The economy

How can the federal government best stimulate the economy?

Democrat

The federal government needs to help create the conditions that will induce the private sector to begin lending to creditworthy developers, businesses and consumers.

We accomplished some of this by passing the recent financial services reform legislation. Our financial markets have suffered a loss of confidence at many levels, domestically and internationally, because many market participants have come to believe that US financial institutions lacked integrity.

We are still suffering from that trauma. Bond ratings were proven to be fictitious. Asset values remain questionable. It will take time and patience to rebuild that confidence.

While I supported the stimulus bill, the quick "buck-shot" approach was off-target and inefficient. Instead, the federal and state governments should develop some major projects that are 1) necessary (no make-work projects), 2) viable, and 3) strategically linked to private-sector job creation. Transit-oriented development, next-generation power projects, and major infrastructure projects that are paired with private-sector job creation should be some areas eligible for targeted, but limited, public support.

We need to be smart, deliberate, and committed. Blindly throwing public money at this problem won't make it go away (but it will make the money go away). This will require tight cooperation between Congress and state governors, and there must be a federal vetting process to prevent 'bridge-to-nowhere' projects.

As part of this effort, we also need to make a special effort to put young people to work. It is getting increasingly difficult for new entrants to the job market to find work. A meaningful national job corps in priority areas and inner cities would help greatly.

Independent

Through investment in infrastructure. This would be paid for by commensurate reductions in Pentagon and State Department spending, particularly monies now being spent overseas to wage two entirely unproductive wars and to maintain more than 800 overseas military bases, many of which are "protecting" other nations who neither want nor need our "protection," and who, in any case, are in much better economic health than we are.

A good example is the fact that we give $3 billion a year to the state of Israel, which is well enough off to provide 100% of its citizenry with 100% free health care.

Infrastructure investment keeps the money circulating domestically (we produce most of what we need to build/repair our roads, bridges, water and sewer plants, high-speed rail beds, a modernized electrical grid, etc.) and will result in assets that are immediately useful to everyone (businesses as well as families) and fund jobs that pay well, for people who will spend the money, supporting additional jobs.

Republican

Unemployment is too high and cannot be solved with more government spending.

Wasting taxpayer money on failed industry bailouts is a classic example of big government at its worst. Business is not the enemy; it is the solution.

People need jobs, but high taxation and over-regulation cripple businesses, preventing growth and job creation.

Because private sector jobs most effectively create sustainable economic growth, government should stop interfering with the market and take steps to free businesses from overly burdensome taxes and bureaucratic red tape.

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Bush tax cuts

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

Democrat

I would oppose extending the tax breaks for high-income earners.

I support President Obama's plan to continue the tax breaks for those individuals making under $200,000 and those families earning less than $250,000.

In these challenging economic times, it makes zero economic sense to raise taxes on the middle class. We should be working to ensure that more families and small businesses are able to keep their hard-earned money.

Republican

Redistribution of wealth (or socialism) has never been a sustainable way to promote economic growth. I would vote to continue the tax cuts because I believe that the market is a better driver of economic growth than Congress and federal government spending.

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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?

Democrat

I cannot commit to supporting any package that I have not seen, and the commission's report will not be available until later this year.

I would oppose any recommendation to privatize Social Security or any drastic cuts to Medicare, which provides health coverage for the elderly, and Medicaid, which covers health costs for the poor.

However, by allowing the tax cuts for the top 3% of earners to expire, I believe we will see a substantial decrease in the deficit.

Independent

Yes. Our politicians have been telling us many lies, but the biggest has been that borrowing all the money they've been borrowing was something other than deferred taxation.

Our gutless politicians, from both parties, have assured us we could have two senseless wars, cheap energy and food, all the consumer goods that Asian economies can produce, and they won't have to "raise our taxes."

Instead of raising taxes, which we wouldn't have supported, they went out and borrowed the money instead. And now, after having given multinational companies incentives to move the means of production overseas, they pretend that they can continue to borrow money, continue to reduce taxes, and we'll somehow "grow" our way out of the hole they dug for us. Grow our way out with what industrial base?

There is going to be hardship here; we're all going to have to sacrifice to repair the damage that the current generation of professional politicians has done to our country. Any wannabe politician who says that repairing the damage will not require higher costs for goods and services and higher taxes is selling voters a bridge to nowhere.

The conventional wisdom is that if you tell people the truth, you can't get elected. I think that people know there is no cheap and painless way out of this mess, but what they are insisting on is competence and performance, the assurance that if they have to sacrifice and work harder, their children will inherit a solvent nation, and that the politicians will be held strictly accountable for their performance. As a people we can do this, but not with the current crop of professional hacks, who don't live in the real world along with the rest of us, still in control.

Republican

I absolutely support spending reductions.

Congress has behaved in an appallingly irresponsible manner by running up the deficit to its current level. Increasing taxes is not the solution. Keeping taxes low will increase revenue by allowing business to thrive and creating economic growth.

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Health care law

What is your view of the national health care law?

Democrat

Its central flaw is that it does very little to reform the current fee-for-service system.

The new law preserves the federal antitrust exemption, which enables insurance companies to operate as monopolies and cartels in restraint of trade. Remember, it is extremely difficult for state insurance commissioners to regulate insurance companies that operate nationally and globally (see AIG) and without competition, prices will remain high.

What the new law did was add 32 million people to the same system that we couldn't afford to begin with.

I remain strongly supportive of true health care reform and the ultimate goal of providing affordable health care for every American, while keeping costs down for those who already have coverage.

However, I opposed the bill that was ultimately put forth. I believe that this legislation, which costs almost $1 trillion, offered little to reform the current skyrocketing costs of the fee-for-service system that is dominated by the insurance industry.

I continue to support the state-sponsored public option that was included in the House health care bill. That version allows each state to establish a true public option, and does not tax health insurance.

One more flaw in the current law is that we should not have allowed individuals to be taxed on the value of their health care coverage. We also let the pharmaceutical companies off the hook and gave the trial attorneys a pass without getting any relief for doctors' malpractice insurance costs.

I continue to have serious concerns about the new law, and even greater concerns about our failure to address the rising costs of health care. I remain committed to working with the president to fix and improve health care for all Americans. The hard work - maintaining wide access to high quality health care and finding a way to pay for this new system - remains ahead of us.

Independent

It's a lousy bill, but I would have voted for it. It is typical of the only kind of legislation which can be produced by this thoroughly corrupt Congress.

Republican

ObamaCare has made health care costs even higher. It has a hidden 3.8% tax on home sales, a $17 billion tax on business, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. I will help repeal ObamaCare.

The real problem is not health care, it is the cost of health care.

The United States is the world leader in the development of medical care and technology, yet many Americans cannot afford health insurance. Too many Americans fear the cost of serious illness and its impact on our families, and even those who have health insurance find its coverage insufficient when needed most.

Pharmaceutical companies are certainly responsible for wonder drugs and treatments, but they work hand-in-hand with HMOs and the FDA to prevent treatments that would provide affordable, less instrusive options because it would hurt their profits. They regularly attack natural treatments, ambulatory surgery centers, and many other proven ways to provide more affordable care.

There is a disconnect between patients and the actual cost of health care. Since most of those with health insurance never actually write the checks or handle the funds used for the services received, they fail to exercise the same awareness, judgment, and control they have in other financial decisions they make.

The cost of health care would be significantly less if everybody had an understanding of how much these services actually cost and where the funds were going. Like non-health related services for which we are charged directly, we would begin to question and negotiate.

We need to change our health care system, but turning it over to the federal government only assures that the problems will persist. Reducing the cost of health care must be our first priority.

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Illegal immigration

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

Democrat

I believe the Arizona statute violates at least two provisions of the US Constitution: Article 1, which delegates to Congress the responsibilities for immigration, and the Equal Protection Clause included in the 14th Amendment.

While I understand the frustration with illegal immigration and the concerns over border security, immigration policy is clearly a federal issue. If all 50 states were able to set their own immigration policies, the result would be chaos.

There is no question, however, that the immigration system is broken and that the federal government has failed in solving this problem. We need to secure both our northern and southern borders, deal with the employers who hire illegal workers, address the immigration backlog, and find a rational way of dealing with the estimated 11 million immigrants who are here illegally.

Only by addressing all of these aspects will it be possible to ensure that our immigration system works for the benefit of our country.

Independent

No, but only on technicalities. The problem of illegal immigration will only be solved when we enforce the laws on the real culprits: the companies that are providing the employment which attracts and maintains illegal immigrants.

It is truly ironic that we are spending $7 billion a month, supposedly teaching the Afghans how to secure their country, when we can't even secure the Mexican border. That border is porous because very powerful financial interests want it to be so, so there is a plentiful supply of people who can be exploited to enhance their profits.

Put a few top executives from companies in the food processing, hospitality, agri-business, and construction industries in jail for terms of a few years and fine their firms multi-millions of dollars and those jobs will dry up and those who don't belong here will find their way home.

The idea that our citizens and legal aliens don't want to do certain jobs is false. If you pay people a living wage to pick string beans, there'll be plenty of people willing to pick string beans. We all are a part of this problem, because we all have to be willing to pay a little more for string beans.

Republican

I do not like selective enforcement of ANY laws. If the federal government was enforcing the laws that it had enacted, Arizona wouldn't have had to pass its immigration law.

Regardless, no meaningful immigration reform can happen until we have control of our borders, and when it comes to immigration, border control would be my first priority.

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Trade

Do you support free trade or fair trade? Why?

Democrat

I support fair trade. While trade is an important component of our economy, it is also important that American businesses and workers are on a level playing field with their foreign counterparts.

I am committed to working to improve trade agreements that would benefit American businesses, reduce our nation's trade deficit, and create more jobs for American workers.

Independent

Fair trade. We can't compete with countries with much less stringent labor and environmental laws. Fair trade means a level playing field.

Republican

"Fair trade" is just a convenient way to avoid using the word "protectionism." The best way to ensure that American businesses stay competitive is to keep their regulatory and tax burdens light. By the way, this is also the best way to promote economic growth and create jobs.

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Social security

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

Democrat

We need to identify and eliminate fraud, which costs the nation billions of dollars annually. We also need to incentivize cost savings within Medicare and Medicaid that will bring down health care costs for all Americans and make Medicare more sustainable over the long term.

Independent

Regarding Social Security, the most immediate remedial fix would be to remove the base wage limit from FICA. The current withholding formula is regressive.

Regarding Medicare, it should be funded not based on payroll taxes, but on income taxes. People who own S corporations can pay themselves very little in wages (subject to payroll taxes) and quite a bit in "S-Corp Distributions" (not subject to payroll taxes) and then enjoy Medicare coverage like everyone who's been paying 1.42% of everything they've earned for their entire careers.

These circumstances are examples of many which expose the reality that the tax system is geared to favor those who have more over those who have less. Fixing the entitlement programs is not difficult once the premise is accepted that those who enjoy most of the political power are going to have to accept a fairer share of the cost of maintaining them.

The solutions to so many of the problems we face will be found in fairness and common sense. Those are the principles that made our society strong, and those are the principles that can unify us and make us purposeful and successful again.

Republican

It's important to remember that for decades, Social Security has been used as a slush fund for Congress's bad spending habits. That needs to stop.

With Medicare, the problem is fraud. We need to evaluate the inability of Medicare bureaucrats to recognize and eliminate fraud and hold those accountable who aren't responsible stewards of taxpayer money.

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Responses gathered through e.thePeople