Bass, Kuster Cordially Debate
St. Anselm event between NH 2nd Congressional District candidates focuses on the economy, taxes, spending.
If radio listeners to the 2nd Congressional District debate at Saint Anselm College on Sept. 18 were hoping for a bloodbath between U.S. Rep. Charles Bass, R-NH, and Ann McLane Kuster, D-NH, they were sadly disappointed.
The Republican incumbent and the Democratic challenger were feisty at times but for the most part were refreshingly pointed and focused on the major issues facing the economy and government. Bass often stressed the need for bipartisan compromise to fix the nation’s ills while Kuster argued for more investment to bring the country out of the economic doldrums.
The debate was structured into three sections including questions from a panel, a lightning round of short answers, and then a broad section at the end about the economy.
On tax policy, Bass defended the Bush era tax cuts saying that they were responsible for pulling the country out of the post-Clinton and Sept. 11 recessions, “leading to the economic boom of the mid-2000s.” He added that the larger issue was a bipartisan tax reform that would make the country more competitive and reduce the deficit. Bass added, “this campaign dogma about raising taxes on those making $250,000 doesn’t help the economy recover.”
Kuster countered that in order “to get serious about the deficits” the country couldn’t afford “to give millionaires and billionaires an additional tax break." She called extending the Bush era cuts for those making more than $250,000, a $1 trillion giveaway adding that those income earners had “a comfortable style of living … millionaires will contribute more and they need to.”
When specifically asked about what the top rate should be, Kuster said she would return to the Clinton era rates on the top earners noting that during the Clinton years, the economy was booming.
Bass claimed that raising the top rate to 39.5 percent would only pay for about one-fifth of all of President Obama’s news spending proposals.
“It’s not about deficit reduction,” he said. “It’s about bigger government.”
The two candidates also debated upcoming defense cuts due to the sequestration deal that raised the debt ceiling last year but could hurt defense contractor BAE, one of the largest employers in the district.
Kuster criticized the sequestration deal and, instead, she would reduce “redundant weapons systems” and eye base closures around the world.
“I would not cut the services and the goods that are created at BAE which have to do with protecting our troops,” she said.
When asked if Obama and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, both Democrats, were wrong to support sequestration along with Bass, Kuster said, “I think at the time people thought it would work but in order to do that, they need to sit down and be working since then.”
“I can’t believe Annie that you would have voted against the control act,” Bass answered back, noting that voting against it would have sent the country into default and “much more serious” issue.
But Bass agreed that plan was “doomed to failure” based on the people at the table, which is why he supported other budget plans, like the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles budget, which would have capped defense spending at gross domestic product growth rates minus 1 percent.
Kuster said that while Bass voted for the Simpson-Bowles plan he also voted for the Paul Ryan budget within 24 hours. She claimed the Ryan budget would make “deep cuts to everything we need to get the economy moving again” and offered millionaires a $265,000 tax break. Bass confirmed he voted for the Ryan budget 30 minutes after the Simpson-Bowles plan, in an effort to “get at the negotiating table and get to these issues.” The plan, he said, was a compromise budget that would have reduced the size of the federal by more than $6 trillion during the next 10 years.
More than midway through the debate, a lightning round was held where the candidates were requested to give one or two word answers to questions. But both Bass and Kuster failed at the task and often had to be reined in and focused back onto the short answers requested.
When asked to define what a middle-class income was, Bass said around $50,000 while Kuster said up to $100,000, with two incomes. Both complained about college tuition expenses, calling them “breathtaking,” even at their salaries.
On cutting Saturday service for the post office, Kuster said No, but agreed with Bass that the issue with solvency was the retirement contribution issues not the delivery of mail. Bass said he would reduce service and change the postal rate structure to create more competitive rates.
On subsidies for wind energy, Kuster attacked Bass for being in the pocket of oil and gas companies saying his campaign “is funded almost entirely by those types of those companies.” She added that if oil and gas subsidies couldn’t be reduced, she would support raising alternative subsidies to be on par with fossil fuels.
Bass called the charge that he was bankrolled by oil companies false and said in 14 years of service, less than 1 percent of his money, about $114,000, came from those companies, a far cry from the “national liberal money bundlers” who were raising money for Kuster. On the issue though, Bass said he generally supported wind subsidies and said wind was getting the largest subsidy now. He added that he supported an audit of all the subsidies.
Libertarian Party candidate Hardy Macia was not invited to attend the debate but is also on the ballot.