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Voter guide: Eric Loeb, Congress, District 4

Eric Loeb

Republican candidate for Congress, D4


Age 58

Residence Cheverly, MD

Occupation Data Scientist

Education BS Math (Illinois); MS Signal Processing (Berkeley); PhD Cognitive Neuroscience (MIT)


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Previous political experience


First websites for the White House, Congress, MA, and the city of Cambridge; Tech lead for many campaigns; Internet architect and analytics lead DNC; Analytics lead Obama ’08; Sched C appointee in DoD for 5 years

Why are you running for office?


My goal is to bring our district together to examine national issues from all sides. MD4 is closer to Capitol Hill than any other in the country, but our position on the national stage is just "whatever the democrats want". We have to get back to nuanced politics – speaking reasonably and listening to each other. I have proposals to move us in that direction without waiting for national legislation.

TRUMP RECORD

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


He was sent to Washington to break Washington, and he is succeeding. Positive: showing how our massive govt can move at the speed of twitter

Negative: using his office for personal gain

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?


I do not believe in opining on questions of fact. Public discourse on factual issues of this sort should reside in a forum that looks something like hurricane forecasts: everybody should have available a past trajectory of known economic indicators so as to ground the discussion. If there are alternative versions of the past, then those differences should be resolved with data instead of name-calling. The future is a cone of uncertainty, which, like hurricane forecasts, should be constructed from many models. Some of those models will presumably be owned by partisan institutions like think tanks and political parties.

INCOME INEQUALITY

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?


I’m a Democrat running for the Republican nomination, because the only way for ~50k Republican voters to have a voice in a district with ~200k Democratic voters is to have a neutral, fact-based forum for addressing contentious issues like income inequality. Is it a problem? Let’s look at the data. What should we do? Let’s list the options.

GUN LAWS

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


With all issues I am more concerned that my district, MD-04, have a principled approach to identifying and advocating for our interests. It would be valuable to find out if our mostly urban and suburban district can reach consensus on federal gun laws when we discuss those laws in a forum that is not dominated by shouting and sound bites. We may have consensus on standardized, universal background checks. To understand the issue, it will be useful to separate out three types of gun violence: suicide, known-to-shooter, and anonymous. For the long term, I suspect that a year of national service after high school would help: if everybody had basic training in guns it could significantly alter the issue and the discussion around it.

HEALTH CARE

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?


As always, my answer is that our most critical need is a routine mechanism for understanding what is in the interests of our district. In the rare event that Congress holds a vote in which we (MD-04) have leverage, we should be ready with amendments to offer to meet our district's interests, no matter who represents us. With respect to health care, I would hold district forums – virtual town hall meetings -- in which we could hear from advocates and walk through the details of the meaning of the ACA and its alternatives. I expect MD-04 would generally support expansion of the ACA, but it is unclear how we would break out on more nuanced questions if we actually examined the evidence.

URBAN POLICY

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


The tragedy of pro forma, gerrymandered elections is particularly acute in my district, the Maryland 4th. It is the only US Congressional district that abuts its state capitol as well as DC, and it is closer to Capitol Hill than any other in the country. In any Congressional district, there are enough politically engaged people on both sides of the aisle to support insightful discussion of national issues and of that district’s long-term political interests. All the more so in MD-04, which may have the richest concentration of all districts of politically engaged people working in and around our state and federal governments. My one and only agenda is to create a platform by which our district can benefit from all that knowledge and talent. With respect to Baltimore and urban policy, I expect that an objective assessment of the political interests of MD-04 (that would be enabled by such a platform) will favor robust federal investment.

OPIOIDS

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?


I am running to find new engaging approaches to bringing the public, and my disenfranchised Republican neighbors, into meaningful political discourse. We should understand why “Republicans say” the late Mr. Cumming’s bill is too expensive. Our country desperately needs an objective forum that can support complex, 152-page, $100B decisions. The House Oversight Committee hearings on this bill did not meet that need. For example, section 3401 of the bill places a threshold on counties that are eligible for funds, but there appears to be no map or listing of eligible counties in the Committee materials. My district, MD-04, cannot fix Congress, but we can strive for a better way to examine issues. While I believe that fighting opioid addiction is in the national interest, and I believe that $100B invested in this fight will have more than $100B in positive effects, I will act on my intention to resist voting on the basis of belief alone.

IMMIGRATION

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?


I support objective discussion of issues. As with most issues, the immigration debate is a cartoon parody of reasoned discourse. I am a lifelong Democrat, but I am running for the Republican nomination in MD-04 because we need all voices to be heard. We can’t control Congress, but let’s at least get to where we can discuss issues reasonably amongst ourselves. People who want to reduce immigration at the Mexican border should be able to say so without being called racist.

I suspect that this issue is also changing rapidly. With the coronavirus pandemic, everybody can see that we have to have control of our boarders. The number of people coming into the US on any given day should be a decision, not an accident of relative economic benefits.

I believe it would be cruel to send adult Americans, Dreamers, into exile, and that preserving DACA would be a net economic benefit for the country. I look forward to understanding other perspectives on the issue.

TRADE

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


Trade with China is President Trump’s best-managed issue and I give him an 8 out of 10. This issue was managed well because:

The President had a theory of the case. He considered our 4-to-1 trade imbalance with China to be a sign of unfair practices. American businesses would make more domestically and consumers would buy more domestic goods if China weren’t subsidizing its industries and manipulating its currency to make its products cheaper.

His response made sense in light of that theory. He increased the cost of Chinese goods through tariffs. He clearly considered that the US had better leverage because of the trade imbalance, and he said that the tariffs would force the Chinese to negotiate.

He recognized the ill-effects of his policy on US farmers and provided $16B in relief.

The Chinese did negotiate, and he got a trade deal with China.

One can argue with all of these points, of course. For example, the trade deal makes farmers more vulnerable if we wanted to use this tactic again, and the deal does not have adequate teeth with respect to intellectual property enforcement. Nevertheless, this is a solid example of President Trump doing what he thought was the right thing to do in service to the US national interest and achieving his desired outcome.

IRAN

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


The Iranian nuclear deal was a subtle solution crafted by President Obama to solve a complex problem; it was only supported by Democrats; and it is strongly supported by our European allies. In other words, it is exactly the sort of thing the President hates. Broadly, Iran agreed to stop enriching uranium (until 2025) and provide access for inspections in exchange for the US and European Union lifting their nuclear-related trade sanctions. One of President Trump’s stated reasons for withdrawing is that Iran has continued testing missiles, and that those tests were not covered under the deal. Iran’s continued missile tests suggest a conflict is coming; President Trump clearly prefers his conflicts to be sooner rather than later; and the decision was his to make. Withdrawing from the deal and trying to get a better one is how he operates. He is the person vested with this power. I don’t love it, but I have to support his decision.

NORTH KOREA

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


I am running to find new engaging approaches to bringing the public, and my disenfranchised Republican neighbors, into meaningful political discourse. It is imperative that my district, the Maryland 4th, be capable of identifying and tracking action toward its political interests. No district is able to do that, but all of them should. That is my focus. So, for me, this question is asking how would I facilitate the development of an MD-04-specific legislative agenda with respect to the rise of the North Korean nuclear program.

We as a nation, as a state, as a district must make our voices and our ideas heard. We have to get back to nuanced politics – speaking reasonably and listening to each other -- without suffering knee-jerk outrage from one or both sides. Unfortunately, rage is a profit center in our industrialized politics

As the representative for MD-04 I will work with district media outlets, such as the Baltimore Sun, to prepare a profitable forum for discussion of the North Korean nuclear program. When North Korea next engages in a provocative nuclear test or missile test (or both) at a time when media attention is not directed elsewhere, there will be hunger for discussion of this issue. We need our media outlets to be ready to compete to make money off of that hunger with political forums that educate us rather than debase us. That is my goal for this issue.

CLIMATE CHANGE

How should the United States address climate change?


I am running to find new engaging approaches to bringing the public, and my disenfranchised Republican neighbors, into meaningful political discourse. Public discourse on factual issues, like the existence of climate change, should reside in a forum that provides its participants with a shared set of facts and a principled method of questioning those facts. It will be a very different thing to discuss climate change in the context of historical data and forecast models of water levels, rainfall, housing prices and other relevant information. It will be a very different thing for Republicans in MD-04 to be able to express skepticism and contribute their own forecasts without being called villainous destroyers of humanity.

GREEN NEW DEAL

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


As I understand the Green New Deal, it promotes a radical shift in our economy. I would absolutely support principled discussion of this plan. I certainly would not support a fundamental change without understanding its anticipated effects. I would whole-heartedly support a plan that is forecast to increase the wealth and well-being of the people of MD-04. I would never support a big and expensive plan without knowing our metrics for success and without seeing a phased approach that allows us to stop if the plan is not working.

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