U.S. House District 4: Sean Bielat on the issues
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Economic Growth and Job Creation
Basic economic theory shows that government spending can, if targeted correctly, provide some positive economic outcomes. Unfortunately, it is beyond the powers of economists to forecast how much spending is too much. Stimulus spending under this administration and Congress has put politics over policy, and the result has been handouts to special interests, inefficient spending, and far too much debt for the American people.
Real economic growth is driven by businesses working to compete and grow in the free market. Government cannot create jobs (aside from government jobs); only business can create jobs and sustainable economic growth. We need policies that enable small businesses to thrive and large businesses to grow and hire more employees. Reducing the burden of corporate income tax rates, employer mandates and unnecessary regulation will create the conditions for businesses and the economy to grow.
Unfortunately, policies are set by politicians and bureaucrats who often have never had to answer to shareholders, never struggled to meet a payroll, and never worked to grow a business. We must revisit the current regulatory burden and reduce it wherever practical. At the same time, we need to return capital to businesses and individuals to spur job creation, innovation, and investment in future growth.
It’s time to elect leaders who bring a business mindset to Washington.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that net interest on the national debt will soon rise to 14% of the total federal budget. That’s just one percentage point less than the entire projected defense budget. This level of debt is unsustainable and is putting our entire nation at risk.
Short-term political decisions over the past few decades have created unsustainable budget obligations that politicians have been unwilling to address. Band-aid solutions, like President Obama’s, won’t work. We need real solutions.
Discretionary spending, including Defense, makes up 40% of the federal budget. We must make cuts to this spending by reducing budgets for non-core agencies, tightening defense procurement processes, reducing headcount across agencies and other cost-saving measures. However, cuts to discretionary spending will only take us so far.
Mandatory entitlement programs, like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as well as interest payments to on the federal debt, make up 60% of the national budget. Cuts in discretionary spending is not enough to eliminate the deficit.
Real deficit reduction can only occur through entitlement reform. Means-based testing, increased age of first benefit and other reforms will be necessary. These changes will be difficult and will require our legislators to put America’s future ahead of their own careers. Real reform will be politically difficult, but the costs of inaction will be devastating.
A Strong National Defense
Ronald Reagan successfully argued that American military might keeps the peace. His “peace through strength” approach reshaped the geo-political landscape for the better.
The period of American military preeminence has seen fewer major conflicts than any other period since the rise of nation-states. U.S. military strength improves global stability. For example, the presence of the U.S. Navy enables commercial shipping, provides quick response to natural disasters -- such as the earthquake in Haiti -- and deters aggression as with China and Taiwan.
A strong national defense and a coherent U.S. security policy are part of the foundation of our success as a nation. We must use our forces wisely and effectively while preparing for future conflicts which may not resemble today’s. The recent Quadrennial Defense Review suggests that the U.S. should move away from its decades-old policy of being prepared to fight two major wars simultaneously. Many people believe that we should focus on non-state actors (i.e., terrorists, jihadists, etc.) rather than nation-states. I believe that we can, and must, do both.
Non-state actors present the nearest and most likely threat, but their capabilities are limited in comparison to those of nations. Maintaining a two-front capability enables us to continue to deter aggression even while involved in conflict. We must keep watch over North Korea and Iran even as we confront acts of Islamic jihadist terror in the homeland and abroad.
Nature abhors a vacuum. Currently, the U.S. military fills a vital geopolitical vacuum. The European Union and Russia are simply unable to do so. On the other hand, China is investing in massive military growth and is predicted by mid-century to have an economy several times the size of our own. Should the U.S. really reduce the deterrent power of its current military capability?
Rather than assuming that tomorrow’s conflicts will look like today’s, we would be wise to continue with the multi-theatre strategy that has served us so well over the past six decades.
The United States has understood, more than any nation in recent history, that with great power comes great responsibility. As the world’s sole military superpower, we must be slow to undertake military action -- and I say this as a Marine. We must only employ our military might when it is clearly in the national interest. Unfortunately, over the past few decades, we have seen several military engagements that did not pass this test.
Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the exclusive right to declare war. Despite major conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the U.S. has not fought in a declared war since World War II. Our founding fathers wisely gave the power to declare war to the representatives of the people; if the people do not believe that a conflict is in their national interest, then it is not. We should adhere to the Constitution and only fight in conflicts that receive a majority vote in Congress through a Declaration of War. The federal government’s chief role is to protect the people, and the process for doing so is clearly articulated in the Constitution.
Finally, some people argue that we should slash defense spending in order to pay for social programs. I reject this view. Deficit reduction demands tough choices, and we can find places to save within the Department of Defense--for example, through better procurement practices and reductions to the defense civilian workforce. However, we must never put social policies or spending goals ahead of national security. Defense is at the core of what governments should provide, and it is dangerous to decide arbitrarily that we need 25% or 30% cuts to our defense spending.
Focus on the Constitution
The United States is a country founded a set of ideas--ideas enshrined in our Constitution. These ideas have held this nation together and made us what we are today. The Constitution provides a framework that clearly describes the authorities and limitations of the federal government. Without maintaining a consistent focus on those limitations, there are no boundaries to government “progressivity”—government will simply continue to expand as each generation uses the federal government to “solve” more problems.
Our public officials and military personnel take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, but too many politicians in DC seem to have forgotten the oath that they took and the responsibilities entailed in that oath. Every time a representative votes, he must ask himself whether the issue at hand is specifically enabled under the Constitution. Far too often the answer is that the Constitution doesn’t permit the legislation in question; instead, the interstate commerce clause is distorted to justify it. Congress must return to using the Constitution as a yardstick for judging law and the proper role of government.
An Intelligent 21st Century Tax Policy
A free and safe society depends on tax revenues. We fund the military, build roads and bridges, equip police forces and educate our children with tax dollars. Taxes support the infrastructure that enables economic growth and a free and safe society. But we must always strive to keep taxes to a minimum, operate an efficient government, and focus on private-sector economic growth to generate revenues that sustain our way of life.
Taxation must be fair, efficient, effective and limited. Increasingly, our government is moving away from these priorities. The current tax code is rife with exceptions, loopholes and complications. It places undue burdens on both individuals and corporations, and it has created an industry of tax attorneys and tax accountants. Ordinary citizens should not have to hire experts to complete mandatory tax forms!
In times of economic uncertainty, politicians often spend their time attacking those at the top. They argue that the very wealthy aren’t paying their “fair share.” They say that if the rich would just pay more in income taxes, everything would be better.
Instead, we should focus on trying to lift those at the bottom—a principal understood by great leaders across party lines like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.
When we try to pay for more by taking more, the people who get squeezed are doctors, lawyers and small business owners—people who provide valuable services that citizens need and want. These individuals were not all born with silver spoons. Many came from nothing, borrowed significantly to get through school or start their own business and are trying to live their version of the American dream. We need a tax code that doesn’t penalize success and also doesn’t punish the working poor. We should never punish hard work!
I favor a tax code where an individual pays no income tax on earnings up to the poverty line and pays only a relatively low flat tax above that level. Others favor a “fair tax”, a type of national sales tax. Both systems have pluses and minuses, and both are vastly superior to the current tax code.
Immigration and Border Security
I believe in an America that protects our citizens’ civil liberties and our borders. The federal government’s negligence on immigration and border security makes everyone less safe and more vulnerable.
Workers deserve the protections granted under law and employers need to rely on a ready workforce to keep their businesses and our economy strong. Thoughtful immigration reform must do the following:
- Secure our borders to seal out terrorists, drug gangs and human traffickers.
- Recognize and address the special burden on border states.
- Welcome documented workers who keep our economy strong and contribute to our social fabric.
- Investigate immigration status only if someone is stopped for other violations; Americans, regardless of their ethnicity, must never feel as though their country does not welcome them.
Representatives who spend decades in Congress become detached from the problems of ordinary people and the challenges of the “real” economy and the business world. They begin to feel entitled to their positions and to believe that they can legislate or regulate a solution to every problem. We need a return to citizen legislators instead of career politicians.
Energy, Environment, and Market-Based Solutions
Development of alternative energy is a must for our national security, long-term economic growth and addressing certain environmental issues. Although untapped energy resources exist and should be explored, there is no reason to delay simultaneous investment in alternative sources of energy.
There are three compelling arguments for pursuing alternative energy in conjunction with tapping existing resources:
1) Geopolitical Ramifications. As long as we remain dependent on energy from foreign sources, we must continue to devote political and military capital to enabling those sources. Expanding our options for energy production will ultimately enhance our national security.
2) Long-term Economic Growth. Energy production is at the heart of all modern economies. As more people globally use more electronic devices, drive more miles and take more flights, inexpensive energy becomes increasingly essential to economic growth. If we don’t begin investing heavily in developing and building renewable energy technology and infrastructure, we risk losing economic leadership in this key area. It would be a major mistake to allow other nations to take the lead in developing this technology—China, India, and Germany are not waiting.
3) Environmental Impact. There are some who believe that there is no scientific evidence of climate change resulting from human activity; there are many who take the other view. If new technologies and innovations create new efficiencies and economic growth, and if there is even a remote possibility of a connection between current environmental changes and human activity—then why wouldn’t we want to pursue these technologies?
When it comes to environmental issues, we should not just argue about whether there is change. Instead, we should engage in the debate about what to do about it. As a conservative, I take the view that the more environmental solutions can be based on free-market principles, the better the outcome. Heavy regulation often comes with heavy costs. Government should not pick winners and losers among competing technologies, but government can play an important role in spurring the development of new technologies, just as it did with the space program .
We are currently operating a 21st-century society on 19th-century fuel. It’s time to start thinking differently. It was a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, who took the lead on conservation more than a century ago.
The right for ordinary citizens to keep and bear arms and protect themselves and their families was enshrined in the Constitution more than two centuries ago. I support this right and I believe that, like all other portions of the Constitution, it is part of the fabric of this nation. I have received a 100% rating from Massachusetts' Gun Owners' Action League.
Cap and Trade
Cap and Trade is yet another massive power grab by this administration; it simply cannot be implemented on the broad scale proposed. Once again, the administration is trying to force through legislation that will restrict our country and our economy for decades to come. And once again, the Congress is working to pass it despite the objections of the majority of Americans.
To protect our air and water, the federal government should continue to incentivize manufacturers to lower emissions through tax credits, offering a carrot instead of a stick to American entrepreneurs and manufacturers willing to invest in new technologies and create new jobs.
Rail Service Expansion
Building transportation infrastructure is properly in the scope of government.
Good transportation offers tremendous economic and social value both to Massachusetts and to the nation. I support federal funding to expand rail service from Boston to Fall River and New Bedford. I believe it will help revitalize those cities, create jobs and encourage economic development.
Real Health Care Solution
The massive health care bill recently signed by the President cannot and will not solve our health care issues.
I embrace solutions that will bring down health care costs, ensure high quality and provide greater access and transparency, including:
- Allowing interstate competition to decrease costs and increase consumer choice
- Increasing price transparency so consumers are aware of the costs associated with different providers and treatment options
- Expanding private-sector minute clinics to serve high numbers of patients at lower costs
- Reducing the impact of malpractice on medical care by bringing down spiraling liability insurance costs for physicians, something that is driving good doctors out of practice
- Making insurance portable for everyone, rather than tying it to one’s employer
- Expanding health care savings accounts so individuals can take more responsibility for managing their own care
- Offering Medicare to those who fall between the cracks; we can provide better access at a lower cost through Medicare than through Obamacare
Relations with Israel
Israel faces unique threats and deserves the support of Western nations that value stable democracy and growing economy in the Middle-East.
I believe that the recent pushback by the Obama administration against Israel is counter-productive and unfortunate, particularly in light of Iran’s nuclear and political ambitions. Israel and the U.S. have been allies for generations. I believe it is in the national and global interest to preserve our ties to Israel while working toward peace and a balanced solution to historic Arab-Israeli conflicts. We must reaffirm our alliance with Israel while simultaneously pursuing Middle East peace.
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