Voter guide: Darryl Gonzalez, Congress, District 7
For The Baltimore Sun|
May 18, 2020 at 5:38 PM
Democratic candidate for Congress, D7
Occupation School Administrator
Education Doctor of Philosophy Education Policy, Planning and Administration, specialization in School Leadership University of Maryland, College Park, Master of Education Health and Physical Education Frostburg State University, Master of Science in Education Counselor Education Alfred University, Bachelor of Arts Economics Shippensburg University, 200+ graduate credits in Education
I worked for 12 years in the United States House of Representatives for the Office of the Clerk. Having this experience in a non-partisan office was enlightening because I got to see how legislation is really made without having to choose “a side” to be on. I came to understand the nuances of legislation and the relationships that you need to be influential on The Hill. Being successful in getting legislation passed is based on the relationships that you make with other Members. There are Members of Congress who could write a bill saying that the moon is made of green cheese, and it would pass not because it is true but because of who they are. Getting to that point demands someone who can get along with a wide variety of people and someone who is skilled at building relationships and listening to others’ concerns, then acting on them to make things better—in short, being an advocate for others. Throughout my 31-year career in education, that is exactly what I have done as a district-level and school-level administrator, a community outreach coordinator, a counselor, a teacher and a coach in independent schools and public schools. Everyone has a story, and getting to know those stories, creating relationships and being genuine are some of my strengths in addition to knowing the behind-the-scenes secrets of the House. That is what gets you appointed to the more influential committees in the House; it is what moves you ahead of others so that you are better able to have influence in the House hierarchy, and ultimately what can benefit the people who live your District.
Why are you running for office?
Our country is at a point where there is too much partisan bickering and vitriol. It makes me sad to know that my country is like this, and I while I do not presume that I will get to the Capitol, wave a magic wand and make everything better, I do hope I can be part of the solution to make it better. Reaching out across the aisle to do what is good for the country and making party politics secondary is something I want to be known for. Also, I want to see how far one person—someone who is not a politician but a representative and an advocate--can get by running for Congress, and I want to see if it is true that you have to have a lot money to get people to vote for you. Because I am running my campaign with a minimal budget, I hope that someone with a solid knowledge of the legislative process, someone who is trustworthy and honest, someone who has integrity and has common sense and someone with a track record of not politics but advocating for other people—because that is what a representative in the House is supposed to do-- can get elected. I want people to know that they can vote for a REPRESENTATIVE, not a politician. I do not hesitate to say that the Emperor has no clothes because the truth is the truth and it is undeniable. My philosophy is Country First, District Second, Politics Third.
How do you assess the Trump administration so far? Name at least one positive and one negative.
Our economy is strong and unemployment is low. President Trump will get credit for it. Also, he promised that if he was elected, he would do certain things. He got elected, and he is trying to do them, so nobody should be surprised, so good for him for keeping his word.I think that President Trump is a bully and has a huge, yet very fragile ego. He has embarrassed the country to the point that other world leaders get together and laugh at him behind his back, unfortunately on a hot microphone for all the world to hear. I am proud of my country but I am embarrassed by my President. He runs a chaotic White House and he does not respect the office he represents. His mocking Time magazine’s Person of the Year, 16-year old Greta Thunberg, telling her that she has anger management problems because he is upset that he did not win the award himself, is disgusting. So too is taking a shot at John Dingell because his wife voted to impeach him. If someone you know were to exhibit boorish behavior like this, you would think his behavior is reprehensible. But it is our President doing this! It sickens me. I have never seen anyone guilty of projection as often as he is (protecting his ego by denying things about himself and instead attributing them to others). The sad part is that he did not do just one thing to embarrass the country. No, he does it on A DAILY BASIS. The President should not bully a 16-year old or a former POW or the Speaker of the House no matter how the White House spins it! This all adds up to a polarized country, increased partisanship and instigating a lot of people. I want my President to be a dignified statesman who brings people together, not someone who splits them apart. E PLURIBUS UNUM, or “Out of many, one.” I reject the Make America Great Again slogan from Trump. I think that America has always been great. Instead, my campaign says: Make America Proud Again!
2017 TAX CUTS
What effect do you believe the federal tax cuts of 2017 have had on the economy thus far or will have in the future and why? Do you support the cuts?
In trying to find out the effects of P.L. 115-97 The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and just about any other issue, you can find whatever you’re looking for to defend your viewpoint; it depends on where you look to support your argument. I like to use non-partisan sources for these issues, and the Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a great resource for things like this. According to the CRS report, the tax cuts have hardly had any effect on the U. S. economy. However, by cutting the corporate tax rate, federal revenue fell by about $170 billion, so corporations benefitted but consumers did not. What did corporations do with that money? It mostly went to stock buybacks, so the stockholders of those corporations also benefitted. The tax cuts were also supposed to raise wages for the average worker but no such increase was found last year. When we have almost full employment, and tax cuts are implemented to boost the economy, there is going to be minimal impact on the economy. The tax cuts were used to improve an economy that was humming along quite well by itself, so it should be no surprise that the tax cut did not have much of an effect other than to lower corporate taxes. If tax cuts are going to be implemented, why give all the breaks to corporations and none to typical families? I would support spreading out tax cuts so that corporations benefit and families benefit as well. In an economy that is chugging along just fine, there is no need to cut only corporate taxes, when there is no other measurable benefit.
Is the level of economic inequality in the United States a problem, and why or why not? What, if anything, should the federal government do to address it?
Maybe economic inequality is not the metric we should be looking at. Consider this: levels of happiness are relatively stable across all income levels; in other words, you can’t buy happiness. People who earn minimum wage are about as happy as really rich people. Is there another metric other than happiness you can point to that would improve if there was more economic equality? I like to frame it a different way: regardless of your income, you want to improve your situation. Everyone wants to be happier, spend more time with friends, make more money, have more time to relax and in general, have more opportunities and choices for better jobs, better education and make more money available to them. I want to represent the 7th District so that I can advocate for the people who live there by increasing the number of opportunities that they have to allow them to live their own American Dream. That will be different for every person but if you don’t have chances to make tomorrow better than today and to improve your situation, you have little incentive to be productive. This goes for all people, regardless of the color of their skin, their income, where they live or what they do for a living. There will always be income inequality in a capitalist society but everyone can also make their lives better. Those on the lower end of the income continuum should be working hard to improve their situation, and those on the upper end should be helping them get there, while government should give the same opportunities to everyone.
Should federal gun laws be changed, and if so, how and why?
I do not have a magic wand to wave that will stop gun violence—nobody does. Even though it is a very complicated issue, there are not many federal gun laws because most gun laws are made at the state level. However, there has to be a balance between the Second Amendment and not having people senselessly killed. Federal legislation can be created, or incentives can be given to states to pass their own legislation in key areas to help reduce gun violence. These are just common sense ideas to try to curb gun violence because we cannot go on like we have been. Federal law says that you have to be at least 18 to buy a gun; I would support raising the age to 21. Regardless of what we do with background checks, obtaining permits, who is allowed to purchase a gun and who is allowed to sell a gun, gun violence will continue unless there are no guns, and we cannot do that unless we invalidate or re-interpet the Second Amendment. Blaming gun violence on guns is like blaming auto accidents on cars. However, I think we should outlaw assault weapons and high-capacity magazines because those are not the arms that the Founding Fathers were talking about. The federal government can give grants to the states for implementing programs aimed at reducing gun violence. This issue has a long-term solution, and there are many steps that need to be taken before we see a significant reduction in gun violence. We need to take one step at a time and not lose sight of the end goal to reduce how many of our American brothers and sisters are being killed every day while balancing the rights of the people granted by the Second Amendment. One step is being taken as I write this: the House is passing legislation to provide funds to study the causes of gun violence; maybe understanding the causes will lead to sensible solutions.
What should Congress do with respect to the Affordable Care Act, how and why? If you believe it should be scrapped, what, if anything, should replace it?
I like the idea of more people having health coverage. However, just yesterday, the individual mandate provision of the ACA was ruled unconstitutional. I want to see a plan that covers as many people as possible that is affordable, that is ruled legal by the courts, and that taxes people as little as possible. Everyone should have health care available to them. That goes with what I said about helping people achieve their American Dream. The question is how to pay for it? We have a certain amount of money available and we have to decide how to spend it. So, if we can afford additional health care without compromising other things, then I think we should spend money on health care. My degree in economics helps me weigh different arguments because economics is about the distribution of resources among unlimited wants and needs. The money that was used to fund ACA came from cuts in government spending and an increase in taxes. Like I said, I generally do not want an increase in taxes but there are other ways to raise money. Raise money to pay for health care with a ten percent tax on indoor tanning that raises $3 billion for example? I am all for it. So of course, the more people that have access to health care, the better. You just have to be careful with how it is being paid for and now, that the provisions of the plan are legal.
What role should the federal government play in helping cities? What, if anything, would you do for Baltimore, specifically?
The federal government should be supporting cities by providing aid when, for example, there is a disaster, when new highways need to be built, to provide incentives for technology and business innovation and to give incentives to improve infrastructure. Another thing that the federal government should do to help cities is to provide incentives for neighborhood renewal. As I look around Baltimore, I see run-down buildings, urban decay and vacant storefronts and rowhouses produced by high taxes and high crime rates, or maybe the other way around. Think about those things, plus the murder rate in the city, and I wonder if President Trump was really that far off in the negative things he said about Baltimore. Let’s face it: some parts of Baltimore look like a third-world country. Most of these issues are city-level issues, and with the corruption and turnover recently in city leadership, those issues are difficult to improve. The city has to tap into grant programs from the federal government to improve the city neighborhood by neighborhood. I would encourage city leaders to create a comprehensive, long-range plan in conjunction with the business community because it is the presence of viable businesses that drives renewal that drives the tax base. I understand that many things that are interdependent need to be fixed, so it is not just one thing to fix to make the city better. Using federal grants to attract business to the city would help kickstart neighborhood revival and replace the negativity connected to Baltimore with jobs. To combat the high number of killings in Baltimore, there has to be an increased police presence, and I would support legislation that would allow city leaders do that, and I would encourage the mayor to make that happen. I think the Representative from the 7th District also should be working in cooperation with state, city and local officials to combat violence and crime.
Do you back Elijah Cummings’ bill -- which Republicans say is too expensive -- to provide $100 billion over 10 years to fight the opioid epidemic? Why or why not?
This bill is now being championed by Elizabeth Warren and provides for $100 billion over ten years to treat people addicted to opioids by providing medications, and by making sure that treatment plans and recovery houses meet high standards. I think everyone agrees that the opioid crisis is real and that something needs to be done to address it (however, just this week, I saw a news story that methamphetamine is even a bigger problem). Too many lives are being lost and too many drug companies are making money off those deaths. Let’s say Warren’s plan would indeed minimize the number of deaths from opioid addiction. But where does the $100 billion come from? Warren wants to pay for this bill by closing a loophole in the estate tax. How about instead taxing the drug companies that make the opioids and are getting rich by selling them? I think that is more common sense than generating more revenue from the top two percent. It is this common sense approach to things that I want to highlight also. President Trump has not done much to address this issue, but I think that, like most issues, it is not a Democratic issue nor a Republican issue. It is an American people issue. Treating drug addiction is much cheaper than alternatives like putting addicted people in prison. Additionally, even conservative estimates show that for every $1 invested in treatment for addiction returns between $4 and $7 in savings in related crime costs, criminal justice costs and healthcare; some estimates go as high as $12. So we pay $100 billion over the next ten years to get back 12 times that in the next generation? What is not to like about saving to society in the form of healthier people, fewer accidents and increased productivity at work, and less drug-related costs? Again, we just have to be careful about where the money comes from.
What changes, if any, should Congress make to our immigration and deportation laws and policies? Should the DACA program be preserved? Why or why not?
If someone is in the country illegally, I think that generally, they should not be allowed to stay. However, Maryland allows them to remain in Maryland if they are enrolled in school, or college within four years of graduating high school, and they must register for Selective Service and pay Maryland income tax. If the courts rule that DACA is Constitutional and the policy is allowed to remain in effect, I think it should have stronger requirements. To receive in-state public tuition rates, I think there should requirements for attendance, and a minimum GPA in both high school and college, in addition to the number of years of attendance at a Maryland high school. The time limits should be reduced also: four years is too long of a period to allow them not to enroll in college. I would also be in favor of adding additional options to the college enrollment requirement, such as apprenticeship programs, or verified skilled trades employment. Also, I would want certain confirmation for people who are eligible for DACA. I do not want people who crossed the border on their own to be eligible: this program is for children who had no control over whether their parents brought them here. Also remember that not all DACA applicants are from Mexico or South America; there are 150 countries represented by DACA applicants, some of them countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, so do not have in your mind a picture of only Mexican immigrants coming across the Rio Grande when you think of DACA. I also would not accept applications from people who live in countries that are hostile to the United States.
How would you rate the Trump administration’s trade stance with China and why?
President Trump has threatened to impose tariffs, and then not to impose tariffs, and it seems his thoughts change day to day in a fleeting manner with no real apparent long-term plan, adding to the uncertainty in markets, companies’ abilities to plan their costs and higher prices for consumers. As I write this, Phase 1 of the trade agreement has been settled, which among other things means that China will buy $40 billion agricultural good a year (China has never bought more than $26 billion worth), and we can largely avoid a tariff war with China. While the United States did not get everything it wants in Phase 1, the components of Phase 1 are a start. This is a negotiation between the two largest economies in the world, so do not expect that there is a simple answer. However, now that some of the tariffs have been cancelled, and so we are helping farmers, global trade uncertainty is reduced, and American companies can better plan for their futures because they know how much things are going to cost, so those are all good things. I look forward to seeing what President Trump will do next to help our position.
Do you support the president’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal? Why or why not?
I do not support President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. The President has said that the deal is horrible and one-sided and defective, and so he left the negotiating table. I liken that to a six-year old who gets mad, takes his ball and goes home. France, Germany and England, three strong allies of the United States, all disagreed with the withdrawal of the United States. If Trump does not like the deal that was made, then he should stay at the negotiating table to help create one that he does like. Mr Deal Maker is someone who the process needs. I think it is incumbent upon the United States to be represented there, especially because now Iran is ignoring the deal and taking steps to increase its enriched uranium production. Trump has responded with even more economic sanctions, which of course Iran interprets as a threat. This type of action is not what the world needs—it needs diplomacy and the leaders of these countries to agree on what will happen. President Trump should be part of the solution.
How should the United States address the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program?
The first step should be diplomacy. President Trump is an unconventional President who seems to hold autocrats in high regard, and his relationship with Kim Jung-un is interesting. Again, President Trump the deal maker should try to use his relationship with Kim Jung-un to have North Korea reduce its efforts in extending its nuclear program. If diplomacy does not work, there are more economic sanctions that the United States should use. These are not mutually exclusive. To be the most effective, a combination of them should be used. At last resort, there are military options but the situation would have to be most untenable for me to advocate for that option.
How should the United States address climate change?
This is a world-wide issue. We have to decrease our dependency on fossil fuels. There are many things we can and should do: end subsidies for fossil fuels and increase subsidies for clean energy. Companies that cause damage to the environment should pay to clean it up. The more wind and solar energy we have, the better off we will be, so give tax credits to clean energy companies, and have money available to create better and more efficient clean energy systems. Stop oil and gas drilling on federally-owned land. We need a plan to move from what we have now to an energy system that relies on solar and wind. Sooner or later, clean energy is our only choice. I also would advocate for increasing the use of thorium instead of uranium for nuclear energy; it is a much better alternative. The United States also has to be not only a player on the international stage in regards to climate change but one of the leaders. If change is going to happen, it has to happen across the globe, not just in the United States.
GREEN NEW DEAL
Do you support the Green New Deal? Why or why not?
There are things I like about it and there are things I do not like about it. The general sense of what the GND contains are things I love: reduce reliance on fossil fuels, create jobs, have clean air and water and healthy food for everyone. Because the United States is so dependent on fossil fuels the cost of the GND approaches $100 trillion. That seems excessive, and the plan is vague on how where that money would come from. But one possible source is through a carbon tax on companies that produce carbon dioxide. Some of the ideas in the plan are radical; for example, replacing all air travel with high-speed rail travel, replacing all gas engines, and others things that are untenable in the short run. Also, along with the environmental components of the plan, there is a federal jobs guarantee, government health care, federal child care and other things that give more power to the federal government. I think this is too much government in the lives of people. However, the GND is the most comprehensive plan for climate change yet, and so even if I did not like anything in it, I would at least listen because it initiates conversation about climate change, and possible solutions, and maybe that is the impetus we need to do something about climate change.