The Christian Post invited all the presidential candidates to answer the same set of 10 questions. Here are Marianne Williamson's answers:
CP: What are your religious beliefs and how do they relate to your decision to run for president?
Williamson: As a Jew, I was raised with the belief that God has given us this instruction: “tikkun olam,” or “repair the world.” An ancient rabbinical teaching that has always guided my actions is this: “You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you permitted to abandon it.” God would not just have us feel love; He would have us demonstrate love, and by doing so bring justice to all beings.
CP: What should be done about the large number of migrants from Central and South America arriving at our southern border seeking asylum?
Williamson: I oppose Trump’s recent slashing of the refugee cap to an all-time low of 18,000 people, cutting the number almost in half of last year’s cap of 30,000. I agree with the president of Church World Service, Reverend McCullough, who said, “With one final blow, the Trump administration has snuffed out Lady Liberty’s torch and ended our nation’s legacy of compassion and welcome.”
Seeking asylum is not a crime but a statutory right.
There is a backlog of almost one million cases in our immigration courts, many of them seeking asylum. We should add more personnel to process asylum requests more quickly.
We should treat the people seeking asylum with respect.
We should stop separating families. The Federal government has a moral responsibility to keep families together. For those who have been torn apart by the current administration, we must take immediate action to reunite children with their families.
And we should address the situations in their homes that cause people to flee, by increasing security and economic opportunity that enable them to stay in their homes in Central and South America.
CP: Under what conditions should current unauthorized immigrants in the United States be allowed to make restitution and apply for legal status or citizenship?
Williamson: I would provide a timely, ethical, transparent and straightforward path to citizenship for all law-abiding, productive immigrants living in the United States.
I fully support DACA. Our dreamers represent the best about our future. I would also work to expand protections and naturalization to all undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children, regardless of their current age. They came here through no fault of their own, and many are, in fact, unaware that they are undocumented.
CP: What actions should presidents take to aid and protect those who are persecuted for their faith around the world?
Williamson: I am a strong advocate of human rights for all, including protecting people from persecution due to their faith. I am deeply disturbed about religious persecution such as Christians attacked in India and the Mideast. Presidents should use the bully pulpit of the presidency to speak out about and condemn prosecution of people due to their faith. Respect for human rights should be considered when deciding international agreements such as trade.
CP: What should be done about America's legacy of slavery and racial discrimination, and recent racial unrest?
Williamson: America’s fundamental race problem is a moral issue.
The practice of slavery began in this country in the 1600s, and by the end of the Civil War in 1864, there are believed to have been almost 4 million slaves in America. While it’s important that we not in any way minimize the extraordinary efforts made by those before us, it is our generation’s turn to continue the process of total reconciliation with this evil in America’s past.
Yes, we ended slavery. Yes, we passed Civil Rights legislation – including the Voting Rights Act – in the 1960s. But no, we have not yet fully done all that it is morally incumbent upon us to do in order to heal this ugly wound. The forty acres and a mule promised to every former slave after the Civil War was not a joke; it was a means by which a formerly enslaved population would have had a chance to integrate economically into life as a freed citizen. While a few were, in fact, given their acreage, the vast majority were not – and most who received them would see the land given back to previous owners over time.
After the Civil War, Black Code Laws were passed in the South to ensure that black Americans (former slaves) would not be able to live economically or socially on par with white Americans (their former masters). Lynching became prevalent by the end of the 1800s. Jim Crow Laws guaranteed the disenfranchisement of black Americans from voting. White supremacy and segregation were dominant in the American South.
None of this was fundamentally addressed until the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. Finally, serious efforts were made to dismantle the horrors of institutionalized white supremacy.
While some Americans like to believe that our problems ended there, they did not. Over two centuries of slavery – forced, unpaid labor that in essence built the economy of the American South – means that someone owes someone something.
In many ways, America has continued the process of racial reconciliation begun in the 1960s. Yet in other ways, we have actually slipped backward. Yes, there are no more colored bathrooms and separate drinking fountains. But we now have mass incarceration; racial disparity in criminal sentencing; lost voting rights; outright voter suppression; and police brutality often focused on black populations.
Tepid solutions are not enough for the times in which we live; we need huge, strategized acts of righteousness, now. Just as Germany has paid $89 Billion in reparations to Jewish organizations since WW2, the United States should pay reparations for slavery. A debt unpaid is still a debt unpaid, even if it’s 150 years later. The legacy of that injustice lives on, with racist policies infused into our systems even to this day. From employment and housing discrimination, to equal access to quality education in underserved communities, to police brutality/prejudice, to lack of fair lending practices, to lack of access to quality healthcare, to insecure voting rights, America has not yet completed the task of healing our racial divide.
For that reason, I propose a $200 billion - $500 billion plan of reparations for slavery, the money to be disbursed over a period of twenty years. An esteemed council of African American leaders would determine the educational and economic projects to which the money would be given.
CP: How should we change defense spending, Social Security, healthcare spending, or the tax code to slow the growth of deficit spending and tackle the over $22 trillion national debt and over $124 trillion in unfunded liabilities?
Williamson: The federal budget needs an overhaul to reflect our values, and to be brought into balance. I would take a number of strong actions to do that including the following.
- Over the past decades, the tax burden has been shifted away from business and the very wealthy onto the backs of the middle class. I would reverse that trend, and have the wealthy pay their fair share.
- Businesses’ funding of the federal government has fallen dramatically, from over one-third of all federal revenue in 1945 to about only 10% in 2015.
- In the 1950s, the corporate tax rate was over 50%. After the 2017 tax bill, the corporate tax rate fell from 35% to 21%.
- These figures are the stated corporate tax rate. The amount they ACTUALLY pay is far less. Amazon paid zero in federal taxes last year on its $10 billion in profits. We need to close the loopholes that make this possible.
- Taxes on very wealthy individuals has also dropped. In 1980 the top marginal rate was 70%; the 2017 tax cut brought the top marginal rate down to 37%.
- I would increase taxes on corporations and the very wealthy, and reduce taxes for middle and low-income people.
- I would end the 2017 tax bill where 83 cents of every $1 cut went to corporations and the very wealthy. This would save about $1.5 trillion.
- I support a wealth-tax of 2% on wealth over $50 million, and 3% over $1 billion.
- I would cut military spending, and redirect some resources to Peacebuilding.
- Social Security and Medicare are both vital programs that ensure the health and economic security of seniors, and I will work vigorously to preserve, protect and enhance both programs.
- Social Security is the most important source of income for most seniors. To strengthen Social Security, I will “Scrap the Cap” on taxable earnings. Workers pay about 6% of their wages into the Social Security fund, matched by their employer, up to an income of $132,900. Any money earned over that is NOT subject to the Social Security tax, so people earning $1 million a year pay the same as people earning $133,000. That’s not fair. Those earning more should pay more. I would lift the cap, so people pay a set percentage of earnings into Social Security no matter what their income level. Scrapping the cap will strengthen the Social Security fund.
- Then I would increase benefits of Social Security so seniors can live in dignity without fear of poverty.
- I would eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel industry which is one of the most profitable industries in history.
CP: What can the federal government do to improve economic mobility for struggling Americans?
Williamson: It is unacceptable that 40% of Americans would not be able to pay $400 for an unexpected expense. It is immoral that 1 in 5 children in America go hungry. It is scary that most Americans have saved little or no money to support themselves when they retire.
There are many actions I would take to reduce economic stress on Americans struggling financially, which is most Americans.
1. PROVIDE UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE: First, recognizing that health care bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy, I would make Medicare available to all who want it - whatever their age - and subsidize the rates on a sliding scale to make it affordable.
2. REDUCE THE COST OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: Right now, Americans pay 3-16 times the prices for medicines that people in other countries pay, even though the American taxpayers funded much of the research to create these medicines. I would reduce the cost of medication by removing the restriction on the government negotiating drug prices with the pharmaceuticals. If the drug companies don’t drop the price dramatically, I would invoke the Bayh-Dole bill “march-in rights” which enable the government to revoke the license to sell the medicine for companies that fail to make it available at reasonable prices, and award the license to companies which sell it at lower prices.
3. ENACT FAIR TAXES: I would reverse the trend where middle and lower-income people pay more in taxes, and the very wealthy and corporations pay less. See above for taxation policies that would reduce the burden on working families and fund needed programs.
4. MAKE COLLEGE AFFORDABLE: Offer free college tuition to qualified students. Reduce the burden on college graduates by canceling student debt.
5. SUPPORT WORKING FAMILIES: I would enact a series of policies to support working families, including a $15 minimum wage, and paid family and medical leave so workers can still earn some wages if they need to temporarily leave work to take care of themselves or a loved one.
CP: The Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognize the human rights of all people. At what point in the development of a person, from the time they are conceived, should they obtain those rights?
Williamson: I am a strong supporter of the human rights of all people. A person is a being that can live on its own independent of another being, so human rights begin at birth.
Additionally, we are beginning to see that the full scale of industrial harm is a violation of the rights of all people by impinging on their ability to breathe clean air, drink clean water, eat non-toxic food, and indeed inhabit the planet. I support criminalization of those acts which seriously damage nature, as we need to go beyond just regulating environmental harm.
CP: One of the foundational principles of the United States is tolerance, with our Founding Fathers being influenced by writings such as John Locke's "A Letter Concerning Toleration." How would you define tolerance and how do you see that principle embodied in your public life and policy positions?
Williamson: Tolerance is an acceptance of beliefs or practices different from our own. I incorporate tolerance in my appreciation that others may hold different religious or political beliefs than I do, yet we are all united as Americans.
Beyond tolerance lies full acceptance, God does not just tolerate his children. God loves each person with full acceptance, and we are here to love as He loves. We can do more than tolerate, we can celebrate and love the diversity that makes our country great.
CP: Early this year, the state of Alabama denied a Muslim death row inmate's request to have an imam present at his execution. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to stay the execution in order to evaluate whether his religious freedom was violated. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Elana Kagan wrote that the state must accommodate religious beliefs unless it can "show that its policy is narrowly tailored to a compelling interest." Do you agree with this principle of religious accommodation? Under what conditions should the state be allowed to infringe upon religious freedom?
Williamson: Yes, I agree with the principle of religious accommodation. For example, a Christian facing execution should be allowed to have a priest pray with him. The state should only infringe on religious freedom if there is a compelling interest of public safety or national security.