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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura Counties, CA November 2, 2010 Election
Smart Voter

John Victor Hager
Answers Questions

Candidate for
United States Representative; District 23


The questions were prepared by the League of Women Voters of California and asked of all candidates for this office.
Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).

Questions & Answers

1. In this time of high unemployment, what are the most important steps that should be taken to improve our nationís economy?

In the short term, we need to help small business, which employs almost 50% of the workforce, by rewarding small business investment and expansion, and by making credit more available.

In the short and long term both, we need to correct the deep sense of uncertainty that plagues our economy. People and small businesses are reluctant to take progressive steps because we lack a clear set of policy goals. Setting goals requires both Congress and the President to work together, something that the parties have together prevented for years. Instead of fighting over disagreements, openness to disagreement, and genuine dialogue focused on compromise and consensus is what we sorely need.

One specific, immediate step to reduce uncertainty would be for the Federal Reserve to return to a rule-based process for managing money supply. In recent years, nobody has any certainty about what the Fed will do from one month to the next because the Fed has been making decisions ad hoc instead of by published rules. This is not in the control of Congress, but as a member of Congress I will advocate for a return to rule-based decisions to reduce our uncertainty.

In the long term, we need to take a long, hard look at our education system. We need more investment in education but it must be focused on curriculum and it should include adult workers whose jobs have been replaced. Our educational focus on college and college prep is fine for many students, but not for all. Those not bound for college are given short shrift by today's system. Our public school system needs to prepare all students to be productive members of society.

2. How should federal budget priorities be changed, now and into the future? How will you balance the costs of military action overseas and national security with the costs of domestic needs?

Reducing our debt is a national priority. Now at $13 trillion, both political parties have more than doubled the debt in the last 10 years. We need targeted spending cuts across the board, and that includes cutting military spending.

I am the only candidate who has spoken out against the War in Afghanistan. We need to end that war not just to save lives but because we cannot afford it. And many people don't realize that much of the expense is not for our military but is for private contractors, effectively mercenaries. We have more private contractor personnel in Afghanistan than we do military personnel. We have no clear mission, and no reason to believe that the corrupt Afghanistan government will be improved by our continued presence. Recently, Defense Secretary Gates was quoted as saying we will never leave.

No other candidate in this race has addressed the dollar and human cost of this war, now the longest in our nation's history. I say we need to end this war, and do it safely, now.

Congress needs to appreciate that our funds are not unlimited, and that we cannot serve as the world's police force. We need to spend less on international military excursion and use more of what we have to spend here at home.

3. What, if anything, should be done by the federal government to address our dependence on fossil fuels or spur the use of clean energy?

We need to support alternative energy sources, including efficient solar power, continued research into improving the safe production of nuclear power, and improving mass transit alternatives for commuting and leisure travel. Basic conservation can be given more encouragement, and getting the word out helps. The simple step of replacing incandescent lighting with fluorescent lighting not only conserves energy, I know from personal experience that it significantly reduces electric bills.

Also, improvements in home appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines have cut energy use, and we should reward similar updates of older air conditioning systems both residential and commercial. If people realize that they will save in electricity costs the amount of investment, they will be encouraged to take this step which will help us all.

Reducing our use of fossil fuels will be a continuing challenge for years to come. We will need the best of American ingenuity and informed judgment to succeed.

4. What, if any, changes should be made to current federal policies or programs that promote or provide health coverage for Americans?

The health care legislation benefited a few and had some salutary goals. I agree that health care should be available to all, and that people with pre-existing conditions should not be denied coverage. But several major problems with the legislation need attention.

First, the law and the regulations still to be written are incredibly complex. Complexity favors the powerful who can afford lawyers and accountants to interpret and find loopholes. Simplicity should be given priority in our laws.

Also, the legislation reduces Medicare payments by $500 billion while increasing Medicaid (here, Medi-Cal) by a similar amount. This puts the burden of increased Medi-Cal benefits entirely on seniors. Also, by reducing what Medicare pays, the law poses the risk that providers will stop offering services that lose them money. Already, providers receive less than their cost from federal government payors like Medicare. Providers then make up that loss by overcharging insurers and private citizens (they call it "cost shifting"). Cottage Hospital here in Santa Barbara, a non-profit hospital, last year had a $75 million loss from the government paying less than cost. By reducing Medicare payments further, this shifting may cause a loss of services or higher insurance rates for the rest of us, or both.

I favor a system closer to that used in Germany, where everyone is covered. Health insurers (sickness funds) compete for subscribers by the quality of their service, and are practically non-profit. Employees of the funds receive greater compensation for more subscribers, giving them an incentive to keep subscribers for the long term. Here, health insurers do not expect a long-term relationship with a subscriber and therefore do not pay enough attention to long-term health. Quality, accessible, lifetime care, including preventative care, should be available to all. Paying for it will be the biggest challenge, and we must realize that we as a society may not be able to afford all the care we would like to provide. Compromises will be necessary, and will remain the challenge for our generation.

5. What, if any, changes should be made to federal rules on campaign financing or disclosure of political expenditures?

This is a critical issue for our democracy and for my own candidacy. I realize that the parties are addicted to campaign spending, with amounts escalating even in a depressed economy. To satisfy their habits, the party candidates focus not on the interests of the public but on getting funding for their campaigns. Neither party can voluntarily reduce spending because it will disadvantage itself against the other.

The major problem is that large donors are buying influence with our representatives. Federal elections should be free from finance by wealthy individuals or organizations (PACs). My personal step in this direction has been to limit donations to my campaign to no more than $250 so that no person will have excessive influence, or the appearance of influence, on my voting. I do not accept donations from any organization or PAC. I receive no party money of any kind because I am an independent.

I support legislation, and if necessary a Constitutional amendment, to reduce the influence of money on campaigns. Government-financed campaigns, or non-partisan finance (where organizations can donate but their donations are shared, as some restaurants do with tips), coupled with spending limits, is necessary to reduce the influence peddling that infects Congress with earmarks and pork. A bill already before Congress but sitting quietly in committee is the Fair Elections Now Act. That is not a perfect solution, but it would certainly reduce the corrupting effect of large campaign donations.

And don't overlook the biggest benefit of campaign finance reform: representatives who don't have to spend their time seeking campaign funds will have more time to do the work we elect them to do.

Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League.  Candidates' responses are not edited or corrected by the League. No candidate may refer to another candidate in the response.

Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).

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Created from information supplied by the candidate: October 14, 2010 10:54
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