by Dave Warner
Congressional candidate for the 21st District Matt Castelli visited Little Falls on Tuesday night, meeting with supporters and looking for the best burger in town. He is a former CIA officer and was Director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council, serving in both the Obama and Trump White Houses.
Earlier in the day, Castelli had released his plan to bring economic strength and security to NY-21 families. “The high cost of daily living is the number one issue in the district. People are struggling to make ends meet, and any serious candidate should have a plan to address that, not just complain about it,” he stated.
Castelli is originally from the Hudson Valley, and growing up was used to spending a lot of time in the Saratoga, Glens Falls, and Lake George areas.
9/11 happened, and he said, “It set me on a path to serve my country.”
Now that he’s running for Congress, the things that are affecting people most these days are on his mind. “First, I think it’s about diagnosing the problems. I spent my entire career making sure that this country was safe, secure, and strong, certainly in the National Security context, but right now, it’s calling upon us to do it in the economic context.”
He thinks that our representatives are not focused on a path that would solve the economic issues that we’re facing. “The place you need to start at is correctly diagnosing the problem.”
“Inflation is largely caused by the disruption from the pandemic, and certainly this imbalance of supply and demand. It’s a global problem, it’s not just a uniquely American problem. That may not give many folks comfort to know that other people are feeling this across the globe, but there are solutions to be had on the supply side of the equation,” stated Castelli.
He said that the economy cratered during the pandemic, as did demand, and that the stimulus helped get things back on track, but that we didn’t deal with the disruptions on the supply side. “Those imbalances created rising prices. I think the administration was wrong in their initial assessment that this would be transitory.”
Castelli felt like we didn’t act quick enough to solve the problem. “There are a whole host of solutions that we can do on the supply side of this to actually deliver a greater sense of security around getting people back to work actually producing some things.”
He also feels that we should be able to reduce costs around childcare and healthcare. When it comes to fuel and transportation he believes we should be addressing price gouging.
“We should look at domestic production, but also look at diversifying our energy creation.”
Earlier in the day, Castelli had put out a plan outlining his priorities to support American families:
- Invest in our ports, roads, bridges, and more truck drivers to get goods from ship to shore to home. And crack down on price gouging by foreign-owned shipping companies.
- Boost American manufacturing – especially for semiconductors – to avoid the impact of disruptions of goods and components made overseas and bring good paying jobs to our region.
- Address labor shortages that make it hard to meet high demand by investing in childcare and affordable housing to help folks who want to re-enter the workforce, and provide opportunities to grow local economies.
- Extend the child tax credit to give working families a break on the high cost of childcare.
- Invest in new housing to help bring down prices and ease the housing crunch, and incentivize renovation and improvements on the housing stock we have.
- Bring universal access to affordable, reliable broadband and cell service so NY-21 will have the tools to win the 21st century.
- Bring down the costs of care and prescription drugs by prioritizing people, not insurance and pharmaceutical company profits and empower Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs to bring down costs for everyone.
- Free ourselves from the international price surges of oil and gas by producing more domestically in the short term while we move to diversify domestic energy sources away from fossil fuels and into renewables that we can produce right here in our region.
- End price gouging on gas and oil. Big oil is holding us hostage and spiking fossil fuel costs drive price hikes on nearly every product we use.
- Break up corporate monopolies that manipulate the market and drive artificially high prices, undermining the competition that makes capitalism work for everyone.
“Right now you’re seeing inflation used as a political weapon,” he said. Castelli says It’s unfortunate to see folks who are taking American pain and using that for political purposes instead of solving the actual problems.
Castelli spent some time in the healthcare world after his national security stint, working for a company that helped coordinate better care for Veterans, particularly in rural areas, and he equates some of the issues they have with those that our children and families are dealing with today.
“We need to make an investment in our communities that allows those organizations that provide needed services a chance to provide for care around common clients. Whether that’s around mental health resources, or food and nutrition, particularly food insecurity or housing insecurity,” we need to make those investments in our communities.
Castelli believes that there is a whole world of opportunity to be had for communities like Little Falls to make those kinds of investments.
He says that another component is what came out of the American Rescue Plan and the childcare tax credit that lifted a tremendous number of families out of poverty. “Unfortunately, that has expired because we haven’t been able to have the support of folks like Congresswoman Stefanik who ultimately voted against extending it.”
“There are solutions to put a little bit of extra money in a family’s wallet to provide and address the food insecurity they are facing. This is an ‘all hands on deck’ problem, and something that I view in maybe a different view than most Democrats,” he stated.
When we make these kinds of investments, Castelli thinks that they are pro-growth policies. “A lot of parents are sitting on the sidelines because they don’t have access to affordable childcare.”
Reaching across the aisle
Castelli grew up in a household where his mother was a Republican and his dad a Democrat. “In my family what mattered was not politics, it was values. Shared values. When we faced problems, we faced them together and we came up with solutions to those problems, and that needs to come back to the American political landscape.”
“If we spend so much time fighting with one another we’re never going to be in a position to fight for one another. So much of this is turning into the entertainment value of it all. I think we as a community, as a country, are suffering as a result of those who seek that entertainment value at our expense because they’re not solving our challenges,” he said.
He went on to say that the loudest voices on both sides are on the extremes and that he finds that the vast majority of us are in the middle. “We might be on the right and we might be on the left, but we’re in the middle. There hasn’t been a voice for the great middle majority and those of us who might consider ourselves moderate in quite some time. I think we need a restoration of that.”
When asked where he stands when it comes to term limits, he said, “I certainly support it. I would do so in a full-throated way. One of the other challenges we have is our entrenched politicians who continue to serve their own self-interests and their reelection purposes and not actually serve the needs of our community.”
“I find it disappointing to see politicians who are about to retire all of a sudden gain a spine and gain a conscience and actually vote in a way that they think advances the interests of their community or country.”
Castelli said that we need more of that and it shouldn’t be based on the fact that they are retiring. He feels that if we term limit politicians, we might actually see some progress.
When it comes to fossil fuels versus green energy, he believes there is a middle ground. “With the challenge that is in front of us right now, we need to boost domestic oil production. There is a misnomer that America is not energy independent. We currently are energy independent. We export more than we import, so we have a net surplus on oil.”
Castelli says that it hasn’t had an impact on pricing because pricing is global. He said, “For us to produce more at a scale that would actually affect prices is somewhat unrealistic. There may be some solutions to be had there and we should look into them.”
One of the challenges that he sees is shareholders and Wall Street actually dictating to oil companies to not produce more, or increase supply. “The only people that I see stopping ‘drill baby drill’ are actually shareholders and Wall Street and oil companies raking in record profits.”
He believes that there are enough permits for them to expand drilling, but that they’re just not doing it. “We need to diversify our economy and the sources that we rely on. Only through diversification and choice will we actually impact prices. We have to do both,” he stated.
Most interesting thing he’s learned on the campaign trail
“I’ve clearly never done this before and I’ve got to tell you, I love it. What I love about it is showing up and talking to folks and hearing about – yes some of the challenges they are facing but also some of their hopes and aspirations,” Castelli said.
“One of the things that really propels me in this campaign is that folks are really thirsting for representation that they feel they deserve and currently aren’t getting. And so what has been the most surprising thing is how long it has been since they’ve seen Congresswoman Stefanik show up in their community and answer their questions, and not in a filtered sort of way, truly have a town hall or a little meet and greet to talk to folks.”
“I’ve been doing that from the start of the campaign and I think that’s what representation is, so that’s what I’ll do as a member of Congress,” he said.
On another note, Castelli got to talking about his newfound love of astrophotography and he showed off some of his images.
Castelli is the Democratic front-runner to defeat Elise Stefanik and represent the people of NY’s 21st Congressional District. You can learn more about him at www.castelliforcongress.com