On Joseph Smith and Donald Trump; Voter Questionnaire From a Friend; Abortion Rights

This is huge and a must-read on inequity and women’s rights. This is also of value as rhetoric for any Democrat facing phony talking points from angry Trump supporters.

I recently received these questions from a friend who is a retired Daytona State College administrator. We knew each other well during my time as President and Treasurer of Port Orange Toastmasters (2015–2017), although I left Toastmasters in 2017 to focus on my Ph.D. program. This article is quite lengthy, starting out with a backstory and various arguments before diving into the questions.

As detailed in my personal essay, I Once Was a Republican, But Now I Know Better, at the time, I was politically inactive but a Trump-supporting Republican. I was never able to explain away Trump’s behavior and being a Republican was always misaligned with many of my positions and beliefs, such as my work on financial literacy where I advocated for greater financial regulation to help poor, working class, and middle class Americans.

As I learned in-depth about the climate crisis, and other facts such as that aborted fetuses don’t actually feel pain until a minimum of 26 weeks of gestation, I increasingly questioned and investigated what I would continually hear from the alt-right and from my parents. Notably, my wife and I had our first child on February 27, 2019 (he shares a birthday with Dr. Chelsea Clinton), and leading up to this the main topic of conversation from my parents was how horrible vaccines are. From my investigations online, in academic journals, and at the library I became pro-vaccine, which ended my relationship with my father (at his behest). Of course, this is not necessarily a partisan issue, but anti-vax stances are more closely aligned with Republicans than Democrats, particularly among state governors and legislatures, despite the existence of wealthy coastal anti-vaxxers.

As a new Democrat I finally am on the right side of history (albeit late). This comes at the cost of alienation from my family and many friends and acquaintances. Of course, I am not alone—Elizabeth Warren (who I endorse for President of the United States) was a Republican until 1996, and 2 of her 3 brothers to this day are Trump-supporting Republicans.

More backstory about me: From 2011 to 2014 I was a Mormon (i.e., Latter-day Saint), and my mother was one from 2007 to 2013. I used to play piano for the children in Sunday school at the Daytona Beach branch of the church. Since becoming politically active in 2020, following the completion of my Ph.D. in Education in December 2019, the bulk of hateful messages and nonsensical arguments I have received have been from Latter-day Saints I personally knew while in the church.

Many laypersons do not know that Latter-day Saints, as they prefer to be called, are Christians (Christ is in the name of their church—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Somehow, Latter-day Saints tend to be fervent Trump supporters. I joined the church in 2011 at my mother’s urging and mostly avoided “apostate” reading materials, as dubbed by church members. Learning that the church’s founder and first “prophet,” Joseph Smith, had 40 wives including girls who were almost certainly pre-pubescent, among many other facts about Smith and the church’s early and middle history that can easily be verified online, helped me to realize that the church isn’t true. Joseph Smith, Donald Trump, and many Latter-day Saints are not aligned with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Latter-day Saints do a lot of great charity work and many of their members are wonderful people, but there is no explaining away such hypocrisy and corruption. Of course, those who can explain away Joseph Smith can easily explain away Donald Trump’s statements: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. . . . Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” They can explain away how he cheated on Melania, caused Puerto Rican deaths in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, or continues to separate infants and toddlers from their parents at the border. They can explain away anything.

Trump knows this. In a rather bizarre paradox, he is both incompetent at governing, or even giving a coherent speech, yet cunning and brilliant at co-opting the Republican party and radicalizing the American people. His knowledge of the fact that his base will explain away anything and everything he says or does is best summed up in this quote from him: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

By writing this, most campaign managers (if I had one—my campaign has no staff or money) would tell me I’m making a grave mistake. I’m losing the Latter-day Saint vote. But, speaking truth to power requires saying what’s uncomfortable and what will separate and alienate you from many people. The civil rights movement wasn’t popular for a long time. It was once radical to be anti-slavery. In the American Revolutionary War, 15–20% of Americans were British loyalists, and many more were on the fence about the whole matter. Just yesterday, we clinched the number of states needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution guaranteeing equal rights to Americans regardless of their sex. This amendment was largely dormant since 1978—the same year the backwards Latter-day Saints finally allowed Blacks to hold the priesthood. Don’t worry—the Latter-day Saints were never going to vote for me anyway.

I will now turn my attention toward my friend’s questions about my candidacy.

1. Why should Democrats vote for you in the primary?

I am the best and most qualified candidate and will lead us in a bold new direction. I admit that Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, the 2018 Democratic candidate, was far more qualified in many respects. I’ve offered to drop out if she decides to run again. Otherwise, unless a new candidate emerges at the last minute, there is no competition. My sole opponent, Clint Curtis, is not a serious candidate at all. I’ve talked to many Democrats who have heard him speak in-person and agree we can do better. Plenty of other Democrats have tried to dissuade me from running and rather seek local office first. But, no one is stepping up besides me to oppose Michael Waltz. I’m also the only one who lives in the district. Even the incumbent lives outside his district. I was born here. I’ve lived here my whole life.

I have to run. This is the time. If I pass this up, we might lose this opportunity forever. As you know, I’m going to be campaigning not just for myself, but for whomever our Democratic nominee for President of the United States is. Kristy and I could literally end up being the force that tips the entire presidential election to a loss for Trump. Florida is everything. He’s going to be campaigning real hard in Florida, and you’re going to hear a lot of propaganda about “socialism” that isn’t true, and we will be debunking this propaganda left and right and presenting a different way forward.

Republicans complain of welfare, but how many of them truly understand the stock market like I do? You want to talk welfare? When Apple brought back all that money from overseas because they don’t have to pay taxes on it thanks to Trump, it didn’t go to you. It went to share buybacks, which are at an all-time high, and it’s a travesty that got tacked right on to our national debt. The executives plan the share buybacks. Most of their fortunes are shares of their company stock. They time it to sell shares when the stock price is pumped up right after a buyback. It’s legal. It shouldn’t be. Meanwhile, Blacks are doing hard time for petty theft. This is not equitable. Not even close.

If you want change, then vote for me and candidates like me who will bring real change.

2. Why should voters vote for you in the general?

I will bring truth, reason, and tenacity to Congress. I think the combination of my age, educational pedigree, and position on the climate crisis is a great reason to vote for me. I’m 28. If elected, I’ll be the youngest member of Congress, based on the ages of the current members, the youngest of which is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at 30. I’ll be 2 months older than she was when she was elected in 2018. I’m a competent speaker and phenomenal at writing and argumentation, with a wealth of knowledge and solutions for the many issues facing Florida’s 6th district and our nation as a whole. If you look at most of Congress and most candidates, they are too busy dialing for dollars, spending upward of 30 hours a week pandering for contributions. They don’t govern. They don’t even know their own political positions, which are articulated for them by staffers or worse, lobbyists.

It’s time for a change. Our planet can’t wait any longer. I can guarantee you we are going to see bigger, badder hurricanes coming for us in the coming years due to greenhouse gas emissions and our superheated oceans. Much of Congress is elderly. Sure, they have children, grandchildren, great grandchildren… but that’s not the same as having a 10-month-old like my wife and I, and being a twentysomething myself. The climate crisis is much more real for me. It’s not an abstraction that the worst of which will take place after my death. We need more young people in Congress, especially in these divided times.

We need more women in government. We need minorities. As a White/Chinese American man, I do not fit these criteria, but that does not mean I cannot be a powerful force for good. Sadly, it also gives me advantages when campaigning or dealing with the old White men in Congress. I can get angry. I can yell. I can interrupt when someone is feeding me a line of bullshit. People look at my accomplishments and arguments rather than what I’m wearing. No one can pull anything out of the sad, sorry bag of tricks people use on women, such as accusing me of being hysterical or a bad mother. The privilege and opportunities afforded to me as a White man drive me to use my position to fight these and other stereotypes and inequities.

3. What do you bring that is better than the incumbent (for the record, I didn’t and would never vote for him)?

It is quite shocking that many Republicans are only “pro-life” until the baby is born. Then they go on tirades about welfare queens, socialism, handouts, and not wanting to pay for someone else’s stupidity. Medicaid? CHIP? Take it all away! Force a woman to have a child against her will, and then tell her she better “get a job” right away. As if motherhood is not enough of a job. Don’t forget that Trump used to be a pro-abortion Democrat prior to co-opting the Republican party. Vote for Richard Thripp. A vote for Michael Waltz is basically a vote for bringing The Handmaid’s Tale from fiction to reality.

I bring authenticity to the table. Congressman Michael Waltz is a war hero, and he says he fought for you in combat and is fighting for you in Congress. But really, he’s just another lap dog for Trump, which is quite sad. He does support some progressive positions that are a bit unusual for a Republican, such as admitting Puerto Rico as the 51st state, which I also support. Some of Trump’s base have even taken to attacking him as a RINO, or Republican in Name Only. He’s taken no leadership on holding this administration accountable, or on the climate crisis, or the feudal serfdom the bulk of America is facing due to unprecedented and grotesque wealth stratification facilitated by our government which is bought and paid for (and it was quite a bargain, I can tell you that).

Despite being a single father with a teenage daughter, Congressman Michael Waltz recently signed a Friend of the Court brief in a legal case that basically seeks to allow states to ban abortion by upholding a Louisiana law that requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. I used to be anti-abortion too, but now I know better. Even as a man, I can tell you that women are extraordinarily tired of privileged White men who do not and will never have a uterus legislating what they do with theirs.

My wife Kristy is pro-choice, and she has been her entire life. We have a 10-month-old baby boy and we saw him develop in a whopping seven sonograms at week 11, week 12, gender at week 16, week 20, 3-D sonograms at weeks 27 and 28 (he would not cooperate for a clear image), and week 37 for sizing (he was perfect). We were eternally blessed to have a perfectly healthy boy. We were financially prepared. We are now married and love him dearly. This is a rosy picture that many pregnant women, including in Florida’s 6th district, do not have the luxury of enjoying. Of course our son was unplanned. No one plans having a baby in the middle of completing a doctoral dissertation. Baby Ricky costs a lot of money and is a ton of work, even with two parents around to care for him most of the time. Other prospective mothers do not have it nearly as well. Who are we to judge them and condemn or prohibit their decisions?

Congressman Waltz is a big part of the problem. He supports new state legislation to require girls 17 and under to obtain notarized signatures from a parent in order to be allowed to have an abortion. Many teenagers are afraid their parents will “disown them and throw them out of the house,” and for obvious reasons cannot get a notarized signature. Girls of color are more likely not to be in touch with their parents nor have the means to procure said signature. Isn’t it the apex of hypocrisy that many parents will make their teenagers homeless and withhold their signatures to force an unwanted grandchild into existence who will also now be homeless and disadvantaged? Abortion is neither simple nor easy, as a decision nor logistically. Women in Florida’s 6th district likely have to travel to Planned Parenthood in Orlando near University of Central Florida or Jacksonville, and come up with anywhere from $350 to $950 or even more.

This is getting a bit long, but I feel I have communicated many important items above. Therefore, I’m going to be quite brief in answering the remaining four questions, all of which were partly covered above.

4. Of the current Democratic presidential candidates, who, if anyone, do you support and why?

Elizabeth Warren. She has many great plans, and a background as a bankruptcy professor and U.S. Senator who was central in founding the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and taking on Wall Street. It would be great if wealthy billionaires would do more with their fortunes to actually help people, but it won’t happen. We need a wealth tax to begin unwinding the neo-feudal servitude so many Americans are facing under an oppressive regime of unprecedented wealth stratification that came about not by chance, but by deliberate mendacity and string-pulling from those at the top. Warren is an expert and she can do it. The climate crisis is baked into this too, given that the world’s wealthiest 10% cause 50% of greenhouse gas emissions.

5. If you were already in the house, would you have voted for the Articles of Impeachment?

Yes. Donald Trump has earned impeachment many times over, and these are just two of many articles that he could be impeached on.

6. What are your views on the pending Senate trial?

It’s a farce. A kangaroo court. You and I both know it. Mitch McConnell said so himself. We still have to do it, and there is a tiny chance Trump will be removed from office, but it would require a bigger bombshell than the Ukraine scandal to accomplish (even though this one is huge already). Donald is probably more likely to die from a heart attack due to his poor diet and lack of exercise than to be convicted and removed from office.

7. What are your views of the president? Have they changed over the past three years? If so, explain. If not, explain why not.

They’ve definitely changed, and I think I’ve made them pretty clear already. He’s the worst president in the history of the United States. That’s basically a fact rather than an opinion at this point. If you’re plugged into Fox News and other alt-right fake news propaganda, and if it’s being hammered into you by your family, friends, church, and peer group, it can be hard to see and you can easily get mixed up in even more ridiculous conspiracy theories such as QAnon. You really have to go on a Dark Night of the Soul to break free. And of course, you have to do your research—REAL research, which CANNOT involve dismissing proliferative tranches of evidence, science, and humanity as illegitimate sources.

The Climate Crisis Requires Unpopular Positions

Politicians and the public don’t seem to understand the severity of the climate crisis. Scientists recently noted that human-emitted greenhouse gases are causing the ocean to warm at the same rate as if we continuously dropped five nuclear bombs on the oceans per second (Cheng et al., 2020; press release with atom bomb comparison). Just a few months ago, we had this potential disaster sitting right off our shores:

Hurricane Dorian radar image

Hurricanes are forming in more unusual places and rapidly intensifying because of human greenhouse gas emissions, of which carbon dioxide is central, responsible for about half of all warming. This is just one of many deleterious effects… sea level rise, droughts and flooding, fires, and extreme heat and cold snaps are among the other effects. The CO2 concentration has reached 413 parts-per-million in earth’s atmosphere, which is the highest in human history, and there are many further ramifications that are already guaranteed (“baked in”) that we will see in our lifetimes.

Our farmers are getting hit hard, and more than half of greenhouse gas emissions in all of human history have occurred within the past several decades. A Great Acceleration of human development has taken hold since 1950, and it is going to end very badly unless we make radical changes now.

Listening to the Democratic debate last night, I heard Joe Biden say we need “green highways” and to build up roads and buildings in places affected by sea level rise. First off, there are no “green” highways; that’s like saying there is “green” coal or “green” smokestacks. Secondly, Biden may have been referring to the fact that many roads in the Florida Keys will be underwater within the next 20 years, but suggesting we throw federal funds at this is like trying to turn the tide of an ocean. It’s foolish, ridiculous, expensive, and won’t work. We also heard Amy Klobuchar make the absurd recommendation that oil derived from fracking should be embraced as a bridge fuel, which was a ridiculous recommendation that a fracking profiteer also made to failed Congressional candidate Paul Perry regarding his anti-fracking stance and the need for money from the fracking industry to fund his campaign for Congress.

Our government is bought and paid for. We are not seeing real leadership, which requires highly unpopular but necessary positions on items such as travel, tourism, the economy, and moral hazards. In addition, we must end subsidies for fossil fuels, end American militarism which emits more greenhouse gases than Sweden and Denmark combined, combat American materialism and throwaway culture, and be much harder on the rich in terms of taxes and disincentives, as the earth’s wealthiest 10% cause 50% of human greenhouse gas emissions, whereas the poorest 50% cause only 10% of emissions. When Republicans vent their anger about welfare going to the supposedly undeserving poor, they should really be directing their anger at the wealthy who are receiving huge, grotesque amounts of welfare—which includes real tax breaks and privilege as well as imputed benefits from not having to pay for all the damage they are causing.

Travel

We often hear that flying accounts for only 2% of CO2 emissions. In fact, the real figure is about triple, around 6%. Airplanes spew greenhouse gases seven miles about the ground, which is almost twice as impactful as doing this at ground level. Plus, the airplanes and airports themselves require tons of aluminum, plastic, concrete, and steel, all of which cause greenhouse gas emissions.

Portland cement, the key ingredient in concrete, is responsible for 8% of global CO2 emissions. The Wekiva Parkway, a new 25-mile toll road being constructed to the north of Apopka and then turning east toward Sanford, crosses through sensitive wetlands and required careful planning and unprecedented proportions of bridges and elevated sections made of… you guessed it, concrete. Even a “green” highway that allows water and wildlife to cross under it is a climate disaster. At least an asphalt road on packed dirt doesn’t require enormous concrete bridges.

Peak travel must end. Everyone needs to travel much less. This doesn’t mean that people can’t travel at all. This doesn’t mean we need an authoritarian government to crack down on travel. Just pricing travel appropriately would make a huge difference. Gasoline at $2–$3 a gallon makes no sense. People in the future will wish they could go back in time and pay $2 or $3 per gallon to stop us from using it. Tourism and our economy are built on kicking the can down the road. We aren’t paying the true costs now, but the reckoning is coming and has already begun to manifest.

Taxation of travel to incorporate its true costs can be done progressively. We can charge the rich more for gas, more for flying, and more for other extravagances while allowing the working class to pay much less. The wealthiest Americans are already robber barons receiving massive subsidies and welfare, so this should not be contentious. We figured out a scheme for rationing gas in the 1970s oil crises, so I’m sure we can figure this out.

Tourism

When the prime minister of the Bahamas was asked what the world can do to help the islands ravaged by Hurricane Dorian, he cited tourism. He said:

Please come and visit one or more of the 14 other major islands in the Bahamas not affected by Hurricane Dorian, including Nassau on the island of New Providence. The revenue from tourists visiting The Bahamas will play a vital role in reconstructing and rebuilding the affected areas.

The paradox is that tourism helps in the short term but is disastrous in the long term. Many tourists arrive in the Bahamas via cruise ships, which are a climate disaster, emitting 3–4 times as much CO2 per mile when compared with flying. They use inexpensive, dirty fuel putting out toxic emissions that ravage the atmosphere. As with Dorian, future hurricanes will ironically be intensified by the very tourists who are providing tax revenue to the Bahamas in order to rebuild the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama.

When people come to Daytona Beach for NASCAR, for Bike Week, or for our beautiful beaches, often from thousands of miles away, we aren’t paying for the climate damage. When NASCAR upgrades their stadium, not only do they receive tremendous tax breaks but they aren’t paying for the climate emissions from concrete, asphalt, and steel, or the leaded gas the race cars use by environmental waiver. When Sam’s Club decides to move from one part of Daytona Beach to another and building a completely new concrete building with a huge asphalt parking lot, they aren’t paying for the climate damage as compared with renovating the old building that now sits vacant on Beville Road. We shop at the new Sam’s Club… it’s nice, but undeniably extravagant.

When Disney World induces tourists to fly in from California or even other countries thousands of miles further away, they aren’t paying for it. When people fly into Orlando for the many academic, military, and industry conferences that go on here, we aren’t paying for the climate damage.

The I-4 Ultimate project is psychotic. The massive expansion to the Orlando airport is cruel and insane. As humans, are we just stupid? The ultimate irony is when I-4 Ultimate had to brace for Hurricanes Irma and Dorian. Our very actions are making hurricanes worse, and then we get into this crazy cycle where we brace for hurricanes by filling up gas cans for generators, and then end up having to rebuild stronger buildings that are elevated with more rebar and concrete to be more sturdy, emitting more greenhouse gases that make future hurricanes even worse. It’s madness.

A Path Forward

False equivalence is a logical fallacy that comes up time and time again when it comes to the climate crisis. It’s bad to drive a car, so anyone with a car shouldn’t be allowed to call out Michael Bloomberg for having a private jet, a helicopter, and 11 mansions. In truth, we can rank particular actions on a scale from good to bad, or from neutral to terrible. One does not have to be a climate saint in order to point out that we are on the wrong track. Much human suffering is already occurring from the climate crisis, and what’s coming in the future will be worse. Our actions now will answer the question: How bad do you want it to be? We can either keep going with the tremendously disastrous status quo, or we can take action to prevent death and suffering and to make the future better for the poor, minorities, the working class, and disadvantaged individuals in Florida and all over the United States and planet earth.

On Student Debt, Democracy, Unions, and a Wealth Tax

I recently received an email from a man in my district with several pertinent questions on student debt, democracy, unions, and a wealth tax. Here are my responses, which also serve to further explain my perspectives on lawmaking and federal policy.

1. I owe over $180k in student debt, over $70k of it is private loans. My monthly payments are $500 a month, but will jump up to $850 a month next year once I finish my free associate’s degree (through my union). Even though I’ve been making payments since end of 2016, my interest rates are so high that they’ve pushed up student loans by an extra $20k since when I first left college. What’s your plan to address the Student Loan Debt Crisis?

I agree it is a crisis. I think we need to be thoughtful about forgiving student loans at a massive scale, but for people like you it would at least make sense to stop charging interest on the balance of both federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans, and to refund any interest that has already been charged. I think private student loans should be dischargeable in bankruptcy and would recommend this brief podcast episode on the topic: The Loan Ranger on The Indicator by Planet Money. We need to make public K–12 and public higher education a higher priority, at state and federal levels. Private institutions of higher education should not be allowed to mislead and rip off students with degrees that go nowhere, or even packing up shop in the middle of your degree so you are left with debt and no way to finish. They also do sneaky things like high tuition but everyone gets a generous “scholarship” admission offer. There is certainly an educational component needed for this too, but also legislative/policymaking action is needed. If we just forgive all student loans, though, it will benefit the wealthy and those with high incomes more (in raw dollar terms) than the working class, so we need to be selective about it.

2. Our democracy is healthiest the more that people participate in it. Do you have a stance on Ranked Choice Voting, Open Primaries, Election Day as a Holiday, Expanding Prisoner Voting Rights Restoration, Overturning Citizens United, ending gerrymandering, etc.?

I think prisoners should be able to vote and there are some states (Maine, Vermont) where this is already the case. For ranked choice voting, I think what Florida does for nonpartisan offices makes a lot of sense, having a primary and then a run-off for the top two candidates if no one gets more than 50% of the vote the first go-round. Yes, I support making Election Day a holiday… as well as fighting voter suppression such as what occurred in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race. We should probably replace Columbus Day with Election Day, although it will be important that private employees actually get the day off to vote as most do not for Columbus Day. Gerrymandering is a travesty and I support whatever we can do to stop this practice, either Congressionally or in federal courts or at the state level. Citizens United v. FEC was decided as a 1st-amendment issue which makes it difficult to “overturn,” but I agree that campaign finance reform is sorely needed. As a Congressional candidate I am a long shot with no funds, and in the prior race we saw incumbent Michael Waltz raise $2.0 million compared with $3.2 million from Democratic opponent Nancy Soderberg plus several million from Michael Bloomberg’s PAC toward the end of the race. This is ridiculous. Most people would not be making these contributions if they do not expect to curry favor and get something in return. Florida also has egregiously high ballot access fees, so I have to pay $10,440 to get on the ballot or collect 5,479 petitions, which is a big barrier to entry that should be reduced or eliminated as it particularly affects women and minorities who might otherwise run for office.

3. As a Union Organizer/Rep, unions are very important to me. We’ve been playing defense for so long that we’re slowly losing all of our rights and the 40-hour work week to live off of is essentially a joke now. What’s your plan on strengthening unions to be as strong as they were before the Reagan Presidency?

I think the German model might be a good model for unions here, where they cooperate rather than giving take-it-or-leave-it offers as we have seen recently from the State of Florida regarding teacher pay increases. My American grandmother’s 2nd marriage was to a General Motors retiree, so I saw firsthand that even after being widowed in 2003 (she passed away in 2017), she had such excellent health insurance the likes of which most Americans will never see again. I think her in-network out-of-pocket annual maximum was $400 and out-of-network was $800. Of course, United Auto Workers was a tremendous cost to GM, but what we are seeing now is a dereliction of responsibility from both employers and the government. They keep telling us that right-to-work and being fired at the drop of a hat is capitalistic, competitive, and produces better outcomes for talented employees, which is a victim-blaming arrangement where people who can’t afford their bills are blamed for not being valuable enough to their employers in order to be paid better. I agree with Professor Robert Reich’s ideas that unions should be easier to form, companies should be held accountable, and we should move away from “right-to-work.” I’ve read plenty of accounts in the news of employees of TESLA or Amazon who lost a finger, hurt their back, have chemical burns or eyesight problems, and the companies covered it up not even filing OSHA paperwork and then set them out to pasture. Unions can help as a check on this sort of abusive illegal behavior, as can Congress and our federal agencies, but right now they aren’t doing a whole lot.

4. Would you support a wealth tax so that the less fortunate are not the ones carrying society on their backs and the wealthy will pay their fair share?

Yes, I support a wealth tax. In a prior article I suggested it should be on the top 0.1% by wealth. Many of America’s wealthiest have significant holdings of shares in public corporations they founded or have been closely involved with since the beginning. I would not suggest that they be forced to liquidate their shares, but that the U.S. Treasury department takes ownership of wealthy individuals’ corporate equity and other securities (in coordination with revised tax laws and the IRS), while allowing them to maintain their shareholder voting rights on ceded shares. Of course, what we are talking about here is unlikely to be accomplished by a president, let alone a new member of the U.S. House who is only 1 of 435, but I think it’s appropriate to move the dialogue in this direction. Really, a wealth tax tries to make up for our dereliction of duty when it comes to taxation over past decades, but especially with the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 which I have dubbed the greatest robbery in modern American history. The estate tax exemptions are now ridiculously high, and there are all sorts of tricks for the super-rich to pay a lower percentage than the rest of the upper class and middle class Americans. If you think about it, we already have a wealth tax that is called state property tax. If your millage rate is 20, this means each year you are paying 2% of the value of your house, or $4,000 if it’s worth $200,000 (not considering exemptions and non-ad valorem assessments). That’s a wealth tax. We just don’t treat corporate equity in the same way, which is unfortunate. A wealth tax on the top 0.1% could address this, and the assets of the top 0.1% are also easier to value because they are often publicly traded or subject to rigorous accounting standards. I do not think we should be proposing wealth taxes on small businesses or anything that disenfranchises the working class, middle class, or even much of the upper class from their livelihoods. One of my campaign issues is to expand the IRS, in funding, technology, and manpower, including highly skilled employees such as lawyers and high-level accountants. Right now, even under existing tax law we are leaving at least $131 billion on the table or possibly even more. It is so disappointing to see headlines like The IRS Admits It Doesn’t Audit the Rich Because It’s Too Hard, while working-class American parents are having to go through getting audited for the Earned Income Tax Credit because they are easy targets.

Sincerely,
Richard Thripp, Ph.D.
Democratic Candidate for U.S. Congress (FL-06)
Adjunct Faculty, University of Central Florida

Perspective, Issues, and My Potential Role in Congress (Ballotpedia Survey, Part 3)

I have now completed the Ballotpedia survey, although it may take a couple days to show up on their website. For these items, I delve into my perspective, several issues, and my potential role in Congress. For past segments, please see these posts:
More About Me and Key Issues (Ballotpedia Survey, Part 1)
On the Climate Crisis and the Next Decade (Ballotpedia Survey, Part 2)

If you are not a current representative, are there certain committees that you would want to be a part of?

I would love to be on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which is chaired by Kathy Castor, a fellow Democrat from Florida’s 14th district that includes most of Tampa. Although the Daytona Beach area is also at-risk, the Tampa Bay area is especially vulnerable to stronger and more unpredictable hurricanes that rapidly intensify due to the climate crisis, given that there has been so much development there in the past decade particularly in low-lying areas. In the long run, all of Florida is also vulnerable to sea level rise, and we have already seen this affecting Miami Beach with king tides. We have a duty to the next generation, as well as to current victims such as farmers and climate refugees, to tackle the climate crisis head-on, with all options on the table, such as removing subsidies (including hidden subsidies) for fossil fuels and removing encumbrances for green energy, with a particular focus on storing said energy. There must also be a growing realization that travel and jet-setting needs to be curtailed, particularly among the world’s wealthiest 10% who are responsible for 50% of greenhouse gas emissions. Although my Ph.D. is in Education rather than Climatology, as a scholar I am firmly focused on science and facts and will always deliver cogent arguments and real solutions to the table.

Other committees of interest to me are the Financial Services Subcommittees on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions and on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship and Capital Markets, and the Education Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment. I have backgrounds in financial literacy education and teacher education, focused on standing up for working-class Americans and teachers to financially educate them and stop big financial institutions from bamboozling them into foreclosure, student loan or other debt, or cash-strapped retirements. I particularly focus on women and minorities who face even greater disadvantages.

Do you believe that two years is the right term length for representatives?

I think it’s too short. Four years would be more reasonable. If you look at the House, you’ll see they are constantly up for re-election. New members from both parties are told that “dialing for dollars” takes precedence over actual governing. Representatives are not allowed to do this from the Capitol or their offices, so the parties have dank cubicles set up in office space a couple blocks from the Capitol where new members are told they should be spending 30+ hours a week of their time calling potential donors. They’re given scripts including the names of the children of the potential donors they are calling, and party leaders update a whiteboard in real-time with representatives’ names and total $$$ procured, in red, black, or green depending on whether they are below, at, or above target. The daily schedule of the House is built around being out-of-session during the valuable lunch hours, and new members are chastised for attending committee meetings during time they are supposed to spend dialing for dollars. It’s a disgrace. I won’t do it. I might still end up being able to pay my party dues (required for committee assignments and re-election support) from social media donations, or fancy events, but if not, then so be it. I am not for sale and I think too many of our politicians are, or were (they were bought and paid for long ago).

What do you believe are the core responsibilities for someone elected to this office?

I think good governance requires looking out for people, and we really aren’t doing it. We have a huge national debt, a world on fire, and the greatest financial inequality in modern history. Congress should not be in the back pocket of wealthy individuals and corporations. Congress could stand up for the poor, the downtrodden, the forgotten Americans—but instead they legislate and prioritize helping the rich attain greater wealth and privilege without paying their fair share commensurate with what they are extracting from American people, government, and public resources and commons. If Walmart or Amazon’s employees are all on Medicaid and food stamps, shouldn’t we be billing that back to Walmart and Amazon? When it comes to the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017, passed solely by Republicans, it was the greatest robbery in modern history. The Republicans want you to buy into trickle-down economics or that they care about small businesses. It’s one big fat lie. Congress and state governments alike facilitate monstrosities like Amazon, Walmart, and Wells Fargo that crush small businesses left and right. When Apple repatriated all that money from overseas, most of it just went to share buybacks, which are at an all-time high nationwide. Our government needs to work for our people. You should not have to beg for scraps from feudal overlords who will kick you to the curb if you get pregnant, hurt your back, or if they find some way to replace you with a robot.

One of my focuses is Restoring Congressional Authority. I think it goes back to the emphasis on “dialing for dollars”—Congress has abdicated so many of its responsibilities that are written plain-as-day in the United States Constitution. We can’t delegate our war powers to a reckless president. We can’t pass bills written entirely by lobbyists that we don’t even have time to read. The House needs to take control of the purse strings and really take responsibility for budgets, spending, and debt.

Date of birth
August 17, 1991

Place of birth
Daytona Beach, FL

Gender
Male

Religion
Agnostic

Education
Daytona State College, A.A., 2011
University of Central Florida, B.S. in Psychology, 2014
University of Central Florida, M.A. in Applied Learning & Instruction, 2016
University of Central Florida, Ph.D. in Education, 2019

What is your professional career to date?

At University of Central Florida I teach future teachers about technology and I studied the financial literacy of future teachers for my dissertation. I’ve been focused on personal finance, investing literacy, and financial policymaking for many years, and I’ve also become a voracious reader about the climate crisis from greenhouse gases in the past couple years. My wife and I have a handsome, goofy 10-month-old baby boy, which has really got us thinking about the future and what life will be like for him in adulthood. I’m also a bit of an expert on blended learning and worked across disciplines at UCF on National Science Foundation grants for cutting-edge STEM assessment methodologies and helped with the founding of the Center for Students with Unique Abilities by getting their website set up and refined. I’m only 28, so I plan to make a big difference in many areas going forward, even if I don’t win this race.

Please list any professional credentials below.

Besides my degrees I was an editor of a recent Handbook of Research on Emerging Practices and Methods for K–12 Online and Blended Learning, and I’m experienced with statistics having earned an Advanced Quantitative Methodologies in Educational and Human Sciences certificate at UCF during my Ph.D. program, which required completing four difficult statistics courses. I’ve taught nearly 300 students at UCF in EME 2040: Introduction to Technology for Educators, and I’ve graded hundreds of Master’s-level assignments in the same field. I’m Florida teacher certified on the General Knowledge Test, and as an instructional designer have worked with the National Park Service and redesigned a Master’s-level research course. I type 100 words per minute (no joke), am an advanced pianist, used to clean greasy restaurant kitchens with caustic chemicals as a teenager, and as a new husband and father have had many sleepless nights and poopy diapers where the poop goes all up baby’s back onto everything.

What organizations are you affiliated with and how?

Of course University of Central Florida as a triple-alumnus and instructor, but I am also an experienced Toastmaster who was President of Port Orange Toastmasters for a year followed by Treasurer for a year. This gave me wonderful experience speaking, organizing, taking leadership, and managing a 501(c)(3) non-profit chapter of an international organization. I only left because it was too much after starting my Ph.D. in August 2016, which I just finished in December 2019. I’m a current member of the West Volusia Democrats, Port Orange Democrats, and the InfraGard FBI Partnership, as well as a past member of the Association of Teacher Educators, American Society for Engineering Education, Association for Educational Communications & Technology, Academy of Financial Services, and the UCF Daytona Beach Psychology Club.

What qualities do you possess that you believe would make you a successful officeholder?

I’m a firebrand, but I also know how to make sausage (although I am a vegetarian). I’m obviously a total nerd—you don’t become a Ph.D. without being a nerd, but I can distill a complex issue down to a sound bite when needed, or expound on it at the length and depth of a dissertation when the situation calls for it. You also don’t get through a Ph.D. program without dealing with a LOT of bureaucracy and paperwork, so I will be right at home in Washington, D.C. I’m a former Toastmasters president, so I already know a bit about Robert’s Rules of Order and parliamentary procedure. I’m also a voracious reader and podcast-listener capable of competently discussing and seeing both sides to a wide range of issues, but am also able to speak truth to power in recognizing and calling out deceit, trickery, or fallacious arguments.

Although I was born in Daytona Beach, my mother emigrated from the People’s Republic of China. I am profoundly lucky to have been born here and to enjoy the freedoms and opportunities that we take for granted every day. I can put out anti-Trump statements without having to fear being “disappeared,” unlike the authoritarian government in China which has actually gotten worse under Chairman Jinping (do NOT call him “president”—it is a dishonor to the title). Our Constitution is a beacon of light and hope to the world, and I will always respect my oath of office in honoring, upholding, and respecting it. That includes the 2nd amendment, and it also includes restoring Congressional authority over matters they have abdicated responsibility for and that we are seeing a total lack of vision or leadership on. The founders were men of faith, and they recognized that government does not bestow privileges as a king does—rights are granted by God, and governments can either uphold and protect these rights or try to squash and suppress them. To be fair and just, we must endeavor to do the former.

If you could be any fictional character, who would you want to be?

The Doctor from Doctor Who. It would be so exciting to travel through time, although also dangerous with having to foil alien plots to destroy or subjugate humanity, using only a TARDIS and sonic screwdriver.