Announcing My Candidacy for Mayor of Bowdon, Georgia

by Logan Jackson

I have been a member of the American Solidarity Party since August of 2016, and I am currently the vice chairman of the Georgia chapter of the ASP. What inspired me to join the ASP is that I love that we are looking for the common good and that we use common sense when it comes to the way that we approach issues. I have been a member of both the Democratic and Republican parties. They both left me; one moved too far to the left and the other moved too far to the right. The ASP is, for me, the happy medium.

I have been communicating with the city council for years, but nothing gets done. I have been asking the same questions for over fifteen years and I get the same answers. It was early in January, when I was sitting at my desk writing yet another email that I knew would not get answered, that I decided not to send the email, but instead to run for mayor. I decided at that moment to speak about things that the sitting mayor and city council would not. We are losing our tax base here in the city and the mayor and council will not do anything but raise taxes. The only problem is that my city’s median income is just $25,000.
Below are the areas that I will focus on as mayor in order to make sure that the city grows and improves. Emphasizing these areas will help to bring in businesses as well as new residents.

Community Identity

For years, Bowdon was known for its textile industry. There were between two and three thousand people in the workforce here, which does not include the rubber plant that at one time had three shifts. Sadly, all the textiles plants have closed except for Bremen-Bowdon Investments (BBI), and the rubber plant burned down. As a result, for the last fifteen to twenty years, Bowdon has lost much of its identity. It is very important that the citizens of Bowdon hold to who we have been historically as we move forward. After we have restored our community identity, then Bowdon can start to move toward the future.

Action

We cannot continue to kick the can down the road and ignore vital services, such as water and sewer facilities and the police department, that are needed. We need someone that will be bold in fixing the things that are important and able to say “No” to those things that are not vital. The mayor and city council must have good communication with the public, and must prioritize the future while making policy decisions, rather than only considering the present impact.

Transparency

We must ensure that the residents of Bowdon know what is going on with their local government. If we all expect state and federal governments to be transparent, then why wouldn’t we want our local governments to do the same? If I have the honor of being elected, I will hold town hall meetings quarterly. I will also give an annual State of the City address to let the public know what actions the city has taken during the past year, and to inform them about any actions that are planned for the upcoming year. I also plan to have a weekly “Coffee with the Mayor,” which would be a time for me to hold office hours for appointments or walk-ins.

I look forward to the opportunity to work side-by-side with the residents of Bowdon, creating a local government that helps to restore our community identity, prioritizes vital services, and provides exceptional transparency. So, Bowdon residents, remember when you go to vote on November 5th: “Want Action? Vote Jackson!”

Religious Freedom and Public Service

Those for whom the dogma speaks loudest are also those most qualified to serve.

By Tai-Chi Kuo, JD, CSM, CSPO

American Solidarity Party National Committee, Vice-Treasurer

American Solidarity Party–Illinois, Vice-Chairman

In February of this year, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America penned a letter to Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), in their capacities as ranking members of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, conveying the organization’s “grave concern” over an unconstitutional “religious test” whereby a nominee’s fitness for a federal judgeship was considered on the basis of the nominee’s religious faith or membership in a particular religious organization. The Orthodox Union’s letter was in reference to questions posed by Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) during committee proceedings inquiring whether federal judicial nominee Brian Buescher would renounce his membership in the Knights of Columbus (a Catholic men’s organization) owing to the organization’s traditional views on sexuality and life, should he be confirmed for the position. This letter is significant not only because the Orthodox Union’s concern crossed Jewish-Christian religious lines, but also because the Buescher nomination was not an isolated incident, and efforts to restrict Americans with deeply-held faith convictions from participating in American public service and public life are on the rise.

Attempting to disqualify Americans from public participation on religious grounds is certainly “nothing new under the sun.” In the modern era, John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism, Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, and Barack Obama’s Christianity have all been cruelly scrutinized during their presidential campaigns. However, over the past several years, these once-rare occurrences have increased at an alarming rate. From Texas Republican Dorrie O’Brien’s unsuccessful coup to remove Dr. Shahid Shafi (R-TX) from his Texas GOP position on account of his Islamic faith, to the aforementioned Democratic Senator Feinstein’s challenge of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to a federal appellate court position because her Catholic “dogma live[d] loudly within” her, to Senator Bernie Sanders’s (Ind-VT) attempted rejection of Russell Vought’s appointment as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget over his Christian beliefs on salvation, attempts to discourage people of faith from public life have arisen across seemingly the entire gamut of the American political spectrum—and show no signs of de-escalation as preparations for the 2020 presidential campaign season begin in earnest.

With a contentious and pivotal election looming on the horizon, Judge-Designate Neomi Rao has already been attacked by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) during her District of Columbia Circuit Court nomination hearing over her personal beliefs regarding sexuality and whether they have ever influenced her hiring decisions. Meanwhile, the West Virginia Republican Party has created propaganda smearing U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN), a Muslim, by accusing her of links to the 9/11 attacks. Separately, Representative Omar has also faced spurious accusations of anti-Semitism from Democrats and Republicans alike, leading to a U.S. House Resolution which broadly condemned bigotry and discrimination.

This increase in attacks against people of faith in government should indeed cause “grave concern.” The attacks are also unconstitutional. Religious freedom has been enshrined under the First Amendment, and Article VI of the United States Constitution guarantees that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” So, while the United States is not a theocracy, people of faith have been intentionally empowered to live out their faith, both in their private lives and as public servants. It is the faith of many of our American public servants that has brought some measure of redemption to their otherwise flawed legacies.

Faith has inspired Americans in high office towards excellence, towards tolerance, and towards caring for “the least of these.” Indeed, as former Governor Mitt Romney said in his famous “Faith Speech,” the American values of “equality of humankind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty . . . are not unique to any one denomination. They belong to the great moral inheritance we hold in common. They are the firm ground on which Americans of different faiths meet and stand as a nation, united.” Faith has influenced American leaders as far back as the Revolutionary War, when the signatories to the Declaration of Independence included notable clergymen like John Witherspoon, and in the war’s aftermath, when George Washington assured the Jewish congregants of the Touro Synagogue that America would give “to bigotry no sanction,” and when James Madison pushed to enshrine religious freedom in the Bill of Rights. In more recent times, former President Jimmy Carter strove for universal healthcare and human rights while in office and afterwards at the Carter Center, and he also built homes with Habitat for Humanity—all on account of his faith. Former President George W. Bush cited the importance of faith and faith-based organizations in the fight against HIV/AIDS>, to which he contributed by pledging $15B towards a global fund. Former President Barack Obama partnered with churches to fight unemployment and to feed needy children.

The American Solidarity Party champions religious freedom, both by supporting religious institutions in their refusal to perform activities contrary to their beliefs, and by affirming laws which protect the right of people of faith to practice and live out their religion without intimidation in the public square. It maintains that religious freedom transcends the “freedom of worship” afforded inside the walls of a church, mosque, synagogue, temple, or other place of worship. Today, the religious freedom of public servants is increasingly under fire. When President Kennedy’s suitability to become our nation’s leader was being challenged because of his Catholicism, he warned: “Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you—until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.” Our current situation renders his words prophetic. So, as disparate as our dogmas can be, let’s continue to fight the good fight for religious freedom in order to perpetuate the redeeming legacy of those that have come before us: that those Americans for whom dogma speaks loudest are often those most qualified to serve.

About the Author

Tai-Chi Kuo currently serves as Vice-Treasurer on the National Committee of the American Solidarity Party and as Vice-Chairman of the American Solidarity Party of Illinois. He is a first-generation Asian-American immigrant who began pursuing his American Dream at the tender age of four when his family emigrated from the Republic of China (Taiwan) and settled in the Chicagoland area. Tai-Chi is an Evangelical Christian who attends a historically Chinese-American church and who began his journey into politics after hearing a message on the subject of “Public Faith” exhorting Christians not to withdraw from public service, but to engage deeply with American society on the pressing issues of our times. He joined the American Solidarity Party in the summer of 2017 and has been active as an officer in its Illinois chapter since that time. Tai-Chi is passionate about religious freedom, faith in the public square, Asian-American issues, and Greater China issues.

Professionally, Tai-Chi has worked in roles related to project management and business analysis for over ten years on numerous financial services, technology, and legal projects. Tai-Chi holds a Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago and is currently pursuing his Master of Business Administration (online) from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, which is also his undergraduate alma mater where he majored in Advertising and minored in East Asian Languages and Cultures. Tai-Chi is engaged to be married in 2019 and has family in Illinois, Hawaii, Taipei, Beijing, and Fuzhou. During his free time, Tai-Chi enjoys reading, playing board games, listening to opera, and practicing martial arts.

Civil Asset Forfeiture: When Law Enforcement Agencies Become Highway Robbers

By Eric Anton, National Committee Member

There is a general perception in the United States that the law enforcement community exists to protect and serve the general population. Indeed, this reputation is largely deserved; I contrast this with the experiences of many in other countries where the police are largely seen as dishonorable pests to deal with. In my time in Afghanistan, a large number of the locals I interacted with saw the police as being in the same category as locusts or any other natural disaster that could never be avoided, but only endured. Sadly, many of our fellow citizens find their interactions with the police to be fraught with peril, violence, and outright oppression, and thus view law enforcement in much the same way as the Afghans do. The causes of their negative experiences are myriad and vexing, but at least one of these outrages can be traced to greed; its corrupting influence is a pestilence which threatens many of the basic provisions of justice that most of us take for granted in this nation.

Here I am speaking of “civil asset forfeiture,” which is a legal tool by which the law enforcement community can seize property that they allege to have been involved in a certain criminal activity. This property can include everything from cash, to cars, to real estate. Law enforcement may employ this process without charging the property owner with a crime, because they are bringing the charges of criminal wrongdoing against the property itself, rather than against its owner. The legal test in such cases is generally “the preponderance of evidence” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and there is a presumption of guilt rather than of innocence. Thus, the property owner must prove innocence to contest the seizure after the fact, while the state does not need to prove guilt prior to seizing the assets. In consequence, the stories of completely innocent persons having their property seized and being driven into grinding poverty without so much as a criminal charge, let alone a criminal conviction, have grown too numerous to count.

Now, imagine this: you are a young black male driving at night and you get pulled over by the cops. You’re concerned because you have a criminal record for some minor crimes in the past, but you’ve turned your life around. In fact, you are now a small business owner; you’ve just closed up for the night and are on your way home. Without warning, the cops take you out of your car, handcuff you, and detain you without reading you your rights or telling you what was wrong. They search your car and find the day’s take from your restaurant: over seventeen thousand dollars. After two hours of this abuse, you’re released, but your car has been impounded and the cash that you were going to use to buy supplies and equipment for your business has been confiscated. You have not been charged with a crime. This actually happened to a man named Mandrel Stuart in 2014, and his is not the only example out there. Civil asset forfeiture is a distressingly common occurrence during traffic stops and is tainted with the stench of racial profiling. Furthermore, it is incredibly difficult for people to get their property back, especially for racial minorities, who are already looked upon with suspicion by the justice system. In many cases, law enforcement has pressured property owners to renounce ownership of their property in order to avoid facing criminal charges, as happened to Javier Gonzalez, whom Texas police threatened in 2008 with a money laundering charge if he didn’t give them a briefcase of ten thousand dollars in cash that he was carrying.

So, why do the police do this? In most states, the police are allowed to keep the assets and use them to fund their own departments, or can get around state restrictions on this practice by teaming up with federal agencies through the “equitable sharing” system, in which the federal and local agencies divide the spoils amongst themselves. It can reasonably be surmised that greed has infected the whole process and that some police departments have taken on the role of brigands who steal from the poor and racial minorities—people without the political or economic power to challenge these outrages. A recent report in South Carolina found that black males represent thirteen percent of the population, yet accounted for sixty-five percent of those whose assets were confiscated. This same report found that fifty-five percent of the seizures that involved cash were of amounts less than a thousand dollars. In other words, the police in South Carolina are focusing their brigandage on those who do not have the means to fight back.

The American Solidarity Party should become an advocate to help the poor and disenfranchised by overturning this monumentally unjust practice. We champion the rights of the poor, minorities, and those who face oppression from our criminal justice system. Ending civil asset forfeiture should be a key component in our drive to reform the system and to correct the historic injustices inflicted on the most vulnerable people in our society.

Against Leeroy Jenkins-ism: Solidarity and Subsidiarity on the World Stage

By Patrick Harris
American Solidarity Party National Committee, Secretary

Subsidiarity is one of the concepts that gets thrown around a lot in discussions of Christian democratic politics—for good reason, to be sure. Different forms and levels of governance exist for different purposes, and higher levels should support, not supplant, lower forms. Ordinarily, this principle is used (and sometimes abused) in discussions about whether or how the state should intervene in a particular economic or social issue. But there’s really no issue in which the logic of subsidiarity is clearer and more obvious than in foreign policy.

Put simply, it’s good that there are different countries. They exist for a reason. That doesn’t mean nationalism is an unmixed good, of course; untempered by an acknowledgement of human dignity that is borderless, it can be quite dangerous. Yet, it remains true that people are best able to govern themselves in community with others with whom they share interests, values, traditions, and institutions. Likewise, the people best qualified to decide the internal arrangements of a country are the people who will live with the consequences.

Consequently, there is, or ought to be, a very high bar to clear for one country to meddle in the internal politics of another. The capacity to intervene is not the same thing as the competence or the right to do so, even in the service of a good cause. We understand this in domestic politics when, say, the state government makes it impossible for a town to change its property taxes or zoning laws. We understand this in private life when your Aunt Helen won’t shut up about how you should really change your tacky drapes and keeps telling your kids they can come live with her if you won’t let them keep a golden retriever in your walk-up apartment.

The current US foreign-policy establishment is a bit of an Aunt Helen—if Aunt Helen had eleven aircraft-carrier strike groups and a recurring habit of cluster-bombing the houses of people with bad drapes.

Admittedly, the comparison is a tad frivolous. There are a lot of terrible rulers in the world today, with terrible crimes to their names. Until a few years ago, Muammar Gaddafi, the former leader of Libya, was one of them. Despite decades of not posing a tangible threat to the United States and voluntarily giving up its nuclear program, it’s safe to say Gaddafi’s regime was not a Jeffersonian democracy. Gaddafi massacred Libyan citizens in an attempt to hang on to power, and threatened to massacre more. So, as a noted American stateswoman put it gleefully, “We came, we saw, he died.”

These days, Libya has open-air slave markets and a dangerous ISIS affiliate, and has been in (another) civil war for the past five years.

Outcomes like those in Libya are why American politics needs a party with a commitment to just war principles. They show why it’s important for the American Solidarity Party to offer a credible and coherent alternative to the two-party duopoly in foreign policy, not only in terms of condemning unjust wars, but also in taking a critical view of the mindset that makes them possible in the first place. Part of that mindset is the assumption that the interests of the United States are essentially boundless, that there is no place in the world where we do not have the right—even the duty—to intervene. Part of it is the belief that, in any given crisis, doing something is always better than doing nothing, since American “credibility” is at stake. Part of it is the hope against hope that there are always readily-identifiable “good guys” in every situation, and that American attempts to tip the scales on their behalf will never backfire.

A countervailing force for realism and restraint is desperately needed. That’s true not just in the case of the wars we fight directly; it’s also true of conflicts we facilitate through proxies and clients. (I’ve written about the disaster that is Yemen here, and things have gotten worse since then.) It’s true of our efforts to coerce foreign governments through sanctions and to dictate the outcomes of foreign elections or political crises through ostensibly peaceful means, which have a peculiar way of escalating.

Late last month, Marco Rubio provided a great case in point, as he often does. The senior senator from Florida appeared to taunt Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro by tweeting a series of pictures of deposed foreign dictators, including an image of Muammar Gaddafi when he was in power juxtaposed with his bloody visage while he was being tortured and killed by an angry mob during the Libyan Civil War (the one in 2011). Aside from proving that borderline sociopathy is a bipartisan condition when it comes to foreign affairs, Rubio’s tweet makes clear that the most diehard hawks are happy to piggyback off the more limited steps the US has taken to intervene in Venezuela.

Make no mistake: in recognizing the opposition leaders and attempting to assist them in ousting the Maduro government, the US has already committed itself to a policy of regime change. If the situation there worsens further, it is entirely possible that we will find out what President Trump’s assertion that “all options are on the table” really means. The potential slide toward more drastic measures is precisely why a party committed to just war principles should seek to promote a broader strategic posture of restraint. As one of the great cultural touchstones for Millennials reminds us, fools rush in.

You might ask, “What about solidarity?” Shouldn’t we care about people suffering under corrupt governments? Far be it from me to suggest that solidarity stops at the water’s edge. International cooperation should be part of any Solidarist platform. We should seek peace among nations and common effort on questions of common concern. None of that makes the United States an effective or disinterested arbiter in the affairs of every nation on the globe.

National sovereignty is not an absolute good, nor is restraint the same thing as isolation. But the overwhelming tendency in American foreign policy for decades has been toward attempts to expand American hegemony, with disasters like the Iraq War brushed aside as mere aberrations. Meanwhile, a huge swath of the electorate, cutting across party lines, is looking for an alternative to an interventionist consensus that does a disservice to both our interests and our values. The American Solidarity Party can be that alternative, if it is willing to look beyond the stale and destructive clichés that have shaped our foreign policy debates for far too long.

Presidential Candidate Spotlight – Joe Schriner

It started in 1990. I felt a spiritual calling to leave my profession, my home—I was a mental health counselor in private practice in suburban Cleveland—and go on the road. I did.

This was the start of an eight-year, 150,000 mile research journey across America. From town to town, and quite serendipitously, I would meet these amazing people who had developed phenomenal local models to help women in crisis pregnancy, save the environment, heal families, curb crime, promote peace, bring social justice to the poor, and so on.

It was as if God, below the surface of the “cacophony of dysfunction” going on in the country, was developing these models as building blocks to, ultimately, dramatically shift America—when the time was right.
I took a lot of notes.

Prior to being a counselor, I’d been a journalist. I met Liz on a research trip through Alaska. We got married, started having kids, and kept traveling. After the eight years, we settled for a short period. During this time, through more considered spiritual discernment, we were inspired to take the notes, draft them into position papers, establish an overarching platform based on the research—and start the run for President.

Funny though, the resulting platform didn’t match up, across the board, with any party’s platform. Pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, yes, but also pro-environment and pro-social justice. What our platform did match up with was Catholic social teaching. I knew something about that because I am a strong Catholic versed in those teachings.

We launched on the presidential quest in April of 1999. Since then, it has been: six successive election cycles, 100,000 miles of campaign traveling, some 1,000 newspaper articles, some 200 regional network TV news shows, hundreds of radio shows, a good number of college talks, and a whole lot of street corner stumping.

We’ve reached millions. And we’ve used various strategies from our previous research to plant seeds that then ripple out into the wider community from there. This has spanned 20 years now, and counting.

In 2012, I was contacted by the Christian Democratic Party (now the American Solidarity Party). They wanted to “endorse” me in that campaign. When I checked out the website, I was astounded! It matched our platform, almost exactly. I accepted the endorsement. During the 2016 campaign, I was approached about considering vying for the ASP nomination. I declined because, at the time, I had decided to focus my energy more on internal campaign work. That’s done.

Our campaign, we believe, now stands at a “tipping point.” What’s more, the ASP now seems to have more of a nationwide structure in place (albeit kind of a “Gideon’s Army” numbers wise). The synergy, with God’s grace, should surprise everyone!

So . . . my “passion” is to see the models we’ve researched inspire people in every town across the country, and what better way to mobilize that than through the Presidency? Concurrently, I want to see the ASP become a quite formidable mainstream Party in this country, soon!
What a wild ride this combination could be!

Presidential Candidate Spotlight – Brian Carroll

Our party achieved remarkable membership growth in 2016, and I was one of those new members. I would like to help the party grow even more in 2020. I believe that both major parties are fracturing and that the American Solidarity Party is in a good position to pick up new “free agents.”

I followed a path of political disengagement. I voted a straight pro-life (GOP) ticket from 1980 until 2010. In 1990, I helped found a local pro-life organization and served as a spokesperson when we appeared before the city council to oppose the opening of an abortion facility. However, in 2010, the California Republicans ran a pro-choice candidate for governor. I did not want to encourage that trend, so I carefully studied the Democratic candidate. I realized that in many areas, I agreed with his positions over what the GOP candidates supported. Concurrent with the 2015-2016 presidential campaign, my home congregation experienced a church split. During March 2016, after 35 years of membership in the GOP and in my congregation, I resigned from both. Cutting my political ties meant that when I discovered the American Solidarity Party that August, I was ready to jump in feet first. I also joined a new a house church which is now fully organized and chartered and blesses my wife (Vicki) and me abundantly.

Whether we call ourselves “Pro-Life for the Whole Life” or something else, I believe the American Solidarity Party is first and foremost a party that confronts the culture of death that surrounds us. We will not win everywhere, but we must constantly look for ways we can win victories anywhere that God grants us success. Life issues are also social justice issues, and now critical climate issues have become life issues. This means that, on some subjects, our allies will be from parties to the right of us, and on others, they will be from parties to the left. Walking such a tightrope will require leaders who are able to cultivate friendships on both sides, yet not stumble into self-defeating compromises. The other tightrope will be running a secular campaign that manages to glorify God. That is my goal.

In retrospect, my worst failures in life occurred during times when I felt God nudging me toward something and I turned Him down. During the last 18 months, I have felt God nudging me into the current presidential race. In 2018, I ran for Congress. Though I lost the race (finishing in fifth place out of the six candidates), I was amazed at the success of a low-budget, part-time campaign. The time is ripe. I believe that the American Solidarity Party best advances the ideals I hold for the American people, and I plan to use the next two years to further those ideals. I will retire from my current career in June, after forty-three years working in the field of education. Going forward, I will support the Party in whatever capacity God provides, with the skills and energy with which He empowers me.

Presidential Candidate Spotlight – Joshua Perkins

I grew up in a mixed-race working-class family in Houston, was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school, attended Rice University (paid for by scholarships and loans), and have worked for the past nine years at a life insurance company in an actuarial role. I have been blessed with over a decade of marriage to my wonderful wife, Jocelyn, and we are raising four children (so far) while attending an Anglican church.

My political upbringing was pretty conservative, and I was fairly libertarian from high school through college (I cast a write-in vote for Ron Paul in 2008); however, I slowly became aware that a truly consistent libertarianism would result in bad outcomes—up to and including premature death—for real people who simply lacked money or economic opportunities, which didn’t fit well with my moral and religious convictions about the equality of all people.

By 2012, my shift toward a centrist position was mostly complete, and I voted for the most moderate Republican presidential candidate (Jon Huntsman, Jr.) in both the primary and the general election that year. Although my position on many (perhaps most) of today’s political issues had moved from the right to the center or center-left, I still couldn’t vote for Democrats because of their stance on abortion; however, due to the increasing tilt of the Republican party to the right, I found myself unable to stomach voting for most of their candidates, too, which left me adrift and without a place to hang my political hat. Providentially, I found the American Solidarity Party in the spring of 2015, and I have been proud to be a member ever since.

My main impetus for putting myself forward as a candidate for the presidential nomination is to broaden the discussion and give the membership more choices; if the process shows that any (or all) of the other candidates would be a better nominee, I will gladly step aside and endorse that person (or persons) instead.

In addition to our four core principles, I plan to focus particularly on issues under the following platform headings:

Civic Engagement

In order for our party to have a significant impact on local and national politics, we have to be a viable electoral alternative, which means the most important structural issues are breaking the political duopoly by significantly improving ballot access for third parties, implementing alternative voting methods, and eliminating partisan gerrymandering.

Personal Security and Criminal Justice

Systematic racism, mass incarceration, and concerns about police accountability are some of the most pressing problems facing racial and ethnic minority communities in our country. These problems need to be addressed effectively in order to make progress toward the goal of true equality for all.

I hope that this nomination process will be clarifying and unifying for our party, and I’ll do my best toward that goal.

Coalition Building

by Brian Talbot, Jr.

In my time as a local ASP leader, I have found that some of the most productive work for  advancing the causes of our Travis County chapter of the American Solidarity Party has been in the context of partnering in solidarity with other groups. This first began when I reached out to the county chair of the local Libertarian Party affiliate in my area. We met and talked about issues facing our area and the growth of third parties in our state. While nothing concrete came from that meeting, I established a good relationship and spread awareness of the ASP.

My more recent efforts at coalition building have been effective in showing that we can take concrete action on the local level. In December, the Travis County ASP partnered with the Texans for Voter Choice coalition (TVC). TVC advocates for fair ballot access for third-party and independent candidates by changing the outdated ballot-access and petitioning laws that have remained unchanged since their adoption in 1903. During my first TVC meeting, I volunteered to work with a representative from the League of Independent Voters (LIV) to help establish a lobby day at the state capitol in Austin. Despite the fact that I had no lobbying experience, I was willing to learn and contribute what I could. As a result, TVC—in conjunction with the LIV—held a lobby day on March 5th. Through this experience, I gained new working relationships, as well as a new set of skills to use in my work with the ASP.

It has been important for me and our local ASP chapter to learn how to work with other groups toward a common goal, despite our differences on issues, just as our government should. With the Travis County ASP as a member of the TVC, I’ve continued to build our relationship with the Libertarian Party and started building relationships with the Green Party, Constitution Party, and America’s Party in Texas, as well as with other groups.

Being in a third party isn’t easy. Being a leader in a third party isn’t easy. But when we all work together, committed to a common cause, there’s nothing we can’t do. That’s solidarity right there. It’s going to both help the ASP be successful and help change American government for the better, all the way from city council to Capitol Hill.

Brian Talbot Jr. is the County Chair of the American Solidarity Party of Travis County, Texas. More information about the Travis County ASP can be found at asptc.wordpress.com.

UPDATE:

3/10/2019: Since the writing of this article, the Texas Voter Choice Act entered the Texas House of Representatives as HB 4439.

ASP Tax Reforms

By Kris Follmer

The Trump tax reforms, signed into law at the end of 2017, have now been in effect for a full year of tax filings for individuals and corporations. While many corporations saw a huge cut in taxes, many individuals have not seen the tax refunds to which they are accustomed, although most have seen a modest rise in pay as tax rates for many brackets dropped as much as 3%. There are many reasons for the smaller-than-expected tax refunds to individuals, the most significant of which likely stems from the IRS, whose withholding tables underestimated the amount needed to be withheld from paychecks this year. As a result, many taxpayers are finding a shortfall in the amount of payroll tax collected during 2018. This has caused no little distress among many people who, while they saw an increase in weekly take-home pay, have come to depend on an annual refund from the government to fund larger purchases for which they otherwise may not have saved. Other reasons for the underpayment of taxes have to do with major changes in how deductions are calculated. 

While I won’t give a complete rundown of all of the 2018 taxation changes, I will review several in light of three of the American Solidarity Party platform planks on taxation, which support:

  • A fair and progressive tax system that ends subsidies and exemptions which disproportionately benefit the wealthy and favor speculation over work.
  • A review of existing regulations and taxes, to assess their impact on small businesses.
  • Tax credit programs that give families the practical means to choose the form of education they prefer.

Probably the most significant change to the taxation of individuals in 2018 was the near-doubling of the standard deduction. This deduction is designed to ensure that at least some income is not subject to tax. Doubling this deduction significantly reduces the number of filers who itemize deductions. However, because the amount of charitable giving needed to gain any tax savings must be above the new standard deduction, charitable donations are now worth less, from a tax perspective, than they were a year ago. This undermines economic subsidiarity, a central tenet of the ASP.

As of 2018, personal exemptions have been eliminated. Prior to 2018, taxpayers could deduct income for each person in their household. Now without personal exemptions, families with many children may pay more federal income tax, despite the increase in the standard deduction. While the child tax credit has doubled under the tax reform bill, from $1,000 to $2,000 per child, that increase may or may not compensate for the lack of personal exemptions. There is now also a $500 credit for each non-child dependent, which particularly helps families caring for elderly parents.

The estate tax exemption, which is the amount of inheritance that is not taxable, has been doubled to $11.2 million for singles and $22.4 million for couples. The implementation of the estate tax was an effort by the government to reduce unearned wealth and the hoarding of untaxed wealth in the same families from generation to generation. Doubling the estate tax exemption effectively increases the accumulation of wealth in fewer hands, where it is not generally spent, donated, or invested for the benefit of the common good.

The tax deduction floor for medical expenses has been reduced from 10% to 7.5% of income, a reduction which is welcome for the millions of Americans who are in medical debt but a far cry from what is necessary to fix our national shame of crippling personal medical debt (and resultant bankruptcy, in many cases). 

One major win, in terms of the ASP platform planks on taxation, is allowance for 529 savings plans (a type of savings fund that could formerly be spent only on higher education) to also be used for public, private, and religious elementary and secondary school tuition.

The biggest change to taxes affecting businesses large and small is a reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. Insofar as this helps small businesses to flourish, it is a welcome change. However, the major beneficiaries of this tax cut are huge corporations. Although this 21% corporate tax rate is the lowest rate since 1939, it is now in alignment with the corporate tax rates of most of the rest of the world. It should be noted that most American corporations never actually paid the old rate of 35% (the effective rate is about 18%). The change in the corporate tax rate has allowed many companies to repatriate earnings made overseas at a tax rate consonant with the rate in the country where the money was earned. Despite the general equalization of the US corporate tax rate with those of the rest of the world, the overall effect of the reduction has been to further enrich investors, not workers. While some workers saw one-time bonuses due to the repatriation of funds as well as some modest capital investment, most of the wealth has been returned to shareholders through stock buybacks.

The Trump tax changes offer some definite boons to the poor and the middle class, including welcome changes to medical and educational deductions and to tax-advantaged programs. However, so much more could have been done if lawmakers had taken into consideration the ASP principles of subsidiarity. Overwhelmingly, the Trump tax bill benefits the richest Americans the most: the top 1% of earners took home 83% of the tax cut, while the poor and the middle class are left without an equal or greater benefit, as has been typical throughout American history. We call upon the US government to take swift action to drastically reduce tax giveaways to the wealthy. We further call for the implementation of a progressive tax policy that truly benefits the poor and the middle class, focuses on small businesses rather than on large corporations, and gives families real choices in the education they can provide to their children.

Stem Cell Research Update

by Matthew Williams

Under the the administration of President George W. Bush (and during the first few months of President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House), federal funding for scientific research involving embryonic stem cells was a major point of public debate. Conservatives condemned the practice as tantamount to abortion, while progressives captured the public imagination with promises of eventual cures to currently-untreatable diseases and conditions. Since then, however, the issue has largely faded from public consciousness. The purpose of this post is to review developments in scientific research using stem cells over the last decade and to consider the platform of the American Solidarity Party in light of these developments.

First, a refresher on definitions. Stem cells are naturally-occuring cells in the body which can divide to form more stem cells (a process called “self-renewal”) and also to form specialized cells (a process called “differentiation”). These two capabilities make stem cells attractive for studying both diseases and drugs. They also have therapeutic potential for regenerating body tissues.

Stem cells can be acquired from a number of different sources. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are collected from embryos three to five days old, called blastocysts. These embryos are generally created by in vitro fertilization and then are later donated for research. When stem cells are collected from embryos, the embryos are invariably destroyed. Adult stem cells, also called somatic stem cells, are found in many different tissues of adult humans. There are also perinatal stem cells, which are found in the amniotic fluid of the placenta and in umbilical-cord blood. Progress has also been made with a fourth source: induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Using a Nobel Prize-winning method which was developed by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka in 2006, adult stem cells can be genetically modified to regain pluripotency while retaining their compatibility with the donor. iPSCs were initially very inefficient to produce, but the process has since been improved.

As readers may recall, it was the destruction of human embryos that lay at the heart of the public debate about stem cell research. Those who believe that life begins at conception generally regard the destruction of embryos as a great moral wrong. The reason scientists have sought to use ESCs despite the controversy surrounding them is that such cells are pluripotent—able to differentiate into any kind of specialized cell (except those that will form the placenta). Unaltered adult stem cells lack this quality and were initially thought to be only capable of differentiating into the different cells of their native organ. This significantly limited their feasibility for research (that is, research would become prohibitively expensive and difficult to the point of disincentivizing researchers). Additionally, adult stem cells are more likely to contain abnormalities from toxins and DNA replication errors accumulated from numerous divisions. One important advantage of adult stem cells, however, is that they are less likely to be targeted by the recipient’s immune system than ESCs and so are attractive for therapeutic applications. If iPSCs continue to demonstrate progress in research and in clinical trials, they could provide the right combination of moral acceptability, practicality for research, and lower risk of rejection. The only remaining hurdle would seem to be correcting DNA errors, although such mutations may not have clinical significance in all cases.

Some cases of significant scientific misconduct in the field have also come to light since the topic of stem cell research lost popular interest. In 2009, stem cell researcher Dr. Hwang Woo-suk was convicted of fabricating data when he claimed he had successfully cloned embryonic stem cells containing nuclei originating with adult stem cells. He was also convicted of misusing research funds and illegally trading in human eggs. In 2018, Harvard Medical School recommended the retraction of 31 published studies produced by Dr. Piero Anversa, a former researcher there, for fabricating or falsifying data pertaining to adult stem cells of the heart. These two cases of misconduct created significant setbacks in their specific areas of stem cell research.

In the American Solidarity Party platform, the first essential principle articulated sets the tone for the Party’s stance on the use of ESCs: “We must build a culture and enact laws upholding the equal, innate and inviolable dignity of every human person from conception to natural death.” Setting the boundary for the beginning of life at conception includes human embryos, who would be regarded as the most vulnerable and needy among us. Under the heading Right to Life, “the intentional destruction of human embryos, in any context” is explicitly condemned. The guidelines developed by the International Society for Stem Cell Research, which recommend destroying embryos used in research no later than fourteen days after fertilization, are clearly incompatible. The Party platform goes on to support “a constitutional amendment that affirms that personhood begins at conception and declares that there is no right to abortion under the U.S. Constitution, thus reversing Roe v. Wade and its progeny.” While this statement is addressing the issue of abortion, it is clearly also applicable to the use of ESCs.

Stem cell research is not explicitly addressed in the platform. Under the heading Public Services can be found support for “[i]nvestments in scientific research and technology that advance the common good, and do not just increase the profits of private corporations” and for “increased public funding for basic research and development.” Given that iPSCs are still believed to possess great potential for curing disease and do not require the destruction of human embryos, encouraging stem cell research without the use of ESCs would appear to be compatible with the Party values.

Stem cell research, like many areas of scientific and clinical research, presents unique opportunities both to improve the lives of those suffering from afflictions and to cause grave harm to humanity, both in general and to particular individuals. In the case of ESCs, few in the pro-life movement have been able to rationalize the destruction of embryos, given the view that they are indeed human beings whose inherent dignity demands our protection. Indeed, iPSCs and other ethically acquired stem cells may yet have much to offer, but we must continue to resist the temptation to choose avenues of research that appear to offer answers sooner—especially in the face of human suffering. We must not harm the living we cannot easily see in order to benefit those we can.


Sources:

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells 10 Years Later”. Circulation Research.

Of stem cells and ethics”. Nature Cell Biology.

Stem Cell Information”. National Institutes of Health.

Stem Cell Therapies in Clinical Trials: Progress and Challenges”. Cell Stem Cell.

Stem Cells: What are they and what do they do?Mayo Clinic.

Stem Cell Research”. Christian Biowiki.

Skip to toolbar