ConnecticutPlus.com believes that it is the civic duty of every one of us to make the best educated choice when it comes to electing the people to represent us at the different levels of government.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. That's why, we all have to make as much effort as possible to educate ourselves of the opinions and personalities of the candidates who ask for our vote so that when we go to the polls we are truly prepared and confident that we are making the right choice.
As we continue our tradition that we started when we began publishing in 2005 we present you our one-on-one interviews with the major candidates running to be the next U.S. Senator from Connecticut.
We hope that these interviews will help you in your selection process in these ever more important elections.
The primaries are on August 14, 2012. The general election is on November 6, 2012
NOTE: Interviews have been conducted in person or over the phone during the month of July by our Editor-in-Chief Naiden Stoyanov and have been edited for brevity, clarity and grammar. We asked for half an hour with each of the four major candidates and they graciously accepted our invitations. Some candidates opted to speak with us longer. In our attempt to bring you as much information as possible, we did not interrupt our interviews at the half hour mark therefore some of the interviews are longer than others. Interview length was at the discretion of the candidate and should not be viewed as an indication of bias on our part. We are proud to be an independent media. Mr. Stoyanov is not a member of or affiliated with any party.
- Currently serving as U.S. Representative from Connecticut's 5th District
- Website: chrismurphy.com
NS: Mr. Murphy, thank you for taking time to speak with us. What’s the biggest difference between you and Susan Bysiewicz?
CM: I don’t think there are big differences between Susan Bysiewicz and I when it comes to our positions on the issues. I think the difference between Bysiewicz and I is that I have a record of fighting and winning when it comes to the issues that matter to the middle class, people who are out of work, and people who need healthcare. On the other hand Bysiewicz has some nice plans on her website but not a lot, not as strong of a record of fighting and winning on the issues that matter to people in Connecticut.
NS: Your opponent have been accusing you of being too cozy with Wall Street. What’s your reaction?
CM: Well, you know, I’m not afraid to call out Wall Street and the financial sector when I think they’re wrong. I was a supporter of the Wall Street reform effort in Congress and I’ll continue to be a critic of Wall Street, the financial sector when I think they’re abusing the public trust. Bysiewicz has been making this claim for a year and a half now and no one’s buying it because they know that I’ve always been an independent voice for the people that I represent and that I’ve been a strong critic of Wall Street when I think that they’ve over-stepped their bounds.
NS: If you win the primary that’s probably going to be something that maybe the the Republican side, will explore as well. I have a question on this one; JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon was recently on the hill testifying in Congress in regards to the recent trade losses due to the risky trading and maybe even more, who knows. What would you want to tell him if you were in that room that day?
CM: JPMorgan made a huge error and, of course, they were, JPMorgan was part of a very dangerous set of risky trading practices that nearly collapsed our economy. The taxpayers came to the rescue of JPMorgan and many other banks on Wall Street and with that infusion of public dollars to save the financial sector I think, comes a responsibility to be much more careful about the kind of investments that they make. I share a lot of my neighbors' anger at JPMorgan at their recent trading loss. Let’s say this, banks are going to lose money on investments, there’s no way around that. What we have to be concerned with is not guaranteeing that no bank ever loses money on investment but that those losses don’t corrupt the entire economy. I’m a big supporter of dramatically increasing the capital requirements for banks, including JPMorgan, so that if they engage in a bad trade that losses millions of dollars the losses are incurred by that bank and its investors and not other banks or taxpayers. Our focus should be on making sure the banks have enough money stowed away to cover any losses that they incur and ultimately the federal government is not going to be, it will not be and should not be in the business of micro-managing banks' investments. We should be concerned with making sure that a bad decision by one bank doesn’t take down the entire economy.
NS: Besides increased capital requirements are you for more regulation or less regulation on Wall Street?
CM: I supported the Wall Street reform bill because I think that we have to have a tighter regulation of risky trading practices on Wall Street. It starts with higher capital requirements but we also need clear lines of accountability in the mortgage market. We need more transparency when it comes to derivative trading. We need to make sure that the federal government has the ability to wind down a bank before it collapses. I supported the Wall Street reform bill because I think that ultimately we want a financial sector that works on free market principles with sound regulation that makes sure that one bad decision on Wall Street doesn’t infect the entire economy.
NS: From your Republican opponent, right now, who would you rather face in November?
CM: I’m agnostic as to who I face in November, that’s a decision for the Republicans to make. McMahon and Shays are very different candidates with different strengths and different weaknesses and I’m going to leave it to the Republicans to decide their candidate. I’m going to focus on introducing myself to the voters for now.
NS: Last time around you voted to increase the debt limit, a couple of times actually. Fiscally there is a big chance we will find ourselves again at the brink of another need to raise the debt ceiling or risk a government shutdown and potentially a worldwide economic meltdown. Your position? Would you vote for an increase of a debt ceiling again if that would be on the agenda tomorrow?
CM: There’s no doubt we’re going to have to increase the debt ceiling, and it is both intellectually and fiscally irresponsible for members of Congress to vote for budgets that would require more borrowing and refuse to increase the debt limit. The fact is that in the short term the government is going to need to borrow money in order to pay its bills. I don’t like that and I‘d like to see us pass a major debt reduction package but until that happens it is totally irresponsible for these Tea party Republicans to threaten the collapse of our economy by refusing to raise the debt limit. I’m going to fight very hard for a major deficit reduction package that sets us on a halfway to balanced budget but until then I’m going to support increasing the debt limit so that the world economy doesn’t come to a sudden halt.
NS: On taxes, what should we do with taxes to address that federal budget deficit as well as to make sure that we stimulate the economy? Are you for the increase of taxes, decrease of taxes?
CM: Everyone is going to have to sacrifice in order to close this deficit. I’ve got a three year old and newborn sons at home, and my main priority as a US Senator is going to be making sure that they don’t have to pay for the mistakes of this generation when it comes to excessive borrowing. The deficit is reaching crisis proportions and we’ve got to get serious about it. The problem is Republican and Democrats have to work together on a solution because it’s going to involve reducing government spending, reforming entitlement programs, and increasing taxes on those who can afford it. I think that 70% of the American public would support a balanced deficit reduction package that reduces spending and brings some tax rates back to Clinton-era levels. I tend to be one of the Democrats that’s willing to reach out across the aisle to work on compromises like that. I just wish there were more people on both sides of the aisle that were willing to come to a compromise on deficit reduction that I think most Americans would support in a heartbeat.
NS: Would you lower taxes to stimulate the economy and what should the government’s role in stimulating the economy be?
CM: The government can stimulate the economy in a variety of ways. Keeping tax rates low on people that spend money in the economy is one way that the government can stimulate the economy but we can also stimulate the economy by reducing the deficit and making sure that we’re continuing to invest in job-growing areas like education and job training, infrastructure, and scientific investments. We became the most powerful economy in the world because we decided to pull our resources and create the best system of roads and bridges and the best system of public education in the world. We no longer have the best public education system or the most modern system of roads and bridges in the world. And part of stimulating the economy is keeping tax rates competitive but another part of stimulating the economy is making sure that you’re taxing enough so that you can afford investments in things like education and infrastructure.
NS: Who are we chasing right now as far as countries are concerned, who has the best education and economy and so forth?
CM: Well right now, our test scores have fallen below some Asian countries and some European countries and so the statistics clearly show that we’ve got room to grow when it comes to our educational quality. In particular, we’ve got a real deficit of learning when it comes to science and mathematics and engineering. We’ve got to play a lot of catch up, especially with Asian nations when it comes to the number of scientists, innovators, and engineers that we’re producing. I’d like to see our country have a laser-like focus on putting resources into science and math; both on elementary, secondary and higher education levels.
NS: In your call for Buy American Law you want to establish from what I’ve read on your website you want the government to focus on buying American made goods and services whenever possible regardless of the price. While that’s admirably patriotic, favoring the companies this way seems to be the behavior of an over protective parent who is sheltering their child while making them unable to function in the real world later. Can you elaborate a little bit more on your plan?
CM: Sure. Well, the price to the government of a particular good for the military is not just the price on the sticker. When you chose to buy a part from the government overseas you might save five percent on the sticker price but when the job is lost in the United States and the government has to pay out unemployment compensation to those workers, has to pay for healthcare benefits for their workers' kids when the government loses the taxes associated with that job. I just want us to look at the full cost of off-shoring government work. The cost is not just the sticker price on the good that we're buying from China rather than from a company in Stamford. The price also includes all of the additional cost associated with unemployment and the lost taxes when the job gets outsourced. So my argument is that even if the good costs you five or ten percent more to buy from a US company than a Chinese company you are still going to save money to the US Treasury by buying that good in the United States because you preserved the job in the United States.
NS: What about when the government cares to stop the buying that particular good and that company will go out of business because their prices are not competitive. What would you say about that?
CM: Well, again, when it comes to the US, remember that the US government is responsible not just for buying that good but for taking care of that worker when they get laid off. So all I’m saying is that you need to account for the full contract price which includes the cost of the good but also the social cost of unemployment. Any good corporation would look at the full cost of outsourcing or in-sourcing. The US government unfortunately doesn’t look at the full cost of outsourcing. We only look at the price on the contract for the particular good. I want us to have a comprehensive view of the cost of outsourcing. And I think that you made a statement when you asked the question that I’m proposing to favor US companies irrespect of the price. I’ve actually never said that and that’s not my policy. I just think that we should have a more accurate assessment of the cost of outsourcing than we do today.
NS: Moving onto healthcare, were you surprised by the recent decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the healthcare reform bill which was clearly a win for Democrats and for President Obama's agenda and what do you think about it being labeled by the Supreme Court in their opinion, this being the reason for them upholding it, that it's a tax?
CM: Well, I think the Supreme Court ruling was a win for Americans. As a supporter for the healthcare reform bill, I know that it’s going to lead to better healthcare, cheaper healthcare, and this awful discrimination against people who are sick when it comes to purchasing insurance. As far as the decision— I’ve always thought that it was constitutional and I know a lot of people are focused on the political ramifications of the bill but the most important implications of the decision to me are that people in my district that are sick are going to get a chance to have health insurance for the first time in their life as the bill gets implemented.
NS: Do you agree with the court that it's a tax?
CM: I think the argument over the tax versus the penalty is just one of semantics. It is what it is regardless of what you call it. For the one percent of individuals who are going to freeload on this system and ask all the rest of us to pick up the cost of their healthcare, they’re going to be expected to pay into the system so that they don’t free ride on the rest of us when it comes to their healthcare. I always thought that it made sense to ask everyone to essentially be personally responsible and pay for their care rather than asking the rest of us to pick up the cost if and when they get sick.
NS: It’s no secret that the outsourcing of jobs has cost the US manufacturing sector their legendary strength, vigor and it’s continuing to pound our industry. The service sector is also in the cross hairs right now being the strength of our country at this point. How do we get the jobs both manufacturing and service jobs, of course, back into the United States and back in Connecticut?
CM: The reason that I work on the Buy American agenda is because I think the federal government can’t tell private companies that they should bring jobs back to the United States unless the federal government is willing to do the same thing. It makes absolutely no sense to me that we’re sending our taxpayer dollars overseas to create jobs in China and Mexico when without spending any additional money the US Government could be creating a lot more jobs in this state, in this country. Buy American is just one element of supporting manufacturing. Part of, you know what I hear over and over again when I visit companies in Connecticut, manufacturers in Connecticut is that they are having trouble finding skilled workforce here. Part of the reason that Germany has a strong manufacturing sector is because they spend a lot of time making sure that their educational system is churning out the floor workers and engineers necessary to build a strong manufacturing base. Germany isn’t any lower cost than the United States but they’re beating us on manufacturing in part because they have such a strong focus on workforce. Second thing we can do is take on countries that are competing unfairly with the United States. Fact is that China cheats when it comes to the way they play on the world market. They subsidize their currency and they subsidize their domestic industries and we have to start being a lot tougher with countries like China who are outbidding American companies simply because of government subsidies and unfair trade practices.
NS: Can we really do that? Does the US government have the strength to go and fight against China because it seems like we’ve been anemic about confronting the Chinese.
CM: Yeah, you know, there are people that are afraid that if we start imposing tariffs on Chinese goods, we’re going to start a trade war with China. The fact is that we’re already in a trade war with China. We’re just not fighting it on the American side. The Obama administration has been a lot stronger than the Bush administration in standing up to China. They’ve imposed tariffs on Chinese goods from tires to solar panels and I’m glad that Obama has shown a willingness to take on China that we haven’t seen in the past.
NS: What do you think of the recent decision of Obama's administration on the issue of illegal immigration and what do you think should be done?
CM: I’m a supporter of the Dream Act. I think that for young people who are here in this country getting educated it makes no sense to send them back home. It’s both in our interest as a smart, economically competitive and moral nation to allow these kids to stay. Ultimately I’d like to ask the Dream Act but without the ability to get Republican support for the Dream Act I supported the President’s decision.
NS: What is your position on education? Is our education system failing? And how do we fix it?
CM: Well, you know our education system needs to get better in order to keep up with the pace of global change. No, I don’t think No Child Left Behind has worked very well for students, teachers, and parents in Connecticut. The federal government doesn’t educate kids but it does set standards and provides a lot of important funding. Ultimately, I think that we need a radical reform of No Child Left Behind that changes the way that we affect schools so that we are not just dependent on this one test. We’re creating a pretty good generation of test takers but we’re not creating critical decision makers or creative thinkers or people who can work in teams and in groups. So, I think ultimately the federal government has to really dramatically re-think its educational policy in order to incentivize the right kind of skillset-building in our schools.
NS: What do you think about involvement in the Middle East? Also how about our involvement in Libya and what should be our role in Syria?
CM: Well, it’s a lot. You want me to talk about the entire the Middle East?
NS: Well, you know, he’s obviously bringing the troops back home, that’s something President Obama has already started. How about let’s narrow it down. Did you support the involvement in Libya and what do you think should be done in Syria if the situation escalates, should we get boots on the ground?
CM: Well, you know, the pre-condition for our involvement in Libya was that it was part of a truly multi-lateral effort. The only way it made sense for us to participate in engagement in Libya was because we had partners both in Europe and in the Arab League that supported our efforts there. Ultimately today we don’t have that same kind of consensus in Syria and the situation is much harder to influence—the opposition is not as unified as it was in Libya and the situation is much more chaotic on the ground. Ultimately the United States is probably best served by working through regional partners like Turkey to try to put pressure on the Assad regime to either change its ways or step down.
NS: What part of Mitt Romney’s plan do you agree with?
CM: I guess, you know, I haven’t seen much with Romney when it comes to specifics. I listen to Mitt Romney criticize President Obama pretty regularly, but it’s hard for me to know what I would agree with or disagree with when it comes to Mitt Romney’s specific plans for the country because I haven’t seen them. Romney seems to be much more interested in attacking the President than offering real alternatives. For instance, he continues to attack the healthcare plan but offers absolutely no alternative of his own, so it’s hard for me to know. I imagine there are things that Romney and I agree on but because he doesn’t have many specifics out there today it’s hard for me to know.
NS: Tell me one thing where you think President Obama failed or somewhere you think he failed.
CM: I think President Obama has got the wrong policy in Afghanistan. I think we should be bringing our combat troops home as soon as possible and I’ve continued to disagree with the President on Afghanistan because I think his timetable is far too slow. I think we are doing more strategic harm than good by continuing to be in Afghanistan and we would be much better off not spending that two billion dollars a week [when we could be] spending a portion of that money at home to grow jobs here. That’s certainly one very vocal disagreement that I have with the President.