By Mike Keuther
At 26, Michael Pipe is barely old enough to be a member of Congress, but that's not stopping him from trying to convince voters to elect him to the 5th District seat held by U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard.
"I am running for Congress because I know what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck and too many people in Washington have forgotten what that's like. People don't understand those struggles. We need someone in the 5th District who understands their struggles."
A 2009 Penn State graduate employed as an assistant manager at Five Guys Burgers and Fries in State College, Pipe said he has good insight into the plight of young college graduates looking for jobs and working people fighting to make ends meet.
"The no. 1 priority right now is jobs. We need to help small businesses," he said. "I think we have to create policies that keep jobs here."
Jobs moving overseas
Unfortunately, the nation has created incentives for moving jobs overseas, according to Pipe.
Such developments are occurring in the 5th District, too.
"We have to invest much more money in green technology such as solar energy and wind," he said. "I believe we need to extend tax cuts to the middle class and not the wealthiest Americans."
Pipe said he believes shining the light on the doings of government is a means of repairing the divisiveness of the nation.
"The first thing I will do (if elected) is open up my office to make it transparent. I will post my schedule, let people know where I am at all hours of the day, let them know what earmarks I've requested - if any. Even if people disagree with me, transparency will be forefront. One of the things I think that is causing divisiveness is secrecy. I am going to be as transparent as I can be," he said.
Town hall meetings
He said he'll hold town hall meetings right after the election, affording him time to listen to peoples' concerns and allow them to find out who he is. Once in Washington, he'll work with other members of Congress.
Pipe answered questions on a number of specific issues.
He said he does not favor the privatization of Social Security.
"No, 100 percent no," he said. "Social Security was created in part because we had a great Depression that saw the stock market tank.
"It wouldn't make sense to create a system that could wipe out peoples' savings.
"We saw many people during the most recent stock market collapse lose millions. It's an idea that would benefit just a few people and endanger the savings of many hard-working Americans."
He said he favored the health care reform bill.
"We have to make sure some of the provisions are done properly. That should be the focus right now. Make sure insurance companies are held in check."
The bill, he noted, needs to be revisited and remedied, if needed.
He said he feels provisions of the bill already are proving beneficial, including allowing young people to remain on their parents' health insurance up to age 26. He likes, too, that the bill prevents insurers from prohibiting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
The stimulus plan, he said, has helped.
"Economists agree that it has helped. They estimated that it has increased employment.
"When you hear Republicans say that it hasn't created jobs, that's just (not true). If we had done nothing there, we would have seen a lot of unemployment. The stimulus bill cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. It also was the largest investment of green technology in our country."
Pipe said there should be more transparency regarding earmarks.
"A bill in Congress would create a transparent database. Everyone in the country could see what their lawmakers are requesting," he said. "I am going to fight for my district and get resources, but I will let them know what I will be fighting for."
He said donations by particular individuals or groups to his campaign will not mean an automatic payback to them in the way of earmarks.
Pipe was asked what America can do to open up its exports and close the trade deficit with China.
"I am not a big fan of free trade. I am for fair trade. If you go back to what happened with NAFTA, we created jobs in the country, but we got the low end of jobs that were shipped overseas. Rep. Carney is proposing the Made in America tax credit. That's a huge thing we should be doing.
Keeping money in country
"In certain bills, if money is allocated, we will try to make it in U.S. And there will be a tax credit that will make sure companies benefit from it. Make sure money stays here. And in any future trade deals will do, we have to make sure we protect workers everywhere."
Pipe said he is against overturning Roe vs. Wade.
"I am not in favor of abortions, but we can't have back-alley abortions. We have to make them safe, but rare.
"We need to educate our young people on how to prevent pregnancies through birth control and making responsible choices."