Welcome to the first in my series of posts about the candidates for the 52nd Congressional District.
On Friday, May 2, I sat down with Rick Powell, Republican Candidate for Congress, at the Starbucks in El Cajon (Main and Magnolia). Mr. Powell is a retired federal agent and a retired U.S. Army colonel, having worked in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and U.S. Customs Service, and served in the Special Forces (Green Berets) during Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Noble Eagle. Today he occasionally builds homes and enjoys his retirement.
Mr. Powell decided to join the race for Congress for several reasons. His main reason was his frustration with Congress, which he feels is out of touch with the people – or purposely ignores their will – and with what he sees as a move away from the ideals of individual rights and states rights and toward more socialistic ideals. He is especially concerned with the national debt and its effect on the people through taxes. Mr. Powell told me, “When I decided to run, it was out of the sole desire to do my duty; to do what is right as a…Congressman.”
I tossed several topics at Mr. Powell for his thoughts. On the subject of fire protection, something very important to those of us in the East County, he had some actual experience as a 5th Army liason between FEMA and the military in Southern California. What he sees is a need for more streamlining and prior planning for these disasters, which includes better coordination among various groups involved. This would also include dealing with a variety of egos, which requires real leadership to overcome.
On the subject of the environment, Mr. Powell feels we can both protect the environment and manage resources. He suggests that the federal government gets too involved, and that more of the decision-making process should be at the state and local levels. “Who better,” he stated, “to judge their environment than the ones who live there?” Mr. Powell believes that the needs of national security have to be considered as well, and that the need for alternate energy sources must be addressed.
We spoke briefly on the issue of transportation, for example the completion of SR-52, and what the federal government’s role would be. He pointed out that infrastructure is one area that is specificaly a role of the federal government, and that if the federal government cuts the deficit and expenditures it can then spend more on what it needs to and relieve states of some of the burden they have now. That in turn would allow the states to spend more on their own needs.
Our next topic was immigration, both legal and illegal. Mr. Powell said he believes in immigration and its importance to the U.S., but that there needs to be a distinction made between those who come to be a part of America and contribute, and those who come “with their hands out.” He feels that there are many people who have come to this country, but have no allegiance to it. They can keep their heritage, but they need to have their allegiance for the U.S. alone.
On medical care, Mr. Powell feels the government has been moving toward more of a socialist agenda. There has been a move away from individuals controlling their medical care to HMOs, and now there is a move toward national healthcare. He advocates tax deductions for medical care expenses, including for invalid parents, and tax breaks for health savings accounts. Mr. Powell also believes that there should be incentives for people to have insurance, as it would help cut down on overall costs associated with uninsured patients. He suggested a return to a system of “county hospitals” that would serve the poor, with money budgeted for their needs.
Social Security is another area where the major changes will be needed. Mr. Powell pointed out that Social Security was never meant to be a sole source for retirement, and that we have failed to educate people that they need to prepare for their own retirement. He recommends more education in high school to help young people understand the importance of preparing for retirement, and more incentives for people to save.
On the mortgage situation, Mr. Powell feels putting more money into FHA and FannieMae is a good idea, but feels some pressure needs to be put on banks to provide more money for refinancing loans. Banks have received this money at low rates, but has raised standards for lending, which makes it more difficult for people to refinance. He does feel that the government is right to not buy people out, instead making money available to banks to use for refinancing problem loans.
The last topic I asked about was education. Mr. Powell believes that funding of education is critical, since the country’s future relies on an educated population. All children, particularly in K-12, should have the best possible resources for learning. On the other hand, he feels that absolute equality in all areas is not possible “without mediocrity.” He does feel we need more focus on the sciences in order to meet our future needs. On oversight of education, Mr. Powell does believe we need to have high standards, but that there has been too much focus on meeting particular standards to the exclusion of overall education. He feels that the states are better judges of standards, but also understands that there needs to be some national minimums.
After my questions, Mr. Powell wanted to discuss the situation in Iraq and what he believes we need to do. He is opposed to simply pulling out, feeling that the cost in lives would be too great if we did that. He said he can’t speak to the original reasons and information that Congress and the President used to decide to authorize the invasion, but he does feel there needs to be an end date. Part of the problem with getting the situation under control is the amount of repair that needs to be done on infrastructure. During the original invasion, the U.S. engaged in target bombing to destroy infrastructure that would “aid the enemy,” but once there found that much of the infrastructure had been ignored and allowed to collapse. Because of this, the U.S. has had to spend more money than expected to get infrastructure back. He would like to see “exponential growth” in the Iraqi government’s ability to run things, and to see more effort by the Shia to reach out to the Sunni and Kurds.
Finally, Mr. Powell spoke about the impression the U.S. has made on some in the Middle East that we are an imperial power bent on taking over. He would like to see a greater emphasis on telling the world that our objectives are to stabalize Iraq, in this case, and then to leave when the government asked us to. He thinks that being clear on our objectives will help to undercut some of the hostility, and that we did a somewhat better job in Afghanistan.
That does it for my first interview. If you would like to hear the complete interview, it will be posted in two parts (you will hear that we were interrupted by another interviewer partway through). I will put up a link once it is ready.