- What should be the role of science and scientists in government policy- and decision-making?
Legislation should never impede the ability of the people involved in the situation to creativity reason through the problems and solutions. Bureaucracy deadens thinking. If one particular method is adopted for addressing an issue and it is discovered later that that method is inappropriate, it could take years to undo the damage. Particularly troubling is the government approval of various substances or practices as safe. Time and time again we learn that such approvals have been made in error. I am more comfortable with determinations that certain substances are not safe. And in these cases, prohibitions against the use of unsafe substances or practices should be made only where others could be harmed. No legislation should prevent an individual from engaging in potentially harmful practices that would not affect others. Gov’t is most useful when it provides access to information, less useful when limits the use of information.
The integrity of science should never be put in the hands of a small group of people, selected by a financially powerful group of people, obviously. As far as I am concerned there are no experts in science, only experimental results that numerous researchers have attempted to falsify and have not.
- 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?
I believe we need a clear separation of Business and State, akin to the separation of Church and State. No tax-payer funded research should be eligible for private patents. All research funded by government should be made available for use by anyone in any country. I would not like to see (even more) scientific research put under a DARPA-like umbrella and used to make the USA more “competitive” against other countries. Science is for humanity, not the selfish drives of a particular group of people. While I support government-funded research, The Endless Frontiers Act appears to intend to enforce a top-down approach to fostering innovation, which is not how innovation generally occurs. Research directions and decisions should be made freely by the researchers. The economy would boom if innovations were made available without patents. The Bayh-Dole Act has been disastrous for the economy to the extend that it has helped create the terrible wealth gap in this country.
- 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 have a modest research project wish that could, nevertheless, be the essential first step that would enable greater innovation to emerge in the economy. I would like open-source software and applications to be developed for public use so that corporations like Google, Amazon, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Springer and Elsevier cannot monopolize information and manipulate public opinion and cannot stifle competition. We need general-use open-source software made available to the public, for free, that will allow platform co-operatives to emerge and offer alternatives to the monopoly platforms. As public market places and public squares, open-source platforms would be protected by the Constitution and the violations of free speech and privacy that are routine on the corporate platforms could not exist on public platforms.
- 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?
First of all, the government health authorities should have no connection whatsoever to for-profit medicine so that their decisions are not biased. I’m ashamed of our country that such a statement needs to be made. Secondly, general protocols for responding to emergency situations should not be rewritten by politicians in the heat of the moment. This just increases the potential for bad decisions to be made, e.g. ordering ventilators which were not the appropriate equipment for the Covid situation. But let me stress that the best measures are commonsense ones, that needed no government mandate. Instead, we had mandates that threw out commonsense. Quarantining of the vulnerable population should be top priority in any epidemic, but there was virtually nothing done in this regard. Why don’t we have separate hospitals for infectious diseases? Why were infected patients sent to nursing homes instead of to the emergency facilities that were set up?
As we faced a novel disease, the treatment should not have been prescribed from the top. When things are uncertain and new, it is best to loosen protocols and allow the doctors in ERs and ICUs to assess the situation and try different treatments that they, based on their expertise and observations, believe will be effective and safe. In sum, less top-down control of the response would have engendered more effective treatments sooner. In sum, we could have used more commonsense, less policy.
- 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?
World-class health facilities should be funded directly by Treasury-created dollars (like Greenbacks) and these assets would represent the wealth of our nation. Everyone should have access to affordable sliding-scale public healthcare at these facilities and should be covered 100% for major medical after spending a deductible amount based on income. There should be no public insurance premiums or insurance tax, except for sales tax on products that endanger public health. Public healthcare would be affordable to the extent that patients would not be paying for overhead, interest or capital improvements; all health facilities assets could be funded directly by the Treasury and owned by the public. Such public health facilities should be managed by the medical professionals who work in them, together with the community they serve, as a co-operative corporation.
Private for-profit and charity health facilities should also be able to operate alongside a public system, without government interference. No government funds should go to private for-profit medical care or private insurance. See details at DirectDemocracyUS.org
CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
- 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)?
I offer a Gold New Deal alternative to the Green New Deal. The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest institutional polluter and the Federal gov’t subsidizes the fossil fuel industry and environmentally damaging agriculture. Before spending billions of dollars ineffectively fighting pollution, the government should first stop spending billions of dollars creating pollution. In Congress I would make ending the wars and ending the subsidies of the fossil fuel industry my top priorities.
I am very cynical about various schemes to stop climate change. Most of them promise to have the opposite effect. I wholly reject the plan to build an energy-intensive “smart” grid. This will only be used to drive up the cost of energy during peak hours and will do nothing to reduce energy consumption. It requires new equipment and appliances and energy intensive 24/7 transmission of information among the IoT.
Instead of subsidizing organic farming, I would expect gov’t to halt corn and soy subsidies. These are fossil fuel intensive crops. Hemp is a better biofuel, but the farmers should make their own choices without subsidies.
I would not pass a carbon tax or support carbon trading. Such practices make pollution into a financial instrument and irrational projects result: instead of turning cows out to graze, the cows are fed corn, and pasture land is used for an enormous solar field that has to be kept mown by machines. Solar panels are better left to localized small applications on garages and out-buildings close to where they are utilized. Common sense will be abandoned in pursuit of carbon credits.
The regulation of energy grids, favors large multi-national energy producers and tends to harm small entrepreneurial producers. I would prefer an energy grid that is a free market cooperative, owned by the local community, where diverse energy producers and customers can freely transact. This will help innovation in green energy emerge without gov’t intervention.
Some GND proposals want to demolish inefficient energy producing equipment or fossil fuel energy equipment to be replaced by green energy production equipment. I advocate instead allowing the old infrastructure to be used until it is no longer viable. There is much embodied energy in, for instance, an oil refinery that should not be destroyed to be replaced by high embodied-energy windmills, inefficiently positioned far from consumers. Instead an oil refinery could be repurposed for, say, algae oil production. Such commonsense solutions will be discovered if gov’t does not interfere.
To repeat, if gov’t stopped subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, most of the problems would end by themselves and better alternatives could be introduced if the grid were treated like a public market place.
And finally, ending Federal Reserve cheap loans to large energy producers would also help stop fossil fuel dominance. It would also be nice if the fracking industry were not exempted from the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. This is just one of the many cases that shows how useless science is when it comes to legislation.
Rather than trusting science policy to politicians, I’d prefer to let juries decide. We can learn from the gov’t approval of Round-Up, which is finally being question in the courts by Dwayne Johnson, who was harmed by the product. If only the courts weren’t so clogged prosecuting poor people for petty and/or victimless crimes, those harmed by the really severe crimes perpetrated by corporations might see justice.
- 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?
I would be in favor of abolishing all governmental agencies that have been tasked with protecting the environment because they have been captured by the industries they are supposed to guard against. I would be in favor having citizen-led organizations and Native American nations review environmental policies in order to inform the public so that they can vote accordingly. Of course, indigenous populations have the right to self-determination and they have been repeatedly denied this right, for example with DAPL.
Regarding the criticism of capitalism by advocates of the GND or the RD, I favor Henry George’s understanding of capitalism. He found that the hoarding of and speculation on finite resources (land, minerals, water, energy) is what creates poverty, even in the face of progress, not capital investment per se. The remedy for this would be a steep progressive tax on the ownership of finite resources (no tax on capital improvements) and a standard property tax deduction for every citizen and a standard farm property tax deduction for every small farmer. The final cure to “bad” capitalism, as defined by George, would be to eliminate the private monopoly on public infrastructure. The Internet, for example, needs a public alternative that is open-source. All grids and networks likewise need to be public and cooperatively managed by the local users. If George were alive today he would call out the technocrats for hoarding the information and infrastructure that they did not create and which belongs to the people who create it. The value that a community creates belongs to that community, not to monopolizers.
- 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?
See my Gold New Deal alternative above. I do not favor gov’t funding of specific industries or companies or the retraining of workers. If the Federal gov’t announced tomorrow that fossil fuel subsidies and Federal Reserve loans to the fossil fuel industry would be withdrawn in some number of years or months, the green energy market would spring into action and start hiring and training new workers.
- 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?
I’m a complex systems science researcher, which has informed my belief that decentralizing power is the most important step toward improving government and fostering innovation and prosperity. Consequently, I advocate ending the Federal Reserve system and debt-backed currency creation, a practice that has given the 1% about a third of the wealth and the bottom 50% about 1.5% of the wealth. Debt-backed currency in inherently unstable.
The Federal Reserve should not have been allowed to use the pandemic as an excuse to create fiat dollars to bailout selected industries, while others are closed and forced into bankruptcy. Our country’s middle income earners are on the verge of economic collapse. (Low income earners have been suffering acute economic depression for decades.) We must phase out fractional-reserve banking and debt-based currency by raising the reserve amount to 100%. Banks should only be able to loan money that is deposited in regulated savings accounts.
To avoid the coming financial disaster, a one-time debt jubilee and/or 10-20 year CD savings credit of 15-30K per adult citizen might be in order. This would be a radical measure, but it might be considered fair given the abuse the people have suffered under the Federal Reserve banking system since 1913, 1971 and especially since 2008 and 2020. Such as measure would greatly mitigate the shrinking of available credit that ending the Fed would cause.
The U.S. Treasury should have the sole sovereign power to create US dollars, and only for public infrastructure projects — roads, mass transit, hospitals, energy grids, schools, and fiber broadband. New dollars created for this purpose would be backed by the value of the infrastructure assets that will return user fees. All newly created (Treasury Greenback) dollars would enter the economy, not at the top but, at the middle income level, paying workers to build and maintain infrastructure. Using direct Treasury funds for infrastructure (together with cutting the war budget), would entirely eliminate the need for the bottom 80% – 90% of Americans to pay income tax, as well as reduce the need for states to collect property taxes to build and maintain public infrastructure.
The role of the Treasury should not be to try to manage the economy, nor to set interest rates, nor to loan money, nor to borrow money. Its role should only be funding the creation of public assets.
Any inflation caused by the influx of new Treasury dollars into the economy could be offset by raising the asset user fees and taxing the top 1 -10% of income. Using Treasury dollars to fund infrastructure, instead of taxing, would not give Congress more power since Congress already decides budgets. I support the repeal of the Federal Reserve Act and a reconsideration (without the public dividend) of the National Emergency Employment Defense Act H.R. 2990.
- 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?
The top-down control of education stifles innovation and creative learning. The curriculum should be decided by education professionals together with parents and students. Students should have ample opportunity to study arts and literature to develop their creative thinking skills. As far as misinformation goes, students should be encouraged to think for themselves rather than depend on any authority to decide which information is reliable or not.
- 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?
The US Treasury could directly fund the best facilities for public schools instead of relying on local property taxes. Numerous small local schools would be better than a few large schools. Every public school could be equally equipped, safe and designed to accommodate small class sizes. A public health program could eliminate the need for school districts to provide teachers with expensive private insurance, freeing up money to pay teachers more. The administration of school should be handled cooperatively by teachers, parents and students.
Covid has not changed my stance toward eduction. I have always been an advocate of the homeschool option because it tends to encourage self-directed learning and self-evaluation. Home instruction (e.g. Kahn Academy math, history documentaries, ample time for reading) together with daily social interactions at public spaces such as libraries, museums, parks, community centers, theaters, and cafes is an option that all parents should have the luxury to consider.
Because, as a rule, children do not develop Covid symptoms, students should be allowed to return to normal healthy human interactions immediately. The effects of isolation and the irrational fear of dying will take its toll on our children. Any teachers who may be in the at-risk category should be provided with alternative duties that allow them to remain quarantined. Any children living with at-risk family members should have the option of online learning. I am against the use of any AI learning tools or replacing teachers with digital curriculums. Zoom classes should not be the new normal.
FOOD & AGRICULTURE
- 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?
I would prefer to see a return to localized farming. I would work to end subsidies of agriculture that artificially lower the price of processed foods and factory farm goods. Higher food prices would attract more small independent farmers into the industry. At the same time, if the monetary policy changes noted above (ending the Fed) were enacted, this would effectively eliminate the tax burden for the 90% and significantly lower the cost of housing. My family owns a small organic farm and we grow most of our own food. I understand how difficult farming is and how much healthy food should really cost. On a small farm, permaculture methods make more sense and can be restorative for the environment. In other words, if the Federal government were to remove its control and subsidy of big agriculture, many of the problems with agriculture would fix themselves.
- 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?
Federal food policies have helped create the problems that we’re seeing now with the obesity epidemic. For example, Federally-funded school lunch programs require that each student take a bread, milk and fruit or vegetable item for the school to get reimbursed for the meal. Consequently, children are encouraged to eat a lot of pizza, sugared milk, sugared fruit cups. And of course the Federal food pyramid was not based upon sound nutritional science. Once a bad policy based on bad science is instituted, it is very difficult to change or undo the damage. The Federal government could remove itself from the food industry and stop pushing, unhealthy, factory farm foods and processed foods.
Communities without access to healthy food can be helped by removing any barriers that prevent local farm markets from thriving.
Currently we have millions of men and women locked up in prison, many for non-violent and petty crimes, and they often work at meager wages for large corporations. This is an extension of the system of slavery. This labor force could be providing healthy food for the welfare system instead. Non-violent criminals should not be imprisoned at all but should be given the opportunity to perform public service to their own communities by providing healthy food and running local farm markets, among other useful community services.
- 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?
I have not formed a policy for this specific issue, but my first question would be whether or not the applicant is suffering hardship in his/her home country as a result of US trade policy, sanctions or military intervention. If so, I would try to end those hardships. Secondly, I would like to be assured that the skill the worker offers meets a true need in the US and I would like to be assured that the business sponsoring the applicant is not just seeking cheap labor. I see no reason the restrict work visas if these two concerns are not relevant. But, as I say, I have not given this issue enough consideration at present.
- 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?
The US should end all military interventions. War destroys resources, destroys farmland, and creates refuges.
- What is your position on the 1996 Dickey Amendment? What role should the federal government take in addressing issues relating to gun violence?
We are a violence-obsessed culture. Our Federal and state governments too frequently rely upon violent force to address problems, whether with the military or the militarized police, and our entertainment industry, in turn, tends to glorify this institutionalized violence. Government should lead by example and end its reliance upon violence as a means of controlling other countries and its own citizens. The Dickey Amendment and the omnibus bill that it was written into is an example of government having to fund solutions to problems that it itself has helped to create, and, to make things worse, it bends to special interests groups like the gun lobby to bias how the funds are spent. If Federal and local governments stopped promoting violence in culture, the CDC might not need funds to try to address the problem.
- 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?
Gun suicide is a mental health/economic/cultural problem, not a gun problem per se. It would make more sense to address the underlying causes of suicide than to prevent suicide by one particular means.