Sunday, May 18, 2008

How Diane and Ethan Stand on the Issues - According to Their Campaign Sites

About a month ago, Fairbanks News-Miner columnist and An Alaskan Abroad blogger, Robert Dillon, asked at his blog about how the candidates for the AK-AL U.S. House seat stood on the important issues of the campaign. I've been comparing how they have stood since there were two of them - Diane Benson and Don Young. I prepared an "Issue Comparison Chart" in early September for Benson's campaign. It has been fleshed out and updated from time to time.

The stark comparison between Ethan Berkowitz and Diane Benson, on the one hand, and Sean Parnell, on the other, on most issues presented at last Friday's Hispanic Affairs Council of Alaska candidate forum, was no surprise. As has been related at What Do I Know? and at Independent Alaskan, Benson and Berkowitz resonated more with Hispanic voters, and others in the audience. The above link to Independent Alaskan shows KTUU's coverage of the event also, which was a very good, almost 5-minute-long report.

But what do the two Democratic Party candidates have to say about the major issues at their campaign web sites? Here's an issue by issue comparison:

Civil Rights and Civil liberties


Benson:
Every American must enjoy all rights and protections provided for by our constitution and laws. With that understanding I will:

1. Defend Freedom: Stand up against the threats to American citizens within the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act. Our library records, let alone personal information, should be beyond FBI’s reach.

2. Protect Privacy: An expectation of being an American is freedom and the right to privacy inherent in our Constitution. Yet interceptions of our communications, unwarranted monitoring, the weakening of Miranda laws, and governmental interference that would dictate our choices, our activities, our morality, and our medical treatments threaten to destroy our right to privacy. It is for these reasons that I will consider freedom and individual liberties first when weighing any law or policy.

3. Remind Congress that Equal Rights are Human Rights: No group of people should be targeted for exclusion from the same rights and privileges enjoyed by other Americans. Equality is fundamental to a free society. Heinous activities such as the exploitation of women and children and other American citizens in certain labor markets, sexual exploitation, and exploitation in a growing quasi-slave trade market threaten to undermine our freedoms.

4. Keep Schools Safe: All Americans are entitled to good public education in a safe environment.

5. Defend The Second Amendment.

6. Defend Net Neutrality: I understand the increasing importance of the Internet in our daily affairs and the need to maintain complete Internet Neutrality. With that in mind, I would work to:

(1) Make sure that the government does not encroach on citizen’s First Amendment freedoms on the Internet;

(2) Protect the Internet from unnecessary governmental oversight and regulation;

(3) Guarantee privacy protections for citizens’ email accounts;

(4) Undo the electronic surveillance authorizations in the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act and similar legislation allowing law enforcement to snoop on American citizens without the issuance of search warrants.

7. Protect The U.S. Constitution: By designing three branches of government, the Founding Fathers designed an ingenious system of checks and balances and separation of powers between state and federal governments. However, over the last decades we have seen these checks and balances wither as a pliant Congress cedes its powers to an ever-growing Executive. Congress allows the President to invade another country without declaring war, rubberstamps oversized budgets and condones torture. These things are not American. As Alaska’s representative, I will work to restore the original balance sought by the Founders and will work to make Congress a healthy check against the other two braches of power.

Berkowitz:
Not addressed

The Economy

Benson:
Americans are optimistic, but broke. We are nine trillion dollars in debt and the figure just keeps rising. With its relatively small population and abundant natural resources, Alaska is one of the few governments in the world with a yearly budget surplus, and money in the bank instead of mounting debt. As an Alaskan, I am proud to be socially liberal, but fiscally conservative.

I am a firm believer that wasteful spending is not a partisan issue. Our federal and state founding fathers and mothers all understood the importance of saving money, putting away precious dollars for a rainy day. Our federal government was set up to provide for a strong national defense (Army, Navy, etc.) and infrastructure (roads, canals, etc.) to facilitate interstate commerce.

Yet in the last several decades, things have somehow gotten away from us. We have mounting inflation; the dollar continues to slide against every major world currency; we are either in the midst of a recession or on our way depending on one’s definition of the word. As one presidential candidate said, we borrow from the Chinese to go fight in Iraq. We can’t afford many of our policies, yet every year Congress and the President pass ever-larger federal budgets. As an Alaskan who has had to fight for every nickel and dime I earned, who has had to change blown out tires in sub-sub-freezing weather to earn my daily bread, I am ready to say that the buck stops here.

I believe the way to fight our ballooning budget is to start with accountability and good-ol’ American thrift. As your Congresswoman, I will do everything possible to eliminate fat from the federal budget, freeing up more money for vital programs. I pledge to:

Work with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate and eliminate outrageous federal contracting fiascos, such as why the government continues to pay through the nose for ordinary contracts ($5 per gallon for fuel in Iraq when Iraqis pay $1.50);
Call for increased oversight over federal assets such as federal lands, key intellectual property (i.e., patents) designed by and owned by federal laboratories, and federal territories such as off-shore fisheries and inland mineral rights – making sure these valuable assets aren’t sold for pennies on the dollar.
Bring the Federal Tax Code in line with American values, by relieving the tax burden off small businesses, and lower and middle-class Americans and eliminating corporate welfare. The Federal Tax Code is the most complex piece of legislation ever devised by humans. It must be revised and simplified to provide fair and just tax schemes for America’s workers, rather than large subsidies for multinationals who ship jobs overseas;
Ensure that Federal Infrastructure Legislation includes provisions supporting small businesses in Alaska, and that Federal gas pipeline legislation expands alternative energy programs in Alaska without added costs to taxpayers.

Berkowitz:
Addressed under "fisheries." See below.

Education


Benson:
Let's make education and the protection of our children our number one priority in America. We should not leave states footing the education bill for a federal obligation. We should not let anything narrow the curriculum, or cause mere "teaching to the test," or relinquish good education for rote memorization.

When elected I will fight for:

1. HEROES

Health – Protect Denali Kid Care (S-CHIP) and healthy school lunch programs.

Education – Fully fund public education at all levels including Head Start, K-12, special education and continued learning.

Recreation –Promote after school and extracurricular programs. Restore school recess and physical education programs to reduce obesity and early onset diabetes.

Opportunity – Fund trade and vocational programs, create incentives for business mentoring, target literacy programs, scholars programs, university cooperation, and commit to reduce drop-out rates. Expand teaching opportunities by funding teacher training through scholarships and educational grants.

Safety – Fund and protect children and school staff through internet safety education, child sexual abuse awareness and reporting, and counseling.

2. Rewrite No Child Left Behind (NCLB) - it is a flawed, under-funded mandate imposed on the public schools. Progress should be rewarded, and troubled schools should be helped, rather than hindered.

3. Protect Title One – This program closes the achievement gap, helping to assure all kids have the tools to be successful.

4. Increase funding for IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). IDEA funds special education. Congress pledged to pay 40% of the cost to educate a student receiving mandated services through IDEA. But the federal government is funding just under 20%, and demanding the state come up with the difference, making this a costly unfunded mandate.

5. Encourage the State to Participate in Social Security. Grow the Government Pension Offset and WEP (Windfall Elimination Provision). Promote Congressional action, and enact alternatives that protect ALL the earned Social Security benefits for public employees regardless of job, spousal survival or career changes.

I want to advance America through an excellent education system that proves that CHILDREN ARE OUR PRIORITY, and THAT TEACHERS ARE OUR HEROES

Berkowitz:
Early Childhood Education

Success starts early, in pre-school. Starting early, when brain development is at its most receptive, we can break the cycle of low test scores, of students being left behind, and of unacceptably high dropout rate. When children enter school better prepared, they are able to learn from the very first day – which translates to greater achievement and greater satisfaction.

Alaska is one of 10 states that does not fund pre-Kindergarten education. Only 19 percent of Alaskan 3-4 year olds attend public pre-schools. Pre-school education can be an effective tool in reducing the gaps in educational achievement among Alaska’s students. In addition, studies show that high quality pre-Kindergarten education can have many positive social results, including reduced rates of teen pregnancy, better health, lower drug use rates, reduced criminal activity and increasing lifetime earnings.

As your representative, I will work to expand access and quality in federal early childhood education programs. Programs such as Head Start and Early Head Start are but one of many existing programs that hold great promise for our children.

K – 12 Education: Prioritize Quality Education and Decrease High Drop-Out Rates
The standardization central to “No Child Left Behind” has done injury to the basic notion that we develop individual potential by teaching students as individuals. It has insulted the principle of local control – that communities and parents know better than Washington how to educate our own kids. And it is yet another unfunded federal mandate. As your Congressman, I will fight for federal reforms that focus on teaching, not testing, and that respect local control over education policy.

Millions of American middle and high school students read significantly below grade level. Alaska’s high school graduation rate is 60 percent, ranking Alaska 42nd in the United States. That statistic is worse for rural students in our state – only 40 percent finish school.

The impacts of low graduation rates ripple through our economy: Alaskans who graduate from high school earn one-third less than those who do graduate from high school, and college graduates in our state make three times as much income as those who do not graduate.

Adopting commonsense policies and practices can make a difference from kindergarten through high school. First, class size matters. Too many kids in a room compromise the quality of education. Second, qualified teachers make a difference. That’s why recruiting and retaining the most qualified teachers is a cornerstone for quality education. Third, we must expect safe schools. It isn’t fair to expect kids to learn and teachers to teach when their physical safety is jeopardized, either because of crime or because the buildings themselves are run down and unsafe.

Innovation and commitment to education abound in Alaska. Charter schools, immersion programs, and a variety of choice for study provide opportunities for students to match their talents to their educational choices. We must make sure this innovation extends to extracurricular and in-school activities. Extracurricular activities – from arts to sports and clubs of all kinds – provide educational enrichment and foster social skills. They provide an outlet for student energy and help develop positive character traits like perseverance, discipline and teamwork. Studies also show that expanding career and technical educational opportunities for high school students keep more Alaska students in school and prepare them for jobs after graduation.

Recruit and Retain Qualified Teachers

During my ten years in the State Legislature, I fought to protect the retirement plans of teachers. Because we want our children to succeed, we need to make sure that they have the best instructors and best instruction. Our teachers don’t get paid what they should and we need to change that, but at the very least, we should honor the deal we made with them that in exchange for spending their lifetime building our children’s future, we’ll take care of them when they retire. That’s why I led the fight in Juneau to stop those who wanted to erode the guaranteed retirement benefits our teachers earned and our government promised.

It is time to restore the fair deal with teachers – which includes making sure that working for Alaska doesn’t lead to the loss of Social Security benefits — and it is time to make the national debate on education focus on teaching, not just testing.

Post-Secondary Education

Vocational training opportunities are integral to Alaska’s economic future and to the opportunities we afford our people. Workforce development has a major impact on the economy and on the ability of Alaskans to get good jobs. Where will the workers come from to fill the jobs being vacated by Alaska’s aging oil field workforce? We can answer that question – and similar questions for every skill and industry – if we train today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs. It is enough that we export our resources — we should not have to import our labor force. Expanded training programs and expanded training opportunities will lead to more and better jobs for Alaskans.

Alaska’s university should be strong enough to compete for Alaska’s students and give them the education they need to succeed. The University of Alaska can and should be on the cutting edge of research and education for subjects that matter to Alaskans, and it should help fill the ranks of jobs that require university training.

Skyrocketing tuition puts college out of reach for many Alaskans. As your Congressman, I will work with the State Legislature and the University of Alaska system to expand the UA scholars program and need based scholarships. I will push hard to continue to increases to federal Pell Grant funding and access to federal student loan programs.

And I will work to make college and vocational education fully tax deductible because I don’t think we should saddle those who want to build a future for themselves with greater debt.

Environment

Benson:
Climate change and environmental pollution are not just theories. Alaskans are on the frontline of climate change, seeing the Arctic ice recede to the point where ships can pass through the famous Northern Passage, watching the Matanuska and other glaciers recede at an accelerating pace. At the same time, Alaskans understand that commitment to environmental change must take place on all levels, from responsible petrochemical extraction and processing to increasing fuel efficiency standards. Among other environmental issues, Diane Benson stands for the following:

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): Diane supports and encourages environmentally responsible oil and gas exploration, development and production. Because of Diane’s commitment to Alaskans benefiting from Alaska’s resources, she supports a 90-10 split of revenues as required by the Statehood Act. Diane also supports and encourages the development and use of new technologies and other measures to reduce air emissions, toxic disposal, and energy consumption produced by plant sites, camps and platforms. Diane also supports and challenges industry experts to present means to protect the caribou calving grounds and whaling subsistence practices in the process. She has faith that America has the technical know-how and will to do it.

On-and-Off Shore Exploration and Development: Diane supports and encourages environmentally responsible oil, gas and mineral exploration and development provided that such development complies with international, federal and state environmental standards and regulations, is fully considerate of subsistence rights, and harmless to Alaska’s fisheries.

Mineral Resource Extraction (Mining): Diane supports identifying Alaska’s mineral resources (for the primary benefit of Alaskans) and environmentally responsible development that is locally supported and that adequately provides environmental protections that safeguard fisheries. Furthermore, Diane also supports updating mining laws and regulations that reflect the concerns of the times and the realities of intensive extraction.

Natural Gas: Diane urges and supports the development and construction of an in-state gas line, and also supports spur lines or other environmentally sensitive development of rural natural gas wells for local consumption.

Jobs in Natural Resource Development: As a former Teamster truck driver, Diane has strong beliefs in the power of unions to aid in implementing tougher environmental regulations, and that through unions, many programs may be implemented to protect, train and apprentice local and rural workers in the industry and create other job opportunities. Diane is committed to seeing Alaskans at work and lead the nation in the development of renewable energy and environmentally friendly industry.

Alternative Renewable Energy Development: Diane sees opportunity for Alaska’s communities in the continued advancement, research and development of alternative renewable energy, including the co-operative effort of unions and green technology to put Alaskans to work. With its extraordinary wealth of hydrocarbons, thermal energy, solar exposure, etc. Alaska is uniquely positioned to lead the world in the development of innovative tidal, thermal, wind and solar power solutions. Diane Benson is committed to supporting federal legislation modeled on California’s Solar Power Initiative (a law which went into effect in 2007 giving consumer’s tax and industry-backed incentives for investing in solar power).

Berkowitz:
Alaska, more than any other state, feels the impact of climate change. Ocean acidification threatens our fisheries, loss of sea ice causes erosion in coastal communities, unprecedented beetle kills and fires are devastating our forests, and the melting permafrost will release noxious methane into the atmosphere. It is a real threat that requires real action.

Healthcare


Benson:
Martin Luther King stated that “…all forms injustice, inequality in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Alaska is deemed one of the least healthy states in the U.S., with more than 100,000 Alaskans having no access to health care or insurance coverage. Alaskans pay more for health care and health insurance than most. Many individuals declare personal bankruptcy because they can’t pay medical bills.

Unpaid necessary medical care for all Alaskans is causing costs to rise for individuals, businesses, municipalities and the state government. As costs rise, more people become uninsured, and the vicious cycle of cost shifting is likely to continue spiraling. The result is increasing financial instability of health care providers, and decreasing access to health care for Alaskans.

I believe there is our government’s responsibility to ensure that all Americans have access to health care for their families that they can afford. We must come together as a nation to solve this health care crisis in our country.

Once elected I will support:
1. Support a comprehensive universal, single payer health care system that ensures all Alaskans would be covered, regardless of age, income, job changes, unemployment, retirement, or pre-existing medical conditions, for all necessary medical care.

2. Fight to ensure full funding of S-CHIP and Title 1 programs that provide healthy meals and proper care for disenfranchised children.

3. Be an advocate for our troops and our veterans, ensuring that all medical expenses due to service-related injuries are paid for by TriCare. Our troops sacrifice for this country has been too great to not fully provide care for injuries and conditions that were obtained defending our country.

4. Work to reform Medicaid by increasing the federal income standards for seniors to become eligible for Medicaid coverage and increase coverage benefits and prescription drug benefits.

5. Push for regulation of the drug industry that will cap the rising costs of medications and ensuring that our seniors and underprivileged citizens receive affordable prescription medications.

6. Advocate for legislation that requires the coverage of certain mental and public health issues under health insurance plans, such as alcohol and drug abuse treatment.

Alaskans and all Americans deserve equal access to adequate, affordable health care. We must ensure our families, veterans and seniors are well cared for to ensure a prosperous and thriving future for our state.

Berkowitz:
“The system is broken – 47 million Americans (including 120,000 Alaskans) are uninsured, and you can’t truly be free when you’re afraid of being able to pay the bills when you get sick or hurt.” As part of the goal to guarantee health care access for all, Ethan supports:

Expanding medical record-keeping technology to reduce administrative costs and improve safety through information sharing

Promote preventative care and healthy living choices

Expanding the federal SCHIP program to cover a wider range of children

Allow for small business insurance pooling.

Immigration

Benson:
The immigration issue is a complex one. Rather than trying to suggest simple, sound-byte solutions, why not address each of the component problems. The issues are:

People desperate to support their families are willing to risk life and limb to illegally enter this country primarily from Mexico and South America, to find work. Regardless of the work, they are almost always paid less than any US citizen workers.

Employers need workers to perform tasks that either (1) no one else wants to do (i.e., backbreaking migrant farm work), or that others want to do but undocumented workers will do for a lot less (i.e., carpentry, day labor, etc.).

The borders between the US and Mexico and Canada are porous, at best, and mostly unguarded, at worst, making it relatively easy for workers, or terrorists, to illegally enter the US.

Children, of undocumented workers, born in the US are automatically US citizens. When the parents are caught and deported, the children may be left behind with other relatives splitting up families.

Immigrants who have legally entered the country are resentful of undocumented workers because they did not follow the rules.

With the passage of NAFTA, many manufacturing companies moved to Mexico to lower labor costs and avoid environmental regulations. These industries should have kept workers in Mexico but have not.

Obviously, the problems are many, varied and interconnected. The solutions may prove to be just as complex. But lets start with some basic approaches.

We Must Secure Our Borders: The security of our borders is absolutely essential. Regardless of the solutions for undocumented workers, distinct measures need to be implemented to ensure that the borders are controlled regardless of whom these measures may ensnare.

While we do not want to over burden US companies, measures need to be implemented to discourage the use of undocumented workers including perhaps (1) tax breaks for using legal workers only; (2) significant fines for using undocumented workers; (3) training and recruitment programs to attract and retain US workers; (4) realistic wages and benefits to attract and retain US workers; (5) implementing and enhancing computerized system to enable worker status to be determined quickly and accurately.

Amend NAFTA to discourage the loss of jobs across our borders. This has the double advantage of helping to stem the flow of workers and keeping jobs here at home.

Institute a process whereby undocumented workers who are here now are not granted amnesty but are given a path to citizenship. The path should be fair but onerous enough to discourage abuse. It would also serve to enforce the use of legal methods of entry and allay the concerns of those who have entered legally.

Re-examine the policy of automatic citizenship with some realistic amendments.

Contribute to the development of other nations so that their industrialization can be accelerated. In other words, make it more attractive to stay home than to leave.

Basically, the undocumented worker problem is an economic issue with sometimes devastating human impacts. Therefore, the resolutions will need to combine economic measures with compassion and fairness. While we are a nation of immigrants, we are above all a nation of law.

Berkowitz:
As the son and grandson of immigrants, Ethan knows how important it is to recognize the humanity of immigrants and how dangerous it is to demonize them. He is proud that his wife founded the Alaskan Immigration Justice Project to provide legal advice to low-income immigrants. Ethan believes that positive immigration reform includes:

Secure borders – for reasons of national security and to protect the safety of immigrants

Fixing the broken immigration bureaucracy and enforcing existing laws

Remembering our humanitarian responsibility to those fleeing persecution or seeking haven from disaster.

Infrastructure

Benson:
With the forecasted opening of the Northern Passage, Alaska will assume an ever more important and strategic position in America's economy and defense. With this growth, I will work to make sure that federal infrastructure in Alaska is built in a manner that benefits the people of Alaska. In Congress, I will fight tooth and nail for important projects and will work to carry them out in a socially and environmentally sound way. Consistent with this, I vow to:

1. Fight for the Alaska Gas Pipeline: I have advocated for an All-Alaska Gas Pipeline for many years, long before my opponents voiced opinions on the issue. More recently, with TransCanada and BP/ConocoPhillips respective proposals, I have taken the lead on the Gas Pipeline by proposing important policy measures and pledging to work with industry leaders and Alaska lawmakers to ensure that the gas pipeline is built. Please read my statements on the Alaska Gas Pipeline here.

2. Obtain Funding for Key Transportation Projects: Alaska has historically been an important trading, transportation and military hub. Federally funded infrastructure projects like the Knik Arm Bridge, for instance, have the potential to develop into key investments clearly in America's commercial and strategic interests. However, even before ground has been broken on the project, the public has had concerns about accountability. As Alaska's representative in Congress, I would bring immediate transparency to appropriation projects while I continue to fight for crucial funding.

3. Promote Green Infrastructure: As Alaska continues to grow, we need to confront environmental challenges in a responsible manner. As stewards of our planet and environment, we need to ensure that all infrastructure projects incorporate "green infrastructure"—protected forests, water bodies, open space, wildlife habitat—for the sake of our future generations. You can read more about my positions on the environment here.

Berkowitz:
Not addressed.

National Security

Benson:
Of all the candidates in this congressional race, Democrat or Republican, challenger or incumbent, I have the most well-developed and reasoned foreign policy positions. My national security and foreign policy expertise is shaped partly by my son’s tremendous personal sacrifice in the Iraq war and the even graver sacrifices of thousands of our brave men and women in uniform. I will bring this experience with me to the House. With respect to national security and our foreign policy, I promise to have:

The Courage to Stand Up: I spoke up against the War in Iraq long before my son was injured. I urged our elected leaders to take responsibility for the war even while my son was serving in the war. I know firsthand that opposition to the war does not mean lack of patriotism, and I dare anybody to challenge my patriotism credentials. I had the courage to stand up to Don Young when he refused to visit our wounded warriors at Walter Reed and I maintain my courage to stand up against the War.

Judgment Americans Can Trust: My foreign policy credentials are informed by my personal experience with this war, with the countless families who have sacrificed so much overseas. I have met with military commanders, soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. I have spoken to lawmakers and have watched literally thousands of hours of C-SPAN congressional coverage, analyzing the ways by which we can extract ourselves from Iraq while protecting the lives of Iraqis, Americans and preserving our strategic interests abroad. None of my opponents have this judgment or experience. As Alaska’s representative in Congress, I vow to be deeply involved in our nation’s defense, and will seek to work on the Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees to effectuate Alaskans’ common sense views on the War and our place in the world.

Support Our Troops / Bring Them Home: Our brave warriors overseas—many on second, third, or fourth tours of duty due to the President’s vicious “stop-loss” policy—have done all they can to bring stability to Iraq. Our top military and strategic brass have devoted all of their energies devising ways to stabilize the escalating civil war in Iraq. Despite this, despite our troop surge, Iraq remains a quagmire. The only resolution lies with Iraq and its neighbors restoring peace; peace will not come from a military “victory” in Iraq. This is why I support ending the war, withdrawing our troops in a responsible and strategic manner as soon as possible (not precipitous immediate withdrawal which could cause a widespread humanitarian disaster in the area), and involving neighboring countries in the peace process.

Diplomacy As Strategy: The Bush Administration’s stubborn and arrogant policies have alienated many of our closest allies the world over. While he ran on a modest foreign policy, and no “nation-building”, George W. Bush, his neo-con gang, and the Republican congress (including our own Don Young) used the pretext of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 to thrust this country into an open-ended war which has only made us weaker at home. The solution is restoring America’s reputation as a country that leads by example, by principle, with modesty. This means involving the countries on the periphery of the Iraq war—Syria, Iran, Lebanon—into the dialogue on any meaningful and lasting peace in Iraq. In Congress, I pledge to support the next President’s efforts to improve our diplomatic relationships the world over.

Building A Modern Military: If our experience in Iraq has taught us anything, it is that the days of conventional warfare are done. America clearly commands air, naval, conventional and nuclear superiority in the world. As Alaskans look to the skies this summer, we will again see our skilled pilots from Elmendorf AFB perform loops and barrel rolls, as they train to command the skies. Yet it is axiomatic that our military needs to be modernized. In the event of a future conflict, America needs to fight smart not hard. In Congress, I will support our military by voting to modernize our military and provide our warriors the best and most modern equipment so that they return from combat safely.

Berkowitz:
“We shouldn’t have gone in, and it’s time to get out. No one can explain what ‘victory’ looks like and our country is less safe today than when the war began.”

Alaska Native and Native American Rights


Benson:
I believe I am the only candidate of any party qualified to tackle the unique challenges inherent in representing a state as large and as diverse as the great state of Alaska. As the only Alaskan Native candidate for Congress, I understand the issues important to Alaskans and I am prepared to fight for our country and our Alaska. As Alaska’s representative, I pledge to:

Work to ensure that Alaskan Native Corporations and Alaskan Native Villages and indigenous communities continue to benefit from bulk fuel sales;

Work with all constituents to resolve any issues which may arise with federal regulatory bodies, such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Department of the Interior;

Ensure health care for all Americans and continued investment in Native American health care;
Fight for our Veterans, their health care needs, their families care, and better VA outreach;

Fight for Native sovereignty and 8-A contracts;

Work tirelessly with Alaskan Native corporations and the broader Alaskan construction industry to create jobs in renewable renewable energy development.

Fight for federal deregulation over Native lands, territories and reservations;

Advocate for increased federal funding for education for all Americans, and especially for underprivileged Native and/or rural communities;

Protect Native tribes’ gaming and related rights, protecting the significant sources of income and independence for America’s Native communities.

As Native Americans and Alaskan Natives enlist in disproportionate numbers to serve their country, I too am fighting to serve the people of Alaska and my country. If elected, I will become the first Alaskan Native and the first Native American woman to serve in Congress. I will ensure that I will carry this honor with pride and great responsibility on behalf of America’s Native people and all of Americans.

Berkowitz:
Ethan has long been a proponent of Native rights.

Veterans

Benson:
Iraq and Afghanistan operations are causing enormous increases in disabled and severely traumatized veterans. Are we ready to handle this obligation? VA is under funded and cannot handle existing need, educational benefits are cut, and extended families are denied support. We must honor our agreement and ensure that all our veterans are supported in every way possible and receive the benefits they have earned.

Services need to be funded while reducing overhead costs, and each veteran could be guaranteed the premium of health care through a single-payer system, and should be ensured continuing educational benefits, and their families provided resources. How can we turn our eyes, hearts or minds from those that have fully given of themselves for the entire country?

I will work hard to honor our troops and veterans by:

Providing them with adequate gear and equipment before we send them into harm's way. Many underpaid military families have felt compelled to buy expensive supplies and gear for their soldier to outfit them for combat. This desperation was followed by insult when they were barred from continuing.

Honoring a volunteer military by respecting, rather than involuntarily extending, their contracts. It is wrong and immoral to demand them to go to war and then add extensions when (and because) most Americans are unwilling to serve or sacrifice themselves. Furthermore, it is wrong to expect more of them if we are not willing to give more to them. We must provide more than temporary and insufficient pay raises.

We should expect, as a nation, to support those who have made the honorable and noble choice to protect and defend this great nation. Those who have volunteered to make this sacrifice and take on this burden deserve our full and unconditional support. There exists no excuse not to support our troops. Support comes from us being there for those who serve, providing the care, benefits and resources that are needed by our troops. Support comes from us by not turning a blind eye to the needs of those who have served, sacrificed and suffered in the name of this nation, by not denying those who have served the medical care, mental health care and community support that they need. Support comes from us by not sacrificing these brave soldiers, sailor and airmen in vain by sending them into harms way to continue a war based upon lies and deceit. There should be no excuse for supporting our troops by bringing them home.

Maintain and keep adequate National Guard for the home front.

Berkowitz:
Not Addressed.

Poverty


Benson:
We live in the most powerful and richest country in the world and yet many of our own citizens are without benefits, pensions or health care coverage. Many Alaskans work two jobs and still barely make ends meet each month. Our current administration and representatives decide to continue to give tax breaks to the richest of our communities, allow them means to reduce their obligations to America, and furthermore dare to do so by providing more “individual” rights to corporations than to the people themselves.

Congress has given itself pay increases and yet refuses to debate raising the Minimum Wage for the working class unless there are strings attached for the rich.

I believe the role of Congress is to provide opportunities for all Americans to fulfill the “American Dream” of prosperity and liberty. Therefore, I will:

Pledge to seek through legislation a freeze on Congressional salaries until we ensure all Americans earn a true living wage, and until our veterans and all Americans have adequate and accessible health care.

Acknowledge “Right to Work” laws for what they are, a means to inhibit organized bargaining and limit workers protections and rights. Clearly, I would support unions and responsible unionizing with the full intent of continual protection and advocacy for America’s workers. Reinforce job safety and adequate conditions for workers in all fields of employment.
Consider the realities and needs and means to support the small business owner while legislating on such issues as wage increases and trade.

Support merging labor and conservation; expanding project and development innovations, sustaining jobs, and producing savings at the same time.

Carefully consider any legislation regarding American corporation business practices and trade based on what is best for an ethical America.

Pursue programs and responsible solutions that would provide for the most fragile and needy, and that would prevent or treat homelessness, addiction, illiteracy, hunger or malnutrition.

Support and promote sound and sustainable resource development and other forms of responsible industry that build good jobs and a welcoming future.

Berkowitz:
Not addressed.

Women's Rights


Benson:
Women have been fighting for our rights for most of the history of the United States. Ninety years ago, I couldn’t run for this office, nor could a woman vote for the man who could run for it. We’ve fought and won many battles for other important issues too – better access to education, equal treatment in various legal situations, better workplace treatment, and for laws that help us raise our families if we’re single moms.

But much more needs to be done. Why can men write off their Viagra prescriptions on their medical insurance policies, but women cannot be reimbursed for birth control expenses? Why are men paid 15% more on the average, for doing the same work as women? Why do women who have suffered from spousal or sexual abuse have to continually deal with legal obstacles no male would have to endure? Why, in spite of the fact that abortions are safer, and more rare than at any time in the past 30 years, do some still seek to make them illegal in every case?

As Alaska’s first woman representative in the House, I would work to:

Pass equal work, equal pay legislation;

Monitor federal workplace safety and harassment regulations and make sure that women are protected in the workplace;

Defend the woman’s right to choose.

Berkowitz:
Ethan is a pro-choice Democrat who, while he served in the Alaska Legislature.

LGBT Issues

Benson:
Not addressed.

Berkowitz:
Voted against ban on same-sex marriage and voted for same-sex benefits.

Fisheries Issues


Benson:
(notes on the site about the Comfish Debate in Kodiak)
Diane was the only candidate to point out the loss of income to fishers and to Alaskan fisheries due to creative accounting and transfer pricing practices by foreign operations

Diane spoke of working with the state university system and private industries to offer training programs, educational assistance and incentives for new fisherman to enter the industry

Diane spoke up for the need to hold diplomatic discussions with foreign nations to address the problems of pollution in coastal regions of Alaska

Diane was the only candidate to bring up the topic of "invasive species" that are affecting the state's ecosystem as a sign of changes in the global climate

Diane was the only candidate to interject global economic and multi-jurisdictional issues and their impact on fisheries into the debate, which was much appreciated by the ComFish attendees

Diane was the only candidate to make the connection between the loss of jobs in the fishing industry and the Iraq War.

Berkowitz:
I started this campaign asking people to imagine Alaska the way it can be - independent, self-reliant, and with healthy, tight-knit communities. It’s a place where you stand on your own feet, on your own deck, and take care of your own family.

50 years ago, fish traps threatened our fisheries and we became a sovereign state to control our resources. You should be free to take the risks that fishing has always entailed and not worry that government is going to “rationalize” your boat out of the water or give our fish to Outside corporations.

During the time I spent as a deckhand in Bristol Bay, I learned to see each boat as a small family business and fishing as a way of life that can be passed from generation to generation. That’s why I’ll be where I’ve always been - on your side, standing up for your interests, because it’s the right place to be and the right thing to do.

Sustainable Fisheries

We need to:

Protect fish stocks and habitat.

Watch out for everything from climate change to unsafe mining developments to bycatch.

Fisheries management based on sound science, sustained yield and maximum benefit.

Free Market Competition

I believe that:

The market, not the government, should determine who fishes and where they sell their catch.

Leave allocation decisions to fisheries boards, not politicians.

Promote wild Alaskan seafood through the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Fishing Families and Coastal Communities

We need to ensure:

Affordable health care for Alaska’s fishing families.

Low-cost energy and local renewable energy sources.

Loans and training for future generations of fishermen.

11 comments:

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Thank you. Interesting stuff.

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E. Ross said...

Interesting. I wonder why she hasn't addressed this.

LGBT Issues
Benson: Not addressed.
Berkowitz: Voted against ban on same-sex marriage and voted for same-sex benefits.

Philip Munger said...

Benson had the only fundraiser I'm aware of for an Alaska candidate running for Federal office at Mad Myrna's...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but what does that say about her support for LGBT issues? I've been to Myrna's a hundred times, but I seriously doubt that qualifies me as an expert on LGBT issues. Or even a supporter, for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Has Berkowitz been asked to provided a statement on the issues he is listed as not addressing? Same question for Benson...

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