D-12 Candidates Face off in Debate Covering COVID-19, Health Care, and Taxes

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Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch

D-12 Candidates at the debate hosted by the Columbus Metropolitan Club.

McKenna Christy

The three candidates running for Ohio’s 12th Congressional District presented their stances on major issues affecting constituents in a live debate on Oct. 29. Incumbent Congressman Troy Balderson-of the Republican Party-faced Democratic candidate and businesswoman, Alaina Shearer, for the first time along with Libertarian candidate John Stewart.

Moderator Mike Thomspon, News Director of WOSU, wasted no time getting started and called the candidate’s attention to COVID-19. 

Congressman Balderson was asked what he would do, if elected to another term, to address Ohio’s record breaking rises in cases. He said he emphasizes the role of individual responsibility and supports States making decisions in response to controlling the pandemic. When it comes to the Federal government’s role, Congressman Balderson explained that they should continue the work they have been doing. To give an example, he said the “Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) kept one million people employed.” The PPP was designed to give small businesses across the country loans to pay and keep their employees working. Now, the amount of jobs that were saved in Ohio is difficult to find and a report done by News 5 Cleveland shares that “it will be nearly impossible to determine the actual number of jobs protected by the program.” 

The next question relating to COVID-19 was given to Shearer about whether or not she thinks there should be a national shutdown and a national mask mandate. She first started out by saying she sees both sides: there should be and should not be a shutdown and mask mandate. Shearer went on to explain that a shutdown would be necessary if the health-care system is overwhelmed, and if that were to be the case, she mentioned the Federal government would need to distribute another stimulus package. In response to a national mask mandate, candidate Shearer believes in theory it is an effective idea, however, she does not have confidence one could be enforced. Throughout the debate, Shearer pointed out what she believes to be flaws in Congressman Balderson’s leadership. When it comes to wearing a mask, as he mentioned was important to containing the virus, she said that “my opponent is holding maskless rallies with hundreds of people from this district.” Congressman Balderson said everyone at his rallies were socially distanced and “his team took great pride in making sure that was the case.”

Stewart was last to be included in the conversation about the pandemic and was questioned about his stance on the pandemic. Thompson said he could not find anything relating to the virus with the rest of the issues his campaign addresses. Stewart said the pandemic is an issue “…because of individual liberty,” which is something very important to his campaign. He mentioned that he does not think there should be any mandates and taking precautions should be voluntary. Overall, Stewart does not believe there is sufficient evidence to guide people to take necessary measures to avoid spreading the virus. 

The rest of the debate over COVID-19 shifted from how the candidates would slow the spread to how they would economically assist citizens, businesses, and constituents. Shearer was asked what level of aid the government should give and who it should be directed to. She brought up the Heroes Act and how she would have voted for it unlike Congressman Balderson. The Heroes Act was originally proposed in May of 2020 and was the stimulus package to replace the CARES Act. Shearer said that the Heroes Act would have helped to relieve cities who had to make tough decisions when it came to budget cuts. Congressman Balderson continued talking about the Heroes Act but how the revised version passed by seven votes in the House the last time he was in D.C. According to Cnet, the important things to understand about the Act are that it is not a law and it includes “a second stimulus check of up to $1,200 for qualified Americans.” Congressman Balderson voted against the Heroes Act both times. 

Jumping gears from the pandemic, the next topic of conversation was health care. Thomspon asked Shearer how private insurance companies will be able to compete with an open health care system. She talked about how the U.S.’s health care system is the most expensive in the world. This is true, according to a Harvard report, “the U.S. spends more on health care than all other wealthy democracies in the world.” Shearer supports repairing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). HealthCare.gov wrote that the ACA “provides consumers with subsides that lower costs for households with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level.” She stated that the law was not perfect, but there were notable benefits: coverage for pre-existing conditions and children being able to stay on their parents health care plans until they’re 26. Shearer went on the attack against the Congressman once more claiming that “he has taken so much money from big pharma… and he’s always gonna benefit them and not Americans.” According to OpenSecrets.org, Center for Responsive Politics, Congressman Balderson has received $26,808 from Pharmaceutical companies over the two years he has been in office.

The next question went to Congressman Balderson about what his plan was to cover citizens with pre-existing conditions, covering dependents/children until they’re 26, and to keep health insurance rates lower. He wanted to make it clear that he will not take away coverage from Ohioans with pre-existing conditions. The congressman then said the best thing to do is allow citizens to build relationships with their doctors, and that the government needs to not interfere with our health care coverage. For lowering prescription drugs, he gave the example of a bill in the House that has been introduced-The House Resolution 19 (H.R. 19). H.R. 19’s purpose is to decrease the amount citizens have to pay out of pocket for prescription drugs and to “protect access to new cures and medications,” according to the bill’s author: Representative Greg Walden. Congressman Balderson did not sign this bill when it was introduced. 

 The last core topic of the debate was taxes. Congressman Balderson was asked first if he and other Republicans were serious about balancing the federal budget. He said given the circumstances, it is not the time to balance the budget. He responded more with “once we get through this pandemic and get people back to work, our taxes are going to change.” The Congressman credited the economy for what’s going to drive down the budget, and that will make taxes “a whole lot easier.” 

Shearer was asked if she would vote to raise taxes. She expressed her support for former Vice President Biden’s plan to raise taxes on those making $400,000 or more. Shearer backed up her reasoning for supporting this plan because she believes we are “facing debt as a country but also as Americans.” She said that the Average American family makes $98,000 a year and has $92,000 in debt. These numbers were misleading and it is hard to find their origin. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2018 the median household income was $63,179 and Northwestern Mutual reported that the average American’s personal debt accumulates to $38,000. She stated that it is difficult to watch corporations make huge profits yet pay minimal amounts in taxes while Americans struggle financially. While Americans suffer from debt, income inequality is also increasing in the United States. According to Pew Research Center, Social and Demographic Trends, the 90/10 ratio that represents the “top 1o percent of earners in the U.S. (the 90th percentile)” and “the bottom 10 percent of earners (the 10th percentile)” was at 12.6 in 2018. This means those at the top made incomes about 12 times higher than those at the bottom. 

Thompson turned to Congressman Balderson for a question about corporations paying little in taxes and if he believes they should pay more. He responded saying he supported the 2017 tax reform (The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) and said every business of every size benefited from it. A Washington Post report states that this reform was the “largest one-time reduction in the corporate tax rate in U.S. history, from 35 percent to 21 percent.” In general, there were and are tax cuts for the rich, corporations, and a lot of Americans. Also, an important change to the tax system is what the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland has addressed: “corporations that are taxed separately from their owners…are now only taxed on their domestic income…” Congressman Balderson was then asked if he thinks Amazon should pay more in taxes in which he said “I’d like to see what they actually do.” In 2018, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), Amazon paid zero dollars in Federal income taxes. Another report by ITEP shares that in 2019, “Amazon paid $162 million of federal incomes taxes… [the company] appears to have avoided only 94 percent of its tax bill last year.” Congressman Balderson then said that “Amazon has employed over 3,500 people,” and that he is aware small businesses have lost employees to the company because they pay their workers more and offer health care. “Before we start saying [Amazon] has to pay taxes, let’s verify some things,” said Congressman Balderson in his final remarks about taxes. 

Nov. 3 is only one day away. Local elections are significant; these are the representatives citizens directly vote for. The responses from the candidates are necessary to learn about in order to cast a vote that will benefit every person in District 12.