Four candidates challenging incumbent Rep. Duncan D. Hunter in the new 50th Congressional District answered questions at a forum Wednesday night at the Ramona Library.
, a liberal progressive group, hosted the event.
Hunter didn’t attend. He earlier had sent a letter saying his schedule didn’t allow it.
Linnell is a homemaker. Frankowiak and Benoit describe themselves as activists. Secor is retired from working for the Superior Court.
Dave Patterson, president of Ramona Forum, moderated the event. About 15 people were in the audience.
These are some of the highlights of the questions from the public and the candidates’ answers. This is not a complete transcript.
Question: The and Patriot Act were voted in by both Republicans and Democrats. Can you comment on that?
Benoit: Ron Paul, called Libertarian though Republican, is famous for his no vote on some of these things. Libertarians are against violating citizens’ rights. The Patriot Act and NDAA were sold to us on the premise that they’ll give us security.
Secor: In Congress, Duncan Hunter went over that bill to make sure everything was legal. Obviously he has no idea. That violates at least the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth amendments of the Constitution. I would never have supported that.
Linnell: Duncan Hunter was in charge of combining the House and Senate versions of the NDAA. The day that it became law, I signed on with the Oath Keepers. They’ve just taken away too many rights. People have been protesting at the White House for how many years? And we’re not allowed to do it anymore? Someone against the NDAA is going to have to spend years in jail to get that overridden. Duncan Hunter is primarily responsible for it. He said there’s nothing wrong with locking up a U.S. citizen if they’re behaving like a terrorist.
Frankowiak: Everyone who voted for the NDAA or Patriot Act broke the Constitution. I think that’s very serious. They add these bills on the military bill or other bills. There are people in Congress who refused to vote for that, for that reason. Our rights are being undermined and it’s really tragic. I understand even the Quakers have been classified as terrorists. They can classify anyone as a terrorist and throw them in jail. That’s now the law. We are slowly losing all our rights and that’s one of the reasons I’m running.
Question: Are you in favor of single-payer [health] insurance?
Secor: Yes... There is no real solution other than what I would call Medicare for all. The cost for Medicare administratively is less than 1 percent. We pay 17 to 18 percent GDP. Every other country who insures everybody can do it for about 12 percent.
Linnell: I can only picture the lady in charge of health services in Italy on TV because her country was going broke. I’m not for that. I can’t be for it … in my heart … there’s got to be limitations … I do understand the need for a hospital and something to be there for chronic illnesses but to mandate that we must all have health insurance bothers me. I’d like to just have the little bit that covers my family. I’m only paying $125 for a family of 5.
Frankowiak: I’ve always been surprised with all the other nations that give all their citizens health care, why we haven’t done it. The robber barons run our government. I believe it’s a moral duty to take care of the citizens’ health of this country.
Benoit: Rights are not something that give you the right to impose something on someone else. Rights are something that’s inalienable. The purpose of the law is to protect your rights. If you ask it to do something else by making someone participate in this program, you’re getting government to do all these things you don’t like. It’s violating your rights.
Secor: In 2008, Ron Paul’s presidential campaign manager had no insurance and he had pneumonia or something. Two weeks after Ron Paul gave up his campaign, his manager died. Health care is a right for everyone.
Linnell: Self-defense and safety are also rights for everyone. How would you feel if I said everyone here has to buy a gun? I have a right to go to my doctors. I should have a right to pay cash.
Frankowiak: We’re all agreeing that the system we have is incredibly wasteful. We’re all losers because of it.
Benoit: They made it the law that hospitals have to treat people if they show up. So what message does that send? “I don’t have to have insurance.” Then insurance goes up. Then there’s medical malpractice. So they do twice as many tests to make sure there isn’t a medical malpractice lawsuit and that gets tacked on.
Question: There are aspects of our government that you all want to change. What is right about our government that you want to expand?
Linnell: The Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I think there are a few amendments that I don’t think are functioning properly. I’d like to see our congressmen exempt themselves from any program. They should follow the law like anyone else. When you go to Philly and you see the Hall of Congress and the Liberty Bell, you can smell one thing: our values. They did what was right for others, for our country—not what was right for themselves.
Frankowiak: The Constitution and Bill of Rights, Terri’s right. But I think what you mean is what they’re doing right for the people. I’d say Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and school lunches for the poor children.
Benoit: The Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights. Our judicial system gives us a chance at justice. You actually have the power to beat down the federal government through the jury box. That is our power against tyrannical government. You can sit on a jury and say, “I’m not convicting.” So we still do have a lot of power, but we’re not exercising it.
Secor: Congress. Congress either overreacts or does nothing. That’s why it’s difficult to come up with anything done right recently. It’s gridlocked. Too many problems today …. And they won’t bend an inch. Duncan Hunter is an example. The debt ceiling is an example. Are we going to pay our debts? Ninety-eight percent wasn’t good enough for Hunter. That’s not acceptable. We’re going to have to spend some money to get out of the recession. We can’t do it by cuts alone. Want to know what’s wrong with it? Look at Greece.
Question: If you were in Congress, what would you do to relieve the gridlock?
Frankowiak: The main thing I’m running on is directly due to corruption or corruptive influence: corporate money. Hunter’s not here tonight because he doesn’t have to be. He’s got the money. If you get the money out, you’ll get people not willing to work for robber barons. Corporations don’t want it to work. It’s better for them if they get rid of all the regulations in the financial system. It’s estimated that it will take $6 billion for the presidential elections. That’s a lot of money for the robber barons, but it’s worth it for them, for all the subsidies they’ll get.
Benoit: A budget that’s a trillion and a half out of balance. That’s something that will be foisted on the next generation. We have a military that’s in 130 countries. We can’t afford this. So if they agree to take away our rights, like the NDAA, I’d be the kind of guy to be on TV. I’m the kind of guy that will stand up to the tyranny. I will produce gridlock so they end these invasions in foreign wars. They’ve got their own agenda. The Federal Reserve Bank can print money out of thin air. That’s destroying the money that has already lost value at the gas pump.
Secor: I’m a person of the middle class. The only reason I’m in this race is to save the middle class. Democrats wouldn’t endorse me. I said I wouldn’t take any donations over $100. Ninety-four percent of races are won by the person who spends the most money. I can’t do anything about gridlock, but you can. You have to prove to me that money doesn’t make a difference. You have to prove to America that you’re not for sale and that your representative isn’t for sale. This district can send a message to the entire nation that this district isn’t for sale.
Linnell: I don’t think they’re winning the elections because of money. Nor do I think that they’re running for election. Duncan Hunter isn’t here, because he doesn’t care. He already thinks he has it in the bag. Not because of money. I don’t know where he’s spending money; it’s not in the media. I don’t know where he’s spending his money and it’s a lot. In the primaries, I think it was a quarter-million dollars.
Question: You folks agree on the debt getting higher and higher. Should I be concerned about the national debt? And if there were a number to place on the national debt, where would that be?
Benoit: Thomas Jefferson thought each generation should pay its own debts. The national debt is $15.5 trillion. We’ve gotten way off track. Our whole culture is to live on debt and it will be our undoing.
Secor: Ronald Reagan was one of our biggest federal spenders we had. One of the ways he brought down the Soviet Union is that he kept building our military and they couldn’t keep up so it drove them into bankruptcy. Hunter said with budget cuts we’ll only be able to fight one war at a time. I’d like zero wars. The national debt has to be addressed, but it doesn’t have to be addressed over your dead body.
Linnell: The Constitution says we shouldn’t enter into contracts for more than two years. I don’t think we should have debt for more than two years either. Technically, I’m not sure we’re in a war. I believe in living debt-free. There’s a good thing about paying cash and having a larger down payment. Prices of college right now have gone through the roofs.
Frankowiak: There are three fixes: let the robber barons pay their fair share in taxes; get out of these wars; put the money toward rebuilding America. Now they’re saber rattling over Iran and that’s terrible when our government becomes that irresponsible. Their policies as far as overseas, that’s criminally irresponsible. The U.S. government doesn’t have its checks and balances working anymore.
Question: How do we get rid of NATO? It has neutered Congress.
Secor: There’s a great fear of our troops being led by a general from another nation. The U.S. will always be leading its own troops unless there’s some previous agreement made. There will be serious cuts in the military because moving large armies onto soil is so 1950s. The 21st century war is economic war. The more money we waste, the Chinese benefit from. While we’re building weapons, they’re building solar panels. We need to rebuild our country and stop the military expansion.
Linnell: I go back to the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and our Founding Fathers’ documents that have a lot of answers. They did talk about keeping at arms length the other countries—“don’t get so tied up that you’ll make a bad business decision.” So we should keep NATO at arm’s length. We don’t have to be involved in every other country. Our money should be invested in relationships, but not where we’re taking sides, and we should wait for the people to declare war.
Frankowiak: I agree with the Founding Fathers and their advice about foreign entanglements. We got so entangled with other countries after WWII. We don’t have to do that.
Benoit: “Peace and commerce with all nations, alliances with none.” NATO was created as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. It’s time for us to leave NATO and time to leave the UN. That’s a nice place where we can cut costs as well.
Question: What is your take on health care?
Linnell: I’d like to see local taxpayer-funded hospitals and something more cost effective. Local not federal. When federal government does it, it’s a one-size-fits-all solution.
Frankowiak: I believe it’s a moral issue and the American people should be covered. We’re one of the wealthiest countries and one of the few left that doesn’t have coverage and I’m ashamed of that.
Benoit: When the government gets involved and forces someone to do something, that’s a moral issue too. Part of the cost is illegal aliens showing up and hospitals have to treat them. Insurance companies like to drive the cost up.
Secor: Five percent of the people use 50 percent of the health care. Instead of throwing away health care, address the 5 percent. They’re doing a study in Camden N.J. that showed a guy went to the emergency room 400 times in a year. They have a group that has spotted that group of people and it’s cheaper to monitor that group of people and make sure they get oversight and quality treatment so they aren’t running to the hospital room all the time and running the cost up. Twenty percent of costs are used at the end of people’s lives. There are a number of people that if you spot who they are and take care of them, prices will plummet.
Question: Would you sign Grover Norquist’s agreement not to raise taxes?
Benoit: I haven’t read it, but I certainly wouldn’t vote for a tax increase. No more taxes. We don’t have a tax problem. They’re taxing us to death. They have to borrow the money to make the bills and then print them. That printing of money to cover overspending is a big enough tax as it is.
Secor: All but five or six Republican congressmen signed the Norquist pledge, which was never to sign taxes, ever. Hunter has never had a job. Went to military in artillery as officer. When he got a job, it was with his brother in Utah in construction or something. He has not a clue what it means to work. The 1 percent are the 1 percent because they’re not being taxed. That’s how they got that way.
Linnell: I’ve taken a pledge not to raise taxes, but that’s also within reason. I hope that you would trust me to use my common sense. For instance, the debt ceiling. We deserved the loss of the AAA rating. The cut, cap and balance was another one. … I would have said OK to a full balanced budget amendment. … I want to balance the budget. It comes first and I don’t mean just borrow more money to pay bills.
Question: If balancing the budget is your priority, I do the same—if I don’t have money coming in, I can’t spend it. Why don’t the American people have the same sense that we can’t spend money we don’t have?
Benoit: They don’t see it as their money. All have programs they want, they’ve become accustomed to it over the century, they keep stretching that and they try to find more ways to spend to bring the revenue in. The repercussions are nearly nil. Ninety percent get re-elected. We get guys like Hunter in there because of birth.
Secor: You can look at K-12 education and energy policy. If we were to put in the total cost of a gallon of gasoline, we’d have to include the lives lost in Iraq. They have us going into places like Iraq because of the oil.
Linnell: I believe in being efficient. Our house is over 1,800 square feet, our water bill is zero, but it’s expensive to put in a well. I use wood for heating. The Department of Energy. …I don’t like one size fits all. … But in the case of electricity, there’s no other way to keep those grids together.
Frankowiak: I agree with David that gas would really cost $18 a gallon if you include all the wars and environmental destruction involved. I think the American people will make the decision to have cars that get better mileage. They are practical and they’re not going to go for $5 or $6 a gallon. More people will get windmills. I see that as a positive. People are not going to put out that kind of money.
Secor: We’re on the verge of breakthroughs in fuel. Algae as fuel…they are making incredible progress. In the next five years, there’ll be breakthrough in solar and biofuels. We will be energy independent. We are one bomb away in Iran from paying $8 a gallon tomorrow.
Frankowiak: If this country is crazy enough to go to war with Iran, the cost of gas is going to go through the roof.
Benoit: We’re geared toward using fossil fuel. Nuclear energy is touted as good, but we can see there’ve been issues with that, even just here up on the coast. People like Randolph Hearst lobbied to outlaw hemp in this country. It can be used to produce diesel fuel. It’s not marijuana but it’s in that family. If that was just allowed to go, what would that do for our energy consumption? Hemp would solve a lot of other problems like paper production.
Linnell: While we’re on the subject of drugs, I believe some drugs are too dangerous not to regulate. That’s why I’m not Libertarian, I’m Republican. I believe in local solutions as much as possible. If it truly crosses the state lines, then it has to be something else.
Question: Someone brought up Greece; how did Greece get into its situation?
Linnell: They owed more than they could afford. They totally mismanaged their money. I think Greece went down when our sub prime [mortgage] market went down. We were having our problems and I guess they had theirs. A huge portion was the deregulation of the banks. It was a worldwide market at the time; a lot of countries had a lot invested in the market.
Frankowiak: Every one of us has to stay within a budget; we can’t just print up money. We’ve got ourselves in such a mess; we have to be creative. It’s still a recession. The Greek budget was way overspent. We should be fiscally responsible. Right now we’re in a position to get out of the recession. People don’t have any control; the corporations do.
Benoit: It was spend too much, borrow it, continue to spend too much, then can’t pay the debt back and the austerity starts. They borrowed from other central banks. I think Germany was one and the Germans cut it off.
Secor: The Greeks didn’t really have an economy. They had an enormous economy with incredible benefits for people. You had people like Goldman Sachs who continued to buy their bonds and the Greeks kept taking their money knowing their economy would falter, I guess thinking the EU would bail them out. Germany’s literally carrying that whole continent on its back. That hasn’t finished yet. Greece could default. It’s like dominoes. It could be Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland. Our banks are so intertwined. In this election year, what could go wrong?
Benoit: My approach is a lot less government. Too often people are looking for candidates who promise big solutions and too often they don’t do it. I would stand up on the floor and let you know which bills would violate your rights. I’d raise a lot of noise about the continuation of these wars. It’s really the military industrial complex that’s doing it. It wasn’t for the benefit of getting the oil. If the oil companies limit supply, they get more of a price. The MIC, this is a profit making exercise for them and they’ll support candidates who are quick to engage in these wars. We’ve got the social program. These two expenses coming together, it’s unsustainable. We can’t borrow any more, so they print it. And how long can they do this?
Health care—people talk about how great Medicare was. Senior citizens pay more today than before we had Medicare. When we look at our children and grandchildren: $15 trillion, here’s your inheritance. The federal government is supposed to deal with foreign nations and disputes between states. States should be deciding on abortion. We’re asking federal government to do everything and we’re creating it as God and it’s not. It’s taking from others and giving to others and that’s theft.
Secor: There are two sides to every story. Another side, doing what’s right. Hunter does take legal bribes but he could do the right thing. He’s a congressman who in a 2010 debate when asked his primary goal over the next two years, jobs were number one. In the last two years, he could have done something but he didn’t do one thing for jobs. When it came to the Post Office, his friend up north, Darryl Issa, is out to kill the PO so his friends could make millions. There’s nothing wrong with the PO. Congress is forcing them to pay 75 years of pension five years in advance. The PO made money last year.
Would you defend burning of holy books in Afghanistan or peeing on corpses or murder of innocent civilians? Hunter, an officer in the Marine Corps, publicly defended that behavior. There’s such a thing as professionalism in the Marine Cops. For Hunter to support that behavior is beyond belief. Hunter’s qualification is two years in the service. He has no other qualifications. I wish he had the guts to show up to face his employers. You.
Linnell: The word that springs to mind is hypocrisy. Would you defend the burning of the Bible, destruction of our flag? Would you defend putting another face on our flag and saying, “This is our flag”? I’m really unhappy with both parties. They’re not representing me, my neighbors, my family in Ohio. They’re lining their pockets; they don’t show anywhere. They’re getting re-elected on name recognition. We need to get all our names out there.
Frankowiak: I’m going to read a poem called The Patriots Dream by Arlo Guthrie. ”Tyrants free, the just imprisoned …. Try to rekindle the patriot’s dreams.” I think it’s very moving.