This morning, congressional candidate Dan Debicella spoke with Brian Lehrer, host of an eponymous talk show on WNYC. The topic was the GOP’s “Pledge to America” — and Debicella’s proclaimed independence from it.
“We were surprised to see your press release,” Lehrer began, referring to Debicella’s statement that he didn’t endorse the pledge outright. “People in our district want a congressman like Chris Shays,” said Debicella. “They don’t want someone who’s going to rubber-stamp an agenda.”
Lehrer pressed Debicella on the pledge’s vague promises on entitlements. Debicella responded, “We can’t balance the budget just on discretionary spending. We’re going to have to tackle entitlement spending just like we did in 1987.” When Lehrer asked if he had any specific changes to Medicare or Social Security in mind, Debicella answered, “Barring tax increases and privatization, I think everything else has to be on the table. [I would consider] moderate changes just like they did in ‘87 when they raised the retirement age from 65 to 67.”
Lehrer then asked Debicella if he supported a ban on earmarks. “I do,” said the candidate. “I actually have signed a pledge not to seek or accept earmarks. Rather than creating earmarks, I think Congress should say, “We as a society want to spend, say, $40 billion on transportation and submit that to a panel of experts and have states apply for funding.”
“Why would you want to give Fairfield County transportation funding over to a national panel of experts?” Lehrer wondered. “That’s where you would actually have the Connecticut Department of Transportation with the congressional delegation provide grants to the panel,” Debicella said. “The current system of earmarks ignores Fairfield county. . . .That’s why problems on the I-95 corridor. . . don’t get better. The earmarks system fails our people.”
Later, Lehrer cited Paul Krugman’s latest column, in which the economist argues that extending the Bush tax cuts without slashing entitlements or defense spending would cost more than $3 trillion over 10 years. He asked Debicella if his position — that all the Bush tax cuts should be extended — was irresponsible. Debicella responded: “In the last 20 months, Nancy Pelosi and [Congressman] Jim Himes have already added $3 trillion to the national debt. . . . Jim Himes did this in 20 months. To talk about this costing a lot of money is a little farcical thing.”