Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 Primary Election, 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 Brendan Schultz, Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District, which covers rural Oahu and the neighbor islands. The other Democratic candidates are Jill Tokuda, Kyle Yoshida, Steven Sparks, Patrick Branco and Nicole Gi.
United by Love, executive director; IsraAID, operations coordinator; Project Hope, English teacher; Humanity in Action, fellow, Miracle Corners of the World, fellow; Hansen Leadership Institute, fellow; Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study Alumni Association, board; Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, young entrepreneur mentor; University of Botswana, researcher; Kathryn Davis Fellows for Peace, fellow.
1. What is the biggest issue facing Hawaii, and what would you do about it?
The most significant challenge facing our islands and nation is a lack of access to health care. Whether it be a lack of doctors in rural Hawaii or an inability of low-income individuals to afford care, the multitude of issues with health care in Hawaii and our nation find their roots in the fundamental for-profit nature of our current health care system.
Each year, 68,000 preventable deaths take place in our nation because of our private health insurance system, and 500,000 Americans are bankrupted due to medical bills. The solution to our health dystopia is to adopt a public health care system similar to every other country in the developed world, particularly to expand the Medicare system to cover every person in the United States through Medicare for All.
2. What can the U.S. Congress do about mass shootings in America? Would you support banning military-style assault weapons and establishing universal background checks? What other measures would you propose to reduce gun violence?
The United States is long past the time for common-sense gun reform, which, at a minimum, must include universal background checks, allowing the Centers for Disease Control to conduct research on gun violence, and allowing law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from individuals in crisis.
These three policies are supported by the vast majority of the country and are the first three that I will be advocating for as a U.S. representative.
3. The Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the questions of whether the 2020 election was stolen have shown how seriously divided the nation is. Some say democracy itself is in trouble. How would you work to end the political polarization that divides both the Congress and the country?
We end radical political polarization in the United States by having a Democratic Party that truly represents working people. The Democratic Party has departed from its roots as the party of the working class to become a group that has sold itself to corporate special interests.
History has shown that when people cannot effectively voice their grievances and enact change peacefully in the voting booth, they are likely to adopt extreme ideologies and use violence to call for change. The Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and the rise of political polarization in our nation are examples of this historical pattern.
The way to end political polarization is to legislate in a manner that improves people’s lives. We need leaders to show that politics is a place for progress and not pointless, melodramatic arguing. The vast majority of U.S. citizens support the policies that our campaign is founded upon, policies such as Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and ending foreign wars.
To defeat radical ideologies, we must provide people with progressive policies that pave the way for a better future, as the policies of our campaign do.
4. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while currently financially sound, risk future funding concerns because of changing demographics. What would you propose to shore up the country’s major safety net programs?
The Social Security trust funds are scheduled to go bankrupt sometime in the 2030s. This forecast is especially concerning as Social Security is the central pillar that holds up the working class.
Fortunately, the United States is the wealthiest country in the world, and there is an abundance of wealth to support the Social Security system. The working people of the United States have bailed out Wall Street and the wealthy numerous times in recent years. Now it is time for Wall Street and the wealthy to support the working people of the United States and ensure the preservation of the middle class.
Our campaign proposes the “Patriot Tax,” which is a wealth tax on the top 0.1% of households – families with more than $40 million in assets – to replenish the Social Security trust funds. The “patriot tax” would raise approximately $4.35 trillion over the next decade. Additionally, we will work to diversify the funds; assets to include stocks, real estate and private equity, which will increase the return on the fund’s investments.
5. What is your position on the Senate filibuster?
While I am running for a seat in the House of Representatives and will not have a formal vote to abolish the filibuster, I support abolishing the filibuster.
6. Is the U.S. on the right path when it comes to mitigating climate change and growing renewable energy production? What specific things should Congress be considering?
Climate change is an existential threat to Hawaii, and the federal government is not doing nearly enough to mitigate its impact. A great threat like climate change demands a national mobilization akin to a world war.
Considering the catastrophic potential of climate change, I am an ardent supporter of the Green New Deal and will work to pass its policy proposals in Congress. Among these policy proposals are investing $5.35 trillion into clean energy and public transportation over the next 10 years, transitioning to 100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030, creating a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, and passing the National Climate Adaptation and Resilience Strategy Act, which would provide a streamlined federal government response to climate emergencies in coastal communities and fund climate mitigation efforts.
7. The Jones Act requires that domestic freight transport on U.S. waterways be conducted by crews that are at least three-fourths American, and on vessels built in U.S. shipyards, and that are American-owned. What is your position on this law and its effects on Hawaii? Does it need to be amended or repealed?
Proponents of the Jones Act argue that the law ensures national security and reliable shipping to Hawaii by ensuring that the United States has an experienced merchant marine and developed maritime industry. Opponents argue that the Jones Act greatly increases the cost of shipping to Hawaii, with some studies claiming that the law costs the average family in our state $1,800 a year.
Regardless of the merits of arguments in support of the Jones Act, the federal government, not the people of Hawaii, should hold the burden of paying for the increased costs of shipping to Hawaii that result from the law. Thus, as your representative, I will work to amend the Jones Act to have federal grants subsidize shipping to Hawaii so that the cost of shipping to our state is what the cost would be without the implementation of the Jones Act.
8. The Biden administration says China is the greatest long-term threat to the U.S. and has been trying to expand its influence, especially in the Pacific. What can the U.S. do to build better relations with the Asia-Pacific region?
The greatest threat to the United States is climate change, not China. Our nation needs to stop instigating conflicts with other nuclear-armed superpowers and transition to a diplomacy-first foreign policy.
Nevertheless, the United States could do a lot to ensure positive diplomatic relations and strong partnerships with the Asia-Pacific region. One catches more flies with honey than one does with vinegar and the same principle applies to foreign policy. I support a dramatic increase in U.S. State Department funding for public diplomacy programs and development activities throughout the world, including in the Asia-Pacific region.
9. The Red Hill fuel crisis illustrated not only how critical the military’s role is in Hawaii but also the serious problems it sometimes causes. It is also a central component of the local economy. What would you do to ensure the military behaves responsibly in the islands?
The Red Hill environmental crisis follows a long pattern of the federal government abusing the people of Hawaii. In addition to Red Hill, the military has caused environmental catastrophes on Kahoolawe, in the Makua Valley and at the Pohakuloa Training Area.
Hawaii needs a congressional delegation that is willing to put the people and environment of our state ahead of the military-industrial complex. As your representative, I will end the expiring leases with the US military and pass legislation to limit what activities the military is able to conduct in Hawaii, including prohibiting live-fire training and environmental dumping. While I would restrict the military from engaging in environmentally damaging activities on our islands, I would not decrease the military troop count in Hawaii, which would ensure no negative impact on our local economy.
The reason why the Red Hill crisis was possible was because of inaction by our elected leadership. Our elected officials have a responsibility to take a stand against the military-industrial complex and other special interests who seek to exploit Hawaii and its people, and, as your representative, I will use my power to ensure that our elected leadership is reminded of such responsibility.
10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.
If I could only pass one of the sixty-some policies that this campaign is proposing, I would pass Medicare for All. In addition to the obvious impact of ensuring that every person in Hawaii has access to health care despite their economic class, Medicare for All would help reduce crime, drug use, violence and houselessness by addressing one of the root causes of these social ills.
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