2nd District candidates field questions on tax cuts, Iraq

Posted Sept. 19, 2008, at 9:18 p.m.

BY GLENN ADAMS

AUGUSTA, Maine — In Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, retired history professor John Frary of Farmington is in an uphill battle to unseat Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud, who’s seeking a fourth term.

With his cane, wide-brimmed hat and professorial demeanor, Republican Frary has brought an unconventional approach to his low-budget campaign. Former paper mill worker Michaud has stressed his long experience in state and federal government.

Here are their responses to questions posed by The Associated Press on a range of issues facing the state and nation:

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Q: Should Congress continue or roll back the Bush tax cuts on upper brackets, which include a 15 percent top rate on capital gains and a 3 percentage point cut in most income tax brackets, and expire at the end of 2010?

FRARY: I am opposed to further aggrandizement of the government at the expense of private citizens. Historically, tax increases on “the rich” are an invariable preliminary to tax increases on all. The European welfare states have not flourished with high marginal tax rates on individuals.

MICHAUD: Whatever Congress does, we should not raise taxes on hardworking middle-class families. High taxes also place unneeded burdens on small businesses, the backbone of Maine’s economy. We can compromise on a number of the taxes that are set to expire. For example, I have supported measures including exemptions for the estate tax up to $3.5 million and $7 million for individuals and couples, respectively. This would exempt approximately 99 percent of all small businesses and family farms from the estate tax. I have also supported permanent increases in the child tax credit, ending the marriage penalty and increased expensing and bonus depreciation for businesses to induce greater investment.

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Q: What is your vision for U.S. military presence in Iraq over the next six months? The next year?

FRARY: My formal military training ended with second-year ROTC in Orono. I do not aim to join the mob of horseless, hatless Napoleons infesting the House of Representatives. Whatever the military factors, it is clear that the sooner the Iraqi government takes responsibility for its own security, the better. The longer we remain, the more dependent they become and the stronger the paranoia about our intentions grows among the Muslims.

MICHAUD: I have long called for a new strategy in Iraq that empowers the Iraqi people to take control of their own country. Iraq’s own prime minister has set forth a proposal which includes a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. I believe that we should honor this proposal in a way that ensures the safety of our troops. I recently voted for the Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act, which would require troops to be redeployed within 120 days.

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Q: Gasoline prices soared above $4 per gallon in mid-August. Heating oil was $4.40 per gallon earlier in the summer. Can the economy sustain those costs or is congressional intervention needed to stabilize prices? If action is needed, when and what action is needed? Do you favor expanded offshore drilling as part of the solution? Drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? More nuclear plants?

FRARY: If we have not learned the futility and idiocy of price controls after 1,700 years of failure, from Diocletian’s edict on prices to the Soviet planned economy, then we are incapable of learning anything. Congress will have to take action to assist the poorest part of the population in the coldest regions. This action will be wasteful, clumsy and full of fraud, but it is inevitable. I favor drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf and in ANWR to slow the huge transfer of wealth to other nations, to strengthen the dollar, and to tame the exuberance of speculators betting on long-term declines in production.

It is well known that France generates most of its electricity by [nuclear power], yet one has yet to hear of a nuclear-fried Frenchman. An increase in nuclear power plants is not only necessary, it is inevitable. The question is how much obstruction we are willing to endure.

MICHAUD: Though energy prices have begun to decrease slightly, the fact is that we are still paying more for our fuel than we did last year … I have called for a bipartisan compromise on energy that meets today’s challenges and puts us on a good footing for the future. Drilling should be part of that compromise, but we must also continue to invest in renewables and alternatives, which will decrease our dependence on oil in the future. Different regions will need to focus on what makes the most economic sense for them, and in Maine this is likely to be wind, tidal and cellulosic biofuels.

In some states and regions, alternatives like large-scale solar and nuclear may make more sense. Because even new drilling now won’t get new oil to market for years, action needs to be taken immediately to provide relief in the short term. We must increase funding for LIHEAP and weatherization assistance and release additional petroleum from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve. The bottom line is that partisan bickering needs to stop.

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Q: The Democratic platform calls for “tough, practical and humane immigration reform in the first year of the next administration,” and Sen. John McCain says he wouldn’t pursue an enforcement-only approach sought by GOP conservatives. Both presidential candidates support a temporary worker program and eventual path to citizenship for immigrants. What specific reforms do you propose?

FRARY: It should be obvious that open borders and a welfare state are incompatible. It follows that our borders must be controlled more effectively and entitlements denied to illegal immigrants. I do not have the expertise to propose more specific measures. Personal observation, however, leads me to suggest that the processes for legal immigration are absurdly obstructive and pointlessly elaborate. These are overdue for reform.

MICHAUD: The immigration and border security strategy that our country has employed over the years does not work and we need to look at alternatives. Our country needs more secure borders for our national and economic security. More personnel at the borders and the installation of workable technology should be a part of any solution. … We need more enforcement at the border; we also need more enforcement at the workplace.

We must also look at other policies, like trade, that affect the illegal migration of people over our borders.

We need to make sure that scholars and family members can continue to come to the United States, but we also need to make sure our ports and borders are not overrun by illegal workers or people who pose threats to our safety.

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