Brad Miller | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Brad Miller 

U.S. House

Name as it appears on the ballot: Brad Miller

Full legal name, if different: Ralph Bradley Miller

Date of birth:5/19/53

Home address: Raleigh, North Carolina

Mailing address, if different from home: P.O. Box 10322, Raleigh, NC 27605

Campaign website: www.bradmiller.org

Occupation & employer:Member U.S. House of Representatives

Home phone:

Work phone:202-225-3032

Cell phone:202-225-6089

Email:brad@bradmiller.org


1.What do you see as the most important issues facing North Carolina and the nation? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

Even before the recession, working families were being squeezed by the rising cost of living, by healthcare costs and by home foreclosures. We are suffering from the loss of manufacturing jobs which once meant decent wages and benefits for workers. Our nation faces a painful economic transition which requires our government to be a good partner with America's workers, researchers, and small businesses.

The economic growth we have seen hasn't reached the paychecks of the vast majority of American workers. Wages have barely budged while the cost of everything else is skyrocketing. Our nation can prosper in a ruthless world economy and the prosperity can reach every American worker, not just the top executives.

My first priority in Congress is protecting homeowners and their ticket into the middle class. The subprime mortgage crisis could force 2.2 million American families to lose their home to foreclosure in the next two years. Every foreclosure means a family is falling out of the middle class into poverty. I led the fight in the U.S. House for national legislation to crack down on predatory lending practices in the mortgage industry. In addition, I helped write the legislation for the Consumer Financial Protection Agency in the House that would help protect people from some of the parasitic practices that almost caused a second Great Depression.

Our future depends on having the most skilled workforce in the world, and that requires a commitment both to formal education and to on-the-job training. As Co-Chair of the Community College Caucus, I will continue to look for ways to re-train our workforce after so many factory closings in North Carolina. I will also continue to support and fight for job creation and economic growth while supporting American workers and manufacturers.

It's been too long since Congress took an active role in good government and accountability.In my role as Chairman of the Investigations and OversightSubcommittee on the House Science Committee, I will continue to fight misdeeds in federal agencies and abuse of taxpayer money.

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective in the U.S. House? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.

I have proven my ability to compromise and to stand my ground, and I know when each is called for.

As a member of the state legislature, I wrote North Carolina's safe gun storage law, which dramatically curbed juvenile gun deaths. I also introduced legislation to expand North Carolina's domestic violence laws; to reduce air pollution from cars and trucks; to limit the influence of political patronage in state government hiring; and to protect consumers from dishonest automobile mechanics.

As a Member of the U.S. House, I have led the effort to reform the financial industry, end abusive consumer practices, and address the foreclosure crisis that is pushing families out of the middle class and into poverty and is a millstone around the neck of any economic recover.

3. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

"Political philosophy" is more descriptive for me than prescriptive. I don't slavishly vote or otherwise act based on a fixed political philosophy. I prefer "market based" solutions, but I recognize that there are vast areas of the economy where the market does not function properly because of dramatic inequities in power and information. I want a society in which there is a reasonable set of rules to protect against abuses of economic power. I think our society should be judged by how the great majority of Americans are faring, not just a handful of economic elites.

The National Journal's most recent rankings listed me as the 143rd most liberal member of the House. I have been ranked in the high double digits in other years. I think that puts me in the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

The positions for which I am most known in Congress—consumer protection, financial reform, foreclosure relief, separation of powers—my views are generally described as "liberal." My economic views might better be described as "populist."

4. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

My support of Healthcare Reform; my support of the N.C. gun lock bill prompted the wrath of the NRA; my vote to my support in 1997 against limiting North Carolina's domestic violence law to couples of the opposite sex; my support for modification of mortgages in bankruptcy, a strong Consumer Financial Protection Agency and other financial reforms over the fierce opposition of the nation's most powerful industry.

5. If these issues haven't been addressed above, would you please comment on:

a. What has our nation learned from invading Iraq? How will that inform your decisions if elected? What should our policy in Iraq be today? Should we base substantial military forces there for the foreseeable future?

I disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq at the time. When the Bush Administration and their supporters in Congress gloated over the initial success of our military, I cautioned that establishing a government that Iraqis would accept as legitimate, not an American puppet, would be much more difficult than defeating the Iraqi military. I said then that I hoped my concerns proved unfounded. That hope was disappointed.

We should be very, very reluctant to send our military into a society that we do not understand. We should not assume that every society wants to be just like us if only given the chance. Every use of military force should have a clear objective, preferably a realistic one. Congress should show reasonable deference to the President as commander in chief, but there should be no blank checks.

b. Evaluate the war in Afghanistan and the situation in Iran. What is our goal in those places, in your view? What should our policies be? What legislation should be introduced to address those issues?

The President understands that we need a new strategy in Afghanistan, and just sending more troops is not a new strategy. We need to spell out clearly the duties of our military and civilian personnel. We need to set benchmarks for the Karzai government, including rooting out corruption, winning the support of the Afghan people and building up the army and police to maintain security on their own. We trained and equipped the Iraqi army, and some of the Iraqis we trained and equipped ended up fighting on every side in their civil war. We'll make that mistake again in Afghanistan if the Afghan government isn't strong enough.

The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is a serious and strategic challenge to the United States and it poses a major threat to regional stability. I cosponsored legislation, H.R. 2194, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2009 that would target Iran's considerable dependency on refined-petroleum imports. It would sanction foreign companies that sell refined petroleum to Iran, or help Iran with its own domestic refining capacity, by depriving those companies of access to the US market. This legislation has passed both the House and the Senate and differences between the two bills are being worked out in conference. The United States must employ all available diplomatic means to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability.

c. Universal health care: Why don't we have it? What have you learned from the current health care debate? What specific reforms do you support, and what will you do to get them passed? What has this process told us not only about health care but about the way that politics work?

We should have universal health care, and it is a great failing of our society and our political system that we do not.

We spend twice as much on health care as other prosperous nations, and Americans don't live as long and aren't as healthy. Currently 47 million Americans are uninsured and most Americans are at risk of losing their insurance if they get sick, lose their job, or get sick and lose their job. Health insurance reform is essential to ensuring coverage and controlling health care costs, now and in the future.

Congress has been debating health care for more than a year. I have traveled throughout the Triangle and Triad, received and read thousands of letter and emails, talked and listened to people with many different views on healthcare reform before deciding to vote "yes" on the final health care bill.

The cornerstone of the health care bill is reforming the health insurance industry. This reform will require regulation of health insurance that is no stricter than what most states require of car insurance. Regulation should include requiring insurance companies to cover anyone who applies, regardless of their medical history. It should prohibit companies from charging more if someone has a preexisting condition and ensure that basic benefits are included in every insurance policy so you don't find that you aren't covered once you get sick. The bill will also expand Medicaid to the lowest income people as well as help low wage workers buy basic health insurance. The goal of the bill is to ensure affordable insurance coverage to all Americans.

The fight over health care has shown frightening divisions in our society. Corporate interests largely funded the protests out of cynical self-interest, but the protests were largely over other changes in our society. We cannot reverse the changes in our society to which those protestors object, and we should not want to.

d. 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? Is this an issue of not enough revenue or of overspending? What are some of the possible negative consequences of your proposed solutions?

I agree that our growing national debt is an issue of serious concern. We've come a long way since the beginning of the decade, when Alan Greenspan worried that we might pay off the national debt too quickly.

Roughly half of our current deficit is "structural," and results from decisions of the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress about taxing and spending. I am proud of my votes against the Bush tax cuts and the Medicare prescription drug play, which was a patent giveaway to the drug and insurance industries. My skepticism about the invasion of Iraq, although not based at the time on budgetary concerns, also appears correct in retrospect.

The other half of our deficit is largely the result of the recession: a decline in tax revenues; increased expenditures for unemployment benefits, Medicaid and the like; the extraordinary efforts to avoid economic collapse and escape from the "liquidity trap" of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Under such circumstances, the new spending in this year's budget is necessary and appropriate. In the longer term, there is no question that the current deficit is unsustainable.

The health insurance reform legislation significantly reduces future deficits, and we need to make other hard decisions to get deficits under control.

As Chair of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee for the House Science and Technology Committee, I have exposed several instances of foolish spending by the federal government, and some spending that bordered on fraudulent. We should be vigilant to assure that federal funds are spent wisely. But it is demagoguery to claim that the budget can be balanced by rooting out "waste and fraud."

e. The stimulus legislation and the bailout: What worked and what didn't? What would have done differently in hindsight? How will that inform your opinion in the future? Under what circumstances would you advocate for such legislation?

I share in the outrage over the rescue of the financial industry.

I voted to support Stabilization and Recovery packages to help avoid a collapse of our economy, caused by the reckless policies of the previous administration. It was necessary to bring stability to the financial system and it was a compromise I was willing to make to help protect working and middle-class families from the crisis on Wall Street. I will continue to support efforts to get our credit markets working again and to revive the economy, but we must make sure that taxpayers get every dime back and that we never again have to choose between rescuing the financial industry and allowing the economy to collapse.

I was critical at the time and I remain critical of the secrecy that surrounded many of the decisions in implementing the financial rescue. The secrecy undermined the faith of the public in the effort, and led to a belief that the rescue was really to help specific banks and bankers, not the economy as a whole. And I am worried that there is some truth to that belief. I also thought at the time that several of the largest institutions were insolvent a year ago, and should have been taken into receivership. The failure of the largest banks to lend normally is consistent with "zombie" banks. If we had taken those institutions into receivership and recapitalized them, I think we would be further along in our recovery.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act should help create or save 105,000 jobs in North Carolina, 9,000 of which will be in North Carolina's 13th District. The new or saved jobs in the near term are in projects to improve our transportation system, infrastructure, and waterways. Other investments in health care, research, green energy, and other areas will continue to strengthen the economy in the long run.

The bill also follows through with a promise for tax cuts to help working class families, with 95% of American tax filers getting tax relief. More than 3.2 million N.C. families will see their taxes cut through the "making work pay" tax credit and nearly 480,000 North Carolina parents will benefit from new child tax credit provisions. The bill also keeps 630,000 North Carolina families from seeing their tax bills go up, by putting a patch on the Alternative Minimum Tax.

The majority of spending in the bill that does not immediately create jobs, will either help to cushion the blow of the troubled economy for individuals, or help out local and state governments, preventing further job losses.

Provisions designed to help individuals include: extension of health insurance for those who lose their job, extended unemployment benefits, and increased assistance with child care so people who find a job, can afford quality care for their children. Provisions that will help state and local governments in the face of decreasing revenues include: $55 million for NC local law enforcement, $2.35 billion to help cover Medicaid costs, $75 million for job training programs and $1.8 billion for the education of North Carolina students. The legislation will help state and local governments keep teachers, police officers, health professionals, and child care workers on the job.

f. Education: What should classrooms of the future look like? What will you do about the dropout rate, the achievement gap and the lack of students excelling in math and science? What can be done to attract and retain better teachers in American schools?

I support a dedicated federal funding stream to assist states and school districts by hiring additional highly qualified teachers to reduce class sizes to ensure that all students receive the individualized attention they need and to help teachers in maintaining an orderly classroom environment.

We need to provide incentives to help recruit and retain teachers in subjects with shortages (e.g. math, science foreign languages, special education) and we need to provide incentives to school districts to help recruit and retain teachers in hard to staff schools (e.g. rural, high poverty).

Other priorities: Meeting funding commitment for education and special education; assuring students have the skills they need to be prepared for the jobs of the 21st century (reading skills and STEM education); assuring that education engages all students with all learning styles – particularly at the middle school/high school levels; encouraging collaborations between high schools and college (including community college) programs.

7. What is your position on capital punishment?

I support the death penalty in cases of the most extreme circumstances, such as Timothy McVeigh's murder of hundreds of innocent people, many of them children.

There are inequities in the criminal justice system in general, and in death penalty litigation in particular. As a member of the North Carolina Senate, I supported a moratorium on the imposition of the death sentence to address those inequities. I also supported a prohibition on the death penalty for the mentally disabled.

8. What is your position regarding LGBT rights and Don't Ask Don't Tell?

I cosponsored the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. I believe that discrimination based on sexual orientation is unacceptable. The photographs of heterosexual conduct by our military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison shows that it was sexual conduct we should worry about, not sexual orientation. Though the current "don't ask, don't tell" policy may have been an attempt to reduce discrimination and prejudice in the Armed Services at the time, the policy limits opportunities for talented men and women who desire to serve their country. More than one hundred retired generals and admirals, including former Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander, have sent a letter to Congress urging the repeal of this outdated law. I believe the policy jeopardizes both human rights and military preparedness.

Furthermore, employees should be judged on their qualifications and job performance, not their sexual orientation or gender identity. I voted for HR 3685, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which passed the House of Representatives on November 7, 2007, by a vote of 235-184. This bill would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation by employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees.

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?

The decision to carry a pregnancy to term is an intensely personal decision and I believe that women can make such decisions for themselves. I share the belief expressed by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade that a fetus is at least a potential life, and that concern for the fetus as a potential life increases as the pregnancy progresses. Opponents of abortion rights undoubtedly will try to pass legislation to undermine the rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. I will work to stop that legislation and will continue to support efforts to protect a woman's right to choose.

I strongly believe that it is also the right of all women to have access to comprehensive reproductive and family planning education, including contraceptive and related reproductive health care services. Such programs can only serve to improve the quality of life for women and families by empowering them to make informed choices. I am committed to protecting the ability of women to educate themselves and make their own decisions regarding reproductive health.

10. What changes, if any, do you support in federal entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans programs, etc.)

Social Security and Medicare are critically important to our nation's seniors, and I am committed to defending these programs. Before these programs were created, most American workers lived their last years in desperate poverty. But with the establishment of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare 30 years later, we have been able to improve greatly the health and living conditions of America's seniors.

These programs represent a commitment made by each generation to the one that preceded it that their last years would be a time of dignity and security, not of abject poverty. I will work to protect the funds that provide that guarantee and oppose proposals to "privatize" these programs. I fundamentally believe that Americans who have worked hard all their lives deserve the benefits that were promised to them. I will do all that I can to keep that promise and keep Social Security and Medicare a rock solid guarantee for today's retirees and for future generations as well.

The health insurance reform legislation does much to shore up Medicare.

In general, I do not believe that Medicare and Social Security should be sacrificed to protect the tax cuts for the richest Americans. Returning the highest brackets to the rates that existed before the Bush tax cuts, and certainly before the Reagan tax cuts, would more than pay for any shortfall in Medicare and Social Security, the most important and successful social insurance programs for the middle class in American history.

11. What should Congress do to prevent banking disasters like the one that nearly plunged this country into a second Depression two years ago?

The current financial crisis has revealed serious weaknesses in our system for oversight of financial institutions.

In order to keep a crisis like this from happening again, and in order to give consumers and investors more certainty, the House Financial Services Committee, on which I serve, has spent more than six months working on The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which has passed the House.

For years the privileged elite in government and big business ignored growing risks in the financial markets. Wall Street investment houses and big banks exploited legal loopholes to take advantage of American families and small businesses. They argued that any regulation of Wall Street would stifle innovation and limit credit. Their failure to regulate financial markets and police wrongdoing allowed Wall Street and the big banks to gamble with our money, creating a "casino economy." When their bets won, they made vulgar profits. And when their bets lost, investors and taxpayers took the hit. That is the kind of "innovation" I have fought since I was first elected to Congress. Their practices threatened our future, our savings, and the American Dream of homeownership. The result for them was instant profits, but for most of us the result was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression:

$14 trillion loss in net worth since 2007 for American households

22% decline in retirement assets for Americans

So far this year, 2 million homes in foreclosure because of subprime and predatory loans

$33 billion in executive bonuses at the nation's nine largest banks last year – and there will be even more next year.

THE FIX: WHAT FINANCIAL REGULATORY REFORM MEANS FOR YOU

The House passed The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act on December 11, 2009. The bill will start to restore responsibility and accountability to the financial industry through tough rules and strong regulation of risky practices:

Ensures that the credit cards you use and the mortgage you sign are fair, transparent and understandable by creating a new watchdog for consumers, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA). The CFPA will be a cop on the Wall Street beat to protect consumers. Consumers should not have to worry that legalese in the fine print contains hidden fees and traps to cheat them out of their financial security.

Keeps Wall Street from gambling with your retirement savings by protecting 401(k)s and pensions.

Ensures taxpayers will never again have to bail out Wall Street banks by putting an end to "too big to fail" firms and preventing risky behavior from threatening to bring down the entire economy.

Reins in predatory and abusive lending practices so that lenders can't put you or your neighbor into an unaffordable or confusing loan.

Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) and I were the first Members of the House to propose the CFPA, the new, independent financial watchdog agency devoted solely to protecting the public from unfair and abusive consumer financial practices. We joined Senators Richard Durbin (IL) and Chuck Schumer (NY) in sponsoring the landmark legislation. After introducing the bill, I worked closely with the Obama Administration to include the watchdog agency in the President's financial reform proposal. This fall, I worked to steer the bill through the Financial Services Committee and the House.

Several of the toughest provisions of the bill concerning systemic risk were amendments that I introduced in committee: a requirement for a detailed resolution plan, or "living will," for systemically significant firms that I developed in consultation with the Sheila Bair and the FDIC; a limit on propriety trading by systemically significant firms, since called the "Volcker Rule"; a limit on the preference of "secured debt" in the resolution of systemically significant firms, also developed in consultation with Sheila Bair and the FDIC; and a requirement that any potential liabilities be shown on the books of financial firms.

In past financial crises, including the S&L crisis in the eighties, government intervention did not protect management or investors, and never again should management or investors come through a financial crisis so lightly scathed. In the future, any government intervention should result in management losing their jobs, shareholders losing everything, secured creditors lose everything, and even "secured' creditors take a "haircut" before taxpayers pay anything.

Reps Mel Watt (D-NC) and I wrote and championed the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending legislation bill that passed the House earlier this year and is incorporated in the Wall Street Reform bill. We first introduced the bill almost six years ago, and have fought for it ever since. The legislation outlaws many of the outrageous practices that marked the subprime lending boom, and it would require that mortgage lenders only offer loans that benefit the consumer. It would establish a simple standard for all home loans: lenders must ensure that borrowers have the ability to pay their mortgage.

Today, about 14 million homeowners are "underwater" in their mortgages, meaning they owe more on their loan than their home is worth.

Lenders can foreclose on unpaid mortgages even if the borrower has sold the home, so underwater borrowers are stuck: they cannot refinance or sell their home, even to take a new job in another town.

Vacant foreclosed homes are stigmatizing neighborhoods and pushing down home values, and priced-to-sell foreclosed homes are flooding real estate markets around the country. The retreat in home prices has become a rout, and foreclosures have become an epidemic. Families that lose their homes to foreclosure lose their membership in the middle class, probably forever, and almost all middle-class homeowners are seeing their life's savings evaporate with the collapse of their home's value. Many of these families were victims of irresponsible and unscrupulous lending practices.

I sponsored a comprehensive mortgage lending reform bill in the House in 2004 that would have banned many of the very practices that got us into this mess. Though a newer version of my bill was passed by the House in 2007, by this late date much of the damage had been done. My number one priority in Congress has been passing national legislation to crack down on abusive lending practices in the mortgage industry.

12. What's your take on the Obama Administration so far: Too aggressive? Too cautious? Or about right? (Choose one, please.)

On the issues on which I have worked the most, financial reform and related issues, I have criticized the Obama Administration, and especially the Department of Treasury, as too cautious and too deferential to the financial industry.

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