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General John Douglass, a Democrat who is seeking to unseat 5th District Congressman Robert Hurt, stopped in Bedford Monday afternoon to promote what he calls his “Help Virginia Families Plan.”
“Too many Virginians are hurt by people who get to Washington and cater to big money interests,” he said. “I’m going to Washington to help every Virginia family have a fair chance at a better future.”
The first section of the plan deals with education. Gen. Douglass wants to establish an education council in the 5th Congressional District. He said that the council would consist of teachers, school administrators and parents. He would also like some high school students to serve on it. Gen. Douglass would like the council to provide input for a pilot program for schools that would operate 12-months-a-year from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
He also calls for rewarding outstanding teachers and fund expanded access to college for students. In expanding access to college, his plan calls for more delayed interest student loans and Pell Grant levels that go up with increases in tuition. It would also provide scholarships for students who commit to public service after graduating. He would also like to keep student loan interest rates low and provide tax credits for tuition.
Along with the helping students, Douglass would also like to help families with tax credits for child care. First-time home buyers would be assisted by loans at lower interest rates and health insurance reforms.
Creating jobs is another area of his plan. He wants to help small farms with regulatory relief and help train workers for emerging jobs. Gen. Douglass also wants to increase the Small Business Administration and simplify the federal tax code to encourage investment in small and start-up companies. Businesses would get a 10 percent refundable tax credit for new hiring.
Gen. Douglass supports President Obama’s “Buffet Rule” which would set a 30 percent minimum tax rate for people making more than $1 million per year.
He also calls for working to level the trading field.
“One of the great strengths of America is that we could pretty much get by without the rest of the world,” Gen. Douglass said. But, he added that that would mean a lower standard of living for everybody, so trade is important.
“I’ll be a fierce defender of trade that is fair to American workers,” he said.
He also promised to work against one-sided trade deals and cited his experience in doing that. He said he was the leader of the aerospace industry side of a complaint that was taken to the World Trade Organization on behalf of Boeing. The complaint dealt with subsidies that Airbus, a European consortium was getting from European governments.
“They were getting huge subsidies,” he commented.
Douglass said that Boeing won it’s complaint.
“This [trade] is an area where you have to listen to people,” he said.
His plan calls for supporting retirees and veterans.
He wants to provide veterans with greater access to job training and local health centers. He also wants Social Security to remain a public program.
“I have pledged to protect our seniors by keeping Wall Street’s hands off of Medicare and Social Security,” he said. Gen. Douglass said that plans to replace Medicare with a voucher system could cost old people $6,000 per year.
He supports funding medical research, including stem-cell research and wants to work to bring down medical costs.
Gen. Douglass said that he wants a ban against uranium mining that prevents the opening of a uranium mine at Coles Hill.
“There is no need [for the uranium], it’s very dangerous, it’s not going to create that many jobs,” he said. Gen. Douglass said that the mine would be an open pit mine and he’s concerned about the potential of air pollution from dust from the mine and water pollution.
He calls for beefing up the border patrol and the inspection of all containers coming in to U. S. ports. Gen. Douglass said that eight weeks of the cost of the war in Afghanistan — he believes the troops should be brought home as soon as possible — would provide the money for the Department of Homeland Security to inspect all these containers. This is part of his goal of shifting national defense from overseas actions, like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, to national defense at our borders. He would also focus more on defending against cyber attacks.
Gen. Douglass also calls for faster response to natural disasters.
His plan calls for defending “God-given liberties” enshrined in the Constitution, including freedom of speech and religion and the right to bear arms.
Other points in his plan call for promoting equal opportunity, keeping government honest, shrinking our national debt and public/private partnerships to build roads, bridges and transportation projects.
Gen. Douglass said that he believes federal deficits must be reduced through a combination of tax increases and budget cuts. He’s particularly concerned about the sequestration process, the automatic budget cuts slated to go into effect after the first of the year. He said that this is a bad way to cut the budget because it’s an across-the-board cut. Cuts should be targeted and some areas, like research and education spending actually need to be increased.
“Sequestration is just like a meat cleaver,” he said.
“I would strongly urge Congress not to let sequestration take place,” he added.
Gen. Douglass said that he would like to hold a series of debates with Hurt.
“We’ve challenged Hurt to five debates,” Gen. Douglass said. “He hasn’t accepted any of them.”