Election 2012

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Richard Bennett in 2005

Richard A. Bennett

Party affiliation: R
Residence: Oxford

On the Issues

How would you balance the federal budget/reduce the federal deficit?

Our federal government has a spending addiction, and everything must be on the table for review and possible cutting. I support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. I am the only candidate in this race who has been speaking out publicly for nearly 20 years about the need for a balanced budget amendment. I am not new to this fight. In looking for spending cuts, I would start with corporate welfare like bank bailouts and ethanol subsidies, and the relationships between big government and big business — crony capitalism — and put an end to the practice of government picking winners and losers. That won’t address all of our fiscal problems, of course, but it is important we take a stand against this first as we tackle the other difficult spending decisions ahead.

What steps do you support to reform Social Security and Medicare?

First, with vast, unfunded liabilities of about $17 trillion and $89 trillion, respectively, Social Security and Medicare are not sustainable in their current form. We must protect the current systems for people who are now receiving benefits or who will be in the next few years. For others, we should allow for people to set their own retirement ages and give more controls to individual participants. We will have to consider means testing for Medicare benefits in order to achieve sustainability. But beyond the fiscal reforms, these programs need to become true trust funds that are protected from conflicts of interest and political gamesmanship. This requires removing the Secretary of the Treasury and other administration officials as trustees, and separating these trusts from the federal operating budget.

Would you sign a pledge to never raise federal taxes? Why or why not?

I have not signed the pledge. I have said all along that the only pledge I will take is my oath to uphold the Constitution. Throughout my service in the Maine Legislature — including as President of the Senate — I have always opposed tax increases. I cannot imagine a scenario in which I would support a tax increase. Our fiscal problems come from over-spending. There is plenty of revenue coming through the doors of the federal treasury. It is worth noting that the difference between the Obama Budget and the Ryan Budget is just the rate of growth in federal spending — 4.5 percent per year vs. 3 percent per year. We don’t tax too little; we simply spend to much.

How should health care be reformed?

There is much common ground on health care reform, and we should build our public policy on this critical matter on reforms where most people agree rather than force an ideological solution. Health care and health insurance choices should remain with individuals and their families. I support making all health care insurance tax deductible regardless of who is paying for it. I support striking down regulations that get in the way of creating buying pools. I support allowing health insurance purchases across state lines. And I support measures to get consumers more involved in the spending decisions, through better information and other means.

Do you support a woman’s right to an abortion?

Yes, but I have voted against and spoken against late-term abortions, and I oppose government funding of abortions.

In Congress, would you support DOMA or legislation to allow civil unions or gay marriage?

I do not believe marriage and civil unions should be regulated at the federal level. Marriage should be defined at the state level.

Should the federal government have a role in K-12 education?

Very limited. We should eliminate the Education Department as a cabinet agency. Education should be the responsibility of and managed by parents, teachers, local school boards, and states — in that order.

What are the benefits of school choice? Vouchers? Should they be available for private and religious schools?

My wife and I homeschooled our children until the third grade, then put them in public school, and then in private school. While not a federal issue, I support vouchers and school choice. Vouchers would provide all parents the same options and help insure that the best education is available to all.

Do you believe climate change is happening? Do humans contribute to it? What should Congress do to address the problem?

I believe climate change is occurring, and I think it is clear that human behavior is a factor. Reducing pollution and waste should always be part of our ethic as human beings and a goal for society. Given the difficulty of determining the costs and benefits to various proposed policy changes and the frailty of our economy, I do not support any additional policies to address climate change at this time.

What should the country’s energy policy look like?

I believe we should set a goal to be energy independent on the North American continent. We have abundant sources of energy in our own country, and Canada, for example, provides a majority of the oil that Mainers consume to stay warm. I think we need to drill where it makes, but I do not support drilling off the coast of Maine like some of my opponents. I would like to see the Keystone XL pipeline built, and I would like to see us continue to take advantage of the huge natural gas deposits that we have in this country.