Welcome to today's live chat. Our guest is the Democratic candidate in Arizona's 8th Congressional District, Ron Barber. We'll get under way in a few minutes, but you can begin submitting questions now. We'll try to get to as many questions as we can within the time allotted.
Hello and welcome to this internet chat. I'm really pleased to be able to communicate directly with readers of the Arizona Daily Star.
I look forward to your questions and a good exchange of ideas.
Hello, Rachel. Let me answer your question about Social Security first.
I intend to protect Social Security, and make sure that it is available to future generations. Millions of Americans have paid into Social Security expecting that it would be there when they retired. For many Americans, this is their only source of income in their senior years.
The current Social Security Trust Fund is solvent until well into the 2030s. As we look at the increase in numbers of Social Security recipients who are from the baby boom generation, we will need to make some modest adjustments to ensure its solvency far into the future. This is not unlike those adjustments that have been made in the past.
What I don't support are efforts to phase out Social Security and replace it with a privatized system, which will offer no firm assurances of a livable income to future retirees.
Regarding your question about contraception coverage, it is surprising that this issue comes up almost fifty years after women were first able to have access to contraception under their health plans.
Women should have the ability to make health care decisions for themselves and not be told by government or by employers how to make these most personal decisions.
Border Security is one of the most important issues we face here in the Southwest. For the last five years, I've been deeply involved in how to deal with the enormous public safety problem that has been created by the violent drug cartels which have made our communities the major corridor for their illegal activities.
I have met with ranchers, businesspeople, and residents who live along our border with Mexico. From them, I have learned what it is like to live daily with illegal traffic across their lands which puts their families in danger. I have also met with law enforcement officials and border patrol agents to get their advice on what needs to be done to take control of our border.
The use of checkpoints on major highways is one important tool that must be in place to help us get control of the border. It is not the only one, however. We need boots on the ground at the border. We need technology that can detect illegal traffic. We need to increase surveillance through the use of drones. We need to continue the presence of our National Guard on the border in support of the Border Patrol. We need to make sure that all law enforcement agencies share intelligence in real time. We need better communications systems between law enforcement agencies. And we need to improve cell phone reliability in rural areas. These are some of the initiatives that I have worked on as Congresswoman Giffords' district director.
Border Security was, and still is, a major concern of mine, and I will continue to fight for the resources that we need to get the job done.
Thanks for that question, Fletcher!
There are laws on the books that need to be fully enforced against employers who knowingly hire people illegally. While there has been in increase in recent years of legal action against such employers, we must do more to make it hard for employers to break the law.
I also support increasing the penalties for these illegal hires, and providing the funds to make sure that we have enough personnel to get the job done.
This question is part of a larger concern that I have about how meet our commitments to active duty military, their families, retired military and our veterans. I have been proud to work alongside Congresswoman Giffords for the past five years to make sure that those who serve our country in uniform are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
This means that we must keep our promises, including health benefits.
There are many other issues that we must address. They include supporting the families of deployed members of our armed services and their spouses while in theatre and when they return. We have asked our military to take on repeated deployments without adequate time at home between deployments. Our veterans have come home to seek employment and medical services and we have not stood by them as they have stood by us. Veterans now have an unemployment rate over 13 percent. This is totally unacceptable.
We know that hundreds of thousands of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan come back with one or both of the signature injuries of those wars: Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We did not adequately address similar issues when our soldiers returned from Viet Nam. We cannot allow this to happen again.
If the people of the 8th congressional district send me to Congress, my first action will be to seek bipartisan support for legislation that will address these serious problems including any proposed cuts to TRICARE and other benefits.
To our readers: We have a number of questions in queue. If you've already submitted a question, there is no need to submit it a second time.
Kurt, thanks for asking.
My campaign for CD8 is only three weeks old today. I do not consider myself a politician, and never thought that I would be running for office. I have made the decision to run for CD8, but I have not yet decided if I will run for office in CD2.
I have been focused on building a campaign team, opening a campaign office and collecting enough signatures to get on the ballot for CD8. I am very proud of the progress we have made so far in submitting over 7,000 signatures. I have been encouraged by the bipartisan support I have received, and many people have asked me to run for CD2.
That decision will come in due course.
I'm running for Congress because I want to go to Washington to be the voice for Southern Arizona, and use my experience to solve problems for people here. I believe the people of this district are tired of the bickering, divisiveness and gridlock that has been evident in the recent past. I will go to Congress to focus on problems that we can solve by bringing people and finding common ground. I know that there are issues on which we can find this common ground. I also intend to fight for increased border security funding and smart use of the funds that have already been appropriated. I will work to find additional ways we can support veterans and active duty military. I also intend to run my campaign in a civil and respectful manner so that we can show that robust debate on issues is possible without vitriol and demonizing.
Dear Sarah, all of my adult life I have worked to bring people together and solve problems. That is what the people of this district want and what I will make effort to do.
There are many issues on which we can find agreement. In order to do so, we have to approach one another in a manner that encourages cooperation. We cannot achieve this if we are shouting at one another. Congresswoman Giffords' first action when she went to be sworn in on the floor of the House in January, 2007, was to walk across the aisle to meet her Republican colleagues.
You can expect me to do the same. And from that, to find ways that we can get past partisanship and get the people's business done.
Jon - thanks for following up.
The House budget bill would block increases in TRICARE premiums. I support that action.
You have posed an important question about the role the United States should take when the people of a country rise up against a totalitarian ruler. The action we took in Libya to bring down Qaddafi was appropriate in that situation. We helped the people overthrow a dictator without the direct involvement of US troops on the ground.
Each country where an uprising occurs presents its own unique circumstances. The action we have taken thus far against the Syrian government includes sanctions and close coordination with other Arab countries and our allies in Europe. I do not support direct US military involvement in Syria. Anytime we commit our troops to war, the Congress must be consulted and give its approval before such action is taken.
Thanks for asking.
Americans want action to simplify the tax code and to make sure that we close loopholes that allow corporate jets and other such luxuries to tax deductible. Any changes in the tax code should not increase taxes on working people and the middle class.
The so-called Fair tax would adversely impact millions of Americans by creating a national sales tax on everything that is purchased: food, gas, rent, medicine, clothing, etc. We certainly don't need to increase the tax burden on the lion's share of Americans, and that is what the fair tax would do. The Fair tax has been analyzed by many economists, including one conservative economist, Bruce Bartlett, who has pointed out that this tax scheme would push more of the tax burden to middle class families and reduce taxes on the wealthiest. It would also increase our deficit!
Thank you to everyone who posted a question. I have enjoyed this exchange, and I wish I could have gotten to more questions. If you would like to pose the unanswered questions to me, please send them to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I appreciate your participation today.
Thanks to Ron Barber, CD 8 Democratic candidate, for participating in today's chat. The Star also appreciates the participation by you, the readers.