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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

Smart Voter
Sacramento County, CA November 6, 2012 Election
Candidates Answer Questions on the Issues
United States Representative; District 7

The questions were prepared by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund and asked of all candidates for this office.     See below for questions on Economy, Budget, Energy, Health care, Campaign financing

Click on a name for candidate information.   See also more information about this contest.

? 1. In this time of high unemployment, what are the most important steps that should be taken to improve our nationís economy?

Answer from Ami Bera:

Empower Small Businesses:

In today's economy, small businesses employ over half of America's workers, create nearly two-thirds of all new jobs, and are responsible for over 97 percent of all exported goods.3 Our economic policy needs to better reflect the central role of small firms to our nation's economic health. This means improving access to capital; extending small business R&D tax credits for the long-term; instituting fairer and simpler tax codes for small businesses to compete at home and abroad; and reforming our healthcare system to allay debilitating costs.

Access to capital - Nothing is more important to the success of our small businesses than having access to adequate financing. We need to make loan approval processes simpler and more accessible for the average small business owner; expand existing SBA loan and micro-loan programs to provide better start-up and long-term financing options; and strengthen the lending power of community banks and credit unions. Additionally, we should consider extending tax credits to venture capital funds with proven track records for seeding successful small business startups.

A fair and simple approach - For decades the influence of corporate lobbyists has meant unfair tax breaks for big corporations, while small businesses are often left carrying an undue burden. In Congress, I will support legislation to end capital gains taxes on investments in small business and start-ups. I will support tax credits to small businesses creating new jobs. And I will work to eliminate red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy, so that owners of small firms can focus less on costly record keeping and more on the real task of running their business.

Research and Development - Throughout our nation's history small businesses have led the way in innovation, producing a disproportionate percentage of patents and technological advancements. Yet in our present economy it has become more difficult for smaller firms to focus on research and development that invests in the future. In Congress, I will make sure small businesses are adequately incentivized to improve their competitiveness and drive American enterprise.

Reinvest in Our Children and Workforce:

We must focus in on our investments in public education and workforce training, so that young people and a transitioning workforce have the knowledge and skills necessary to build for a successful life. This means aligning education funding and reforms to meet critical economic objectives, and retooling our schools and colleges to prepare students for a diversity of career pathways in a changing global environment.

Education in the 21st century must be a collaborative effort, linking a diversity of leadership and organizational resources to best serve and prepare the next generation. All over the region, education leaders are partnering with business and civic organizations to transform our schools and colleges for a 21st century economy. With strong leadership in Washington, we can together ensure our students are developing relevant skills from kindergarten through high school, and that workers have access to cutting edge apprenticeships, continuing education, and other skill development programs.

Clean Up Wall Street:

Wall Street has gotten a pass far too long. We need to restore commonsense values of integrity and decency to our financial system, so that corporate CEOs and hedge fund financiers are just as accountable for their actions as Main Street business owners. In Congress, I will fight for fundamental reforms to ensure America's families and workers are no longer subject to the irresponsible and greed-driven behavior that recently brought our economy to the edge of collapse.

End bailouts, golden parachutes and outrageous CEO bonuses. We must put an end to the era of "corporate welfare," where oversized financial institutions and their executives are rewarded for recklessness. Taxpayers must never again be responsible to bailout massively consolidated + "too big to fail" + banks, while CEOs get away scot-free with Golden Parachutes and billion dollar bonuses.

Close corporate loopholes. For years, our federal tax policy has been skewed to allow the "super rich" to get richer, while siphoning off billions of dollars that could be helping middle class American families and small businesses. We need to expose corporate loopholes and close down offshore tax havens, so that privileged fund managers and corporations are made accountable to pay their fair share of taxes.

End credit card scams. In too many cases, consumers are walked into deceptive credit and loan contracts that they don't fully understand and can't afford. We need to institute financial protections that increase transparency and prevent credit card companies from the trick and trap practices largely responsible for the recent epidemic of bankruptcies and foreclosures nationwide.

Identify Regional Opportunity:

According to regional economists and specialists, the six-county Capital area is positioned to become a national hub for emerging technologies and industries. Clean energy and health care industries, in particular, are consistently recognized for their potential to create thousands of new good-paying jobs in our area. This capacity for growth, however, depends on our willingness to step up and invest in emerging markets. Entrepreneurs and business owners need a friend in Washington who will work on their behalf, while also partnering locally to harness and develop the talent and resources of our region.

The Sacramento region is especially poised to benefit from national initiatives like the Green Bank Act and the HOMESTAR Retrofit Act, which would leverage private investment and enterprise to create millions of good living wage jobs across the nation. In Congress, I would advocate aggressively to make sure our local entrepreneurs and businesses are at the front of the line to gain from such initiatives, while also ensuring that resources are allocated and implemented in the smartest, most efficient ways possible. For too long we have tolerated Congressional leadership that is disconnected from what is happening at the county and city level. As someone who has lived and served in this area my entire career + working closely with businesses, non-profits, and state and county services + I know what our region has to offer and I am committed to bring folks together to maximize our region's economic potential.

? 2. How should the federal budget deficit be addressed, now and into the future? How should budget priorities for defense and domestic programs be adjusted?

Answer from Ami Bera:

Streamline Government, Balance the Budget:

The role of government is not to solve all our problems, but to create a context of opportunity for individuals, families and communities to work hard, succeed, and shape the life they desire. In Congress, I will support federal policy to balance our budget and aggressively reduce government waste and inefficiency, so that we can maximize taxpayer dollars to address the great challenges of our day: protecting our country; investing in a new economy; and ensuring the education and health of our children and workforce.

Government debt is the single greatest threat to long-term, sustainable economic recovery and job creation. It is also a threat to our national security, as almost half of our nation's $13 trillion debt is financed by foreign countries like Japan and China. It is time to return to an ethic of responsibility and fiscal toughness + for the sake of our security and on behalf of our children and grandchildren who deserve the opportunity to build a successful life for themselves.

One of the best ways to do this is to reinstitute commonsense budgeting principles like pay-as-you-go. Along with increased budget discipline, we need to prioritize smart investments in our economy that depend more on creative private-public partnerships and less on taxpayer dollars. Now more than ever, there is the potential to serve the needs of our communities through non-governmental means. We need to leverage public resources by creating a context for social entrepreneurs, private philanthropy, non-profits, faith and civic organizations to most effectively serve the common good.

? 3. What are your priorities with respect to our nationís energy policy? Should there be an emphasis on clean energy and reducing carbon emissions, and/or on reducing our dependence on foreign sources?

Answer from Ami Bera:

Climate Change, Jobs and the New Energy Economy:

For the first time in our post-industrial history, it is possible to power our economy more efficiently and with greater economic gains by employing clean energy technology and practices. This development means we can now harness market forces to confront the dual threat of climate change and energy dependence. In Congress, I will support strategic policies and investments to promote this crucial transition from a carbon-based and energy dependent economy to one that is clean, self-sufficient, and can generate millions of good-paying jobs across every skill and education level.

Investing in Efficiency and Innovation - The path to a new clean energy economy requires notable increases in energy efficiency and greater access to renewable energy sources. To achieve this we will need to invest in multiple sectors of our economy. Specifically, we should focus on increasing the fuel efficiency standards of our cars and trucks; retrofitting commercial buildings and homes; and long-term extensions of the production and investment tax credits, incentivizing further research and development in solar and wind. By taking these steps we can immediately create hundreds of thousands of manufacturing, installation, and maintenance jobs.

Education and Workforce Training for the New Energy Economy - The path to a clean energy future will require a skilled workforce of engineers, scientists, computer programmers, technicians, builders, electricians and mechanics, all working together to rebuild and power a cleaner, more efficient society. We must focus on our investments in public education and workforce training, so that young people and a transitioning workforce have the knowledge and skills necessary to design and build the infrastructure of the new energy economy.

Standing Up to Big Oil:

It is a sad fact that much of our current energy policy is skewed to the interests of big oil companies who spend billions of dollars to manipulate public perception and buy off career politicians. In Congress, I will stand up to these companies and their lobbyists. Instead I will support policy rooted in sound evidence and the best interests of the American people.

No on Offshore Drilling - The potential benefits of offshore drilling are easily outweighed by the profound risks posed to our oceans and coastal economies. In Congress, I will fight for more promising energy solutions that can move us further and faster towards our goals of environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and national security. I will also support greater oversight and regulation to ensure existing operations are held to the highest standards of safety and accountability.

Smarter, Safer Alternatives - The transition from a carbon-based to a clean energy future will not happen overnight, and so we must continue to explore the smartest and safest measures to maximize domestic oil and natural gas production. Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques, for instance, can yield as much as ten times the amount from existing oil fields as is projected to come from offshore projects, and the benefits are immediate as opposed to the decade or more it takes to generate new oil flow offshore. While this approach is not a long-term answer, it represents the potential for realistic and fruitful compromises as we continue to develop clean and renewable technology solutions.

Building Healthier Communities, Protecting our Resources:

The transition to a clean energy future is not only about reducing energy dependence and combating global climate change; it is about improving the health and quality of life for our families and protecting our environment.

As a father, I have no greater responsibility than making sure I leave our world better off for the next generation. As a doctor, it's my job to listen to my patients, understand their challenges, and work with them to make the necessary decisions. As a person of faith, I know it is our responsibility to protect and preserve the planet with the utmost of care.

In Congress, I will work closely with county and city officials, developers, business and community leaders to ensure our region has a voice to fight for the resources we need to implement the development goals outlined in our Regional Blueprint.1 With strong, locally-rooted Congressional leadership, I am confident we can accelerate these efforts to create more livable and energy efficient communities. In the process, we can support the health and quality of life of our families, while also transforming our region into a national leader in the new clean energy economy.

Education and Workforce Training for the New Energy Economy - The path to a clean energy future will require a skilled workforce of engineers, scientists, computer programmers, technicians, builders, electricians and mechanics, all working together to rebuild and power a cleaner, more efficient society. We must focus on our investments in public education and workforce training, so that young people and a transitioning workforce have the knowledge and skills necessary to design and build the infrastructure of the new energy economy.

? 4. What, if any, changes should be made to federal health care policies or programs?

Answer from Ami Bera:

I have spent my professional life caring for people and educating doctors within a system that consistently puts bureaucracies before the health and wellbeing of individuals. I have treated patients who would have remained healthy if they could afford basic preventative care. And I have witnessed medical costs skyrocket, with little correlation to health outcomes + the result of an industry that rewards volume over value, and puts financial profit before quality of patient care.

The legislation signed into law makes strides to reform our broken system. However, the bill fails to adequately address runaway costs. As a doctor, I understand in real terms how this legislation can impact caregivers and patients. I also understand how we can refine and reshape the current law to reduce waste and fraud, empower the doctor-patient relationship, and improve the health of the American people.

Moving forward with reform requires getting beyond the party politicking and "just say no" posturing we see in Congress. Only then can we begin to shape this imperfect and incomplete legislation into an affordable reality that works for all Americans.

Identifying and Addressing Cost Drivers:

Healthcare in our country costs too much. Retail charges are too high, and insurance premiums have become unaffordable to many employers, large and small. As it stands, the current legislation fails to adequately address many of the inefficiencies that drive up costs. We can improve this law by taking important steps to identify and address cost drivers + like fraud and wasteful, unnecessary practices. By doing so, we can ensure quality care is affordable for every family, business, and individual.

According to established research on multiple health systems, America can spend substantially less and produce better health outcomes for more people. The Commonwealth Fund Commission's comprehensive cost/performance analysis suggests that the US has the potential to save between $50 and $100 billion dollars per year in healthcare spending + as much as $1 trillion over the course of a decade + while guaranteeing health insurance coverage to all, increasing the effectiveness of care rendered, and modernizing our public health infrastructure.

Two of the biggest drivers of cost in our system + waste and fraud + can be readily addressed by instituting more communication, transparency and accountability. Achieving this does not require increased government control + we can equip caregivers, medical staff, and patients with the tools to monitor the system themselves through the power of shared information, coordination, and increased consumer choice and competition.

For example, we can use technology and research to determine what treatments do and do not work to improve health outcomes. We can empower physicians and patients with the information they need to make the best treatment decisions by expanding electronic decision support. We can invent and implement a claims processing system for physicians, as we have for pharmacists, banks, and investments. By investing in these tools and practices, we can save administrative dollars spent on billing and collection, and stop fraud before it gets out of control.

Ensuring Every American has Access to Basic, Essential Care:

Every citizen should have access to basic, essential health coverage. This core value is reflected in existing laws, which do not allow care providers to check insurance status until after assessing a patient. If the care is delivered, or if a patient is hospitalized because of medical necessity, our current system will deliver the care first, and worry about how to cover the cost later. While this is clearly the compassionate thing to do, the cost is dramatic + the equivalent of not allowing you to check your car's oil on a regular basis, while promising to replace your entire engine when your car eventually breaks down. It would make more sense from both a financial and patient care perspective to provide basic essential healthcare up front. It's going to take some time to get there, but I'm confident we can do it, and we can achieve this while increasing efficiency, lowering costs and improving health outcomes across the board.

It is possible to build upon a Medicare-like delivery system that would offer every American a baseline policy, which could then be extended into richer coverage if an individual or employer so desires. This is premised upon the private sector delivering care, with the government contracting out providers and holding these providers accountable for quality, cost-effectiveness, and equity of care. Within this system, patients would be able to pick their health insurance and doctor + and keep the ones they currently have if they choose. Health care costs would be reined in through greater competition and accountability, and insurance companies would be prohibited from denying care based on preexisting conditions. Additionally, coverage would be:

Portable and secure + if you lose your job or move from one city to another, you do not lose your coverage. Individually chosen and flexible + if you are dissatisfied with your private provider, you have the ability to change providers without restriction. Upgradeable + if you or your employer desire a richer coverage, you would have the option to upgrade your policy.

Making Sure Medicare is Secure and Solvent:

Medicare has, for decades, acted as a foundation of our nation's social safety net, providing the assurance of care to aging Americans and establishing the financial security necessary for a strong and prosperous economy. As a physician, I've seen firsthand how successful this program has been, but we must do more to address Medicare's long term solvency by eliminating fraud and abuse, standing up to pharmaceutical companies to reduce the costs of prescription drugs, and ensure that Medicare remains portable and accessible for beneficiaries.

Several members of Congress, including my opponent, continue to advocate for the replacement of the current Medicare model with a privatized voucher system. According to the Congressional Budget Office, vouchers would be set to grow more slowly than projected costs, meaning the average senior would exhaust nearly all of their income in order to attain Medicare-equivalent coverage. Implementing this disastrous idea would result in an economic catastrophe for millions of Americans.

As a doctor, I understand that we have a lot of work to do in order to improve the efficiency and sustainability of Medicare. But we must not be so reckless as to shift the costs to our seniors and other vulnerable citizens. Instead, we must focus our energy on introducing existing technologies and practices capable of reducing the waste and fraud that now accounts for as much as 20 percent of all Medicare spending.

? 5. What, if any, changes should be made to federal rules on campaign financing?

Answer from Ami Bera:

Campaign financing is a major problem in our political system and a change is necessary.

Legislation must be enacted to combat the Supreme Court's 2010 decision to allow corporations to spend a limitless amount of money on political ads.

Corporations are not people and as long as they are able to give unlimited funds to Super PACs our system will favor candidates who protect the 1 percent over the middle class.

Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League.  Candidates' statements are presented as submitted. References to opponents are not permitted.

The order of the candidates is random and changes daily. Candidates who did not respond are not listed on this page.

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Created: December 17, 2012 13:48 PST
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