PROVIDENCE — David Segal, 42, co-founder of national advocacy org. Demand Progress, strategist on efforts to defeat SOPA, fight mass surveillance, protect Net Neutrality, and oppose corporate power, is one of six candidates for U.S. Representative of RI Dist. 2.
The former Providence City Councillor, and RI General Assembly Rep. in Dist. 2 (East Providence and Providence) has pointed out that progress on many national problems faces an initial hurdle of corporate special interests. Segal supports Medicare for All, significant investment in green infrastructure, anti-monopoly policies and corporate regulation to make the economy more democratic and competitive. He has won the endorsements of Vermont U.S. Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, as well as Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren.
During the Sept. 13 primary, Democratic voters will consider which candidate is the best to represent their interests, but also which candidate can do that and still win the general election.
To provide voters with better insight into each candidate’s positions, ideas and views of the future, WarwickPost.com has asked each candidate eight questions, giving them equal time to reply. All responses from the candidates have been published at the same time.
Candidates were urged to answer the questions directly: “An answer which skirts the subject or reads as a deliberate attempt to avoid the question will be registered as a failure to answer the question.” Only three of the six candidates responded to the questionnaire sent out Sept. 1: Sara Morgenthau, Omar Bah, and Segal.
Here are Segal’s answers:
1. What do you make of the candidates left off the debate stage during the WPRI candidate debate?
SEGAL: I generally think inclusion would’ve been preferable. My understanding is that Nexstar (
WPRI 12’s parent company) made the rules in question — not being able to take into account local factors in a situation like this is but one of many problems with increased consolidation and less local control over the media space.
2. You’ve indicated your support for a woman’s right to choose protected by law at the federal level. What is your objection to the state-by-state approach?
SEGAL: I’m glad that we’ve retained access to reproductive rights here (though we must still ease access for state employees and those receiving Medicaid) and I was a cosponsor of the codification of Roe when I served in the House. But reproductive freedom is a fundamental right – like any fundamental right, it should be enshrined in federal law so that it cannot be denied by local jurisdictions.
3. Are term limits the best way to curb politicization of the Supreme Court? Please explain.
SEGAL: The Supreme Court has been taken over by a nexus of reactionary social forces and big business, based on an intentional plan they’ve implemented over recent decades. Term limits are one reform that I support, alongside other measures we might consider to ensure that the Supreme Court represents all of us, not just the far right and corporations. And in the end this will come down to making sure Democrats run on popular programs and win elections.
4. The race for this Congressional seat in November has been characterized as a choice between conservative and liberal concerns, although Republican candidate Alan Fung has demonstrated support of former President Donald Trump during his abuses of political norms, disrespect for veterans, rhetorical and material attacks on America’s long-running record of peaceful transition of power, his documented involvement in stirring the Jan. 6 insurrection and unexplained delay of and reluctance to defend the Capitol and Congress. Do you consider yourself a more conservative politician than Fung in this regard?
SEGAL: My strong opposition to Donald Trump’s dangerous and abhorrent behavior, and my strong support for preserving our democracy, are rooted in democratic values. These values are foundational to our system and in a more reasonable world would not be considered either liberal or conservative. My hope is both to conserve our democracy, and to improve upon it, through voting and money-in-politics reforms that I’ve long supported.
5. The person who succeeds Congressman Jim Langevin representing this district in Congress will need to win bipartisan support for their efforts during an unprecedented period of divisive sentiment. How will you balance the need to work with Republicans as their party and their members embrace authoritarian ideas?
SEGAL: I have a 20-year track record of fighting corporate special interests and political corruption. Along the way, I’ve managed to build broad coalitions of progressive and traditional Democrats and, yes, even some Republicans, to achieve significant change without compromising my vision for a just and equitable society. For instance, majorities of rank-and-file Republicans agree that corporations have too much power over our political system, or that we should institute a wealth tax on those with more than $50 million, or that we should oppose corporate trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP. If I can find common ground with them in order to pass legislation that might limit the power of corporate special interests, I will do so. However, I will not compromise my opposition to authoritarianism for any purpose. Whatever happens, I will fight to preserve our democracy.
6. What legislation would be your first priority, and what is your plan to win support for it in Congress?
My priority would be taking measures to make sure the economy is more fair, and one where everybody can flourish. That means things like: 1) A progressive response to inflation (attacking price gouging and instituting an excess profit tax). 2) Breaking up and regulating the corporate monopolies that have too much power over workers, consumers, and small businesses. 3) Instituting universal healthcare (I support Medicare for all and am proud to have the endorsement of Bernie Sanders). 4) Making it easier to form unions, and raising the minimum wage. 5) Transitioning to a green economy. 6) Protecting and expanding programs like Social Security.
And that’s just a start. We don’t know what the next Congress will look like: Some of these measures will be far easier to pass if Democrats maintain control of the House and Senate, which increasingly seems plausible. Some, as noted above, are areas where there’s some cross-partisan agreement — especially around taking on monopoly power.
7. Where would you turn to for ideas on how Congress can curb inflation? What efforts do you consider the most likely to win support in Congress?
I work with organizations like the Groundwork Collaborative, the American Economic Liberties Project, and the Center for Economic and Policy Research to identify ways to overcome outsized corporate power and create an economy that’s more fair.
Inflation is hurting working families right now. While there are a number of complicated geopolitical factors that contribute to inflation – like the invasion of Ukraine and the COVID-19 crisis – the main culprit over which we have control is giant corporations that have too much power over our economy.
We’ve allowed for the creation of monopolies that have pricing power. We’ve implemented corporate trade deals that create thin supply lines that are easily disrupted, and we’ve off-shored production of necessities. (The microchip industry is an obvious case of this.) And the fossil fuel industry has stymied the transition to renewables — if we’d transitioned years ago we wouldn’t be dealing with inflation driven by gas prices.
To take a couple of specific examples:
Look at the baby formula crisis. Abbott Laboratories — with more than 40 percent national market share (and far higher in some states) — acted with the sort of impunity common to monopolies, since they don’t have to worry much about competition. They allowed contamination at a major plant to fester and that plant was belatedly forced to shut down production, upending millions of lives and putting our most vulnerable at risk.
The sharp rise in oil prices can be thought of similarly. The major oil companies have seen record profits of tens of billions of dollars this year. One would think that such a significant oil shortage would cut into their profits just as prices rise for us at the pump – but the opposite is true. These companies are exploiting the crisis to price gouge struggling consumers – and laughing all the way to the bank.
The federal government must step in by taxing excess profits and more. I will take on price gouging corporations and work to lower prices across the board.
8. Where would you most like to increase domestic spending in Rhode Island? What is your plan to accomplish that increase?
I support a Green New Deal, which could disproportionately benefit us because of our abundant access to wind and water. (I’m proud to have overseen passage of many renewable energy measures during my time as a local and state lawmaker.) The Inflation Reduction Act makes important investments in green energy and efficiency — but if we’re going to stave off the worst impacts of climate change we need to do more to increase renewables production and invest in transmission and batteries and efficiency. In the process we can create good jobs and make our society healthier by reducing pollutants.
9. President Joe Biden’s recent move to forgive $10,000 of student debt has caused much celebration and griping. Would you support rolling back the undue hardship requirement for student loans that was expanded with then-senator Biden’s support and vote under the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act?
I, like the 60% or so of Americans in recent polls, support Biden’s move to forgive $10,000 for all borrowers and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients — as one part of a broad program to build a fairer economy for everybody. More than 40 million people are benefiting directly — and so will their families and their communities over years to come. The 2005 bankruptcy rule changes were an abomination, and are part of why the debt burden has become unbearable for so many. I’m proud to have the support of Elizabeth Warren, who was one of the most vocal opponents of those measures at the time. We need to do more to make college accessible — I support measures to allow everybody access to a free, high quality, college education. The federal government should also work to keep down administrative and other costs that have been skyrocketing.
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