On the Issues
Additional detail on Steven's positions on critical issues.
I’m proud to be the first-ever environmental studies major to graduate from UW-Madison as I also helped create the program. Like many young people, I am deeply committed to addressing the climate crisis and recognize that we cannot wait any longer to take significant action for our future generations. All Wisconsinites, from entrepreneurs, to farmers and consumers have tremendous opportunities to both lead and benefit from the clean energy economy—but we need a federal government that is on the side of solving the climate crisis as opposed to worsening it.
That’s why advancing our environmental agenda is not only a top priority but also a core part of my experience through my organization, the Millennial Action Project (MAP). In 2016, a highly successful federal clean energy innovation program was on the chopping block. Through MAP, I had a lead role in building the coalition of Democrats and Republicans in Congress to save and expand this clean energy bill. In 2019, MAP helped introduce the Better Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Act with strong bipartisan support. The BEST Act focused on developing and implementing large-scale energy storage systems, which allow suppliers to stockpile excess energy and tap these sources when needed. I will expand measures like this Congress, building on my existing climate coalition which involves a diverse group of elected officials, workers, and environmental activists, effectively scaling up efforts to move the country to more renewable energy and combat climate change.
The hallmark of my environmental and economic strategy will be spurring a WWII-level of green industrialization in our country and calling for a 100% Clean Electricity Standard by 2030. Further, I seek to end all federal subsidies for fossil fuels and stop Line 3, invest in clean energy research, development, and manufacturing, protect our public lands, and expand regenerative agriculture. In order to achieve these priorities, I will build on my existing climate coalition in Congress and include a diverse coalition of elected officials, workers, environmental activists, and more. This will create millions of good paying jobs, drastically expand clean energy, and ensure future generations have a livable planet.
Entrepreneurship & Small Business Support
As the Founder and former CEO of the Millennial Action Project, I have firsthand experience with the difficult issues that uniquely affect entrepreneurs and small business owners. My proposal to get money out of politics includes banning lobbyists from funding campaigns. Right now, members of Congress are so busy fundraising from their big donors while lobbyists hand-deliver legislative language at the staff level. This language incorporates corporate loopholes which become part of the tax system, often too arcane and complex for the media to report on them. This allows tax giveaways to get inserted without any public accountability or visibility. The accumulation of that over decades leads to large corporations paying much lower taxes than small businesses.
I also support decoupling benefits from employment, including healthcare, retirement, and short and long term disability benefits. One of the biggest ways that we can boost entrepreneurship, small-business ownership, and the expansion of small family farming is by guaranteeing healthcare – especially through a system of portable benefits – in our country. With this system, you’re not beholden to a big corporation, but rather you can actually pursue what you really want to do. This is a bill I’ve already worked on in Congress and it has bipartisan support right now in the Senate. I’m ready and excited to be a leader in passing that bill to expand portable benefits across the country, which will boost entrepreneurship.
I support federal subsidies and incentives to increase worker pay and provide paid leave, and enforce antitrust laws. I plan to vote to upgrade these laws so that they are actually effective, but this doesn’t get to the root of the issue. Right now in Congress, there’s a system of legalized bribery, and both Democrats and Republicans have been corporatized, engaged in, and benefited from this system. That is why nothing seems to change on this issue and many companies continue to engage in anticompetitive behavior, even when Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House.
Abortion, Roe v. Wade
Reproductive choice is a basic human right. There has been a loss of dignity in our politics – a lack of understanding of human rights – and the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is an example of that. Fighting for dignity means fighting for a woman’s right to freedom over her body. Establishment politicians have been profiting off of this issue for decades, having had multiple chances to codify Roe into law when Democrats had a majority in Congress, but they failed to do so. I support legal protections for abortion and convening inclusive conversations to humanize the real stories behind reproductive health and build greater empathy. We can fix the incentives in Congress to garner the votes and align Members of Congress with the three-quarters of Americans who supported Roe. If needed, I would support getting rid of the filibuster to codify abortion rights into law.
Additionally, there are opportunities for higher ground across the political spectrum – from reducing unplanned pregnancies to ensuring kids are able to thrive. We need elected officials who are willing to do the right thing, as opposed to what is politically expedient. By doing this, we will change not just the outcome of policy, but the system itself and ensure that dignity is at the center of what Congress is doing.
Together we must uphold the Constitutional right to personal freedom, including women’s decisions about their bodies. Overturning Roe is the natural conclusion of a court that has descended into trench warfare partisan politics, instead of nonpartisan judicial review. It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is time to structurally reform the Supreme Court, including enacting term limits for Justices.
I am the only candidate in the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin who has focused on gun violence prevention on the campaign trail, starting last summer. My core proposal is universal gun licensing to ensure that anyone using a gun can demonstrate that they can do so safely, similar to drivers licenses.
This builds on my work to pass bipartisan legislation in Congress authorizing and funding the CDC to study gun violence as a public health issue, overturning a 20-year ban when it was signed into law in 2018. Of the 35 bills that my organization, the Millennial Action Project, passed through Congress, I’m most proud of the 1st-in-a-generation bill to counter gun violence.
If elected, I would hold town halls and public discussions on the most important challenges facing Wisconsinites. We should be crafting legislation with those closest to the issues, and gun violence is no different. It’s time for action. We must elect leaders to Congress who actually care about passing legislation to prevent gun violence and provide mental health support, not just score political points for the sake of ambition and money. We must be bold and work across political divides to achieve these reforms, many with majority support across our nation.
There is essentially a regressive tax coming out of the pandemic, disproportionately impacting communities of low income individuals. Any politician who’s missing in action on these issues, Democrat or Republican, is enabling these oppressive economic systems. One of the biggest drivers of inflation and gas prices right now is the major disruptions on the supply chain system amidst the pandemic, both internationally and domestically. I plan to further investigate how to open up American ports, addressing some of the bottlenecks, and helping to support President Biden and consider using the Defense Production Act for some products. This could increase production of critical supplies to pre-pandemic levels.
We need to center dignity in all of the decisions that we make. As we see costs related to gas and housing go up, we also see that wages are largely staying stagnant. I support raising the minimum wage to help people struggling with the economic impact of this. As legislators, our proposals must take into account the needs of small business owners and mom-and-pop shops trying to make ends meet. Some big companies like Amazon are actually advocating for a higher minimum wage because they know it is an easy way to take out their smaller competition. Therefore, we also need incentives and credits to help small business owners compete.
We must go even further for those who are struggling with work. I’m proud to call for a guaranteed minimum income. This is focused particularly on poverty alleviation, and I hope to build on to some of the demonstration projects going on right now across the country and scale them up. To the federal level. There is bipartisan interest in an approach like this as it could streamline government benefits for recipients and administrators.
Our focus on Dignity for All extends beyond our borders – we must preserve human rights at home and abroad. My foreign policy approach centers on multilateral cooperation, deterrence of armed conflicts, and humanitarian support. We must take an empirical, long view of our actions, leveraging our power intelligently to couple a 21st century military force with strong global partnerships to serve our interests and values and deter potential threats.
The recession of our democracy domestically impacts our ability to lead globally. We must fix our democracy, starting with money in politics, to reduce the corrupting influence of our military-industrial complex and decrease division and political dysfunction. We must prevent the military-industrial complex from funding politicians and getting us into misguided wars, and show the world that Americans are unified in our commitment to and willingness to improve our democracy at home.
My experience leading young American legislators and human rights activists internationally and service on the Advisory Board of UW-Madison’s International Division uniquely prepares me for responsibilities of a U.S. Senator. My unique approach was highlighted in Retired Brigadier General Legwold’s endorsement and a recent Cap Times piece, “[his] long view led Olikara to speak frequently about the Russia-Ukraine crisis last year, when few of the other candidates were paying attention.”
Criminal Justice Reform
It is essential to elevate dignity over hate in politics and the policy that we create. In our current system, legislators have a lot of incentives to dehumanize people, and we must change that. My number one priority in office is to change the business model of politics. The legalized bribery in Congress allows big corporations and special interest groups to fund politicians, so in many cases, Congresspeople are directly profiting off of prisons. I seek to get rid of dark money in politics and incentivize peace, unity, and empathy.
As part of our Dignity for All agenda, I’m seeking to rebuild human rights and human dignity, starting with a ban of the ex-felon box. Black and Brown people are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system, and this negatively impacts their access to capital and ability to start a business. I’ve seen how the indignity and challenges of having to note that you were formerly incarcerated when asking for a bank loan is a huge barrier to getting investment and access to capital. We need to “ban the box” that prevents too many entrepreneurs from getting loans. This box, which limits access to capital, creates barriers, and impacts the self esteem of people who were formerly incarcerated, is unnecessarily punitive. In addition, I believe we must legalize cannabis and psychedelics and expunge the record of nonviolent drug offenders.
I believe healthcare is a human right and we must seek the fastest way to universal coverage, including mental, behavioral, dental, vision, and reproductive health. To do this, we must build a system that decouples healthcare from employment. Too many Americans feel stuck in jobs that are potentially abusive because leaving them would risk losing healthcare benefits, not just for themselves, but also for their families. We must talk about the root issue of price inflation of healthcare. The healthcare system currently profits on volume, keeping people in the system as opposed to keeping them healthy. We must radically change the incentives in our healthcare system and invest significantly in preventative health to avoid increasing costs.
Additionally, we must ensure that Medicare can negotiate directly to reduce prescription drug prices. These prices are astronomical right now because of the system of legalized bribery in Congress, which allows pharmaceutical and drug companies to sponsor members of Congress and even directly hand them legislative language. To get a new healthcare system in America, which will spur greater opportunity, equity, and dignity for all Wisconsities, we must ban lobbyists from funding members of Congress.
I’m committed to the further development of an innovative and regulated technology sector. I was the first Democratic candidate for the US Senate to release an NFT collection, which reflected the spirit of Wisconsin. Technology is progressing at a lightning pace, from cryptocurrency to artificial intelligence, automation, and the exponential growth of social media. These technologies are not bound by a political party; Democrats, Republicans, and Independents are utilizing and innovating across emerging technologies. The federal government has been behind on smart policy for the technology sector, and the nation needs more modern elected officials with modern policies that maximize the potential positive impacts and minimize the harm that can come with any innovation. With the collection of NFTs that my campaign sold, we celebrated and continued Wisconsin’s historic role as the laboratory of democracy with opportunities to invest in organizations Wisconsinites believe in, like the Green Bay Packers. With this and our initiative, I seek to model collaborative, future-looking governance.
Support for Workers
I am the proud product of a union household, as my mom was a public employee at the local school district in Brookfield, where I grew up. This has informed my journey to run for the US Senate. I support workers rights, proactive unionizing, offering free technical and vocational education, expanding apprenticeships, universal basic income, expanding the ADA, and portable benefits. I fully support the PRO Act, which will empower workers, protect civil rights, and stimulate the economy, and is essential in rebuilding the economy post-pandemic. I will be a sponsor of it in the Senate, and I know how to build the bipartisan support we need to pass it. I will champion it so there’s a movement behind it and workers rights get prioritized on Congress’s agenda.
Workers rights includes healthcare, which I believe we must de-couple from employment through a system of portable benefits. With this system, your entire benefits package, including benefits like healthcare, retirement security, and longterm and shortterm disability benefits, would travel with you wherever you go. Therefore, you’re not beholden to any job or corporation. This is a bill I’ve already worked on in Congress and it has bipartisan support right now in the Senate. I’m ready and excited to be a leader in passing that bill to expand portable benefits across the country.
I’m also deeply interested in direct cash and a broader universal basic income program. This is another example of a potential post-partisan solution to addressing poverty and breaking down barriers for people seeking government assistance – a streamlined direct cash program could be significantly more effective and cheaper for the taxpayers as it would reduce the demand on other government programs, potentially replacing them in the long-term.
There is a whole business model around polarization and division in our country. The people who hurt the most from this are workers, people often left out by politics. I seek to create a new kind of leadership model in our political system, and I’ve seen this model work with my leadership at the Millennial Action Project. At MAP, we achieved bipartisan solutions that provided skills training for veterans, and we co-sponsored bipartisan workplace training bills and bills to promote apprenticeships. I have consistently supported pro-worker bipartisan legislation over the last 10 years and have been successful in passing that legislation.