I was lucky enough to attend the blogger-only debate between Jason Chaffetz (R) and Bennion Spencer (D), held at the Sutherland Institute on Tuesday morning. I've broken my posts on this event into two parts--my general impressions and thoughts for the first post, and specific questions and answers for the second.
The debate's questions were garnered from various bloggers ahead of time, and given to the candidates in advance. I was very interested in the questions that focused on situations a (very junior) congressman might have some control over. (It's fine to ask them when we should pull the troops out of Iraq, but that is not an issue that our Congressman will have a whole heck of a lot of say in.) (All in my own words, as I did not record the debate.)
Question: Define excess profits/windfall profits and what industry is next after the oil companies?
Chaffetz: Opposed to the windfall profit tax, it is not a solution to our current problems. Transportation decisions should be in the hands of the states, not funded through earmarks and gas taxes. "We don't have a revenue problem in this country, we have a spending problem."
Spencer: Agreed that the windfall profit tax is not the solution, because how much profit is too much? The oil industry has shareholders, who expect the company to grow responsibly. However, these companies get tax breaks to spend money on alternative fuels, and instead gave the money back to their shareholders. We shouldn't tax them more, but we do need to "hold their feet to the fire" to make sure they do what they should.
My response: I dislike the windfall profit tax, so I'm with Chaffetz on this one. Spencer mentions that the oil industry gets tax breaks specifically intended for alternative fuel development, but then gave the money to their shareholders. If this is true, then the oil companies should have to give the tax break back. I'm not sure, however, how you "hold their feet to the fire". Is the threat of a windfall tax an empty one? I don't get that impression.
Question: What steps will you take to lead as an American and not as a Democrat/Republican?
Chaffetz: We need to stop worrying about who gets the credit for a good idea, and support it anyway. He mentioned that he would be happy to be co-sponsor on Jim Matheson's (D-UT) bill against Yucca Mountain and the importation of nuclear waste.
Spencer: He believes that term limits are a good solution to this problem. We need to take a stand even when there is no political benefit, even when it goes against the party. He mentioned the off-shore drilling bill being discussed in Congress right now, and said it was pointless because it is the governors of the various states who get to make that decision, not the federal government.
My response: Well, despite being from Las Vegas, I actually support Yucca Mountain, so I'm against Chaffetz and Matheson on that one. And as far as the off-shore drilling bill goes, it is my understanding that until the federal government lifts the ban, the governors cannot make any decision to drill at all.
Question: What are the biggest threats we face, domestically and internationally?
Spencer: Illegal immigration, the national debt and dollar value, and Russia, Iran, and Pakistan
Chaffetz: Driving down the debt (dollar value again), illegal immigration, and energy policy (giving money to extremists)
My response: Agree, except I think the War on Terror should be in there somewhere.
Question: When does life begin?
Spencer and Chaffetz: At conception. Both anti-abortion.
My response: Ditto
Question: Is health care a constitutional right?
Spencer: It's not in the constitution, but our founders were divinely inspired and moral people. We do have a moral obligation to help our community have a certain standard of living, it's just the right thing to do. Health care is a right--the government provides so many of the services that we can't discriminate.
Chaffetz: No, health care is not a right. This isn't a question for the federal government, it should be more in the hands of the private sector and the state. We can't just stop subsidizing it, though, because we have an obligation to people dependent upon the entitlements. No socialized medicine.
My response: Yes, yes, but what specifically should we do about it? I know that wasn't the question, though.
Question: What should be done about transparency in the government?
Spencer: The Fourth Estate (media) needs to step up. Sen. Obama has suggested that more things be put on C-Span, but Spencer isn't sure how compelling that will be. Press needs to do a better job, the public needs to demand they do so.
Chaffetz: Open up the books so that everyone can see where all the money is coming from--even in small donations. He's done this in his own campaign. Everything should be online--everything. No more blind earmarks (he's signed the pledge) and more daylight on large bills so they can be examined thoroughly.
My response: Spencer has a point, but I'm at a loss at how the government proposes to do anything about it. I definitely (positively, adamantly) don't want the Fairness Doctrine, nor do I want the government to force the press to do anything more than they already have to do. I love the idea of everything online, though...obviously!