LISTEN: U.S. House incumbent Don Young is here to answer your questions

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(Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska has only one U.S. House seat and Congressman Don Young is seeking his 25th term in that position. What does he want to accomplish in the next two years if he is re-elected and what does he think the federal priorities for Alaska should be? Don Young the candidate joins us to discuss his platform and why he thinks Alaskans should re-elect him on the next Talk of Alaska.

HOST: Lori Townsend

  • Congressman Don Young, U.S. House of Representatives


This transcript has been edited and shortened for clarity.

Lori Townsend: Congressman, thanks for being with us today. I have a lot of questions, but start off with your objectives for the next two years if Alaskan send you back to DC for a 25th term. What are your top priorities?

Don Young: Well, Lori, when they send me back to DC my job will be as has been for the last 48 years and that’s to listen to Alaskans represent Alaskans and their interests and what their beliefs and I believe I’ve done that job I even look at me I probably I pass more legislation than any other congressman history. And of that the bills I passed and signed by presidents 90% of my effect, Alaska a person, a community or a city or borough, and that’s what I read there for people who say what they’re going to do most of that nonsense. What I tried to do is to hear the job of Alaska do the job for Alaska has been very successful in doing that.

LT: All right. Congressman early in the spring, you did not initially see the COVID-19 coronavirus as a serious problem joking, about it being the beer virus. Later in March in an online video you said “COVID-19 is very real. Weeks ago, I did not fully grasp the severity of this crisis. But clearly we are in the midst of an urgent public health emergency.” But in that message you did not mention wearing a mask in public to help stop the spread of the virus. Congressman, given what we’ve seen with efforts to open economies only to see them shut back down again as cases spike, should there have been a national push and nationwide temporary mandate for masks or at least a stronger push from the president to follow that guideline?

DY: You know, one of the things that always I question is, at first, we were not supposed to wear masks. If you’ll remember that, then they said we should wear a mask, and they said we don’t know if it should be a national issue or not. Now, not every state agrees. Say South Dakota, Perez has a position that no masks, just actually be responsible, and they did not shut the state down. Now, earlier on I mentioned that beer virus, and I’ve said this before, it was named Corona. I have lived through about four different pandemics in my life. And this one brought the attention and I worry about people getting panicky and responding maybe not really to reality. But the fact is, they did not know I did not know how serious this would be. And it became serious. And I changed my position back. It is serious. So we work on that. That’s the thing about learning the process.

LT: Absolutely. And now, what do you think about the guidance on masks? Do you think there should be a stronger push from.

DY: Lori, I don’t think the federal government should be telling any state what to do. I think that’s very wrong as far as our society the state should take the roles as we’ve done in Alaska. Governor Dunleavy has done this, and I really believe that’s crucially important. And I’ve always said the state should take the positions of your state’s right: make the state make the position, not the government itself, especially.

LT: Many public health experts have noted that the US has failed to implement a successful testing strategy that could have helped contain the virus. For example, there aren’t enough testing supplies. There’s a lack of federal guidance, no national testing strategy. Do you agree that the country has sort of failed in this regard?

DY: You know, I don’t believe we’ve failed. You know, you look at the past pandemics we had. We’re testing very rapidly now. No one really had the testing equipment, nor did they have a test available. That’s been developed because of the pandemic. That’s one of the bright things; we have a better system. I’ve been tested 15 times, so I know a little bit about the testing. Does it say it’s failed? I think that’s pessimism. I think we’re succeeding quite rapidly right now and doing what we should have been doing. But we didn’t have that opportunity or the equipment to do it.

LT: What grade do you give the Trump administration overall on handling the pandemic? 

DY: Well, there’s no comparison. You know, if you look back to 1968, there was no federal handling at all. That’s the last big pandemic we had. You know, that was what people forget. And so I would say I would grade him about a B, B plus. Only thing I would have changed would be, in fact, encourage the states’ Governors’ be more active and let them make the decision for the states. And, you know, that was something the hindsight — and it’s like playing football: You’re a great quarterback when you’re sitting in the stands. When you get your head knocked off, you know, you’re really making the calls.

LT: There’s a tremendous amount of bad and misleading information online about the pandemic people calling it fake news that it’s only the flu that it’s a hoax perpetrated by Democrats. But the CDC, the FDA and the National Institutes of Health have all issued science evidence based guidance on the severity of the virus and how important masks and social distancing are to keep people from spreading the disease. Do you believe these scientists? Do you think Alaskan should trust this guidance?

DY: Well again, you know, they all became experts after the pandemic started. They’re relatively new in the field too. If anything, I think what bothers me is that when it was exposed by China, remember President Trump banned China flights, there wasn’t much excitement from any one of those Health Organization including WHO, CDC and etc. Now they went along the way and they became experts overnight so you know, I’m not gonna be a Monday morning quarterback, I just think very quite frankly caught some people by surprise. They’ve made great adjustments now but there’s a little difference of opinion if you follow the trends of all these so called experts they don’t always agree.

LT: They don’t always agree but there is a lot of agreement around masks and social distancing.

DY: There is some. Social distancing, you bet. Washing hands, you bet, but again, I go back — there’s been three different positions on masks. And I’m not gonna argue for against; I wear a mask. So you know, it’s a difference of opinion. We will see when this all I call gets over with if it does get over with we’re going into flu season we’ll see maybe it’d be 25. So we’ll see what happens. It’s a position. I think each person has a responsibility, a responsibility to do, ‘I feel bad?’ Stay at home. ‘Do I feel bad?’ Don’t go out, and if you do go out wear a mask. I think that’s great. But you know, no one really knows for it should be a federal issue or a state issue. I believe it should be a state issue.

LT: In June there were campaign fundraising events for you where you and those attending were not wearing masks. You were just saying that now you wear a mask. Are you requiring masks at campaign events?

DY: I don’t require anything. If you want to wear a mask when they come to my campaign events, that’s their business. That’s self responsibility. Our nation should be responsible for one’s actions.

LT: In the six months of the pandemic, there’s been one twelve-hundred dollar direct payment to Americans. Should Congress send out more relief funds directly to citizens as this pandemic grinds on?

DY: Well let’s think about this a moment. The Congress spent more money in four months than we did in 1982 in the national budget. Nancy Pelosi solved the problem temporarily. But the real solution to this problem is back to work. You cannot continue to print money because that robs from those on fixed income. It robs those that are retired. It takes away from the value of their pension, takes the value away from their 401K’s, and we’re really stealing from the generations that provided us with this wealth. We’re presented a problem so the key here is okay, we’ve done the CARES Act, which I voted for. We’ve done the CARES Act, now we have to get the country back to work so we have more money in the economy to take care of those who don’t have.

LT: Congressman, we’ve seen the critical need for good health care during the pandemic. President Trump wants to do away with the Affordable Care Act. Do you think it should be ended? And if so, what should replace it?

DY: Now remember, we’re talking about the Congress that created the so called Obamacare. I’ve said from the very beginning, I think it’s a bad bill. But I also say you can’t repeal it. So what we have to do is improve upon it. And I do think that’s what will happen. We’ll make an improvement upon it. We’ll have pre existing additions in it, will have all the different things that people talk about, but there’s a lot of nonsense in there. And has it improved health care? That’s something people have to consider. It’s all right to say we’re passing a bill. But if it doesn’t do the job, then what have we done, other than for political purposes? 

And it’s all the time. There was no input from anybody, very frankly, in the medical field. When they wrote that bill it was written in Nancy Pelosi’s office, and it was for a new agenda. And that agenda was health care for everyone at no cost. That doesn’t work. So I think we ought to look at — you’re not going to repeal it, but you gotta look at it and improve upon it. The President has his right, his opinion, but the Congress is one is going to do this, not the president.

LT: And because he’s pushing to end the ACA — the President would like to see it repealed got done away with — how much harder does that make your job in Congress to try to get momentum behind doing what you’ve said, which is not repealing but adding to it, making it better?

DY: Improving upon it, it doesn’t affect at all. You know, people — this is one thing that concerned me in my career. I’ve watched people transfer power to the President, not just this president, other presidents. We have a responsibility in Congress, and I’ve worked hard to do it, that’s why I’ve been successful. And I do believe there’s enough people on both sides that say we better improve this bill and not say, ‘Oh, we’re not going to change Obamacare because Obama passed it.’ Look at what’s wrong, take and figure out what we can do about it and finish it by passing a legislative package that will solve the problems of Obamacare itself.

LT: Do you think health care should be open to everyone, such as Medicare is?

DY: Well, no. And again, that’s universal care. And if everybody wants universal care, and let’s look upon the results of another country. Everybody talks about how great other countries are. That’s not true. You really do not have good healthcare. You have coverage, but you don’t have that health care. I’m saying okay, let’s leave the health care providers the attitude and opportunity to improve healthcare. Don’t let the government do — is everybody happy with what the government does? Imagine being run by the government, that health care; you wouldn’t have health care. So I’m just saying look at what can be done, keep the private sector, and let the individual — remember, you can have your doctor, your insurance won’t change at all change. And I’m just saying no, we’re going to take care of this by letting the system work by improving upon it, not start a brand new socialist system.

LT: But doesn’t the government run Medicare and Medicaid?

DY: Yeah, they do. And they could improve upon that. That was an old program.

LT: Let’s move on to the economy and the national debt. Unemployment has fallen, but it’s still in the double digits and Alaska in the nation. Do you think Congress should act to help stimulate job growth? Should there be more relief spending at this point?

DY: Again, I go back to do you want to spend this country into a debt you can’t recover from? Then that’s going to do it. That’s socialism. I’m saying let’s get the economy on the road again and recover. Let’s put our people back to work so they can pay taxes. You don’t pay taxes on the money if it comes from the government. So you know, this is a different style. People are socially bent, socialized government wishes, the government departments. What happens is you do that your lawyer, the standard, everybody, you become less successful. If we are such a failure, then why does everybody want to come to the United States of America? People ought to take and talk to some of the immigrants that come to this country and see why they came here and why they left the country they came from.

LT: Well, this does lead to a question about the deficit and the national debt. It’s sky high. It was bad before the pandemic. Jerome Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve said just this morning that the debt is growing faster than the economy. The Congressional Budget Office reports the deficit is projected to rise to 98% of the GDP by the end of 2020. That’s the highest it has been since 1945. It would exceed 100% in 2021. And increase even more after that in 2023. Should Congress have lowered the deficit when times were good, and what’s the way out of this debt?

DY: Well, there’s two things: should Congress have did it? Remember, Congress is a reflection of the American people. They’re elected by individuals that believe that the government owes them something. And when that happens, the Congress spends the money. That’s what we call the mirror effect of society. So yes, we should have; that’s what the conservatives wish to do. And the variable says we have more money to spend. Now and the only way out of this I see it is with a higher productive rate within the nation. Remember the debt we had in 19, whatever that year you put it, in the 40s. We recovered from the depths there from a war by putting our country in full production level, employing people creating the middle class. Now we lived so well, we didn’t want to change that. So we started borrowing money to keep that standard of living and alive. So what we have to do now is say, okay, let’s put people back to work, bring the companies back from China, let us produce our resources, let us take and develop the resources for this nation, let us not buy again from abroad, but export where they need it, so this is China buying our corn. 

We were not thinking that we want everything now and not realized in doing so the last for a long time, we put this country in debt. Now that’s a decision this public will make if we do not really need that debt. Again, I go back to this concept, Congress is going to solve the problem by giving money away. That means the inflation rate will take away from those who plan on a pension, those that wanted Social Security. All those are a fixed income. They will be punished because when inflation kicks in, the number that you have is a fixed number. Let’s say you’re getting $2,000 a month. Okay? All of a sudden Why should kick in at 2,000 only has the power of buying a 1,000. So your standard of living drops. So that’s the thing we have to consider, but it’s going to take the public to understand that whether they understand, I do not know. Again we are a reflection of the people.

LT: You were talking about the building that happened after World War Two. Are you talking about investing in infrastructure? What kind of monetary program could you support that could do exactly what you’re saying, putting people back to work?

DY: No monetary program. You go back to that, you continue to do this borrowing money from the future. I’m saying put a different tax structure in, make the attraction for people to bring their businesses back to the United States instead of China. 85% of our medical care was coming from China before this pandemic. A lot of our steel is coming back and I can remember steel factories running full bore in all these different cities, in Baltimore. The stores all closed, clothing buildings in the South are all gone. We don’t build anything anymore for consumption within this country; we buy it from abroad. And that’s the wrong way to go if you want to have a balanced budget, because we borrowed money to buy it. That’s the difference between a real productive economy and an economy that’s really consumptive bent.

LT: If we were to try to bring those jobs back, though, can we compete with the prices that are coming from those foreign suppliers?

DY: Well, that’s up to the public now. Do you want to compete and put the country back on the road of recovery? You will pay a little more, yes. If you don’t want to pay a little more, you’ll go further in debt. And that’s a decision that the public has to make.

LT: Congressman, do you see risk to America with the amount of debt that we have to foreign credit holders?

DY: I can’t tell you, I’m looking at the credit holders portfolio where some credit holders have invested in other areas. That worries me more. And, you know, it’s a challenge. I don’t know, I wish I could have all the answers to these types of things. I have no idea where we’re assuming this is hypothetical. And I’m just wondering about that myself. I don’t know.

LT: We’re gonna go to the phones for a moment. Catherine is in Juneau. Hello.

CALLER: This was a question for Representative Young. Representative Young in the past you have said that climate change, the problem of global warming is a hoax. You said the number of times that it doesn’t exist. And my question to you is now that the science is very clear. And we’re also experiencing many of the problems resulting from warming, especially in the Arctic, what are you going to do about it as a member of Congress, how are you going to really deal with excessive burning of fossil fuels? Or how are you going to respond to the problem?

DY: One thing I’m not going to do is put somebody out of work. People don’t think about that. But the economy is based on fossil fuels in many areas, not just gasoline, and not just diesel fuel or jet fuel. I’m thinking all those things are made from petroleum molecules. And I’ve never said climate change was a hoax. Now you’re just reading some of that nonsense newspaper. I said, it is changing, I’m claiming man is not responsible. It changed before, it will change again, it will always be a change. What we’re deciding not to is how do we adapt? And we’re deciding to stop everything. And I get very concerned about that. It’s easy for someone who’s sitting there on retirement money or has self made income, and then say we have to give up jobs.

I’ve looked at what happened in West Virginia, I’ve looked at what happened in other areas where hundreds of people now are out of work. Now how do we put them back to work? That’s the challenge. Can we use those molecules from coal? Can we use the molecules from oil and by the way, most of Juneau’s money, by the way, it comes from the base of oil. Now that’s a decision that we don’t want to have oil in Alaska. I think oil is very important. I have always supported the idea of it, work for it, continue to work for it. I’m for ANWR, I believe it’s good for the state. People don’t agree with that. I understand that. But you’re going to have climate change. It has changed over the years, time and time again. I go back to the history, the global history, geological history, this global viewpoint how many times it changed.

LT: Congressman, are you saying that you think human anthropological contributions to the atmosphere are not part of the problem with climate change?

DY: It could be. The science is still questionable. We don’t know. You know, let’s say in Alaska, we have more volcanoes than any other place other than Indonesia. The pollution within those volcanoes exceed ourselves. And I don’t know, but I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to do things, but don’t displace people. Don’t take and put jobs away. Don’t make people hungrier. You know, I went to Africa two years ago and I’ve never been so amazed. You know, the one thing they want is energy, you know, they want energy to improve their lot. Now we have to sit here and say we’re going to change the climate. What about those poor people? Are we going to help them out and they need to get helped out by energy? Does anybody think about that? That’s that’s the thing. This is not a self centered process. This is a global issue.

LT: It is a global issue. I would agree that it isn’t.

DY: I’m not finished yet, so just keep that in mind. There is a global issue, but this nation itself can’t solve all the problems better than all the other nations. Now check that out for that. So it is a global issue, how is it going to be handled? So let’s look at the global stuff, put people out of work in America and buy things from abroad. That’s what I’m saying.

LT: It is a global issue. I agree. And a lot of poor people that you’re referencing are the ones that are experiencing climate change and the effects of it.

DY: And they want power, they want energy.

LT: Do you think that the United States should be part of the Paris Climate Agreement to be all in with other nations on addressing climate change?

DY: I think we should be working with every nation. I know some of the nations you look at the pollution rate in Germany now is higher than ours. You know, not everything is right, because it looks right on paper. We have to try to make it work together collectively.

LT: All right, let’s go back to the phones for a moment. Doug is in Anchorage. Hi, Doug.

CALLER: Yeah. Hi. For the Congressman there. I just like to know how you justify your support for the Trump administration in regard to its poor treatment of overseas allies, cozying up to overseas dictators, snubbing the rule of law does the Emoluments Clause in generally fostering divisiveness among Americans?

DY: Well, you know, you’re saying some I don’t agree with. Donald Trump is blamed for everything. He is blamed for everything. I don’t think he’s always at fault. I don’t like where we’re headed internationally. We were being subverted by other countries being third class, right? They, and I like to have us American first. And that’s been my position. I think, you know, I’m a bit, I don’t know, whether you or not, and I believe right up front with you. I think we stand for a principle. And to say we’re going to cow down to other countries listen to the UN all the time. It’s wrong. And that’s my opinion. Trump’s the president of the United States. If you don’t like what he’s doing, don’t elect him.. And that’s what I don’t understand. Why does he get blamed for everything? When you want to get rid of him, un-elected him. They tried to impeach him, there was nothing there. What I can’t understand people that read this stuff in newspapers, listen to it on the radio and say, “Okay, let’s get rid of him.” That’s the way to do it.

CALLER: I’d counter that by pointing out that there are many stalwart Republicans who are coming out against the Trump administration for these very points.

DY: I know those hundred people. I’m not saying they’re the best. I’m not saying that they’re wrong. They have a position. I have a position, I have a job of representing the state. And whatever the President does, he can do what he wishes to do, as long as he’s helping my state, I’m for it.

LT: Congressman, this is a question from a listener about North Korea. What’s the United States current state of affairs with North Korea, this person is expressing concern because Alaska is closest, The question is, what is the current state of affairs and how has it evolved recently? Where do we go from here? What’s going on with North Korea?

DY: Well, that’s a question I wished I could answer totally. Because I really don’t know North Korea, I go to a lot of these briefings. He’s still playing a sort of a game of ‘I’m gonna launch a missile.’ They did this the other day again. I do think we have a challenge because the guy is a dictator. The country itself is not in good shape. The key here is China and whether they let North Korea go rogue, which they could. We in Alaska have a challenge because we’re the frontline. We have the aircraft, we have the missile site set up and Delta, we have probably the best defense of the whole United States. But when you’re dealing with countries that are unstable, which they are, then you don’t know. I wish somebody had the answer. That I don’t know. I was hoping maybe we’d have an agreement. Even with an agreement, would they live up to it? The guy’s about halfway screwy, he’s gonna do something possibly wrong. I don’t have a solution how to solve it. None that would be politically acceptable.

LT: We have another email question, Congressman, from a listener in Haines who says how can lawmakers justify such a low federal minimum wage $7.25 an hour? How can people survive on such low wages? Even though the minimum wage is higher in Alaska, it’s still too low for our high cost of living. What do you think about the minimum wage amount?

DY: You know, I’ve always been for a higher minimum wage. I’ve told people this. But one thing to keep in mind, the minimum wage is only as high as the buying power. That’s what people keep forgetting the only way a minimum wage would work is if it’s indexed and buying power. I don’t know whether you understand what I’m saying, but it does no good to say, ‘Okay, we’re gonna have a $15 minimum wage.’ That’s probably good for about six months, and everything else catches up with it, and that $15 is like a buck fifty that I lived under. So that’s something you have to keep in mind.

LT: Congressman Young yesterday there was a march on Alaska. held in Anchorage where hundreds of people gathered to commemorate the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington. It was organized by the Alaska Black Caucus, and President Celeste Hodge Growden had this to say about why they were marching.

Celeste Hodge Growden: The struggle continues, that we still need reforms, that they’re still not equality, we’re still struggling to achieve equity. So we still are fighting for those same issues from long ago.

LT: Still fighting for the same issues from long ago, 57 years since the first March. Do you believe that there is systemic institutionalized racism in America’s legal and political systems?

DY: Systemic? I’m not sure. There’s no question that there is still racism of all types; that goes on both sides of the aisle, people should recognize that, and that’s unfortunate. Myself, I personally believe that everybody human is created by God and everybody’s equal. And I have lived that pretty well. I have 14 Native grandkids and Native wife. I love my Native people in Alaska. And I say that there is prejudice, there’s no doubt about that. What we have to do is say, Okay, how do we fix it? I believe we can fix it by giving opportunities for equality in education and employment, and acceptance. You should look at a person as who he or she is, not by the color of their skin. And that’s my belief.

LT: And when you say you doubt the systemic–

DY:What do you mean by systemic?

LT: Built into the systems that we have in place, the political systems, the legal systems.

DY: I don’t believe it’s built in. Look at the makeup of the Congress, we have a lot of people of color. We have a lot of people of other origin. We have you know, there is always going to be a certain amount of prejudice within organizations. Everybody, I said, recognize it. What people should do is look at the person as a person, not by the color of their skin.

LT: I want to drill down a little bit there in a minute. But when first I want to ask you about past protests when you consider the civil rights protests of the 60s. How does what we’re seeing today compare? And do you think positive change can come from the protests that we’re seeing right now across the country?

DY: It’s got to be very hard with the actions of the looting, the burning, the destroying of individual businesses. Ironically, to me, is you see a lot of abusers, of the so-called protesters that are there are not of color. That’s always interesting to me. I think that’s wrong and just breaking the law. That’s what they’re trying to support. And the publicity if you look at it very closely, I’ve seen an awful lot of so called people that are not of color breaking into stores, taking things down. spitting on policemen, that type thing that does not help. It’s a whole lot different than Martin Luther King, that was a peaceful demonstration. marching on Washington DC. And if you listen to what he had to say that’s possibly what’s been falling down.

LT: How much of what you just referenced, the looting the bad behavior, do you think is because of provocateurs or others who are attached to the friends that want to make the people who are trying to bring the main message of equality and justice, trying to make them look bad?

DY: That I don’t know. I’ve not been involved in one of those so called looting episodes. I do know what I see on television. I can’t always believe television, but I do, I see. I think it’s a terrible example. I believe if you listen very carefully, to the leaders that are peaceful protesters, they don’t like it either. I don’t know the solution. Right up front, I think it’s a bad thing. Bad for the United States, definitely bad for those cities. And it’s bad for the so-called equality movement. We know that everybody knows that.

LT: Let’s go back to the idea that people have put forward about systemic institutionalized racism. President Johnson passed the omnibus Crime Control and safe streets act in 1968. Then in 74, the Violent Crime Control Act was passed. It expanded in the 90s, barring more people from owning guns, new crimes related to a host of hate and gang related sex offenses, crimes, and it expanded the death penalty, should some of this be revisited or revised under the lens of racial discrimination, the statistics that show the disparity in the rates of incarceration for black Hispanic native people that shows that there is something wrong with our systems. Do you think federal reform is needed?

DY: That I don’t know as far as federal reform? People talk about this, but they passed all these bills, apparently they have not worked too well. The thing that concerns me is, you know, we talked about those incarcerated Yes, that’s occurring. We ought to look at the judicial system as far as trial and arrest. But in fact, you know, maybe there was a crime committed, someone should consider that too. And is this, is it the same? I don’t have a magic wand. And again it goes back to I’ve said before, people say I got all the answers or they’re full of it. I’m just saying there should be an improvement upon it, look about what’s wrong and see if we can fix it. No one’s given us an illusion to watch wrong.

LT: Well, let’s talk about some of those. Do you think police departments should reform their use of force policies and procedures?

DY: Not now until we find out if that’s the case? Do the police or are they always right? Maybe you have bad ones and like any other profession, even in the media business, there are people not justified so that’s the things we should just buy, we ought to take and vet them a little better. But overall, if you want law and order, then you have to be able to enforce it when it’s necessary.

LT: Real change does take a lot of work to eradicate policies that may discriminate in housing and employment and local laws. That Juneau assembly recently passed an ordinance that will create a systemic racism review committee, the committee will review proposed legislation to ensure it’s not discriminatory or creates inequality. Do you think that’s a good approach? Is this what it will take to create more equality, systemic work at the local level that pushes up to the state and federal policy level?

DY: You hit it right on the top local level, state level. That’s the way it has to come from individualism. It can’t all come from the federal government unless you believe in socialism.

LT: So it should start at the local level and work its way up.

DY: If that’s what the people want.

LT: All right, in the midst of what we’re seeing this global pandemic that we’re in right now, months of it, we’ve also seen as we’ve been discussing this summer of social justice unrest. Part of the President’s job is to help keep the country calm, keep it safe, keep it moving forward together, working toward more unity than division. Do you think President Trump does that or does he foment division?

DY: Well, that I can’t answer. I really, very frankly, think he does some things wrong. He does a lot of things right. And those are the things that we have to consider. Again, this constant bombardment of everything is wrong is President Trump’s fault, is a disservice to the nation as a whole. And again, we are a reflection of the people. That’s the Congress. And very frankly, the Congress has not done its job, and I am part of it, has not done this job as they should have. I’ve said all along, we’ve transferred the power over the years to the President, including Obama, including all the rest of them. We should make the decisions and very frankly, Mr. Trump has done some things I don’t agree with. But he’s also done great things for the state of Alaska. I do agree. So that’s a decision we have to make and again, go to the ballot box.

LT: The President says voting by mail invites fraud. Do you agree with him?

DY: I do. I will say that right up front. Absentee ballots is absolutely necessary. But the idea you’re going to blanketly send out thousands of voting ballots to anyone and everyone is wrong. How do we know who they are? You can harvest the ballots. You can have illegal immigrants voting that takes away the right of the citizen. I’m just saying, I don’t believe this is necessary. Let’s get off our dust and go down and vote or vote absentee. That’s what we do in Alaska. We vote absentee and it works.

LT: We’re going to go back to the phones for a moment. Rachel is in Anchorage. Hi, Rachel.

CALLER: I want to know if the candidate has read the Mueller report and what he thinks about the Russian involvement in the 2016 election. And I’ll take my answer off the phone. But I also want to point out that the Pledge of Allegiance said with liberty and justice for all, not just people who are bullies, and who, who think they have the right to prevent freedom of expression.

DY: Ma’am, I agree with you entirely. Liberty and justice for all, I said that all along. And that’s why I’m proud to salute the flag. I think I believe in that flag, the United States of America. So on the other side of the coin, keep in mind the Mueller bill, I did not read the total report. I read the summary. And the report says that there wasn’t the interference there for impeachment process. Has there been interference? Probably on many different cases and previous elections. Will they be interference? Probably. I know how to solve that problem with people that do it, and that goes right back to you have to vote in person. You take and have a physical ballot which you bought That keeps interference from Admin but when you vote with computers you vote for when maylands, etc. You can have, in fact, some bad voting records. Do they influence things as far as television? I don’t know. I don’t like television. So, you know, my opinion. Has there been interference? It wasn’t proven in the Mueller report.

LT: Let’s stay with the issue of voting for a moment and go to the next caller. Zoey is also in Anchorage. Hi, Zoey.

CALLER: Hello. Good morning. This is only from Anchorage. I’d like to ask our dear congressman in regards to his track record on bipartisan voting.

DY  Oh, thank you Zoey. So I gotta tell you one thing. I’m the most probably one of the most bipartisan people in the Congress. I work across the aisle. I’ve always worked across the aisle. Keep in mind the trans Alaskan pipeline was across the aisle. That was my bill. It was all supported by John Meltzer from Montana was opposed by Moe Yudof and from Arizona, it went over to the Senate but I’ve got that passed. The 200 mile limit was written by myself and Gerry Studds, from Massachusetts. I go on down line, every big major piece of legislation was bipartisan, working across the aisle. When you’re one memory, you can do that. And I’ve done that is recognized by many different reports. You check the amount of bills that I have school sponsored this year with Democrats and they’ve co sponsored by Bill is pretty pretty telling people look at the record. They’ll understand and DY has done the job for Alaska will continue to do it. I work hard for Alaska and Alaskans. And I work across the aisle because the only way one Congress wouldn’t do it.

LT: We’re going to go to Julie now. Hi, Julie. I’m not sure where where you’re calling from.

CALLER: How can you help the post office remain solvent so small but communities like mine can survive?

DY: Thank you, Julia for the question. You know, I’ve worked very hard with the post office, I used to be on that subcommittee until they dissolved it. We did some things wrong in Congress in the past, we transferred, the post office was run by the Congress. And then we decided to pass it over to a private entity, qualified business type. And it very frankly, it’s not worked that well. And what happens we limited our ability to take and raise money for the post office because the only way that you raise money is by raising the poster rates. And in doing so, when you raise the poster race down days, they go to email you just got on the show, or they do other type of electronic posting instead of doing the post office work. So that’s what we have to try to relook at, and give them the chance to make some money. I have a post office reform bill but in Alaska Big C is bypass mail. And I will tell you right up front, it will continue, it will be there, it will not be extinguished. I, and Ted Stevens created bypass mail. And that’s something people don’t quite remember. But I did it. And I did it because it worked for the bush and makes the post office money. They say a cost of about $70 billion a year, because the cost of total of 100 million dollars, but it saves money because they don’t have to run the bypass bail through the post office itself. So that’s the deal. The post office will keep functioning as long as I’m where I am. Remember Alaska depends on the post office more than any other state because we have no roads. In other states they can use UPS and FedEx. I understand that but here won’t work. So we’re working on it. I’m confident it’ll stick. It’ll be here.

LT: I have a question by email from Casey, who says there have been many reports recently that our President has made disparaging comments about our veterans. Yet again, as a veteran yourself, do you condemn the comments our President has made? Why is it okay for a president to continuously attack veterans?

DY: Well Casey, first place that’s a report from Atlantic magazine. We’re reviewing it now. Is it real? Or is it heresay? It’s so interesting to me, people jump o,  people are automatically guilty. Now, if he said those things, I’m disappointed, deeply disappointed. I have, you know, I can say I’m a veteran. I’m one of the Normandy. I’ve been there twice. I’ve watched the ceremony. We lost 9000 troops in one day. I mean, I know all these things, but I, you know, I’m not going to jump to the conclusion and condemn because of a newspaper article or a magazine or article or a disgruntled author that may have written something to just hurt the president. That’s something, I don’t really know. If the person’s guilty they’re guilty, but that has not been documented yet. It’s been refuted in some areas. So until that happens, I’m not gonna take a position.

LT: But we do know that the President has made disparaging comments about John Mccain, the late Senator in the past and other things that are on record.

DY: That that could be, and again he’s an individual. He could do what he wishes to do. I don’t condone it, but you’re not going to do anything about it, other than bank at the moon.

LT: Alright, let’s move on to some other topics. Congressman, the rates of violence and sexual assault perpetrated against women in Alaska are chronically high and have been for decades. And for Alaska Natives they are far worse. 30% of Alaska murder victims are indigenous people who comprise 16% of the state’s population. The Bureau of Indian Affairs just opened the operation Lady Justice Task Force cold office in Anchorage, it’s one of seven in the country. This office will examine cold cases. But what do you think is needed to bring these numbers down to stop the high rates before they become cases what has to happen?

DY: We have to reanalyze where we are as far as society as a whole. This is not happening when I first came to Alaska 63 years ago, this is relatively new when I say new the last 1520 years. Why is it occurring memories because of drugs and alcohol, trafficking and the legal aspect of human beings? Now, how do we stop that? You know, I really am concerned I don’t know all the answers. But if you give the opportunity and the feeling of worth back to the villagers in the village, this will decrease very rapidly. But I, you know, I don’t have a magic wand, but they have to start looking at themselves again, as example, where government was supposed to help or it’s hurt, of our justified government gives them actually access to more drugs and more alcohol. And that’s what’s hurting most of our Alaska Native people. It’s discouraging to me when I see this because these are great people, but they come to Anchorage they get caught in this cycle, and they disappear. And it’s just a sad thing as I told them, we dedicated this, this facilities of missing people’s facilities to B.I.A, you know, very frankly said I want to prevent it. It’s got to start from the bottom, the roots of the people directly affected, and we can encourage it, then maybe look at our programs and see why they’re not working. Don’t continue to do what we’re doing because it’s not working. That’s why we have this message in digitus people is shame they’re my people and have that happen is wrong. And anybody says they have a magic wand full of it.

LT: All right. Let’s go back to the phones for a moment wasa Lee is in Nebraska.

CALLER: Hello. Hello, Congressman DY. For many years, I worked hugely with Fish and Wildlife Service. And now, the seasonal job was not approved with the unemployment, which is pandemic funds. I don’t see a medical treatment Chair. Mr. President, naturally said the article three on the tax check. Give them out. Some people don’t even make 1200 a year. And he was right about it. All right. Thank you. Bye.

DY: Thank you. If you could, you repeat that for me, was a little gargled here.

LT: I think he already dropped off. And I think he was just, I’m not exactly sure if he was just making a statement about benefits or not. Maybe he’ll call back and help clarify, although we only have a few moments left, but, but I wanted to ask you about, you’re the co chair of the Congressional cannabis caucus, and in 2019, you co sponsored with Representative Tulsi Gabbert two pieces of legislation, the ending federal marijuana prohibition And the marijuana data collection act. Where are these pieces of legislation right now? What’s happening with them?

DY: Well, the individual pieces I am not sure and the fact is that although I’m the co chair of the cannabis caucus, I do know we’re voting this coming week. I believe this coming week on legalization of marijuana or decriminalization of it on a federal level. It’s a big vote. And we’re going to pass that I’ve gone through this and, what will happen with it afterwards? I don’t know. I want to believe when people vote on something as they did in the state of Alaska. We ought to recognize the people’s will and follow through with it. I’ve had the privilege of visiting some of my marijuana retailers and producers and seeing the professionalism which they use. Now whether it’s good or bad, I’m not going to argue that point. I’ve never used it myself right up front and rear. I’ve never had it and I’ve never inhaled it either, but no, I just I just don’t think it’s up to the individual. states to make that decision. I’ve done this big federal deal because what happens? The federal gun was trying to enforce some of their federal laws against marijuana. And I’m saying no, the states of it is I’m a state’s rightist. That’s what’s important.

LT: You’re talking about a vote is that the more act the marijuana opportunity, reinvestment and expungement act is that what’s being voted on?

DY: It’s on the legalization, not legalization and decriminalizing of the bill of the marijuana.

LT: How about the more act this legislation seeks to decriminalize D schedule cannabis to provide for reinvestment in people adversely affected by the war on drugs and it seeks to provide expungement of certain cannabis offenses. This bill, is that the bill that’s going to be voted on are you supportive of that?

DY: I am, I wouldn’t be in the cannabis caucus, Chairman.

LT: Let’s go back to the phones for just a moment. Melinda is in Petersburg. Hi Melinda.

CALLER: Hello, Representative Young. I wanted to, first of all, commend you for your stalwart support for the unborn. You have been one of the strongest supporters for the right to life. And I believe that’s the great human rights issue of our day. And I want to thank you for that. And I wanted to ask you, if we should see the White House turn democratic and and the Congress turned democratic, what do you see happening for the rights of the unborn?

DY: There’ll be a lot more eliminated. I’ve been a right to person all my life, I’m not Catholic. I happen to believe in right life from the very get go. And I’ll continue to say that it’s not popular in some arenas. But I do know that the we lose the house, we lose the Senate and President Biden, there will be a repeal of any prediction of the unborn. And they will probably be a legalization of all of the taking of lives at a later time. And that’s my belief. People may not agree that that’s I believe, and thank you for the call. You know, I get criticized and I said services a better state legislator, I have been pro life. I’ve been always pro life, continue to be pro life, that unprotected. The human being is being extinguished by the thousands. And it concerns me the same people say we get different minds.

LT: All right, Congressman, we only have about a minute and a half left. I wanted to ask you about education. We’re in the midst of a lot of schools having to employ distance learning at this time, we’ve been reporting on rural education during the pandemic, in some parts of the state, only 15% of students have access to the internet at home. In other parts of the state, none of them do. What’s the answer to better faster and more affordable broadband in rural Alaska? What do you see on the horizon that might provide some relief there?

DY: We’re working very hard to be accepted more, there’s money being invested. I expect this pandemic was the bright things out of it will be more broadband. Unfortunately, I feel very bad for the students are being robbed of their education. There’s a good article. I hate to say it and at the end, the day by the lady has two young people seven and five and herself. They have three computers. Sometimes it works sometimes that these kids are being robbed or education because of the pandemic and in the desire not to teach and I just get very concerned as the next feature. They’re being robbed of their time. 

LT: Do you see affordable internet service as an educational equality issue?

DY: Well, it’d be part of the state when they educational equality. Again, I hope the state will be backing this up because they’re, they’re financing a lot of these schools in the rural areas. And if we put in the systems of grants aliens air, we have GCI we got better, better systems only ever add what we need to expand it, especially for the education in the medical field.


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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori