on Social Security, the CIA and Drugs, Affirmative Action & Health Care.
1. Currently the highest wage subject to Social Security Tax is about $68,400. Where do you stand on a proposal to aid the Social Security System by removing the cap on earnings to be taxed?
Barry Ford: There is no question that the current Social Security system is at risk and that Congress must focus now on solving the structural problems in Social Security so that all Americans can enjoy the retirement to which they have contributed. In my view, having a social security system that taxes everyone at the same rate is regressive and unfair. I think it is time that Congress cut the rate for all income levels and removed the cap on income. This would give lower income families a tax cut and still preserves the safety of the system. I will support initiatives to remove the cap on Social Security earnings for taxation, or to raise the cap, to ensure that higher income individuals do their part to fund a social security system that is at risk. As the next representative of the 10th Congressional District, I will do more than focus on social security taxation, I will focus on income tax policy and fight for new initiatives to give working poor families the kind of tax breaks enjoyed by the wealthy. I will fight to give working families a refundable tax credit that can be invested in a long term savings account to help working families save for home ownership, businesses or education.
Ken Diamondstone: The position I have taken from the outset of my campaign is that the highest wage subject to Social Security tax should be the highest wage earned. I don’t think we should be tinkering around the edges to create a solvent, viable social security system. Nor do I believe that all individuals should receive Social Security. Some means test should be required so the rich do not receive this benefit. This would result in an overall lower rate and begin to address what I believe to be a dangerous and growing gap between the very rich and the ordinary citizen and even more so between the very rich and the poor.
2. Congresswoman Maxine Waters has called for an independent investigation of the relationship between the CIA and drugs in the black community. Do you support her call, and if so, what actions would you take as a member of Congress to aid the investigation?
Ken Diamondstone: I would support such an investigation because of a clear connection between the CIA and the Nicaraguan contras. I would support legislation to fund and seek action within the House Government Oversite Committee as well as seek a Justice Department inquiry of any information gathered. I would also seek to declassify our government files regarding any participation by the CIA or any other agency into the “disappearance” of so many dissidents within Guatemala during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Barry Ford: Yes. I will join Congresswoman Maxine Waters in pressuring members of Congress to open up an independent investigation of the CIA’s role in the drug market in the African-American community. If our government has been a part of creating the scourge of drugs in our cities we should be embarrassed and enraged. If there is evidence of their involvement in drug trafficking I would move to prosecute those responsible.
3. What is your position on Affirmative Action and set-aside programs?
Barry Ford: I believe that Federal Affirmative Action legislation continues to open doors and battle the evils of discrimination, so that millions of women and people of color enjoy opportunities for education, fair wages, and a chance to own a piece of the American Dream. I believe that Affirmative Action legislation needs to be properly enforced in ways that take into account local conditions. The fight for Affirmative Action in Congress that I will wage is to “mend it not end it,” and I will be an active voice calling for the preservation of laws that protect groups that have historically been shut out and unable to compete. Quotas are wrong and illegal, but I believe that whenever the federal government or any public sector employer spends money on contracting, we should be very careful and committed to set appropriate goals and timetables so that qualified applicants from every sector of our society are represented in that contract. Brooklyn alone has hundreds of small businesses owned by women and people of color that should be encouraged to compete for subcontracting opportunities that government construction contracts provide.
Ken Diamondstone: My position on Affirmative Action is that I would hope to see the day when this is no longer needed, but that for now and the foreseeable future, these programs should remain.
4. What ideas do you have to make quality health care available to persons not covered by a private insurer?
Ken Diamondstone: In the candidates forum at Saint Francis College, I spoke of the 40 million families who have absolutely no health insurance. At that time I pointed out that fully one-third of those families were eligible for Medicaid and that in NYC between 1995 and 1998, the Medicaid rolls had declined by 26%! I would enact legislation requiring local governments who are not only reluctant to encourage participation but who like NYC, actively discourage clients through the imposition of bureaucratic red tape, to adhere to strict enforcement criteria and enroll all eligible families. I would fund the creation of more not-for-profit HMO’s like Brooklyn’s Elderplan, without the enormous cost burden of huge executive salaries and bonuses.
I would create a national program of school-based health for the young people without any coverage, similar to those supported by Senator Velmanette Montgomery within NY State. It is the children, with every imaginable disease from asthma to anemia who are not covered and in such need. I would enact an HMO Bill of Rights and institute the right to sue HMO’s for damages caused by refusing appropriate medical treatment. And I would implement a new program to provide basic health care to those who, despite all available programs, were still not covered.
Barry Ford: I believe that the market alone cannot solve the problem of medical insurance coverage. I believe that the government needs to curb the tendency of the market to only insure the young and the healthy. In Congress, I will work to make the dream of single payer insurance a reality by taking gradual steps. If the Republicans continue to control the Congress and are firmly opposed to movements toward national health care insurance, I would fight to win the hearts of America by calling for insurance for all of America’s children. Enlightened leadership brought federal medical insurance for our elderly, now we must help our children start life healthy. On the local level, I support maintaining access and staffing at municipal hospitals.