arrow-down audio close email facebook googleinstagram link quote triangle-downtriangle-uptwitter
checkmark facebook-circle star-six star twitter-circle website-circle

EDITORIAL BOARD QUESTIONNAIRES

Carl Spoerer

Democratic candidate for U.S. House (15th district)

Carl Spoerer

Carl Spoerer

Democratic candidate for U.S. House (15th district)

Education
University of Illinois 1985 Finance & Economics
Occupation
Self-Employed - Telephone Industry
Home
Mahomet
Past Political/Civic Experience
None

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?

Cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations, raising taxes on the middle class and cutting spending significantly hurts the economy as history has shown. Reducing taxes on corporations, who currently have billions in their coffers, while raising taxes or keeping the status quo for working families means less money is being put into the economy.

Likewise, decreasing federal spending means that less federal dollars are going into the economy which helps working families. Taxes for corporations were never under 70% until President Reagan cut them in 1982. That was the beginning of income inequality in this country. There should be a highly progressive tax system — such as 50% over $1,000,000 and a corporate tax rate at 30% with zero loopholes, closing the carried interest and Territorial taxation loopholes plus making a substantial corporate and individual alternative minimum tax effective immediately.

Using a reduction in the social services programs (which help the poor, children, and the elderly) as an excuse to reduce the debt is both unfair and not economically sound. Money spent by recipients of these programs goes directly into the local economy. There are many ways we can reduce the debt — here are many:

  1. Congress needs to stop passing legislation that raises the debt substantially and which mainly benefits the wealthy and corporations, particularly while they are already doing well;
  2. Stop the tax havens and loopholes that allow corporations to put their money in offshore accounts to avoid paying U.S. taxes;
  3. end the subsidies to big oil and gas — they don't need them;
  4. remove the cap on wages that employers match and promote legislation to raise the Social Security retirement income cap;
  5. increase the minimum wage to a living wage to reduce dependency on the social services safety net;
  6. negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry to reduce drug prices;
  7. reduce and maintain low interest rates to stimulate the economy and generate tax revenue;
  8. reduce military spending and the propensity of Congress to sustain the industrialized military complex which influences foreign public policy;
  9. adopt a pro-trade approach by reopening the trade markets vital to our economy;
  10. instituting a financial tax on trades(La Salle Tax) which is currently being considered in the Illinois State Legislature; and
  11. reinstate a tax system that reduces the burdens on people who can least afford to pay them, leaving more money in the pockets of low-wage earners, thereby stimulating the economy and generating revenue.

Can you identify any major federal expenditures or programs that you would eliminate?

We spend far too much money on programs that are ineffective and don't serve the best interests of the American people. Let's stop all corporate subsidies, especially to the fossil fuel and pharmaceutical industries and reduce military spending by 30%. Before going after social services programs that help families, we need to cut special interest handouts and government inefficiencies. These types of cuts have bipartisan support and can be used to find common ground.

I would support eliminating subsidies to gas and oil companies for research (research conducted by those companies should be self-funded and not rely on federal grant dollars). In addition, government actions that favor fossil fuels compared to other energy sources, particularly clean energy, should be curtailed. Subsidies in these areas include loans and guarantees at favorable rates, price controls, state and local governments providing resources like land and water to fossil fuel companies at below market rates or free, and more. We simply cannot afford to develop any more oil, gas, or coal resources and stay within our "carbon budget" of remaining amount of greenhouse gases we can emit. We can no longer afford to shift the costs of the fossil fuel industry onto the American people in the form of climate and health impacts.

Additionally, several programs that provide funding for various trade activities are being granted to profitable companies, not starter companies or less profitable ones. And finally, the Department of Defense spending must also be reduced. Many projects and programs that are, in essence, either ineffectual or no longer needed have been identified in several CBO reports over the years and yet continue to go unchecked by Congress.

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.

Costs of these programs continue to rise for many reasons; the inability of Congress to negotiate cheaper drug prices (Americans pay higher drug prices than any other country), the increase in eligible recipients due to the aging baby boomers, a stagnant economy with lack of good paying jobs, a low living wage, the recent uncertainty surrounding attacks on the ACA, and the pharmaceutical and insurance company lobbyists who spent almost $500,000 per member of Congress to protect their interests.

When the Republican-controlled Congress instituted Medicare Part D in 2003, the legislation barred the government from negotiating cheaper drug prices; it was left to the insurance companies delivering the subsidized new coverage to sort it out. Several bills introduced in Congress over the years failed passage due to the drug and insurance company financial influence. In fact, last year Representative John Shimkus was honored at a breakfast sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry because he took the lead to block an Obama program meant to negotiate for lower Medicare drug costs.

Until we can move to a universal healthcare system where healthcare costs and drug prices could be negotiated, I am not willing to reduce future benefits and shift costs to recipients of these programs. As long as we have a system that enables industries, specifically the pharmaceutical and insurance corporations, to spend whatever it pleases to influence public policy and votes, costs will continue to rise and threaten the programs' solvency no matter what other practices within these systems are implemented.

What if anything should be the federal government's role in helping Americans obtain health insurance coverage?

Start single payer immediately. The Government has a responsibility, according to the Preamble of the Constitution, to promote the general welfare of the people. This includes health, wellness, and safety. Our government has a responsibility to advance society's interests which includes the delivery of a quality healthcare system that is affordable and accessible.

Government involvement should be to regulate costs and ensure accessibility as the free market has shown it will not necessarily look out for the best interests of the people. Medicare has already proven that greater efficiency, better treatment cost effectiveness, and reliability far exceeds the inefficiency, greed, and waste of private health insurers.

Furthermore, the insurance market can't ensure all citizens have access to quality care. There are areas where gaps exist and people in more rural, less populated areas often have little or no choice of insurance providers. Governments should negotiate costs as individuals have no control over what they are being charged.

I do believe, however, that strong partnerships need to exist between the federal government, state government, local governments, and the private sector to ensure fairness, efficiency and cost control.

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?

First, if we heat up the economy, interest rates will rise and debt service on the national debt will explode.

We need to have a living wage of $15 per hour this year and $20 per hour a year later. We must address corporate greed in both wages and shipping jobs overseas with significant rewards to companies that do not partake in these practices.

Economists will tell you that the best measure to determine a sound economy is whether wages are increasing and consistently increasing. This has not been the case. A study by the Brookings Institute revealed that after adjusting for inflation, wages are only 10% higher in 2017 than they were in 1973 with annual real wage growth just below 0.2%. Productivity growth and full employment, which directly affects higher wages or lack thereof, has also been slow and most likely a result of the recession and recovery process.

However, the most significant decline in wage growth has been the decline of unions. To raise working wages and bargaining power the administration must stop whittling away at unions and worker protections. Labor laws need to be modernized to help reverse this long-term negative trend. Attacks on union wages (such as the Davis-Bacon Act and Project Labor Agreements) must be vigorously opposed. We must oppose the push for privatization and right-to-work. The best recipe to enhance American prosperity is to operate in the best interest of the working class by creating an environment where unions can thrive and grow.

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 and the immigration laws today do not reflect our values. Law-abiding immigrants struggling for freedom — who work hard and pay their taxes — deserve a path toward citizenship that is efficient and timely. Anyone who has had the good fortune to meet these immigrant families quickly gains compassion for them and an understanding of their plight.

I support the DREAM Act and reunification of families. Due process protections need to be ensured for law abiding people. Traffic violations should not be a cause for deportation. DACA youth, who have already sustained a vigorous vetting process and meet established criteria, should be provided a swift path to citizenship. Immigrant children, who have been born here through no fault of their own, should be given temporary protected status. Those who have joined the Armed Forces and served our country must never face deportation and should be provided with an expedited path to citizenship.

Our immigration laws must be revised to ensure humane and fair treatment of immigrants. We need to work closely with local law enforcement to ensure federal enforcement of these laws do not hinder the reporting of crimes or hinder building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

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 sadistic Dictator is attempting to develop the capability to put a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile that directly threatens the United States. While diplomacy over the years has kept a war at bay, it has not been enough to stop Kim Jong Un from further testing. However, it is important to protect our allies (Japan and South Korea) and continue diplomacy efforts while continuing to press China to assist in our efforts to ensure North Korea abandons its missile program.

A robust State Department must be fully engaged using highly-skilled diplomacy negotiations; not dangerous, reckless tweets and name calling that only serves to escalate tensions and place our military personnel and millions of other innocent people at risk. Had we not degraded to tribalism times, the 25th Amendment would be invoked. In partnership with our allies and in conjunction with established objectives, the U.S. and China need to swiftly and severely sanction North Korea financially and hold them accountable for compliance. The teeth of our foreign policy should be world consensus sanctions with military action only as a last resort.

ISIS is contained in Syria and Iraq but terrorism remains a threat. What are your priorities in keeping the country safe?

We are clearly in an age of vulnerability when it comes to terrorism. History has shown that innovation in terrorist techniques has evolved — from airplanes to automobiles, from bomb vests to pressure cookers, from those born in other countries to those born on U.S. soil, and most recently with cyber attacks and assault weapons released on our most unsuspecting citizens.

We are much safer from attacks then we were 15 years ago. The advent of the Department of Homeland Security and NATO allies sharing intelligence has been successful in curbing ISIS terrorist attacks. Discussions on curbing terrorism by ISIS must be in partnership with our allies and peaceful Muslim countries along with maintaining a robust State Department. Federal, state, local law enforcement and the criminal justice system work in tandem to protect us and apply the rule of law swiftly. We must learn from those captured to guide further actions to protect us. U.S. security agencies all share the same watch lists and threat databases. However, we need to close the gaps in these systems. Home grown (domestic) terrorism is alive and well.

Cyber attacks on our country pose a significant danger, not only in influencing public opinion, but supporting, condoning, and enabling vulnerable, dissatisfied, and perhaps mentally ill people looking to be part of a mission and/or obtain military grade weapons. These radicalized individuals and their attacks are much harder to detect. Cyber warfare must be taken seriously. Congress must make it clear than cyber warfare is unacceptable and establish clear and concise policies and sanctions (financial) on those countries responsible for aiding and sponsoring terrorism.

Should the U.S. continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran?

Yes. The nuclear agreement is successful and a major accomplishment. However, Iran is also the leading state sponsor of terrorism which makes this a complicated issue. Sanctions can and should be imposed on Iran for its support of terrorist groups, and most particularly for sales of weapons to terrorists. Experts on both sides of the aisle agree, however, that revoking the Agreement would cause more harm than good in that further sanctions would not be agreed upon by our allies.

This poses an enormous problem for this administration. The sanctions imposed prior to the Agreement had teeth because European and Asian powers agreed with them. Since the U.S. hardly does any business with Iran, these allies would need to buy-in since our sanctions alone would not hurt Iran. They have also made it clear that they are against cancelling the deal, particularly since there is no evidence of non-compliance. This administration's propensity, however, to threaten and intimidate our allies (such as that which occurred recently with Israel/Jerusalem is not helpful or conducive to garner such support.

What is your position on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?

We need to make a decision as a country to determine if the loss of our soldiers and the $2 billion investment every single day in Iraq & Afghanistan is worth what we are accomplishing. We are a bankrupt nation and can't afford it anymore. We have military personnel in 150 of 195 countries in the world. At some point we need to stop policing the world and start investing in Americans. If there is consensus to stay, then we need to ensure we have enough troops present to get the job done; quickly stabilize and get out. Personally, after twenty years of war, I believe it's time to cut our losses and bring our troops home.

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.

The 2nd Amendment must be protected. I have a concealed-carry permit and am an amateur marksman. Weapons of war, such as assault weapons and large capacity magazines (and altering guns with bump stocks) have no place in our streets. Background checks done timely and at a low cost are necessary wherever guns are sold. If we can stop any number of gun deaths each year because of background checks, or if a family member is still alive because an offender could not purchase a gun legally, it is well worth the inconvenience.

In order to achieve balance that addresses gun violence in our cities while protecting honest law-abiding citizens' rights to possess and use firearms, we need to first enforce the laws already on the books and close the loopholes rather than overhaul a system that has not obtained the results we want. I believe in common sense gun control. However, allowing individuals identified by federal agents suspected of being involved in terrorist activities and have been placed on the "No Fly" list have no business being allowed to legally purchase weapons. That's just not good common sense.

Should the U.S. government take steps to curb emissions of greenhouse gas? If so, what steps? If not, why not?

We need to seize every opportunity to ensure Illinois moves toward clean energy that protects our water and air. I stand with the 97% of scientists and supporting data that global climate change is man-made. We need a 1960s-type nationwide moon landing effort in this country to lead the renewable energy revolution which should have started 5 years ago. Fossil fuel lobbyists have had us sitting on the sidelines for the last five years and that is unacceptable.

Further, removing any environmental protections that were put in place to keep people and wildlife safe and healthy is not acceptable. Congress' current lack of support for renewable energy, climate change denials, and removal of necessary protections is dangerous and irresponsible. It will, however, take all people (workers, entrepreneurs, scientists, citizens, the public and private sector) working together to address these challenges. Greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the release of carbon dioxide from burning coal, gas and oil. We need to further our efforts to move away from fossil fuels and embrace clean energy. Illinois needs to be a leader in this endeavor.

Steps to reduce greenhouse gases would include:

  1. re-establishing the U.S. commitment in the Paris Climate Agreement;
  2. supporting and promoting the OFF Act (Off Fossil Fuels Act) which is endorsed by hundreds of organizations in the U.S. and which provides a path to using 100% clean energy by 2035;
  3. placing a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects (including the new drilling and strip-mining in our national parks);
  4. ending the enormous subsidies to the fossil fuel industry;
  5. acquiring resources (through the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies or other sources) for clean energy research and development;
  6. providing job training in the clean energy industry and support for our displaced miners and their families; and
  7. committing to implementing and extending pollution and efficiency standards, including the Clean Power Plan, fuel economy standards for automobiles and heavy duty vehicles, and building codes and appliance standards.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I am the head Coach for the University of Illinois Women's Rugby Team, a Rugby player and Mixed Martial Arts athlete. I have coached children and young adults from the ages of 7 to 26. I understand compromise and teamwork, and am at my best when I am fighting for what I believe in. I worked in neighborhoods mentoring troubled boys who were without a male role model in their home. I am a highly compassionate person. I love all peoples and want to fight for the working class, the less fortunate and minority interests.

I am a huge Robert Kennedy fan and have studied every aspect of his political life and motivations. I share the exact sentiment he expressed in 1968 "I run because it is now unmistakably clear that we can change these disastrous, divisive policies only by changing the men who are now making them."

If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term.

Not an incumbent.

Candidates for U.S. House (15th district)

DEMOCRATIC