CA17: Ro Khanna rolls out his jobs agenda

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna rolled out his jobs plan Monday, including teaching computer coding in public schools, boosting the number of women in tech careers, preparing more young workers for manufacturing jobs and boosting the minimum wage higher than even the president wants.

Khanna talks to Access Closure workers after his speech 2-24-14 (photo by Josh Richman)Khanna described the plan in a speech to about 100 employees at Access Closure, a Santa Clara medical-device manufacturer. The company employs about 345 workers nationwide including about 210 in the Bay Area; jobs on the manufacturing floor, which require only a high-school diploma or equivalent, start at about $40,000 per year.

“I can’t think of a better place to do this,” Khanna said, noting the company is a U.S.-based manufacturer that’s exporting some of its product and expanding while paying its workers a living wage.

But duplicating the success of a company like this requires leadership and action from Washington, said Khanna, a Democratic challenger to Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, in the 17th Congressional District.

Honda lacks a comprehensive jobs plan, Khanna charged. “There’s been an absence of leadership on his part … and beyond that an absence of willingness to have a conversation,” he said, noting Honda’s refusal thus far to promise a debate before the June primary.

Read about Khanna’s seven-point plan, after the jump:

1.) Include computer coding in the public school curriculum – Khanna said this is a means to “ensure that every young person has the skills to compete in the 21st-century economy. Younger students should be taught basic skills like logic, and older students should learn programming languages.

2.) Invest in and credential science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers – Khanna called for raising the standards for credentialing; offering teachers ongoing professional development opportunities including shadowing engineers at local companies or taking community-college classes; and awarding Education Department grants to districts and states that create cost-effective training programs for STEM teachers.

3.) Increase the number of women in science and tech careers – Only one in seven engineers is a woman, Khanna said. Boosting that number means getting girls interested in STEM careers early, as well as offering an incentivized work environment including child care and paid maternity leave.

4.) Preparing more young people for advanced manufacturing jobs – Khanna said he would push legislation to fund Department of Commerce grants for community colleges that offer more practical job training and demonstrate successful job placement.

5.) Connect small businesses with capital and access to the export market – Access Closure executives said only 3 to 5 percent of their product is exported, and Khanna said only 38 companies in the 17th District export their products overseas; Khanna vowed to double that number. He also said he would use his congressional website to create an “exchange” where entrepreneurs and small businesses can connect with investors.

6.) Provide job training and tax credits to support dislocated workers – Khanna said the closure of Fremont’s New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant underscored the need for job retraining, even for workers whose hours have been reduced but not yet eliminated. Also, he said, companies willing to hire dislocated workers – especially veterans – should get targeted tax credits.

7.) Raise the minimum wage – Khanna called for raising the federal minimum wage to $10.74 – the level at which it would be if it had kept up with inflation for the past 40 years – and then indexing it to inflation thereafter. House Democrats and President Obama are now pushing a bill to increase it to $10.10 and then index it to inflation.

These are “commonsense ideas that I believe can get bipartisan support in Congress,” he said. “There is nothing this country cannot do if our politics were just a little bit better. … We need change, we need a new vision.”

Afterward, Khanna agreed the minimum-wage hike is currently in limbo under staunch opposition by Republicans, but he said that might not be the case if it was “part of a much broader conversation about American competitiveness.” Republicans might bend on the minimum wage if Democrats meet them halfway on other issues, he said.

UPDATE @ 10:28 A.M. TUESDAY: In an email sent a few minutes ago, Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Khanna is a latecomer to jobs and education issues that Honda has been championing for years.

“As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Congressman Honda has a proven record supporting job creation in Silicon Valley,” he said. “The BART extension to San Jose alone, which Congressman Honda helped secure $900 million in funding for, is creating over 10,000 jobs locally. He has passed legislation that led to $4 billion of investment in nanotechnology research & development, as well as a law that has expanded STEM education. He is leading Congressional efforts to create manufacturing jobs and raise the minimum wage as well.”

“On creating jobs, like so many other issues, Ro Khanna has a lot to say, but Mike Honda has actually delivered results for Silicon Valley,” Kembaiyan said.

UPDATE @ 3 P.M. TUESDAY: Click here to read more about Khanna’s and Honda’s argument over Honda’s record on jobs and education.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Sorry to be the first slob to tell ya, but DC ain’t short of ideas or thinkers. Thunk meet Reality: a big, ugly wall of What’s In It for My District (and MY reelection)?

  • AvidVoter

    I think this plan is a great idea. There’s a lot noteworthy and new ideas in here. And I think Ro Khanna will actually get stuff done. I saw him speak yesterday, and man, he’s on top of his game.

  • Willis James

    I don’t live in the 17th District, but I will make a comment on Mike Honda’s reply…

    He says he has been fighting for jobs for years.

    Then he begins right off with the following
    ““The BART extension to San Jose alone, which Congressman Honda helped secure $900 million in funding for, is creating over 10,000 jobs locally.”

    I agree, if you want to base the future of the South Bay economy on jobs fully paid for with government taxes, then I guess Honda can supply those as good as Khanna.
    However those government project kind of jobs are never going to create widespread wealth or long lasting jobs for the other 80% of of society that doesn’t rely on taxes to pay for projects and services.

    Honda sounds like more of the tired nostrums that are trotted out in every election cycle.
    Look at the $500,000,000 BART Oakland Airport connector project.
    Tell me, what did that do for the average unemployed person in Oakland?

    Whether you like Honda or not, I doubt anyone can seriously suggest that he is going to come up with new ideas to lead us into prosperity over the next 10 years.
    Rather he is just finishing out his career.
    He should have taken his cues from George Miller and Henry Waxman, rather than from Pete Stark.

    Again he is a nice guy, but we really need something more than that now.

  • letsbehonest14

    I wish Rep. Honda and his team would just be honest about Rep. Honda’s role in any of the examples his spokesperson points to. They are grossly exaggerating his roles in each one. 1) he secured $2mm (yes TWO), not $900 mm. Big difference. 17 yr old programmers can get $2mm dollars for their website ideas. His team is just manipulating the facts. 2) yes, Rep. Honda voted on another congressman’s nanotech bill that passed. But the one Rep. Honda proposed and “led” didn’t get any (any!!!) support or co-sponsors for it, not even from fellow Dems – it died in committee). 3) again, when Rep Honda introduced the STEM Act of 2010, he couldn’t get a single member of congress to co-sponsor that either, not any fellow Dems there too. So, I respectfully ask that you not use phrases like “leading Congressional efforts” and “Mike Honda has actually delivered results for Silicon Valley”. The facts do not bear out the campaign’s hyperbole. The spokesperson is actually doing a disservice to Rep Honda when making statements that are so easily proven false and/or misleading/manipulative. Voters hate that (I know I sure do). We then question everything that comes out of their mouths. Rep. Honda is a nice man and talented in certain areas. Leading passage of successful legislation and understanding the economy, much less the innovation economy, do not fall in his area of expertise….at all. I just wish his campaign, and Rep. Honda, would just be honest.

  • Hisazo

    Honda fact check: “He has passed legislation that led to $4 billion of investment in nanotechnology research & development, as well as a law that has expanded STEM education. He is leading Congressional efforts to create manufacturing jobs and raise the minimum wage as well.”


    Actually Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a New York Republican initiated that bill. Mike Honda has only passed one piece of legislation in 14 years in Congress. And that was to name a post office.


  • Willis James

    I know some don’t like to state the obvious, but in this modern changing high tech world, age does have some consequence.
    Leading this district is especially difficult in keeping up.

    Like it or not, and I’m sure the other candidates won’t mention it directly, but Mike Honda will be 73.5 years old when and if he begins his next term and 75.5 when he finishes just that one term.

    Are people supporting him really only voting to keep him in for one more term?
    Because if you are electing this man, expecting two or more terms, then he will be 77.5 or more when he comes to the end of just two terms.

    Can a 77 year old congressman represent the center of the world’s high tech world and do a adequate job?

    Again, I don’t live in the district, but there are times when the entire Bay Area needs leadership to keep the region at the forefront of the world.

    Sadly, as nice as Mike Honda is, he is no longer capable of keeping pace with the changes and most importantly, the opportunities.
    We all age. Several California congressmen have admitted such and allowed new blood to enter the system.

    I don’t think the region can afford to delay a change for 2 to 4 years.
    We see what happens to tech companies that fall 2 to 4 years off the pace.
    How many Blackberry owners are out there?

  • Ayushi

    I attended Ro’s release yesterday and was very impressed with his ideas, particularly concerning improving education in the Valley to achieve the same standard of innovation and excellence that SV companies are renowned for. Citizens are constantly concerned with jobs and education, yet it seems like little is being done by Congress to fix that. I hope that Ro can be a positive force in Congress, bring innovation and job creation (especially through domestic manufacturing), and set District 17 as an example to the rest of the country!

  • Elwood

    Always good to hear from the paid mourners (Ro’s staff).

    It’s nice that you boys and girls are true believers.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Richard Woulfe

    The middle class has been shrinking in US – everybody knows it. .Mike Honda has done nothing to stop this in his 14 years in Congress, Honda will call a press conferences – he promises to do something to save middle class – and the next day he goes on junket. As I understand it Honda leads NorCal delegation on junkets. Honda is last place on bills passed compared to others in the NorCa Congressional delegation, but number 1 on junkets! That’s says it all about Honda. I’m a blue collar worker myself – I know how hollow these promises Washington politicians are making regarding “saving the middle class” or creating decent paying jobs. This Ro Khanna fellow – who is running a long shot insurgent campaign – without the backing of Washington special interest groups – has got concrete plans and ideas on how to put blue collar workers back to work, at decent wages. Mike Honda not a fighter for blue collar workers, Ro Khanna is, I am proud to be supporting him Congress.

  • John Locke

    If you read R. Khanya’s book his ten point plan is:
    * reduce regulations
    * increase foreign competition
    * reduce corporate taxes
    * increase military spending
    * create an undersecretary for manufacturing
    etc… (basically the trickle down tea party) there is not a single item to reduce the middle class taxes, provide free college education etc. . Not a single point that social security should be strengthened or that health care industry is ripping off Americans, or that Ro’s rich doners should pay their fair share of taxes. For example billionaires pay zero taxes on everything above 120k for social security. So on the millions they make each year its 0001% of their income yet someone making 30k its as high as 15% of their income. If they only pay capital gains they pay 15% yet most peoples tax rate on income (Buffets secretary) is much more like 20-30% etc..
    Ro has zero about the redistribution of wealth because look at his doner list its all people (more often then not right or right leaning) giving the max 5000. For example Marc Leder a Robber baron who guts companies, lays off employees and, reaps the profits, threw Romneys 40% party where Romney said 40% of americans are all worthless, he has donated hugely to Ro. Or Peter Theil a libertarian how believes in low taxes for the rich and nothing for the middle class and donated millions to tea party Club For Growth which even Karl Rove hates now cause its too extreme.
    Question is do we want billionaires picking our government, our founding fathers were definitely completely opposed to that. The average man should have the same say as Meg Whitman or Peter Theil.
    If you follow the money you see the true motivations in this world. Its the wealthy and powerfull keeping their existing power that’s where the redistribution of wealth is going not to congress or public employee salaries (a code for union breaking) as Ro’s TV ads claim. 90% of the US money is being redistributed to a tiny 1-10% of America. Ro is funded primarily by very rich not the middle class (he has far more doners of weathy individuals often outside his district). Don’t be fooled by right wing ro. Honda is not perfect but I do trust his motives and not to mention Ro who is being sued already for corruption.

  • Elwood

    Oh, my goodness!

    Ro’s staff won’t like that!

  • Marga

    I think that’s because his book is on the specific topic of strengthening manufacturing in America. It’s not a political manifesto.

  • Marga

    I actually don’t think it’s Ro’s staff that answers. Unless you are including his volunteers as part of his staff. The comments you get here are too clumsy for the former. But Khanna – just like Honda – has a large group of very enthusiastic supporters, who I’m sure participate in this fora.

  • Marga

    I think we had this discussion before, but your post is ageist. I think there is no reason why a 77 yo congressman could not represent high tech adequately. But, in reality, that’s not even the question. He’s not there to represent an industry, he’s there to represent the /people/ who live in the district. High tech can donate, but it cannot vote. Thanks goodness!

  • JohnW

    SS payroll taxes are a contribution toward future benefits received, not an income tax. People making above $120k are not billionaires, but they do pay an effective income tax rate of about 20-25%. Do you want to add another 12.4% (including employer’s 6.2% share) on top of that. If we increase taxes, I want the additional revenue to go toward the future (education, research and infrastructure), not to beef up old age benefits for geezers like me.

  • John Locke

    Actually you are wrong his book is full of politics and his ideas. Instead the tea party solution you could solve the economic woes by creating more demand, or reversing Reagans privatization (or at least starting the practice of charging students to attend) of the CA higher education and Universities. You could propose how we can improve the economy by getting off fossil fuels.

  • John Locke

    I didn’t say people making over $120,000 are billionaires just that is where the cut off is. Social security can be completely protected if we remove the limit. It is unfair that someone making 100th the salary pays sometimes a 100 times more in social security because the cut off is at a tiny faction of a rich persons salary. And most really rich don’t pay much on income tax for example Romney. Romney paid almost no income tax, he like Warren Buffet pay capital gains and Bush lowered it to 15% which is insane another republican regressive tax on the middle class.
    Point is not what they spend it on, point is that we need to stop picking on the middle class and poor and the rich need to pay their fair share at least the same percentage. Not to mention people like Bill Gates have or GE have small companies of hundreds of employees completely dedicated to their tax avoidance, so corporations like GE pay nothing while you and I pay a much higher percentage.

  • Marga

    Is the book full of politics and his ideas on issues unconnected to manufacturing? If so, you didn’t bring those up.

  • JohnW

    No, you didn’t say those over $120k are billionaires. But you do advocate solving the SS funding gap by eliminating the cap.

    The cap increases every year anyway. But, if you eliminate it, that will be the equivalent of increasing the marginal tax rate from 28% to 40.4% on people with taxable income between $120k to $186k and from 39.6% to 52% on people with taxable income above $407k. Percentage-wise, that would actually be more of a tax rate increase on people in the lower 28% bracket than on people in the top 39.6% bracket — 44% versus 31%.

    As I previously stated, if we increase taxes (something I don’t oppose), the money should go toward the future: education, research and infrastructure. We can’t afford to have an ever-increasing share of the budget going to support those of us no longer in the work force.

    I’m with you on the other stuff. Income from capital gains and dividends should be taxed at the same rate as income from wages. I also believe in taxing income from inheritance.

  • Elwood

    “Bush lowered it to 15% which is insane another republican regressive tax on the middle class.”

    A lot of middle class folks have enjoyed capital gains on stocks, either individually or through a pension fund or 401k.

  • Elwood

    ” I also believe in taxing income from inheritance.”

    Which completely ignores the fact that that money has been taxed once already when it was earned.

    If I’ve worked hard, saved my money and invested it well, why should my heirs be punished by the government for my frugality and acumen?

  • JohnW

    If I pass something along to my nephews and nieces, I’m happy for them. But they should pay income taxes on it. I got taxed on the earned income, not them.

    Furthermore, there is a great deal of wealth that passes from one generation to another that started from a very low income/investment basis and has never been taxed. I believe in exceptions in cases where those inheriting have sweat equity — such as a family home, farm or business.

    We tax wages. We tax realized gains from productive investment risk. Why is windfall inheritance income so special compared with activities that are supposedly high valued in our economy — i.e., work and putting capital to work through investment.

    Finally, life is full of income that cycles through various levels of taxation. Sales and property taxes are paid on items that were purchased with previously taxed earned income. If some of my earned income is invested in a hot stock that I flip after a few months, the gain gets taxed as ordinary income. If I buy rental property with previously taxed earned income, I pay income taxes again on the income from the rental property.

  • JohnW

    Unless that 401k is a Roth plan, those gains get taxed a full ordinary income tax rates when withdrawn. When I start to withdraw at age 70 (God willing), I expect to be paying 28% federal tax and 9.3% state tax on the withdrawals.

  • John Locke

    Actually you are wrong on several points. Social Security is the only thing keeping the USA afloat. That’s has been the bed rock that the US taps into. Its people like Grover Norquist want to destroy it. If we strengthen Social Security we lower interest rate, can pay off all our debt, it would have a huge positive ripple effect on our economy. Less borrowing from China, etc. we wuld have more leverage over China we would have money for infrastructure, schools. It would be like going back to the booming 1950s when we taxed the rich at a higher rate. That being said if we pay a little more to for people who made $30k for 50-60 years then that would improve the demand based economy of ours. 80% of our economy is demand, only 20% is from manufacturing and supply consumption. Cutting social security sounds great for rich people but if you have to live on it, when you barely survived its poverty. Ro seems obsessed with supply side and trickle down, and solutions for rich people. He neglects demand and the middle class Just because we strengthen Social Security doesn’t mean we need to spend it. Clinton had a surplus we need to get back to those “lock box” days. I don’t think your math on lifting the cap is right. We could even lower the rates for the upper middle income or make the next tax teir much higher say at millionaire level. It would be a total positive for the US.

  • Elwood

    So if the gummint would just take ALL our money, we’d be living in Paradise, right?

  • John Locke

    Poor logic. So if the billionaires like Meg Whitman, Buffet or Gates paid their fair share and not pay a lower tax rate then you and I our economy would boom like it did in the 1950s and 1960s. We would have surplus like the booming Clinton years. Instead we have the Bush legacy and the tea party. Lower middle class tax rates. There is no reason to have a social security cap or have billionaires pay lower tax rates then everyone else.

  • John Locke

    Poor logic. Missing the point, 90% of Romney’s and Buffet’s income is capital gains at a tiny fraction your Elwoods or my tax rate. They paid a tiny percent of their tax on regular income. If capital gains tax was back at 28-30% (pre Bush) on everything over 1billion then our schools, our debt, our roads, our global warming fight and our interest rates, etc would be much better. Instead we have wars based on lies and an economy based on feudalism or the Southern plantation system where very few have all the wealth. Europe’s economy remained in the dark ages till the merchant and the middle class actually had some wealth.

  • JohnW

    I was all for letting all the Bush tax cuts expire and returning to the Clinton rates. Even with most of the Bush cuts remaining in place, the deficit is back to pre-recession levels. If the Clinton rates were still in effect, we would probably be close to a balanced budget.

    But those were all income taxes used for general government. Let’s say somebody makes a million dollars a year over the current payroll tax cap. You would have all of that extra income subject to an additional $124,000 in SS taxes, But instead of being used for general government (from Defense to EPA to CDC to FDA to NASA), you would use the money from that person to pay for somebody else’s SS benefits.

  • Elwood

    Very impressive.

    And here I thought a john lock was the latch on the outhouse door.

  • John Locke

    Except you forget that Social Security trust fund is what drives interest rates. Its what the government uses to pay its debt, basically social security is the lynch pin of federal gov. Basically everything from defense, to welfare, to roads and schools is borrowed from social security ultimately. The stronger that is the stronger everything else is. I don’t think that by lifting the cap that it be so much that all the money in the us will be locked up in social security. The people who set the rates will be able to do the math to set the rates, so that’s not an issue. That being said a little more benefits for social security would be a boon to the economy as well. I know many of elder single mothers etc. that are literally in a starvation poverty situation trying to get by on social security.

  • John Locke

    I do think some of his ideas are good, although I don’t see any new ideas and some are basically Mitt Romneys. Having better training for teachers has long been something pushed by democrats. Finland has the highest test scores in the world while studying less then most rich nations. Its because they have the best trained and highest paid teachers. To be a teacher is like being a navy seal or a brain surgeon, its very difficult, competitive and yet rewarding to be a Finish teacher, and that’s what we should do. However, it doesn’t have to be just in computer science and it shouldn’t just be more teachers but better teachers.

  • Elwood

    I can see how elder single mothers would have a tough time of it.

    But I must confess I don’t know many of them. That makes about as much sense as the rest of your BS.


  • JohnW

    It USED to be the case (in the Bush/Clinton/Bush days) that SS was running a surplus, which was then borrowed from the trust fund account to pay for general government funding. However, those days are gone. We are now drawing down the trust fund account, which will zero out in 2033 or so. At that point, SS taxes will be sufficient to cover only about 75% of scheduled benefits. By law, SS can’t pay out more than it takes in once the trust fund account has been depleted.

    People often overlook the fact that both Bushes and Clinton had SS surpluses to mask the deficit. In other words, Bush 43 deficits were significantly higher than advertised. Starting with Obama, however, the SS surplus flattened out. Going forward, part of the deficit will be the government paying back to trust fund account.

  • John Locke

    If we let the rich pay their fair share of taxes there will be a surplus and only Clinton had a real budget surplus, the Bushes both ran yearly budget deficits (spent more then they brought in). Especially if we let the rich pay their fair share of social security taxes and capital gains or even increase social security for the rich we would have a surplus.
    It was only when GW Bush cut taxes for the rich and had two unfunded multi trillion dollar wars based on lies (at least Iraq), that we lost the lock box surplus that Gore spoke of and ended up with our current situation when Bush and the republicans ruined our economy with the greatest economic crisis since the republican Herbert Hoovers great depression. The point being its artificial and we can get it if we reject the irrational Grover Norquist pledges and go back to the tax code of Clinton or even Eisenhower where Gates and Buffet were taxed at higher rates that we could afford to build roads and educate people.

  • John Locke

    I didn’t say they were unrelated to manufacturing you did. The point is he had the opportunity to say global warming could affect manufacturing, or inequitable tax code affects demand which reduces the need for manufacturing, etc. He said none of that. Or unquotable tax code affects education which affects manufacturing, yet he said none of that. He only talked about corporate tax cuts, reducing regulations etc. all trickle down supply side solutions (which sounded pretty much like Romney).

  • Marga

    I haven’t read his book but those who have – but who don’t have a stake on supporting Honda – come to very different conclusions than you. See, for example, the Salon article on Khanna: http://www.salon.com/2013/10/22/silicon_valleys_march_on_washington/

    Honda’s campaign, meanwhile, has a record of outright misrepresenting What Khanna says, even when it’s easy and quick to check. So you will forgive me if I suspect that your criticism is, well, suspect.