Thursday, September 11, 2008

Part II: Chaffetz vs. Spencer, Q&A

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!

Part I: Chaffetz vs. Spencer, Impressions

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 apologize for the delay in getting this posted; my excuse is a sudden, crippling bout of the flu.) 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.

There are numerous policy (and other) differences between the two candidates. The difference that struck me the most? Jason Chaffetz benefited greatly from his hard-fought primary race. Going up against a long-term incumbent (Chris Cannon), as well as another determined opponent (David Leavitt) forced Chaffetz to refine his positions, formulate specific solutions, and practice talking about them. This was very obvious as he spoke about his plans for energy, budgets, earmarks, education, windfall profits...most of the major issues of this election. On the other hand, Bennion Spencer (who did not have to go through the wringer in the same way during his primary run; did he have an opponent?) had far fewer specifics, and more platitudes--long on vision, short on specifics. Vision is great, but in contrast with Chaffetz, Spencer at times seemed that he was just going through the motions, reading off the expected boilerplate.

In his opening remarks, Chaffetz mentioned that he is running a debt-free campaign, an idea that is very attractive to me. I don't, however, expect or demand that everyone do the same--unless EVERY everybody did the same, to level the playing field. You often have to play the game by the current rules to be able to do anything about changing said rules. Likewise, Spencer is firmly in favor of term limits--another idea that I support, but only when everyone does it. Term limiting only yourself in a seniority-favored House doesn't make a lot of sense.

I had more issues with Spencer's remarks than with Chaffetz's--I don't think it was because I agree with Chaffetz's positions, but I will readily admit that bias is hard to identify in yourself. Spencer mentioned that perhaps the Iraqi war could have been avoided if the US had actively supported Akbar Rafsanjani for the Iranian presidency, because he is more pro-US than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Rafsanjani could have prevailed on Iraq to be more reasonable.

I have a hard time crediting this statement. First of all, in my recollection Spencer said we wouldn't have had to invade Iraq if Rafsanjani had been president--but the Ahmadinejad-Rafsanjani presidential race didn't happen until 2005, two years after the invasion. If I misheard, and Spencer said something about things being easier with the war if Rafsanjani were president, I still don't know that I can believe it. Iranians aren't really super-fond of US "meddling", and if we had supported Rafsanjani, couldn't that have hurt him as likely as helping?

When speaking of energy independence in his opening remarks, Spencer said he didn't believe that drilling in ANWR would help our current crisis, because we couldn't guarantee that the oil would stay in the US. In my understanding, this is a non-issue. We don't expect to fill all our oil needs with ANWR. But by having that extra oil on the world market, it would ease prices, and allow the world to have another source that doesn't support radical causes. The actual oil doesn't have to stay in the US for this to happen.

Despite my distrust of a few statements, I came away with good impressions of both men--we are truly lucky that the 3rd Congressional District will have an honorable representative, no matter who wins. It was a good debate--friendly, informative, short (a big plus in my book). Thanks to the Sutherland Institute for sponsoring it, and for inviting me!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Let's go fly a kite...

Just a quick note...This afternoon my three kids and I went to Spanish Fork's 1st Annual Sky Spectacular (or, as my four-year-old calls it, the Kite Festival). (If I was more on top of things, I would have cute pictures to show. Alas, I forgot to take my camera.) We had a marvelous time. If you are in the area, I highly recommend checking it out on Saturday.
  • It's free
  • It's outside (up at the Spanish Fork Reservoir, above the Spanish Oaks Golf Course), and the forecast for tomorrow doesn't even hit 80 degrees! Gorgeous.
  • Several (free) kids' activities--make your own kites, decorate tiles, a new playground by the pavilion, public kite-flying
  • Amazing professional kite-flying (Seriously, this stuff was awesome. HUGE kites, being towed behind jet-skis on the reservoir, doing tricks)
  • Vendors and sponsors tents--many with environmentally-friendly tips and products, candy for the kiddos, and interesting conversations. Plus not-so-terribly-expensive hot dogs and BBQ (or just bring your own food)
For all that this is the first time they've run this festival, it seemed very well put together. Water-dispensers were plentiful, there was a lot of shade areas set up, electric golf carts to ferry people up and down the (very) steep road, plenty of parking. (Bear in mind I went at 2:00 pm Friday afternoon. Maybe it will be a zoo on Saturday...don't blame me if it is!)

Whether or not you agree with our windmills here in Spanish Fork (I happen to like them), I think you'll have a great time if you come to the festival. Enjoy the weather and the weekend!

(This almost sounds like a paid advertisement. It isn't, promise! We just had a great time, and wanted to share.)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Glass Ceilings

I just read something that...well, ticked me off. Don't ask me why this of all things set me off, but it did:
It's[the Palin VP pick] a cornucopia of paradox: Her candidacy is somehow supposed to be a glass-ceiling-shattering inspiration, even though she actively opposes feminist causes like equal pay and reproductive choice. (Dana Stevens, Slate's XX Factor blog)
As if the glass ceiling and the excitement of a woman's accomplishment only exists for those who support reproductive "choice" (let's not be cute over what Ms. Stevens means by that, okay?).