While many people in the 9th Congressional District were preparing to watch the final game of the Cardinals-Astros series, three candidates vying to represent the district in Washington in the next term were preparing to debate for the first time this election season.
Libertarian Tamara Millay, Democrat Linda Jacobsen and Republican incumbent Kenny Hulshof met at Launer Auditorium at Columbia College to answer questions formulated by a group of journalists and political science professors. The debate was sponsored by the League of Women Voters, KBIA/91.3 FM and the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Moderator Jim Robertson, managing editor of the Tribune, began the 90-minute debate by asking whether Hulshof still felt his vote to authorize force in Iraq was the right thing to do.
“History will tell us,” Hulshof said, asserting that the world was indeed safer without Saddam Hussein. He went on to list the “non-disputed evidence” that Hussein had invaded another country, used weapons against his people, paid suicide bombers and had the intent to continue his weapons programs after sanctions were lifted.
“‘History will tell’ is not good enough,” Jacobsen said in response. “We need to be a leader of nations and work together as a global citizen.”
Millay, who said she has been against the war since the beginning, said there are many bad leaders in the world, but it is not the job of the United Sates to attack those countries.
When asked about reducing the $214 billion deficit, all the candidates said they would not raise taxes to close the deficit, but all three had different plans on how to remedy the situation.
“The limitless spending of this administration is frightening,” Jacobsen said. She went on to say that to get more revenue, she would support repealing the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans.
“I didn’t get to look at the budget like the congressman has been able to … but as a small business owner, I know how to spot the pork in a budget,” Jacobsen said.
Millay said the government acted with “incredible irresponsibility” regarding spending. She said a business or a family would never spend so much money that it didn’t have, and the government shouldn’t be able to do that either. Millay proposed scaling back the government to the “bare bones” as described in the Constitution.
Hulshof responded by saying that sometimes families and businesses take out short-term loans or mort-gages to pay for things and that deficit spending was only a short-term solution. He also pointed out that when the president took office, corporate scandals and the “burst of the dot-com bubble” were beginning to slow the economy. He praised the president’s tax cuts as a way to get the economy back on its feet.
Robertson said studies show that by 2042, Social Security funds will be exhausted. He asked what the candidates would do to ensure that people have money after they retire.
Jacobsen said she opposes privatization because the market is so volatile. She suggested that the government look at adjusting pay-outs not to the cost of living as is done now, but adjust it to the rate of inflation instead.
Millay said there is no trust fund money in Social Security and the money going in this month is coming out next month.
“I think we need to change the system and let younger people opt out of it,” she said. “Then we need to do whatever it takes, possibly sell government land, to make sure that people who have put money in this system and have worked for this money will have it.”
Hulshof said Social Security is headed for a “demographic train wreck” and the government needs to act sooner rather than later. He cited conclusions from both Bush- and Clinton-appointed commissions examining how to deal with the Social Security crunch.
“They said that we can increase payroll taxes, which I oppose,” he said. “We can cut benefits, which I also oppose, or we can look for a better rate of return for younger workers by allowing them to invest into a system like members of Congress do.”
When the topic of embryonic stem cell research was raised, Hulshof agreed with the president’s stance, but Jacobsen and Millay did not.
“I think the president struck the proper balance with his decision,” Hulshof said of Bush’s decision to allow research on 22 lines of stem cells. “We need to look at the promising research and balance it against the moral and ethical questions.”
Jacobsen, the daughter of a scientist, said she disagrees with the “president’s fearful ban” and said there are millions of eggs in deep freeze after couples attempt in vitro fertilization.
Millay said that while society needs to consider the ethical decisions carefully, private institutions would do a better job than the government in this area of research.
In her closing statement, Millay reminded the audience that this election would be a watershed election. She added that over the past 50 years, both Democrats and Republicans had failed and that only Libertarians would deliver on the American dream of freedom.
Jacobsen, reading a statement, said Hulshof had only tweaked the budget to serve special interests and toed the party line to further divide the country while he was in office. She said she would help people with prescription drug access, repeal tax cuts for the rich and protect Medicare and Social Security.
Hulshof used his final two minutes to talk about his parents and said his values from childhood would be taken with him to Washington.