.What is your position on the war in Iraq?
Had I been in Congress at the time, I would have voted with the rest of the Hawai`i delegation against the war. Preemptive strike should not be the basis of our foreign policy - such an act should require a very high threshold of accurate information, which we did not have.
The Bush administration misled the country when it entered this war, and has shown no credible plan for winning the peace or for a safe exit strategy. We should get out of the quagmire that is Iraq with a phased redeployment of U.S. forces that begins before the end of 2006 and significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty should also occur. The U.S. should play a leading role in promoting peace in the region. As long as we are at war, we are severely compromised in our ability to do so.
Until the troops are out of harm's way, they deserve the best available gear, armor, and moral support. I support common sense measures such as providing padded, shock absorbent helmets for our Marines. For as little as $100 per helmet, we could prevent traumatic brain damage and loss of life. Congress should require the Marine Corps to follow the Army's lead in issuing these reinforced helmets to every service man and woman.
When our troops return home as veterans, we must provide adequate mental and physical health services, as well as economic and career assistance. The President and his Republican Congress have repeatedly shown their willingness to cut VA services and funding while recklessly sending troops into battle.
I am running for Congress to ensure that we only send our men and women to war if absolutely necessary, that we protect them while they are in battle, and that we take care of them when they return home.
How do you propose to improve the quality and availability of education?
Education should be the great equalizer. But the Bush Administration's misguided education policy - No Child Left Behind - has warped the way we teach our children. When it comes to Congress for review in 2007, I will fight to ensure that its overemphasis on testing and labeling schools as failing are replaced with a focus on placing a qualified, caring, and competent teacher in every classroom.
I believe in life long learning - "P through L" - Pre-kindergarten through life. As Lt. Governor of Hawai`i, I led the Pre-Plus program, obtaining $5 million from the legislature to build preschool classrooms on elementary school campuses around the state (12 pre-schools so far). This program could be a model for a national pre-school education program.
At the other end of the public education cycle, we must increase funding for Pell Grants so that college is a real possibility for all who want to attend. I will make it a priority to expand early childhood education, college that is affordable, and job training that gives everyone a chance to earn a living and compete in our global economy.
What are our most pressing foreign policy problems and how do you propose to address them?
Our most pressing foreign policy problem is our reputation in the world as a result of our basically unilateral action in preemptively attacking Iraq. Preemptive strike is not a policy which builds allies and strengthens our position at the global table. The President's conduct in the war in Iraq influences our country's ability to lead on a number of other important matters -- human rights, environmental responsibility, and international health issues like avian influenza (bird flu), just to name a few.
What are your environmental priorities? What specific measures would you like to enact?
Just as with military strength, we must lead the world in environmental protection. This means we should ratify the Kyoto protocol and should participate fully in the international agreements that will preserve our world for our children.
Nationally, it means we must build cleaner cars and invest in cleaner energy. I would support increases in the CAFE standards to 40 miles per gallon, as well as revising CAFE tests to more accurately measure the fuel economy of cars, SUVs, and trucks. Further, we should eliminate the loophole that allows SUVs and light trucks to have weaker CAFE standards.
In addition to improving fuel efficiency, we need to harvest the benefits of clean energy. We should produce 20 percent of our electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. This is a realistic goal. We can do it by establishing strong energy-efficiency standards for houses, buildings, and appliances, and by providing incentives for development of alternative energy sources.
What congressional initiatives are necessary to ensure full civil rights for women and minorities?
First, we need to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. This crucial piece of legislation is "very effective in protecting minority voters from both blatant and more subtle discriminatory techniques that deny or dilute minority participation in the political process," according to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Second, we must support affirmative action as a tool to move women and minorities forward in both the education and business worlds. Constitutionally valid affirmative action is as important now as it ever was, as women and people of color still face unfair obstacles in business and education. According to the National Organization for Women (NOW), "An astonishing 70% of schools are not in compliance with Title IX," the federal equal education opportunity law that Patsy Mink proposed and passed. For every dollar earned by men, women on a whole earn 74 cents, African American women earn 63 cents and Latina women earn 57 cents."
The Constitution should expand our rights and protections, not contract them. Bans on same sex marriage have no place in the Constitution. I was the highest ranking elected official to publicly oppose Hawaii's Constitutional amendment which resulted in the banning of same-sex marriage
What federal policies do you support to help people balance work and family responsibilities?
We must recognize the growing reality of single parent and dual earner families in the workforce. We should provide tax incentives for businesses that provide on-site child care. We should also support an increase in minimum wage. Right now, a family living on a single minimum wage salary cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States. I will work with Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi to ensure a livable minimum wage so that our workers will be able to spend time with their families, rather than having to work two jobs to pay for necessities.
What measures do you propose to ensure adequate health care for all Americans? What are your ideas for health care cost containment?
There is no magic bullet when it comes to solving this critical problem. Models such as Hawaii's and Massachusetts', as well as proposed single-payer plans, are all viable starting points. I will not claim to be a health policy expert. But I do know that while there are legitimate debates about the best way to reduce the number of under- and un-insured Americans, the goals are clear - we must bring all parties together and immediately begin the process of providing real options for the 45 million Americans currently without health insurance.
What policies do you support to fight crime? What are your ideas for ensuring public safety?
Fighting crime is both a short and long term process. In the short term, the best crime fighting programs are those community policing programs which put police officers on the streets. The C.O.P.S. program of the Clinton Administration is a good example of a program which helped reduce crime in communities. I would support programs like this, which provide federal resources but allow communities to identify their needs and appropriate solutions.
In the long term, we have to fight the root causes of crime - the lack of educational and economic opportunity. We cannot build our way out of crime - building more prisons to house the people in jail because of mandatory sentences is an ineffective use of money. Those resources should be put into prevention programs such as education and job training.
The reality of the 21st Century is that our understanding of "crime" must now include terrorism, both domestic and international. We need to support the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and we must fully fund the needs of our firefighters, police officers and others who serve in the homeland security efforts.
What policies do you support to reduce poverty?
The most direct ways to reduce poverty are to increase the minimum wage and reduce taxes on the poorest members of our society. We must ensure that men and women working 40 hours a week can provide for their families. We need a livable minimum wage, and we need a more progressive and equitable tax system.
Too often, politicians focus only on the short term. The long term answer to our unconscionable level of poverty is investing in our public education system. In Congress, I will continue my lifelong work supporting our public school teachers, paraprofessionals, and students. Instead of unfunded mandates, we must provide high quality teaching and high technology classrooms in which all students can achieve their full potential.
What principles of tax policy do you support?
Quite simply, I support eliminating tax breaks for the richest 2 percent of the country. These tax breaks illustrate the fiscal irresponsibly and greed that has run rampant in Washington since President Bush and his Republican friends took over. Further, we must simplify the tax code, and we must eliminate the corporate welfare it currently includes. If working families have to pay their fair share, big companies have to pay their fair share too.
Also, I oppose repealing the estate tax, which seems to come before Congress year after year. Permanently repealing this tax on the extremely wealthy - on estates that are worth more than $2 million - does not make sense to me. At a time when our deficit is more than eight trillion dollars, and growing larger each day, it is fiscally irresponsible to pursue a policy that will cost the country $1 trillion in the first ten years.
What proposals do you support to stimulate the economy? What priorities should we have in the federal budget?
First we must address the huge deficit the Bush Administration and Republican Congress have created. When I am representing the people of the 2nd Congressional District, I will vote to reinstate the Pay-As-You-Go Rule. Under this rule, the country must balance its checkbook just like you and I do every month. When people are confident that their government is fiscally responsible, they will feel more comfortable investing and spending their hard earned money.
Again, we must increase the minimum wage. It is not only a moral issue, but an economic one as well. Putting money into the hands of people who will spend it will stimulate the economy.
No one has felt the crunch of rising gas prices like our small businesses. We must reduce fuel prices to stimulate economic growth. The first step is to end the billion dollar giveaways to big oil companies and to investigate the huge profits they are making while we feel the weight of skyrocketing prices at the pump. But this will only happen when we reduce the influence of bit oil lobbyists on our legislative process. Thus, one of the steps we must take to jump start our economy is lobbying reform.
Finally, we must invest in our most important resource - our people. A Brookings Institution policy brief concludes that a high quality universal preschool program could add $2 trillion to annual U.S. GDP by 2080 - talk about stimulating the economy. Initiatives such as the Pre-Plus Program, which I led, should be expanded and fully funded.
What should be our nation's defense spending priorities?
Our nation's first defense spending priority is to protect ourselves from attack. We must ensure that we are safe at home. In doing this, however, we also must live up to our alliances with other countries and protect our troops. This means not committing our military to war without having just cause, and, if at all possible, strong allies. It means that pre-emptive strike should not be the basis of our foreign policy.
Our American soldiers in Iraq have performed up to our high expectations of them. We have put them in harm's way, and a top priority is to appropriately arm and protect our service men and women. We have not done this well in Iraq, and regardless of whether we should have gone to Iraq in the first place, our people are there. We must keep our promise to them and their families by providing appropriate protection - gear, armor, and moral support - as they do their duty.
As a government we have an obligation to protect our people and our communities. We should do so wisely. Right now, we spend more on the Pentagon than the rest of the world combined spends on defense (Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities). Despite this incredible level of spending, the Pentagon's bookkeeping is marginal at best. No one can link the Pentagon's financial inputs to its policy outputs; in other words, Congress and the public cannot know whether a line item is actually linked to a desired policy outcome. This must change. We expect public schools to be accountable for meeting their goals; it is time to hold the Pentagon to the same standards.
We need to eliminate spending on out-dated Cold War-era weapon systems. No private business would continue to produce obsolete products long after their time had past. Further, we must stop paying for untested weapons. This type of reckless spending must be curbed. We are spending too much and getting too little in return.
Finally, we need to work closely with our allies to more equally share the costs of maintaining a safer world. This is where Republican foreign policy has most disastrously failed the American people. Successful diplomacy means that we use military force when necessary, and entails bringing other countries on board. Failed diplomacy, as we have seen over the last six years, translates into less money for our public schools, for Social Security, for environmental protection, and most importantly, tragic loss of life.
What trade policies do you support? How do you propose to stimulate economic growth in domestic and international markets?
Globalization is happening, and happening fast. We must recognize this reality, and support trade policies that work for Americans. We cannot support policies that encourage businesses to take advantage of underpaid foreign workers and lax environmental standards while moving jobs out of the United States. Any new trade agreements we enter into must have strong protections for workers and for the environment.