May 11, 2004

Alex Alben (D WA-8th CD)

Alex Alben believes that he can “hit the ground running” in Congress. The former RealNetworks executive interned with the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees before graduating from Stanford Law School. He’s testified before Congress, and worked with policymakers on issues of consumer protection and copyright law.

Alben says that during elections, most of the discussion is about popular topics like healthcare, war, and Social Security. Then when you get to Congress, the actual job ends up being about issues like taxation, intellectual property law, and media policy. With a career spanning the software industry and more types of media than most members of Congress, as well as a long history of experience in government policy, Alben is confident that he can handle the everyday work.

Alben is concerned about the health of the economy, and describes a global economic picture of dislocation that is frightening and painful to people losing their jobs. He says it’s a time when people see jobs that used to be done in the U.S. moving overseas, and “don’t see where their future is.” He points to the adoption of English as the main language of the business world, and the availability of English speaking workers in other countries as a reason companies in places like India can directly interact and compete with U.S. firms. He says combining the reduced language barrier with new communication technologies has made the world much smaller, harder to compete in.

Alben says it’s important to have a stronger safety net, but also to have leaders who “understand what these trends are, and get ahead of the curve instead of just reacting.” He says that in every normal year, tens of millions of jobs are created and lost, that the workforce is very fluid. Further, he says that it misses the point to focus on the jobs lost. It’s also important in his opinion to look for the opportunities to create new ones, and he says that if the U.S. leads in education, it can create more good paying jobs than it loses.

“I understand that having an educated work force allows us to create great products,” says Alben. He says there should be more investment in education at every level. Not only in college, but in making sure that all primary school children have access to something as basic as breakfast. It’s very important, he says, that the U.S. keep its reasearch lead so it can build new businesses and industries to replace those that are lost.

Alben says the 8th Congressional District has a world class work force and local businesses, and that the area is positioned to become a leader in fields like life sciences and renewable energy. He says that he “would like to see a research triangle on the Eastside.” If they have one in North Carolina, he sees no reason why there shouldn’t be one here. He says his experience in technology and the law can help advance that goal.

Alben’s position on fighting terrorism at home is that “we still haven’t made the right investments in Homeland Security.” He cited the Port of Seattle as an example of where more security infrastructure is needed, saying that currently, only 4% of incoming cargo containers can be inspected.

When fighting terrorism abroad, Alben believes the U.S. can and should do more to reduce nuclear proliferation. It’s everyone’s nightmare scenario for a terrorist to get hold of nuclear weapons or material, and says it’s important to make sure that it never happens. He says the country needs to take advantage of every opportunity to control nuclear materials and knowledge, especially working to prevent proliferation from Russia and Pakistan.

Investing in human development is a third avenue that Alben believes could be added to current steps to make the country safer. He says, “We’re really fooling ourselves if we think we’re more secure when 2 billion people in the world live on less than $2 a day,” and have little access to even primary education. Not only does he believe it’s the right thing to do, he says that the increasing perception around the world that the U.S. doesn’t care will work against American security over time. He says that bringing better economic conditions, education, and health care to other countries will not only create stable trading partners but be an investment in peace.

It takes money to invest in education and healthcare, a social safety net for displaced workers, better security at home, technology research, and good will abroad. Alben says Congress and the rest of the government should re-examine some subsidies, encourage other nations to participate in promoting human development around the world, and adopt better economic policies. He says that better fiscal policy would do something about a federal debt that costs the country $180 billion dollars a year in interest payments, and that promoting new industries will create a larger revenue base.

“We have a federal budget of $2.4 trillion, so I would hope in that budget we can find money for healthcare,” for the 40 million people Alben says have no access to coverage. He says these goals can be achieved by reallocating existing government revenue.

When it comes to social issues, Alben believes that the current leadership in Congress is out of step with the district and its values. He says that a majority in the district support protection of women’s rights and health choices. He would like to see Congress stay on the right side of the pro-choice debate.

Alben says gay marriage is something that needs to be left to individual states to work out, and that the Constitution has survived 200 years without a specific definition of marriage. Under the federal system, he says people will be able to decide for themselves when they see whether or not chaos results from Massachussets’ new law recognizing the commitment of gay couples. He also believes these are the wrong issues for Congress to spend so mich time on, saying that it would be more appropriate for the legislature to focus on jobs, education, and healthcare.

In a recent speech before the 48th Legislative District Democrats’ caucus, Alben questioned the seriousness with which the current leadership in Washington takes a variety of threats to the country. He said that while the U.S. has a color code for terrorism warning levels, maybe the country needs alerts for the environment, education, healthcare, and the increasing numbers of war dead.

Alben says that it’s important to work towards a good outcome in Iraq, but that “we deceived ourselves about how hard this was going to be.”

For more information, visit his website.

Posted by natasha at May 11, 2004 05:05 AM | WA Politics | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |