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Times Leader - "Candidates Get Candid On Issues"

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Times Leader - "Candidates Get Candid On Issues"

The 10th Congressional District seat has long been a Republican stronghold - having been in GOP hands for more than 40 years.

So, when political newcomer Chris Carney, a Democrat from Dimock Township, unseated embattled incumbent Don Sherwood in 2006, it didn't take long for Republican strategists to begin plotting a GOP takeover.

U.S. Rep. Joseph McDade held the seat from 1962 to 1999 and was succeeded by Sherwood, who served four terms.

Carney will face a challenge in November, but the question is: From whom?

Republicans Dan Meuser and Chris Hackett are battling for the right to run against Carney. The April 22 primary election is less than two weeks away and each candidate has spent more than a half million dollars in the quest for the nomination.

We asked the candidates their positions on critical issues facing the district and the nation.

TL: What do you feel are the top three issues facing the nation and why?

MEUSER: The most important issue is the war on terror. We have to continue the fight against radical Islamic extremism and stay at the forefront in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have Americans sacrificing their lives to protect our country and that most always will be at our highest level of priority.

The second issue is the economy. What families are facing to try to make ends meet; what job creators are facing to try to build their businesses.

The third issue has to be health care and energy - the cost of quality affordable health care and the cost of fuel. Both issues people are very passionate about and as an effective member of Congress, I will look for at-home resolutions and national resolutions to these issues.

HACKETT: One is wasteful spending in Washington. We have many earmarks that serve as the gateway drug for poor legislative behavior. It shackles our representatives to hold the party line when that may not be in the best interests of the country.

The second issue is the over-regulation and bureaucracy on businesses. Many of the regulations and bureaucracies are not thought out. To compete on an international level, we need to reduce regulation and the intrusiveness of government in business.

There is a lack of political courage in standing up to special interest groups. Two classic examples of where small special interest groups can drive issues at the expense of taxpayers are pharmaceuticals and sugar prices.

TL: What role do you believe Congress should play in jump-starting the economy?

HACKETT: First and foremost, we need to reduce taxes and make the 2001-03 tax cuts permanent. In the short-term, then eliminate the 18.4-cent excise tax on gasoline. That would stimulate the economy faster and be more effective than the stimulus package.

MEUSER: We need a more competitive tax structure for families and for businesses. We need to be focused on being more competitive here in the 10th District in Pennsylvania and in the U.S. as a whole. We've got to give our businesses a far more competitive environment so we can out-compete foreign countries and companies. There hasn't been enough political discussion on this.

TL: What do you think is a realistic solution to bringing an end to the war in Iraq?

MEUSER: Accomplishing the missions set out by the military leaders is essential. A secure Iraq will enable the government of Iraq to govern. It must be secure. We need to continue to provide our troops with everything they need and we need to be impatient about the Iraqis standing on their own.

No timetable, no benchmarks - rather, goals must be set to have that occur. We have to look forward, not backward, but we can learn from the past.

Iran is a very serious threat to the overall peace and stability of the world. If we let things fall back too far in Iraq, we will face a large, more dangerous enemy in Iran.

HACKETT: I think the realistic end for us to be successful is a stable, democratic-oriented government that is able to protect itself from terrorists. Any premature withdrawal would be damaging to our country short-term and over the long haul. As Gen. Petraeus has testified, there is an ebb and flow. We must stick to the mission and have the commitment to a successful outcome.

TL: What do you believe are the strengths and weaknesses in national security and what measures would you as a congressman propose to address those concerns?

HACKETT: We're paying the price for the Clinton administration's purging or elimination of resources of our national security organizations. We saw that most tellingly on 9/11 on what happens when you don't have good intelligence in the field. Our Constitution tells us the responsibility of the federal government is to protect the citizens of the U.S. and that's where we should be deploying our resources.

MEUSER: We need to provide our troops with all they need to be prepared to fight and stay on the offensive in the war on terror. We need to encourage a higher number of American people to join the Armed Services. We need more servicemen and women. We as a country need to care for them better and their families - both while on active status and as veterans. We hear too many stories of vets not receiving what they need to survive. That's causing a reduction in our numbers. We have to modernize our technologies too.

TL: Should the federal government play a role in helping to make health care more accessible and affordable to all Americans?

MEUSER: Yes, the government in many of our major issues needs to lead, follow, or get out of the way. Health care needs an open-market solution. Our goal should be to provide access to affordable quality health care. Universal health care will make it more expensive and lower the quality of care over the long haul. Health care must be high quality and low in cost - affordable. Health care savings accounts, tax deductions for all health care expenses, and better information for people are all essential. We must encourage the use of generic drugs.

HACKETT: I have a strong bias to free-market solutions to health care. We don't have to look farther than our neighbor to the north - Canada - to see the failings of socialized medicine. We need to expand health savings accounts; we need to fix the Internal Revenue Code so that it's equitable for small business and individuals in using pre-tax dollars to purchase insurance; we need to eliminate the fee-for-service model because it is not efficient; and we need to move the consumer closer to the payer so we bring competitive forces to bear on the escalating health delivery costs.

TL: What changes, if any, would you make to the federal tax system?

HACKETT: Simplification first and foremost is really important. As a past CPA, I understand first-hand the complexities of the current system and would drive toward a flat tax that would encourage and reward work, as opposed to the current confiscatory system. We need to permanently fix the alternative minimum tax. We need to kill the death tax once and for all and we need to eliminate any penalty for being married.

MEUSER: For the long term, I advocate a fair flat tax system. Our tax code is incredibly complex, costing Americans 270 billion per year just to file their taxes, according to a Heritage Foundation estimate. In the short term, the 2001-03 tax reform must be made permanent. We must repeal the death tax; the child tax credit needs to be permanent; and no marriage penalty. I strongly favor a capital expense provision - companies that invest in themselves should get a tax break.

TL: What steps should the federal govern ment take to address the increasing number of people who are in the country illegally?

MEUSER: First step is securing the borders. The second is to be serious about enforcing the illegal immigration laws that are on the books. Our lack of enforcement creates an incentive for continued illegals to cross the borders. It's truly madness. Those here need to abide by the laws to gain citizenship that legal immigrants abide by.

HACKETT: The metaphor I use to describe my immigration policy is high fences and wide gates. We need to secure our borders and deal with people in this country illegally through a process. But we must also recognize that immigration has a rich and supportive history for our country and we need to have a policy not driven by Washington bureaucrats, but one driven by the needs of our country.


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