By KEVIN SWEENEY
NEW ULM - As the political campaign season hits its final frantic days, Republican First District Congressional candidate Brian Davis is hitting the road hard to make a last pitch for votes.
On Thursday he was on the road with Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Friday he took a big swing through the western part of the First District, with stops in Worthington, Pipestone, Fairmont and New Ulm.
Davis is working to get the word out on his main issues, and encouraging supporters to "bring 50 friends with you when you go to the polls on Tuesday."
Davis is touting his positions on the economy, energy and health care, but he is also spending time defending himself on issues such as Social Security and tax policy.
He has been targeted by Democratic literature that claims he wants to "gamble your Social Security benefits in the stock market," and that he wants to add a 23 percent federal sales tax.
The Social Security claims are not true, said Davis, especially when it says he wants to cut people's benefits. "That's just not true," he says.
As far as privatization, he has advocated in the past for allowing younger workers to invest some of their Social Security taxes, but not requiring it for anyone, especially workers who are nearing retirement and will be receiving benefits soon.
The national sales tax claims stem from a debate back in Winona between candidates seeking the Republican endorsement. When they were asked about the Fair Tax proposal, in which the federal income tax would be replaced by a national sales tax, "I said I thought it was worth studying, especially since 70 members of Congress had supported it, but I never said I would vote for it," Davis said Friday.
"We do need tax simplification," said Davis, but there are many, many questions about the national sales tax that need to be answered before such a major change in tax policy would ever be considered.
Davis, running against Democratic Rep. Tim Walz, said he would have opposed the economic bailout package, as Walz did.
"We need to fix the lending procedures first that led to this situation before we should be giving federal funding to the lenders," he said.
Davis said he believes in the strength of the free market system and its ability to create wealth rather than government intervention.
On the issue of energy, Davis said he favors an "all of the above" policy that includes expanded offshore drilling, and utilizing renewable energy as much as possible.
He favors expanded use of U.S. oil supplies to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil.
Asked about the record third quarter profits ($14.8 billion) that Exxon reported this week, Davis said he thinks the investment tax credits oil companies received for drilling should end. But there should be incentives to encourage oil companies to go after the large amounts of U.S. oil that exists in oil shale.
The energy issue is very important to the U.S. economy, he said. In the 1990s, when oil was $10 a barrel, the U.S. economy was humming and there were federal budget surpluses, Davis said.
"We should have used that to pay down some of the national debt," he said.
But when the price of oil skyrocketed this year, it has led to economic problems resulting in a recession.
Davis favors developing more alternative energy, but he points out that the U.S. is currently getting 85 percent of its energy from fossil fuels. He doesn't think it is likely that renewable energy and wind power will be able to replace that 85 percent anytime soon.
On health care Davis, who is a radiologic oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, said the U.S. health care system is the best in the world, but it needs improvement. "I was asked to grade it, and I give it an A-minus. We need to make it an A-plus.
"The problem is that the cost of health care coverage is increasing at twice the rate of inflation," said Davis.
Davis said it would help if the nation had a uniform set of health care mandates. Currently, each state has its own mandated health care that insurance companies must cover. Minnesota tops the list, he said, "and that's not necessarily a bad thing."
But if there was a national consensus on what health care coverage should cover, it would allow insurance companies to compete over a broader area, reducing the costs.
He also favors a John McCain style of tax credit that can be used to purchase health insurance that goes from job to job, rather than expecting employers to provide health coverage.
Davis also favors more competition and negotiations for pharmaceuticals in the Medicare program to cut costs.
Davis said there are changes coming for health care, but the country should be careful not to destroy the incentives that have led the private sector to produce so many advances in medical care in the last few decades.