Gina Ortiz Jones on COVID-19 relief, America’s longest war, and taxes

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On Friday, the Signal interviewed Gina Ortiz Jones, the Democratic candidate running in Texas’ 23rd congressional district.

Jones said her district, which stretches from outside El Paso to San Antonio and follows the Texas-Mexico border along the way, has been one of the most impacted by COVID-19. 

“It’s unfortunate that 1,200 bucks is all that working families have been able to receive during this pandemic and economic crisis,” Jones said.

Jones said San Antonio families continue to be hurt by the pandemic, especially since the city relies heavily on tourism and service industry dollars, and since prior to the pandemic, Census data ranked San Antonio’s poverty rate as the highest among large metro areas. Border communities in her district are hurting bad too, Jones said.

“International bridges are still closed,” Jones said. “That’s a huge hit to border economies that rely on that bridge revenue for their schools, streets and hospitals.”

Jones said Congress should be aiding state and local leaders with more resources for testing, tracing and PPE. She said working families and small businesses need continued help from the federal government and proposed workforce skills training for Texans whose jobs may not be coming back. 

Healthcare

Jones said she supports protecting and expanding the Affordable Care Act, as well as adding a public option that will allow Texans to secure healthcare even if they’ve lost their job. She said healthcare is a personal issue, since her mother was diagnosed with cancer while she was deployed to Iraq as an Air Force intelligence officer. 

“I remember distinctly the fear I felt that I couldn’t see my mom and that her treatment could bankrupt our family,” Jones said. “Thankfully, she had good healthcare through her job as a public school teacher and I want to make sure all working families have that same fighting chance.” 

Tax policy

This month, former Vice President Job Biden revealed his tax plan. It includes raising the top individual federal income tax rate from 37 percent to 39.6 percent, its pre-Trump rate, and increasing the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent.  Biden said his plan will only affect Americans earning an income of $400,000 or more.

When asked what she thought of the plan, Jones said Americans are tired of reading headlines about major corporations and their president paying little to no taxes.

“We need folks to pay their fair share,” Jones said. “We need folks to do so, so we can make investments in public health infrastructure, in making sure people have quality affordable health care.”

Jones attacked legislation passed by Republicans in 2017, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which reduced the top corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and reduced the income tax rate for most Americans, primarily the very wealthy.

“If you just want to get a sense of who these folks had in mind, the tax cuts for working families 

were temporary,” Jones said. “The tax cuts for corporations, now that was permanent.”

Police reform

Jones said she supports additional anti-bias training, better data collection for use-of-force incidents, investments in anti-recidivism training, creating a national standard for the use of force, and developing a national database to track police officers with a history of misconduct.

“These are all steps that are in the interest of transparency and accountability, and all going towards making sure that trust exists between communities and those who are there serve and protect them,” Jones said.

 U.S. military actions overseas

In October, the U.S. reached its 19th year of war in Afghanistan. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in October 2001. It has since become the longest war ever fought by the U.S. and is just one of several countries the U.S. is officially at war with. 

When asked what her opinions was about those lasting military conflicts, Jones said it was important to understand how our military actions contribute to America’s national and regional security, as well as be clear with Americans about the risks of doing or not doing something overseas.

“As an Air Force veteran, as an Iraq war veteran, as somebody who worked in national security for almost 15 years — and also as a sister of an active duty member — it’s important that we’re asking the tough questions to ensure that our men and women are only placed in harm’s way when absolutely necessary.” 

“I think it’s also important that we are investing in the other instruments of national power. Not every situation requires a military response,” Jones said. “And frankly, we’ve seen what underinvesting in our state department for so long has met. It’s critical that we are thinking about our national security more holistically, not just what we can do militarily, but what we can do from an economic standpoint, from a diplomatic standpoint, to ensure we’re being smart about our foreign policy.” 

Climate change 

Jones said it was important to be proactive when it comes to climate change since it is both a national security issue and a health issue. 

“We’ve trained our men and women in uniform to do mission x, y and z, but they’re increasingly having to respond to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts,” Jones said. “Additionally, there are the public health consequences of climate change. In Texas, one in 11 kids has asthma, in Bexar County where I grew up it’s one in seven, and in the working class communities like the one I grew up in, it’s two or three out of seven.” 

Jones said there were also clear economic opportunities by investing in renewable energy to combat climate change.

“Texas produces 25 percent of the country’s wind energy, we’re the fifth largest producer of solar in the entire country,” Jones said. “We’ve got the natural advantages and we need to be doubling down on investing in that infrastructure in this technology.” 

Photo: Jay Godwin/ Wikimedia Commons

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