Libertarian Steve Collett, a Venice resident, is one of 16 candidates running for Congress in the 36th District's May 17 primary. Collett is a certified public accountant and has a master's degree in business taxation.
During a recent candidates forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Collett told the audience that the United States spends $700 billion a year on the military, which amounts to 43 percent of total defense dollars spent worldwide.
"I'd rather cut $200 billion off defense than cut a teacher's salary by 50 cents," Collett said. "It's time to tell defense to get by on $500 billion this year."
He also lamented the country's high prison rate.
"We need fewer laws, fewer prisoners and we need to decriminalize marijuana," Collett said. "Our war on drugs is the most costly and failed policy in U.S. history. It empowers gangs, terrorists and drug cartels. By treating drugs as a medical, rather than criminal, issue, we can stop the killings in Mexico without firing a single shot."
The primary election is being held to fill the congressional seat that became vacant when former longtime Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) resigned in February to join a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. The district includes Manhattan Beach, Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey, Del Rey, Mar Vista, Venice, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and neighboring communities.
Patch recently sent a questionnaire to Collett about issues facing the district and the country, and below are his responses.
Patch: What do you think is the biggest issue facing our district?
Collett: Jobs and the economy.
Patch: What do you think is the biggest challenge to our nation’s economy and what do you think the federal government should do to facilitate economic recovery?
Collett: We have too many laws and too many regulations. Government solutions usually have great intentions but rarely benefit small business. The regulations usually reward large entrenched special interests to the detriment of others who become less capable of competing as a result.
Patch: How will you specifically encourage job growth in Southern California?
Collett: We need to empower small business, minority- and women-owned businesses by reducing regulatory restrictions and letting the markets reward the businesses that give the best product and services.
Patch: Standard and Poor’s recently predicted the U.S. credit rating would be downgraded due to the federal government’s handling of the nation’s budget deficit. What budget items do you think should be cut, and what needs to have continued or even increased funding?
Collett: We need to make massive cuts to defense and spending on intrusive matters like drug prohibition which decrease liberty, endanger children, empower gangs, drug cartels and terrorists, and leave law enforcement with insufficient resources to protect us from real crimes. By spending less in these areas we would likely be safer and could better afford amounts for education, environment and infrastructure.
Patch: Where do you stand on No Child Left Behind? What would you do to improve the state of education in this country and in California?
Collett: No Child Left Behind has been insufficient in improving education. We need a system which identifies and compensates great teachers and either retrains or terminates ineffective teachers.
Patch: Where do you stand on federal environmental policy? The Supreme Court is now considering the merit of a nuisance lawsuit against electric companies over their greenhouse gas emissions. Do you think the courts should get involved in climate change policy or is this a role better suited for Congress?
Collett: Federal environmental policies, like other regulations, often protect special interests and big businesses to the detriment of smaller enterprises, and can be counterproductive.
Courts are a good place to resolve environmental issues. Congressional activism often results in pandering to special interests at the expense of small businesses and the public at large.
Patch: Federal energy regulators have approved the test phase of a wave farm off the coast of San Onofre. Do you approve of that project, specifically, and what are your thoughts on the development of wave energy in Southern California, generally?
Collett: I am supportive of new innovative technologies like wave farms, which might be safer and cleaner than alternative sources of energy. Further development, however, should take into account interests of surfers, conservation groups and fishermen who might be negatively affected by wave energy.
Patch: Do you think that the nuclear energy plants in California need additional safety regulation? Do you think we should move away from nuclear energy? What would you say to people who are worried that what happened in Japan will happen here?
Collett: As a CPA, I like to use experts when making decisions outside my area of expertise. We need to hire experts who are independent of special interests and be sure that we are using the latest, safest designs on any nuclear activities. We should be especially careful of nuclear energy generated near fault lines and not waste tax dollars subsidizing nuclear energy.
Patch: As a member of Congress, which health care legislation would you support or oppose?
Collett: I support health care legislation which increases the supply and availability of health care professionals, preventative health care measures and medications. More supply will bring down costs to the public, government and insurance companies. I am skeptical of government’s ability to improve quality, availability and cost of any medical treatment.
Patch: Do you think same-sex marriage should be legalized? Do you think it is a federal or state issue? Why?
Collett: I support same-sex marriage as a civil right at both federal and state levels. The government needs to stay away from restricting activities of anyone that do not infringe upon the rights of others.
Patch: What is your position on America’s involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya?
Collett: We need to bring our troops home safely and limit our military adventures to matters which are truly defensive. It is tough to spread freedom and democracy at the tip of a gun.
Patch: Do you intend to continue Jane Harman's endeavors to ease traffic congestion in the district? If so, how?
Collett: I support all measures which reduce traffic congestion and will fight to get any federal funds which might benefit residents and taxpayers in our district. We need to be vigilant in evaluating projects to prevent wasteful outlays promoted by politicians for special interests.
For more information about Collett, visit his website.