Name as it appears on the ballot: John P. McNeil
Campaign website: johnpmcneil.com
Phone number: 919.825.0311
Years lived in the district: 15 years in Raleigh
1. In your view, what are the three most pressing issues the United States faces? If elected, what would you do to address these issues?
The three most pressing issues are national security and terrorism, the economy and jobs, and healthcare reform.
National Security and Terrorism:
Our democracy will not long survive with continued attacks on our soil. Thankfully, as a country we are insulated from large scale invasion by space, geography, and a large amount of appreciation for the tenets upon which America professes to abide.
However, our country has historically stuck its neck out into foreign entanglements which have caused long-lasting, negative consequences that our leaders knew, or should have known, were quite real possibilities. The Second Invasion of Iraq is a prime example. With all the foreign intelligence possible and the majority showing that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 and no longer possessed the WMD’s that the United States sold him during the Iran/Iraq war, our government led about on a misguided, ill-funded, and terribly planned invasion. That invasion and subsequent occupation has caused such long-term destabilization that it may well become known as the most ill-fated invasion since Russia invaded Afghanistan. It further left our Nation with a huge debt to foreign countries to fund the war and a generation of veterans struggling with the visible and invisible wounds of war. These ill-planned missions should immediately cease.
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 is imperative. The absolute best way to combat terrorism against the US is to show the world that America lives by standards 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.
Despite his innumerable policy and strategic failures, our leaders have continued to follow the advice of people such as Henry Kissinger who have been “go to” policy wonks for Presidents and Secretaries of Defense. Not one of Henry Kissinger’s foreign security policies have proven to be anything but abject failure when evaluated on any reasonable standard. We need to dispense with the interventionist policies which have caused multiple failures in international engagements and promote sensible and reasonable foreign policy from which national security grows. The greatest extension of American power is through diplomacy and spreading American ideals through engagement, not by pumping our chests and dropping bombs (except when absolutely necessary) to protect America from attacks.
Economy and Jobs:
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 average Americans and North Carolinians. Incomes are down or have plateaued, 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 Americans and 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 and North Carolinian by focusing on sustainable jobs over “investment return rates”, protecting worker rights, and allowing working Americans to climb out of the hole that has been dug since the implementation of “Trickle Down Economics”. We should have trade policies that protect American jobs and American workers, rather than Free Trade policies which force American workers to compete against workers in Third World countries. Finally, workers should be protected from corporate abuse such as wage theft, benefit reduction, or the ability of a corporate entity to file bankruptcy and forgo decades earned employee benefits.
The healthcare system prior to the Affordable Care Act was horrendous and too many people were uninsured, pushing up the costs of medical care for those who were insured. While the ACA is an improvement over the old system, it is still a flawed system. It is flawed because it permits States to opt-out of coverage, prevents negotiations to reduce prices, forbids a true open-market system of insurance, and continues to contain provisions which solely benefit the very industries which have caused obscene increases in healthcare costs including pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and the plethora of middlemen/women who continue to profit at the insured’s expense. The loopholes need to be closed and a system which promotes people over profits needs to be promoted or the ACA will fail and North Carolinians will ultimately suffer.
2. Name three members of Congress, past or present, who you look up to as role models. Explain why you have picked these three.
I have a long list of Congressmen and Congresswomen who are role models including Abraham Lincoln, Shirley Chisholm, Russ Feingold, Chuck Hagel, and John Lewis. Many great men and women have graced the hallowed halls of the Capital building. Currently, my top role models are Representative Tammy Duckworth, Representative G.K. Butterfield and Senator Bernie Sanders.
Representative Tammy Duckworth is a trailblazer. Her dedication and life story is one of pre-legend status. From her service in the military, to her ability to overcome combat-related disability, to her leadership in the House of Representatives supporting veterans, nothing Representative Duckworth does is done halfheartedly. She is an American icon, a role model to women, to veterans, and a role model to America if ever there was one. America needs people like Representative Duckworth now, more than ever.
Representative G.K. Butterfield is a modern day role model because his life’s story is the lovely and, at the same time, utterly tragic story of the founding of America and immigrants. He was born into an immigrant family at time of great social and racial strife and raised by a family made up of the melting pot that is America. Despite the societal and racial obstacles placed in front of him, he worked hard, overcame struggles, joined the military, graduated from college and law school and went on to have a prestigious legal career. Since his election into the House of Representatives, G.K. Butterfield continues to represent the needs of the people over Special Interests. His life’s story and commitment are an inspiration and should be a guiding light to all who claim to be public servants.
Love him, loathe him or know nothing about him, Senator Bernie Sanders is a role model because long before it was popular, Senator Sanders supported equality for all; young, old, men, women, white, black, Hispanics, African-Americans, straight, or LGBTQ. Regardless of your age, race, gender, sexuality, or status, Senator Sanders has stood by the oath that all are created equal and worthy of equal treatment. If you are an American, you are entitled to equality. There was no wavering, there was no qualification, there was no politically expedient answer; there was merely equality. Senator Sanders has been a rock when many were mere weather-vanes. His integrity and steadfastness of morality have been unmovable. Finally, he was one of the few members of Congress who realized that the 2nd Iraq War was based on fraud, would have decades of unintended consequences, was not properly planned or funded, and therefore refused to get on the pro-war bandwagon. For that vote alone, I am very thankful.
3. 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? For both challengers and incumbents: In what ways would your election benefit the citizens of North Carolina?
George Holding’s and Renee Ellmers' votes against the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act were a horrendous decision based solely on partisanship. There was no excuse to vote against the renewal of an act which has providing protections for many people against their abusive partners or spouses.
George Holding and Renee Ellmers have repeatedly voted to allow off-shore drilling on the North Carolina coast and to allow Fracking to occur throughout North Carolina. Their complete disregard for the State and the Environment is disturbing given their pro-Big Business business records. While promoting businesses using our coastal communities and inland communities as they see fit, they also actively promoted the notion that these same companies will self-regulate themselves and not endanger the environment. As can be seen throughout the nation, from Oklahoma to Louisiana to the Dan River spill, and now another spill in the Gulf of Mexico, without effective regulation and enforcement there is no incentive for these companies to protect our precious State.
George Holding and Renee Ellmers have repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act without offering any solution or any alternative protections for the uninsured or for those who are insured and having to pay the burdens for these who are not insured. Their lack of any plan, other than to say “No” shows a clearly partisan stance that benefits their largest donors while ignoring real solutions which would meet the needs of average North Carolinians.
Both Renee Ellmers and George Holding complain that President Obama has issued Executive Orders. Rather than finding workable and reasoned solutions to immigration reform or gun violence, they sit on their hands and do nothing. North Carolina deserves more than just another two-years of a Do-Nothing Congress.
My election would benefit the citizens of North Carolina because I would actively work to find solutions for issues facing the average North Carolinian and average Americans including, but not limited to, securing a plan to promote economic growth through job creation via renegotiation of the current free trade agreements, promoting workers’ rights, ensuring that economic growth does not come at damage to our environment, and finding reasonable solutions to fix the problems associated with the Affordable Care Act. I would be a strong and vocal leader in the House of Representatives and would ensure that North Carolinians hear more than just “No” during my term in office. Furthermore, I am not an Establishment candidate and would strongly promote principled stands not merely promoting an ideological position.
4. Candidates running for president this year have proposed wildly divergent tax plans. The Democrats have proposed raising taxes on the wealthy, whereas some Republicans have argued that we should do away with the graduated income tax altogether. What do you believe should be done about taxes? Are there any current proposals that you would support in Congress?
I graduated from high school in the midst of Reagan’s “Trickle Down Economics”. His theory of economic growth was a failure for all except the very top of the heap. We need leaders willing to give serious consideration to the economic situation facing our country, helping small businesses thrive, dealing with the deficit and getting our national debt under control. It is irresponsible to continue to put our grandchildren’s future on credit owed to other countries.
Despite perceived growth and economic prosperity, our debts are not being paid while we continue to promote the failed ideas of “Trickle Down”. 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. I support having a more progressive tax structure which takes into account the growth and protection needed to strengthen our small businesses and Middle Class, and which allocates the increased tax income to those companies and persons who benefit from a strong and viable Middle Class.
5. Since its inception, the Affordable Care Act has been polarizing. Republicans have called for it to be repealed “root and branch,” but have not reached consensus on what a replacement would look like. Democrats, meanwhile, have been supportive of the ACA, and some, especially Senator Bernie Sanders, have proposed moving to a Medicare-for-all system. What do you think should be done about health care in the United States? If you support repealing Obamacare, how would you propose structuring and funding its replacement? Do you support or oppose moving toward a single-payer system? Why or why not?
I do not support repealing the Affordable Care Act, nor do I support the continuous repeated and failed attempts by the GOP to repeal the ACA. The ACA needs to be fixed, not replaced. The healthcare insurance system was a mess before the ACA. The ACA made incremental improvements. The ACA was only able to make incremental improvements because prescription drug, health insurance, and medical companies were able to pay large sums of money to their politicians and lobbyists to get “carve outs” which ensured their business models continued to be profitable while the burden for the ACA was passed on to citizens. Rather than completely fixing the problem, the ACA institutionalized the over-priced practices of our largest providers.
I firmly believe that if the majority of the industrialized world can find a way to make single-payer possible and affordable, then the issue is not whether America can have a single-payer system or not, but why can America not have a single-payer system. And the answer to “why not” is easy; large donors and well-paid industry lobbyists have more influence and more of a voice in Washington than the needs of average Americans. Whether single-payer will happen in my lifetime is unknown, but it will likely happen eventually for a purely economic reason. It is unsustainable to believe that Americans can, or should, pay increasing premiums for decreasing levels of care. Eventually Americans are going to get their collective voices together and force Washington to make serious and systemic changes to the healthcare, prescription and medical systems.
6. Concerns about terrorism and related unrest in the Middle East have been at the forefront lately. Do you believe the United States is doing enough to counter the threat posed by ISIS and other militant groups? Why or why not?
Unfortunately we are in a “We broke it, we bought it” situation with ISIS. Because we, as a Nation, did not require truth regarding the Invasion of Iraq or question the intelligence, or lack of intelligence, regarding the true threat that Iraq posed, we set out upon a Foreign Policy which has destabilized the entire region. Even after the Invasion, through political cronyism, both inside the government and inside Iraq, we further alienated those forces which could have ensured success after the overthrow. We failed to support those groups which would have supported American policy and, instead, supported groups who have since turned our weapons back on our forces.
I do not support any resolution which provides that more American troops will be sent to Syria or Iraq to fight ISIS. I fully support the US supporting those forces who are willing and able to fight the fight against ISIS. And at the end of the engagement, when ISIS has collapsed, America and our Foreign Policy “experts” need to stay away from propping up despots for purely political gain. The people of the Middle East, given sufficient time and effort can find a way to rule their respective countries without continued, and often ill-fated, pressure from America to tell them “how to do it”. That same interventionist behavior has caused decades of unrest. We should reset our thinking that we have the military or political solutions for every country around the world.
7. In terms of foreign policy, what do you believe are the best three things the Obama administration has done over the past seven-and-a-half years? What do you believe are the administration’s three biggest shortcomings or failures? What steps do you believe Congress should take with regard to these shortcomings or failures?
Increased diplomatic efforts have by far been the administration’s best successes. The best foreign policies of the Obama administration were beginning to normalize 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 which has increased distrust around the world, within the country, and left potential “whistle-blowers” in fear of prison for pointing out illegal or immoral activities of our government and surveillance programs.
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 sent into harm’s way have the means, equipment and ability to complete the mission. Funding for increased security and intelligence, both inside and outside the Country should be a priority which 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. Do you consider the Iran nuclear deal a success or failure? Explain why. Do you support engagement with the Iranian regime?
The Iranian nuclear deal appears to be a diplomatic success. Only time will tell if the Iranian government is willing and able to live by the terms of the deal. However, as a first step, it is much better than the alternative proposed by the pro-war contingency which has controlled foreign policy for far too long.
Since the Iranian deal, there have been multiple examples of how these diplomatic efforts have helped our country. These examples include the release of multiple prisoners held in Iran and the release of US Navy sailors who strayed into Iranian waters. These instances would not have occurred had we “carpet bombed” Iran like many of the pro-war contingency proposed.
Engagement and diplomatic efforts will have more impact on changing the human rights violations and pro-terrorist policies of the current Iranian regime. Rather than continue the foreign policies, such as assassination of their leaders and propping up our selected despots, America should prove to the Iranian people that we are, in fact, a country of moral people who want what is best for all people, including Iranians. We have a long row to hoe due to our prior policies. Actions speak louder than words, and if we have leaders in Washington able and willing to stand against pro-war and pro-prejudice policies, we can help the Iranian people make the changes they desire.
9. Similarly, do you believe the Obama administration’s engagement with Cuba is prudent? Why or why not?
The US policy regarding Cuba has needed to change for decades. It has remained the way it is for purely political gain, whether because politicians were fearful to change or because politicians wanted to remain powerful by demonizing any effort to normalize relations between the US and Cuba.
While isolation and exclusion was prudent in the 60’s and 70’s, the continued policy merely kept Fidel Castro in power and continued to promote anti-American sentiment in Cuba and around the world. Nothing can better show the greatness of American ideals and values that spreading those around the world. By allowing Americans to visit Cuba and allowing Cubans to visit America, we are countering the anti-American propaganda that allows despots to remain in power and keep their citizens oblivious to the realities of their situation.
Finally, I have met many North Carolina farmers, small business owners, and manufacturers who are thrilled to have the opportunity to engage in business with the Cuba people. The Cuban people are not the problem; the government is the problem.
10. One area where there seems to be an emerging bipartisan consensus related to criminal-justice reform, specifically as it relates to 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?
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 which address negative consequences and protects children from drug use would be satisfactory to me. For too long politicians have been afraid to address the issue for fear that their next election would be judged solely on a perceived “pro-drug policy” rather than the realization that the current system is an abject failure which has caused generations of mass incarceration, wasted financial resources, and the growth of 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.
11. 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. Congress is expected to vote on the TPP sometime this year. 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, from rumored provisions and proposals, 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. Based on the limited amount of information we, as Americans, have been permitted to received, I do not believe TPP does enough to protect American workers.
12. 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?
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 tell the truth whether it is popular or not.
Given my life experiences and my willingness to fully address contentious and difficult issues, while effectively communicating the truth and the direction of the County, I believe that reasonable members of the opposite political party will feel comfortable coming out of the woodwork and supporting my proposals. Most Americans, and likely many in Congress, are tired of the polarization and rancor which has been caused, promoted, and abused by certain leaders of the political parties.
13. Over the past year, the GOP campaign has been almost defined by Donald Trump’s bombast—from calling Mexican immigrants rapists to proposing a ban on Muslim immigration to demeaning John McCain’s military service—and yet he’s nonetheless likely to be the Republican nominee for president. To what to you attribute Trump’s success? Do you believe his rhetoric is appropriate? If you are a Republican, do you plan to support Trump as your party’s nominee in the fall? If you are a Democrat, are there any areas in which you believe you could find common ground with a President Trump?
The rise of Donald Trump is caused by the cynicism of voters on the left, right and center of the political spectrum. That cynicism is a result of a lack of leadership in Washington - decades of having American politicians offer lip-service but no real solutions for America's problems and by a Do-Nothing political system that is largely a result of out-of-control fundraising that exerts far too much control over the votes of our Representatives.
While the citizens' cynicism is appropriate, Trump's rhetoric is not. His use of racism and stereotypes, demeaning honorable people and calls for discrimination against entire swaths of people is destructive and misplaced. Trump blames regular Americans (immigrants, minorities and women, for example) for the problems facing America rather than placing the blame on the policymakers who are often the root cause.
I find common ground with Trump on the fact that there are very serious issues facing America which can not be fixed with another 2, 4, or 6 years of lip-service from our elected officials who would rather raise funds for their next campaign than put in a full day's work for The People. Real change will only come when elected officials are focused on helping The People rather than just supporting The Party Line. Only then can America begin to move forward in tackling the complex issues facing our country: ensuring security for our country, fixing our economy, finding diplomatic solutions to international issues, and appropriately using our military when necessary to protect this Nation that we all love dearly.
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 which 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 also have no problem calling prejudice out 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 realize the propaganda for what it is.
15. The Citizens United decision has been criticized by some on the left for opening up the floodgates for special interests to influence political leaders. What changes do you believe Congress can or should make to campaign-finance regulations? Do you believe that Citizens United has had a positive or negative effect on American politics?
Opposition to the Citizens United decision used to be a non-partisan or left-leaning issue. Due to the last several elections cycles in which elections are bought instead of earned, even those on the right are now starting to oppose the unbridled influx of “dark money” into the political process. Because of the problems caused by Citizens United, there is now consensus among most Americans that the influx of “dark money” into the political process is a serious problem that must be reversed.
There are many different ways to tackle the issue of campaign-finance regulations. Several States are beginning to find ways to ensure transparency in the finance process, but national change will only occur once we can get Congress to work together rather than constantly fight over partisan issues.
First and foremost, over the past decade the budget and staffing for the Federal Election Commission has been slashed. The FEC has become a tiger without teeth and has been unable to investigate substantial violations of election laws.
Secondly, Congress needs to immediately implement the recommendations put for by the FEC Commissioners. The FEC Commission’s recommendations included: all campaign finance reports be electronically submitted which would speed up evaluation and reduce staff time; to ban political committees from using campaign funds for personal expenses; and to permit the FEC to issue penalties for failure to comply with the rules. None of these were enacted by Congress and remain issues which cloud the political and finance process.
Third, if Citizens United is not reversed by the Supreme Court in the near future, the leaders in Congress must propose an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which reverses Citizens United, enacting reasonable and reasoned campaign finance rules, and ensures that everyone has a voice, rather than just the ultra-rich, Super Pacs, and Corporate Interests.
Citizens United’s impact has had a terrible effect on American politics. The political finance system was on shaky ground prior to Citizens United. Since Citizens United, it has become a free-for-all; but the “all” are only those able to spend Millions on campaigns with no accountability for the truth, veracity, or sources of the “dark money”. It has produced a power-shift from one-person, one-vote to one-person buying many votes.
16. Finally, these congressional primaries were moved from March to June after a federal court invalidated the state’s districts, calling them an unconstitutional gerrymander. What are your thoughts on the new district map? Would you support an independent redistricting commission to draw these maps in the future—as is the case in Arizona—or do you believe the legislature can handle the task fairly?
The decision that the old Districts were unconstitutional was encouraging, but the newly drawn Districts are only marginally less gerrymandered. The new Districts still disenfranchise a vast number of voters, place minorities into gerrymandered Districts, protect incumbents, and represent a GOP led power-grab which does not accurately reflect the voting patterns of North Carolina citizens.
I would absolutely support an independent redistricting commission. Since gerrymandering began, our Legislators (Republicans and Democrats) have misused District lines to protect their respective power levels as well as that of their friends and associates. The advent of computerized information gathering has only made the situation worse and further disenfranchised voters.
Given the Legislature's track record, I have little faith in their willingness or ability to draw District lines fairly. The GOP had four years to redraw the lines but instead spent millions of tax dollars on attorney’s fees defending the Districts and waited until the Court to declared the lines unconstitutional to do anything. More years of doing nothing or doing it incorrectly is not going to help North Carolina or voters.