Since 2002, Pennsylvania’s sprawling sixth congressional district has been under Republican rule. Incumbent Jim Gerlach will look to extend that trend, while first-time candidate Manan Trivedi will try to reverse it.
Manan Trivedi and Jim Gerlach don’t agree on much. But both say the economy is the number one issue of the mid-term elections. And in particular, job creation.
Gerlach, (click here to listen to him on WHYY’s Radio Times) from Chester Springs, has held public office since 1990. He says investing in the private sector is key. He says government solutions, like the federal stimulus, aren’t the answer.
“The president indicated that by doing this we would keep unemployment below eight percent. Today it stands at 9.6., 9.7 percent and higher in urban areas.”
Trivedi, (click here to listen to him on WHYY’s Radio Times) a Reading-area physician, says that without the stimulus, unemployment would likely be closer to 20 percent. He says Gerlach’s strategy for job growth hasn’t worked in the past and won’t work going forward.
“If trickle-down economics worked, we wouldn’t be in the position we are right now. Plain and simple. How did we get here? Because of these wrong tax cuts for the uber-wealthy, because of the deregulation of these types of industries, we got here in the first place.”
Trivedi favors extending most of the 2003 Bush tax cuts set to expire at the end of year, but wants them repealed for families making over $250,000 a year. Re-extending the cuts to everyone, he says, will send the country deeper into debt.
Gerlach says the tax cuts can’t be extended to some and not others. He says small business would suffer otherwise and be unable to make new hires.
“They are the people that create jobs every single day. 75 percent of the jobs in this country are with the small business community. And so if you’re really serious about jobs, you really want jobs created, putting a $900 billion tax on them is goofy, frankly.”
Not far behind the economy is health care reform. Gerlach voted against the Obama administration’s health-care law. He says 6th district voters don’t support a system that – he says – gives the government too much control.
“They want the relationship between themselves and their doctors to be the primary basis for health care decision-making, not some bureaucrat in Washington telling them what they can and can’t do.”
Instead, Gerlach favors market-based solutions for providing affordable health care, like allowing small businesses to purchase employee health insurance plans across state lines.
As a physician and former battalion surgeon for the Navy during the Iraq War, Trivedi says he brings a unique perspective that’s been missing from the health care debate.
“I know what it means to work emergency room and clinics and hospitals and I know how to fix it. But all the people in Washington know is what the insurance company executives, and the insurance lobbyists and D.C. insiders tell them about health-care.”
Trivedi says Obama’s plan did little to address costs. He says he can fix that by getting rid of – what he calls – medicine’s “dirty little secret”
“Thirty percent of everything we do in health care doesn’t make a lick of difference at all in your outcomes. And we need to figure out where that 30 percent is and get real clinical reform to figure out what works and what doesn’t work in medicine.”
At the start of Gerlach’s congressional career, the District leaned in his favor. But in the years since, the advantage has shifted. Now Democrats narrowly outnumber Republicans.
West Chester University political science professor John Kennedy says Trivedi will still have a tough time winning against an incumbent when the president’s job approval rating is so low and the unemployment rate so high.
“Defeating an incumbent is incredibly difficult. Defeating an incumbent in a year where your party sort of has the political winds blowing on their faces is even more difficult. In fact, it’s almost impossible.”
But Kennedy says Trivedi’s Berks County roots may make things interesting on Election Day. Traditionally, that area has gone Republican, while Montgomery County and parts of Chester have voted Democratic.
“If Democrats can hold that base and Trivedi does capitalize on his hometown appeal in Reading, there is an opportunity for an upset.”