As the planet continues to warm, there are numerous serious, harmful and costly consequences: from melting polar regions to rising sea levels and coastal flooding; from the increasing frequency and severity of droughts, wildfires, famines and deforestation to increasing heat waves, inland flooding, species die-offs and more. Question: What specific actions will you take in Congress to successfully address global warming and the climate crisis?
Our primary concern should be to control the Climate Crisis, not only in our country, but globally. The science shows that in order to avoid socio-environmental disaster, greenhouse gas emissions must decline by about 40 percent within about 20 years, and 80 percent by 2050. These goals are highly challenging, but are still viable if we change the way we think about and execute our energy sector. I propose steady, large-scale investments totaling about 1.5-2 percent of global GDP (between $1.3 and $1.7 trillion) on an annual basis in energy efficiency and clean renewable energy sources. Levels in 2011 were around $227 billion for global renewable investments and between $150 to $300 billion in energy efficiency, or about 30 percent where we should be. This kind of investment will also spawn expanded employment and drive economic growth.
In Congress, it is one of my imperatives to set efficiency targets and set industrial policy that will maximize investment and support private and public partnerships in green growth without broad subsidies. Most of our history shows that our best innovations have not come alone through private companies, but through large-scale public investments. Therefore, I propose 1) Large-scale public investments in clean energy, and 2) Abundant and affordable financing for private businesses (especially critical to structure loans to enable borrowers to easily pay back their loans on the basis of their annual energy savings).
I propose that we set policy that decreases dramatically the burning of oil, coal, and natural gas. It serves us no good to move towards sustainable energy if the fossil fuel industries remain at their levels of emissions outputs and profit levels. We must reduce absolute energy consumption through conservation and efficiency improvements. And we must increase the proportion of natural gas consumption relative to coal (since carbon emissions from natural gas are about half those from coal) as part of the transition to clean renewable energy.
Part of the role of government is to protect and empower its citizens. I propose that we generously support workers and communities who work in the fossil fuel industries and help their transition to new jobs and industries.
I propose that our government provides research and development support, preferential tax treatment for clean energy investments, preferential financing arrangements, and government purchasing policies. We must also move towards regulating fossil fuel and clean energy prices and emission standards. An important way to accomplish this is to create large and stable clean energy markets with the government becoming both large-scale investors in energy efficiency and purchasers of clean renewable energy. We must also simultaneously set a price on carbon emissions with a carbon tax or carbon cap to raise the market prices.
I further propose that our government guarantees a market with stable prices for clean renewables such as using feed-in tariffs for utility companies to purchase electricity from private renewable generators at prices fixed by long-term contracts, which encourages private renewable energy investors by providing a stable long-term market environment.
Cheap and accessible financing. Things like a loan guarantee program for private energy efficiency financing, provide subsidized loans for renewable and energy efficiency investments, and a “wire-charge” mechanism through which a certain percentage of annual utility net revenues (say 1 percent) are utilized for renewable and energy efficiency investments.
Lastly, I propose that we create policy that encourages and supports “Alternative Ownership Forms” like public ownership, community ownership, and small-scale private companies. Community ownership offers some good advantages:
Any policy has to respect the values we hold as Americans: democracy, social responsibility, empathy and compassion, justice, fairness, mutual respect, freedom and autonomy, liberation, and protection. We need to be crafting policy based on our values and not off of fears.
What is the role of the United States in the world?
What is the role of the United States in relation to the rest of the world? Policing democracy and dictatorships? A beacon upon a hill? The enforcer of the unbridled market society? A war-bent empire?
We have to acknowledge that our patterns of consumption require that all of the world’s resources service us, both human and natural resources. We require a world where we can externalize the most negative costs away from our country. We acquire very cheap labor in foreign countries with lax labor laws, lax environmental protections, and corrupt governments. These workers not only lack the same level of material wealth that many people enjoy in the United States, but also lack basic protections of their human rights. Many of these workers are exposed to dangerous work conditions, inhumane work schedules, and exposure to toxic elements that can and do affect their health. Because these problems are mitigated, to a large extent, in the United States, these are major costs that our workers do not have to confront. It is a blessing for us here, but very much becomes a curse everywhere else. And we are all connected to it. We participate in this system and drive the demand for products.
Our economic system is one that allows and advocates for the free movement of goods and services, but fails to be a true “free” market by limiting the free movement of labor, in other words, workers. This alienates us in the United States from the plight of those in other countries.
At times, multinational corporations, that have more rights than people because they can cross international boundaries and aren’t subject to many national laws, use their power to coerce foreign governments to create policies that privilege the corporation over the people of that country. And still, other times, we use our military to force the opening of new markets by which our corporations can enter, destabilizing countries and regions in the name of the unbridled market society.
These larger social forces that our country pushes forward, disintegrates or weakens the social institutions and civil society of other nations. It means that their families are affected including the roles of the members of those families, economies and work, politics, laws, environment, even religion, and other social institutions are destabilized. Many people in these countries have connected the dots and point a finger at the United States and other Western powers, not out of envy, but as the root cause for many of the social problems they experience.
Indeed, some of our own policies, like NAFTA, and the subsidizing of our agricultural products, destabilized the corn market in Mexico. We dumped our cheap corn on their markets which put massive amounts of people out of work, moving them out of their own corn fields, and into the precarious workforce of cities. Many of these migrant laborers, without prospects for work, money, opportunities, and a social safety net, had no choice but be pushed out from where they lived and pulled towards markets that did offer those options. We have to understand that some of our policies which have helped bolster the profits of corporations and narrowly advantaged Americans with cheaper products, have destabilized other countries.
People have the right to live a life of dignity and stability. They should not experience want or fear. These are basic human rights all of us should be afforded no matter our nationality.
The pull factors towards the United States is that we do have modest protections for workers and general stability. There are opportunities, especially for cheap labor. There are businesses who employ immigrants, both documented and undocumented, because they tend to fill those positions when other Americans refuse to do so (and not just for economic reasons, but because these professions have been gendered, racialized, and subordinated to a lower status). There are economic incentives for businesses because by using cheap labor they are able to lower costs and hopefully bolster their profit margins. Our immigration system currently creates this pool of cheap labor by making it difficult to incorporate these workers into the rest of our society, thus leaving them in a subordinated status and easily exploitable as a cheap labor pool. With our immigration system, we have created a racial caste system based on cheap labor, tinged with racial superiority and enhanced with fear tactics propagated by state institutions. A lazy mind perceives difference, fears it, and seeks to eliminate what it erroneously sees as a threat. Our policy is mostly based on this premise of fear.
The general material comforts and luxuries that we have enjoyed to this point in the United States have had serious consequences around the world. But in order to satisfy the demands of our value system -- one based on compassion, empathy, fairness, justice, and social responsibility -- our lifestyles may have to change. They should change.
This is the situation, generally speaking of course.
A Values-Based Approach to Immigration
Based on the values of democracy, fairness, justice, social responsibility, compassion and empathy, we can evaluate our current immigration system and propose policies that more accurately align with our values.
Immediate documentation of all undocumented peoples. Prevents exploitation, allows legal work activity, extends protections, expands our economic base and our tax base, allows other cultures and ideas to permeate our society and add to the enlarging tapestry of the story of America.
Incorporation into our society. Our society isn’t static. It is constantly changing. The demographics of our country is different today than it was 50 years ago, 100 years ago, and 200 years ago. With each wave of immigration there has always been pushback from those who lived here, but as each wave integrated itself into America, so did the identity of our country and it became better.
We should be setting policies that allow quick integration that celebrates cultural diversity and creates an environment of cultural exchange. I am reminded of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech in which he outlines the promise of democracy, envisioning a society where the color of skin, creed, and other identifiers do not prevent people from all being treated equally as Americans. An immigration system that divides America can never live up to the potential of Dr. King’s vision. This is why immigrants should not only learn the current norms and history of the United States, but that we take the time to learn about what each wave of new Americans will bring to our society to make it better. This is why I believe that a relatively quick path to citizenship must be realized. If immigrants are paying taxes, working all around us, creating communities, and adding to our society, they should become fully a part of that society.
Reforming Immigration Enforcement. Our internal security is important to live in safety. Anyone who commits heinous crimes should face the consequences for those crimes. ICE right now is another bureaucratic layer of government that has been weaponized to instill fear in immigrant communities and affect our society at large. Using fear as a weapon, and as public policy, is undemocratic, socially irresponsible, unjust, unfair, and cruel. It is not who we are as Americans.
The War on Drugs, the War on the Poor, and Arms and Human Trafficking. Another piece of this complex picture is how some politicians use immigrants as a scapegoat for the problem of drugs, poverty, weapons and human trafficking. As the Draconian barriers are torn down and immigrants are documented and legalized into the system, it will be easier to track people and allow them to leave the shadows of our society. This will leave them less vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking.
Our drug problem must first be revised to reflect its true nature as a public health crisis. This will greatly change the way we set policy. If we move to solve the root causes of why people use drugs, it will decrease demand for those drugs. If the status of illegality is removed and our country can regulate drugs, we can study them and make sure that we know where all drugs are.
I wish that no one had to use drugs, especially the ones that cause the most harm to the individual and their communities, but I know that treating the systemic root causes will be more effective than punishing individuals. Punitive measures focused solely on the the individual do not work. To counteract that means we provide a strong social safety net that helps to alleviate the pain and suffering from an imperfect market system. It will provide needed relief to the American people generally. And ultimately, it will help to keep our borders more secure.
Our borders should be protected from harm. We should protect our borders from other nation-states or nefarious crime groups that threaten our sovereignty. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of immigrants aren’t agents of rogue nations nor are they evil masterminds that want to take over the world. Then why do we punish the majority of immigrants and surrender our values of democracy?
DACA. Under these policy prescriptions, something like DACA would make sense, but I would argue that if these immigrant children have only known the United States as their home, and brought to this country through no fault of their own, then they are Americans. We should immediately extend citizenship to our fellow countrymen, not leave them in a confusing state of limbo. Dreamers are as American as you and I are, in every way except on paper. We must break the chains that keep them from experiencing the freedoms all Americans have the right to enjoy.
On a closing note, I do find the history and policies of immigration especially perplexing, considering I am Native American. Our lands were stolen. Treaties have been broken. We Natives were only granted citizenship in 1924 -- and in Utah, our citizenship was only recognized in 1962. We cannot discuss immigration and citizenship without acknowledging race, prejudice, and systems of oppression. Yet, I believe that my own Native people can experience prosperity the closer our nation generally lives up to the promise of democracy: That we fight for equality and equity. That we come to terms with our past and learn from it. That we are benevolent, compassionate and empathetic. That we protect our public resources so that we can enjoy successful individual lives and freedoms.
I am proud to be a part of an immigrant family. My wife is from Venezuela where she practically fled the authoritarian regime of Hugo Chávez. We have two beautiful daughters. My mother-in-law also lives with me. This is my family and we are productive, happy, Americans.
Immigration policy isn’t just a set of things we do to keep people out -- it is a complex, interrelated system that is also a reflection of our values. Right now we’re not living up to them. If elected to Congress, I want to move us towards those values and realize the promise of democracy.
The San Rafael Swell is one of the most remarkable places I have seen in Utah. Its formations induce a sense of awe and wonder and it stands out as one of the most unique places on our planet. I’m captivated by its geology, it biodiversity, and the connection I feel to spirituality and creation.
I know many people are upset about the bill proposed that on the surface seems to protect some areas of beauty, but upon further analysis does not adequately protect the landscapes that we care about most. In fact, many of us are deeply troubled with how destructive uses may permanently alter the area leaving it unapproachable to people for the rest of time.
I wish to convey a more broad perspective about how we should view policymaking and how that can then be applied to the San Rafael Swell.
There are certain set of values and ideas that inform the basis of what our society should look like and the kinds of rules, both formal and informal, that will help us maintain our values. These are democracy and democratic participation, stewardship, humility, social and mutual responsibility, reciprocity and relationality, a connection to the divine, protection, empathy, respect, and connection to each other and the environment.
The values seem to have been given little thought and superficially at best. When looking at the process, I cannot help but ask, “Who have been the stakeholders that have the most say and power in setting policy? How have this power arrangement helped to advance democracy or hinder it? And are there other motives for how this arrangement looks that supersedes the value set I have outlined earlier?
The process has been limited to a few set of people who have motives to exploit the region and reallocate public resources for personal enrichment. One of the first rules to grow power and maintain inequality is to limit democracy and our participation in it. While we have seen certain stakeholders invited to state their views and interests, like some local leaders and mineral extraction industries, the people at large have been vilified. Where is our voice? Where is the voice for the indigenous peoples whose land was illegally stolen? Where is the voice who see this land as something sacred?
The value system that seems to be employed is one based on exploitation, selfishness, and greed, where economic pursuits are privileged over the rest of society’s institutions.
In my Navajo philosophical beliefs, we are living upon the Fourth World. Our earth is a living being. She gives life to all things. The land is her flesh, from it sprouts food. The air is her breath. The water is her blood. These give life to us human beings and we have a responsibility to maintain a balanced relationship with her, that when we care for her, she will care for us. She has the ability to heal herself, but her perception of time is not always synchronized with the human perception of time. Depending on the gravity of harm we inflict upon her, it may take thousands or millions of years to recuperate, long after the human race has passed. In essence, we are mere guests upon her and our existence is very much predicated upon how well we can adapt to the environmental conditions that we have to confront.
Currently, our postindustrial and consumerist-based society is quickly depleting the resources of the earth faster than we can replenish them. We leave giant scars upon the face of the earth, leave toxicity in our wake, and threaten the existence of not only our lives as human beings, but all of life on this earth. Creation can be a very fragile thing in the vastness of the universe.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we hold the environment and all of creation as one of our most sacred teachings. In our temples, where we learn our most sacred truths, the Creation of the Earth and all life upon her, and indeed the whole universe, is the first topic we learn about. That is why I find it so perplexing that my co-religionists in Congress have so blatantly cast aside those foundational teachings.
Church leaders, present and past, have spoken strongly about our relationship with the environment:
Spencer W. Kimball : “When I pass through the lovely countryside or fly over the vast and beautiful expanses of our globe, I compare these beauties with many of the dark and miserable practices of men, and I have the feeling that the good earth can hardly bear our presence upon it. ... The Brethren constantly cry out against that which is intolerable in the sight of the Lord: against pollution of mind, body and our surroundings.”
Ezra Taft Benson: “Surely you can see the inconsistency in the individual who insists that we be good stewards and not pollute our environment, and yet who is unscrupulous in his personal life. Again, physical and spiritual laws are interrelated. Pollution of one's environment and moral impurity both rest on a life-style which partakes of a philosophy of ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ — gouge and grab now, without regard to the consequences. Both violate the spirit of stewardship for which we will stand accountable.”
“Stewardship in the Church is a very important matter. The Lord has mentioned it in the revelations. We are stewards over these earthly blessings which the Lord has provided, those of us who have this soil and this water. We have no moral latitude, it seems to me. In fact, we are morally obligated to turn this land over to those who succeed us — not drained of its fertility but improved in quality, in productivity, and in usefulness for future generations.”
Russell M. Nelson, current President of the LDS Church: “As beneficiaries of the divine Creation, what shall we do? We should care for the earth, be wise stewards over it, and preserve it for future generations. And we are to love and care for one another.”
It is my contention that we use our government, that is by us, for us, and of us, to protect this beautiful land, that we maintain its status as public, that we guard and care for our Mother Earth and use her resources in a measured way that gives succor to the poor and needy, not to enrich the pockets of greedy and selfish men. We must live up to the promise of democracy and ensure the blessings of these lands to ourselves now and to the seven generations to come.
Change is coming, this is our movement. We are standing to defend our rights and the rights of all creation. We reject this bill and are taking the power back to the people.
It’s common among Natives to say that the Indian Wars have never really ended. To an outsider, that may be a strange thing to hear, even humorous. But if the wars were ways to subdue Native people through violence, intimidation, and laws that keep them in a perpetual oppressed and subordinate station, then we can see that they are still being waged, only the tactics have changed.
Racism in 2018 doesn’t look like what it did in 1960. Our education helps us to identify what racism used to look like and hopefully not to repeat it and reject it if it surfaces. But racism is dynamic. It’s adaptive. It changes with the times and seasons, but the principles remain: that one group is superior in one or multiple ways, that systems have been built around that group to ensure they maintain power, that ideologies are constructed to justify this arrangement and normalize it, and that subordinate racial and ethnic groups are kept from experiencing equality at multiple levels and across various social institutions. Where one technique fails, a new one often emerges to replace it. And for the most part, the vast majority of us are unaware of its existence and how it manifests itself. We are rendered racially illiterate.
Enter San Juan County.
The Native peoples in this corner of Utah have endured oppression and racism long after the rest of the country has tried to move forward. For most people in the rest of the United States, the idea of voter suppression seems a relic of the past and it is equally strange to hear that an elected county official committed illegal actions to keep a person of color from running for office. But this is the long and painful reality of a people who have long been denied justice.
San Juan County Clerk, John Nielson, deliberately and forcefully broke the law to ensure that Mr. Willie Grayeyes, a Navajo, would never see his name on the ballot. And that despite the efforts of the courts to undo racially gerrymandered county commissioner districts, the oppression would continue and the intimidation persist. The objective was that in no way would Natives be allowed to seat a majority on the county commission.
This is a despicable act. It is tragic. It’s disappointing and frustrating. It’s undemocratic. And this has everything to do with race.
Isn’t it enough that settlers come in, take the Native peoples’ land, lay claim to their resources, impose a government and economy that systematically disenfranchises them, silence and ignore their voices, and then have the audacity to make the claim that it is somehow their own fault for their condition?
The answer: No. It’s not enough.
It very much appears that the old guard will fight every step of the way, make it as difficult as possible for justice to prevail, and feign victimhood as if they are the ones somehow being oppressed. They will push every small act they can to make it as difficult as possible for any semblance of equality to materialize. This is a textbook example of corruption, the manifestation of authoritarian tendencies, and a very real threat to democracy. So what is to be done?
There are calls and will be more for Mr. Nielson to resign his office. And frankly, that is the least thing he can do. He should be tried for his crimes. I would lay the challenge to him to examine the basic precepts of democracy and leadership, and perhaps one day, become an advocate for equality after he pays his debt to society. Maybe that is wishful thinking on my part, but I believe that people can change. It would definitely be something both our peoples would need for healing.
In the meantime, the movement towards justice will continue pressing forward. The power accumulated over time in this forgotten corner of Utah has gone unchecked long enough and we will be watching.
We will watch to see that polling locations are open, accessible, and functioning with enough ballots for voters.
We will watch to see that there will be in-person assistance, along with materials and election information in the Navajo language as protected and assured by law.
We will watch to see if the county will find ways to engage in voter suppression.
These aren’t empty threats to instill fear or to intimidate. These are basic and fundamental rights that all Americans are entitled to under the Constitution. We simply want to assure that our democracy functions as it should.
I was pleased by the resiliency and poise of Mr. Grayeyes when I met with him yesterday: “People tell me I should strike back right now, but why would I do that? If I get into office, the people who I would go after will be the people I will serve later on,” he said. “We need to show healing. We need to treat the root of the problem, not just cover up the symptoms temporarily.”
So to the elected leaders of San Juan County, I implore you to be proactive in bringing about the ideals this nation is founded upon: equality, justice, freedom, and democracy. Stop putting roadblocks in the way of helping us overcome and bridge the divides of the past. That is real leadership. Rise to the challenge.
For Media Inquiries
James in the News
Here you'll find articles about James' work in the community and news on his political endeavors.
Aug. 17, 2018 | KZMU Moab: News Earful with 3rd District Candidate James Singer
Aug. 16, 2018 | Moab Times-Independent: Meet James Singer
Aug. 16, 2018 | Moab Sun News: James Singer campaigns in Moab
Aug. 15, 2018 | KUER (NPR Affiliate): Navajo Candidate James Singer Highlights Bears Ears In Run For Congress
Aug. 1, 2018 | KBOO Portland: From Shrinking Bears Ears, Approving Pipelines, and Pocahontas: What Trump Means to Indian Country
Jul. 23, 2018 | Millennial Politics: These Three Indigenous Democratic Congressional Candidates Want to #AbolishICE
Jul. 16, 2018 | Two Broads Talking Politics: The Utah Democrats
Jul. 16, 2018 | Millennial Politics: James Singer: Indigenous Environmentalist Democratic Socialist for Congress in Utah's 3rd
Jul. 12, 2018 | Indian Country Today: A plan for Indian nations and democracy in the 21st century: Indian Country should have fair representation in Congress; that's the democratic promise.
Jun. 24, 2018 | Salt Lake Tribune: Commentary: As the Democrat in the race, I'd rather debate Curtis.
Apr. 9, 2018 | Salt Lake Tribune: Commentary: Sexual violence and harassment are men’s issues. And they’re leadership issues. Rep. John Curtis shows a lack of leadership on a serious issue.
Mar. 6, 2018 | Salt Lake Tribune: To ‘help forge our path of healing forward’ after Bears Ears, Utah tribal leaders are asking for a place on the governor’s cabinet.
Mar. 6, 2018 | KUER: Tribal Groups, House Dems Call For Creation Of Indian Affairs Cabinet Position
Oct. 9, 2017 | Salt Lake Tribune: American Indians gather to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Salt Lake City
Oct. 3, 2017 | City Weekly: SL Council Welcomes Indigenous Peoples Day
Sep. 18, 2017 | UPR: The Wellsville Sham Battle On Monday's Access Utah
Sep. 6, 2017 | Salt Lake Tribune: It’s 2017, but people in Utah still put on ‘redface’ for an inaccurate re-creation of an American Indian vs. Mormon battle
Jun. 8, 2017 | The Daily Universe: Navajo man seeks Senate diversity, challenges Hatch
May 5, 2017 | KUER: Navajo Candidate Latest In Young, Progressive Democrats Running For Congress
May 4, 2017 | Salt Lake Tribune: Navajo candidate announces bid as Democrat for Hatch's seat
Apr. 27, 2017 | Cache Valley Daily: Navajo candidate announces bid for U.S. Senate
Jan. 27, 2017 | City Weekly: "Make America Smart Again" Water protectors congregate to denounce Trump's DAPL reignition
Jan. 17, 2017 | Salt Lake Tribune: It's 'more than just clean water now': Utah activists protest Dakota Access Pipeline
Oct 31, 2016 | FOX 13: Police make several arrests in Dakota Access Pipeline protest in SLC
Oct. 12, 2015 | UPR: Cultural Appropriation on Monday's Access Utah