Thursday, October 09, 2008

2nd District Debate

2nd District Debate Live Baby Live

2:30 and hello from the Schwab Auditorium at the Coralville Library for the four way 2nd District Debate. Congressman Dave Loebsack is facing off with the three rivals -- Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Green Wendy Barth, and independent Brian White.

Opening statements start with Barth. She praises the AARP for inviting the third parties. "My single issue is sustainability," she says, and says thousand of issues fall under that umbrella. "It means having a lifestyle that continues generation after generation. Our lifestyles have to change. We can embrace that change or deny change."

Loebsack next. "I ran in 2006 because I was fed up with a system that was broken. I wanted to once again make government a positive force in people's lives." Cites his committee work. "I have worked tirelessly to provide for our troops and provide oversight to the Bush Administration's Iraq policies."

Miller-Meeks "I have not been a party affiliated person working hard to elect candidates. I got tired of seeing Congress doing nothing but seeing who was the victor in a partisan fight," citing Social Security, health and energy policy.

White: "What does 'change' mean? What is the change they're talking about? I ask you to really think about that. Do you really believe Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, can bring about that change? The only way we bring about real change is to change Washington first." He says term limits, getting rid of PACs, and ethics reform are the way to do that.

AARP rep Richard Tibbets asks if health care is a fundamental right. "It should be a right of all people on the planet," says Barth. "I'm perfectly comfortable with the term socialized medicine." Loebsack: "It is clearly a right, but hasn't been the case in this country. We have 45 million people in the richest country in the world without insurance. It's downright immoral." He supports portability and no preconditions.

Miller-Meeks: "As an affluent country, one of the responsibilities we have is health care. We should have a system that encourages personal responsibility." I didn't catch every word.

White: "The real issue is how do we make it affordable for everyone. We have to get rid of the interest groups that are tying it down."

"How can civil liberties be preserved while addressing terrorism?" Loebsack says the initial Patriot Act went too far and he would have voted no. "I don't believe we should impinge too much on our civil liberties. It's got to be a balancing act." Miller-Meeks: "We need an active and a vigilant press because they hold officials feet to the fire and they have an investigative arm." Says measures need timelines. White: "We have to protect civil liberties as a priority. We need to do it the same way the criminal system does -- with probable cause." Barth: "There's never going to be 100% safety. We have to protect ourselves but can't be paranoid."

Long term care starts with MMM. She mainly talks about existing programs and AARP long term care insurance programs. White: "The focus has to be in building a medical home so physicians can make home visits." Barth: "The big issue is the community that you're in, having people come in to make sure you're OK. The question is how we're going to build community." Moderator almost skips Loebsack, who says he backs the Community Health Choice Act.

Medicaid allocation for home care vs. nursing home care. Whit notes that the question is circular--you shift funding by shifting funding. "The answers are simple. The reason I'm running is nothing gets done." Barth: "The way to get things done seems to be to get a rich person to think they can get richer by doing it," and pushes the VOICE act "to get the money out of politics." They;re getting meta here.

"It's a question of priorities, of generating the political will, and of building coalitions across party lines" says Loebsack. MMM: "it's a combination of both public and private efforts."

Social Security privatization. Barth: "I hesitate to do anything to risk that, esp. in the stock market. It needs to stay an entitlement." Cap should be raised. "It's a terrible idea" to privatize," says Dave L. "President Bush pushed this idea after his idea and it was roundly rejected by the American people." MMM: "Social Security funds should not be used in the general budget. That's part of the reason we have a problem now. We need to have a congress that lives within its means and not continue to rob the SS fund." White: "We need to lift the cap on the fund, and we need to up the benefits." Only 45 seconds an answer, hard to stretch out.

Will you forgo congressional benefits and live with the Medicare the rest of us do with capped benefits? "I have to answer that first" says the incumbent. "I'm open to any kind of renegotiation." MMM: "I would be happy to forgo them, I don't think I'm better than any other citizen." (This is a really demagogic question.) MMM: Caps would require more thought. White "These are simple solutions, we just need to do them." The moderator keeps skipping the fourth candidate each time. "Thank you for treating us equally," says Barth when she's skipped.

Disability employment and ADA. MMM: "We want everyone to be productive and have to think outside the box a little bit." White acknowledges that the ADA was a good bill; "we did do something in Congress." The less involvement the federal govt has in this, the better" saying it can be better handled locally.

"I'm curious about this worker shortage MMM is talking about" says Barth, saying people are hurting for jobs. Loebsack cites the ADA Restoration Act passed this Congress to upgrade and update the ADA.

Tax reform and Fair Tax. "I am a huuge flat tax supporter," says White. "No loopholes, no deductions, none of that. It's very simple." Barth: "A progressive tax system is better," responds Barth. "There should be a Peace Tax so people can say 'I don't want any of my money going to the military,'" and says there should be similar options for sicial programs.

"We have to stop tax incentives for companies going overseas," says Loebsack, who says flat of "fair" tax proposals hurt the middle class. Bush tax cuts should not be extended. "Time is money," says MMM citing tax preparation costs. "I advocate an optional flat tax and then we could go to further tax reform."

Income and class disparity. "A lot of it comes from gaming the system in the financial markets," says Barth. Credit market needs to be re-regulated. Loebsack cites the Bush tax cuts again. "We have to extend the tax cuts for lower and middle classes." Also calls for alternative minimum tax reform. "If we don't reform it it'll catch the middle class." MMM calls for more stringent education requirements and immigration in the global economy. "The first thing you do is get rid of everything in Washington including the interest groups," says White, drawing the first applause of the debate.

Renewable energy. "Wind energy has been a boon to Iowa's economy" says Loebsack. "Clearly we can do better and reduce our dependency on foreign oil." "We need to go to a more electric based economy," says MMM, dissing natural gas (take that, T. Boone!) She mentions several other methods, including nuclear. White reads a modern-sounding quote on energy independence; his punch line is that it's from the Carter era. If we're going to put all our eggs in the ethanol basket, we need to look at other crops besides corn, said Barth. "I'm running out of time, I'm just getting started." "It's not fair," Loebsack says in sympathy.

"We should have flex fuel vehicles with electric engines," says MMM; the next question kind of becomes a second go around. Strictly speaking, it's a CAFE question.)"I'm not big into government control and dates, but we have to do it now because we've been listening too long to the oil company special interests in Washington," says White. "I'm also for making the number of miles we drive by making our communities closer together and producing more of our food locally," says Barth. Loebsack voted for higher CAFE "but we've got to do more."

How would you respond to another Postville? "I am for amnesty, but we need to incorporate them into the system," says White, calling for corporate sanctions. "It takes way too long to become a citizen." Barth noted that illegals paid into the system without getting anything out of it. "We need to treat these people like people." "Agriprocessors itself was a very bad actor. We need to hold our employers accountable, and need to give them the tools to be accountable," says Loebsack. He also supported more border security. "We need to ramp up the immigration system and have a clear system of why someone can immigrate," says MMM, adding that Bush has been poor on enforcement.

The Bailout. "That was the biggest mistake you made was voting for that," says Barth looking at Loebsack. "They want us middle class taxpayers to bail them out." Again, running out of time. "Those are the two toughest votes I've had to take. The downside of not doing anything, I feared, were worse." Second bill included $4.6 billion for flood victims and wind tax credits. MMM: "The risk has been passed on globally and we're paying the price for that." White: "In ten days they threw away one third of the revenue we get in taxes. I'm disgusted. Both the Democrats and Republicans hands are dirty in this," White says getting sustained applause.

Medicare shortfall. "I fought against Pres Bush's proposal to cut physician reimbursement rates," says Loebsack, saying they got modest rate increases. MMM: "We need to see if we need to shift costs between individuals." "It's been over regulated to the point where more people can defraud the system," says White, a UIHC attorney. "When you invite third party candidates, you get a perspective you haven't heard before" says Barth, advocating single payer.

Prescription drug cost reform. "Competition is a good thing," says MMM. "I see patients on too many medications that they may not need." The donut hole makes people reassess. White blames pharmaceutical profit margins as the worst aspect of health cost, again getting applause. Barth: "We should have price controls on our drugs, that's what Canada has." "We need to fill that donut hole" says Loebsack.

Marriage penalty tax: "I'm in favor of repealing the entire tax code," offers MMM. "Marriage is a church thing and not a govt. thing," says White, who returns to drug costs. (I think White may have a front row claque but it's hard to tell) "That penalty shouldn't be there, no doubt about it," says Loebsack. "The government does not negotiate as well as individuals who are getting the benefit" says MMM returning to drugs.

War and peace issues. "It needs to be a multinational approach," says White, "I can't stand the finger pointing of who voted for what in Iraq. Put away the rhetoric and just handle our foreign affairs."

"We're not fighting a war on the adjective 'terror,' we're killing a lot of people," says Barth.

"We have to reorient our foreign policy and have more creative diplomacy" says DL citing his visits to the war. "The real enemy are in Afghanistan and the border areas of Pakistan.," saying we need to recommit to Afgh. MMM cites her own military service. "When we vote to send in troops, we have a responsibility to support those troops," says MMM, getting applause from her side of the room.

Barth says she'll blog if elected; "you deserve to know what's going on." The question is about future forums, which they all say is a good idea. There's another debate on the 21st -- just the two major parties. White says this is the first he's heard of it ans asks DL and MMM to go to bat for him and Barth. Loebsack notes his VFW endorsements. " Being for veterans is not a partisan issue," says Loebsack. "We've had record increases for the VA on a bipartisan basis." MMM says a forum for every county in the district -- which she proposed and didn't get.

Closing statements let them stretch out a bit. We need to make a sustainable, happy and healthy lifestyle," says Barth. ""I'd appreciate your vote as a vote for sustainability."

"My job is to give Iowa a voice, to fight for what's right," says Loebsack. "It is tough to fight through the gridlock, but we got some things passed into law" citing education and veterans, ad the flood relief tax package. "We know there's much more to do." Applause from the left side of room (the physical is the political, with Dems on the left side of the room. There don't seem to be a lot of uncommitted folks here, though White gets some applause from both sides of the room.)

"We don't have advocates who are there fighting for us," says MMM. "Do they follow through on their campaign commitments." "If you've only been in one place you have a very limited viewpoint. I look through a different prism." Applause on the right of the room.

White: "Congressman Loebsack started his re-election campaign right away and raised $400,000 from interest groups in three months. We need to change the system, and the only way we do that is get the parties out. I don't want to be a politician -- I want to see our politics change."

The moderator thanks everyone for watching the timekeeper. But that was the real limiting factor here. Handshakes all around.

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