Home » Bernier feels ‘fight is now’ in U.S. Congress

Bernier feels ‘fight is now’ in U.S. Congress

Justin Bernier, running for the Republican nomination for Congress from the 5th District, is talking about growth as the way out of the economic doldrums.In a phone interview with The Lakeville Journal on Friday, Jan. 20, he spoke about the economy, taxes, energy, foreign policy, the size of the federal government — and the joys of travel.On taxes: He’s not in favor of tax increases per se. “We need more taxpayers working and paying taxes.”On a flat tax: Bernier would prefer a flatter rate, “but obviously the rich would pay at a higher rate.”He’s more interested in pro-growth policies, saying that the economy’s current sluggish growth is lower than it was in the Depression.“If you raise taxes first then you’re at a standstill.”Reining in spending is certainly necessary, he added. But he cautioned, “We can’t cut our way out of the deficit. We need common sense spending cuts.“But the worst thing for growth is increasing taxes.”On the Obama administration’s “stimulus” spending, Bernier was harsh. “We don’t need any more evidence that it’s not working. We need to create better initiatives for jobs. We know the formula.”He advocated reducing the business tax rate to 10 percent and eliminating loopholes.“Make America a tax haven.”On energy policy, he criticized the administration’s recent decision not to go ahead with the Keystone XL pipeline, saying it made “no sense, not even environmental sense” and it “prevents us from creating jobs.”“We don’t have an energy policy now,” he added. Bernier favors domestic exploration and production of oil and other energy sources in “a safe, responsible way.”“Get rid of subsidies” to farmers for producing corn to be converted into ethanol, and to green energy companies such as Solyndra, currently the subject of considerable upheaval in Washington. “Use a free market approach.”Obama’s Keystone decision was based on placating “a narrow constituency he needs for re-election,” Bernier said. And the decision ignores what Bernier sees as “the big issue — $500 billion going overseas for oil.”In Connecticut, he continued, for 20 years “every single energy project was stopped. Then we wonder why we don’t bounce back” from events such as the October 2011 snowstorm that knocked out power statewide for several days.He said he agreed with parts of Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s 2011 budget plan but differed on some of its health-care provisions, saying that while Ryan focused on financing, Bernier would prefer to address costs directly via “meaningful tort reform,” selling health insurance across state lines and eliminating state mandates.On foreign policy: Bernier, a Navy intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan, said “We should be winding it down in Afghanistan, we’ve been there 10 years. “We can achieve our national security goals with a smaller footprint in the region [the Middle East]” by better utilizing intelligence and with “aggressive diplomacy.”“We don’t need to drop 100,000 troops in a country every time there’s a problem. The approach needs to be different.” He also suggested that lawmakers could do a better job of evaluating intelligence.“It’s amazing how much intelligence they don’t look at.”Asked if he believes the federal government is too big, and if there is an inherent constitutional problem with the size and scope of the federal government, Bernier laughed and wondered aloud if the federal government could possibly get any bigger.“Yeah, it’s too big. Of course.” He urged looking to the Constitution for guidance — particularly the 10th Amendment to the Bill of Rights — “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”“The 10th Amendment is very clear. Nobody knows the states like the people who live in them.“I think people are ready for that approach, to devolving power back to the states.He cited the Hartford-to-New Britain Busway as a good example of poor decision-making emanating from the federal level. “Nobody wants it,” but because the federal funds are there, the project will likely move forward.Why does he want the job?“The fight is now, not in 10 years. We’ve only got a few years to figure this mess out and prevent another economic disaster. The mission is right now.”And he thinks his message is mainstream. “This is the majority view. This is what people want.”Bernier said the best — and worst — part of campaigning is the constant travel. “I know every rest stop, every gas station” in the district.The upside is the personal contact with voters. “No matter how well you think you know the state, you get to know it better running for office.”Bernier ran for the GOP nomination for the 5th District seat in 2010, eventually losing to state Sen. Sam Caligiuri, who then lost to Democratic incumbent Chris Murphy by an 8 percent margin. Murphy is now running for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Joe Lieberman (I), who is retiring.The candidate was optimistic about his campaign against state Sen. Andrew Roraback (R-30), Litchfield businessman Mark Greenberg, Lisa Wilson-Foley and Mike Clark.We’ve got “a heck of a good chance.” He has raised what he called “good money,” and he is heartened by the response to his candidacy, as evidenced by a donor list with 6,000 names.“That takes organization. It doesn’t just happen.”

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