William (B.J.) Lawson | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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William (B.J.) Lawson 

Candidate for U.S. Congress

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Name as it appears on the ballot: William (B.J.) Lawson
Date of birth: 3/30/1974
Campaign web site: www.lawsonforcongress.com
Occupation & employer: Congressional Candidate (none)

1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing your U.S. House district, the state of North Carolina and the nation? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

With our grocery bills and gas prices skyrocketing, jobs going overseas, basic services like healthcare and good education becoming less accessible, and people working two or more lower-paying jobs just to keep up, the greatest problem we face is an economy and financial system that have been hijacked by an out-of-control federal government whose interests are no longer separate from corporate and special interests.

Our reckless legislators make endless promises to get re-elected, and our bankrupt federal government prints paper dollars to pay for promises we can’t afford. Even the supposed benefits themselves don’t help – instead of helping the average American, most federal “benefits” end up helping well-connected special and corporate interests.

Washington has proven more corrupt and less effective as it has consolidated power and grown tremendously over the past several decades. It is time to transition to a federal government that focuses on the specific duties enumerated in our Constitution.

Instead of always giving more power to Washington, and always looking to Washington for “help”, it is time to keep more resources in our state and localities to address our challenges. We cannot keep sending more money and power to Washington for the pleasure of lobbyists and bureaucrats and expect better results.

My first priority is to fix our broken economy. Instead of printing more money for “stimulus” packages, we must balance our budget, stop pretending we can afford to police the world at our expense, and eliminate corporate welfare and unconstitutional spending that benefits special interests. We must eliminate the IRS and its 67,000 pages of job-killing regulations that punish productivity, entrepreneurship, saving, and investment. Instead, we should consider a uniform, progressive national sales tax such as the FairTax. We must also eliminate overreaching and counterproductive regulations such as Sarbanes Oxley that drive jobs and investment overseas. We must also provide choices in our monetary system so that American workers and savers are not trapped in a paper currency that is losing its purchasing power at an alarming rate. (It’s not that groceries are more valuable, your dollars just buy fewer groceries.)

My next priority is to reform health care by taking it back from corporate and government bureaucracies, and retuning it to patients and providers. Government subsidies and regulations have promoted the interests of big drug and insurance companies and managed care providers while increasing costs, limiting choices, and leaving far too many without coverage. Our current system is better termed “corporatecare” than healthcare, and neither patients nor doctors are happy with the results. Health care reform is also essential to revitalizing the economy, as soaring health care costs are squeezing businesses and consumers alike and reducing the competitiveness of the U.S. economy in a global market.

My final priority is to approach every issue, and every vote, with the goal of restoring a Constitutional federal government. That means restoring our recently sacrificed civil liberties, ending federal tyranny over public education, pursuing a just and sustainable legal immigration policy, and ensuring our safety and security through a rational foreign policy and strong national defense.

We need to change the definition of a “good Representative”. Our Congressman should not win praise for bringing federal dollars back to the Fourth District. Instead, our Congressman should win praise for pursuing a federal government that follows the Constitution, serves only the people’s interests, and does so with the least amount of the people’s money leaving the Fourth District in the first place.

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

As a physician and neurosurgery resident, I experienced firsthand the challenges of our current healthcare system. I left practice in 2001 to start a hospital software company specifically to make physicians more efficient, and patient care safer. These two experiences gave me a wealth of experience studying human nature, defining and solving problems, and working collaboratively to achieve results.

I also learned the challenges of starting and growing a business, and how our federal tax and regulatory environment favors the politically connected over the innovative businesses so important to new job creation and our future economic success.

While I certainly don’t have all the answers, I eschew divisive partisan politics and bring a broad educational and career background encompassing engineering, medicine, business, and finance. The skills from these disciplines are poorly represented in our government today.

Finally, my wife and I have structured our life so that we are debt-free, and have modest financial needs. Therefore, my loyalties are not for sale, and seek to go to Washington to represent the Fourth District as a principled advocate for a Constitutional federal government instead of a pawn of party politics.

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

I dislike labels that attempt to define one’s political philosophy. Limiting our discussion to labels like "progressive" or "conservative" prevents real discussion about the issues. While I am a Republican, the social and economic challenges we face are not specific to any political party or demographic label. They are American challenges, and demand that we come together as Americans united by the ideals of our Declaration of Independence, and return to a federal government that lives within its means and its mandate of our Constitution.

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.

Economically, we must eliminate the injustice of our debt-based monetary system that penalizes working Americans with rising inflation and collapsing housing bubbles while our banking industry receives multi-billion dollar bailouts. As a result of these bailouts, the poor and middle class are under tremendous pressure as our currency loses its value and prices continue to rise.

Individual liberty and local control are also important prerequisites for justice. We must be free to help ourselves, and each other, with good government that is as local and accountable as possible.

We have granted unprecedented power to a federal government that does not know when to stop growing, and as a result, we are overwhelmed by injustice. Big government is the problem -- it is not the solution. Big government gives us an unconstitutional federal “War on Drugs” that disproportionately targets the poor and disenfranchised.

Likewise, federal domination of public education through No Child Left Behind has created an educational system rife with perverse incentives and unintended consequences. For example, in an effort to meet Average Yearly Progress goals, school districts game the system with cross-county busing and dumbed-down standardized tests instead of honestly facing up to our most desperate children’s real educational needs.

A Constitutional federal government will let us keep more resources locally, and return local issues to our state and local governments. To the extent funds are required to advance justice, we must secure these funds locally from private and public sources that hold us accountable for the results.

Bureaucrats in Washington cannot magically create or enforce a just community for us in the Fourth District. Justice is our responsibility, and we need the freedom to accept it.

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

One principled stand that has cost some popularity with voters is my unwillingness to support a Constitutional amendment defining marriage. The legal definition of marriage has always been the domain of state governments, and marriage itself as a sacred commitment and civil contract has not changed such that the federal government should have any interest in defining it.

The fact that some are advocating for such an amendment is symptomatic of the federal government being too powerful in the first place. There would be much less interest in defining marriage in the Constitution if Washington wasn’t interfering with doctor-patient relationships through HIPAA, crafting insanely complex tax codes that depend upon marital status, and taking over local education.

6. The U.S. has been fighting the war in Iraq for five years. Was the decision to invade a mistake? What should our policy in Iraq be today? Should we base substantial military forces there for the foreseeable future? Start to withdraw now, or if not now, according to a plan (i.e., on a timetable)? Which, if any, of the congressional resolutions introduced so far on Iraq do you support?

While our government may have gone into Iraq with the best intentions of deposing a tyrannical leader and eliminating weapons of mass destruction, the invasion of Iraq was a poor decision based upon poor intelligence. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and our largely unilateral effort to depose Saddam Hussein underestimated the complexities of the region and the chaos that resulted from the subsequent power vacuum.

Five years, hundreds of billions of dollars, and thousands of lives later, we are still struggling for a rational foreign policy and a strategy for engaging with the rest of the world. While we have accomplished our stated goals of deposing Saddam, protection from WMD, and installing an elected civilian government, Iraq is still a long way from a stable and self-sustaining nation.

We must recognize that we cannot look at country-based conflicts in isolation, and we must recognize that we cannot afford to police the world unilaterally at our expense. Our $9.3 trillion national debt and over $800 billion current account deficit reflect our unsustainable foreign policy, and mean that the protection we’re providing in Iraq and elsewhere is being purchased on Chinese and Saudi Arabian credit cards.

I believe we need an orderly military withdrawal from Iraq. Security for the nascent Iraqi government must come from Iraqis, or others with whom they contract, at their consent. While some argue that we occupy Iraq as a requested Multinational Force (MNF) via the UN Security Council, there is evidence that Iraqis themselves are deeply divided over our presence. In the eyes of many Iraqis, our presence on the front lines de-legitimizes the very government we’re attempting to support.

Military withdrawal does not mean abandoning that country, or the Middle East. Instead, we must change our focus from offensive war and occupation to multilateral coalition building, and substantially engage other countries in the region with to join us in fighting extremism with overwhelming diplomatic and economic force. That means acting as a force for dialog and consensual trade, instead of sanctions and occupation.

I do not believe we should colonize Iraq with a long-term military presence and bases in the country. Instead, we should honor efforts that the Iraqi parliament has made to propose a timetable for a staged withdrawal, and our military planners should work to accommodate their wishes www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/unrole/2007/1105legalrenewal.htm

I am not aware of any current Congressional plans regarding Iraq that I support. I believe Iraq would benefit from a federal government that provides individual liberty across different ethnic groups and unites these groups’ interests with shared oil revenues. However, we cannot impose such a plan on Iraq. Iraq must choose one for itself.

Currently, the impasse over an Iraqi oil law and renewed violence in Basra appear related to control of the nation’s oil revenue. The national government is being challenged by factions in Basra fighting to control its oil industry, and the Kurdish north has already challenged Baghdad by opening the first new oil wells with a joint Norwegian/Chinese initiative. www.channel4.com/news/articles/world/who+controls+iraqs+oil/1838667

7. Evaluate the war in Afghanistan. What troop levels and funding should be allocated to fight that war? What is our goal there, in your view? What should our policy be? What legislation should be introduced to address those issues?

Our military goal in Afghanistan should be limited to bringing to justice to Al Qaeda. We cannot afford nation building in Afghanistan any more than we can afford it in Iraq. I do not know enough to postulate what troop levels and funding should be allocated for that war. I also do not know enough to suggest policy or legislation to address these issues in Afghanistan, other than noting that we should cease our military occupation.

8. What other major foreign policy issues do you see as needing Congress’ attention? Rate the importance of those issues and explain what you would do in Congress to address them.

In general, our government spends too much money policing the world and providing often-counterproductive foreign aid that props up corrupt regimes. Our current fiscal crisis demands that we renegotiate the terms under which we help our neighbors – our dollar is declining in value because we have spent well beyond our means, and we can no longer afford to provide security for Germany, Japan, South Korea, and others at our expense.

9. There has been an increase in unemployment, a rise in home foreclosures, a spike in food and fuel prices, a huge federal deficit, and other troubling economic indicators. What do you see as the primary sources of our current economic problems? What measures should Congress use to resolve address them? How would you begin to reduce the federal deficit? What are some of the possible negative consequences of your proposed solutions?

The primary source of our economic problems is a federal government that respects no boundaries with its promises, borrowing, and spending. The housing crisis is a direct result of the Federal Reserve’s artificially low interest rates in the early 2000s that led to historically-low mortgage rates and encouraged irresponsible borrowing that spawned a massive housing bubble. That bubble is now deflating, as did the Nasdaq bubble in 2001, with predictable consequences.

As the collapse of mortgages rippled into the broader credit markets and banking system, the Federal Reserve is now actively supporting the banking and brokerage system with bailouts and subsidized loans that are unprecedented since the Great Depression. While necessary to preserve the financial system, these interventions have painful and unjust consequences.

These massive “liquidity injections” by the Federal Reserve, coupled with ongoing irresponsible spending in Washington, are taking our dollar to new all-time lows against other major currencies. As a result of our weak currency, Americans are facing much higher food and fuel prices – if you are buying your food and gas in euros, loonies, renminbi, or gold, your prices have not gone up nearly as much.

There is hope for this dire situation, but it is not a quick Congressional “fix” as your incumbents would have you believe. A $600 “economic stimulus” check is a complete farce – why should we borrow money we don’t have from China just to give it to you to spend on a manufactured good likely made in China? You get the trinket, we pay back it back with interest. How does that help our economy?

The solution to our problems is to free us of the burdens of our big federal government, and let us get back to work. I have a five point agenda for accomplishing this goal:

The first point is fundamental tax reform. My ultimate goal is the abolition of the income tax and IRS, but there are common sense steps we can take in the short-term. I support the abolition of the capital gains, dividend, and estate taxes, which punish productivity, entrepreneurship, saving, and investment.

The second point of my agenda is spending reform. I will work to bring federal spending back to Constitutional levels. This will require a massive reduction in the size and scope of the federal government, but there are steps we can take now accomplish this. The first is the fundamental change in our foreign policy. This means ending the War in Iraq, changing our mission in Afghanistan, discontinuing foreign aid to and our military presence in countries fully capable of defending themselves. This will save hundreds of billions of dollars. We can cut hundreds of billions more in spending by ending market-distorting corporate welfare subsidies, cutting programs that are duplicative, and cutting ineffective and wasteful bureaucracies. I also support other measures to restrain the growth of spending, such as a freeze on discretionary non-defense spending and a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.

The third point of my agenda is regulatory reform. We must eliminate onerous regulations that impose a significant cost on American businesses and undermine our competitiveness. This starts with Sarbanes-Oxley, a gross overreaction to unfortunate incidents of corporate greed that were facilitated by perverse incentives set up by our government. SOX has increased the cost of business associated with being a public company by 130%, according to a study by the law firm of Foley and Lardner, and has cost the US Economy $1.4 trillion, according to University of Rochester economist Ivy Zhang.

The fourth point is that we need a realistic plan to address the entitlement burden that has left our nation essentially bankrupt. We have over $40 trillion in off-balance-sheet liabilities for Medicare and Social Security, and it will be impossible to meet those obligations without printing a lot of paper money and further devaluing our currency. When Alan Greenspan was asked about this problem in 2005, he replied, “We can guarantee cash, but we cannot guarantee its purchasing power.” In other words, we can print the money to meet our obligations, but that paper money won’t buy very much.

The final point of my agenda is monetary reform. The Federal Reserve has complete discretionary power over the monetary unit and the money supply. Its policy of fixing interest rates in the economy and creating credit out of thin air produces inflation, malinvestment, and instability. I support allowing gold and silver to be used as legal tender, as our Constitution instructs. I will also work to bring greater transparency and accountability to the Federal Reserve.

The greatest negative consequences are continuing on our current path. We are already in a state of unprecedented instability in the currency and financial markets, and continuing to pretend that our government can live beyond its means indefinitely will exacerbate our dollar crisis and further damage our fragile economy.

10. What should be done about the growing numbers of Americans without health insurance? What system would most fairly insure all Americans—while keeping in mind the cost?

I regret to inform you that there is no free government healthcare. As a physician, I understand that providing healthcare has real costs. Many good family physicians today barely cover their expenses every month, and having nothing left to take home after paying their staff, overhead, and insurance.

Our healthcare costs began skyrocketing back in the 1940s when the federal government first coupled healthcare to employment as a “benefit” instead of wage increases. Three generations later, we are paying the price of big government in healthcare, with prices set by government bureaucrats and rationing performed by faceless bureaucracies.

Our current system of healthcare “insurance” is actually part of the problem, and must be changed if we want a real solution. In fact, healthcare insurance isn’t really insurance at all. Do you expect your car insurance to pay for oil changes? Do you expect your homeowner’s insurance to pay for new carpet, or a new roof? But we expect health “insurance” to pay for all the healthcare we need (or we’re told that we need) for a $15 co-pay.

How much would “fix-anything-no-questions-asked-for-$15” car or homeowner’s insurance cost? I know I couldn’t afford it. No wonder health insurance is ridiculously expensive. There is no way we can afford to give that type of “insurance” to all Americans, and decisions to limit care provided by “universal” solutions will further empower the medical industrial complex to the detriment of patients and providers.

Fixing health care is complicated, but we need to start by taking healthcare back from the corporate and government bureaucracies that have stolen it from the patients and providers.

First, we need to ensure that individuals and businesses both enjoy the same deductibility of healthcare expenses so that individuals are not necessarily tied to an employer for healthcare benefits.

Next, individuals should be able to save unlimited amounts of money tax-free for routine medical expenses. Before government and corporations took over healthcare, physicians treated patients and charged them a mutually agreeable fee, based upon the patient’s ability to pay. More patients paying cash for services would encourage physicians to return to that Hippocratic model.

Finally, companies need to be free to offer reasonably priced insurance for catastrophic emergencies and high-priced procedures.

These simple steps would go a long way towards restoring the doctor-patient relationship, and encourage the development of local safety nets. We cannot suddenly eliminate the current safety net of government programs, but we cannot afford to expand them or mandate an expansion of healthcare rationed by insurance companies. That’s not healthcare, that’s corporatecare.

11. On the environment, do you support a federal moratorium on new coal-fired power plants until clean coal technologies can be developed? Why or why not? And secondly, what legislation should Congress pass to help address the issue of climate change and global warming?

I do not support a federal moratorium on new coal-fired power plants. Energy firms should be free to produce energy if there is a need for it, although they should not expect taxpayers to subsidize their investment.

Preventing environmental abuse requires that we protect private property rights – both for the energy company, and the surrounding community. The energy company has no right to pollute its neighbors’ air and water, and a strong legal system that will protect the neighbors’ property rights will curb environmental abuses.

Regarding climate change and global warming, I believe a change in our foreign policy and ending the irrational subsidization of our petroleum economy will go a long way towards encouraging economically viable alternatives to fossil fuels. Eliminating energy subsidies will give consumers a strong incentive to increase their energy efficiency while encouraging development of renewable alternatives. This transition will take decades, but over the long terms we simply must become more efficient in using energy. Higher unsubsidized energy prices are the natural stimulus for increased efficiency and developing alternatives.

12. District 13 candidates only: What is your view of the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, which could be built in Butner? What role does citizen opposition play in your decision whether to support it?

Even as a District 4 citizen and candidate, I am strongly opposed to NBAF. While some hail it as a worthwhile federal gravy train in the name of economic development, one must wonder why New York’s sitting Congressman Tim Bishop has been encouraging his constituents to reject NBAF at the current biodisease laboratory on Plum Island.

One must also question what qualifies the Department of Homeland Security to run a BSL-4 laboratory given its poor track record for transparency and accountability.

13. Where do you stand on:

  1. The death penalty? I am personally opposed to the death penalty, as I believe deadly force should only be used in self-defense or defense of innocents. The criminal justice system is imperfect, and executions of innocents cannot be justified. Finally, life imprisonment without parole with an easy chair, Xbox, unlimited cigarettes, and unlimited food from McDonald’s will likely prove fatal sooner than most death sentences are carried out anyway.

  2. Abortion rights? The most important purpose of government is to protect life. Scientifically, I believe life begins at conception. Therefore, I do not believe there is a “right” to elective abortion – abortion is not a victimless crime. Abortion is a difficult decision if the mother’s life is in danger, and in that situation the decision should be between the mother and her physician. Additionally, we must recognize that there is a window of time post-coitus when it is unknown if conception has occurred. Thus, emergency contraception (i.e., the “morning after pill”) should be a moral decision between a woman and her physician.

  3. Affirmative action? I am opposed to federal affirmative action, since it is government-mandated reverse discrimination. I would not, however, seek to prevent private institutions or businesses from having affirmative action policies, since their hiring and admission criteria are their prerogative. Likewise, affirmative action at the state level is the business of state governments. In general, though, if you’re going to give someone a non-merit-based advantage, does it really help that person to let everyone know?

  4. Gay rights? Again, our rights must not come from being members of a group – such a mentality leads to the currently toxic political environment where different interest groups complete for government favors. We need to protect the rights of the ultimate minority – the individual. Focusing on the principle of defending individual liberty will prevent all types of arbitrary discrimination.

  5. Retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that engaged in domestic surveillance without a warrant? No, thanks.

14. With the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, civil liberties—including habeas corpus and privacy rights—have been sharply curbed over the past seven years. Do you think these actions are justified? If so, please be specific in how they’ve been effective. If not, please explain how you would work in Congress to restore civil liberties, and what, if any, restrictions on them you would propose.

No, these actions were not justified and are exceedingly dangerous. I strongly support the American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007, and the restoration of our lost civil liberties. Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

15. Are there any other issues on which you, as a member of Congress, will focus if elected?

We need to repeal the REAL ID, which is an unconstitutional national identification card with the capabilities to provide biometric identification (based upon a high-resolution facial photograph) of every American for use by international governments and corporations.

We need to address the problems of illegal immigration. Our open borders encourage both illegal immigration and the inhumane business of human trafficking, threatening national security and destroying lives. The burden of this federal negligence falls on the states. Mandated healthcare and education services are forcing hospitals into bankruptcy and hurting local schools.

We should not behave like a police state with raids to round people up at gunpoint. Such publicity stunts are only designed to intimidate and give the impression of enforcement, when the underlying incentives to enter illegally haven’t changed.

I will work to stop un-Constitutional federal mandates that require states provide social services to undocumented aliens, eliminate welfare-state incentives that encourage illegal immigration, physically secure the border, and enforce existing visa laws. I will not support amnesty for illegal aliens, as amnesty is a powerful incentive to enter illegally.

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