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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 11 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.
The following came from Sam Puletasi, a Democratic candidate for the 1st Congressional District, which covers urban Oahu. There are six other Democratic candidates, including Doug Chin, Beth Fukumoto, Kaniela Ing, Ernie Martin, Donna Mercado Kim and Ed Case.
1. What would be your first priority if elected? How would that change if your party is in the majority? The minority?
There are many issues that need to be addressed regardless of which party is in the majority. I will work to reinstate DACA and restore protection for those who were brought to our country as children and know no other country as home but the United States. I will work to provide funding for affordable housing and mental health services and programs to try and alleviate the homeless problem we face here in Hawaii.
I will support gun control to protect our children and hopefully to minimize the tens of thousands of gun-related deaths that occur every year. I will fight to reinstate net neutrality, tougher regulations on Wall Street and the protections for our ocean resources now threatened by deregulation and offshore drilling. I will also vigorously fight to overturn the Citizens United decision that ushered in a new age of plutocracy.
2. Who would you support for Speaker of the House?
I will support anyone who will work to remove the corrupting influence of money in politics. Citizens United needs to be overturned.
3. Under what circumstances should America go to war?
As a last resort and only when there is a clear and present threat to our national security. There should also be an international consensus and an international coalition to address that threat.
4. Should Facebook be regulated by the federal government? How?
Only to the extent that it prevents enemies of the state from interfering in our democracy and propagating false news.
5. What should the United States do to control carbon emissions and slow climate change?
We have to turn to clean energy – wind, solar, geothermal. We need to restore and validate the role of science in education and respect the consensus of scientists that say humans are playing a significant role in climate change. We need to debunk the pseudo-science and pseudo-intellectualism of climate change deniers who serve the interests of the fossil fuel industry.
6. Is it time to reform Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid? How?
These programs need protection and strengthening. “Reform” is the code used by people on the right who want to dismantle and end the programs. Medicare should be expanded to include all Americans. Social Security benefits should be increased and tied to inflation. The contributions of the wealthy should be increased so that they contribute their fair share and not be capped at $2,687 per month as it is today. They end up paying a much lower percentage of their income into the system.
7. Congress has struggled in recent years to reach agreement on budget deficits, the national debt and spending in general. What would be your approach to fiscal matters?
Wars and tax cuts for the rich are the main reasons we have trillions of dollars in debt. We need to reinstate a progressive tax system. Yes, we need to eliminate waste, but we should also eliminate subsidies, tax loopholes, and offshore tax shelters for corporations and the rich. We also need to cut back excessive military spending. We already have the biggest military budget in the world – bigger than the next six countries combined.
8. Whatever happens in the midterm elections, Congress will remain deeply divided. What specifically would you do to help bridge the partisan divide in Washington?
When you have reasonable and crazy, the solution is not to find the middle ground between the two. The Republican Party has gone off the deep end. The legislation and policies of the current Congress and administration are doing tremendous damage to the environment, education, health care, consumer protections, workers’ rights, voting rights, immigrants and the middle class. I will fight this agenda tooth and nail.
9. What should be done to reform U.S. immigration policies, if anything?
We are a nation of immigrants (Native Americans excluded). We must never forget that. The wave of xenophobia, bigotry, and racism ushered in by the current administration should have no role whatsoever in immigration policy. We should protect the borders, but we should also continue to welcome the tired, the poor and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
10. What is your view of the role of the U.S. military in the islands, and would you like to see that role increased or decreased?
It’s obviously a significant part of our local economy and they are welcome, but we also need to try and diversify and become more self-sufficient.
11. What specific reforms, if any, would you seek in gun control policies?
I would support mandatory background checks with a national database. We also need to limit the firepower of weapons sold on the market. Assault rifles are designed for assault. They should be banned. The ongoing carnage of tens of thousands of gun-related deaths per year must stop. There are other nations around the world with reasonable gun laws that experience only a fraction of the violence we see in the United States.
12. What other important issues would you like to discuss here?
I also believe we need to address the problem of homelessness here in Hawaii with programs and grants for affordable housing and mental health services.
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