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EDITORIAL BOARD QUESTIONNAIRES

Erik Jones

Democratic candidate for U.S. House (13th district)

Erik Jones

Erik Jones

Democratic candidate for U.S. House (13th district)

Education
Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, BS University of Michigan Law School, JD
Occupation
Attorney [Currently running for Congress full-time]
Past Political/Civic Experience
Policy Director & Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Illinois Attorney General; Chief Investigative Counsel & Deputy General Counsel, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee; Counsel, U.S. House Oversight Committee

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 a first step, Congress should stop pushing tax cuts that it cannot pay for. Congress just passed a tax bill that will increase our national debt by over $1 trillion dollars. This tax bill provides massive tax cuts to corporations without doing anything to ensure those tax cuts lead to jobs or reinvestment in the United States, and it adds to our debt. It is incredibly irresponsible given the budget shortfalls in the federal government and state governments across the country. We should explore methods to decrease spending when possible, especially in areas that are wasteful or unnecessary. I have previously worked as a counsel to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives. In that role, I saw firsthand the waste, fraud, and abuse that exists in our federal bureaucracy. That's an ongoing challenge that Congress and Offices of Inspectors General should continue to confront, no matter which party controls the White House. At the same time, I cannot support further cuts to critical programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, or education.

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

I believe the federal government needs to do a much better job tackling waste, fraud, and abuse. I have conducted oversight over the federal government as a counsel to the House Oversight Committee and I can confirm that we need to spend more resources ensuring our taxpayer dollars are used wisely.

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.

Mistakes in billing and outright fraud in Medicare and Medicaid have caused billions of wasted taxpayer dollars. The US government can do a much better job ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used appropriately. While I cannot support restructuring these programs in such a manner that takes away healthcare from those who depend upon it, I do believe our government can do a lot more to ensure that these programs are working effectively.

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

Our current healthcare system is not working. For example, during my time traveling the 13th District, I have met small business owners who have told me that they have decided to forgo health insurance coverage because it is a risk that they have to take. With all their other expenses, including payroll for their employees, they cannot afford health insurance. That's unacceptable.

Too many people in our country do not have access to affordable health care. Too many are not covered. And too many pay too much in premiums. Healthcare policy in this country has been a victim of partisan politics for far too long, and the American people have been caught in the middle. It's time we come together and start working on something that will actually provide relief to the middle-class and working families who desperately need it. Americans are fed up and deserve real solutions, instead of bills that repeal the Affordable Care Act.

I believe that healthcare is a human right and that we should have universal coverage. There are a number of proposals under consideration which would achieve that. I believe we should open up federal healthcare systems to the general public and allow anyone to buy in to them. That gives everyone the option to continue with an employer-based model, or to opt-in to a government-based model. Americans should have choices and we should have a mechanism in place to control costs. We currently have neither.

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?

We have an economy that is not working in every zip code. Large swaths of the country have been facing an increasingly tough economic climate for decades, and for that reason, I am not content at all with the state of the economy.

The recipe for enhancing American prosperity is by ensuring that a much larger percentage of Americans benefit from the economy. We need a strong, vibrant middle class. While the "American Dream" has always been more of an aspiration than something we have actually achieved as a country, it has been falling further from our grasps in recent years. The United States was founded upon the concept of opportunity. Success has never been guaranteed, but, from the time of our country's inception, we have sought the ideal that we all should have the opportunity to seek success. Thomas Jefferson first wrote of it in the Declaration of Independence, when he held the "pursuit of happiness," to be a self-evident, unalienable right.

And yet, opportunity is diminishing, not expanding. To address that, we need to invest in America and its people. We need to recommit to investing in infrastructure. We need to ensure young people get the education or training they need without going into ridiculous amounts to do it. We need to ensure every American has access to the Internet through a reliable connection. And we need to start enforcing our antitrust laws again so that real competition exists in the marketplace.

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?

I believe comprehensive immigration reform is the only solution. We cannot continue on a path where millions of undocumented immigrants live in the shadows. We also need to ensure we have secure borders by committing enough resources to it. President Trump's plan to repeal DACA is cruel. Our government made promises to those who came forward. Congress should vote in favor of extending DACA and implementing the DREAM Act.

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 United States should rely upon the same approach with North Korea that has been successful with other regimes. We should continue to work with our allies in the region to ensure Kim Jong Un's regime understands that there would be swift, devastating repercussions to any acts of aggression on its part. At the same time, we should work with the South Koreans to keep the lines of communication between South Korea and North Korea open to ensure a mistake or an accident does not lead to nuclear war. We must also continue to press China to restrain North Korea. What will not work is having our President use Twitter to make threats about nuclear war, as he has done in recent days. It puts the entire world on edge and is incredibly dangerous.

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

It is absolutely critical that we continue to support and invest in our military, who lead a broad coalition of partners and allies in the fight against terrorism. We must also continue to support our troops at home and abroad. That also means supporting our veterans when they have finished their service.

Given advancements in technology, our country has become increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks. It is critical that the government and private sector partner to bolster our the cybersecurity of our critical infrastructure, including the energy sector, financial sector, and telecommunications sector. I believe cybersecurity is among the most significant national security challenges we will face in coming years.

While working as Deputy General Counsel to the Senate Commerce Committee, I helped lead the efforts of Sen. Rockefeller, Sen. Collins, and Sen. Lieberman to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation in 2013. Their work led to the Obama Administration creating a Cybersecurity Framework via the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which has helped our country further secure itself.

While we have made a lot of progress on the issue, there is much work to be done. As a member of Congress, I would push for additional resources to be dedicated to cybersecurity. I believe the Cybersecurity Framework should continue as model for cooperation between the government and the private sector, and I would work to ensure our government continues to invest in it.

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

The US should not withdraw from the deal. I agree with senior national security officials in the Trump Administration who have worked to convince President Trump that the US should continue working within the agreement. However, I believe that the US, along with the other countries that signed the agreement, should work aggressively to ensure that Iran is held accountable to the terms of the deal.

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

U.S. soldiers have now been in Afghanistan for 16 years. While the United States does need to continue a limited troop presence there for the time being, we must continue to work toward a day when all U.S. soldiers come home and the Afghanistan government can stand its own. The United States cannot allow Afghanistan to, once again, become a safe haven for terrorists.

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.

Because of gaps in our laws, terrorists, domestic abusers, and criminals can buy guns in our country without going through a background check. I am a strong supporter of closing these gaps. I believe that most Americans would agree. I am also in favor of banning "bump stocks" and believe that there are many proposals we should consider that will make this country safer, while also protecting the rights of responsible gun owners under the 2nd Amendment.

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

Climate change will be the single biggest threat facing the United States throughout the next century. As a father to two sons, I think about the world we will be leaving them. It is vital that the United States plays a leadership role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and not just here at home. Climate change is a global problem and it will need a global solution.

For that reason, I was incredibly disappointed when the Trump Administration pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, making the United States one of the few countries in the world not to be part of it. The US government should continue to encourage the deployment and development of energy sources that do not emit greenhouse gases, including wind, solar, and natural gas. This is important to combat climate change and it is also important for our economy. Other countries are investing heavily in renewable energy sources. We should ensure the US leads the world in innovating in the energy sector, as we do in other sectors.

Additionally, the US government should continue to encourage energy efficiency through policy and programs. Energy efficiency is an often overlooked important "piece of the puzzle" when it comes to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I have worked as a counsel to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives and as Chief Investigative Counsel to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in the United States Senate. In those roles, I conducted congressional oversight and investigations into the federal government during both the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration. Congress has an important oversight role to play no matter who the president is. For example, during the Bush Administration, I led an investigation that uncovered there were high levels of formaldehyde in the trailers FEMA sent to victims of Hurricane Katrina, and FEMA was not doing anything to fix the problem. The Oversight Committee's work forced the agency to address the problem. During the Obama Administration, I worked on investigations into the practices of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, as well as instances of fraud in programs administered by the Small Business Administration. Many of the investigations I worked on lead to important reforms and laws at both the state and federal levels. When Harry Truman resigned as chairman of one of the most significant and successful investigating committees in American history he said, "In my opinion, the power of investigation is one of the most important powers of Congress. The manner in which the power is exercised will largely determine the power and prestige of the Congress in the future." That quote hung above my desk during my entire stint working as a counsel in Congress. And I believe it to be true now more than ever.

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

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Candidates for U.S. House (13th district)

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