Issues

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My positions on issues are the result of a lifetime of experience and attention, supplemented by intense research, study, and analysis in recent years. While I would never expect constituents to agree with all of my positions, I want them to be assured that every position is based upon objective analysis and my firm belief that the position is the best one.

At the same time, I will not be inflexible or intolerant of differing opinions, and will remain open-minded. As a result, some of my positions may change over time. If that occurs, I will promptly notify my constituents and make public any new positions. Constituents can be fully confident that the votes and actions I take in Washington will never be at the direction of Party bosses or special interests, or otherwise for personal gain. To that end, I am publicizing my positions in detail, with supporting research, data, and analysis where applicable. For those who are interested in knowing why I would vote (or did vote) a certain way, or why I support other policies, the reasons will be clear. My intent is to disclose more details about my positions than any other candidate for Federal office. And if elected to Congress, it is my intention to continue that level of disclosure as your representative.

 

Politics in the United States

The deeply entrenched two-party system, which produces extreme partisanship and divisive politics, inherently prevents real solutions to endemic problems. This political duopoly is destroying our democracy and preventing growth and progress. Special interests and money control what happens in Washington, and the Republicans and Democrats are more divided than ever. The loony Left and the redneck Right are well represented in the United States Congress, but who is representing the majority in the middle – the sensible, independent-minded majority? The sad answer is that most Americans are being totally ignored.

The political duopoly discourages new ideas, encourages unthinking partisanship, and is fueled by dirty politics and money. Congressional members are instructed by Party bosses in Washington to raise money for the Party machine (up to 4 hours a day, 30 hours a week, according to 60 Minutes). This is not what the founders of our nation anticipated when they wrote a Constitution without a single word regarding political parties in government. In fact, many early leaders, including George Washington, James Madison, and John Adams expressed great trepidation about the dangers of political parties. The two-party system is broken and corrupt, and we need to end it. But how can it be done?

There are several commonsense changes that will open our political system to more competition, greater diversity, and more qualified leaders… Read more

Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign spending is completely out of control. Billions of dollars are now spent on presidential elections, tens of millions on Senate races, and even contests for U.S. Representative can now cost millions. It is not much better at the state and local levels. And that is not including all the money spent by PACs, Super PACs, and all the other organized groups that funnel big money into the election process. It is no wonder that the members of Congress spend so much of their time fundraising and kowtowing to the money people and the special interest groups.

Thousands of Washington lobbyists (many former Congressmen or staffers) spend billions of dollars to influence the legislative and regulatory process. In many ways, the lobbyists control the agenda in Washington. These K Street powerhouses are capable of blocking sensible legislation that would be backed by the vast majority of Americans, or enacting the kind of special interest laws that benefit a privileged few at the expense of the many. Together with the proliferation of so-called think tanks (some of whom only seem to think about how to get more money from corporate sponsors), a 4th branch of government, accountable to no one, seems to have arisen.

I will support (and introduce or endorse) several simple measures that would immediately reduce the power of money and special interests in Washington… Read more

The Economy

When it comes to how the government can really help or hurt Americans, the old political adage is true—it’s the economy, stupid! There are three kinds of government policies that can have a great effect on the economy – regulatory, fiscal, and monetary. In my view, all three areas of government involvement in the economy have been badly mismanaged by both the Democrats and the Republicans. First, workers and businesses are over-regulated at the federal, state, and local level. While some regulation is necessary for safety and security, the bulk of the laws, regulations, and judicial decisions are unnecessary, confusing, and too costly.

Fiscal policy consists of three elements: taxation and fees; spending on government services; and redistribution of benefits. Currently, taxation in America is overly complex, unfair, economically harmful, and fiscally unbalanced. The tax laws and regulations are also morally indefensible and difficult to enforce. Government spending on bureaucracy and public services at all levels (federal, state, and local) is too high. Smaller, smarter government can deliver better results for less; and some traditional functions of government can and should be privatized. The continuing fiscal deficits and the resulting growth of public debt is unsustainable. In addition, there is a huge pending liability in the form of unfunded public pension obligations, which is under-estimated due to improper accounting practices.

For economic growth to be stronger and more consistent, we need to balance free markets with greater redistribution, a combination that the political duopoly could never accomplish. Spending on redistribution of benefits is too low in the case of those who need it most (e.g., the poor, the disabled, and low income workers), while it is too high in the case of those who need it the least (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment benefits for those who are already very well off). But the biggest waste of benefit payments is for a health care system that is vastly over-priced because of too many middlemen and too little competition.

Monetary policy has been misused in a vain attempt to stimulate the economy, as an effective but misguided method of disguising the dangers of excessive public debt, and due to an inappropriate fear of the stock market. In my opinion, the Federal Reserve has overstepped its mandate and given ammunition to the extremists who seek to essentially do away with independent central banking. Because of this mismanagement, the zealots who irrationally advocate a return to the gold standard have unnecessarily been given a new life. We need an autonomous central bank, but its mandate must be clarified.

I support a mix of policies that would have an unprecedented (because almost all of them have been blocked by either the Democrats or the Republicans) beneficial long-term effect on both fiscal and economic conditions in America… Read more

Education

It is an unfortunate, but crucial, fact: Public education in the United States is mediocre at best, and a failure at worst—especially for too many children from low income families. International comparisons show that American students are in the middle of the pack among other developed countries, and way behind the leaders. A high percentage of American children are not receiving the knowledge and skills they need to get a good job. As a result, social mobility is at an all-time low, U.S. businesses have an insufficient number of skilled workers, and productivity growth in our economy has been slowing to dangerous levels.

We have known about this problem since at least 1983 when the Department of Education published the report entitled A Nation at Risk. It concluded that “… the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future.” That was thirty-three years ago and, by any objective measure, public education has not improved. In fact, it has probably deteriorated. Yet the same tried and failed policies keep being promoted, primarily being to spend more money and to administer more tests. Public education in America is failing too many students, restricting too many great teachers, and rewarding too many bad teachers.    

In my view, the problem lies in the dysfunctional structure of public education, and we cannot significantly improve the results without dismantling the existing system. The band aid approach is not working and will not work. The Democrats and Republicans continually fight about spending, testing, standards, and the power of teachers’ unions, while education suffers. We need (1) to remove the politicians, bureaucrats, and union bosses from the roles of deciding how to provide educational services, (2) change the way education is funded, and (3) guarantee more competition and choice. The future of the country does depend on it!

There are many obstacles to change, including the federal, state, and local governments, and especially the teachers’ unions. But there are solutions… Read more

Health Care

According to the National Health Expenditure Accounts (CMS.gov), national health expenditures will total 3.35 trillion dollars this year, and have grown by an average of 5.2% during the last three years. Annual growth is expected to rise to more than 6% in 2018 and remain over 6% for the following five years. These astounding numbers start from a base level of health care costs that were already double what most developed countries spend (on a per capita basis and as a percentage of GDP). At the same time, statistical studies indicate that the quality of care in our system compares poorly to that of many other countries, by some metrics.

Anecdotally, most of us have heard of or experienced major problems, frustrations, and in some cases serious adverse medical results, from our interactions with the health care system. At the very least, it is often difficult to find the right doctor, receive a clear diagnosis, or understand the financial costs of treatment. Our health care is mired in bureaucratic entanglements—federal, state, and local agencies; insurance companies; human resource departments; hospital and other health care administrators. By some accounts the cost of bureaucratic administration is close to a quarter of all expenditures. And that percentage is expected to increase.

Built into the current system are perverse incentives for providers and insurers to increase total expenditures, and for consumers (patients) to be indifferent to the cost of recommended tests and treatments. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) was a massive overhaul of health care law, which reinforced many of these structural problems. It is an incredibly complex piece of legislation that was rushed through Congress with little substantive debate, a direct result of the dysfunction of the two-party system. But rather than work on improving bad legislation and solving the real problems with our health care system, the two parties have spent the last six years hurling insults at each other.

There are ways in which the ACA can be improved, but unfortunately it will take a real overhaul of health care law to truly improve the system… Read more

Taxation

Federal tax policy demonstrates the problems inherent in the two-party system and its culture of money politics. Special interest groups have been able to carve out huge tax preferences that have distorted the tax code. The two parties constantly fight each other about whether to increase or decrease taxes and on whom. The system of taxation at all levels of government (federal, state, and local) has become overly complex and unfair.

Tax policy should not be used to reward certain activities, or to create unfair advantages for favored groups, institutions, or individuals. It should not be designed to stimulate the economy by subsidizing job creation or by supporting disproven theories like supply-side economics. It should be simple, fair, and far more progressive (in terms of higher taxes on the highest incomes and lower taxes on middle and lower incomes). The correct tax policy will consistently support economic growth, but not by picking winners and losers.

A restructuring of taxation in the United States should account for the impact of all income and consumption taxes, including federal, state, and local income, payroll, and sales taxes. It should also take into account the government benefits that are paid to or on behalf of taxpayers. Only such a comprehensive approach will result in a fair and economically beneficial system.

I will promote and support tax changes that… Read more

Benefits

The distribution of benefits in America is unfair, inefficient, and degrading for those who need the most help. In my view, every citizen is entitled to a basic income as compensation for the natural rights they relinquish in a developed economy with strong private property laws. Likewise, every resident is responsible for their share of the cost of government. The goods and services produced in our economy are the result of three main factors: the resources that are the gift of nature; the accumulated knowledge that is our collective legacy; and the individual labor that improves those common elements and delivers finished products.

Rather than treating tax policies and benefit distribution policies as distinct issues, we should acknowledge that they are interdependent components of one of the fundamental purposes of government—establishing rules for the peaceful coexistence of the conflicting values that are shared natural resources and individual labor compensation. A tax and benefit policy that includes a basic income as compensation for the implicit waiver of common natural rights is also the most effective economic policy. If properly implemented it can correct the problem of income and wealth inequality, and will prevent the unhealthy level of household debt that has occurred in every modern economic cycle. Unlimited accumulation of wealth is an unnatural condition that eventually inhibits the economy and ultimately causes recessions; this is the deficiency in traditional capitalism as a political-economic theory.

We can and should design and implement a comprehensive national tax and benefit plan. It would replace the complex, unfair tax laws with a simple tax and introduce a basic minimum benefit instead of the existing hodgepodge of inefficient programs… Read more

Crime

The United States incarcerates more of our citizens than any other country in the world, and as a percentage of total population our prison population is many times that of other comparable countries. It is a terrible record for a great nation that has been a leader in so many positive areas of change. There are many reasons for this embarrassment including: mandatory sentences for non-violent crimes; lack of effective rehabilitation programs; insufficient support of substance abuse treatment plans; and inadequate legal representation for some indigent defendants.

These are some of the direct causes of over-incarceration. Indirect causes include poverty and a lack of social mobility, a poor system of public education, and the cycle of violence in many poor neighborhoods (which is fueled by easy access to guns). The simplistic answers of the Republicans (e.g., more and better-armed police) and the Democrats (e.g., more pre-school and summer programs) are not going to solve the problem. We need a consistent and comprehensive approach that the two parties would never agree upon.

I support a number of initiatives that would reduce both the incidence of crime and the level of incarceration (they do not necessarily go hand in hand)… Read more

Immigration

This hot button issue has never been adequately addressed. From the extreme positions of mass deportation (supported by many Republicans) to unconditional amnesty and benefits (supported by many Democrats), there is a huge amount of room for commonsense solutions. It is unfortunate that, due to the partisan political battles, immigration is now perceived to be a problem rather than an opportunity. Immigration has been the lifeblood of the growth and success of the United States throughout our history.

We do need to limit immigration and we should not reward those who have entered or remained in the country illegally. But forced deportation of noncriminal illegal immigrants is not the answer. This is another issue where I believe that the majority in the middle is being ignored. Almost all Americans have known and/or interacted with illegal immigrants. We know firsthand that the vast majority are honest, hard-working people looking for a better life.

A strong majority of Americans (72% according to Pew Research) say that “undocumented” immigrants currently living in the U.S. should be allowed to stay in the country legally if they meet certain requirements. I agree with that general statement but, of course, the devil is in the details. And deciding how to treat existing residents is only part of the issue. We need to control the border better and enact different criteria for which applicants are admitted legally.

My position on immigration is that all of the related issues must be addressed simultaneously, and part of the solution is a national biometric ID system… Read more

Foreign Policy

I do not believe that we should separate the use of military force, intelligence functions, diplomatic relations, trade relationships, cyber security, and international terrorism into different issues, as many do. These issues are all inter-related and should be part of a coherent strategy of funding, decision-making, and implementation. There are threats to our national security and the stability of the world in all aspects of foreign relations. The response to these threats and to potential dangers should be measured and consistent.

The presidency of the United States has become too powerful and responsible in these areas. Our involvement in the world should not be predicated on the opinion and, in some cases, the whim or political interests of one man or woman. Congress has abdicated its role to a large extent, and the news media reinforces the image of an all-powerful president, with the use of terms like the Obama Doctrine or the Bush Doctrine. It is dangerous to allow a president to make decisions (often secret ones) regarding the use of force and other important matters, with few if any real checks and balances.

I support a strong but balanced strategic approach to our international relationships. The isolationists, nationalists, and protectionists are all wrong in my view. We must be engaged on every level of activity with other nations, in a cooperative way if possible. Problems in other parts of the world will become our problems eventually, and the longer we remain disengaged the worse they become. It should be America first, but not America only. And free trade is a net positive—turning away from trade agreements because they may not be perfect will hurt our national and economic interests in the long run.

There are so many intertwined dangers and challenges internationally that a complete list would be impractical but my positions… Read more

Terrorism          

The issue of international terrorism crosses over the three areas of crime, immigration, and foreign policy. It is a serious threat that poses a real danger to the stability of the world and the safety of Americans. If left unchecked, the growth of terrorism could pose a national security threat. We need to address it in the context of crime, immigration, and foreign policy. There are no easy answers but we need a comprehensive and disciplined non-partisan strategy. Arguing about which president to blame (the last few have made contributory mistakes), what name to call the dangerous groups led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (IS, ISIS, ISIL, or my preference—the Arabic “Daesh”), and how to refer to the terrorism itself, is counterproductive.

While there are other groups that commit terrorist acts in the name of separatism or other ideological beliefs, the primary groups that seek to spread their beliefs and commit violent acts internationally are Islamic extremists. Daesh, al-Qa’ida, al Nusrah, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and others were founded and operate based upon an extreme and distorted interpretation of the Muslim religion. This fact must be acknowledged and such acknowledgement does not in any way constitute discrimination against the vast majority of peaceful Muslims who abhor such groups and their violent acts.

Fortunately, almost every government in the world, including divergent Islamic theocracies like Iran and Saudi Arabia, recognize the threat from these terrorist groups and are taking action to defeat them. But simply retaking territory that has been occupied by Daesh and other extremists in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and other countries is not the whole solution to the problem. It is a start and it is a goal that may be achievable in the foreseeable future. But until the underlying sources of their evil and unnatural ideologies, as well as the conditions and means that allow them to recruit followers, are eradicated, the threat will remain.

I will support and vote for policies that are (1) consistent with these goals, (2) highly likely to be effective, and (3) in accordance with our values… Read more

Environment   

I consider myself an environmentalist in the sense of being a lover of nature and the natural order of things. But the term has taken on an unfortunate association with radical positions that are anti-development and anti-progress. The goals of preserving natural resources and sustaining a healthy eco-system must be balanced with the goals of eliminating poverty and producing more goods, services, and improvements for a growing population. Improvements in science and technology should allow these sometimes competing goals to be balanced.

Clean air, clean water, and an otherwise healthy environment are essential and need to be protected. In the past, unregulated activities have polluted land, water, and the air we breathe. Regulations that have reversed these conditions should be supported by everyone. But over-regulation of industries and activities that are vital to affordable production of food, energy, and other human essentials is harmful to the economy and to the social welfare of the least advantaged. Political partisanship often interferes with a rational discussion of how to find the correct balance in environmental policy.

The debate about the effects of burning fossil fuels on the climate has become yet another example of hyper-partisanship. The extremists on one side deny that any connection exists, while the hard-liners on the other side fervently believe that the effects are quantifiable, predictable, and unquestionably devastating. Having read a great deal on the subject (although not being a scientist), it appears to me that both extremes are showing ignorance on an issue of major importance. Some of the science is settled, much remains to be learned, and the computer modeling is unreliable.

On all issues that fall into the category of protecting and preserving our incredible natural environment, I will take a balanced view of actual evidence… Read more

Freedom

My views are not libertarian, in that I believe the very purpose of government is to restrict freedom by enacting and enforcing laws. But I believe that government should do this in a way that constrains the least amount of personal and organizational freedom. In particular, freedom of enterprise is important both because it is consistent with this view and because it has proven to be the most productive and beneficial economic system. A free market approach to all business legislation and regulation will improve productivity and economic growth.

In general, I favor personal freedom over government control in all aspects of activity and behavior. Respecting freedom often conflicts with promoting equality. When it comes to private treatment and outcomes, I will lean toward more freedom unless an over-riding public interest is at stake. Of course, equal application of all laws and regulations to all persons and organizations is essential, without preferences for political, religious, or other reasons; and without any form of discrimination, either direct or indirect.

Although a list of issues relating to personal freedoms would be too extensive, my positions on certain controversial issues (e.g., abortion, guns, equal pay)… Read more

Truth

One of the most fundamental values of a democratic nation and a successful society is an unwavering commitment to the truth. That includes a free and unfettered news media, not subject to government pressure or control, but accountable for any dissemination of false information. The government at all levels can do a better job of disclosing relevant information to the public, including much information that is now withheld for reasons of confidentiality or the national interest. Transparency has to be more than just a political buzzword.  

There should be clear and unambiguous laws that impose liability on those who spread falsehoods in a public way, including via electronic media. In particular, public advertising for business, political, or other purposes should be held to a higher standard. Private and public fraud, including tax evasion, cost the economy (i.e. consumers) and the government (i.e. honest taxpayers) hundreds of billions of dollars per year. We need to do a better job of eliminating most of this unnecessary cost and holding offenders accountable.

There is often an unavoidable conflict between privacy and the discovery and/or disclosure of the truth. Privacy should be protected as much as possible, but a certain amount of privacy must be sacrificed for legitimate public purposes. It can be a difficult balance, but I will generally favor truth over privacy when the intrusion is not significant and our security or other legitimate public interest is demonstrably enhanced.

I strongly believe in the importance of disclosure of accurate and truthful information to the public. I will fight to greatly reduce the amount of misinformation, nondisclosure, and outright untruths emanating from government sources. The American public can handle the truth, and labeling too much information classified, confidential, or proprietary is unnecessary and a disservice to the American people and our national interest.

Local Interests

Representing the 9th District in Congress would be a great honor, and comes with a deep responsibility to protect and serve the interests of the most beautiful coastal district in the country. I know that along with our great history, and our bountiful coastlines, beaches, and harbors, there are persistent problems and challenges. Our fishing industry has been devastated by over-regulation, and by the impact of ill-conceived government policies. We need to step back and revisit the Magnuson-Stevens Act and its regulatory implementation, with more consideration for the health of our fishing industry. This issue will be a focus of mine if elected.

Our environment is fragile, particularly on Cape Cod and other coastal areas in the District. We need to do a better job of balancing economic growth and development with protecting the environment. A more comprehensive plan for wastewater management should be a top priority. The federal government and, in particular, the agencies which deal with the many regional issues, should be a better partner with state and local governments and other interested parties. Matters of jurisdictional authority, such as the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge, need to be addressed cooperatively and expeditiously, not left in a seemingly perpetual uncertainty. I will work toward coordinating faster and more satisfactory resolutions.

There are many other local issues that will be at the top of my agenda if elected: substance abuse treatment and especially how to alleviate the terrible level of addiction to opioids and other drugs; homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in many areas; the high cost of living in the region, including utility rates for electricity and cable that are among the highest in the nation; how to expand the job base and attract more business growth to the District; and many other concerns.

I welcome any feedback and ideas concerning these issues. 

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