1. Do you favor repeal of the Affordable Care Act? If so, should Congress move quickly to approve an alternate health care program that would cover all or most Americans? What kind of provisions, coverage do you think it should include?
I do NOT support repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Let’s break the discussion of ACA into two separate pieces. The roll-out was entirely unacceptable in execution. But we are Americans, and we fix problems rather than throwing up our hands and walking away. The enrollment software is now working nearly as well as intended, and the rate at which people are signing up for health insurance isn’t appreciably lower than the targeted rate.
Access to affordable healthcare is a basic human right, and ACA brings us much closer to this than had been the case in the years before ACA.
2. Would you support a “single payer” health care program?
Yes. The advantages — in cost reduction, in the savings to small businesses, and other aspects — are substantial.
3. In view of the mounting federal debt, do you believe it is practical to call only for spending cuts? What share of federal deficit reduction should come from spending cuts and revenue increases? Please be specific about those shares, and about where you think cuts must be made and where revenue increases should be made?
No: it is not appropriate to address the federal debt only through spending cuts. A strong, growing U.S. economy requires a strong middle class, working in good, secure jobs with salaries that are sufficient to allow spending on necessities, durable goods, and some leisure activities. Returning the country back to full employment will increase tax revenues.
But spending cuts — in particular to programs that do not produce broad economic or other benefits for the United States — are an important part of any sensible economic recovery plan.
We spend too much on defense. In particular, expensive weapons systems that are plagued with cost overruns, and are of dubious utility in a 21st century war, should be scrapped. The F-35 is too costly, and is already plagued with cost overruns. Our standing military is overly large, and I am encouraged by Secretary of Defense Hagel’s recent proposal to reduce the number of military personnel to roughly 440,000.
We should end subsidies to the oil industry.
Farm subsidies, such as the provision of federal funds for crop insurance, should be directed primarily towards single-family farm operations, and be reduced for large agricultural operations.
We should end what is described by economist Joseph Stiglitz in The Price of Inequality as “corporate welfare.” As Stiglitz points out, “much of corporate welfare is far from transparent—perhaps because if citizens really knew how much they were giving away, they would not allow it.” Included are corporate subsidies such as cheap credit, government loan guarantees, and relief from liability for the (potential) environmental damage wrought by the oil industry.
We should end what Stiglitz calls “government giveaways,” in which resources properly identified as public assets are given over to corporations. Examples are the no-bid defense contracts awarded to Halliburton, the no-bargaining provisions in government acquisition of pharmaceuticals, and the handing over of the electromagnetic spectrum to broadcasters with minimal compensation to the public.
I do not believe a single metric—the ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases—can be used to describe any realistic economic plan. A good model for a budget that would return us to economic vigor is the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s “Back to Work Budget.” It emphasizes major infrastructure investment in its first years, at the cost of an initial increase in the deficit, to be followed by deficit reduction through the closing of corporate loopholes, reduction in military spending, and implementation of a more progressive tax system. So the ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases varies with time.