There was a half hour debate between Sean Bielat and Barney Frank on Jim Braude’s Broadside on NECN.
We have the debate in three parts. In the first part the candidates introduce themselves. Frank has been continuously in office since the 1980’s. Bielat is a newcomer to politics, but the first real challenger that Frank has faced in his entire time in congress.
The most interesting exchange in this part is where Braude asks Frank about his role in the financial collapse of Fannie Mae. Frank defends himself saying that he has been trying to push for reforms for years but was unable to do that because the Congress was during most of his tenure controlled by Republicans. Frank makes an astounding statement sayingÂ has been “leading the fight to stop home ownership for low income people.”
It is amazing to here a Democratic candidate say they are against home ownership for low income people. But surprising also because Frank has for years been a proponent of low interest loans to help the poor buy houses.
Bielat calls him to task quoting him over several years in support of these loans. Frank’s opposition to loans for the poor appears to be an election year conversion. It would be more honest if he said the truth that at the time he believed it was a good idea, but has since changed his mind.
Instead he continues to deny he ever supported programs to encourage home ownership for the poor – despite the fact that his statements in support over the years are well known and on video. Frank’s obstinate refusal to be truthful on this issue has given Bielat one of his main campaign issues.
In the second section Braude asks Bielat a question Frank asked in an open letter to Bielat: does he support full or partial privatization of Social Security. This is an attempt by Frank to draw a distinction between himself and Bielat, and is the type ofdivisive issue that candidates like to avoid.
Whether you agree with Bielat or not, he is at least forthright in saying that he does support at least some privatization of Social Security and possibly also raising the retirement age for younger workers.
Bielat’s argument is simple – he’d like Social Security to survive until he and his own children can collect it and to do that it means “being mature and making tough decisions today”.
Frank counters that we should look at how in Europe the retirement age is lower than the US, and if we didn’t spend so much on military that we could afford to do that also.
Bielat very smartly says simply he doesn’t think we should “take our cues from Greece or from France”. Both countries have serious budget problems, and Greece was only recently saved from insolvency.
When Bielat demurres on answering some complicated questions about health care reform Frank jumps all over him saying Bielat likes to duck tough questions. Hilariously not two seconds later when Braude asks Frank a complex foreign policy question Frank says “I wish you would not complicated questions in that short a period of time.” To his credit Frank then tries to answer the question.
Toward the end of the debate the candidates state their positions on the three ballot questions. Predictably Frank is against all three: repealing the alcohol tax, repealing the 40b, and lowering our regressive sales tax.
Bielat predictably supports the repeal of both sales taxes, and states no position on repeal of 40b.
Each candidate then makes a final statement. Frank’s statement focuses on out over extended military commitments and advocates that we ask our allies to bear more of the burden so we can bring soldiers home and invest more domestically.
Bielat draws a contrast between himself and Frank saying voters should chose him because he is a fiscal conservative and will not compromise our nationalÂ defense.