There are currently four Democrats in Maine seeking their party's nomination in next year's U.S. Senate race. In recent weeks, Maine Public has talked with each of them about the issues that pollsters have identified as being most important.
Maine Public's Political Correspondent Mal Leary spoke with Bre Kidman about taxes, the opioid crisis and - of most concern to Democrats - health care.
KIDMAN: I support Medicare-for-all. I believe it's long past time that we had a single-payer solution for health care. I think the Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction. But I know that for a lot of Mainers, myself included, it didn't make healthcare affordable. It put a lot of us in a position where we were either not getting enough in subsidy to make insurance affordable, or the plans themselves didn't make the care affordable. And so I've been in that gap for a while. And I think, you know, when you look at other countries with single-payer health care, you know, you see that the quality of care is better - people have better access and better care. And there are fewer disparities based on income. I think in the United States, in 2019, we're in a place where it's time. And I think that that's a difficult thing to say, because the insurance industry is a big industry, and it has kind of disproportionate political power. But I think we don't really get anywhere unless we rip off the band aid.
But there's also the cost factor here because if you go to Medicare-for-all, depending on which experts you listen to, we're talking a lot of money. Where's the money going to come from, to do that?
So, there are a couple different plans out there on how we're going to fund Medicare-for-all. I know that [Bernie] Sanders and [Elizabeth] Warren both have kind of a wealth tax, and I support that. But also, I think it's important to note that we're already paying a lot of money for health care. Most of the plans that I've seen, the tax kind of washes - if not is better than - what we're paying in premiums. And that's just premiums. It doesn't account for co-pays or deductibles.
The second area Maine Democrats are most concerned about is tax policy - not just the tax cut bill from Donald Trump, but what do you do to fix it? What do you see as the fairness of a tax system, and how do you get there?
So, there are a lot of infographics out there right now. And, you know, in the reading that I've done, we're at a place now where, by percentage, extremely wealthy people are paying less taxes than the average person. That's not a tax policy that I think is sustainable or is equitable, or is in keeping with what our country's supposed to be. You know, I've been kind of - this campaign has caused me to do a lot of historical kind of look backs, and a lot of kind of thought about how and why we got here. And something that strikes me is with the New Deal with FDR, which was one of the most, you know, kind of popular enduring programs, you know, we would hear things like, "No business which pays less than a living wage has any right to exist in this country." And you say something like that now and you're a socialist, and you get kind of laughed out of the room. But I think we need to look at the way that kind of the burden of running the country has been distributed. If we have people with billions and billions of dollars, which is - you know, I could work and bill 80 hours a week as a Maine equivalent of a public defender. And I think it was going to take 4,000 years for me to make $1 billion if I was billing 80 hours a week. That's, that's more than then I could spend in a lifetime.
What would you do as a member of the Senate to try to curb that process? Because it's going to take efforts at all levels to do it.
Yeah, it is going to take efforts at all levels, and currently so as Maine's equivalent of a public defender. I'm kind of on the frontlines of the opioid crisis. The majority of my clients wouldn't be there if it weren't for some combination of poverty, addiction, or mental health. And usually it's a combination of at least two of those, sometimes all three. And so when I think about the opioid crisis, I can't not think about health care and, and criminal justice reform. So I think about those things kind of hand in hand as a systemic process. And so I think about how the figure from - I think it's the prison Policy Center - it's $183 billion was a lowball figure for what we're spending on mass incarceration. So we're looking at spending a ton of money on keeping people in jail, where a lot of times they're not getting adequate treatment. And when they get out of jail they're going back into the system, and so we're spending money on public defenders, we're spending money on judges, we're spending money on prosecutors, we're spending money on the court facilities themselves.
We're already spending the money. I think that we can spend it more effectively if we divert that funding to programs like Medicare-for-all, where people will be able to get treatment, you know, as a baseline part of your tax package. So expanding access to treatment for mental health and substance abuse, which often go hand in hand, but also in creating a sort of higher level diversionary process for folks who are getting trapped in the criminal justice cycle. candidly, I'm not entirely sure what that process looks like. You know, it's difficult to balance states and federalism. And, you know, criminal justice has traditionally been a state function. But I think states need support from a federal level, to create better programs to divert people who don't really belong in the revolving door of the criminal justice system.
Bre Kidman, Democratic candidate for the United States Senate, thanks for stopping by the office and discussing some of these issues.
Thanks for having me.