18 Questions. 21 Democrats.
13 of the important ones I answered.
The New York Times tracked down 21 of the 2020 Democrat candidates for President and asked them the same set of 18 questions. Some were fluff. 13 were serious. I decided to give them the five minute treatment too.
In an ideal world, would anyone own handguns?
We don’t live in an ideal world. We have problems to solve. Where guns are involved, they’re not being solved. Instead we’re dealing with craziness. People who think they need enough guns for an army. Gun manufacturers who think that’s terrific. I’ll take them on.
Would your focus be improving the Affordable Care Act or replacing it with single payer?
The ACA was weakened by opponents, and was almost defeated. Most people get insurance through employers. They’re afraid of changing their medical care. The ACA’s opponents stir up fear. How does a single payer plan address that? When people are afraid of losing what they have, promises don’t work.
Just because something is desirable doesn’t make it doable .Most advanced countries have universal health care. Countries like Canada, the UK, France, Germany. Countries that are 1/4 the size of the US, or much smaller. Single payer for everyone in the US will need the single biggest organization in the world. It’s budget will be 2 or 3 times the military budget, which is already too big to account for.
We need practical solutions. Premiums based on costs stay low until someone is in their 50s. Premiums shoot up around 52 years old. The ACA evens them out. Older people pay a little less, younger pay more. Instead of medicare for all, we can do medicare for 52 and over. A medicare plan for 52 to 65 with some payments for people who can afford it. Remove this pool from the insurance pool, and everyone else’s rate drops. We also need to make medicaid expansion mandatory. Call it Mediwork.
Do you think it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change?
No but he or she can slow it down. That has to happen, to give us more time to get a handle on it. The next President has to clear the deck for major research on energy storage, renewables, carbon capture. Right now fossil fuel companies create lots of road blocks. They’ll buy companies with interesting technology just to bury them. A President can stop that. A President can make sure there’s money for basic research, and great ideas aren’t blocked.
We need climate change diplomacy. It’s a global problem. It will take global solutions. The world is turning against international agreements. Every country has people busy reinventing history so they’re the victim. I don’t care if you didn’t have to think about climate change 50 or even 10 years ago. We don’t live in the past. A President can help people visualize the future.
Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?
First, any country that criticizes Israel needs to step into its shoes. How would you do? Israel faced an existential crisis in the 20th century. Four times it was attacked by much larger armies, that wanted to annihilate it. Israel faces as different existential crisis in the 21st. It’s facing a future where Jews will have democratic rights, but non-Jews won’t. The areas it wants to govern will have more non-Jews than Jews, and those non-Jews won’t have the right to run the country. The Jewish people will not be able to sustain that, because they are a moral people. Israel as we know it will cease. Israel is too important to America to let that happen. Politicians in Israel are afraid to speak this truth. It’s up to their allies.
Who is your hero, and why?
Cassius Clay and Mohammed Ali. Cassius Clay was the person Ali’s parents named him after. The Clays were a powerful southern political family. Cassius led troops in the Mexican War, was captured, and saw it was wrong. He ran a newspaper and was a fierce anti-slavery advocate. He would debate pro-slavery leaders in public, and sometimes they’d try to kill him. But he had the fastest Bowie knife in Kentucky, and would-be assassins paid the price. He was an early Lincoln supporter. Lincoln sent him to Russia, a country with a big army and few freedoms, because if Russia allied with the south they’d win. Funny how history repeats. Clay kept them neutral and negotiated the purchase of Alaska. Lincoln needed him back and he agreed if Lincoln proclaimed slaves emancipated, and he did. Mohammed Ali’s parents knew that, and they expected their son to be a hero too. He was. Ali lifted boxing up, from a dying sport into an art. He had physical and moral courage. Like Cassius Clay, he was a fighter who had the guts to say this fight is wrong. He was a diplomat, too. Those are real heroes.
Would there be American troops in Afghanistan at the end of your first term?
This isn’t a Goldilocks situation where there’s just the right number of troops.
The question is about Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Russia. It’s about Pashtuns and Tajiks. The US military is wise, but we need more than military wisdom. We need a central Asian strategy. That will take Presidential leadership.
I won’t accept a de-facto Pakistani government in Afghanistan, that fosters terror attacks in India, Europe, and the US. Are we ready to let into our country all the Afghan people who’d be at risk because they helped us, believed in us? Because that will be necessary. American troops can do great things, but we can never use them like they’re a solution. Even in WW2, a war of great soldiering, Marshall, Eisenhower, generals understood that the battles had to lead to something. They created the UN, the global trading system, NATO, because that’s what those battles were for. We fought to tie the world together, against forces that fought to rip it apart.
Do you think illegal immigration is a major problem in the United States?
It’s a problem in the minds of maybe 20 or 25 million Americans. Some of them have a legitimate gripe, some of them follow along, some are just angry. I’m not going to ignore 25 million Americans, even if they exaggerate and want to hurt people. Ignoring them makes it worse.
The problem is the Republican party is owned by these people. We could have had practical and effective immigration reform a decade ago, but too many Republicans were afraid they’d be primaried. This is an area where bipartisanship is important. I think a Democrat President can help bring some Republicans back from the right-wing cliff they’re going over.
Where would you go on your first international trip as president?
New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea. Trump has alienated our European allies. But they’re adults, they understand that’s because of his weird Russia fixation. The region Trump has ignored, that he’s alienated, and that doesn’t know what to expect, are the Pacific countries around China. It wasn’t just Trump who tore up the TPP. The American public turned against it. We need to negotiate political and economic alliances with those countries. That will require a lot of Presidential leadership. If there’s one area to spend political capital in, that’s it. Because this is where the 21st century’s great conflicts, as well as great advances, will occur.
Do you think President Trump has committed crimes in office?
Probably. As a private citizen, he’ll be facing consequences. You can’t run a corrupt business, pay off women and bribe dictators, then enter the most scrutinized public office in the world, and expect to get away with it.
Do you support or oppose the death penalty?
Unfortunately, the death penalty isn’t justice, its vengeance. Many death row convicts and executed people were not heinous criminals. And DNA has shown too many aren’t even guilty. But heinous sociopath killers do exist. We kill those people because we’re disgusted and afraid of them. That’s not about justice, they’re beyond it. We have to come up with a better way. Some people shouldn’t be heard from again. But they don’t have to be killed.
Should tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google be broken up?
Not broken up in big chunks. They need to be regulated and maybe stripped of certain services. Government treats them too much like geese laying golden eggs. That’s silly. A hundred years ago telephones seemed pretty far out technology. Back then there were predictions there’d be video telephones soon. They were off by about 50 years. But government wasn’t afraid of regulating ATT. It said, fine, serve everyone, be a monopoly, but they made sure it served everyone, even people that weren’t profitable. Teddy Roosevelt understood this. Network monopolies are nice because when you join one everyone else is there too. Government makes sure everyone is treated right. Given privacy, not propaganda. Facebook could end the use of its platform for hate. They’ll have to hire a lot of people, with a lot of training, a lot of support. It will seriously cut into profits. That’s their consequences.
Are you open to expanding the size of the Supreme Court?
It certainly needs reform. To get that going, it needs to be broadcast. Letting voters see what’s happening is a great tonic. Once it’s broadcast, the public will get on board for real reform. Now it’s dominated by political interests.
Does anyone deserve to have a billion dollars?
No one deserves it. But some people are in the right place, at the right time, with the right skill set, ambition, support, and the result is they become billionaires. As much as I respect people like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, they’re kind of the exception to the rule. Having 0.1% of the population control 90% of the assets is simply bad for society. Their children should not become billionaires when they die. They should pay billions in taxes instead. Because if someone, as you put it, deserves to be a billionaire, because of their extraordinary capacities, it means they’re one in a million. There’s no way their child will be one in a million. Even if they were cloned, which, unfortunately, is just the sort of thing that could happen because people have so much money.