Moving to other major domestic issues, one of the few major pieces of legislation passed by this Congress was a tax cut bill pushed by the president. Would you have voted for or against it?
Trump’s tax cut was despicable public policy. An analysis I read recently indicates there is going to be a $1.9 trillion hole created in our budget. The top Fortune 500 companies were paying a marginal rate of 35 percent; he lowered the rate to 21 percent. But corporations—and I understand the business side of this inside out—don’t pay a marginal rate, they pay an effective rate because they have deductions. The effective rate in America by the Fortune 500 companies was actually 24 percent; the effective rate in the other G-7 countries [Canada, Japan and four European democracies] was actually 23 percent. Our country was very, very competitive before the tax cut. It shouldn’t have happened. It robbed Middle America, it robbed folks in low-income jobs, it robbed education monies.
There are so many things that could have been focused on—and instead, it was a total giveaway to these big companies. What we said was going to happen is that they would increase the dividends. Well, guess what they did? And the stock buyback—guess what they did? The worst thing right now is more stock buyback, more stock dividends than ever in the history of the country. That’s driving the stock market up, of course. So the top 1 percent is benefiting immensely, Donald Trump is benefiting immensely, and the middle-income folks in America got virtually nothing. My opponent, Amie Hoeber, supports the Trump tax cut, which is absolutely insane.
In light of a number of mass shooting episodes at schools and businesses over the past year—including several in Maryland—do you feel that increased restrictions on gun ownership are needed, and, if so, what steps would you advocate?
It’s a sad, sad day in America when our kids go to school, and they have to worry. It’s really bad that the parents worry, but it’s even worse that our children have to worry whether they’re going to come home that night. We need common sense gun safety measures; we should have done it decades ago. It’s inexcusable that the [National Rifle Association] has a chokehold on the American political process. And that is one reason we’re not taking PAC money, we’re not taking lobbyist money—we never have, we never will, because we want to be nobody’s congressman but the people’s.
Things like universal background checks have to happen. A ban on military-style weapons has to happen. A ban on high-capacity [ammunition] magazines has to happen. A ban on bump stocks has to happen. Amie Hoeber suggested that we should lock the doors in the schools; Trump has suggested we should arm the teachers. Well, the Republican-Trump-Hoeber suggestions are wrong. They’re ridiculous. It’s outrageous that no one wants to stand up to the gun lobby.
Immigration is certain to be a key issue you will be dealing with if you are elected as a member of the next Congress. If you were drafting immigration reform legislation, what key elements would it contain?
Trump has moved us in absolutely the wrong direction on immigration. America’s success is based on our diversity, and our inclusivity. Forty percent of the Fortune 100 companies were founded by immigrants—or second generation right behind them. Immigrants have been phenomenal job trainers, because they look at things differently than you or I might—through a different lens, a different background. And that’s what’s enabled folks to come up with the brilliance of eBay, Google, Apple, and create hundreds of thousands of jobs around the world. So immigration is absolutely crucial to the success of America.
We were taking in 100,000 immigrants a year; Trump cut it to 45,000. We need to increase the numbers from where they used to be and welcome immigrants from all over the world. [Editor’s note: Trump in late 2017 signed an executive order cutting the number of refugees allowed into this country annually to 45,000, down from a limit of 110,000 set by President Obama—and the lowest cap since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980. With regard to overall immigration, a recent Washington Post analysis found the number of people receiving visas to permanently move to the United States is on pace to drop 12 percent during Trump’s first two years in office.]
Yes, we want immigrants here that bring education, that want to invest in America. But what is greater than being able to bring your brother or sister or mom or dad? The president figured out how to get his wife’s mom and dad here. Other folks in America ought to be able to figure out how to get their mom and dad here—and it shouldn’t take 25 years. The system needs a complete overhaul, because the time frame it takes to process immigration and bring those folks into America is just wrong—so ridiculously slow that the folks don’t want to come here, or they’ve passed on before the American government actually gets to them.
So it’s about family reunification. Immigration should be about families; it shouldn’t be about separating families at the border, which President Trump did. Amie Hoeber called the situation at the border—which I call abhorrent and morally wrong—she called it “not a simple thing, not a simple issue.” Well, it is a simple issue. We can’t allow moms and dads to be separated from their kids at the border.
Aside from those at the border, there are millions of immigrants living in this country illegally. Does there need to be some kind of path to citizenship for them, perhaps tied to enhanced border security?
We absolutely need secure borders, and we can do that in a lot of different ways with technology. A path to citizenship is also absolutely needed. We have so many folks here now; if they could seek citizenship, right away their wages would go up 25 percent. Right away, we’d have hundreds of billions dollars more collected in taxes. Right away, they could improve their education. There’s so much more that could be done, so we need a path to citizenship for folks that are here.
Like many other Democrats, you’ve indicated opposition to the southern border wall proposed by the president. Some in your party also have called for abolishing “ICE”—the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Do you agree?
We need to keep ICE, but clearly we need to look at reforming it.
You indicated earlier a possible interest in serving on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee if you’re elected. What are you feelings about the proposal by Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration for a public/private partnership to widen I-270 and add toll lanes to help finance it?
We absolutely have to address the transportation nightmare that Washington, D.C., is. Total Wine & More operates in 22 states around the country. I have traveled throughout the United States, and we have the worst traffic in America. We need to expand I-270 from Frederick right through the American Legion Bridge. Virginia in the last decade has done nine major transportation projects; Maryland has done two—now the Purple Line and, before that, the [Intercounty Connector]. So Maryland has to quit studying and start doing.
Toll lanes are not the only answer, but they’re certainly one of the answers. But this is a big deal and we’ve got to make a decision and move on it. The federal government is going to have to help out, it’s got to work … with the District of Columbia, the state of Virginia, and the state of Maryland—and we’ve got to get together on it. We have to widen the Beltway with more lanes. It’s [road] transportation plus transit. We need public transit all the way, but at this point in time, the situation has become so unbearable.
And we’ve got to get affordable housing. Something we haven’t touched on, but our teachers are paid $1,700 less now in real dollars than they made two decades ago. They’re forced to live up in Frederick because of the lack of affordable housing in Montgomery [County], and then they’re forced to commute and spend hours on the road. It’s a crazy situation.
Shifting to policy abroad, Mr. Trump’s defenders have argued that he has succeeded in lessening tensions with North Korea and diminishing the threat that it presents to the United States to a degree that his predecessors were not able to achieve. Do you agree with his handling of this situation and, if not, where do you take exception?
The key is that we haven’t seen any results. President Trump comes back and says they [Trump and Korean dictator Kim Jong Un] are friends—and, oh, he wrote a nice letter. And then he tweets about him. But we’ve seen zero results regarding disarmament. We have actually seen some results that indicate they’re continuing to increase their nuclearization on delivery payloads for great distances. So it’s a lot of talk and then more talk, and no concrete results whatsoever have happened.