Skip Sandman for U.S. House of Representatives

Giving voice to the people of Minnesota's 8th District
Elect Skip!

Addressing Wealth Inequality

A graph that shows the growing degree of wealth inequality from 1963 to 2016I believe wealth inequality is the greatest threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in America. Currently, the richest 32.7 million Americans (10%) control 76% of the wealth in our country. Even more outrageous, 327,000 Americans, the richest .1%, control as much wealth as 294 million Americans (90%). We have 43 million Americans living in poverty. Those numbers are disproportionately women, children and our communities of color.

Since 1963, the wealth of the richest 1% has increased seven fold. Coincidentally, in 1960, the highest tax rate was 91% now it is 39%, prior to the tax plan that was just passed by the Republican Congress. How many times must we implement a trickle down economy to find out once again that it does not work? There is no justification for a tax cut for the wealthiest 10%.

With a moderate tax increase on the richest 10%, along with prioritizing our military expenditures, we could fund universal health care and free college for all Americans.

A federal minimum wage of $15 is a fair starting place to stimulate the economy and elevate our struggling middle class. This would give employees more income to buy necessary goods and services, thus giving our economy the boost it needs to begin moving and expand the tax base. As Senator Paul Wellstone was famous for saying: “We all do better, when we all better.”

Corporate greed and unfair trade deals like NAFTA have spurred the exodus of America’s core of manufacturing jobs out sourced to foreign countries. This has led to the stagnation and decline of workers’ wages and benefits here in the United States as American workers compete with substandard wages paid to workers in other countries. I will fight the job killing Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal to help strengthen and bring back our manufacturing and taconite mining jobs here in the 8th Congressional district.

The tax plan that was just passed by the Republicans in congress will add trillions to our deficit. This debt will be passed on to our children and their children if we do not stop it. I will vote to repeal the tax plan that will take effect in 2019.

There have been those in our government who have used the Social Security trust fund as if it is their personal slush account and stolen from it at the detriment of citizens who have worked their entire lives paying into it. This has the effect of making Social Security look under funded in order to call for raising the retirement age or the privatization of Social Security. I will fight the raid on the Social Security trust fund, eliminate the cap on wages that Social Security is paid on, lower retirement age and increase the cost of living adjustments.

I will work for and support an amendment to the US Constitution to unequivocally state that inalienable rights belong exclusively to human beings. Money is not form of protected free speech protected under the first amendment and can be regulated for political campaigns. I truly believe this would return our government of the people back to the people of the United States of America.

Common Sense Gun Reform

As a veteran, with two tours of duty in Vietnam, I have seen gun violence firsthand. I feel extremely saddened and outraged that there are 17 families in Florida who are now grieving their murdered loved ones. It is especially tragic that so many of these were just kids in high school with basically their whole lives in front of them. They lost their lives, the rest of us live in fear, and our pursuit of happiness is diminished by this loss.

These mass shootings seem to be increasing in frequency and in size. We need to reduce that trend with the goal of ending them.  There are many factors to consider, but the most obvious place to start is with the murderer’s weapons.

The FBI now defines a mass shooting as one that has 3 or more victims (not including the shooters themselves). There have been 97 mass shootings in the last 35 years. A majority of the weapons involved in these mass shootings were semi-automatic handguns, most with high capacity magazines. However, many of the largest mass shootings lately have been done with “military style” assault rifles.  Those modern long guns have very little recoil, are light, and easy to aim and shoot. Modified with a bump stock and larger magazines, they are extremely efficient killing machines.

Mass shootings inspired Congress to pass a ban on the production of assault weapons in 1994. Included in the bill were several definitions of assault weapons including some for semi-automatic pistols and large capacity magazines.  It also listed 650 weapons that Americans would still be able to buy with the ban in place. Unfortunately, the assault weapons ban had a sunset provision and expired in 2004. Efforts to reinstate a ban, have failed so far.

Interestingly enough, of the 13 largest mass shootings in US History, only Columbine in 1999, (the lowest in size of those 13) happened while the assault weapons ban was in effect. Also, Columbine was the only one of the 13 done by two shooters, the rest had only one.  Clearly, the assault weapons ban of 1994 had a positive effect to reduce the number and size of mass shootings.

I fully support legislation to re-implement the provisions of the 1994 assault weapon ban. I also want us to strengthen it by grandfathering in the law-abiding current gun owners affected, but not allowing them to transfer ownership of the assault weapon. There should also be an offer from the Federal Government then to buy the weapon from the owner or their estate. Naturally, I will oppose a sunset provision on this legislation.

I want to be clear, I will support the ownership of guns that people already own. In no way am I proposing or implying that we confiscate anyone’s guns.

I also support reducing magazine capacity, closing the gun show loophole for all guns, implementing stricter permitting, longer wait periods, and stronger background checks with psychological evaluations for new gun owners after these bills becomes law. With this common sense legislation we will reduce suicides, and general gun violence, maybe even protect our police better. These regulations will protect not only everyone’s precious 2nd amendment rights, but also, protect everyone’s inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I challenge all 8th Congressional District Candidates to join me in making America safer by pledging to vote for some common sense gun reform by beginning with a ban on the production and sales of assault weapons.

 Education: The path to a just and sutainable society.

I believe that equal access to a complete education is fundamental to a just and sustainable economy and environment. At a minimum, the first two years of college or technical school should be free to every American student. 

This would include tui tion, books, and other academic fees exclusive of housing, transportation, and other living related expenses. I support a one-time loan forgiveness program. Numerous nations abroad including Germany, France, the Nordic countries, and a number of countries in Europe are already offering free higher 

education The desire to extend one’s education on the college level should not be a financial burden. The United States has turned higher education into a profit center.

Student loan debt in the United States is approximately 1.3 trillion dollars. It is the second leading form of debt in the country after mortgage debt. Upon completing a four-year degree, some American students are carrying in excess of $40,000 in debt. There are 45,000,000 overall student loan borrowers in the U.S. This accounts for 70% of college students. The average debt is $28,000 per student borrower. We are bankrupting young Americans before they even enter the work force, financially burdening students who return to college later in life, and holding back those who cannot afford to pay for higher education or risk the debt brought on by loans. This is not fair to our students, and it is not sustainable for America’s economy. 

The benefits of higher education are well documented. Economic growth, enhanced quality of life, personal well-being, and positive impacts on labor market outcomes are among these benefits. Those who have completed a college degree are also more likely to be civically engaged in their communities.

So, how do we pay for this investment in a just and sustainable economy?  Since businesses and corporations will flourish through the investments we make in our students, it is only reasonable that we begin by increasing taxes on those that will benefit the most–the wealthy. 

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, the wealthiest Americans paid a top income tax rate of 91%. The economy was booming. Now, the top rate is 39%, and the economy remains stagnant. With a moderate income tax increase on the richest 10%, along with prioritizing our military expenditures and eliminating corporate subsidies, the funding for free college for every American student will be available.

We also need to take a look at the $1.3 trillion dollars that is being lost over the period of 10 years due to the lower rate of taxes on investment income. By taxing investment income at an equal rate to salaries, the total current student debt could be forgiven in 10 years. Think of how the economy would boom with that debt forgiven. We bailed out Wall Street in 2008, it is time we quit coddling the Wall Street Casino players and reward those students who are making the investments that will truly bring about a just and sustainable society.

Free college would help build skilled workers in the fields of education, nursing, and other human services fields. It would also help fill middle skilled positions for welders, electricians, machinists, and other technical workers who require more than a high-school diploma. It would support people who chose to complete degrees in highly skilled occupations such as science, engineering and technology. Skilled workers would be a huge asset to the development of more sustainable communities focused on reducing carbon emissions and moving towards environmentally conscious choices in the United States.

Specialized degrees will be in high demand. Workers who pursue them need a degree or certification and would also benefit by free college. Many of these positions do not currently pay enough to attract the numbers of workers that will be needed for these fields of employment.

For example, there is a 20% projected growth rate in the field of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 20,400 new counselor positions will be needed to fill this demand. By filling this demand through free college, other fields of employment would also directly benefit. The economic impact of the opioid epidemic is being felt cross country. Many companies are having difficulty filling open positions due to failed drug tests of potential employees. In some cases, companies report that at least 25% of potential employees fail their drug tests.

I am running for 8th Congressional District Representative to give voice to what is best for our communities. The fact that the government is being driven by corporate greed has to change. Many who are in government positions are not leading us towards sustainability, because they are tied to the special interests that put them in office. Change needs to happen. It’s time for the United States to step up to providing the opportunity of free college to every aspiring student. Our willingness to fully educate all of our population will create a workforce that is best prepared for transition to a more just and sustainable society.

Let’s talk about Healthcare in America.

First, I think we can all agree that the healthcare system paid for by insurance is not working for the vast majority of the American people. For many of those that have health insurance it is expensive, high deductibles and co pays discourage using health care. 27 million Americans have almost no access to healthcare because they cannot afford the premiums.

Our health care system is, however, working very well for the Insurance companies and health care administrators. 30% of our insurance premiums are skimmed off by insurance companies  and provider networks for advertising, executive salaries, stockholder dividends and insurance billing. For example, if your annual premiums are $10,000 only $7000 goes for actual healthcare.

Hospitals and clinics across the country are consolidating and increasing costs to patients in order to increase profit. (don’t be confused by the “not-for-profit” label some use. It’s all about the money).  Profit also distorts the allocation of healthcare facilities in our country. If you have a rural community, access to healthcare is limited because there is no or too little profit to have facilities there.

As long as healthcare is tied to profit, we will have a broken healthcare system.

The United States health care system costs over $9,000 per person. Canada, which has a single- payer Health care system paid for by taxes to the government, only costs $4,500 per person.

Yet, in spite of paying only half as much for healthcare, Canadians live 4 years longer than Americans!

When we treat health care as a human right, the picture changes. Think Medicare. All citizens over the age of 65 have universal access to the healthcare they need. The insurance is a public “tax”, the healthcare is private run. It has been successful for decades and seniors have a sense of security because of this program.

What is the barrier preventing the creation of a universal “Medicare for all”?  It is insurance and drug companies who spend millions of dollars lobbying Congress and Citizens United allows them to contribute huge sums of money directly to Congressional campaigns. All of that money, buys a lot influence and is why the needs of the people are not met.

A single-payer health care system is the beginning of the work toward a just and sustainable society.  Health care is a human right! As your US Representative in Congress, I will not be bought, I will fight for single payer.

Homeless in America

 One of my core beliefs is that everyone matters, that each life has value. As your representative in Congress, it will be my mission to work towards a more just society that protects everyone’s life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We can’t do this without making sure there is a roof over everyone’s heads.

On any given night, over 500,000 Americans are homeless. Is this just, considering the massive wealth that some people in this country have? Is this moral, considering we spend 800 billion dollars a year on defense? And considering the enormous need to create jobs, does itmake sense that we are not addressing this issue?

We need to decriminalize homelessness.  The homeless are an invisible class of men, women and children who are just like the rest of us, but have fallen on hard times. We should not treat them as derelicts, vagrants and criminals any more than we would anyone living in homes or apartments in our nation. They need to have the rights the rest of us enjoy. They need help to get out of their homeless situation, which may also require treatment for addictions, mental health care and help navigating the systems in place that can help them. They need new laws that recognize their unique needs.

When I am elected, I will vote for budgets that rebuilds the social safety net and introduce legislation that puts a roof over everyone’s head. In the meantime, I also encourage everyone to support their local homeless community by embracing ordinances that help the homeless instead of harassing them.

The City of Duluth has been considering a “Homeless Bill of Rights” over the last five years. The ordinance addresses the specific needs people have while they are homeless.  Rights to simply exist as they live on our communities, Rights to prevent deaths in winter months. Things we take for granted. It’s time to take the “Homeless Bill of Rights” to a national level for enactment.

Included in the Duluth proposal are:

  • The right to use and move freely in public spaces, without discrimination or arbitrary time limits.
  • The right to rest in public spaces and protect oneself from elements in a non-obstructive manner.
  • The right to eat, share or accept food in public spaces.
  • The right to occupy a legally parked motor vehicle.
  • The right to a reasonable expectation of privacy in public spaces.
  • The right to equal treatment by city staff and agencies.
  • The right to protection from disclosure of personal information without consent.
  • The right to protection from discrimination in housing and employment.
  • The right to 24-hour access to basic hygiene facilities.
  • The right to choose whether or not to utilize the emergency shelter

I support the “Homeless Bill of Rights” and the humanitarian principles it embodies.

Elect Ray “Skip” Sandman to protect our water in the 8th Congressional District.

I need your vote to help me protect our water, air, and environment here in Northern Minnesota. Rick Nolan has used his elected position, as our representative in Congress from the 8th District, to weaken environmental laws at the detriment of all of Minnesotans to benefit a few corporations.

close-up of SkipI will vote to strengthen and enforce environmental laws. Also, I will not lie to you about the toxic risks to our water from the copper-sulfide mines like Polymet. After I am elected, I will not grease the wheels for these industries who refuse to invest in technology that could increase our economy without endangering the life, we in northern Minnesota love. The risk of continued support of copper-sulfide mining is not what could happen to our waterways but rather what will happen.

In spite of years of our many objections, PolyMet continues to move toward obtaining a permit to mine from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. This copper-sulfide company claims it will treat and build containment for all the toxins it produces, and that containment will last for hundreds of years. Containment will be expensive to maintain and will be abandoned eventually by PolyMet sometime after the mine closes, but before the toxins become neutralized.

If the containment’s outdated design, a 250 foot tall earthen dam, is based on faulty water modeling, it will be nearly impossible to prevent catastrophic failure. Toxins like mercury, lead, and arsenic will work their way into our groundwater and down the St. Louis River to Lake Superior, putting thousands of people’s health and their livelihoods at risk. Polymet’s financial assurance is not sufficient in any scenario to cover a cleanup of toxins that may take as much as 500 years to correct itself.

We simply cannot afford to trust PolyMet to do the right thing on its own. Plus, with the current political agenda in Washington, D.C., and another in St Paul, bent on eliminating environmental regulations and handcuffing enforcement agencies, there might not be anyone to force the company to do the right thing either. It is just better to not build the mine in the first place. I have been against this mine since day one.

PolyMet supporters argue that the mine will bring good-paying jobs to the region. Let us all fully understand that the primary motivation of these multinational mining corporations is not providing jobs; it is making profits — and the more profit the better. It is a huge assumption that these will all be good-paying jobs. Some point out that many taconite miners receive good wages and that, by extension, copper-sulfide miners will too. Unfortunately, few realize that some mines pay considerably less than others. For Instance, The Mesabi Nugget Mine, which is located literally right next door to PolyMet, paid it’s miners as little as $11 an hour and when a union tried to organize the Nugget Mine, the vote was two to one against unionization. This begs the question, “What will PolyMet’s lowest hourly wage be?”

Originally, PolyMet’s business plan called for producing finished copper at a processing plant near Hoyt Lakes. Now their plan is to export the metal concentrates, resulting in 40 fewer jobs for Northeastern Minnesota. The refined metals likely would go to a foreign country like China to be manufactured into products there and shipped back to us and around the globe. I say those manufacturing jobs belong in Northeastern Minnesota to expand our tax base and our economy here. Why aren’t the copper proponents fighting for those jobs, too? If PolyMet is allowed to proceed, we could virtually be giving away our ore while taking on a grave environmental risk, all for the benefit of a few international oligarchs. This is a bad deal for Northeastern Minnesota and an outrage that we are even considering this.

Early in my youth, I listened to my elders speak of looking seven generations into the future when deliberating actions that they might take and why it was paramount to our survival. Fortunately, enough of our native culture has survived that many elders, myself included, still strive to consider our actions far into the future.

For at least a couple of decades most of us have been noticing the effects of global warming. Some of these are subtle changes in our ecosystems, in forestation, with some species of wildlife appearing where they were not before, and some species moving out. Most notably though, a series of incredibly powerful weather events right here in Northern Minnesota has shaken even the most fervent deniers into noticing that our climate is changing.

Scientific consensus: Earth’s climate is warming

Global warming refers to the rise in average surface temperatures on Earth. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is caused primarily by the human use of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. Globally, these gases trap heat within the atmosphere, warming ocean temperatures, melting ice caps, thus creating rising sea levels and abnormal weather patterns. This intensifies severe weather events and creates droughts that lower our supply of clean water, affects agriculture, and makes landscapes more susceptible to wildfires.

Worldwide, the fossil fuel industry is subsidized directly by government payments and indirectly with hidden subsidies caused by legislative ignorance and irresponsibility—subsidies that artificially hold down consumer costs of fossil fuel. Such subsidies amount to $5 trillion dollars each year and are equal to 6.5% of the global gross domestic product. We simply need to recognize that this $5 trillion subsidy is a corporate tax on the people and the planet. To begin the long process of reversing climate change, governments must mandate the use of green energy technologies.

I will fight global warming with a two-pronged approach that both discourages fossil fuel use and incentivizes green energy investment. We need sweeping, near-term—not long-term—reduction of fossil fuel usage. For instance, individuals and businesses need to be encouraged to use less petroleum in their vehicles. Unfortunately, because the consumers’ price of a gallon of gas is artificially low, most drivers do not realize they are not paying for the true cost of driving. For example, the cost of maintaining our roads and bridges used to be met by gasoline taxes. Now, roads are either left in disrepair or are paid for by general fund taxes or by special local sales taxes dedicated for road work. This puts a burden on non-driving, lower-income individuals who rely on general fund taxes to pay for safety net programs.

The Federal Gas Tax was last raised in 1993. An unrealistically low gasoline/road use tax discourages investment in ultra-efficient electric vehicles, mass transit, and light rail projects such as the Northern Lights Express. It increases pollution and global warming. For those reasons, I propose increasing the federal gas tax 5 cents per gallon per year. As part of this proposal, we should allow states to keep the tax money that they raise in their states for their roads and bridges. We need to put America back to work rebuilding our infrastructure. We need to incentive green energy usage. Thousands of Minnesotan jobs will follow.

In addition, the fossil fuel industry itself is not paying for the full cost of production and transport of its products. Consider the carcinogenetic-laden tar sands replacement of Enbridge’s Pipeline #3, which runs across the 8 th Congressional District. What is Enbridge’s plan? To abandon Line 3 and leave it in the ground, where it will continue to contaminate the earth and water. The cost to dig this line up and safely remove it would be over a billion dollars. The project would create thousands of jobs. Removal would also force Enbridge to increase their prices, making investment in green energy technologies more attractive. Allowing Enbridge to leave Line 3 in the ground is tantamount to a subsidy. It represents tacit approval of policies that initiated climate change.

It should not take an act of Congress to get pipeline companies to clean up after themselves, but if I am elected I will author legislation to make it happen. Let’s turn to the subject of electrical production. Currently, large monopolies control how electricity is created and distributed. Few individuals currently have the resources or expertise to generate solar or wind power. This keeps the electrical monopoly in charge. Often the monopoly will engage in limited solar and wind generation investment, but reverts to fossil fuels to generate the bulk of the power. Eighty percent of America’s electrical needs can be met by renewable sources. To accomplish this, we will also need to update the electrical grid and tie in energy storage solutions to take advantage of peaks in production and bridge periods of low production and high energy usage. As your congressman, I would call for and support a massive public investment in renewable energy and the electrical infrastructure to make it possible.

Why aren’t we producing more electricity from renewables? Regulatory agencies such as the Public Utilities Commission allow companies such as Minnesota Power to charge consumers based upon the utilities cost to produce electricity. Power companies are not incentivized to invest in technology that will provide low-cost power; they make more money if their costs are high. Tragically, the true cost to consumers and society for the use of fossil fuels is seldom considered. We need to make sure that these monopolies work for the public interest and not just for their shareholders.

In many communities across our nation, there are green energy advocacy and support groups willing to assist individuals and businesses. Congress can also encourage more conservation and green electrical production through rebates for more energy efficient homes and businesses. This may even result in a series of small decentralized green energy cooperatives, which may force the big monopolies to do the right thing. Reddy Kilowatt, look out!

Finally, I would like to remind you that as your Congressman, I will not only fight for honest, innovative solutions to our dependency on fossil fuels. I will work to provide 21 st century training in 21 st century technologies. We never know who will be inspired to create world-changing technology. Our willingness to fully educate all of our population is a promise to ourselves that we will do our very best to
move toward a more just and sustainable future.

***Additional information on the “Temperature Anomoly” graph can be found at: Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet

 

 To our veterans and their families, we stand WITH you always. This video was from the Tribute Fest in Duluth where my team and I volunteered over 150 hours in two days to support homeless veterans.

To our veterans and their families, we stand WITH you always. This video was from the Tribute Fest in Duluth where my team and I volunteered over 150 hours in two days to support homeless veterans.

Posted by Ray Skip Sandman for 8th Congressional District Minnesota on Sunday, August 24, 2014

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