Former NH Health & Human Services Commissioner John Stephen is featured in today’s GraniteGok Congressional Candidate Q & A Series. He is one of the two Republicans seeking the nomination for NH’s 1st Congressional District. As with the others that have participated, we thank John for taking time to answer these questions and further continue to appreciate his acknowledgment of the growing importance of the readers here in the blogosphere.
1. If you could ask General Petraeus any question, but only one question, what would it be?
John Replies: Most Americans want to see the United States win in Iraq before we remove our troops. However, the definition of “winning” in Iraq varies widely among many political leaders and members of the public. Given your knowledge of the Iraqi people and the country, what end-state or outcome do you believe is achievable in a positive scenario within the next two years and what are the milestones of success for such a scenario?
2. Do you favor Oil recovery in the newly found fields in Montana & the Dakotas?
• Drilling in ANWR?
• Drilling in the deep waters off Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico?
• Creating a fast track process to license and build new nuclear plants?
John replies: America’s need to move toward energy independence is critical to both our economic future and our national security. As such, I strongly support lifting restrictions on energy exploration in ANWR, offshore, and in the Midwest and Rockies. I also support removing restrictions on tar sands and oil shale exploration in the Rockies. I strongly believe that we need to find a way to pull restrictions off oil, gas and other sources in order to increase supply and reduce energy costs. I know that we can make sure, through the permitting process, that this exploration can be done in an environmentally sound manner.
I support lifting the onerous licensing process for nuclear plants. We have not built a new plant in the United States in years because of the overwhelming regulation that has been placed on the industry. Nuclear power must be part of America’s long term energy strategy, and that means making it easier to build new plants.
3. In the area of healthcare, are you in favor of:
• Giving tax credits for policies to individuals / families as well as businesses?
• Allow policies to be purchased across state lines?
• Allow individuals to buy lower cost policies by "unhooking" legal mandates?
John replies: The purchase of health insurance should be as simple as the purchase of car or life insurance. Americans should be able to buy their own policies and accrue the tax benefits that are currently reserved for businesses purchasing policies. We need to allow the free market and competition work to drive down costs without expensive mandates. We have seen great savings through empowering Americans with Health Savings Accounts and other consumer-driven health care models, by allowing our citizens to buy the plan that is right for them, not one driven by government mandates.
Some today have called for a national, government-run health program. As someone who has run a government health program, I can tell you that you don’t want one. We need to maximize consumer choice and empower citizens to make the best decisions on their care.
4. British Prime Minister Brown said that the US must give up the idea of absolute sovereignty in order to better cooperate in the global community. Agree or disagree, and why?
John replies: The sovereignty of America is what made us the great nation we are today, and British absolute sovereignty is what made the UK the most powerful nation on earth in the 19th century. America must always reserve the right to choose how, when and with whom we will cooperate with other nations. Furthermore, we must not ever allow other countries dictate to us what our cultural standards will be. To do otherwise is an abdication of our responsibilities to our future generations.
5. Guantanomo military prison:
• Keep it open or close it?
• If closed – where would you send those enemy combatants?
• Would you be willing to try those enemy combatants in our civilian courts (with its accompanying mandatory rights as due to citizens)?
John replies: The rise of terrorism and asymmetrical warfare has exposed a gray area in the America legal system. Congress must work deliberately to identify how to address those who fall into this category. In the meantime, the Guantanomo Bay military prison appears to be the best solution for those non-citizen terrorist suspects.
6. Should President Bush attend the Summer Olympics’ opening ceremonies in communist China?
John replies: The presence of the United States President at any event represents a powerful symbol of freedom and democracy to the rest of the world and helps to validate the host. As such, President Bush’s attendance of the opening ceremonies should be tied for further efforts by the Chinese government to enhance democratization efforts and a reduction in the hostility toward Taiwan.
7. Are you in favor of using eminent domain in taking private property from one owner to another in order to expand taxable property values?
John replies: Respect for personal property rights is key piece of the foundation of freedom and capitalism. The government acting as a redistributor of property is a wholly unacceptable abridgement of our rights and undermines the intent of the 4th Amendment. The Founding Fathers had a pretty good idea of why this was important, and the government should always respect the spirit of the Bill of Rights.
8. Are you willing to sign an earmark moratorium?
John replies: I have already signed a pledge to oppose earmarks. I believe strongly that directed appropriations outside of legislation have no place in our government. The people deserve to have their representatives vote up or down on funding requests, not to have a separate process to shield projects from public scrutiny.
9. You have a choice: raise corporate taxes or eliminate five Federal programs. Which is your choice? If it is “eliminate five programs”, please list them. (Feel free to list more than five if you think more could go)
John replies: As a former state department head who worked to combine or eliminate many unnecessary programs, I know that there are many programs that should be done away with at the federal level. I would want input from each federal agency to identify any programs that should be abolished. However, to begin with, I would work to eliminate UNESCO funding, federal educational curriculum programs, agricultural subsidies, agricultural price targets and most energy subsidies. These are the tip of the iceberg however, as Government auditors spent the past five years examining all federal programs and found that 22% of them, adding up to $123 billion per year, according to the Heritage Foundation, fail to show any positive impact on the people they are designed to serve.
10. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are “demographic time bombs” in waiting. What steps should be taken to avoid future failures of these entitlements?
John replies: Entitlements in America must be reformed before they consume the entirety of the federal budget and require massive tax increases to fund them. For starters, we need to stop adding to these entitlements. The Medicare Part D program already has a greater unfunded liability than Social Security. Then, we need to identify ways of delivering services more efficiently for Medicare and Medicaid, which are the fastest growing entitlements. This means that we should harness the power of the free market to reduce costs by giving our seniors the same health care options that our Congressmen receive.
11. How would you propose Congress and the president balance the federal budget?
John replies: The federal budget must be balanced through reducing spending. The past six years have seen the greatest spending increases in our nation’s history. We need to get spending under control by examining every program to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness. Increasing taxes is a losing proposition that will ultimately put the brakes on our economy and set our nation backwards.
12. Would you vote for the “Fair Tax”? The “Flat Tax”?
John replies: I am a supporter of the Hensarling-Ryan Flat Tax proposal. I believe that this is the best way to ensure long-term economic growth while reducing the enormous burden on taxpayers. This would give taxpayers the opportunity to choose between a simple, flat tax or keeping the existing tax code.
~~~~~~~~ Visit John Stephen’s website at http://www.johnstephen.com/