Politics Published: Aug 6, 2012 - 4:22:35 PM

ConnecticutPlus.com exclusive: Interview with U.S. Senate candidate Christopher Shays

By Canaiden Media (interview conducted by Naiden Stoyanov)

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ConnecticutPlus.com believes that it is the civic duty of every one of us to make the best educated choice when it comes to electing the people to represent us at the different levels of government.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. That's why, we all have to make as much effort as possible to educate ourselves of the opinions and personalities of the candidates who ask for our vote so that when we go to the polls we are truly prepared and confident that we are making the right choice.

As we continue our tradition that we started when we began publishing in 2005 we present you our one-on-one interviews with the major candidates running to be the next U.S. Senator from Connecticut.

We hope that these interviews will help you in your selection process in these ever more important elections.

NOTE: Interviews have been conducted in person or over the phone during the month of July by our Editor-in-Chief Naiden Stoyanov and have been edited for brevity, clarity and grammar. We asked for half an hour with each of the four major candidates and they graciously accepted our invitations. Some candidates opted to speak with us longer. In our attempt to bring you as much information as possible, we did not interrupt our interviews at the half hour mark therefore some of the interviews are longer than others. Interview length was at the discretion of the candidate and should not be viewed as an indication of bias on our part. We are proud to be an independent media. Mr. Stoyanov is not a member of or affiliated with any party.

Christopher Shays
- Republican
- Former U.S. Representative from Connecticut's 4th District
- Website: shaysforussenate.com

NS: Mr. Shays, thank you for taking time to speak with us. On the issues, what's the biggest difference between you and Linda McMahon?

CS: You don't know where she stands on the issues. She is avoiding meeting the press, she is avoiding answering questions, she is avoiding being definitive about anything. For instance she criticizes Obamacare, but she doesn't really says that she'd vote to repeal it, or replace it. The differences are, we can start with some general things. She and Chris Murphy have something very much in common. They both helped elect Nancy Pelosi as speaker. She contributed tens of thousands of dollars in '06 and '08 first to elect Nancy Pelosi as speaker then to keep her as speaker. And then in 2010 she runs as a Republican. There's no history of having any service to the Republican Party, no history of being supportive of the Republican Party. And I've won 18 elections and I've never sought to be on an independent line. And she is going around with 100 paid workers to collect signatures to be on the independent line. Yet, she calls herself a Republican. There's no way that a Republican will be doing that.

She spent $49,574,500 to win and she lost by 12 percent in the Republican era [last election].

Now she spent another $10 million, so she spent over $60 million but it's still the same effort, to try to become the next United States Senator.

NS: Are you more conservative than she is?

CS: Oh, I clearly have to be! Let me explain why. She is not a fiscal conservative, I am. You don't spend $60 million dollars, which she's spent now, to try to win a Senate seat, so recklessly. You just don't do that. A fiscal conservative would never think that. Ross Perot, with all of his money, spent about $35 million, and he ran for President of the United States.

NS: She would probably say that she believes in this that's why she wants to go to Washington and make a difference.

CS: But she is spending so recklessly. She could've spent $30 million and done better. She lost by 12 percent with a Republican wind in her back. She is not a fiscal conservative. No fiscal conservative would spend $60 million so wastefully. She spent it wastefully. All the mailers, all the phone calls, all the TV, so wastefully. And she is not a social conservative, nothing close to social conservative. You are nothing close to social conservative when you are running a business and your husband is in the ring, forcing one of this employees, female, to take off all her clothes, except her underwear and walk around like a dog and bark like a dog. Or when he pulls down his pants and people kiss his bare ass. Or when they get two porn queens to wrestle and they take off their clothes. No one could be a social conservative and do that.

So, to answer your question, I am clearly a fiscal conservative and she is not and in terms of her being a social conservative, there's no way that she is a social conservative.

NS: As far as your Democratic opponents, who would you rather face in November?

CS: I don't care.

NS: You feel strongly with both.

CS: They both are very liberal. They both are focused on supporting the the President's healthcare plan which I think is destructive. They are big spenders, they believe in more government, so there's nothing about them that distinguishes them one way or the other.

NS: Do you think that whoever wins the Republican nomination in August is going to be the winner in November?

CS: I think Linda McMahon loses and she loses big.

NS: How about if you win [the nomination]?

CS: If I win, I think I am in a dead heat.

NS: On your website you call to restore America and that 'Washington's gone crazy'. Most agree but some say that you were part of Washington in your tenure as a Congressman. What would you tell those that think you are an inside politician?

CS: I have the experience so I know what to do! I was part of the solution, not part of the problem. Anyone who knows my record knows I was part of the solution. I haven't even been there the last four years. I've never seen a trillion dollar deficit when I was there. Now, we're spending four, five trillion debt just under this president? It's pretty disgraceful. And he blames the previous president? I don't know any president who has been so willing to pass the blame and not stand up and do what needs to be done.

I haven't been there in the last four years. I thought I had a distinguished career of service to the people of the Fourth District and the State and to the Nation and I said, no, time to move on.

And I co-chaired the Commission on Wartime Contracting, I was asked to do that by the now speaker and the Republican leader of the Senate and we did a terrific job, respected by Republicans and Democrats, the House, the Senate and the White House. We [got rid of] $60 billion in waste out of $205 billion. And I did that for two and a half years.

But when I was down there, I just saw, what I call, insanity. I saw people with no courage, I saw legislators not willing to talk straight to the American people and when Joe decided to get out of the race, I said, 'Oh, boy. I've got to decide whether I really want to sit on the sideline, with the skills I have, the experience I have, and frankly the guts that I've displayed.' And I said, 'no, I'm getting in this race.' I think a lot of people didn't want to take on a billionaire. But, for me, I thought, I'm going to do my best to make sure she doesn't buy the election and I don't say anything about her that I don't believe.

I don't want Linda McMahon to be my senator any more than I want Hugh Hefner to be my senator.

NS: Let's picture this. It's January 2013, distribution of power is pretty much the same in Washington, but now you are in the mix. You are in the Senate minority, Republicans have the House, President Obama is reelected. Why should we think that anything will be different, that things will finally start moving through?

CS: On opening day I will go to the Senate floor and I will ask Reid when he will pass the budget which they haven't passed. I'll go there the next day, I'll go there the next day, I will go there the next week, I will be on that Senate floor every day asking when are they going to pass a budget? The budget tells you how much you can spend, how much you can entitle, it tells you what you can tax. That's one thing. Secondly, I don't have the members in the Senate and I always found a Democrat to co-sponsor every bill, so I will be basically a very active member who wouldn't wait my turn and if I offended any older current senators, I don't give a damn, I don't care, let me put it that way.

NS: Fiscally, there is a big chance that we'll find ourselves at the brink of another need to raise the debt ceiling or risk a government shutdown. Your position?

CS: It depends. It depends whether the Senate is willing to get a handle on spending. If it's not going to get a handle on spending, I'm not going to raise the debt ceiling. If they agree to some plan to get us out there, I'll vote to raise the debt ceiling. We are spending ourselves to oblivion and we have to come to grips with it. If there's a willingness on the part of the House and Senate to act like adults and begin to control spending, then I would vote to raise the debt ceiling. If they're not, I'm not going to be part of it, because all we're doing is just delaying the inevitable. We'll have a crash if we don't get a handle on spending.

NS: How about a situation like the one we had last time? If congress didn't raise the debt ceiling, who knows what was going to happen with the world economy?

CS: That's why you've got to act responsibly. And responsibly means, get a handle on spending. You can't keep spending like we're spending and vote to raise the debt ceiling because it will be even worse in the future. We've got to come to grips with our spending problem. Yes, I voted to increase the debt ceiling eight times and I voted not to increase the debt ceiling 13 times.

NS: You are saying that you want to lower taxes. How would you lower taxes and pay for it?

CS: We did it in the '90s. We cut spending, lowered taxes and the economy grew and we balanced the budget for four years. I'm not inventing something that we didn't do. We balanced the budget for four years. We did it by freezing government spending, slowing the growth of entitlements and reducing taxes. Some taxes you reduce, you get more revenue, some taxes you increase, you get less. It's basic common sense. If you buy luxury goods, I say, 'oh, you are a rich guy, you buy luxury goods, I increase the tax on luxury goods,' you won't buy luxury goods. You reduce it and you start to buy it. I voted to increase taxes in 1991. Last time I voted to do that. And it was a tax on boats, jewelry, airplanes, cars. Anything over $100 thousand – a special tax. Wealthy people just stopped buying boats. And it put all those unwealthy boat makers, I put them out of business.

NS: You think you can increase revenue by cutting taxes and still balance the budget?

CS: If the economy [growth] continues to be at 1.6 percent, there will be no social security for our kids, there will be no Medicare and Medicaid. That's a fact, if we have this pathetic growth that we've had for the last 12 years. You have to grow the economy. Some people say: 'I focus on jobs'. No, I focus on growing the economy. Jobs come when you grow the economy. If you focus on jobs programs you don't necessarily grow the economy.

NS: How do you grow the economy?

CS: The first think you do is you act responsibly. You get your country's financial house in order by not spending 24 percent of your gross domestic product, you reduce the size of the federal government, I think by at least 20 percent. I'm talking about the government, not the entitlements now. [For] every four people that leave you hire one, or [for] every three people that leave, you hire one. If you have too many employees in this department, you transfer them. If they don't want to transfer, then they lose their job. That's the reality. Now, what happens when you are a businessman. You say 'My God, Congress is starting to act like grownups. This is an economy I can start to invest in'.

For 200 years the economy grew up [annually] four percent on average. If the economy grows at 4 percent that means that every 18 years your wealth is doubled. Now, maybe your family's wealth has doubled, maybe mine increased by more. But on average the wealth of the nation doubled every 18 years. When I was in the 50s and 60s my mom and dad said I would be better off than my brothers and my children would be better off. And they called it the promise of America, they called it the American dream. That has been part of our whole concept, our whole framework of thinking. Every generation – better off.

NS: What has changed?

CS: What has changed is this. You had democracy and free market. You put them together – you got growth. You had hard working Americans and technology and you put them together – you got growth. And one last thing. You got resources. We used the resources of this country. And we combined this – these five things – democracy, free markets, hard working Americans, technology and then the resources of your country. You put that all together – you've got growth. So, what's the incredible opportunity now? We have 100 years of natural gas. In public lands we can get royalties, help reduce the debt. And private sector people have it on their property. It goes from Denver, north to the Dakotas all the way to New York state. Natural gas is there. It's going for $12 a barrel, the equivalent, if you did it by barrels, versus about $100 a barrel for [oil]. You convert your truck fleets to natural gas, your factories to work on natural gas, we will undersell the world in energy, you are going to start to see a flow of capital come back to the United States. It's estimated that Americans have two trillion dollars worth of capital to invest, that they are not [currently investing], because they don't trust Congress and they don't see certainty. And there's money overseas that would flock here. So, you will see a regrowth of industry in the United States as our energy costs will become so much less.

NS: Talking about natural gas, do you agree with fracking, do you support fracking?

CS: Absolutely!

NS: Do you think it's safe?

CS: Absolutely! It's down deep, you have to have good steel piping to get through the aquifers, you've got to do that smartly. Fracking is down deep.

NS: How about this case in Pennsylvania [which was all over the news where people's water was shown to have attained the ability to be lit on fire, allegedly caused by the fracking operation underneath it]?

CS: That's because they didn't use proper steel. See, this gets to my part. Americans want manufacturing and all of a sudden they don't want it. And they don't want it because of 'a' case, 'a' case in Pennsylvania, where it wasn't properly regulated – they didn't go down deep. And in some parts where it is not deep, you can't do it.

NS: How about the exportation of manufacturing jobs, for instance, to China? A lot of politicians are talking against it, but nobody seems to be doing anything about it.

CS: I am. I am.

NS: What [would you be doing about it]?

CS: We're not connecting. I am promoting what we should do here. You have to take capital here, to the United States. Labor cost, capital cost, resources. And you've got to look at it. You got the resources here. I mean, the chemical industry is going to flourish, because the chemical industry uses gasoline and petroleum products for everything. We are going to put the rest of the chemical world out of business. Not totally, but they're not going to be able to compete with our chemical companies. You can't repeal the law of gravity. You can't tell an American what he can do or can't do. They want to invest in something overseas, they're going to invest overseas. You can't change that. What you've gotta to is make sure you are better than they [overseas countries] are. That you are cheaper. We still produce more than anyone in the world. People don't realize that. We produce more than China, we produce more than anyone else.

NS: You are talking about manufacturing or the service industry?

CS: Manufacturing. But we do it with less people, we do it with technology. But when we get our energy cost down, that's going to have a huge impact.

NS: What do you think about China and our inability to make them value their currency on the free market?

CS: We just have to keep putting more pressure on them. But in the end, all they are doing is they're robbing themselves.

NS: Going away from the economy, on healthcare...

CS: We would not have healthcare, we would not have social security if we don't get the economy moving. So, that's what my focus is. My focus is on getting us back to 4% growth. Which is normal. It doesn't seem normal to you, because for the last 12 years of your adult life you haven't seen economic growth. But it was normal for me, it was normal for my parents, it was normal for my grandparents. We saw economic growth.

NS: On healthcare, the recent Supreme Court decision came out and Chief Justice Roberts, who is a Bush nominee, a conservative, sided with the liberals to uphold the law. Were you surprised by that and what do you think about the decision of the Supreme Court?

CS: I think it was an interesting decision. I think they could've gone either way. It's a five-four decision. But in the end, what he basically said is... first off, the administration said [the healthcare law] wasn't a tax, then they went to the court and said it should be constitutional based on two things: based on the interstate commerce clause and based on the fact that it was a tax. First they said it wasn't a tax and then they go to the Supreme Court and said it was a tax. Bottom line is, five of the justices accepted that it was a tax. And that means that it's constitutional based on a tax. They made the decision, we've got to live with it. But it also means that we can repeal it with a simple majority.

NS: You think that's going to happen in the next few years?

CS: If Romney is elected president and [Republicans] have a House and Senate majority, that it would be repealed. And it should be.

We should be able to buy healthcare anywhere in the county, we should have it be transportable, there needs to be tort reform that's significant. 26 year-olds, makes sense, they should be part of their parents' plan. Dealing with preexisting conditions, lifetime caps, I think we need to get a handle on that. But I ultimately think each state should decide whether they let universal coverage or not.

NS: So you are not talking about reverting to the previous plan, you are talking about replacing it with something else?

CS: Yes. And it should be a better plan. I don't believe in mandating it federally.

People don't get to have any input on a federal plan. [It should be decided] state by state. The way they get it in Massachusetts and some other states.

NS: How would you ensure mobility then?

CS: The federal government could establish that you could buy healthcare anywhere. There are certain things that the federal government could mandate.

NS: So you are talking about a federal government framework...

CS: The framework would be that each state has to decide how many of their citizens they want to cover. There should be some basic rules that would allow anyone to buy healthcare – that it's transportable and they can buy it anywhere. And I also believe in large pooling so that people don't have to buy it as individuals. When you buy it as individual, you pay more.

NS: Do you think that there is a country out there that we can model our healthcare after?

CS: I think there are some contrasts. Japan and South Korea spend seven percent of their GDP on healthcare. We spent 17 percent. We have a system – diagnosis, pill, diagnosis, pill, diagnosis, pill. And you don't have a system of wellness. We need to focus on wellness. Wellness is healthcare illness prevention. We [should] focus on keeping people well and fit. We have a lot of obese people in this country. There also has to be personal responsibility. So, you are responsible to pay for someone who is sick because of their own particular habits? Is it my responsibility to pay for in-vitro fertilization?

NS: If you don't have money to pay, and you are not insured and you go to the ER, who would pay for your care?

CS: That's an incentive for states, in my judgment, to try to see how they cover more Americans. I was one of the strongest proponents, when I was in Congress, of community-based healthcare clinics. I was a champion of community-based healthcare clinics.

NS: Who pays for somebody who doesn't have the money to pay for their care?

CS: In those cases most of it was paid by the federal government.

NS: Who should pay for it right now. Still the federal government?

CS: I believe in the community-based healthcare clinics and that they are a very good safety net. I think we need to work towards universal healthcare coverage, but I think it should be on a state by state [basis].

The present plan discourages research and innovation. And that's probably the most destructive part of his bill. Because, our real hope is that we have breakthroughs in Alzheimers, heart disease, ALS and dementia, diabetes. When I was a kid in the 50s, we were incredibly fearful of polio and they thought, in the 50s, that today we would spend close to a trillion dollars on just dealing with polio. We are spending nothing, because of the breakthroughs here. If we don't find breakthroughs in Alzheimers, in diabetes, in heart disease, in ALS, our healthcare system would collapse. The reason that the present healthcare plan [is not good], it doesn't provide a means for people who do research to get their money back. We are not seeing the same amount of research that we used to see. So you are not going to get the same amount of breakthroughs. If I did 10 research projects and only one succeeded, and it's more like 100, and I spend a billion dollars for each one, I need to get back $10 billion from the one that works. The pressure is that people aren't getting back what they put into it. You've got to get the money back for all research, not just the research on the one that succeeded. And the president's plan puts into real doubt whether the federal government and the healthcare plans would pay for that.

NS: Why?

CS: Because they are afraid that the president's plan will not allow them to get their cost [back] because of all the price controls that are being set and all the organizations that are going to be looking to say what's a fair price.

NS: On a provider level, pharmaceutical level or both?

A: Both.

NS: What do you think about the recent decision by the Obama administration regarding illegal immigrants?

A: Really what he is saying is that he has the right to pardon them. Does that mean you can pardon everyone that's here illegally?

NS: They [the administration] are saying that's not amnesty...

A: The President said that no one would get healthcare if they were illegal immigrants. He was technically right. Two weeks later he goes to the Latino caucus and says people who are here undocumented need to be put on a path to citizenship. So he is basically saying they won't get [healthcare benefits] because they are illegal [immigrants] , but then he is saying they will be legal... My plan is that you get everyone a blue card.

NS: What is a blue card?

A: It's my invention. It allows you to work in this country but it doesn't allow you a path to citizenship. It allows you to live here, work here, go home, come back, but it doesn't give you a green card and a path to citizenship.

NS: How about legal immigration?

A: I would increase the number of legal immigrants. I would have people who study here, who have degrees... We have self selection now and I think it needs to be a proactive selection. We need people who have good engineering degrees here. So you come here and you study and get a degree – I would give a preference to someone like that, for a green card.

NS: This should stop the 'brain drain' where students come here, we give them great education, then they go back to benefit someone else...

A: And one time we thought that was good because other countries needed it, but we are in a real tight competition. We want to keep those folks. And let me just say – there are so many people illegally who are really hard-working. And it's not a dis on them it's just the recognition that you have people waiting in line and then you have people who jump the line.

NS: Is our education system failing right now and how would you fix it?

A: Our education system needs to be improved on a state-by-state level with federal dollars for science and math. But bottom line, my judgment is, the education is failing. In part because families are failing. You take the same income level - Latino community vs a white or a black community and Latino communities do better, at the same income levels, because they have a bigger focus on family. We can't discount family from the educational system.

NS: During your time as a U.S. Representative you've been known to have been a supporter of the war in Iraq and has visited our troops there more than any other U.S. legislator at that time. Then, in 2006 you called for a withdrawal timetable, Where do you stand now?

A: I thought that we needed to get our of Iraq and I was right. It made sense for us to get out. We couldn't be there indefinitely. Am I concerned about an incredible large embassy in Iraq? Yes, it's just too big. But we needed to pass the mantle on to the [Iraqi] government?

NS: How about the rest of the conflicts there?

A: We needed to move out of Afghanistan. I never thought the war in Afghanistan was “the good war” as this president called it. The President called Afghanistan “the good war” and Iraq “the bad war”. I thought Iraq was the war we had a national interest, I don't see the national interest in Afghanistan.

NS: How about Libya and Syria? Where do you stand on both right now? Libya, having had our involvement and Syria going forward? What do you think we should do?

A: We have to do what George Bush Sr. did and that's work with the neighbors. We've got to work with Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and have them have a united position against what's going on in Syria. We've got to work with the Chinese in the Russians to have them understand that if they keep doing what they're doing [the conflict is] just going to continue, with no resolution. My view is that our policy in Syria has not been as forceful as it needs to be, in terms of trying to get the parties [involved] to work together, but I don't think that we should be involved ourselves militarily.

NS: What has President Obama, in your mind, done right? What has he excelled in for the benefit of the nation? Where do you support him?

A: I have never had a difficult time finding some way I can praise the president for. And this is one of the first times. I feel that he has divided the country across class lines in a way that's very destructive, and I don't know how we get out of there. So, I think that I appreciate his wife focusing on the issue of obesity and getting people to understand that how they live their lives is going to impact how it impacts their health. I think he has been incredibly partisan. He has been a huge disappointment. He promised hope and change and the change he brought is nothing like people expected and he's give us no hope. He just blames people.
I know that's not to my credit. I am sure he is a nice person. But it's hard for me to see how the President can be nice when they get one class of people to dislike another class. I think we elected someone with no experience and we're paying the price.

NS: Thank you for your time.

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