Political newcomer Bob Duran will face incumbent Congresswoman Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, in Tuesday's primary race to represent the newly-drawn 27th Congressional District.
The district includes Monrovia, Glendora, Arcadia, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena, Altadena and La Cañada Flintridge, among other San Gabriel Valley cities.
Duran, who has never held office before, grew up in Echo Park and Bellflower. He became the first of his family to graduate college before going on to earn law degrees from Santa Clara and New York universities.
He taught federal income tax law at Southwestern University Law School and lives with his wife, Adrienne, and their two children in Pasadena.
Patch interviewed Duran for a series of 27th Congressional District candidate profiles. Here, Duran discusses his views on everything from ensuring Americans will have access to Social Security to deregulation to how he would reform Medicare and Medicaid.
Why are you qualified to represent the 27th Congressional District?
I am qualified by training and experience to represent the 27th Congressional District. The main problems we face today relate to the economy—budgets, debt, taxes, regulations. As a tax attorney and businessman for the past 25 years, all in the private sector, I have the background to understand and deal with the problems in an effective way. As importantly, I will bring a private sector perspective and approach that is lacking in most of our elected officials today.
What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing the 27th District and the San Gabriel Valley as a whole? How would you address those challenges and advocate for your constituents?
The biggest challenges facing the 27th Congressional District and the San Gabriel Valley are the same as those facing all Californians, and Americans in general. The City of Los Angeles is on the brink of bankruptcy, the State of California has a $16 Billion budget deficit for this year alone and $500 Billion in unfunded pension liabilities, and the US Government has nearly $16 Trillion in national debt and roughly five times that much in future entitlement obligations. The career politicians have mismanaged public funds at every level. We must start the rebuilding process by replacing the career politicians with citizens who are willing to stop the excesses.
How does your working class Latino background shape your perspective as a potential Legislator?
My background shapes my perspective in at least two ways. First, having worked my way up the social and economic ladder, I am convinced that freedom and opportunity, rather than entitlement and dependence, are the keys to widespread prosperity in America. I will support policies that lead to greater freedom and opportunity for all.
Second, I haven’t forgotten where I came from. I remember my parents’ struggles to make ends meet, chipping in at a young age, dealing with ethnic stereotypes and how those circumstances drove me to work hard and improve myself through education. I can relate to constituents in Rosemead and south San Gabriel just as easily as constituents in Arcadia and San Marino, maybe more so.
You often speak of the importance of reforming Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as a way to shrink the National Debt. Can you get into specifics on how you feel these programs should be reformed?
One must distinguish between social security, on the one hand, and Medicare and Medicaid spending, on the other. Social Security needs to be reformed for the sake of the program itself, not necessarily as a means of controlling the national debt. In 2010, the President’s Debt Commission proposed a number of reforms that could be the starting place for discussions. Since then, our elected officials have done virtually nothing to begin the reform process, so we march steadily forward to the break point, now projected to occur in 2033.
At this point, the problem is not a lack of awareness or ideas, but of members of Congress willing to tackle the problem. The future costs of Medicare and Medicaid are growing and uncertain. In 1965, Congress predicted that the hospital-insurance part of the Medicare program would cost $9 billion by 1990. The actual figure was $67 billion. Congress has consistently underestimated the cost of these programs. In any case, Medicare is projected to run out of funds by 2024. However, at this point, we should wait for the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” before deciding the nature and extent of reforms needed for Medicare and Medicaid.
When you say, "We must also reform the tax code and end corporate tax subsidies for favored industries," do you mean closing loop holes to prevent the wealthy and corporations from skirting their tax responsibilities? And how could the tax code be reformed? Are there any specific loopholes or subsidies you would target as a legislator?
The tax code is complex and largely a statement of political priorities, which leads to anomalous results and frequent abuse. This is true of both the individual and corporate income tax. For example, during the three year period beginning in 2008 and ending in 2010, each of General Electric, Home Depot and PepsiCo earned between $10.5 and $11.5 Billion in profits.
However, General Electric paid zero in corporate income taxes during that period while Home Depot paid $3.9 Billion and PepsiCo paid $2.8 Billion. What we need is a transparent tax code that is based on lower tax rates and a broader base. (The U.S. now has the highest corporate income tax rate among industrialized nations.) This will boost economic growth and put U.S. companies, big and small, on more competitive footing in global markets, as well as ensure that profitable companies like General Electric pay taxes on profits.
The primary goal of tax reform should be improving the country’s long-term economic growth and better living standards for the American people, not punishing disfavored taxpayers.
You appear to be an ardent supporter of deregulation. With all the fallout caused by deregulation, including our housing crisis, how can we give businesses the freedom they need while protecting consumers and the environment?
In the last three years, the U.S. government has unleashed more than 10,000 new federal regulations. The estimated cost to consumers, businesses and the economy is $46 billion annually. Worse, these regulations are stalling the economy and killing jobs. Last year alone, the U.S. government issued 32 major regulations impacting everything from clothes dryers, to toy labels. (A regulation is considered “major” if compliance costs will be $100 million or more.)
Whether it is regulations applying child labor laws to family farms, requiring lifts in all public pools in America, directing the type of light bulbs we must use in our homes or financial regulations that are causing non-U.S. financial institutions to refuse to do business with Americans, the cumulative effect of excessive regulation is loss of personal and economic liberty.