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State of California June 3, 2014 Election
Smart Voter

Economy: End poverty

By Luis J. Rodriguez

Candidate for Governor

This information is provided by the candidate
Create jobs with a minimum wage of $15 an hour to a goal of a livable wage or income for every Californian, by establishing infrastructure projects, including modernizing the vastly outdated irrigation systems in our agricultural centers--the third largest in the world. Give people the "hammers and nails" to rebuild their communities. Make use of all abandoned buildings and housing into a system where people who can use and live in them can do so. Fix all schools and public spaces.
California had 8.7 million people in poverty out of a population of 37,300,000 in 2011 -- 22% of Californians were living in poverty -- that number is so huge, that a system and political structure that allows for that need to be reimagined. New jobs are few and far between while education and social programs are being cut across the state. The federal poverty level for a family of four was $22,350 in 2011. [Looking for more recent statistics on poverty in California].

The Rodriguez platform to end poverty will focus on income, labor rights, housing, and food. More broadly, we believe that poverty is a serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately and decisively. The fictional narrative being pushed by the political power structures is that of a recovery and a balanced budget. Luis Rodriguez would use all powers available to him as Governor to declare a Poverty Emergency because the fact that 25% of California's children are living in poverty is a crisis. The poverty rate for children living with single mothers is 45%!

There are hundreds of thousands of children living on the edges and our current system pushes them out, the Rodriguez Platform is designed to pull them, and you, as a Californian, into the campaign.

The poverty rate varies tremendously across California and this campaign will focus on those counties with high poverty rates, but will also show how poverty affects us all and needs to be addressed to benefit our society as a whole.

1.1 Income

People find themselves in poverty when they don't have a significant and reliable source of income. Over 50% of poor families have at least one person working part-time. A simple solution that is gaining momentum nationwide is increasing the minimum wage. Recent legislation (Assembly Bill 10) raises California's minimum wage to $10 per hour starting January 1, 2016. This is not nearly enough with about 3,000,000 Californians working for the minimum wage (get updated statistic). We propose a minimum wage of $15 per hour and are building a network of politically minded Californians that will make this a reality.

1.1a Unemployment

Unemployment insurance has been an issue that Democrats have been fighting for nationally, but in the State of California, the Employment Development Department of California did not take $500 million dollars from the Federal Government because of sheer incompetence as the the California state auditor found in a report.

The resources are there, they are just being wasted. California's Unemployment Trust Fund Balance is $10 billion in the negative. Disability Insurance paid $398 million in benefits for the month of January 2014 while Unemployment Insurance paid $574 million in benefits in January 2014.

More broadly, unemployment insurance is supposed to create a feeling of job security, which many people no longer have as "be lucky you have a job" has been pushed down workers' throats by the corporate interests that dominate our economy and our politics.

1.1b Political Appointments

We can imagine a more competent and capable government if proper people were appointed to the heads of these departments. There are currently many capable public workers and even administrators, but here, in this segment of the platform, we will outline specific individuals in positions of power, their history of action, and our evaluation. There will be similar policy suggestions on political appointments throughout the 6 pillars of this platform.

We need to do more research on Sharon Hilliard, Chief Deputy Director of the Employment Development Department, and other Directors of the EDD.

The Director of the Employment Development Department is appointed by the Governor and approved by the State Senate. This is the basic organizational structure throughout the state of California. Our campaign will point to these individuals that manage departments and organizations and sit on boards, remove people that are incompetent, and replace them with people that are skilled, capable, and align broadly with our political views. Removing one person from one position of power is not the level of change that we aim for, on the contrary, by running for Governor of California we can point to the thousands of public workers and demand good work for good pay and benefits.

1.1c CalWORKS

California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) is a child well-being and welfare-to-work program that buffers childrens against extreme poverty by supplementing family income. The average monthly grant was $458 in September 2011. Childless adults are not eligible, the parents that receive assistance must either work or engage in a specified set of activities. The program is estimated to have 546,382 cases on the average month in 2012-2013. The overall budget for the CalWORKs program was supposed to go from $1.1 billion in 2011-2012 to $1.5 billion in 2012-2013. Jerry Brown has regularly shorted what was promised through the release of his annual budget. This is another trend across the policy of California and American government in general: The public expenditure of funds is easy to control if you have a population of workers willing to pay their taxes.

Our campaign now needs to focus on those 546,382 cases in the CalWORKS Program and turn them into engaged voters that connect with other marginalized and otherwise ignored proletariat, veteran, single mothers into to base of the campaign.

1.2 Labor Rights

Working conditions are fundamental to the dignity and respect of Californians and all people.

Even though Jerry Brown claims to have the support of labor unions, including the prison guards' union, he has sided with agribusiness over farmworkers. As part of the campaign, we try to connect policy to popular culture and the public consciousness as a way to reach 40,000,000 Californians.

With the release of the docufilm Cesar Chavez coinciding with what would have been his 87th birthday, the campaign has released literature and taken a strong position pointing to the fact that Jerry Brown vetoed the Fairness to Farmworkers Bill. As Governor, Luis Rodriguez would do more than sign legislation that would fine agribusiness $10,000 for not allowing workers access to water and shade -- Luis Rodriguez would drastically reform everything to do with agricultural production in the state of California. We are in the process of developing a more detailed blueprint outside of big principle ideas that would limit factory farming and reinforce the politics that won chickens enough space to stand up and stretch their wings before being slaughtered.

We are not into a politics of exclusion, but we feel that Californians and good people around the world side with farmworkers when their exploitation becomes apparent. Jerry Brown and Republicans side with growers even though farmworkers still face deadly conditions.

So while the memory of Cesar Chavez became capitalized, our campaign was spreading the word about Governor Brown's veto of Assembly Bill 2346 (2012). The Assembly Bill (AB) would have imposed criminal penalties on growers and labor contractors that fail to provide shade and drinking water to California farm workers. AB 2346 (2012) passed after 17-year old Maria Jimenez collapsed and died in a 105-degree Lodi grape field on May 14, 2008. She was one of ten farmworkers to perish due to heat exhaustion since 2004.

More broadly, how bad are working conditions if the workers don't have shade and water? This is a rhetorical question that can be used to bring more people to a place of common understanding and solutions oriented actions.

But Governor Brown+ ignoring thousands of farmworkers who marched demanding that growers and contractors be held criminally liable--caved in to agribusiness, refusing to sign AB 2346, declaring that existing regulations "were enough."

"What happened to Maria Jimenez and all those who died in the fields for lack of shade and drinking water must never happen again," says candidate Rodriguez. "It is disgraceful that the vast majority of farmworkers continue to face poverty, water pollution, pesticide poisoning, hunger and even death. As Governor, I will stand with the men and women who labor to feed the nation. I will sign legislation imposing criminal penalties on employers and contractors who subject workers to life-threatening conditions." Exploitation and poverty are inexcusable in this, the eighth largest economy in the world. We can and must Imagine a new California.

1.3 Housing

There are still 10,000 foreclosures happening every month in California. Again, the rosy picture that is being portrayed by the political elite, distributed through the main stream media, and consumed by an unengaged electorate -- is false.

Between 2008 and 2011 1,026,572 houses were foreclosed upon in California. This was a result of predatory lending and the broader recession, which resulted in a $25 billion federal settlement that was supposed to see $410,576,996. The State of California used that money to fill the deficit as opposed to helping people who lost their homes, this is how Jerry Brown balanced the budget -- on the backs of the very people that lost their homes in foreclosures to banks. There is a lawsuit against the state requesting that the money be spent where it was intentioned. As Governor, Luis Rodriguez will use his powers to help people who were foreclosed on by promoting the use of all tactics -- including using eminent domain to keep families in their homes as was done in Richmond by Green Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

And now we have heard the stories on NPR and other mainstream media that the so-called "housing market" is recovering because outside investors and capitalists are buying up these homes in California. This is ridiculous on many fronts when we consider that it was Bank of America that now owns Country Wide, and the rest of Wall Street Financial Interests, that caused the boom and bust of a the same "housing market". Housing, shelter, food, healthcare, education -- should not be securitized and turned into a derivative on some computer and then used to kick a family of human beings out of their home. The Democratic Party will come nowhere close to standing on such principles.

We are building a broader platform on challenging foreclosures and attacking the low property taxes that commercial interests enjoy because of Proposition 13. A simple reform of Proposition 13 that separates commercial property interests from residential property interests and taxed them at different rates reassessed at some sort of timely interval would be dramatic. There are many organizations working on Proposition 13 reform that we are trying to reach out to and align with.

1.4 Food

A major component of poverty is hunger. This issue also allows us to reach into the lives of all Californians with a policy that will improve the health, quality, and sustainability of our food production while taking it out of the capitalist market framework. In order to address this, we will need to gain expertise and details on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, specifically CalFresh.

Labeling genetically modified organisms is a stance we espouse, where again, there are many organizations working on this -- most notably the Label GMO organization that was able to put a ballot initiative on the 2012 November Ballot. This fits directly at the intersection of poverty and the environment -- Two different broad arcs of policy platform put forward in this document by the Luis Rodriguez Campaign for Governor of California.

1.5 Other

This is a living document, and as new ideas develop and are presented, each of the pillars will have a section in this google document to make additions.

As these different suggestions, potential allies, or issue concerns come up, you can write about them here:

1.5a Financial Literacy and Tax Benefits can help us provide tangible benefits. At the federal level, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included these investments to alleviate poverty.

1.5b Child Poverty bill passed in US Senate introduced by Bernie Sanders, as we are part of a broader movement, we recognize successes at different levels of government and aim to build momentum to imagine a new California and a new politics that smashes the two-party-binary.

1.5c A broader component of poverty is having a job, but we need to ask what kind of jobs are we creating and supporting? The rest of this platform shows that we can have more jobs in education and healthcare instead of violence and exploitation.

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