Seth Moulton

United States Representative
Massachusetts's 6th Congressional District

Thanks again to Seth Moulton for making nuclear energy a salient issue on the Hill and in the 2020 presidential election. This year, the number of individual contributions, even as low a dollar, plays a key role in determining who gets on the debate stage. If you want to hear nuclear energy have the largest voice possible in upcoming climate conversations, you can take immediate action by donating to whichever candidate you think is most likely to bring it up. And, if you liked this interview, be sure to share it with your friends through iTunes, Stitcher, or Spotify! 

Background in Physics & the Marines

Tell me about your background.

Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts Congressman and 2020 U.S. Presidential candidate, received a degree in physics from Harvard and served four tours of duty as a Marine. Each of these experiences was fundamentally humbling for Moulton. Joining the Marines was the first time Moulton was challenged on what it actually means to embody, study, and be tested on leadership. The most important mentor to Seth Moulton was the minister at Harvard who spoke about the importance of service and finding a way to give back. Moulton had respect for the kids who served on the front lives and gave their lives, so he wanted to be on the front lines in the infantry and signed up for the U.S. Marine Corps. Seth notes that courage is not the absence of fear, but doing the right thing in spite of your fears. While his experience in the Marines was frightening, Moulton was proud to serve so no one had to go in his place.

Technical & Political Viewpoints

Does the intersection of your technical background

and your politics set you apart?

Moulton finds that two core elements are important to making the right decisions for our country and for our future. One is that we have to believe in science. Many people in Congress and Washington don’t believe in science and ignore the facts every day. Americans want fact-based and evidence-based decision making.

Congressional Innovation

When we write a law, why is it prescriptive instead of outcome based?

The second core element of making the right decisions is leadership. You can have the right ideas based on facts and science, but getting things done requires leadership. Congress is mostly made up of lawyers who are used to writing very prescriptive laws stating ways you can do something and ways you can get in trouble if you don’t follow it. Some programs started in Congress encourage innovation, such as competitive grant programs. Competitive grants may specify a desired outcome, for example in education, but do not provide a specific way to get there. Different models can be presented and Congress will evaluate them and award the grants to those they think are best. These laws are generally more successful than those that rely on Congress to figure out a solution.

America’s Changing Economy

What are some of the areas right now that you are focused on?

Seth Moulton’s biggest focus right now is how the economy is changing so quickly, believing this is the reason a lot of Americans are feeling left out and left behind. Solving the challenges of the future of the economy, and understanding how the automated economy will affect education, workforce, and our competitive position in the globe, are critical to bringing Americans together, as well as continuing as a leader in the world ahead of China.

Effects of Automation on the U.S. Economy

How is automation affecting jobs?

The top line economic numbers don’t tell the whole picture about automation and employment. There are a lot of Americans who are not on unemployment roles since they have good jobs, but there are also a lot of Americans who are working two or three jobs just to make ends meet. Some teachers are driving Uber or Lyft in the evening to put bread on the table for their families. Another group of people are not on unemployment statistics because they are not looking for jobs, perhaps due to addiction to opioids or giving up on the job search because of depression. Automation is not taking jobs outright, but is changing the workforce very quickly. It is making a lot of jobs pay less and forcing changes quickly that Americans are not ready for. Universal high school did not exist before the industrial revolution. Now is the time for another education revolution. One in four Americans does not graduate high school; Seth Moulton wants to see this group succeed in the new economy, as this is the economic and political divide. Half of America does not go to college, and free college education would be very expensive and only provide a benefit to those already privileged.

Social Media & Politics

In an era of soundclips, how do you have a reasoned explanation for real consequences of ideas such as free college?

Seth Moulton tries not to focus on Twitter, where soundclips dominate the media, but instead pursues longer forum discussions where he can get into the details of the issues. We live in a complicated world in which nuance matters, and Twitter or Fox News headlines do not provide the necessary detail.

Energy, Climate & Green Technology

Let’s talk about energy and climate.

Energy as it relates to climate change is a huge challenge for the planet and for America. China is winning the green technology revolution, as America is purchasing solar panels and other green technologies from China. This issue is not just about the planet, but also about our competitive position with China and other countries around the globe, and where the green energy and technology jobs will be located. America excels at fossil fuels, but it is not the long term solution. Washington struggles with aligning long term global interests with short term individual interests. Seth Moulton supports a bill that changes one year of budgeting to two years of budgeting, doubling the horizon at which the country makes budgetary decisions about how to invest federal government money.

Long Term Budgeting & Planning

Is there resistance to changing the federal government budgeting system?

Resistance to changing the federal government budgeting system largely comes from Conservatives. It is always easier to make short term decisions, and it is always more popular to vote for a tax decrease than to vote for a tax raise to make the investments needed for the future. Many groups advocate for Moulton and Congress to financially support their causes, but never bring strategies forward on how revenue should be raised to pay for the additional support. Paying higher taxes or cutting existing benefits are both sacrifices that could be made to pay for new investments. Long term budgeting matters because some investments will pay off in the long run, such as the GI Bill. Long term planning also applies to healthcare and infrastructure. The right amount of revenue to make the long term investments needed for the future will save money in the long run.

Appealing to the Public on Climate Change

When it comes to climate, how do you balance long term goals

with keeping the issue relevant to the public?

Seth Moulton approaches climate change from a few different perspectives. First, Moulton talks about short term economic impacts. They may not be the most important thing, but it must be relevant for people by talking about immediate economic impacts. Moulton is from the North Shore of Massachusetts, where the iconic industry is fishing. Fisherman see how fast the ocean is warming and that fish are leaving with the changing temperatures. The national security implications of climate change is another messaging strategy which resonates with Conservatives. The military and Department of Defense both recognize that climate change is a serious threat.

Nuclear Energy Security

How is it that the U.S. is not 100% nuclear from

an energy security perspective alone?

Seth Moulton credits broken politics as the reason the U.S. is not all in on nuclear energy. Scientists are generally aligned that nuclear power is a safe and good investment for the future of the country. This must be achieved responsibly, from safety, scientific, and political perspectives. People aren’t paying attention to the scientific facts, which leads to high political costs and legal fees to build nuclear plants and poor decision making. Seth Moulton is an environmentalist and a scientist. The most important thing to Moulton is that people trust him and know where he stands, even though they may not agree with him. Courage requires honesty with allies, friends, and others in your own party when they want to ignore science or pursue political convenience. Nuclear power is not compared equally to other power systems, such as oil or coal, from a safety standpoint. One reason nuclear power plants are so expensive to build is the high safety factors in the design. Congress should be discussing the measure of what is dangerous with radiation.

Future of a Carbon-Free America

Where do you see the future of America in a few years?

Seth Moulton envisions a future where America is carbon-free, setting an example for the entire world. America could be exporting nuclear technology to all other continents so that jobs of developing, selling, and maintaining these technologies become American jobs. This is a massive economic and leadership opportunity for the U.S., and gives the opportunity to do the right thing for the future of the planet and the future of our kids.

 

© 2019 by Titans of Nuclear. Produced by the Energy Impact Center: www.energyimpactcenter.org