As I campaign across Maine, I find that the usually discerning Maine voters are more demanding than ever of those of us seeking office.
This makes it challenging for a candidate, but that is the way it should be. I am heartened that voters are not settling for glib, easy answers in these difficult times. Politicians will solve the big problems only when the voters tell them they must.
In his oped “We must disenthrall ourselves” (BDN, May 19, 2012), Angus King, an independent candidate for U.S. Senate, repeats the obvious — the U.S. Congress is “broken” — but he only offers up his self-proclaimed independence and personal judgment as a solution. His main point is to explain why he will not answer even the simplest of questions: which party will he caucus with and why he might not serve on a committee. His answer really comes down to: “Trust me.”
While citing the dysfunction in Washington, he offers no proposals to fix it. On the issues, he says he will vote “[his] conscience and with [his] best judgment for the interests of Maine.” It seems he expects us to trust him on exactly what that might mean. He likes to say that he will call them as he sees them. Again, he seems to expect us to rely on his superior judgment.
Let me be clear about where I stand. I am running for the U.S. Senate because I believe this to be the most important election in a generation. Our nation is at a tipping point because of rampant overspending by our political leaders — of all political persuasions. Our bonded debt is approaching $16 trillion. Even the Chinese have stopped buying our paper. The only bank foolish enough to buy our debt is the Federal Reserve. On top of all this, we have unfunded liabilities in federal employee retirement, Social Security and Medicare — all adding up to more than $100 trillion.
For me, everything must be on the table for spending review. I would start with corporate welfare — subsidies and special tax advantages for well-heeled corporate interests that can afford the lobbying clout to buy special favors. Included in corporate welfare are not just bank bailouts and loans to energy companies such as Solyndra but also crop subsidies for multinational agribusiness, loans to Boeing and GE from the Export-Import Bank, and cash-for-clunkers-type programs. While eliminating corporate welfare will not solve our spending problems, it is important to take a stand against crony capitalism.
Here are a few specific reform ideas I will support in writing to help fix the U.S. Senate:
• Pass a budget. The U.S. Senate, while spending a trillion dollars plus each year more than the revenues coming in, has refused to pass a budget for four years. This is an outrageous failure of leadership. I believe that if Congress does not pass a budget, they should not be paid.
• Pass a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution. It is the only way to tie the politicians’ hands when it comes to more spending.
• Filibuster reform. The noble idea of the filibuster created by Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is fiction. One lone, passionate senator speaking on the floor until hoarse is not the way it works. Now the filibuster can be invoked before legislation is even brought up for consideration. That is silly and should be changed.
• Nongermane amendments. Senators too often tack on amendments to legislation that are totally unrelated to the question at hand. This allows major legislation to be held hostage and confuses the public about why a bill may be supported or opposed.
• Holds. Individual senators now can anonymously put holds on executive branch nominations or legislation. These should be abolished, except perhaps for very short periods, and even then the name of the senator putting the hold on and the reason should be made public.
Maine people recognize that King already has endorsed President Barack Obama, whose economic policies have left the average American family with $4,300 less per year in earnings than they had four years ago and left our children with $5 trillion more in debt. As governor, King repeatedly passed majority budgets with the Democrats, shutting Republicans out of the process.
Mr. Independent? I think not.
It is time to “disenthrall ourselves” from glib politicians who won’t address the issues or propose solutions and simply ask us instead to trust their judgment. Unfortunately for Maine, we trusted Angus King in the past. The result was massive government spending. Left without answers and only the option to trust his judgment, once Maine people thoroughly review his record, I believe the answer to King will be simple: Thanks, but no thanks.
Rick Bennett is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. He lives in Oxford.