1. What do you see as the most important issues facing North Carolina and the nation? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
The biggest challenge facing our nation right now is getting the economy moving again, and in a way that benefits all Americans not just those at the top. We're facing economic challenges not seen here since the Great Depression, but as we've seen with the health care debate, entrenched interests aren't going to go down without a fight and it's a battle the middle class cannot afford to lose. When you boil it down, the other pressing domestic issues emanate from our economic malaise.
Contrary to what those on the right would lead you to believe, we didn't get into this problem overnight and there are no quick fixes. Virtually every economist agrees that getting the economy moving and creating jobs is going to require the government to step up. Instead of just adding more debt our proposal is funded through a financial transaction fee on the Wall Street banks whose insatiable greed got us into this mess. Today they're back to business as usual, and fighting financial reform every step of the way. They have a responsibility to help pay for our recovery.
A financial transactions fee would fund our comprehensive program. The U.S. had a similar fee from 1914 until 1966. The United Kingdom has a FTF and maintains the highest volume stock exchange in Europe. This fee has the support of prominent economist Dean Baker, noted investor Warren Buffet and the founder of Vanguard Mutual Funds, Jon Vogel.
This fee would be assessed for a 10
-year period, creating up to $150 billion in revenue annually, providing the funding for our economic proposal and in closing years the funds would be used to pay down the Bush debt.
Protecting teachers, police and first responders – In the short-run we must stem the loss of jobs, including easing the fiscal crisis at the state and local level. As Paul Krugman has stated, fifty little Hoovers at the state level only retards the work done to bolster our economy by the federal government. In the first years of our program, income from the FTF provides direct support to state and local governments preventing the laying off of teachers, police and firefighters, and other critical public employees.
Also in the first years job creation tax credits, a tax credit for middle and lower income families, and extending unemployment and COBRA benefits are funded with the FTF funds until we stabilize the unemployment crisis.
In the later years of the plan, the funds are used to modernize and rebuild our infrastructure. This will not only put people back to work, but will provide the infrastructure companies need to grow and expand. China, India and other developing countries are making these investments. We cannot afford to fall behind.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective in the U.S. Senate? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office?
North Carolinians are rightfully frustrated with the petty games in Washington; they just want their elected officials to get things done and our economy moving again. In my career, I've never been one to wait around to get permission, if I saw a problem I just went out and got it fixed. That's the same approach I'll bring to Washington.
As a private citizen, before I ran for public office, health insurance policies didn't cover mammograms and PAP smears for women. I petitioned the General Assembly to pass a bill that mandated insurance companies to cover it. We got it done.
As Secretary of State, I saw a need for transparency in our lobbying laws. Before they were like Swiss cheese, full of holes. I formed a Blue Ribbon Commission and we reviewed the laws and came up with proposals to make them tougher and transparent. Today we have some of the toughest lobbying disclosure laws in the country. We did this before any embarrassing headlines came in our newspapers.
Lastly as North Carolina's securities regulator my office has taken the lead in cracking down on Wall Street banks and local financial scam artists. Locally I've put people in prison for ripping off senior citizens and charities in Ponzi schemes. Nationally my office has been the lead agency in suits against major Wall Street banks for fraud. We've recovered now over 500 million dollars from Wall Street in just over the last year and a half, returning the money back to local North Carolina investors and foundations.
3. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am a pragmatic progressive. As I say out on the campaign trail, to those that say it can't be done, I say get out of the way of those of us that are doing it. My record embodies that philosophy – Getting elected as Secretary of State, people said I could not defeat Richard Petty, this is NASCAR country after all. We did it. Taking on the special interests in Raleigh. We did it, enacting some of the toughest lobbying laws in the country. Calling out Wall Street banks for fraud. We've done that too. In order to truly take the battle to Wall Street and enact real financial reform requires a Senate with the will to do it. I want to take my experience dealing with these guys and help lead that fight.
4. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
Getting our country back on track – we must do whatever it takes. The right wing might kick and scream, but they are the ones whose philosophy of anything goes is what got us into this mess. We need more balance and I aim to bring it.
5.If these issues haven't been addressed above, would you please comment on:
a.What has our nation learned from invading Iraq? How will that inform your decisions if elected? What should our policy in Iraq be today? Should we base substantial military forces there for the foreseeable future?
For starters we learned to never trust a word that comes out of Karl Rove's mouth. But seriously this has been an expensive lesson in blood and treasure. We've learned that going to war should be our last possible option. We rushed into a war, with very tenuous information. The Bush administration wanted this war and cooked the books to get it. Our policy today should be to end our military presence there as soon as possible, as the country that needs rebuilding is our own.
b. Evaluate the war in Afghanistan and the situation in Iran. What is our goal in those places, in your view? What should our policies be? What legislation should be introduced to address those issues?
The war in Afghanistan is just another testament to the ineptitude of the Bush administration as we took our eye off the ball, letting Al Qaeda and the Taliban regroup and rearm in the lawless borderland between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Obama Administration has had to clean up the mess. But credit to President Obama, in just the past few months' he's been more successful capturing surviving elements of Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership than Bush ever was.
We must realize though terrorism isn't a country per se, but a philosophy. Our commitment in Afghanistan must come to an end soon – financially it will break us, not to mention the physical strain on our military. Our goal in Afghanistan needs to be to leave it a place that doesn't offer shelter to Al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization, but to expect it to become a democracy like our own is unrealistic. Working with our neighbors in the region we can ensure Afghanistan no longer will be a terrorist safe haven.
As for Iran, the lessons of Iraq should be heeded. The international sanctions imposed on Saddam worked. If Iran presses forward with their nuclear program, we must work with the international community to impose strict economic sanctions on their government. The youth of Iran have shown us how they feel about the government – we must ensure that these sanctions work to turn the people against the theocracy that runs the country, and not align the people in solidarity with it.
c. Universal health care: Why don't we have it? What have you learned from the current health care debate? What specific reforms do you support, and what will you do to get them passed? What has this process told us not only about health care but about the way that politics work?
We don't have it because of the power that special interests have over our Congress. They've used their funds to stir up fear for the benefit of their bottom lines. This recently passed health insurance reform bill is a start towards universal coverage, but much work needs to be done. I knew that the longer this was drawn out the harder it became to get something passed.
One of the areas I believe will need work are the state-based insurance exchanges – I feel this won't work as in many smaller states it won't have the scale to keep premiums down and/or the state market is dominated by just a few individual plan insurers, North Carolina is an example.
I've been a strong supporter from day one of my campaign of the public option as I feel that's the best way to keep insurers honest, and in the Senate I'll work to get that done. It's great that my primary opponents have finally come around and join me in that.
d. What do you see as the primary sources of our current economic problems? What measures should Congress use to resolve address them? How would you begin to reduce the federal deficit? Is this an issue of not enough revenue or of overspending? What are some of the possible negative consequences of your proposed solutions?
One of the primary sources of our economic problems is that real wages have been stagnant over the past 30 years, creating a middle class that is at the breaking point. The economic policies of the Bush Administration just accelerated the growing imbalance in our society. Congress needs to reward work not wealth, even billionaire investor Warren Buffet has stated as much. Multi-millionaire hedge fund traders pay less in taxes than working people do, just because their salary is derived from investment income, that's wrong.
Before you can address the deficit we first have to get the economy healthy again –– I've discussed my plan earlier on how I propose to pay for getting our economy moving again - we should seriously consider a ten-year financial transaction fee on Wall Street to fund and to get it done. Bush inherited a budget surplus; cut taxes for the richest among us while we were (and still are) in the middle of two wars. That combined with his discredited philosophy of lax regulation lead to a Wall Street bailout and there you have it – today's weak economy, record debt and annual budget deficit.
Naysayers have stated that a financial transactions fee would force Wall Street to move offshore. This is a highly unlikely scenario – in the City of London, the United Kingdom has a similar fee and they have the most vibrant stock market in Europe. Another potential drawback would be penalizing new investment – but my plan exempts new issues of stock or bonds for that very reason – we are penalizing the quick buck gambling mentality, not those that are trying to create jobs through new investments. Additionally this fee would raise transaction costs to the level of the late 1990's, a time when the stock market in the U.S. was very strong.
e. The stimulus legislation and the bailout: What worked and what didn't? What would have done differently in hindsight? How will that inform your opinion in the future? Under what circumstances would you advocate for such legislation?
TARP stabilized the financial sector, but it was done on terms that were favorable to the industry. They were in no position to bargain, it was their greed that got them to the precipice, so it's ridiculous that TARP lacked the accountability needed. Taxpayer's got a raw deal – they should have received better terms for their investment. I would have forced the banks to have more 'skin in the game' similar to the investment terms that Warren Buffet extracted from Goldman Sachs in his loan to them.
In this campaign I'm the only candidate with the experience dealing with Wall Street banks as an advocate for the taxpayer – I've gotten back over 500 million dollars from them in the past year and a half, so I know first-hand the slight-of-hand tricks they've pulled. Going forward our goal should be to make sure this doesn't happen again, that is why the first proposal from my campaign last January dealt with rolling back the excesses of Wall Street.
It's pathetic that it's been around a year and half and nothing has changed with Wall Street regulation, just business as usual. They are doing everything in their power to keep it that way too. I want to enact a modern version of the Glass-Steagall Act, ending too big to fail. Right now we've created a larger 'too bigger to fail' Wall Street, setting us up for a bigger future disaster, something we can't afford.
Additionally I've been the first in this campaign to call for an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA). I've dealt with too many broker dealers that took advantage of weak oversight to bilk their clients out of their hard-earned dollars. A strong, independent CFPA will make it harder for them to peddle misleading financial products.
f. Education: What should classrooms of the future look like? What will you do about the dropout rate, the achievement gap and the lack of students excelling in math and science? What can be done to attract and retain better teachers in American schools?
The classrooms of the future need to prepare our children for the jobs of the future. Computerization and a broadband connection to the Internet are necessary to meet that goal.
Paying teachers as the professionals that they are is important to attract the best applicants into the field and to keep them in the profession. We can't expect to improve the achievement of students in the sciences, if their instructors are leaving the field just after a few years to seek higher pay in the private sector. Gifted, inspired teachers are the key to reducing the achievement gap and the drop out rate. We must engage parents and strongly promote early childhood development.
7. What is your position on capital punishment?
North Carolina has a serious problem as recent DNA and other scientific evidence has shown. We are not close to having fair and impartial trials that could cost someone their lives. Investigative misconduct, scientific reporting failures, and prosecutorial misconduct add multiple problems to the system with evident racial disparities. I support a death penalty moratorium in North Carolina.
8. What is your position regarding LGBT rights and Don't Ask Don't Tell?
I support LGBT rights and in fact this is on my website issues section. Specifically I support the repeal of DOMA and DADT.
9. Do you support women's reproductive rights, including the "right to choose" as set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade?
I've been a strong, committed supporter of a woman's right to appropriate health care choices my entire career.
10. What changes, if any, do you support in federal entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans programs, etc.)
I want to make sure we preserve these programs for future generations and I oppose privatization. I also support allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to buy drugs in bulk, just like the VA presently does. It will save taxpayers billions and keep the program financially strong as more baby boomers retire.
11. What should Congress do to prevent banking disasters like the one that nearly plunged this country into a second Depression two years ago?
As Secretary of State I protect North Carolinians from investment and securities fraud. In recent years, I have witnessed an increase in financial frauds and scams against North Carolina citizens. In the past year I have reached settlements with some of the mega-banks preying on North Carolina consumers. My experience shows that such scams are easier to carry out without consumer protections from Washington. Wall Street will resist these and other reforms with the same scare tactics that convinced us to foot the bill for its follies. We must enact common sense financial services reform to give American consumers a chance to prosper, not just big banks.
The biggest banks in America, through selfish, risky behavior, have set off a financial crisis that harms us all. It's time for Congress to stand up for people and consumers rather than the special interests that brought us to the brink of economic collapse. After the taxpayers bailed out Wall Street Banks, most of those banks paid debts and bonuses rather than loosening the credit crunch that has small businesses struggling to keep up. It's time for Washington to work for consumers, too.
Create a Consumer Finance Protection Agency.Wall-Street special interests and lobbyists spend tremendous energy in Washington protecting mega-banks. The Consumer Finance Protection Agency will give consumers a voice in credit transactions, adding simplicity and transparency to the credit and borrowing process –no more loopholes or incomprehensible fine print.
Recoup bailout funds from big banks.Big bonuses and business-as-usual on Wall Street means it's time taxpayers got their money back. A fee on mega-banks would discourage reckless behavior and focus on mega-banks whose sheer size makes Wall Street's every move send shock waves through the economy.
No bank should be too big to fail.If a bank is "too big to fail," it operates with an invisible government safety net. This belief that Washington will save Wall Street has seen mega-banks taking unreasonable risks with investors' money. We must re-enact consumer protections that were eliminated with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. Enacted in response to reckless behavior by banks during the Depression, Glass-Steagall separated commercial banking, investment banking and insurance companies. Repeal of Glass-Steagall is one of the things that got us into this financial crisis, and we need its protections back.
12. What's your take on the Obama Administration so far: Too aggressive? Too cautious? Or about right? (Choose one, please.)
I feel that the Administration mistakenly tried to deal in good faith with Washington Republican's whose only plan in this time of crisis, has been to see President Obama's administration fail. The lessons learned from the healthcare battle should be applied to the upcoming debate over Wall Street reform. Namely, that the President should not deal away good policy for the sake of getting Washington Republican support because it will not happen in this Congress.