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Brakey would cut regulations, expand HSAs

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Jun 22, 2020
Courtesy of: Eric Brakey Eric Brakey is running in the Republican primary for Maine's 2nd Congressional District.

Auburn — Eric Brakey's mantra is "fire the bureaucrats." During an hour-long interview with The Republican Journal June 12, he repeatedly advocated getting rid of government regulations and relying on the genius of the free market to solve problems.

Brakey, 31, of Auburn, is in a three-way contest with Adrienne Bennett and Dale Crafts for the Republican nomination to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden in Maine's 2nd Congressional District in November.

Born and raised in Shaker Heights, a wealthy suburb of Cleveland, he moved to Maine in 2012; he said his family home was in New Gloucester. He was in the state Senate from 2014 to 2018 representing District 20, which comprises Auburn, Mechanic Falls, Minot, New Gloucester and Poland. While there, he chaired the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in 2017-18. He cited as his chief accomplishments in the Maine Legislature a law repealing the requirement for adults to have a permit in order to carry a concealed handgun, a welfare reform measure regulating how public assistance money may be used, and a "right to try" law giving terminally ill patients the right to use investigational treatments.

He said he was running for Congress "to free Maine and free America," adding that the mission of government is to protect citizens' life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

At the top of his to-do list if voters send him to Washington, D.C., will be to get rid of federal regulations, which he thinks hurt the economy and job creation. He cited as an example the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's attempt to regulate Maine's lobster industry to protect endangered right whales. He also said he has visited many small nursing homes in Maine where the owners tell him they do not need more federal funding, but a reduction in regulations and paperwork they cannot keep up with. "We as Maine people know how to fix our own problems," he said, better than people in Washington do.

Also high on his list of priorities as a congressman will be reforming the health care system. He wants to expand health savings accounts so that people who want to forgo insurance for routine care can pay their doctor directly with pretax dollars, cutting out the added cost of insurance company premiums and administration. He said his primary-care doctor has a "direct primary care" practice, meaning that he does not accept any insurance and treats patients for a flat monthly fee. Brakey does see a role for insurance in catastrophic coverage, he said.

He would apply a similar approach to Medicaid, taking what he said was the half-trillion dollars spent on the program annually and giving it to patients in the form of health savings accounts that they could then use to pay for care and/or insurance coverage. This plan would eliminate the Medicaid cliff, where when someone earns $1 over the government guideline, they lose all of their coverage, which can be a disincentive to accepting a promotion or a raise on the job, he said.

Regarding the popular federal health program for those over 65, he said, "Medicare I'm not touching." He added that the government must invest in Medicare and Social Security to make sure it can keep its promises to seniors. He suggested the investment might be funded by cutting expenditures on foreign wars and other overseas spending.

When The Journal interviewed Dale Crafts, he said Brakey wanted to close U.S. military bases around the world. Brakey Communications Director David Boyer responded in email that the assertion is "not true." He added that "There is a role for strategic bases around the globe. That said, 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad is a huge cost to American taxpayers without any tangible increase in our security. Dale is conflating Eric's views about not being the policeman of the world with wanting to shut down every base."

Brakey blamed federal bureaucracy for the slow U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak that reached the country in February. He said federal bureaucrats "created roadblocks" that prevented private companies from developing tests for the virus early on, losing precious time in the scramble to contain the pathogen. In addition, certificate of need laws, which block competition in health care, he said, led to fears about shortages of hospital beds, ventilators and other vital equipment. Whereas, if the country had allowed the market to work, there would have been no need to cancel elective procedures or worry about shortages.

To attract and retain younger workers, he said Maine needs a better job environment, which it can attain by cutting taxes and reducing regulation. He advocated establishing "economic freedom zones" in poorer areas like Washington County, where federal taxes would be reduced to zero, or near zero, until certain benchmarks are reached in order to stimulate investment and leave more money in people's pockets.

He would also like to offer a federal tax credit to people with education debt that would be equal to the amount they pay each year on their education loans.

With regard to working across the aisle with Democrats, Brakey said he had worked with colleagues from the other party to pass his concealed carry bill and other measures in the Maine Senate, and would do the same at the federal level. "If we disagree on 90% of the issues, that means there's 10% of the issues we agree on."

He agreed that climate change is affected by human activity, and said the best way to address it is to develop more natural gas and nuclear power. Natural gas, he said, has been a great bridge fuel away from coal and oil, and can continue to help the U.S. meet its need for clean energy. And nuclear technology has changed vastly in the last few decades, becoming safer, cleaner and cheaper than in the past, he said. Nuclear, he believes, offers the promise of enough energy to consistently meet the country's needs, but it has not advanced in the U.S. because of federal regulations.

Brakey set himself apart from his primary opponents, saying, "I'm the only proven conservative champion in the race who actually gets things done," and adding that he is also the only one in the race who has won a competitive election. In 2014, he defeated incumbent Democrat John Cleveland, who had represented Senate District 20 for 36 years.

Criticized by Crafts for skipping a June 10 debate on WCSH Channel 6, Brakey said he had scheduled a round-table with veterans that conflicted with the debate, adding that, with the time until the election growing short, "I need to take opportunities to get out and meet people." He also said he had complained to Channel 6 about the Zoom conference call format of the debate, and that he wanted to meet his opponents in person for a "real conversation."

Brakey has also been called out by Bennett for supporting libertarian-leaning Ron Paul in 2012 and starting the Defense of Liberty PAC, which ranked legislators on their support for libertarian causes. She has suggested that Brakey is not a loyal supporter of President Trump. Brakey answered the charge, saying he had helped support Trump's tax reform package and had gone to the White House, at Trump's invitation, to talk about student debt. "I've been very clear that I'm supporting President Trump for reelection," he said.

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Comments (4)
Posted by: Seth Thayer | Jun 23, 2020 08:13

There you are, pants-less and yelling at your computer screen again Ralph. And yes, I am a tall person, but I think everyone knows that by now.  Take a look at that elderly garden club lady in the mirror, I don't think you really want to start in on appearances, now do you?

Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Jun 22, 2020 19:12

Not sure where old Sasquatch drew his conclusion regarding his potential relations with bureaucracy. One would have to enter into the political arena to do battle. Love a good conservative.

Posted by: Seth Thayer | Jun 22, 2020 15:26

Mr. Brakey wants to fire bureaucrats by becoming one himself?  Doesn't make too much sense. If we had no federal regulations, there would be no speed limits, there would be no standards for meat quality...there would be no one looking out for consumers.  Bad Brakey....bad.  Also, hitching your star to Mr. Trump probably won't get you too far these days.

Posted by: John E Marshall | Jun 22, 2020 12:24

He clearly has no real sense of how healthcare, Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security work. The latter two are funded through payroll taxes that are levied against us even after we retire and are on Social Security.


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