On the other hand, versus most incumbent Republican Representatives in Congress, Rep. Blackburn is in the unique position of being challenged by not one, but two Democratic Candidates who happen to be Iraq War Veterans. Blackburn herself has never served in the U.S. Army or Military but she of course was one of those in the GOP who rubber stamped the Iraq War and allowed the U.S. debt to increase astronomically overtime as a result.
We got in touch with one of the Democratic candidates, Dan Cramer, on his candidacy and his motivation for running in TN-07. As with a number of our other interviews with candidates such as Michael Cole (running in TX-36), Tae Si (running in OK-04 vs. Rep. Tom Cole) and Branko Radulovacki (the additional Democratic Candidate besides Michelle Nunn running in the GA-SEN race), our goal with interviewing Cramer has been to get an understanding of TN-07 and particularly, what issues does it face however common or unique versus other Congressional districts in the U.S.
Of course, understanding Cramer and what he has to offer (should he be fortunate to be the Democratic nominee and beat Marsha Blackburn November 4th) is important as well. While we don't know enough about the ins and outs of Cramer's campaign in detail as of yet, we can say however that judging from Cramer's responses to our questions that he's transparent and has a number of views that appeal to progressives (such as supporting Glass-Steagall). Also, in viewing some online discussions he's had with people on his Facebook campaign page, there have been some users from different political persuasions who have raised concerns over his stances on issues but most are of the conservative end. Naturally, that's expected given TN-07 is a red district but Cramer's responses to questions people have aren't the typical cookie-cutter, talking points that candidates given to potential voters so obviously he's looking to speak on the level of what he believes and not what campaign operatives are necessarily directing him to. This dialog, if this is consistent with Cramer's approach to campaigning, can gain him credibility but we'll have to see how his campaign unfolds in the coming weeks and months.
Our interview with Dan Cramer is below the fold:
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Was there a moment or big factor that led you to make the decision to run for Congress?
DAN CRAMER: In the last few years of my Army career the Republican’s obstructing behavior in congress began to make me very angry. Finally, the combination of the sequester impasse, the government shutdown, and the credit rating downgrade from the debt ceiling fight showed me that there are members of congress that were not fulfilling their oaths of office. This need for change was the key factor in my decision to run for Congress once I had retired from the Army.
DAN CRAMER: Anyone who serves in the military is exposed to the values of selfless service and duty in very direct and transforming ways. This commitment to service demonstrated by my successful military career is exactly one of the traits that should be looked for in those chosen to represent others in government service. While veterans certainly do not hold a monopoly on these values, electing a veteran places someone with a proven commitment to service into these positions that have such a great responsibility.
DAN CRAMER: The most important issue for Tennessee’s 7th District is creating jobs that provide enough income to allow people to provide a stable lifestyle and opportunities for themselves and their children. Every Tennessean should be able to provide food, shelter, and health care for their family and themselves by working a full 40 hour week and without the aid government programs. This increase in our economic output can easily be started by raising the minimum wage to that minimum level.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: How would you describe TN-07 the district and residents, based on living in the district and also in your campaign?
DAN CRAMER: Having lived in Clarksville since 1990 I am very familiar with Tennessee’s 7th district. The district is comprised of 19 counties most of which are almost entirely rural. Three of the counties have large portions of the suburban populating of the Nashville metropolitan area but still include rural areas within them. This presents a challenge in finding policies that will best increase economic opportunities within the district. Because of Fort Campbell is located within the district there is also a large population of military members, their families, and retirees. This diversity requires that whoever represents the district must consider the effects on veteran, rural, and urban populations while making legislative decisions. At the same time policies and laws that may work well in other states may not be appropriate for the distinctive culture and economy of Middle Tennessee. The district’s representative needs to be able to make sure that they only consider the district’s best interest in legislating, rather than focusing on some national party agenda.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: In making a distinction between yourself and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, what would you say are the biggest differences? For starters, we note Blackburn did not serve in the Iraq War nor has she ever been in the U.S. Army.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: If you become elected to represent TN-07, what would be issues near and dear to you that you would be fighting for? Do you see yourself serving the U.S. first or party first?
DAN CRAMER: The first issue that I would concentrate on is a living wage. If everyone in the country who wanted to work was working full time and was paid enough to be off of government assistance (the only reasonable definition of “minimum” wage) then many other problems start fixing themselves.
• The deficit: more income, more tax revenues.
• Welfare: workers paid enough to be off welfare, get off welfare.
• Unemployment Insurance: it will no longer be a loss of income to get off unemployment and start an entry level job.
• Health Care Subsidies, Food Stamps, WIC, School Lunches… All of these necessary programs for people with low income can realize savings if less people have inadequate income.
I see myself serving the District first. The oath of office lays it out pretty clearly, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States….” But while executing that oath the needs of the district have to be addressed and considered. The needs of the party and certainly any other third party groups are completely subservient to that. The political theater of members of congress signing pledges or oaths about specific issues are, in my opinion, a direct challenge to the oath of office they are bound by. I will participate in no such distractions.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Do you believe the U.S. is better off now because of the Affordable Healthcare Act? Do you think there should be additional improvements (i.e. additional legislation) in Congress to improve healthcare?
DAN CRAMER: The Affordable Care Act is probably one of the most transformative pieces of legislation since the Civil Rights Act. In spite of the implementation problems, the ACA will eventually transform the American health care system into one where a serious injury or illness does not completely destroy a family financially. There are improvements that need to be made. Like any large government program there are always going to be adjustments needed. The major fixes that are needed now are a fix for the Medicare gap left by states that have opted not to expand Medicaid and changes so that employers are incentivized to provide full time jobs with the ACA’s benefits.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What's your view on the education? Is there a need to improve it particularly in TN-07?
DAN CRAMER: Education is normally a State issue but all Americans have an interest in every child receiving some minimum level of education. Because uneducated populations contribute to trends toward lower incomes, higher crime, and more dependence on government services the Federal government has a role in helping the States with education. And, if tax payers at a national level are contributing to education then there should be some way to ensure the effectiveness of that investment. Currently a set of core competencies and testing are used to evaluate the effectiveness of education programs. I am not convinced that the current systems of evaluations and standards are doing their jobs as well as they should.
And although it is an issue more for States than one for Congress, I do not support vouchers or any other privatization of public education. Corporations are built to generate profit and a profit motive is completely contradictory to the goals of education. Further, tax payer money should not be used to pay for private, religious, or home schools.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What's your view on income inequality? Is this an issue worth addressing?
DAN CRAMER: Income inequality is the most important thing that needs to be addressed at all levels of government. Efforts to provide a living wage are the first step to repairing the decades of damage we have suffered from “trickle down economics”.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Have problems on Wall Street and big banks affected TN-07? Do you think the Glass-Steagall Act should be reinstated or should there be a similar (and perhaps more robust effort) to reform Wall Street and the banking industry?
DAN CRAMER: Problems with the big banks and Wall Street are what caused the world economy to crash, so of course Tennessee has been affected by problems in the financial sector. Glass Steagall had been an effective safeguard against bank’s reckless financial decisions with customer’s money; money that should never have been exposed to that kind of risk. Those safe guards need to be put back in place in our financial sector. Common sense tells us that if an institution is going to claim they are “too big too fail” then they can no longer enjoy the freedom to operate without strict oversight from the taxpayers who are on the hook for their failure.
Yes, more reforms are needed. Starting with serious prosecutions and sentences for those whose irresponsible behaviors have caused so much damage to our economy.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Do you think it's more important to grow the economy or reduce the debt? Or do both need to be deal with?
DAN CRAMER: Both growing the economy and reducing the debt are important and need to be done. While I believe that it is impossible to borrow ourselves out of debt, borrowing to grow or preserve economic infrastructure can be a wise investment. Borrowing money to save General Motors for example saved jobs and prevented a huge strain on an already stressed economic safety net.
The fist priority is a living wage. That one simple act will shed a large societal burden that has been dumped on the government by big business. This one issue also reduces government spending while increases revenues through growth in the economy.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: On unions, do you consider yourself more supportive of union rights & issues or less so?
DAN CRAMER: Most of the workplace norms we take for granted today come from the efforts of labor unions; five day work week, pensions, safety, fair pay, etc. Unions provide an important check on the power of the corporation. I don’t think anyone would argue that corporations could be trusted to provide the same worker protections or the treatment that unions do for their workers. I would like to see labor unions innovate they way the organize workers and participate in the workplace, especially in Right to Work states so that they can continue to provide essential representation for workers and remain relevant.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What's your view on the Citizens United case? Do you think it should be overturned/repealed?
DAN CRAMER: Possibly the worst Supreme Court Decision since Dread Scott. It needs to be overturned, amended, or corrected in any way possible as soon as possible. Corporations do not have unalienable rights, are not people, and should not by default be treated as such in any law or regulation.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Are you a supporter of chained CPI or anything related to reduce benefits in social security or are you against any cuts to the program? Should Medicare and social security be apart of addressing the deficit & debt or do they need to be out of the discussion?
DAN CRAMER: Changes to benefits for anyone who has already paid into the system for those benefits should not be changed. Doing so is basically the country breaking its word to its citizens. This basic tenant applies to Social Security, Veteran’s benefits, or Medicare. Every time congress passes laws that renege on the obligations the government has to beneficiaries who have already paid in, with either service or taxes, they made every American a party to that betrayal. If benefits must be cut then they it should only affect those entering the system from that point forward, not retroactively.
NATIONAL SECURITY/FOREIGN POLICY
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What's your feeling on the NSA and what its tactics have been? Do you believe there needs to be more transparency?
DAN CRAMER: The Fourth amendment is pretty clear that searches and invasions into citizen’s privacy need to be based on suspicion of a specific crime and include a warrant. The collection of so called metadata should not be exempt from these requirements. Ultimately I expect that many of the NSA’s data collection programs will be found to be unconstitutional. I am further troubled by the apparent ineffectiveness of the programs. The Boston Marathon attack is just the sort of attack that the supporters of the data collection say they are trying to prevent. It appears we are surrendering privacy for no measurable increase in safety.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What's your view on abortion and women's rights? And gay rights as well?
DAN CRAMER: I am encouraged by the steadily dropping rates of abortion in the country. Educated women who understand how their bodies work and empowered with the ability to control their reproductive choices are the key to bringing that rate lower.
A woman and her doctor should be making the medical decisions about her pregnancy, free from government intrusion up until viability.
All Americans regardless of their gender or orientation should enjoy all rights and equal treatment in all aspects of our society.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: How would you like to see immigration reform unfold? What's your ideal legislation?
DAN CRAMER: I support a means for people who have come to this country but are without documentation to work and stay indefinitely to be given some legal status to continue to stay and work legally. Children, who have been brought here illegally at an age before they are old enough to have made that decision, should be allowed to stay under the same sort of program. The sooner that this large work force can be removed from the underground economy the sooner that wages throughout the economy will be freed from that downward pressure.
My major concern for immigration policy is the increasing number of H1-B visas that industry continues to ask for. These represent higher paying positions for well educated workers. At a time where US citizens are graduating from collage with large amounts of student debt and large portions of the work force are under or unemployed, the country does not need more workers in that part of the economy. Also highly educated workers accept lower wages here because they can still earn much more than in their native country. This places downward pressure on the higher wage end of the economy. As long as US unemployment remains above 6% there should be no expansion of, and maybe even a reduction in H1-B visas.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: On climate change and global warming, are these pressing issues that need to be addressed? Do you think the Keystone XL Pipeline is necessary or a waste of time?
DAN CRAMER: With 97% of climate scientists providing evidence that global climate change is being caused by man-made influences, climate change is something that needs to be addressed in energy and environmental policy and legislation.
The Keystone pipeline is a project with minimal job creation benefits that risks massive spills of particularly nasty oil products from Canada to be pumped to American refineries that are already operating at capacity so that oil can be shipped to China. I don’t see the risks being worth the benefits but I am willing to listen to detailed arguments for or against as they are provided.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What are you positions in regards to gun control and the second amendment?
DAN CRAMER: The Second Amendment affirms the right for Americans to own firearms. That right comes with responsibilities and there are circumstances where that right is forfeited by a person’s misdeeds. I support background checks for all firearm purchases. How else can guns be kept out of the hands of people that should not have them, like convicted violent felons? Requiring a background check before any gun purchase also protects responsible gun owners because they have proof that they have not broken the law by providing a gun to someone who was not legally allowed to posses it. A background check can also protect the buyer and allow them to know that the gun they are purchasing is not stolen or being sold by a criminal.
As a side note, the Second Amendment does not affirm the right to hunt. There is no protected right for Americans to go hunting. As such, any debate that questions why someone would need a specific type of weapon or equipment to go hunting should not be part of the issue.
If you are looking to support Dan Cramer and his campaign for Congress, links below:
Dan Cramer for Congress: http://www.dancramerforcongress.com/