From climate change to North Korea to a losing the war on drugs, Democrat Robert “Alan” Howe touched on a broad range of topics Monday during the first of many town hall meetings planned for his campaign for the 11th Congressional District seat.
An Air Force veteran and Carlisle area resident, Howe is seeking his party nomination for a district that covers all of Columbia County and parts of Cumberland, Dauphin, Northumberland and Perry counties. The seat belongs to Republican Lou Barletta who announced this summer a bid to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bob Casey.
State Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-Cumberland, officially announced Monday he will also run for the 11th Congressional District seat, joining Howe and Republican Dan Meuser, the former Pennsylvania Revenue Secretary. On Tuesday, Berwick borough councilman Andrew Shecktor said he’s dropping his candidacy for U.S. Senate and instead will run for the Republican nomination in Pennsylvania’s 11th District seat.
Howe began Monday night’s town hall at the Ribbon Mill in Carlisle with a presentation on a platform strategy he called “Strong Communities Strong Nation,” which seeks to place a more equitable tax burden on the wealthy while freeing up money for the middle class to spend on the local economy, thus generating greater demand for goods and services.
He then opened the meeting to a range of questions from the crown of about 30 people who attended, questions that included his position on health care reform. His take on the issue starts with a reality check.
“We have to acknowledge that this is one-sixth of the U.S. economy,” Howe said of health care. “If you jerk it too much to the left or to the right, you are going to cause economic harm.” Instead he favors a middle ground, measured approach that builds on what has already been done through the Affordable Care Act.
On the environment, Howe said the Defense Department is concerned climate change could cost the government more to fix and protect coastal military bases. “It’s a funding and operational threat that weakens the force.
“Climate change is real,” Howe added. “It is not a Chinese hoax. It’s a serious threat to the nation. This president needs to understand that. This Congress needs to do something about it. But the fact is Republicans will never do anything about this. We have to put Democrats in the House.”
Related to that, Howe said one goal of government should be to put into place and enforce laws that protect air and water quality from corporate greed. The Trump executive order that calls for the elimination of two old regulations for every new regulation is thoughtless public policy, Howe told the audience.
He also spoke out against a proposal by the president to cut to zero funding such programs as the Chesapeake Bay Restoration and Community Development Block Grants. While projects are needed to improve infrastructure, the programs getting the axe have a proven economic benefit for people living in the 11th District, Howe said.
As for national security, Howe said while some people are concerned about North Korea, many more are concerned about how the Trump administration is handling the escalating tensions.
“Deterrence has worked on the Korean peninsula for decades,” Howe said. He added while North Korea has the ability to devastate South Korea, it has not attacked for a very good reason.
“They are never going to do that because, like all dynasties, they are most concerned about self-preservation,” Howe said. He called on leaders in Washington to make it clear to Kim Jong Un that if hostile action is taken, the U.S. and its allies will go after the regime directly.
The best way to disrupt the control the regime has over the people is to find ways to improve the well-being of North Koreans to create dissatisfaction for the oppression of their government, Howe said.
On gun control, Howe mentioned how his past role as an Air Force NCO involved improving the professionalism of his unit by removing from the military those individuals who had no business serving.
The gun-owning community has a few people whose mental instability has driven them to use guns in mass shootings that have murdered innocent bystanders, Howe said. He cited as an example the killing of school children in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.
“The community needs to take responsibility,” Howe said. “The easiest way we can solve this to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental instability is to make sure we have universal background checks.”
As for the war on drugs, “We are not winning,” Howe said. “It’s just not working. It’s a supply and demand issue. As long as there are people who feel the need to self-medicate, they will continue to do that.”
Howe supports putting into place sunset provisions that set a date for years in the future when federal anti-drug laws are lifted. In the interim, the government could have federal agencies offer state lawmakers guidance on how to implement laws that legalize what is now an illegal trade, thus reducing the financial incentive for criminals.
Right now, states and cities like Seattle are experimenting with different approaches that lower the demand for drugs by helping addicts find the help they need to kick the habit, Howe said. Such approaches are illegal under federal law and could be taken away suddenly by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.