Civil Beat focuses on issues, not events. When it comes to politics, that means we want to make sure we ask the candidates about their positions on key issues.
1) Would you support extending the Bush tax cuts? If so, why? If not, what should be done with the tax cuts and why?
I support President Obama’s position, which would allow the Bush Tax cuts to expire as scheduled for those in the top two to three percent of income—individuals and couples earning more than $200,000 and $250,000, respectively—and maintaining tax rates for the middle class.
While Republicans have suggested that tax cuts have no effect on the deficit, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says otherwise. According to the CBO, tax cuts have been a primary contributor to increases in the deficit. U.S. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor recently admitted, “If you have less revenues coming into the federal government and more expenditures, what does that add up to? Certainly, you’re going to dig the hole deeper.”
The CBO also found that extending tax cuts for the wealthy would also have the least stimulative effect on the nation’s economy, so maintaining the tax cuts is also untenable as a long-term strategy for economic recovery.
At the same time, maintaining lower tax rates for the middle class would do more to stiimulate the economy; as Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman points out, those families and individuals would be more likely to spend the extra income and generate aditional economic activity.
2) Should American citizens suspected of terrorism and arrested on foreign soil be held without trial? Should the government use drones for targeted killings away from the battlefield? Is waterboarding torture? Why or why not?
Waterboarding is torture. Senator John McCain — a former Vietnam prisoner of war who has first-hand knowledge of what constitutes torture — and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder agree on that point. There is also wide agreement that torture does not serve our intelligence-gathering goals; the information our forces gather under torture is simply not reliable. We need to end that debate now and commit ourselves to acting on the world stage in way that preserves our nation’s dignity, credibility and moral capital.
American citizens suspected of terrorism — or any criminal charge (drug smuggling, for example) — who are arrested on foreign soil are under the control of the government that arrests them. If they are extradited to the United States, they are entitled to all of the rights conferred by the constitution and the laws of the United States, including indictment and trial. This is a matter where civil rights trump our fears, and where our courage to act morally tests whether as are who we say we are.
Whether or not the government uses drones away from the battlefield is dependent on the rules of engagement. The use of the word “battlefield” indicates that we are at war, and there is an underlying assumption that there is a reason for the war, a defined scope of the war, and authorization defining the war from Congress.
3) Should the U.S. ban deep-sea offshore drilling?
At this time, I favor a complete moratorium on further offshore drilling. The months-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has again illustrated the risk we take in continuing to feed our reliance on oil to fulfill our energy needs. This should reinforce our nation’s call to reevaluate our policies and recommit to clean, renewable and alternative forms of energy.
Our nation’s transition to renewable energy sources will take time, but we can encourage development by proving our commitment with action.
A national commitment to developing and deploying alternative energy sources could also pay dividends in Hawaii. We are the most petroleum-dependent state in the union, with our electricity and inter- and intrastate transportation fueled by oil. However, we also possess most of the natural resources necessary to produce alternative energy: winds, wave action, geothermal, and abundant sunshine. A focus on developing renewable energy technologies could bring green jobs and research funds to our state, while also reducing energy costs.
4) Would you support the U.S. extending its mission in either Afghanistan or Iraq? Should the U.S. consider a preemptive strike against Iran?
While I am and always have been against the war in Iraq, I support the President’s efforts in Afghanistan with the understanding that we have a strategy that has the faith of both civilian authorities and the Pentagon, and that we have an established date for commencing troop withdrawals.
Our handling of our diplomatic and military posture toward Iran must draw upon the lessons we learned in Iraq. Do we have honest, reliable and actionable intelligence regarding Iran’s actions and intentions? Do our diplomatic relations continue to show promise for effectively addressing our security needs? Does our strategy—diplomatic or military—cover the range of likely scenarios from commencement to conclusion of our involvement?
We must also recognize the danger inherent in acting alone in the context of worldwide security. We need to make our bonds with the UN stronger and acknowledge that these kinds of questions not ours alone to answer.
5) Do you support the regulation of the financial industry just signed into law? Why or Why not?
I support the regulation of the financial industry that has just been signed into law. The lack of financial regulation, particularly surrounding hedge funds and derivative instruments, played a direct role in the economic meltdown that endangered our entire financial system. It threatened everyone in the country, particularly those least able to recover on their own.
Financial review and regulation should be an ongoing process. While the financial sector is a vital part of our economy, there will always be some tension between our desire to protect the public interest and the finance industry’s desire to generate greater profits. Our goal should be to constantly monitor and balance those interests. The latest regulatory provisions are a good start.
6) What is the biggest environmental problem facing the country and why? What would you do about it?
The biggest environmental problem facing the country is our failure to embrace alternative forms of energy and end our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil. Our reliance on oil has also come at significant strategic and economic costs.
Recent events in the Gulf of Mexico should reinvigorate the United States’ commitment to clean, renewable forms of alternative energy. Our nation’s need to develop new sources of energy should no longer be a debatable point.
Hawaii shows great promise to lead the push toward renewable energy technologies. We are both highly dependent on fossil fuels and possessed of many of the natural resources necessary to produce alternative energy. I will focus on bringing green jobs and research funds to our state, helping to stimulate and diversify our economy while establishing our position as a world leader in alternative energy development.
7) Do you support a cap and trade approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions or would you favor a carbon tax instead? Or neither?
I support cap and trade because it allows companies to gain rewards for moving toward less-polluting solutions and addressing very serious environmental concerns. It also provides certainty in establishing carbon reduction goals.
The experience with cap systems in Europe and the Northeastern United States has been positive. In contrast, our nation’s experience with tax systems has been complex and often messy. A cap and trade system is more likely to produce meaningful emissions targets with fewer carve-outs or loopholes than a tax system, and can rely on market forces to set appropriate prices for carbon production. By remaining technology-neutral and responsive to the market, I believe the cap and trade approach is more likely to foster innovation in developing new approaches to carbon reduction.
It goes without saying that my support of cap and trade is based upon the latest proposals for implementing this approach to carbon reduction. My final decision would rest on the particulars of the proposal on the table. It is vital that any system, cap and trade or tax, be equitable, transparent and effective in achieving carbon production targets.
8) Do you support the Akaka bill? If so, what would you tell Hawaii residents will happen if it passes? What will it mean to the state? If not, why not?
My support for the Akaka bill is well known. Its passage will begin a process of negotiation for the formal recognition of a representative Native Hawaiian governing entity, and help address long-standing and legitimate claims. The United States will have an opportunity to more fully address the facts surrounding the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. Native Hawaiians will move toward greater self-determination. Federal recognition will also help ensure the preservation of our host culture.
I support the Akaka Bill because it will lead the way to answering many legitimate questions, and will ensure that Native Hawaiians need not fear losing their rights.
9) What is the best thing the last Congress did? Why?
The best thing the last Congress did was to pass healthcare reform. Our national goal of providing affordable, quality healthcare for all Americans and reducing the growth in healthcare spending eluded us for too long. It was a historic victory.
Until now, Hawaii has been unique in having the broadest prepaid healthcare system in the nation. The result has been some of the lowest healthcare costs in the United States. I am confident that Americans across the country will enjoy the same benefits from the current national healthcare law.
What’s the worst thing? Why?
The greatest shortcoming of the last Congress was the failure of bipartisanship. Experience has taught me that passing effective legislation must be a collaborative process, that nobody has a monopoly on good ideas, and that placing partisanship over people leads to a failure of the system that is supposed to represent the people who elected us.
10) Transportation and infrastructure are critical to an island state. How would you work to increase federal support for Hawaii’s roads, airports and harbors?
Hawaii is one state out of fifty, and a small state at that. Having our concerns heard and our needs addressed in Congress will require excellent skills at collaboration and a Congressional delegation that makes the most of every member’s skills. While no delegation should be expected to vote in lock-step on every measure, the delegation’s members should represent our state’s core values and put the interests of the people before individual concerns or party platform.
My experience in the State Senate has taught me the value of collaboration. I have always been known as an independent, but still managed to earn the support of my colleagues and become Senate President. That has involved fostering and preserving an atmosphere of mutual respect, and knowing how to get to the core of a disagreement so that effective negotiation is possible.
A legislator’s skill is reveled in his or her ability to introduce and pass the laws that serve the needs of the people and the state. It doesn’t come from taking a hardened stand and refusing to budge.
Our public works projects have, to date, received good federal support. My first goal would be to maintain the relationships that made those successes possible, earning a reputation for someone who understands the issues, does the work that has to be done, and collaborates on an effective solution to everyone’s concerns.