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Darien News-Review - "4th Congressional District Race Heats Up"

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Darien News-Review - "4th Congressional District Race Heats Up"

Fourth District Democratic Candidate for Congress Jim Himes spoke out adamantly twice in the past two weeks about the state of the U.S. economy and the measures he believes are necessary to protect Social Security.

In response to a statement made by long-time incumbent Christo­pher Shays on a Sept. 1 airing of the "Brian Lehrer Show," where Shays asserted that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong," Himes issued a rebuttal chastising the 21-year congressman.

"Everyday, I meet people who are trying to figure out a way to pay for saving for college, record healthcare premiums, sky-high gas, food and heating oil prices all at once. It is shocking that Chris Shays would look at struggling families, stagnant wages and record national debt and deem that 'strong.' In Congress, I will not rest until our economy once again offers hope and opportunity to each and every American," Himes said in the statement.

Shays' campaign manager Michael Sohn, however, was clear in affirming the long-time congressman's statement.

"Chris Shays said the fundamentals of our economy are strong," Sohn explained, with emphasis on the word "fundamentals." "The economy is growing," Sohn said, citing a 3.3 percent GDP increase in the second quarter of 2008, compared with only a 0.9 percent increase in the first quarter of this year.

At a Sept. 8 press conference at Stamford's Government Center, Himes made clear his views to bolster the economy and thereby support the Social Security system.

"We need to revive the economy by creating more jobs at home," Himes said, noting that jobs "shipped abroad" have contributed to economic instability. "You only need to check your own bank accounts and balance statements," he said in reference to how clearly the current economic crunch has reared its head.

Himes explained that, in reviving the economy and making available more solid, viable job options, the Social Security system would be more apt to flourish as individuals would have adequate money to contribute. He also labeled the pay-in, get-back nature of the system as one of its positive attributes.

"I want to be very clear about this: Privatization of Social Security is a very bad idea," Himes said. Privatization, he said, is a "way to dismantle the Social Security system." Moreover, Himes cited "four or five levers" of change that could be adjusted to improve social security, including timing and distribution of money in and out.

Citing a 9.5 trillion dollar national debt as just one example of the current state of the economy, Himes urged a balanced, bi-partisan effort to begin to rectify the problem and support social security. He also has pushed for middle-class tax cuts in an effort to lessen economic strain and help Americans begin strategic saving.

Shays, too, has acknowledged the economic status quo, and a clear vision of the future as he sees it is presented in a statement from his Web site.

"Many Americans are struggling in what feels like an economic recession. Christopher wants to restore economic growth and help those affected by the recent economic downturn. He believes we can do both by putting more money into programs that help our urban areas, such as education, public health and transportation, and pay for it by slowing the growth of spending in defense and entitlements, both of which have experienced huge growth."

"Christopher . . . is working to limit the growth of government, cut wasteful federal spending, reduce taxes for families, create jobs and move power, money and influence out of Washington and back to local communities," the statement affirmed.

"The economy has dominated the discussion," Himes said of his recent meetings with Fourth District voters.

Shays Responds

Adding fuel to an already hot fire in the 4th District Congressional race, Himes criticized Shays for not speaking out in Washington while serving on the Financial Services Committee, as Himes discussed recent financial challenges faced by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at the Sept. 8 press conference.

The Shays campaign issued a rebuttal earlier this week, pointing out that Shays was among the earliest and strongest advocates in Congress for stronger regulation of government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) that buy, hold, guarantee, package and sell mortgages.

The campaign also cited Shays' 2003 authoring of the bipartisan No Securities Left Behind Act, which would have required Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to comply with 1930's securities laws.

"I firmly believe Congress must end Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's voluntary registration and reporting status and require them to abide by the same requirements as every other publicly-traded company," said the statement from Shays' campaign, quoting the Congressman's words from 2003.

More recently, Shays was an advocate of reform while Congress debated the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Preven­tion Act, which President Bush signed into law on July 30. Significant portions of the No Securities Left Behind Act are included in the legislation, which strengthens regulation of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Bank system.

During debate on the House floor, Shays stated, "The current challenges facing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac underscore the need for stronger oversight of the GSEs. I am grateful to be working on a bipartisan basis to finally move forward with legislation to strengthen these agencies."

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