September 14, 2004 > George Bruno, Candidate for U.S. Congress
George Bruno, Candidate for U.S. Congress
TCV: Why did you decide to run against Rep. Pete Stark, an established congressman in a district with a preponderance of voters registered to his party?
Bruno: I don't think we're well represented by Stark in this district. He's been in office for 32 years and has become a lonely extremist, out of touch with his constituents. He doesn't live here anymore; he lives in Maryland. He ridicules the constituents he doesn't agree with. In congress he says it's no fun - he can't anything done anymore - because he is in the minority party. Instead of working with the majority party, the republicans, he insults them. I don't know how he thinks he's going to get anything done in that kind of a climate.
My opponent is a co-sponsor of a bill to reinstate the draft. I'm a military veteran, and I was a civilian employee of the Navy, so I have been in defense for most of my career, and I do not endorse the return of the draft. I don't think it's needed, and it's wasteful and costly. You'll have people in uniform that you don't need. I don't know where he's coming from on that one.
It's time for a change.
TCV: What do you think are the primary issues facing the congress?
Bruno: National security and health care (I hope!). If they don't start paying attention to the health care problems we are having there is something wrong. I think that's becoming a major issue, but it is secondary to national security; we have to protect ourselves. We need to live without fear in our daily lives.
Health care costs are soaring and hospitals are closing - some that are staying open are closing emergency rooms. They can't make any money. It's a major area of concern. The issue covers health care, employment, Medicare, and cost of living. Even the availability of care is becoming an issue.
There is no easy solution, and the government may have to provide some financial support to get us through this time. We have to find a solution. One of the major problems is uncompensated health care and mismanagement. There is a lot of health care cost as well as administrative costs that need to be wound down and tightened up.
TCV: There are many issues, which have come and gone on the national scene, and we don't seem to get any closer to solutions. One of them is social security funding. Recently, proposals of savings accounts and privatizing a portion of the retirement system have been advanced. What do you think of this? How can you be effective as 1 representative of 435 members of the House of Representatives?
Bruno: You align yourselves with people that have similar ideas and work with others to learn all you can on the issues. You must also get public and constituent support. I am in favor of social security changes although I always emphasize that anyone in the program will get full compensation. On the personal savings part, I am for that. I think it is an opportunity for retirement to grow, better than the social security system. That portion would belong to you and any residual amount left can be passed on to your heirs, which you can't do with social security.
TCV: What do you think about the income tax system? Is there a way to simplify this?
Bruno: It certainly can be simplified; I don't think anyone would argue with that. If you call the IRS and ask them some tax questions there is a fifty-fifty chance they will be wrong. There are a large number of politicians that don't like the flat tax, but I think it's important to get away from the graduated income tax. People could work more without having to worry about moving into a higher tax bracket.
A national sales tax has merit too. For people in the underground economy - cash only and money laundering with criminal interests and such - any time the money moves in the public sector; it would create revenue. I think either plan is better than what we have today.
TCV: We are involved on several military fronts at this time. What are your thoughts?
Bruno: I think the move into Afghanistan was great because we moved in and know where the terrorists were and eliminated their cells and training facilities and eliminated a lot of their personnel. The president did a good thing to identify other countries that threaten world peace.
In Iraq, we just swept in and took over the country so quickly and everyone was thinking, "all right, this is great," but look at what is going on now. It is a tough fight. It is disappointing that we haven't gotten support from the countries that we normally consider traditional allies. I think if you look at Iraq, we have thirty countries over there helping us. You aren't seeing the big names; France, Germany and Russia in particular, but now they are starting to have their own problems - that's kind of interesting.
I have been very concerned about North Korea, I think we have a dictator over there that is irrational, and may even be insane. He is a strange individual; children are starving in that country because the first priority for food goes to the army. It is a ridiculous regime and they are playing around with nuclear weapons. But we have to count on other countries, China and Japan, their neighbors. It shouldn't always be the United States that takes action; other people have a stake in world peace too.
TCV: Do you include Iran in your list of concerns?
TCV: In this area, since we have such a diverse population with many immigrants, some who may be here illegally. How should this problem be handled?
Bruno: I would not support going into a neighborhood where illegal immigrants are suspected, unless it is al-Qaida. If it were for example, Latinos that snuck across the border to work, I would not advocate surrounding the area and locking it down to send in INS agents. I believe that we have all contributed to this problem; if there weren't jobs for them here they wouldn't come. They wouldn't be able to afford to live here and they would not come.
The president is not offering an amnesty; he is asking that illegal residents register as a guest worker for a three-year term that can extend for another three years after you go back to your country. Immigrants would be registered and acknowledged with identification and allowed to work in certain industries so they are not taking jobs away from American citizens. If they are good citizens, they can apply for citizenship, although not through the same program. I think that's a good way to manage it. But that program wouldn't work unless you sealed the borders. So, I say seal the borders, work with the people that are already here and weed out any criminals and terrorists.
TCV: What do you think can be done economically to help the Bay Area?
Bruno: California only gets seventy-six cents back on every dollar they send to Washington in tax money. That money could be spent in many ways to help us, but I don't advocate getting direct government help in programs, rather encouraging businesses through tax breaks to hire people and get businesses off the ground.
The workers' compensation cost is horrendous and driving companies right out of California. That is more of a California issue rather than a national issue, but I can certainly work with the state and encourage them to do something.
TCV: Why are gasoline prices so high in the Bay Area? Can the federal government do something about this?
Bruno: I work as an independent contractor for the major oil companies, I check when tankers come into port, and make sure that when they transfer materials they are not going to spill or pollute. I keep my eyes and ears open, and this is my opinion on why gas prices are higher in the Bay Area. First of all, we have five refineries in the Bay Area, so we're producing gas for the area, but it's also moving out of the area, so we are making more than we need for the area. Part of it is taxes, but that's not the total reason. People are willing to pay for it. The market is setting a price and people buy the gas. I can't think of any other reason.
The industry has not been well treated in America. There hasn't been a new refinery built in over thirty years. There are a large number, thirty or more, grades of gas that are unique to the areas and there are pipelines all over the country, fuels can be transferred. But, if you need to get gas from another refinery out of the region, they are finding that the gas formulations are different and they can't buy it. We produce some gas on the west coast, which cannot be sold here; it is getting transported out of state to Nevada or somewhere else.
TCV: Economic globalization was bound to happen at some point, but how do we adjust and accommodate to it when it takes jobs from our country?
Bruno: I think the solution will be with the growth of our economy, and the evolution of new types of jobs. We are the innovative country of the world; there are so many technologies, even in the maritime business, which I grew up in. We are the innovators that started the containerization process. The American merchant marine built the first shipping containers. Now that is worldwide to the point that it is out of our hands, and we are no longer a major maritime power in the world.
When we have a Cisco Systems, Intel and Microsoft with huge growth, that's where the future of our economy is. A lot of the jobs that are outsourcing were probably going to be eliminated anyway but that doesn't really help the person who was impacted by this. We are probably going to have to provide more assistance until the economy turns.