The economy

How can the federal government best stimulate the economy?

Citizen Legislator

The method of economic stimulation that has a proven record is to reduce taxes. With more money in their pockets, individuals and corporations have higher confidence, and are more likely to spend and invest their money.

The larger our government is, the more of a burden it places on the productive segment of our society. Reducing the size of government will reduce this burden.

Stopping the current administration's fast-paced progressive agenda will re-instill confidence in the future of our country and promote more investment by individuals and corporations.

Democrat

We must continue to work to get our economy back on track, which means creating jobs.

Historically, we rely on our small businesses to help bring economies out of recession and create a significant percentage of new jobs. An important step in helping our small businesses recover was taken recently when the Small Business Jobs Act was signed into law.

This new law provides small businesses with $12 billion in tax cuts to spur investment and hiring, allows for 100% exclusion of capital gains on investments in small business, and doubles the tax deduction for start-up expenditures.

It also helps to unlock credit for small businesses through loan guarantees that are backed up by the Small Business Administration and existing successful state loan guarantee programs. These guarantees allow community banks to extend credit to reliable small businesses that have suffered during the downturn without absorbing all of the risk.

There are additional steps that Congress should take to support our small businesses, such as new tax credits for firms that hire new employees. It is also essential that we close tax loopholes that encourage large employers to ship jobs overseas.

While it is important to support policies at the federal level that encourage growth, it is equally important that a member of Congress be responsive to the unique business needs of their state and district.

That is why I have led the fight in Congress to extend the highly successful Renewal Communities Tax Credit, which is vital to job creation in Lowell and Lawrence. I am also working to make permanent the Research and Development tax credit that is so important to innovative businesses in the Fifth District.

Massachusetts is one of the top research and development economies in the world. Making this tax credit permanent would provide greater certainty to businesses in our area, and give them a valuable tool with which to hire more workers while increasing our global competitiveness.

Liberty

In order to stimulate the economy, the business environment must be stabilized for businesses to regain confidence in the environment.

The federal government plays a large part in this. Frequently changing rules, regulations, and laws governing taxes and the processes of doing business keeps the business environment in turmoil. Businesses cannot assess the risks involved in investment as they are unsure of what the regulations and taxes will be in the future.

Regulations will change to some degree at various times, but the more stable the environment, the more confidence businesses will have in their risk assessments. With confidence in the environment and thus their risk assessment, they will be able to confidently invest in expansion and thus growing the economy.

The federal government must set the tax rates and business regulations and leave them alone. Small changes may be required from time to time, but major upheavals must be avoided. Once the business environment stabilizes confidence, business will expand and thus the economy.

The more favorable the taxes and regulations are to business, the faster the economy will strengthen and grow. Less regulation and lower taxes are always favorable to growth.

Republican

By getting out of the way.

The private sector creates jobs; the federal government's only role should be creating a business-friendly climate.

Right now, we have the second-highest corporate tax rate in the world, and we wonder why companies are closing or leaving the state and country.

We have a Congress that has yet to extend the Bush tax cuts and if they don't, we will have massive tax increases for everyone, including the small business owners, and we wonder why they aren't able to grow and hire.

Stop the over-taxation and over-regulation that is killing our economy, and stop spending.

Back to top
Bush tax cuts

Will you vote to continue the tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush for the top 3% of earners?

Citizen Legislator

Yes, those 3% are responsible for much of the investment into new businesses. There is a reason they're in the top 3% of earners: because they're productive and successful. They know better where to invest their money than our government does.

Democrat

I favor extending tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000 and nearly all small businesses.

Extending tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans would grow the national deficit by another $700 billion, and I don't support putting tax breaks for millionaires ahead of starting to bring down the deficit.

Furthermore, I hear over and over again that businesses need certainty in the tax code, not short-term extensions that leave them guessing from year to year. That's why I support permanently returning to the tax rates of the 1990s for the wealthiest Americans, which were in place when we had record economic and jobs growth coupled with record surpluses.

It's also why I support making critical business tax incentives like the research and development credit permanent.

Liberty

Yes. There should be no increase in any taxes until the economy strengthens and stabilizes.

Republican

I will vote to continue the Bush tax cuts that affected every taxpayer in this country.

You do not raise taxes in the middle of a recession and when people are having trouble paying bills.

Back to top
Federal deficit

If the bipartisan deficit commission says that both spending reductions and revenue increases, including tax hikes, are necessary to reduce the federal deficit to a sustainable level, would you support such a package?

Citizen Legislator

No. I do not believe we have a deficit because we don't tax enough. We must cut spending to balance the budget.

Democrat

I couldn't comment on such a package without seeing it first, but long-term economic growth will only be possible if we tackle our national debt.

No one was more passionate about the dangers of an exploding national debt than my late husband, Senator Paul Tsongas, who made it a central focus of his 1992 campaign for president. During the 1990s, fiscal responsibility prevailed, in part because of the awareness Paul helped raise.

However, during the early 2000s, massive tax cuts for the wealthy in the midst of fighting two wars overseas turned budget surpluses into budget deficits. The Great Recession has made our fiscal situation even worse. While economists argue that some deficit-spending is necessary during the recession, we must take real steps toward fiscal responsibility over the long-term.

I was an original co-sponsor of legislation, signed into law in February, to restore the pay-as-you-go rule, which prevents Congress from new spending or tax cuts unless it saves that money elsewhere in the federal budget. Pay-as-you-go is common sense: if something is worth doing, we should find a way to pay for it instead of charging it to the national credit card.

During the 1990s, pay-as-you-go helped pave the way for balanced budgets. The Office of Management and Budget has noted that had pay-as-you-go principles been followed during the Bush years, our projected deficits would be $5 trillion less.

I also believe that given the extraordinarily difficult economic circumstances that families across Massachusetts are facing, elected representatives should be looking for ways to reduce spending and give back wherever possible. That's why I have never taken a pay raise since I was elected, and I support cutting pay for members of Congress.

And, this spring, I returned $75,000 to the Treasury from my 2009 budget for office expenses. While this is a relatively small amount compared to the overall federal budget, I believe that it sends an important message.

Liberty

I would support most spending reductions any time.

The government spending is the most significant cause of the federal deficit. An expanding economy would increase revenues without raising any tax rates.

I cannot visualize any situation where increasing tax rates would encourage economic expansion. At this point in the economic cycle, I cannot see that tax increases would be anything but economically counterproductive.

So yes, I would support spending cuts, and no, I would not support tax increases until the economy strengthens and is stabilized. I would actually favor cutting taxes in order to encourage expansion.

Republican

No. People simply cannot afford a tax increase, so Congress is going to have to cut spending.

Let's start by stopping the bailouts and stimulus packages that are all failing. Let's use unspent stimulus funds to pay down the debt.

Back to top
Health care law

What is your view of the national health care law?

Citizen Legislator

Our new national health care law is great for politicians, insurance companies, and perhaps individuals who are dependent on government subsidies. For the rest of the nation, it will result in fewer choices and higher prices.

I will support repealing our national health care law, and replacing it with a system that lowers government and insurance company involvement and increases control by patients and doctors.

Democrat

I strongly supported the new health care reform law because it will bring down health care costs for Massachusetts residents and small businesses, and prohibit unfair insurance company practices such as charging a woman more than a man and denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.

I literally had thousands of conversations with Fifth District residents on this subject and heard repeatedly that health care costs were hurting businesses and families across Massachusetts. If left unchecked, health care costs were going to bankrupt our country.

Not only was health care reform fully paid for, but it cuts the federal deficit by more than $143 billion dollars over the next 10 years, and reduces it by another $1.2 billion in the decade that follows.

The bill helps move towards a system in which we pay doctors for the quality of care they provide, rather than the number of tests and procedures they perform.

It invests in electronic health records, which will avoid the cost of duplicative tests and treatments.

And it makes use of comparative effectiveness research - which will help doctors ensure that patients get the best care possible.

We are already starting to see the benefits of the new law:

Small businesses are receiving tax credits to provide insurance to their workers.

Recent college graduates who may not have access to insurance can remain on their parents' health plans until the age of 26.

Senior citizens who fall into the doughnut hole, 7,400 of whom live in the Fifth District, are starting to see it closed and have already received checks to help them afford needed medications.

Additional reforms that will further bring down costs and improve care are going to gradually take effect, and we should give the new law a chance to work.

Liberty

Besides being terrible legislation that will weaken the economy, overall health care, and the well-being of the population, and severely weaken the Republic, I consider it unconstitutional.

I know that this legislation was not written by our elected legislators, but by special interest groups over a period of several years. A 2,400-page piece of legislation could not be read in just a few weeks, much less be researched and written by Congress in a couple of weeks. This had to have been in the works for probably several years just waiting to be delivered.

Republican

It's a bad law.

It imposed a 2.3% excise tax on medical device manufacturers. How do you decrease the cost of health care by increasing the cost of equipment needed? It makes no sense.

It increased costs and limited access for insurance consumers when it claimed to do the opposite.

We need to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Let's start with medical malpractice limits to get the lawyers out of exam rooms.

Open up state lines and competition so people can buy insurance anywhere, and limit state mandates.

Back to top
Illegal immigration

Do you agree with Arizona's new immigration law? If not, what should the country do about illegal immigration?

Citizen Legislator

Yes, I agree with it. Every advanced nation in the world has a controlled immigration policy, including ours. I believe having this policy, and enforcing it, is in the best interest of our country and its (legal) citizens.

I believe we should strengthen our borders, remove the incentives which draw immigrants here illegally, then prosecute and deport those who have knowingly broken the law by entering this country illegally.

Democrat

No. It goes too far and diverts resources away from other serious crimes, which is why the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police opposes it. But efforts like this expose a failure to address our broken system at the national level and that must change.

Federal immigration laws passed in 1986 and 1996 failed to adequately address the primary driver of immigration: employment due to the unmet demands for workers. For reform to be successful long-term, it must create a system capable of adapting to the changing demands of our economy.

Most importantly, reform should protect the American worker first and foremost, ensuring that immigrants don't displace Americans or depress wages. Employers have to know that hiring illegal immigrants will no longer be treated as business as usual. We must give employers the tools to verify the employee status, require employers to do so, and hold accountable those who don't comply or who keep hiring outside the law.

For the security of our nation, we must be able to account for every person who enters our country. I toured our southern border to get a first-hand look at border security measures. I believe we must provide additional resources to our current border protection efforts. Much of the technology we need to police our borders is being developed and manufactured here in the US and in the 5th District, creating well-paying jobs for American citizens.

Finally, we need to address the issue of the millions of immigrants living in the US illegally. Undocumented residents should be required to come forward and register for legal status, pay a fine and back taxes owed, learn English, and pass criminal background checks in order to remain in the country and work toward citizenship. Those who don't come forward should be removed.

I do support the DREAM Act, which gives young people brought to the US as children a path to citizenship.

Liberty

I do not agree with the fact that any state should have to write and pass any such law.

There is a law in place (Illegal Immigration Act of 1996) that Democrat, Republican, and now Democrat administrations have refused to enforce.

I would agree that immigration reform is needed, but at the present time, the administration is constitutionally required to enforce any and all federal laws in place whether they agree with them or not.

It is becoming quite common for this administration to pick and choose which laws that they want to refuse to enforce or actually break (flagrant disregard of bankruptcy law, civil rights voter law ... should be considered breaking the law).

As far as the problems along our southern border are concerned, I consider the situation in Mexico a much greater threat to our national security than the phantom WMDs in Iraq ever were.

The first problem that must be corrected is the physical security of the border that has been violated primarily by the unabated operations of the drug cartels in northern Mexico.

Since our armed forces cannot legally operate militarily within the borders of the US, I would support the deployment of the 101st Airborne (we have already overstayed in Afghanistan and our military should not be involved in nation-building as they are trained specifically to destroy an enemy) along the border in Mexico.

When they have eliminated the cartels and set up a 50- to 100-mile-wide safe zone corridor, the Navy SeaBees could be brought in to use indigenous labor and aid money already targeted for Mexico to build schools and medical clinics that would be the pride of Mexico.

There would probably be a serious reverse immigration situation started that would probably include US citizens going illegally into Mexico to earn money to send back to the US.

Since the government of Mexico has demonstrated that they cannot control the situation along our border, this would be considered a police action and aid mission.

Republican

The federal government failed to enforce its own laws so Arizona said they'd do it themselves. I completely support that.

We need to get this issue under control. The illegal immigration problem effects our economy, our health and education systems, and our safety.

Shore up those borders and stop the magnets for illegals. No state or federal benefits, and no jobs. Punish employers who hire illegals.

No magnets and no taxpayer-funded benefits and you will find fewer illegals come here.

Back to top
Trade

Do you support free trade or fair trade? Why?

Citizen Legislator

Of course I support both. But when they are at odds, I place more weight on fairness. I do believe we should have a comprehensive, but concise, definition of what fair trade is. I believe this policy should be made known to our trading partners, and enforced equitably.

Democrat

In 2009, Massachusetts exported $23.6 billion in goods to the rest of the world. Encouraging exports and free trade is critical to our long-term global competitiveness.

But too many past agreements, including NAFTA and CAFTA, failed to create a level playing field for workers, with serious unintended consequences. NAFTA in particular has contributed to lost American manufacturing jobs on one hand and a large influx of illegal immigration on the other.

I consider each trade agreement on its merits and have consistently voted to oppose or delay agreements that didn't adequately provide a fair and level playing field for all workers.

I voted against the Peru Free Trade Agreement and I voted to delay consideration of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement because like NAFTA and CAFTA before them, these agreements failed to address the billion-dollar American agricultural subsidies that drive subsistence farmers out of the market and into the United States illegally.

I also had serious concerns about human rights abuses in Colombia and Peru, including violence against human rights advocates and union workers who pressed for more rights. I continue to evaluate the proposed FTAs with Korea and Panama. Both countries are important strategic allies, but both trade agreements contain potential flaws.

Liberty

I support free trade with no government interference in order to allow prices and costs to stabilize where they will.

The exporter will then determine the price they want to cover their cost of production and the amount that they want for a profit. The importer will then decide if they want the product for that price.

If they can get the same or similar product for a lower cost elsewhere, that is their choice. It is a totally free-will transaction with no coercion on either end of the transaction and everyone is happy.

This situation will never be realized as long as the governments are involved.

There will be groups in the importer country that have greater costs to produce the product and will insist that the government put a tariff on it to raise the cost of import to protect them.

The export country may see that the import country needs the product and sees that they can put an export tax on the product to raise more money for the government.

There is also the situation of currency manipulation by either country in order to encourage or discourage the general overall trade balance. This is still a somewhat free trade situation, as the importer and exporter still have the freedom to accept or decline the transaction.

Fair trade is the situation where an outside group is involved to set what they consider a fair price, which generally favors the poorer country and has the power to coerce the importer country into accepting the product at that price. In this situation, there are numerous parties that are unhappy with the transaction.

Republican

This candidate hasn't responded yet; please check back later.

Back to top
Social security

What specific changes would you support to make Social Security and Medicare sustainable over the long term?

Citizen Legislator

These programs are based on a design where our government takes money from the people, and agrees to "hold it for us". I don't believe that any system in the history of mankind, based on this design, has ever lasted very long.

These programs are currently nothing more than a Ponzi scheme, with the original design and intent abandoned long ago. With our aging population, these programs will continue to get worse for decades to come.

I believe Social Security and Medicare need to be eliminated, in a controlled and humane way. And I believe we should start immediately, as each passing year makes this choice more difficult.

Democrat

I supported health care reform in part because it extends the solvency of Medicare by an additional 12 years - to 2029 - while also adding benefits to seniors in the form of free preventive care and by eliminating gaps in prescription drug coverage.

This is the case because health care reform ends overpayments to private insurers through Medicare Advantage, and reduces health care costs.

Also, health care reform created the Independent Payment Advisory Board, specifically tasked with making recommendations on reining in Medicare spending each year - and thereby extend Medicare's solvency.

I am also a strong supporter of Social Security, one of America's most successful government programs.

It was never envisioned to be the sole source of a person's retirement, but without it, those who rely on it would have no safety net. That is why I am absolutely committed to strengthening Social Security so that our national contract with America's workers endures for future generations of seniors.

I oppose attempts to privatize Social Security, which would divert resources from the program and have an immediate impact on today's beneficiaries and ensure that the program doesn't exist in the future. We don't want to replace a guarantee with a gamble.

Liberty

For Social Security and Medicare, the first thing to be done would be to raise the eligibility age for benefits.

People 55 and older would not be affected.

For people 50-55, all age eligibility requirements are raised 1 year.

For people 40-50, all age eligibility requirements are raised 2 years.

For people 30-40, all age eligibility requirements are raised 3 years.

For people 20-30, all age eligibility requirements are raised 4 years.

For people under 20, all age eligibility requirements are raised 5 years.

Beginning in 2012, the $106,000 Social Security wage cap should be removed so that no earned income will be excluded from Social Security tax.

Once these changes have been stabilized and the results have been assessed, I would favor readjusting the payroll tax assessment to 3% employee and 3% employer (from the 6% employee and 6% employer assessment now in place) in order to begin the process of closing it down and encouraging individuals to take responsibility for their own social net and retirement.

This process would have to be accomplished over many years (possibly 50; it has taken 75 years to get where we now find ourselves).

All revenues will be segregated from the general funds. US Treasury bonds may be purchased from the funds, but pillage of these funds for general spending will cease. Previously pillaged funds will be computed and repaid into the system over time. I have heard from various sources that there should be around $2.5 trillion in the fund at this time.

Republican

We need to make sure that our promises to our seniors are kept.

The Obamacare legislation cut $500 billion from the Medicare program, and it still claims that the bill was good for seniors.

We can do better with our entitlement programs if we stop robbing from Peter to pay Paul.

We need to stop spending on programs like ant studies in foreign countries. And we may just find we have more money for the people who have earned it here.

Back to top

Responses gathered through e.thePeople