LIHU‘E — U.S. Senate candidate and former U.S. Rep. Ed Case toured Kaua‘i for two days this week, sharing his views on the federal government and gathering opinions and concerns from island residents.
Case started his tour with an informal talk story session with about 15 people, students and other community members, Friday morning at Kaua‘i Community College.
“I don’t represent the folks in Washington, I represent you,” Case told the audience, adding it’s important to him to stay in touch with the community. “What I take from you goes into my campaign.”
He said despite cuts from the federal government, most of the funding to the educational system comes from the state government. He urged students to get in touch with Gov. Neil Abercrombie and state legislators to discuss a more affordable education, including changes in student loan requirements.
On a federal level, he said, money has to be reallocated.
He would be willing to de-fund the military, but not altogether. Too much money is spent in the military, he said, which has become unaffordable and unsustainable.
The U.S. is “tremendously” in debt now, and the next generation will be paying the debt for 25 years, Case said. In terms of student loans, if the federal government goes through a major restructuring, it wouldn’t be the first time, he said.
Taxes, violence and foreign policy
Case criticized former President George W. Bush for cutting taxes on the rich in a time of war. Those reductions in tax revenues were not made up anywhere; instead, more money was borrowed, he said.
“I believe in a progressive tax system,” Case said. “ I make a lot of money myself and I don’t mind being taxed a lot.”
Domestic violence has to be approached on two fronts — prevention and enforcement, he said. Perpetrators have to be punished, but there is also a need for putting a system in place to avoid domestic violence, including a better education and economy.
Regarding foreign policy, Case said the U.S. has overstepped its boundaries many times, making several mistakes in Iraq, Nicaragua, Chile, Argentina and other countries.
The U.S. is not the savior of the world, and the federal budget does not allow for that anymore, he said.
But he does not believe in an isolationist policy. The U.S. Senate has to be on deck on matters related to foreign policy. He said this is a “huge” part of the senators’ job.
Despite criticizing the U.S. military intervention in many countries, Case said there are instances — several of them — when military action is justified, such as when there is a clear threat to U.S. society.
“Going to Afghanistan was necessary,” he said.
The U.S. has to be a “citizen of the world,” and when there is a consensus at the global level the U.S. should use military force.
“Serbia was a collective action,” Case said, citing another example.
It’s hard to reconcile why the U.S. did not intervene in Syria or Tunisia, he said. In Libya, he added, there was a joint action with NATO and others, which gave some level of justification.
But even agreeing with the intervention in Libya, Case did not spare President Barack Obama from criticism.
Obama was wrong, he said, because the president is able to initiate action against a country, but has to come back to Senate within 90 days for approval, and he did not do that. By definition, the conflict with Libya was a war, in which the U.S. spent a lot of money, according to Case.
“We need checks and balances between the Congress and the president,” he said. “But I’m not losing any sleep over it.”
Occupy Wall Street, Hawaiian recognition
Regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement, Case said there has been an incredible frustration focused on the welfare of too few at the expense of too many. Wall Street, he said, was partially responsible for this recession.
When asked how he would control the influence of money and lobbying in the federal government, Case said Occupy Wall Street is giving a voice to the frustration of a vicious cycle of money in the hands of few, and that everyone across the country feels the same way.
This vicious cycle will not be broken by passing a bunch of laws in Washington. The solution, he said, is to ask other candidates the same questions.
“This is how you are going to break that cycle,” he said.
Case said he believes in federal recognition of Native Hawaiians, and there has to be a balance between rights and interests.
Native Hawaiians, he said, have a right to choose their own destiny within our government.
“Separation, I do not accept,” Case said, adding that he agrees with a nation inside of a nation.
When Case graduated from college at 23 years old, he did not know what he was going to do professionally, he said. He was ready to take a layman’s job, but accepted a summer internship in Washington, D.C., and loved it despite the $100 monthly salary.
Go out and experiment and try other things, he told the students at KCC.
“Find your passion,” he said.
Case said this election is very important because Hawai‘i voters tend to reelect the senators for more than one term. The candidate who wins this Senate seat will likely represent Hawai‘i in Washington for most of the voters’ adult life, he said.
Case will face off with U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono in the Democratic primaries. The winner will likely run against former Hawai‘i Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or email@example.com.