Murphy outlines tax, jobs plan, calls Medicare the top priority

Editor's Note: Both Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon were offered opportunities to sit down with an editorial board at Hersam Acorn Newspapers. Mr. Murphy, citing his schedule, agreed to a phone interview. Ms. McMahon's campaign did not respond to several requests for an interview.

A three-term congressman from Connecticut's 5th District, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy is quick to admit that he doesn't have the money to spend on advertising like his Republican opponent Linda McMahon. What he says he does have, however, is the right message to voters.

Mr. Murphy and Ms. McMahon are locked in a tight battle for the U.S. Senate seat of Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), who is not seeking another term. Recent polls have shown Mr. Murphy with a narrow lead, but the seat is very much up for grabs with less than two weeks to go before the election. In an interview last week with Hersam Acorn Newspapers, Mr. Murphy said he wasn't surprised to see the race, which was once considered a sure pickup for the Democrats, be so close.

"Linda McMahon is spending a fortune trying to buy this election, and there's no way around the fact that her money is going to have an effect in this race," Mr. Murphy said. "We think ultimately that the enthusiasm of our supporters and the big differences between Ms. McMahon and I on the issues and in our backgrounds will make the difference. But given the fact that Linda McMahon has outspent us by a minimum of a five-to-one margin, it's no surprise that the race is so close."

While Ms. McMahon has made her plan for jobs, deficit reduction and taxes a centerpiece of her campaign, she has also often been on the attack, claiming that Mr. Murphy has no jobs plan. It's been a major part of many of her advertisements and she brought it up at each of their candidate debates, but Mr. Murphy said it's "a lie" and he does have a plan in place.

"She knows I have a jobs plan and that I held a major press conference in June announcing it," Mr. Murphy said. "It's just another example of Linda McMahon's willingness to just lie through her teeth to voters about me. The real conversation should be about the difference between her plan and my plan. Linda McMahon's plan is rooted in a massive new tax cut for the wealthy and my plan is rooted in investments in middle class tax cuts. Linda McMahon's plan would result in massive new deficits crippling our economy and my plan is rooted in commonsense deficit reduction."

As part of his plan, Mr. Murphy said he would extend the "Bush tax cuts" for the middle class that are set to automatically expire on Jan. 1. He said this will help families making under $250,000 and would work to expand those tax cuts for targeted expenses like child care. Mr. Murphy said he doesn't want to reauthorize the tax cuts for those families making more than $250,000 and said that revenue could then be used to pay down the national debt as well as invest in education, including making college more affordable through Pell grants. His plan also includes ending tax breaks for companies that "ship jobs overseas," instead refocusing that toward companies keeping jobs in America.

Mr. Murphy also noted that his plan focuses on renewable energy by calling for investment in developing energy independence, which he feels will create tens of thousands of new jobs. Additionally, he says his plan will continue his work from the House of Representatives where he has pushed for Buy American laws to strengthen the country's manufacturing. The laws he pushed for require that the federal government buy its products from American and not from foreign sources, and he said he's been able to do all of that in a bipartisan fashion, something he vows to continue in the Senate, as he says "manufacturing jobs are coming back to the United States."

"It's time the federal government sets the right example by buying American products," Mr. Murphy said. "The federal government is the biggest purchaser of goods in the United States and yet we outsource billions of dollars in federal work to China and Mexico and other foreign countries."

Mr. Murphy said if elected he would challenge Democratic leadership in the Senate as well as the president on this. He said he's been successful in the past on this in the Buy American Caucus in Congress, noting that this year the federal government approved $4 billion less in waivers to the Buy American law than it had the year before, meaning more American products were purchased.

"I represent my state, I don't represent my party," Mr. Murphy said. "When I think President Obama is wrong on an issue I won't be afraid to say it. I don't think this administration has been strong enough in protecting Connecticut manufacturers. I've called them to the table on this and it's gotten results."

Economic recovery

While he talked several times in the interview about deficit reduction, saying he was "serious" and "committed" to seeing a 1% cut in discretionary spending and controlling the rate of growth, Mr. Murphy said that investment in key areas would also help spur the economy and create jobs.

"I believe in rebuilding our infrastructure, too," Mr. Murphy said. "I think this country should make a new commitment and spend money on rebuilding our roads and bridges and rail lines. This will put thousands of Connecticut construction workers back on the job."

Mr. Murphy said there will have to be a "major conversation" about spending and tax rates in early 2013 and that renewed investment in infrastructure, as well as for education and renewable energy, has to be "on the table." When asked about where the money for those investments would come from, Mr. Murphy said he was not in favor of measures like raising the gas tax and he would look for "other revenue" to pay for it, such as closing some loopholes as well as reductions in some areas of spending.

"Tax policy matters in this country," Mr. Murphy said. "When the federal government is giving massive tax cuts to the wealthy, that money is by and large not finding its way into our economy. It's been proven over and over again that tax cuts for the wealthy do not create jobs, and if the federal government continues to deficit-spend in the way that it has, it creates a real crisis of confidence among investors that are thinking about putting money into the American economy."

To that end, he claims that Ms. McMahon's policies would "explode the deficit, weaken our economy and kill jobs" by continuing with tax cuts for the wealthy he believes won't work. However, Mr. Murphy also made sure to focus on what he sees as the contrast between him and his opponent that goes beyond their plans.

"This race shouldn't just be about plans, though," Mr. Murphy said. "It should be about our records. I'm proud of the fact that I've spent my career standing up for middle class residents and standing up for the poor and the vulnerable. Linda McMahon has spent her entire career looking out for only herself. This race shouldn't just be about our plans. It should be about how we've chosen to spend our lives and our careers and what that says about who we will fight for going forward."

Social Security and Medicare

The future of Social Security and Medicare in the country have become major campaign issues in the final weeks of the campaign. The Murphy campaign pounced on comments from Ms. McMahon where she suggested a "sunset clause" to look at Social Security as well as taking a look at potentially having vouchers for Medicare, claiming she wants to do away with the programs.

Ms. McMahon has strongly denied that, saying her comments were taken out of context and that she is committed to preserving benefits for seniors receiving Social Security and Medicare. But Mr. Murphy said he isn't buying those claims.

"She didn't say, 'Let's explore this,' she said, 'I believe in sunset provisions when we pass this kind of legislation' and then she put a specific time frame on it which made it clear she knew exactly what she was talking about," Mr. Murphy said. "She said we should go back and look at this in 10 to 15 years. I've read the entire quote. She didn't say we should explore it. She said she believes in it. When Linda McMahon says she believes in something, I take her at her word."

For his own plan, Mr. Murphy said we "should not play games with the hard-earned Social Security paychecks of seniors" and instead should "fix and strengthen Social Security." He said he is in favor of taking a look by increasing the cap on earnings taxable for Social Security and claims Ms. McMahon has offered "no specifics" on what she would do beyond her comments on sunset clauses.

"Social Security neeads relatively minor adjustments in order to be preserved in the long run and doesn't have a problem for another 20 years," Mr. Murphy said. "Medicare is a completely different issue and only has 10 years before it starts taking in less than it's putting out. It's a more complicated problem. I believe you can fix and strengthen Social Security by increasing the cap on earnings that are taxable for Social Security and in Medicare you have to start by squeezing out the waste and inefficiency that's there."

Mr. Murphy said this can be done by targeting what he sees as the "incredibly inefficient delivery systems we subsidize through Medicare systems." While Ms. McMahon has claimed Mr. Murphy voted for more than $700 billion in cuts to Medicare in approving the Affordable Care Act, he said that this was just eliminating unnecessary subsidies to drug companies, insurance companies and inefficient health care systems. He said she should support those cuts, too, and they end up "strengthening benefits to seniors." He added that changing over to delivery systems that pay for quality care as opposed to volume of care will solve a lot of the problem with Medicare, which he said should be "the immediate priority" of the next Congress.

"Medicare is a problem that's tougher to solve, but you have to be willing to cut the waste out of the system in a way Linda McMahon is not willing to," Mr. Murphy said. "When you do that, it's going to get you a long way toward solving it because when you take a look at the most efficient delivery systems in the nation, they cost half as much as the more expensive ones. If every delivery system looked like Hawaii's, we wouldn't have a problem in Medicare. All we have to do is replicate the delivery systems for low-cost, high-quality care and we've fixed the problem."