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Ninth District race:
Flaccavento: How to rebuild
Sunday, October 21, 2012
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Anthony Flaccavento, Democratic candidate for 9th District U.S. House seat in the Nov. 6 election, said his main message for the people of Henry County and Martinsville is, “I know times are tough” but community leaders need to work together to build “a bottom-up economy.”
He supports building strong local economies from the bottom up by investing in infrastructure, local businesses and community-based assets.
He also supports expanding and extending tax credits for people and companies that create jobs in the United States, and expanding access to local capital by freeing independent community banks from regulations meant to rein in giant banks.
Flaccavento, 55, who lives near Abingdon, has helped start a number of farming, business and community programs over the past 20 years. He is an organic fruit and vegetable farmer and owns an economic consulting business, SCALE Inc. He has been endorsed by former 9th District U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher.
Flaccavento said he would work to close tax breaks to penalize companies that send jobs overseas. He also would work to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, to expand existing manufacturing or help create new manufacturing, and to diversify the U.S. economy, focusing on building thousands of strong local economies across the country.
For this area, he said, he sees potential for agricultural-based enterprises, as well as cultural, heritage, arts and artisan businesses.
On another issue, Flaccavento said he was not familiar with the circumstances of the stall in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issuing a permit for the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre (CBC) in Henry County. But, he said the issue “is a solvable problem.”
Henry County has received a Virginia Department of Environmental Quality permit needed for site preparation work, such as grading and building roads, at Commonwealth Crossing. But the corps does not like to provide permits for industrial parks with no committed tenants, officials have said, according to a Bulletin article.
Flaccavento was asked whether the federal government had correctly handled the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, and whether President Barack Obama should have been more up-front about terrorism at the start, or was this a case of diplomacy?
“I can’t second-guess what happened. Details are unfolding,” Flaccavento said. As he sees it, the “take-away” from the incident is that security details shouldn’t be downsized if the safety of personnel is jeopardized. He also said there is hope in volatile Libya for a democratic society, “but it doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing” during the transition.
He said that like many people, he is “incredibly frustrated” the attack happened. “The ambassador was highly, highly regarded by the Libyan people,” Flaccavento said.
When asked how he would deal with congressional deadlock, Flaccavento said he has been forming partnerships for years in the private sector, from helping tobacco farmers transition to other crops, to home-ownership programs for low-income families, to small business partnerships involving farmers, loggers, bankers and others. Many of the people he worked with likely had different political affiliations than his, he pointed out.
If elected to Congress, Flaccavento said, he would identify doable steps early, build allies, work to get things done and then build on those successes.
He said he supports balancing the budget through a mix of revenue increases, spending cuts and economic growth. In recent years, the tax system has favored people who make their living from wealth — from such things as stock dividends, Wall Street transactions and capital gains — over people who make their living from work, he said. He would work to increase tax rates for the wealthy and close tax loopholes for people and businesses who park their wealth overseas, he said.
He said some of the most robust times in the United States were when taxes were higher on the wealthy.
According to information from his campaign, protecting the middle-class and working class families is his top priority. He would do that by working to create jobs, maintain benefits and fight middle-class tax hikes, it states.
Flaccavento said reducing the deficit will take a number of things, including expanding the economy as quickly as possible and creating “jobs, better-paying jobs.” He would seek tax cuts for the “real job creators,” including small business owners and entrepreneurs, according to information his campaign provided.
When spending is cut, he said the government should protect the vulnerable. It’s “a moral obligation and better for us as a people.”
He said he would invest in education (from Headstart to higher education) and cut back on such things as ethanol subsidies, subsidies for the most affluent agricultural producers and subsidies for oil companies, which he said have made huge profits over the last decade.
Support for corporations not creating jobs also would be cut, Flaccavento said.
He said he supports strong defense, but he would try to reduce defense spending by spending smarter through such things as being more critical of new defense systems and examining whether overseas bases are needed. However, he supports full funding for veterans’ programs, according to information his campaign provided.
He would remove the $106,000 cap on income taxed for Social Security — above that, people pay nothing — and extend it to all income earned “so millionaires pay the same we pay,” he said. That step alone would provide enough revenue to extend the life of the Social Security trust fund to nearly the end of the century, he said.
Preserving and strengthening Medicare will take a more multifaceted approach, he said. He supports negotiating prescription drug prices, as the Veterans Administration does; focusing on prevention and primary care; and having more coordinated care.
Flaccavento also favors shifting to an outcome-based approach in which doctors are rewarded for improving overall patient health, instead of the current test-based approach that incentivizes activity regardless of need or outcome, according to Flaccavento and information from his campaign. All of those things would help reduce health care costs, he believes.
He favors extending unemployment benefits another time, but policies need to be developed to create jobs, he said, adding that Republicans have voted down a number of jobs initiatives. Job creation would reduce the number of people needing assistance.
When asked what is needed to prevent sequestration, or across-the-board federal spending cuts, Flaccavento said debt reduction will require both revenue (tax) increases and budget cuts.
Flaccavento said he would support a constitutional amendment to negate or overturn the court ruling in Citizens United, which overturned the federal ban on corporate campaign spending. In the meantime, he would support the Fair Elections Now act or similar legislation that would provide a combination of fundraising by the candidate to be matched by funding from the Federal Elections Commission. The FEC funds would come from such things as fees on media companies and sale of bandwidth so as to not add to the deficit, he said.
It would work like this: Say, if 1,500 people contributed $100 or less, the candidate would qualify for $1 million from the FEC. That would allow the candidate to spend more time “talking with small folks,” Flaccavento said.
Flaccavento said he thinks President Obama will carry Virginia on Nov. 6. People won’t forget such comments by Republican candidate Mitt Romney that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on the government.
On the proposal to lift the ban on uranium mining in Virginia, Flaccavento said he is not convinced uranium mining and milling can be done without jeopardizing public health and safety. Until the commonwealth can be confident uranium mining and milling won’t threaten public health and safety, he is opposed, although he added it is a state issue, he said.
Flaccavento said his strategy in the final days of the campaign is “being out in every part of this enormous and incredible district.” He said he is meeting people every day, has scores of volunteers making phone calls and has on-air advertisements. Person-to-person grassroots contact is the core of his campaign, he said.