How do you assess the Trump administration so far?
Simon: I didn’t vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 Election, and as a President I give him a D-rating because he has added to the divisiveness in our country. Character and rhetoric matter, and I worry about the impact on the next generation, who are growing up with a President who lies, bullies, attacks his political opponents, and demonizes the press. I also disagree with President Trump’s policies on immigration and the environment. That said, I reject the reflexive partisan opposition to nearly everything this President does. I believe the current Administration has done some positive things for our country, particularly on lowering unemployment rates and growing our economy. Whether we supported him or not, Donald Trump is the President of the United States, and it is the job of our elected officials to find ways to work with him to solve important problems in our country, something our representatives in Maryland have largely failed to do. In 2018 Marylanders have a choice: do we want to continue the status quo of divisive politics where our leaders play dangerous partisan games to score cheap political points? Or, do we want leaders who will bring us together to get things done?
Do you support or oppose the federal tax cuts passed in 2017? What effect do you believe they will have on the economy?
Simon: The Tax Bill made some needed improvements to our tax system, but there were four significant issues I had with the Tax Bill and the way it was passed. First, the tax cuts made to the middle class are not permanent. Second, the SALT deduction was removed which badly hurt Marylanders. Third, the bill added $1.5 trillion to our national debt. And finally, this bill was forced through the Congress without any bipartisan votes. What did our federal delegation do during this process? They sat on their hands and refused to work with the President and Republican members of Congress to find a middle ground. Perhaps a bipartisan effort could have kept the SALT deduction or individual tax cuts in the final bill, saving Marylanders millions. We won’t know because our leaders didn’t make the effort.
Is the level of national debt a concern? What, if anything, should be done to reduce it or constrain its increase?
Simon: Yes. Rule number one of financial responsibility is that, when you are in a hole… stop digging. The recent spending bill supported by both parties added $1.5 trillion to our debt. It is clear that both parties lack the political courage to make the difficult decisions to begin climbing out of the trillions of debt that we are piling on every day, and leaving for the next generation to pick up. I have come to believe that our debt is one of our greatest national security threats. Debt in itself is not a problem if you are investing in your future and you have a plan to repay it. However, we are doing neither. Sadly, neither major party has the courage to do anything about it. It amounts to stealing from our kids and grandkids.
Is the level of economic inequality in the United States a problem, and if so, what should the federal government do to address it?
Simon: I believe that nothing is more impactful than having a good job, and I am the only candidate for US Senate who has created dozens of high-paying jobs here in our state. I have the experience in connecting and persuading other business leaders to bring their companies to Maryland that our current representatives simply lack. As your Senator, I am committed to working with Governor Hogan to attract large businesses in technology, engineering, and life sciences to our state, while working with the Congress to address the burdensome regulations that have held-back small businesses across Maryland. At the same time, we need to make sure that we have a workforce ready for the jobs of the future. We need an education and workforce development system that prepares people to enter the workforce, and to thrive in the 21st century economy.
Should federal gun laws be changed, and if so, how?
Simon: An overwhelming majority of Americans support specific proposals to protect us from gun violence. Universal background checks is at 97% - even among gun owners. This is another example of both parties taking inflexible positions, ignoring the will of the people. Democrats blame special interests and claim the other party doesn’t care about people being shot; Republicans accuse Democrats of wanting to remove guns and repeal the Second Amendment. Neither position is true. We have a right to protect ourselves against tyranny, which is what the framers intended with the 2nd Amendment. But common-sense solutions are required to preserve and protect our common good. Leaders in the Senate who are unaffiliated with either party could bring the two sides together and reach consensus on effective gun safety laws. We can protect both our constitution and our children at the same time. The causes of gun violence are more complicated than the issue of guns. We need a comprehensive approach: We should strengthen background checks, eliminate gun shows and private sale loopholes, and add a mental health component that respects privacy but ensures safety. I support banning bump-stocks that effectively turns semi-automatic rifles into fully automatic machine guns. These sensible reforms are supported overwhelmingly, respect the Second Amendment, and add protection for our children. It’s been nineteen years since Columbine, and nothing has gotten done. The two parties have failed us. We need leadership from the middle, without the party labels, to break the gridlock and enact responsible gun safety laws.
What should Congress do with respect to the Affordable Care Act? Should it be strengthened, and if so, how? Should it be scrapped? If so, what if anything should replace it?
Simon: As I have travelled across Maryland, I have heard repeatedly from families and small business owners that they are overburdened by their healthcare expenses. Meanwhile federal government has, for over twenty years, argued over how to pay for our inefficient healthcare system, rather than solving the problem of skyrocketing healthcare costs. Nationally, we spend double what the average industrialized country spends per capita on healthcare. And in Maryland, we pay $1,110 more per person than our neighbors in Virginia. Sadly, healthcare in the US is treated like a political football, where one party tries to force legislation through without consensus. That happened both with ACA and the efforts to repeal it. Republican Party leaders have tried to repeal the ACA without an alternative, while Democratic Party leaders are embracing Medicare-for-All, which is socialized healthcare. I believe the answer is to fix the ACA and enact reform that incentivizes the wellness of patients instead of treatments and doctors visits. We also need to use innovation, harness the private sector, and increase transparency so that people know what they are paying for and how much they are paying. We don’t need more government subsidies, rather I believe we need to lower overall costs and reform the system.
What role should the federal government play in helping cities like Baltimore?
Simon: I have spent many days and nights in Baltimore City, visiting families, schools, nonprofits, and businesses. I am devastated by the condition of the city, by the blight and neglect that has steadily gotten worse over the last several decades. It doesn’t have to be this way, but Baltimore needs federal representatives who will work to bring together public and private stakeholders to solve the problems facing the city. One of those problems is reforming the cities schools. As Maryland’s US Senator, I will fight for more than Maryland’s fair share of federal education dollars, and will work with state and local educators to ensure every student across Baltimore City and our state has an opportunity for a great education. That includes ensuring debilitated schools that lack resources we take for granted- like air conditioning in classrooms- are able to build and maintain an environment where students are able to learn. The parties and special interests have created an environment where scoring cheap political points takes priority over solving problems, especially when funding is involved. As your Senator, I will commit to supporting policies that get our students the best possible results and setting aside the party labels that have held them back.
What can Congress do to address the opioid epidemic?
Simon: I have seen and heard firsthand as I have travelled across Maryland how individuals and families are impacted by opioid addiction. It is a national crisis, and our leaders have not answered the demand for action from their constituents. Opioid addiction is a complex issue that requires progress in a variety of areas. We need to increase funding to states and municipalities to ensure that emergency services have lifesaving measures like Narcan when responding to overdoses. We need to fully empower law enforcement to prevent the distribution of street heroin, illicit painkillers, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl. We need to work with hospitals and doctors to ensure that prescriptions for addictive painkillers are reduced and more carefully measured, and that patients are fully educated on the effects of these substances. We need to empower communities to combat drug addiction through education programs that lower the rates-of-use of highly addictive opioids, and support programs for those struggling with opioid addiction. And finally, we need to use education to deter people from abusing opioids. Our government leaders need to be talking about this problem regularly. There is a bill, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, that passed the House 396-14 several months ago to address the opioid crisis. The bill is currently stalled in the Senate, because our Senators have simply failed to come together to approve the legislation.
What changes if any should Congress make to our immigration and deportation laws and policies?
Simon: I am the son and grandson of immigrants; my mother and grandparents came to this country because they believed it was a place where you could get you kids a great education, and people could work hard to create a better lives for their families. Immigration might be the most divisive issue today, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The two parties have painted the issue in black-and-white terms, with the Democrats opposing border security additions and Republicans opposing efforts to provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers. It’s a situation where a compromise is obvious to everyone, except the partisans on Capitol Hill. We should keep immigrant families together, increase border security, expand the e-verify program, and create a pathway to citizenship for longtime, law-abiding, tax-paying residents. This combination of progressive and conservative proposals should be something our representatives can find common ground on and get done.
Should the United States continue with the free trade policies it pursued for the last several decades, or should it enact restrictions in an attempt to help domestic industries?
Simon: I believe steadfastly in the value and impact that free trade has on a domestic and global economy. Our long-term goal should be free trade with all our trading partners. That said, trade agreements made in the past have not stood the test of time, and some need to be improved to level the playing field between the US and our trading partners. Our leaders should be advocating for trade deals that ensure we remain competitive in the global marketplace, and have the best interest of America’s economy first and foremost.
Do you support the Iran nuclear deal?
Simon: I did not support the Iran Nuclear Deal for a variety of reasons, none greater than the fact that the Deal merely delayed Iran’s pathway to developing and testing nuclear weapons. The terms of the deal allow the Iranians to re-launch their nuclear program within the next ten years. The deal also did not halt the development of ballistic weapons, nor did it prevent the funding of terror organizations. We freed up billions of dollars would fund acts of terror against Israel in exchange for what can only be described as kicking the can down the road in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran is the greatest sponsor of terrorism, the greatest threat to the safety and security of Israel, and the greatest impediment to stability in the Middle East. And there are few things more critical in US-Middle Eastern policy than preventing the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons.
How should the United States address the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program?
Simon: I oppose nuclear proliferation and we need to engage in whatever solutions we can to stop it. This includes North Korea’s nuclear program. It’s been clear that the policies we had instituted for the last couple of decades haven’t been working. As Senator, I wouldn’t be as quick to judge new tactics to solve old problems - like North Korea - as failures or mistakes in policy, especially, when the traditional way of doing business clearly wasn’t working. Consistency in foreign policy is critical to our nation’s credibility. From presidency to presidency, regardless of political affiliation, we must remain consistent and not undo previous policies hastily and without considerable dialogue. It definitely shouldn’t be done hastily with little planning.