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GOP candidates provide answers in advance of senatorial primary
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GOP candidates provide answers in advance of senatorial primary

THE PRIMARY to choose the candidates to fill the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 13.

The two Republicans in the running are former mayor of Bogota Steve Lonegan, who until earlier this year headed the NJ chapter of Americans for Prosperity, and Dr. Alieta Eck, who last year served as president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.

The special general election has been scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 16.

To help readers get to know the candidates and their positions, the Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and New Jersey Jewish News sent each of them seven questions.

Eck responded to all seven questions. Lonegan responded to three. 

DR.ALIETA ECK

The threat of Iran’s nuclear ambition is of great concern to the Jewish community and the international community. Do you share this concern, and what is your strategy for stopping Iran from having weaponized nuclear capacity? If you become senator, what steps will you take to prevent this from occurring?

Constant monitoring of Iran’s nuclear capability is a must. I would support Israel’s right to defend itself and to take action when necessary.

What do you feel is the appropriate role for the United States in its relations with Israel and its neighbors, and especially when to comes to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? What role would you hope to play as a senator?

Israel has always had a close relationship with the United States since it became a nation once again in 1948. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians spans centuries, and it is always difficult to understand the roots of the problem. The success and prosperity of Israel has spawned envy and anger among the Palestinians. Class warfare and anti-Semitism have prevented understanding and commerce. Anything that can be done to promote successful business enterprises in Palestine would cause a welcome improvement in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

The national debt is over $1 trillion and has grown significantly in recent years due to rising annual deficits, while unemployment remains high at 7.6 percent. What is your strategy for solving these two problems?

Economic decline is a major challenge. Much of this is related to the huge growth in government which crowds out private sector economic growth. Taxes on all three levels took 10 percent of a family’s income in 1900. Today it consumes 50 percent. Government spending is out of control. Until we put a cap on our spending, we cannot begin to repair the damage already done. I have a viable plan to decrease entitlement spending by providing a better solution than Medicaid and decreasing unnecessary testing.

In regard to unemployment, while there was some positive news that came out in recent employment reports, there are still far too many unemployed Americans desperately seeking work. The White House continues to demonstrate that it has no workable plan to promote economic growth and the “stimulus plans” have failed to do anything but line the pockets of the politically well connected.

ObamaCare will be a huge job killer and perhaps the president realized this when he delayed the employer mandate provision for another year. But until there is a permanent repeal of ObamaCare, businesses will continue to fear its looming specter and economic growth will be slow.

With the changing landscape in the Middle East, what do you see as the biggest challenge to United States interests in the region? What role do you see for the U.S. concerning Syria? Egypt? How do we ensure the security of the United States and Israel?

Without economic freedom there cannot be political freedom. Submission to corrupt leadership seems to always be accepted by the people in the Arab nations, making it difficult for the people to rise up in opposition. We cannot change that mindset overnight, and imposing democracy on these countries has never worked. The United States would do well to reduce its intervention in the Middle East, and reducing dependence on foreign oil is imperative. I would promote the Keystone pipeline and fracking as ways to achieve this goal. I would oppose the committing of American men and women as troops on the ground unless our own people were in harm’s way.

There has been some discussion about changing the charitable contribution deduction. Do you support the existing deductions or do you think they should be changed?

The more I study our tax system, the more I support the FAIR tax. This eliminates the IRS, income tax, payroll taxes, corporate and estate taxes. Without the IRS, deductions, including charitable deductions, would all disappear. However, we would reward hard work, thrift, and all the economic incentives would lead to prosperity. With prosperity, the natural generosity of the American people would continue unabated, and neighbors would help neighbors.

The health and human service agencies of the Jewish federations receive a substantial amount of their revenue from Medicaid. Under your leadership, would you seek to change Medicaid? If so, how? What would the impact be on state governments and nonprofits?

It would be my goal to reduce the need for Medicaid. It consumes roughly one-third of the NJ budget and is an extremely inefficient way for us to help the poor. Our Zarephath Health Center [which Eck and her husband founded in Somerset] has proven that we can provide charitable care at one-10th the cost of the federal and state welfare programs. About half the Medicaid money comes from the federal government. I would block grant that back to the states and let each state innovate. Since roughly half the Medicaid dollars care for the elderly poor in nursing homes, New Jersey could use this money in the same way it does now. We do not need the federal government to dictate how we care for those who are disadvantaged among us.

As the baby boomers continue to age and retire, how do you plan to keep Medicare and Social Security solvent for future generations?

Medicare and Social Security are programs that are underfunded and careening into bankruptcy. It is not fair for our children and grandchildren to place them into debt without any hope of benefitting themselves. When it comes to Social Security, a good plan would be to follow the plan implemented in Chile many years ago as suggested by Milton Friedman. This involves private retirement accounts whereby the majority of citizens can provide for their own social security through payroll deductions (as SS does now) and employer contributions. Begin with younger generations, leaving those close to retirement stable in the existing system. I would keep these accounts private and out of the reach of Congress, which has been “borrowing” from them to fund current government expenditures.

In regard to Medicare, I would work to put into place a better system before making any changes to the existing one. There has to be a way to allow people to save for future medical needs. Again, a giant government program cannot restrain excess spending and abuse. Our clinic is full of brand new durable medical equipment, paid for by Medicare and obtained “for free” by the Medicare recipient. This is wasteful, and there must be a better way.

STEVE LONEGAN

The threat of Iran’s nuclear ambition is of great concern to the Jewish community and the international community. Do you share this concern, and what is your strategy for stopping Iran from having weaponized nuclear capacity? If you become senator, what steps will you take to prevent this from occurring?

Yes, I share this concern. We must stop Iran’s ability to build nuclear power plants altogether.

What do you feel is the appropriate role for the United States in its relations with Israel and its neighbors, and especially when to comes to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? What role would you hope to play as a senator?

The proper role for the United States is to provide Israel with the most advanced weapons systems and technology. I did not, would not, and have not supported the turn-over of Gaza to Palestine. As senator, I would always be a strong supporter of Israel.

The national debt is over $1 trillion and has grown significantly in recent years due to rising annual deficits, while unemployment remains high at 7.6 percent. What is your strategy for solving these two problems?

My strategy for solving out debt and unemployment issues is to reduce government spending across the board, including ending foreign aid to countries that burn the American flag and pose a threat to American and Israeli security.

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