Congressional District 5 Debate

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A half-hour debate with the candidates for U.S. Representative in Congress – District 5. Scheduled to appear: Congressman Harry Mitchell (D), David Schweikert (R), and Nick Coons (L).

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to this special edition of "Horizon". I'm Ted Simons. Tonight's show is a debate. We'll hear from candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Arizona's Congressional District 5. As with all of "Horizon's" debates, this is not a formal exercise. It's an open exchange of ideas, an opportunity for give and take between candidates looking to represent Arizona in Washington. As such, interjections and even interruptions are allowed, provided that all sides get a fair shake. We'll do our best to see that happens. The candidates running for congress in Congressional District 5 are Democratic Incumbent Harry Mitchell, a former state lawmaker, Tempe Mayor, and teacher. Republican David Schweikert, the owner of a real estate investment company who's a former state lawmaker and Maricopa County Treasurer. The libertarian candidate is Nick Coons, the owner of a Tempe-based computer business. Each candidate will have one minute for opening and closing statements. Earlier we drew numbers to see who goes first. And that honor goes to Nick Coons.

Nick Coons: Thank you so much for having me here. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about all the obvious things we already know. The economy is bad, taxes are too high, unemployment is high. That's will -- all the stuff we know. I want to talk tonight if we can about solutions, about ways we can solve these issues. Right now from what I can see, from what's been happening over several years, at least, if not several decades, the government's gotten involved in different areas of the economy, and in other places like health care. And every time they get their fingers in something, it seems like they screw it up a little bit. What I want to work on in the U.S. House Level is try and pull the government back to solutions that involve the free market and competition. I think the ideal is to have competition in everything. When you have a monopoly, have you one entity with full control, and they don't have a lot of incentive to provide increased benefits. So I'd like to implement a lot of competition.

Ted Simons: Now David Schweikert has one minute for an opening statement.

David Schweikert: Hi. My name is David Schweikert, and I -- we really appreciate being here this evening. I'm the Republican nominee, obviously, in CD-5. Primary reasons to run -- our community desperately needs job growth, economic growth, we're really suffering out there. Having been the Maricopa County Treasurer, running a small business, you see the difference of what's going on between a government growth and the need to grow our small businesses. Think about what's happened over the last 24 months. We've added a couple hundred thousand new government employees, we've literally piled on maybe even a couple trillion dollars of obligations and debt. We voted for a government takeover of our health care system. We spent $800 billion in a failed stimulus bill. These -- it's just not heading us in the right direction.

Ted Simons: All right. Thank you very much. Finally, with his one-minute opening statement is Harry Mitchell.

Harry Mitchell: Thank you very much. I appreciate being here today to talk about an important issue facing the state and the nation. I'm privileged to represent Congressional District 5, where I have taught school and lived all my life. If you know me well, you know that I'm not using this office or position as a stepping stone. I had my career. I sought and accepted the position I'm in now so I could with the sense of responsibility, bring some common sense and thoughtfulness to a process that is sorely needed. I believe I've been effective, and I believe my work is far from finished. I have sought to reduce partisanship in every level of government that I have been on. In fact, every bill I've introduced in Congress has been with support of Republicans. I even received the support with Ron Paul in the bill to stop pay raises for Congressional Candidates. I thank you so much for joining us tonight, and I look forward to the discussion later on.

Ted Simons: All right. Gentlemen, thank you very much. Let's get started. Congressman, the Administration promised reduced unemployment with stimulus programs, and the like. Unemployment is still stubbornly high. What happened?

Harry Mitchell: Well, I think for one, it just shows that the economy was in much worse shape than people realized. We were really closer to a depression. In fact, I think what it shows, is that this recession was the worst one we've had since the depression. So I think more than anything else, it -- we're in bad shape. That's why that I really feel that one of the things I was doing was trying to help stimulus -- the -- stimulate the economy with tax cuts. It's the most important thing we can do. From the first time I got to Congress, I introduced to hang on to two of Bush's tax cuts, which is the estate tax and the capital gains tax. Boats of these were important in this economy. But we need more than anything else, to invest in education. That's where the future of this is going to be. There was an article in today's paper, written by President Crow, I don't know if you saw it. 12% of ninth graders in Arizona will not get a college degree. Yet economists say by 2020, 60% of the jobs will demand a degree. That's going to be the future.

Ted Simons: Ok. We're talking jobs here off the bat. We're hearing education, we're also hearing tax cuts. But we're also seeing an unemployment rate that remains high. What gives?

David Schweikert: Ted, your question was about the stimulus bill, and its failures. There's a certain arrogance out there, when you think you're going to take billions and billions, in this case $800 billion, and use government to stimulate the economy. You grow government jobs, very expensive jobs, and what happens when that government money runs out? Instead of reaching out to a district like ours, which is made up of small businesses, that desperately need help, they desperately need access to credit, they desperately need a tax system and regulatory system that helps them, not bearing the community and the country.

Ted Simons: There are some economists though, that say the stimulus programs are working, and that things would be far worse if those had not been implemented. You say --

David Schweikert: Absolutely disagree. Many of those same economists will say there were much more powerful ways to move that sort of money. Even a fraction of that sort of money for economic growth. You have to understand, in our district, I believe we were promised 8,000 jobs by Congressman Mitchell. And we received, what, I think under 600.

Harry Mitchell: [inaudible]

Ted Simons: respond, please.

Harry Mitchell: I don't think I ever said we were going to get 8,000 jobs out of the Stimulus Bill. I do agree with Governor Brewer, when she said without the stimulus, the state would be in worse shape than it is right now. It has done some good things. I voted just before the break for -- to put money into education. 4,000 education jobs saved, 100,000 throughout the country. And also money that went into first responders, police and fire. I think these were important, particularly when we have the failing school systems we have right now.

Ted Simons: Nick, get into this.

Nick Coons: here's the problem with the idea of the government stimulus fixing the economy. The problem is that the government takes $800 billion from people who have earned the money, and then it goes -- spends it on what it wants to spend it on. If people wanted to spend their money that way, they would have done it on their own. It this shows the government is forcing people to spend money in ways they haven't chosen to do, when the government says you're going to spend your money the way I want you to, that is always going to be a negative thing for the economy.

Ted Simons: Folks are saying, taking money out of the private sector and putting it into the public sector is not the way to get the economy going. How do you respond?

Harry Mitchell: Well, one way I respond is that we need tax cuts. This is why I propose the tax cuts that we had for small businesses. And again, it was the Estate Tax and the Capital Gains Tax. I think that we have got to make it a better environment for small business, because we know 60 to 80% of the new jobs created will be done with small businesses. This is I think an important part of the whole recovery.

David Schweikert: Ted, once again, the Congressman is avoiding your question. The question was about the ineffectiveness of the stimulus. You've had a wonderful opportunity here to see economics in motion. And it's been a massive disappointment, and now has buried us and future generations in massive debt.

Ted Simons: We saw a little bit of the opposite leading up to the current Administration, and some observers will say, that's what got us in trouble in the first place. Why should we go back?

David Schweikert: Well, what got us in trouble in the first place was allowing growth of government, allowing government to use things like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as social programs. When you had members of congress driving Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac saying, make loans, even though they're of higher risk, think of the wave of debt that now has come collapsing down because of those types of manipulations.

Ted Simons: Isn't that an argument of stop me before I kill again? Where is self regulation here?

David Schweikert: It's a great example of when government uses things that ultimately should have -- be primarily private in their decision making, their discretion, and their discipline. How it ends up messing up the markets.

Ted Simons: Respond, please.

Harry Mitchell: Well, I think one of the things -- I voted against the regulation of financial regulation, because I think there was a lax part of oversight by the FDIC. There should have been a higher oversight. I don't think most people realize instead of creating another whole bureaucracy, we have bureaucracy in place for oversight, and I think it shows that we needed oversight in that industry.

Nick Coons: It sounds like David has been reading my campaign Website and taking some of my ideas. No. What we need to look at is the boom part of the cycle and not the bust part. It's kind of like with the boom the way it works, the government or the Federal Reserve floods the economy with currency, and there's a lot of currency available, interest rates drop, and people borrow money and prices increase. Eventually that has to come to a stop, because it's unnatural. It's kind of like if someone goes on a drinking binge and they get drunk and wake up the next morning with a hangover, you don't wonder, what caused this hangover? You realize what caused it and say, ok, I'm not going to put more vodka in my system. That's not going to fix it. That's what we're doing with government stimulus.

Ted Simons: All right, I want to move on to another government program. Health Care Reform. Why did you vote for that?

Harry Mitchell: I voted for health care reform because the current system was not sustainable. Health care has been kicked around ever since Teddy Roosevelt's administration. Some kind of reform. We know that every year, every year prices were going up. Premiums were going up for individuals, for businesses, and for the government. And every year people were getting less and less for it. Co-pays were going up, deductions were going up, and they were getting less for it. So the reason I voted for it is because it was not sustainable.

Ted Simons: Not sustainable in its fashion as we knew it.

David Schweikert: The Health Care Bill that Congressman Mitchell voted for isn't sustainable in the way it's written right now. Look, some of the health care experts I was having breakfast with just yesterday are saying, they believe the cost of this bill is $2.5 trillion. Do you remember when the votes were happening? It's going to save money. Well, apparently that just was untrue. But walk up and down what's happening in the health care takeover bill. Everything from all the unintended consequences, what's happened to your health insurance rates and premiums right now? What's happened to now every small business having to fill out 1099 for purchases or acquisitions over $600. The cascade is just disastrous. And if the problems really were focused with preexisting conditions, portability, access, the uninsured, there were rational ways to deal with those issues without basically nuking the entire health care system.

Harry Mitchell: Well, first of all, it's not a government takeover. We know that it's going to increase competition. Competition among the existing health care -- the insurance companies. To say all these costs are coming out, it hasn't been implemented. We all know every year premiums were going up to say that it's caused by the health care bill, I think is very disingenuous, because let me tell you, in 2000, 50% of small businesses covered their employees. By 2006, only 32%. Less and less people were covering their employees and big companies are also scaling back because they can't afford the current cost.

Ted Simons: The idea of the ground work of the whole health reform idea was fewer people could afford and fewer people were getting health insurance. Did health care reform address that situation?

David Schweikert: Ultimately, no. Because what it's going to -- what is going to happen is as you incrementally raise the costs -- Congressman was just making the argument why a more rational approach, instead of what's been done -- when you start to realize how many businesses now are announcing as they move forward they're going to take their employees and move them down to part-time, they'll pay the penalties, they will push people off into the government, which is functionally Medicare, you realize, it is becoming a government-run system.

Ted Simons: Government -- Nick? Comment, please.

Nick Coons: Definitely health care has been increasing in price much faster than inflation. That's an obvious thing we've seen over the last few decades. When the price of something increases significantly over the price of anything else or it's -- it's higher than what people are comfortable paying, you kind have to look at the laws of supply and demand, which are stronger than statute. If the price is extremely high, you have to look at the supply being artificially limited. So we have the government controlling who can be doctors and who can provide services, who can provide insurance. Where people can get insurance from. Health care is a highly regulated industry, a lot like education, anything else we really have major issues with, if we can pull the government out, let people go wherever they want for their health care insurance, or treatment, or whatever it is they want to go for, find someone who will provide the service, you open up the supply of health care providers.

Ted Simons: Let folks go wherever they want.

Harry Mitchell: What's going to happen, with the exchange fully gets implemented in 2014, right now let me give you an example. When I was teaching at Tempe High School, every two years, there would be an insurance committee. The insurance account would have a poll of all the employees, what kind of service do you want. And every year the older teachers wanted vision and hearing, and the younger wanted maternity. Well, they got whatever was voted on the most. Then the school district negotiated with the insurance company. Not the individual patient. This will be completely different. It's all modeled after the federal government system. If you're a federal employee in Washington, D.C., you can choose between about 120 different plans from 40-50 different companies. That's not possible for those in the private market. Not at all.

Ted Simons: Again, the idea that things were better than they are now, that's how you see it?

David Schweikert: No. I see it as there were problems. Address the problems, you don't destroy the things that are working. And the fact of the matter is Congressman Mitchell's vote, and I think you've seen this in the "Arizona Republic's" editorial, Congressman Mitchell's vote will in many ways destroy a lot of the good things that are working in our present health care system.

Ted Simons: Real quickly, your vote, in that republican endorsement, they mentioned that they thought that most people in CD-5 would be against health care reform, yet you voted for it. How do you explain that?

Harry Mitchell: First of all, I don't believe that most people were opposed to it. This is not the feedback that I got before or after. We spent a lot of time on health care because it was a very emotional issue. And I think it's wrong to say most people didn't want it. First of all. And secondly, the thing I felt was important is that we could not sustain the system we had. I don't know what part Mr. Schweikert says was working well and we should have kept it, because what we're going to introduce is competition where we never had competition before.

David Schweikert: Well, and to the congressman's point, if he truly believed the district embraced the health care takeover he would have stepped outside of his office and met with and spoke to the thousands of people that would show up every weekend protesting it. You would hold public forum after public forum after public forum to describe and explain your vision of it. Instead of hiding from the voters in our community.

Ted Simons: Let me ask you -- respond, quickly.

Harry Mitchell: First of all, we did correspond with hundreds and hundreds of people. We had emails, we had telephone calls, we had more input on this piece of legislation than anything I've been involved with.

Ted Simons: I want to ask you kind of a corollary to the question to the Congressman. If your district, you find out that most voters, most citizens want x, and you just don't think x is right, you think y is the way to go, what would you do?

David Schweikert: You have you a moral obligation then to get out there and touch people. The Congressman just said he talked to hundreds of people. The problem is there's probably close to 700,000 people in our district. I'm glad he spoke to a tiny portion, but you get out there, do you something like we do. We give out our home phone number, cell phone number, meet with people day after day, when there's groups you stand in front of them, bring the experts, explain why you believe something. You don't hide from them.

Ted Simons: Quickly, nick.

Nick Coons: I think the simple way to answer that as far as how would you deal with a situation that way is to pretty much lay everything out on the table what you believe. What your principles are. For me it's about individual liberty. I'm not going to do anything in the government that is going to infringe on anyone's rights to keep their property or make their own choice and I'm putting that out there right now. If something comes in front of me that would do that, would I vote against that.

Ted Simons: Sounds like your opponent says you're maybe not in touch with people in CD-5.

Harry Mitchell: I've represented this district for the last four years. One of the things I have found, I've always run in a district where as a Democrat, I was in the minority. I've always been able to reach across lines, and I've done that continuously. Every bill I've introduced in Congress has been with the Republicans cosponsor. In fact, being in touch with this district, this district is very educated district, and it is one that is -- that I have been in touch with, because I come back every weekend.

Ted Simons: Nick, I want to go back to you. The idea of working across the aisle, you would be working across every aisle.

Nick Coons: That's right.

Ted Simons: Can you do it? Will you do it?

Nick Coons: Absolutely. What I'll do is seek out people who have the same types of principles I do, any bill or legislation that's going to increase liberty, increase the ability of people to keep what is it that they earn, or to improve their ability to make choices, and interact in free association with other people, I'm sure there are others in Congress that agree with that, and I'll seek them out.

Ted Simons: The idea of working across the aisle, it sounds like a lot of what you think is going on in Washington right now is dead wrong. Can you work across the aisle, or is it gist going to be as critics would describe it, a party of no?

David Schweikert: I sure hope no. The fact of the matter is, we're all Americans, and I believe we all love this state and like the Congressman, I've lived in this community almost all my life. This is home. We love it. And even in my time in the leadership of the state legislature, not everything you do is partisan. You often say, look, this is about bonding. This is about technical issues. You reach across the aisle, you find people that have the expertise and work with them. But there's some things that are based in principle. The freedom to choose your health care. Burying your country in debt. Even to things like card check. You have a different view of how your country should operate.

Ted Simons: Last question before closing statements. Why should voters send to Washington someone from a party that wants to return where we were prior to a couple of years ago?

David Schweikert: And I sure hope you don't hear that from me. I'm one of those people who have been as vocally critic of Republican excesses as I am now today of Democrat excesses. The fact of the matter is, we are going to have to step up and do some very difficult things. We're going to have to step up and deal with entitlements. We're going to have to deal with the massive debt we've created. We're going to have to step up with the fact that we're losing our manufacturing capacity. And what's happened with education in this country. Many of these aren't partisan. The way that -- so to fight through the solution, hopefully there's a rational mechanic.

Ted Simons: Same question from a different angle. Why should voters send you back to Washington and continue policies that right now a lot of folks aren't crazy about?

Harry Mitchell: I haven't voted for a lot of those policies. That's why the National Journal rated me as the Sixth Most Independent Member of Congress. On the one hand I get accused of being in the pocket of the leadership, but on the other hand, I get the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. You can't be both. I think the very fact that I have been in the middle and have a very centrist position, that this shows I can work across the aisle. Every bill I've ever introduced has been with the Republican cosponsor. That's the way I grew up in politics, in the City of Tempe, which was nonpartisan, and that's the way I tried to do the very same thing in congress.

Ted Simons: Ok. We need to stop right now for closing statements. Each candidate will give a one-minute closing statement and going in reverse order of the opening statements, we start with Harry Mitchell.

Harry Mitchell: Thank you. And thanks again. We face tremendous challenges in this nation. We need common sense leaders who are willing to put aside partisanship and focus on the problems that need to be solved. This is the type of leadership that I've always provided this community. Where I've lived and worked my entire life. I will continue to do that in District 5. I've worked to earn the support of a number of organizations. The VFW, the American Legion and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Thank you very much, and I appreciate your support come November 2nd.

Ted Simons: All right. Thank you very much. Next up with a one-minute closing statement is, David Schweikert.

David Schweikert: Ted, it's wonderful to be here. And it's actually fun to have these sorts of discussions. I ask for your vote because let's look at what's been going on particularly over the last four years of Democrat control of Congress, but particularly the last two years. Look what's happened to the explosion of our debt. How about a health care bill that is going to strip away many of your rights and freedoms? The Congressman often tells the story that he considers himself a centrist. But you don't sponsor things like card check. You don't vote for the Health Care Bill. You don't vote for this amount of debt crushing this generation and future generations. I won't do that. I will work for solutions, I will take on the very, very tough issues that face us, and hopefully we will make this a much better country and protect our state and our economy.

Ted Simons: Thank you very much. And finally we hear from Nick Coons.

Nick Coons: Thank you, Ted, so much for having me here. I want to have everyone take a look at the different things that are big issues that people generally have lots of problems with. Health care is a major issue. Immigration, the economy, education. These are things that I think have a really good -- really interesting thing in common, that they're directly controlled by the government, or the government regulates them to a heavy degree. For instance, the relationship that I have with my grocery store, my auto mechanic, that's between me and him and the government has nothing to do with that. So if I have an issue with that, I go to a different mechanic or take it up with the manager. We don't have to have elections every two years or town hall to figure out what to do with this mechanic issue. If more things can be left to the private sector, to the free market, that's pretty much how these issues will be solved. If health care was left up to the free market, education, and people could make individual choices about what they wanted, we wouldn't have these issues.

Ted Simons: All right. Thank you, candidates very much for joining on us this debate.

Harry Mitchell;David Schweikert;Nick Coons;

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