Bill Bloomfield, a businessman and Manhattan Beach resident, is running against Rep. Henry A. Waxman, a Democrat presently serving California's 30th Congressional District. The two are squaring off for the seat to represent the newly drawn 33rd Congressional District.
The 33rd District stretches from the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the Beach Cities, through slivers of Marina del Rey and Venice, up to Santa Monica, Malibu, Calabasas and Agoura Hills. The district also extends inland to include Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Beverly Hills and parts of West L.A.
Bloomfield is an independent candidate, and he and Waxman were the two candidates out of eight to advance to the November ballot.
In part one of a two-part interview, Patch asked Bloomfield about the Affordable Care Act, his projection on how to make the economy more robust, why he's now an Independent, what he thinks he brings to politics, why he shouldn't be compared to former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who brought no political experience to office, and how he intends to help those in this country who are poor.
Patch: What do you think of President Obama's healthcare reform? Is it working? Will it work? Does it need to be fine-tuned?
Independent Candidate Bill Bloomfield: Well, certainly no one could call it working yet because most of it has not been implemented. The big answer you're looking for is it needs to be fixed.
There's some things I like about it. I certainly like the fact, first and foremost, that it ends the problem of people with pre-existing conditions not being able to buy insurance. You know, it's a terrible situation that if someone ends up with a life-threatening illness that then they're forever unable to buy insurance on their own, and if they're fortunate enough to own a house and have some assets all of that becomes at risk when they become ill. That is a very positive outcome from the Affordable Care Act.
I like the fact that kids 26 and under are able to stay on their parents' plan. I like the fact that it covers more preventative care. There's a lot of coverage out there that pays for itself in the long run and we ought to provide that if it in fact pays for itself.
And they set up some things that I think start to get the handle around costs. The fact that they're limiting these gold-plated insurance plans and some stuff like that. But the overriding problem with it and the reason it needs to be fixed is we can't afford it. It is very, very, very expensive.
Like, for example, a lot of physicians are saying that whereas now they're spending 30 to 45 minutes on paperwork for every patient, someone in their office is spending that much time, the Affordable Care Act will put it well more than an hour. So it's going to add costs like that.
In order to get it passed, they did some things that were downright terrible, for example, they tied the hands of the federal government. They don't let the federal government negotiate bulk rate prescription drugs. That's criminal, that's a giveaway to big pharm of $15 [billion] to $20 billion a year. Gold-plated plans, where they're trying to end them, they made massive exemptions to large unions as well as some large corporations, but I'm sure these are corporations and unions that were favored by the political party that wrote the bill.
There's a host of things. There's tax on medical devices that they put in there. The medical device industry is an industry that's working well for the United States. We're a net export of them. Why would you tax something that's working and encourage the manufacturers to put them offshore? I mean to tie something like that into the Affordable Care Act I think is just nonsensical.
They completely ignored medical malpractice reform.
And this is the big one and this is the one that should be a concern to everyone: they have the panel of 15 that is charged with reining in Medicare costs. Well, I'm not going to call them a death squad or death panel, which is what the Republicans are calling them, because I actually think that's a good thing. I would rather have a panel of 15 coming from the federal government made up of doctors and scholars and people like that than one insurance agent whose total goal is to reduce costs, determine what my plan covers and what it doesn't, so I don't have a problem with the panel of 15.
The problem I have with it is the only tool they gave this panel of 15 for reining in Medicare costs is to allow them to withhold payments to doctors and hospitals. Well, if you pay doctors and hospitals less, guess what? And that's your only tool for reining in Medicare costs, which are spiraling, obviously you're going to end up having shortages of doctors and hospitals.
What they're going to need to do is to let this panel of 15 have more authority and more responsibility. And that's where an election is not a great time to be talking about things like that. But as President Obama said when he ran four years ago, his mother, after she was diagnosed with a terminal illness, had elective hip replacement surgery. And his comment when he was on the stump four years ago ago that, "Ya know, we probably can't afford to do that." And those are the type of discussions that need to be held.
But it all gets to this is the deal with the Affordable Care Act: It's not going to be repealed. Even if the Republicans should sweep the table, they're not going to be able to repeal it. They're saying they are; they're not. They're not going to have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. They can withhold funding but that won't help because there's a lot of mandates in the Affordable Care Act.
The only way the Affordable Care Act is going to be fixed is for Republicans and Democrats in Congress to negotiate for the best interest of the country to fix it and improve it and make it as good as we can.
And again it gets back to why I'm running; because these two sides aren't talking to each other. They haven't passed a budget in four years and they're not even trying. It's criminal. That is a requirement of the Constitution; the one requirement the Constitution provides for Congress is to pass a budget every year.
This group I'm involved with, No Labels, one of our proposals, and we have 90 co-sponsors in Congress, is simply called "No Budget, No Pay," sort of similar to what they did in the legislature here, that if you're not going to pass a budget, we're not going to pay you.
Patch: What will you do to help put Americans back to work and to create job opportunities that are sustainable and don't come at the expense of American workers and their families?
Bloomfield: Well, that gets back to leveling the playing field. Long, long term, we gotta get K-12 education working. If you're growing up in the inner city and you don't have an education, a good education, you're behind the eight-ball for the rest of your life.
In the shorter term, we need to get our fiscal house in order so that the uncertainty that's holding businesses back from expanding the private sector is able to be unleashed; we need to grow the economy so we can grow tax revenue; we need a fair tax system: one that raises enough money but is fair and is perceived as being fair.
The carried interest role that allows hedge fund managers to pay capital gains rate on the tens of millions of dollars of income every year just is an abomination.
And there're things like that that if we got rid of these loopholes and giveaways to the wealthy and special classes, we could lower the marginal rates which would then create a better environment.
The corporate tax rate is full of that stuff: oil industry giveaways and loopholes and things like that so that we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. When you add in state income taxes, it's about 40 percent.
We need to get rid of all of those deductions and giveaways and stuff like that and lower the rate down to the low 20s. This is [the] Simpson-Bowles recommendation, and my recommendation, that would encourage companies to bring jobs back here.
We need to quit the insanity of taking these STEM graduates, science, technology, engineering and math, from abroad who get a world-class education at one of our universities here, and even if they have their own funding, we force them to start their businesses back in India or Vietnam or China or wherever else they came from. How idiotic is that?
Forty percent of the founders of Fortune 500 companies, 40 percent, are immigrants, were founded by immigrants, I should say. It's criminal what we do to prevent the economy of the United States from growing the way it should.
And we need to take a look at regulations: that when we impose a regulation, and what's happened is we've passed all these laws over the years that create these agencies and give them free rein to add regulations as they see fit. Well, we need a rule that, if you're going to add a regulation, take the time to do a cost-benefit analysis and make sure that the benefit to the country exceeds the cost.
And then we need to look at specifically two regulations, two bills that regulate the economy that were passed over the last eight years. One going back to 2003 is Sarbanes-Oxley.
Sarbanes-Oxley was Congress' overreaction to the Enron scandal. All they needed to do was two things: they needed to prevent, outlaw accounting firms from consulting for the same company they're doing tax work for. That is a total conflict of interest.
The second thing they needed to do was deal with off balance sheet accounting where Enron and other companies hide their liabilities; that's what they needed to do but instead this bill they passed they made it so difficult for small businesses to raise money that in 2002, two-thirds of the public stock offerings in the world took place in the United States; in 2009, it was one-sixth. The share drop is 75 percent and the economist lays it square on Sarbanes-Oxley.
The next one is Dodd-Frank. That needs to be simplified. They're writing regs on regs and regs, so we have this situation right now in this country — basically money is free except that you have to have collateral in order to get your hands on it, which means money is free for the wealthy, money is free for the super large corporations.
For everyone else, it's not free. You can't get it because you don't have collateral, and even worse, so then you're a saver and you get zero money on your savings because money is free.
So think about what's happening: Someone is saving money, they put $50,000 in a bank, they get maybe one-quarter of 1 percent interest, of which they have to pay income tax on, so they get maybe one-eighth of 1 percent, which is about 2 1/2 percent below the inflation rate, so they are losing about 2 1/2 percent a year.
Now who's making money? Well, the corporations and the uber wealthy that have the collateral, they can borrow from the banks, they can borrow at virtually zero percent interest, they can take the money, they can buy Fortune 500 stocks, they can buy the U.S. government Treasuries, they can buy foreign debt securities, make 3, 4, 5, 6 percent interest, while only paying a quarter of 1 percent.
It's the biggest transfer of wealth from the have-nots to the uber-haves that I think has probably ever occurred in this country. It's disgusting. And it's because we only have one tool for getting the economy going and that's the Fed. And so the Fed is creating free money.
But if the economy was humming with free money, they'd have to raise interest rates because there'd be such a demand on the money, because people would have the collateral and they'd be moving and buying houses, businesses would be expanding — so that's the problem.
Patch: I'm curious, Bill, because I know you have a long history as a registered Republican and now you're, I assume, a registered Independent and running as an Independent. When did you make that switch and why did you make it?
Bloomfield: I re-registered March of 2011, a little over a year and a half ago. I made it for a variety of reasons. I was heavily involved in open primaries. And so by passing open primaries, Independents now have a voice and so you can be an Independent and you can vote in a primary election. That's No. 1.
No. 2, as you know, I'm a social moderate slash social liberal and so I've never been totally comfortable with the Republican Party. I was a Republican because I had been a Republican my whole life, believing that the Republican Party was the party that was better at growing the economy, if you will. I did it more for the fiscal reasons, the strong defense reasons, certainly not the social reasons. I've tried to expand the Republican Party's tent, but didn't do so well, didn't succeed.
And the third thing was the hyper-partisanship and that was the one that really caused me to do it.
By March of 2011, I had been named one of the 30 co-founders of a group called No Labels, which mission is to reduce the hyper-partisanship in Congress, and one of the co-founders of the group, and I was more and more concerned about what's going on in D.C. with the hyper-partisanship and the polarization of Congress.
And, frankly, it was Sen. [Mitch] McConnell's comment in October of 2010 that was the last straw. It took me a few months to get to my computer and actually re-register but that was the deal. His comment you know in October of 2010 was that he said the most important job of the Republicans in the Senate with the coming 112th Congress would be to make sure that President Obama only serves one term. It just made me sick. I was so angry that, my God, with the problems we have that he'd actually say all he wants to do is run a presidential campaign for two years. That was just beyond the pale, the final straw and that's why I re-registered. I have not changed my positions ideologically. I am who I, I believe what I believe now what I believed 10 years ago.
Patch: You've obviously not been a politician before. So what do you bring to politics that will be helpful?
Bloomfield: Well, I've been in politics for some time. No. 1, my background has been in job creator. I realize there have been some business people that didn't do so well you know as running governments and stuff like that. But I do have a leadership background, let's put it this way.
But in the politics area, I've been very active in the reform movement. I was very involved in redistricting reform, particularly the '05 failed effort. I raised a lot of money for that effort to take the drawing of district lines out of the hands of partisan politicians, a heavy supporter of the successful '08 effort as well as the successful 2010 effort.
I was heavily involved in open primaries. That effort, the fact that it was the emancipation of independence, I thought was huge.
I think some day we're going to look back on politicians who participate in gerrymandering the same way we think of politicians from the 19th century, with a little asterisk by their name, "Yeah, but they denied the women the right to vote."
These politicians today are denying the value of your vote.
People in the old district, this is the first time they have a reason to vote for Congress in the general election — first time, because for 38 years, it's been gerrymandered.
And their voice has not mattered because they drew a safe seat for Congressman Waxman. It drives me crazy and it's not just an anti-Democrat message, the Republicans do the same thing in other states.
So, I am a reformer and I've spent time on reform, and the second thing in answer to your question is, I have taken on the special interests that fund each of the parties.
Congressman Waxman has taken on special interests, too, but the problem is he takes on the ones that have been supporting Republicans with an extra vigor, if you will, and he lays off the ones that have been supporting the Democratic Party.
I am indiscriminate about going after them. I went after the tobacco lobby. My father and I put up a billboard on Santa Monica Boulevard. I sponsored the toughest second-hand smoke legislation anywhere in the country in 2005.
I took on the gun lobby in '92. I helped Sarah Brady bring her group out.
I'm a big supporter of the Second Amendment: I'm not a supporter of someone's right to own assault weapons in an urban setting, I'm not a supporter of these big clips that allow the massacres to take place like they did in Colorado, and I'm not a supporter of these cop killer bullets that hit the flesh and expand.
So those are two groups that traditionally support Republican causes. And I blast Grover Norquist every time I can. It is terrible that someone would go to Congress and tie their hands and sign a stupid pledge by some unelected individual. It drives me crazy.
But on the other side, I've taken on government unions. I'm a big supporter of Michelle Reed's group which has taken on the political arm of the teachers union. I started a group 20 years ago that tried to reform some of our civil justice laws, meaning we were up against the political arm of the plaintiffs trial bar. So both sides, and I think that's the sort of person that is needed in Congress.
And I would argue I've taken the initial steps of reforming Congress with my involvement with No Labels, the fact that I left the swamp of partisan politics, the fact I'm not taking any PAC money from any special interest, and, fourthly, I don't have Congressman Waxman's baggage. When he first went to Congress, he voted with the pull of the party bosses of the Democrats 80 percent of the time... .
The last four years, he's voted with the party 99 percent of the time. Now that is quite a bit more than the average Democrat in the House but, more importantly or as importantly, he's been one of the leaders that has created the hyper-partisanship.
In the late '80s, he told his caucus that if they stick together, Republicans were irrelevant. [In] 2010, he told a reporter that it might be good if moderate Democrats lost because it would help purify the caucus.
Now those are not words or actions of someone that would be part of the solution; the words and actions of someone who is part of the problem versus me: I am leaving my grandchildren, I'm 62 years of age, 4 grandkids, 3, 2, 1 and 6 months. I love spending time with them, I love spending time with my kids, I love my life in Manhattan Beach. Doing it for one reason: it's not because I am fiscally less liberal than Congressman Waxman, which I am. It's because of how partisan he is and how much I want to deal with that hyper-partisanship so we can get Congress working. That's what motivates me and I think I'm uniquely qualified for that.
Patch: So, in terms of Arnold Schwarzenegger then, you know, I suppose you obviously would not consider yourself of that ilk where you didn't have any experience in politics.
Bloomfield: Well, no, and of course keep in mind he wasn't a businessman either; he was an actor. But I worked with Gov. Schwarzenegger on one big project and that's how I got to know him.
I told him he will go down in history as one of our better governors because he passed redistricting reform and open primaries. He gave people the value of their vote back in November and that cannot be underestimated. I'm not going to defend anything else he did during his six years-plus of his administration.
Those two are extremely important, but, yeah, you cannot compare me. I was president of my company for over 15 years, I worked in the business sector for 33 years, I've started three other companies, two of 'em very successful, one moderately successful, an Internet hosting company, a refrigerator ... company when I was in college and had a 30-year life, and the restaurant, The Strand House. That was my vision. I partnered with my sister as well and Mike Zislis, but it was my vision to open The Strand House and my sister and I, you know in terms of, hey, this property, which was Beaches, that this should be more than it is.
I would argue that I'm quite a bit different from Gov. Schwarzenegger and, of course, I'm not running for governor of California. I would not have the audacity. I am not qualified to be governor of California. I can tell you that right now. If you're one of 435 who represents this district, yes, I'm very qualified.
Patch: So, I notice that you support charities that help others in other countries and we yet have obviously our own extensive poor population. What can be done for those people, what would you do for them, what do you think we need to do?
Bloomfield: I tell you something, Liz. We've got to figure out a way to work toward getting people who have skin in the game out of the decision-making process so we have a fair system. You look at our tax policies. Oh, my Lord, there's nothing fair. I mean, you imagine growing up in the inner city and you're trying to understand, "Why should I be in favor of a system, capitalism, that guarantees equal opportunity? Why don't I take the system that guarantees equal outcome?"
And maybe we're lucky enough to convince that son, that young man or woman, that the system of equal opportunity is better because it produces better results because it empowers the individual to all of their capacities, to make the world a better place, and then they read about our tax policy and they read about a hedge fund manager, when they get their first paycheck and they're making maybe $10 an hour or minimum wage even, and they see what's taken out of their paycheck and they read about a hedge fund manager paying 15 percent capital gains on millions of dollars. Are they gonna say, "Awh? Ya know, fool me once." This isn't a fair system. It's terrible.
K-12 education is so important because again it's the power of the special interests. My God, I have nothing but good things to say about teachers. My daughter's in school right now to be a teacher. She wants to teach math. And I have nothing but good things to say about teachers unions. I have all sorts of bad things to say about the political arm of teachers unions that will take the worst-performing school system and not let anyone tamper with it or bring accountability into the system. These kids deserve a world-class education.
So that's No. 2: let's bring fairness into the system, let's fix education and let's fix the economy. And so much of the fixing of the economy is to get rid of the special treatment of all the special interests, the favored corporations, the wealthy, and get back to creating a fair system, and let's get our budget in balance and with the proper amount of spending cuts and revenue enhancers so that we can ensure the continued social safety net and the improvement of the social safety net. After all, as our country progresses and grows, we want to be able to grow the social safety net.
But I have to tell you something: My vision of the U.S. economy is like a gigantic flywheel and when the flywheel is humming along and it is moving fast, there is so much energy in that flywheel that you can suck off power and you can add to social programs and you can improve the lot of the poor and all that. But right now we have been struggling with this flywheel, which is the U.S. economy, of slowing down dangerously and we need to put our efforts on getting it going again so we can continue to take even better care of the underclass than we have been. But we need to put our efforts on the U.S. economy, that flywheel, which is the job engine.
Now Congressman Waxman, in June, was giving an interview with C-SPAN, and they asked him about the economy and Congressman Waxman says, "Well, I think we're in a depression." A depression. Now I disagree. But that was the word he used.
But my question for him will be, "When are you going to act like it?" Because 60 days before, there was the Jobs Act, Jumpstart Our Business Startups, which was to make it easier for small business to raise money, to undo some of the harm that Sarbanes-Oxley created. It was proposed by President Obama. It was supported overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress. They actually did something that they haven't been doing — they got together. It passed the House 390-23. It passed the Senate 75, also coincidentally, to 23. President Obama signed it into law.
But here's the deal, Liz: Congressman Waxman voted against it. He was one of 23. And this is the same guy that 60 days later said we're in a depression. Well, where do you think, how do you think you're going to get this economy moving? You can't vote against stuff like that. That's the stuff we need. And sadly, I'm afraid that he thinks the way to get the economy going is to gin up the government sector.
And, no, you know, you're a private-based economy largely, and everything comes from the private sector. We need to get it working but we need to get it working fairly. Come back to those hedge funds managers and things like that. That's my answer.
By the way, I'm on the board of Junior Achievement. And another answer, 'cause one of the reasons I am on the board is I have helped make sure that their focus, Junior Achievement of Southern California, is on financial education for the inner city kids. That's where our emphasis is because it is so important for them to understand what our economy is all about and why it's worth their while to stay in school and what they see the end game. Because, otherwise, how do they know?