Becky Anderson Wilkins
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?
Budgets are about priorities and the recent Republican budgets have focused on providing giveaways to the largest corporations, special interests and wealthy investors, all while adding to our national debt. I think that's wrong. We should be focused on investing in education, infrastructure and job growth so that we can build an economy that works for everyone. As a co-owner of a sixth-generation independent bookstore, I've seen it time and again — the big corporations get special treatment and loopholes while small business and the families that shop in my stores are forgotten about. By focusing on investing in education and infrastructure, we can grow our economy for the future. We've seen that when wages rise for the middle class, the overall economy grows. Rising wages and growing middle class will also help to expand the tax base and revenue. Too often we've seen Republicans use the national debt as an excuse to cut programs they dislike while ignoring trillions in new debt when it comes to lowering taxes on multinational corporations and the wealthiest individuals.
Can you identify any major federal expenditures or programs that you would eliminate?
The fact that Medicare is prohibited from negotiating with drug companies for lower drug prices represents an incredible missed opportunity for the federal government to save money and also illustrates the grip that special interests like the pharmaceutical industry have over Congress.
One of my first priorities in Congress will be to fight for Medicare to negotiate with drug companies to save money. The Department of Veterans Affairs currently uses its size to negotiate with the drug companies and pays nearly 40% less than Medicare for the same drug according to a study. Negotiating would save tens of billions to the government each year.
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.
We made seniors a promise that if they worked hard and contributed to government programs, they would be able to retire with dignity. And protecting Medicare is a pillar of that promise. In Congress, I will stand up against Republican attempts to privatize Medicare or roll back benefits that seniors rely on.
I want to help reform Medicare by allowing direct negotiations with the drug companies to save tens of billions of dollars each year. I will also stand up to Republican attempts to repeal and replace Medicare, which would cut critical funds from this essential program.
What if anything should be the federal government's role in helping Americans obtain health insurance coverage?
First, I believe that health care is a right, not a privilege. This fight is personal for me. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, and because I was fortunate to have access to the health professionals and treatment options I needed, I remain in remission today.
Everyone should have access to quality health care that they can afford. But for too many, coverage is still unaffordable and there simply aren't enough options for coverage.
We should immediately expand state exchanges by allowing individuals to buy into Medicare. I believe that our health care dollars should be spent on providing care, not going to insurance company CEOs and shareholders. This option would allow families to take advantage of cutting out insurance companies and using the existing and expanded Medicare network of providers and hospitals.
We also need to focus on the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs. Growing up, I worked the register at our family drug store and saw first-hand how copays could put doctor prescribed medications financially out of reach for too many families and seniors. It has only gotten worse. One of the primary causes for this is the influence that the pharmaceutical industry has in Washington. The industry employs two lobbyists for every member of Congress — that's disgusting. This is just one example of why I have committed not to take a single penny from lobbyists.
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 certainly not content with the state of the economy when so many Americans are struggling for jobs with better wages and more upward mobility to keep up with the rising cost of living. Our country has severe economic inequalities that are a great threat to our future. To improve the economy for everyone, I would start by raising the minimum wage, incentivizing small businesses growth, and eliminating tax breaks for businesses that send jobs overseas. The GOP's revamp of the tax code is a step in the wrong direction on the economy, rewarding the top corporations instead of focusing on the needs of IL-06 families.
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?
First, Congress must immediately pass the DREAM Act to protect the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers in our country. I've been a longtime supporter of Dreamers and I am proud to employ a Dreamer at one of my stores. These young individuals want nothing more than the right to work, pay taxes, live with their families and be a part of the only country they've ever really known.
Second, we need to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform. For too long, Congress has kicked the can down the road on reform and the problem has only gotten worse. But instead of passing reform, we've seen disgusting and hateful rhetoric from President Trump that is meant to score political points rather than actually tackle the problem. I oppose building a wall or funding any sort of mass deportation like Republicans have proposed. I believe that any comprehensive reform should include a path to citizenship, protection for Dreamers and improvements to our border security.
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?
North Korea's nuclear ambitions are a serious threat to our national security and the security of our allies in Asia. Unfortunately, President Trump's tweets and reckless statements only seem to be provoking an already unsettled situation and making things worse. Most harmful of all, the President doesn't seem to have any plan or strategy in place for dealing with the threat. Any military options would almost surely cost the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions, including Americans stationed in South Korea. I believe that the U.S. should engage more aggressively through diplomatic channels including working with China to apply pressure to the North Korean regime.
ISIS is contained in Syria and Iraq but terrorism remains a threat. What are your priorities in keeping the country safe?
In Congress, I view my first responsibility as helping to keeping Americans safe here at home and around the world. That starts with understanding the very real threat of terrorism. Domestically, we need to ensure that we support and fully fund our first responders and law enforcement agencies to coordinate and disrupt potential attacks. This should also include investments and community involvement where there is potential for individuals to become isolated and radicalized. Stopping this radicalization, whether it is online or within segregated communities, is essential to disrupting future attacks. Lastly, while our military has made great advances containing ISIS, we must continue to destroy their networks in Syria, Iraq and other hostile territories.
Should the U.S. continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran?
It is critical to U.S. national security, as well as the security of our allies like Israel, that Iran never obtain a nuclear weapon. I believe that best way to achieve that goal is to enforce and abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran. By threatening to tear up the deal with Iran and our allies, President Trump threatens our reputation and relationship with our allies. If the deal were to fall apart, Iran would have the ability to fully pursue their nuclear ambitions once again, which we should never allow.
What is your position on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?
It's important that we continue to wind down the presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in a safe and timely manner so that the Afghani people can be in charge of their own security and future. Furthermore, we must ensure that Afghanistan remains a stable ally in our counterterrorism efforts when we depart the country. In Congress, I will demand to know our clear and strategic goals before committing additional resources to our efforts in Afghanistan.
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.
Gun violence is a crisis in our country and we need to treat it like a crisis. I support a universal background check system that would close the gun show loophole and prevent those involved in domestic abuse from purchasing a gun. I also believe that there are commonsense steps that we can take like reinstating the assault weapons ban and limiting high-capacity magazines. As a member of the Naperville City Council, I stood up to the NRA and introduced a gun turn in program. In Congress, I will continue to stand up to the NRA and the gun lobby because we can protect the 2nd Amendment while also preventing senseless gun violence in our communities.
Should the U.S. government take steps to curb emissions of greenhouse gas? If so, what steps? If not, why not?
We must live up to the Obama Administration's commitment to the Paris climate accord, and in Congress, I will advocate for measures to reduce our carbon emissions to the standards laid out in this landmark agreement. As part of these efforts, I am a strong advocate for increased investment in clean energy infrastructure. Such investments reduce our carbon footprint, employ skilled labor in jobs of the future, and bring much-needed repair and modernization to our current system. Donald Trump abandoned American global leadership by making the United States the only country on earth that is not signed on. Climate change is a global crisis and the only way to effectively combat it is together.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
As a bookseller, my joy is connecting people with new ideas and of course, books. I have built so many bridges to different communities by using books and their authors to reach kids, families, schools, non-for profits, and other businesses and organizations. I'm still most proud of our huge Harry Potter events — from hosting J.K. Rowling's first American appearance back when Harry Potter was new to our events today that bring in more than 50,000 attendees to Naperville. It's the magic of books!
If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term.