flaccavento and griffith -- don't use

Anthony Flaccavento (left) and Rep. Morgan Griffith

By Larry Hincker

As I pen these thoughts, the election for Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District is about one month away. We have not yet seen debates between the candidates, incumbent U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, and the Democratic challenger Anthony Flaccavento. Here are some topics I hope they might “discuss” at the debates.

What is the modern-day role for the U.S. Congress on trade and tariffs? The U.S. Constitution clearly gives tariff responsibility to the people’s representatives in the federal legislature. For most of our nation’s early history trade policy resided with Congress. Are you okay with delegation of these responsibilities by recent Congresses to the executive branch?

What is your position on President Trump’s trade and tariff tantrums? Should the president have free reign to slap tariffs willy nilly on other countries? Do you think steel tariffs on Canada in the name of national security are legit? For cripes sake, Canada! A national security threat?

I always thought the notion of governments picking economic winners and losers was doctrinal anathema for conservatives. Do you think it’s okay for the president to pick steel and aluminum as winners in the national economy by levying tariffs? Other manufacturers — and of course the consumers — end up paying the price of those taxes, er tariffs.

And talking of trade, how would you define the difference between free trade and fair trade?

What is your position on the Supreme Court’s role in modern American life, particularly the assertion that the Court legislates via judgments from the bench. The conservative right has decried for years the Court’s expansion of constitutional rights. Do you think strict constructionism limits personal rights? Where in the constitution does it give the government a right to tell a woman what to do with her body when pregnant?

As long as I’m musing, I’ve often wondered why the Court must ALWAYS render a decision. Why can’t they say, “Congress’s legislation is unclear, and the Constitution is silent here. Go back to Congress and ask them to figure it out. It is not our role to solve all the nation’s problems from the bench.”

Here’s a thought experiment about the role of government. Mr. Flaccavento represents a party that traditionally expands government. The Democrats support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Congressman Griffith represents the party that wishes to limit the role of government, particularly by deferring to the private sector in business. Would Congressman Griffith support a significant increase in the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour if it meant that other sectors of government might shrink? If a working stiff got a decent income, could we minimize or eliminate transfer payments like “food stamps” (since rebranded as SNAP), Medicaid, or the “earned income credit.” Would Mr. Flaccavento support a trade-off like that?

Our nation hires a president every four years and after that we, essentially, have no control over him. Regardless of the aggregate dissatisfaction among the electorate, there is no recall for the federal CEO. Impeachment is an impossibly high hurdle. Many have dubbed this election cycle as a plebiscite on President Trump. For the candidates, do you agree? Is that fair?

For the electorate in the Ninth Congressional District, is it fair for the incumbent to lose his seat solely because of the president’s failings, however they might be described? Would you vote in protest for the Democrat simply to voice your displeasure with the president? I know people who say yes…how else can one voice displeasure with the executive branch. Some say that’s how Trump got elected in the first place – a vote against Obama/Hilary.

One last topic for the candidates. Do you believe it is okay to borrow $1 trillion per year to balance the federal budget? That’s a straight up question.

Here’s a different slant. Mr. Flaccavento, do you believe it is okay to borrow $1 trillion per year to maintain social service programs such as food stamps, subsidized housing, earned income transfer payments and the rest of the Great Society expansions over the last 40-50 years?

Rep. Griffith, do you believe it’s okay to borrow $1 trillion per year to support monster tax cuts for the wealthy and major corporations?

Will anybody in Congress take seriously the federal deficit and the exploding national debt?

Thanks candidates. I hope to hear some of your thoughts.

Larry Hincker is a retired public relations executive and lives in Blacksburg