How do you assess the Trump administration so far?
Hashimi: The Trump administration has been one of chaos, as the late night talk show hosts have stated. I do not appreciate his cuts to the State Department or his posturing to start a nuclear war with North Korea. His administration has lacked clarity of mission, sometimes announcing job transitions over social media. His position on gun violence and, more specifically, his idea to arm each qualified teachers speaks to his inability to understand schools are not meant to be war zones. Trump continues to taunt celebrities, staff members and the media. I believe he’s chosen poorly in nominating Betsy DeVos, a woman who does not seem to believe in public schools, for Secretary of Education. Trump’s leadership is divisive. When it was time to speak up against the racist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Trump actually tried to garner sympathy for bigots. His rhetoric around immigrants is toxic and it is becoming more apparent that we should be concerned about his relationship to or awareness of Russia’s interference in the election. Trump has had a positive impact as well. Never before have we seen such waves of determined, non-political individuals stepping up to be involved in the decision making process. He has forced a wave of support for science, women’s rights and the environment. It is hard to stomach saying, but I believe we do have Donald Trump to thank for this swarm of new energy and insistence on leading the way forward.
Do you support or oppose the federal tax cuts passed in 2017? What effect do you believe they will have on the economy?
Hashimi: The tax cuts passed in 2017 will greatly benefits the wealthy and major corporations, while doing little to help the average American they were ostensibly going to aid. It lowered the individual tax rate, repealed the estate tax and lowered the rate on pass through entities. Any short-term gains for the economy will come at the cost of increased debt for our country. It is looking increasingly unlikely that the tax plan will “pay for itself” as Republicans purported, and will hurt the long-term economy for years to come. These tax cuts will only further widen the economic gap and grow the power of corporations. Doing away with the personal exemption as well as state and local deductions would hurt families. The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center found that by 2027, a quarter of all households would pay more in taxes. At a time when middle class families are already feeling the crunch because they are facing steep out of pocket medical bills and crippling student loans with punitive interest rates. Multiple nonpartisan organizations released studies demonstrating that the Trump tax plan would grow our national deficit and that toxic growth would threaten the entitlement programs that Americans need, deserve and have counted on. While some argue that these tax cuts will bring about economic growth that will allow us to recoup our losses, I disagree. We cannot pay for what we need with optimism dollars and must repeal the tax plan.
Is the level of national debt a concern? What, if anything, should be done to reduce it or constrain its increase?
Hashimi: Yes, the national debt is a concern . To address it, we must be smarter about how we spend our dollars and reorganize our priorities. With Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts inevitably increasing the debt, we need to look at implementing measures like Pay-As-You-Go budget rules in certain circumstances. The Bush-era tax cuts from 2001 and 2003, which were also skewed towards the wealthiest Americans, contributed trillions to the nation debt. My greatest concern is that once debt rises we will attempt to control it by cutting critical programs that help American families like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to offset the massive tax cuts given to the wealthiest Americans. Since the financial burdens on the middle class are already great, it is cruel to ignore the impact that a strained national budget will have on the people who have been paying into systems with the promise that there hard-earned dollars will come back to them. We need to be smart about our spending. I insist there is room for savings in our defense spending and that we will save money by investing in meaningful preventative care. We can also save a pretty penny by sparing ourselves the embarrassment of a transparent wall on our southern border.
Is the level of economic inequality in the United States a problem, and if so, what should the federal government do to address it?
Hashimi: The wealthiest 1% own more than 85 % of all the nation’s wealth. On the other end of the spectrum, 80% of all Americans own less than 7% of all the nation’s wealth. I look at what has worked to change economic status for rising Americans. My immigrant parents, through entrepreneurship, they were able to become homeowners. Entrepreneurship can also positively transform the lives of women, minorities, and communities. We can also reduce asset poverty by increasing pathways to affordable homeownership. Plighted communities would benefit greatly with down-payment assistance. As a pediatrician, I’m always focused on preventative measures and addressing the needs of children. We must expand cradle to career preparation across the public education systems by means of vocational programs, leveling the quality of our public schools, addressing unbearable student loan interest rates, allowing refinancing of student loans, making universal pre-K accessible to all. We should advance programs like the Federal Job Guarantee and create a workforce that will simultaneously decrease economic inequality and fill much needed roles in our communities ranging from home care to construction. I would block an employer’s ability to ask prior wage history as part of recruitment and hiring as it can perpetuate wage discrimination. Furthermore, I will push for meaningful criminal justice reform. The financial burden of interaction with the criminal justice system chokes the potential for real rehabilitation. From bail burdens for non-violent crimes to exclusion from job opportunities, the criminal justice system can trap individuals and their families into perpetual poverty.
Should federal gun laws be changed, and if so, how?
Hashimi: As a pediatrician and a mother of four, I insist we reform our federal gun laws. Having worked in an emergency room, I know all too well that gun violence is a serious public safety issue. My husband provides neuro-trauma care to victims of gun violence. His patients have been victims of domestic violence, individuals afflicted with depression and crime victims. My elementary school children have been using words like “shelter in place” and “lockdown.” I will work to close loopholes that currently allow individuals to obtain guns without meaningful and universal background checks. We should enforce waiting periods and “cooling off” laws to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands and safeguard against compulsive acts of violence like suicide and intimate partner violence. Since suicide accounts for two of three gun deaths, these laws can save lives. Let’s raise the age limit to purchase a firearm to 21. As a pediatrician, I understand that the brain is not fully developed until the mid to late twenties. We cannot expect a young adult, whose brain has almost another decade to fully develop, to make rational decisions. “Mental illness” has been used as a scapegoat for our gun violence problem. While we very much need to expand access to mental health services, it is nearly impossible to predict who will use a gun in an illegal way. Finally, we need to fund gun violence research at the NIH and CDC and insist on using science to advance safety.
What should Congress do with respect to the Affordable Care Act? Should it be strengthened, and if so, how? Should it be scrapped? If so, what if anything should replace it?
Hashimi: Those calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act have not offered anything to replace it which is a recipe for disaster. The ACA scored several wins in expanding access and ending discrimination but it has empowered the insurance industry and supports big business in health care. We cannot allow medical care to be dominated by corporate interests. We must move toward a single payer health care system. The need for health care is universal and currently medical debt is the top cause of bankruptcy in the United States. My plan for health care reform includes 3 main components as a quick and seamless transition to Medicare for All: Medicare as a public option; reducing the eligibility age to 55 years old; and providing Medicare for all children. Medicare is efficient and direct. But it’s not enough to expand coverage. We need to make it affordable and sustainable and we do so by insisting on: Electronic Medical Record interaction, drug patent reform, hospital pricing transparency, a ban on direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising, expanding the use of health savings accounts (HSAs), enabling Medicare to negotiate drug prices, capping annual out-of-pocket medication expenses, protecting funding for the NIH, mandating advance directives, and blocking toxic corporate mergers. We also need to make long term care and assisted living in integrated part of our health care program and push for innovative solutions to the responsibilities that come with an aging population.
What role should the federal government play in helping cities like Baltimore?
Hashimi: Baltimore is a storied city that is fully capable of seeing a new wave of positive growth and development. Its current situation is not unlike many cities across the country where the effects of poverty and lack of resources have far reaching consequences. The federal government can help by promoting policies that promote, not hurt, trade. The federal government can also help by expanding job training programs to meet the needs of booming STEM fields and industries that are modernizing our economy. Congress can also address some of the issues specific to cities like Baltimore by providing grants for programs that address affordable housing needs, enterprise zones and supporting re-entry programs. Much of this can be done by allocating financial resources and partnering with community organizations that have strong roots in the community and a track record for having a positive impact. A city like Baltimore that would greatly benefit from universal pre-K and the allocation of additional funding to public school systems. While the public school systems are fall under the purview of the states, the federal government’s investment in schools that are in need of assistance would demonstrate a commitment to giving all children a more level playing field. The ability to increase teachers salaries will boost the quality of education as well. Maryland’s congressional representation must also work to bring funding that would support infrastructure rehabilitation and modernization to support the business community of Baltimore.
What can Congress do to address the opioid epidemic?
Hashimi: As a pediatrician, I have cared for jittery and fragile newborns born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. I have seen parents struggle with addiction and rise above challenges. I have also seen the medical community be steered down a path of overtreatment of pain with pills. We need to address this crisis more directly than our current Congress is willing to do. My plan to fight the opioid crisis includes expanding access to outpatient providers and telemedicine providers to fill in gaps, negotiate prices on narcan and buprenorphine, and provide support services to navigate the ER to outpatient therapy connection. Policies that ensure access to long term Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) has been a cost-effective path to recovery success stories. We must think beyond short term inpatient rehab stays. As a member of Congress, I will partner with the medical community to increase medical education around the treatment of pain and recognizing addiction. We must explore alternatives to opioid use. I will also expand coordinated MAT programs with the criminal justice system to address the real problem of withdrawal and overdose on release. I will also support the expansion of mental health resources so that we treat the root causes of the opioid epidemic.
What changes if any should Congress make to our immigration and deportation laws and policies?
Hashimi: Our country is defined by its people, not our borders. My parents came to the country with next to nothing in their pockets but an unwavering belief in the American Dream. They were given opportunities and they made good on them, becoming job creators and uplifting the people around them. My husband fled a war-ravaged Afghanistan as a teen and lived in Europe as a refugee before being accepted to the United States. The welcoming American education system enabled him to become a neurosurgeon. There is no other country in the world that would have given him such a generous opportunity. I believe in the value of immigration because it is my family’s story. We need to pass a Clean Dream Act with comprehensive immigration reform. I support preserving provisional protection – a reprieve from deportation and a work permit for undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children (DACA program), protecting family unity, and creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Undocumented individuals should still have pathways to report crime without fearing consequences. Watching the GOP use Dreamers as political pawns is shameful. As a member of Congress, I would work to pass legislation to give Dreamers a pathway to remain in the only country they have ever known. I intend to create a positive framework to talk about immigration – one that positively highlights immigration as America’s origin story.
Should the United States continue with the free trade policies it pursued for the last several decades, or should it enact restrictions in an attempt to help domestic industries?
Hashimi: I would encourage free and fair trade with nations that maintain workplace standards comparable to the United States. I would also insist that corporations pay the same taxes on offshore profits as they pay on domestic profits. We must not incentivize American companies to leave American soil. I would like to see NAFTA include updated labor and environmental provisions that require countries to meet minimum international standards. Though it is unclear whether those requirements are enforced, I believe making them priority is a first step towards progress. Punitive tariffs have the appeal of a quick fix but seem to impact household budgets more than they impact national economies or trade cultures. We are a nation of consumers and tariffs will have an impact on prices paid by Americans. In addition, reciprocation of tariffs will negatively affect American exporting industries. President Trump’s threatening of tariffs on China appears to have been grandstanding as his tone has cooled. Bluster is not the way to negotiate. I would, however, support provisions and international agreements to protect American intellectual property.
Do you support the Iran nuclear deal?
Hashimi: The JCPOA, also known as the Iran Deal, was a rare win-win-win deal for the US, Iran, and the international community. By giving up elements of their nuclear program in return for the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions, Iran received a boost to its economy while the international community reduced the risk of nuclear proliferation, particularly decreasing the potential for a regional nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The JCPOA also served to empower moderates in both the US and Iran who believe the path to Iranian prosperity is by acting as a responsible actor in the community of nations. As a member of Congress, I would oppose efforts to undermine the JCPOA. Some politicians who opposed the JCPOA to begin with are now seeking to undermine the deal through bad faith arguments. As long as Iran continues to meet its obligations under the JCPOA, as the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed, I will continue to oppose all efforts to undermine the deal legislatively and otherwise. This includes opposing Trump’s de-certification of the JCPOA and any efforts to re-impose the sanctions that were lifted as a result of the JCPOA agreement.
How should the United States address the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program?
Hashimi: First and foremost, I will always advocate for global nuclear disarmament. There is no real need to maintain the technology that could destroy our world. A nuclear North Korea is a global threat and therefore multilateral diplomacy will be the best path to consider all nations in solving this predicament. We need to work closely with our allies in the region in diffusing the situation. That being said, any efforts or communications on a simply bilateral track will still likely be beneficial for all. It is agreed on that denuclearizing North Korea is in the best interest of all and the sooner we can stop development and hopefully remove nuclear material, the better. North Korea has used the testing of weaponry and unconfirmed reports of nuclear capability to raise the global tensions to the point we are at now, dangerously close to conflict. Reckless and ill-advised tweets will do nothing but worsen an already unpredictable situation. In a related note, I would support restoring full funding for the State Department. The Trump administration’s budget cuts have undermined what is one of our most powerful assets in fostering and maintaining positive international relationships. Effective and earnest diplomacy should lead the way.