Monday, August 23, 2010

First Lentz / Meehan Debate

This evening Larry Kane hosted the first of three debates between Bryan Lentz (D) and Pat Meehan (R), candidates for the open seat in the 7th congressional district, currently held by Joe Sestak. Below are my notes from listening to a podcast of the debate. I’ve left out the biographical information –you can find that on the candidate’s websites. This is not intended as a transcript and some conversational interplay was condensed into each candidate’s answers. I encourage interested parties to listen themselves, and, as always, I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

LK: economy, increase in unemployment applications, what is the solution?

BL: There are a number of things we can and should do in short term. I was out this morning at train station on Folcroft and this was issue 1-10 for voters. We need to get businesses back to producing and hiring. One is to focus on manufacturing. In 7th we have a tremendous manufacturing base, we have companies like American Crane Co. and Boeing. Those companies need incentives to use some of their accumulated capitol to invest in facilities and equipment, tax credits

PM: I’ve been out knocking on doors. People have more concern about this than any other issue.. People want sense of confidence about government and where this nation is going. We need good sustainable private sector jobs. We want small business, they are economic generator, almost all new jobs that sustainable will come from small businesses. Agree with BL, in terms of creating opportunities for entrepreneurs. I’ve come up with some unique things, for example, first time business owners, give them a tax credit for first and second employees they bring on and find a way to write down [blogger’s note: I think he means tax credits or write offs] capitol investment.

LK: Should we extend the Bush tax credits?

BL: extend for middle class, most people agree, incomes less than less than $250K a year, the middle class will lead us out of the recession. They will put money back into economy, purchase things and put money back into economy. Tax cuts for those over 250K would be for very few percentage points if rolled back, plus $199B annually would be added to deficit / debt, Over next few years that would add over 3Trillion to the debt. If we extend the tax cuts for the wealthy, we ought to cut the budget by an equal amount to avoid raising the debt.

PM: Everybody's in agreement. You’re even seeing the president talk about tax cuts, extending of 2001-2003. There is agreement except when you get to the highest tax level. I think at this point the highest tax level extend them, they’re the folks who are going to invest, to create real job opportunities.

LK: You both agree on this?

PM: What we are talking about is the opportunity to create jobs. Are going to have the investment? The top end income are the ones who are going to find shelters and things to get it out. Capitol gains, the things that make a difference to them. And dividends, 44% of those getting dividends are over 55.

BL: there's a big difference between wanting to extend tax cuts that are going to cost the country $199 billion a year. The Bush tax cuts are called that for a reason. What's really increased, the huge increase in debt is Bush tax cuts, that the number 1 factor.

LK: stimulus?

BL: The biggest contributor to the debt is Bush tax cuts, what caused recession is Bush policies which Pat is espousing on the campaign trail. Those ideas have been tried and failed..

LK: Would you as a congressman in those [Bush] years have voted for those tremendous expenditures. GOP spending like Dems?

PM: Republican lost a little bit of fiscal responsibility. In addition to the spending, there is tremendous concern over national debt, since the recession begun, since 2008. I would not have voted for the stimulus at this point in time. There should have been dollars directed, but these were directed at the wrong kinds of things.

LK: would you have voted for stimulus if you knew then what you know now about employment numbers?

BL: Meehan was part of the Bush administration. He worked there during the years when they ran up that debt. You can’t act like you’re some stranger when you were part of it.

PM: I came on 4 days after 9/11, as a prosecutor and then worked on the many challenges and threats, was on corporate fraud task force by Bush. I’m the only one here who had taken on big companies and drug companies and held them accountable for their actions.

LK: a lot of blame for this. You are each talking about something you didn't do, you weren’t in congress during stimulus

BL: During the Bush years the devil was let loose on Wall Street. Pat was part of a tax force for putting together rules for prosecuting Wall Street? How did they do.

PM: What caused the meltdown was activities in the real estate sector. I went after predatory lenders. There was a series of prosecutions. Everybody kept handing the responsibility one level down. The result was once it got into Wall Street we got meltdown.

LK: voters really not interested in yesterday but in tomorrow.. Both of you have dwelled on yesterday in campaigns. Why do you believe you would be a better representative for the people’s money?

PM: I know what its like to be out there working hard for a buck, as a kid, working my way through. People don't realize they’re talking about millions and billions of dollars in fact. I take Bryan to task for the fact they passed a budget in Harrisburg larger than last year.. They don’t realize how hard people have to work for a hundred dollars. I know what its like for victims, to feel pain.. It’s the economy.

BL: I ask on each vote: what does this do to improve lives, create jobs in the district, to create an economically vibrant area. First job out of college was a platoon leader in the Army, responsible for people. As a prosecutor responsible to victims of crime. You look over shoulder and know impact of votes. Does Pat know that most of increase in state spending went to education to places like Upper Darby High School who lobbied for it. Budget problems, recession. One way to go forward is to look at the mistakes you made. Pat is recycling ideas that were ideas of Bush administration.

PM: What Bryan is talking about is what he would do in DC, but what's he done in Harrisburg. talking about the impact on jobs of proposed Cap and trade; it is a job killer. Vote for new taxes, 500M in new taxes. This kind of record is different from his rhetoric.

BL: The all GOP school board of Upper Darby High School wanted that increase. local schools lobbied for increase in education spending. If the state doesn't pay local property tax does. The only tax in my 3.5 years in Harrisburg is on tobacco and I'm proud of that.

PM: That was the only tax that got through. A number of votes that didn’t get through because the GOP fought against them. Need people in DC to block taxes, to push against the agenda.

LK: how does congress get ready for cut in military budget that could impact on Boeing. how to get ready for this

PM: fight that on the merits, look at Boeing, how hard they are working., look at merit of v-22. If they're going to make defense cuts, look at frivolous things that are out there, investigate that. I'd love to go to DC and work for Boeing. they sell their products on the merits.

BL; I flew in Chinooks and jumped of them as part of the 82nd Airborne. I flew on them in Iraq. If elected I would askto be on armed forces committee and can speak from first hand experience for the Chinook and Osprey, moving soldiers in tough terrain

LK: gay marriage?

BL: I was a co-sponsor of the civil unions bill, seek equality, judge people on merit not on who they date. civil unions a practical approach

PM: marriage is a family thing, between a man and a woman, civil unions

LK: mosque?

PM: As someone who's worked with murder victims, there's never a day they don't think about it and the impact it has had on their lives. The opportunity here to have some kind of reasonable resolution to move that mosque away from that designated holy land

BL: I went back into the Army after 9/11. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Should consider wishes and concerns of victims and families.

LK: medicare

BL its one of those issues where you ask how will it affect district. The number 1 employer is health care in our district, plus recipients, keep and preserve as the program it is

PM: fight to preserve it but work first to hold down cost. Concerned about the way bill was produced, suggesting they’re going to find $500B in savings in medicare. . We should have attacked that issue first.

BL: Pat's party is advocating privatizing, end medicare as we know it.

PM: I haven't talked about privatizing. [LK: are you a party guy?] Very independent, take issues one by one

BL: Pat has heralded the fact that he is endorsed by the tea party. One woman at a meeting said they want to scrap medicare. [LK: are you a party guy] Very independent.

PM: I'm happy to have the tea party’s support but also happy to have union support, Someone endorsing me doesn't mean I agree with everything. I wasn't the one who put the tea party candidate on the ballot.

BL: I think its a real issue. You worked for George Bush and ran Rick Santorums' campaign. Are you a Bush / Santorum republican or a tea party Republican? You took tea party endorsement and spoke at their rally.

LK: Bryan, would you welcome an endorsement from

BL: I would welcome an endorsement from the people I’m seeking to represent. Pat has sought the tea party endorsement. I wouldn't seek it out. You haven't seen press releases about me speaking at their rallies.

PM: let's talk about this issue by issue. Tea party stands for fiscal responsibility. I wouldn't seek it out, Bryan’s trying to recast this but that’s not who I am. To the extent that the tea party is interested in fiscal responsibility.

BL: They want to get rid of dept of education. I'm not courting the extremes and he is.

PM: You can go out everywhere and talk to people. I talk to small businessmen, senior citizens, Everybody has a vote.

LK: if you take a look at both sides of every debate. There's such an extremism in elections and everyone's try to demonize the other. It's not that easy

PM: Extremism isn't where the world is going to make progress. The most significant and greatest time of growth is when you have president of one party and legislature of another [cites Clinton and Bush].

BL I've done that – working in bipartisan in state legislature. Look at who you want representing you.

LK: good luck, spirited conversation.

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