Jobs, always a big buzz word on the campaign trail, is center stage in 2020, this time fueled by the pandemic.
“The health of the people of this country and the health of our economy are inextricably linked,” said Rep. John Larson, (D) 1st District.
A Democrat-led bill to provide pandemic relief, called the Hero’s Act, passed the house, then stalled out in the Senate.
“Congress is holding up the second stimulus. They want to fill it with pork, they want to put things in there that don’t belong, and that’s the Democrats,” said one of Larson’s opponent, Republican Mary Fay.
Friday, the Trump Administration announced that the federal budget deficit hit an all-time high of $3.1 trillion, three times larger than last year, thanks in large part to federal spending on the pandemic.
“What we need to do is have an equitable tax system, not only progressive income taxes, but also wealth tax and higher inheritance tax," said Green Party candidate Tom McCormick.
Larson said the country needs to borrow more and send it to states to fight the coronavirus.
“This is a war. This is a war against the pandemic. When we go to war we don’t talk about what the war is gonna cost, we go to war because our survival is at stake here,” he said.
“Bailing out cities that have taken out too much debt, that’s not what this bill is for,” Fay countered.
Fay said she preferred a targeted approach that benefits small businesses and schools.
“I think the kids somehow have to find a way back in because the computer is no substitution for a real live teacher,” said Fay.
Both Larson and McCormick support the nationalization of PPE production.
“We need to get this stuff to the market quickly and efficiently," McCormick said.
He added that he is concerned about the process to get a reliable vaccine to market, as well.
“We need to have all vaccination research open sourced, all labs public and private need to be sharing information to the web to get this vaccine fast, efficient, and affordable,” he said. The concern seems to be with the corporate profit for the one who gets to the market first. We should be more concerned with getting the vaccine, period.”
Health Care Changes
Larson said he is a proponent of former vice president Joe Biden’s plan to expand the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, with a Medicare buy-in program, considered a step towards health care for all.
“We probably should have Medicare for all, but how do we get there from the people that currently have private insurance who like what they are to transition to this system,” Larson explained.
But Fay, who’s worked as an executive in insurance and health care, pointed out problems she sees with the Biden’s buy-in program.
“If you have all seniors that’s just cost and there’s not enough young people to smooth out the risk curve. So, I don’t think a government mandate is going to work at all, it’s going to make it more expensive for everybody," she explained.
Fay said she prefers the competition created on the open market.
“I think everybody should have insurance. It’s a right not a privilege, I really think everybody should have good health care, but there’s different ways to do it. I think the government’s proven itself that it’s not a good administrator,” said Fay.
Meanwhile, McCormick said he wants universal health care.
“Our present system is tremendously inefficient in the distribution of healthcare dollars. It’s going to the insurance companies, it’s going to bureaucracy,” McCormick said.
Larson said improving social security is one of his top priorities.
“Social security is not only the number one anti-poverty program for the elderly it’s the number one economic development program. Where do they spend that money, right back in the local communities that they live in,” he said.
His plan includes expanding the benefit to 125% for those below the poverty level and generating more money for the program by lifting the cap on people earning over $400,000.
“If you’re earning more than $137,000 you don’t pay into social security anymore after that. So, someone earning $400,000 does pay after the first $137,000,” Larson explained.
“The easy solution is tax more, tax more, tax more, and people have no more to give,” said Fay.
She offered up other ideas to improve the system.
“The best thing we can do to give seniors more money in their pocket, take away the federal income tax on social security and work with the governor’s to take away the state tax,” she said. “We could put it in an insurance company annuity. That gets it off our books, it makes the insurance company viable for their obligation, and the person gets the same amount they would have gotten, but it’s no more risk to the government.”
Voter Registration Favors Democrats
There are 192,000 registered Democrats in the first district and just 80,000 Republicans. There are also 177,000 unaffiliated voters.
A mother and a West Hartford City Council member Fay said she’ll have to swing many of those unaffiliated voters to win.
“People want someone who’s a moderate, people who want to meet in the middle who will compromise, and I’m that person,” she said.
While there are only 250 people registered with the Green Party in the first district, McCormick said he hopes his ideas on regulation and redistribution of wealth will have an impact on the race.
"Each worker is producing twice as much as they used to before they've only received about 10% of that benefit,” he said.
Larson said in these trying times, his district would be best served by someone with his experience and he has plenty more he’d like to accomplish for Connecticut from Capitol Hill.
“Infrastructure, dealing with Covid, putting people back to work, getting our arms around this, making sure that our retirement system of social security is solvent and there for people,” said Larson.
The Student Challenges the Teacher
Larson and Fay have known each other since the 70s. He was her teacher and basketball coach at Penny High School, now known at East Hartford High.
“He was a very popular teacher. He was a young guy and very dynamic,” Fay remembered.
“Mary was a very nice young lady,” said Larson, noting that he also had her sister and remembered their mother, also a teacher. “Anyone who’s willing to throw their hat into the arena and run for public office deserves an awful lot of credit.”