Editor’s note: Idyllwild is in the 36th Congressional District. This district is slightly different from former Congressional District 45.

Congressional District 36 extends west from the Colorado River to the San Bernardino National Forest, but includes Banning, San Jacinto and Hemet rather than the western Riverside communities of Temecula and Murrieta.

In 2011, when redistricting was completed, the district’s party registration was 42 percent Republican and 39 percent Democrats.

On Sept. 7, 2012, a year later and two months prior to the election, the registration was 40 percent Republican and 39 percent Democratic.

Rep. Mary Bono Mack

Rep. Mary Bono Mack was interviewed by phone on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

What is the budget solution? “Cut programs” or “Tax the rich” are slogans that aren’t solutions?
“This is not a tax problem, it’s a spending problem,” Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack replied quickly. “There are tough decisions, but Congress has to go through the budget with a fine tooth comb and find a lot of waste. We either save now rather than later. But it all adds up.”

Examples of programs, which she feels should be cut or reduced, include funds for the high-speed rail for California, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as subsidies for the Public Broadcasting System. In her opinion, the Internet has changed the world and reduces the need for federal support of these activities.

While seeking to reduce the deficit, Bono Mack is cautious about defense reduction. “I don’t support defense cuts to activities that directly support the defense program mission,” she stated.

However, the defense budget has grown so large, she believes there are programs, which are not mission-specific and don’t belong there. For example, the defense budget harbors millions for breast cancer research, which should be moved to the Department of Health and Human Services, she advocated. Then, Congress should make decisions about the totality of funding for disease research.

What is the role of Medicare?
“Medicare right now is a promise made for health care,” she said. “The problem is Medicare going broke. We can’t do nothing because the cost is increasing to service fewer doctors who take Medicare.”

Reinforcing her point, Bono Mack discussed the annual Congressional adjustment to doctor reimbursements from Medicare, the “Doc fix.”

According to the Congressional Research Service, “Each year since 2002, the statutory method for determining the annual updates to the Medicare physician fee schedule … has resulted in a reduction in the reimbursement rates. With the exception of 2002, when a 4.8 percent decrease was applied, Congress has passed a series of bills to override the reductions.”

“[President Barrack] Obama and [Democratic CD 36 candidate Dr. Raul] Ruiz won’t admit [this] system will make Medicare go broke four to six years sooner,” Bono Mack claimed.

While Bono Mack wants to preserve Medicare, in its current form for people over 55 years, she insists the future problem is the costs for people under 55 years. “They’re scaring seniors over 55, while the problem is for the people under 55.

“It’s up to Congress to write legislation to provide as much healthcare for seniors as possible,” she urged.
How do we ration medical services?

“We need a system that provides accountability between patient and doctor. Everyone should have ‘skin in game.’ Now there’s no accountability, especially in Medicare. Is it the patient, the insurer, or a doctor who has a choice?” she replied.

“To expand to everyone is foolhardy,” she said. “It will be a moderate healthcare catastrophe if there were 100 percent coverage.” As an example, she asked how the government would ensure that patients actually used the medicine prescribed to them.

Without any co-pay, Bono Mack describes medical practice as an arbitrary political decision, which is no longer based on efficacy or economics of the treatment or procedure.

“If you believe the people are not paying, somebody is paying for the medicine, and this doesn’t fix system,” she emphasized. “If medicine and treatments are free, the doctor and pharmacy are happy to write prescriptions whether you use the medicine or throw it away.”

How do we improve educational programs?
Local schools must find ways to inspire students, she said. “Kids are not inspired by much in school now. Sending more money to Sacramento or Washington won’t fix it.”

Bono Mack wants to see school districts employ performance programs which only reward good teachers and she supports the expansion of local charter schools. “We need a system that finds people goals,” she said. “Idyllwild Arts Academy serves a passion, finding their students’ greatest gift.”

This is a model for a magnet school, but local districts need to make decisions to encourage this approach, she argued.

What does the Californian Republican party have to do to be relevant statewide?
“It will be interesting to see how the election plays out and the results of redistricting,” she replied. “The pressure no longer pays to be extreme, people need to be consensus builders and problem solvers.

“I’m hopeful the open primary system finally worked for greater good of the district rather than worked for good of ole boys in party,” she added.

Dr. Raul Ruiz

Dr. Raul, Ruiz, the Democratic Party candidate for CD 36, was interviewed by phone on Thursday, Oct. 18.

What is the budget solution? “Cut programs” or “Tax the rich” are slogans that aren’t solutions?
This is one of biggest contrasts between Mary Bono Mack, the Republican candidate for California’s 36th Congressional District, and Dr. Raul Ruiz, the Democratic Party candidate, he said.

Ruiz began with a characterization of Bono Mack’s budget solutions: $6,000 more for Medicare recipients, cut Pell (student) grants and raise the income tax on the middle class.

“I’ll put people first,” Ruiz claimed. “Number 1, we need to start to really work hard to create jobs. The unemployed are relying on a safety net.”

Ruiz said he would support action to bring the troops back from Afghanistan. “This will save 100’s of billions,” Ruiz said.

Secondly, he supports legislation to permit Medicare officials to negotiate drug prices. According to Ruiz, this would save $200 billion over 10 years.

Ruiz wants budget officials to seek out and eliminate waste in Medicare that would amount to an annual savings of $750 billion per year. But total Medicare expenditures in 2011 were $549 billion, according to the annual report of the Medicare program trustees, four of which are Obama appointees.

Finally, he will support eliminating the Bush tax cuts on incomes greater than $1 million.

What is the role of Medicare?
Since it was enacted in the1960s, Medicare has guaranteed healthcare to seniors, according to Ruiz.

“Seniors are struggling to make it with only social security checks,” Ruiz said. “It’s an economic catastrophe when our seniors do not have enough money to afford healthcare.”

“Medicare needs to change otherwise it’s not sustainable,” he said. “We’ll strengthen Medicare through healthcare costs savings.” The largest, in Ruiz’s opinion, is to allow the program officials to negotiate drug prices. He estimates this will save $200 billion over 10 years.

Secondly, he advocates that Medicare focus on prevention of disease. “This is a cost effective way to reduce healthcare costs,” he said.

How do we improve educational programs?
To make big differences, Ruiz believes schools have to focus on programs such as science and healthcare and to cooperate with businesses so that graduates have a future when the finish high school.

Secondly, every classroom should have access to the Internet. This may require computers and software, but they are necessary and should be provided to every school’s classroom, he urged.

Funding for this equipment would come from partnerships between public, private and philanthropic agencies, he said.