Ask Anything: 10 questions with District 2 congressional candidates
Posted October 21, 2008
Updated October 28, 2008
Editor's Note: Libertarian Will Adkins, incumbent Democrat Bob Etheridge and Republican Dan Mansell are running for North Carolina's 2nd District seat in Congress seat. The winner will represent Chatham, Cumberland, Franklin, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Nash, Sampson, Vance and Wake counties.
What type of laws will you push to pass to toughen up on small businesses that employ illegal immigrants? – Damian Gibbs, Raleigh
WILL ADKINS: Unfortunately, the issue isn’t a matter of simply passing more laws; it is an issue of enforcing those laws already in place. I support financial penalties for those companies that knowingly, or through willful negligence, hire illegal aliens. Subsequent offenses would face harsher fines to the point that it will not be financially advantageous to hire illegals. Those that intentionally hire illegal aliens would risk having their recognition as corporations revoked.
At the same time, small business must not be saddled with overwhelming processes for verifying employment status and there must be a sufficient number of qualified workers to get their work done. By removing the incentives for illegals to enter our country, we can address the issue. This includes penalties on sanctuary cities, corporations harboring illegal employees, and those that administer entitlement programs.
We must encourage lawful immigration at a pace that can be absorbed by our infrastructure – our schools, highways, and hospitals. Those that follow the lawful process should be rewarded with citizenship. Those that ignore our sovereignty to participate in taxpayer-funded entitlement program should not.
BOB ETHERIDGE: I think everyone can agree that the current system is broken. We need to improve the tools that allow employers to verify the status of their workers. Most critically, for our national security, we need to enforce the law on our border.
I serve on the Homeland Security Committee and I supported $39.98 billion in funding to protect our borders, to hire an additional 2,200 border patrol agents, create detention space for an additional 1,400 illegal aliens, and hire an additional 1,273 Customs and Border Protection Officers as well as the continued construction and improvements to our nation’s border security infrastructure.
There are now nearly 14,000 officers patrolling our borders, 50 percent more than there were five years ago. We also need to find a creative solution so that those immigrants who are working hard to provide for their families, making a positive contribution to our society and staying out of trouble can come out of the shadows and follow U.S. law.
DAN MANSELL: I believe that all business big or small should be fined heavily for employing immigrants. But first, the government should build a system that with a phone call or computer check owners could verify that the person applying for the job is here legally and in that system if the name and Social Security Number does not match, a red flag should go up and a follow-up by Immigration Officials needs to be performed to make sure that person was not hired.
Congress continues to add riders to bills that end up costing the taxpayers money we don’t have. Why can’t Congress require that each bill is voted on separately – no options for riders – so that unnecessary spending can be curbed? – Teresa Cryer, Raleigh
WILL ADKINS: Teresa, there are a number of proposals that have tried to address this very issue but these have been ignored by our Democrat-led Congress.
The Read The Bills Act would require each representative to declare, under penalty of perjury, that they have read completely any bill to be voted upon; this will force legislators to write smaller bills in order to ensure they are read and slow down the approval process as well as associated spending.
When it comes to writing laws, others have proposed limiting them to one topic per bill. There has also been a movement to define laws in detail so as to leave little room for misrepresentation by the executive and judicial branches.
I support these initiatives to reform our legislative process. I am also in favor of an amendment that would grant the president line-item veto, similar to that available to many state governors, to strike down unnecessary spending in those bills sent to him for approval.
BOB ETHERIDGE: Having spent nearly two decades as a North Carolina small businessman, I know firsthand the challenge of creating a product, balancing the company’s books, meeting the payroll and hopefully turning a profit.
For many years, I have been concerned about the complete lack of budget discipline in the federal government. No business in North Carolina could get away with financing wasteful consumption through reckless borrowing from foreign interests and the federal government should no either.
The greatest accomplishment of this new Congress is enacting pay-as-you-go budget discipline for the first time in twelve years, requiring the government to be responsible for taxpayer money.
I have fought for budget discipline through my career, voted to pass the first balanced budget in a generation and have worked to put the federal government back on the path to fiscal discipline.
DAN MANSELL: I could not agree with you more. It's just amazing that Congress can not vote on a Bill without being bribe or bought for their votes. If elected to Congress, I will try to sponsor legislation that will require that a bill be voted on in it's original form of the Bill and no outriders.
As stated by most people running for office this year, "Education is the key to improving our economy.” That being said, what do you plan to propose and/or support in the areas of skill training, where most of the jobs in our state are and will be in the future? – David Barbour, Smithfield
WILL ADKINS: I would encourage partnerships with the private sector to encourage the training of employees in marketable, needed skills. Further, I would encourage adults to take responsibility for their own career development while providing them with an environment to do so.
In support of this, I endorse the FairTax plan that recognizes education as an investment in our future; for this reason, educational expenses would be tax-exempt and would result in a 20 percent decrease in costs once embedded costs are factored in.
Under the current system, we all perpetually pay for the training of others in the form of taxes – even those that do not desire to work; we must shift this burden from the taxpayer to the individual, employers, and charities. This move will allow us to cut taxes and give individuals more funds for training and place them in control of their futures. And, once any student loans are paid for, the individual is truly done paying.
BOB ETHERIDGE: American workers are among the most productive in the world. We must maintain that status by enabling people to get the education they need to compete and supporting the development of small business across the country.
As the former North Carolina schools chief, I support lifelong learning opportunities, and have worked in Congress this session to pass efforts to make education more affordable at any stage in life. I also support Trade Adjustment Assistance to help retrain those workers whose jobs have been moved overseas.
I will continue to support Trade Adjustment Assistance for workers in industries threatened by overseas competition. These benefits are an important tool for retraining workers in other fields so that they may rejoin the workforce, as well as helping them support themselves in the interim.
I have been a supporter of Job Corps for many years. The Job Corps Program is vital to the well-being of the citizens of North Carolina. By providing job training and practical education to individuals, these programs help people to improve their lives and enable them to become productive working members of their community through knowledge, hard-work and self-sufficiency.
The Job Corps success stories I have heard reinforce my belief that public training programs like these are vital to the future of both our state and our nation. I am proud that one of the Job Corps training centers is located in my congressional district in Kittrell, North Carolina.
DAN MANSELL: Unfortunately this is more of states issue than a federal government. But saying this, I've always been a big supporter of our community colleges and tech schools (ie Skill Centers) to teach and promote the skill trades. As we all know not every young person is meant or has the desire to go to a 4-year college. By prompting and teaching the skilled trades (ie electrical, plumbing, carpentry, etc) we can regain the tradition of having craftsmen in this country.
The national average price of gas is much lower than the state of North Carolina's average price of gas. Lee County is a good example of this. What do you plan to do about this issue? – Brad DeRosby, Cameron
WILL ADKINS: The democrats have proposed raising fuel taxes on consumers and oil companies as a way of mandating conservation. While this approach won’t lower the cost of gas, it may result in you buying and spending less overall. This is not the solution to our energy crisis.
We need to tackle this issue on a few different fronts. Between ANWR, the Bakken Formation, and reserves off our coast, we can greatly and responsibly increase the supply of gas and oil available to North Carolinians without increased reliance on the Middle East. But, that’s only part of the solution.
North Carolina was impacted by pipeline limitations when hurricanes threatened the gulf coast; oil was not able to be shipped here in a timely fashion. For this reason, I support expediting the process to build new refineries. We’ve not built a new refinery in the United States since 1976 and current systems operate at nearly 100 percent capacity.
When a refinery or part of the pipelines go offline, we are all negatively impacted. By clearing these hurdles, new refineries may be built – potentially in N.C. – bringing in new jobs, refining capacity, greater energy independence, and a source of fuel supplies when the gulf pipelines are unavailable.
We also need to encourage private-sector investment in new energy-producing technologies such as nuclear, clean-coal, and solar. By shifting to these power sources, the demand for gas will decrease as will the costs. To reduce fuel costs, we must pursue all options – simply inflating our tires won’t get the job done.
Government also mandates different fuel mixes for different areas even in the same state. So, while a lower-cost mix may be available in one county, it may not be available in an adjacent one. Many of our energy problems are induced by the government itself – it has limited oil production, refinery capacity, deterred investments, taxed consumers, and imposed regulations that drive up costs dramatically. We need to partner with private enterprise to find solutions rather than impose barriers.
BOB ETHERIDGE: North Carolina families should not be forced to suffer at the pump while greedy individuals seek to make a quick buck. That’s why I called for a federal investigation into possible gas price gouging and market manipulation in North Carolina and other states in the wake of the recent hurricanes. I strongly support H.R. 6346, The Federal Energy Prevention Price Gouging Act that would create a federal energy price-gouging law giving the FTC explicit authority to investigate price gouging and setting stiff criminal and civil penalties for price gouging.
North Carolinians are struggling to make ends meet as gas prices continue to sky rocket. Developing alternative energy and reducing our dependence on foreign oil is one the most critical challenges facing our country. I wrote legislation to crackdown on oil market manipulation and reduce gas prices which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 283-133 on Sept. 18, 2008. I also voted to increase domestic drilling, invest in renewable energy sources and new efficiency technology, and end giveaways to big oil companies.
We should put American know-how to work, strengthening our economy and creating good-paying jobs here at home instead of sending $700 billion each year to the Middle East. We should use the resources of rural America to grow energy right here at home and strengthen our communities.
DAN MANSELL: Unfortunately, the higher percentage of the price of gas is taxes leveled at the state level. I do support the suspension of the federal gas tax for at least one year or until our economy turns around.
What are you thoughts on our state’s declining nursing home situation? Do you see any future reform to help protect our elderly population in these facilities? – Joan Maddox, Siler City
WILL ADKINS: The U.S. Constitution does not grant a member of the U.S. House of Representatives jurisdiction over nursing home situations. This is a matter for the states and reform should be encouraged.
However, the federal government has made an obligation to its elderly population in regards to Veterans Affairs and Social Security; we can take steps to ensure the government lives up to its obligations financially so the elderly can better manage their situation. With Social Security nearing bankruptcy as a result of congressional looting, these can be uncertain times for our elderly.
It is a little-known fact that one-third of the land in the United States is owned by the federal government; also, there are trillions of dollars in assets held by the federal government that are not essential to performing its Constitutional duties.
I propose selling off most of these assets or returning them to the states. The proceeds would be used to safeguard social security for our seniors and to return Social Security contributions made by the young so that they may invest in private retirement plans out of the reach of Congressional looters.
Any balance would be used to pay down the national debt and stimulate the economy. So, while the federal government cannot play a direct role in nursing home reform, it can contribute to the well-being of our seniors residing there.
BOB ETHERIDGE: Problems in nursing homes are not unique to our state. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 94 percent of nursing homes were cited last year for federal health and safety standards.
Although there are good people working in many of our nursing homes, they are often overworked and underpaid. Medicare and Medicaid pay for more than 70 percent of nursing home beds nationwide, but often do not pay enough to cover the cost of care. At the same time, we have a nationwide nursing shortage.
I have worked to reform this system in Congress, supporting increases in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for skilled nursing facilities and supporting quality nursing education initiatives. I have also supported alternatives to nursing homes for long-term care, including home and community alternatives that improve options, quality, and competition.
DAN MANSELL: This is a state issue and regulated by the state and the federal government does not have oversight. But personally I think that anybody that abuses our elderly in these facilities needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Many companies offer Flexible Spending accounts for Dependent Care that enables the participant to put aside tax free dollars to cover expected expenses for dependent care. Currently, the IRS sees the maximum limit to this type of account at $5,000 per year per family. This does not even begin to cover the average cost of quality child care for an average family for even one child. Would you consider introducing legislation to increase this amount to something at least near the average cost of child care for the average family? – Cindy Register, Selma
WILL ADKINS: I support a plan that allows families to save any amount of money they desire using tax-free money; this would only be taxed once the money is spent – on healthcare, insurance, or any other service / retail purchase. It is effectively an IRA without conditions on expenditures or penalties for early withdrawal.
This will allow families to save money faster and benefit from accrued interest. Further, by removing embedded taxation, it is projected that overall healthcare costs can be decreased by 10-15 percent. But, more significantly, I oppose the regulatory burdens imposed by the current administration that drive up health costs dramatically.
Health care decisions should be left between a patient and his or her care provider rather than bureaucrats. Ambulance-chasing attorneys are driving doctors out of business with frivolous lawsuits; regular citizens are forced to pay for those damages in the form of higher healthcare costs. Tort reform is needed.
The federal government offers healthcare to illegal aliens as an entitlement program; many use emergency rooms as their primary care providers and allow others to pick up the tab. Unnecessary regulations and government intervention cause medical costs to skyrocket. We must tackle the costs associated with healthcare as well as tax implications.
BOB ETHERIDGE: The need for quality child care is a daily concern for millions of American working parents. Parents should be able to go to work each day, knowing that their children, our nation’s most valuable resource, are in good hands.
As you know, child care helps to shape the way children learn, think, and behave for the rest of their lives, but all too often too little attention is paid to the quality of these experiences. I share your support for increased investment in child care.
As the former North Carolina Superintendent of public schools, I know firsthand how important it is that we invest in our nation’s children. You may be pleased to learn that legislation was introduced in this Congress to increase the exclusion for employer-provided dependent care assistance to $7,500.
DAN MANSELL: It only makes sense that we do everything in our power to help families in these situations. I believe there should be no cap on tax deductions on health care accounts. By taking the limits off the accounts we encourage people to save more for their health care and not punish for trying to accomplish something that the federal government can not.
I want to know how you feel about raising taxes. And how do you plan to keep government costs down so that taxes might not have to be raised? – Chris, Clayton
WILL ADKINS: Chris, I’ve taken the strongest stance on this position among the candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives in our district. The two major parties are focused how much to grow government while I’m focused on reducing the size and scope of the federal government.
By slashing programs and expenditures not authorized by the U.S. Constitution, we can leave more money in the hands of those who earned it. An example includes the Department of Education; this program takes money from N.C. taxpayers, gives the bureaucracy in Washington D.C. a cut, and then returns less than we contributed bundled with unfunded mandates.
We’ve been throwing more money at government-run educational programs with diminishing results; by eliminating this department, we may return billions to the classroom and taxpayers. I also propose returning the management of our educational system to state and local governments to achieve greater accountability and parental involvement.
I further recognize that parents have the right and responsibility to nurture, educate, and discipline their children; I oppose the assumption of these responsibilities by any governmental agency without the express delegation of the parents or legal due process of law. Recognizing that the education of children is inextricably linked to moral values, I would return authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government.
In particular, parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children's education. This may be accomplished through the use of vouchers or tax credits that may be used at a faith-based, public, or private institution based on the needs of the student. This will stimulate competition and reduce costs. By giving citizens more choice, we can reduce entire levels of bureaucracy designed to make those decisions for us.
Beyond cutting unconstitutional government programs, I support the FairTax which will ensure all consumers pay their fair share of taxes while eliminating taxes on the working poor. This will grant greater transparency into what is actually paid in taxes and give taxpayers more control over taxes paid based upon their spending habits. The next step would be to reduce tax rates and force the government to work with a balanced budget.
Lastly, I aggressively oppose earmark spending supported by the Democrat incumbent. When officials support bridges to nowhere and expensive teapot museums with taxpayer funds, it’s the taxpayer that suffers.
BOB ETHERIDGE: From record energy prices and record foreclosures to the record job losses, working families are struggling. We must refocus our economic policies to benefit the working families that own our small businesses and farms, and drive our economy. I am committed to seeing our tax policy reward working families and support middle class tax cuts to put money back in the hands of American consumers.
I support tax relief for American families. I voted to provide relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax for 33,083 hard-working families from North Carolina’s Second Congressional District. I voted to expand the child tax credit to those earning $8,500 a year in 2009, and to help over 4 million families better afford college by providing a tuition deduction. Congress has passed a tax deduction for more than 3 million teachers when they pay for classroom supplies and expenses, and $400 million for Quality Zone Academy Bonds to help states and localities address school construction and renovation needs.
I supported tax breaks and incentives for small businesses, like a two year extension of the 15-year straight-line cost recovery for leasehold improvements, and tax credit s for qualified restaurant improvements. And to spur American innovation and business investment and bring jobs to North Carolina, I supported a bill to extend the R&D Tax Credit for two years.
In order to keep taxes down, we must adhere to pay-as-you-go budget discipline.
DAN MANSELL: I've always felt that the current tax structure has always been a hindrance to the American worker. We continue to punish people for working hard and making a better life for themselves. I've been an avid supporter of the Fair Tax Plan since 1999 and if elected to Congress I will work endlessly to see this become law. I also believe that the President should be granted the power of line-item-veto. By doing so, this would help cut wasteful spending.
Why do we not have a national language? Why do we have to push 1 for English? We made the Indians learn English. – Kathy Woodell, Angier
WILL ADKINS: I support establishing English as the official language of the United States and eliminating the costs associated with multi-lingual ballots and government forms, interpreters, and multi-lingual phone systems. However, this would apply only to those interacting with government; while it would include an English requirement for any contract to be upheld by the judicial system, it would not preempt businesses from conducting business in a foreign language.
BOB ETHERIDGE: I understand your concerns about the importance of the English language in the United States. As the former Superintendent of North Carolina’s public schools, I agree that we should promote proficiency in the English language.
DAN MANSELL: It is amazing that a nation founded in the English language does not have a English as it's official language. It is because a certain segment of our population feels that if we make it the official language we will offend some people in our Country. They put feeling good about oneself above common sense. Its amazing that the official language in international aviation, banking, and business is English. Until we make English our official language it will be hard for immigrant, legal or illegal to assimilate into society.
I hear middle class all the time, it seems anyone below middle class is forgotten now. If elected, what would you do to help people who are disabled or retired and lived on a fixed income? – Mason Barbour, Smithfield
WILL ADKINS: There is a myth that the working poor don’t pay taxes. That’s exactly what it is – a myth. While they may be exempt from income taxes, they do pay payroll taxes (15 percent) and sales tax.
I support a tax plan that would exempt those in poverty from both federal payroll and income taxes. The FairTax has a growing number of supporters because of the "fairness" and simplicity of the plan. For spending above the poverty level, this plan will allow us to have greater over our taxes based upon our spending habits. Used items, such as a used car or an existing home, would not be taxed at all. It would only be when a buyer opts to purchase a new item that taxes would be imposed.
As addressed above, I also have an innovative plan for securing Social Security and living up to our obligation to our seniors who are often living on a fixed income. We must look at all income levels in our society when planning for the well-being of our nation.
BOB ETHERIDGE: I understand the challenge of living on a fixed income, particularly in these difficult economic times. When Congress passed Economic Recovery legislation earlier this year, I fought to make sure that Social Security beneficiaries receive a tax rebate check just like other Americans. I have also worked to improve Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to make sure we fulfill our promise to our nation’s retired individuals and those in need.
We need to make sure Medicare and Medicaid remain affordable options for the elderly and disabled, and that doctors are financially able to participate. As your Congressman, I voted to allow Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to bring down the price of medicine, and made sure that doctors were not hit with a debilitating cut in the reimbursements they receive from Medicaid. We also need to make sure that Social Security, a legacy of trust between America and its seniors for generations, remains available into our retirees’ golden years. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure the solvency of Social Security and improve the benefits that have been eroded by inflation.
At the same time, many economic challenges are faced by all Americans, including the high cost of health care, food and energy. I will continue to work to reform our tax policy to put money back in the hands of all American consumers. As a member of the House Agricultural Committee, I will support responsible agricultural policy, including nutrition initiatives and food stamps. And I will continue my support of efforts that put American know-how to work to develop alternative energy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil to benefit all Americans.
DAN MANSELL: By reforming the tax code to the Fair Tax Plan and eliminating all taxes on SS, disability, and capital gains this will put more money into the pockets of the people that need it the most and not into the pockets of pork-barrel, special interest, ear-mark loving congress.
First of all, I’m serious. There is much ado about the UFO phenomenon. In my mind, we are being visited and some in government know. What should be done to get to the bottom of this? Thank you. – Bill Boyd, Cary
WILL ADKINS: With initiatives such as the Patriot Act, the federal government is increasingly infringing upon our right to privacy. I support a restoration of our right to individual privacy while acting as a champion for transparency in government. Other than those documents directly impacting national security, I support the release of significant government documents to the public; further, this should be done in such a fashion that they are accessible to the public in digitized fashion over the Internet. The results of these studies are tax-payer funded and owned; it’s only proper to share these documents with their owners.
BOB ETHERIDGE: (Mr. Etheridge declined to answer the question.)
DAN MANSELL: I have no ideas on this subject for I do not believe in UFOs or until I see one or see undisputable proof of one, I can not talk intelligently about this.
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