// 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? //
Tax policy should be progressive: Taxes should not go up on lower-income individuals and families. Big banks and corporations have been making bigger profits than ever but avoid paying fair taxes. Meanwhile, American taxpayers have been bailing out banks, insurance companies, and other financial corporations. A decrease in federal government spending on wars and destructive military activity would increase the resources available to pay for constructive programs that help improve people's lives.// 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 support fair pay and good benefits for all workers. Even if one can imagine conceivable circumstances where it might become necessary to ask federal workers to make additional sacrifice, a current need for this has not been shown. I believe the U.S. must down-size military spending; the federal government must help retrain and reintegrate people who currently hold military jobs, into the nonmilitary economy.// 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? //
Health care costs have skyrocketed as for-profit companies have taken over former community hospitals. Many decades ago, health care costs were relatively low. In those days, a typical hospital was publically owned or was operated by private charity in the public interest. Despite recent health care advances (for example, new technologies) that should have made health care more affordable, the rise of profiteering has led to a health care delivery crisis and exorbitant costs. Health care should not be a for-profit industry; health care does not obey classical "market competition" principles of supply and demand. (For example, a for-profit business normally will increase profit if it can boost demand, but in the context of health care increased "demand" usually means increased sickness, injury, and disease.) To the extent that health is a fundamental need, demand for health is constant and not elastic. On the "supply" end, the availability of health care services is only vaguely related to market pressures, especially under the inflexible, complicated, and confusing regime of for-profit health care insurance, where genuine consumer choice is largely illusory.
Contributing to the cost crisis is the fact that many members of Congress are involved in dismaying conflicts of interest in that they receive huge sums of money ("campaign contributions") from for-profit insurance companies, for-profit pharmaceutical corporations, and the for-profit health care industry. (Members also receive big money from power companies, military companies, etc.) This systemic conflict of interest has undermined our nation's health care economy; it has also corroded representative democracy in the U.S. The incumbent in the Fifth District boasts of raising many millions of dollars in political money each election cycle, including millions raised by his "leadership PAC." For example, in the 2008 election cycle he reported raising about $7 million; in the 2010 election cycle he raised even more than that huge amount; his "fundraising" shows no sign of slowing down in the 2012 election cycle. The influence of money on the political system leads us away from a republic and toward what could be called "corporate plutocracy" — government by and for wealthy corporations. And the 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court has taken an already money-dominated political system even farther away from being able to represent the people.
CBO's June 2012 report itself cautions that spending has varied greatly over past decades and states that predictions of health spending growth rates "are very uncertain." The same CBO report projects that under some scenarios (e.g., if Medicare reimbursement rates to for-profit entities were subject to automatic cuts), public debt could actually become a lower percentage of GDP by 2037 than it is today.
One sensible way to reduce health care costs would be for the government to stop subsidizing companies that sell unhealthful products. Reduced sickness would yield lower spending on health care. For example, the Federal Communication Act required that licenses be granted to broadcasters who serve "the public interest," but instead the FCC has given this public resource to companies selling commercial television air time to corporate advertisers of products that lead to disease (junk foods, over-sweetened breakfast cereals and beverages, etc.), often targeting young children. Similarly, to help contain health care costs, the government should also not subsidize industries that pollute the air or befoul the water; clean air and clean water are important for human health.// 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? //
Government has an important role in supporting not only the development of sustainable energy technology and other physical infrastructure, but also social infrastructure (such as public education, child care, elder care, youth programs, etc.). Government programs must not be narrow-sighted. It is unwise to spend money on environmentally destructive highways with a view to giving a short-term "stimulus" boost for the construction industry. One main principle of the Greens is environmental wisdom (also nonviolence; social justice; and grassroots democracy). Unfortunately, members of Congress who receive money from corporate interests (including big construction) are under pressure to pay attention to the short-sighted profit-seeking demands of their wealthy donors. Under the banner of supposedly "creating jobs," those members support the transfer of public money to their wealthy donors, all too often without regard for environmental or other consequences. Not all economic growth is necessarily good. For example, a boom in the nation's for-profit prison industry doesn't reflect positive changes in our society. There exist environmentally sustainable ways to encourage job creation, but those ways do not include giving federal money for highway paving contracts to boost profits for the corporate supporters of members of Congress.
Community-based programs allow for maximum participation by those who know most about local needs, which can vary from community to community. Federal support of sustainable infrastructure programs should therefore operate, wherever practical, on a model that maximizes local control and local direction of such programs. Such a decentralized and participatory approach is in keeping with the call for a "Green New Deal," proposed by Dr. Jill Stein (http://www.jillstein.org/text_psou
The federal government must focus on bringing about a sustainable energy future. End federal subsidies for oil companies (which donate money to politicians who favor them). Instead, support initiatives to develop and implement alternative and sustainable energy sources, such as solar power. A good example is the federal incentives program enacted to promote successful small solar energy pilot projects. This program should not be allowed to "sunset" or expire before community groups have had a full opportunity to pursue this important direction, which is expected to create good jobs for a sustainable energy future.// Would you support U.S. military involvement in Iran if there were evidence that it was close to developing a nuclear weapon? //
Violence is an inherently self-defeating policy. Nonviolent action aligns peaceful means with peaceful ends. Nonviolence is crucial for humanity's survival. The two big political parties receive enormous amounts of money from the "defense" industry and blindly support military force around the world, whereas nonviolence is a main principle of the Green Party.
Debate on U.S. foreign policy is hobbled by an ignorance of basic norms of international law. Politicians refer to military attack against Iran as an "option on the table," but this rhetoric ignores the fact that attacking (or threatening to attack) another country is not a lawful option. The U.S. is powerful but it is not above international law.
Among the most solemn international obligations is the duty under the U.N. Charter to settle international disputes by peaceful means — the duty "to refrain . . . from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."
American political leaders seek support for military action by invoking supposed "national interest," but appeals to "national interest" or "national policy" cannot justify war from the point of view of international law. War as an instrument of national policy is expressly outlawed.
Tragically, the U.S. and Iran have been without diplomatic relations for more than 30 years. Are peaceful solutions likely between two countries that are not even on speaking terms? How preposterous and how sad it is that so many U.S. politicians adopt a saber-rattling posture calling for an illegal military attack against Iran. Politicians sometimes argue that whatever attack they are urging is the "last resort," when in fact there has not been even a "first resort" to peaceful diplomatic dialogue based on international law and mutual respect.
How irresponsible U.S. officials (including the Secretary of State) have been! They repeat public accusations (often demonstrably unfounded) and issue public threats and insults against Iran, without even talking to Iran. They mischaracterize reports by the IAEA about the Iranian nuclear energy research program in order to create fear and stir up anti-Iran sentiment. The same U.S. officials do not mention that Iranian officials have repeatedly denied that Iran has any intention or desire to develop a nuclear weapons program; in fact, the Islamic leaders of Iran denounce nuclear weapons as evil. The door for dialogue and normalized relations could be opened, but the U.S. foreign policy elite seems committed to keeping the door slammed shut. What drives the U.S. agenda seems less any concern about a possible nuclear weapons program in Iran or a threat to U.S. national security than certain geopolitical or strategic military aims, such as isolating Iran and undermining its government. The anti-Iran campaign brings to mind "yellowcake" and the fear-mongering campaign warning of nuclear weapons (later revealed to be nonexistent) that formed the pretext for the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq. It goes against democracy for the government to misinform the people about issues of war and peace. Government deception destroys legitimacy. Crying wolf undermines government credibility at home and abroad. And under international law, it is a "crime against peace" to threaten to attack another country instead of seeking peaceful resolution of a dispute.
Recent weeks have brought a new concern. National newspapers report that the U.S. has been launching malicious computer virus attacks against Iran's nuclear energy research facilities, including a computer virus designed to make Iranian uranium centrifuges spin out of control. Nuclear energy is no toy. Weaponization of software is extremely risky. Sabotage by malware hackers, including U.S.-sponsored sabotage, poses a danger to information security and computer systems worldwide, including our own. Secret cyber-warfare programs (like other covert operations) are at odds with the public's right to know what our government is doing. The unleashing (as in the so-called "Operation Olympic Games") of a secret and highly destructive internet virus such as Stuxnet or Flame threatens to inflame an international crisis of cyberattack run rampant. The U.S. program to wage international cyberattacks is likely to backfire against Americans, damaging the U.S. economy and information resources, which depend heavily on the internet.
What happens to a nation when its government operates in secret and as if it were above the law? Is it lawful for our federal government to be involved in assassinating research scientists in Iran? Of course not. Under international law, Iran and the U.S. are both signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which recognizes the "inalienable right of all Parties to the treaty to develop research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes." Rather than killing scientists and issuing public threats of military attack and instead of whipping up fear in order to gain support for military attacks, the U.S. should engage in genuine diplomacy. The founders declared the independence of the United States of America not in order to dominate the world. To the contrary: this country was born in opposition to Empire, against the tyranny of standing armies, and against military occupations by a distant imperial power without the consent of the local people. The U.S. military presence today extends to more than 150 countries around the globe. It is folly to imagine that such vast occupying armies (especially when unwelcomed by the people whose lands are occupied) make Americans safer. Our Constitution does not allow a secretive "national security state" that spreads Empire abroad and erodes civil liberties at home.// Describe a specific policy you would pursue in Congress that would have support from members of the opposite party. //
The words "the opposite party" in this question presuppose that there are only two political parties (the "duopoly" of blue and red). As a Green candidate, I invite people to become actively involved with alternatives, such as the Green Party. I'm glad to receive votes from people in the Fifth District, but even more important is for people all over Maryland who support Green values (nonviolence, environmental wisdom, social justice, and grassroots democracy) to volunteer to help build local Green organizations.
Grassroots democracy as practiced and promoted by the Green Party differs from the money-dominated system of the two big parties, which enact self-serving laws to reinforce their own entrenched but undeserved stranglehold on power. They do not represent the people but instead curtail opportunities to participate. They pass laws that prevent the political process from being genuinely open, which results in elections that are "rigged" in important ways. Examples include restrictive ballot access laws; public subsidies to incumbents and to the two established parties; winner-take-all election schemes of which the Electoral College is the most famous example; gerrymandering to maximize partisan power and decrease competition in elections; the overwhelming role of political money as a barrier to participation and as an influential factor—conflict of interest—in the policy decisions and fiscal decisions of public officials; candidate "debates" and media coverage that often exclude alternative candidates; and so on. (In this regard, I thank The Baltimore Sun
for including Green candidates in its Voters Guide.)
Green Party policies deserve serious consideration by everyone, including Democrats and Republicans. As Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in Sweezy v. New Hampshire, "All political ideas cannot and should not be channeled into the programs of our two major parties. History has amply proved the virtue of political activity by minority, dissident groups, which innumerable times have been in the vanguard of democratic thought and whose programs were ultimately accepted. . . . The absence of such voices would be a symptom of grave illness in our society."
Certain incumbent members of Congress can probably be expected to support Green legislative proposals to promote equality, civil liberties, sustainable energy, environmental protection, community-based economics, and nonviolence. And members whose professed love for democracy is sincere should support legislation designed to open up the political process itself, to make elections in the U.S. less unfair and more inclusive.