Thursday’s District 2 Republican Debate
For those still looking for information on the candidates in the Republican Primary in the Second Congressional District, here is a report on a portion of the debate held last week in Warwick where moderator Russell Moore of the Warwick Beacon asked candidates Bill Clegg, Michael Gardiner and Mark Zaccaria about their positions on the basic issues that a Congressman will have to deal with. The links next to the summaries take you to the audio of the candidates’ answers. [Disclaimer: I arrived to the debate a few minutes late, so I missed the first few questions]
Question: What is your position on health insurance reform and specifically the reform that was passed earlier this year?
Gardiner: Obamacare is intended to move people to a ‘public option’. The US needs to create a nationwide market in health insurance through something like the uniform commercial code. Tort reform is necessary, but at the state level.Question: The Federal government deficit is approximately 1.3 trillion dollars. How would you address this problem, and can this problem be addressed without curbing entitlements or raising taxes?
Zaccaria: Obamacare will crush the healthcare system as we know it. US needs to create a legislative environment where a marketplace in healthcare can operate. The ultimate goal should be some kind of health savings account, plus insurance that is available nationwide.
Clegg: Obamacare will send costs through the roof and uses bogus accounting. Solutions at the state and regional level need to be tried, before nationalizing healthcare. Insurance should be available across state lines.
Zaccaria: The deficit has to be managed without increasing taxes. Federal managers have to be asked to manage and deal with smaller budgets. Certain kinds of entitlement relief are necessary, including changes to social security where individuals retain control of their contributions.Question: What is your position on immigration reform, and should the birthright citizenship provision of the 14th Amendment be modified?
Gardiner: Social Security is a foundation element of our lives. Improve the economy and raise payroll taxes so more money can be contributed to SS. Quit wasting 5% of GNP on healthcare spending.
Clegg: Social Security is a sound system, if not looted by Congress. Opposes privatization of Social Security. Raising retirement age by one year and reducing the annual cost-of-living increases would solve the shortfall.
Gardiner: Fence the border. “Comprehensive” immigration reform is code for not doing anything. Can’t round-up 12 million people, so grant amnesty instead. Birthright citizenship is a wrong interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, but it can be changed through Congress.Question: Do you think free-trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA are good for the U.S., or is free-trade a bad thing that sends our jobs overseas?
Clegg: Proper border security will reduce the problem, but Congress so far hasn’t given the necessary funding. Rewarding people for breaking the law undermines the rule of law and shouldn’t happen. Previous amnesty did not solve the problem. Fourteenth Amendment has been misinterpreted, judges that understand this need to be appointed to the court.
Zaccaria: “Comprehensive” immigration reform is an attempt to institutionalize the current lack of immigration law enforcement. Problem is economic in nature and a combination of border security and employer enforcement will reduce it. Supports taking a lawsuit to the Supreme Court to clarify the Fourteenth Amendment, but immigration needs to be solved in a shorter amount of time than amending the Constitution will take.
Zaccaria: Free-trade works on a level-playing field, but NAFTA and CAFTA give advantages to businesses outside of the U.S., that don’t have to meet our OSHA or minimum wage requirements.Question: Are we on the right path in Afghanistan, or is Republican National Chairman Michael Steele correct when he says the war is unwinnable.
Gardiner: Free-trade does lower prices and helps raise the standard of living, but current system is not fair; other nations do not have the same environment and workplace safety regulations that the U.S. does.
Clegg: U.S. was built on free-trade and should keep trying to build a real free-trade system. However, current free-trade agreements have resulted in things like the World Trade Organization ordering the U.S. to pay cotton subsidies to Brazil. Congress should be working to correct this, but isn’t.
Clegg: Afghanistan is not unwinnable, but what is our national objective there? Trying to make Afghanistan into a modern democracy is going down the wrong path. Mission should be training, and keeping enough of a presence to be effective against al-Qaeda in the region.Question: Public pension plans are severely underfunded all over the country. Do you agree with the op-ed written by John Loughlin last year, who suggested a Federal bailout of state and local pension plans?
Gardiner: Fighting in Afghanistan is very expensive. We’re spending money in appropriations bills for costs related to the Vietnam war. We have got to have less war, and put the money to a different use, like building nuclear power plants.
Zaccaria: Mission creep is degrading our ability to do what we say were are going to do and contributing to a pattern of endless war. National command authority needs to be revised, to be more focused on what the military can and cannot do.
Clegg: We shouldn’t depend on others, including the Federal government to bail us out for our own errors. We need to elect officials who will say “no” to unrealistic spending demands.Question: In the interests of government transparency and freedom of the press, would you support a Federal shield law?
Gardiner: Federal government should offer “bridge loans” to the states, for instance to help with pension reform or regionalization.
Zaccaria: Bailing out the states is not a Federal function. Previous bail-outs have failed to produce any long-term reform.
Clegg: No to a shield law. Journalists don’t need any special protections different from what others have.
Gardiner: Thinks that Jim Taricani’s stand was courageous, but hasn’t taken a definite position on a shield law.
Zaccaria: Gives credit to Jim Taricani for not revealing his source, but that is part of the risk that goes with the job of being a journalist. No to a shield law.