[Update: This post has been edited for grammar and clarity. Additionally, I have added some more introductory matter.]
Rob here, live-blogging tonight's debate between Congressman David Price and Rebpublican challenger BJ Lawson. The debate is co-sponsored by BCR and the Independent Weekly.
A large crowd has turned out for tonight's debate, with a large number of Lawson supporters wearing Lawson for Congress pins. Upon my arrival at ten 'til 6, there were already more than 75 Lawson supporters present and passing out literature and pins. Unfortunately, Durham Station has a capacity of just under 160. At 6:20, DPD called the event at capacity, and no new arrivals were alllowed to enter.
Unfortunately, the demographic present at the debate was not representative of Durham, in that it was overwhelmingly white and over 50 years old. There could be many reasons for this, so I won't attempt to speculate.
The format is 90-second response, 90-second rebuttal, followed by a 30-second rebuttal by the original respondent.
Price- Lifelong resident of the Triangle, and understands what makes the Triangle thrive. Focus on infrastructure investments, education at all levels, and a critique of Lawson's positions.
Lawson- A promise of new ideas for Washington. Focus on health care, restoring trust in government, and job creation through local (not Federal) mechanisms. Claims that problems have been created over the past 20 years, the time Price has been in office.
America spends more per capita than any other nation on healthcare, yet has not had the best healthcare outcomes. How should the nation address gaps in coverage and low quality of care?
Lawson- Wants to change all primary care to cash-based system. Cash will be required up front for all primary care, reducing the cost of un-needed primary care visits. Did not address access to care.
Price- That plan will turn medicine into a gated community. Lawson wants to abolish Medicare and Medicaid, leaving millions of America with health coverage. Price wants to create an open market for healthcare, expanding personal choice.
Lawson- Claims the problem is insurance. Does not want to do away with safety nets. Wants to give debit cards to low-income Americans to serve as a safety net. Claims government health care has too much over-head.
The nation is fixing to enter a second decade of war in Afghanistan. Is the nation on the right track in Afghanistan?
Price- Voted against Iraq because he wanted to keep a focus on Afghanistan. Combat operations in Iraq are done, but Afghanistan needs to see an orderly and responsible close. Agrees with Obama's time table for withdrawal next summer. Price re-iterates that the region must stay safe, but it can be accomplished by co-operation between the US and governments in the region.
Lawson- Afghanistan was an attempt to hunt down and punish Bin Laden. Afghanistan operations should be in the defense of American lives, not a nation-building exercise. Every dollar spent in Afghanistan is borrowed against our future. Anecdote of money paid to Afghan war lords to keep supply lines safe, with this money being used by the war lords to injure American soliders.
Price- Voted to tighten up the exit strategy for Afghanistan. Lots of things do need to be addressed in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but they must be addressed by Afghanistan and Pakistan themselves.
As our nation tries to emerge from economic downturn, what should the government do to encourage job creation and encourage economic growth. Has the stimulus worked?
Lawson- Stimulus has pushed us to insolvency. The economic crisis was created by too much debt. The government should ensure a level playing field, because the financial industry is a monopoly. Price voted to end Glass-steagall. Supports "fair tax".
Price- Although Lawson frets over federal deficit, his proposed policies will increase the debt. In the late 90's, Congress balanced the budget, only to have the Bush administration increase debt by unfunded tax cuts and medicare prescription drug benefits. Things need to be done to get out of the recession, and in the short term they cost money. Price wants to create a good business climate, and continue infrastructure, education, and research spending.
Lawson- Price just argued against spending he has approved over the last 22 years.
More than 70% of the government's farm subsidies go to the 10 largest businesses. Would you support cutting farm subsidies?
Price- Our district has seen the largest increase in farmers in NC over the past decade. Agriculture is an important driver of our economy. Price wishes to decrease subsidies, while keeping support of smaller farmers. This can be done by changing rules on food stamps, for example. Price has supported a farm incubator and done other things to help Triangle farmers.
Lawson- Wants to phase out all agricultural subsidies. Claims that the estate tax is the biggest threat to small farmers. Lawson is a proponent of ending the estate tax. Price voted in favor of Food Safety Modernization Act that regulates small farms just as strictly as large agribusiness.
Price- "Lawson needs to read the bill". The house bill Price voted for had an exemption for small farmers. Tainted food is still a concern in large-scale packing plants.
Projections show that 1 million residents will be added to the Triangle in the next decade. What works in Federal transportation spending and what does not?
Lawson- The triangle only gets 92 cents from every dollar it pays in transportation tax. Decisions about how best to get around should be made locally to meet local needs. He does not want Congress micro-managing transit management. Density is an important consideration, but capitalism and private property rights are the best way to manage transportation.
Price- Translation is in order. Lawson believes that any federal aid to transportation is unconstitutional. Lawson would not have voted for the Eisenhower Interstate System. Transportation funding in NC is not about greasing palms, but instead about critically evaluating all proposals. Supports high speed rail, with trains heading from Raleigh to Charlotte in 2 hours in the near future.
Lawson- Lawson is not who would declare what is constitutional, the Supreme Court would. All government funding is taken from someone else, so the focus should be on how much money should be sent to Washington and how much should stay for local decision making.
Immigration is a new battleground. Should immigration stay as it is, with qoutas, or should it be over-hauled?
Price- Labor markets need to be brought into line with current immigration policy. This will require adjustment of federal policy, and should consider the 11 million current undocumented workers that are working in our market. Not all can be deported, and those here should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they are candidates for naturalization. Immigration laws need to be enforced both at and inside America's borders. As chair of Homeland Security Appropriations Committee, he has voted to increase Border Patrol funding. "You can not enforce your way out of this challenge, you need a comprehensive solution".
Lawson- Agrees that border security is a federal job, and it should be improved. Does not like the idea of 'case-by-case'. Thinks that everyone should be 'treated equally'. America must show respect to the 600,000 that have legally immigrated. 10% unemployment means we need more jobs, not more workers.
Price- Lawson is a good example of what is wrong with politics. Amnesty is a slogan, not a policy. People working and paying taxes in the US should be able to enter the naturalization line at the end of the line and go through the same process as new immigrants.
With entitlements representing 57% of the Federal budget, what should be done to reduce entitlement spending or generate revenue to offset the cost?
Lawson- Medicare and Social Security are the two biggest entitlements. Lawson believes he can improve the safety net while reducing spending. He thinks healthcare is a good candidate for cost cutting. Believes America has been defaulting on Social Security for 20 years. "Social Security is a mathematical Ponzi scheme." The safety net should be conserved, and should be a safety net for those that did not save for retirement. The younger generation should be transitioned out of SS and personally-controlled investment accounts, in lieu of a guaranteed SS payment.
Price- The past 8 years have represented a big fall into debt. In the 90s, the budget was balanced, but politics was less partisan. Both parties must work together, and entitlements should be on the table. But so should appropriated spending and the tax code. Supports the deficit reduction commission. Wants to get back on the path of the 1990s, where several hundred million in debt was paid off. America must stand by the promises it made in Social Security. Treasury bonds are as good as gold.
Lawson- Gold is $1300 an ounce. The Federal Reserve is the 2nd largest holder of treasury bonds. Lawson is unhappy with the task of deficit reduction being given to an unelected committee.
Thoughts on off-shore drilling in the Atlantic
Price- The outer banks are a treacherous region, and no offshore drilling anywhere in the US should occur before we can ensure that drilling is safe. Lawson does not think that the Federal Government has any authority over off-shore drilling. Price thinks that due diligence is needed at both the state and federal level after the Gulf drilling disaster.
Lawson- Price voted for the $75 million oil drilling cap. The NC coast has more natural gas than oil, and natural gas should be utilized as a sustainable energy source.
Price- The liability cap was never enforced, and Price voted to raise the liability cap. BP is responsible, and should pay.
In view of the recent Citizens United decision, what new campaign finance laws are needed?
Lawson- Campaigns should be funded without limits, as long as there is disclosure as to who is funding them. The DISCLOSE act makes it harder for new political groups to compete with groups like the NRA or AARP.
Price- The Supreme Court's decision is atrocious. At the least, the money coming in to campaigns should be tracked. Price authored the "Stand by your Ad" act. He has tried to update it, but the filibuster in the Senate has stopped it. Can not believe that Lawson and his colleagues will not support disclosure. Until the law is changed, disclosure should be improved.
Lawson- The system is already dominated by special interests. The rules in place are there to protect incumbents. Most Americans know that political ads on TV are full of lies.
By 2013, the interest from the federal deficit will outgrow defense spending. How will you reduce the $3 trillion deficit?
Price- Youth will be the ones most affected by federal debt. The federal deficit is the hardest thing to reduce, but in the 1990s pay-as-you-go was the name of the game, and the budget was balanced. Congress knows how to balance the budget, and it can do it again. It is discouraging to see divisive politics get in the way. Everything must be on the table.
Lawson- Prefers to talk about the future instead of the past. Debt affects everyone, and will be the biggest problem facing future generations. There is not a lot that the federal government should do. America must deal with federal spending, with a focus first on entitlement spending. $80 billion a year is spent in Afghanistan. Pork, such as the stimulus and bailout should be cut.
Price- Price agress with Lawson more than Lawson thinks. Both parties need to come together to discuss tax issues, and everything must be on the table.
Technology is the biggest driver of our region. Where do you stand on federal research spending?
Lawson- R&D should be put back to the private sector. Research should be funded by the private sector, not by borrowing from China.
Price- Lawson wants no federal role in research. The NIH and NSF are the greatest competitive advantage America has. Skimping on both will be unilateral disarmament in the face of global economic challenges. No business in the Triangle would recommend cutting federal research spending. Research is the lifeblood of the Triangle. Entrepreneurship comes from research.
Lawson- Too much government spending goes to private businesses. Private investment is much harder now than it was years ago, and it is because of current financial reform policies.
Lawson- New ideas are needed. Price has been in office for 22 years. The role of the federal government must be studied in every retrospect. Washington has a habit of trying to close the barn door after the horse is gone, and lobbyist influence has allowed this to continue. We are in tumultous times, and everyone should be treated equally.
Price- Although Lawson decries corporate malfeasance, Lawson thinks the federal government has no role in regulating offshore drilling and other issues. Price has lived in the Triangle for decades, and he loves the Triangle. The Triangle broke from a single-good economy and has diversified and created a good quality of life. There should be a focus on what has gotten us here, and what to do to improve quality of life. Instead of divisive politics, Congress should focus on creators of growth: Education, Research, Water and Air quality, etc.