Rich Cowan, Q&A on 15 topics
1. Why do you feel that you are the best candidate?
For 22 years I served as CEO of film company North by Northwest Productions. Our company brought a new industry to the Inland Northwest, and hundreds of family-wage jobs along with it. I know how to create jobs, minimize debt, and build for the long term. Those are the skills we need in Congress. More importantly, I am not a puppet of a political party or corporate interest – I am dedicated to finding solutions to our common problems and fighting for the needs of Eastern Washington. We need a representative for “our” Washington, not the “other” Washington.
2. What legislation is your top priority for 2013?
My top priority is restoring the economic strength of Eastern Washington by bringing jobs back to the region. This needs to be done in three ways. First, we need to create a business environment that encourages the private sector to begin hiring again. Second we need to focus on educating our workforce for future jobs that pay family wages. Finally, we need to keep jobs in America – and end the tax breaks that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas.
3. Do you support President Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014? Would you support an American military intervention to help quell potential human rights abuses in Syria? What standards would you use when deciding if you would support American military intervention?
The U.S. military exists for the defense of our citizens, our homeland and our way of life. I support our military and its role in the world, but we must exercise restraint in its application. The misguided and poorly planned nation-building attempt in Afghanistan is contrary to this purpose, and I support the plan to withdraw American troops. In situations like Syria, we should employ all of our considerable non-military strength, including economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure, both direct and channeled through our allies, before even considering the use of American military force.
4. Should income tax reductions originally signed into law by President George W. Bush expire as scheduled on Jan. 1, 2013 for everyone, just people who have an income over a certain amount or for no one?
We are still recovering from the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, and our low and middle income families should not have to face a tax increase in a time when their economic situation remains uncertain. I would support an extension in those cases. However, those who are making above $200,000 a year have the resources to invest in the economic recovery of our country by paying slightly more in taxes. This contribution would help to decrease the national deficit without imposing harsh economic consequences.
5. Do you support the Affordable Care Act, the health care legislation that was signed by President Barack Obama in 2010?
I believe every American should have access to affordable health care. The Affordable Care Act is an important first step toward fulfilling that ideal. It lets those with pre-existing conditions have affordable health care, expands coverage for the most vulnerable in our society, allows young adults to remain on their parents’ plans until the age of 26, and ends price discrimination against women. But it is only a first step. There is much more work to be done. We need to put aside the partisan bickering that has gridlocked Congress in order to do it.
6. In retrospect, was the federal government correct to bail out the auto industry and financial institutions, including some local banks in Spokane?
The collapse of both the American automobile industry and many financial institutions put our country at risk. The federal government correctly decided to extend a safety net in order to hold off further collapse, and in this it was largely successful. However, we need to learn our lesson. We can and should put regulations back in place to protect consumers and guide American businesses so such bailouts are not needed in the future.
7. Do you support the completion of the North Spokane freeway? If so, how much of the remaining project should be paid for with federal money?
We have waited six decades for the North-South Freeway. It is a high priority on the Congressional list for National Highway System improvements. We won’t be able to complete it without a Representative who is willing to stand up and champion for this important regional transportation project. I support it wholeheartedly and Eastern Washington needs to lobby for its fair share of federal transportation dollars, rather than see it spent on West Side ferries or a Canadian highway.
8. Do you support same-sex marriage? Do you support the decision to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military?
All Americans must be able to pursue relationships that allow loving and responsible commitments to one another. Sexual orientation and gender identity do not and should not take away the basic rights of citizenship to pursue and participate in work, housing, business, military service, parenting or education. Marriage equality guarantees more than the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry; it proves that we will not discriminate against Americans because of whom they fall in love with, that we refuse to create a second-class citizenry, and that we have learned the lessons of our past.
9. Do you believe abortion should be legal under all circumstances in which it is currently is legal, limited to certain circumstances, or illegal? Should the federal government require insurance companies to cover abortion if they cover maternity care? Should there be greater exceptions for religious groups or employers who have religious objections to abortion?
Women have the right to make their own health choices, including their reproductive health decisions. I would not support any further limitations or intrusions to women’s health care. This is a medical matter, not an issue of social policy. The decision belongs with a patient and health care providers, not the government. Medical insurance should cover all legal procedures and not exclude users or providers based on their religious beliefs.
10. Do you support reforms to Social Security that include diverting payroll taxes to individual retirement accounts? Do you support increasing the retirement age for eligibility for Social Security?
Social Security exists to provide for those who have contributed to the growth and strength of our nation. People should be free to supplement their savings by using individual retirement accounts, but there is too great a risk to tie Social Security funds to the whims of Wall Street. I oppose the privatization of Social Security. We must safeguard the continued ability of the program to provide for seniors. We also need to work on new ways for hard-working citizens to create dependable retirement savings to supplement Social Security.
11. Would you support legislation, such as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would allow immigrants who arrived to the United States illegally as minors to become eligible for legal residency if they have lived in the country for a certain period and served in the military or attended college?
These young people are in this situation through no fault of their own. They are serving our country or improving their lives through an American education. Isn’t this exactly the kind of citizen America is seeking? I would support the Act. Like most of us, I am the product of hard-working immigrant ancestors who built the America we know today. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
12. Do you believe that human activity is significant factor that causes global warming? Should the federal government regulate carbon emissions to slow or reduce the impact of global warming?
The science of global warming shows our planet is rapidly changing. Carbon emissions are damaging the environment and common sense regulation is needed. Here in Eastern Washington we have many renewable energy solutions, like wind power, biofuels, and water power. We can invest in American energy, create higher wage manufacturing jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We need to put our tax dollars to work at home, rather than give tax breaks to oil companies. Sending our precious resources to foreign countries like China, pollutes our planet, hurts our economy, and drains our wallets at the pump.
13. Do you support the legalization of marijuana for adults, including for recreational purposes? If not, do you support the legalization of marijuana for medical use? How would you address the conflict that currently exists between state law allowing marijuana for medical use and federal law banning it?
Medical marijuana has been proven to be a useful medication in certain circumstances, and whether or not to use it is a question best answered by patients and their doctors. For this reason, I support its reclassification as a Schedule 2 drug prescribed by medical professionals. However, I hesitate to endorse measures like I-502 that may interfere with the ability of law enforcement officers to fulfill their duties. Even as a Schedule 2 drug, its use should be restricted.
14. Do you support proposals to end direct payments to farmers? What level of federal subsidies should farmers receive to insure their crops against weather, disease and low prices?
Agriculture contributes $2 billion to the economy of Eastern Washington. As such a vital part of our region, the federal government should provide aid to our farmers in the form of crop insurance, crop research funding, and other farm subsidies. These programs provide the accountability that much of the direct grant programs lack and will protect both the livelihoods of our farmers and the lives of those dependent on the food they produce. We should not cut support to nutritional programs for our citizens as is currently being considered by the House.
15. Do you support the elimination of any of the following federal departments: Department of Education, Department of Energy or Department of Commerce?
As a business owner, I’ve seen first-hand how the private sector and government agencies can create value together. Infrastructure is vital to helping build the local economy here in Eastern Washington – building long-term sustainable economic growth, while conserving our natural and human resources. The development of clean, safe energy takes oversight (i.e. the Hanford nuclear site). Local business needs a well-educated workforce – something that is only possible through strong support for local schools and increased student aid. We must look to improve the efficiency of these departments rather than eliminate them entirely.