The way leaders in Congress are advocating for the working class isn’t sufficient, and their efforts veer closer to the realm of lip service, according to the newest Democratic congressional candidate for Southwest Washington.
Marie Perez of Skamania said Congress members love to talk about how small businesses are the backbone of the country’s economy, but they aren’t taking the correct measures — if any — to help. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when local businesses close and are replaced by large corporations.
“The reality is: (the representatives) don’t work for us,” Perez said.
The candidate and her husband, who own an auto repair shop together, face the dilemma of weighing the importance of certain bills over others. Among the whirlwind of necessary grocery, electricity and gas bills, the couple can’t afford to pay $1,200 a month for their own health insurance. Still, they pay $500 to cover their infant son — leaving them without enough cash to pay for child care.
That’s why their son joins them at work — suited up with the proper personal protection equipment, of course.
Perez involves herself in politics on a statewide and local level. She serves as a member of the executive committee for the National Democratic Committee and works on the Underwood Soil and Water Conservation District. She was formerly vice-chair of the Skamania County Democrats.
While on the state National Democratic Committee, Perez presented a resolution to address carbon accounting as it related to mandatory meetings typically held in Washington, D.C., or how much carbon dioxide the organization’s members were emitting through their travel.
She said the sustainability-focused motion served as a vehicle to fight for a more representational body, as the meetings were something the delegates had to pay out of pocket to attend — regardless of where they were located. The resolution, which is currently on a trial run, will help those who can’t afford the travel expenses.
Perez said her efforts in advocating for inclusivity and addressing interrelated social identities through policy reflect the root value of having a democracy.
“I feel like if you’re in a position to make things better, you have an obligation to try,” she said.
Working class needs, overdue changes
Perez, who holds a degree in economics, said growing and redeveloping market power should be at the head of national interest, including investing in energy independence.
Furthermore, focusing on economic growth and stability from the perspective of the working class is huge for the region’s overall prosperity, Perez said. She pointed to broken aspects of America’s system in how it treats low- and middle-class families while it benefits large corporations through tax breaks. Corporate intervention in electoral politics should be excluded entirely, she said.
The situation is enough to bring people to the street with pitchforks, the congressional candidate said.
After all, people shouldn’t be expected to have copious wealth or an Ivy League education to live a decent life, she added. It’s a topic that transcends urban and rural community lines, and Perez said she is focused on bridging the gap between these factions if she succeeds in the race to unseat Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground.
Reaching this goal begins by treating the working class properly, including providing accessible and sustainable options for health care and child care, she said. Navigating exchanges with the federal government should also be made easier, especially as it relates to the complexity of paying taxes, she said.
America’s social and physical infrastructure needs to be improved entirely, Perez said, and the situation is worsening quicker before it’s getting better. Strengthening the region’s natural energy industries, as well as tackling the lack of affordable housing and aged roadways, are long overdue.
“We have an aging (infrastructure) system that is going to start killing people,” Perez continued. “We can do better.”
Putting a greater societal value on vocational education should also be a priority for political leaders. There is a narrative that asserts people who have trade jobs are not intelligent, she said, and this can lead to people in these positions having low self-esteem. Instead, Perez said integrating vocational programs at a young age can empower children to pursue these careers that are crucial to keeping communities running.
“I am part of the generation that is making less than my parents. We have to turn that ship around,” she said.