Representative Jamal Bowman (D-NY 16) recently won the Democratic primary in New York’s 16th congressional district with more than 57% of the vote. This area consists of most of Westchester County, south of Interstate 287 and its four largest cities – Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains, and Yonkers, as well as a portion of the North Central Bronx.
Bowman running against. Dr. Miriam Fleiser of Scarsdale, New York. Elections will be held on November 8 and early voting will begin on October 29The tenth. I interviewed Representative Bowman to talk about the major economic and financial issues facing the New York District 16.
What is your platform?
For all of us, and for every member of Congress, we have to save our democracy. I was sworn in on January 3, 2021, and a rebellion occurred three days later, because the former president had told the big lie that the election had been stolen. He inspired his supporters to come to Washington to attack the capital. When we are on the verge of destroying democracy, saving democracy is the key element we are all working on.
I also work in education, especially because of my background. I was a teacher for twenty years, and for ten years I was the principal of a middle school. So, I know education issues inside and out. Education is the cornerstone of our democracy, and we have to make sure that we have a perfect education system.
Another issue I’m working on is climate change, because we have to save our planet. We have to stop these constant severe storms destroying people’s homes and killing people. If we don’t respond aggressively now, it will only get worse.
I also focus a lot on the economy and the financial system, which for a very long time has benefited the very wealthy, 0.1%, while the rest of us have to struggle and claw just to survive. The financial system is rooted in inequality. Hence, this issue is a major focus of our office.
What do you see as the top priorities for District 16?
When I zoom out and think about broader economic issues, affordable housing is a major problem in our region. It's an important issue because there has been a continuous withdrawal of funding for affordable housing and public housing at the federal level. Much of this housing is placed in private hands, which is a major concern, because of how long public housing will remain affordable if it is in private hands. We are moving to where housing has become more than a commodity. When you look at rents in the last couple of years, you find that rents are higher, and home purchases are more expensive since the pandemic.
We also have a high level of concentrated poverty and schools that are underfunded. Many in our region cannot access jobs or develop the workforce. We don't see the development of financial literacy happening in our region. Not only are we seeing public investment in these areas, we're also not seeing private investment. Previous initiatives did not produce the results we had hoped for.
What can you influence on student loan initiatives?
Student loans under the financing umbrella. Student loans consistently come across racial lines and across class lines. Our office has been candid and has communicated with the White House on this matter, and we believe this is one of the reasons the President has written off some student loan debt. We are very happy and excited about it. We live in something similar to wartime America. More than a million people have died due to a global pandemic. And now we have a war going on in Ukraine, which has greatly affected our economy and the global economy. Many women still do not recover and people of color have not recovered yet. If there is ever a time to properly cancel all or a large portion of student loans, it will be the time to move forward in restarting our economy. We need to put money back into people's pockets so they can make the investments, like buying a home, and make the savings they want. People need rest right now, not only economic relief but also psychological relief after this amazing pandemic.
What kind of legislation would you like to introduce to help fight inflation?
We have already introduced three pieces of legislation designed to target inflation. It concerns in particular the issue of inflation, that is, the law of price stability in emergency situations. This bill calls first and foremost for transparency.
We the American people need to have a better understanding of what causes supply chain problems, what happens with corporate ledgers, and what happens with higher prices that contribute to inflation. We want to empower the president and the president's staff to open the corporate books and tell the American people exactly what's going on. People can not live. We're not talking about setting prices across the board. We are talking about some specific areas like housing, rent, utilities and energy. We need to do the research, be transparent in the research and do something about prices that are hurting people's quality of life and affordability. We still don't have comprehensive baby or pre-kindergarten care. Therefore, people pay large sums for childcare, housing and utilities. People are really struggling. The Emergency Price Stability Act seeks to solve these problems. If we need to control the price, this might be something we have to think about. We are also sponsoring the Ending Corporate Greed Act and the Children Above Billionaires Act to help people in my region and the rest of the country.
How do you respond to people who criticize price controls because they may distort the markets?
There is a precedent here. There were price controls during World War II to help us recover from that horrific war. These were not price controls that were put in place forever. We need to have a conversation about long-term price control, because we have a free market system that doesn't work for everyone. We have a free market system that allows inflation to be controlled by having millions of unemployed. For me this is a flawed system. We have a system that discourages banks from lending and people from getting paid living jobs in order to control inflation. This is a faulty system. We need a system that is truly guided by the values of our democracy: equality, well-being, quality of life and affordability, where people can work and earn a living and where inflationary pressures are not what they are now. That's why we have to talk about price gouging, so that companies don't benefit from a global pandemic.
What are your opinions on private equity ownership of housing?
We need to save public goods. In a democracy, there is such a thing as the common good: water, housing, health care, and education. When we have a system that focuses only on profits, what you get is people dying, because they can't get decent and affordable housing or because of a lack of health care. In my area, we've had four or five public housing facilities and all, with one exception, are transitioning to the private ownership model. We hear it will still be affordable, but what does that mean? What does that look like when profits are too great to lose? When everything is driven by profit and not by people's welfare, people suffer. And these people are usually poor, black or brown.
Senator Elizabeth Warren is friendly and supportive, and she is adept in these areas. God willing, if I win my election in November, I will continue to work with her in Congress.