s financial thresholds haven’t been updated in over four decades which has prevented SSI from keeping up with inflation and the rising cost of living. These limits block SSI recipients from receiving more than $2,000 a month meaning a recipient couldn’t save for an emergency expense. SSI recipients can’t receive more than $20 a month from non-employment sources or $65 a month from an employer before their benefits are reduced or cut off. Then there is the “marriage penalty” when two individuals who are receiving SSI are married, the combined income disqualifies the married entity from receiving public benefits.
To use a phrase Disability Advocate Matthew Cortland coined, it’s time to demolish disability poverty. One way to do that is to update and modernize Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Rebecca Vallas, Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation stated in a recent forum on SSI, “This critical component of our nation’s Social Security system [SSI] has largely been forgotten by lawmakers in Washington for more than 30 yrs. While SSI benefits are incredibly modest, maxing out at $740 a month; for most of the nation’s poorest people with disabilities & seniors, SSI can mean the difference between being able to put food on the table, a roof over your head.”
According to Senator Sherrod Brown, “For 60% of recipients, these SSI benefits are their only source of income.[SSI] a lifeline for millions of people who are elderly, blind, or disabled.”
Mia Ives-Rublee, Director, Disability Justice Initiative concurred, “Disabled adults experience poverty at more than 2x the rate of nondisabled adults. This is due to a lot of numerous structural barriers… SSI just provides that stable income that can help offset some of the costs related to disability and accessibility.”
While Social Security is tied to one’s past work, SSI is not. There are still many obstacles. Romig explains, “To receive Social Security you need to have a substantial work history and then on the other hand to receive SSI you need to meet these incredibly strict and outdated income and asset limits. SSI serves three groups of people. The first group is kids with disabilities. This is really important because SSI is the only income support program for disabled kids. [Children] do not qualify for Social Security Disability insurance because they don’t have the work history that adults could have. The second group is adults with disabilities and the third group is elderly, again low income elderly.”
When Romig mentions “asset limits” she is discussing the futile amount of money a person is allowed to have in savings, stocks, bonds (assets) while on SSI. Matthew Cortland expressed the impossibility and hypocrisy of this requirement, “Until just a few years ago, I personally relied on SSI to make the rent even though the maximum amount of assistance I could qualify for was $750. I wasn’t allowed to have more than $2000 in assets. It always really struck me that one part of the US government [SSA] was telling me as a disabled American that if I had $2000 in resources, I’d lose SSI help that I desperately needed in order to put food on the table and make the rent while at the same time other portions of the United States government, FEMA, for example, were telling me to save for a rainy day. Have an emergency fund.”
The way we can modernize SSI is eliminating the current asset cap which 64% of all voters support. We can eliminate cuts to monthly benefits for SSI Beneficiaries who receive aid from friends and family, 72% of all voters agree with that provision. We can update SSI’s income rules, 77% of all voters support that. We can (and must) increase the monthly SSI benefit, almost 80% of people support that.
President Biden has proposed making changes to SSI, “Single adults would receive benefits equal to 100% of the federal poverty level and also increase benefits for those married. He would also erase rules related to reducing benefits for those receiving non-cash help from relatives.” This would be a very beneficial change. According to a study done by The Urban Institute, Biden’s “Social Security and SSI changes would lift 1.4 million people out of poverty in 2021, if enacted immediately and 2.7 million people out of poverty in 2065.” However, Biden did not put this in the American Families Act as some lawmakers had hoped. It apparently will be a part of the additional roll out of the American Jobs Plan. The disability community shouldn’t have to wait on these changes. It needs to happen now.
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva has introduced the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act every Congressional session since 2013. Rep. Carolyn Maloney has never co-sponsored this legislation that would have helped modernize SSI. The Disability Community will always be at the table with me in my work as a Congresswomen. “Nothing About Us, Without Us” will be my approach with policies that move the disability community to equal access, opportunity, and equity.
If SSI modernization can’t make it through budget reconciliation in the 117th Congress, then I’ll help get it done with the 118th Congress.
Eradicating Medical Debt
I have had several conversations now with Alexis Hernandez, he is a burn survivor who has been saddled with 1.5 million dollars of medical debt. While I have contacted my Senators to press Secretary Janet Yellan to forgive Alexis’ debt, Alexis is unfortunately not alone in a sea of medical bills. A 2019 Study found that 66.5% of all personal bankruptcies are tied to medical issues. According to a survey fielded by Salary Finance about 54% of respondents with medical debt said they defaulted on medical bills. The Coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the medical debt crises.
Craig Antico of RIP Medical Debt estimates that buying $81 billion in medical debt might cost as little as $500 million for the federal government.”
While buying medical debt is not as easy as it sounds, “to buy up that debt, the government would have to figure out which hospitals are owed the $81 billion reported to credit agencies. And that information is protected by strict privacy rules credit agencies must adhere to;” it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t find a way to buy back medical debt as we work toward Universal free and Affordable Healthcare for everyone in America.
Creation of Portable Benefits for Freelancers
34% of New York City’s workforce are freelancers. 25% of the New York State economy is from creative individuals. Both of these groups are undercovered for benefits like workers compensation, retirement savings, and affordable healthcare. The time has come for portable benefits.
Portable benefits are defined as, “benefits that are tied to the employee, rather than the employer.”
Current portable benefits are The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) which allows employees to take their retirement plans with them when they leave their job.
Then there is the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) which let’s an employee continue healthcare coverage for a small duration after leaving their employer. However, COBRA is prohibitively expensive. When I left my job for another that didn’t offer the same type of health coverage, my insurance costs doubled under COBRA. This isn’t a realistic coverage option for most Americans.
New York can take the lead on incorporating more portable benefits into worker-friendly policies. Many New Yorkers in the creative economy, the gig economy, and the freelance economy are at risk from one major health crisis bankrupting them, evicting them from their homes, or causing food insecurity. We need to protect and expand our social safety nets while modernizing them to include portable benefits such as workers compensation, retirement savings, and free /affordable healthcare.
While we must focus on our most vulnerable workers, we should also make portable benefits available to any worker that moves from one job to another.
We can start by supporting Sen. Mark Warner’s Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act that will, “provide competitive grants to support scalable portable benefits experimentation and seed pilot programs.
Creating An Equitable BIPOC Driven Cannabis Industry
Chris Ball is the founder of Ball Family Farms, the first Social Equity licensed vertically integrated cannabis facility in Los Angeles, stated in a recent interview, “people who have been disenfranchised or have been impacted by the war on drugs should absolutely be the first people in line to be able to participate in this business… If you have been arrested for marijuana, trafficking marijuana, distributing marijuana, if you got locked up and got time, you should be one of the first people to be considered [getting] into this industry and be able to participate.”
Right now we’re witnessing states, former politicians, and already wealthy moguls profiting from some states’ legalization of marijuana while four-in-ten U.S. drug arrests in 2018 were for marijuana offenses. 92% of the marijuana arrests were merely for possession. As stated by a 2020 ACLU report, “On average, a Black person is 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though Black and white people use marijuana at similar rates.” It’s time to legalize cannabis at the Federal level, release of anyone currently incarcerated for drugs, and expunge the records of those incarcerated.
Before becoming Vice President, then Senator Harris suggested we pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act gives full legalization to marijuana by delisting it as a Schedule I drug classification at the Federal level. Schedule 1 drugs are defined as, “drugs with no currently accepted medical usage.” The passage of the MORE Act gives us full legalization at the Federal level and just as importantly the expungement of marijuana offenses that were based in the racism of the “War on Drugs.” Continued colonialism and prejudice also prevents Tribal sovereignty from making their own decisions about the legalization of cannabis.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has reintroduced the MORE Act (HR-3617). If it is not passed in the 117th Congress, I’ll make sure to aid it’s passage in the 118th.
Lastly, we have to streamline a way for those who were harmed by marijuana incarceration to be “at the front of the line” to obtain business licenses for marijuana distribution, free business training, massive subsidies to own a business, and tax breaks for businesses hiring those who were formerly incarcerated.
“Clean Audit” and Rein in the Military Budget and Aiding Veterans
According to the Secretary of Defense’s 2019 National Defense Budget, taxpayers spent approximately $13.34 trillion on the U.S. military from the year 2000 through 2019. This doesn’t include the additional $3.18 trillion for the Veterans Administration (VA). We spend a lot on the military, approximately $826 billion a year. To contextualize that, our federal government spends approximately $79 billion annually on “primary and secondary education programs”. We spend so much on the military that they themselves can’t keep track of all the money we give them, as they have failed audit after audit in the past few years. The military now says they don’t think they can give the American people a clean audit until 2027. This is completely unacceptable. Some Senators from both sides of the aisle have suggested penalizing the Military by forfeiting “1% of its budget back to the Treasury, to be applied against the federal deficit.” 1% of annual Military spending is 8.26 billion dollars. This money should be placed in education, healthcare, and childcare instead of the federal deficit. It could also go to housing and continued education for Veterans. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, “About 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans. Roughly 45% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic.” It’s time to rein in the military budget and penalize them for not being able to pass a clean audit like other government organizations are required to do.
Protecting and Expanding the Right to Unionize
As of May 2021, Protecting the Right to Organize Act (the PRO Act), H.R. 842, S. 420 has passed the House and we are waiting for it to be brought to the Senate Floor. The ProAct “would significantly strengthen the ability of workers in the private sector to form unions and engage in collective bargaining for better working conditions and fair wages. If enacted into law, the PRO Act would be the most comprehensive worker empowerment legislation since the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935.”
Having the strong protection of unions across industries could have aided many workers through collective bargaining as the Coronavirus swept through America. Right now there are nail artists in New York who would like to be able to join unions like SAG-AFTRA which currently accept make-up artists. There are also gig workers, transportation workers, and members of the service industry that would like to have union protections. We’ve seen from past studies and collected data that our country’s economic outlook is more stable and income inequality is reduced when we have strong unions. Passing the ProAct is the first step towards economic stability and worker protections.
Increase Wealth Tax and Stop Repeal of Estate and Inheritance Tax
According to Researcher Josh Biven of the Economic Policy Institute, Biden’s The American Jobs Plan (AJP) will “undo some of the worst parts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed in the first year of the Trump administration” and “The vast majority of new revenue that will be raised from the AJP tax provisions will come from taxing “excess profits” — profits accrued by virtue of monopoly or other privileged market positions.”
Trump reduced the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21%. Trump and his cronies said it would lead to an investment boom. Josh Biven disagrees, “In short, if the TCJA did not lead to an investment boom — in significant part because it just cut taxes on excess profits — then there is no reason to think rolling back much of its worst provisions and collecting more revenue from corporate income taxes will lead to an investment bust.”
While Biden is reversing some of the damage from the Trump Administration, he is also proposing to raise “the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6 percent from 37 percent.” A nominal but significant raise could help fund, in part, childcare and education. However we have another stream of revenue that Republicans cut off, the Estate and Inheritance Tax, better marketed at “The Death Tax.” The Estate Tax is a one-time tax that is imposed at death for the very wealthy on estates worth more than $11.4 million. According to Tax Fairness, “The estate tax raised $8.5 billion in 2012 — less than 1% of the $1.2 trillion inherited that year.”
Republican Senators John Kennedy (R-La.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) have reintroduced bicameral legislation to permanently “repeal the death tax.” In other words Kennedy and Thune don’t want their wealthiest donors to pay a one time tax, they’d rather their donors hand it to them before they die. Kennedy and Thune are trying to frame the legislation as a way to save “poor” farmers money. Their framing indicates “poor” farmers will save money when they pass their estate down to a loved one who will then have to pay a tax on that transfer of property when in reality only about 0.07 percent will pay any estate tax.
According the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the estate tax is a significant revenue source, “while the estate tax will generate less than 1 percent of federal revenue over the next decade, it is significantly more than the federal government will spend on the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency combined.”
We need to make sure to win the House and Senate in 2022 to prevent Republicans from permanently repealing an income stream that helps countless people in America.
SAFE SEX Workers Study Act
Sex workers are, “adults who receive money or goods in exchange for consensual sexual services or erotic performances, either regularly or occasionally.” Decriminalization of Sex Work means, “the repeal of all laws that impose any criminal penalty on the private, consensual and appropriate adult exchange of sex for money.”
In 2012 The World Health Organization wrote, “WHO guidelines recommend that countries work towards decriminalization of sex work and urge countries to improve sex workers’ access to health services.” Sex workers have a right to health and they cannot access healthcare and healthcare services when they fear stigma or incarceration.
Human Rights Watch has found that the criminalization of sex work leads to extensive harm, “Criminalization exposes sex workers to abuse and exploitation by law enforcement officials, such as police officers… in criminalized environments, police officers harass sex workers, extort bribes, and physically and verbally abuse sex workers, or even rape or coerce sex from them.”
According to Human Rights Watch, “criminalization makes sex workers more vulnerable to violence, including rape, assault, and murder, by attackers who see sex workers as easy targets because they are stigmatized… Criminalization may also force sex workers to work in unsafe locations to avoid the police.”
Sex Work is a Human Rights issue, it’s also an Economic, Racial, Gender, and Queer Justice Issue. According to the ACLU, “Sex work criminalization laws impact the whole LGBTQ community because members of the community — particularly LGBTQ people of color, LGBTQ immigrants, and transgender people — are more likely to become sex workers.”
According to Empress Wu, a Sex Worker in NYC, there are four main risk factors that affect in-person sex workers: Health, especially that of Sexually Transmitted Infection, Client Violence, “Outing” (digital violence) or “Doxxing”, and violence from law enforcement.
In a world that’s incredibly dangerous for sex workers, one way they could safely communicate with their clients was through online platforms.On April 11, 2018, the House bill titled Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Senate bill Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) were signed into law effectively shutting down online platforms used by sexworkers. The outlined purpose of these bills was to stop human trafficking by increasing “civil and criminal liability of websites for hosting information related to the sex trade.” Human trafficking is abhorrant and should be stopped but there were already several laws on the books to stop human trafficking in the U.S. What FOSTA/SESTA did was put a dent in Code § 230 which is considered “one of the most valuable tools for protecting freedom of expression and innovation on the Internet.” It’s the reason we have Facebook, Twitter, IG, Tik Tok, etc. We need to know the extend of damage done to sex workers when these platforms were shuttered.
We need to investigate what impact SESTA/FOSTA had (if at all) on curbing trafficking while examining the effect its passage had on Sex Workers. We can do this by supporting the passage of The SAFE SEX Workers Study Act. This bill is “a federal study on how losing access to online platforms impacts the health and safety of people in the commercial sex trade.”
Rep. Carolyn Maloney did not co-sponsor SAFE SEX Workers Study Act. Legislation that would merely research the impact of FOSTA/SESTA on sex workers. I firmly believe we need to humanize and destigmatize sex work and sex workers. We also need to listen to sex workers who want protection from abuse, disease, and incarceration. The path towards harm reduction is decriminalization. According to a study conducted by Erin Albright, JD and Kate D’Adamo, MA for AMA Journal of Ethics, “Decriminalization can motivate more prominent recognition of sex workers’ human rights and is thus a critical mechanism for decreasing trafficking.”
Maya Contreras is a Democratic candidate for Congress to represent #NY12. Voting Rights Advocate. Policy Educator. Public Health is Public Safety. No Policy About You, Without You. NYU Alumni. Big Auntie Energy. Go to electmaya.com for more information and to donate.