Iowa Public Television


Candidates for 1st, 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts

posted on October 18, 2010

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Tonight’s program is the first in a six-part series focusing on the general election of 2010 and on the candidates who'll appear on the ballot. The program airs Monday through Saturday at 6:30. Tonight and again tomorrow night, we will spotlight candidates who hope to represent Iowa in the United States Congress.

Yeager: Let’s meet those candidates now. Rob Petsche is from Manchester. He’s a libertarian and he seeks to represent eastern Iowa’s first congressional district. Jason Faulkner is an independent candidate. He’s from Maquoketa and he also hopes to represent the first U.S. congressional district. Rebecca Williamson of Des Moines is a representative of the socialist workers party, and she seeks federal office in central Iowa’s third congressional district. And Dan Lensing of fort Atkinson, Iowa, is an independent candidate and he's on the ballot in north central Iowa’s fourth congressional district. Welcome to each of you to Iowa Public Television. Glad to have you here for the Iowa’s Candidates 2010. First we want to get to know a little bit about each and every one of you. So Mr. Petsche, we'll start with you. Why should voters pick you on November 2?

Petsche: First of all, I’d like to say thanks to Paul and Iowa Public Television for the opportunity. Third party candidates don't get a lot of these opportunities, so thank you. Why am I here? I’m here because I guess going a step back, I firmly believe that America is the greatest country currently and ever. We offer more opportunities, economic freedom, personal freedom than any nation has ever dreamed off. What I’m worried about, I have two young children, a six month old and a twenty-two month old, and right now at their age, they're $43,000 in debt, basically, in essence because of our federal government. And I don't want to lose those opportunities. I want to stop the bleeding and I want to restore those hopes and dreams for people to bring back what they had. There’s people that risk their lives to come to our country, and you don't see that in any other country. People risk their lives to come to America compared to -- you don't see that in France, Cuba, China, Russia, any other nation on the face of the earth. And they come here for the opportunities, and that's what I want to restore. I want to -- I offer a non-establishment candidate. I can vote with both sides. I’m sure there would be issues where the democrats could say, hey, Congressman Petsche, what do you think about this issue and republicans likewise would say, hey, Congressman Petsche, what do you think about this issue. And there would be issues where I could vote for both parties -- with both parties. And I would not have any special interest ties. I won't be bowing down to Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner. They won't say jump and I won't say how high.

Yeager: So you see independents as a strong selling point of your candidacy?

Petsche: Yes, sir.

Yeager: All right. Mr. Faulkner, same question to you. November 2, why should they go and check your name?

Faulkner: Well, first I’d like to say thank you for the opportunity to come on here on Iowa Public Television. I am a strong fiscal conservative. I believe it's time that we need to return to fiscal responsibility. As Mr. Petsche brought up, spending is completely out of control. Not only that, I consider myself a constitutionalist. We have drifted so far away from our founding principles that we need to return to those principles. Again, as being an independent, I can work with both sides. And that's my main reason for running.

Yeager: All right. Very good. Ms. Williamson, socialist worker party candidate, tell us why on November 2 we should go and pick you.

Williamson: Well, what we're facing in this country, working people and farmers, is a capitalist economic crisis. And basically we're being made to pay for the capitalist crisis. You know, the massive long-term unemployment, the ongoing wars, the so-called budget cuts which are happening across the country, cutting massively transportation, closing public hospitals, you know, tax on social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and I think it's possible to fight back against this. Working people and working farmers can fight back against this. And so I put fourth -- the socialist workers party puts forth a political perspective of what working people must do. That is to begin to defend ourselves on the job and in the streets, strengthening our unions and organizing the power of working people, which we've seen time and time again in this country, and build actually a broad social movement that can grow into the millions and actually take political power. Personally my experience is that I’m a long-time unionist, union member currently in the UAW, United Auto Workers. I was a meatpacking worker for several years. Saturday I joined a rally of workers in Keokuk, Iowa, where members of the BCTGM local 48G locked out by Roquette. They had a rally, several hundred people. Very inspiring. Very encouraging. So I’d like to encourage people to join their picket line, which is 24 hours, and send them some support. Also recently I participated in a rally in Washington, D.C., 200,000 people, many of them unionists, for jobs in education. I think that's a strong signal of what people are thinking and the reaction of what's going on in this country and around the world today due to the capitalist system and, you know, the profit drive that runs it. And you know, to maintain state power is what the capitalist class does.

Yeager: All right. Let’s get Mr. Lensing's take on why he should be elected on November 2.

Lensing: My reason for running for office is essentially to try to bring real knowledge of economics to Washington. I’m currently working on my PhD. in economics at Kansas State University, so I do not currently live in Iowa, but my home town is fort Atkinson, and that's where I consider my permanent residence. If elected I’ll just be leaving k state with a masters degree and moving back home to obtain office. My reasons primarily for running is to take care and take control of the massive amount of debt that our country has. doing research on Argentina’s economic crisis back in 2001, seeing their massive amount of debt lead to a 75-percent reduction in per capita income is something that scares me in terms of what we could see in our country in the very near future, say ten, twenty years, if we don't take control and start putting in programs that will truly -- truly reduce the drastic amounts of spending that we have, whether it's in regards to the war, to all types of different social programs that we keep implementing. There’s just no end that I see in sight that the current politicians are pushing for. We need people who are going to look more at the long-term rather than the short-term policies that will get them reelected. We need to put in place policies that will actually obtain real results and make America viable in the long-term future. I actually do have a plan for social security, which is more just an idea rather than necessarily something I would actually push for, but it would actually phase out social security over a fifty-year per. It’s essentially just a conceptual economic model based on three generations, but it essentially calls for every person in society to make a small sacrifice out of what they have paid into social security. And over this fifty-year period, everyone makes the same small percentage of sacrifice, and the program is essentially eliminated after that point. The reason for this is that the program right now is not viable in the future, and as a result to take a small cut now relative to a larger one in the future where -- I mean we may end up seeing a point that the program may just have to end. That’s the big thing and I’m -- I don't want to see that happen.

Yeager: Okay. We’ll flush that out a little bit. I want to learn more -- a little bit about your parties and how they're supporting or how you view -- Mr. Petsche, you talked about how you can see things in middle, not tow to either party's leadership. So how is that as a libertarian will that help you, and what does that exactly mean in your eyes?

Petsche: As a libertarian, simple premise would be more freedom, less government. And that's freedom -- a lot of people misunderstand with libertarianism is a lot of people just think it's just fiscal conservatism, but that also goes into social issues as well. Where I can take that, again, I say people on the left on the democratic side have mentioned voting for marijuana usage. That actually would cross over both social issues and fiscal issues because of obviously implementing legalization of it would bring tax revenue, and obviously the socialist side is self-aware. Now, by doing that, again, that's something as a libertarian where I can see both sides of the issue. I think me as an individual also, it kind of goes with Dan as I think our current politicians, democrats and republicans on the federal level, they understand politics but I think they fail to understand history. I think they fail to understand economics. You can't really find a government program long term that is successful. Look, for example, the United States postal service, somewhat our public education system, Medicare, Medicaid, social security, lots of failures. And that's where if you get in an independent outlook from a social side and a fiscal side, you can take a whole new perspective on these ideas.

Yeager: All right. Mr. Faulkner, you're listed as an independent candidate, so not even falling under libertarian or social worker. So where do you find and define what an independent should be?

Faulkner: Well, I can see where there is a need for certain social programs in our country. We have massive unemployment, double-digit unemployment. We have a lot of people that are not as well off as the others. And I can see also where there is a need to stay within a budget. The whole thing being is you need to balance the two. I think as an independent you're not loyal -- you're really not loyal to either party or anybody in there. You have your own views, your own ideas. If you want to agree with some, you can. If you do not agree with them, you don't have to.

Yeager: Rebecca, you talked a little bit about what some of the socialist worker party -- you went down to Keokuk, which is I believe not even in your district, is it?

Williamson: Nope.

Yeager: You still made that part -- so why is it the party -- and define for people what the socialist workers party is and folks at home why they should support it or look into that party.

Williamson: Okay. Well, the socialist workers party is a revolutionary party. We draw our roots back to Marx and Engels, the Russian revolution, the Cuban revolution, and many, many revolutionary struggles that have happened around the world. The class struggle, which has happened in this country over the decades, labor struggles in the '30s and '40s and '50s, the black rights struggles, et cetera -- I’m sure all of us can think of these things -- are demonstration on the capacities of working people to be able to fight for our rights. We don't think that electing one person into office is going to change everything. We aren't for trying to tinker with capitalist system to make it work better. We do think that we can make advances -- fight and make advances now, which we've seen. That’s how we won social security and Medicare and Medicaid, the right to choose abortion, and things such as this. And I think most people realize that we do live in a class divided society: tiny minority ruling class which runs society in order to turn a profit and to maintain their state power and privileges, you know, and a very stratified middle class, and most majority people belong to the working class. So we reach out -- we start with the world. We don't start within the borders of the United States or Iowa or things like that. So it was very important to get out and support the workers of Keokuk.

Yeager: Because there are workers everywhere, especially on the eastern side of the state where it's more of a union part of the state, traditionally finding. Mr. Lensing, as an independent, the same question to you. How do you draw as an independent to find that that's going to be a good thing or a positive thing for your candidacy?

Lensing: Obviously it's more difficult to run as an independent than as a republican or a democrat, whether you look at financial or otherwise. People based on -- voting based on party lines. But in my opinion, it's better to run -- or my idea is I’m not a republican and I’m not a democrat. I’m an American. And that's the way I look a issues. I look at them in terms of rationality, trying to base them on sound principles and data that truly speak to what the problem is at hand and ways to fix it. That’s the primary way that I look at all problems facing this country, with the exception of, obviously, social issues, because that's pretty much, in my opinion, purely an opinion. They’re purely subjective issues. The reason why I believe people should vote for me is just the fact that I will tell you exactly what I feel. I’m not going to be a politician. I am not going to take any money from a lobbyist. I have signed a document that I’ve had notarized stating that I will not take one penny from a lobbyist the entire time I’m elected and, if I do, I’ll resign, get out of it. I’m here to push for policies that will make a difference that will finally make our country viable in the future, because the way I look at it right now, it's not. That’s what I’m pushing for and that's the reason I believe people should look at voting for me.

Yeager: I want to go back to your social security talk. You say small sacrifice. What are we looking at exactly on what type of a sacrifice, say, my mother or my grandmother going to have to make if they're already taking or about to take social security?

Lensing: Well, the essential part of the model is it's three generations over a fifty-year period. Generation one starts a time period zero and time period twenty-five. They start fully paid in, so 100 percent paid in. They receive 75 percent of what they paid in, lose 25 percent. Generation two starts at time period zero, lives through the entire fifty years. They start out paid in at 50 percent. They lose half of that 50 percent, so 25 percent, and receive 25 percent. And generation three starts at time period twenty-five and lives through the fifty-year period, and they pay in 25 percent while receiving nothing. So in this model, it is essentially just that every person makes that sacrifice of 25 percent. This is just a guess. I don't know what that exact percentage would be. It could be smaller. It could be more. But in my opinion what we would sacrifice now would be less than what would have to be sacrificed in the future.

Yeager: All right. I’ll get into -- I want to discuss -- that brings up the reason I go a little bit to the economy. If you're elected -- or if you were elected and in the position of leadership, what would you have done to help fix the economy?

Petsche: First of all, Paul, the simple thing to do is, again, keep government simple, keep government small. People know how to make better decisions. I’m a big tenth amendment advocate. I believe the state representatives, state congressmen, governors are more important than people on a federal level. So I would push power back down that way. After that, it's kind of like playing monopoly if you've ever played before. People don't -- people have a set of rules and a finite set of money, a set of resources. Right now that's not how our government is playing. So businesses are sitting on piles of money for an understandable reason. It’s smart economically for them until they know the rules the government is playing with them. You need to lower taxes, lower regulation, and have that on a continuous basis. We need to basically simplify it, and the government should be trying to create jobs. The government should be trying to create the rules so it's fair to everyone.

Yeager: So the government would not have had a role in this economic crisis of the last -- more money has been rolling in. We’ve been saving more. Companies have been saving more. But we're still in it. So where's that line and how do you cross that to get us moving forward again?

Petsche: Well, again, like when congress adjourned, they didn't pass any tax cuts that are due to expire at the end of the year, and so businesses are sitting there wondering, hey, are we going to have these tax cuts, we have health care coming, costs with that, we're going to potentially have new tax increases, if you will. So that's why those companies are sitting on money and not hiring more people. They need to know the rules and our government is not giving them the exact rules to play by. Like I said, they're overtaxing, they're over regulating.

Yeager: Something to look forward to. Mr. Faulkner, economic situation, how would you have handled an economic crisis if you were in congress?

Faulkner: I think the federal government should have stayed out of it completely, let the free market regulate itself, which that's what it's designed to do so, and eventually we would have pulled out of it. It’s happened before in our history, if you look back.

Yeager: So let the banks that are too big to fail, fail?

Faulkner: Oh, absolutely. They made their decisions. They chose to lend out money to people they knew could not afford to pay them back. Nothing is too big to fail in this country. They bailed them out with our money, your money, and I just don't feel they should have done that. They should have stayed out of it.

Yeager: What about tax cuts that were involved in the stimulus? Were those good ideas?

Faulkner: Oh, I think tax cuts are a good idea. I think you can slash taxes. And if you slash taxes and quit spending money, we'll pull out of it.

Yeager: But that was part of the stimulus, so how would you -- just lower taxes in general?

Faulkner: Yeah, we just slash it across the board. "X" amount percent -- 25 percent slashed across the board and let it go like a Reagan style tax cut.

Yeager: All right. Ms. Williamson, the same question. How do the workers -- how do you see -- if you had been elected and in position, how would you have handled the economic situation?

Williamson: Well, I think that the -- you know, the -- the stimulus and the -- they're too big to fail. Working people obviously are not too big to fail, right? We’ve seen millions of people lose their jobs. Millions get thrown out of their houses through foreclosures and off the farms. being in office -- the socialist workers party candidates always use the office to promote the struggles of working people and to fight for that, not to save and selvage of the capitalist system.

Yeager: So the workers, though, if workers that have bound together, if there's no jobs and if somebody needs to work and is in a situation where they can't work or can't get another job or take a job that, say, maybe crosses the picket line in Keokuk if they would allow workers back in, to use the example you've talked about, by taking a job, therefore helping break the union and the workers are not united. How do you unite workers to help try to get better living wages for the working American?

Williamson: Well, through solidarity. You cannot -- you have to have principles. You cannot cross the picket line. In the 1930s and '40s, there were struggles coming out of the Great Depression. Still -- still -- it was still the great depression and there were ups and downs within the Great Depression and there were united demonstrations by workers who are employed with the workers who are unemployed. And unemployed actually had their own organization and linked them up with unions and things like that, and they fought for better benefits for the unemployed. Actually the socialist workers party supports a massive public works program. This would be a way -- you can see the contradictions with what's possible and the great social need that's out there to build roads and build schools and maintain all these levees and dams that are bursting.

Yeager: And they would all be with union workers, I’m guessing.

Williamson: That would be the best.

Yeager: But it's hard for us to stand together, and it's hard to stand together if you're somebody who has a General Motors plant in your town when it was deemed that part of the reason gm failed is because the union had been -- the union workers had been paid too much.

Williamson: I don't think so.

Yeager: Why not?

Williamson: I think that the corporate owners of businesses -- the biggest corporations, they're super wealthy. They’re part of the ruling class. I’m not talking about small business owners that have 50 or so or whatever workers. But you know that -- that capitalism tends toward monopoly, you know, and you can have unity and a union among working people on a job without having an official union, per se. those are our organizations, yes, and we need to strengthen them, yes.

Yeager: Okay. All right. Very good. I want to ask Mr. Lensing the same question. I’ve already hit you with a little bit of social security. Is there anything you would have done differently if you were in congress to help fix the economy?

Lensing: I think part of the problem to begin with was the fact that there were institutions or policies in place that would lead to a bailout. If those policies weren't in place, then I don't see these corporations having exposed themselves -- exposed themselves to such risky behavior because it would have been -- they would have been behind their own capital reserves. They would not have had the government to back them up in the end. I’m not really a hundred percent sure whether or not I am for or against the tarp. In some respects, yes, it does seem that it stabilized the system but, as both rob and Jason pointed out, it was at the expense of taxpayers. In my opinion, that's not something that is beneficial to any person in America, especially when we're not the ones who were the result of this problem. I would like to have -- I would like to have seen maybe what the market itself would have done. I’m sure at least if we had let things play out, we would be in a healthier position right now, just for the fact that we'd be at a faster rate of growth. Whether or not jobs would be better than what it is currently, that I don't know.

Yeager: I want to -- you have about less than a minute to answer this final question. If you're elected, Congressman Petsche, what's the first thing that you as a congressman would do?

Petsche: Locate jobs. Locate jobs, and that's basically vote against any increased spending. Spending doesn't -- obviously it costs money, you know, via tax dollars to get that money. We need to cut taxes. We need to lower spending.

Yeager: Where would you lower spending?

Petsche: Across the board. Across the board.

Yeager: A fair 10, 20, 30 percent?

Petsche: I would say my outlook on the budget is a phase-down process. You don't necessarily look at eliminating programs but phasing them down, not out but down.

Yeager: Congressmen Faulkner, what would be the first bill that has your name?

Faulkner: The first thing I would do is I would look at cutting spending, everywhere cut. I would cut foreign aid completely out, cut military spending. Cut spending -- just cut spending all the way across the board.

Yeager: No one is safe.

Faulkner: No one is safe, especially -- even our representatives wouldn't be safe. Cut their wages, cut them down.

Yeager: Aren't you a former member of the army reserve?

Faulkner: Yes, I am.

Yeager: So the military is too big in your eyes?

Faulkner: The military is way too big and way too overstretched. I believe that we'd cut back on the military, put some of the units back in reserves, get out of places that we have no business being in.

Yeager: Which helps the economy on a global scale. All right. What would Congressman Williamson in her first day and what would be the first bill that you would push toward?

Williamson: Well, I would look towards linking up workers who are fighting, like the workers in Keokuk, you know, with others who are fighting for their rights around the country, and to link up fires, defending against the FBI raids that have raided workers houses in Chicago and Minneapolis and that continue. And, you know, they were also tracking people in Iowa City and things like that. You know, to defend ourselves from the tax that are due to the capitalist economic crisis. This is how capitalism functions.

Yeager: so the first bill would be something about workers, but exactly what would it be?

Williamson: I wouldn't look -- I wouldn't look -- that wouldn't be the first thing I would do is to look to draft some bill because -- we need to overthrow this system including this government and reestablish society based on human solidarity. It’s possible.

Yeager: All right. If you are Congressman Lensing, what would you do -- first bill that will have your name on it?

Lensing: It would be the same thing as Jason and rob were talking about, reducing spending. I’d be looking at more specific programs, let alone -- not so much across, maybe, across-the-board cutting, but a few programs would be the commission of fine arts that actually tells congress how to decorate the capitol. I guess I don't know if the American people actually care about whether we waste money on decorating the capitol or not. I think there's more important things than that. The council on environmental quality; we have the EPA already. I don't think we really need a council to handle this. The Denali Commission, that's a federal agency that is supposed to help develop Alaska’s infrastructure which, in my opinion, is not needed unless we are looking at tapping more of their natural resources. a federal consulting group; the government is basically the most inefficient group in this nation, so a consulting group based through the federal government is not exactly an efficient or knowledgeable consulting group, in my opinion.

Yeager: All right. You ran us down right until the end of time. As I said, it would move fast and it did. We are out of time. Thank you to each of you for your insights. It was very good to hear from all of you. We appreciate you coming in and wish you best in all of your congressional campaigns here in 2010. As people go to the polls November 2, they'll know more about you when they see your name on the ballot. We do continue our six-part series tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m. and we continue our focus on candidates seeking to represent Iowa in the United States congress. Joining us are candidates who will appear on the ballot representing Iowa’s second and fifth congressional districts and a candidate for the United States senate as well. Those candidates are Gary Sicard, Jon Tack, Martin James Monroe, and John Heiderscheit. We’re also looking forward to hearing about their campaigns. That’s at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow evening. I certainly hope that you'll be joining us then. Until then, I’m Paul Yeager. Thank you so much for watching us here on statewide Iowa Public Television.

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Tags: 1st Congressional District 3rd Congressional District 4th Congressional District campaign 2010 candidates Congress Dan Lensing economy elections Independents interviews Iowa Jason Faulkner politics Rebecca Williamson Rob Petsche Socialist Workers taxes