SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — With his 6-foot 8-inch frame settled neatly into a chair in a lounge at the KELOLAND studio, Brian Bengs, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in the upcoming general election, prepared to answer a series of questions about his views and policies.
Prior to this lightning round of questions, Bengs discussed the issue of gun control in light of the recent mass school shooting in Texas. You can find his comments on that, here.
The topics discussed ranged from gas prices to taxes and the formula shortage. You can find Bengs’ responses to these issues below, edited for clarity.
Bengs began by acknowledging the fact that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has impacted gas prices, but added that this event is not the sole reason for increased prices at the pump.
“I’ve heard criticism of ‘Putin’s gas price hike,’ and I would say certainly the situation with Russia and Ukraine is a factor in it but it is not the only factor in it,” said Bengs.
Among these factors, Bengs pointed to ‘big oil’ as a culprit. “When something costs more, the supply folks will say ‘I would like to capture more of that profit, so I will increase production if I can, and then I get to sell more and I make more money.’ That would drive down the price a little bit,” he said.
But Bengs suggests that this supply and demand system has failed us. “Big oil is more content with maximizing profit by saying ‘hey there’s this shortage’ — so they can get maximum profits — based upon just holding steady with the production that they have now.”
Though he blames the oil companies for causing prices to rise by refusing to produce more fuel, he balked at the idea of the government forcing oil companies to lower prices. “That is a step too far, at least at this juncture,” he said.
Instead, Bengs advocated for what is called a ‘windfalls profit tax’, to disincentive oil companies from profiting off of shortages by cutting into the profits the companies make from these events.
Bengs also pointed to the instability of the oil market as a global commodity and emphasized the importance of moving toward renewable energies. “South Dakota has the third most active winds in the country — South Dakota used to be known as the sunshine state even before Florida took that mantel.”
Baby formula shortage:
As with the issue of gas prices, Bengs notes that the issue of the formula shortage is a complex one.
Chiefly among those issues is a sort of monopoly in the industry. “There’s three primary companies that make formula,” he said. On top of this, he said changes to NAFTA have limited the ability to import formulas from Canada.
In the immediate, Bengs supports the move of using military aircrafts to bring formula to the U.S. but did express concern over variance in quality that may be found due to the origins of certain shipments of formula.
“My big theme has been anti-trust,” said Bengs. “We have too much corporate consolidation in formula, in meat, and in so many other area of American life — we’ve ceded control to large corporations because we refuse for some reason to enforce a robust anti-trust mechanism that we have available.”
“There should never ever be a situation where a billionaire is paying a lower tax rate than a teacher; than a nurse; than a fireman,” said Bengs on his views of taxes.
Bengs advocates raising taxes on the ultra-wealthy, and advocated a wealth tax, levying a 2% tax on net worth above $1 billion. For those in the range of $50 million to $1 billion, Bengs advocates a 1% tax.
Support for Ukraine:
Asked about his thoughts on the current U.S. involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, Bengs was direct. “I support it,” he said. “I support our effort to provide the arms that are necessary for Ukraine to fight Russians.”
Bengs called Russia’s invasion a war of aggression and laid the blame fully on them.
Bengs says he was disappointed that providing aid to Ukraine was not carried out more quickly, but stopped short of advocating for a U.S. military presence in the conflict.