Editor's note: The News-Gazette asked candidates to answer questions regarding themselves and the office they seek.
410 Plum Street
Education: MA, Teaching, John Hopkins University, 1997
BS, Business Administration, Washington University, St. Louis, 1977
Candidate for the 13th Congressional District of Illinois
Answers to The News-Gazette Candidate Questionnaire
13 September 2012
1. Do you favor repealing the Affordable Care Act? If so, should Congress move quickly to approve an alternate health care program that would cover all or most Americans? And what kind of provisions should it include?
Given today's gridlock, if we repeal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), we will probably end up with nothing, and that would be a setback to the estimated 32 million people who will gain coverage under it. Not surprisingly, the facts tell us that Americans without health insurance are sicker and die younger than those of us with health insurance. So I would not vote for its outright appeal, but would seek to improve its flaws.
For example, we know that Medicare's administrative overhead draws 3.6 cents from every health care dollar it processes. The Canadian system's administrative overhead draws less than 2 cents. The private insurers in the U.S. draw out 11.7 cents per dollar. The New England Journal of Medicine reported a few years back that our entangled bureaucracy cost the average American $1,059 per year, compared to $307 for the single-payer system in Canada.
It is irresponsible not to provide the most efficient method. We could improve ACA by reinvigorating the Independent Payment Advisory Board to help us adopt best practices. For example, the Mayo Clinic pays its doctors a salary specifically to get away from fee for service incentives, and they have a solid track record of high quality at lower costs.
We need to be open to change, and should not capriciously dismiss other countries' programs as "socialized medicine." To many Americans, socialism is two-thirds of the way to the communism of Joseph Stalin, but does the record bear out that Canada has moved two-thirds of the way to a darkened world of barbed wire and guard towers, even after decades of "socialized medicine?" Is Australia beaten down in a Cultural Revolution as the result of going down the path of providing insurance for all its citizens? Let's be careful and look at the evidence. We will see that the facts don't fit the simplistic "socialized" dismissal of these more efficient systems.
2. In view of the mounting federal debt, do you believe it is practical to call only for spending cuts? What share of federal deficit reduction should come from spending cuts and revenue increases? Please be specific about those shares, and about where you think cuts must be made and where revenue increases should be made?
We should not accept that there is something deficient in us that makes us unable to pay our own way, and that we therefore need assistance from future taxpayers on the assumption that they will not only be able to pay their own way but, on top of that, make up for our shortcomings by paying for our deficits with interest.
The polarization of the two major parties and the hesitancy of party members to break with their perceived party orthodoxy have kept us from making progress. As an independent, I do not have this problem, and there are multiple budget plans that I could support, and these happen to be the plans that offer the best chances of passage. Though I can provide constructive criticism of the plans, taken in total, I would support the Simpson-Bowles plan, the Domenici-Rivlin plan, and the Senate's Gang of Six outline plan. The deficiencies in these plans are not nearly as bad as the danger of ever larger deficits. The Simpson-Bowles commission estimates that backdoor spending in the tax code costs us $1 trillion per year, and most of us agree this is the best, and easiest, place to start.
The percentage of deficit reduction coming from spending cuts and tax revenues vary somewhat between the plans. It seems reasonable to me that spending cuts could account for 55 percent of deficit reduction and tax increases 45 percent, but I am willing to support plans that vary from this significantly because I realize compromise is needed.
It is important to note that too many of us are in the habit of conveniently pointing the finger at others who are the cause of the deficit problem, and so we think it is they, not us, who need to change, whether we are pointing at high-income people who have worked the system for tax breaks or those charged with free-loading on government handouts. As long as we are accusing others as the cause, no painful changes need to come from ourselves. We have a much better chance of making progress on the deficit if everyone knows that deficit reduction plan is affecting all parties and that we all have an oar in the water. The path toward a stable future requires a contribution from all the citizens, even if the contribution from those with the least income is limited and symbolic.
If we cannot adopt one of the deficit reduction plans above, we should allow the "fiscal cliff" policies to take effect, as long as we create additional legislation that lessens the shock of the changes and prevents the anticipated return to recession. However, the additional legislation should adhere to the pay-as-you-go philosophy, so that built into the legislation are provisions that would pay for it. For example, if a new payroll tax cut were part of the legislation aimed at supporting consumer spending, the loss of revenue from the tax cut would need to be made up by additional tax increases in the subsequent five or 10 years, and those tax increases need to be part of the legislation itself. The Congressional Budget Office projects an improvement in our budget deficit of $560 billion in fiscal 2013 due to the "fiscal cliff." The CBO projects that the budget deficit for fiscal year 2012 will be about $1 trillion.
The coherent plans described above make specific cuts, but if we cannot agree to enact them, the sequestration from the Budget Control Act of 2011 should take effect and there should be a $55 billion reduction in defense spending and the prescribed $55 billion reduction in non-defense discretionary spending in the next fiscal year.
3. Do you believe the United States should continue to play an activist role in world affairs, or pull back? What do you see as the U.S. role, for the next two years at least, in Afghanistan? In Iraq? In Iran? In Syria?
John Dewey wrote that the frontier is moral, not physical. Power comes from the dynamic between leaders and supporters. The people of the world will support us if they believe in us. The overwhelming majority of Americans and people around the world want their leaders to resolve conflicts without violence. David Patreus and James Amos co-authored a counterinsurgency manual describing the need to win the support of the people.
Technology has integrated the world's people, and the process has only just begun. We need to articulate the ethical principles that are shared among us and permit their natural expression in organizations and institutions, commercial and otherwise, that span political boundaries. Ethics provides the key to opening doors that will not be opened by blunter instruments. It will take Lincoln's "patient confidence" in justice, "Is there any better or equal hope in the world?" but conscience-guided leadership will generate collective support. We are passing into a new world with increasing speed, and ethics is the key to freeing us from constraints, historical, geographical and psychological.
The establishment of justice has been essential to the happiness of people in numerous societies. We should be confident that the enhancement of civil life will continue its advance to the benefit of us all. The changes underway in the Arab world are, at their root, calls for more just societies. The movement toward civil resolution of problems will continue in an uneven process, but in the long run, the resolution of conflict through non-violent means serves the wider best interest of us all, and there are strong historical parallels between the use of non-violence and the establishment of justice.
Our goal in Afghanistan should be to exit in a way that gives the Afghan people the most solid opportunity for stable institutions of government that will reflect the will of the people for years to come. To do that, our efforts should be supportive of those elements in Afghan society that seek to deal with disagreements through a civil, non-violent process, principally through respected legislative councils and through a system of justice that is supported by as much of the population as possible. We should end our stay in a way that promotes respect for the indigenous, existing institutions within Afghan society that are solving problems for the people. Ultimately, of course, the way that Afghans are going to get along with each other is up to them.
We should have confidence in the Iranian people to improve their government, which will in turn improve their relations with the international community. The inexorable influence of technology, especially information technology, will continue to transform and modernize Iranian society in much the same way as it has other societies. The 2009 Green Revolution, also called the Twitter Revolution, is an indication of broad changes taking place that will work their way on the process of government. The willingness of the people to demonstrate in the streets to reform their government made the world aware that there is significant support for positive change. We should resist any temptation to see the Iranian people as "other" than us, and instead see them as increasingly being woven into the same fabric of the world's people as ourselves.
An effort to delay progress on Iran's nuclear program by bombing would be counter-productive, serving to provide support to anti-American and anti-Israeli factions within the government.
Syria needs less violence, not more, and the U.S. should not use its military to try to influence events. However, at a certain level, we are all bound to one another as human beings and it is natural for us to want to see others do well and be treated fairly. If there are heinous atrocities being committed that could be avoided by a multi-party intervention, I believe it would be the right thing to do to support multi-party intervention, though it may be preferable if the U.S. were not the perceived as the primary leader of the effort. The U.S. could be involved in the air as part of a multi-party force. But given the sensitivities in the Muslim world following our major interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, almost no party would want to see our military playing a role on the ground inside Syria.
4. Do you view China as a threat to the United States?
The exchange of ideas in the information age and a belief in the appeal of democracy as a natural force inherent to humanity should give us reason to think that China will move toward a more democratic society. We know that democracy has its advocates in China today. There may well be bumps coming in our relationship, but we need to keep a long-term perspective and use wisdom to recognize that it could scarcely be in our interests to enter any war with China. Right now, it is obvious that neither side wants a war; we should recognize that it is in exactly such times of peace that we should further develop the chords of our relationship and establish bonds of understanding that may eventually provide the basis for avoiding miscues leading to war.
China's GDP is projected to pass ours around 2030. If the two of us can manage our relationship without recourse to military action, it would be a triumphant accomplishment that would bode well for all of humanity.
5 What should the United States do to change its immigration system? Do you favor granting amnesty to illegal aliens already here?
We need to give an objective group of economists the task of determining the employment needs of our economy, from the high tech employees integral to our software giants to the agricultural employees helping to provide our fruits and vegetables. We should then base the number of immigrants on our economic needs along with a due respect for our nation's identity and heritage of welcoming others.
Once our immigration targets are set, we need to enforce the rule of law on both employers and employees. It behooves us all to be a nation that respects the law, and we have had inexcusably lax enforcement of our existing immigration laws. Once the new targets are set, the law should be enforced vigorously, and employers as well as illegal immigrants should pay a stiff price for transgressions, including prison terms for employers or deportation for illegally entering. We need to uphold the rule of law in such a way that reflects the values of our society; this involves a special cognizance of the charged atmosphere surrounding immigration issues. As we respect the law, we should respect each other, and that goes for all people.
We should make an effort to identify the immigrants that are here illegally and they should pay a fine for breaking the law. Our lax enforcement of the laws, especially on employers, has contributed to the current situation. Mass deportations are impractical and would offend our values for those family members who have done nothing wrong. Children of immigrants who have done nothing wrong naturally feel this is their country. If they want to make a contribution to our society by going to college or serving in our military, we should permit them. I support the DREAM Act.
6. Should the United States normalize relations with Cuba?
Cuba has begun the process of undergoing fundamental change. Normalizing our relationship would permit the further natural integration of the Cuban economy and people with the family of nations to the benefit of all.
7. In view of recent changes in domestic energy production, do you think it should still be a priority to reduce dependence on foreign oil? Are there particular energy sources you would want to increase or decrease reliance on? Should the Energy Department continue to invest in alternate fuels and production methods like FutureGen?
We need to use the engine of the free market in concert with our ethical responsibilities to each other and future generations.
The demand for energy is so huge and growing that the financial reward from consumers is more than enough incentive for energy providers. The government does not need to give money to energy companies through tax expenditures.
Our ethical responsibilities call on us to give due acknowledgment to reports that we are adding CO2 and other emissions into the atmosphere at a rate that is changing the global climate. These reports come from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Academy of Sciences, The National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Clearly, one aspect of moral behavior is consideration of how our actions affect others. If our leading scientific institutions are telling us that there is likely to be harm to others from our actions, we need to change course. We need to change our behavior to act as if others mattered.
The most market friendly manner that meets our responsibilities is a cap and trade system. Cap and trade has the ability to work for climate changing emissions just as it did successfully with acid rain in the northeast U.S. However, climate change is a global problem, and while we need to implement policies ourselves as the world's leading nation, we need to also do everything within our powers to convince others of the facts of climate change and the moral obligations springing from them.
If the United States government cannot agree on a cap and trade system, but would support a direct tax on emissions, including vehicle emissions, I would support the direct taxes as the right thing to do.
Drilling technology continues to advance and improvements in hydraulic fracturing have already provided an ample supply of natural gas, so that consumers have seen their natural gas bills decline. Electricity generation from natural gas emits somewhat fewer greenhouse gases than coal, so we would benefit from natural gas's replacement of coal at power stations. We must be vigilant regarding the environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing, particularly regarding water, but indications so far tell us it can be done sustainably if the operators act responsibly with sufficient governmental oversight.
8. Do you believe it is imperative to block disposal of PCBs and any other hazardous chemicals at the Clinton landfill?
We need to find a manner of storing PCBs that is safe. It seems we should be able to find a place that is remote from drinking water. An underlying lesson is to exercise prudence when creating potentially harmful chemicals, such as PCBs, in the first place.
9. What steps should be taken immediately in this congressional term to make the Medicare program more solvent? Does he Social Security program also face that kind of urgency?
The long term solution to health care will likely come from the experience of proven policies in other countries. Until then, our demographically aging population will force changes. We are currently taking more money out than we are putting in, so we need to put more money in and take less out. Namely, we could remove the limit on employers who currently only match Medicare payments up to the first $110,100 dollars of wages. We would not have to remove the ceiling on employees. Small businesses would be less affected, since only a limited amount of small businesses have employees that make over $110,100. If we truly believe in Medicare, we should be willing to gradually delay the benefits if doing so will help guarantee the solvency of the system. We should be able to call a spade a spade and recognize the fact that we are now healthier around age 65 than we were back when Medicare was started.
Social Security faces the same demographics, but does not have to contend so directly with health care inflation as Medicare. The solution is similar to Medicare; we would strengthen Social Security by removing the ceiling of the employer payroll match and gradually increasing the age in which we attain full benefits.
10. Do you believe in climate change/global warming, and if so would you vote for legislation that would mandate reductions in levels of global warming pollution by 2020 or 2025?
Answered in question 7.
11. What is your position on abortion, and do you believe the federal government has any role in either restricting it or financing it in certain times?
My position on abortion is that the government should be as small as possible, and we should have confidence in the people to use their conscience to do what is best. I support Roe v. Wade. I am not yet decided on whether or not to support the so-called Hyde Amendment.
12. Is a constitutional amendment needed to define marriage as only between one man and one woman?
We do not need a constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
13. Would you support a constitutional amendment that would prevent the physical desecration of the American flag?
We do not need a constitutional amendment to prevent the physical desecration of the flag.
14. What role should the federal government have in providing passenger rail service? Do you favor continued or even expanded funding for Amtrak? Would you support federal aid for high-speed (110 mph or more) rail service in central Illinois?
I remain to be convinced that the American people would fully adopt enhanced passenger rail service, even if we had the money in our budget. Fiscal discipline requires us to reduce spending on nearly all programs, including Amtrak. With some cutbacks, I would support completion of the already approved plans for high speed rail in Illinois, and believe we should only make further investments in high speed rail in response to consumer demand.
15. Do you favor vouchers, tuition tax credits, or any other federal aid for private or parochial schools?
We need to reduce our spending trajectory in all categories, including education. Education is critically important for society, and I have taught in public school and volunteered in inner-city public schools, but education funding is dominated by state and local spending. Those entities should be the ones to determine if the data of results justifies further spending on voucher systems. We need fewer tax credits at the IRS, not more.
16. Should the federal government continue to provide production tax credits for clean energy projects, such as wind energy? 16.
Once we make harmful emissions expensive, we should let the market determine the most efficient means of providing clean energy. Basic scientific research can be a legitimate role of governments, within budget restraints, but the intention of basic research is to expand the knowledge base for all, not to pick particular technologies as solutions to economic problems. Entrepreneurs are best suited to develop particular technologies using their own money, and they will have sufficient incentive to meet demand once a cap and trade system, or direct carbon taxes, are instituted.
17. What are your priorities for the new farm bill, given that it is unlikely a comprehensive farm bill will be approved by the current Congress?
Market forces should be allowed to bring efficiencies, and the government should play a smaller role. Our federal budget deficit demands that we reduce spending throughout the government, including agriculture. We should work with other nations to lower tariffs on all commodities, for example sugar. Our budget deficit demands that we make a slight reduction in the funds going to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, known as food stamps. We all need to have an oar in the water if we are going to correct our fiscal problems, and in this case, that includes farmers and food stamp recipients.
18. Should the federal government continue to subsidize crop insurance for farmers? Why or why not?
The federal government should reduce its role in crop insurance because the market should be allowed to bring its efficiencies, the role of the government in general should be smaller, and our budget deficit demands it.
19. Do you think the federal government has gone too far in trying to protect the United States in the aftermath of 9/11? If so, what should be done?
I am concerned that there has been duplicative spending in our response to terrorism and that the various administrative units are still not forming a coherent whole. After our drawn-out experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think our nation should be far more reluctant to use regime change as an anti-terrorism tool. We have learned that good intentions alone may not guarantee that our civil liberties as a free people are safe, and that responsible oversight is needed when monitoring American citizens.
The key point, of course, is to recognize and disrupt terrorist plots before they take place. This is an intelligence task, and the more cooperation we can get from other intelligence agencies around the world, the better.
20. What do you think your Number One priority, as the representative of the broad and varied central Illinois district, is in Congress?
We need to change the sieve that a person must pass through to become a member of Congress. The people have lost faith that their leaders are concerned about them, but are instead beholden to the select few insiders who control the money and the campaign process. The state of Connecticut has made a great stride forward with their Citizens Election Program, providing reasonable and effective public financing of campaigns. Another critical part of a rejuvenated democracy would be for more independent candidates to run for office. A Gallup poll at the end of 2011 reported that 40 percent of Americans consider themselves independent. We should make independent candidates earn their way by being preferable to the Republican and Democratic candidates, but if we can get 10, 20, 30 or more independents in the U.S. House of Representatives in the next ten years, we will have made the biggest stride to improving our democracy since women were given the right to vote.