Democratic candidate for U.S. House (6th district)
Responses to our questions
The U.S. government is now $20 trillion in debt. To address that historic level of public indebtedness, the country would need to raise revenue and/or decrease spending. What is your position on the budget and debt?
The new tax plan exemplifies why the US finds itself in such huge debt. In spite of the fact that the wealthiest families have enormous sums of money and corporations having record profits and excess cash, politicians opted to give 80% of the tax cuts to these wealthy corporations and families while adding $1.5 trillion to our deficit. The only way to solve this problem is to get money out of politics and stop the insider political games. There was a time in the US when wealthy people and corporations paid their fair share of taxes and we had working families that had good healthcare and could make ends meet all while being able to send their children to college.
Can you identify any major federal expenditures or programs that you would eliminate?
President Eisenhower warned us about the Military Industrial Complex. I think it's time we heed his words and began to examine the money we spend on our military. As of 2014, the US spent more on the military than the next seven countries combined. Our spending made up 34% of the total world's military spending.
Medicare and Medicaid costs continue to spiral. How can these programs be restructured to control costs and avoid collapse? Be specific about your willingness to change or reduce future benefits.
In Congress, I would co-sponsor HR 676, which would abolish private insurance and expand Medicare to cover in full all medically necessary treatments and services to be paid for by existing Medicare and Medicaid money plus new progressive taxes. Additionally, I would work to get the currently unrestrained prescription drug costs under control by allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. We should take lessons from states that have effectively managed cost issues, for instance, by adopting reinsurance pools to cover higher costs patients.
What if anything should be the federal government's role in helping Americans obtain health insurance coverage?
As discussed in the prior answer, support for universal healthcare is a cornerstone of my campaign. The US is the only industrialized country in the world that does not provide basic health care for all. Other countries around the world spend less to provide more health care to all their citizens while the US continues to spend more and fails to insure all citizens.
A single payer healthcare system would be more efficient and allow the US to insure everyone. While we cannot get to a single payer system overnight because of opposition from Peter Roskam and Republicans, I support improving the Affordable Care Act immediately to respond to rising healthcare costs. Exact timeframe stipulations should be set with guidance from experts, such as those in the Congressional Budget Office.
Economic growth has been steady but wage growth is slow. Are you content with the state of the economy? What is your recipe for enhancing American prosperity?
I am not content with the state of the economy. I am committed to supporting legislation and public policies to create good-paying jobs in the 6th District and throughout the country. I support major federal investments to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and put millions of Americans back to work. This includes not only rebuilding roads and bridges, but also developing the green economy, modernizing our water delivery systems, investing in high-speed rail and expanding our high-speed broadband networks.
I also support significant federal investment in science and technology, which is the foundation of future economic growth. These investments would include making sure that young people have entry points into the tech sector; promoting entrepreneurship; supporting small business growth; fostering inclusion of people of color who have often been excluded from the tech sector; training the existing workforce and those who are unemployed for good-paying technology jobs; and providing access to a free internet that is net neutral.
Additionally, I believe that no person who works full time should have to live or raise a family in poverty. The current minimum wage is a poverty wage, and it should be raised to a living wage, starting with a $15 per hour federal minimum wage that is adjusted annually for inflation.
If you could fix longstanding problems with this country's immigration system tomorrow, what would you do? What is your position on the future of DACA and the Dreamers?
We are a nation of immigrants. I support comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for the millions of immigrants in the US who contribute to our society and economy. I strongly oppose President Trump's proposed elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for people who immigrated to the country as children with their parents. Their deportation is nothing short of outrageous, cruel and spiteful. I also support the DREAM Act to provide these people with US citizenship. As a college trustee, I see DACA students, firsthand, who are vitally important members of our community. It rips my heart out to think of telling any of these students that they're not wanted here. I strongly oppose elimination of DACA and support legislation to provide DACA recipients with US citizenship.
North Korea's nuclear weapons program represents a direct threat to the security of the United States and its Pacific allies. How should the U.S. confront or contain Kim Jong Un's regime?
I believe that we should be doing everything we can to broker a diplomatic solution in North Korea. It certainly isn't in our interest for North Korea to have nuclear weapons, but we're not going to prevent an arms race with Trump's inflammatory tactics. Tweeting incendiary remarks at leaders abroad is not an effective strategy. Working with our allies to reach a solution to keep North Korea from becoming nuclear will bring us increased success in the future.
ISIS is contained in Syria and Iraq but terrorism remains a threat. What are your priorities in keeping the country safe?
Protecting citizens while guarding against loss of their civil liberties is a very hard needle to thread. I think that the FBI has done a very good job of protecting the US from terrorism since September 11th. A few attacks have slipped through the cracks, but overall the FBI has thwarted many major incidents without imposing harsh threats to civil liberty.
Should the U.S. continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran?
It is essential that Iran is prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons. All options must be on the table in addressing the Iranian nuclear threat. While the P5+1 deal negotiated in Vienna is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction. Currently, Iran has abided by the deal and we must make sure that they continue to do so. Forces are in place to monitor continued adherence. As a member of Congress I will vigorously support the enforcement of the JCPOA.
Unfortunately, Iran continues to aggressively test ballistic missiles, with a fourth failed launch attempt in July. They vow to continue this program, which does not actually violate the terms of the nuclear deal because no nukes will be deployed on them. However, such weaponry threatens the security of the Middle East, Israel in particular, and should be part of ongoing talks aimed at compelling Iran to stand down on this issue. Re-imposing economic sanctions — or threatening to do so — is an option if the Iranians continue their ballistic missile aggression.
What is your position on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?
U.S. military intervention requires an extended nuanced discussion. If Congress thinks that the United States military is the only group that can provide stability in the region, we may have no choice but to continue to act. On a broader level, my goal is for peace in the region.
Do you support a unified, federal background check system for gun sales? Do you support magazine limits or a ban on certain rifles? Describe, briefly, your position on how to balance safety with the Second Amendment.
We need to close the obvious loopholes and better enforce the laws already in place. Each year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns used in suicides, domestic violence, gang shootouts and accidents. We can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.
For instance, because of budget cuts, mentally ill people often cannot find an in-patient placement until after they have committed an act of violence. This is often true even when they themselves believe they are a danger to themselves or others. We must devote the resources to mental health services that will ensure that all of those who need treatment can get it.
Another change that desperately needs to be made is stopping guns from going to people on our terror watch list. Assault rifles and military-style weapons designed to kill large numbers of people in a short amount of time certainly have the potential to threaten public safety and it makes sense to consider restrictions. For decades, fully automatic "machine guns" have been outlawed for civilian purchase, so the notion is reasonable.
At the same time, I am concerned with how a revival of the Assault Weapons Ban would be implemented. Previous attempts resulted in ambiguous standards for what qualified as a banned "assault weapon," creating easily exploited loopholes. Any new legislation needs to honestly assess the technology and balance public safety with the rights of gun owners.
Should the U.S. government take steps to curb emissions of greenhouse gas? If so, what steps? If not, why not?
The US government should absolutely take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Protecting the environment and promoting a green economy are pillars of my campaign platform. I oppose the decision to remove the US from the Paris Accords. I support strong clean air and clean water regulations, in particular regulations that protect Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes. Our future requires that we transform our economy into one that is driven by sustainability (such as wind, solar energy, geothermal and other clean sources) to both create jobs and minimize our impact on the environment. I will work closely with environmental groups to develop and support legislation that protects our environment.
While I've been on the board at the College of Lake County, we've focused on sustainability. We've made sure that all new construction is LEED-certified and installed geothermal, HVAC, green roofs and solar panel technology. It's an investment. While the technology costs more up front, it will save the College and taxpayers money in the long run. Further, the College added degrees that address jobs for the future. The trustees have ongoing dialogue with local corporations about their needed skill sets and we respond with our program offerings. Green jobs are our future. In Congress, I'd like to pursue legislation that would increase the number of students pursuing green job degrees, which will lead to a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
My step-father was transferred to Brazil when I was in junior high school so I had the opportunity to live in Sao Paulo for two years. I still speak conversational Portuguese.
If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term.
I am not an incumbent.