On my end and on behalf of my group, Knowledge Democrats, given Michelle Nunn has been generating a lot of attention and has DSCC-backing, I've chosen to focus on the lesser talked about campaign of the other Democratic Candidate Branko Radulovacki. The reason for this isn't that I'm trying to control the debate over who should the Democrats in Georgia nominate come the May 2014 Primary but rather let the underdog have a voice in the matter regardless of the end outcome
In the case of Branko Radulovacki, who goes by Dr. Rad, as I've posted other diaries informing people about his events and other insight, some folks have made comments defending Michelle Nunn but never once do I hear an argument over the real meat as opposed to say the surface for Nunn's candidacy. Keep in mind I do believe Nunn is a credible candidate and from what I've seen, does have strong credentials and background with potential for being a strong U.S. Senator. I just think it doesn't do justice to discuss only Michelle Nunn and not the other candidates.
Anyhow, in talking to Branko "Dr. Rad" Radulovacki, I can't help but think of the time years ago when Howard Dean was just being voted in as the DNC Chair back in 2005 and the following was mentioned:
And then there was the former governor of Vermont, his stature alternately enhanced and diminished by the company he was keeping. Substantively, there wasn’t much daylight between Dean and his rivals. Like them, he pledged to run a “50-state campaign,” ticking off his support in red domains such as Florida and Oklahoma. Like them, he caressed every local-party G-spot he could put his fingers on, promising a flood of DNC cash for down-ticket races. But unlike them, Dean sparked a genuine jolt of excitement, closing his talk with a story about an Evangelical Christian who, despite disagreeing with him about abortion and homosexuality, supported his presidential run because Dean refused to compromise his beliefs. “We can change the way we talk,” Dean intoned to lusty cheers, “but we need to remain people of deep conviction!”Yes, the kind of abilities Howard Dean is mentioned about his outreach and his effort to win over skeptical Evangelical voters are the exact abilities Dr. Rad has in that he does have conviction and never backs down from his views. In addition, he also thinks very much objectively and is one of those people who gives you the plain truth as opposed to always strategy on messaging. At the same time, Dr. Rad's one of the most open, inviting and inclusive people you can meet and that comes from chatting a bit with him even outside of our interview.
If you find Dr. Rad too liberal for Georgia (even though the state is verified by even Senator Johnny Isaakson as potentially turning into a purple state), then perhaps you should ask yourselves: Is a liberal candidate in Georgia unable to gain crossover appeal because he's a purified partisan or an actual, reasonable thinker that doesn't need talking points to win over voters?
Anyhow, below the fold is the interview. It's lengthy but covers a lot of ground. Dr. Rad was gracious to be able to answer the questions without hesitation and is surprisingly detail-oriented in his responses.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Was there a moment or big factor that led you to make the decision to run for the U.S. Senate?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: Yes. There was "a moment" that followed a "big factor," as you call it.
Several years ago, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) ran an investigative series exposing a state mental health crisis. Over 100 people had died in state facilities due to negligence. As a psychiatrist in private practice, I reached out to a number of local advocacy groups (NAMI, the Carter Center, Mental Health America) to offer my support for their response. But they all said essentially, “Nothing can be done. It’s a tragedy, we’ve tried….”
I couldn’t do nothing. I made more calls trying to generate enthusiasm for a coordinated response. One advocate told me, “You’d probably have more luck if you tied yourself to the gates of the governor’s mansion naked.” That was a sobering assessment of the situation.
Undeterred, I wrote an OpEd (which ran in the AJC) saying this was a moral and spiritual imperative for me – and I would not give up. I called the Carter Center and asked for names of anyone they thought would come to a brainstorming session; I’d invite those people to meet in my office, we’d form a plan, and we’d do something. That motivated the leaders of the Carter Center mental health program into agreeing to host a meeting. I spoke passionately to attendees. There was another meeting. Then another. And we began to convince people that this was a fight worth fighting.
Long story short, the U.S. Justice Department ultimately sued the state of GA, which agreed to put over $50MM into reforming the state psychiatric hospital system. It would never have happened had we not dug in our heels and refused to give up. That experience proved to me that one person’s relentless determination to do what’s right can make a difference.
Since then, I’ve launched and led two non-profits designed to address other problems in Georgia’s healthcare system and to help the poor, homeless, and those with addictions and/or mental illness. That advocacy work, done voluntarily (i.e. for free, and at times, at my own expense) -- in conjunction with numerous grassroots groups, has earned local and national media coverage and received multiple awards.
When I read that Saxby Chambliss would be retiring from the U.S. Senate and leaving an open seat in Georgia, I felt a similar urge to do something. I contacted the Democratic Party of Georgia (DPG)to express my willingness to expand my service to the people of Georgia by running for this seat. No one returned my calls. Instead, the chair of the DPG gave an interview to the AJC in which he stated, "We have an anointing strategy" and he explained that the party wanted an unopposed primary. I wrote a letter to the AJC -- which was published -- saying that voters deserve a choice and a voice in who represents them. Feeling clearly called to offer an alternative to the "anointed" candidate, I filed papers and declared my intent to run.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: As someone not born in the U.S. (in Belgrade, Yugoslavia) and living in Sudan until 7, did any of those early years shape you in any way prior to coming to the U.S.?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: Of course! Having lived on three continents by age 7, I came to the States with a deep sense of wonder and gratitude. I was already well aware that what constitutes privilege or opportunity in other countries could not compare with what I saw in the U.S. For example, in Belgrade, three generations of my family lived in a one-bedroom apartment; my bed was two chairs pushed together. By contrast, we came to the U.S. as a family of four and moved into a two-bedroom apartment. It was so spacious! And I had an actual bed to sleep in! Best of all, my father spent his early income on a single item for the living room: a COLOR television! I still remember sitting on the floor watching Lost in Space and thinking, only this country could be so wonderful. That deep sense of gratitude, along with a tremendous work ethic and appreciation for opportunity, have stayed with me since childhood.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Going from an MBA to medical school seems like a big shift. What attributed to your decision to pursue the medical profession and become a psychiatrist?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: I entered business school planning to return to Wall Street (I'd worked there briefly after college). I spent the summer between first and second year of business school at Morgan Stanley, but felt increasingly unable to connect with the values and priorities of my colleagues. I returned to business school thinking I should consider alternatives. After finishing at the University of Chicago, I worked briefly in advertising and market research, but again felt an emptiness in my work. I needed to do something more meaningful -- something that was of greater service to others. I began talking with physicians and therapists, got a volunteer position at Northwestern Memorial Child & Adolescent Psych unit, and discovererd a genuine desire to work in medicine, and specifically in mental health.
I hadn't been a pre-med undergrad, so I had to go back for pre-med courses, then med school and residency -- a 10-year course of preparation and training. When I finished, I knew I'd found work that would be deeply rewarding to me and helpful to others in a life-changing way. I took a position as Director of Partial Hospitalization at a psychiatric hospital and began building my practice treating patients so profoundly ill that, in many cases, other physicians didn't want to -- or weren't able to -- handle. Over time, that led to a series of "Top Doc" recognitions -- both local and national -- from my professional peers.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Certain people may be hesitant to associate themselves with certain religious-minded associations or groups but on your end, the organization you founded, FaithWorks, has a focus on bringing communities together and works to address mental health and illness issues. How what have you seen that FaithWorks has contributed to communities in Georgia?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: There are certain beliefs and values that most people of faith -- regardless of faith tradition -- have in common. I believed that we could build bridges between faith communities, surrounding neighborhoods, those with mental illness and their families by tapping into the shared desire to seek (and work toward) a collective Common Good. Whether volunteer participants responded as an act of faith, an act of community, or in response to a perceived philosophical or moral imperative, the goal was to inspire people to move past the fear and stigma that often isolates those in need of community support -- and to begin connecting them with those willing to be of help. As one congregant summarized after a training session, "It's a blessing to be a blessing."
Faithworks gave those with mental illness and their families a broader sense of "community" because they were welcomed and embraced by entire congregations. Meanwhile, it gave congregants a new way to think about doing good, educated them about mental illness and how to recognize needs in their midst, and tapped into their collective desire to make a difference in a way that many considered God-honoring. It succeeded in all the participating communities by equipping and empowering people to care for one another in new ways -- in the process, opening doors, generating new dialogue, creating new care networks, and making compassion more a verb than just a feeling.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What are some of the most important issues facing Georgia from your perspective and from what residents have mentioned to you?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: Because the vast majority of elective offices in GA are currently held by Republicans, and because the Tea Party has such a powerful influence on Georgia politics, I think one of the most important issues is finding ways to insure that the "blue" half of Georgia is represented -- at both the state and federal level. The Republican agenda has been largely a pro-business, low-tax, reduced regulation, "free market," anti-Obama one. Some of the most sobering results have included the lack of Medicaid expansion and consistently ranking among the nation's worst in health, education, and quality job creation. Georgia is also a interesting mix of mindsets. There are those who have deep roots in the "old South," and who resist a progressive agenda as a threat to their interests and their way of life. Only by interacting with them directly, one-on-one, am I able to demonstrate my genuine desire to serve them -- as well as the "other" Georgians they seem to fear, resent, dislike or distrust.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Although this is your first run for political office, what has been mentioned about Georgia as far as demographics is that the state is on a trajectory for being more purple (i.e. becoming a more swing state overtime with more Democratic voters than it was years ago) overtime. What's your assessment of this? How would you describe Georgia residents?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: I think I started to answer to this in the previous question. I agree that Georgia is on a trajectory toward purple, but it's not clear how quickly that change will come. Certainly, Jason Carter's decision to run for his grandfather's former seat as governor -- and to run against an ethically-challenged, currently-under-investigation Republican Governor (Nathan Deal) -- is likely to fire up Dems and independents who want a government that is more ethical and accountable to the people of Georgia.
More generally, I would say that Georgia is a place both of progress and changelessness. The Hispanic community is growing rapidly. The black urban professional community is, too. And there is a growing progressive young adult population. But, this is largely in urban areas. There are parts of the state where not much has changed in decades. I anticipated that that part of Georgia would resist change, but I've been surprised to see the level of enthusiasm for my campaign among minorities who feel that change has GOT to come -- and they see me as a credible change agent.
In some ways, Georgia may be much like the U.S. in that Obama's election was made possible, in part, by a backlash against Bush and the Republican party's use/abuse of power during his time in office. The same may be true here. If so, the voter turnout to support Carter may benefit my campaign, as well.
DR. RAD'S CANDIDACY:
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: In making a distinction between yourself and Michelle Nunn, who is DSCC-backed, what sets you apart from her? Why would a Georgia resident consider you over Nunn?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: There are a number of important distinctions between the two of us. A few include:
- Nunn is running as a centrist with a political family name and DSCC backing. By contrast, I am running as a progressive Dem with a name & reputation I've earned through hardwork as a first-generation immigrant with an "American Dream" story. In Georgia, that comes down to a race between the past and the future.
- Nunn's run a non-profit, which is her primary claim to serving Georgia. By contrast, I've donated 100% of my time and effort as an advocate for Georgians -- influencing state gov't policy on several issues (including funding for state psychiatric hospitals -- GA ultimately coughed up $50MM, and resisting the Governor's plan to privatize state psychiatric hospitals -- he rescinded his recommendation). I've also founded and led two nonprofits -- investing my own money, and taking no compensation whatsoever -- which enhanced gov't services by creating community and faith-based "safety nets" for low-income GA families. In Georgia, that looks a lot like a choice between management and labor.
- Nunn's taken very few clear positions; the ones she has taken have included being for the bombing in Syria and delaying the ACA's individual mandate. She's also ducked every candidate forum and debate, to-date. By contrast, I've published my positions online (campaign website, social media), "walked the talk" by making myself accessible to media and voters statewide (to the point that I regularly hear, "You're everywhere!"), and agreed to every forum and debate invitation (regardless of crowd size or venue). In Georgia, that translates as a candidate who's playing not to lose vs. one who's working hard to win.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: In one of your campaign events, you went to a crowd that was diverse and had Tea Party attendees. A number of people in the Democratic Party typically avoid Tea Party people like the plague but you (from what we've seen) have more liberal views than Michelle Nunn and ended up approaching the Tea Party crowd anyway to chat with them. How did this fare out? Does this mean you're pandering to them or are you taking the political cap off and addressing the TP differently than what Democrats would normally do?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: Great questions! I am not avoiding Tea Party people because they're some of my future constituents. If I'm elected, I'm there to serve ALL Georgians -- not just the ones who agree with me. I think it's essential that I show my willingness to listen with an open mind, my eagerness to find common ground, and my desire to work for the Common Good. I can't very well do that if I refuse to even attend their event.
When I went to the Tea Party-sponsored forum (which Nunn not only did not attend, but did not even respond to the invitation), I was prepared for the worst: heckling, harassment, disrespect. I never experienced any of that. The Tea Partiers I met were superficially cool/aloof, but also curious. What did I believe about marriage equality and why? How did I feel about the second amendment? What were my thoughts on socialism? I answered calmly and sincerely -- and they listened. Really listened. Most told me that, although they disagreed with my points of view, they respected my courage for showing up and appreciated my willingness to explain our differences. What more could I ask for? Did I earn their votes? I doubt it. But I definitely earned their grudging respect -- and that's a great start. I'm confident that, if I win the open Senate seat, they'll be glad the winning Dem was someone who demonstrated courage and conviction.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: In one of the videos listed on your website, in an interview you mention you approach issues and problems objectively as opposed to others (whether in the Democratic Party or any other party) that at times deal with talking points. How can you describe this to those who might not understand this?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: The best way to explain this to someone who might not understand is to talk about my practice. When someone comes to my office with a problem, I don't start by labeling them as a progressive or a Republican, a libertarian or an independent. That doesn't matter. I need to look past labels -- and past any drama and other "red herrings" that might distract me from the real problem -- and discern what is at the heart of their struggle, and how I can best move things in the direction of healthy solutions.
The same is true of my approach to political problems. One of the benefits of not being "the anointed (Dem) candidate" is that I am not beholden to any party's way of seeing things. I very often see things from a Democratic perspective, but I don't feel limited by that. I try to approach every issue and every problem with a completely open mind. I gather information, seek input from those who are involved or affected, formulate an opinion, test it -- along with what seems like the best solution, and remain open to new information about what does or doesn't work. The goal is always solutions; never being RIGHT. The kind of rigid thinking that presumes answers are known almost before problems are defined is part of the problem (with both parties) in Washington.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: If you become elected as a junior U.S. Senator in Georgia, what would be issues near and dear to you that you would be fighting for? Do you see yourself serving the U.S. first or party first?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: The issues near and dear to me personally would be healthcare (as a physician), immigration (as a naturalized citizen), and education (as a product of public schools who lived the American Dream after many years of graduate school). The other issues I'd fight for would be those that matter to Georgians but haven't been supported by our state's two Republican senators: civil rights, voting rights, LGBT rights (including marriage equality), and choice.
As for who I'd serve first... no contest: I'm elected to serve the people, not the party.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Being that you're a practitioner in the medical profession, as a psychiatrist, in your experience how has the medical field and healthcare field changed over the years since you've been in practice?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: The field of medicine has changed rapidly in the decade I've been practicing. Insurers have become increasingly powerful -- to the detriment of patients and providers. Their profit orientation forces quality of care to take a back seat to revenue generation. Their intentional denial of care I deem legitimate, necessary, and even life-saving is incredibly aggravating at times. It's also true that some physicians and hospitals, sensing a threat to their financial livelihood, have altered the way they practice medicine in order to protect their own incomes. I feel strongly that both the insurers and the profit-driven providers are in the wrong. That's part of why I've been such an outspoken proponent of healthcare reform, and of the ACA.
My wife's father was a physician, and when I was contemplating the move from Wall Street to medicine, I talked with him at length about his own private practice. He had a "country doctor" perspective, by which I mean, he focused on building relationships with his patients. He chose to be a solo practitioner so that no one would be looking over his shoulder telling him to work faster or be more efficient. As a minister's son, he talked about it in terms of the "ministry of medicine." That way of thinking about healthcare appealed to me -- and it has been reflected in my own practice over the years. I believe it's why I've never had to seek patients -- they've always come to me. Despite the stigma associated with mental illness, my patients very often tell others about the care I've given and urge their friends to see me, too. It's also why I've received so many "Top Doc" awards from my professional colleagues. They believe I practice medicine the way it should be practiced.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Do you believe the U.S. is better off now because of the Affordable Healthcare Act and are you confident that the roll out (those that enroll and delivery of services) will make the healthcare system more efficient and better off for patients in the end? Do you think there should be additional improvements (i.e. additional legislation) in Congress to improve healthcare?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: I do believe that the old healthcare system was broken and careening toward self-destruction. We had to make changes. It was an utterly unsustainable system. The ACA is a step in the right direction because it acknowledges our collective belief as Americans that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Although the Republicans (especially in GA) continue to resist this belief, I'm convinced there's no turning back. So now, the question is how best to provide healthcare to the greatest number of people?
It's not clear whether the ACA will succeed as written. Many "exceptions" have been made to the legislation, which has confused people, undermined the Democrats claim that it's a good law, and threatened the financial stability of the model. As to the efficiency and quality of the healthcare system itself, it's too early to say. That depends on many factors -- including the number of enrollees, physician compensation, hospital DSH payments (especially in states that elected not to expand Medicaid), and more.
I can say from personal experience, having enrolled through the Marketplace, that my family's premium went down over $600/month, our deductible went down $3650/year, and we get to keep our doctors. Does that sound too good to be true? It's evidence of the extent to which our former insurer has us over a barrel. Before the ACA, with two preexisting conditions in our family, we could not switch insurers. They could charge whatever they wanted, and we had to pay. Even when we raised out deductible to the maximum, our premiums still skyrocketed. The ACA changed that. Now, preexisting conditions don't work against us. There are no lifetime deductibles. We can comparison shop insurance plans and switch insurers every year if we want. Many of the services we used to pay for out-of-pocket are now covered. And, as I said, because we chose a platinum plan, we got to keep our doctors. Not a bad trade vs. the old plan.
As for improvements... I do think that many are needed. I created an ACA FAQ, which is available on my campaign website, to teach Georgians about the law (since Republicans refused to) -- and I included a list of improvements that are needed right away. Those include: replacing DSH payments for hospitals in states that don't expand Medicaid, closing the Medicare Part D "donut hole" faster, expanding physician and hospital provider lists (so more people can keep their doctor), and correcting the faulty assumption that one family member's insurer-provided coverage determines a whole family's eligibiilty for ACA participation and subsidies.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What's your view on the education system overall in the U.S.? What do you see the problem (if any) facing Georgia's education system and are there solutions to this?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: The U.S. education system is in disarray. Some states have great public schools. But most do not. Georgia is near the bottom of the 50 states in education. That's a huge issue in this year's governor's race. From the federal level, I think we need to work on incentives to expand STEM education, to facilitate and support nonprofit charter school expansion in districts that have failed to meet minimum expectations, and to prioritize: Is it more important to feed kids healthy food or to get corporations to underwrite stadiums and snack bars? Is it more important to set standards for education or to allow states to experiment with content and performance goals? Is it more important to test kids' performance or to inspire a love of learning? Is it more important to attract businesses to states through tax incentives or with high-quality public school systems? Georgia's emphasis on the appearance of education gains (vs. actual improvements) led to a huge cheating scandal that is now making its way through the courts. The next GA Senator needs to have the courage and conviction to work with GA's next governor to take on entrenched powers-that-be, disgruntled teachers' unions, anxious and angry parents, and for-profit charter school backers -- and somehow channel their energy in a productive direction.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What's your view on income inequality? Is this an issue you would be addressing as U.S. Senator?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: Let's start with the facts. Income inequality has not been this pronounced since the Depression. The middle class is a rapidly shrinking percentage of the population. And for many, a middle class lifestyle no longer represents an achievable or sustainable objective. America is no longer the "land of opportunity" for all; it is increasingly the land of Haves and Have Nots.
This is absolutely at the heart of everything I would be doing as a U.S. Senator -- by which I mean that expanding access to opportunities for as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible, must be the focus of our government. It is an integral part of our national identity and a critical component of the American Dream.
As we work to address income inequality, we must address both its causes and its consequences. This will mean tackling issues ranging from taxation to healthcare to housing to education to civil rights -- and more. As someone whose professional career has been devoted to working -- in a variety of ways -- on behalf of those who feel helpless and hopeless, I will be an outspoken advocate. As as immigrant who benefited from many opportunities for quality education, affordable housing, comprehensive healthcare, and high-paying jobs, I will fight for those who seek similar chances to ascend the ladder of social mobility. And, as someone who worked, saved and invested his way to financial independence and prosperity, I will do all I can to insure those who want similar opportunities to reach (or return to) the middle -- and even upper class -- have them.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Based your career working on Wall Street and business in general (before your medical profession days), how did your experience in the field shape your perspective on business and consumers/customers/etc.?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: My experience on Wall Street, in business school at the University of Chicago, and in business in general has definitely shaped my perspective. Unlike many Americans, I understand economic theory and the basic dynamics of the market. I am also familiar with sales and marketing strategies, the value of customer loyalty, the power of brand/image, and more. My knowledge and experience have enabled me to start and manage a successful practice -- along with two nonprofits, and to build a good life for myself and my family. That background resonates with people who want to know whether I can bring a vision to completion, take calculated risks that payoff, work collaboratively with others, build something from nothing, demonstrate good stewardship of money and other resources, foresee trends and leverage them to create opportunities, and more.
As a candidate, my experience in business has enabled me to consider and discuss government policy in the context of its economic implications. That is surprisingly uncommon, and I believe it's set me apart from my opponents. At a recent candidate forum, I was asked about the urgency of addressing the deficit. I gave a brief explanation of the value of job creation and higher employment (since they generate greater tax revenue) as a vastly preferable alternative to cutting our safety net programs in order to lower expenses. It was gratifying to see both comprehension and enthusiasm on the faces of those in the audience, and I knew that I'd taught a valuable lesson that made an important point.
I am well aware that some consumers are intellectually lazy. But, I also believe that those in government sometimes underestimate people's willingness to engage with information that's presented in an interesting and compelling way. My sales and marketing experience has taught me that there is power to influence behavior in a well-conceived message delivered convincingly by a trusted source. I intend to do my best to influence Georgians to reconsider their willingness to vote against their best interests and instead, inspire them to send an educated and experienced businessman to address our nation's problems.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Being that the Great Recession (according to what economists have stated) lasted from Dec 2007 - June 2009 (approximately), do you believe we're still in a recession? Is the economy getting better? Or are there things that need to be improved on the economy and Wall Street?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: We're coming out of the Great Recession, and there are many indications of recovery (corporate profits setting records, the Dow hitting 50+ all-time highs in a 12-month period); but, we are not returning to the economy we had before the recession began. CEOs and upper income households have rebounded rapidly. Many are now in significantly better positions than pre-Recession. But, the bottom has fallen out of the middle class. Many of those who'd leveraged themselves to buy homes and spend heavily now find themselves foreclosed, unemployed, bankrupt... and without a clear path to the life they used to enjoy. Despite their record profits, many employers have hesitated to reinvest in (re)hiring personnel. An excess supply of workers has given companies the power to reduce wages, cut hours, and refuse labor negotiations. As unemployment benefits have ended, many unemployed have simply stopped seeking work. This represents a permanent loss to our nation's productivity.
I believe that we must do several things to address these problems: 1) Increase employment opportunities through government investment in infrastructure and incentives to spur corporate hiring, 2) Crack down on Wall Street abuses and eliminate the "too big to fail" threat to our future, 3) Extend unemployment benefits to those who continue to seek gainful employment, while also offering opportunities to cross-train in marketable fields, 4) Raise the minimum wage to enable workers to earn their way out of poverty, and 5) Close tax loopholes for large corporations. These changes, along with a more productive, predictable, solution-oriented government will help strengthen out economy, increase our tax revenues, reduce poverty, and restore the middle class.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Do you feel justice has been served since the Dodd/Frank Wall Street legislation was passed or are we not there yet in resolving crimes on Wall Street? Would you support restoring the Glass-Steagall Act like others such as Senator Elizabeth Warren have advocated for or perhaps additional legislation that would address the concerns and problems many have which give them worry about another recession or depression happening?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: I do not feel justice has been done in addressing crimes on Wall Street, and I believe there has already been a psychological return to the status quo. "Justice" in my mind would right the financial wrongs that were knowingly done, return the profits to their rightful owners (to the extent possible), and enforce penalties that would serve as significant disincentives for similar future behavior.
I know from my own experience that the culture on (certainly portions of) Wall Street is one of savvy bet-making, and I'm convinced that investment banks' freedom to gamble with their affiliated commercial banks' depositors' money was part of what led to the financial crisis that precipitated the Great Recession. I would support legislation that addresses the concerns of many that another recession or depression could result from similar behavior -- especially since justice has not be served.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: On unions, what do you believe should be done in this regard? Do you consider yourself supportive of unions?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: I believe unions must have a purpose beyond being self-sustaining in order to truly serve their members. They must be accessible to workers, but not compulsory. They must listen to and actively represent the concerns of their members, not give top-down orders. They must provide value that significantly exceeds their cost to members, otherwise they risk becoming a financial hindrance rather than a reliable asset.
I am supportive of unions. I have spoken at labor events, marched with labor members, and worked alongside labor representatives (most recently as part of Moral Monday).
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What's your view on the Citizens United case? Do you think it should be overturned/repealed?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: I think Citizens United opened a pandora's box that must be closed. Yes, it should be overturned/repealed. See my facebook and twitter posts for more on that topic.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: On voting rights, are you seeing issues such as the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down the most critical element of the Voting Rights Act impacting voting rights among Georgia residents (black/African-Americans for example)?
Yes, there has been an impact on voting rights among Georgia residents. After the SCOTUS decision to strike down the most critical element of the Voting Rights Act (preclearance in southern states), the number of rural polling places was promptly reduced -- making it more difficult for people without transportation to reach the polls. Some polling places were relocated inside gated communities. There has been a continued push to require proof of citizenship and residence when voters arrive at the polls. And, there has been a very lethargic response to the news that many legitimately-registered voters were accidentally purged from metro Atlanta (urban area) voter registries. I consider all of these an outrage.
There has been an enthusiastic response among minorities to the recently announced bipartisan bill to restore preclearance in Georgia. As soon as I heard the news, I let my supporters know I wholeheartedly support that legislation and believe it is vital to making voting accessible for all Georgians.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: On gay marriage, where do you view yourself on this matter?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: I have stated clearly, publicly and unequivocally that I support marriage equality. As a Christian, I believe in the separation of church and state, and I do not believe our government should ever be in the business of discriminating against any group of Americans for any reason.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Are you a supporter of chained CPI or anything related to reduce benefits in social security or are you against any cuts to the program? Should the goal be to expand and strengthen programs like social security and medicare such as what Senator Mark Begich is working on in Congress? (by the way, if you don't know what Senator Begich is doing on SS, no problem)
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: I do not support reducing benefits. I consider Social Security a social contract that must be kept. I believe that strengthening programs like Social Security and Medicare (and expanding Medicaid) should be high priorities -- especially as income inequality trends continue to separate those with means from those without.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Should medicare and social security be apart of addressing the deficit & debt or do they need to be out of the discussion?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: Medicare and Social Security should be off the table when we discuss the deficit and the debt. There are many other ways to tackle these problems, and I would advocate for strategies that require those who have reaped tremendous financial windfalls to do their part to create opportunities for those who have not.
NATIONAL SECURITY/FOREIGN POLICY
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What's your feeling on the NSA and what it's tactics have been? Do you believe there needs to be more transparency?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: I believe the NSA overstepped its bounds, violated the people's trust, and demonstrated a need for greater oversight and transparency. I am convinced that there is a need for stealthy observation of those who would cause grave harm to our nation and its people. But, I am equally convinced that a Big Brother society is not a desirable goal, and that conversations about where best to draw the line are not only valuable but absolutely essential to protecting our nation's identity as the "land of the free."
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: According to what we understand, you came out against the recent planned strike Syria. Are you against wars or do you believe any involvement in affairs in Syria (a single air strike or war) at this time is unnecessary?
I do not believe that being against war in any/all situations make sense in international affairs. My decision to speak out against striking Syria resulted from an assessment of the situation that led me to believe such action would do more harm than good. I believed it would result in greater civilian loss of life, fuel a resentment of American "bullying" in Mideast affairs, worsen an already dangerous refugee situation that could further destabilize the region, and undermine our negotiations with other countries. At this time (mid-Jan '14), I do not believe that air strikes or war would aid diplomacy or accelerate disarmament.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What's your view on abortion and women's rights?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: I recognize Roe v. Wade as the definitive law guaranteeing a woman’s right to choose. I believe that that choice is an intensely private, often difficult one which should be made in consultation with a knowledgeable physician and without coercion of any kind.
If, as a society, we want to reduce the number of abortions performed annually, we should not reduce “supply” by reducing access to a legal medical procedure. Instead, we should work on the other end of the equation — reducing “demand” by reducing unwanted pregnancies and by demonstrating our commitment, as a society, to fully supporting those who choose to bring a baby to term. This means: educating, equipping and empowering sexually-active adults and minors to make informed choices prior to conception (i.e. providing sex education & sexual health information), ensuring affordable/readily-available contraception, guaranteeing “morning after” pill accessibility, offering adoption placement incentives, and protecting vital government supports – such as WIC, HeadStart, quality public education, etc. It also means committing ourselves, as a nation, to caring for and about unplanned/unwanted children – not just until they are born, but for a lifetime.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: How would you like to see immigration reform unfold? What's your ideal legislation?
America’s current immigration system is badly broken. There is a strong consensus that we can and should act to reform that system – and do it now. Georgia businesses, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, want clear guidelines and immigration reform. I support that thinking. We must encourage the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows, comply with the law, pay fines and taxes, and integrate themselves fully into the life of our nation. At the same time, we must remember that enhanced employment verification is vital to protecting American labor. The widespread hiring of undocumented labor at substandard wages and working conditions must be outlawed (and the law enforced) so that all workers compete for employment solely on the basis of effort and ability.
I believe we must establish an efficient and predictable pathway for legal immigration that incorporates border security, clears the backlog of immigrants awaiting green cards, and insures our immigration detention and court systems are both fair and humane. Considering how broken our immigration system is now, this would be a huge step in the direction of a modern, effective system that reflects our values and makes our nation stronger.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: On climate change and global warming, are these pressing issues that need to be addressed? Do you think the Keystone XL Pipeline is necessary or a waste of time?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: There is no doubt that human beings are healthier in an environment of clean air and clean water. And, there is no doubt that human activity directly impacts its surrounding environment. So, the scientific argument for environmental protection laws is clear. The need for these protections has become a worldwide issue as greenhouse gas emissions have accelerated global warming, and the resulting climate changes have threatened our safety and our economy.
I believe the debate over global warming is driven primarily by those whose financial interests are negatively impacted by accountability. We must sidestep that distraction and focus on finding a healthy balance between economic interests and stewardship of our environment. Specifically, we must reduce our carbon footprint and push our global competitors to do the same. Intelligent environmental regulation, appropriately enforced, does not have to be the enemy of economic opportunity or individual freedom. As we seek clean(er) energy alternatives, we must balance the urgent need for innovation with the need for continued economic growth and job creation/protection.
To that end, I would approach discussions of energy policy supporting a carbon tax to further reduce emissions (beyond cap and trade), and supporting expanded investment in clean energy alternatives like wind, solar and biofuels. I would also support incentives for businesses willing to invest in clean energy manufacturing. I would not support the Keystone XL pipeline which would generate more carbon emissions from burning dirty tar sands oil, nor would I support financial incentives or safety exemptions for fracking given significant concerns about the associated risks to the environment (most specifically to the water supply).
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: On lobbying in the Washington D.C. scene, where do you stand on this issue? Are there suggestions you think that might resolve the whole lobbying influence in DC or do you think you need more information to make an assessment?
BRANKO RADULOVACKI: As for where I stand on the issue, I think it's a great idea to keep "retired" politicians out of the lobbying business. Definitely.
For a solution, I may need more information to make a thorough assessment, but I think anything that marginalizes the voices of citizens in favor of the voices of lobbyists, corporations, and others who use money and influence to wield power and alter outcomes must be addressed. A true democracy belongs to the people.
By the way, here's a photo of Branko Radulovacki on Monday in Atlanta during a host of Martin Luther King Day events about to get ready to address a huge crowd that gathered outside Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Anyway, regardless of the outcome of the May 2014 Primary Election, we should no question support the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, whether it be Branko Radulovacki or Michelle Nunn. After all, the 2014 election season is a great way to get a fresh start for the Georgia Democratic Party, particularly considering the official defacto nominee for Governor, Jason Carter, is generating a lot of attention and buzz.
All thoughts and comments welcome.
In the meantime, should you decide to support Branko Radulovacki for the U.S. Senate, information below:
Branko Radulovacki for U.S. Senate: http://drradforsenate.com/
On the Issues: http://drradforsenate.com/...
Contact: http://drradforsenate.com/... or firstname.lastname@example.org