REGARDING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND THE ENVIRONMENT
1. What steps do you think Congress should take to rebuild our economy on a more sustainable, yet economically viable basis?
We need to make sure that people have jobs, and we need to make sure that the measures we pass have a proven economic benefit. I voted for the Recovery Act because it would produce jobs. And in spite of the Republican rhetoric about the Recovery Act, “not doing anything,” the fact is that the Act has brought over a billion dollars back to Hawaii and put firefighters and police and construction workers and teachers — all here in Hawaii — back to work. I voted for the extension of unemployment benefits because statistics show that it would — far more than tax cuts to the rich — help stimulate the economy.
Stimulating the economy is also about preserving and diversifying our economy here in Hawaii. For example, I voted for a bill that provides tax incentives to the solar energy industry. I met with people working in that industry here in Hawaii, and they told me that if this bill didn’t pass, then they’d have to lay off many of their employees. So I helped pass the bill to help preserve that local “green” industry.
1. What are your thoughts on the healthcare reform bills that both houses of Congress have been debating for the past several months? How, if at all, would you suggest improving them?
Health care costs already represent about 20% of our gross domestic product, with ever increasing costs and no end in sight. This situation was unsustainable. The health care bill, while not perfect, makes significant inroads into reforming a system where rescissions (denial of health care coverage) were common, people with pre-existing conditions (including pregnancies) were denied coverage, more seniors were caught in the Medicare donut hole, and children can stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26. The examples I have cited have already gone into effect, and millions more people will be protected by provisions that will go into effect in the coming years.
I have also kept Hawaii’s interests frond and center by ensuring that Hawaii’s Pre-Paid Health Care Act remains intact.
As with other comprehensive reforms, ways to improve this law will emerge over time. The Republicans would like to repeal the whole law, which would take us backwards not forward on health care reform.
2. Please share your thoughts on the “public option,” “single-payer” and “triggers.”
I support a single-payer system because that is probably the most efficient and cost-effective way to provide health care for all. However, our current health care system makes moving to single-payer system challenging, to say the least. I strongly supported the public option during the health care debate to provide choice for individuals and businesses seeking health insurance and to foster some competition into a health care system where there is very little competition to lower costs or provide better coverage.
3. Do you anticipate meaningful cuts in costs for medical services and drugs as a result of the bills?
Yes. For example, the donut hole that some seniors face in paying for their prescription drugs is already being closed, and will be completely eliminated in the coming years. Also, the increased preventative care will mean that the costs of health care will go down and people go to the doctor before they get sick.
REGARDING EQUAL RIGHTS
1. Do you support Civil Unions for same-sex couples as a step to full marriage equality? Why or why not?
Yes, I do, because I believe in equal rights and protections for all.
2. Do you support the repeal of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? Why or why not?
Yes, I support he repeal of both, and for the same reason as above.
3. Are you willing to commit to being a strong advocate in Congress for equal rights for gay and lesbian couples?
I have and will continue to support equal rights for gay and lesbian couples.
1. What do you think causes the current economic crisis gripping the US and world economies?
The economic crisis was caused by a combination of over-speculation and failure of government oversight and regulation.
2. What are your thoughts on the bailouts of financial institutions that were supported by both the Bush and Obama Administrations?
3. Have adequate reforms been instituted to reduce the chances of a similar crash in the future? What more, if anything, should be done?
I voted in support of financial industry regulation that will rein in big banks and their large executive bonuses, put an end to bank bailouts, and empower American consumers to make the best possible financial decisions for their future. These regulations will also create an independent agency whose sole focus will be to protect American consumers.
Fortunately, most of our local financial institutions have played by the rules. But many local families still have to deal with large multinational banks and credit card companies, and it is easy for them — especially our seniors — to be victimized by these institutions.
Passing this comprehensive financial reform bill is just the latest in a series of reform measures that have provided added security and stability to working families in Hawaii and in the nation. Over the past year-and-a-half, Congress has passed an economy Recovery Act, health care coverage reform, and education reform.
4. What other steps, if any, should be taken to stimulate the economy through public spending?
1. What lessons should we draw from the US war on Iraq? What mistakes did Congress make? Should we disengage from Iraq and, if so, how?
Disengaging from Iraq is the right thing to do. We never should have been there in the first place, and it is time for us to leave. In doing so, we must leave at a pace that prevents the country from sliding into chaos.
2. How can we apply those lessons to our growing involvement in Afghanistan, Pakistan?
The Afghan war is now the longest war in our country’s history and recent events are not reassuring. We need to set a timetable and be clearer in defining our remaining mission.
3. Do you see similar dynamics leading us into a conflict with Iran?
Before we consider making a preemptive strike against Iran, we should give the new Iranian sanctions that President Obama signed into law a chance to work. The same neoconservatives that pushed for the Iraq War — and who swore that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction — are the same people that are pushing for a preemptive strike against Iran.
Top American military leaders have warned against military strikes against Iran. According to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, “another war in the Middle East is the last thing we need. In fact, I believe it would be disastrous on a number of levels.” Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said that “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome. In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.” And General David Petraeus has warned that a strike on Iran would be used by the Iranian government to unite it’s otherwise divided populace.
1. If you are elected, what other issues will be major priorities for you?
I have several priorities going into the next Congress. My main focus is on improving the economy so it will produce more jobs. Making sure people have the opportunity to work as to be the first priority.
Because Hawaii is the most oil-dependent state in the nation, and we pay too much for gas and electricity, I will continue to fight to increase the research and development of alternative energy in Hawaii. By encouraging the development of biofuels and the use of Hawaii’s plentiful wind, solar, and ocean energy, Hawaii can lead the way in developing innovative solutions — as well as creating jobs in a new, clean-energy economy.
I am working with farmers and ranchers here at home in Hawaii to provide more local jobs and increased opportunities to grow and export more “made in Hawaii” products. I support farmers and ranchers so they can grow more of the food we can eat right here in Hawaii. Making Hawaii more self-sustaining is good for farms — and our future.