The Lame-est Duck – Trump’s marginalization of the U.S.

The U.S. President is routinely referred to as ‘The Leader of the Free World’, a moniker earned through the deeds, actions and decisions of the previous Presidents who have made decisions that have altered the course of humanity. And now, even more so, we live in a world where we face complex issues that require a steady hand, an open-mind, and the strength of character to be able to see all sides of an argument.  This election cycle has offered two potential paths that will shape our future.  I believe that fomenting rage and creating a culture based on the blame of others for the problems we face is not a path to redemption and resurrection. It is a cancer that burrows in and corrupts the very heart of our democratic system.  But these tools of anger and blame are powerful forces, that motivate people while clouding their sensibilities.  We have seen fingers of blame pointed at group after group, person after person, country after country, and we’ve been told, ‘It’s their fault’.  We have been sold this bill of goods 140 characters at a time. We have been fed this rhetoric as a constant battering of wave after wave of twitter wars, antagonism and divisiveness. And now, we stand at the precipice.  Who are we as individuals?  Who are we as a nation? Who represents our personal ideals? Who will we honor with the responsibility of the Presidency? Those are the questions each of us must answer in the voting booth.

The United States of America is a world leader because it is involved in the world. We believe in human rights and self-determination, and freedom and opportunity, and we work with our partners to make these concepts a reality for everyone. The key is that we work WITH our allies. You can not lead from the back.  You can not command without respect. And you can not create change on an international level through obstinate demands and blame. And now, when we are called to lead even more, when the world needs an engaged presence, there are nations that we consider to be our closest allies, so offended by Donald Trump that they have openly debated over whether or not to ban him from even visiting their lands.   How can we expect others to respect him as a leader, and the U.S. as a nation, when he is not respected as a person? It is this issue that scares me the most.

lame_duckAccording to Wikipedia, a Lame Duck is an elected official whose successor has already been elected, and as a consequence, has less influence with other politicians due to their limited time left in office. I think we can simplify this definition even further to say, a Lame Duck is a person or entity, who for whatever reason, is unable to affect change. Four years is a short time period. But, it is one in which our foes and allies alike can ostracize, minimize and to a large extent, ignore the U.S. and our global interests unless we are actively involved.  It is a time that can be filled with drastic changes on a global scale that will have a lasting impact on the U.S. We can see this embodied in Brexit, Syria, Ukraine, the Philippines, Myanmar, Egypt, North Korea, the South China Sea, and on and on. To be involved in the conversation, you have to be invited to the table, and based on the ramblings he purports to be a foreign policy and his penchant for alienating people, it is my belief that a Trump Presidency will remove us from the conversation, and turn the United States into the lame-est duck on the world stage.

Political CHA-CHA and the Presidency – Character vs. Charisma

When you look for a leader, what do you want?  Character or Charisma? And what is it about this particular choice, character vs. charisma, that is so challenging?  In looking at this year’s election, for me, this has become the most important of choices.

 

We all know, a truly charismatic person is able to wrap us in the warmth of their ideas, manipulating us into acceptance, and motivating us towards an end.  Likewise, a person of great character is the reassuring figure that comforts us with the solid nature of their morals and ideals, sheltering us from challenges, and charting a clear path forward. History is rich with individuals who have embodied these attributes. The Dalai Lama is known for his character and humble approach to solving the world’s problems.  Adolf Hitler’s charisma galvanized a nation, drew it up from recession, and yet, led the world to war. But, I wouldn’t consider either of them to be good candidates for election.

 

cha_chaI’m sure we have all had someone in our own lives that is a great example of each of these traits.  I remember a high school  biology teacher, that was clearly brilliant, but was so devoid of character that the class simply became a time period to just get through.  I remember a high school history teacher that was so lively and animated that everyone wanted to be in his class.  And the class was fun, but I do not remember any of the content of the class.  And then there was Mr. Parker, my fifth grade teacher.  Here was a man that excited me about learning, established class rules for everyone to abide by, and demonstrated not only his command of the subjects, but also his ability to inspire each student to greater heights.  Whether it was through reports about the states (I did Hawaii), simulated government roles, or basic commerce, he found the way to inspire each of us.  He had both charisma AND character.  And much like the back and forth movements of the Cha-Cha, he was able to constantly adjust to guide us all forward.

 

When I look at who I want as a leader, I want the person that can inspire me to achieve the example that they have set.  When I walk into the voting booth and make my choices, that ability to dance across character and charisma, will be the determining factor on who gets my vote.  I didn’t omit the names of the high school teachers to protect them from criticism.  I left their names out simply because they were not able to make a lasting impression on me. But Mr. Parker, he did. And now more than 30 years later, I still remember.

 

Hey Mr. Parker!  Ever thought about running for office?

New Direction, New Conversation

‘What are you going to do next?’.  That’s the most often asked question of any candidate who has unsuccessfully run for office.  I believe that question comes from a good place and is meant to encourage the continuation of the fight.   But it’s a hard question too.  We jump into a campaign believing we can be successful, and can make a difference.  The loss of the race is not the end of the process.  But, it makes us question why we ran, what we accomplished and if there is a way to move forward?  We ask; ‘Were my ideas truly good ones?. If not, what’s wrong with them and what did I miss? And if they were good, why didn’t I win?’. We asked for the public to measure and judge us, to believe in who we are, and what we could do, and yet we came up short. It’s humbling, and challenging, and it can either push us back out of the conversation, or drive us forward to work harder to make a positive impact in our world.

Starting ConversationAs I look back over the campaign that I ran the thing that I enjoyed the most was the opportunities I had to sit and talk with the people of NC.  Whether it was at a dinner in Rutherfordton, at a gala in Charlotte, a BBQ in Burlington, or in schools and churches across the state, it is through those conversations that I LEARNED.  I learned about people’s hopes, fears, dreams, obstacles and opportunities.  I learned that there is a great desire, on all sides, to work to solve the problems we all face.  I learned that people want to have a voice in what happens around them, but seldom feel like they can be heard. I learned that an open mind and a listening ear, can lead to amazing ideas.  And it’s because of that lesson, that I am moving forward in this new direction.

I believe the most important thing we can do is to work together. That doesn’t happen if we are fully entrenched behind party lines.  That doesn’t happen when we refuse to acknowledge that there is another viewpoint.  It doesn’t ever happen until we decide to make it so.  I believe that starting a conversation is the first step toward working together.    Now notice, I said conversation.  Not talking. Not a lecture. Not a position paper or talking points, but open honest communication, where the focus begins with hearing others before speaking.  A conversation that is built on the premise that; both parties WANT to be there, where we can respect each other enough to listen first, can be the most powerful force in facing the challenges in the world.

It’s my hope that I can help some of this happen.  I believe we, as a people, can accomplish anything when we work together toward a common goal.  But, we first have to understand what the issues are, then we can address them.  So let’s talk about the issues.  Let’s discuss them openly, without judgment and animosity,  and understanding that finding the correct answer is more important than being right.  In the coming weeks, I will be throwing out my ideas for discussion.  I want to know what you think about them, how it makes you feel, and what we can do to make them better.  Every discussion is not going to be about a policy or program.  I hope to converse with you about all the issues that are affecting our lives, about the political arena, the geopolitical circumstances that affect us, and anything else that catches my fancy.  I commit to listening to you, to welcoming the conversation, and to working together in a respectful manner.  If you are interested in chiming in, offering opinions, or topic suggestions, please do! The more people we can involve in the conversation, the greater effect I believe we can have on the world around us.

I look forward to it!

 

Kevin

5 Ways We Can Improve America’s Environment

As someone who is honored to live in the great state of North Carolina, I have experienced her serene beaches, picturesque mountain ranges, and variety of parks and natural beauty.  I believe that it is my duty to fight against dangerous practices that are irresponsibly harming our great state and nation. In doing so we can preserve this state for our children and can achieve more economic progress through implementing progressive, forward-thinking policies and projects that will help both the environment and North Carolina’s economy.NC Environment

These are 5 keys to bettering the environment of North Carolina and the U.S.:

  • No more fracking: It is pumping toxic chemicals into the water table and creating instability leading to seismic activity.
  • No offshore drilling: This is an environmentally dangerous and unnecessary effort to undertake.  Right now there is over-saturation in the oil market, and there is no need to drive more into the supply pipeline.
  • Create increased federal usage of renewable energy: Mandate 50% of all power usage from all new federal buildings be from renewable and non-fossil fuel sources. This could be started by placing solar panels on the roofs of all new federal buildings.
  • Reduce our carbon emissions: Done through legislative action that encourages the reduction in the use of coal, and the placement of solar manufacturing in former coal producing areas to provide for continued well paid employment for the former coal industry workers.
  • Invest in the research and design of energy storage platforms: This would allow for continuous power provision even when renewable energies are not available, such as solar power at night and wind power on calm days.

There are a number of other ways to move forward on this program, and the US must be the world leader in this effort.  It is also important for us to lead the energy development efforts in under-developed countries so that they do not have to use fossil fuels to power their growth the way we did in the industrial revolution.

 

Not Pulling the Trigger on Gun Control

My beliefs on this issue are simple and straightforward.  Everyone has the right to own a gun, unless they have done something to lose that right.Gun Rights

Reasons that an individual would lose their right to own a gun:

  • They have been convicted of a violent crime or domestic abuse.
  • They have been involuntarily committed for psychiatric care.
  • They are on any government ‘watch list’ related to terrorism.

I believe that there must also be a comprehensive, fair and open mechanism in place to allow for the reinstatement of the right to bear arms, when it is appropriate.

I propose that one way to protect the people of the United States, without infringing on their rights, is to have a universal background check system that must be used for all gun sales.  While it may be inconvenient to have a short wait while a background check is being processed, I would happily give that time up in order to know that the weapon will not be used for criminal purposes.

Let me be clear; I DO NOT WANT TO TAKE YOUR GUN.  I do think it’s time to have a constructive conversation about guns that preserves our rights to own them, while doing our best to keep them out of the hands of people who would use them for criminal activity. Furthermore, I don’t see a need for high capacity magazines for firearms, and would support capping magazine capacities at a reasonable level for hunting, sporting and self-defense purposes.

 

Is Medical Marijuana the Right Move?

An issue that has been recently gaining traction both in North Carolina and more so nationwide is legalizing the use of Marijuana both for medicinal and recreational purposes. Every day, more evidence is brought forward showing the efficacy of medical marijuana in the treatment of a wide range of issues.  I don’t understand the reason for refusing to allow our medical professionals to fully explore the medicinal uses of this plant.  I believe it’s time to allow for the comprehensive research and development of drugs and treatment programs that are derived from Medical Marijuanamarijuana.

Because the federal government has not acted in a forward thinking manner, several states have taken on this project.  While I understand and agree with the desire to make this treatment available, I believe that the fact that there is no program in place to regulate the drug properly, allows for the potential danger of improperly formulated drugs. 

Instead I recommend the following steps:

  • We must immediately remove all the barriers that prevent the research of this plant.
    • Through proper research, we can standardize programs for processing medical marijuana into usable forms and dosages.
  • Rigorously test its treatment success rates.  
    • Only through a thorough exploration, can we fully confirm the usefulness of this drug compound.
  • Once that process is complete, it can quickly be brought to market
    • This will allow everyone who is prescribed the drug to be confident in its safety and effectiveness. 

The Federal Government continues to drag its heels in regards to marijuana, and it’s been far too long. Because of this trepidation, the lives of patients are being affected, whether or not they have access to safe forms of marijuana. Instead the Federal Government has chosen to focus on incarcerating individuals on marijuana related charges, filling our prisons with non-violent offenders, and costing tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars.  I believe that it is in the best interests of North Carolina, both socially and economically to pursue the steps mentioned above.

 

 

What Are the Impacts of the Trans Pacific Partnership?

There are quite a few issues that many US citizens are passionate about occurring in Pacific countries such as human trafficking, child laborers, extreme low cost of production, and dangerous work environments. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an organization of country leaders that are working to increase labor, environmental, and economic regulations in Pacific countries to help correct these social issues.

These are great goals for all Pacific countries, but what is the cost of implementing the TPP bill? The TPP bill will manipulate the global economy in order to implement their goals. Therefore, if a country is not complying with new workplace or environmental standards, the countries in the organization will not do trade with the specific Pacific country.

Improving labor in the Pacific countries is a great goal, but there are few key problems with implementing a Trans Pacific Partnership bill which includes:

  1. Competition in the US Marketplace. If the United States is not heavily involved in the agreements and organization of global trade, the odds can easily become stacked against our country’s economy. A lot of the goods we buy are based on the prices of suppliers from Pacific Rim countries. This causes a potentially severe problem if a trading partner has violations under the TPP. Because we would be required to cease trade with that country, our economy would face potentially severe product shortages and price increases.
  2. Potential Degradation of Industries. I grew up as NAFTA was being implemented, and I watched as North Carolina’s textile and furniture industries were decimated by the wave of low cost competitors across the border. I believe that offering incentives to Pacific Rim countries according to the TPP guidelines will once again allow unfair competition and will degrade other NC industries at a time where we need to be focusing on creating employment growth in our own country.
  3. Manipulations in the Value of a Country’s Currency. The opportunity for a country to artificially manipulate its currency to slant the playing field is too great under the TPP. This practice can easily lead to the destabilization of industries and economies, and the TPP does not contain adequate protections against this potentially devastating practice.

I believe we must continually act to strengthen the free and open marketplace in the world, and the TPP was originally intended to move us all in that direction. Unfortunately, I believe that because the structure of the agreement is flawed, the TPP fails to reach its goal.  I am AGAINST the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) due to the issues and potential for abuse.

Healthcare Makes Sense, Now We Need to Make it Work

I believe that the United States is the best nation in the world to live. But in order to continually improve, we must be progressing in all aspects of our policies and programs. One of the most important areas that we as a country need to expand and grow in is affordable and universal healthcare for the citizens of this great nation. Improving US Healthcare

But many people do not want Medicaid expanded, because they see economic freedom and universal healthcare as mutually exclusive. To put it bluntly, that is not true. The United States is currently 12th on the list of countries with the most economic freedom, of the 11 countries ahead of us, 10 have achieved universal healthcare. Instead of being mutually exclusive, economic freedom and universal healthcare go hand-and-hand.

In order to make universal healthcare succeed in North Carolina and the U.S., several things need to start happening:

  • An understanding that the ‘free market’ healthcare system hasn’t been beneficial for the U.S. The thought that a ‘free market’ healthcare system will help the consumer and reduces government spending is blatantly incorrect. Under the ‘free-market’ system the U.S. government spends more per-capita on healthcare services than any other country except for Norway and the Netherlands.
  • The expansion of the Medicaid system in all states. We have to cover those people who earn too much to be covered by Medicaid, and not enough to receive the subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act. We need to make sure that EVERYONE has access to affordable healthcare.
  • An adjustment for cost of living with the Social Security and Medicare programs that is based on the expenses actually incurred by seniors. Right now, the cost adjustments are based on the whole of society, which doesn’t adequately account for the differing costs of seniors. Making this change would provide better coverage for senior citizens and better utilize Social Security and Medicare funds.
  • Help the retirees on fixed incomes who are faced with extremely high health premiums. I am currently seeking to make it possible for people under 65, who have retired early, or who are on a fixed income, to utilize some of their social security funds to offset health insurance premiums without penalty, until they are eligible to enroll in Medicare. This plan would prevent people having to deal with potential catastrophic financial problems as a result of uncovered medical expenses. The plan would also provide each person continued access to preventive medical care to maintain the highest standard of healthy living.

These steps are just a beginning, but they are the right thing to do, both financially and socially.

How Do We Make Immigration Reform Fair and Firm?

Perhaps the most hotly contested issue between Democrats and Republicans currently is immigration reform. This is a deeply personal issue to many North Carolina residents because around 8% of our population was born outside of the United States. I believe that all people deserve a voice and to be treated equally; those who immigrate to this great nation are no different.Immigration Policies

All people are created equal,’ it is in our Declaration of Independence and still rings true today, we must treat all people equally.  We are defined both by how we treat those in need and the fairness and equality with which we acted. Let me be clear, I believe in allowing the immigrants who are already here to stay.  But I believe in fairness as well, so they must contribute and become a functioning part of our economy and government.

This immigration reform and acceptance should be a layered process, and would benefit both the immigrants and the United States as whole:

  • All immigrants must be in the system for the reason they are here. Whether they are here as students, tourists, refugees, asylum seekers or guest workers, the vetting process must be thorough and consistent.
  • All currently present undocumented immigrants must register for work. This will allow for them to become legally employed as a guest worker, which in turn brings them into the tax system. This creates additional inflows supporting social security and the health care system. As long as there are no employment gaps longer than 6 months they and their immediate family can stay in place.
  • While participating in this system, immigrants can become eligible for social benefits. Benefits such as education, health, and safety are reasonable expectations for anyone participating in our society. They will also be allowed to apply for citizenship through regular channels, but there should be no preferential treatment based on already being resident in the United States.
  • Deportation must be streamlined and humane. Examples of situations where deportation would happen include criminal infractions and non-employment for more than 6 months. In the case of the non-employment they would be allowed to voluntarily leave and then reapply for an approved status without penalty.

The goal of my immigration program is to treat all that are involved with both consistency and fairness. To view each person as a fellow human that is pursuing what is best for them and their family. America was built on the hard-working backs of immigrants, I see no reason why allowing them to bring their ingenuity and diligence will not continue to benefit North Carolina and the United States.

 

Implementing Healthcare in a Healthy Way

Healthcare is one of the biggest issues in any political race, and the North Carolina race is no different. The reason for this is that healthcare affects every single person in North Carolina and the United States. We all see doctors many times in our lives, so naturally every person should be interested in an issue that is not only universal but also quite personal.

It is the personal aspect that shapes my stance on the Affordable Care Act. I believe that it is a moral imperative to make sure that all people have access to quality affordable healthcare.Improving Obama Care

To make that stance actually become a reality, there are three things we need to address as a nation:

  • Cease our political infighting over the need for comprehensive healthcare. We are a world-wide leader in many areas, unfortunately health-care is not one of those. It is time that all politicians understand the universal health care coverage should be considered a right, and not an option. Politicians are elected to represent the needs of their constituents, and every person needs to have access to affordable health care.
  • We must work with the states who have not yet fully adopted the Affordable Care Act. North Carolina included. This way we can make sure to cover the unfortunate gap between the individuals who don’t make enough for the subsidies, but too much for the current Medicaid system.
  • Make the Affordable Care Act more business-friendly. As the owner of a small business I know how confusing, convoluted, and continually changing the system is. While the content contained within the plan is good, we must work to create a simple and straight-forward process of adoption for businesses of any size.

While the current Affordable Care Act is unwieldy and has its kinks, it is a necessary part of North Carolina and the U.S. taking good care of her people. We need to work hard to both iron out any issues within the current system, as well as to push all states to join in. We cannot stop until all people have access to affordable and quality health care.

 

We Need to Save Small Rural Hospitals Now

One of the reasons that I am hosting these conversations is to give a voice to the voiceless. Whether it be veterans, minority groups, elderly, or the LGBTQ community there are so many people in North Carolina that are not represented well by the current politicians. This needs to end.

A big area where the government could do a lot of good is in rural communities, and particularly the small hospitals that operate in these communities, serving many elderly and low-income patients. The sad reality is that currently many of these hospitals are closing due to the high overhead, and low amount of patients that can afford the services they desperately need and deserve.Save Rural Hospitals

We should help support the rural community in the following way:

  • Allow the VA to offer services to patients at these hospitals. Around 40% of veterans who are enrolled in VA health care live in rural areas. That is over 3 million veterans who need to have convenient and comprehensive coverage. Imbedding VA operations in existing rural facilities allows for a rapid expansion of services for our veterans.VA
  • Increase patient flow rural hospitals. These patients are needed in order to keep the vital health and safety services provided by the rural hospitals. Without such hospitals, rural communities and veterans would face increased hardship and difficulty receiving medical attention.
  • Bolster the economics of rural communities. If what I propose is implemented, there will be significant benefits to the community through job creation, an influx of money to the hospital, and improved health and medical services at the hospitals.

Veterans form the foundation upon which this great nation was built, and they deserve our attention, care, and respect. Allowing the VA to offer service in rural hospitals would be the right step in creating a more comprehensive system in which to fully care for the men and women who have sacrificed themselves for our freedom.

Transparency in Government

With an approval rating that has been less than 20% for most of the last few decades, it’s an understatement to say that most people don’t trust or believe that the government is working for them.  With all the dysfunction, partisanship,  lobbyists, money and closed door deals in Washington, it’s not hard to see why.  But how do we return government service to an honored profession, where elected officials work to support the people, instead of working for re-election?  It has to start with each of us.  It’s not enough to watch Congress making grand-standing speeches on C-SPAN to an empty room.  (FYI, that’s why the camera is always focused in on a close-up of the speaker, because usually no one else is there.) We have to demand more from our representatives; more action, more openness, and more communication.

A new approach, built on transparency, is exactly what we need.  But what does that mean for you and how will it work?  Simply put, YOU SHOULD KNOW EVERYTHING.  I expect that as our representatives, they should:

  • Publish a position paper, for every vote taken, that shows what they believe is good and bad about the issue, how they came to the decision, and why they are voting the way they are.
  • Post their detailed schedule on the web so that everyone will know where they are, who they’re meeting with, and what is being discussed.
  • Reach out to the entire Congress, inviting them to form a ‘Common-Sense Caucus’ that is based on clear and open discussion of the issues, where both sides of the aisle are invited to participate, and all meetings/hearings/discussions are conducted completely open to the public.

Only through this dedicated effort at openness and transparency can the government regain the respect of the people. We need to follow the example of Mia Love (R) from Utah, and her push for single subject legislation that allows for clear discussion and debate of individual ideas, rather than 5000 page omnibus bills that include everything but the kitchen sink. Additionally, all amendments must be germane. It’s exactly this type of approach that allows for open discussion and compromise on the issues that are important to the people and the prosperity of our nation.  This is how we move past the fighting and actually get things done. Together.

The Time to Stand Up for Women’s Rights is Now

My position on reproductive rights is simple: rare, safe and legal; in that order.  

For me, that’s the short answer when talking about reproductive rights.  But there is so much more to this issue than soundbites like that.  To be clear, I firmly believe that there is no room for the government between a woman and her doctor.  But let me explain the breadth of my position before one jumps to a conclusion.Womens Rights | Kevin Griffin

The way I see it, any time a woman has an abortion, we have all failed.  We have failed to provide comprehensive sex education. We have failed to provide adequate access to contraception.  We have failed to protect the woman from rape, sexual abuse, or medical complications that endanger her life.  And we have failed to have adequate alternative options for the child.  Abortion is the symptom of our failures, and we have to address the underlying issues that lead to abortion, so that we make it a rare occurrence.  We have to protect the medical professionals that perform this procedure to make sure that it can be done safely.  Finally, and most importantly, we have to protect a woman’s right to choose what is best for her body. Creating and implementing effective strategies to cease these failures are one of my goals in running for the North Carolina House District 13 Seat.

How do we reduce the rate of abortions? Eliminate the need. To do that, we must:

  • Expand access to affordable contraception and women’s health programs.
  • Provide comprehensive sexual education programs for everyone.
  • Strengthen the protections for women suffering under abuse of any kind.
  • Expand the adoption system so that any qualified, capable person is able to adopt and provide a loving home for these children.
  • Mandate that access to adoption is available to all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, and that their parental rights are legally recognized.

We can work together to solve the real issues that lead to the need for abortion procedures, and when we do, we will see the rate reduced.  Then we can truly have them be rare, safe and legal. However, the decision for abortion needs to remain a decision for the woman and her doctor only.  I dream of a time when we can all focus on eliminating the need, instead of arguing about the outcome.  When we work together, WE CAN’T FAIL.

Reaching Equality, Finishing the Fight for Gay Rights

Something that has been lost in the midst of all the different issues in this election year is finally achieving true equality for the LGBTQ population. The rights of LGBTQ individuals have always been near and dear to me. My brother, Shannon, is gay, and I have seen in him, the hardships and discrimination that still face the LGBTQ community today.

Our representatives will have a significant impact on what the next few years look like for the LGBTQ community living in North Carolina, and the Nation. While I applaud the recent court decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court to validate Same-Sex Marriage, we cannot simply stop there and feel as though we have reached equality.

There are large problems that are still forcing members of the LGBTQ to live as though they are not full citizens.

  • A lack of non-discrimination protections in all areas. No matter what race, sexual orientation, or gender, everyone should have equal opportunities for employment, housing, credit, and service.
  • Inadequate Legal Rights. This includes the ability to adopt a child from the United States; currently, there are very few options for parents who are of the LGBTQ community to expand their family. For same-sex adoptive parents, often the state only recognizes one parent as the legal guardian of a child, in spite of both parents raising and caring for the child. Additionally, we need to allow partners the ability to right of survivorship. Excluding these laws is unacceptable and hurtful to all parties involved.
  • Lack of Support within the LGBTQ community by North Carolina Politicians. While there are many notable exceptions, the majority of politicians either oppose advancing or do not appear to consider LGBTQ to be a priority.

These steps must be taken in order to reach true equality for all. Equality is so important to the foundation of the United States, it is in the Constitution. It is about time we start living up to the ideal that “all men are created equal.”

It should be one of our primary goals to end the discrimination against all people, and to reach the true equality America wants and deserves. 

How to Make a College Education Affordable

Access to quality post-secondary education is a key to the continued development of the workforce and the nation’s economy! As a nation, we need to continue to provide access to higher education for all people.  I believe it is unconscionable for the US Government to be making money off of the loans it provides to our students.Improving Student Loans | Kevin Griffin

I think we should continue the expansion of the Pell Grant program, along with increasing the maximum reward levels to proportionally keep pace with the rising cost of higher education is a good start.

Improvements to Student Loan Program

College education should not be free; it is something to strive for and a proud accomplishment for a student. My House plans to improve the Student Loan Program that will in turn provide incentives for students to graduate:

  1. Lock college loans at the current federal funds rate at date of issue.
  2. College loans will remain at that market rate until the student has graduated.
  3. Upon graduation, the interest rate for the loan will drop to 0.0%, provided the individual enrolls in, and stays current with, an automatic payment program for the loan repayment.

This approach makes education affordable, while encouraging diligent effort and program completion.

How to Break Down the American Incarceration Cycle

One important issue that is far too often neglected by political candidates from Democrat and Republican parties is incarceration rates. In North Carolina alone over $1,000,000,000 is spent annually on just housing, feeding, and keeping its prison population.  I think we should focus on reducing the incarceration rates, first in North Carolina and then throughout the rest of United States.

Lowering Incarceration Rates | Kevin Griffin for US Senate

Through my work, I have seen the good citizens and workers that so many ex-offenders have become.  What most people in trouble need is help, treatment, and aid; not incarceration.

In order to reduce the number of incarcerated Americans and boost the economy with a greater workforce, we must:

  • Removing Mandatory Sentencing Guidelines. Sentencing should be based upon proportionality of the crime as well as utilizing the sentence to promote social justice in the individual and community.
  • Creating Transition Programs. Such as job skills training programs in conjunction with state and federal departments.
  • Expand Drug Treatment Programs. This is important because we need to realize that incarceration is not a treatment for addiction.
  • Reclassify Marijuana. In 23 states doctors can prescribe medical marijuana to patients,but cannot legally study how it would affect their illnesses. We need to authorize the CDC to study medical marijuana and potential for decriminalizing marijuana completely.
  • Change Employment Screening Guidelines. It is necessary to change background checks for employment and potential discrimination and liability. Work to join over a dozen other states who have approved “ban the box” policies that forbid employers from asking applicants about criminal backgrounds

There is no excuse for why the United States has 5% of the world’s population but 22% of the world’s prison population. That is unacceptable. It is about time that America and her government begins to aid all of the citizens of this great nation, which includes helping those stuck in the vicious incarceration cycle of bad policies and procedures.

Through the steps outlined above we get begin to get back to more civilized and understandable incarceration rates, and rid ourselves of the gross injustice and failed policies that are in place now.

Benefits to increasing the National Minimum Wage

When asked: ‘Should we raise the minimum wage?’ My answer is the minimum wage should be higher to reflect more of a livable wage. A livable wage reflects the minimum income needed for a worker to meet their basic needs in their community without public assistance and is integral to the survival of individual families. Also, the economic activity that derives from employees earning a livable wage is a primary generator of the overall economic growth of the nation.

National Minimum Wage Increases | Kevin Griffin for Senate

Minimum Wage vs. Livable Wage

The current minimum wage across my State of North Carolina is $7.25 per hour. Using a livable wage calculator, it is easy to see how difficult it is to live on minimum wage across the United States.  The livable wage of Durham County, where I proudly live and work, is:

  • 1 Adult livable wage = $10.68 per hour
  • 1 Adult with 1 child livable wage = $22.31 per hour
  • 2 Adults 1 Working with 1 child livable wage = $21.14

It is my strong belief in the livable wage concept that led me to join the Durham Living Wage Project, not only as a founding company member, but also in service as a steering committee member for the organization. Through my work with the Durham Living Wage Project, I have seen the following benefits of a living wage:

  • Employers who pay a living wage see lower turnover, a more motivated workforce and increased goodwill of the community
  • Employees who receive a living wage have the chance to now move from poverty towards meeting the basic needs of their family
  • Low-wage earners typically spend their money locally, when they make more they are able to support local business, which creates more jobs and strengthens a community

I believe everyone who works hard deserves to earn a livable wage.

How the Black Lives Matter Movement Can Impact Equality

The Black Lives Matter movement has accomplished a lot in starting to call attention to the systemic, societal problems that exist today in Maryland, Missouri, as well as in North Carolina and every other state in America. We must continue to press back against the ingrained treatment of different groups unequally and unjustly.  Black Lives Matter | Kevin Griffin for US Senate

Prejudice inhabits many areas that need to be addressed:

  • Education
  • Equal Opportunity
  • Incarceration Rates
  • And many more

Through these different forms not only are stereotypes perpetuated but the growth of the individual is stunted. In my time living and working in North Carolina, I have done my best to pursue the destruction of these stereotypes and unjust treatment; the Durham Living Wage Project providing awareness and adoption living wages to people throughout North Carolina, despite race or stereotype. Also, I have partnered with StepUp ministries to aid homeless and ex-offenders in gaining valuable job-search and work experience, as well as various beneficial programs within AVANT Staffing.

All in all, I believe that the Black Lives Matter movement has pushed this weighty issue to the forefront of the American’s minds and it is not something that can be or should be ignored.  I want our representatives to work to pursue equality, justice, and practical aid for all individuals.

Deciding to Make a Difference for NC

Let me begin by saying that I am not just another career politician who sees running for office as the family business. Instead the knowledge, skills, and passions that lead me to my race have been cultivated through my lifetime of growing up, living, and working in the great state of North Carolina. Kevin Griffin for US Senate

Many people have asked what issues made me decide to run for office, and how my approach to these political issues would be any different. To begin, there are a myriad of important issues facing North Carolina and the United States.

The following three issues relate to the vast majority of individuals and communities in North Carolina:

  • Equality of individuals, education, opportunity.
  • Economic uncertainty exacerbated by non-functioning government.
  • Stratification/grouping of people focused on the individual instead of the whole.

It is quite easy to identify the problems, it is a whole other thing to be able to structure a plan that addresses them and begins to create a solution.

A plan to address these key North Carolina issues should include:

  • Quality education that is readily available to all. Meaning it is no longer based on social strata, geographic location, or economic level. Education must also empower the individual with tools to be successful in the community and marketplace. This creates a fertile ground for confidence, respect, hope, and a society that can move forward together.
  • Addressing the governmental failings.Key failings include a lack of transparency and individuals focused on grandstanding, politicking and getting reelected. Above all the politicians who have been making the government work for them instead of making it work for all of the people they represent.
  • Reestablishing the belief in America and her government that all people are valuable. We are still the great melting pot of the world, made more flavorful by the variety of cultures and people that become a part of our world. So the government must understand that all people are valued and the rights we hold dear are true for everyone. I believe that North Carolina can be a leader for many other states in this regard.

It is time to take action and take back the government for the people of this great land. We must work together to rebuild America’s rich tradition of accepting and growing all ideas, people, and dreams.

What to do About the Economy?

When talking about the economy it is important to make the distinction between the issues that exists on the macro level and those that exist on a more micro level. Both levels must be targeted if we are going to effectively right the economic flaws and issues that currently exist.

First, let examine the primary issues at the macro level. They range from unpredictability of the government in setting fiscal policy and budgets, to the recent financial meltdown caused by the housing bubble, to the volatility of the Asian markets, strife in Middle East, and financials struggles in the European Union. All of these are highly complex issues that cannot be completely solved through economic actions.  Kevin Griffin for Senate

I believe we need to grow our economy and individuals, both stateside and internationally through:

  • Charting the financial course of this country, by returning to the comprehensive budgeting system.
  • Negotiating favorable trade agreements, without sacrificing the individual worker or American Industry.
  • Leading the effort to promote peace, stability, human rights, and democracy throughout the world.

Looking now at a more micro level in the state of North Carolina, we can easily see the effects of the macro level reflected in the uncertainty of consumer confidence. This has been exacerbated by ever-increasing regulations that stifle small businesses such as, the lack of access to capital for growing businesses, the unemployment rates in the workforce, and the increasing costs of higher education and medical care.

My solutions for North Carolina micro level economic issues include:

  • Broaden access to capital for small businesses through a variety of ways, stimulating growth in the business sector.
  • This will create employment opportunities that will reinvigorate the workforce and economy.
  • Raise the federal minimum wage and index it for growth like is done for social security.
  • Make higher education more affordable and incentivized.
  • Tackle the costs of medical care by strengthening and streamlining ACA programs.

This is all simply a start to solving North Carolina’s economy, our nation’s economy, and creating a better tomorrow.

The citizens have entrusted their country’s economy into the hands of Congress and it is about time their trust is rewarded through decisive, balanced, and intelligent actions.

How Does Running a Sustainable Company Make Me a Stronger Candidate?

To really understand how my background positively impacts my abilities, you need to understand what it means to run a sustainable company. The performance and value of a company has traditionally been measured in a strictly financial sense, through the profit or loss that it generates.  While this gives perspective on the financial health, it does little to take into account the company’s overall impact.  To more fully quantify the overall impact of an organization, the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) method has come to the forefront of discussion.A_BCorp_logo_POS

In the simplest of terms, a TBL is a measurement of the social, environmental and financial health of an organization; its sustainability.  It’s the outward acknowledgment of the fact that, in addition to the profit it generates, an organization affects not only the community and people around it, but also the environment as a whole.

To become a Certified B-Corporation is to achieve the premier certification for all companies that are focused on the Triple Bottom Line.  The certification is administered by the non-profit B-Lab, based in Pennsylvania.  It’s a rigorous process that requires a thorough examination of all business, employment and outreach practices.  The testing is combined with on-site audits, and regular re-certification requirements, to make sure that each organization is meeting the levels of performance to which they have committed. I am proud to say that my company has been certified for 5 years.

But how does owning and running a B-Corp, make me a better candidate? I’m glad you asked:

  • The mission of a benefit corporation is to have a positive impact on the people and the planet. This is exactly what our government SHOULD be doing.  We need leaders who are focused on helping all of the members of our community, not just working to move up the political ladder. This change in approach can’t be accomplished through partisan politics, bickering and ideology. I believe that in the right hands any organization can become a force for good in the world. This has been true with my company, where we positively affect the community and environment through employment, outreach, education and sustainable use of our resources.  We can make it a reality in Washington too, by electing candidates that understand that our government should work for the people.
  • While running a B-Corp, I have gained a wealth and breadth of leadership experience that isn’t readily available to others. As a citizen, I know that what I want from an elected official is for them to have the ability to effectively lead, work cooperatively, and listen to the people to know what they need. These are exactly the skills I have developed by running a B-Corp. Because our mission is to make a positive impact on the people around us, the planet as a whole, and the profit of the company, I have had to learn how to keep those three things in balance. To do that successfully, I must; bring people together to focus on a common goal, to build teams of diverse individuals with sometimes competing interests, and to listen to the people around me.  It’s these skills that, over the last 14 years, have helped me to employ almost 2000 people in North Carolina, to work with area organizations to provide educational and career opportunity to the people of our community, and to minimize our footprint on the planet.
  • It has given me direct knowledge of the struggles of the people of North Carolina. In my company, I’ve had the good fortune to work with people from a variety of backgrounds, skills, educations and cultures. I have learned from each person how they have faced adversity, and what great things they can accomplish when given a helping hand.  These experiences led us to become a founding member of the Durham Living Wage Project, to focus on aiding veterans and their family transition out of the military, and to provide an internship designed to help people successfully return to work. It is also how I know there is more work to be done.

All representatives from North Carolina must always work in the best interest of the state and its people, ever mindful of how each vote effects the State’s triple bottom line. Running a B-Corp has made me a stronger leader, team builder, and listener.  It’s given me the direct knowledge and insight into the challenges and needs of North Carolinians, a perspective that is missing from career politicians.  These are the skills needed to bring change to Washington.  These are the skills that make me the best candidate for North Carolina.

Supporting Veterans

The United States is the greatest nation on the face of the planet because of the brave men and women who have stood up to defend it.  Their actions and dedication are what allows us to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  We honor and remember our service members on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, but that is not enough.  We, as a nation, owe so much more; and it’s time we fulfill our promise.  We do that by making sure that our armed services are the best trained, equipped and supported fighting force in history.  But that’s only part of the story. Veteran Work Programs

We have to care for our veterans once their service has come to an end and I think there are three core issues we must address.

  • Establishing outplacement/transition programs. The armed services does a great job of recruiting personnel and creating a pathway for success in the service. I want to see strong effort put into helping our service men and women begin their lives and careers after their service.  I believe that the armed services can develop solid working relationships with area communities and employers to provide a pathway for success for service members nearing their end of term.  I would like to see a program in which individuals are teamed with companies where they can begin working in the private sector, while still functioning in the military world.  In this model, employers would be able to train and develop new employees, without having to carry the salary and benefit costs of the trainee.  If the employer hires the individual after their term of service is complete, and keeps them fully employed for a certain period of time, then we should reward the employer with a tax credit that will offset a portion of the expense.  In this program, our Veterans are able to walk off the base and into a career that they are already comfortable performing, giving them a greater chance to successfully transition to the private sector.
  • Providing excellent health care. In recent years it has come to light that the V.A. Health System has greatly deteriorated to the point that our veterans are no longer able to get quality, timely, comprehensive health care. With the recent leadership turnover in the Veteran’s Administration, we are beginning to see changes that are designed to reduce wait times, and allow for visits to medical professionals that are close by when there is no V.A. within a certain distance.  While this is a good start, I believe we need to do more.  I propose that we expand the capacity of our V.A. facilities so that we can eliminate long waiting periods for healthcare.   We should allow greater freedom for our service members to receive help and treatment from medical facilities in their local community, whether or not they are V.A. facilities.  In addition, we need to work with local providers and facilities to establish visiting professional credentials so that our V.A. doctors and specialists can travel to our people in need of service, making use of the facilities in the local community.  These operational changes, along with a driven focus on the satisfaction of the patients in our facilities, will put us back on the right track.
  • Addressing Mental Health Issues. All too often, the sacrifices we ask our veterans to make in their service become scars that they must bear on the home front. Yet, we know that with proper mental health care and counseling, we can guide our veterans through these difficult issues, helping them return to the life they fought so hard to protect. For that reason, we must make sure that comprehensive mental health services are available to every veteran at all times.  We must also work to eliminate the stigma that can be associated with mental health issues, so that they can be openly discussed and proactively addressed.  Not every veteran has mental health issues, but the ones that do, deserve our support.  I want us to meet that responsibility.

 

Education

I believe the strength of our educational system will determine our future prosperity.  For too long, we have failed to properly support our teachers and our students. I believe much of our community, state and world problems can be addressed by returning the educational system to a place that develops the individual, prepares them for life, and engenders a sense of self-respect and self-esteem in all its students. We need to put more resources, time and effort into our education system. My goal is to provide people with the greatest educational opportunities possible at all instructional levels, for everyone, and in every community.

We should dramatically raise the salaries of all teachers, and provide them with the resources they need.  Teachers should never have to buy basic supplies with money from their own pockets. I believe that a career in teaching should once again be a coveted position, among the most respected and sought after careers in the U.S.  We must do more to make that a reality.

Both of my parents were educators.  I saw first-hand how hard they worked; how much they did for their students and the community.  Through their work in education and our family staffing business, my parents spent a lifetime teaching people how to be successful in the community, their careers and their lives.  In my own company, we have continued the tradition of providing people the tools they need to succeed. Now it’s time to expand the effort to the classroom as we teach and create the next generation of builders, thinkers and creators who will determine our future.

Political Change

I believe we have to continuously turn over our political leadership to allow for new ideas focused on solving the problems of the people.  I believe that, just as we do for the President, we should also have term limits for Congress.  We need representatives to pass legislation that will once again give the people the strongest voice in government, by guaranteeing them new options to choose from in the voting booth, both now and in the future.

Employment

I believe there is no greater effect you can have on a person’s life than to provide them with employment that offers a livable wage and sense of pride and accomplishment. For the last thirteen years, I have done just that through employing almost 2000 North Carolinians. I am proud to say that I have employed people from all walks of life, but I take special pride in the work my company has done to provide targeted employment to our Veterans, military spouses, people reentering the work force and many others.

As President and CEO of AVANT Group, LLC in Durham, NC, a full service staffing solutions company serving the Triangle and Triad, I have seen first-hand how businesses can be a force for good. To show our dedication to that mission, AVANT became a certified Benefit Corporation (B-Corp), identifying it as an organization focused on sustainability and making decisions based on what is good for our community, our environment and the company.

To make a difference in our community, you have to be engaged in the community.  I have brought the tools, experiences and opportunities AVANT provides and paired them with non-profit organizations including the Durham Living Wage Project, Dress for Success, Hiring our Heroes and Step Up Ministries as an intentional effort to provide job skills training and employment opportunities to the community. By collaborating with these great organizations, I am able to not only put people in jobs, but to also educate them on how to be successful in their workplace, and how to have confidence in themselves. By empowering people to determine their own future and providing them with the tools they need to be successful, we will create a dynamic workforce and a stronger community. My goal is to make sure all North Carolinians have access to that brighter future.