Name as it appears on the ballot: John P. McNeil
Campaign website: johnpmcneil.com
Phone number: (919) 825-0311
Years lived in the district/state: 11/30 years
1. In your view, what are the three most pressing issues the United States faces? If elected, what will you do to address these issues, given the gridlock that seems to define Congress these days?
The three most pressing issues are: Jobs and the Economy, National Security & Terrorism and Healthcare Reform.
I. Jobs & the Economy:
Despite perceived gains and losses over the past thirty years - with various administrations, the economic plans, tax ideas, and job creation has not benefited the vast majority of North Carolinians. Incomes are down or have flattened, savings is down, tax burdens are up, and overall standard of living has decreased. For the first time in history, our Middle Class does not make up the majority of our population. This destruction of average North Carolinians is not sustainable under any economic plan. Without customers, our businesses fail. Without earning a living wage, workers are forced to hold two or three jobs to support their families. Decreased mobility is having, and will continue to have, a shrinking effect on the overall economy regardless of how the DOW Industrial or stock portfolios rank.
Washington needs to focus on rebuilding the average American & North Carolinian by:
Encourage the creation sustainable jobs over investment return rates
Protect worker rights by allowing working Americans to climb out of the hole that has been dug since the implementation of “trickle-down economics.” It does not work.
Work on trade policies that protect American jobs and American workers, rather those that force American workers to compete against workers in Third World countries.
Protect workers from corporate abuse such as wage theft, benefit reduction, job misclassification, or the ability of a corporate entity to file bankruptcy and forgo decades earned employee benefits.
II. National Security & Terrorism:
In order to combat terrorism, our leaders should focus on intelligence rather than merely sending drones or misguided missiles to level entire neighborhoods. Furthermore, increased diplomatic efforts on all fronts are imperative. The absolute best way to combat terrorism against the US is to show the world that America lives by the standards we profess, which many countries envy. Certainly we will never defeat all terrorism, and never have, but a concerted effort of diplomacy versus knee-jerk diplomacy is a great first step.
The healthcare system prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was horrendous with millions of Americans uninsured or underinsured, which increase the costs of medical care for those who are insured. The ACA is an improvement over the old system in that we have covered millions of Americans who never had insurance. Now that we know the strengths and weaknesses of the ACA, health policy experts agree that some changes will make it better. It is risky to open up the statute, however, in the current political climate where the GOP has voted over 50 times to repeal the law and every Republican running on repeal.
These issues and more need to be discussed and debated. The most difficult challenge we face is to overcome is gridlock in Washington. The members of Congress have an obligation to our citizens to do the work of the people. Currently, the GOP majority has obstructed positive legislation since they have been in power.
2. If you are challenging an incumbent, what decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? If you are an incumbent, what in your voting record and experience do you believe entitles you to another term?
Following in the footsteps of his former boss, Sen. Jesse Helms, George Holding’s favorite word is “NO!” Mr. Holding has a weak legislative record, at best. He has been involved in co-sponsoring only five (5) bills in four years of service.
George Holding voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) a troubling decision based solely on partisanship. He votes against the ACA without offering any substantive alternative plan.
He has repeatedly voted to allow offshore drilling on the North Carolina coast and to allow fracking throughout North Carolina. Holding is anti-regulation even if it endangers the environment and our beautiful natural resources. The Dark Money PAC that paid for anti-Ellmers ads during his June 7th Primary, is financed by the same company that was supposed to be maintaining the oil pipelines that bust in Alabama, causing massive shortages on the East Coast. They want to elect George Holding to ensure that their companies do NOT have to maintain their pipelines.
3. Economic growth has been fairly mediocre in recent months. Things have improved since the Great Recession, but much of the growth has gone to top earners. What would you do to address rising income inequality?
As a nation, we cannot continue economic policies that only benefit corporations and the very wealthy, while ignoring the middle class and working class folks. I support an increase in the minimum wage that would be tied to inflation.
The Supreme Court made a regrettable decision in Citizens United granting corporations the ability to overly influence our elections and our laws. I would vote to repeal this decision. I will advocate for our country to invest in our children, education, infrastructure, affordable housing and the development of renewable energy – all of which will create jobs and improve quality of life.
4. In general, what changes do you believe should be made to U.S. tax policy? What about federal spending? Do you believe the government should, for example, increase its investments in infrastructure and other priorities, or do you believe the government should focus on cutting expenditures to alleviate the deficit?
Any politician - right, left or center - who tells you that they will cut taxes across the board AND reduce our $20,000,000,000,000 debt, is a fool or a liar. Paying taxes is the price we pay for the privilege to live in a democracy. The mindless repetition to cut taxes and reduce “burdensome” regulations only benefits big corporations and the wealthy. We need to care for our people first. Our tax code is outdated, regressive, overly complicated and is based on an old manufacturing economy when we are more of a service economy now.
We should return tax policy to those policies in place during the 1950’s and 1960’s which ensured that everyone paid their fair share, including those who benefit most from doing business in a country which is stable, democratically run, and that best promotes corporate strength.
5. In North Carolina this year, we’ve seen two major insurers pull out of the federal health care exchange, which seems to be a blow to the Affordable Care Act. What do you believe should be done about health care? Do you favor changes to Obamacare? Or would you rather see it repealed? If so, with what would you replace it?
When the ACA was in the development stage, private insurance companies knew very well that the pool of newly insured Americans would be older and sicker. That costs more money. In return for their cooperation, the companies were guaranteed an enormous increase in their customer base. They did not prepare properly and had unreasonable profit expectations. The Republican majority refused to expand Medicaid, which has resulted in the loss of millions of federal dollars that went to other states. It has also left 500,000 North Carolinians without access to healthcare insurance. I do not support repealing the Affordable Care Act, nor do I support the continuous repeated, costly, and failed attempts by George Holding and his Republican Party to repeal the ACA without offering any solutions for affordable healthcare for Americans. The ACA needs to be fixed, not replaced.
6. Mass shootings—some of which have at least tangential ties to terrorist organizations—have become an all-too-common occurrence. What more do you believe the government can do to disrupt so-called “lone wolf” attacks? Do you believe there should be limits on who can legally purchase high-caliber rifles?
I am an old Marine and a gun owner. I am also very concerned about gun violence in the U.S. I respect the Constitution and the Second Amendment. At the same time, I support the same basic gun control measures that a large majority of Americans do…background checks, close the gun show loophole and keep guns out of the hands of people who are on the “no fly” list. I support reinstating the assault rifle ban.
I have absolutely no respect or use for the NRA, the gun lobby, open-carry movement, or the current state of “Stand Your Ground” laws. I believe we have a right to protect ourselves, but also believe that the very real responsibilities that accompany that right have been replaced by a lack of responsibility by certain members of the society
7. In terms of foreign policy, what do you believe are the Obama administration’s biggest successes? What do you believe are the administration’s biggest failures? What steps do you believe Congress should take with regard to these shortcomings?
Increased diplomatic efforts have by far been the administration’s best successes. The best foreign policies of the Obama administration are normalizing relations with Cuba, overcoming GOP opposition to secure a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear proliferation, and (so far) keeping ground troops out of the Syrian conflict.
The biggest shortcomings were when the administration followed poor advice regarding the use of military power and expansion. These failures include the inconsistent policies seen during the Arab Spring in which we provided inconsistent support for those seeking to overthrow despots. These shortcomings also include our Iraqi policy, which continued to prop-up leaders who did not represent Iraqis but who merely sought personal fame and fortune. Finally, the NSA spying scandal was an embarrassment to the country and to the Administration. In my view, the Obama Administration has increased distrust here at home and around the world. We have left potential “whistle-blowers” in fear of prison for pointing out illegal or immoral activities of our government and surveillance programs.
There are several things Congress can do to deal with the use of our military including but not limited to, exercising its Constitutional responsibilities to declare war before committing troops to military conflicts. For too long, Congress has acquiesced to requests for every military operation that our Presidents have requested. This failure of Congress ensures that they are able to keep their hands clean when military operations get messy and then blame the President or his advisors. It is appalling that Congress lacks the courage to vote for or against wars.
For far too long, Congress has refused to Congress needs to be willing and able to question the direction of our foreign policy. Congress should be full of leaders, not followers willing to send our men and women into harm’s way without the supplies, a plan or an exit strategy. Congress should ensure that any American troops have the means, equipment and ability to complete the mission. Funding for increased security and intelligence, both inside and outside the US should be a priority that Congress immediately addresses. Finally, Congress should hold our Foreign Policy leaders and advisors to strict ethical standards; no Foreign Policy advisor should have any financial ties to any companies which would benefit from increased conflict or the use of military force.
8. One area where there seems to be an emerging bipartisan consensus relates to criminal-justice reform, specifically nonviolent drug offenses. How would you propose reforming drug policy? Do you believe marijuana should be either decriminalized or legalized under federal law? Do you believe the federal government should intervene where states have relaxed marijuana prohibitions contrary to federal law? Do you believe that marijuana should be removed from Schedule I classification?
Drug policy needs to be overhauled, not merely reformed. The Prohibitionist dogma that promotes the “War on Drugs” is as ineffective as the prohibition against alcohol. We need scholars, not politicians worried about political fallout, to propose sound, prudent, and workable solutions to the problems caused by the current drug policy, associated drug crime, and the problems caused by addiction.
I believe that once courageous politicians address the realities of marijuana use, abuse, and federal marijuana policy, marijuana will either be decriminalized or legalized. Either option, which includes provisions that address negative consequences and protects children from drug use would be satisfactory to me.
The current system is an abject failure that has caused mass incarceration of African Americans who receive harsher sentences than white people. We have wasted financial resources and promoted the growth of for-profit, private prisons. Furthermore, the financial benefits of increased tax revenue and decreased expenses for the failed war on drugs will have a significant impact on the financial well-being of the country.
9. The recently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership has been criticized by some corners of both the right and left, though Congress did vote last year to grant the president “fast-track” authority. In general, do you support or oppose the TPP? Why or why not? Do you believe that it does enough to protect American workers?
In general, and because we have not been permitted to read or review the TPP in its entirety, I oppose the TPP because it does not seem to protect American workers from having to compete with foreign workers. I am generally not in favor of any trade policy which forces American workers to compete with Third World workers or which provides incentives for American companies to move their operations and factories overseas to avoid taxation, worker protections, or environmental protection. Furthermore, the TPP could allow an American company, unhappy with regulations in the United States, to move their corporate headquarters overseas and then sue the US for implementing environmentally-friendly regulations or for regulations which protect American workers. Quite simply, the TPP sounds like another example of Corporate-protectionism at the expense of the American workers and their families.
10. What do you believe is driving the polarization of and rancor in American politics? Is there anything you believe Congress can do about it? In what areas do you believe you could reach a compromise with members of the opposite political party?
There are two major factors contributing to the polarization and rancor.
First and foremost is the issue of partisan and/or racial gerrymandering in redistricting. Gerrymandering has allowed politicians to choose their voters versus voters choosing their politicians. This allows only the most partisan of politicians to win elections. When there is nothing but extremely partisan politicians in Congress, gridlock, stagnation, polarization, and rancor are the obvious result. While states are generally given power over election law we need funding, financing, and research to find solutions to gerrymandering such as Independent Redistricting Commissions.
Secondly, the increased polarization of and rancor in American politics has been driven by politicians who use division to gain political power. It is a failure of leadership and a use of division solely for purpose of gaining political power, not for the purpose of moving the country forward. Congress needs to promote leaders within both parties who are willing to vote for the good of the American people.
I believe that working with both sides of the aisle is crucial and I am committed to doing just that. Given my life experiences and my willingness to fully address contentious and difficult issues, I will work hard to find solutions to the gridlock that has been caused, promoted, and abused by certain leaders of the political parties.
11. One particularly galling example of congressional gridlock is Congress’s inability to pass funding to combat the Zika virus. The White House asked for $1.9 billion; congressional Republicans settled on $1.1 billion but attached a series of what Democrats call “poison pills”—e.g., Planned Parenthood funding, flying Confederate flags over national cemeteries—that have led to a filibuster and White House veto threat. As a member of Congress, what would you do to get past these impasses?
It should outrage every American that the Republican leadership continues to obstruct any positive legislation and hold the country hostage to its extreme, right wing social agenda. The GOP puts their election-year Super PAC scorecards ahead of the health of Americans and has refused to appropriate the necessary funds to prevent, combat, or treat the invasion of the Zika virus.
Working across the aisle is absolutely essential to governance. It is especially essential when the health of the entire nation is at stake. Across America, there are a lot more issues which unite our citizens than those that divide them. In many ways, getting away from the rancor and talking to citizens is the best way to influence Congress to do the right thing and to force Congress to work across the aisle. Unfortunately, there are too many members of Congress who are unwilling or unable to speak out for common sense and reasonable compromise with members of the other party.
A return to civility would be the quickest and most effective measure. While that may be a pipe dream given the current state of political affairs between the parties, it is possible with strong leadership and strong collective voices (from citizens and both parties) saying, “Enough is enough.”
However, if civility and leadership is not possible, procedural reforms would include changing the rules which prevent votes from occurring on the floors of Congress which would at the very least allow citizens to petition their members for or against such laws and provide an actual vote which can then be challenged come the next election cycle. Procedures which decrease Committee’s power to prevent bills coming to the floor should be passed.
Additionally, a provision to Campaign Finance law which eliminates using each and every proposed bill as a “campaign donation solicitation”-email would or could eliminate a lot of the knee-jerk rancor coming from the most vocal but ineffective members like George Holding.
12. Donald Trump’s campaign has been marked by bombast and incendiary remarks—attacking Gold Star parents, for example, or calling Mexican immigrants rapists. Do you believe these remarks render Trump temperamentally unfit for the presidency?
Mr. Trump’s comments are ignorant, racist, sexist, nativist, anti-Semitic and lack both facts and truth. He surrounds himself with white supremacists and others who have a history of discrimination and hate. An egomaniac, Trump only cares about himself. He clearly lacks the temperament or intelligence to be the President of the United States.
13. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been dogged by an FBI investigation into her email use at the State Department. Do you believe that Clinton is trustworthy and honest?
I believe that Hillary Clinton’s decision to have a private server were unwise. She does, too. She has apologized over and over and said that she would not make the same mistake again. It is also the case that the two Secretaries of State who preceded her had private servers and they are not equally criticized.
14. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
Having lived throughout the country and traveled around the world, I have no tolerance for positions that prejudge an entire country, religion or ethnicity. Furthermore, I lack the fearful nature of many in Washington who use that fear to drum-up support for their prejudice or proposals. I have no problem calling out prejudice when I see it.
My unwillingness to be afraid of everyone who is not a US citizen and unwillingness to judge entire nations by the ramblings of their despots will likely cause me to lose popularity points among voters who have been fed such lies for decades and who do not know how to see past the lies and understand propaganda for what it is.
15. Earlier this year, the Court of Appeals issued an injunction against North Carolina’s voter ID law, which a deadlocked Supreme Court let stand. The Court of Appeals ruled that the law was conceived with discriminatory intent; recent reporting from The Washington Post has indicated that the law was drafted with the intention to discourage African Americans from voting. Do you believe the law passed by the legislature discriminates against black voters?
It was billed as a remedy to a problem that does not exist, voter fraud. A quick analysis shows that the incidences of voter fraud are insignificant. The so-called “Voter ID” law was much more than that. It also reduced the locations and duration of early voting, stopped 16- and 17-year-olds from pre-registering, ended same day voter registration at early voting sites, ended Sunday early voting and several other restrictions. The law was created and enacted by the GOP-led legislature with the express purpose – “with surgical precision” - to suppress the African American vote.