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United States Representative - Dist. 7

The Minnesota Newspaper Association distributes a survey asking for responses from candidates for Congressional and Senatorial offices. These are answers from candidates as provided to the Minnesota Newspaper Association.

Lee Byberg (Republican)

Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2013 Legislature? Why are you running for office?

Get the economy moving again. The best and only way to do that is to cut the deficit, bring down the debt, streamline regulations, and reform the tax code.

Health care: Federal health care reform has been affirmed by the US Supreme Court. Should the law stand in its current form, or should it be changed? If you support changes, be specific.

I believe Obama Care should be repealed and replaced, and I cannot understand why Collin Peterson has voted to keep it and defends it.

I would vote to undo the cuts to Medicare imposed by the current law, and want to start the reform process all over again in a bipartisan manner.

Peterson recently lost the pro-life endorsement from the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), due to his vote to uphold Obama Care. He claims Obama Care needs to be kept because it is “40 percent good.” We should not settle for something that is 60 percent wrong, and should, instead, aim for solutions that do “no harm.”

The solutions to fix our healthcare system and which will benefit our overall economy must be a combination of the following steps/principles:

• Recognize that price controls lead to shortages. When government sets fees, often below the true cost of the provided service, it creates a shortage of treatment that is needed by the people. We should move to gradually remove such price controls.

• Recognize that competition reduces prices. Again, consider the Lasik eye surgery and cosmetic surgery as an example of where competition and innovation provide a better service, at a lower cost, and for more people.

• Recognize that people respond to price signals and increased cost sharing.

Reduce regulations and enhance competition:

• Mandated benefits, which are usually promoted as being “pro-consumer,” actually increase cost, reduce innovation, reduce choice, and over time, reduce quality. Eliminations of such mandates, combined with new laws to allow individuals to purchase insurance across state lines, will reduce cost and improve quality through increased interstate competition.

• Employer-provided health insurance is paid using before-tax dollars, while individual healthcare policies are not tax-deductible. We should also allow individual policies to be tax-deductible, as such will increase options, increase insurance coverage, and reduce cost. Growing individual policies will reduce over-reliance on third-party payers and reduce overall cost, as people will manage their cost better for the services they need through direct payment.

• Reduce overall cost to insurance premiums by capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.

• Allow individuals, farmers, and small businesses to form purchasing pools.

• Allow Health Saving Accounts to use funds for insurance premiums.

• Prevent discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage.

• Amend laws to allow individuals who wish to switch from one plan to another with the same protections.

• Allow employers to change their healthcare benefits from an outdated defined-benefit model to a defined-contribution model.

• Overall concept: expand consumer choice, enable portability of individual coverage, remove barriers of competition in both the private and public sectors.

Education: What role should the federal government play in ensuring that US graduates can compete in the global economy?

Federal education policy has largely failed. Since Carter created the Department of Education in the ‘70s, hundreds of programs and mandates have been created in order to improve student and teacher performance. During that time, performance has stagnated.

I believe that education policy is best set at the state and local level. The best role for the federal government is to help conduct research on how best to teach our kids in this changing world.

Economy: The national economy remains sluggish. What steps do you support to stimulate the growth of jobs?

Stimulus doesn’t work. If it did, the economy would be roaring now, after trillions of dollars have been dumped into it by the government. I believe the best way to get the economy moving again is to reduce the size of government, quit spending money we don’t have, and reform and streamline regulations and the tax code.

Agriculture: Should changes be made to current agriculture subsidies? Be specific.

Changes are already being made. The federal government is moving from an agriculture policy based upon subsidies, to one based upon an insurance model. In the long run, this will help our agricultural economy.

Collin Peterson (Democrat)

Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2013 Legislature? Why are you running for office?

It’s an honor to serve the people of Minnesota’s Seventh District in Congress, and as Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, I hope to continue the work I have been doing for farmers, veterans, small business, children, senior citizens, and communities large and small across the district.

My top priority is to get the farm bill passed through the House, so farmers can have some certainty moving forward. House leadership needs to bring the Agriculture Committee’s five-year farm bill to the floor when we return Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Health care: Federal healthcare reform has been affirmed by the US Supreme Court. Should the law stand in its current form, or should it be changed? If you support changes, be specific.

The Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act means that now, more than ever, we need to put aside partisanship and work together in Congress to make this law work.

I am not supportive of the individual mandate, because of the hardship it may bring to families and business, however, I do believe that some of the patient protection issues, like eliminating pre-existing condition exclusions, eliminating the Medicare prescription drug donut hole, and allowing individuals to stay on a parent’s health care plan up to age 26, are critical to health care reform efforts.

This issue has divided our country, and I would like to see us come together and move forward to make health care reform work.

Education: What role should the federal government play in ensuring that US graduates can compete in the global economy?

Every child, no matter where he or she lives, should have access to a high-quality education and an affordable higher education.

I proudly support our teachers and principals across the state of Minnesota, and encourage everyone to seek additional education. Whether it be taking businesses courses at the local community college or getting a four-year degree at one of our fine universities – without additional education – it is hard to make it in this competitive marketplace.

I support TRIO programs and funding to make higher education more accessible. I’ve supported increased access and opposed cuts to financial aid programs. I have consistently voted to keep student loan interest rates low.

While I gladly support these programs, I also believe that the state and the institutions, themselves, have a responsibility to students and parents to ensure that quality services and tuition increases stay within reason of the average family’s affordability, and are not simply relying upon federal increases in Pell grants and other federal funding programs to subsidize their increased costs.

Economy: The national economy remains sluggish. What steps do you support to stimulate the growth of jobs?

We have got to get the federal budget under control and on a sustainable path. Every day we wait adds $11.4 billion to our debt, prolongs the economic slowdown, delays the creation of millions of private-sector jobs, and risks the credit rating of the federal government.

We need a bipartisan and bicameral solution that puts everything on the table, tax reform, defense spending, domestic spending, and entitlements.

Economic growth will not come from one side of the balance sheet; we need a balanced approach to get this economy moving again.

Agriculture: Should changes be made to current agriculture subsidies? Be specific.

The 2012 farm bill that was passed by the House Agriculture Committee in July makes significant reforms, including the elimination of direct payments reforming commodity policy that saves taxpayers more than $14 billion.

The House bill saves more than $35 billion in mandatory funding, repeals or consolidates more than 100 programs, improves integrity and accountability in the SNAP program while saving $16 billion, and provides regulatory relief to mitigate the burdens that farmers, ranchers, and rural communities face.

House leadership needs to bring the Agriculture Committee’s five-year farm bill to the floor when we return Tuesday, Nov. 13. I believe there are enough votes to pass the bill and if we get it done early enough in the lame duck session, there will be time to work out differences with the Senate and get the farm bill finished before the end of the year.

I oppose an extension of any kind, because I believe reauthorization will only make the situation more difficult. If we pass an extension, the Agriculture Committee will have to start all over again and will likely have much less money available, and the budget situation will be very difficult.

Adam Steele (Independence Party)

Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2013 Legislature? Why are you running for office?

Bringing Constitutional law and justice to Minnesota is my priority and sole platform issue. It is why I am seeking the office. The upholding of the US Constitution is important enough an issue to stand by itself, and it is time that someone did something about it.

The purpose of my candidacy for this federal office is wholly to either bring Constitutional justice to northern Minnesota, or, alternatively, if the state cannot follow the highest law of the land, then to insist that Minnesota be expelled from the United States and no longer be entitled to the benefits of statehood.

Criminals, of course, are not entitled to the same rights as others, but not everyone accused of a crime is a criminal. Still, here, in northern Minnesota, due to corruption and “frontier justice,” a lot of those people are, nonetheless, denied their Constitutional rights to a speedy trial, to bail, to due process, to competent and unbiased counsel, and to a fair trial with the ability to present all facts and evidence in their defense.

Health care: Federal health care reform has been affirmed by the US Supreme Court. Should the law stand in its current form, or should it be changed? If you support changes, be specific.

Obama’s plan to fix the medical cost problem by requiring everyone to buy insurance or pay tax penalties if they don’t is like solving world hunger by requiring everyone to buy a steak.

There are many causes for this malady (medical cost – whether public or private – and availability of services and medications), and various ways to allay the symptoms, but, really; there is no universal and permanent cure in sight. To put it in the most simplistic terms, so I can understand it:

1) Medical providers can charge outlandish fees*, because people will pay a lot to stay alive, or to have pain relieved. They can charge what they want, particularly if insurance is involved. This problem is exacerbated (not a dirty word) by the fact that young Americans, these days, no longer find medicine a glamorous career choice. They’d rather learn to move bits and bytes around, than livers and spleens. So, in many areas, the number of medical providers has declined, relative to the burgeoning population, that sometimes gets sick. This means higher costs, as well as lessened quality of service. The last time you saw your doctor, how long did he really listen to your problem?

* In my day, $4 was standard for a doctor visit. The doctor would also bring his doctor bag to your home if necessary, but one didn’t usually ask for that because it cost $6.

2) We are coming down to a time when people will soon be able to live for about as long as they can afford to. The question then becomes, “When they can’t afford it, how much of that cost is the public willing to bear? And how do we decide who lives and who dies; who gets treatment and who doesn’t?”

Fortunately, emergency medical care that doesn’t turn anyone away, is still available in most regions. But, that may change, and it may become necessary for legislatures and Congress to ensure, at least, a certain standard of medical care that will be guaranteed and upon which US citizens may depend.

Finding solutions to America’s growing medical needs is a tough challenge that faces anyone considering legislative office right now.

As far as cost goes, at a political rally on medical care that I attended, a man who had been in the insurance business, said, “Insurance is not the solution to the cost problem. It is the cause of it.” There’s a lot of truth to that.

Hopefully, we’ll find some solutions, but Obamacare, as it now stands, is not one of them.

Education: What role should the federal government play in ensuring that US graduates can compete in the global economy?

High schools and colleges could help by not passing students who can’t read and write and do basic arithmetic. Then, a diploma might mean what it used to, and be taken more seriously by employers. But, those decisions are, more properly, the domain of those educational institutions, and the states that maintain them.

Other than that, this issue is not one which is addressed by this campaign. Respectfully, this campaign is about the US Constitution.

Economy: The national economy remains sluggish. What steps do you support to stimulate the growth of jobs?

Quit paying people not to work. That will also save billions (literally) of tax dollars each year.

Agriculture: Should changes be made to current agriculture subsidies? Be specific.

I would have to further research this matter before specifically addressing changes, if any, that might be beneficial. Again, this campaign is about the Constitution.

That said, the family farm has long been the backbone of the Minnesota economy and is a staple of the national farm product, as it is generally far more efficient than corporate agriculture. It is the reason that, for many years, we had a positive balance in world trade. It is also a foundation stone in what we have come to know as the American way. More locally, it puts food on our tables; so if one criticizes farmers, well, they’d best not be talking with their mouth full.

Unfortunately, in past years, we’ve seen much attrition from the farm to the city. Some of it has been simply because the kids just don’t want to stay on the farm anymore, but some of it has been for economic cause.

As in past years, we need to do what we can, as a state and as a nation, to keep family farming sustainable. We must not lose the American dream of a person being able to work to buy a patch of land, and then make a living by working and growing things on it. Again, this makes the person more independent, and our nation more independent.

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