- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Q: What are your top three priorities if elected?
1. Nonviolence. We need a voice for nonviolence in Congress. Nonviolence is a main pillar of the Green Party. Nonviolent action aligns peaceful means with peaceful ends. End U.S. wars and bring all the troops home. Hundreds of billions of dollars in public resources are spent on military occupations, violent weapons, and costly wars that produce death and destruction. In contrast, the cost of initiating nonviolent methods is negligible, so why not focus on developing nonviolent methods to replace weapons and violence? The U.S. is not above the law. Attacking (or threatening to attack) another country is not a lawful “option.” The U.N. Charter is a binding treaty and is part of the supreme law of our land; there is no special exception authorizing the U.S. to violate international law. For-profit corporations (including so-called “defense” industry and other transnational corporations) give millions of dollars in campaign finance money to big-party government officials, who then ignore the public interest and reward their wealthy donors with subsidies at the public expense. Corporate influence largely dictates public policy, including U.S. wars and massive military deployments around the world. This is a conflict of interest. Nonviolence is in the public interest, which elected officials are sworn to serve; however, elected officials are beholden to the wealthy private interests that fund their election campaigns.
2. Social Justice & Environmental Wisdom. Support a fair economy that serves the public interest, which includes promoting sustainable energy policy that protects the environment. End all forms of discrimination. The current economic system maximizes short-term profits for the wealthy, despite human costs & environmental damage. Dow Jones numbers & GNP do not measure economic health; quality is the key. (For example, is the economy fair? Are we meeting the human needs of our people?) We should gradually replace harmful exploitation under the unfair profits-driven economic system, with a system of cooperative economics. In contrast to profits for wealthy interests, green community-based cooperatives allows economic democracy in decision-making by the people who know most about local needs. I support the “Green New Deal,” proposed by Dr. Jill Stein, presidential nominee of the Green Party. [See http://www.jillstein.org/text_psou.]
3. Grassroots Democracy. Reform the election system to ensure fair and open ballot access; work for legislation to implement choice voting and proportional representation. Overhaul the corrupt campaign finance system; in a genuine democracy, government policy would not be controlled by the wealthy few. The Green Party and its candidates lead by example, practicing clean campaigns. Greens give voters a real choice because Green candidates are not beholden to the wealthy few.
Q: Discuss your views on the role of the federal government in stimulating the economy. How would you seek to change this if elected?
Unfortunately, Members of Congress who receive money from corporate interests are under pressure to pay attention to the short-sighted profit-seeking demands of their wealthy donors. Under the banners of “job creation” and “economic growth,” elected officials support huge transfers of public money to their wealthy donors, all too often without regard for fairness, the environment, or other consequences. For example, in a recent example of corporate welfare, Congress rushed to bail out big banks and Wall Street. In a recurring example, elected officials often unwisely and unethically spend the public’s money on environmentally destructive highways with a view to giving a short-term “stimulus” boost in wealth for their cronies in the construction industry. Some infrastructure investment is wise, but not all growth is good. For example, subsidies to promote growth in the gambling industry won’t improve our economy or our quality of life; gambling brings enormous social costs. Any government stimulus programs should be sustainable, not narrow-sighted. I support the “Green New Deal,” proposed by Dr. Jill Stein, presidential nominee of the Green Party. [See http://www.jillstein.org/text_psou.]
Q: Assess the performance of the incumbent who now holds the seat you're seeking. Discuss a decision he made that you disagree with.
The incumbent (Rep. Hoyer) has decided repeatedly to support war and to authorize many billions of dollars in military spending. (Approximately half of federal spending goes for military purposes.) I disagree with that decision, which I believe is fundamentally tied to Rep. Hoyer’s underlying decision to embrace a “campaign finance” system that keeps him from being able to serve the public interest. His decision to align himself with corporate interests and PAC money has created a huge conflict of interest that influences his judgment and his decisions about legislative issues, including his support for war and military spending. This type of conflict of interest pervades Congress, so Rep. Hoyer is not unique. But he provides a striking example of the conflict of interest. Rep. Hoyer 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 nearly Seven Million Dollars ($6,963,468); in the 2010 election cycle he reported raising and spending more than 7.3 Million Dollars; his fundraising activity shows no sign of slowing down in the 2012 election cycle. [For detailed breakdowns of the incumbent’s official FEC filings, see www.opensecrets.org and search “Hoyer.] Over his thirty-plus-year career in Congress, Rep. Hoyer has become quite an expert at getting big banks, drug companies, real estate developers, and other corporate interests to give him money. This money comes principally from powerful for-profit business interests that expect something in return. The influence of money on the political system had led us away from a representative republic and toward government by and for wealthy corporations. (The 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision allowing super-PACs to spend without limit has taken the already money-dominated system even farther away from representative government.) The Green Party seeks to build a genuine pro-democracy movement by offering voters a real alternative: namely, candidates not compromised by this conflict of interest.
Q. The Pentagon plans to reduce projected spending by $487 billion in the next decade and close some military bases. Is this a threat to the military bases in Maryland’s 5th District? If so, what role should the congressman play in influencing those decisions?
It is narrow-sighted to see military bases as an economic benefit. The question asks about a “threat” to military bases, but it is actually the military bases themselves that represent grave threats. A policy of massive military buildup is a threat against peace; pumping money into military bases reinforces a violence-oriented foreign policy. Military spending also threatens to bankrupt the country through costly, wasteful, and enormous expenditures on destruction. Members of Congress need to stop supporting military pork-barrel spending. I support developing nonviolent methods to replace weapons and move away from the culture of violence. Decreasing the enormous spending on wars & destructive military activity would increase resources available for programs that help improve people’s lives.
Q: Do you believe No Child Left Behind should be reauthorized? If so, what needs to be changed? Assess the law's effectiveness.
Everyone who cares about the future of our communities should support the goals of improving the schools and making good public education available to all. However, the design of the so-called “No Child Left Behind” law (NCLB) is flawed. Many thoughtful educators have discovered that NCLB’s emphasis on standardized test scores can actually harm the learning experience. NCLB creates pressures on schools to overvalue the importance of test scores; this shift of emphasis sacrifices more important elements of education. The fear of funding cuts that would hurt a school’s students creates an artificial incentive for the school to “improve” test score numbers in ways that are not related to genuine learning. Students deserve public schools that are funded fairly and sustainably. Over-crowded classrooms and underfunded schools have huge hidden social costs. We should invest in schools, not in prisons.
Q: National politics have become more divisive over the past several years. In what way can you work to bring more a more collaborative approach to federal government?
Partisan gridlock in Congress does not serve the public interest. The current patterns of big-party impasse are rooted mostly in special interest agendas, power-seeking, and posturing, and have little to do with philosophical differences or genuine policy disputes. The roots of the problem are an undemocratic election system, including a corrupt campaign finance system. Congress doesn't represent ordinary people because elected officials and the two big party machines are beholden to wealthy interests. This problem infects both the Republicans and the Democrats. [Federal campaign finance reports are analyzed at www.opensecrets.org.] When politicians from both parties are “on the take” from big corporations, even “bipartisan” collaborative action is often adverse to the public interest. The Green Party offers voters the choice of an alternative to this conflict of interest.
Q: Discuss your approach to federal budgeting. Roughly what percent of spending (and why) should be allocated to the following: defense, health and human services, transportation, education, Social Security?
Military spending is enormously wasteful and must be cut. Recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost Trillions of Dollars and are largely to blame for the nation’s debt. The more we focus on developing the methods of nonviolence, the more we can move away from the addiction to military spending. Instead of military spending, we should fund education, public health, and local public transportation. Social security is a public trust and should not be treated as a discretionary part of the budget.
Q: How can government ensure optimal health care coverage for all Americans?
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 increased demand for health care 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 hardware 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.
One sensible way to reduce health care costs and to promote the goal of health for all 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 law requires broadcasters to serve “the public interest,” but instead broadcasting companies sell 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 vital for human health.
Q. How would you address the foreclosure crisis?
Millions of families are in danger of being kicked out of their homes. Congress is reluctant to help ordinary people whose homes are financially underwater, even though Congress recently rushed to bail out big banks and other wealthy financial institutions on Wall Street. The financial crisis was triggered by for-profit commercial gambling on mortgage-related “credit default swaps.” Instead of allowing irresponsible real estate speculation on “housing markets” for the unjust private enrichment of the few, our society should engage in a fundamental rethinking of land stewardship, land ownership, and the value of land in society. I recommend studying the writings of the American economist Henry George, author of Progress and Poverty.