Brian J. Deters
Democratic candidate for U.S. House (18th 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?
There is no question we need to bring down the debt. We are putting our children and grandchildren in a horrible position in the years to come. To decrease it, we need a combination of budget cuts where possible and increase revenue, largely which could be generated by closing loopholes for the mega-rich.
Can you identify any major federal expenditures or programs that you would eliminate?
With regards to federal expenditures or programs that could be curtailed or eliminated to bring down the debt, we need to think about our priorities. There unquestionably is a great deal of 'pork' that could be cut or trimmed, from infamous "bridges to nowhere" and glacier studies from a feminist perspective, some of this is beyond ridiculous. There also are numerous stories of ill-advised overspending in the military on things like inoperable drones and outdated technology. Medicaid has lost billions of dollars on poor management of funds and fraud to the system.
So indeed we need to re-examine the effectiveness and efficiency of how we spend federal money. But we should still invest in our security, our health, our infrastructure, and our children's education. We're doing a tremendous job spending on our security. $639 billion per year is the 2018 request and it's more than the next seven countries combined. We can afford to take away some of this spending in areas such as naval programs and nuclear arms spending if we are sensible and fine comb through each expenditure to assure critical things are indeed part of the budget. Reinvesting some of that money into education programs, in particular in financial incentives to attract the 'best and brightest' to go into the teaching profession would be greatly beneficial for our future.
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 must tackle this issue. The answer of funding these healthcare programs revolves around where we can obtain the revenue. Again, I would encourage closing loopholes on mega-rich tax cuts. By closing the carried-interest loophole, billions of dollars of revenue could be generated to pay for some of the costs to our medicare and medicaid programs. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the loophole cost taxpayers more than $17 billion over the last decade
What if anything should be the federal government's role in helping Americans obtain health insurance coverage?
I believe that access to affordable healthcare is one of the inalienable rights discussed in our Declaration of Independence. If funding it truly became a priority to Washington- like spending on our military has become- then we could solve the travesty that now millions of Americans potentially will not have healthcare provided for them as per the elimination of the ACA mandate in the GOP Tax Plan. The CBO estimates that starting the end of the mandate in 2019 would result in 4 million losing coverage in 2019 and 13 million losing coverage in 2027. We should not stand for living in a country with the power and magnitude of the United States where this could be the case.
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?
Although the economy has grown it has been extremely top heavy. According to CNBC data, the top 1% now controls almost 40% of the wealth. At the same time, stats show that working class wages have been stagnant. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the top 1%'s wages grew 138% since 1979, while wages for the bottom 90% grew only15%. History has told us countless times-for instance during the 1920s leading up to the Great Depression- that this is a recipe for disaster.
We need an economic system that benefits consumers in the working and middle class. An increase in the minimum wage is crucial for this, particular in the state of Illinois. A tax code that actually will permanently benefit this group and not set the stage for potential slashes in needed programs like Medicare and Social Security -as the GOP Tax Plan is set up to potentially do- must be implemented.
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 need an immigration system that provides for opportunities to people based on their merit but that also demonstrates compassion. The US benefits when we not only bring in expertise doctors from India and Pakistan, but also workers from Central America who provide vital labor for agricultural industries. We need to have clear rules for a pathway to citizenship. We need to provide the over 11 million illegal immigrants an opportunity to fulfill those laws -an extended grace period if you will- for those who have not committed felonies.
As for DACA and the Dreamers it's quite clear to me. These young people were brought here as young kids and have proven merit in our system as per the Obama era requirements. Congress needs to pass legislation to extend his executive order. This should be done in a bi-partisan fashion without any pressures like funding an unrealistic border wall to appease a small base due to a campaign slogan.
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?
The situation in North Korea is extremely dangerous. Indeed this has become a quagmire in some people's views. Words matter. Tweets matter. I believe a firm approach is needed but it must include continual exhausting attempts at diplomatic solutions and it must include the world players, particularly China and Russia as they both have so much economic influence on North Korea. If these countries can restrict economic opportunity from North Korea it would be affective, but they have to have the incentive to do so. One potentially drastic way to encourage China would be to agree to remove the over 30,000 US troops in South Korea as a mega-deal to get them to harness in North Korea. But of course, this could create a whole other difficult challenge. An important lesson in history could also be a guiding point as this tense stand off continues. Our leaders could analyze how JFK conducted himself with calm but firm leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A call for cooler heads is vital.
ISIS is contained in Syria and Iraq but terrorism remains a threat. What are your priorities in keeping the country safe?
ISIS' Caliphate needs to continue to be destroyed. The current military approach seems to be effective overall in this objective. But there's more to it than that. We need to battle the next wave and generation of jihadists. I believe this should go beyond ISIS and the target should be on all fringe groups- internationally or domestic.
The epicenter of that battle field is on social media. This truly is a battle for the minds of young people vulnerable to be persuaded in this direction. More of an increase and funding on cyber policing is essential but also more emphasis on mental health funding and awareness could pay huge dividends.
Should the U.S. continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran?
All in all, the agreement with Iran and their nuclear development has been an effective one. The international support, which is absolutely crucial, remains strong despite efforts to bring down the agreement by our current administration. Of course, the situation in Iran is now more turmoiled domestically due to the growing protests by the Iranian people. The US should play a role of international leadership in this case. We need to restore our dignity and purpose on the world stage and our decisions regarding Iran will be a big part of this.
What is your position on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?
U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has to ultimately have an end game strategy in place. We have attempted to deal with this numerous times and it has now crossed through three presidential administrations. Although our presence has aided in curtailing the ISIS Caliphate to some degree, the overall presence of troops here has created great controversy in how we our viewed around the world. We delicately need to find an exit strategy that maintains stability in the hands of the Afghans. As proven over many years now, there is no real solid way to do this. I believe that it is crucial that the United States works with other world players in how this exit will play out. Our current administrations "America First" approach is dangerous in our 21st century- connected world.
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 must have strong, federally-mandated background checks on gun ownership in our country. According to a Quinnipiac University survey, 95 percent of voters support universal background checks for gun purchases, including 94 percent of those who live in gun-owning households. This has bipartisan agreement and the only reason it hasn't become legislation is because of the power of the NRA on GOP legislators. The 2nd Amendment will not be threatened by this implementation. We should have the right to bear arms as our Constitution provides, but only if we are fit to bear these weapons. We can't get a drivers license if we are not deemed capable of driving. Why should this be different?
Should the U.S. government take steps to curb emissions of greenhouse gas? If so, what steps? If not, why not?
The US should absolutely take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions. This is the biggest issue of the next generations. 97% of climatologists have told us we are playing a role in climate change. The Earth continues to tell us this through powerful hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires. The first step needed is to convince people that this is the truth. Fossil fuel industries have worked hard by spilling millions and millions of dollars into media campaigns to influence people's minds on this topic. This is dangerous. We need to reduce this powerful industries influence by eliminating corporate tax breaks provided to them. We need to fund programs that push alternative energy sources.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
I am a life long teacher. I'm not a politician. As an educator, I can provide something fresh and different to Washington. I had the honor of serving Central Illinois for almost two decades as a social studies teacher and soccer coach at Morton High School. It is in my three areas of professionalism that I have developed experience that can now help me serve as a congressman in the 18th District.
As a United States History teacher I have been able to develop an in-depth understanding of what has made our country tick and on what has made our democracy exceptional. As a sociology teacher I have been able to find a deeper understanding of why we behave the way we do, of what drives us, inspires us, of what we value, and how we reach those values. Finally, as a high school soccer coach, I have learned how to unite people, how to motivate people, and how to instill confidence in people.
If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term.
I am not an incumbent.