Voter guide: Saafir A. Rabb, Congress, District 7

Saafir A. Rabb

Democratic candidate for Congress, D7

Age 43

Residence Howard Park, Baltimore City

Occupation CEO of a Strategy Company

Education Master of Business Administration degree (MBA), Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore MD, Bachelor of Arts degree (BA), political science major, University of Maryland, College Park MD


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Previous political experience

Member of President Obama’s transition team.

Why are you running for office?

We are living in a time of a new normal and the irresponsible activities happening at the federal level are jeopardizing our democracy and that is why I’m running for congress.

I am a son of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County. I have worked in and been devoted to this community my entire life. I have helped thousands of people to recover from the disease of addiction as the COO of the I Can’t We Can Recovery Program, I have secured HUD/other funding to design and build hundreds of units of affordable housing, and I have created countless jobs for the people of the MD-07. Having worked as a global business and community development strategist, in counties in multiple continents, I have always brought resources and expertise back to our district. I know what it takes to work across difference to build consensus and execute initiatives with the involvement of community residents. These diverse grassroots and global experiences have taught me how to enhance the quality of life of our electorate and how to craft strategic legislation that will be effective in the long-term to implement the needed changes.


How do you assess the Trump administration so far? Name at least one positive and one negative.

The biggest negative of the Trump administration is the caustic rhetoric and crude language that he has brought to the bully pulpit. Leadership must always be represented in a responsible way. It will quite possibly take us decades to recover from the negativity that has made so many Americans feel unwelcome, which has closed the door on global citizenry due to religious differences, and that has rebuked the Statue of Liberty’s promise of welcome to those who need a safe harbor. The dignity of democracy must be preserved. When an undignified expression is conflated with what should be dignified governance, the world becomes confused and respect toward the United States withers. A positive and silver lining of the Trump presidency is the uncovering of systems, memes, societal norms, and entrenched behaviors that are way overdue for analysis, truth-telling, and correction. Examples include racial and ethnic discrimination, violence against women, and anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic attitudes and attacks. Most Americans wish for a society based on peaceful coexistence and compassion. Unearthing this type of unhealthy and unfounded prejudice will assist us in achieving that goal. His negativity must be countered with bold expressions of empathy and historical truth that mobilizes all of us to protect and preserve America’s best inclinations for future generations.


What effect do you believe the federal tax cuts of 2017 have had on the economy thus far or will have in the future and why? Do you support the cuts?

The 2017 Tax Cuts had little measurable effect on the overall US economy and have not come close to paying for themselves. Typically tax cuts reduce revenue and when revenue is reduced programs come next. However, these tax cuts have been so severe that basic federal safety net programs are under threat, including homeless and housing assistance programs, food vouchers, education, and employment programs, etc. I’m concerned that the most vulnerable members of our society, including children, the elderly, the poor, and returning veterans are suffering even more than before. Tax reform is required. The richest citizens must pay their fair share in order for our society to be healthy and sustainable.


Is the level of economic inequality in the United States a problem, and why or why not? What, if anything, should the federal government do to address it?

The level of economic inequality in the U.S. is absolutely a problem. Since the Great Recession, the gap between rich and poor has never been this wide. This rising inequality affects virtually every part of the country, not just large urban areas or financial centers. The federal government needs to provide state and local governments and individuals with easier access to economic development resources over the long term.


Should federal gun laws be changed, and if so, how and why?

It is possible to craft legislation that does not restrict ordinary citizens’ ability to use guns for hunting or recreation. However, non-military citizens should not have access to military-grade weaponry. In addition to gun control, allocations to expand mental health services are needed to reduce mass shootings and suicides, and job growth is needed to curb homicides in urban centers.


What should Congress do with respect to the Affordable Care Act, how and why? If you believe it should be scrapped, what, if anything, should replace it?

The Affordable Care Act is imperfect, but its passage has resulted in easier access to health services for millions of Americans. Crucial components of the ACA--such as prohibiting discrimination based on pre-existing diagnoses and requiring coverage of mental health services and preventive services for women--must continue. The ultimate goal is universal coverage for everyone.


What role should the federal government play in helping cities? What, if anything, would you do for Baltimore, specifically?

We all want to maintain local control over our lives, but there are times when the federal government’s support is essential: resources to improve aging infrastructure such as highways, bridges, and the Port of Baltimore, for example. The health of a city depends on its ability to maintain a strong infrastructure, i.e., public transportation, water, power, and waste systems. Federally funded infrastructure projects should also be tied to localized labor so that such projects contribute to our local economic development. The federal government is also needed at times to rectify an entrenched or particularly urgent problem. A good example is the 2016 U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department that was requested following the death of Freddie Gray. The DOJ found over 300,000 instances in which the police enforced unconstitutional stops in a four-year period, with a focus on the impoverished African American communities. Instances of police brutality, prisoner deaths, sexual assaults within the department, and illegal arrests without evidence were also found. Members of the department’s Gun Trace Task Force were charged with felonies, including the theft and resale of illicit drugs. When an anchor institution like the Police gets this messy, federal resources (such as the subsequent Consent Decree) are needed.


Do you back Elijah Cummings’ bill -- which Republicans say is too expensive -- to provide $100 billion over 10 years to fight the opioid epidemic? Why or why not?

I support Cummings’ bill. However, treatment as it stands in America often means substituting a legal drug for an illicit drug--this does not equate to true recovery. There is more and more evidence that community, connection, and spirituality are the most powerful supports for individuals seeking recovery. We need to examine the many experimental approaches, including the legalization of drugs and access to drugs while in treatment that are ongoing in countries like Portugal, Switzerland, Holland and Canada. A punitive approach to drug addiction framed by criminal justice has not helped. Addiction is a public health issue, and the growing epidemic needs to have a public health approach. We need to draw from the best practices in terms of treatment approaches that have resulted in not only harm reduction, but also sustained recovery of the individuals involved.


What changes, if any, should Congress make to our immigration and deportation laws and policies? Should the DACA program be preserved? Why or why not?

Our Immigration laws and policies should continue to protect those seeking refuge and asylum from despotic regimes, war zones, and drug cartels. We must protect refugees and promote refuge of global citizens facing oppression in the wake of authoritarian abuse and climate change. DACA should be preserved because it aligns well with the values of our country. America is comprised of immigrants and descended from immigrants. We still need to give hope to individuals in dangerous situations as we, as a country, sort out the challenging concerns around immigration laws and policies.


How would you rate the Trump administration’s trade stance with China and why?

The cost of these tariffs have largely been placed on the backs of the U.S. consumer as well as farmers and manufacturers. Also, his daughter’s business has been exempted from tariffs! Trade barriers such as tariffs increase the cost of consumer goods and inhibit economic growth. The trade conflict has slowed manufacturing to its lowest levels since the Great Recession and more and more farmers are declaring bankruptcy. Direct investment from other parts of the world, such as China, should be encouraged and not discouraged. I’m challenged to see the benefit of such tariffs that have put us on the brink of a trade war.


Do you support the president’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal? Why or why not?

I think those with responsible long term vision should support crucial agreements made by their predecessors. Otherwise, the word of the U.S. government is diminished. The nuclear deal and open trade with Iran promoted peace and commercial cooperation in the region and throughout the world. The fact that the President has pulled out of Iran’s nuclear deal has hurt the prospect of peace for a very unstable region of the world. His extreme downsizing of and disrespect towards the U.S. Department of State has also had a destabilizing impact on our relationships with both allies and enemies.


How should the United States address the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program?

The U.S. should address the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program in a firm but diplomatic way. We need to utilize the best forms of diplomacy and take advantage of seasoned ambassadors and diplomats who are adept at understanding the complexities of that part of the world. This is the only way to advance our interests there and to ensure our national security.


How should the United States address climate change?

We must institute legislative consideration for climate change in every aspect of our policies especially energy and new infrastructure. We must better do a better job at all levels of our educational system to teach our children and youth about the imminent threat of climate change and the role human beings have played in harming our air, water, and forests. The U.S. needs to overhaul its dependency on carbon-based resources and replace outdated energy sources with green sustainable sources of energy. The rapid rate of extinction among species essential for food production, such as bees, is a cause for alarm. We must hold ourselves responsible and provide leadership for the Paris Accord and other global environmental protection initiatives to ensure that the human race has a future.


Do you support the Green New Deal? Why or why not?

Yes, I support the Green New Deal. It will advance protections related to climate change by calling upon the federal government to eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels and spur development of a major green job sector.The resolution is nonbinding, so even if Congress approves it, the proposal would not become law. However, it will still spur debate and progressive activity around the single most important issue we face today: climate change.

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