Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another Trivedi / Gerlach Debate

PCN is providing a wonderful public service by replaying a variety of debates. I taped one between Jim Gerlach, Republican congressman from the 6th district, and his Democratic opponent Dr. Manan Trivedi.

These are rough notes from that debate. It is not intended as a full transcript. I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions and encourage voters in the 6th district to watch the debate themselves.

6th congressional district debate
Tuesday evening, October 12th
Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia
Main Line Reform Temple
Mark Zucker, Jewish Community Relations Council

Jim Gerlach in 1990 won first of two terms in the state house, then two terms in the state senate. He was elected to congress in 2002. He was worked on welfare reform and land use in state government and in congress he worked for a new national veterans cemetery and on Medicare prescription drugs. He attended Dickinson College and received a BA in political science, and Dickinson Law School. He has three children and three stepchildren.

Dr. Manan Trivedi was born and raised in Berks County and is the son of immigrants. As a young boy he won a contest on healthy eating [missed part of this] and won a community service award in college. After medical school he joined the Navy and was a battalion surgeon with the first troops in Iraq. He has a masters degree in health [missed what aspect of health] and is a primary care physician.

Opening Statement

JG: Greeting and thanks. Election boils down to what does this Congress need to do to run the country around and who is best to represent the district. People feel Congress has taxed too much, spent too much and borrowed too much. Nation that is secure and there for partners like the state of Israel. Did not support stimulus or health care reform or cap and trade or permanent bailout. Opponent favors all.

MT: Greeting and thanks. Been going around district and listening. People are frustrated. Elected officials lost touch. Need new leadership. As battalion surgeon and primary care physician and new father I can supply that leadership. Social security [missed this]. When Red Cheek Apple closed my dad lost his job and his pension was raided. Believed in American dream. JG only fights for Washington special interests. I have fought on the front lines of Iraq and on the front lines of health care. JG follows ideology and I use evidence to decide.

Q1 [citing daughter] What would you say to an 18 year old on why they should vote and care about this election?

JG: Thank her for registering to vote. Look at candidates in all races. What will they do? Her votes count. In my first election I won by 23 votes. It is important to participate. Understand the issues, social security, debt.

MT: Thank her for registering. People get cynical. There are people out there who want to do the right thing. Get involved. Advocate and canvass. Health care, now adults covered under parents health insurance. Student loans, now the middle man is cut out. Jobs. JG voted to give tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas. We need to protect social security.

JG: In health care. Do support covering pre-existing conditions and allowing parents to keep adult children on their coverage. On the vote on jobs overseas. That bill would raise taxes on businesses. Put more debt, 54B, not a jobs bill but a tax and spend bill.

MT: We need to continue to work on health care. System was broken and unsustainable. That bill does give tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas.

Q2: The Tea Party, what does it say about us?

MT: Don't understand the Tea Party in any significant fashion. Support effort to increase public discourse. The Tea Party controls Gerlach's party right now. They want to cut off foreign aid, including to Israel. Concerning extremist movement. Gerlach is beholden to them.

JG: Some would say moveon.org too over your party years ago. Some would say it is extreme. There are many Tea Party organizations in this area. Some would say it is extreme. They are angry and concerned. Debt and taxes, what it means for job creation. They take different positions. Concerned about the future of the country. The have the right to engage but it must be done in a civil and respectful way.

MT: Agree we need to be civil and responsible. The Tea Party espouses privatizing social security, repealing all parts of the health care bill, “taking our country back.” We should engage but they must meet us halfway.

JG: They do want to see the bill repealed and replaced but so do 60% of the American people.

Q3: what is civil and responsible in regards to Park 51 (Ground Zero mosque)?

JG: Everyone should and can express our views but not in hate. The may have the right to do it but may not be the right thing to do. The minister who wanted to burn the Koran had the right to do it but it may not be the right thing to do. The same as with those who protest at funerals. They have the right but it may not be civil and responsible.

MT: We need more civil discourse. Base it on evidence and principle. He falls under ideology, what the party bosses tell him. I fought for the Constitution. This is a New York issue but this is a right in the Constitution. I think we can rise above partisan rhetoric. Republican and Democrats are at loggerheads; let's look at the rhetoric and rise above. Let's get things done.

JG: Evidence is clear that the stimulus didn't work. The president said he would keep unemployment under 8% and it is now 9.6%. People want a different direction.

MT: The stimulus was poorly implemented. Wasn't effective or transparent. But something had to be done. If not done unemployment would probably be over 20%. We need to continue. Make hcr better. Instead of no, no, no.

Q4: If you had an hour alone with Secretary of State Clinton, the prime minister of Israel and the leader of the Palestenian Authority [may have this title wrong].

MT: I would be honored in such esteemed company. Israel is a valued ally. In uniform I was willing to fight (die?) for Israel. The important thing – need bilateral negotiations without preconditions and guarantee for Palestine that they will be honest brokers. Security important. The Palestinian Authority left the table.

JG: To Secretary Clinton, you've been doing a good job. Continued to be a facilitating entity. More attention to talking more to Arab nations. Never stepped up to help solve poverty in Palestine (?). Try to get Arab powers to work towards a Middle East peace. To Israeli prime minister, stay strong. Needs to be protected and supported.

MT: has to be about [missed this]. Israel is a soverign nation. The Palestinian Authority must be an honest broker. Palestinian settlements an overblown issue.

Q5: Economic sanctions against Iran regarding nuclear weapons. Additional actions?

JG: I supported that legislation. I supported every effort to get Iran to cease and desist. No one has a crystal ball here. Iran has threatened Israel and is a friend of terrorist organizations. It ought to scare everyone's pants off. Everyone ought to be concerned. Use sanction power. Economic and diplomatc efforts. Every possible effort.

MT: I applauded that bill as well. Implementation is the key. First time we've stopped for an oil company and sanctioned them. Centrifuges don't wait for negotiations. Need to stop Iran. Very real threat. All options on the table, including the military option. Look at how did we get here. Failed policies in Washington. Took eye off the ball. Failed efforts of Bush and Gerlach. Lost the bigger picture.

JG: We got in this situation because the nut in charge of Iran support terrorist organizations and wants to snuff out Israel. Battle for hearts and minds. Basic values we have here not based on one administration. Hopefully Iranians will change the country.

MT: Enforce sanctions. No doubt our actions in part of it. Hold our leaders accountable. Took our eye off the ball.

Q6: climate change, comprehensive energy policy

MT: Time for fact finding is over. The evidence is clear and quite scary. My opponent still doesn't profess to believe that global warming is real and man made. There are bills and ways we can cut emissions. Calling the cap and trade bill a job killer is political rhetoric. Can get this done in a way that promote job growth.

JG: We need a comprehensive energy plan and to break our dependency on foreign oil, break our dependency on fossil fuels. We need to include clean coal and nuclear power. The French get most of their energy from nuclear power. Cap and trade is wrong direction because of the huge cost to business. That would drive businesses offshore. Throw on top of that the increases in energy. PPL says that bill would increase [20% or 30%]. The bill is badly written.

MT: We need clean energy. Look as his big oil and gas contributions. He has taken over $700K in special interest money. Problem with guys in Washington. Need to reduce dependency on foreign oil for security and also to get the economy on track.

JG: You've gotten money from unions and trail lawyers. I would never say that you would alter your decisions based on contributions. I hope you would extend me the same courtesy.

Q7: Tax cuts, if we extend them how will we pay for them?

JG: With 9.7% unemployment the time is not now for raising taxes on anyone. In the House there is bipartisan support for extending the tax cuts to everyone.

MT: I support extending the tax cuts to all but the top 2%, mostly millionaires and billionaires. Economists have proven that it won't help the economy. It is not a supply side problem but a demand problem. Millionaires and billionaires would get $100,000. It would affect less than 3% of the small business and of those 88% are individuals like Derek Jeeter or Paris Hilton. JG favors those that line your pockets. Wish it wasn't the case. You've gotten nearly $1 M from Wall Street. I've gotten no corporate PAC money.

JG: You don't understand evidence out there. Raising taxes on those earning over $250,000. They are the people that create jobs. $900B tax increase on them is goofy and totally irresponsible.

MT: Confusing evidence and rhetoric. Less than 3% of small businesses affected. Will only help millionaires and billionaires. Single person companies, hedge funds and artists. Any economist with half a soul would tell you this won't help.

Q8: Assuming we extend tax cuts how do we fund them?

MT: We need to look through federal budget with fine tooth comb. A lot of inefficiencies. Don't send jobs overseas, cut health care. Secretary of Defense says the Dept of Defense spends too much. Support troops. When in Iraq saw contractors being paid more than soldiers. It can't be done with a mallet and must be done with a surgical knife. So send a surgeon to Congress.

JG: Congress has not done oversight job well. Under Clinton and Bush total government spending was 20% of the gdp, now it is 25% of the gdp. That is unsustainable. When JFK cut taxes it increased the economy. The same happened with Reagan cut taxes. Leave money in the private sector to create jobs. Don't increase spending in public sector that should be done in the private sector.

MT: The answer isn't bigger government but smarter government. I did this as a health policy advisor to [Navy? Government?]. Trickle down – I'm still waiting for the trickle. If it worked we wouldn't be in this position. We got here by tax cuts for the wealthy and by deregulation.

JG: Would like someone who has been in the House since 2006 to take responsibility. The Democrats were in control. Haven't said a word about tort reform and you're a physician! I talk with physicians every day and they want tort reform.

Q9: school choice

JG: Support voucher program in DC to see what would happen. Haven't supported it more generally. Need more evidence. Did support Opportunity Scholarships in PA. Has worked well. Public schools need resources. Allow opportunity for people to go to charter schools, etc.

MT: Support school choice that makes education better. In national budget very little spending on education. Someone said if you want to see what the economy will be like in 10 years look at education now. Innovation, support teachers. Don't just teach to the test. Not allowed to be creative. I've always said tort reform should be part of the solution. But not the whole answer. Tort reform is not everything.

JG: Issue interesting. ESCA, Elementary School Reauthorization Act gives distressed schools choices: fire the principal, fires the principal and half the teachers or close the school and go to a charter school.

Q10: immigration reform

JG: The president called on Congress to take It up, not enough consensus: 1) control southern border, majority come for better life but also drug dealers and terrorists, 2) immigration and national security administration – ability to deal with those who overstayed their visas, and 3) people who come through other circumstances. Rule of law. Bipartisan discussion on those here without legal right. Rule of law.

MT: comprehensive immigration reform. Seal borders. Crack down on companies who hire illegals. Those here pay back taxes, criminal background check, get in back of line for citizenship. Has to be national, can't be state.

Q11: abortion

JG: oppose except in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother. Work to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

MT: Need to reduce unwanted pregnancies but as a husband, father of a daughter and as a physician, believe in a woman's right to choose.

Closing Statements

MT: Thanks. Thanks to JG for allowing recording and taping of this debate. Let's have a debate in Berks County. We've had a debate in Chester and Montgomery Counties. It is clear there is a difference between the candidates. My opponent has gone Washington. Stopped listening to us. Washington syndrome. We need real people with real solutions. His policies won't work. Repealing tax cuts will cost us [missed amount]. Shipping jobs overseas will cost us. America can't afford Gerlach anymore.

JG: Thanks. The American people can't afford current policies. People in my district communicate every day. They want lower taxes, lower government spending, and stop bailouts. Repeal and replace health care reform. My opponent is on the wrong side of the 6th district. He supports the stimulus and capt and trade. People want to change Congress, through out current leadership and current policies.

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