Politics & Elections

David Segal is making the progressive case in the second congressional race

“We’ve got so many issues… that have gone unaddressed,” said Congressional candidate David Segal. “We’re talking about, in the broadest sense, of building a fairer economy which goes to taxes, goes to spending, goes to corporate power…”
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Published on June 13, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

David Segal is running for Congress in Rhode Island’s second congressional district, an open seat since incumbent Representative James Langevin announced he will not be seeking reelection. It’s a crowded field, but Segal, a former Providence City Councilmember and former member of the Rhode Island house has secured some high profile endorsements, including that of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who will be a guest at a Segal fundraiser on June 22.

Uprise RI sat down with the David Segal in his backyard for a discussion of his campaign and the issues that drive him. Our conversation covered the Green New Deal, unionization, Medicare for All, inflation, student loan forgiveness, housing and more.

“It’s clear to me… that people are frustrated, and rightly frustrated, about the fact that government isn’t doing more. We know government should be doing more for us that it is,” said Segal. “We’ve got so many issues… that have gone unaddressed. We’re talking about, in the broadest sense, of building a fairer economy which goes to taxes, goes to spending, goes to corporate power…”

How do you define “progressive”?

“To me it means people who want to actively use public power in order to improve people’s lives… We need government to actively engage in order to make people’s lives better…”

Do you see a company like Facebook as needing to be broken up because of its monopoly power?

“One of the reasons Elizabeth Warren endorsed my candidacy right away was because of work I’ve done with her office over the years around these questions of corporate power and moreover getting people in place at [federal] commissions who really care about using corporate power towards public benefit. ..”

What does it mean to be a progressive, economically speaking?

After preamble, Segal answered, “a lot of small and mid-sized firms, and a lot of social supports for people in and out of work, robust workers rights and progressive taxation. I’m sure there are some things I’m missing…”

Over half of the of the increase in inflation (53.9%) “can be attributed to fatter profit margins, with labor costs contributing less than 8% of this increase,” writes the Economic Policy institute. The rest can be chalked up to other issues, such as the supply chain.

“Supply chain issues and the excess [corporate] profits go back to what we were talking about earlier, and monopoly power,” said Segal. “In an idealized capitalist system, and idealized market system, firms don’t have pricing power. In a truly competitive market a firm can’t decide to jack up prices. The fact that these prices are rising so much is an indication [that] corporations have more power than they should have.”

Student loan forgiveness:

“I support student loan forgiveness, at least $50k and if someone wanted to do away with all of it I would be supportive… I think we should institute free public education for everybody. This goes back to the public option. one public option is free public education education for everybody, inclusive of vocational training, trades, nursing etc…”

What can we do to make it easier for people to unionize?

Segal specifically mention the PRO Act (Protecting your Right to Organize). This bill,

  1. revises the definitions of employee, supervisor, and employer to broaden the scope of individuals covered by the fair labor standards;
  2. permits labor organizations to encourage participation of union members in strikes initiated by employees represented by a different labor organization (i.e., secondary strikes);
  3. prohibits employers from bringing claims against unions that conduct such secondary strikes.

On the environment and the Green New Deal:

“Since I first took office on the City Council the environment and pushing back against climate change, converting to renewable energy, [and] bringing jobs along with it has been one of my highest imperatives…

What is the path from where we are to Medicare for All, a single payer healthcare system?

“People who are on Medicare really like Medicare, so we should make more people Medicare eligible.”

War powers:

“Another issue I’ve worked on for the lat five, six, seven years now… is elevating Congress’s authority in deciding when we go to war, which is Congress’s constitutional authority. It’s like an Article One authority. The article in the Constitution that creates Congress says that they shall decide when we go to war…

Criminal justice reform:

“There are a number of bills that deal with trying to create alternative interventions in terms of policing, supporting institutions such as the Nonviolence Institute, for instance, but doing that at a greater scale…”

And private prisons, just gone?

“Yeah.”

Housing:

“More housing,” said Segal, but also, “You need to be looking for intervention points to prevent [companies from buying up properties and preventing home ownership.] Sometimes it’s going to be a new law, sometimes it’s going to be a regulatory intervention by an existing regulator…”

The House may be under Republican control when you take office. What does it mean to be legislating from the minority position?

“I don’t want to concede that it will definitely be that way, but if it goes happen,” said Segal. “The whole time I was in the Assembly we had a Republican governor and I was co-organizing our progressive caucus but we had much more conservative Democrats running the House. So in some sense, that was also legislating from a minority position…”

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