Thursday, June 28, 2012

Candidate Survey: My Take on AZ Right-wing Issues

I recently completed the lengthy Arizona Republic candidate questionnaire and when it was done I wanted to share my answers. The first parts of the survey are routine. The major portion though scans the views of a candidate through a decidedly right-wing lens. You'll see what I mean.

Breaking the Ice

1.       Best Advice in the campaign: Scottsdale Mayor “Jim” Lane encouraged me to expect my opponents to not “clearly” see my side of the issue and be prepared for further explanations when trying to make a point.

2.       My favorite book is Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion

3.       I love Mr Smith Goes to Washington and rewatched it just last night for somewhere in the range of the 40th time. I use it in my 8th grade social studies class to enrich the study of Congress and how a bill becomes law. Personally I love Jefferson Smith's dedication to being a good person and his down-to-earth humility. The writing is clever, the direction is Frank Capra at the top of his game and the good guy wins.

4.       My favorite place in AZ is the string of parks and resorts on the Colorado between Lake Havasu and Parker. I moved to Arizona seeking a mix of mountains and water and nowhere in the state and possibly any state, is the mix of elements more exotic.

5.       Right now, I am most impressed with Quartzite mayor Ed Foster and Citizens for a Better Arizona’s Randy Parraz. In both cases these leaders are leading with their hearts and putting themselves on the line for the public.


1.       Has the federal government grown too large? No, I do NOT believe that the federal government is too large, and find the whole suggestion it might be, to be anti-American; because the folks who are advancing this hateful anti-American propaganda are encouraging the public to hate their government at the same time they expect to be elected. Our government is supposed to have a huge role in creating a good society and needs to be robust. The government is not some separate faceless monolith; it is millions of American citizens, mostly doing their best to serve the public. While I don’t like waste any more than the next guy and agree that in some cases money should be spent elsewhere, I am not in favor of throwing out the baby with the bath water just because selfish greedy Republican ideologues want to poison public opinion of their country. How despicable to treat American workers attempting to improve our society (government employees, that is) as if they are the enemy.

2.       What is the best way for the federal government to stimulate growth? The best way for the federal government to stimulate the economy is for it to actually do its part to ensure domestic tranquility, provide for a common defense, and promote the general welfare: build roads, deliver mail, educate the young, heal the sick, help the poor, improve our infrastructure, protect and repair the damages we’ve done to the environment. Massive federal jobs programs can change the direction of the country as it did in the 30s, improve the country we live in, and provide cash flow into the economy in the most efficient way to stimulate the economy: by spreading it out to numerous governmental employees to enhance their consumer spending at the same time they improve the quality of our lives.

3.       How do you propose to balance the federal budget? I propose to treat capital gains as income, raise the top level of taxation to 50%, and remove the cap on income when it comes paying into Social Security. I also want a transaction tax on Wall Street investments, closing existing corporate tax loopholes, legalizing and taxing cannabis, and increasing fines for financial frauds as ways of increasing revenue. As for spending, I would eliminate government no-bid contracts, block private contractors from war zones, reduce our number of foreign military bases, set a table of spending caps on items the government purchases to prevent the rampant overcharging the government so often faces, block all vendors that have records of fraud or abuse from doing business with the government, speaking of which I would press to require that all companies doing business with the government have their headquarters in the US and pay US taxes and set a separate higher tax rate for companies with offshore tax havens, cut government subsidies for energy and the agriculture industry (as opposed to small family farmers), establishing a universal health care system to reduce the government expenses of caring for our poor, elderly and veterans, and reverse the trend of privatizing government services which has led to a decline in service at an increase in costs.

4.       Should wealthy American pay more in taxes? The social contract concept, originated formulated by John Locke, but at the heart of our government contends that citizens trade a portion of their independence and wealth for the services governments provide. It seems to me that those who get better services can afford to pay higher prices for them. America is shaped and created by rich for their own benefit. Our laws and culture are written to cater to the desires of the wealthy and protect their business interests, all too often at the expense of the general public. It is simple to see that a corporate CEO is getting a better set of services as an inner-city ghetto dweller.  These people can afford to pay more for the government they shape to their own benefit. Historically there is a clear correlation between the health of the economy and the rates of taxation on the wealthy, higher taxation = healthier economy, periods of lowered taxation on the wealthy have led to more financial crisis.

5.       If you could, how would you reform the tax system? As I have mentioned in previous questions, I would raise the taxes on the wealthy. But I will also work on adjusting to the tax rates to reduce the complexity of taxes on the middle classes and the poor.

6.       Do you support entitlement reform and, if so, what kind? I reject the term “entitlement reform” as yet another version of the conservative (read “miserly”) re-labeling quality government programs as boondoggles so they can cut their taxes and reduce the quality of government services for segments of the public they disrespect.

7.       Would you vote to increase the U.S. debt limit if asked? Without hesitation I would raise the debt ceiling whenever necessary in the same way as I wouldn’t pause to borrow money personally if that’s what it took to feed my children. Our government is ours, as if it were our child, we have a responsibility to take care of it, despite what the anti-Americans would try to teach us, hating your government is hating our country. When your child does something you don’t like, you correct the misbehavior, not starve the child to death. The second obligation or duty of the Congress is to borrow money when necessary to meet the demands of fulfilling its role to live up to the promises of the Preamble to the Constitution (Article I, section 8, paragraph 2). While the choices of Republican administrations have, by choice, leveraged our country’s spending towards waste and graft, those wasteful examples do not preclude the obligations of our government to provide the services to improve the lives of the public. That said, only under currently unimaginable circumstances would I work against our government borrowing money, when necessary, to take of our people. Those who are too squeamish to borrow, should rethink their stances on taxes.

8.       In retrospect, were the federal bailouts of the financial sector and the automobile industry good or bad decisions? The financial sector? No, for a variety of reasons including the lack of accountability in the arrangements of that bailout, their flagrant abuse of the funds and the systemic injustices of the general operations of Wall Street and the banking industry. But I do not equate GM with Wall Street. Furthermore the terms of the auto industry bailouts were much better enumerated, they have met their obligations, and the industry has a much better record of not shafting the public (though by no means a spotless record as history shows).

9.       If elected, would you work to steer federal funding back to projects in Arizona? Or would you oppose such pork-spending even for your own state? I think that the term “pork barrel spending” is again an intentional negative characterization of what is not necessarily a negative thing. We send our congressmen to Washington to look out for our state’s interests, which is why we elect them. To suggest that any actions they take towards that obligation is guaranteed to wasteful and/or corrupt is a false image, another part of the messaging to turn the public against their government. While I would not promote the idea of unnecessary spending, I will look out for Arizona’s interests and, when practical, I will direct government spending to Arizona.

10.   Can, and should, the federal government do more to help Arizona homeowners who are continuing to struggle from the effects of the housing crisis/mortgage meltdown? Yes, the federal government should be prosecuting the perpetrators of this massive fraud and getting people back into the houses that were stolen from them. Admittedly not all the houses lost in the past few years were the fault of the banks; but when consumers go to banks and mortgage companies, they are in a dependent relationship on the banks to be the honest experts of good intent. Banks and mortgage companies conspiring to defraud people of not only their wealth, but their very shelter, are not only committing a crime of theft, but an abuse of trust.  The rights of the millions of homeowners are far more important than the wealth of handful of bankers who exploited them.

11.   If you support more robust border security, please describe how the United States should go about it. Do you support a border fence along the U.S. –Mexico border? I do NOT support turning our southern border into a war zone. Mexico is our number one trading partner, it is disgraceful to turn our relationship with them into an adversarial one to pander to the latent racism of some members of our society. I believe in adjusting our antiquated, prejudice-based immigration laws to reflect the realities of contemporary immigration. If we are prepared to naturalize the majority of those attempting to immigrate, instead of attempting to bar them, we would not need to militarize our border.

12.   Would you support some sort of a guest-worker program for immigrant labor? If so explain how it would work. I do not support the idea of a guest worker program, of intentionally creating a group of second class people. Historically the US had such a program, the “Bracero Program,” which led to rampant exploitation and abuse of the workers and to numerous undocumented immigrants taking up residence around the country. This program, like the earlier use of Chinese laborers to build the western railroads created a legacy of a secret under class, ripe for exploitation and that legacy had indeed become the basis for an entire industry of employers of all sizes abusing the labor of the undocumented immigrants to the tune of millions of workers and billions of dollars. Why create another group of people built for exploiting when we could create immigrant worker programs to help these people become citizens, instead of slaves.

13.   Would you support some sort of a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants who are already in the country and in many cases have been here for years? I heartily support the creation of a plan to have currently undocumented immigrants become full-fledged, fully participating citizens. I suggest that the term “amnesty,” another right-wing code word, is misleading and hope to note the success of a previous program to help undocumented immigrants gain their citizenship and that that program was under Reagan. Insisting that our workers pay taxes, our students’ parents assist in their education and that our consumers and workers have their rights protected sounds like a good thing to me, not something to be insulted.

14.   Do you support the Dream Act? Why or why not? The DREAM Act is a fine intermediate step and I cannot understand an objection to it, other than it does not go far enough.

15.   Was Arizona’s SB-1070 a good or a bad approach to dealing with illegal immigration? SB-1070 is a disgrace, a shame upon our state and nation. The only good thing it brought was a dramatic increase in citizen activism opposing it.  Of note, I agree with the Supreme Court's ruling both in striking down the majority of the bill and in upholding the provision that law enforcement can investigate immigration status after stopping a suspect for criminal behavior.

16.   Do you support President Obama’s health-care reforms? Why or why not? I support the ACA as far as it goes, but as a Christian, I find it an outrage that this country does not have a universal health care program in place and, while the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction, by far, it does not go far enough.

17.   If you oppose Obamacare, what should replace it? I actually oppose the rightwing propagandists who turned this good idea in lies about death panels and support the political ouster of the Republicans that opposed it to replace them instead.

18.   The U.S. War on Terror is now more than 10 years old. Are you satisfied with its course or would you like to see a new direction? Please explain your position. I have spent the majority of my life working on causes related to peace and justice. I am outraged by the so called War on Terror, embarrassed to have the land I love sullied so by its many injustices, and call for investigations into the war crimes the U.S. committed under the direction of Presidents Bush and Obama. As Franklin famously said to trade away essential liberty for temporary security makes one worthy of neither. Our war on terror has made us more terrified and less safe in many regards. It’s resulted in one entirely fraudulent war--in Iraq, creating immense misery and trillions of dollars in debt, another—in Afghanistan--of questionable intent, numerous human rights abuses, worsened relations for other countries, and a destruction of the rights of US citizens here at home. It has essentially been a war on the American public and our rights to free speech and dissent. If our country pursued its foreign relations in an honest and humanitarian fashion, we wouldn’t be needing a war on the myriad enemies we create.

19.   What should be the U.S. policy towards Iraq and Afghanistan moving forward? Investigating the fraudulent circumstances that the Bush administration operated under in starting these wars would be progress. Acknowledging that these wars, especially the Iraq War, were started under false pretenses and we deserve to be held accountable is another.  Beyond that I cannot tell what the next steps would be. I would hope for rebuilding of the countries with local contractors and returning all U.S. forces. For better or worse, I would leave those countries alone after that. We have already done enough damage.

20.   What steps can or should the United States take to ensure that nations such as Iran don’t get nuclear weapons? The US is not in a position to decide which other sovereign countries can and cannot possess nuclear weapons. Whether or not Iran is actually attempting to be a belligerent enemy of the US is difficult to ascertain since the GOP/war-hawk propaganda has prevented the public from learning the truth in this case. The media and the right have been pounding the drums for war with Iran since before the new was even worn off of the Iraq mess. It is small wonder given the history between the two countries and the bellicose language our side uses, that the Iranian response would be equally hostile, add that to the differences of the cultures and the Iranian leaders are easily demonized. But when will we stop destroying whole nations because we oppose the oligarchy that runs it? When the US is prepared to surrender our own nuclear weapons, we can judge the intentions of others who wish to possess them.

21.   Would you support a cap-and-trade-style measure to address climate change? While I am a Democrat, and “cap-and-trade” measures are associated with Democrats, I do not support them. I see them as a boondoggle, a misdirection, and sad waste of time when we need real measure to address CO2 emissions and climate change. Instead of solving a problem it just moves money around. If the Dems don’t want to be saddled with negative stereotypes, they should try harder to not live up to them.

22.   What should the federal government’s role in education be? I feel that according to Article I, section 8, paragraph 1, the first and foremost duty of Congress is collect taxes as necessary to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare for the people of the United States. It is important that in a document so spare and succinct that the phrase “provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare” is repeated in the Preamble and in this opening clause in the section of the Constitution that enumerates Congressional powers. To my mind creating a quality public education for the vast majority of Americans education is the essence of those two noble goals. Education is one of the essential infrastructure frameworks of our country, our path to the future, as essential as post offices and roads. Providing quality education for the public, to make a better country and improve our citizens’ lives should be a primary obligation of the national government. As such, the national government’s first duty is to provide adequate funding for the education of the American public and then to establish rules that prevent the abuses of those funds and the rights of the students. I hold that the federal government’s performance in the realm of education has thus far been woefully inadequate, both in terms of funding and in forcing misdirected and unfunded mandates on the states. Towards that end, I would say that the role of federal government in education would be to set the standards of curriculum (I feel this is not a fit role for the states, being as given as they are to vagaries of opinion from region to region as to what constitutes facts in science and relevance in social studies) and funding for the education of the nation, especially in the realm of federally mandated special services. Education is an essential service and should be treated as such and not as wasteful luxury. Until our country honestly works to educate our public, we do not live up to the noble ideals we so casually lay claim to.

23.   Do you support school choice initiatives? If so, explain. I do not support school choice initiatives. I understand that some people want to have their children educated away from the general public. I do not agree with that impulse and find it elitist in a society that claims to pride itself on egalitarianism. If that is so then while we can tolerate the selfish elitism of others, we should not be asked to subsidize it. A quality public education is the goal, not a weakening, of our social fabric. The majority of the country does not have access to quality alternatives to their local public schools, so school choice, or school voucher, programs do not advance the general welfare, but instead reduce the pools of funding for the many for the benefit of the few. Spending public funds for the privileged to afford elitist educations is decidedly against real American values.

24.   Do you support or oppose gay marriage? And should the federal government maintain or repeal the Defense of Marriage Act? Of course I support the rights of US citizens and properly documented foreign nationals to enjoy their full rights including marriage and in the case of the LGBT community, adoption rights as well. DOMA was a theocratic lie foisted upon us by the religious right and needs to be removed.

25.   Where do you stand on abortion and women’s access to reproductive services? I uphold the original determination that until a fetus is viable in its third trimester, it is essentially a growth within the woman’s body, not a separate person, and thus a matter of her personal choice to extend, or abort, her pregnancy. The move to shift personhood to the point of conception is ENTIRELY the result of a religious agenda and since this issue has become a religious one and I call for protection of religious freedoms. I further see abortion as a distinct separate type of reproductive contraception services that are more commonly used and see it as a terrible wrong to conflate the issues the way the right are doing. I take the right’s recent efforts to reverse one hundred years of family planning progress as a sign of their vision of the future, a return to the past of the gilded age where the rich were all powerful and citizens were at the mercy of the corrupt. I call for immediate rejection of ANY candidate who wishes to destroy women’s freedoms by chaining them to their unprotected ovaries and question the agendas of those who wish to constrict women’s access to reproductive services.

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