Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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Case and Hirono spar on economy

By Derrick DePledge


Former U.S. Rep. Ed Case said on Thursday that he would not approve of another federal stimulus package to help with economic recovery, but U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono said the government still needs to invest in job creation to emerge from the worst economic crisis since the Depression.

The Democrats who want to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, differed on their approaches to economic recovery during a televised forum on "Insights" on PBS Hawaii.

Asked by moderator Dan Boylan whether he would back President Barack Obama's jobs package, Case said the nation already had two federal stimulus initiatives in response to the recession and does not need a third. Hirono supports provisions of the president's jobs proposal.

Ed Case and Mazie Hirono face off in final debate

"Sometimes when I listen to Mazie I think that the government is going to do everything for us all of the time, that the job creation has to come from more federal spending," Case said. "Eventually, the private sector has to create and provide those jobs. We cannot go on spending the amount of money that we are spending in this country and expect that we're going to be able to handle our basic obligations from our federal government, much less the things that we want to do over and above that."

The former congressman said the nation is headed for a "train wreck" that could lead to the kind of economic collapse facing European nations.

"We're in a unique time in the history of our country — the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. You do not recover from that kind of cataclysmic economic downturn overnight," Hirono said. "And, you know what, the private sector — the private sector, the corporations — are holding on to billions of dollars that they're not investing. So I think we've already tried this trickle-down approach.

"And by the way, Europe? They're just cutting, cutting, cutting. And have they solved their problem, their economic woes? No."

Hirono said it was interesting that Case is so intent on balancing the federal budget when he supported extending portions of the President George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy and the Iraq War, which added to the nation's debt.

Case — who voted against the second round of Bush-era tax cuts in 2003, and like Hirono, would now allow them to expire — said: "Sometimes when I listen to the debate that we have I think that Mazie's answer to every single challenge that we have is always to raise the taxes, always on the revenue side, always boost those up. That's not going to work."

Both Hirono and Case reiterated their support for a Honolulu rail transit system but agreed that federal funding for the project could be placed at risk if former Gov. Ben Cayetano, a rail opponent, is elected mayor.

Hirono said she would not have a litmus test for reviewing U.S. Supreme Court nominees, but indicated she would look for judges who would not overturn legal precedent on issues such as equal rights.

Case said he would look for judges who view the high court in proper balance with the executive and legislative branches. He said he would also prefer judges who reflect the judicial mainstream, not the extremes.

Hirono expressed concern about the use of unmanned U.S. drone strikes against terrorist targets that have also harmed civilians. Case said that unmanned drones have an appropriate role in military action with some constraints to protect civilians.

The winner of the primary will likely face former Gov. Linda Lingle, the leading Republican candidate for Senate, in the November general election.

The PBS Hawaii forum was the fourth of five joint appearances with the candidates before the Aug. 11 primary. The forum was the only encounter scheduled to air live on statewide television. A forum sponsored by the Oahu Democrats was postponed in late May and has yet to be rescheduled.

John Hart, a Hawaii Pacific University communication professor, said he would prefer to see more debates closer to the primary. He said he understands that the campaigns may have tactical reasons for limiting the number of debates or being selective about formats, but, as a former debate coach, he believes voters would benefit from additional debates.

"I haven't heard anything about any knockout punching," Hart said, "but that to me is all the more reason why we should have more of them."

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