WORKING FOR THE PEOPLE OF MASSACHUSETTS

JEFFREY SOSSA-PAQUETTE’S TAKE ON THE ISSUES

MY ISSUES

Spending & Debt

“It can’t be done” isn’t in my vocabulary.

I’ve spent most of my life doing things that “can’t be done.”

Thus, I have no sympathy for the politicians who spend out of control. Republicans and Democrats alike give lip service to balancing the budget, but their actions don’t even come close.

I not only support a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, but if necessary to stop the red ink, I will refuse to go along with giving the Government any more borrowing authority.

We are saddled with a $29 trillion national debt because the Federal government spends too much. It’s really just that simple. It’s not because we are under-taxed.

While Congress jumps ineffectively from one day’s “crisis” to the next, they stubbornly refuse to deal with what may very well be the single greatest threat to the economy, our children’s futures, and in fact, our national security. They refuse to stop the deficit spending.

If cutting up the credit card is what it takes, then that is what we must do.

EDUCATION

Parents must be empowered to choose the right education for their children. Not bureaucrats. Not teachers unions. School Choice, funding that follows the child — not the school district, and fewer federal mandates will allow us to prepare our young people for the economies of today and tomorrow, rather than the 1950’s.

The Federal Department of Education was created almost 40 years ago. It has spent hundreds of billions of our tax dollars, and managed to extend its bureaucratic reach into every corner of the American classroom.

What it has NOT done is improve education for our kids.

To the contrary, the U.S. has fallen behind many other nations, with consequences that endure for generations. Control of education must be returned to the local and state levels, and we need to get the bureaucrats out of the way of the innovation, investment and freedom that will return the U.S. to its rightful leadership in the quality of education our young people deserve and need.

CIVIL RIGHTS

Civil Rights & Discrimination

In Congress, my voice will be one in support of steady, responsible progress toward removing discrimination in all its forms.

Government’s most basic responsibility is to protect its citizens from harm, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation — and I know from personal experience that discrimination IS harm, whether it be denying an individual the opportunity of a job, a place to live, the chance to adopt a child who needs a home, or the rights granted to married couples.

As has happened many times throughout our history, the government is struggling to eliminate deeply-held prejudices from our laws and policies. It is, unavoidably, a painful process.

Adoption Saves Lives

Medical decisions are the most personal decisions any person faces, and we must always be very cautious about involving the government in the difficult choices life can present. As the father of two adopted children, I am deeply troubled when abortion becomes a matter of personal or social convenience. There are alternatives, and I believe we should offer support — not judgement — for those who find themselves dealing with the most difficult of choices. That is especially true when a pregnancy results from rape or incest, or seriously threatens a woman’s life or health.

Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for decades, and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. While reasonable people holding deeply-held beliefs can disagree, that decision establishes certain rights and limitations regarding abortion — and is today the legal framework within which policies and laws must be enacted. That’s how our system works.

As medical advances occur and our understanding of viability changes, we must deal with them in a civil, respectful manner.

OPIOID CRISIS

The opioid crisis facing Massachusetts and America requires Congress to act with reform measures that include block grants to the states, allowing them to provide greater treatment options, not jails.
The opioid crisis is a personal one to me. My son’s birth mother was addicted to opioids. Just two years ago, I lost a cousin to an overdose of opioids. I watched my son fight to breathe through the first 3 ½ years of his life while his young lungs recovered from the damage the opioids caused him while in his mother’s womb.

Much like big tobacco, drug manufacturers responsible for the lies to Congress, the FDA and medical providers that opioids were not addictive must be held accountable. They must pay fines in the hundreds of billions of dollars, with the funds directed to the states to help deal with their opioid crises. In Massachusetts, where are opioid crisis is double the national average, we have had over 18,000 opioid deaths just in the short life of my teenage daughter.

The U.S. Attorney General must investigate and explain to the American people why the pharmaceutical industry, their lobbyists, the FDA and the politicians have been allowed to create a deadly crisis.

We need a responsible government to pay attention to the hundreds of thousands of lives lost across our country due to the opioid epidemic created by drug manufacturers. The drug cartels could not produce all the heroin or synthetic drugs if drug manufacturers didn’t create the market in the first place while the government turned a blind eye.

Virtually every American family and business has experienced the opioid crisis. It’s time for business leaders and the American people to stand up and hold their politicians and drug manufacturers accountable. No more deaths. If it is found that drug manufacturers lied or withheld information about the addictive nature of opioids, those responsible should be prosecuted and sent to jail. After all, tens of thousands of American citizens have had their lives destroyed, gone to jail and had their employment opportunities devastated by criminal records due to addictions that began with a prescribed drug. Massachusetts in 2015 prescribed 240 million opioid pills. We only have 6.4 million residents. It has to stop.

The federal government’s most basic responsibility is to protect us from harm. Block grants will help states develop prevention, intervention, and treatment programs. The federal government and the states must work together to implement all available options for not sending the addicted to jail, but helping them enter comprehensive treatment programs which will offer recovery rather than criminal records. An addict trying to recover will be more successful when they don’t carry the burden of having to face the employment and personal consequences of a criminal record.

This is a fight we can win in Massachusetts and across this great nation. We as American citizens must demand that our federal government and the criminal justice system hold the drug manufacturers and the FDA accountable for the deaths that are on their hands. For those nonviolent victims who have already been convicted of addiction-related crimes, The President and the nation’s Governors should pardon them.


DAYCARES

As an owner-operator of an Early Education and Care Center, I’ve watched for years as the EEC requires new regulations and places burdens upon Childcare Providers with no regard to cost or student population, nor differences from program to program. EEC follows a one-size-fits-all attitude.

These challenges with the government begin with the simple fact that the bureaucrats don’t understand the realities of Early Education and Care.

Early Education and Care studies focus on proving that certain models work, rather than looking at our widely varying types of staffing and student populations. Studies of Perry and Abecedarian programs come up with a per-student cost of $22,000 per year, compared to the reality of less than $7000 per student in most programs. Bad information such as this, however, is too often used to create the regulations forced upon Early Childhood and Care Centers, and Daycare providers – regardless of size or actual per-student costs.

Grover J “Russ” Whitehurst of the Brookings Institution concluded that extrapolating studies of Perry and Abecedarian programs is like a TV spokesperson for Weight Watchers demonstrating the impact of joining a diet program.

Studies such as those of Boston pre-school programs and Chicago Child Parent Centers are widely cited and used, but employed questionable standards — and didn’t track students over time.

The Head Start Impact Study (HSIS) of Federal Head Start Programs was one of the most ambitious, methodologically rigorous and expensive federal studies ever, costing $8.5 billion. Drawing from sample size of 2600 students and 23 states, HSIS found modest gains in math, reading and some positive effects on social behaviors from Head Start. However, a 2016 study by the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution and others found children in these controlled groups leveled out to be at roughly the same levels by the end of kindergarten as children with no Pre-School. (Reference: Cato Institute)

The billions of dollars the Federal and State Government spends on Early Education and Care do not need to be cut. However, the WAY those dollars are spent needs to change dramatically. Agencies like EEC must work better with actual program providers and daycare providers. Programs need to meet local community needs, not a one-size-fits-all approach from the Federal and State Governments. Agencies like EEC should be working with local schools’ K-3 and local Early Education and Care programs to meet the unique needs and challenges of individual communities. Some communities need help with non-English-speaking students, and need tools to teach English in the 2.9-5 year-old age group. Other communities’ needs are very different. EEC and other agencies must have the staff and flexibility to be effective partners with those communities. My commitment to all Daycare providers and Early Education and Care providers is simple: An open line of communication, including state-of-the-art tools such as online forums, quarterly reports on progress, and direct avenues for your valued input.

It will not be easy to take on entrenched government bureaucracies and special interest groups that will do everything to try and stop me. But I have never shied away from taking on bureaucracies.

NATIONAL SECURITY

“Peace Through Strength” was more than a slogan.

It was — and remains — the key to the security of not only the United States, but the free world. Our military must be unequaled, both in strength and technology. At the same time, it is time that we take a hard look at nation-building and military interventions that lack clear justification or even objectives.

If it doesn’t make us safer, then we must ask: “Why are we doing it?”. The lives of our military servicemen and women are too precious to put at risk for anything other than making us more secure.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

We are blessed to live in a nation founded upon the notion that individuals enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms.

But no one said it would be easy to protect — and balance — those freedoms.

One of the most precious of our rights, embodied in the very First Amendment to the Constitution, is that of religious freedom. Our right to believe what we believe and to exercise our faiths is, truly, foundational. But as with all individual rights, religious freedom is not a license to do harm to others. Nor do civil rights somehow negate religious freedoms.

The key, as is often the case, is a common sense balance. At times in our history, religion has been invoked to justify discrimination against many groups, including Jews, Catholics, people of color, and yes, members of the LGBT community. Decades ago, Members of Congress stood in the House Chamber and justified laws banning interracial marriage on scriptural grounds.

But as with all individual rights, religious freedom is not a license to do harm to others. Nor do civil rights somehow negate religious freedoms.

Over time, legislatures, Congress, and the Courts have largely eliminated — at least in law — those excesses, those instances when religious freedom was used to discriminate. In short, a balance was achieved.

In state capitals and courtrooms across the nation, the effort to find that balance is again playing out in debates and lawsuits about whether a business is legally required to sell goods or services that may conflict with the business owner’s religious beliefs. Specifically, the question has arisen: Does a bakery or photography service have to serve a same-sex wedding, even if the business owner or employee holds beliefs that do not accept such marriages?

It’s not an easy question.

On one hand, there are literally hundreds of years of precedent and law suggesting that, when a business opens its doors to the public, that business enters into an “implied contract” to serve ALL the public. This notion of public accommodation is firmly established, and is basic to many anti-discrimination laws in states and municipalities across the nation.

Our right to believe what we believe and to exercise our faiths is, truly, foundational.

On the other hand, no law can negate our most basic First Amendment rights, including religious beliefs. Personally, as a gay, married man, I cannot imagine ever wanting to patronize a business whose owner didn’t “approve” of me or my marriage. And I personally wouldn’t want to use the force of government to require anyone to defy his or her religious beliefs.

It is my hope that the Supreme Court will succeed in finding that elusive balance between religious freedom and discrimination.


IMMIGRATION

Securing our border is critical to the sovereignty of our nation. Yet, there are more than 10 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. today. That’s unacceptable.

We know that the vast majority of these individuals are good people and mean no harm to the United States. In fact, the majority didn’t even cross the border illegally. For many different reasons, they came here legally — and just stayed. How do we solve the problem with compassion, while adhering to our laws. To me it’s simple.

Provide adequate funds to secure our borders and points of entry.

Allow eligible “DACA” immigrants to gain legal status and apply for citizenship through the same process available to all legal immigrants and permanent residents. They are the most vetted population in America. We know who they are, and how they came to be here.

Change our Immigration Laws to speed up legal immigration, while insuring our safety. Merit based immigration is important. It’s simply not fair to ask Americans to pay the bills for immigrants coming to America, other than those true refugees for whom we have a long tradition of providing temporary assistance.

All remaining undocumented immigrants should have 1 year to come out of the shadows and follow a process similar to that of Dreamers. They must follow the same path. After 10 years of legal status and maintaining a clean record, they would be eligible to apply for Citizenship under the normal process. For those who willingly come forward and prove themselves, there is no reason to permanently foreclose the opportunity to become citizens. When they have paid their dues as legal participants in our economy and society, the American Dream and its promise should be available. Immigrants are vital to America, and their contributions should be recognized — including the opportunity to vote, pay taxes and otherwise enjoy the privileges of citizenship.

Reasonable fees for applying for legal status should be established. Punitive “fines” will only serve to discourage undocumented immigrants from coming out of the shadows and achieving legal status.


Second Amendment

The Second Amendment means what it says. Law-abiding Americans have the right to keep and bear arms.

VETERANS

There is no excuse for failing our veterans.

In recent years, we have seen far too many instances of failure in the Federal government’s treatment of our veterans. There is no excuse for such failure. Our veterans deserve the best medical care, emotional and family support, and employment assistance we can provide.

The bureaucracy has failed our veterans, and it must be fixed. Now. Accountability, flexibility in hiring, and greater access to private medical care are all reforms that must be enacted immediately.

CLIMATE & ENERGY

Climate change is real, and denial of it is not a policy. But, man-made causes of climate change don’t recognize borders, and neither do the impacts. The United States cannot bear the burden alone of reducing emissions, transitioning to cleaner technologies and finding solutions. Nations such as China and India cannot be allowed to shirk their responsibilities at our competitive expense.

Likewise, we cannot fall into the convenient trap of treating CO2 emissions as the only contributing factor. Forest management in the U.S. is a disgrace. Ocean dumping by irresponsible players around the globe is killing reefs. Deforestation is robbing us of the ability to let nature and the atmosphere heal itself.

There are many steps we can take, from placing modest taxes on plastics to fund recycling to holding our trading partners responsible for their contributions to climate change. But we can’t take them alone.

Energy independence must be a priority, not just for the environment, but for our national security. Waging wars across the globe because we are held hostage to oil supplies must be a thing of the past. Policies that simply shift energy production from the U.S. to other, less responsible, nations do nothing to slow climate change — or to improve the quality of life for our own people.

Criminal Justice Reform

At the most basic level, the role of government is to help keep us safe, while preserving fundamental rights under the Constitution. In no other aspect of society is that more important than our criminal justice system. Police. Courts. Prisons. We give them all incredible power over human lives — and we have to get it right.

Unfortunately, from the failed War on Drugs to understandable, but real, over-reactions to the tragedy of 9-11, we have NOT always gotten it right. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Higher than Russia, China, Mexico, Pakistan or anywhere in Africa. That’s an incredible fact. Not only does it point to very real problems with our criminal justice system, but the sheer dollar cost to taxpayers is ridiculous.
Likewise, regardless of political party or ideology, we cannot ignore the facts about race and criminal justice. A black person in the United States is four times more likely to end up in jail than a white person. That cannot just be explained away. It tells us there is something very wrong.

As it should be, most criminal justice is carried out by the states, and many state legislatures have and continue to enact needed reforms. However, there is much Congress can and should do:

  • First, there are simply too many “federal” crimes. Congress should not make something a federal crime unless it involves interstate or international acts. Politicians in Washington don’t need to outlaw activities that are already crimes under state jurisdiction.
  • Congress should encourage the creation of courts that deal specifically with veterans, substance abuse, mental illness, and others for whom traditional criminal courts cannot offer effective “justice”. Mandatory minimum sentences and “three strike” laws that tie the hands of the Courts should be revisited.
  • Prison beds should be reserved for those who present real threats to society — not those who simply cannot pay fines, make bail, or suffer from nonviolent addictions.
  • “Defunding” the police is obviously a ridiculous notion. However, that does not mean police departments, courts and the rest of the criminal justice system should not be held accountable for the tax dollars they spend. Where appropriate, resources should be directed to results-oriented programs and personnel who can reduce harm, keep us safe and focus on real solutions to domestic violence, trafficking, substance abuse, etc.


There are many other steps we must take, but the goal must be to reduce incarceration rates, insure that justice is fair, regardless of race, finances or social status, and insure that our billions in tax dollars are being used effectively to make our communities safer — and better.


Income Inequality and Poverty

We have been waging a “War on Poverty” for decades. It hasn’t worked. Yes, there have been some improvements under various welfare reforms, but too many of our social programs have the effect of locking Americans into a cycle of dependence rather than helping them achieve their dreams for themselves and their families.
In my years as an owner of daycare centers, I have seen it too many times: A single mom gets a job, makes a little money — and loses the benefits she needs to keep climbing the ladder. It shouldn’t “cost” her money to do the right thing.

America has never guaranteed equal incomes or wealth. What we should be striving to insure is equal opportunity. A child growing up in poverty should have a fair shot at a better life, whether that means access to community college or technical school, or a social safety net that rewards, rather than penalizes, hard work and progress.

Government’s role is not to be our overlord or a nanny. It is to remove unfair obstacles, while providing the basic support every American needs to achieve and take advantage of the opportunities this great nation offers. That’s not socialism. It’s not Big Brother. It’s making sure the American Dream is within reach to all.

Endless Wars

We sent our young men and women into Afghanistan 19 years ago to find Osama Bin Laden and destroy the terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11. That was appropriate.

Within a year, the terrorists were largely gone — scattered to other regions. Their government sympathizers were overthrown. Bin Laden is dead. But…our young men and women are still there, engaged in a futile effort to defy thousands of years of history.

Our involvement in Iraq was — and remains — a similar story. It is difficult to argue that our military engagement there has improved the lives of anyone, or made us safer.

Our Constitution sought to limit the power of presidents to engage in military actions in foreign lands. Congress has shamefully, and I believe, illegally ignored its responsibility to enforce those limits and its war powers. It’s time to bring our troops home, stop throwing good money after bad, and allow our amazing military to focus on what they signed up for: Keeping America safe and free.

Term Limits

In many respects, career politicians aren’t just a problem. They ARE the problem. Americans overwhelmingly support term limits. It is long past time that we enact them. I support a constitutional amendment to limit Members of the House to three terms (six years) and U.S. Senators to two six-year terms.