Farming has always been the most critical element of Arkansas' diversified economy. It always will be! To that end, we must insure that our farmers, whether they are corporate entities, or individual farm families, have the support of the Federal Government with policies and regulations which make sense. Some areas which need revision and adjustment, include:
- Increased market access to countries currently banned. Rice and soybeans are staple commodities and should not be restricted or limited in their sale to any nation. Our role as a nation should be one of dominating the market of "feeding the world."
- Elimination of death taxes when the land in question will be used for farming purposes. Family farms must continue to be able to be passed down from generation to generation without penalty or hardship.
- Strong currency policy, which insures our crops will be competitively priced worldwide. The Pacific Rim nations must not be permitted to manipulate currencies and tariffs to their advantage.
- Support the President's position on subsidies.
- Support the President's renewable fuels initiatives.
As your Congressman I will fight endlessly to see that our Agriculture community benefits greatly from worldwide growth and demand for our crop yields, and that federal funding for agriculture entities reaches Arkansas at a fair rate of distribution vs. other states.
I support mandated term limits for United States Congressmen. Our forefathers did not intend for members of either House of Congress to sit on those seats for life. I do not support self-imposed term limits, which give power and tenure to representatives than other states.
What opportunity we have here! Our lives as Americans have been transformed by technology over the past 20 years. I believe our education system will be in danger of not keeping pace with the ever changing technological global landscape, and some major changes need to take place, with federal support, including:
- Are our curriculums outdated? Perhaps 21st century curriculums, which eliminate non-essential courses and concepts, should be introduced. We have the best educators in the world, and our teachers in Arkansas are no exception. Streamlining our current practices and introducing more technology in the classroom is essential for our children. These technology investments must come in part from federal programs. In order for children to get their hands on computers, PDA's etc, there must be a federal program in place to encourage donations of these devices to local school systems. Most corporations depreciate computer equipment over two to three years. At this point, the equipment should be donated to schools, and tax credits should be given to companies which donate equipment in good working order. An acceptable standard for the generation of equipment, which qualifies for the program, would be updated 2 times per year.
- Solidify our foundation of well-educated workers with top-flight education initiatives. I believe Governor Huckabee's plan to re-organize education in Arkansas is vital to this end, and am confident the upcoming special session will institute a plan we can all live with. The vision of a better educated population is paramount to how we will compete in the next technology revolution in the coming years, which in my opinion will be unlike anything we have seen to date.
- Redesign curriculum based on 21st century applications and concepts.
- Create incentive programs for donation of new and used equipment to educational entities.
- Early development programs, which inspire commitment to education.
- Stress some more basics.
- Continue to support the No Child Left Behind program.
In Arkansas, we certainly have challenges in this area, although we do hold our own. We can do better. Cooperation and strategy between our congressional delegation and state government officials will be paramount in the coming years. The Arkansas congressional delegation must fight hard for limited dollars for things which will promote Arkansas' economic growth, such as:
- Federal funding for critical highways and other transportation systems. We have excellent highways but are in dire need of I-69 in south Arkansas and I-49 - only part not completed is in Arkansas, open pipeline to commerce. I will fight hard to see Arkansas receives federal funding for these critical highways. I traveled Highway 71 for many years and feel fortunate to have survived!
- Federal tax credits for companies to stimulate economically challenged states. This would foster investment in Arkansas.
As a successful businessman, I will be creative and pro-active in helping Arkansas grow economically, and will fight to insure that every federal dollar available for the state of Arkansas will come back to Arkansas. That you can take to the bank!
I will fight to insure the State's economy is given the opportunity to flourish! Our economy is very diversified, which is an advantage most of the time. We do not experience the major "busts" many other states have experienced over the past 25 years. However we have not participated in many booms either. We must attract some of the new technology driven industries, which will result in "booms", for the overall economy. There are many programs in Arkansas attracting new business investment, SBDC - SBA (US) - ADED. The Federal Government must also participate in the growth of rural states like Arkansas through tax credits given to companies, which will move or set up shop in those states and in economically depressed areas.
For a state our size, we have tremendous commerce! Our major companies and employers are some of the finest and most respected in the world economy today. We can build on that with the help of federal programs and cooperation.
Our agricultural economy must also be given every opportunity to grow! We can literally help feed the world with the exceptional productivity our farms yield each year. No farm entity should be limited to how much, or where to sell, crops available for sale. I would fight in Washington to prevent banned markets and tariffs.
A strong currency policy by the Federal Government will be crucial for Arkansas' business entities to compete in the world market. Predatory currency policies and tariffs should not be tolerated by our international trading partners. A swift, impactful response to nations who blatantly manipulate currencies in the world marketplace should be in place. Penalties to violators of these guidelines should be stiff.
There is no reason why, in our great nation today, any individual should not be able to access the best health care system in the world for catastrophic and routine medical events. We can achieve this goal with the cooperation of providers, insurers and the Federal Government. As your Congressman, I would introduce and fight for passage of legislation, which would promote and develop safety net health insurance for all working Americans. Some strategies I have in mind include:
- Dollar for dollar tax credits on premiums spent for small businesses that provide a minimum of "safety net" insurance for their employees.
- Privatization of a "safety net" health insurance policy available to all working families. Private companies would be awarded contracts annually on the implementation of these policies with minimum acceptable benefits guidelines specified by the Federal Government. If you "bid it, they will come". (Insurance Companies)
- Employees being allowed to deduct, on their tax returns, their portion of health insurance premiums from dollar one spent. More individuals would participate in health care insurance if deductions and/or tax credits were allowed. Dollar for dollar tax credits should be considered for low-income families who purchase health insurance.
- Cooperation between Medicare and Medicaid at the state level.
- Federal support of state programs, such as AR Kids First, which cover children with health care insurance and preventive services.
Some other ideas which I support related to health care:
- Patient's rights.
- No lifetime limits on benefits provided by health care insurers.
- Strong regulation of business practices by pharmaceutical and device companies.
- Physician's rights.
- Equitable Medicare reimbursements for Arkansas' hospitals vs. other states.
- Major tort reform relating to health care.
For people with chronic illnesses and their families, Medicare offers peace of mind insurance coverage for them to seek successful treatments, which can often be life- changing events. Medicare allows people to make the most of their lives and live life on their own terms. The system, however, will face serious challenges. Over the next 20 years, Medicare and Social Security benefit expenditures will grow from 8% of our Gross Domestic Product, to over 16% of the GDP (1). Where will the money come from to cover the burgeoning expense? I am confident of two things. One is that our economic growth in the next 20 years will be brisk - this can take care of some of the revenue challenges the system will face. Two - I am confident that the Medicare system will undergo major changes - especially if I am your Congressman - which include:
- Major efficiency overhaul to streamline the process of reimbursement.
- Paying providers based on their real costs for procedures and health services provided, not the pie in the sky estimates and dated information.
- Closing of loopholes, which allow for gross overpayment in certain situations.
- Stiffer penalties for fraud and abuse.
- The new Medicare Rx bill passed through both houses of Congress recently. The bill has good intentions, but is "a work in progress" piece of legislation. We will need a prescription drug plan for Medicare recipients which makes sense and does not bankrupt the system. Pharmaceutical companies should not be allowed to charge as they please for these benefits, but should be limited to strict reimbursement guidelines, which allow for fair profit - not gouging! The medical device industry is currently limited in what it can charge for its technologies based on DRG payments designated by CMS. The pharmaceutical industry should be given limited, fair reimbursement as well, with a similar system of controlling costs and payments. The new bill will help our seniors, but will need serious tweaking over the next 10 years.
- A prescription drug plan, which allows for Medicare to partner with state Medicaid agencies to prevent double benefits.
(1) AEI conference on Healthcare - October '03.
Many of our seniors rely heavily on Social Security as a primary source of income in their retirement years. It has become clear that the program only provides enough money to recipients to supplement their income month to month.
Social Security was never meant to be the only source of income for retirees. This "supplemental insurance program" was designed to be just that - supplemental. I strongly believe in Social Security and feel the system can be improved upon in the future to become the finest supplemental income program in the world! Some ideas I support:
- Take Social Security out of the U.S. general revenue stream. Social Security revenue receipts should be restricted for the purpose they are collected. (In 1965 the Johnson administration made Social Security revenues part of the general revenue stream)
- Allow a reasonable amount of Social Security assets to be invested in other investment instruments, conservative in nature, of course. Other pension funds are allowed to do this and do well financially.
- Continue to make employer and self-employment sponsored programs attractive for workers to invest in, such as 401K, Keough and IRA.
Summary: Social Security must be protected and maintained. I will fight to improve the program to maximize benefits for recipients, and support and improve supplemental employee/employer retirement savings plans, improving retiree's standard of living.
As your Congressman, I will fight like a junkyard dog to see that Social Security is maintained and improved.
A question which pops up in my mind as an ordinary citizen is this. If we were to start over fresh, with the basic framework for government that our fore-fathers designed 200+ years ago, would we come up with the same "machine" we have in place today? I would venture to say our government would look quite different than it does today - with fewer agencies, departments, programs and entities. The inefficiencies of our government are quite evident at times. We read about them in the newspapers, and see them on the television news programs as well. As a problem solver, I would like to participate in the reorganization of our government, in order to make it stronger, more efficient, and be able to withstand the challenges of the 21st century.
As your congressman, I would support the restructuring of the Federal Government.
I have tremendous respect for our veterans and their families, and would fight hard in Washington to maintain and improve their benefits. As a medical technician working with physicians in the care of Veterans over the past 17 years, I have a clear understanding how the VA healthcare system works - and the wonderful services it provides at the patient level. It has been a privilege these past 17 years to build relationships with hundreds of veterans and their families. I have been blessed to have heard hundreds of stories of personal sacrifice and tragedy experienced by my veteran friends. This motivates me to represent them well in Washington.
Pension benefits for widows of veterans can certainly be improved. My mother-in-law struggled for the last 10 years of her life living on a military pension earned from my late father-in-law's 25+ years of service in the Air Force. The current policy of slashing the pension 50% to the surviving spouse upon death of a veteran should be improved by a step-down decrease in benefits, over say a 10-year period of time. Frequently, widows of veterans face serious financial challenges by the sudden drop in income, while the fixed expenses of housing, utilities, etc remain the same.
The U.S. Government is obligated to support our veterans. Military personnel signed on to lay their lives on the line. That is a sacred contract, which should be honored always. As your Congressman, I would fight hard for Veterans and their families!
I support and would fight for the state of the art military which we possess today. The Federal Government must continue to supply the military with the funding it needs to dominate in the area of technology in the world today, and in the future, including:
- Insuring every fighting man or woman is fully equipped with the best offensive and defensive equipment available.
- A federally supported program to develop a space-based system to protect the U.S. from ICBM attacks from rogue nations and terrorist organizations that may be able to secure these weapons in the future.
- Swift, painful responses from the U.S. military to countries which harm our citizens and threaten our future as a nation.
- Maintain military expense and investment in line with GDP growth.
- Maintain competitive salary structure for military personnel in order to attract and retain the best and brightest of America's fighting men and women.
- Support the long-range high-speed bomber program.
Growing up in New York, I remember walking to school (you could do that in 1968) and watching the twin towers go up! What an exciting thing to observe. I remember the red iron work skeleton of the towers glowing in the morning sun across the harbor. I did not think I would ever see these red iron beams again in my lifetime, until 9-11.
I lost two friends from childhood in the twin tower attacks - one a fireman bravely trying to save others, and the other an office worker trapped above the impact in tower #1. The horrendous loss of life on that day should remain etched in our minds. It is on mine!
When I read about $20 billion being spent here, or $87 billion being spent there, I try to remember that day. On that day, I believe we as Americans would have been OK with our government spending $1 trillion to take down the individuals who planned, supported and carried out those cowardly attacks.
Now we have a Department of Homeland Security. Did we ever believe we would need this in our country? Not many of us, I would bet. But the Department will ensure that we are ready on the state and local level to prevent, and God forbid, deal with future attacks. We must also deal strongly with the Nations, friend or foe, which allow the teaching and encouragement of Jihad against Christians, Jews, and the West in general.
As Congressman, I would fight for strong support of the prevention of terrorism, a strong response to terrorism, and be in favor of aggressively funding these actions now and in the future.
Tort reform measures are needed in our country at this time. I am not calling for elimination of tort payouts, but feel they should be contained within reasonable guidelines, fairly compensating plaintiffs who have been injured.
The civil justice system is also under a tremendous burden from the pursuit of outrageous claims, and the overall economy suffers as well. The system is tested to the tune of $180 billion per year (1.8% of GDP). This figure does not include the costs passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices for goods and services. Much of what is accomplished in civil cases is redistribution of wealth, not creation of wealth.
Much of our legal system is controlled at the state level, but I am certain stronger federal guidelines relating to tort law are needed. Opportunistic frivolous lawsuits have no place in the courtroom.
As your Congressman, I would support an aggressive civil justice reform agenda, including:
- Healthcare liability reform.
- Class action reform.
- Limits of punitive damages.
- Limits on non-economic damages.
- Stopping regulation through litigation.
- Eliminating municipal tort immunity.