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The Sentinal - Linda Stender: Invest Funds in U.S., not Iraq

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The Sentinal - Linda Stender: Invest Funds in U.S., not Iraq

By Chris Gaetano

According to Assemblywoman Linda Stender, getting the U.S. military out of the war in Iraq would solve a lot of problems. Instead of spending $10 billion a month on a war she never agreed with in the first place, she said, the country could devote that money to any number of other things that sorely need attention right here at home.

"I think its really awful, disastrous, that Iraq now has a $79 billion surplus while we're broke and bridges fall down and we're told there's no money for it. These priorities are wrong and they have been wrong for the [past eight years]," said Stender.

For Stender, currently running for the House of Representatives in the 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Hunterdon, Union, Somerset and parts of Middlesex counties, including parts of Woodbridge and Edison, that list is a long one and ranges from renovations and improvements on transportation infrastructure to focusing on the hunt for Osama bin Laden. At the same time, she says the nation needs to stop rewarding companies that she thinks have engaged in activities that have hurt this country.

"I think we have to bring our troops home from Iraq so we can stop spending $10 billion a month over there, which has put our economy in shambles. We have to stop giving tax breaks to the big oil industries, to invest in our needs here at home, and stop giving tax breaks for moving corporations overseas, so we can start to revitalize our economy and create news jobs," said Stender.

These investments in the country, the assemblywoman believes, will ultimately work to improve the American economy and add jobs.

One place to start, she said, is supporting alternative energy research. Supporting environmentally sustainable industries through the judicious use of tax incentives, she said, would create a surge in jobs and help the country along the path toward energy independence.

This is contrasted with another proposed solution to energy production, drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Stender feels that both measures are unsound, both environmentally and economically.

Another area of investment that she says the U.S. should focus on is transportation infrastructure, which she says has not been getting enough attention this election season, despite what she said would be the many positive economic effects. Improvements on transportation infrastructure such as roads, bridges and tunnels, she stated, would improve the economy by creating jobs and improving the movement of goods and services.

"Investing in it will produce good jobs, it will produce [growth]. I just think it gives our economy the kind of underpinnings it needs," said Stender.

Abroad, she said that getting out of Iraq would let the U.S. "finish the job" in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban and tracking down Osama bin Laden. While she was ambivalent about whether this meant more troops, she said it needed to be made clear that the U.S. military's primary goal should be in capturing the terrorist leader.

Overall, though, she feels that American foreign policy has been going in the wrong direction over the past eight years, calling it "cowboy diplomacy" that has gotten us into a mess that threatens economic solvency and military security. As such, she said, she was against any sort of preemptive military strike.

"We need to have all the options available to us to make sure that we protect the American people, but we need an emphasis on determined diplomacy," said Stender.

Health care is another area to which Stender would like to see more attention paid. The assemblywoman, calling the system "broken," said the emphasis needs to be on creating a "system of shared responsibility." When asked what this means, she said that it involves creating a system that preserves the best aspects of our current health care infrastructure, namely choice, while increasing access. This can be done, she said, through, first, supporting a revived state Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides health coverage to families with children, and in using tax incentives to get businesses to provide health insurance to workers. For those on the low end of the income spectrum, who can't pay for their coverage, Stender said the government should subsidize them and noted that ultimately, she'd like to see health insurance mandated in the same way that car insurance is required now.

This, she said, should be coupled with increased support for scientific research into medical treatments, particularly stem cell research, which the assemblywoman supports.

What shouldn't the government invest in? According to Stender, bailouts for Wall Street investors, who she said are largely responsible for the current financial crisis in the first place. Instead, the focus should be on helping average people to keep their homes and pay their bills, she said.

"The government said, 'Oh, the market will take care of everything," and the market hasn't taken care of everything and this is the mess we're left in, so I don't think we should bail out the investors who made these bad bets," said Stender.

She also expressed her concerns over the expanded role of the executive branch during the Bush administration, saying that Congress needs to reassert itself in the next presidency and work toward rolling back the expanded control that has typified the last seven years. She called the Patriot Act, which gave vastly expanded powers to the president, "scary in many ways" and said she believes that Guantanamo Bay should be shut down.

"I believe we can protect the security of our people and nation and protect individual civil liberties — the notion, for instance, that we would condone torture is just … criminal. It so undermined our standing in the world as a nation," said Stender. "I think we're paying the price for it now, because when it's time for us as a nation to offer leadership in troubled times, I think it's affecting our ability to build these diplomatic relations to build a better, safer tomorrow."

Overall, Stender believes that voting for her is voting for a new direction in the country.

"In this election, we really are making decisions about what kind of future we're going to have for our children and grandchildren, and on Election Day we will make a clear choice between whether we want more of the same or a new direction," said Stender.

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