For the second installment of our series of conversations with the 6th Congressional District candidates, WRKF's Ashley Westerman spoke with Libertarian candidate Rufus Craig, Jr.
This is the Baton Rouge attorney's second run for this seat. Craig wants to rein in the federal deficit, bring American troops home from Afghanistan and repeal President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
But Craig is also concerned about an issue closer to home.
CRAIG: I believe that one of the fundamental reasons we have such gridlock in Washington and the two political parties are so at odds is because of the way the districts are drawn. There is no reason to compromise because each district is either slam-dunk Republican or slam dunk Democrat.
WESTERMAN: So what is your remedy?
CRAIG: Well, draw the districts fair where they are more representative of the people that live in the state. Another alternative would be cumulative voting, make the district state-wide. And in the case of Louisiana, we have six districts, each voter would have six votes, they could vote six times for one person or two times for three people, or however they wanted to spread their votes out. Or you could have an independent commission that is not politically-affiliated that draws the districts so they are competitive, not only for both the major parties, but also some room for us start-up third parties like the Libertarians.
WESTERMAN: Our national debt is now a little over $16 trillion.
WESTERMAN: And you say we need to cut federal spending by more than 40 percent right away to lower the national debt. How would you do that?
CRAIG: Well, 60 percent of our budget is in three departments: Social Security, Medicare/ Medicaid and the Department of Defense. The Republicans want to increase defense spending. Of course, we have Obama Care. And we have the Romney-Ryan healthcare plan that both say they can save $700 billion over 10 years. Well, that's fiddling around the edges.
In order for us to truly reign in the health care costs in this country, there has to be transparency in costs and outcomes. Because I think if the hospitals had to advertise, and it was that you could go on the Internet and look up how many patients are readmitted based on certain procedures in Hospital A as opposed to Hospital B, you would look at it and say, "I'm not going to Hospital A; I'm going to Hospital B," and Hospital A would clean up their act.
Of course, there's a hundred other little programs in the government: T.S.A., Department of Agriculture, Department of Education - all of these things could be scaled back.
WESTERMAN: So talking about those departments and putting everything on the table, when you talk about "scaling back," are you talking about cutting altogether and, if so, which departments would you cut and why?
CRAIG: I'm talking about scaling back and perhaps cutting. One that comes to my mind is the T.S.A. The T.S.A. was a knee-jerk reaction to the attack by some maniac criminals on September 11th. As an attorney, I say if the airline industry knew that if they let some maniac get on the airplane and kill a bunch of people and they would have to pay for doing it, they would have security.
WESTERMAN: Let's talk a little bit about agriculture. Louisiana is a well-known agriculture state; lots of farms, lots of rural areas. The 5-year Congressional Farm Bill officially expired this month with no concrete renewal in sight. And one of the main reasons a renewed farm bill was stalled was the debate over farm subsidies versus crop insurance. What would your approach be to this bill?
CRAIG: We have had an accumulation of farms into bigger and bigger enterprises and bigger and bigger subsidies. If we want to increase farm production in this country, we need to look at the way we do farm business. One idea that I've heard that has some traction is buy local. Buy from smaller farms. Go to farmers' markets. If it was a requirement that public schools and federal institutions and big institutional buyers were required to buy food for their institutions that was grown within 100 miles of where their institution was situated, that would create a huge boom in mom-and-pop farms. We could get back to smaller farms and with smaller farms, I'm not sure that we need all the subsidies and insurance that we have.
WESTERMAN: So if you take away the subsidies, what is your alternative for those mom-and-pop farms? I mean, their livelihood is basically left up to the weather.
CRAIG: If mom-and-pop farms are completely at the whim of the weather, I'm not sure how you could get around that, other than diversify your farm so you have a crop that grows even if the weather's not right.
WESTERMAN: What do you bring to the table that makes you a better candidate for Louisiana's 6th Congressional District seat than your opponents?
CRAIG: Well, each of the current major parties has a constituency that they serve. They are obliged to that constituency because that's where they get their money. What I bring to the table as a Libertarian is that I bring a little bit of the good that the Republicans have in that I truly, strongly feel that we have to rein government in. I bring a little bit to the table that the Democrats do in that I don't think it's relevant in the political debate who's sleeping with who, who's marrying who. Those kinds of questions have nothing to do with it. The idea that we're not all Americans, that we're not all in this together just floors me. I believe that I truly represent and the Libertarian party represents the interest of ordinary people much better than either of the current major parties.