Voter guide: Kweisi Mfume, Congress, District 7

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Kweisi Mfume

Democratic candidate for Congress, D7

Age 71

Residence Baltimore City

Occupation District 7 congressman; Board Chair, Morgan State University

Education Morgan State University, magna cum laude Johns Hopkins University, M.A.

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Previous political experience

U.S. House of Representatives, 1987 - 1996; 2020; Baltimore City Council, 1979 - 1986

Why are you running for office?

I believe Maryland’s 7th Congressional District and our country face crucial crossroads ahead. There are unprecedented public safety, economic, and educational challenges at home and enormous national and international abuses outside of the boundaries of the District.

I also believe it is important to replace strong leadership with strong leadership. We cannot miss the opportunity to send our strongest representation to Congress now. Having served in this position for nearly 10 years, I have a duty to raise my hand and offer myself in public service at this time. I am the only candidate in this race who is proven, tested, and ready to go to work in Congress on day one - with seniority.


How do you assess the Trump administration so far? Name at least one positive and one negative.

The Trump administration is a bigger disappointment than I ever could have imagined. My sense is President Trump would tout “the economy” as one positive of his administration. Our economic footing, however, is jeopardized by the income inequalities we face and the wealth redistribution of the Trump tax cut.

There are various negatives of the Trump administration. Two of the more obvious to identify are the administration’s abysmal record on the environment and its equally challenged record on race relations in our country.


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?

The 2017 tax cuts redistributed wealth in ways I do not support. In the short term, the wealth distribution largely benefitted the wealthy and penalized many who are not. In the long term, the tax cuts will likely hurt the economy because the industries and sectors that rely on government spending will be downsized. Beyond that, the tax cuts further deplete the federal coffers at a time when federal spending is rising – that means increased deficit spending. Deficit spending is unsustainable for any organization, including the federal government.


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?

The level of economic inequality in the United States is a problem because the widening economic disparities are unsustainable for our nation.I grew up in poverty. I know the reality of wealth and income inequality firsthand. I also had the honor of chairing the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. House and Senate, so I have firsthand knowledge of the economic policy tools available to Congress. It is a unique set of experiences.I will work to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour today, with that figure indexed to inflation. Ultimately, I favor a livable wage that is consistent with the dignity of hard work. I will work to revisit the most recent tax cuts for the highest earning Americans so that we can invest that money into long term economic successes, including increased education funding. Education is a key to economic success. Likewise, I will work to expand skills training, apprenticeship opportunities, and workforce development options to get more of our neighbors on a path to earning more money. The policy thrust is investing in opportunities for more of our neighbors to earn a fair living while curbing tax shelters that can only be described as windfalls.


Should federal gun laws be changed, and if so, how and why?

Yes, federal gun laws should be changed. There should be an outright ban on all assault weapons and a national background check focused on psychological competency. I am bothered by how easily accessible guns are to psychologically unstable individuals. It should take at least thirty days to demonstrate the competency to purchase and own a gun. This is particularly true when we consider the mental health factors associated with the country’s recent mass shootings.

In 1994, I helped pass an assault weapons ban that lasted 10 years. Congress has not had the will to reinstate the ban once it was lifted. I will fight to change that if I earn the honor of serving the people as their representative in Congress.


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?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) should be strengthened and broadened to offset the efforts of the current administration to dismantle it.I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. My specific vision for expanded healthcare creates a public health insurance model like Medicare without dismantling the private and/or employer-sponsored insurance options. In addition, my vision for expanded healthcare includes a tax credit to help lower the cost of existing health insurance premiums for individuals and families. My vision further includes expanded healthcare access for lower paid Americans. Key funding mechanisms for these proposals include rolling back the Trump administration tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens and closing the capital gains tax loophole.


What role should the federal government play in helping cities? What, if anything, would you do for Baltimore, specifically?

American cities, including Baltimore, serve as economic centers and economic engines for their home states. Likewise, they serve as our cultural hubs.The federal government has a duty to support these economic and cultural centers with dollars and other human capital. Specific support includes assuring the aging and critical infrastructure of our cities is sound, i.e., roads, bridges, water supply, energy infrastructure, and even digital infrastructure. Further, the federal government has a duty to invest in the institutional pillars of our cities, i.e., schools, hospitals, universities, etc. The financial and organizational support provided by the federal government should come with oversight, audits, and mandated accountability.


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?

Yes, I support the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act. The American opioid epidemic has been overlooked and ignored for decades. As we face a tipping point in this public health crisis, a broad-based solution is our only option. CARE provides the framework for that broad-based solution with the belief that the legislation’s proactive approach to the problem will ultimately curb our addiction crisis.We know the cost of doing nothing and the cost of doing less. We are paying those costs now on a family by family, community by community basis. The costs are measured in the loss of human lives, loss of earning potential, strains on our healthcare system, crime in our communities, and burdens on our criminal justice system. The time to act is now.


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?

Sensible immigration policies built America. Immigration continues to be the heartbeat of the American economy in many respects. I will fight to require humane immigration policies at our borders so that we will not have to relive the border tragedies of the last few years, e.g., permanently tearing children away from their parents or immediately criminalizing humans at our borders. In addition, I will work to create a well-reasoned and verifiable pathway to citizenship. I support preserving the DACA program because the DACA criteria and benchmarks established by the Obama administration are consistent with my desire to have a regimented and well-reasoned immigration policy that includes a pathway to citizenship.


How would you rate the Trump administration’s trade stance with China and why?

The fits and starts of the Trump administration’s trade talks with China have caused domestic uncertainty and a negative ripple in global markets dependent on the results of successful trade talks. I, however, fully support a trade policy with China that addresses the longstanding trade imbalance between the two nations and addresses China’s unconscionable intellectual property abuses, including its forced technology transfer mandates.


Do you support the president’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal? Why or why not?

The Iran nuclear deal left many friends and allies with questions. I never had a comfort level with how to hold Iran accountable under the deal. The deal, however, started a process of denuclearization in Iran and formalized a process that allowed many countries to oversee denuclearization in Iran. I do not support the president’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal because the decision sends a message to the world, allies and adversaries alike, that American foreign policy is erratic and inconsistent on a long-term basis. Without credibility or reliable long-term certainty in its commitments, America will not have the ability to serve as an effective broker in global diplomacy.


How should the United States address the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program?

The United States should have a firm and consistent approach to addressing the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program. Instead, the current administration has been erratic and unpredictable when dealing with North Korea. The administration’s inconsistencies create opportunities for North Korea and its allies to make nuclear advances in the region, creating a perilous situation for America’s allies in South Korea.I support firm, multilateral economic sanctions against North Korea to create domestic pressure there. I also support sustaining a prepared U.S. military presence in South Korea.


How should the United States address climate change?

As an initial matter, the federal government must reaffirm its commitment to enforcing existing environmental laws. This work includes ensuring existing laws are not weakened by regulations or administrative interpretations. Likewise, the work includes ensuring federal agencies are properly staffed with personnel who can carry out their duties without political influence or duress. On a forward-looking basis, America must take bold steps to avert the catastrophic effects of climate change. These steps include incentivizing personal choices, motivating corporations to make better choices (either by the carrot, the stick or both), helping to lead the way towards an increasingly green economy, and reestablishing our role as a global leader on climate issues. Establishing benchmarks and regularly measuring our progress in the fight against greenhouse gas emissions and ozone depletion, for example, should be a way of life across the globe.


Do you support the Green New Deal? Why or why not?

Yes. The Green New Deal, a nonbinding resolution, is based on principles I strongly support: dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions; working to create high-paying jobs in the green economy; and ensuring that clean air, clean water and healthy food are basic human rights. Beyond that, the Green New Deal has a social justice component that resonates with my life’s work of providing economic opportunities for historically overlooked citizens (e.g., job training and educational support) and ending all forms of bigotry and oppression.