We can’t bail out corporations with pandemic relief, says Julie Oliver

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On Wednesday, the Signal interviewed Julie Oliver, a former healthcare finance analyst running a progressive PAC money-free campaign for Congress.

Oliver is facing Republican incumbent Rep. Roger Williams, a car dealership owner and GOP fundraiser. 

Using only small-dollar donations, Oliver has more than doubled Williams’ fundraising in the final few weeks of the race. She outraised Williams during the previous fundraising quarter too. The latest poll released for the race in September shows the two candidates are about even in the Fort Worth to Austin district. 

Here’s what Oliver told the Signal about COVID-19 relief, taxes, climate change, and police reform: 

It looks like a second COVID-19 relief package won’t come until after the November elections. What is the bare minimum Congress should be able to agree on to help Americans? What are some non-negotiable aspects of a COVID-19 relief bill?

I think we need to make sure we’re putting money into the hands of people. Not bailing out corporations. The federal unemployment assistance bump, the $600 a week that we had prior to the expiration in late July, is something that families need right now. They’re desperate. I’ve talked to families who have been impacted and lost jobs. My goodness, I talked to a small business owner the other day and she said, “Julie we have no idea how to plan.” 

So we need to continue to shore up our small businesses, we need to continue to help out working people, and quite honestly we need a credit moratorium. I’m not sure that all of that can be agreed upon in Congress, I’m not sure that the Republicans have an appetite for that sort of thing, but you know big banks should not be coming away from the pandemic the big winners. Unfortunately, that is what it looks like they’re going to come away as. 

We can’t be bailing out corporations that are truly bonusing that [money] out to their executives. I get there are some big industries that are hurting right now, things are not back to normal, they really aren’t. But there has to be a way the big industries pay back what they receive — small business, no, they don’t have to pay it back — but big businesses are going to have to pay it back. And we need transparency. We need to know who’s taking the money and what it’s used for. 

What is your campaign’s top issue?

Coronavirus, quite honestly. We’re going into another wave. We’ve done nothing to meaningfully address this pandemic. There is no mask mandate, there is no contact tracing, there’s no widespread testing. We’re not working with global partners to develop a vaccine, we’re trying to do it on our own. The reality is we should be working with partners and working together to do this. 

So coronavirus I think is still top of mind for so many people. Business owners don’t even know how to plan, they don’t know how to plan for a year,  let alone two years down the road, they’re focusing on one day at a time.

I wanted to talk a little bit about tax policy. Biden recently released his tax plan. Biden is proposing raising the top federal tax rate from 37 percent to about 40 percent, its pre-Trump level. Biden said this would only affect those with taxable incomes above $400,000. What are your thoughts on that? Does it go too far, not far enough, or just right?

I think that’s great. We need a progressive income tax system. For the folks who are the beneficiaries of top incomes in this country, they should be paying an income tax. It should be a patriotic duty. You are the beneficiary of success that our government helps you get.

So yeah, a 40 percent tax rate seems quite reasonable to me. And we should not shift a burden on to middle-class taxpayers and the working poor. That’s what the Trump package actually did, which was really unfortunate. 

Corporations should also have a bump in their tax rate.

That was my next question. You mentioned the Trump tax package, which reduced the top corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Would you support legislation to revert or change that back?

Absolutely I would. I think we need to repeal that legislation, I really do. 

The latest United Nations climate change report said the globe has a little more than a decade to address climate change before it causes irreversible damage. What is your plan to fight climate change?

We have to do this because science is real. It’s not an opinion, it’s fact. 

We have billions of dollars of economic damage every year due to climate change and it’s only going to get worse. We need to make the investment now to mitigate the future damage that, like you said, is irreversible. Once our coral reefs are gone, that’s it. Our oceans will be a very, very different place. We will have hundreds of millions of people who are displaced from climate change.

So, one, removing subsidies from the fossil fuel industry should be one of our top priorities. Two, making the investments in renewable energy. Actually, taking those subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and shifting them right over to the green energy sector. Let’s get more people working on this, the more people working on this the better.

We have to retrofit our cars and our homes, we have to create green renewable energy that is connected to the grid so that our homes are powered from solar, wind, and wave energy — not from natural gas and not from coal. 

I think there’s a lot of things we have to do and we have to do them pretty quickly, but it can be done. 

You know, Ford sees the writing on the wall, they just released their first all-electric Mustang. They know it’s coming, they know we have to change. GM just released an all-electric Hummer. Ft. Hood in my district, the military installation, is already implementing green energy initiatives. So redeploying some of those green initiatives outside of that military installation and into the economy surrounding Ft. Hood is part of my priorities getting into Congress. 

What actions would you like to see Congress take to address the police killings and police brutality of Black people?

We have to end qualified immunity, we have to end no-knock warrants. 

You know, qualified immunity, I don’t think a lot of people maybe understand what that actually means. If you and I were to go outside with a gun and shoot somebody, the standard in court would be: what would a reasonable person in our situation have done? It’s a reasonable person’s standard. 

Police officers are not held to that standard. It is, what was the police officer thinking? You can’t prove what somebody was thinking. You can’t do it. 

So a police officer can go into court and say anything, “Oh, I was thinking I was scared for my life” — when somebody is running away from you. We need revoke qualified immunity and police officers should be held to the standard of a reasonable person; what would a reasonable person have done in that situation? 

Ending qualified immunity, ending no-knock warrants, ending the federal program that militarizes our police departments. Those are some common-sense solutions we can take at the federal level. 

Is there anything I didn’t ask about that you would like to talk about?

I’m cautiously optimistic about the turnout we’re seeing in our state and the level of commitment — Texas is leading the nation in youth voter turnout. That’s exciting. I’m really excited.

I know there’s a lot of work to be done between now and through Tuesday evening, but you know, I’m feeling very cautiously optimistic. 

I want to remind people, again and again, this is an opportunity to vote for the change that we are desperately seeking. This is an opportunity to untether employment from healthcare coverage, this is an opportunity to meaningfully address climate change. 

Voting isn’t gonna solve everything, but it’s naive to say that it will solve nothing. And that’s what this election cycle is all about. The opportunity to change the trajectory of our country.

The Signal also interviewed congressional Democratic candidates Gina Ortiz Jones, Mike Siegel, and Candace Valenzuela with similar questions.

Photo: Hays County Democratic Party

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