Barrow vs. Stone: Battle for the 12th

Interviews with John Barrow and John Stone follow:

Congressman John Barrow wants a third term as the U.S. Representative from Georgia's 12th Congressional District.

“I’m running for the same reason I ran the first time -- to turn around the direction our country is headed,” Barrow says. “If you were concerned about that then, you really ought to be concerned now.

Although Barrow is a Democrat, he is no cookie-cutter liberal. His stances on the issues have sometimes have landed him square in the Republican camp.

For example, Barrow voted in favor of full funding for the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has consistently opposed an immediate troop withdrawal or an arbitrary time line for withdrawal from Iraq.

Barrow has supported the reauthorization of those portions of the Patriot Act that allow greater coordination between intelligence, federal law enforcement, military and immigration officials. However, he says he upholds safeguards to protect the public’s privacy.

His previous political experience includes serving on the Athens-Clarke County Commission for 14 years, from 1990 to 2004, when he was elected to Congress. He currently serves on the House’s Energy and Commerce Committee and the Agriculture Committee, and today makes his home in Savannah.

While the current economic situation is troublesome, Barrow says it can be fixed. “We’ve had sound economic principles ever since the New Deal,” he says.

Barrow voted against the $700 billion bailout plan both times. He says the government needs to take steps to help correct the credit crisis, but adds the plan as it was approved didn’t go far enough to protect taxpayers. “It’s a $700 billion line of credit for a project to be named later,” he says.

Barrow admits that although the Democrats control Congress, they haven’t been able to accomplish as much as they’d hoped.

“It’s been a mixed picture,” Barrow says. “There have been significant changes in the last four years, but for two of those last four years, the government was still fully in the hands of George Bush and his crowd.

“For the last two years, the government has been profoundly divided,” Barrow says. “We’ve had gridlock. The last two years have been spent in suspended animation.”

But Barrow is proud of some changes, including increased federal support for higher education. “It’s the highest since the GI Bill was passed in 1944,” he says.

“It is the largest increase in that category in the history of the VA. And both are fully paid for, with no increase in taxes.”

Not all economic news has been bad. “The minimum wage went up for the first time 10 years,” Barrow says. “These are the kinds of things we’ve been able to do, in spite of the gridlock.

“But we haven’t been able to police the financial market, especially the national marketplace,” he says. “We haven’t made near the progress we need to make on the energy front.”

Barrow says working families already pay too much in taxes, and lowering taxes has been one of his top priorities. Since taking office, he has supported $4.4 billion in tax cuts.

A strong proponent of agriculture, Barrow has opposed efforts to cut $3.7 billion out of agricultural programs, and supported more than $100 billion in agricultural appropriations to help fund crop insurance programs, federal farm assistance, food safety, agricultural research and conservation.

At one time, American workers built high quality products that were exported around the world. But Barrow says today the country’s biggest exports, both locally and nationally, are jobs.

That is why he voted against CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Because of his support for small business, he has been endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Barrow’s stance on the war in Iraq has set him apart from most Democrats, but he does believe it is time to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis. “The Iraqis are capable of running their own country,” he says. “Where I had disagreed with folks is not about the goal, but the means to achieve it. I don’t think Congress can micromanage the war effort.”

America should increase support for the NATO war on terrorism in Afghanistan, Barrow says. “We should be where the Taliban and Al Qaeda are based,” he says. “Of course, there has been progress, but the question is what trade-offs have been made along the way.”

Healthcare can be made available to everyone, Barrow says. “We’re spending more per capita than anyone else,” he says. “We can make healthcare available if we just spend the money more wisely.”

The change needs to come in the healthcare insurance marketplace, Barrow says, pointing out that Bush promotes health savings accounts and tax breaks.

“He’s trying to get people to pull out of the insurance market and self-insure with tax breaks,” Barrow says. “That’s like paying people to get out of the general risk pool, which just drives up the cost for those of us who remain.”

Approval of such a system “would be a great gain for healthy people -- and wealthy people,” Barrow says.

Education is important, and No Child Left Behind is not successful, Barrow says. “I think it’s characterized by its shortcomings,” he says. “There is some good to be found in it, but the bad outweighs the good.

“‘One-size-fits-all’ doesn’t meet the needs of schools,” Barrow says. “What we need to do is to use higher standards and measures to find out who needs more help, rather than using statistics to decide who to punish and put down, which is why No Child Left Behind has gone wrong. Rather, we need to find out what works and what doesn’t and to support those things that do work.”

On immigration, Barrow believes the borders should be secured and the laws already on the books enforced. Protection of the borders is vital to better homeland security, he says, and he opposes amnesty in any form, because he believes that will only encourage more illegal immigration. cs

A FORMER news anchor and reporter for WBBQ News in Augusta, John Stone entered politics in 1994 as part of the Republican Revolution. Now he wants to replace John Barrow as the U.S. Representative from Georgia's 12th Congressional District.

Stone is the former president of the U.S. Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit conservative organization founded in 2002. He was deputy chief of staff and communications director for both the late U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood and former U.S. Rep. Max Burns.

“There is so much at stake for our country right now,” Stone says. “I can’t ever remember a time when I felt compelled to run because so many people think so much is wrong.”

Stone opposes all tax increases, and would seek to eliminate the current income tax system, including the Internal Revenue Service. He considers the $700 billion bailout “a rip-off,” but says the economy can be fixed.

“It’s going take something dramatically different from what either party proposes,” Stone says.

Congress should provide the military with whatever resources it needs, then provide the freedom of action to win the war in Iraq. “We need to win the war so we can bring all our troops home,” Stone says.

“This is a key difference between myself and my opponent,” he says. “He was against the troop surge. Last week, he told the Associated Press that Bush is not responsible for the success in Iraq. I’m absolutely at loggerheads with that.”

Stone supports a stronger show of force in Afghanistan, but doesn’t support micro management by Congress. “We let the politicians make strategic decisions,” he says. “We need to turn the military loose and give them what they need to win this thing. We should take their advice and give them support.”

America must develop its own sources for fuel, Stone says. “When we get to the point where we are energy independent, we can stop funding people who are trying to blow us up,” he says. “I have no interest in the United States supporting the Middle East.”

To become energy independent, Stone says, “I propose everything,” which includes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). “We should drill off-shore, drill in Alaska, do everything we can to increase the supply of domestic oil,” he says. “We need a 10-year national plan, a commitment, like we did when we put a man on the moon.

“In the 60s, when we made a commitment to put a man on the moon, the technology to do it didn’t exist,” Stone says. “We decided just to do it. We used our best minds and resources, including the private sector.”

The development of alternative fuels must be promoted, Stone says. “We’ve got to find the silver bullet to get relief,” he says. “There are all kinds of exciting possibilities -- wind, solar, thermal. I don’t know how practical they will be, but they’re worth looking at.”

Stone thinks it’s possible to see real results in less than 10 years. “We have to do research,” he says. “I think while we’re building two new interstates, we should go ahead and put light rail in. I’d like to be able to take a commuter rail myself.”

Global warming exists, but it’s not caused by humans, Stone says. “I do not believe any man-made acts caused global warming,” he says. “I think we do have global warming, but I think it’s a natural cycle in the weather.”

Nationwide school choice would help reverse suburban sprawl, Stone says. “We should be doing everything we can about air pollution,” he says. “That’s just common sense. We should do everything we can to cut emissions. They’re bad, and there’s no reason for them.”

Stone says one way to cut emissions is to expand nuclear energy programs. “As we’re speaking, I’m driving by Plant Vogtle,” he says. “One way to get rid of a lot of emissions is with greater nuclear reactors. That would eliminate the need for coal-fired electric plants and would cut air pollution.”

As to nuclear waste, Stone says there’s a solution for that, too. “We have a great solution for that at Yucca Mountain,” he says. “It’s already paid for, and it’s the safest place in the world to store nuclear waste.”

A resident of Augusta, Stone lives near the Savannah River Site. “It’s on the other side of the river from my district,” he says. “There are ways to cut nuclear waste and turn it into fuel and create jobs. Those are the kinds of projects we as a nation can do to take the lead in energy solutions.”

Finding health care solutions is “going make a lot of people mad,” Stone says. “We have the finest health care in the world, and obviously, we’re paying for it. But it is the best system out there.

“I see people all around the country who have single-payer health care,” he says. “We have to find a better way of paying for it.”

An area of particular concern for Stone is the people who can’t buy insurance because they have pre-existing health conditions. “We can fix that without a nickel of federal money simply by doing common sense reform,” he says.

Stone says he would reintroduce a patient’s bill originally sponsored by Sen. John McCain. “Regardless of what happens (in the presidential race), that is one of the bills I would introduce on Day One.”

Education also needs to be reformed, Stone says. “The first thing I would do is vote to repeal No Child Left Behind,” he says. “Give control back to the states. I think the state of Georgia has a better idea of what to do to make its schools successful. What works for Chatham County is not going to work in Bulloch County. Send the money back home.”

Social Security isn’t broken, but it needs some adjustments, Stone says. “We have to balance the overall federal budget, do what the Republican Congress did in the 90s, balance the budget and limit the rate of growth in federal spending for three to four years in a row and catch up. It’s going to hurt, but it needs to be done.”

Stone would seek to end automatic birthright citizenship, given to all babies born on American soil regardless of their parents’ nationality, and also would make English America’s official language. cs

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