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4th Congressional District - Election Guide 2012

September 7, 2012

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Previously centered exclusively in Washington's suburbs, the 4th District now includes portions of more conservative Anne Arundel County. But the Fourth still leans Democrat even after redistricting. The incumbent is Rep. Donna Edwards, an Oxon Hill Democrat.


Donna F. Edwards, Democrat (incumbent)

As you know, the Bush-era income tax cuts will expire at the end of this year. Do you support extending the cuts for all income levels, only on individual income under $200,000 (under $250,000 for families), or not at all? If you support an extension of some kind, should it be paid for?

I support efforts to end the Bush-era tax cuts for those families making over $250,000. Due to a decade of failed economic policies, we are seeing a deterioration of the middle class and an increase in poverty. The cost of the tax cuts under President Bush for the top 5 percent of the wealthiest Americans since 2001 is now over $1.1 trillion. If we allow these tax breaks to expire so everyone pays their fair share, and close tax loopholes, we could pay for the priorities we set forth, including extending tax breaks for the middle-class and increasing investments in education and infrastructure.


Is there any circumstance in which you would support extending a pay freeze on federal employees and/or requiring current federal employees to contribute more to their retirement plans? Please explain.

No. I have been disappointed with the ideological attacks on federal workers that have occurred in the last few years. Federal workers have been targeted unfairly in efforts to address the nation's fiscal challenges. Our federal workers, including the nearly 70,000 in my district, have already sacrificed $60 billion in reduced pay towards deficit reduction, and Congress raised an additional $15 billion in February by requiring federal employees hired after this year to pay 3.1 percent of their salary toward retirement — a 2.3 percentage-point increase over what current employees pay. These two actions have resulted in federal employees already contributing over $75 billion to deficit reduction efforts, yet some in Congress continue their efforts to balance the budget on the backs of our federal workforce. Such actions undermine the federal government's ability to recruit and hire a talented workforce and bring us no closer to a responsible approach to deficit reduction. Federal employees play critical roles in protecting our national security, ensuring consumer safety, conducting research, and numerous other activities that millions of Americans depend on daily.


The Congressional Budget Office projects spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other government health programs will more than double as a share of the nation's economy by 2037. What specific changes would you propose to reduce Medicare costs?

Readmission rates are costly to the system. Medicare costs can be reduced by focusing on solutions aimed at reducing readmission rates and providing continuity of care after patients leave the hospital or the doctor's office. Lack of compliance by patients and poor follow-up procedures are among the issues associated with costly readmission. Medicare beneficiaries with chronic illnesses account for 80 percent of all enrollees — mechanisms to improve care for these patients and reward hospitals for performance and reduced readmissions rates would significantly reduce long-term Medicare costs. I supported provisions of the Affordable Care Act that reduce waste, fraud, and abuse, provide preventive services to save money over time, and put in place mechanisms for assessing quality of care over quantity.

Significant savings to Medicare could also be derived by creating a more efficient Medicare drug benefit that allows the system to negotiate prescription drug costs with pharmaceutical companies. Providing Medicare with the same ability to negotiate costs enjoyed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), another large buyer of prescription drugs, would allow beneficiaries to get the best price, saving an estimated $14 billion each year, according to Health Economics.

Modernization of the finance and health care delivery systems would also result in significant savings that would improve the sustainability of Medicare in the long run.


Would you support increased federal spending on highways and other infrastructure as a way to boost the construction industry? If so, how would you pay for it?

I am a long-time advocate of increasing federal spending on transportation infrastructure to help put the construction industry back to work and stimulate the economy, with a factor of 35,000 jobs for every 1 billion we make in infrastructure investments.

The nation's infrastructure is in a state of disrepair. The American Society of Civil Engineers grades America's infrastructure a "D," requiring $2.2 trillion dollars to clear the backlog. Over the next decade, that total skyrockets to over $7 trillion for just roads, bridges, aviation and transit. Investments in infrastructure would help create high-wage jobs, make necessary investments to increase productivity, and ensure short- and long-term economic prosperity in a 21st Century global economy. Our success depends on allocating the majority of the federal budget to make investments in people and our future competitiveness. We are the richest country in the world and can afford the priorities we set forth. As mentioned previously, if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire for the wealthiest Americans so that everyone pays their fair share, as we did under President Clinton, then we will have the funds necessary to help pay for the critical investments needed in our country. I am a strong supporter of developing a national infrastructure bank so that public and private investment could be used to offset infrastructure costs.


Would you support U.S. military involvement in Iran if there were evidence that it was close to developing a nuclear weapon?

I agree with President Obama and his Administration on the importance of international diplomacy, to the extent practicable, and fully implementing an aggressive, stepped up international sanctions regime that began on July 1. The prospect of Iran developing a nuclear weapon poses a grave threat to the United States, to Israel, the Middle East, and to the global community. We must employ every tool at our disposal to dissuade if possible — and prevent if necessary — the Iranian regime from developing a nuclear weapon. A nuclear armed Iran would surely end anti-proliferation efforts in an already volatile region — making our Middle East policy much more difficult due to the increased pressure on other nations in the region to obtain nuclear weapons.

Iran must understand that the global community stands united in opposition to its obtaining nuclear weapons. Despite recent actions by the Iranian regime to rebuff diplomatic efforts, I agree with the Obama administration's continued diplomatic outreach and full pursuit of the latest economic sanctions. As a member of Congress, I have voted four times to support increased sanctions to prevent Iran from acquiring or developing nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and advanced conventional weapons. The sanctions by the United States, members of the European community, and others have demonstrated that such measures can and do elicit a response from the Iranian regime and contribute to a clearer framework for future multilateral talks. With harsher sanctions in effect as of July 1, the P5+1 nations may be in a stronger position to obtain positive results in the coming weeks and months.


Describe a specific policy you would pursue in Congress that would have support from members of the opposite party.

Over the last decade, we have lost approximately five million manufacturing jobs, including a 4 percent decrease in Maryland since 2008. We must take bold action to rebuild the manufacturing base to help American workers. That is why I sponsored H.R. 689, the 21st Century Investment Act of 2011, to increase and make permanent the research and development (R&D) tax credit and increase the domestic manufacturing tax credit to spur innovation. The policies in this legislation are supported by both parties, and would enable us to link our innovation to our production lines, creating good-paying jobs here in America in the short-term, helping to lay a foundation for prosperity for generations to come.





Faith Loudon, Republican

As you know, the Bush-era income tax cuts will expire at the end of this year. Do you support extending the cuts for all income levels, only on individual income under $200,000 (under $250,000 for families), or not at all? If you support an extension of some kind, should it be paid for?

I support extending them for all income levels. I also support an all-around simpler tax code that would allow Americans to save money on external tax services. Contrary to popular belief, lower tax rates have resulted in higher government revenue in the past as it creates private sector jobs. This is because more people are paying taxes and less people are collecting unemployment checks. I also would like to eliminate waste and redundancy to save the taxpayers money.


Is there any circumstance in which you would support extending a pay freeze on federal employees and/or requiring current federal employees to contribute more to their retirement plans? Please explain.

One solution to cut spending would be to allow current employees to keep their retirement plans while reforming the plans for new hires. I also believe it is unfair for Congress to cut or freeze the pay of other federal employees without taking a pay cut themselves.


The Congressional Budget Office projects spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other government health programs will more than double as a share of the nation's economy by 2037. What specific changes would you propose to reduce Medicare costs?

The government must make it easier to buy health insurance from private companies. The way to do this is not with excessive regulation and government handouts, such as those in the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, but by enabling private companies to do their jobs better for less money. Congress could do this by enacting tort reform to eliminate frivolous lawsuits and allowing companies to sell across state lines. This way, the companies that are doing a good job would be able to provide their services to more people. We should also make provisions for individual health care accounts and promote good health choices that keep disease away.


Would you support increased federal spending on highways and other infrastructure as a way to boost the construction industry? If so, how would you pay for it?

While I'm all for maintaining roads and infrastructure as it's needed, I do not believe in spending taxpayer dollars on unnecessary federal projects. Instead, I would like to pass business friendly legislation that will spur private sector construction projects without costing the taxpayers too much money. President Obama's stimulus money was intended to do such projects and it did not create the economic growth it promised.


Would you support U.S. military involvement in Iran if there were evidence that it was close to developing a nuclear weapon?

First and foremost, I must say that I cannot make a definite decision without more information. It would depend on how strong the evidence was as well as other details. However, I want all the voters to know that I would not take such a decision to send American soldiers into harm's way lightly.


Describe a specific policy you would pursue in Congress that would have support from members of the opposite party.

One of the people I've talked to about this is former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, one of our great Americans, and her great concern for our nation is the lack of quality in our education system. In her opinion, education is our greatest threat to freedom. In 2010, our students were ranked 17th in reading and 25th in math out of 70 nations. I believe both sides of the aisle would agree this is unacceptable. It is important to prepare our students for the challenges they will face in our increasingly globalized economy, and we must ensure they have the skills they need to compete in this international job market.





Scott Soffen, Libertarian

As you know, the Bush-era income tax cuts will expire at the end of this year. Do you support extending the cuts for all income levels, only on individual income under $200,000 (under $250,000 for families), or not at all? If you support an extension of some kind, should it be paid for?

I favor achieving a balanced budget. The budget is unbalanced because the federal government keeps growing, but taxpayers are unwilling to fund government's expansion. The federal government has taken on the role of providing housing (HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development]), food (food stamps), education (Pell grants), health care (Obamacare), retirement funding (Social Security), and even entertainment (the Park Service). There is hardly a function of our lives that the (inherently inefficient and inherently corruptible) federal government doesn't now take as being its responsibility. As a Libertarian, I want to shrink the size of government. A smaller government will enhance prosperity (via lower taxes) and freedom (why can't I buy pharmaceuticals without the FDA's [Food and Drug Administration's] and my doctor's approval?).

I believe in tax simplification, which includes eliminating the corporate income tax, but also eliminating the tax-favored treatment of capital gains and dividends; it includes eliminating the complex array of lobbyist-supported tax-deductions and carve-outs.

Given the strain the economy is under right now, Keynesian economic theory indicates that this is not the time for government to impose austerity measures. But unfortunately, the nature of government is that it never has the discipline to ever impose austerity measures. The best constraint on uncontrolled government spending is to force it to be paid for, as citizens will resist increased taxation. I favor getting the government's revenue and spending aligned, and believe that ultimately the best way to make this happen is to reduce government spending. The best way to reduce government spending is to require that government raise enough money to cover its spending. Only when taxpayers feel the pain of government's excess will they rally to demand smaller government. While a Simpson-Bowles solution is preferable as an initial step, if achieving a balanced budget requires the expiration of the Bush-era income tax cuts, then so be it.


Is there any circumstance in which you would support extending a pay freeze on federal employees and/or requiring current federal employees to contribute more to their retirement plans? Please explain.

The relationship between government employee unions and politicians is fundamentally corrupt. The unions give money to politicians, and then sit across the negotiating table from these same politicians asking for more favorable wages, benefits, and work-rules. The benefits the unions have won have not been achieved through arms-length negotiations. Like any employer, the government should be seeking to achieve equal or greater productivity at a lower cost. Every dollar saved in labor expense is dollar that can be spent on much needed programs or returned to its rightful owner, the taxpayer.


The Congressional Budget Office projects spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other government health programs will more than double as a share of the nation's economy by 2037. What specific changes would you propose to reduce Medicare costs?

OK, so maybe "death panels" is an exaggeration, but ultimately the government must create a system to say "no" to some health care spending. Medicare should provide a safety net for seniors against catastrophic health crises. It should not be in the business of improving quality of life (think joint replacements), providing the most modern drugs and medical technology (unless they are also the most cost-effective), or prolonging life at any cost. It would be great if the people of America were willing to pay for this in the form of taxes. They are not.


Would you support increased federal spending on highways and other infrastructure as a way to boost the construction industry? If so, how would you pay for it?

The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. The government should not be finding a way to "boost the construction industry" or the auto industry or the biotech industry. However, the federal government does have a role in maintaining and improving the nation's infrastructure. Ideally, this would be paid for by user-fees (gas tax, vehicle registration fees, airline ticket fees), but this is not always feasible.


Would you support U.S. military involvement in Iran if there were evidence that it was close to developing a nuclear weapon?

It would be wonderful if America could be the world's policeman. Unfortunately, this is not feasible both because of affordability (Americans are unwilling to see their taxes increased to pay for more foreign wars) and effectiveness (once America is viewed as the world's bully, it will lose its global influence). As part of a coalition of our allies, America should do its share to maintain a safe world. So if the UN, NATO, or some similar alliance should request our participation, the U.S. should be a good team player. The U.S. should not unilaterally impose its will on others.


Describe a specific policy you would pursue in Congress that would have support from members of the opposite party.

The Libertarian party is one that believes in small government. As a result, it is fiscally conservative and socially liberal. The Libertarian perspective on shrinking government to its core functions aligns well with Republicans' desire to shrink government and reduce taxes. The Libertarian perspective on personal freedom aligns with the Democrat's desire for marriage equality for homosexuals and easing if not eliminating the government's failed war on drugs. A Libertarian would have no problem finding support for any given legislative action from one of the two major parties.