On September 27 in Evans, the Democratic Party and Republic Party nominees for the November 2014 General Election to the position of Representative to the United States Congress of Georgia’s 12th District, John Barrow and Rick Allen, respectively, answered questions posed by moderator Steve Crawford of the Columbia County News Times. They discussed defense spending, government surveillance, resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other issues.
Mr. Barrow answered the questions the moderator posed without filling time with repetitions of general campaign themes. His answers, even as I disagreed, reflected his significantly deeper knowledge and legislative experience. They were closer to the realities of the legislative process and were at least in the form of empirical statements which can be tested, unlike those of Mr. Allen. For these and other reasons, Mr. Barrow deserves your vote in November.
At the same time, the debate once again demonstrated our limited choices. While Mr. Barrow’s and Mr. Allen’s rationales, when internally coherent, differed, the ultimate policy implications were often similar. This is best illustrated by examining their statements regarding healthcare, climate change and immigration.
The candidates’ discussion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was disappointing. Mr. Allen claimed that “We need to get back to our states and to our local areas and solve this problem, between the doctor and the patient, and we don’t need bureaucrats in Washington telling us how to deliver healthcare.” Does this mean that he’s opposed to Medicare and Medicaid? What about the Veterans Administration Healthcare System? Should bureaucrats in insurance companies control healthcare? He supports a bill introduced by Tom Price (GA-6), but this bill hasn’t gotten to the floor of the Republican-dominated House of Representatives in the four years since its introduction. He cited Christ Community Health as an example of “community-based” healthcare. Mr. Barrow in response noted Christ Community Health is a neighborhood health center supported under the ACA. At the same time, Mr. Barrow did not address Mr. Allen’s point that eliminating the personal and employee mandates would cause a shortfall in the insurance premiums collected to pay for the coverage expansion. And neither candidate addressed the large number of people who can’t afford health insurance even with the ACA.
Mr. Allen denied that humans contributed to climate change. Mr. Barrow affirmed that anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases were changing the climate but claimed that policy proposals like carbon taxes or cap-and-trade, which would increase the cost of producing greenhouse gases, would result in energy scarcity because clean sources of energy would not be available in sufficient supply for a generation or two. The only policy to promote this transition which Mr. Barrow would support is a Manhattan Project-like research initiative. Both Mr. Barrow and Mr. Allen affirmed their support of nuclear energy production, the Keystone XL pipeline and the exploitation of natural gas and shale oil deposits through fracking and other environmentally destructive processes. So even though Mr. Allen and Mr. Barrow differ on the proposition that humans are causing climate change, they would not differ at all on current government policy.
When asked whether US immigration policy should shift from capture and deportation of undocumented workers to targeting companies which hire them and to providing a pathway to citizenship, Mr. Barrow said that no change in residency status should occur until both the border and jobs are secure. Mandating the use of E-Verify for all employers would prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers. Mr. Allen, while agreeing that businesses should not hire undocumented workers, pointed out that E-Verify was too unreliable and it was counterproductive to burden businesses with immigration enforcement. He claimed that cutting off aid to Mexico until it prevented unauthorized entry into the United States would enhance border security.
The American Civil Liberties Union report of May 2013 “Prove Yourself to Work” confirms Mr. Allen’s position that E-Verify is not a means to “Secure the Jobs.” In addition, between 30-50% of undocumented immigrants did not cross a border illegally but instead overstayed their visas. On the other hand, most United States aid to Mexico is for the Merida Initiative, which replicates our own failed drug war inside Mexico, so Mr. Allen’s idea that Mexico could be coerced into enforcing US immigration laws is unrealistic. Neither candidate proposed anything which would allow the millions of families in the United States with individuals without legal residency to become more secure.
So, in 2014, voters are again presented with two candidates who attack each other as if there are significant differences between them, yet neither candidate presents policies which could address the problems the voters face.
Mr. Barrow claims that gerrymandering has made the leadership of both major parties either products or prisoners of hyperpartisanship. I believe the election system which makes the participation of smaller parties nearly impossible is also an important factor.
Disclosure: I am the son of Dr. Hossam Fadel, one of the organizers of the event. I am a member of the Columbia County Democratic Party (CCDP), and I don’t remember the last time I voted for a Republican. My views don’t reflect those of the event organizers, the Islamic Society of Augusta or the CCDP.
- GOP ‘alternative’ to ObamaCare is an empty bill by Jay Bookman, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Dec 19, 2013
- Tom Price (GA-6): Price Health Care Bill Saves $2.35 Trillion, December 5, 2013
- Christ Community Health Services receives funds under the Affordable Care Act: Grants allow clinics to do more primary care by Tom Corwin, Augusta Chronicle, September 12, 2014
- U.S. Foreign Assistance to Mexico – Foreign aid is part of the solution to the Central American border crisis by Zach Silberman, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition website, August 8, 2014
- American Civil Liberties Union, The 10 Big Problems with E-Verify, May 3, 2013