Representative Lois Capps, who plans to run for reelection, sat down with Capitol Letters to discuss what are likely to be some big issues in 2012. Here is a transcript of the interview, edited for space.
Why are we in Afghanistan? You can’t ask that question today without having it framed by [the September 11 attacks].
… Wars are fought for countries, aren’t they? Or for property, for land, or even over issues that have land at its base, like our Civil War was over an idea. But it turned out to be geographic in the way it was carried out. But to fight a war on terrorism, that’s the challenging piece. And yet we all, we had to do something, and that’s what we did, where now it’s carried over into Yemen because that’s where Al Qaeda seems to have a nucleus. And so we’re probably going to be engaged there, too, more and more … but recognizing that we’ve just about crossed the line in whether we can afford it, both in terms of lives and treasure.
Are you concerned about . . . why exactly we’re in Libya? Do I think we should be there? Yes, I do. In the limited way. I supported not allowing ground troops. But this is a partnership, and we depend on that same partnership in Afghanistan. And it was NATO who went in, and, as a partner to NATO, I don’t think we have the luxury of picking and choosing.
What do you think of the Republican plan to change Medicare? It really just ends Medicare. … It’s a huge issue. And I believe that’s the distinction on the budget that is very significant between the two parties.
What about means testing? I believe that’s going to have to be discussed, and if we can get ourselves some breathing space, I believe the American people are interested in considering that.
When you’re in the district, what do people say is a bigger problem — the need for stimulating the economy more or bringing down the debt? Hugely in favor of more job stimulus. Very few people in the district — no one’s come up to me and said, “I’m really, really freaked out about the deficit.”
Is there a chance for another stimulus? No, and that’s really a shame. We need anything that can be done by the government now to pump more money into the economy.
Do you think Republicans genuinely believe that austerity at this point will stimulate the economy, or do you think . . . they just want to oppose anything Obama does? It feels to me like a fundamental lack of value in the role of federal government in people’s lives. And to the degree that their actions spring from a sort of philosophy that to spend money is anathema almost, it makes you wonder why they signed up to work in [government].
What do you do when you’re in the district? My staff works … to respond to requests from people who want my presence. … But we also know I need to reach out to listen to folks. … And rather than having just an open-house town-hall meeting — which we have learned has some downsides to it, because two or three very noisy people can really tie up an afternoon or evening — I go to a place … and we’ll have a little discussion, and we’ll make a point to listen to stakeholders throughout the district.
What is the Republican’s motivation (in cutting money for) Planned Parenthood? Reopening of the culture wars. … It’s a religious policy. If abortion is evil, or a sin, according to one’s religious faith, it gives an opportunity to have that played out within the policy. … The attack on women by this new majority is really astounding.
When you hear people say “We pay too many taxes,” do you think that people just are unaware of what the services are? They don’t see. We choose not to. I mean taxes are an onerous word, but … we’re paying for services, aren’t we? We’d be really upset if we went to open the door of the library, and it didn’t open … If we call 9-1-1, and nobody answered — pretty upset. … But do we want to pay for it? … There’s such a discrediting of public service, isn’t there?