Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) made his case for re-election Wednesday morning to more than 30 Shelter Island juniors and seniors. His rival, Randy Altschuler (R, C, I-St. James) was invited to meet with the students but didn’t respond, according to teacher Brian Doelger.
After a brief talk, Mr. Bishop spent the 40-minute class answering students’ questions. He said that Congress had passed 18 tax cuts that affect small businesses but it’s also critical to invest in the nation’s transportation infrastructure because it will serve small businesses and help to get the economy moving.
Government at all levels has been backing off from infrastructure investments and the result is that the country is operating in a 21st century economy with 20th-century roads, railroads, bridges and other components of its infrastructure, Mr. Bishop said. In China, he said the investment in infrastructure had helped fuel the economy with a transit system that moves goods to customers quickly.
Asked why voters should re-elect him instead of sending Mr. Altschuler to Congress, he advised students to watch what people do, not what they say.
“I think I have done the job for 10 years,” Mr. Bishop said. “I have done what the people of this district have asked me to do,” he said. Citing what he called a major difference between him and his opponent, the congressman said he believes in building the economy “from the middle out,” confident it will result in lifting more people from poverty to the middle class. The country needs to maintain strong social safety nets, including unemployment insurance, Medicaid and aid to dependent children, he said.
Mr. Altschuler would cut those programs “dramatically,” he said. Mr. Altschuler believes in building the economy from the top down, embracing Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, Mr. Bishop said.
“The problem with that is we tried that,” Mr. Bishop said, pointing to the economic policies of President George W. Bush.
Mr. Altschuler tells voters that Washington hasn’t worked for the 10 years Mr. Bishop has been in office, the congressman said. But if he’s to be blamed for everything that hasn’t worked in Washington, Mr. Bishop said he wants credit for the times the Giants have won the Super Bowl.
He told the students that he understands New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s concern that high calorie soft drinks effect peoples’ health and add to Medicare and Medicaid expenses. He pointed to high taxes on cigarettes that have helped many to curb their smoking. But there needs to be “a balance,” the congressman said, so that government isn’t intruding on all aspects of peoples’ lives.
Would similar taxing on ammunition decrease gun violence? one student wondered. Mr. Bishop said he wasn’t sure but again he called for balance and said he was working on legislation with Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) to ban the sale of gun magazines capable of carrying more than 10 rounds.
In addition, he said, background checks really need to work so that people like Jared Lee Loughner, who shot former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in 2011, couldn’t get a gun. Someone who was emotionally unable to continue on in college shouldn’t be deemed fit to carry a weapon, Mr. Bishop said.
The congressman said he was fighting plans to close the Animal Disease Control Center at Plum Island, pointing out that the government spent $50 million to upgrade it and then called for its closing. But he said the current budget has no money allocated to develop the planned center in Manhattan, Kansas, that was to take over Plum Island’s work.