The Worst-Case Scenario had its second three-man mission last night. David Westbrook, David Hilburger, and I traveled to the Durham Transit Station in downtown Durham, NC to cover the debate between Democratic Congressman David Price of NC’s 4th district and his Republican challenger Dr. B.J. Lawson. The debate was hosted by the Independent Weekly, who organized the event carefully and ran it fairly. David Westbrook was able to film the entire debate and upload the video in four segments. I asked a question in the fourth video beginning at 0:50, which neither of the candidates was willing or able to directly, concisely, and completely answer. Over-all, though, the consensus is that the night was a smashing success for BJ, at least among the crowd of overwhelmingly Tea Party and FairTax supporters.
The four videos are embedded below along with the list of questions asked in each video and the time at which the questions are asked.
4:02 Price Opening Statement
6:08 Lawson Opening Statement
8:36 Question 1: “America has for over a decade, spent more per capita on healthcare intervention than any nation in the world yet has miserable comparative health outcomes, longevity, and quality of life scores. What impact will this years healthcare reform legislation have on this fundamental disparity, and what more if anything do we need to do as a nation to address gaps in coverage, availability, and outcomes?”
12:46 Question 2: “If you are elected during your term, America will likely enter its second decade of war in Afghanistan. Do you believe our nation and our current administration is on the right track or on the wrong track relative to the war, and what leadership would you bring as our US representative on this matter?”
Question 2 is continued in part 2.
2:25 Question 3: “As our nation tries to emerge from the deepest economic downturn since the great depression, what should the federal government do through spending incentives, and or tax policies to induce job creation, and to encourage a return to normalcy and growth, and has the additional national debt from the stimulus package been an appropriate price, or too high a price according to the results you have seen?”
6:59 Question 4: “More than 70% of the governments 30 billion dollars in farm subsidies goes to the largest 10% of farm businesses. Would you support cutting or revising federal farm subsidies?”
10:49 Question 5: “The Triangle has been blessed, or cursed, with rapid growth. The projections show more than a million new residents of Durham, Wake, Orange, and surrounding counties in the coming decade. What is working in our federal transportation policy, and what needs to change? What do you see as the relative roles of and funding for highway and roads, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian systems in our transportation future?”
00:04 Question 6: “Immigration and citizenship have become a new battleground in American Politics and the culture wars. Some argue that residency and eventual citizenship should come through only currently legal channels. Others not that immigration quotas are far more restrictive than under historic norms. Please let us know your views on the key components of immigration reform.”
TOWN HALL QUESTIONS BEGIN AFTER QUESTION 6
5:08 Town Hall Question 1: “With entitlements representing 57% percent of the total federal budget, what would you do to reduce such entitlements or generate revenue to offset them?”
9:29 Town Hall Question 2: “I would like to know your thoughts on offshore oil drilling.”
12:33 Town Hall Question 3: “In lieu of the recent supreme court decision to treat corporations like a person and the flood of campaign ads paid with money that doesn’t come from individuals and doesn’t disclose where it comes from. Would you be in favor of a law that makes requirements for clarifying the donors for such ads and from where the money comes?”
00:51 Town Hall Question 4: “The chair of the joint chiefs of staff has said that the greatest threat to national security is not Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan, but the federal debt. By 2013 the interest alone will exceed the entire defense budget. 100 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities loom on the horizon for my generation over the next century. How will you, item by item, eliminate the 1.3 trillion dollar deficit that we had in 2010 to prevent federal default, troop defection, and severe social unrest in my future?”
5:44 Question 7: “Biotechnology is a major driver in the regions growth. One recent steady comparing six southern regions found that the triangle mustered 2031 university research dollars per regional worker. More than 75 times the equivalent figure for Charlotte and tops in the southeast. In 2005 the federal government spent less than 100 dollars per capita on NIH funding versus 1600 dollars on defense spending. Where do you stand on the desirability and appropriateness of today’s federal research investment?”
9:22 Closing Statements
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More than a dozen Republican candidates and several hundred supporters gathered last night at Broughton High School on Saint Marys Street to prepare for the height of campaign season. Most candidates, like B.J. Lawson (of the 4th Congressional district), Renee Ellmers (2nd), and Bill Randall (13th) were rallying voters in anticipation of the mid-term elections on November 2nd. However, one special guest who did not speak but conversed with many activists and concerned citizens is former governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson. Mr. Johnson is, in his own words, “laying down the groundwork for a presidential run” in 2012.
After enjoying free sweet tea and ice cream, Republicans settled down to listen to featured speakers. Renee Ellmers discussed her strong personal appreciation for the grassroots support she and other Republican candidates have been receiving throughout 2010. She expressed great confidence in her supporters’ ability to oust the 14-year Democratic incumbent Bob “Who are you?” Etheridge in November.
Ron Paul-endorsed candidate B.J. Lawson chose to focus his time on opposing 14-year Democratic incumbent David Price and his plan for amnesty for illegal immigrants. Lawson excoriated what he considered to be dishonesty on the part of Price and amnesty activists in downtown Durham, whom he accused of purporting to discuss citizenship for immigrants and in fact simply playing party politics. Lawson decried the activists for speaking Spanish at a Durham rally the previous night and mocked Price for saying “Yes” to the promises of immigrants whose speeches he could not even understand. At the immigration rally, Price had claimed that he was not advocating amnesty while simultaneously declaring his intent to give citizenship to illegal immigrants. This prompted Lawson to release a video discussing the issue. Some Lawson supporters criticized him for the speech and video, and there has been talk among the more libertarian wing of his base about whether he may be allowing racial prejudices to dictate policy views.
Finally, Tea Party enthusiast and Congressional candidate Bill Randall cautioned against the GOP becoming over-confident. He explained how many districts of North Carolina have been carefully gerrymandered to favor Democrats for over a century, with some districts having more registered Democrats than Republicans, Libertarians, and independents combined. The best strategy for the GOP, he said, is to focus on key issues where government itself has failed in recent years, such as the continuing economic collapse, and avoid making a big deal out of polarizing issues which are not critical to the election.
Afterward, I had an opportunity to speak in person with Governor Johnson about his views and his upcoming presidential campaign. He explained to me that he would like to see all drugs legalized at the federal level, though he expects that he will only be able to legalize marijuana and “do damage control” on other drugs. Drug use, he said, is a “health issue, not a criminal issue.”
By his own account, he tried very hard (and totally unsuccessfully) to implement a pure voucher system for schooling in New Mexico. As he explained, private schools cost less than public schools to run, so he suggested giving a voucher for three-fourths the current cost of public schooling to stave off the argument that vouchers take money away from public schools. Then, he said, if every single student chose to take the vouchers, public schools would still have 25% of their budget. Thus they could afford to pay bureaucrats to sit in empty buildings for years and do nothing productive whatsoever, “just like the federal department of education.”
The former governor and I encountered a point of substantial disagreement regarding legislation in New Mexico that would have prevented smoking in restaurants. According to his account, he was initially totally against the idea of such legislation on free market principles, believing that customers were fully capable of making their own decisions about whether they wanted to eat in a smoking environment or not. However, he explained that as he mulled the issue over more, he realized that the employees of the restaurant would also be exposed to the smoke, and it might be significantly more difficult for them to quit their jobs than for customers to simply not go out to eat. Ultimately, he said, he remained conflicted on the issue, and never actually had to make the decision to sign such legislation, but still cited workplace safety as an example of a case where he was not ideologically a libertarian.
I countered him by noting that workplace safety can be taken to arbitrary extremes, as there is always a function that describes the value returned by investing in increased safety compared to the value of the initial investment. We could mandate a zero percent risk of contracting health problems associated with work, and then of course it would simply be illegal to work. Somewhere along that infinite spectrum from immediate death to everlasting life is a totally arbitrary cut-off point which the government deems acceptable. I cited my own personal experience working with IBM. As I said to the former governor, “There’s a person whose job it is to take out my trash. I wish they didn’t do that. I wish I would take out my own trash and get a bigger paycheck.”
Mr. Johnson agreed with me that there is not a clear, objective reason for declaring a certain level of workplace safety appropriate, and furthermore displayed a real understanding of economics by agreeing that workplace safety regulations do, in fact, cut into workers’ paychecks. Nevertheless, he still said that he was divided on the issue of smoking bans.
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