Any candidate looking to take on Bernie Sanders faces an uphill battle, but that hasn’t stopped Republican candidate Lawrence Zupan from climbing the hill with a firm belief that he will be the one to help Vermont’s junior senator into retirement.
“Unlike many people, I’m not intimidated by Bernie Sanders’ head start,” said Zupan, a real estate agent from Manchester, Vermont.
“I’m a New York City street fighter just like him. So when I go toe-to-toe with him in a debate scenario, I believe that I have all of the equipment, in addition to the better ideas, to be able to persuade people that they ought to take a very close look at what I’m offering.”
Zupan emphasized that he has his own platform to present to voters. Nonetheless, given the opportunity, he is quick to attack Sanders’ key positions, including his Medicare for All Act of 2017. The ambitious health care scheme is estimated to add $32 trillion to federal budget commitments, according to a Mercatus Center senior research strategist. That’s more than double Sanders’ campaign estimate at $13.8 trillion.
Whatever the cost, Zupan warns that such a jolt to American taxpayers is going to cause the tax base to shrink.
“The people who perform those goods and services that generate those profits will find some ways to reduce their tax burden, by moving their money in other ways and to other countries so that there is a smaller pool of money that is taxable,” he said.
Zupan said his strategy for health care would be to open up interstate competition for all health insurance companies in the nation. Under the current system, Vermonters only get to choose between Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care. In addition, he wouldn’t force Americans to purchase insurance, which he said is unconstitutional.
“Anything that I have to be forced to buy could not be that good or I’d buy it on my own,” Zupan said. “We need to provide health insurance that’s so good and so affordable that nobody is going to have to put a gun to my head to buy it.”
On other economic proposals, including another Sanders favorite, the carbon tax, he offered another common sense retort.
“I must congratulate my opponents on the ingenuity and the cleverness and the resourcefulness they have when it comes to coming up with new ideas about how to separate hardworking people from their money,” he said. “It reminds me of the Beatles song, ‘When you try to walk they’ll tax your feet, and when you try to drive they’ll tax the street.'”
On education, Zupan urges that it’s unnecessary and costly to get every young adult into outdated brick-and-mortar locations for schooling — especially when top education services are available online.
“Starting your post-graduate life as a young adult with $50,000 to $150,000 in debt is a formula for bondage and not a formula for a great new beginning,” he said. “Online education for pennies on the dollar will continue to expand its provision of the best learning and teaching from the most skilled scholars and professors in the world on any given subject.”
On other subjects, including minimum wage and paid family leave, he again favors the free-market approach.
“Politicians love to give away other people’s money,” he said, “which is what you are doing when you tell a business you have to pay $15 an hour or you have to give a certain amount of unpaid leave. That all sounds wonderful, but who’s going to pay for all these things?
“I’ll tell you who’s being asked to pay for them or told they have to — it’s the engine of economic prosperity, which is the small businesses of Vermont and this country.”
When discussing border security, Zupan attempts to illustrate his view by equating border security with individuals locking their doors when they go home at night. He said enforcing the border is an essential activity of any sovereign nation, and that means strengthening, not eliminating, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Eliminating ICE is a precursor to eliminating the borders,” he said. “Without borders, this is not even a country.”
In Tuesday’s Republican primary, Zupan will face-off against Burlington attorney Jasdeep Pannu and Washington resident H. Brooke Paige. The winner will face Sanders in the general election.