The Daily Princetonian sat down with New Jersey Republican Senate candidate Jeff Bell to discuss the major points of his campaign platform and the message he is trying to communicate to young voters in the upcoming midterm elections.
The Daily Princetonian: You ran for Senate in 1978 and lost and then tried to secure another nomination in 1982. What motivates your return to the political sphere with this candidacy given a diverse and successful established career?
Jeff Bell: It was frustration more than anything else. I really have been concerned about the Federal [Reserve] policy for years now. The Fed got by with the paper money standard since 1971 when Nixon took us off the remainder of the gold standard, but the wheel has just been falling off. And yet I couldn’t get anyone in Congress or any federal candidates to speak up, take this issue on, to come out to for a gold-backed dollar, or even to want to initiate a debate about the Fed policy. There is virtually no debate about this in the national dialogue, and it’s a policy that has had zero interest rates — in other words, a complete repression of interest rates — for almost six years. And it’s amazing there hasn’t been a debate there, but there are reasons for it.
DP: The major point of your campaign platform, which you just brought up, focuses on returning the US to the gold standard. Yet, many economists don’t think it would be a beneficial or stabilizing move. For example, Paul Krugman has pointed out that the US had several major financial panics while on the gold standard, and Brendan Gill, Cory Booker’s campaign manager, has stated the idea is “discredited” and “bizarre.” How do you respond to their criticism? Can the idea even be feasibly implemented in Washington?
JB: It can be implemented if the issue is considered. I think that when people use words like “bizarre,” that’s their way of saying they are not going to debate it. They aren’t going to say why they think the gold standard isn’t going to work. Which is fine, if they have that view, but saying something is “bizarre” or “old” is not an argument. And the other thing is saying the economics profession is against the gold standard is nothing new. But I’m happy to be against the economics profession, because the profession has been repeatedly wrong in all its predictions about everything for at least the last 10 years.
DP: Why do you maintain, in your view, that returning to the gold standard will fix the US’s economic issues?
JB: Well, I think that it's the most important thing we can do … it's [paper-backed dollar is] the thing that is most distorting the economy. We don’t have a normal lending and borrowing market. People can’t get any money in their saving accounts. Small businesses have a very hard time adding any activity, or, particularly, hiring. And of course, small business is the net creator of new jobs when [the economy] is healthy. And that’s why we have a jobless recovery. I think if you were able to get interest rates up to a normal level, that would normalize the economy in and of itself. The problem with doing that, and the reason why the Fed keeps postponing the date when they will let interest rates return to a normal, market-driven level is that they are afraid of what is going to accompany that. And in a way I don’t blame them. I think it's going to cause an $800 billion increase in the deficit every year, and Congress doesn’t want that. It will threaten the possibility of a stock market sell-off, because the market has been artificially pushed up by a lack of return on bonds.
DP: To move to social issues, the Asbury Park Press has quoted you stating that your poor performance in polling with women is the result of the fall in marriage rates, particularly when it comes to single mothers whom you say vote Democrat for social benefits. Do you stand by your statement?
JB: Well, it isn’t particularly my race; there is such a thing as the gender gap. Ronald Reagan had one of the biggest gender gaps when he won two landslides. The problem is that Republicans have internalized the idea that women are pro-abortion to a greater degree than men. There is absolutely no evidence for that. I think that marriage, traditional marriage between a man and a woman, is one of the greatest welfare institutions. And when it begins to decline, when there is less and less marital formation, there are great needs in the population, particularly with women who have been abandoned by the father of their children. And of course this makes these women more likely to vote Democratic, in my race and in other races. But I had to make that argument to the Asbury Park Press, and I have made it many times, because it always comes up that if you’re pro-life you can’t compete for women’s votes. That is just not true. I can compete for women’s votes, because they are just about as pro-life as men are.
DP: How do you respond to the rebuttal that single women represent a younger demographic to whom conservative social values do not appeal, and they are therefore more likely to vote Democratic because the Democratic Party is held up as the more socially progressive party?
JB: Well, young married women are not trending Democratic. It has to do with the decline in marital formation. Stan Greenberg, the leading Democratic pollster who was Bill Clinton’s pollster, said that — I just saw his headline saying — Democrats will win the Senate because of single women. Everyone on both sides of this debate is aware of this issue, that single women are more likely, and especially women with a baby that are unsupported by the father of the baby, are much more likely to feel dependency and the need to have social welfare programs. And I’m not saying that I’m against those social welfare programs. It’s just an analytical fact that such voters are more likely to vote Democratic.
DP: There are thousands of college-age students who will be going to the polls come Nov. 4 to cast votes. What element of your campaign, if any, do you think will appeal to these young voters?
JB: I think the most important thing that I’m emphasizing that affects young people is the fact that they work hard and get a diploma. They borrow a lot of money, and their parents borrow a lot of money to do this. And when they get out of college, they get their diploma, and it's worth no more than a patch of wallpaper. What has happened is that the jobless recovery has affected young people more than anyone else. The voters I talk to are well aware of it — they are not just disgusted by the stagnation in the economy — they are also puzzled by it, because it doesn’t correspond to their experience of past recoveries. Other recoveries were robust, at least robust enough to give job openings to somebody who had a college degree. Having a college degree — it was kind of a cliché — that was the greatest way in which you could to add to your income. It is still valuable, but it just doesn’t add up to an immediate return for young people who are operating in an economy that isn’t offering many new jobs.
DP: What do you offer as a candidate to address and solve this issue that you think the other candidate, Senator Cory Booker, may not offer?
JB:Well, he wants to continue the present policy. He votes with President Obama on every issue. I never heard him having any disagreement with President Obama’s economic plan. And for six years they have been doing the same thing, which is printing money and spending money over and above what is coming in. And it just hasn’t worked. It's just amazing to me that Senator Booker would support, never echo a single dissenting word, on a policy that has been in place for six years and has clearly resulted in a very stagnant economy. I offer a very specific plan — some will disagree with it — but he offers nothing. He does not have a single proposal to stimulate economic growth. And I do.
The Daily Princetonian tried to interview Democratic New Jersey senate candidate Cory Booker, but a campaign aide declined, citing scheduling issues.