By Nick HIldebrand
Herald News Editor/Weekends
NORTHWEST PA. —
Steven Porter has no illusions about his chances in Tuesday’s election.
“I’m not a long shot. I’m a zero. I have no chance of winning because the public has no chance of hearing me or absorbing me,” Porter said in a recent interview.
Porter, an unaffiliated independent candidate for the Third Congressional District seat, is trying to make enough noise to wake up an electorate that he thinks is being shafted by a rigged system.
“The nation is in trouble and I think I can help,” the 69-year-old retired college professor and author from Wattsburg says.
Porter ran twice for the seat as a Democrat in 2004 and 2006, losing both times to former Rep. Phil English. He tried to run in 2010 as an independent, but Democratic operatives -- he calls them “vultures” - uncovered irregularities in some of the signatures on his nominating petitions and he didn’t make it on the ballot.
That process, which requires independent candidates to gather more signatures than Republican or Democratic hopefuls, is designed to keep voters, 38 percent of whom are registered independents, from having alternative choices , Porter said.
“There are 435 members of the House of Representatives and not a single one is an independent. They are unrepresented in Congress. That is not a democracy,” Porter said.
Porter acknowledges the standard campaign issues -- the economy, jobs, health care, taxes, and the rest -- as significant problems, but the “greed and corruption” that he says permeates the political system is “the scariest thing, long-range.”
Porter’s position -- that campaign contributions are “legal bribery” that buy wealthy individuals and big corporations the policies that cement their power at the expense of the majority -- isn’t new or particularly original, but he’s not simply a protest candidate.
He offers up a six-point plan that he says can “save the country on many levels.”
First, Porter proposes taking tax rates on corporate and individual income to half the level they were at in 1960, when he says corporate taxes that now provide 8 percent of federal revenue made up 24 percent. Individual rates on the wealthiest people were at 74 percent when John F. Kennedy was president and as much as 35 percent now, but they never pay that much, Porter contends.
That change alone could cut the deficit by hundreds of billions, he says, and shift some of the tax burden off the middle class.
Second he would get rid of Obamacare, which he says is “costly, ineffective and unconstitutional.” Porter said he’s actually read the legislation and “I have two doctorates and I couldn’t understand it.”
Under the insurance mandate and patent protections written into the laws, he said insurers and pharmaceutical companies “make out like bandits.”
Porter backs a bill that’s been sitting in committee since 2009. The Physicians National Health Program is a single payer system run by doctors, not the government, that would provide more than a basic level of care for not more than 5.5 percent of someone’s income, Porter said.
Porter says beyond meeting the national need for medical care, the bill takes the burden of providing health insurance off employers, eliminating one of their greatest expenses.
Third on Porter’s checklist is using public dollars to create millions of jobs for the unemployed in the development of “clean renewable American energy” via wind farms in the Great Lakes region and solar farms in the southwest.
His fourth point is short and simple: “Get out of Afghanistan now.” That would save billions of dollars and more importantly the lives of soldiers that he said “are there for no good reason.”
“What good are we accomplishing there? Osama bin Laden is gone.”
Next, Porter calls for lifting the earnings cap on Social Security taxes to make the program solvent “forever.” As things stand now, only the first $100,000 in income is subject to the tax that funds the retirement.
Porter says that 60 percent of earned income isn’t subject to the tax because it’s earned by the very wealthy who “paid Congress to write that law.”
“I like Derek Jeter ... I don’t’ begrudge him his $10 million a year. He earns it. He deserves it. But he doesn’t pay Social Security tax on nine million nine hundred thousand dollars,” Porter said.
Porter’s final point gets back to the central thrust of his argument: “Let’s fund our campaigns with public tax dollars instead of private bribery schemes.”