Sussex County Delaware

Q&A With
Tom Carper

Campaign 2000...

Eric Magill, Sussex County Online

SC Online

Campaign 2000...

Carper on the role the federal government should play in our lives:

"The role of government is to do for people what they can't do for themselves. A major role of government is to make sure the kids who are growing up get a decent education so that they'll have the skills that they need to be able to find a job or graduate and go on to college, or to do both, and lead productive lives. A major role of government is to provide an environment where businesses can grow and prosper so that when those kids grow up and come out of school, they'll actually have a place to go and support themselves and their families. Another role of government is to make sure that the air we have to breathe is not harmful to us or that the water we have to drink or to swim in at our beaches is good. Another role is to make sure that as we have development, as our population grows in Delaware and other places, that we'll grow in ways that are smart, that we don't use up all of our open space, that we don't use up all of our farmland.

"And one last role of our government, or maybe two, one is to provide a safe community so that people don't have to be fearful, whether in their own homes or businesses or when moving around. We have the ability to move around with a decent transportation system. We have cars and roads that are reasonably safe. If you don't have cars or the ability to drive, we provide at least some transit so that people can get where they need to.

"The last thing is health care. Not everybody in our country has health care. In the state of Delaware we have a percentage of uninsured that is a good deal lower than the nation, actually a good deal lower than the region we live in. But there are still about 100,000 people in Delaware and over 40 million people in the country who don't have health care. We've done a lot to expand health care opportunities to kids. We've done a lot to provide prescription assistance to our senior citizens. We do that now for thousands of senior citizens beginning this year. We need to do that for the country. Those are all roles of government, but again, the major role of government is to help people who can't help themselves."

Carper on his major accomplishments as governor that illustrate his view of government's role in our lives:

"A major job of govement is to provide an environment in which businesses can grow and prosper. There are 750,000 people who live in Delaware and over 420,000 people who go to work every day. We've created some 80,000 new jobs and provided an environment in which small businesses can start in and middle size businesses can grow.

"The other role of government is to manage its finances well. We've managed our finances so well that our credit rating has been rated AAA, best in the country. We've cut taxes, we've cut 'em seven years in a row. I think it's appropriate that we return to the people that which we don't need to meet our bare essentials. I'm proud that our tax code has been recognized by the business community, Fortune 100, as one of the best for business and also by non-business groups as one of the fairest tax codes in America.

"Those are the roles of government -- you manage your finances well, you don't take more money than you need in terms of sending it back to the taxpayers. The idea of helping people help themselves. We got into welfare in this country about 65 years ago. What started off as a program to help widows with children ended up as a program that literally encourages people to get pregnant early and for guys to walk away from it. We time-limit benefits in this state for welfare. Three years, that's it. We expect people to go to work. We help them with job training, help them find a job, help them get to a job, help them with health care, help them with child care. The government does all those things. We want people to work. We want people to be self-sufficient. The other thing is we've expanded Medicaid to help poor people. We cover all adults up to 100 percent of poverty. We cover all kids up to 200 percent of poverty.

"The other thing that we've been doing in this goverment is preserving open space and farmland. Delaware has become the leader in the country for farmland preservation -- Delaware. We've preserved some 20,000 acres of open space just in the last 7 to 8 years.

"The last thing I would mention is we work real hard with businesses to reduce air emissions. Toxic air emissions are down in the state by 75 percent. Emissions in the air for other carcinogens are down by almost as much. That's another major responsibility of government.

"The last thing I'd say is crime. We've hired more cops. We've given them better equipment and better techology. Crime in the state is down again this year, down by 12 percent year-to-date. We've changed our prisons so that folks who are in our prisons, we actually do something with their lives. Education, drug and alcohol, work, job skills, so that when they come out they're less likely to commit more crimes. Those are some of the things that we've been doing.

"The last thing I would say is prescription medicines. My mom is 78 years old. She uses prescription medicines every day. She lives in Kentucky. She has a program through her health insurance company ... my dad used to work for Nationwide. And they help her with her health care prescription costs. We've got a bunch of people in our country who have to choose between food and prescription drugs. That's not right. In Delaware we now have a prescription assistance program so that thousands of people no longer have to make that choice. We need to do that for the country."

Carper on the frustrations he has experienced with the federal government as a governor that he would like to change as a U.S. Senator:

"Bill Clinton, who was a governor, he knows what it's like to have to live with rules and regulations. One of our big fights in the last year or so when I was chairman of the National Governors Association was to say that when the states, our state and other states, get education dollars from the federal government, give us some flexibility in using those dollars. Don't tell us, don't prescribe exactly how the money should be used according to some bureaucrats back in Washington. Give us some credit for having some sense. If we want to use some of the money to reduce class size, let us do that. If we want to use the money for disruption prevention programs, let us do that. If we want to use the money for teacher training, let us do that. We'll focus the money on lower income kids where the need is the greatest. And we'll show results. We'll be held accountable. But give us some flexibility with those dollars.

"We fought that fight big-time on education funding. And as the Congress prepares to reauthorize the major education bills in the country, this year or next year, we need to: One -- Provide more money from the federal government, make sure it's targeted where the need is the greatest, and provide flexibility to the schools and the school districts in using the money but demand results, demand us to be held accountable.

"If you look at the federal government, one of the things they don't do real well is serve as a clearing house for good ideas. I think they ought to with the Department of Education. Here I told my Secretary of Education that one of your jobs is to identify what's working in our schools to raise student achievement. We need to do that nationally. Whether it's getting people off of welfare, providing health care for people, our federal agencies shouldn't just be a job of rules and regulations. They should be identifying what's working and spread that word. I would say, don't be so prescriptive in Washington. Give us some flexibility. Require us to be accountable, demand results, but give us some flexibility."

Carper on what he means by "responsible" tax cuts:

"In Delaware we've cut taxes seven years in a row. We've done so in a way that we don't run deficits. We still run balanced budgets. We only spend 98 percent of our revenues. The stewardship of our finances has been recognized and we've gotten a AAA credit rating. We need to be smart in Washington, too, as we cut taxes. We ought to eliminate the marriage penalty in our nation as we've done in Delaware. We ought to provide estate tax relief, especially for family farms and for small- and middle-sized businesses. We ought to make the research and development tax cut permanent to encourage that sort of thing. We ought to say when people get education assistance, tuition assistance from their employer, that that's tax exempt. That will encourage people to improve their skills. Those are some of the tax cuts I would have us make.

"I don't mind cutting taxes for rich people. I like cutting taxes for poor people, too. I like cutting taxes for everybody in between. Too much of what we're hearing from our friends in the other party provides the lion's share of the benefits to the wealthiest people. That's not right. They have to be fair and with some reasonable distribution.

"We have a forecast surplus over the next 10 years at the federal level of $1.8 trillion. Now that assumes no recession. That assumes no recession, which is probably unlikely. We'll have a recession. We've been 8 years without one. We'll probably end up having one in the next several years. Bu the most realistic scenario is 10 more years with no recession. If that's true, then the surplus would be $1.8 trillion above and beyond Social Security and Medicare. Our Republican friend, Senator Roth, has suggested, in fact he's backed a plan, to cut taxes by $2.4 trillion. Now if your surplus is expected to be, in the rosiest of scenarios, $1.8 trillion, and somebody wants to cut taxes by $2.4 trillion, you have to get the money somewhere. You can run a bigger deficit, which I don't think we want to do. You can take money out of the Social Security Trust Fund or the Medicare Trust Fund, which I don't think we want to do. We just have to manage smart in Washington, manage our fiances in a prudent way, like we've done here in Delaware.

"In the end, here's what I'd have us do with the surplus. Pay off the national debt, by the year 2012, pay it off. We'd be debt-free for the first time in this country since the year 1835. That's number one. Number two, I'd have us use some of the money to shore up the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, make them secure, not just for my mother's generation, but for my generation, and for my children's generation. We can do that. The third thing I'd have us do is provide tax cuts. Use about a half-trillion dollars for targeted tax cuts that are fair, that help working families as well as wealthier families, and those at the bottom end of the spectrum, both personally and business. The last thing I'd have us do is make some targeted investments, in schools and health care. Make sure we have better teachers in some of our schools that don't have better teachers, teacher training, reduce our class sizes a little bit in some of our schools, and also provide a prescription assistance program to senior citizens, and to provide health care for a lot of people in our country who don't have it. We can't cover everybody, but we can do a better job than we're doing today. "

Carper on an Internet sales tax:

"I don't favor taxing the Internet, I don't favor taxing access to the Internet. But there should be a level playing field. Whether a person is buying an item from a store in your community, or whether they're buying something from a catalog company, or whether they're buying something over the Internet, the sale should be treated the same. If you go to your local store and have to pay a sales tax ... we don't have a sales tax in Delaware and we never will, I hope ... but if somebody in another state that has a sales tax, they go to a store, they pay the sales tax, but they don't pay it over the Internet, and they don't pay it for catalog sales, that's not really fair to the merchant who's in the local community, helping support the local community, paying taxes in that local community, providing jobs in that local community. There needs to be a level playing field and just a fairness in treatment, parity in treatment."

Carper on the readiness of the U.S. Military:

"I was a Naval flight officer for 5 years on active duty during the Vietnam War. Served in southeast Asia. Served for another 18 years as a Naval flight officer and retired as a captain in 1991. Every month my squadron had to meet readiness requirements. I know that the aircraft that we have in the Navy, Air Force and other services, the Marines and even the Army, that we don't have the parts in order to maintain the aircraft and keep them ready. Up at Dover Air Force Base they have aircraft they're cannibalizing. They're cannibalizing C-5s in order to supply parts for other aircraft to fly.

"I don't know that's in a crisis situation, but it's a serious situation. We have to set some priorities in the years going forward. A big part of it is going to come down to this -- whether or not to spend huge amounts of money on sexy, big-ticket items like the anti-missle defense system, which will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, or whether to use that money instead to maintain readiness, troop readiness, by making sure we have parts for C-5 aircraft, to make sure that we have the money to pay decent wages to retain men and women in our armed services. That's going to be the priority.

"There's only so much money, and what we have to decide is where we get the best bang for our buck. In the end we're going to have to make a choice between some very expensive, sophisticated weapons systems that may or may not work and what we know will work. The nature of the military today, and I say this as Commander in Chief of the Delaware National Guard, we deploy all over the world. The Delaware National Guard deploys all over the world. Our readiness is good. We've used money in this state to attract and retain good people by providing tuition assistance for them and to try to make sure they have current equipment, new readiness training centers, in Dagsboro, Smyrna's coming next. What the federal government and the Congress and the next President are going to have to do is set some priorities with respect ... are we going to be a rapidly, mobilizable, deployable force all over the nation, which is what we need to be, or are we going to put some money in major weapons systems development that may or may not even work or pay off in our lifetimes. That's the key."

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