Danny K. Davis
Democratic candidate for U.S. House (7th 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?
As the Congress returns to work, GOP budget priorities as indicated by Speaker Ryan are focused on attacking and reducing so-called "entitlements". The chutzpah, the audacity, the arrogance of passing a $1.5 trillion tax cut for large corporations and the 1% resulting in a tax increase for millions of middle class Americans a few years down the road, and then crying about the ability to pay for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is stunning.
It is consistent with the hypocrisy and injustice encompassed in demands for tax cuts for the ultra wealthy in this country at a time when economic inequality in America now rivals, or by some measures exceeds, the outrageous levels reached in the 1920s just before the Great Depression. It should also be noted that interest rates on the federal debt remain near historic lows. Demands from some quarters for cuts or privatization of Social Security is profoundly troubling at a time when our economy has become dominated by financial interests with excessive profit rates instead of taking minimal steps such as eliminating the cap on Social Security taxes to extend the life of the Social Security Trust Fund.
I strongly support the budgets put forward by the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus which realign the federal budget with the interests of the nation as a whole in a sustainable manner and set us on the road to a realistic balanced budget.
Can you identify any major federal expenditures or programs that you would eliminate?
I am deeply concerned about the calls for massive increases in our military budget at a time when the global dominance of our armed forces is unrivaled. The same level of expenditures on infrastructure, education or health care would produce many times the number of jobs and would result in a significantly larger multiplier effect on the economy. It would also create those jobs in economically struggling communities which receive little or no economic benefit from spending on military hardware and would directly address exigent social and economic need in those communities.
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.
I reject the notion that America's elderly and low income should accept "reduced benefits," in other more honest words, second class health care because health care costs in the U.S. continue to increase.
Every other developed nation in the world has found a way to offer universal health care to the population. The American people should never, will never, bow to the demands for two health care systems, a "gold" system for those with wealth and a "iron pyrites" (fools gold) system for the elderly and low income. The elderly and low income populations are precisely those populations which face the greatest health challenges. Have we become so heartless as a nation that we turn our back on our parents and grandparents, on our neighbors who have the least? I will never accept that proposition.
There are, of course, many ways we can deal with rising health care costs. For example, a major driving factor of health care costs is the cost of prescription drugs. Why do we specifically prohibit the negotiation of prescription drug prices for Medicare and Medicaid enrollees? It works for the VA, why don't we demand market prices for Medicare and Medicaid? Why do we sell drugs in other nations for a fraction of the cost (and still make a profit) and prohibit re-importation?
Why do we allow drug manufactures to game the patent system by tweaking drug formulas in ways which to not significantly impact the action of the drug, to block the sale of generic versions of highly effective drugs? Why do we permit drug companies to spend billions on advertising when drug choices should be made by doctors and patients based on the best scientific evidence and at the same time slash the federal budget for the FDA, NIH and the CDC?
What if anything should be the federal government's role in helping Americans obtain health insurance coverage?
As any introductory text on economic literacy will tell us, insurance works by spreading the risk as equitably as possible. Life insurance, auto insurance, home insurance, we take it for granted because it works for us every day. We should do the same with health insurance. Everybody in, nobody out. Health insurance should be a right, not a privilege based on social/economic class.
I strongly support a Medicare for All plan and have been a co-sponsor of such legislation every year I have been in the Congress. The numbers have been run by the GAO and reviewed by CRS, they have been run by scholars and think tanks for decades. Medicare for All type plans make sense, they are efficient, they are socially just, they have low overhead, they reduce complexity in billing and regulation. This proposition is now squarely before the American people in the coming election and I am confident such a plan is coming to America in the not too distant future.
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?
Especially since the 1970s corporations directly, and through a variety or right wing organizations backed by unlimited "dark money," have waged an escalating, unrelenting battle against unions and workers who attempt to protect their share of the national income. It has been largely successful. Economists have noted as we recover from the Great Recession, that normal market forces for wage growth seem to have been fundamentally disrupted and perhaps permanently altered in some significant ways.
As economists continue to study the problem some features remain clear: over the last half century government has put its thumb on the scale on the side of corporations, limiting labor's ability to organize, to bargain, to strike, to boycott and practice other traditional tools labor has used in a democratic society.
I believe it is time, and past time, to revisit the lessons and legislation of the New Deal, adapted, of course, for new economic developments, and restore labor's ability to protect the living standard of working people. According to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, in the Chicago Metropolitan Area the average income of the top 1% was $1,388,095 while the average income of the bottom 99% was $54,239, a ratio of 25.6. EPI also found that "children's social class is one of the most significant predictors — if not the single most significant predictor —of their educational success. Moreover, it is increasingly apparent that performance gaps by social class take root in the earliest years of children's lives and fail to narrow in the years that follow." Those findings do not augur well for the future our society or the social fabric of our nation.
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?
Our history, our culture, our economic growth and vitality as a nation has always been directly linked to immigration even though we, as a nation, have often been lured into anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric. Immigrants living in the U.S. today are an integral, productive part of our national tapestry and it is imperative that we create a pathway to fully incorporate them into our citizenry I am a strong supporter of a "clean" DACA fix. I have so-sponsored legislation for comprehensive immigration reform such as the bills led by my colleague and neighbor from 4th Congressional District here in Chicago, Representative Luis GutiÃ©rrez
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 do not believe there are any plausible military responses DPRK nuclear weapons. We have reached agreements with DPRK several times during past administrations only to have them sabotaged by subsequent US actions. I believe we must have direct talks with DPRK and find accommodation which will likely find both sides not getting everything they desire, but which will reduce the threat and risk levels until a more comprehensive solution can be negotiated.
ISIS is contained in Syria and Iraq but terrorism remains a threat. What are your priorities in keeping the country safe?
The main threat we have confronted in recent years has been the threat from "home grown" terrorism. I believe we must resist the temptation to undermine our basic democratic freedoms and protections. That is exactly what terrorists want: to disrupt our societal norms by violent action.
I favor legislation which would: outlaw weapons which facilitate mass casualties. I favor policies which would rebuild trust between law enforcement and the general population by demanding law enforcement protocols which respect individual rights, which reject profiling and which demand accountability on the part of law enforcement. I favor the practice of transparency and protection of democratic rights and principles and reject policies and rhetoric which divide the American people.
Should the U.S. continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran?
There is no credible information confirming a material breach of the agreement by Iran. Withholding certification of Iran's compliance or walking away from the JCPOA would harm our alliances, embolden Iran, and threaten U.S. national security. Non-certification based on justifications beyond the scope of the nuclear agreement would threaten global non-proliferation efforts and send exactly the wrong message to North Korea at the moment we are trying to diplomatically defuse that crisis. The world should know that unless Iran commits a material breach of the JCPOA, the United States will keep its word.
What is your position on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?
The war in Afghanistan is now entering its 17th year, the longest foreign war in our history. Some of our military leaders are still under the delusion that we can win. If we define as eliminating Afghanistan as a haven for Islamist terrorists while creating a representative government in Kabul — the prospects are more tenuous and unlikely today then ever before. But, as we have seen already this new year, our young men keep dying in this endless war. It is time to bring the 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.
Yes, I support a unified, comprehensive federal background check system for gun sales. I favor banning the sale and use of "bump stocks" or any other device which aims to achieve the same purpose. The sale of "pseudo" automatic weapons should be treated no differently than the sale of automatic weapons. I favor other restrictions including banning concealed carry, the sale and use of large capacity weapons or feeding devices and closing all loopholes in sales and transfer of guns and minimum requirements for gun ownership.
Should the U.S. government take steps to curb emissions of greenhouse gas? If so, what steps? If not, why not?
Yes, we should. It is clear that, while the Trump administration has attempted to sabotage efforts to ameliorate global climate change, large sections of private industry and many of our states and cities understand that denying scientific reality is senseless and extremely dangerous. They have come together to continue the process of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving as rapidly as possible toward a sustainable energy infrastructure. The costs of ignoring global climate change are immense and potentially disastrous and the immediate economic benefits of transitioning away from fossil fuels are significant.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
I love poetry.
If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term.
I run based on my record of representing the interests of the people of the 7th Congressional District and confirmed by the overwhelming support I have received at the polls. I have consistently stood for peace, social and economic justice, universal access to health care and education, democracy, the rights of women and LGBTQ persons, the environment, children and seniors. I have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the isle in the Congress in a productive manner and have earned their respect as well. I look forward to the coming Congress with the same enthusiasm and optimism I brought to my first term.