Jeffrey A. Leef
Republican 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?
I am fascinated by the Democrats' concern for the massive debt, seeing they were President Obama's useful fools in doubling this very debt over the last 8 years. I welcome them to the real world. Keynesian acolytes refer to the sclerotic growth created by President Obama's economic ideology as "The New Normal". They are already being proven wrong. President Trump has made incredible progress by ridding us of smothering regulations and effecting the largest tax reduction since 1986.
If predictions are correct, this will add $1 trillion dollars to government coffers with every .5% of growth. The adjuvant action and equally important way to reduce our debt and approach a balanced budget is to decrease spending. More specifically, focused decreases in areas of waste and in those which are not in keeping with our core goals are required. These goals are: to increase productivity, spur job formation, improve healthcare, and, at the very least, to eliminate redundant entitlements. Since World War II, the increase in federal spending as a percentage of the GDP (15% to 20%) is entirely due to expansion of existing and creation of new entitlements.
Can you identify any major federal expenditures or programs that you would eliminate?
Michael J. Boskin' s statement in his chapter in BLUEPRINT OF AMERICA, edited by George Shultz, best describes how the best intentions to help the poor have resulted in an inefficient and unsustainable system: "The General Accountability Office identified 162 areas where federal programs overlap or fragment. For example, the federal government has 92 programs designed to help low-income Americans, costing over $800 billion per year. Do we really need 46 job-training programs, sprawling over 9 agencies, costing $20 billion a year, many with no metrics, 17 federal food-aid programs across 3 agencies costing $100 billion per year, and 20 federal housing programs across 3 departments costing over $50 billion per year?"
In addition, I would be in favor of eliminating federal offices which have no success as defined by any measurable criteria over the last 4 decades. This would include the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Interstate Commerce, and countless others. I urge your readers to go to USA.GOV , The A-Z index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies. Tread lightly as the governmental bureaucratic waste is blinding. All this and I haven't yet introduced the twin 800 pound gorillas in the room- Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.
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.
True reform of these governmental monstrosities will take years, the problem being it will span several presidencies, likely of differing parties. That said, here are several possible changes I feel that if implemented would drastically reduce our debt and in turn further stimulate our economy:
- Increase retirement age but simultaneously eliminate payroll tax once the existing Social Security retirement age has been reached, giving elderly workers the incentive to continue working.
- Give workers the option to invest a percentage of their current payroll tax in stocks or bonds of their choosing.
- Gradually convert Medicare into a true insurance program, whereby it covers catastrophic illness, and not every check-up, procedure, lab test, etc. However, simultaneously, there has to be an expansion of low cost private insurance plans made available.
- I am in favor of vouchers, which are distributed to seniors, allowing them to buy affordable private plans for non-catastrophic coverage.
Granted, these are lofty goals but essential for the U.S. to best serve its citizens and global partners.
What if anything should be the federal government's role in helping Americans obtain health insurance coverage?
I will start with an excerpt from Scott W. Atlas'chapter on transformational healthcare reform, again from the "Blueprint for America "edited by George Shultz.:
"America's national health expenditures now total over $3.1 trillion per year, or more than 17.4% of the GDP, and are projected to reach 19.6% of the GDP by 2024. Medicaid has expanded to cover over 70 million people at a cost of $500 billion per year. Medicare spends over $260 billion annually on hospital benefits alone and $615 billion in total for 52 million enrollees. Workers paying taxes for the program will decline to 2.3 per beneficiary by 2030, half of the number at Medicare's inception. Medicare's hospitalization insurance trust fund will face depletion in 2030. Barring changes, by 2049, federal expenditures for health care and Social Security are projected to consume all federal revenues, eliminating capacity for national defense, interest on the debt, or any other domestic program."
While these numbers are certainly frightening, we simply cannot allow this to occur. We need to capture that mystical unicorn called "bipartisan courage" in creating a plan, likely requiring 10 years to fully implement, to stem the tide of this pending disaster. Republicans displayed no such courage as they sat on their hands for 8 years, lied to voters saying that they had a better plan and would replace the ACA. While their behavior was both inept and dishonest, we can correct that. We cannot correct the horror story which is known as Single Payer Healthcare or Medicare-For-All, should it be forced upon us.
To do this, we must phase out the ACA and phase in a fiscally responsible, transparent plan, which offers the highest level of healthcare to the greatest number of people, with the greatest number of plans from which to choose. This plan would be built on the foundation of a concept which may perhaps be our greatest gift as Americans: The Freedom to Choose.
- Slowly convert Medicare into a true insurance program, covering catastrophic illness.
- Simultaneously create and expand low cost private insurance plans, generated by the same market competition that have brought us unparalleled advancements in countless products which also improve our daily lives.
- Establish and make readily available Universal Healthcare accounts, allowing individuals to save tax-free money for uncovered expenses.
- Reform the politically appointed, so-called Independent Advisory Board whose specific goal is to reduce payments to doctors and hospitals. This board has resulted in a rapidly increasing number of physicians who no longer take Medicare patients.
- Start the slow and arduous journey of giving Medicaid patients the ability to drop their substandard coverage and care and obtain affordable private plans.
- Create a voucher system in which the neediest can purchase plans which gives them access to the same type of medical care available to the more fortunate.
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 respectfully disagree. For 8 years there has been no economic growth. Despite the past recession being judged by economists as the 4th worse (out of 11), in the post-World War II era, the country was subjected to the worst recovery. The reason for this, I believe, is the Democratic Party's significant move further and further left. President Obama and his potential successors (Sanders, Warren, et. al.) have taken great care to retool Socialism just enough to sell this broken, failed, and devastating ideology to a new generation of unfortunate souls.
The election of Donald Trump for President is the grandest example of Americans refusal to be not only ordinary and poor but robbed of a growing number of personal freedoms. Amongst the most cherished freedoms is the ability to make one's own decisions. We do not need the government or any politician telling us what they feel is good for us. History has shown over and over again that the greatest advancements and the vastest reduction of grinding poverty have occurred when the heavy hand of government has been lifted and competition has been allowed to drive growth. President Trump has made great headway by cutting the corporate tax rate in half. I completely agree with Adam Smith's description, as he described in his "The Wealth of Nations", of the effect of the "invisible hand".
In short, the common man enjoys benefits unintended by the person or persons trying to make money. While the Left howls about the greed of CEO's, it is only when competition spurs these corporate giants to grow, innovate and improve their product that jobs are created and society benefits. Did the government direct or force Henry Ford to build a car, or Gates and Jobs to invent devices which, having once filled a room can fit in our pockets? Regardless of their intentions, society and the world benefitted.
Conversely, have greedy corporations been the reason for the destruction of countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, and Russia? The exact opposite is the case. Socialist, Communist and Fascist governments have brought about their ruin. American prosperity always has and always will be based on competition and our freedom to choose. President Trump is trying to do just that. Let's keep it that way.
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?
If the goal was to pose an impossible question, this is it. If you own a new home and you discover a leak in the foundation and either completely ignore the leak or try to seal it with Flex Seal, you would be looking at a massive repair or a complete teardown. That's where we are at.
Faced with the impossible task created by decades of bipartisan failure, we must ask ourselves the following questions: How do we do what is humane and maintain what is quintessentially American without harming the physical and economic well-being of U.S. citizens? Are we capable of both learning from history while at the same time appreciating the vast change in geopolitics compared to the first half of the 20th century? Are we able to accept the fact that we are a country whose democracy has prevailed by preserving our freedoms while abiding by the rules of the law created by this democracy? Does the original premise that immigrants coming to America would not only enjoy the same freedoms for which we have fought and have access to its boundless opportunities, but also assimilate into our culture still apply? And how, in this never ending war on terror, can the Department of Homeland Security most effectively, and proactively, keep us safe?
Let's start with a known known: Amnesty alone fails. After complete amnesty was granted to over 3 million illegal immigrants in 1986, we have seen the influx of well over 11 million more. Chain migration is out of control and we are expected to function in a way in which no other OECD country is expected to act.
"Canada, New Zealand, and Australia are probably the best points of comparison. Like the United States, they are part of the Anglosphere and historically multicultural, with large numbers of foreign-born residents. However, unlike the U.S., they all use a points system that considers education levels and English ability, among other skills, to determine who gets immigration visas. The Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project calculates that, while 30 percent of American immigrants have a low level of education — meaning less than a high-school diploma — and 35 percent have a college degree or higher, only 22 percent of Canadian immigrants lack a high-school diploma, while more than 46 percent have gone to college. (Canada tightened its points system after a government study found that a rise in poverty and inequality during the 1980s and 1990s could be almost entirely attributed to an influx of poorer immigrants.) Australia and New Zealand also have a considerably more favorable ratio of college-educated immigrants than does the United States. The same goes for the U.K."
Read more at: National Review. I am in favor of a point system. Why? With a black child poverty rate hovering at 45% (essentially unchanged since before the Civil Rights Act of 1964), how can we not first direct our resources towards our own? Go to www.jeffleef.com for more.
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?
Currently, we are faced with the same horrible dilemma we encountered at the start of the Korean War. The problem is not the insane little despot but rather the two superpowers that support him — Russia and China.
North Korea is essentially a China satellite. Not unlike in 1953, when the armistice was signed to end the Korean War, China will never allow a unified Korea. A unified Korea releases China's stranglehold on the country and places a free society far too close to mainland China. History indisputably shows that communist regimes will expand whenever and however they can. Currently we see this phenomenon as we idly watched China expand its unlawful control of the South China Sea. China continues, despite its denials to our President and State Department, to supply North Korea with oil, supplies, weaponry and technology.
An additional and no less significant major problem is the South Korean leadership and its citizenry. The President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, is a leftist himself. He, initially, actively rejected U.S. efforts to bolster his countries defenses. Jae-in was critical of the U.S move to place its anti-missile THAAD system (a decision made by his predecessor) in his country. Also, amongst those most opposed were the people of Seongju County, southeast of Seoul. The problem, in my opinion, lies in the naivete of the South Korean people, who believe that Kim Jong-Un is nothing more than a blowhard and the North Korean people are uneducated farmers incapable of fighting against their civilized and evolved society. Kim Jong-Un is a blowhard with the military capability of killing millions of people.
So, the question is: How do we maintain our safety without initiating a war with 2 super powers and denying the democratic choices of the people of South Korea? I believe that the most effective course is a 4-pronged approach: Implement all necessary means to strain the economies of China and Russia, and if necessary, South Korea. In addition to economic sanctions ... Significantly increase our military capabilities and weaponry. We must be prepared to have the CAPABILITY to fight a 3-front war. Place a version of Israel's Iron Dome defense system in South Korea, Guam and Japan. Be prepared to destroy North Korea if they launch an attack on a US territory When Reagan walked out on Gorbachev in Reykjavik because of Gorbachev's insistence that the US abandon its Strategic Defense initiative, the world trembled. Reagan stood his ground and, not because of moral awakening, but rather Gorbachev's realization that the crumbling Russian economy could not survive an arms race with the US, led to the end of the Cold War. Instead of repeating the mistakes of our past, revisit our successes, and use these means to achieve the same results.
ISIS is contained in Syria and Iraq but terrorism remains a threat. What are your priorities in keeping the country safe?
The main priority is prevention, achieved both home and abroad. Presently, we are waging a war against global terrorism; a war which will never end. It will never end because twisted Islamic jihadist ideology will always exist and rear its ugly head under a different name when its predecessor is destroyed.
We can no longer allow the creation of vacuums in which evil will fill. This was the case, most recently, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. The failure of the Obama administration to renegotiate/demand a new SOFA agreement allowing sufficient number of US troops to remain in Iraq, led to the expansion of ISIS. Therefore, like it or not, we are now and always must be, the world's policemen. With proper military leadership and allowing these leaders to do their job, they essentially have destroyed ISIS. That said, if allowed to do so, the next version will take its place or its remnants will metastasize to other politically fragile areas in the world. The importance of continued American presence cannot be stressed enough. Further, it is in our best interest to continue to fully support the only true democracy and ally that we have in the Middle East — Israel.
Next, we must accept the fact that this is a different world than at the turn of the 20th century, when immigrants came to America solely seeking opportunity and wishing to assimilate into American culture. Therefore, our security measures and criteria to enter the country must change accordingly. President Trump's error was not that he implemented an immigration ban on seven countries which are hotbeds for jihadist terrorists (something that past presidents have done), but rather to referring to it as a "Muslim ban". His failure to distinguish between the over 1 billion peaceful Muslims and the evil Islamic jihadists, brought outrage and unnecessary political obstruction.
We have seen the devastating effects of the weak immigration policies of the UK, France, Italy and Germany. Until we are able to develop adequate vetting procedures, we must restrict unfettered access to the United States; especially from countries whose stated goal is to destroy America and Israel. The next necessary step is to do what is necessary to secure our borders. The Trump administration has already made great strides in doing so by bolstering border patrols and, again, allowing those in charge to do their jobs. Frankly, I don't know if a physical wall is the most efficient and cost-effective way to secure our borders. Its nearly impossible to get honest and accurate answers to many of my questions: Cost Extent of covered versus uncovered borders Environmental impact On the subject of "the wall", the jury is out.
Lastly, we must continue to strive to improve the communication between the governmental agencies whose goal is to protect us. Lack of doing so led to the tragedy of 9/11.
Should the U.S. continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran?
Absolutely not. To do so would at best be naive and at worst insane. Simply put, we have a weak, secretly forged and hollow "agreement" with the world's leading sponsor of terror. If the pact is implemented honestly (which of course it is not), it would allow Iran, in 10 years, to continue on its merry way to using nuclear weapons to complete its stated goal — to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. The side deals, the capitulations, the payoffs and, recently revealed, the derailment of the law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by Iranian surrogate, Hezbollah, by the Obama administration is a national disgrace bordering on treason.
The U.S. should immediately decertify the Iran nuclear NON-deal. That is the easy part. How we can prevent Iran's march toward nuclear weapons, aided by support from Russia and the U.N., is an entirely different story. To me, this is by far the most dangerous of our geopolitical impending catastrophes because the ideology against which we fight, unlike Russia and China, has no concern for its own destruction.
Therefore, in addition to the previously stated goal of increasing and modernizing our military, specifically the Navy and our nuclear triad, we could do the following: Expand the size and role of our special forces units in the most at-risk regions of the Middle East. Increase our investment in technology, expanding our reach and extent of cyber warfare. Expand our missile defense systems in Europe beyond Romania and Poland if necessary. Continue to fight the U.N.'s anti-Israel stance and continue to aid Israel as well as share in its technologic advances. Actively thwart Russia in their efforts to expand their influence throughout the region. Again, this can mostly be achieved by economic means. Consider greater military aid to Ukraine. Have an emergency military plan in place should an attack on Iran be forced.
While there is inherent risk in all of these suggestions, these risks are far less than the massive loss of life that would come with a third World War; a war that would undoubtedly occur if a nuclear attack was launched against Israel.
What is your position on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?
Our continued presence in Afghanistan is absolutely essential, for the same reasons that I enumerate above. Again, evil will fill a vacuum. We simply cannot allow this to happen ever again.
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.
I strongly support a unified, federal background check for gun sales. I support this just as strongly as I support the Second Amendment. While it is true that our society is vastly different from when our founders first wrote the Constitution, what has not changed is the unique and precious right we as Americans have to maintain our personal freedoms.
The goal is to reach an acceptable balance between the federal and state government's role to protect its citizens while not infringing upon our constitutional rights. To achieve this, our founders established the three equal branches of government. I cannot improve upon this system of checks and balances. We clearly see throughout our history, that when a President attempts to game this system, the voters elect people who will reverse those attempts.
I further believe that these freedoms, which we are so fortunate to have, can be abused. This is why the role of government is to act as a referee. If elected officials acted as they should and were true representatives of their constituents, reasonable bipartisan bills would be established which would prevent stock-piling of weapons and ammunition (not unlike the case with controlled pharmeceuticals).
Another important issue to me is the safety of our children. I believe that "Smart Gun" technology is the answer. All technical criticisms of the product would be corrected by the same means that all the incredible advancements we use today have reached us through competition. The main impediment to implementation is two-fold: the gun lobby (NRA) and the politicians that are beholden to them. This, of course, leads us to the largest can of worms: career politicians.
Should the U.S. government take steps to curb emissions of greenhouse gas? If so, what steps? If not, why not?
Not in the manner undertaken by the Obama Administration. As has been the case throughout the ages, the government's best efforts to do what they feel is right for us has the exact opposite result and with an associated enormous price tag to taxpayers.
That said, a better plan has been proposed which I would fully support. The Climate Leadership Council released "The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends" on February 8, authored by George Schultz, Ted Halsted, James Baker, Martin Feldstein, Gregory Mankiw, Henry Paulson, Tom Stephenson, and Rob Walton, a group that includes three former Republican treasury secretaries, two former Republican secretaries of state, two former Republican chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers, and the former chairman of the world's largest private employer.
This plan consists of four pillars: A gradually increasing carbon tax on carbon dioxide emissions with the goal being to send a strong message to businesses and consumers regarding the need to address the scientifically proven aspects of climate change. Carbon dividends with all proceeds paid out on an equal and monthly basis to American taxpayers. Border carbon adjustments for imports and exports to protect American competitiveness and penalize countries who are neglectful of their global responsibilities. Significant rollback of the stifling number of regulations , diminishing the regulatory control of the EPA over carbon dioxide, as well as an outright appeal of the Clean Power Act.
Again, the repeal of the Clean Power Act could have been presented in a better way to the general public, and done so along with the implementation of the other 3 pillars. When elected, I plan on stressing to my fellow Republicans, the critical need to appropriately and completely explain the details and concepts of the bills and plans they propose. It is important for Republicans to have more faith in the American voter. Frankly, in general, the GOP is frighteningly deficient in both areas.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
I LOVE baseball. I love everything about baseball. There is no way to describe the feeling I get when I step onto an infield. To me, it's a time machine. My feet touch the grass and dirt and I'm no longer the 57-year-old physician with Type II diabetes. I am the 12-year-old little leaguer who is ready to play a triple-header.
I have been fortunate to have become close friends with two people that feel the same way as I do, Jeff Davis and Dennis Zitzer. They are without a doubt the best baseball coaches around today and for all the right reasons. They respect the game and are dedicated teachers. They too experience the same joy that I do when we use the baseball diamond as our vehicle to the past.
On the baseball field, there are no politics; the only right and left are positions. It's a wonderful place to be; almost as wonderful as being at Sox Park (I will only refer to it as Sox park) as I am a diehard White Sox fan. Favorite players? Dick Allen, Harold Baines, and Jim Thome.
I also have been able to channel my passion to good use. This past September, I entered a team in The Opportunity Knocks Classic Softball Tournament. Opportunity Knocks is a charity organization dedicated to helping young adults with developmental challenges. I am honored to be involved with this organization and urge everyone to check out their website: www.opportunityknocksnow.org
If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term.
I am not an incumbent,. I am an Associate Professor in Radiology at The University of Chicago, and the Director of Interventional Radiology Trauma, at the University's new Trauma Center opening this May.