- Position sought: Representative, 11th Congressional District
- Political party: Democrat
- Email address: email@example.com
- Phone: 630-488-5977
- Address: 511 Aurora Ave., Naperville, IL
- Family: Married, with two grown children.
- Related experience: Former U.S. Congressman, 14th Illinois District, 2008-2010. When I was 19 years old, I started a manufacturing company with my little brother, which still provides more than 500 jobs right here in the Midwest. As a scientist and businessman, I have first-hand experience creating jobs and solving tough problems.
What would your priorities be if elected to this office?
My top priority for the nation is getting our economy moving and creating jobs. As someone who started a small business from scratch, I know how important it is for families and for communities to have strong job creation. Since the economic meltdown of 2008, we’ve seen some economic recovery, but not enough. Wall Street may be coming back, but too many people are out of work and too many middle class families continue to struggle. It’s important that Congress stop the political bickering and get to work on policies that can help get our economy back on track.
What sets you apart from the other candidates?
(No answer provided.)
How do you define a small business, and what can government do to support them that isn't being done?
I started a business with my little brother when I was 19 years old with a $500 loan from our parents. That’s a small business. The government needs to provide tax breaks for small businesses that create jobs. Access to capital for small business dried up in the wake of the financial deregulation and collapse, and our first priority must be to make sure that sort of man-made disaster does not recur. We need to focus on creating jobs and rewarding what this country is best at: innovation. Washington needs to make sure that promote small businesses and local enterprise. We can rebuild but it’s going to take our policy making a hard turn by making the middle class a priority.
What steps would you take to reduce the federal deficit? If it includes tax increases, what taxes? And if it involves federal service cuts, which?
Every serious proposal has had a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases and that is the approach we will need. The Simpson-Bowles compromise was three parts spending cuts to one part revenue increases; when Ronald Reagan had to re-balance the budget he compromised on three parts revenue increase to one part spending cuts. While I’m willing to compromise on the exact figures, what I’m not willing to do is ask the middle class to do all of the sacrificing and trying to balance the entire budget on the backs of Social Security and Medicare recipients. We must have a shared sacrifice from all if we are going to get this problem under control.
Pledges taken by politicians that they will never compromise on issues of this importance to our country’s future are corrosive to our democracy and are a primary source of gridlock in Washington. I was very disappointed to see that every member of the Illinois Republican delegation to Washington, including my likely opponent, has taken the Grover Norquist pledge to refuse to compromise on how to balance our budget. I am pessimistic that Washington will function properly as long as politicians taking these sorts of pledges remain in office.
On the revenue side, I do not support raising taxes on middle class families. I am willing to see the tax rates for the very wealthiest among us go back to the rates they were under President Clinton, a time when both the very wealthy and the middle class prospered. I believe we should end subsidies to the oil companies. I believe we should simplify the tax code, and am generally supportive of most types of tax reforms proposed by the Simpson-Bowles committee. I am also very concerned about the effect on economic growth of the distributional effects of proposed tax changes. One of the lessons of recent decades is that economic growth is highest in countries with a thriving middle class, due to the higher return on investments made by the middle class compared to investments made by the wealthy, as well as the increasing propensity of the wealthy to move their investments offshore.
What should the government do to create more jobs?
The government doesn’t create jobs, businesses do. I believe we need to support American manufacturing, because we are at our best when we build things, and we become weaker when we are just a service economy or bankers to the world. I know American manufacturing can succeed, because I’ve lived it. The manufacturing company my little brother and I started now produces most of the theater lighting equipment sold in the U.S. It exports a large fraction of what it manufactures and employs hundreds of people in the Midwest with good jobs and good benefits. To this end, we should stop rewarding companies who ship jobs overseas and instead reward companies who actually keep jobs and hire here at home.
Secondly, I believe we must ensure that future trade deals have the best interests of America’s middle class at heart. We can compete with any country in the world if we have a level playing field, and I will insist that any trade deals in the future do not put American workers at a disadvantage. One of the crucial mistakes of the last decade was agreeing to China’s ascension to the WTO without an agreement that China stop cheating on Intellectual Property, stop using capital controls for abusive mercantile purposes, and stop manipulating the value of its currency.
We should look at tax credits to help small businesses that are hiring, to give them incentives to grow. I would also support the repatriation of the more than $1 trillion in foreign corporate profits on a reduced-tax basis, as long as this was explicitly linked to a commitment to use the money to create U.S. jobs – for example by providing a repatriation tax credit proportional to the increase in the U.S. payroll taxes of a corporation. This approach avoids repeating the ill-advised repatriation tax holiday of the Bush administration that cost taxpayers billions of dollars and created essentially no new U.S. jobs.
Should there be repercussions for legislators who don’t read bills, and how do you enforce that?
When I was in Congress, I made it a priority to read major legislation. Even though I believe that climate change is real and a manmade problem that must be dealt with, after I read the Cap and Trade plan proposed, I read the legislation and decided that it would not accomplish its stated goal. Additionally, as the important healthcare legislation was being passed, I read the entire bill before making my final decision. Realistically, not all legislation can or should be read by members of Congress, who should focus their attention on detailed understanding of important legislation, particularly those pieces of legislation that comes before committees that they sit on.
Should the “No Child Left Behind Act” set different measurements than now for economically disadvantaged students, special education students, students learning English as a second language, etc?
We need to strike a balance when it comes to evaluating educators. There must be a national standard that is based on local input from parents, school officials and teachers. I believe there is an important role for “growth models” that use the difference between incoming and outgoing levels of student achievement. Quality teacher evaluation will require a broader range of input than currently exists under No Child Left Behind.
Should federal immigration policy be changed, and if so how?
I believe in a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. In Congress, I voted to support the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship. This is an important first step in a comprehensive plan for immigration reform.
What are your philosophies on social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, and what should government’s role in those issues?
I believe marriage is between a man and a woman but that gay couples should be able to receive all of the rights and benefits of marriage in the form of civil unions. And I believe that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. Many clinics provide a wide array of women's reproductive health services and they should be eligible for and receive the same treatment as other facilities that look to get government funding.
Are there certain things you think could be reasonably taxed (fuel, entertainment, luxuries, etc.)?
Taxes are the price that we pay for civilization, and simple and broadly based taxes are often more efficient that the over-complicated tax system that has developed in this country. Taxes on specific items should bear a relation to the indirect costs to our county of the consumption of those items. For example, fuel taxes should be related to the costs of construction and upkeep of our roads and transportation system, and taxes on liquor should be related to the costs of alcohol abuse.
What should minimum wage be and through what method should increases be determined?
I believe we need to take politics out of the minimum wage. It is inexcusable that there were no minimum wage increases during more than 10 years when Republicans held control of the House, and I was proud to vote for modest and overdue increases in the minimum wage. We need to index long-term increases in the minimum wage to inflation, so it does not again become a political soccer ball in Congress.
How would you find a better balance between relieving the tax burden and funding services?
I don’t think we’ve ever seen Congress as frustrating and dysfunctional as it was this past year, and it is because the agenda coming from Washington has been unyielding, out of touch, and extreme. It’s clear that Congress would rather ground all progress to a halt rather than stand up to party leadership or special interests. Compromise was sorely, and sadly missing, and has been for some time.
I publicly supported the approach taken by the Simpson-Bowles committee: to start by negotiating a high-level agreement that the deficit problem will be solved by X% spending cuts and Y% revenue enhancements, and then to dig down into the details of the budget and tax code to share the pain equally and make the numbers work.
I was inspired in starting my own small business and in my career in science by a belief in the power of creative problem-solving and common sense. I have built my work experience in every job I’ve had, including serving in the House, on prioritizing reasonable solutions and cooperation. I believe that Congress needs to come to the table and do the work that regular Illinois families are asking them to do—create jobs, reduce the deficit, and invest in our middle class—not succumb to politics as usual where only special interests and Washington insiders win.
Bipartisanship is given a lot of lip service by congressional members. Tell us how you would work with members of the opposite party?
I believe that pledges such as these are a large contributor the dysfunction and gridlock in the current Congress. Members of Congress who sign pledges are not interested in bipartisan compromise. Over the past year, we’ve seen Congressional Republicans vote to end Medicare as we know it in order to protect tax breaks for billionaires – just to keep their pledges to Grover Norquist and other right-wing interest groups. Outside special interests have drowned out the voices of regular people, and I am running to represent hard working middle income families here in Illinois. My commitments are to them and not to Grover Norquist. As a scientist for 30 years at Fermilab in Batavia, I learned to look at the facts and let those facts dictate the best course of action – a posture that frequently gets me in hot water with the leadership of my own party. I believe others in Washington would be well served to follow this example, rather than pledging to blindly follow the dictates of special interest groups.
Do you think some or all of the health care bill should be repealed? What can the government do to provide more access and affordability to health care?
Absolutely not. Those who would repeal the bill have yet to explain how they would cover the millions of people who were uninsured before this bill passed – including the forty thousand who die every year because of a lack of health insurance. Those who would repeal this bill would be giving back to big insurance companies the power to deny insurance to children with pre-existing conditions, and to drop people’s coverage when they get sick. Now is not a time to go back.
What we must do is to bend the cost curve or we will be drowned in an avalanche of health care related spending. Many provisions in the health care reform bill – such as electronic medical records and bundled care payments – are already starting to bend the cost curve in ways that will benefit both the Medicare program and health care costs for younger Americans, and must be allowed to continue.
What should government’s role be in private sector finance?
The financial crisis of 2008 destroyed millions of jobs and crushed the retirement savings of American families. There is no higher priority than making sure that we never face such a crisis again. As a businessman with a background in manufacturing and the real economy, I recognize that an efficient and well-regulated financial services sector is essential to our economic growth. As a member of the Financial Services Committee, I played a strong role in crafting legislation that will prevent the irresponsible practices that led to this crisis.
Who are your political heroes and why?
One of my heroes is Sen. Paul Douglas, and here is one reason why. During the financial crisis, we heard testimony on predictions from various computer models of the economy about what would happen with different policy responses. Being a scientist, I asked to see the formulas inside the model. It turns out that, buried deep inside those computer models, is something called the “Cobb-Douglas production function” – a fundamental contribution to economic theory made by the one and same Sen. Paul Douglas, and an idea which is still in use in computer codes 80 years later. This gives you some idea how far the level of debate in Congress has fallen towards what passes as political discourse today.
Following the troop withdrawal from Iraq, what do you think is the future of the war on terror?
America has always been a beacon of freedom, democracy and opportunity for the rest of the world, and I think the last three years have gone a long way toward restoring that image. There is simply no other country in the world that can play the role that we play, and to that end, we must continue to assume our leadership role in the world.
This does not mean policing and dominating the world, open-ended nation building, or starting unnecessary wars. America can be a strong leader without alienating the rest of the world. Contrast the recent success in Libya – which was achieved at very little cost to the U.S. by leading a true international coalition to take responsibility for both the war and its aftermath – with the Bush Administration’s misguided unilateral actions in Iraq that cost over 4,000 American lives and more than $1 trillion.
Have you ever been convicted of a felony, sued successfully or had a restraining order placed against you? If so, please explain.