Name as it appears on the ballot: Michael Munger
Date of birth: 9 — 23 — 1958
Campaign website: http://www.munger08.com
Occupation & employer: Chair, Poli Sci, Duke Univ; Also Prof, Economics, and Public Policy
1) What do you see as the most important issues facing North Carolina? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
A. End capital punishment, commute sentences of those on death row to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
B. Improve education by increasing funds, and responsibility, of parents. Two specific programs: 1. Increase ceiling on charter schools. 2. Voucher program, with provisions for focus on existing local public schools.
C. Road construction: Right now, the highway trust fund is a giant cookie jar for powerful politicos. I would ensure focus on rural areas and deteriorating bridges throughout the state by appointing a “roads commission,” like a federal base-closing commission, that would make road construction and repair choices for a three year period. The legislature would only get to vote this recommendation up or down, without amendments. There is no other way to solve our problems of overbuilding in some areas and abject neglect of others.
2) What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you’ve identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.
I have worked as an economist, and policy analyst for 25 years. In particular, I have unusual experience in analyzing and improving the economy at the local level, including work on small business with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Further, as Director of the MPA Program at UNC-Chapel Hill, I worked with both state and local government officials on a wide variety of projects and problems. I would be ready, on day 1, to get to work with the General Assembly, and the people of our cities and towns, to create jobs and a new spirit of optimism and entrepreneurship.
3) How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
As a libertarian, I am committed to social issues as well as how people work and earn money. I am for the rights of gay North Carolinians to participate fully as citizens, and being able to join in marriage contracts just like straight citizens. I pledge to end capital punishment in our state. And I want to end corporate welfare, returning control to the citizens rather than wealthy and powerful corporate interests.
My experience, like any outsider candidate, is precisely what I have NOT done. I have not participated in our corrupt system of government for the last 20 years. I have not been bought and paid for by wealthy interests. I don’t owe favors to donors, and I won’t need to worry about anything except the needs of our citizens, our children, and our state.
4) The Independent’s 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.
Capital punishment is an outrage against decency. Even if you favor capital punishment, the fact that our state only executes the poor, or minorities, or people who had inadequate legal representation, should make you want to declare a moratorium. In the past two years, two men have been found entirely innocent. Not just “didn’t commit this murder,” or didn’t commit this rape.” They were innocent of all charges. If we had executed them, we would have been discrediting our whole system of jurisprudence.
But I would go further. It is true that our system is unfair, and discriminatory. But capital punishment is always wrong, even if you did it as fairly as possible. The state should not be able to murder a helpless, unarmed person who is entirely in its power. This is not self-defense, the way that one might justify a police killing of an armed robber. Capital punishment is simple murder. I would stop the killing.
5) Is there a stand you’ll take on principle if elected, even though it may cost you some popularity points with voters?
Immigration. I have written extensively, in the Durham Herald and elsewhere, that I want a high wall, and wide gate. Immigrants are human beings, and deserve better treatment than they are receiving.
We are making a mistake, rushing to deny the benefits of residence to thousands of young people who live in our state. Some have lived here for a decade or more, attending our school system and amassing an academic record that meant they earned a high school diploma. They will be working in jobs all over the state.
The children of immigrant will add, or detract, from the economic life of our state depending on whether they can acquire the skills needed to compete in the 21st century workplace. And new businesses will decide whether to locate in North Carolina, or someplace else, depending on whether we have a workforce with those same skills.
But North Carolina has decided that it will place exclusion first, and focus on arbitrary legal distinctions, rather than the welfare of its residents and the future of our economy. By barring the undocumented from getting an education, we are creating an apartheid system with fertile pickings for gang recruitment and exploitation by unscrupulous employers who thrive on ignorance. And we are telling prospective business recruits: go elsewhere. We prefer illiteracy.
6) If these issues haven’t been addressed above, would you please comment on:
Poverty: What steps, if any, do you advocate to lift up the poor in North Carolina?
Jobs are the best way to reduce poverty. And the best way to create jobs are to work on the three pillars of prosperity: (a) education, (b) transport and communication infrastructure, and (c) low taxes and reduce paperwork for small business, where most jobs are created.
Transportation needs in the state, including roads and transit in the Triangle?
Energy: Do you favor off-shore drilling in North Carolina’s coastal waters? Other steps the state could take to reduce gasoline & electricity costs?
Offshore drilling is a gimmick. It won’t help gas or oil prices in our state. It won’t create more than a few dozen new jobs. We need to focus on making sure that high prices translate into an increased focus on alternative energy.
School vouchers: Should the state provide vouchers to parents who choose private (K-12) schools for their children? If so, for what amount?
Answered above….$1,500 per student, financed by the lottery, and ending the annual raid on education funding by the G.A.
Overcrowded prisons: Should we be moving toward more alternative-sentencing programs instead of prison time?
We have more people in jail than the Soviet Union ever did, and more than China does now. We need to decriminalize drug possession, and treat more hard-core “offenders” with alternative sentencing. This would save money for taxpayers, and would save lives of people who otherwise would be lost to the illegal drug culture.
Health care: What should the state do next to address the problem of adults and children without adequate health care or insurance?
We need to make primary care available to all, much more cheaply. I would make it possible for nurses practioners, and physician’s assistants, to do at least 50% more of the work now done by expensive, over-scheduled MDs. Our health care system is simply failing to provide primary care, and so wasted millions on inferior care, waiting until surgery is needed or the person is gravely ill.
Foreclosures: What more should the state be doing to help consumers avoid foreclosure and hold onto their homes?
There is nothing the state can do. Fortunately, we were not hit as hard as other states. The federal government needs to stop underwriting the risks of powerful financial interests, and start serving the interests of people who may not understand the problems of payments, balloons, and “interest only” mortgages.
The mental health crisis: Everyone agrees it’s a mess. Now what?
I have to give Governor Easley credit. He appointed an old friend of mine, Dempsey Benton, a very accomplished and talented man. I would say give Mr. Benton another year, and see what he recommends. Yes, it’s a mess. But we can’t even tell what the problems are yet.
Taxes: Given the needs, are they too high? Too low? Too regressive? What direction should the state be taking on the revenue side?
Gas taxes, food taxes, and sales taxes are regressive. We need to give more of a break at the lower end of the income scale. And the lottery is a completely unfair tax, falling on those who can afford it least.
7. What is your position on capital punishment in North Carolina? If in favor, will you support a moratorium on executions while the question of whether the death penalty can be administered fairly is studied by the General Assembly?
8. What is your position regarding LGBT rights? Please address whether gay marriages or civil unions should be made legal in North Carolina; also, whether sexual orientation and identity should be added as a protected class under state anti-discrimination laws, including state personnel laws.
Answered above….in part. I would say that sexual orientation should be added as a protected class to STATE personnel laws. Private businesses should be able to hire whom they want.
9. Do you support women’s reproductive rights, including the “right to choose” as set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade?
Abortion is a complex issue. I think it is wrong to get an abortion. I also think that everyone has to decide this for themselves. Only a woman, and her doctor, or other people she chooses to consult, can make this decision. Government has no role in making reproductive decisions for women.
10. Should public employees have the right to bargain collectively in North Carolina?
They should have the right to unionize, and negotiate, like public sector unions in other states.