My name is Matt Fecteau and I am seeking the Democratic Nomination for Rhode Island’s 1st District. I am the most progressive candidate in this race by far. Despite my progressive leanings, both Republicans and Democrats, including myself, can agree on some key issues. This will require compromise and consensus, not empty rhetoric and demagoguery.
We need leaders from both parties that will reach across the aisle and sincerely work together. Let’s get the job done by identifying key issues we all can agree on such as:
- tax reform. A broader, simplified tax code would benefit low income and middle class families, and also small businesses. We spend far too long on taxes each year and the tax code is too complex. In addition, our statutory tax rate is the highest in the world at 35%. Add in the additional state taxes of around 4% and we are looking at a tax rate of around 39%. We should look for ways to reduce this tax rate, and simplify the tax code. A significant amount of members from both parties agree here.
- reducing Government Waste. While Republicans and Democrats tend to disagree on whether the answer is less government or smarter government, both parties agree that reduction in waste and red tape would benefit the American people. Let’s keep refining our government to make it more efficient thus reducing unwarranted expenditures.
- reforming the Earn Income Tax Credit. Surprisingly, both Democrats and prominent Republicans such as Representative Paul Ryan believe the Earn Income Tax Credit penalizes married couples and individuals with no children living at or below the poverty line. Representative Ryan and the Democratic caucus have touched on this issue several times.
- a Payroll Tax Cut. Both parties have disagreements about whether we should increase the minimum wage, but instituting a payroll tax has attracted bipartisan support in the past and would be a de facto increase in the minimum wage. Tax cuts are popular with the Republican Party and Democrats want to increase the wages for the working class. Reinstituting the payroll tax cut is another area of agreement.
- investment in Our Infrastructure. Republicans and Democrats agree we need to invest and improve our infrastructure, but they have different ideas. The Republicans want to expand the powers and budget of the Department of Transportation while the Democrats and some prominent Republicans support an infrastructure bank. Regardless, both parties agree we need to do something about our infrastructure.
The War on al Qaeda. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that al Qaeda needs to be marginalized and eroded. This issue has the most bipartisan support of all.
- Reforming Minimum Sentencing Laws. Grover Norquist, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined forces to introduce Justice Safety Valve Act which would give federal judges more federal leeway when handing down sentences considering our prison system is overcrowded by 40% and half of the federal offenders are nonviolent drug arrests. We need to continue to build momentum for this legislation going forward.
These issues will not solve all our problems nor are they a panacea for the gridlock in Congress, but they are reasonable starting points.
We should put aside partisan parlor tricks and focus on pragmatism over idealism. We won’t agree with everything, but pointing fingers only adds to the partisan gridlock in Congress. We need leaders who will work through this partisan congestion not contribute to the noise in Congress. The time for change is now and yes, this is also where we can agree too.
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In Iraq and Syria, al Qaeda has rejuvenated. While direct action taken by the US government can erode al Qaeda in the interim, it is the equivalent of whack-a-mole and unsustainable. To undermine al Qaeda, the US should address a fundamental concern to the Arab and Muslim world: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Since Israel’s American endorsed inception in 1948, conflict has ensued. The humiliation from the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, 1967 Six-Day War and 1973 Yom Kippur War caused Muslims to question themselves and their Arab governments. Fueled by Saudi petro dollars, some turned to Islamic fundamentalism creating a parallel Islamic state that transcended geographic borders and ethnicities. Too them, there is no sovereign nation or ethnicity, only Islam (Ummah). Therefore, a perceived attack on one Muslim is akin to an attack on all which is why the prolonged Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so critical to resolve.
The Arab governments’ nominal condemnation of the treatment of Palestinians is only used to placate their subjects. Israel is not a perfect country, but Israel treats the Palestinians far better than the repressive, corrupt Arab governments treat their own people.
The Arab government controlled media routinely makes Israel to be a ubiquitous foe waging a war on Islam epitomized by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They make ridiculous claims Israel is responsible for shark attacks, to using vultures for spying fueling the need for jihad. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a mere distraction from larger more pressing such as corruption in their own governments.
The sovereign boundaries and this ubiquitous Muslim identity would clash as the autocratic Arab governments grudgingly made peace with Israel making few concessions for the Palestinians. To the fundamentalists, this was a massive betrayal and they sought to overthrow these government establishing a true Islamic state (Caliphate). As a result, radical members of the Muslim community turned to unsanctioned terrorism as an alternative to a state sanctioned peace process.
al Qaeda would be inspired by hatred for Israel. In the 1980s, the future leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, joined a successful plot to kill the President of Egypt for signing a peace deal with Israel. Once Saudi Arabia endorsed the Oslo Peace Accords, Saudi resident, Osama Bin Laden began to plot against the Saudi government and attack the US which culminated to 9/11. The nihilistic founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musaid al-Zarqawi began to plot to overthrow the King of Jordan once he made peace with Israel. al Qaeda in Iraq would evolve into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
With the fall of the Iraqi government in 2003, Islamic fundamentalists viewed the Iraq war as an extension of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While in Iraq in 2008, I was told US troops were mere agents of Israel sent to destroy Muslims. Many Iraqis identified with the Palestinians living in refugee camps. However, these fundamentalists failed to adhere to tribal customs and were repudiated by Iraqis with the culmination of the Sons of Iraq.
Across the some parts of the Muslim world, al Qaeda in Iraq’s deceased leader al-Zarqawi is seen with a deep admiration. When on the streets of Israel and Palestine last year, I found it noteworthy that some of the rockets fired into Israel were named after al Qaeda in Iraq’s brutal founder, al-Zarqawi.
An evolved version of al Qaeda known as ISIS has reemerged threatening to destabilizing the region. While Israel faces a conflict on several fronts, Bin Laden’s dream is becoming a reality, they have created a functioning Islamic state cutting across sovereign boundaries and the Middle East is again in a crisis.
The US should produce a sustainable alternative to Israeli-Palestinian conflict to undercut al Qaeda. ISIS is creating an Islamic state in response to the perceived western war on Islam and also, the Shia led Iraqi government’s discriminatory policies towards the Sunni. In Iraq, there is still a misplaced perception the US favors Israel over Palestine.
If this persists, aid given to the Iraqi government would fuel the conspiracy theories the Iraqi government is a mere client state of Israel. However, a durable and lasting peace would undercut the appeal of al Qaeda’s tactics reinforcing the notion of nationalism over Islamism.
In the longer term, the Arab governments that use the coattails of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a scapegoat for their own government’s incompetence would be left to answer to their people. If an Israeli-Palestinian just accord can be reached, al Qaeda’s narrative would crumble undermining their hopes for an Islamic state such as currently in Iraq and Syria. We need peace more than ever.
Matt Fecteau is a Democratic candidate for Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District. He is a former White House national security intern, and captain in the Army Reserves with two tours to Iraq.
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