By CRAIG FREILICH
Democratic congressional candidate Mike Derrick is advocating improvements to Obamacare and says he is “very open” to considering a single-payer health insurance system, but does not say he wants major changes to gun regulations.
The former Republican, running against GOP incumbent Elise Stefanik, also wants to encourage more “buy local” initiatives throughout the North Country and stem the flow of the area’s young adults moving outside the area.
The former Republican is a Hillary Clinton supporter, and strong critic of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The former missile defense expert with the Army and State Department says his experience in the military will give him an advantage dealing with international affairs and military issues.
Derrick will also face Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello, a baker from Glens Falls, in the November elections for the 21st Congressional District. Funiciello is running for a second time, having finished in third place behind Stefanik and Democratic candidate Aaron Woolf in 2014.
Derrick, Assemblywoman Addie Russell and many area Democrats were at 38 Market St. Sept. 16 for the opening of the Democratic election campaign headquarters.
Obamacare Fixes Needed
While Derrick thinks the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare -- has been an improvement and a move in the right direction, going further might be the way to get more people health care economically.
He says what we pay for health care is much more per person than in any other industrialized nation and the outcomes here are not as good, even while their government insurance programs are different from each other.
Does he favor single-payer health insurance in the United States?
“I’m very open to the idea, although it would have to be a uniquely American version of health care,” he says.
“Even though the cost of health care continues to increase, the ACA has kept those increases down.”
But he says we are still “falling short in the quality and cost-effectiveness” of our health care system. “We can improve the ACA – make it better and more cost-effective.”
For instance, he says, there is still a long way to go in bringing drug prices into line.
He pointed to the 2003 Medicare law, approved in Congress, that prohibits the kinds of rebates or “best prices” that state Medicaid programs have been getting since drug makers were required to grant them in 1991, but “that can easily be fixed by Congress,” the Peru resident says.
“It’s significant that 25 cents of every health care dollar is spent on administration, much of which goes to insurance companies,” while the cost of running Medicare with government workers is a fraction of that. “They get an outsized share” of what we spend on health care, he says.
Derrick says he lived under what actually was a “single-payer” health care system n the Army, “where the health and future of service members had a direct correlation to readiness.”
“Moving in that direction as a nation would drive down costs,” he says.
Promotes Gun Safety
“I never had any reason or interest in joining the NRA,” Derrick said in a recent interview. He is “a gun owner who supports the Second Amendment,” but says “we have a gun safety problem in this country,” both in terms of accidents and deliberate misuse.
As a retired infantry officer he is qualified “on about a dozen different personal weapons, and I’ve carried a weapon my entire adult life.” He says he qualified as a marksman at West Point.
He says that emphasizing responsibility and safety with firearms is what “the reasonable gun owner’s voice, such as my own, is saying.”
And he says the North Country legacy of proper training is worth passing along.
“That’s what we have in the North Country. Sons and daughters are taught that, generation to generation.”
He says one way to contribute to gun safety would be to collect and analyze data on the issue. But he says legal roadblocks fostered by national organizations prohibit the U.S. government “from doing gun safety research in our own country” by researchers at places like the National Institutes of Health.
But “given the number of guns in our society,” there is a need for developing “common sense solutions.”
Advocates “Buy Local”
To boost the North Country economy, one of the best ways is for us to make more of our purchases from local retailers and producers, he says.
“We have a problem up here in that people can’t make ends meet.” The children, “our greatest export,” see that and move away seeking better opportunity.
“We don’t have the jobs, we don’t have the opportunity to keep our young people here or to attract new people. And still at the end of the day we are one of those parts of the country, one of the wonderful rural parts of America” that ought to be able to thrive.
“I am absolutely committed in this campaign, and intend to carry it into my time in Congress, to make my priority the prosperity, the vitality of the North Country.”
“There are two things that will define our future: the people we have here, all of us, and those we want to get to move here, to the place we live in.” That frames his whole campaign, he says.
More and more, with big box stores and web shopping, “we stop buying at local shops,” he says.
When we buy from local dealers, “40 cents more of that dollar stays in this community” than when it’s bought at a Walmart, for example. “So locally owned enterprises are essential and we have to support them. That 40 extra cents moves within the region.”
“We have to commit as a region to buying locally ... not exclusively, but even half the time will dramatically improve the local economy. We have to articulate that message and show leadership on it.”
From Republican to Democrat
He was registered Republican but changed his registration to the Democratic Party.
“I am a registered Democrat. I changed parties along the way because I felt the Republican Party had moved so far to the right, in a very extreme manner, that it no longer represented my interests and my values. I think what one should draw from this is that I’m a centrist and that I would be able to work with both parties to get things done for this country.”
“I would like to see more members of Congress take a genuine bi-partisan approach, to find compromise to deliver what the nation needs.”
He says as representatives in Congress were once again failing to find common ground to keep the government running, edging toward another period of sending workers home.
He spoke about workers at the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and every agency, “lots preparing to go on unpaid leave.”
Clinton vs. Trump
He supports his party’s nominee for president, Hillary Clinton, as a clear choice for the stability and credibility of the U.S. and its allies.
“This is an important year in that we have to elect Hillary Clinton because the alternative is such a chilling possibility. Many people will tell you that Donald Trump poses a threat not only to this nation but to the entire world. Electing Hillary Clinton is something that I am committed to,” Derrick says.
“Donald Trump doesn’t have either the competence or the temperament to serve as commander-in-chief.”
And Derrick says Trump “is seen by other leaders as erratic.”
“It’s very chilling for citizens who care – for people who care about our armed forces being controlled by someone who doesn’t have the character or competence for the job.”
Derrick says in Congress, he intends to use his military and international experience to prevent the misuse of our armed forces and help define the role of the military.
He finished his 36-year military career as a U.S. representative overseas, “working with all of our allies all over the world” in missile defense, he says.
“I’ve probably lived about seven years of my life overseas in three different countries – Korea, Germany, France – and then I’ve spent about eight months in the Middle East on two different tours.”
During the first of those he commanded an armored infantry company during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
“We were the main effort in the first Gulf War. We were at the tip of the spear. We fought the Iraqi army Republican Guard for 96 hours” in a furious thrashing of Saddam Hussein’s forces.
Before that he served in Cold War deployments in Korea and Germany aimed at deterring Communist forces.
He believes the Army gave him a “deep, real experience in international affairs, international policy and defense policy, and then I finished that at the Department of State” as a senior adviser after he retired from the Army as a full colonel.
“Our Congress is responsible for many things, one of which is defending our role in the world.”
“I bring practical experience,” he says, which he would bring to bear particularly when the U.S. uses its military force.
“We have misused our military. We have to prevent misuse and define what role they should play.”
Campaign Finance Reform
He would like to see campaign finance reform and the overturning of the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in the Citizens United case.
“Corporate finance is a disaster. It’s killing our country,” Derrick says.
“Our system is built on the concept of ‘one vote, one voice.’ Each still has a vote, but we no longer have equal voices. Unknown money in unknown amounts is diluting the voice” of the rest of the people. There is an “unlimited voice that comes with that amount of money.”
“There are other interesting options in terms of how do we finance elections so citizens get their voice back.”
He suggested vouchers and other forms of public financing of candidates.
“I’ve been endorsed by End Citizens United,” an organization trying to change the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that removed some limits on how much money corporations can contribute to political campaigns. End Citizens United, Derrick says, seeks to overturn that decision if the issue comes before the court again.