Name as it appears on the ballot: Augustus Cho
Date of birth: August 10, 1058
Campaign website: www.choforcongress.com
Occupation & employer: retired minister, author
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing your U.S. House district, the state of North Carolina and the nation? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
The most important issues facing our district and nation are national security, the problems that resulted from the huge influx of illegal immigrants, and the strain on our economy that results from too much taxation and regulation.
My priorities are:
Win the the war against Islamic fundamentalism. We all want our troops home safe, but they do not want to come home until the job is complete and our national security and stature in the world of nations will suffer if we quit before the mission is accomplished.
Enforce the immigration laws that are on the books and use local law enforcement to assist federal immigration officials in implementing our current laws. We also need to evaluate immigration levels and reform our current system to bring in more skilled foreigners who can contribute to the continued growth and prosperity of America.
As a nation, we must not use tax policy to punish achievement. Instead, tax rates should remain steady or be lowered, because lower tax rates lead to economic growth and well-being.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective in the House of Representatives? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
As a member of several boards and commissions in Chapel Hill, I work with people who have different views, yet by listening and working for a common goal, we are able to reach agreement on the most important issues. In Congress, I will work with both sides of the aisle to accomplish worthy goals, while keeping faith with my core principles.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I define myself as a conservative realist. I believe in the principles set forth by our founding fathers. I do not believe a government program is the answer to every problem. I do believe that the number one responsibility of our federal government is national security, because without that, all other issues cannot be handled.
4. The Independents mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle and North Carolina. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.
Unlike many other places in the world, we are a nation of laws. All citizens have equal protection under the law, and in any ways where we fall short of that, the goal of all in our community and nation is to meet that goal.
5. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
Based on the political makeup of this district, my stand on the war in Iraq might be unpopular, but I believe we cannot leave Iraq before it is stable. It is always crucial in military operations to constantly evaluate the effectiveness of the effort and as a Congressman I will insist that we do that, but I will not agree to an arbitrary pullout before our goal is reached.
6. The U.S. has been fighting the war in Iraq for five years. Was the decision to invade a mistake? What should our policy in Iraq be today? Should we base substantial military forces there for the foreseeable future? Start to withdraw now, or if not now, according to a plan (i.e., on a timetable)? Which, if any, of the congressional resolutions introduced so far on Iraq do you support?
Despite the mistakes made and the challenges endured in the aftermath, the initial decision to invade Iraq was not a mistake. Given that sanctions against Saddam Husseins government were breaking down and that Hussein had made painfully clear that he was not going to comply with UN resolutions and prove to the world that he had effectively eliminated his weapons programs, the United States was left with no other option than to act. After all, regime change had been the policy of the United States for five years, and by 2003, the status quo of a Saddam Hussein in power, blackmailing, stonewalling the world and flaunting UN resolutions had become too dangerous to accept. The fact that we did not find WMDs in Iraq is ancillary to our evaluation of the decision to invade. At the time of invasion, the proposition that Iraq had weapons and operational weapon programs was generally accepted among Western intelligence agencies. Further, Saddam Hussein had the burden of proving to the world that he no longer had these programs, and he continuously refused to do so.
The subsequent aftermath of the invasion has been ugly and the Bush administration has made mistakes, but Americans must not let mistakes distract them from what is at stake here- Islamic fundamentalists are intent on sowing discord and chaos in Iraq so they can take control of the country. Our troops are not policing a civil war, as opponents claim, but are trying to fight off Islamic fundamentalists aligned with insurgents long enough to enable the elected Iraqi government to grow strong enough to control the country. That is our goal there and our policy today is to achieve said goal. I will do everything in my power to ensure that we give our military the chance to achieve success because the alternative would be disastrous. If elected, I would accept that I am part of a lawmaking body which has no Constitutional role in governing military strategy. I would fight attempts by Congress to unconstitutionally impose their own judgment of what troop levels should be and when they should be reduced and instead defer to the judgment of the true authorities on such matters, our commanders on the ground, even if I happen to disagree with their judgment. War is too important to let political ideology interfere. I would also hope that the U.S. would not need substantial military forces in Iraq for the foreseeable future, but if our commanders thought it to be absolutely necessary for our success I would be inclined to support such a strategy.
7. Evaluate the war in Afghanistan. What troop levels and funding should be allocated to fight that war? What is our goal there, in your view? What should our policy be? What legislation should be introduced to address those issues?
Our goal in Afghanistan is to see to it that a stable government can effectively emerge. As with Iraq, I would listen to the generals, and based on their recommendations, vote to fund the troops. Our fighting men and women do not like war either, but they realize when it is necessary and are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and honor of our country.
8. What other major foreign policy issues do you see as needing Congress attention? Rate the importance of those issues and explain what you would do in Congress to address them.
Though the President, in our Constitutional system, is the primary conduit through which foreign affairs are conducted, Congress can make its voice heard in many ways. If elected, I would work to make sure Congress is using all tools available to it to stop the atrocities in Darfur. Congress must also be on alert about the threats from China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela. Each present their own unique challenge- Chinas economic and military rise, Russias use of natural resources as a weapon to bully neighbors, North Koreas blackmailing, Irans desire to acquire dangerous weapons and Venezuelas attempt at fomenting socialist revolutions on our doorstep- and each requires close attention. I would also want to see Congress take greater notice of the courageous Tibetans rising up against an occupying power which has all but exterminated their culture and heritage. Id also want to see Congress ensure that America continues to lead the world in facilitating international development. The Bush administration has implemented one of the most creative and forward-thinking approaches to international development in Africa of any administration in history and Congress should build on those positive steps.
9. There has been an increase in unemployment, a rise in home foreclosures, a spike in food and fuel prices, a huge federal deficit, and other troubling economic indicators. What do you see as the primary sources of our current economic problems? What measures should Congress use to resolve address them? How would you begin to reduce the federal deficit? What are some of the possible negative consequences of your proposed solutions?
The difficulties we are experiencing today can be traced back to monetary policy mistakes. Over the past 4 years, the Fed kept rates far too low, which allowed inflation to creep higher and led to excesses in the housing market, as banks and mortgage firms loosened their standards to meet the higher loan demand. The economy is going through a difficult period as a result, and the best thing policymakers can do is resist the urge to overreact by tinkering and making things worse. Such actions are what led to the Great Depression and the recessions of the 1970s. Food and fuel price spikes are being caused by higher worldwide demand for commodities, poor energy policy here at home (including ethanol mandates which drive up demand and drive down supply of corn) and OPECs monopoly on oil. Meanwhile the federal deficit, while needing to be addressed, has been steadily going down each of the past two years as Washington has raked in record tax revenue. If Congress is truly committed to cutting the deficit, however, they must learn to live within their means and that means taking a good hard look at the vast array of ineffective or under-performing programs draining money out of the federal budget. We also make sure taxes stay as low as possible, if not lower. This means, especially, lowering corporate taxes to make our business environment more competitive and reforming Social Security, which will encourage more savings and investment as well bring down the heavy-handed, regressive payroll tax which Americans see taken out of each paycheck. Members of Congress must also put their focus on measures that allow Americans to build wealth, as opposed to simply transferring income.
10. What should be done about the growing numbers of Americans without health insurance? What system would most fairly insure all Americanswhile keeping in mind the cost?
The most important thing lawmakers can do to improve U.S. health care is to keep in mind that the quality of our health care system is, in many ways, quite strong. For instance, over 80 percent of all health care innovation in the world (new products, techniques, diagnostics) comes from the United States, while cancer cure rates in the U.S. are up to 100 percent better than any government-run system anywhere. The key for lawmakers, therefore, is to reform the system in such a way that the high-quality care and innovation remain, but allows better access for all Americans (the biggest single defect of our system). Greater government control or single-payer systems are not sufficient to achieve this two-pronged goal. The answer, instead, lies in reforming our fragmented insurance market to make insurance more affordable. We need to allow Americans to buy insurance across state lines to stimulate greater competition, eliminate unnecessary insurance mandates which force insurance companies to raise premiums, reforming the tax code to help Americans who wish to buy insurance on their own and expanding high-deductible health-savings accounts to get healthier Americans paying into the insurance pool instead of sitting on the sidelines. As to cost, 75 percent of all health care expenditures go towards preventable chronic diseases like diabetes, stroke and heart disease, so Congress must take a good look at our abysmal prevention programs. There is much more, of course, but measures such as these are an important start.
11. Where do you stand on:
a. The death penalty?
I am in favor of the death penalty being an option for punishment of certain heinous crimes. Our court system does a very good job in seeing to it that those sentenced to execution are given rigorous due-process rights and procedural review. As such, juries should have the option of imposing execution as a punishment.
b. Abortion rights?
I believe that the legality of abortion should be left to the peoples elected representatives in each state, and hope to see Roe v. Wade overturned to allow for that. Personally, I am pro-life and feel that abortion is wrong because it takes an innocent life.
c. Affirmative action?
I am against affirmative action. Each and every person in this country should be judged squarely on their merits and character, not the color of their skin or ethnicity.
d. Gay rights?
I support gay rights so far as that term means the right to be treated equally as a human being and not singled out for discrimination or harassment. However, I do not think the term gay rights extends into the sphere of changing the definition of marriage. How society defines the institution of marriage involves a number of complex factors and cannot be seen simply as a right for a particular group of people. I also question the necessity of hate-crime laws which, while well intentioned, are nothing more than Orwellian criminalizing of thought.
e. Retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that engaged in domestic surveillance without a warrant?
Telecom companies who helped the government search for terrorists must be given retroactive protection from lawsuits. Otherwise, the costs of providing further assistance with this important program would be simply too great to make further cooperation possible.
12. With the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, civil libertiesincluding habeas corpus and privacy rightshave been sharply curbed over the past seven years. Do you think these actions are justified? If so, please be specific in how theyve been effective. If not, please explain how you would work in Congress to restore civil liberties, and what, if any, restrictions on them you would propose.
The Patriot Act is not the draconian imposition on civil liberties opponents make it out to be. It simply reformed federal law to give federal law enforcement agents many of the same powers many state law enforcement agents already have. In addition, it allowed for better communication between law enforcement and intelligence, the two most vital resources in breaking up further plots. The Patriot Act has been acknowledged by members of the 9/11 Commission to be a valuable tool in protecting America against our new threats. The United States has not experienced a single attack in over 6 years and over a dozen plots have been foiled, in large measure because our law enforcement officers now have greater information upon which they can act. Meanwhile, there have been few reports of abuse.
Habeas corpus rights were not infringed by The Patriot Act. They have been scaled back as applied to foreign fighters held in Guantanamo as a way to limit enemy access to our court system. American citizens enjoy the same habeas corpus rights theyve always had.