The Texas Civil Rights Project doesn't have a budget for good citizenship ads like AARP's, but we can respectfully suggest to voters what we think are critical issues in this election, from a human rights perspective.
First, we need Congress members who will tighten laws that ban warrantless spying on Americans and prohibit warrantless gathering records of our phone calls and internet usage and what we purchase.
Second, we should vote for Congress members who will limit the Administration's attempt to avoid compliance with the Geneva Convention, and who will insist on no torture, access to counsel, and fair and public trials for anyone in American custody. If we hold ourselves out to the world as a leader in constitutional democracy, we have to practice what we preach. Hypocrisy undermines democratic leadership.
Third, we should support federal and state legislators who are seriously committed to real educational reform and willing to put significant resources and funding into that effort and end the current sham testing regime. Education, after all, drives a democracy. Better pay and respect for teachers, smaller classes, and appropriate testing are a must.
Fourth, we need state and federal senators and representatives, who will vote for health care access for all people. It's a shame that 150,000 Americans go overseas every year for state-of-the-art medical procedures that cost one-fourth what they do here, paid for by their insurance companies. Those who don't have insurance or are in the middle class don't have this luxury and pay more for less care.
Fifth, it's time to elect officials who will raise the minimum wage to $7.50/hour. It's been at $5.15 since 1997. The dollar's buying power has dropped 25% since 1997. Raising the minimum wage to $7.50 would benefit more than 8 million workers, including an estimated 760,000 single mothers and 1.8 million parents with children under 18. But even this increase would get them only to the poverty line. That's how bad it is now.
Sixth, we should support federal legislators who endorse comprehensive immigration reform that will speedily and fairly regularize the legal status of 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country, and integrate them fully into our democratic institutions.
Seventh, this country and this state need a fair and just system of taxation that doesn't disproportionately burden the middle class but which calls upon the rich, who have benefited greatly from this country, to share their wealth. Taxation should become a way of supporting our society in a just manner and not a means of gathering even more wealth.
Finally, we should elect candidates to federal office who support an immediate end to the war in Iraq and who will change the Administration's myopic view toward other nations. More than anytime in history, we are a global community, and the United States has to act accordingly, and responsibly. That will help undermine terrorism better than anything else this nation can do.
If a candidate for office doesn't subscribe to these principles, then we should not vote for him or her. Pure and simple.
The Texas Civil Rights Project, a nonprofit foundation, promotes civil rights and economic and racial justice throughout Texas.