Friedenberg supports Medicare for all
LOCK HAVEN — When it comes to the issues residents of Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District face, Democratic Congressional Candidate Marc Friedenberg believes healthcare is the biggest concern.
“It’s the first thing that comes up when I talk to people,” he said when he sat down at The Express recently to talk about the upcoming election and why he’s running.
“Whether it’s for people who have coverage through their employer now and are worried about the cost of premiums and deductibles; people who are relying upon Medicaid; older Americans who are concerned about the future of Medicare, which I think is under attack right now,” he said.
He also spoke about residents with unreliable insurance who haven’t reached retirement age.
“We have a lot of people in this district, around 50 to 64, who have really unreliable employment and, in many cases, aren’t yet on Medicare and they go without and they are the people with the highest risk,” he said.
“It’s the top issue … about 30 percent of adults in this district have medical debt that’s in collection right now. It is the thing that is holding people back,” he said. “It’s holding (younger people) back from really starting their lives – buying a house, getting married, buying a car, and for older people it’s keeping them in their jobs longer and longer trying to pay off medical bills,” he said.
“It’s by far the biggest expense people face,” he said.
The issues with healthcare that residents face are reasons why he supports the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“I’d even go further,” he said of his support. “I believe the ACA is under attack. It was originally built like a stool with three components to it: no ban on coverage for folks with pre-existing conditions, subsidies for people who can’t afford it and the individual mandate.”
The individual mandate was repealed in 2017 by the Trump Administration as part of their efforts to repeal the ACA, also known as Obamacare.
“This seems like a good thing, not being forced to have insurance,” he said. “But the whole thing was designed together so that everyone could get subsidies so they can get coverage and get treatment for things they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
So what are the options for someone without healthcare?
“Well you could go to the ER,” he referenced what some may say. But that only works for those with non-chronic conditions.
“If you have cancer or some kind of chronic condition that’s not going to help you and we all pay for that in time,” Friedenberg said.
“I think the biggest stat is that the for-profit insurance that we have now is really based upon a propped up 31 percent overhead,” he said. “Medicare has only about three percent overhead and isn’t run by profits. I think that’s where the government can step in most, where the market has failed, and I think the market has failed, because everyone is going to eventually get sick and we’re all going to die.”
Friedenberg made it clear where he stands on the issue.
“I support Medicare for all … a single payer system where the government is the single payer that will pay for insurance for every American,” he said.
“The opioid crisis is a big issue,” he said. He said it is the second biggest issue he’s heard about.
“Broadband would be the next. People don’t have reliable internet access and for people that do it’s not affordable,” he said. “We pay so much more than a lot of the rest of the developed world for internet access for much lower speeds. A lot of this district will never be able to compete economically if they’re not connected.”
Friedenberg is concerned for the area’s youth. He has a family of his own and he hopes that when his daughters grow up they’ll be able to stay in the area and have the ability to find good jobs.
That can be hindered by a lack of internet, he said.
“We’ll always need healthcare, we’ll always need education and now it’s pretty clear that we’re going to need the internet too and I think Central PA is a really nice place … it’s a really good quality of life,” he said. “Whatever type of jobs come along you’re certainly going to need to be connected to the internet to make it work.”
In 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent at the beginning of 2018. It also dropped individual tax rates with the top rate dropping to 37 percent. The corporate cuts were made permanent, but the individual changes will expire in 2025.
“I don’t think they (tax cuts) were that great. Aside from the deficit issue on their own terms. I think the way they were distributed was massively unfair,” he said, referencing the large amount of money that came from the 10th District but was given to people outside of the area.
He explained that $1.5 trillion was given to corporations. With that amount every person in the country could have been given 5,000 extra dollars, he said.
“You would see changes in the streets of Lock Haven if everyone had 5,000 more dollars,” he said. “Putting those permanent cuts to the wealthiest Americans and to corporations and smaller cuts to everyone else, I think that sets up the environment now where we have massive deficit concerns and if you want to address them the Republicans are looking at cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security.”
With recent security threats throughout social media outlets, specifically Facebook, Friedenberg believes Congress can play a better role in protecting American’s personal information.
“Most congressmen don’t understand how Facebook works or what it does. The security issues in a sense, I’m sympathetic about Facebook getting hacked, because it is impossible to create a 100 percent fullproof security,” he said.
Friedenberg is currently a professor in Penn State University’s College of Information Science and Technology and teaches multiple technology and law-based classes that include cyber security. He previously was a lawyer with a license in New York state.
Being able to notify a consumer if there is a breach is important and fraud is also an issue, he said.
“I think that’s a place where the government can step in because that is a market failure,” he said. “Nobody is doing it for Facebook and it’s not going to do it itself.”
When it comes to Congress actually enacting stricter regulatory controls over social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, Friedenberg believes it needs to be done. However, there is a caveat, he said.
“It has got to be done very very carefully. I’m very sensitive to the First Amendment concern,” he said.
He believes there are some things Facebook has done that are a step in the right direction, such as providing archives of advertising.
“But I don’t want to have to rely upon the kindness of Mark Zuckerberg to have that be available,” he said.
Friedenberg believes archives such as those should be available from all major social media outlets.
Another hot topic is the debate surrounding immigration in America today.
With a caravan of immigrants making their way through Mexico toward the United States, it has many politicians and Americans voicing their views on the issue.
Friedenberg, like many Democrats, is not on board with President Trump’s plans to build a wall and isolate the United States.
“I haven’t been able to get a handle on it,” he said about the administration’s immigration policies.
According to Friedenberg, strict immigration policies can have an impact locally.
“They’re trying to make it less attractive to come to the United States, I guess that’s the take away from it, and that’s unfortunate for many reasons … for a selfish, local, reason Penn State and Lock Haven (universities) rely on immigration for students, faculty and staff. We rely upon it for tourism, which I think is going to be a big part of our economy if we can keep our environment clean,” he said.
“For larger more moral reasons, you have people from Honduras and from Central America and other war torn countries that are trying to escape violence and the U.S. used to be a place that would take them as refugees. The administration just lowered (the number of refugees taken each year) from 45,000 to 30,000,” he said.
Although the crackdown on immigration has been touted as a security concern, Friedenberg doesn’t know if he is buying that.
“I don’t think there’s any legitimate national security concern. I think it just seems to be driven by ‘we don’t want more people coming here from the outside.’ I think that’s a shame,” he said.
“It used to be that America was a place that would welcome immigrants and we were stronger for it. America used to be a real beacon for human rights and we’re not anymore,” he said.
Friedenberg believes that Congress’s leadership has failed in some ways. He wants to change that, he said.
“The leadership has failed even in the way that the importance of, say, the Speaker of the House, sort of the senate majority leader, has grown … the power of the Speaker of the House has grown way beyond what was intended in the Constitution,” he said.
“Paul Ryan, or whoever the Democratic speaker would be next, have so much power, the ability to control almost everything that gets to the floor,” he said, “and because of that it has an influence that donors to the leadership for each party have outside influence and it really reduces the power of one of the 435 representatives or one of the 100 senators and that is something that, as our country becomes more and more politically polarized, all of everybody’s anger becomes focused on Paul Ryan or, if you’re from my side (Democratic), that’s focused against Nancy Pelosi.”
Friedenberg also noted that he would support a new Democratic speaker.
“I would actually support a speaker other than Nancy Pelosi if I were elected,” he said. “I think people just want a fresh start. I think she’s done a lot of good and I know she was instrumental in getting the ACA passed.”
When it comes to support from the National Democratic Party, Friedenberg said it is lacking – especially in rural areas.