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Face the Facts: Addressing the Wealth Disparity in Connecticut

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From a Chinese spy balloon to TikTok, Rep. Jim Himes (D- 4th District) joins Mike in studio to discuss protecting our country’s interests in his new role as ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee. They also talk about how he plans to address Connecticut’s wealth disparity.

Mike Hydeck: In Washington, the 180th Congress is getting underway at one of the most polarized times in recent memory. Will anything actually get done over the next two years? Both parties have slim majorities. Each is investigating the other. Joining me now is Congressman Jim Hines with some thoughts on what we can expect. Mr. Himes, welcome to Face the Facts. Good to see you.

Jim Himes: Good to be with you, Mike.

Mike Hydeck: All right, first up, you became the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee as Republicans are gonna have the majority in the House. That means anything that gets decided in that committee still has to go through the new speaker, Kevin McCarthy. Can you work with him?

Jim Himes: Yeah. So I'm delighted to have the role. You know, it's a real job. Our intelligence community, which is a big operation, this country spends roughly $80 billion a year on its intelligence community out there. They're out there doing really important things that keep us safe, but they're also doing things that can be controversial. They're surveilling. They're, in some cases, you know, taking fairly aggressive kinetic action, as they say. And, you know, lots of that happens behind, in secret. And therefore, people like me, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, are the ones who look over the shoulder and say, 'Hey, this is not consistent with our values. We're concerned about this.' So it's a great job. Mike Turner, who's the Republican chairman, is a good friend. And I think we're going to work really well together. I've worked with him. I traveled to Ukraine with him a couple of months ago. You travel to Ukraine with somebody under these conditions, you get to know him, and I'm pretty excited about that. Yeah.

Mike Hydeck: So obviously, China is a big issue this week. First of all, how concerned should we be about the reports that they're spying on our military installations with a balloon from high above?

Jim Himes: Well, yeah, not exactly what I thought I'd be talking about today is a Chinese spy balloon over Missouri. So a couple things to say about it. Number one, as you might imagine, the Chinese and the United States are spending an awful lot of time trying to collect information on each other. There's nothing new. We've seen these balloons before. What is new is the brazenness of flying one over the continental United States, by the way, also, probably not a smart thing. A bunch of my colleagues, a bunch of my more aggressively-minded colleagues are calling for it to be shot down. I will tell you somebody who understands intelligence, I would much rather own the thing intact rather than be scraping its ashes off a debris field. So you know, I think the administration responded correctly, they canceled the Secretary of State's trip to China, which to me feels proportionate. We should say, 'Look, guys, we're gonna spy on each other. But flying aircraft over each other's countries is not okay."

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Mike Hydeck: And maybe crossing the line there. Also, one of the other things that's going to be in the offing very soon, all about Tiktok, so many people have it on their phones now. There have been many reports that TikTok is sharing the information with the Chinese government. First of all, do you believe that? Second of all, the CEO is going to testify in front of Congress very soon. What are your thoughts on the whole thing?

Jim Himes: It's a little unclear exactly what TikTok is doing. One thing we know for sure is that if the Chinese government wants to go to the company that owns TikTok and get information on me or on my daughters or whoever else, they can get that information. Now, so here's where I am, you know, we don't really know. Where I am, is I support all of the efforts which have forbidden Tiktok from being on official government devices. You know, if you're in my position, for example, you know, getting fairly regular access to the country's secrets, I'm not going to put TikTok on my phone. Whether it should be forbidden for everybody else, I think we need to learn more facts about that before we make a decision.

Mike Hydeck: So you're also the chair of the Select Committee on Economic Disparity. We're in Connecticut. We have had, among the worst when it comes to the gap between the rich and the poor for decades now, that's not close. If you're a part of that committee, what could some some solutions be? And should Connecticut be the test case considering we've been at that level for so long?

Jim Himes: Yeah, yeah. And this is, you know, in the last Congress, I got to chair that committee. And it was really important to me because I see this in the Fourth District, that's basically Fairfield County, I see this every day. I represent some of the wealthiest people on the planet and I can drive five minutes from the wealthiest communities or 10 minutes from the wealthiest communities and be in some, you know, areas that are really consumed with deprivation and poverty, right. So I see this every single day. There's a three hour conversation behind your question. The two things I would say that I think have a lot of applicability for Connecticut in particular is, number one, supporting children more. You know, this country supports its children in terms of resources, the availability of child care, nutrition, availability of health care, far less than our European peers do. And, you know..

Mike Hydeck: So for example, let me cut you off for just a second. There was a Baby Bonds program that was in the offing and then it stalled here in Connecticut, where, you know, if you're born under the poverty level, you get a college fund started and you can access it when you're 18, things like that. Is that a solution? Is that something, or solutions like it that can be put on the table?

Jim Himes: That's one of the many things that I think can help make the problem better. But let me give you a bigger thing. And I think this will resonate for people. We don't have good affordable childcare options, right? So what happens? Now maybe grandma can oversee your two-year -old. That-two-year old may be sitting in front of a television. Maybe there is no option. And if there is no option, guess what? Mom or dad or whoever's raising that child now doesn't get to go to work. If we were much better and much smarter about affordable and widely available childcare, children would get a better leg up to begin with and parents could enter the workforce with all that that implies for income and possibilities. That's my number one thing. And there's a lot of ways to think about that. The other one is housing. And that's real particular to the state of Connecticut, although it's true around the country, right? If you have a vibrant economic region, Stamford, Connecticut, growing all kinds of companies moving in, but young people can't afford to live there. Or the people who, you know, might be accessing lower wage jobs. If they can't live anywhere near there two things happen., you don't grow or people spend an hour and a half on the highway.

Mike Hydeck: So how is that solved? Is that federally subsidized housing? I mean, or is that increasing the amount that's subsidized from the federal government? I mean, yes, we know the problems here. But how do we…

Jim Himes: Yeah, so I deliberately bring that up because, yes, you know, it's a joint venture between the federal government, the state and the municipalities, right. So yes, the federal government can subsidize. It can do Section Eight vouchers, it can do low income housing tax credit, we should do that. You know, one of the key problems? We don't have enough housing. So municipalities in particular, and states, need to figure out how in a smart way, I'm not saying we should be building, you know, over tons of green space, but in a smart way, we should be building more housing in ways that actually adds to the vibrancy of our communities and it can be done. We're doing it in Fairfield County, City of Stamford in particular, you know, building really, not enough, but building some good affordable housing that's actually adding to the vibrancy of the city.

Mike Hydeck: One last question. I only got 10 seconds. Should President Biden run for re-election?

Jim Himes: Good Lord. We just finished one election, my man. Well, you know, I tell you what. Ask me that question a year from now because there's just so much going on. Ask me that question a year from now.

Mike Hydeck: Congressman Jim Himes, thanks for joining us on Face the Facts. Good to see you once again.

Jim Himes: Thanks, buddy.

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