Universal Health Insurance
The lack of universal health insurance in the United States is the most important policy issue facing our nation.
Nearly 50 million Americans do not have health insurance. Most of the uninsured work full time or live in a household where someone is working full time. Sadly, an estimated one million bankruptcies a year are due in part to staggering medical bills.
Unfortunately, the cost of health insurance is so high it is out of reach for those of low and moderate incomes who are not offered health insurance at work. It is not possible for a person making $20,000 a year to purchase a $15,000 family health insurance policy.
Our nation’s failure to ensure universal health insurance goes against our basic values as a nation. As Americans, we believe in community. We live our individual lives and enjoy our rights as citizens, but we also have obligations to the community. From the earliest days of the Province of New Hampshire in the 1600s, we have been a community of compassion that cares for those in need. If you are hungry, you will be fed. If you are homeless, you will be given shelter. But if you are sick, and have no health insurance, you are one heart attack, one cancer diagnosis away from bankruptcy, or death. In a nation as prosperous as ours, this is unconscionable.
Universal health insurance will make us not only healthier, it will make us a stronger nation economically—healthy people enrich our society with their work.
For too long we have treated healthcare as a luxury available to some, rather than a basic human need available to all. For too long we have treated healthcare as a luxury available to some, rather than a basic human need available to all. It is time for us to embrace the values of community and compassion, and mend the hole in our social safety net. As your Congressman, I pledge to work relentlessly for universal health insurance so no American ever has to face illness alone and without treatment.
Fair and Simple Tax Code
Americans believe in fairness. We have a tax code that is anything but fair.
No one said it better than Warren Buffett. He’s the second-wealthiest man in the world—or at least he was before he gave a lot of his money away. He pointed out that most of his income is capital gains and dividends taxed at 15%. But if he gave his secretary a raise, she would be taxed at 25%. The second-wealthiest man in the world has a lower tax rate than his SECRETARY! This is simply wrong.
There are provisions in our federal tax law that give to the oil and gas industry deductions that no other industry is allowed. We need to stop this giveaway that costs us billions of dollars a year.
I support President Obama’s call for limits on the itemized deductions allowed for people with very high incomes. Many of the itemized deductions available to working Americans make good policy sense. The deduction for home mortgage interest is designed to help Americans realize the dream of home ownership. But it makes no sense to have an unlimited deduction, so that we are subsidizing the mansions of millionaires.
It has been estimated that Americans spend tens of billions of dollars each year complying with federal tax laws. Simplification would benefit our economy, and would restore Americans’ faith in the system. In 1986, Senator Bill Bradley led the fight to overhaul and simplify federal tax laws. It’s time to do that job again.
As Americans, we believe in human rights. For a couple centuries, that was our brand. America was a shining beacon to the world. The advance of democracy in recent decades was due in part to the power of our example. But the last eight years has tarnished our reputation. The truth about torture perpetrated by our government during the Bush is now coming out, but that is not enough. There must be accountability for the violations of our laws, our constitution, and our international treaty obligations. As your Congressman, I promise to be a strong ally of Senator Leahy and Congressman Conyers, and their efforts to have a full reckoning of the misdeeds of the past eight years.
Common Sense Regulation
We believe in the free enterprise system, which is the source of our nation’s success and dynamism. At the same time, we understand that completely unregulated markets allowed child labor, pollution, unsafe food, dangerous work conditions, and risky investments that endangered our economy. We must resist those who, ignorant of history and the cost of ‘laissez-faire economics,’ blandly call for ‘less government.’
Americans are people of action. We value truth and problem solving—but not when it comes to the threat of global warming. Scientists have known for years that carbon dioxide in our atmosphere acts like a greenhouse dome, preventing heat from radiating out into space.
Year after year we have pumped more and more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, and the predictions of scientists have come true. The last ten years have been the warmest on record. Glaciers are melting all around the world. Sheets of ice the size of Rhode Island have fallen into the ocean around Antarctica. The oceans are rising.
The time for action is now. As your Congressman, I will vote for investments in renewable energy such as wind, wood, and methane recovery. I will vote for a smart electric grid, so that people will pay the actual cost of electricity by time of day, encouraging industry and individuals to conserve, and to shift energy usage to off-peak hours. I will vote for research in new energy sources, such as ethanol from biomass. I will support incentives for industry to innovate, and for individuals to conserve.
As Americans, we believe in democracy—one person, one vote. On paper, each of us has an equal say in our government. In practice, we have a political system that is too often beholden to big money and lobbyists. It takes money to win an election, and you can connect the dots between large donations and legislation.
I have some personal experience with money in politics. Three months after I was first elected to the State Senate, someone within the NH Democratic Party said I should hold a fundraiser, to build a war chest for my re-election. I said I couldn’t ask my constituents to contribute when I had just entered the legislature. He said, “we’ll have the fundraiser here in Concord.” “But who will come,” I asked. “The lobbyists,” he said. I never had that fundraiser. I have always run my campaigns with donations from people like you, and that’s how I will run my campaign for Congress.
But that’s not enough. We can’t change the culture in Washington, we can’t have true democracy, government by the people and for the people, unless we change the system. As your Congressman, I will sign on to the Fair Elections Now Act so that candidates that agree to accept only small contributions can receive matching funds, making it possible to have Congressmen and Senators who are free of the influence of big money. Think what a change this would be. The problems we face as a nation—health care, the tax code, corporate welfare, global warming—would be much easier to solve if our elected officials were not asking themselves each time they voted whether that particular vote would scare off their biggest donors.
Fair Elections laws are already working in Maine, Arizona, Connecticut, North Carolina and New Mexico, where over 75% of elected officials have said no to big money and have opted for the Fair Elections process.
As Americans, we believe in independence and personal responsibility. We work hard, and we don’t expect handouts. But in Washington, it seems like everyone has his hand out.
For example, when Congress passed the Medicare drug law a few years ago, it included a provision that forbids the government from bargaining with the drug companies. As a former New Hampshire legislator, this made no sense to me. Our Medicaid program is one of the largest drug purchasers in the state, and we bargain hard with the drug companies. We require them to sign contracts that guarantee New Hampshire the lowest price they charge in the country. New Hampshire has investigators who check the prices for drugs sold to HMOs and Medicaid programs across the country. If they find lower prices anywhere else, New Hampshire gets a refund. If New Hampshire can bargain with drug companies, so can Medicare—if we can get the drug lobby out of the way.
Ethanol subsidies are another huge giveaway. A subsidy for corn-based ethanol may have made sense when the industry was just getting started, but that is no longer the case. Ethanol is now required to be in the gasoline in most parts of the country, because it causes our cars to run cleaner. (Ethanol was mandated when we removed MTBE from our gasoline.) It makes no sense to subsidize ethanol when it has a guaranteed market.
If we eliminate all the special interest give-aways in Washington—no-bid contracts, subsidies for huge agribusiness, special tax provisions for the oil and natural gas industries, overseas tax havens, cold war weapons with no mission, subsidies to health insurance companies so they can compete with Medicare, and more—we can make a huge dent in our fiscal problems. As your Congressman, I will say no to special interests that take money out of your pocket.