Janelle Noble for VA
7th Congressional District
Please check back here often, as we continue to build out our policy platform, we will be adding new issues. I am looking forward to hearing from the constituents of our district, hearing your ideas, and incorporating them into our platform.
Return to a Representative Democracy
Above all else, the number one issue we face with government is that our representatives don’t listen to the people. This country was founded by the people and has a government that should serve for the people. Currently, our representatives, by and large, do not fulfill that duty. Thought and debate seems to have been lost in the partisan fighting we witness daily. Congressmen and women do not talk to their constituents unless they have donated large dollar amounts to their campaigns. They have no empathy for the real problems and fears that are talked about at kitchen tables across this nation. These fears are real for both Democrats and Republicans. So many representatives serve as a ‘yea’ vote for their party on all issues. They do not seem to have the capability to vote ‘nay’ when it defies the party but helps the people. The people deserve better and need to demand better. This demand can only happen when people are engaged and vote.
The word of the day in regards to the current threats to our democracy, and in many ways the reason why our representatives don't listen to their constituents, is gerrymandering. While I believe that we should do everything we can to end this practice, I also believe that if we were to begin to elect leaders that represent the values of their constituents over the beliefs of their party, or even their own personal beliefs, gerrymandering will cease to be an effective political strategy. We must seek to elect pragmatic leaders who will above all else, listen to the needs of their constituents instead of continuing to peddle the one-size-fits-all party platforms that don’t improve the lives of everyday Americans while introducing distraction and obfuscation designed to confuse voters and widen divisions.
When I turn on the TV, open a newspaper, visit the various news sources on the internet, or log on to social media, I constantly hear talk about how divided we are as a nation. In reality, when I get together with friends, family, and neighbors, and we talk about politics, I am reminded that we are not as divided as we think. While we will never agree on everything, when we have these conversations, I realize that we have much to learn from one another, and we must all remind ourselves that politics is not a zero-sum game. Every day, Americans engage in political conversations that do not reflect the conjured images of a deeply divided nation, as it is not everyday Americans who are deeply divided, but the politicians themselves, who have intentionally created these divisions in order to serve their own political ambitions. If we can return to a truly representative democracy, where our leaders do not just simply tell voters what they think they want to hear in hopes of earning their vote, but simply ask voters what they think, hear their stories, and work on their behalf, only then, can we begin to end the partisan gridlock that has caused so many Americans to lose faith in our political system.
Supporting our Local Farms through Sustainable Agriculture
The largest industry in Virginia is Agriculture. This industry alone has an economic impact of $52 billion dollars annually and employs more than 300,000 Virginians. Almost 90% of all Virginia farms are family or individual owned, which makes farmers the largest small business community in the state. Farms account for 32% of all land in the Commonwealth.
Along with protecting our water supply, we must prioritize protecting our farmland. There are many benefits to investing more of our time, energy and attention to our local farming community. By investing in sustainable farm initiatives, we will be tackling one of the largest threats of the changing climate: lower crop yields and an increase in worldwide famine. We will also be fighting back against corporations, like Monsanto, who push GMOs as the solution to threats of drought and lack of pollination due to declining bee populations while driving down the wholesale prices of produce making it harder for smaller, family owned farms to compete.
Sustainable Agriculture refers to the use of farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, communities, and animal welfare. It is a chance for our country to prove to younger generations that we care about growing healthy food today and in the future. We also need to work to reduce food waste and educate our children on where their food comes from. Ask yourself one question: Where does your child think their food comes from, farms or a grocery store?
Taking Care of Our Veterans
I am frankly sick of politicians paying lip service to our veterans and the men and women currently serving in our armed forces in order to get an applause, while accomplishing very little of substance in a way that truly addresses the needs of our most revered citizens. We must acknowledge that while our nation has created the finest military training regimen in the history of mankind, in addition to training our soldiers to go to war, we must also train them to come home.
I believe that all service members who have been honorably discharged or who have retired from our military should be guaranteed meaningful employment. If I am elected, I pledge to pursue legislation that will guarantee federal civil service jobs to any veteran who wishes to continue to serve their country in a civilian role. There are approximately 500,000 currently unemployed veterans in the U.S., including approximately 50,000 who are currently homeless, the majority of whom feel betrayed by the country they have served. The president has propsed a $54 billion increase in annual military spending, which is enough money to pay every single one of our unemployed veterans a $100,000 salary! We have a moral imperative to provide meaningful employment for those who have made sacrifices and put their life on the line to serve the country they love. By guaranteeing employment to our veterans, we will send a powerful message to members of the younger generation who may be considering military service that should they make the choice to honorably serve their country, they will have a future beyond their service.
I also believe that in order to ensure that our veterans are employable when their military careers have ended, we must reform the VA to better address veteran health care needs without forcing them to wait months or even years to receive care. I propose that we extend TRICARE benefits to all veterans who have received an honorable discharge, not just retirees and Medal of Honor recipients. This will free up valuable VA resources, which can be redirected to focus on the acute healthcare needs of our veterans that are more specialized, such as PTSD, TBI, prosthetics, and suicide prevention.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs….
We have lost our moral obligation to a large portion of Americans. Our country has thrived by innovating and developing new ideas, procedures and products. We are a nation that has built the future. Eli Whitney created the cotton gin, Harold Ford created the assembly line, our government funded polio vaccines and created the internet. We are the people that think creatively, turning dreams into reality, having produced the greatest advancement of civilization in the history of mankind during the relatively short 200 years since the beginning of the industrial revolution. We need to once again forge a path to a better life. We need the government to stop worrying about rich people getting richer and make sure the working class is thriving.
Unions were formed in the late 1800s to protect workers. They strongly opposed substandard work environments and made sure people were paid fairly. These are traits the American people should continue to demand. We are at a pivotal point in worker’s rights. The internet has created an unending ability to work. We work. ALL THE TIME! In too many instances, if we don’t work ten, twelve, fourteen hour days, we are considered unworthy of the job. The haves want to keep their place in society; the have-nots need to demand a seat at the table. We cannot be bullied into a place of submission and allow the rich to distract us with metaphorical shiny objects like nominal tax breaks for the middle class, while they continue to take more and more from every day workers and demand larger and larger tax breaks for themselves. We need to demand NOW that we have a say in our own future.
We need to encourage more businesses to offer both full and part-time telecommuting opportunities. It is my belief that any job from customer service and sales, to IT, where the majority of duties are performed on a computer, can be performed from home. In doing so, we can make jobs in our cities available to rural areas, while removing a significant amount of traffic from our roads. We can create the opportunity for a single mother living in Louisa County to work a customer service job in New York City. We can create the opportunity for a software engineer living in Goochland County to work for a tech company in Silicon Valley. There are currently over 5 million unfilled jobs in the United States, many of which can be filled by employees that don’t necessarily live nearby. As an added benefit, we can literally give workers hours of their life back each day, time that they would otherwise spend in long commutes.
The Infrastructure of the Future
In order to create the jobs of the future, and continue to support a thriving economy, we must have the infrastructure to match. Our efforts aimed at creating jobs become meaningless if the people that work those newly created jobs are forced to spend hours in traffic just getting to work. Our leaders in Washington D.C. should understand this issue, as they only need look outside of their own office windows at the gridlock on our highways during rush hour and consider the billions of dollars in productivity that is lost nationwide, simply due to amount of time people spend in their cars in heavy traffic.
We must make it a priority to make high speed internet service available to all. The majority of the talk regarding infrastructure is focused on roads and bridges, but it is worth noting that it is significantly cheaper to lay fiber-optic cable than it is to pave a road. If we are to encourage more businesses to offer full and part time telecommuting opportunities, we must work to ensure that the people who fill those roles have access to affordable broadband internet.
Public Education Needs Support Not Vouchers
Education is one of the cornerstones of a democracy. Once upon a time, local governments and communities could take on the task of educating their children to fill their own needs by providing a basic education that would, to paraphrase the words of Thomas Jefferson, teach them to read, write and perform arithmetic. We now live in a different time. The federal government still needs to play a large role in crafting appropriate, basic education standards. We have built a world where mobility plays a central part in many lives. People relocate every day in pursuit of higher education, for better paying jobs, or to live closer to family. We need to have confidence that after we make a move to a different school district, county or state that our children will continue to have the same basic standards of education. We must be mindful, however, that outside of the basic guidelines, schools must be given the flexibility to teach to the needs of their students and to utilize the specific skills of their teachers.
We hear so much about the idea of school choice. WE HAVE SCHOOL CHOICE! They may not be perfect choices, but we have it. You can choose to send your child to public schools, private schools, charter schools, home schools and, in some areas, pay to send your child to an alternative public school. That is a lot of choices! The top concern I have with the shallow "school choice" initiatives that are currently being proposed, is that by allowing people to take tax money away from their local public school to send their children outside of that school district, "school choice" will only serve to further weaken our public schools. This only helps the wealthy Americans. All of the choices besides public schools require time and transportation. Both of those are options that wealthier Americans have in excess. The rest of Americans need school buses and cannot afford to pay for tuition, teach children at home, or take time off work to drive kids to and from school.
Vouchers will cause an increase in budget inequality frequent in our school systems. Public schools have been facing budget problems since well before the financial crisis, but in the years since 2008 when the financial markets collapsed, our public schools have been facing an unprecedented budget crisis that threatens to undermine the entire concept of public education. It is imperative that we recognize that there is a small handful of billionaires that stand to profit immensely from the failure of our public schools. They have been working for years to undermine our school systems in the hopes that one day, we will become desperate enough for quality education that we are willing to give our tax dollars to them instead. School vouchers will only increase pressure on public schools and squeeze their already thinly stretched budgets. At the same time, school vouchers will cause a similar rise in cost at private schools that we have been experiencing in college tuition fees. Lastly, weakening our public schools will throw a proverbial wrench in home value prices. One of the many ways to price homes has, historically, been public school ratings. How do we adjust to a new reality where public school is no longer part of the equation?
Higher Education Needs Accountability
Colleges need to start doing their job, which is to educate the new generation. They need to be held accountable in their mission. We cannot keep funding a system that fails. It is not enough to simply throw money at the problem. The more money we provide to support higher education, the more colleges and universities raise their tuition rates. I believe that all higher education institutions that receive Federal funds, including PELL Grants, Stafford Loans, and federal research grants should have to demonstrate to the taxpayers that they are providing a positive return on investment when they see their hard earned dollars directed toward higher education.
Student loan debt is approaching crisis levels. We demand our people to take out an extraordinary amount of debt to get a job…with no guarantee on investment! Why? As the cost of higher education outpaces inflation by a factor of six to one, students of our higher education institutions are forced to take on more and more untenable amounts of debt in order to fund their education, while seeing the expected return on investment dwindle. Compounding this issue, graduate and post-graduate level interest rates are approaching levels similar to credit cards. If we are to avert a crisis, where the burden of student loan debt causes the student loan bubble to burst, we need to bring student loan interest rates in line with the 10-year Treasury Bill and offer holders of existing student loan debt, especially holders of graduate and post-graduate debt the opportunity to refinance their loans at a lower rate.
Lastly, our current higher education system has placed too much focus on traditional subjects with the goal of providing a well-balanced education, while jobs-focused education is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Over the next 25 years, we will be facing a large shortage of skilled trade workers, including machinists, electricians, masons, and iron workers as our aging population of specialists retire. We need to extend our definition of higher education to include education in trade-work and offer the same levels of support for institutions that offer training in those areas to produce the next generation of skilled workers.