EDITOR'S NOTE: In preparation for the Nov. 2 General Election, Ogden Newspapers of Michigan presented a list of questions to the Democrat and Republican 1st Congressional District candidates, Gary McDowell, and Dan Benishek. Today, we feature Dan Benishek.
How should we address Social Security concerns?
There should be no reduction, freeze, or changes in the benefits provided existing retirees. This is a promise made by the government, and it must be honored 100 percent. However, reforms are needed to ensure the program's solvency. Younger workers should have the option of placing a portion of their Social Security taxes into guaranteed personal accounts, like those available to federal employees. This would allow workers to pass on these assets on to their heirs.
Do we need another stimulus package to aid the economy?
The first federal stimulus package - containing nearly $1 trillion in spending - failed. Michigan still has a 14 percent unemployment rate. A better way to aid the economy would be for Congress to cut spending, cut taxes, and cut government regulation. Until these steps are taken, there will be continuing uncertainty for businesses in northern Michigan. We need to create an atmosphere of certainty where businesses are confident and can begin to hire again.
Would you have voted for the President's Health Care bill?
No. America has the best health care system in the world - a system that needs fine-tuning, but definitely not a government take-over. As a physician, I know that we need to focus on free market reforms, which will decrease costs. ObamaCare should be replaced with a bill allowing health insurance to be tax deductible, portable, and sold across state lines. Tort reform is also needed to rein in skyrocketing costs associated with frivolous medical lawsuits.
What would be your number one priority if elected?
Bringing jobs back to northern Michigan would be my top priority. Michigan was recently rated the hardest state in the country in which to find work. That is unacceptable. To fix the problem, our best hope lies in the private - not public - sector. In particular, we need to support small businesses, which are the real engines of job creation. Government should step aside and let the free market work by reducing burdensome regulation and taxation.
Would you support energy drilling in the Great Lakes?
As a life-long Northern Michigan resident, I know that the Great Lakes are one of America's greatest national treasures. Every effort must be made to protect them - including a ban on drilling in the Great Lakes, which I support - so they can be enjoyed for generations to come. Furthermore, polluters should be held fully accountable for the damage they do to our environment.
How would you balance environmental concerns with job creation?
As an avid outdoorsman, I understand the need to protect our environment. The lakes, woods, and wildlife of northern Michigan must be preserved for future generations. However, a proper balance must be found. The logging and mining industries, for example, provide good jobs for northern Michigan residents. Excessive government regulation threatens to stifle economic growth and make the unemployment situation in Michigan even worse.
How would you deal with Iran and its growing nuclear capability?
The United States must continue its role as a leader in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons would destabilize the region and directly threaten the United States and our allies. Careful oversight is needed to ensure that Iran's nuclear capabilities are for peaceful purposes only.
Would you extend unemployment benefits any further?
Unemployment benefits provide an important short-term safeguard for those who lose their jobs, and I support that safety net. However, these benefits should be temporary, with the purpose of aiding unemployed individuals while they search for new work. America was founded on hard work and ingenuity, and that same entrepreneurial spirit - rather than government bailouts, spending, and regulation - is what will bring jobs back to this country.