Ask the Candidate: Mark Gibson

Independent candidate for Virginia's 11th Congressional district answers 10 questions from Patch readers.

Earlier this month, our readers submitted questions for Patch's Ask the Candidates forum. 

Candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in Virginia's 11th District are giving their answers this week on Patches across the district.

Today, Independent Mark Gibson responds to the survey. His responses appear unedited below.

You can read responses from other candidates who responded to the survey throughout the week here. 

How will sequestration affect Northern Virginia? If elected, do you intend to fight it?

Our most immediate problem is also a long-term problem:  our dependence on the federal government as an employer and customer.  The immediate hurdle is the cuts associated with sequestration:  if the cuts go into effect at the end of the year, many of our neighbors will be out of work and many businesses will fail.  These cuts must not occur, in part because their aimless and arbitrary.  

Our dependence on the federal government is also a long-term problem because our local economy isn't diversified and cannot weather such politically inspired shocks.  Our unemployment rate is half the national rate in part because the federal government gobbles up all the talent.  As an employer I can't find the people I need to grow.   We need to trim inefficient and antiquated programs/departments that don't provide the modern public services and goods we need, and allow our local economy to evolve and grow in the areas of R&D, biotechnology, and academia.  

Do you support Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (also called Obamacare, or the federal health care law)?

PPACA needs to be revised and reenergized with a focus on cost inflation.  PPACA Version 2.0 must do three things:

  • Prohibit government reimbursement to health care providers on a fee-for-service basis and move to integrated care where patient outcome is the focus for all programs that reimburse private providers including Medicare and Medicaid.  (Currently the federal government pays for 50% of all health care when including military health care.)
  • Open up and secure nationwide insurance markets for individuals and businesses to encourage competition that lowers prices, scraping government-run state insurance exchanges that only institutionalize inefficient and incomplete markets.  Such action is in line with the Constitution's Commerce Clause and Congress's authority to regulate interstate commerce.
  • Remove the tax-favored status of employer-provided health insurance, effectively removing a subsidy that drives up prices.  Aside from its price effect the tax break is the single largest tax expenditure, costing the U.S. Treasury $171 billion in tax revenue in 2012.

Further, as a matter of overall policy, the federal government must stop pushing mandates to states and individuals for implementation. If Congress wants a program – regardless of size or intended effect – it must find the fiscal means to pay for and administer that program at the federal level.

How do you differ from your opponents on defense issues?

We need to:

  • Stop focusing on budgets only – that doesn’t differentiate between effective and inefficient programs or do anything to define what supports national defense and what wastes money.
  • Stop focusing on defense jobs – it’s not a jobs program; focus instead on what jobs are needed to provide security.
  • Recognize that our service members are professionals; move toward higher “professional” pay and benefit saving accounts and away from “volunteer” pay and indefinite-liability, paternal, post-employment benefits.
  • Stop legislating weapon systems that the military doesn’t want or need.
  • Focus on simple weapon systems that do one thing well rather than sophisticated, complex systems that try to do everything.
  • Stop focusing on base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and start focusing on mission, shedding non-military functions such as retail operations, family housing, and on-base recreation for installations that have sufficient support functions in the local community; this shift also helps support the local economy.

Government spending has increased significantly in the last few years. Do you have plans to change that?

I agree that spending has increased over the last few years; part of that has been war spending, part to counter poor economic performance.  But as I said above with regard to defense spending, the focus needs to be on vital public goods and services rather extraneous programs and functions that are better provided by the private sector.

First, downsize the number of Congressional committees.  There are 21 committees and 104 subcommittees in the House of Representatives; the Senate has 20 committees and 78 subcommittees.  The committee structure is supposed to develop and exhibit members’ expertise in a particular area; that can’t happen when members serve on multiple committees.  The current structure causes decision making to become dispersed and disjointed, creating the opportunity for legislative activism and economic tinkering.

Next, consolidate cabinet-level departments to get rid of duplicative administrative functions and align programs so they are better coordinated and more concise.  I propose that the executive branch reduce the number of cabinet level departments to seven: State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Commerce. For balance, the House and Senate should reduce its committees to seven (one for each department) with three additional committees that span functions: Budget, Intelligence, and Congressional Operations.

Then get rid of antiquated programs – especially those distort free markets.  Obvious examples are the Renewable Fuel Standard that redirects crops to fuel production (driving up food prices) and mortgage interest deductibility that subsidizes homeownership (driving up house prices).

Immediate action is also needed to begin scaling back Medicare and Social Security eligibility to future beneficiaries, raising the age of eligibility to 70 within 20 years while ensuring that current participants remain whole.

By its nature, the federal government’s budget must counter the business cycle – spending more than it takes in (by issuing debt) when revenue is slack and taking in more than it spends (and retiring debt) when revenue is plentiful.  This principle is not for economic effect but to get the best deal in purchasing labor and goods when prices are low.  It’s also important to maintain a consistent tax structure that sets expectations and provides predictable revenue.

Many states, including Virginia, have received waivers of the No Child Left Behind Act and others have waivers pending. Are you willing to support a repeal of this law nationally?

Yes, I support repealing the law.  I think the Department of Education needs to be brought into the Department of Commerce and change its focus from a gatekeeper of grants to a repository of free education resources and best practices.  It also needs to provide students, parents, and teachers with information that helps them align their education to the employer needs and available jobs.

Public education is a public good: the costs are borne by all and the benefits accrue to all – consumers (students and parents), society, and employers. There are more than 14,000 public school districts in the United States.  I offer no experience on public education other than as a consumer: I am a product of public school from Kindergarten through graduate school and my kids attend public school. My parents were educators in public schools and my father was an officer of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Education Association, a local affiliate of the 3-million-member National Education Association teachers' union.

The federal government needs to use its buying power to provide free online resources for all 14,000 school districts in the United States as well as homeschoolers.  It should research and promulgate best educational practices for students, parents, and teachers.

What position do you have on requiring students with special needs and individualized education plans to take the same SOLs as their age-peers, regardless of how far behind academically they might be?

There was a terrific post by the principal of Falls Church High School on Patch.com recently, talking about a 17-year-old freshman who was newly emigrated, does not speak one word of English, and last attended school in his own country at age 6.  This is not a special needs student, but is one that does require an educational path different from his age group.

I believe there needs to be a balance between encouraging a diverse student population and helping students get to their peak achievement.  Part of that is revamping the traditional class arrangement of age-based grades to one based on achievement and merit.

What will you personally do in 2013 to ensure our nation recovers from the decades of irresponsible politicians who have put our future at great risk?

The representative from the 11th District has a great opportunity not afforded many members of Congress:  proximity to the electorate.  When not required to be on the House floor or in committee, I will get personally involved in the community, meeting and listening to voters.

As an Independent, I have a special advantage over candidates from the major parties:  I have no agenda other than effective, efficient government and no interest other than that of my neighbors.  I have accepted contributions only from individual voters of the 11th District; I vow to continue that practice.

The Republican-controlled House has twice voted for the Ryan budget, which would cut $5.7 trillion from federal programs, replace Medicare by establishing a voucher system to help seniors and the disabled pay part of the cost of buying private insurance, and privatize Social Security. Since congressmen only have the ability to vote up or down on the plan, would you vote Yes or No for the Ryan budget if, as expected, it comes before Congress next year?

I’d vote “No” because the issues are too contorted and intertwined.  Here’s what I support:

Ensure that current participants in the programs continue to participate as they do today

Raise the age of eligibility for Medicare and Social Security to 70 within 20 years

Evolve both programs to need-based enrollment

Revert Social Security to a pay-as-you-go social insurance program for less fortunate seniors; it was never and can never be a fully funded pension system

Prohibit fee-for-service physician Medicare reimbursement and move to payment based on health outcome; as with PPACA, there’s not enough focus on healthcare inflation and the federal government’s inflationary role

Despite rhetoric to the contrary, do you agree that actions taken by President Bush, including two unfunded wars, Medicare Part D, and the Bush tax cuts, all of which were not paid for, were the primary causes of the collapse of the economy in October 2008?  Do you support President Obama's proposal to end the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 per year?

All that unfunded spending and tax cuts overheated the economy: what goes up must come down. I do not support the President’s proposal because it does not get to the heart of what’s needed:  comprehensive overhaul of the tax code.  Overall I believe that tax rates must remain slightly progressive while wage and nonwage income are treated equally with no deductions.  I support scraping everything and starting fresh with a broad-based system that draws from sales transactions, wage income, and investment income:  no deductions or exemptions; one $25,000 pre-tax exclusion for each taxpayer; no employment taxes (Social Security, Medicare, etc.); no filing of annual tax return for most individuals; no commodity or excise taxes; no corporate taxes.  In short:

National sales tax:  5% paid on the sale of all goods and services.

Distributed corporate earnings that are not tied to an individual U.S. tax ID are taxed at the single personal rate.

Personal income tax

Income from labor and capital is taxed at the same rate.

A single steady rate that excludes the first $25,000/year.

Tax deferral on the first $25,000/year of new savings and investments in a single account; continual "catch up" contributions; phase out 401(k) plans and Roth IRA.

Withdrawals from the tax-deferred account are treated as income with no penalty.

Capital gains and earnings within the tax-deferred account are not taxed until withdrawn from the account.

Capital gains and reinvested earnings on any asset outside the tax-deferred account are not taxed until the asset is sold or those gains and earnings redeemed.

Assets can be transferred to another owner and are not taxed until the asset is sold or those gains and earnings redeemed.

There is a serious lack of funds for Northern Virginia transportation projects, including for the Silver Line. Do you think there should be more federal funding for these projects? What’s the right balance between federal, state and local funding?

We have been blessed with prosperity in Northern Virginia in part because of the presence and the economic benefits that flow from the federal government.  As affluent as we are, we should not go back to the federal government for additional funds for local transportation projects.  I think we need to solve these issues at the state/county/city levels and keep a federal transportation perspective for interstate and international initiatives.  Our focus must be on Richmond to secure existing state tax dollars for Northern Virginia transportation projects and gain some autonomy in funding the projects we need.

the-stix October 18, 2012 at 07:53 PM
The Obama 2013 Budget is only vague happy-words. And it was rejected by the Dem controlled Senate 99-0. Even the House with a uber liberal Nancy Pelosi Dem caucus gave it xero votes.
Groovis Maximus October 18, 2012 at 09:30 PM
The Senate never brought up the President's Budget for a vote. The President's budget is his request - it is not a bill presented for a vote. And it's not vague happy-words. There is an Appendix that is very specific about the funding requested for every Federal program. Each of the appropriations subcommittees (House and Senate) have completed their appropriations bills. The full committee in the Senate has passed all the funding bills except for the Interior bill. However, none of the bills has been brought to the full floor for a vote. (The full House has actually passed about half of their appropriations bills - the other half have been through the full committee.) None of these bills mirrors the President's request, although there are large pieces of the President's request funded in the both the House and Senate bills. Congressional response to the President's budget is really no different this year than it is any other year. There's always wrangling between parties - but also between members of the same party with different interests and ideas for earmarks. And you might be surprised at how little the President's budget actually changes between Republican and Democrat administrations. Most changes are around the margins - a little more funding for this, a little less for that. But there are very rarely big, sweeping changes.
the-stix October 19, 2012 at 02:20 AM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/may/16/democrat-led-senate-votes-down-4-gop-budgets-for-1/?page=all "The entire Senate also unanimously rejected President Obama’s 2013 budget, voting 99-0 against it, following a 414-0 vote against it in the House earlier this year."
Groovis Maximus October 19, 2012 at 05:32 PM
That was not the President's Budget. That was a bill using the President's topline numbers from the Pres Bud with no associated detail. It was introduced by a Republican from South Carolina as a political gimmick. Again - the House and Senate do not vote on the President's Budget. The appropriation committees spend months going over every detail, they craft their own bills - and those are what get voted on. http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/218931-house-clobbers-obama-budget-proposal-in-0-414-vote
the-stix October 19, 2012 at 07:19 PM
You are correct in that there is no Obama 2013 Budget, but merely a “plan” which having not been reduced to legislation is no better than “happy-talk”. Thank you.


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