Thursday, August 2, 2012

10 Questions with Ben Lange

33 year old Ben Lange is the 2012 Republican Nominee for U.S. Congress in Iowa's First District.  Ben grew up in my old hometown of Quasqueton (pop. 499), raised by working parents. He went off to college and earned a BA and a law degree. He worked as a congressional aide to U.S. Rep. John Kline (R) of Minnesota.

When it was time to start a family Ben returned home to Iowa and opened a private legal practice in Independence (a stone's throw from his folks in Quasqueton). Lange and his wife, Kelly, now have three young daughters.

Lange ran against incumbent Democrat Bruce Braley in the First District in 2010 and narrowly lost by less than 2% of the vote. In that election, Braley received less than 50% of the votes cast in the district and most of Braley's donations came from out-of-state donors (while the majority of Lange's donations came from within the district).

If the 2012 race is anywhere as close as the 2010 race, Lange and Braley will need every vote they can get. Lange has reached out to Libertarians, Tea Partiers, Constitutional Conservatives and the like. He has stated that he doesn't see much light between himself and libertarians like me.  I wanted to see how close we were and Mr. Lange graciously answered the following questions via email:

1. Probably the biggest commonality between libertarians and conservatives is in fiscal conservatism.   However, this philosophy wasn’t on display when last the GOP controlled Washington. As conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg put it, Bush, Tom DeLay, Denny Hastert, et al. “spent enough money to burn a wet mule. On Bush's watch, education spending more than doubled, the government enacted the biggest expansion in entitlements since the Great Society (Medicare Part D), and we created a vast new government agency (the Department of Homeland Security).” You’ve said that your top priority would be to “ restore our generational compact and solve the nation’s debt crisis.”   How much would you like to see cut from the federal budget and can you give any specific cuts that you’d like to see in discretionary spending?

America is on a path towards total financial collapse. Since 1993, politicians have quadrupled our national debt from $4 trillion to $16 trillion. If we are going to actually solve the problem, the first step is to modernize the budgetary process itself. Without fixing the process, it will not matter how many cuts are made in our discretionary spending because the real drivers of debt are found in mandatory spending programs. Key changes include enacting a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an essential ingredient to any meaningful debt-reduction strategy, and putting an overall cap on federal spending as a percentage of our GDP. There are, of course, a number of examples of specific cuts on the discretionary side, including the millions spent on re-arranging furniture in the Washington D.C. office of the SEC, the millions spent on training Chinese prostitutes to drink more responsibly on the job, the duplication of international education programs, etc.

2. Of course discretionary spending is chump change compared to the “mandatory” spending for the federal entitlements of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which almost everyone recognizes are going to bankrupt the country in their current form. You’ve said that you agree with “ [r]estructuring federal entitlement programs that are fiscally unsustainable for the benefit of future generations.”   What are some of your ideas for restructuring these programs?   Can it actually be done when even timid reforms are denounced as cruel and draconian?

We need to reform Social Security and Medicare for future generations of Americans and we need elected leaders with the guts to solve these problems. Unfortunately, Bruce Braley promised to secure these programs, but instead he has chosen partisanship over the well-being of Iowa’s seniors. Since arriving in Washington, Braley has not lifted a finger or offered a single proposal to ensure these programs are available for future generations of Americans. This is not leadership and this is why so many Iowans have lost faith in Washington politicians like Bruce Braley – he is part of the problem. The fact is both programs are going bankrupt and I believe we need to honor the commitment that we have made to our seniors and stand 100% behind the promises that we have made to them. But to fix these problems will require a bipartisan solution. That is why I believe politicians from both political parties need to come to the table and begin a serious conversation based around the following:

(1)    We should agree there is a problem and that Social Security and Medicare are fiscally unsustainable and need to be reformed and secured for current and future generations;

(2)    We should agree that seniors deserve more options and choices in their health care decisions;

(3)    We should agree that seniors’ deserve control over their own health care and government bureaucrats should not be intruding into seniors’ most intimate health care decisions.

3. The battle cry from the GOP has been to “Repeal and Replace” Obamacare.   For those of us who believe that the federal government has no Constitutional business at all healthcare, the “Replace” part of the phrase makes us nervous.   What do you believe should be done with Obamacare?

Repeal it – it is an unsustainable takeover of health care and an unprecedented expansion of government intrusion into people’s lives.  But repealing it cannot be all we do. As a small business owner, and as a husband and father of three girls, I know that we cannot return to the status quo.  Our families and businesses simply cannot afford the 18-20% increases in premium costs like the ones that we have faced in recent years.  The real question is this: Who should be in charge of your health care: the government, or you and your doctor? We must keep individuals in charge of their health care decisions.  To do that, we need more cost transparency, tort reform, and more competition at all levels of the system in order to offer plans and products that fit individual needs and actually bring costs down. The “replace” portion of my plan is to empower individuals with the freedom to make decisions that allow them to choose the health care that best fits their families’ needs.

4. On your website you state that the Second Amendment “protects the right of individuals to possess firearms, apart from service in a militia, and to use such firearms for self-defense and other traditionally lawful purposes.” Do you foresee any threats to this right to keep and bear arms? Are there any changes you’d like to see in federal gun laws?

The Supreme Court has ruled that the 2nd Amendment protects the right of individuals to use and possess firearms, but the Court did not define the precise scope of the right. In other words, while the Court established the principle of an “individual right to keep and bear arms,” it has not defined what types of arms are covered and what types of local restrictions may be placed on the individual right. As a result, the greatest threat to 2nd amendment rights is the narrowing of the underlying principle through legislative action and subsequent judicial rulings. Tragic events will always lead people to ask what could have been done to prevent them from happening. The sad truth, however, is that more laws and regulations will do nothing to protect law-abiding citizens from those who would willingly cast aside those same laws in order to inflict harm.
5. What do you think is the worst thing that your opponent, Bruce Braley, has done in his time in office?

Bruce Braley’s congressional career is one long trail of broken promises. He says one thing, but has done another. For example, Braley promised to reduce the national debt as his highest priority, instead he voted for a massive spending spree and the personal share of debt owed by Iowans has skyrocketed from $29,000 to $53,000. Braley promised to get tough on Wall Street, instead he bailed out Wall Street on the backs of Iowa’s working families. Braley and the Democrats promised Iowans that spending $825 billion in taxpayer dollars would reduce unemployment to 5.6% by the summer of 2012, instead unemployment remains stuck at 8.2%. Braley promised Iowans a “full and frank discussion” on health care, instead he crammed through a secretive 2,700-page bill in the dead of night and backed a government-takeover of health care even more radical than ObamaCare. He promised not to accept lobbyist contributions and said we needed to end the cozy relationship between legislators and lobbyists, instead once he arrived in Washington he accepted over $70,000 from lobbyists and over $1 million from other affiliated special interest groups. He criticized Gov. Mitt Romney for personally investing in Chinese companies, while at the same time he, himself, personally invests in invests in Chinese auto companies. As Americans we are free to invest however we choose, but don’t tell the people of Iowa one thing and practice another. Iowans are tired of Washington politicians like Bruce Braley who say one thing and do another. We cannot continue sending the same old politicians to Washington and hope for different results.

6. A major point of contention between “Ron Paul Republicans” and many other Republicans seems to be on foreign policy. On your website you state that “it is critical that our national objectives in [Iraq and Afghanistan] – and other challenges such as cyber security, Iran, and Syria – are made clear to the America public and our political leaders keep the American people informed and engaged as our troops, diplomats, and intelligence personnel protect our interests abroad.”   What criteria does an interest abroad have to meet for you to consider it worth American blood and treasure?

First and foremost, the use of force abroad needs to satisfy the requirements set forth in the U.S. Constitution. This means, for example, that military action needs to conform with the 'Declare War' clause of the Constitution. Wars should be reserved as a last resort, but may become necessary when, for example, vital national security interests are at stake and when American lives and property are attacked. When we do commit to using force, our military should have the tools and training it needs to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.  Our military deserves clear objectives and a definable mission, and when that is accomplished, we should bring them home. America can be the shining city on the hill, without being the world’s police force and nation builder.

7. You’ve done a good job personalizing the concept of the national debt so people can see that it is a moral issue that we are essentially stealing from our children.  Isn’t it also a moral issue if we willingly allow strangers to grope our children at airports?  Do you think that the TSA is a necessary trade-off for safety or should it be altered or abolished?

As a general rule, I believe that any time a private company can provide a service at the same or better cost to the consumer and equal effectiveness than a government agency, we should look to end that agency.  With respect to TSA, even one of the original authors of the legislation that created the agency, Rep. John Mica (R-FL), recently described the TSA as “a complete fiasco.” There is some movement on the Hill to privatize the bulk of the agency’s current responsibilities, including by Mica, and I would support those efforts.

8. You have said that “the time has come for a new generation of leadership” that promotes “a legislative agenda rooted not in the coercive power of the state, but in the liberty of individuals to pursue virtue.” Is there any specific legislation that you’d like to see that would promote these ideals?

Repealing Obamacare would be a good start.

9. Besides any listed above, what federal laws (if any) would you like to see REPEALED?

In addition to the immediate and full repeal of Obamacare, another major piece of legislation I believe should be repealed is the No Child Left Behind Act. The federal government should be less involved in public education, not more involved. Parents and teachers should be in charge of their children’s education, not bureaucrats in Washington.

10. If elected you’ll be asked to swear an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and “bear true faith and allegiance to the same[.]”   What does that mean?

Taking an oath of office is one of the most solemn commitments a citizen can undertake. To me, this oath means that in all I do as a legislator, the Constitution will serve as my north star. I am duty-bound to follow it and protect it from enemies of our state.

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