As part of ongoing coverage of the 2012 General Election on November 6th, Innovation Trail has approached all of the candidates for the Class 1 New York Senate seat currently held by Kirsten Gillibrand (D).*
Colia Clark is the Green Party NY Senate Candidate.
The same five questions have been put to all the candidates. The questions were emailed to each candidate and they are reproduced in full. Any edits have only been made to disambiguate or correct technical errors that may have been made.
The NY Manufacturing Sector
Indicators collected in the Empire State Manufacturing Survey for September 2012 showed that the manufacturing sector in New York was at its lowest level since November 2010.** The national trend for the same period showed expansion in 13 other U.S. states.
Q: What is holding the manufacturing sector back in New York state and what specifically needs to happen in upstate to reverse this trend?
Four big problems are holding back upstate manufacturing: persistent economic stagnation, high electric rates, out-of-control healthcare inflation, and unfair trade treaties.
The basic cause of the economic stagnation is depressed demand. Working people's purchasing power is reduced due to four decades of wage stagnation combined with record levels of household debt (mortgages, student loans, credit cards) because of wage stagnation. This problem was suppressing demand in the economy before the 2008 financial crash and it's why it is taking so long to recover from this Great Recession. I support policies that will increase the purchasing power of the working class: raise the minimum wage to a living wage, employ the unemployed in public jobs in public works and services, invest in clean energy, affordable housing, infrastructure renewal, and other pressing needs. These policies will put money in working people's pockets, who will spend it. Private businesses will then expand when their customers return. Manufacturing will expand to meet the increased demand.
New York State has the highest electric rates in the lower 48 states and electricity is a major expense for many manufacturers. I support public power where utilities that generate and distribute power are owned by the people through a public agency with democratic accountability. We have over 2000 public power utilities across the nation and over 50 public power utilities in New York State. In New York State, public power utilities provide power at an average of 4.1 cents per kilowatt hour to industrial customers compared to 12.1 cents per kilowatt hour for private investor-owned utilities (IOUs) (http://www.publicpower.org/files/PDFs/PublicPowerCostsLess1.pdf).
Health insurance costs for employees have been growing at a far faster rate than inflation for decades. Our manufacturers are at a competitive disadvantage with manufacturers in other countries with single-payer, government-financed health care, such as Canada just to our north. I want to take this cost off the hands of all businesses, including manufacturers, through a US Medicare for All plan. Medicare for All (HR 676) would save $390 billion a year now wasted on the private insurance billing bureaucracy because the billing overhead is 3% for efficient single-payer Medicare and 31% for complex multi-payer private insurance. Medicare for All would also save $190 billion a year now wasted on monopoly profits for the drug companies by negotiating bulk discounts on pharmaceuticals. Medicare for All would take this $570 billion a year in savings and spend it on comprehensive medical services, including dental, optical, and long-term care, while controlling costs. Funded by a combination of payroll, progressive income, and financial transaction taxes, the bottom 95% of income earners would pay less in taxes for Medicare for All than they do now in payroll taxes, premiums, deductibles, and co-pays.
The unfair trade agreements of the last two decades (WTO, NAFTA, CAFTA, pending TPP, etc) have empowered multinational corporations to play the local manufactures, workers, and governments of different countries off against each other, driving down wages, environmental standards, and locally-owned manufacturers in all countries. We need to renegotiate, or if that fails, withdraw from NAFTA, WTO, etc. I support fair trade agreements that level up labor, social, and environmental standards across borders and protect national regulations with transparent adjudication of trade issues, not secretive WTO trade tribunals where only the rulings, but not the proceedings, are public.
Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credits
The Federal Production Tax Credits (PTCs) for renewable wind energy are set to expire at the end of 2012, with other renewable categories (solar etc.) expiring in 2013.
Q: Do you believe that credits and other subsidies to the renewable energy sector (including in New York) should continue?, and if so, for how long?
I support extending the existing renewable electricity production credits until we have a carbon-free energy system because the climate emergency demands it. Al Gore challenged our country in 2008 to set a goal of 100% renewable electricity in 10 years. I support that goal. In addition to extending the existing credits, I support ending the existing subsidies to coal, oil, gas, and nuclear. I also support the Green Party's Climate Action Plan for an Apollo-style crash [through] program to get to 100% renewable energy (heating, transportation, industrial and agricultural processes as well as electricity) by 2025. The climate science shows industrially developed countries like the U.S. need to move at that pace toward clean energy to meet the international consensus goal, endorsed by the U.S. government, of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degress Fahrenheit) to avoid climate catastrophe.
The term “Innovation” is often used in discussing the economy of upstate New York.
Q: What do you believe are the cornerstones of a truly innovative economy in the region?
I believe the cornerstones are basic science and research and development of technological applications of scientific findings. The federal budget needs to increase funding of basic science research and technological development.
Small businesses are viewed as a critical part of a thriving economy.
Q: Could you please outline your position on strategies for supporting small business growth in New York state?
In addition to the demand side stimulus policies I outlined in the first question to increase customers for all businesses, I support breaking up insolvent too-big-to-fail banks and using their good assets to capitalize public state development bank with entrepreneurial arms to develop worker co-ops on the Mondragon model. The Mondragon Cooperative Corporation based in the Basque region of Spain has used this model to develop over 100 industrial worker-owned cooperatives employing over 100,000 manufacturing workers over the last five decades. Only two of their start-ups have failed because the entrepreneurial division of the bank at the center of their cooperative complex provides competent business planning, training, and ongoing advice as well as financing. This is the kind of technical help we need to grow small businesses owned by upstate people.
Analysis of 2011 U.S. Census/U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed little growth in middle-skill jobs upstate, and a widening gap in the wage levels of those paid the most and those paid the least.
Q: Do you believe this trend is a concern and how should it be addressed?
We need a more progressive tax structure to fund government operations and services without deficits and discourage speculation instead of productive investments by the very rich. But inequality is generated mainly at the enterprise level. A big advantage of the worker co-ops I advocate is that the workers share in the benefits of ownership, with profits distributed to workers, not absentee owners, in proportion to their labor contribution, which keeps the wealth in the community and degree of income inequality small, with ratios of bottom to top incomes in business in the 1 to 5 range instead of the 1 to 500 range in typical large U.S. corporations.
I also support improved labor market regulations, including raising the minimum wage to living wages sufficient to support a modest standard of living without public assistance and the inclusion of all workers under Fair Labor Standards Act.
I also support labor law reform to restore labor's right to organize unions and bargain collectively with large employers. I support card check union recognition (Employee Free Choice Act), a ban on permanent striker replacements, and repeal of the restrictions on labor solidarity actions in 1947 Taft-Hartley and 1959 Landrum-Griffin Acts.
** These questions were sent out to the candidates before the release of the October figures which continued this general trend.