Candidate Q&A - Congress; Jo Ann Emerson
Sunday, November 3, 2002
1. What steps do you propose to spur the national economy and create jobs in Missouri?
Our economy in Missouri is very diverse. Our congressional district, which is the most rural in the state, faces challenges different from those in the metropolitan areas. An area heavily dependent on a strong agricultural economy, there is a true ripple effect on the economy of our local communities when our farmers are facing tough times. This is precisely the reason why we must continue to "grow" our local economies so we can attract new businesses to them. This requires a large investment in infrastructure -- from improved roads to better water and sewer systems to better access to broadband communication technologies. It also requires better access to affordable health care and better funding for our schools. These are the things new companies require to expand their operations. From a federal perspective, we must level the playing field for rural America in its search for the future. The Rural Caucus, which I co-chair in Congress, has been successful in raising awareness of these discrepancies and sending a fairer share of federal moneys to rural America. However, there is still a long way to go. From the state perspective, we must create an environment in the state through tax policies and less regulation to attract new businesses. Sadly, the battles some companies must do with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in order to locate in Missouri and invest in jobs often don't seem worth the trouble.
We have enacted into law several new tax policies to allow hard-working people to keep more of their tax dollars. From marriage penalty relief to death tax relief, it is our hope that this will put more money into the pockets of Americans. We must also take another look at the investment tax credit and make adjustments in the capital gains tax in order to make it more attractive for companies to grow their operations. An economy heavily dependent on trade, as ours is, also must have access to ALL markets and a level playing field on which to compete. Congress must work harder to enhance our opportunities.2. What measures would you endorse to avoid future corporate scandals?
Our free market economy, while strong and durable, only functions properly when profit doesn't give way to greed and when corporate responsibility means accountability to ALL stakeholders, not just a few. In light of the bad actors who have shaken confidence in both our nation's consumers and employees who work every day to keep America's economy moving forward, I voted for H.R. 5118, the Corporate Fraud Accountability Act of 2002. The legislation provides for up to 20 years of jail time for corporate crooks who defraud the public, including document shredding and obstruction of justice. This bill also enacts criminal penalties for retaliation against whistleblowers; and creates a new "securities fraud" crime punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to 25 years for those who seek to defraud.
Our common sense reforms didn't stop there. Legislative action taken in Congress also aims to end the "greed is good" culture by creating an independent accounting board that will support Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement investigations, by requiring companies to disclose ALL information to their employees and investors that could affect the companies financial well-being and that mandates funds be returned to investors who have lost money in the markets as a result of corporate wrong-doing.
"Corporate criminals" should not be able to "steal" an employee's pension while continuing to live lavish lifestyles. The commonsense reforms that Congress passed reflect a new focus on investors having both the information they need to make wise investment choices and a system of laws to better protect investors and the public.3. What is your position on possible war with Iraq?
With our recent vote, Congress has taken a significant step toward making Iraq honor its post-Persian Gulf War commitments to the United Nations on weapons of mass destruction. The resolution the House passed takes definitive and responsible steps including diplomatic means to defend the security of this nation. If Saddam Hussein has ever doubted this nation's commitment to protecting our people and our homeland, then this overwhelming majority vote should serve as a reminder that the U.S. is united in the effort to thwart terrorism and end Hussein's reign of terror.
It's important to remember, though, that the resolution passed by the Congress gives the president the ability to use force if necessary -- it does not declare war on Iraq. And it's also important to understand that diplomacy not backed up by the threat of force will not work.4. Describe your preferred plan for providing a prescription drug benefit to the elderly under Medicare?
Any new Medicare prescription drug benefit must have two components: drug pricing and coverage. Our Medicare system cannot afford a prescription drug benefit unless we first tackle the high cost of our medications. Pharmaceutical costs are overinflated, continue to rise an average of 18 to 20 percent every year, and it is time we stopped subsidizing the rest of the world at the expense of all Americans. No individual or federal program can sustain these increases. I've worked on two initiatives in Congress that would use free-market tools to lower the cost of pharmaceuticals.
Allowing individuals, pharmacists and wholesalers to import lower priced, U.S.-manufactured and FDA-approved pharmaceuticals from other industrialized countries will lower the cost of our drugs here in the U.S.. Additionally, Congress must eliminate the barriers used by brand-name drug manufacturers to block generic drug entry into the marketplace. These two initiatives would reduce prescription drug spending by billions of dollars. (The Congressional Budget Office has noted that the bill I introduced would save consumers $60 billion over 10 years.) Once we bring competition into the market place and lower drug prices, we can tackle the issue of coverage. And any legislation that offers a voluntary prescription drug benefit under Medicare also must provide equal services and benefits to all regions of the country -- whether urban or rural.5. Do you favor allowing American workers to invest a portion of their Social Security withholding in private investment accounts?
The discussion of social security has become too politicized over the years, and it's time Congress made a decision to tackle the future of this important system in a bipartisan, nonpolitical manner.
When Social Security was first created, it was to provide a safety net for all seniors in America, and to be supplemented by personal savings. Sadly, in too many cases, Social Security is now the sole retirement income for too many Americans. Nonetheless, the government made a commitment to seniors that the safety net would always be there and we must keep that promise. In keeping that promise, Congress must not use the excess Social Security Trust Fund moneys of today to pay for yet more programs. Statutorily, we can only use the excess funds to pay down our national debt or pay for more programs. It is irresponsible for us to do anything but continue paying down the debt so that our economy can grow. I have always been skeptical of investing our Social Security moneys in anything but government securities because of the volatility of the stock market. I also believe that we can create other types of opportunities for the American public to have personal savings accounts but at present do not believe we can afford to take money from the current system and create those accounts.6. What is your position on farm subsidies?
America has a cheap food policy. What does this mean? It means that Americans pay about 10 to 11 cents on the dollar for their food compared to 20 to 25 cents in Europe and much more elsewhere in the world. Our farmers, who produce the safest, most abundant food supply in the world must compete in the world marketplace with countries that subsidize their farmers six times more than we do in America. And the cost for our farmers to produce that food increases every year, with no net benefit to them. Fertilizer, fuel and transportation are fixed costs for our producers, increasing each year, and yet the prices they receive for their product have remained the same for the past 40 years. Unless we provide a safety net for our farmers and ranchers, as we did in the recently enacted farm bill, we will lose the American farmer and be forced to import much of the foodstuffs we consume. I don't believe the American public would stand for that nor would they stand for higher prices, and until our competitors agree to a completely free market system, the policies we have enacted are the most responsible to ensure that agriculture remains viable in America.7. In one paragraph, why should someone vote for you rather than your opponents?
For the last six years, I have worked every day to make a difference in the lives of those I represent.