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WSW: Democrat Paul Clements Says Congress Isn't Working

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WMUK
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Western Michigan University Political Science Professor Paul Clements says the current direction of the country isn't working for the middle class. 

Clements says his Republican opponent, Congressman Fred Upton, used to be "something of a moderate." But Clements says Upton has become more interested in advancing his political career. Clements sat down with WMUK's Gordon Evans and Kalamazoo Gazette reporter Alex Mitchell. Some highlights:

Foreign Policy

The interview was recorded shortly after the U.S. House had approved sending weapons to Syrian rebels. Clements says he believes the U.S. has sent troops into battle "too easily" during the last decade. But he says the "Islamic State" or ISIS does pose a serious threat. Clements says if arming "moderate" groups in Syria can help it should be on the table. 

Renewable Energy

Clements says renewable energy has great potential for the future economy. He says clean energy is an area which supports good-paying high-tech jobs. Asked about nuclear power, Clements says it's not cost-effective. He says it will take decades to transition to sources such as wind and solar power. Clements says natural gas appears to have the most potential to meet demand during the transition period. Clements says he would not favor banning hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" based on what he knows today. But he says Congress has not provided proper oversight of the methods used for fracking. 

Student Loans

Clements wants to expand financial aid and student loans. He says banks were given a very generous deal after the financial collapse in 2008. Clements says students haven't received a similar break. He says they are paying a higher rate of interest on student loans. Clements says a government organized program could bring interest rates down to around 3%. 

The Internet 

Regulation of the internet, or "net neutrality" has become an issue before the Energy and Commerce Committee. Upton is the chairman of that committee. Clements says the Internet should remain an even playing field. He says "net neutrality" allows startups a chance to grow.  Asked about a sales tax for purchases over the Internet, Clements says as a matter of fairness, if a sales tax is going to be charged at brick and mortar retailers, it should be charged for transactions over the web. 

The Campaign

Fred Upton was first elected to the U.S. House in 1986. While it is rare for an incumbent to lose when running for re-election, Clements says he believes voters are figuring out that Upton isn't representing the interests of Southwest Michigan and is part of what Clements calls "a broken Congress." Two years ago, Mike O'Brien came closer than any Democrat before him to defeating Upton. Clements says O'Brien was a good candidate, but he didn't get into the race until a few months before the election. Clements started his campaign a year and a half ago and has broken the record for fundraising by a Democrat in the 6th Congressional District. 

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Interview with Paul Clements - web version

Discussion of other issues can be heard in the web version of the interview. 

Possible Military Action

As part of the discussion on foreign policy, Clements said after the 2001 terrorist attacks Congress gave the President more authority to send U.S. troops into combat. He says there should be more separation of powers when it comes to military action. 

Partisanship

Clements has been critical of Upton for becoming more partisan. He says on issues like climate change, Upton has moved to the right. Clements says it shows that the Congressman is placating the base of his party. 

Climate Change

Energy efficiency is the "long hanging fruit" in addressing climate change, according to Clements. He says many older homes are "energy sieves" that can be improved. Clements says tax incentives should be offered to make homes more energy efficient. He says a global agreement is needed to limit greenhouse gasses. Clements says the U.S. should lead the way by reducing carbon emissions at home.

Health Care

Asked about improving the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, Clements says he would like to look at some of the regulations on small business that may limit their ability to hire more workers. He says the health care reform should include more incentives to hold down costs and to provide incentives to seek preventative care. 

Tax System

Congressman Fred Upton has called for comprehensive tax reform to improve the economy. Clements says there are important things that need to be made to the tax code. He says special tax exemptions that allow corporations to move jobs overseas should be removed. 

Fundraising

Although he says most of the money raised for his campaign has come from within the district, Clements says he is getting some outside support from outside groups. He expects more during the fall campaign. 

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.