Candidate Profile: Scott Reske 

click to enlarge State Rep. Scott Reske is a Democrat, civil engineer, pilot and lawmaker.
  • State Rep. Scott Reske is a Democrat, civil engineer, pilot and lawmaker.

Scott Reske, visited the NUVO offices on Sept. 5, 2012. Extra special thanks to Stephanie Griggs for her invaluable transcription assistance.

NUVO: What do you feel defines a good congressperson?

Reske: A problem solver.I think somebody who understands that every problem has two sides. You have to satisfy the needs of the whole and the need of the individual components in every problem.I think one of the reasons why our two party system sometimes works is that one argues for the needs of the whole and one argues for the individual components and so if you understand that the other side is bringing a different perspective then you try and solve the problem that meets the needs of both sides. Then I think that you're doing your job.

NUVO: Why do you want to be in Congress?

Reske: Intellectual curiosity, believe it or not.I spent 28 years in the military, ten on active duty flying helicopters, 18 in the reserves and so I have a real geopolitical awareness from that.At the same time, I was a civil engineer for the last 20 years and understand things that are very community level.Congress and the State Legislature are where those subjects all come together, from the private sector to national defense to industry to education. All that subject matter just comes together.

I'm frustrated too, it's born out of frustration that we're not solving problems as a nation. We've gotten out of that habit and I just believe we are better than that, we need to get back in that habit.So out of curiosity and frustration that we're not addressing the problems.We've become too polarized.

NUVO: What do you think will be your greatest strength in office?

Diversity of experience.At one time I was a state legislator, owned a business, was in the Reserves and even went to war. So a whole bunch of experience all in a lifetime but it was very diverse.I think that's the greatest thing I bring to the table.

Believe it or not, I think sometimes your strength is always your weakness.So says Sun Tzu.Look for your enemy's strength and you'll find their weakness.Look for your strength and you'll find your weakness.

Actually, understanding both sides at the same time.Understanding both views, that's a strength but it can also be a weakness because you can vacillate between trying to find the solution.So I think sometimes that's a weakness.

NUVO: What do you think are your predecessors' greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Reske: I think Dan Burton's greatest strength is he was able to get reelected without doing anything for the district, I mean how do you pull that off for 30 years? I mean, talk about a guy that milked his position. He played more golf and traveled to more countries than anybody and continued to get reelected.How did that happen? That was his strength and it was also his weakness.People eventually recognized him for what he was doing.

NUVO: How will you negotiate the current partisan gridlock that seems to have stymied conversation and cooperation in DC?

Reske: That comes from the voters.When the voters demand that problems be solved, then that's when problems will start to be solved.You begin that by sending people to congress who believe that too.Last time we were this polarized was the Civil War, politically, that's what the historians are saying. Until whoever gets elected, whether you're in the majority or the minority, the party in power, is that until you're held to the fire no matter what, the Congress and you as a member of Congress, has to start solving problems and there's going to be that motivation.It has to start from that.

NUVO: What would your legislative priorities be moving forward?

Reske: Well, I think the big three that are on everybody's radar of course is the economy, the debt. The other thing that's emerging very, very strongly and very, very quickly especially if Paul Ryan is elected is preserving and protecting the benefits of Social Security and Medicare.People are very concerned about that.They've been paying into that program all their life.

People like Paul Ryan and my opponent, are saying we need to change those programs.She wants vouchers, she wants proponents for privatization of Social Security.Those are things that aren't necessary.The Social Security trust fund is going to grow in the next ten years from 2.7 to 3.7. trillion. Is it really in trouble if the trust fund is going to continue to grow over the next decade? Medicare has a strong solvency for the next 10-12 years and there's a lot of things that can be improved on that to keep it solvent before you ever have to even think about cutting benefits.

But yet, the other side, their immediate reaction is to cut the benefits, which has humanitarian consequences.Not only for the people who are retired, but for their kids. Mom and dad get sick and there's not enough benefits, then guess who picks up the tab?It's the 30 and 40 year olds.What's going to happen when their savings are drained and they're going into retirement?It can set up a whole domino effect of poverty that we were in prior to Social Security and Medicare.

We do have a lot of geopolitical and international issues and tensions that need to be addressed. In campaigns, as Americans, usually we talk more about domestic issues than we do international issues.But a huge one over the horizon is the nuclear weapons in Iran. Some of the old cold war tensions are still there, in the Russian federation, the old Soviet Union satellite countries.

NUVO: In what ways can Congress, if any, best stimulate greater economic growth and job creation?

Reske: Half the GDP comes out of small businesses.14 times the number of patents for new technologies comes out of small businesses.We need to focus more on that. We need to make it easier for small businesses to get capital to get their patents processed. You absolutely cannot deny this, you can't poopoo it away, you got to have manufacturing back here in the United States. You've got to bring it back. Until you bring it back you're always going to have, the middle class will continue to shrink, the buying power will continue to decline. You've got to have those manufacturing jobs.

NUVO: To what extent do you feel the government should provide a social safety net for the least fortunate among us?

Reske: The key is finding a safety net that doesn't become an addiction. We should always continue to move towards that process of finding what works as a safety net but yet doesn't become an addiction or create a dependency. That's what we need to get in here.

NUVO: What do you think of Grover Norquist's "no new taxes pledge?"

Reske: The only thing I pledge to is the Constitution. I think it's dangerous to do anything but swear your allegiance to the Constitution.

NUVO:What does sensible tax reform mean to you?

Reske: I think first of all it means fairness and everybody pulling their own weight.It means getting rid of self-centered loopholes. It means millionaires and billionaires are paying the same tax rate as their secretaries. What's implied by that is a simplification of the tax code.So a simplification of the tax code that's fair and everybody pulls their own weight.Millionaires and billionaires pay the same rate as their secretaries.

NUVO: What do you see as the most serious environmental issue facing the state?

Reske: I think our water is a lot cleaner than it has been.

I'm an engineer who minored in environmental engineering and I believe technology can be a solution. What I think the biggest threat to environmental conditions is going backwards.You actually should always be striving to move forward with cleaning your environment and using technology in a way that enables you to do that but yet doesn't impede economic growth.I believe that technology allows both of those to exist so that you can continue to improve the environment and continue to grow economically.

Environmental policies that are emotional and not technology-based does nothing but hurt the economy and it gives discredit to the movement to improve the environment. So that's our biggest challenge, is to continue to grow the environment and at the same use technology to do it, it allows us to also grow economically.

NUVO: How are concerned are you, if at all, with man-made climate change?

Reske: Very concerned. I think it's real, absolutely real. Even if it wasn't, why not continue to try to do those things to reduce our carbon footprint. What do you got to lose? If climate change is really happening and those people continue to advocate for ignoring it, it's a disastrous result on the end.But on the other end, people who advocate that it's true, so what if they're wrong?What do we got to lose? In the end we end up with a cleaner environment, so what?

NUVO: What are our country's greatest strengths and weaknesses on a foreign policy front?

I think our greatest strength is that as Americans we forget how powerful we are in the world. We are 24 percent of the world's GDP.It takes the next four largest countries as far as GDP to match what we have.We as Americans forget how powerful we are in the world.Our strength is that we are 24 percent of the GDP, but our weakness as Americans is that we forget we are that powerful.

We carry a big stick and we don't realize it.You have to be careful when you carry that big a stick, both militarily and economically.

NUVO: How do you think federal educational policy has influenced the state's educational landscape? In what areas, if any, would you like to see that change?

Reske: I don't think federal policy has had much effect on Indiana. I think this hybrid, private/public education system that we set up in the last two years is going to be the demise of a strong public education system in Indiana, that's for sure.

NUVO: What about immigration policy?

Reske: On active duty, I was stationed out of California.I've flown border missions. I was a helicopter pilot; I've flown those missions. You should always look at it through two lenses, one is an economic lens and one is a humanitarian lens. It always starts with, you can't have an immigration policy unless you have secure borders and you can control your own immigration destiny and goals as a nation until you have secure borders.I think that's where we have got to start.

NUVO: What about Ag policy?Are there substantive changes you'd like to see in terms of how Congress relates to farmers?

Reske: I think Congress is moving the right direction with crop insurance versus subsidies.I think crop insurance is the strong way to go and it has the right incentives in place so I'm pretty happy with the direction we're moving in that.I think Senator Lugar has shown good leadership on that.

NUVO: How do you define a Hoosier?

Reske: As a guy who's been in the military and intermingled with people from the other 49 states and territories, I think what people think of Hoosiers is that they're pretty fair, pretty honest and hard working. I think that anybody from Indiana meets that definition. I think that's our reputation too, I really do.Having worked in the Pentagon, my last two years as a reservist, Indiana's National Guard had a great reputation and that's coming from a Marine. So I was pretty proud of that.

NUVO: What messages from veterans are you hearing in the field, if any, that you believe necessitate congressional action?

Reske: I think people would be shocked at how weak the education benefits are for young veterans, how weak some of the vocational post service training is. I think people would be shocked also at how much in the past Congress had cut research for traumatic brain injuries and for some of the post combat mental and physical challenges that occur.

What they're finding, as you know before, brain injury is a physical injury and PTSD shellshock whatever you want to call it É they're now realizing there is a direct correlation between the two.Have you ever had your bell rung or knocked unconscious? Your ability to cope with minor stresses is very hard because your brain can't process all this input so it's very easy for your coping mechanisms to degrade, not because you're mentally ill but because your brain hardware has been knocked around a little bit. So they're finding out that there's a huge connection between the two.It's a physical and mental connection, so the better we get to understanding those injuries, then the better off veterans will be both physically and mentally.

NUVO: Of our state's most well-known sons and daughters, which have been the most influential to you?

Reske: Neil Armstrong. He's Ohio, but he went to Purdue. The Purdue astronauts, the slew of, more astronauts came out of Purdue than any other place.

NUVO: On a broader plane, what books and thinkers have influenced the development of your political philosophy?

Reske: Recently, George Friedman's book on The Next 100 Years. I'd say experience has been more of an influence.As a marine stationed in LA during the LA riots of '92 was eye-opening.It made me aware that even in America, a society if they don't address problems the frustration can erupt and you can't ignore those problems.

I think I was vastly very much influenced by President Eisenhower. He decided to run for president because it was about balance.He felt it was important that the two party system, that it be somewhat in balance.And he felt at the time under FDR that Democrats had become too strong and Republicans too weak and there was imbalance. The lesson learned from that is that balance is the most important thing in our democracy.So I would say that he was a heavy influence.

NUVO: What question do you wish I'd asked and what's your answer to it?

Reske: I think you covered it.

NUVO: If you could ask a question of your fellow candidates, what would it be?

Reske: You mean what question would I ask them that would make them squirm?

More than 50 percent of Congress and more than 60 percent of the Senate are attorneys.What do you bring to the table as an attorney?

I actually understand where Libertarians are coming from in a way.I would ask him, if he's a Libertarian and he truly believes in the Libertarian party, what role would government play? And if you're a LibertarianÉto allow the free market to be the free market, does government have a role in being the referee?

NUVO: How do you think gay people feel about the way they have been treated by Indiana's political leaders?

Reske: I say they feel awful.Motivation means a lot to me in the debate over gay marriage in the statehouse. I began to realize that was not a debate about a term, that marriage has religious beginnings.That's a religious term.And at first I thought this was a debate about that.

I began to realize over time that it was a debate about hate. I think gay people should feel a lot of injustice.

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