Editor's Note: Steve Bullock dropped out of the race on Dec. 2, 2019.
We asked presidential candidates questions about a variety of issues facing the country. This is what Democratic candidate Steve Bullock had to say about climate change, gun control, health care and other issues.
Do you believe the earth’s climate is changing? If yes, do you believe it is caused by humans?
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and requires immediate and durable action. The IPCC set a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. I believe we can beat that goal, getting there by 2040 or even earlier. Under my administration, we’ll rejoin the Paris Agreement and restore our global climate leadership, significantly expand renewable energy, improve energy and fuel efficiency, make our public lands carbon-neutral, and make a significant investment at the federal level to assist in the transition.
If you could unilaterally make one change, or enact one policy, that would affect the climate, what would that be? And why?
Prior to Citizens United, Republicans used to acknowledge the imperative of addressing climate change. The corrupting influence of money in our politics has robbed Washington of the courage needed to take on every major challenge we face — from gun violence to climate change. That is the greatest challenge in getting Washington to work for us. There are steps we can take. However, the lack of a 28th Amendment cannot be an excuse for inaction. It is imperative that the next president make addressing climate a bipartisan issue, and an opportunity to create good jobs and save our planet.
How would you engage foreign leaders to work with the United States on issues related to climate?
Trump has abdicated America’s climate leadership role. While we should certainly compete with the rest of the world, we all have an interest in collaborating when it comes to climate. On Day 1, I’ll rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and renew our commitment to leading the international effort. Every trade deal the U.S. enters into must ensure environmental leadership and fair labor standards are upheld by our trading partners. Moreover, we should be working globally to advance technology and science, while setting standards to make advanced and developing countries adhere to.
Should the U.S. explore additional use of nuclear power as an alternative energy source? Why or why not?
We should rapidly expand renewable energy development with direct investments and tax credits, and we should maintain existing nuclear power, which doesn’t add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and exacerbate climate change. I would also explore further using nuclear power as an alternative energy source, as long as we ensure nuclear infrastructure includes updated safety measures, improved waste management, and continuous consultation with local communities.
Should the U.S. government offer subsidies for renewable energy, such as wind energy or ethanol? Why or why not?
Yes. I’m proposing that the United States become carbon neutral by 2040, if not sooner. To do that, we need aggressive investments in renewable energy sources. In Montana, we doubled our wind power and quadrupled our solar during my tenure as governor. We can do that and more across the country as part of meeting our emissions reduction goals.
How would you address gun violence in America?
It’s past time we stopped treating gun violence as a political issue and started treating it as a public health issue. We must pursue evidence-based solutions to reduce gun violence, like background checks for every gun purchase, red flag laws to keep guns out of the wrong hands, ending straw purchases, and stopping the further sale of military-style assault weapons. Gun owners and non-gun owners alike want to ensure folks are safe in their communities. Further, we need to take on Dark Money groups like the NRA, who are spending millions to try to divide this nation and thwart progress.
How do you propose making schools safer from acts of violence?
We need common-sense measures as noted above. Our schools should be places of learning, not places of fear. It’s more than just about hardening schools — updated threat assessment programs and security upgrades. It is also about softening them, making sure we are addressing isolation and the social, emotional and mental health needs of our children.
What role, if any, should the government have in regulating large technology companies?
Amazon controls nearly half of internet sales, yet pays zero in taxes. Google controls nearly 40% of online ads, yet more than half of their workers are independent contractors or temporary workers. New businesses can’t even get started if they take on giants like Facebook. There is too much power in too few hands with too little oversight. As president, I’ll focus enforcement on expanding competition, protecting privacy, and modernizing our antitrust laws.
If you are elected, how would you interact with North Korea? What relationship would the U.S. and North Korea have?
The current administration’s foreign policy treats our allies as adversaries, and our adversaries as allies. This has allowed North Korea to grow its nuclear arsenal, while putting our allies like Japan and South Korea at risk. As president, I would re-engage with our allies who’ve felt abandoned by the United States, and would engage with North Korea only as part of a strategic plan to secure peace in the region — not just as part of a photo-op.
Would you re-enter the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran? Why or why not?
Trump pulled us out of the deal without a strategy, and made America and our allies less secure in the process. Yet we need to be realistic that re-entering the JCPOA may not be an option in 2021. By then, we'll be getting toward the end of many of the terms of the original JCPOA and will still need to deal with Iran's corrosive activity in the region — we should be pursuing a new and longer deal in 2021. That said, if return to the JCPOA is an option in early 2021 it would be a helpful interim step to keep the Iranians at the table as we negotiate stronger terms.
How do you plan to address the threat of extremism in the U.S.?
We need to start by being honest: right-wing extremism and white nationalism are on the rise in the U.S. We need to call out the hate that radicalizes people, whether it is found in the dark corners of the internet or in the president’s tweets. Law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Justice must also vigorously prosecute hate crimes.
Do you believe there is equal access to voting in the U.S.? If not, how would you go about expanding access to voting?
Americans are supposed to be equal at the ballot box. Yet long lines at polling places, gerrymandered districts, failure to enforce the Voting Right Act, and unreliable voting equipment have become a form of voter suppression. We must restore access to and confidence at the ballot box in order to preserve our 243-year experiment in representative democracy. I’ll expand voting access by requiring states to adopt minimum early voting periods, both in-person and absentee; allowing same-day registration; preventing states from purging voter rolls simply because registered voters did not vote in previous federal elections; and making Election Day a national holiday.
Do you believe voter fraud is a problem in the U.S.? If yes, how do you plan to you address it?
We need to defend election integrity, and that means focusing those efforts on stopping foreign interference and ending the toxic influence of money in our elections. There have been few cases of documented voter fraud, and policies put in place ostensibly to fight voter fraud almost always result in suppressing the vote and disenfranchising Americans, especially communities of color. As president, I’ll fight to expand ballot access and expand public participation in our democracy.
Should it be a crime to enter the U.S. illegally?
Our immigration system has turned from a bureaucratic nightmare into a moral crisis. We need to immediately end family separation and ensure those fleeing violence have their cases heard in a timely manner. As we redouble our efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform, I would not seek the repeal of criminal penalties for those apprehended for crossing the border without authorization and who do not claim asylum. Even President Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security said that if we decriminalized border crossings, the result would be unworkable — instead of 100,000 apprehensions a month, it could be multiples of that.
Should the U.S. expand or limit legal immigration?
The biggest challenge to our immigration system is Donald Trump. He is using our immigration policies to not only rip families apart, but to further divide our country. As president, I’ll end family separation once and for all. I’ll protect the Dreamers and ensure a pathway to citizenship for the 10.5 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country, two-thirds of whom have been here for more than a decade.
In many areas of the country, there is a critical shortage of affordable housing. What would your administration do to address it?
Having a home is the key foundation for a stable life, and that in turn creates stable neighborhoods, vibrant communities, and a dynamic economy. As president, I’ll focus on ensuring housing opportunities meet people’s needs. That’s why I’m calling for a federal rental tax credit so renters can afford good housing that’s close to work and school; better maintenance of existing public housing while building new public housing units; and funding more Project Based Rental Assistance to expand housing options for low-income Americans.
What is your plan to address the growing national debt?
Washington ran a trillion-dollar deficit this year for the first time since the Great Recession. Donald Trump’s reckless tax cuts have only made things worse, spending $1.5 trillion to pay for a tax cut for big corporations. Washington hasn’t passed a budget on time in more than 20 years. As governor, if I didn’t balance the budget, I’d be out of a job. I’ll get Washington back on track by governing responsibly to reduce the annual deficit.
Do you think our national debt is a national security issue? Why or why not?
It’s troubling that party leaders in Washington have kept piling on to our ballooning national debt. With China owning over $1 trillion of our debt, this isn’t just an economic issues — it’s a national security issue. We need to take steps to reduce our reliance on foreign debtors and get our fiscal house in order.
Is capitalism the best economic structure for the United States? If yes, why? If no, what is better and how do you believe it will benefit Americans?
Yes, but we need to ensure that our economy works for all Americans, not just a wealthy few. Currently, it is crony capitalism, as the system doesn’t work for working people. Most families have not seen a pay increase in 40 years in real terms. Income inequality is the greatest it has ever been, while the wealthiest among us are paying lower tax rates than most folks in this country. The rules are written to benefit the wealthiest individuals and the biggest corporations, while workers and the middle class are left behind. I’m running to ensure that every American has a fair shot at a better life, and as president, I’ll fight to build an economy that works for everyone.
In many parts of the country, there is a skilled worker gap. How would you close that gap to get more people employed in the industries that need them?
More than 60% of the country does not have a college degree, yet our leaders rarely talk about ensuring opportunity for them. As president, I’ll make community college tuition free so that folks of all ages can learn the skills to advance their careers. I’ll increase Pell Grant eligibility and provide financial support for those who are obtaining employer-recognized certifications. I’ll also offer tax credits for employers who hire apprentices or offer work-based learning opportunities. Taking these actions would increase access to skilled work and go a long way towards filling these gaps.
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Should the government forgive student loans? If yes, why and for whom? If no, why not?
The weight of these loans is distributed differently across income levels, which is why I don’t support blindly canceling debt regardless of job or income. There is a big difference in how the debt burden affects opportunity for the top 10% of income earners and those in the lowest 25%. That’s why we should lower interest rates, make community college free, incentivize employers to help employees pay down debt, and increase Pell Grants flexibility so folks don’t have to go into debt in the first place.
Should community college be free to anyone who wants to attend? Should other colleges and universities be free to attend?
Two-year community college and career and technical education programs should be free for all Americans.
Is more funding needed for mental health care in America? If yes, what amount and how should it be allocated? Where should that money come from?
Yes. For starters, approximately 10 percent of children and adolescents could use assistance for a mental illnesses, yet only 20 percent of those are identified and receiving services. Early identification and intervention is key. We need to increase funding opportunities for school-based mental health screening and interventions, anti-bullying programs, and de-stigmatization efforts. Even beyond children, there must be access to mental as well as physical care, urban and rural. Medicaid expansion, health parity laws, preventative care, and increased funding and support for tele-health options for areas underserved by mental health professionals.
How would you address rising prescription drug costs, specifically for medications that are necessary for people to live, such as insulin and mental health medications?
Americans pay more for prescription drugs than in any other country, yet the federal government, the largest purchaser of prescription drugs, cannot even negotiate for fair prices. Price negotiation is the first step. Beyond that, we also need to consider price indexing and determine how to safely import prescription drugs from abroad.
What do you believe is the biggest health care issue facing Americans? How would you solve it?
Access and affordability. Too many Americans either don’t have access to quality health care or they simply cannot afford it. I believe that access to healthcare shouldn’t depend on the size of your paycheck — it should be a right for all. As president, I would increase accessibility and affordability by providing a public option for Americans who want to buy in; allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices; automatically enrolling eligible people in Medicaid; and ending surprise billing and out of network charges.
How would you address the opioid crisis?
As attorney general I fought the opioid epidemic in Montana with drug registries and unused drug returns that help save lives. That work continued when as governor, I expanded Medicaid coverage to nearly 100,000 people — including increased preventative visits and addiction treatment. As a result, opioid-related deaths are at the lowest they’ve been in the last decade. We can ensure the same access to quality and affordable care, including addiction treatment, across the country. I’ll work to ensure every state expands Medicaid, which has cut the uninsured rate for those with opioid-related hospitalizations by 79 percent.
Should marijuana be legalized federally for medicinal use? Should it be legalized for recreational use?
The criminalization of marijuana has ruined the lives of too many Americans and cost taxpayers for imprisoning non-violent offenders. We must do better, and that includes making sure that a past minor drug infraction doesn’t get in the way of a fair shot at success in the future. As a governor, I know there are certain decisions that are best made by the people closest to their communities, and I will work to remove barriers at the federal level that conflict with states’ decisions on legal and medical marijuana.
Do you support a public health insurance option for all Americans? If yes, do you support the elimination of private health care in favor of a government-run plan, or do you support an option where Americans can choose a public or private plan? If no, why?
I support a public option to improve health care access and drive down costs. Your family’s ability to see a good doctor shouldn’t depend on which zip code you’re in — it should be a right for all.
Should the federal government re-institute the death penalty? If yes, for what crimes?
The death penalty should only be permitted in the most extreme cases like the Oklahoma City Bomber and the Charleston church shooter.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Steve Bullock shares views on gun control, immigration and more